Content Harry Potter
  • Previous
  • Next

Standard Disclaimer: JKR owns this universe. Its not our fault, we didn’t do it really!

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 6

Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…

Hermione was frantically reinforcing her mental shields. She had received a note in Arithmancy, asking her to come to the Headmaster’s office. Harry watched her leave the class, his eyes filled with worry.

Stepping up to the office entrance, she noted the stairway was already extended. After climbing the stairs, she knocked on the door.

"Enter," came a voice.

Hermione opened the door and walked into the room. If she was surprised to see Professor Snape in the room, she didn’t show it. She moved to take a chair in front of the Headmaster’s desk.

"Ah, Miss Granger. Would you care for a lemon drop?" asked Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling merrily.

"No, thank you, Sir," she replied.

Dumbledore leaned forward in his chair and looked at the young witch over his half moon glasses. "Miss Granger, I asked you here today because I need your assistance," started Dumbledore.

"My assistance, Sir?"

"Yes my dear. I am worried about Harry Potter, you see. I am afraid he is running the risk of turning to the dark. Since you appear to be so close to him, I’d like you to let me know what he’s doing, what spells he may be learning on the side, where he goes when not in class…"

Hermione stiffened in her seat. "So what you’re really asking me to do is spy on him, Headmaster?"

"I suppose you could look at it that way, Miss Granger, but I prefer saying we’re merely protecting young Harry from himself. With you being so close to him, you’d be in a perfect position to observe his actions and report back to me," replied Dumbledore smoothly.

"I’m sorry Headmaster, but respectfully I must decline. I will not spy on my friend. To suggest such despicable thing is repellent to me," she replied firmly.

Dumbledore leaned back in surprise. Hermione had always been such a pliable student, always respectful of authority. Where had this change from? Peering at the girl carefully, he was shocked to see her wearing earrings in the shape of Celtic crosses! Lets try a different tact, he thought.

"Miss Granger," he said more firmly, "I would suggest cooperating with me in this if you wish to retain your Prefect badge. Do not think I am unaware of the fact that you’ve neglected your Prefect duties since you returned to school. You are almost assuredly going to become Head Girl, Hermione. Surely you do not wish to risk losing that?"

Hermione shrugged and unpinned her badge from her robe, and then she tossed it casually on his desk.   "To be honest, Headmaster, I’d been planning to turn my badge in, anyway. It merely slipped my mind," she replied.

"I must admit I am rather surprised, Miss Granger. I had always thought being a Prefect meant something to you," said Dumbledore, fingering her old badge.

"Oh it did, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really all that important. What shall I do when it’s my turn to face Voldemort? Deduct points from him? No sir, it’s not really important and it certainly isn’t worth risking a friendship over," she stated firmly.

"Granger," said Snape, "I cannot believe you would be so defiant of the Headmaster’s wishes. I’d have thought that you would have been immune from Potter’s stupidities, but I see I’m wrong."

"You are, of course, entitled to believe what you wish, Professor Snape, no matter how wrong you are," Hermione snapped back. She was starting to get annoyed.

Dumbledore nodded to Snape, who whipped out his wand shouting, "LEGILIMENS!"

Hermione smiled sweetly up at her potions Professor. Snape ground his teeth as he hit shields far too strong for him to breach. Hermione crossed her legs and placed both hands on her knees. Silently, she thanked Harry for helping her learn Occlumency this past summer.

Snape took a step forward, as if to grab her. Before he could make another move, Hermione had her wand out and pointing at him. He halted.

"Severus, that will be enough!" barked Dumbledore. "Miss Granger, you may put your wand away. Professor Snape will not harm you in any way."

Hermione looked back to Dumbledore. "Of course, Sir.   After all, we’re not on the train platform, are we?   I doubt the Professor would want to assault a student in front of you," she said. She released her grip on her wand and it automatically reseated itself in her holster.

Dumbledore sighed heavily. The conversation had not gone the way he had planned. "Very well, Miss Granger, you may return to your class."

Nodding, she stood and walked towards the door. Snape whipped up his wand again and shouted, "Obliviate!"

The beam lanced out to strike Hermione squarely in the back of her head. Slowly she turned around to see both men smiling at her.

"I wonder," she said sharply as the men began to realize that the memory charm had failed, "would the Board of Governors take lightly to your attempt to erase my memory, Professor? I think it’s time we find out. Even if the Board approves, I do believe that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would take a dim view of it. I warn you, do not assault me a third time. I had a most able teacher in Harry Potter this summer and I’m sure he’ll take a very dim view of your actions."

With a last, fierce scowl, she whirled and swept from the room, leaving the two stunned men staring at the door.

Classes were just letting out when Hermione came upon Harry in the hallway. He took one look at her face and pulled her into an unused classroom. Hermione, despite being a Gryffindor, never really thought of herself as brave. Today’s meeting had, in her mind, illustrated that fact quite clearly to her.

Harry held her while she trembled in his arms. She explained what had taken place in the Headmasters office and his expression darkened. When she got to the part about the attempt to erase her memory, she finally broke down in tears.

"Harry, I’m so sorry… I thought I could be brave like you and handle this… but I’m not so sure anymore…" she sobbed as she collapsed into a seat.

Harry did a quick check of their schedules and found that they both had a free period, then lunch, so they had two hours to kill.

"Come with me," he commanded sharply. Her head shot up in surprise at his tone. It was one she’d heard only once before, in the Department of Mysteries. She stood uncertainly and he grabbed her hand, leading her from the classroom and from the school.

He took her to a place down by the lake, a secluded place that Remus had told him about over the summer. It wasn’t far from the point where the lake went under the castle.   Sitting Hermione down on a rock, he turned and faced her for a moment, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression unreadable.

She fidgeted under his intense gaze.

"Brave? Hermione Granger, you are one of the bravest people I know," he said in an angry tone.

She looked down at her feet, shamed because she knew he was wrong. He was Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. The man who’d faced Voldemort four times, dueled with him and lived to tell about it! How could she compare herself to him?

"Hermione look at me," he said.

Reluctantly, she looked up and met his eyes. She didn’t see the scorn or anger she’d expected in his gaze.   All she saw was a soft compassion and love in his eyes.

"Hermione," he said softly, "after the third task, when I got home, I sat alone in my bed thinking I had killed another student and I cried. I shook so hard it’s a wonder my bones held together. When Sirius… died… I went to Sir Nicholas and begged him to tell me that Sirius would come back as a ghost. I wandered the castle, unable to sleep and afraid to face my friends who’d been injured because of my stupidity. Hermione, bravery doesn’t mean having no fear of something. It means being afraid and still facing it, even when you know afterwards that you’ll shake and cry like a newborn babe…"

He sat down next to her, his intense gaze boring into her.

"The bravest thing I’ve ever seen was three people who decided to help a sick boy, even when they knew they were setting themselves up to oppose one of the strongest wizards on record," he said.

"B-b-but you always seem so brave!" she protested.

"I’m not really… There are a lot of things that frighten me. I’m afraid of my future, I’m afraid I won’t be able to protect my friends, I’m afraid I’ll disappoint so many people who depend on me… I’m afraid of loving you and I’m even more afraid of not loving you…" he whispered.

"Gryffindor’s forward, right?" she asked with a soft smile.

Harry snorted and nodded. "Too right, and afterwards we’ll shake and cry together."

The Leaky Cauldron, early morning (two days later)…

Four people stepped out of the floo in the Leaky Cauldron. All were dressed in what was quickly becoming a uniform item: a concealment cloak with a Celtic cross on the right breast. The four approached the counter where Tom, the owner, was cleaning glasses.

"I understand you are caring for a particular visitor, getting her potions and the like. I would like very much to visit with her," said one of the figures.

Tom stared at the four of them for a moment. He recognized the particular voice belonging to an Auror he knew, but not well.

Sighing, he pulled out a room key. "Room twenty-one. I don’t know if she is awake though."

Tom watched the four as they went up the stairs. He shook his head. Aurors! They weren’t good for business. Turning away, he noticed one of his servers lounging about.

"Ere now! There be customers awaiting!" he shouted at the witch.

The door to room twenty-one cracked open and Tonks tossed the hood of her cloak back for a better look. All four had their wands drawn and ready as the entered.

The room wasn’t one of Tom’s best and it hadn’t been cleaned in a while. There was a small tray of potions on a nightstand next to the bed, and a half eaten bowl of stew. Clothes were strewn haphazardly about the room.

On the bed lay an obviously malnourished woman. The healer in the group pushed her way forward and cast several diagnostic spells on the prone woman, while Tonks went to examine some papers sitting on a table near a chair.

Leafing through the papers, she saw half written notes to people asking for help, and in two cases, replies turning down the appeals. How the mighty have fallen, she thought.

Stepping over to the healer, Tonks watched silently while the healer assessed her aunt’s condition. Finally, the healer administered two potions to the woman via an injection, cast a few spells and stepped back.

"Danni," Tonks asked, "how is she? Can we move her?"

The healer looked up from her patient and considered the questions. "Yes, I think it’s safe to move her. I’d prefer St. Mungos, but I know that’s probably out of the question. She’s going to need a healer for at least a week, Tonks. She’s suffering from years of addiction and dealing with untreated damage from the Cruciatus curse. She’s also malnourished and dehydrated. After that? Possibly a mind healer. We’ll see once we wean her off the potions," the healer replied.

"Danni, get what you need to support her, figure on two weeks, and I’ll meet you at the MLE. I’ll bring her to a safe house, and then bring you there as well. Let me go downstairs and talk to Tom first. I’ll be right back."

Danni raised an eyebrow. The mention of a safe house indicated that this was a black operation. In nearly twelve years of working for the Ministry as an attached Healer to the MLE, she’d only been involved in a black operation once before. They held to one hard and fast rule: Ask no questions, ever.

When Tonks returned from talking to Tom, she released the remaining two Aurors and pulled out a portkey.   Leaning over Narcissa, she took her aunt’s hand and they vanished from the room.

Arriving in the foyer of Grimmauld Place, Tonks looked around, seeing no one.

"Dobby, Winky, I need your help please," she called.

With two small pops, Dobby and Winky were standing in front of Tonks. Dobby looked at the figure lying prone on the floor, gasped and his ears drooped.

"Winky, I need you to prepare two rooms. We have a very sick lady here and I’ll be bringing a healer to help her."

Winky nodded quickly and vanished.

Dobby trembled. "That bad old master’s mistress, miss… Master made her beat Dobby many times, Miss Tonks," Dobby said with a whine.

She looked at Dobby in surprise. She didn’t know much of Dobby’s history, but she knew she had to try to talk the little elf through this.   "Dobby, Narcissa was forced into hurting you. She didn’t want to. Lucius was controlling her. Right now, she needs your help to get better. Harry wants her to get better. I promise you she won’t hurt you."

"Master Harry wants this, Miss?"

"Yes, Harry wants her to get better, and we’ll need your help to see she does. Tell me, was she always mean to you?"

"Oh no, Miss, not until young Master Draco started school."

"Well Dobby, if we can get her better, she’ll probably be nice to you again."

Dobby smiled shyly at the Auror, looking up at her with his big, tennis ball sized eyes.

"Now if you’ll bring her to her room and get her into bed, I’ll go get the healer," she said with a gentle smile.

"Yes Miss, Dobby will take good care of Mistress Narcissa."

Tonks watched as the little elf levitate the unconscious woman up the stairs and into one of the unused bedrooms before using her MLE portkey.

Breakfast in the Great Hall, the next day…

The last few days had passed uneventfully for Harry and Hermione. Ron had spent most of his time hiding from Millicent. Neville and Ginny had found it particularly funny to allow her into the Gryffindor common room.

Harry had explained, in as few details as possible, his truce with Draco to his two Housemates. They were upset by the idea at first, but were slowly coming to accept it.

Now, at breakfast, Harry sat with Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and surprisingly, Luna and Susan. The two girls had joined them as soon as they’d sat down. People were shocked to see non-Gryffindors at the table, but few were willing to complain to Harry about it.

As Harry ate, he listed to Hermione outline her plans for the study group. When a black and brown owl swept into the hall and dropped in front of him, he blinked in surprise. The sturdy bird extended one leg to him and he removed the letter it carried. Staring at the parchment curiously, he absently he fed the owl a slice of bacon, which it accepted as payment before flying off.

When Hermione sent him a questioning look, he shrugged and opened the letter.

Narcissa found and moved to our London safe house. Healer says good chance of recovery, but will take time. She’s in good hands and will be cared for. Suggest planning on Christmas in London to prevent risking her recovery traveling to another location. Alert her son that he may pass messages to her through you.
The Brotherhood.

Harry looked up from his note, smiling broadly. He chuckled at the signature. Tonks was playing the charade for all she was worth.

Turning slightly, he looked towards one person sitting apart from the others at the Slytherin table. Draco had spent an anxious few days waiting for news and it had worn on his nerves.

Draco’s eyes widened when he saw Harry smiling at him. He arched an eyebrow in question and Harry nodded slightly in reply.

When Draco sagged in his seat, Harry turned to look at the rest of the people sitting in the Great Hall. His eyes stopped on Professor Snape, who looked decidedly under the weather.

The good Professor was having trouble sleeping of late. The nightmares he was suffering weren’t natural though. They were a direct result of the nightmare loop Harry had embedded into Snape’s mind when the Professor had attempted to breach his shields. The loop still had a week to go before it peaked and wore off, unless Snape was silly enough to try Legilimency on Harry again, which would restart the whole cycle. Right now Snape sported huge bags under his eyes, and his hands trembled slightly.

The dream loop was a compromise between Harry, Hermione and Remus. Harry had been in favor of turning his mind to mush, but both Hermione and Remus protested. So Harry told them to find a solution before the start of term or he’d go with the mind mush concept.

Turning back to his friends, he showed the note to Hermione who was happy to hear the news. He then tucked the note into his pocket, planning to pass it to Draco when he got the chance.

Hermione nudged him to gain his attention, and then pointed at Professor McGonagall, who was heading in their direction.

"Mr. Potter, I would like to have a word with you in my office after breakfast," said Professor McGonagall.

"Of course, Professor. I’m done with breakfast. If you wish, I can go there now."

McGonagall nodded and he stood to follow her from the Great Hall. Reaching her office, she closed the door behind him and cast a number of security and privacy charms.

"Have a seat, Mr. Potter," she said sternly.

Harry sat on the plain wooden chair in front of her desk and looked at her expectantly.

"First off, I have managed to locate your broom, Mr. Potter. Professor Flitwick and I have examined and removed a number of curses and tracking charms from it and you may take it with you when we are finished. While the Headmaster has, for whatever reason, decided not to lift your Quidditch ban, I know you love flying more than you love the game. So remember, your ban exists on the game only, not on flying. Please refrain from leaving school airspace when you go flying though," she said.

Harry smiled gratefully at his Head of House. "Thank you, Professor. I don’t think I’ll use it much for flying anymore. It’s too precious to me to risk. I do appreciate your efforts in returning it."

McGonagall seemed to hesitate for a moment. "Mr… Harry, I am not unaware of the situation that is growing in my own House. Yesterday, on a routine inspection of the dorm rooms, I noted you had erected a number of wards surrounding your bed and your personal effects. I also noted similar wards on Miss Grangers possessions and bed."

Harry looked at her but said nothing.

McGonagall sighed and shook her head briefly. "Harry, I do not understand this growing feud between yourself and the Headmaster, but it is my job to occasionally inspect the dorms for contraband materials."

"Professor, while neither Hermione or myself have any contraband materials, I’ll be more than happy to grant access through the protective spells whenever you wish to inspect my trunk and bed. I am sure that Hermione feels the same way."

Minerva leaned back in her chair, considering his word carefully. He clearly did not trust her. Whatever was going on had eroded all trust between Harry and the staff, and that pained her. She could see she would have to start at the beginning, trying to rebuild a relationship with him.

"I think that would be acceptable, Harry," she said, noting Harry relax a little.

"I would also like to personally commend you on how well you are doing in Transfiguration this year. I do not know, nor care, where you spent your holiday, but it seems it served you well. Your work has improved considerably."

Harry smiled and sat up a little straighter. Trust or not, he had always liked Professor McGonagall. She was a strict, but very fair teacher and he appreciated her for it.

"Thank you Professor. Coming from you, it means a lot," he replied.

She suppressed the urge to smile and dismissed him after releasing the privacy spells on the room. Harry took his precious Firebolt and left the room, closing the door behind him.

At her desk, Minerva considered their conversation and thought about the young man who’d gotten onto the Hogwarts Express last June and compared that image to the one of the young man who’d just left her office. Something extraordinary had happened to him over the summer. No amount of growth spurts could account for his phenomenal physical changes. Harry had changed in ways she wouldn’t have dreamed possible, both mentally and physically.

Outside of McGonagall’s office, Hermione, Ginny and Neville accosted Harry. He was about to give them a quick run down of his conversation with the Professor when he noted Draco hovering near the end of the corridor. Since they all had a free period, he motioned for Draco to join them.

Draco walked reluctantly and nervously up the hall towards them. Ginny and Neville weren’t convinced about him, but Harry had asked them to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

When Draco finally joined them, Harry gave him the note from Tonks. He read it quickly then turned to look at Harry, his eyes doubtful.

"It’s true, Draco. She’s safe and should be well when you see her over the Christmas holiday. Keep the note," he added, when Draco tried to pass it back.

Looking down and trying to control his emotions, he carefully put the note in his pocket. He turned to walk away when Harry stopped him.

"Draco, the study group starts this Saturday, nine in the morning to eleven. The rest of the weekend’s all yours. Be there, please?" Harry asked.

Mutely Draco nodded and walked away, his shoulders square and proud, but his relief evident in his manner.

The Great Hall, Lunch (same day)…

The black eagle owl swept down from the heights and landed at the Gryffindor table.

Trembling hands removed the note and the small package. Both were left un-opened as they were shoved into a book bag. He would need them later. The note had his instructions.

Meanwhile, further up the table, Ron kept a close look out for Millicent while he talked to several of the fifth year Gryffindors. Dumbledore’s interview had sowed the seeds of fear and mistrust in their minds and Ron was watering the seedlings.

Grimmauld Place…

Hedwig arrived with the morning breakfast and landed in front of Remus, looking at him expectantly. Reaching over, he removed the note and read it, while Emma fed the owl bits of bacon from the platter.

Everyone stopped when Remus frowned, then started chuckling.

"Remus, what’s wrong?" asked a perplexed Tonks.

He passed the note to her. A moment later, she was smiling and shaking her head as she passed the note to Emma.

"That boy has it bad," Remus murmured, thinking hard, "Any ideas Tonks? He’s looking for something I’ve never heard of."

Tonks paused, about to drink some tea, and thought. "Yeah, I think I know a couple of blokes that can do it, but it’s not going to be cheap, Remy."

Remus rolled his eyes. "Tonks, Harry could misplace a million galleons and never notice it. We’re on a short time frame here. Do you think we can get it done?"

"Well, it won’t be easy, but I think we can do it in the nick," she replied.

Dan looked up from the note and asked, "Is something like this even possible?"

Remus nodded, grinning at the man.

"My word," Emma said, "he does have it bad."

Hogwarts Library…

Harry looked around the table at Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Susan, Luna and Draco. He smiled briefly at them and then cast a privacy charm, as well as a silencing charm, so they could talk freely.

"I’d like to thank everyone for coming. Over the summer I learned several disturbing truths and before I can reveal them to you, Hermione, Susan and I are going to have to teach you Occlumency so that you can protect not only yourself, but the information I’m going to share with you.

"Occlumency isn’t like ordinary magic, where you learn a single spell. It’s a discipline, a way of changing how you think so that you can protect yourselves. In addition to protecting yourselves, you’ll find that if you can learn this discipline, the power of your spells, as well as your ability to retain what you learn, will improve.

"The hardest part of Occlumency is learning to make a habit of it. It’s not something you can do haphazardly. This is something you need to do every night before you go to bed. If you practice in your free time, you’ll pick it up even quicker.

"The first and hardest part of Occlumency is learning to clear your mind and order your thoughts. To do this, we’re going to borrow from a muggle technique called meditation. Meditation is a state you can put yourself in where you are not asleep, but you are unaware of your surroundings.

"Now, Susan, Hermione and myself are going to help everyone focus on learning to meditate first. The three of us received instruction in Occlumency during the summer so we can help the rest of you along. I’ll work with Draco and one other person…"

"Me, me!" said Luna, to Harry’s surprise. While he’d been speaking, she’d been reading a book, upside down of course, and Harry had thought she was ignoring him.

Harry smiled. "All right, Luna, I’ll work with you and Draco, while Hermione and Susan pair up with Ginny and Neville."

As they paired off, Harry noted that Luna sat rather close to Draco.

Draco, too, noticed and moved away slightly.   Luna followed him, smiling dreamily.

"What are you doing?" Draco hissed.

"Learning to meditate, of course," Luna said.

"Why are you sitting so close to me?"

"Am I?   I hadn’t noticed," she said, frowning slightly.

"No wonder they call you Loony Luna," Draco sneered.

"‘The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances,’" she intoned firmly.

Draco scowled.   "What’s that supposed to mean?"

"It means what is says," she replied, vaguely.

"All right you two, let’s get started," Harry said, gaining their attention.

Draco continued to stare at Luna for a moment longer, trying to puzzle out her words.  

She turned to him and smiled. "I think Harry’s going to start now."

Whipping his head around, he faced Harry and tried not to frown.   There was something about the blonde girl that bothered him, but as he didn’t know her well, he wasn’t sure what it was.

"Now," Harry said, looking between the two, "the first thing we’re going to do is…"

Ministry of Magic, Minister’s office…

"Minister, Director Bones is here as you requested."

"Excellent! Please send her in. Oh and Angie? Would you be so kind as to call in Weatherbee and bring us some tea?" asked Fudge.

The door opened wide to admit Amelia and, a moment later, Percy Weasley.

"Amelia, please have a seat."

"Thank you, Minister."

After tea was served, Fudge leaned back in his seat and looked at his MLE Director. "Amelia, I’d like you to give me an update on the ‘special’ case you’ve been working on."

Amelia glanced at Fudge, and then looked at Percy for a moment, alarmed. "Minister, I would be more than happy to give you an update, but I ask that we please do this alone."

"Nonsense! Weatherbee is quite trustworthy, I assure you!"

Amelia sighed and sipped her tea, while both men watched her expectantly.

"Very well, Minister," she said, not liking the situation, but unable to change it. "As you know, one of the target’s of our investigation is powerfully connected and highly placed, politically. In addition, several other targets are also well placed within the Ministry. As a result, we have implemented an unprecedented level of security on the investigation itself. Codenamed ‘Green’, after the principle protectee in this case, we’ve broken the operation down into two details; investigative and protective.

"The case is leading to some very interesting angles and we’re pulling in information relevant not only to the case itself, but to Voldemort as well."

Both men shivered at the sound of his name being spoken. When she paused, Fudge motioned for her to continue.

"Since we’re dealing with powerful, politically connected targets, I’ve ordered that all evidence be double, and in a few cases, triple checked. Our case must be airtight in order to stand up by itself in front of the Wizengamot. The investigative process is slow Minister, but that’s because I’m insisting we take extra precautions so we don’t tip our hand early. I realize you’d like faster results, but given the magnitude of what we’re dealing with, it’s rather like examining an iceberg; the case gets bigger and deeper the more we investigate.

"As far as the protective side of the case, our two principle targets are currently attending Hogwarts, at our request. The list of people needing protection is growing, but for good reasons. Thankfully, they’ve all been taking to a safe location.

"Your plant in Hogwarts is doing well, and has already given us some valuable information. In addition, through the use of the Ministry controlled Neutralizer potion, we’ve managed to avert at least one confirmed incident of drugging," Amelia concluded.

Fudge sipped his tea noisily and thought about the information he’d just been given. Things were moving along to be sure, but it wasn’t time to go to the press yet. Grudgingly, he agreed that the case needed to be absolute before he made a move.

Finally, he put his teacup down and placed his elbows on the desk. "Good brief, Amelia. I thank you. I’ll not bother you too often, but please remember to give me an update at least once a month? Also, I quite agree, we need the case to be airtight before we can bring this to trial. Please feel free to use any facility of my office. Just ask Weatherbee here and he’ll help you anyway he can."

Amelia nodded and stood to leave. Fudge smiled and waved her and Percy out of the office.

Percy returned to his desk, where he pulled out the journal he kept. The journal was against Ministry rules, highly irregular, and it was, in fact, Percy’s private ego. Like so many times in the past, Percy meticulously detailed the meeting he had just come from, then went on to explain how he had been given a position of supervision and liaison between the MLE and the Office of the Minister of Magic.

Later that evening, unknown to Percy, his journal was read by one of the night cleaning staff.

Defense Against the Dark Arts Office, Evening…

Harry and Hermione were sitting in Romany’s office, waiting for the Professor to begin. She’d been trying to help Harry control the amount of power he put behind his spells, and, for their own safety, they’d started with simple exercises, like levitating quills. It quickly became apparent however, from the forty quills embedded in the stone ceiling, that they’d need to use a different spell.

Going back to basics, they settled on the first year light spell, Lumos.

"Alright then Harry, I want you to think about making as small a point of light as possible," said Romany.

Both women had learned from experience to turn away from his wand before he cast anything.

"Lumos," he whispered. His wand tip burst into a blinding ball of light that flooded the darkened room.

"Harry, try lowering the light level. Think about making the light smaller," Romany said, her back turned to the young man.

Harry closed his eyes against the glare and concentrated. His brow furrowed in concentration and he was soon sweating from the effort. Slowly, the light dimmed, bit by bit.

Finally, he had it down to a tiny pinprick of light, but he was trembling from the effort and on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion. He breathed with great, gulping gasps, sounding rather like a racehorse that had been pushed too far. With the glare gone, he opened his eyes to look at his wand and the tiny light it was giving off.

Romany and Hermione were beaming at him for his success. When Romany told him to extinguish the light, he nodded weakly and whispered, "Nox."

When the light winked out, he swayed dangerously. The two women rushed to his side and pulled him to a seat.

Romany handed him a piece of chocolate. "Eat, Harry. It’ll help you gain back a bit of energy."

Harry eyed the large chunk of chocolate tiredly and muttered something about the Wizarding world being a bunch of nutter chocoholics, causing Hermione to laugh.   When Romany looked puzzled, Hermione grinned at her and tried to explain.

"Romany, as a full blood and growing up in the wizarding world, you were raised to think that chocolate is more medicine than sweet. It’s used to help raise spirits after a Dementor attack, to help recover energy when too much is expended and so on. In the muggle world, chocolate is just a sweet. But even as a sweet, people love the stuff. Some muggles love the stuff so much they’ve invented a name for it. A chocoholic is someone who’s addicted to chocolate in all forms.

"My parents make quite a good living repairing the damage done to the teeth of such muggles. I think Harry was calling the entire wizarding world chocoholics," she concluded, laughing again.

Romany shook her head, grinning.   She’d always thought muggles were interesting and rather enjoyed hearing about their world.   Remembering why they were there, she looked at Harry and frowned slightly. "I can clearly see that the effort exhausted you, but I have to admit, I’m surprised by it. This should have been a simple exercise."

 "I can’t explain it, Romany. It’s easier for me to increase the power than it is to lower it," he said quietly.

Romany scowled. "Increase the power? You’re not casting at full strength?" she asked incredulously.

"No, not really. I’d say I normally cast at about one third of what I can cast if I put all my strength into it," replied Harry seriously.

Romany eyed him speculatively. "Alright then, let’s continue working with the light spell.   You can lower the light level and reduce the power behind it after it’s cast.   Once that becomes easier and less tiring for you, we’ll work on teaching you to cast the spell with less force."

Gringotts Wizarding Bank…

Nearly a thousand Goblins sat at their desks in an enormous room, working on the daily tasks of keeping Gringotts the foremost Wizarding Bank in the world. A steady stream of owls arrived, twenty-four hours a day, with transfers, drafts and notices that had to be dealt with.

When a series of transfer orders arrived by owl, the Goblin in charge of sorting the incoming correspondence thought nothing of it, as they were no different than any of the other transfer orders. Sorting the orders into various bins, he sent them off quickly.   The bins raced along on a high-speed track and delivered themselves to multiple desks.

Far below the room, vault 678, formerly the trust vault of one Harry James Potter, was emptied of 220,000 galleons. The vault funds were disbursed by nearly a dozen different Goblins, each representing a different account.

Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement…

"Auror Winston is here to see you, Director," a secretary said from the doorway.

"Please send him in," replied Amelia.

A moment later, a short, chubby, balding man walked in. He was the complete antithesis of what one would expect an Auror to look like. However, since all of the agents in the MLE were technically Aurors, Winston, as the head of the forensic accounting division, was an Auror.

"Director, we’ve had movement on account 678. As requested, we halted deposits to subject P’s trust account from his family account, and filled his trust vault with the requisite amount of charmed galleons," the pudgy Auror said, looking up from his notes to see if the Director was paying attention.

Amelia smiled inwardly. Winston was a good bean counter, but the task force had hidden everyone’s name behind letters. He didn’t know who ‘P’ was and, frankly, he didn’t care. Aside from the fact that he was quite good at his job, his lack of curiosity about the people behind the numbers was another reason why Amelia had assigned him to the case.    

Noting his slight frown, she motioned for him to continue.

"Yes, well, as I was saying, we saw activity on the account on September Tenth. A total of 220,000 galleons were removed and disbursed into several accounts. We’re tracking their progress, as several deposits seem to be floating through dummy accounts in an attempt launder the money," he concluded.

"Winston, I want your people to keep track of every galleon. I want to know where it ultimately goes, who gets it and how much they get. But be careful, we don’t want anyone to know what we’re doing," replied Amelia.

"Very good, Director. I’ll see that the account is refilled and we’ll continue tracking," Winston replied.

Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts…

The scratching of a quill on parchment was the only sound in the otherwise quiet office.   It had been a trying day for Dumbledore, beginning with the bank transfer at Gringotts.   Taking the money from Harry’s trust vault and transferring it around to multiple dummy accounts before it reached its final destination was a tricky business. He’d been doing it for years and no one suspected a thing.

He leaned back on his chair, pushed his glasses up and pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly.   He started at the sound of a tired hoot coming from Fawkes’ old perch.   Turning slightly, he looked at the ragged owl, Errol, and wondered why the Weasley’s hadn’t replaced him yet.   It wasn’t as if they didn’t have the money to do so.

When Errol ruffled his feathers in obvious annoyance, Albus turned back to his desk and eyed the remains of Molly’s howler.   Her demand for the quarterly funds had been loud and quite shrill.   Had he known how insistent Molly would become each quarter when he first offered a share of Harry’s trust fund to the Weasley’s, he might have changed his mind.

Molly and Arthur had been easy enough to manipulate. With little money and seven children to feed on a meager Ministry salary, it hadn’t taken much.   While Dumbledore had been emptying Harry’s trust account since James and Lily had died, he’d only brought the Weasley’s in to it the summer before Harry’s first year at Hogwarts.

He’d managed to gain their agreement in maneuvering Ron into becoming Harry’s friend. Then, he’d pulled on their heartstrings.

Telling them about the boy’s life living among his muggle relatives, explaining in graphic detail about the abuse he’d suffered, and following it up with his sure knowledge that Harry would not survive the final battle with Voldemort, had hooked them.   He reeled them in by telling a distressed Arthur and a weeping Molly that once Harry died, the entire Potter fortune would be inherited by his abusive aunt and uncle, rewarding them for their violence against the boy.

He had stressed the need for secrecy in the matter and explained how distressing it would be for Harry to find out that he was going to fight Voldemort and save the wizarding world, but die in the doing of it.   Over the years, he was sure they understood that it wasn’t just Harry who couldn’t know about what they were doing.   The Ministry, while fraught with corruption, took a dim view on theft from a minor.

Cautioning the Weasley’s against flaunting the money in public, he’d arranged for quarterly transfers.   The amount was small to start, only twenty thousand galleons, but still a fortune by their standards.   However, as the years went by, Molly had started demanding more.   She pointed out a variety of reasons for her demands. Ron’s friendship with Harry was putting him in danger and shouldn’t they be compensated for that? Ginny’s unfortunate encounter with Riddle’s diary and her near death in the Chamber of Secrets meant more money was needed.   When Harry started spending his summers at the Burrow, they had another mouth to feed.   Who was going to pay for it?   The list went on and on.

This year, the excuse was the worry Harry had caused them.   Shouldn’t they be compensated for the time spent looking for him?   The end result was, rather than twenty thousand galleons a quarter, the Weasley family now received fifty thousand.

Surprisingly, Ronald Weasley wasn’t upset that his family was stealing from Harry.   He’d found out about the arrangement the summer before his fourth year at Hogwarts. He had eavesdropped on a conversation between Dumbledore and his parents and discovered what they were doing.   He was upset, however, when he was told he wouldn’t be able to spend the money openly.   The image of a poor family had to be maintained.   Now, in his sixth year, Ron wasn’t having any of it.   He’d demanded, and received, a very generous allowance from his parents.   Dumbledore had cautioned him on his spending, informing him that if he wanted to continue to receive funds, he must not flaunt his new wealth.

With a sigh, Dumbledore sealed his letter to Molly, stood, and approached the aging Weasley owl.   Tying the parchment to Errol’s leg, he walked to the window and opened it, signaling the bird to make his delivery.   With one last tired hoot, the bird launched himself from the perch and nearly collided with Dumbledore’s chair before flying from the room.

Returning to his chair, he sat down heavily and removed his glasses.   Thoughts of Harry’s trust account brought back memories of the first war with Voldemort and the brave people who’d lost their lives in the fighting.   While he knew that some of those casualties were his doing, he also knew that the end justified the means.   Voldemort’s downfall had been worth any cost.

The Potter’s had been the first.   When Dumbledore had first heard the prophecy, he’d realized that there were two couples within the Order who fit the requirements. Both women were pregnant and due the next year, at the end of July.   With subtle maneuvering, he had managed to arrange for each couple to face and defy Voldemort three times.   Once Riddle had chosen his nemesis, killed James and Lily and destroyed his own body, Dumbledore had sent Hagrid to collect the child.

While others mourned the loss of the Potters, Dumbledore celebrated his victory and set his plans for the child in motion.   When the Longbottom’s were captured and tortured into insanity, he was caught off guard. While it was true that the Ministry had been lax in rounding up the remaining Death Eaters, many excused their lack of action.   With the Dark Lord ‘dead’, why would his followers continue to attack?

The Longbottom’s condition was regrettable, but they had served their purpose. Their son, Neville, while not a particularly outstanding individual, would carry on their family name.   What more could any parent want?

Reaching for his glasses once more, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the most respected wizard of the age, shook off the past and formulated his next move in his bid to surpass Merlin as Britain’s foremost wizard.

Harry’s Life…

The first several weeks of school flew by and Hermione was curious about the flurry of owls Harry was sending. But every time she asked him, he merely smiled and changed the topic.

By dinner, late in the third week of their return to school, Hermione was feeling a bit down as she headed to the Great Hall. Harry had vanished an hour earlier and she’d decided that he had forgotten what day it was.

Harry joined her before she reached the entrance to the Great Hall.   She looked up, startled by his sudden appearance at her side and frowned. The hall was dark, but his eyes seemed to glow with magic like they did when he was highly upset about something.

"Come with me," he hissed at her.

Perplexed, she allowed him to lead her to the Room of Requirement. Inside, she found an empty, darkened room and two stiff backed chairs.

Motioning her to sit, he took the chair facing her. He turned for a moment and cast a privacy and a locking charm on the door, then he turned back to her with a large smile on his face.

"I’m not very good with words, but you know that.   And sometimes, words just aren’t enough," Harry said, fidgeting in his seat.

When she stared at him, a bit puzzled, he smiled awkwardly. "I want you to listen and watch, Hermione," he explained shyly. "I wrote this for you… I call it, Harry’s life…" He pulled out his tin whistle and, as he started to play, the room began to shimmer.

Her chair changed into a comfortable, plush armchair, while his remained untouched. The room remained dark, but became dingy and uncomfortable looking. The song he played was mournful and heartbreaking, and Hermione bit her lip as the sorrow of the music enveloped her.

As the music rose in volume, it changed tempo, becoming upbeat. She blinked in surprise as other instruments slowly joined the tin whistle, eventually becoming an orchestra, following Harry’s lead.

An image of Hagrid and Hedwig floated by her and she gasped. As the music soared around her, she watched, entranced, as images of herself, images from Harry’s memories of her appeared.

First an image of herself in her first year on the Hogwarts Express, followed by one of her standing up to McGonagall over the body of a troll.   Images of Hermione smiling, laughing, practicing spells and lecturing on the merit of homework came next. There was even an image of her nibbling on the end of her quill while she studied.

The music kept pace with the images, or perhaps it was the other way around. Occasionally, she’d see other things Harry found important. Images of Quidditch, flying, playing in the snow and saying farewell at the end of term floated by.

Some parts of the music were haunting, filled with pain and an intense, sad longing, while others were uplifting and joyful. The images in the room matched the feelings he poured into the music; music he’d created only for her.

When he finally finished, nearly five minutes later, the music had slowed to a triumphant crescendo that literally took her breath away and made her entire body tingle with pleasure. The last visual image she saw was Harry carrying her to her room after her ritual of amplification.

As the images faded away, she saw Harry sitting with his eyes closed. He was spent from both controlling the room and putting all of his emotions into his music. When the last image faded and echo of his song died away, the room turned itself into a sunlit meadow, where butterflies danced to their own song.

Hermione sat, spellbound. Harry had never been one to show a lot of emotion or displays of affection, but the music he had written, just for her, contained all of his feelings for her. It was as if he’d put his own life to music and, in doing so, had told her exactly how much of an impact she’d made in his life and how important she was to him. He’d said more with his music than he ever could with words.

She clasped her arms together and her eyes welled up with tears. No one had ever done anything like this for her. It was, in her happy opinion, the most wonderful, most romantic gift he could have given her.

Harry opened his eyes and was alarmed to see her crying. He slid out of his chair and dropped to his knees before her. "Hermione, I’m sorry… I didn’t want you to cry…"

She slid out of her chair and joined him on the floor, her eyes still wet with tears. "Shut up, you silly man. I’m not crying because I’m upset," she whispered, hugging him tightly.

Harry wrapped his arms around her and frowned into her hair.   He was never going to understand women.   He held her for a few moments longer before he leaned back slightly and called, "Dobby, you can begin now."

With a loud pop, Dobby and Winky appeared. In a matter of seconds, the chairs had vanished and a picnic basket and blanket were laid out.

Before the elves left, Dobby handed Harry two packages. Harry helped Hermione to her feet as the small elf vanished and they moved to the checkered blanket to enjoy dinner.

He put the packages to one side, and then pulled food out of the large basket. They relaxed and talked, enjoying the picnic as the meadow around them slowly changed from daylight to twilight to night, revealing a million stars in the sky above them. A single candle appeared on the blanket, softly illuminating their faces.

Harry reached over and picked up the two packages. He handed them both to Hermione, murmuring, "I didn’t want you to think I’d forget the birthday of the prettiest and smartest witch I know. I should warn you though. One of those packages is from Dobby, so expect it to be unusual."

Her eyes shone with delight and she opened the lighter of the two packages. Inside, she found seven mismatched, homemade socks.

"Well, that’s Dobby for you. Socks are his favorite gift," Harry said, laughing.

Opening the other package, she gasped in surprise and looked at Harry uncertainly. It was a heavy box, inlaid with gold filigree and mother of pearl. The top of the box had a large ‘H’ inscribed in gold and outlined in hundreds of small sapphires, her birthstone.

"Place your thumb on top of the ‘H’," he said softly.

She did as instructed and felt a tingling in her thumb. With a soft click, the lid of the box popped open. Lifting the lid slightly, she smiled when she realized it was a jewelry box. As she opened the lid all the way, a hidden button was released and it began to play Harry’s Life.

The inside top of the box faded away, only to be replaced by the same images she’d seen when Harry had played his song. She stared at the box with its wonderful music and images for a long moment. Then, with a trembling hand, she closed the lid and placed the box to the side.

Harry watched her carefully. Her expression was unreadable and it worried him. "I thought you might like it, Hermione. As much as I’d like to put an engagement ring on your finger, I think we’re probably too youn…"

He stopped as she cannoned into him, knocking him flat on his back. She lay atop him, grabbed his head with both hands and kissed him passionately. He lay there, stunned for a moment, but his body caught on sooner than his brain.   His arms wrapped around her of their own volition and held her tight. As his mind caught up, he returned her kiss with more enthusiasm than finesse.

When they finally came up for air, Hermione realized she was lying on top of him. Blushing, she moved to roll away, but he stopped her. She looked in his eyes and saw them dancing with mirth.

"I hope that, someday, we’ll stop being embarrassed by this," he whispered to her.

When her blush increased, he sighed and released her, letting her roll away and sit up.

Sitting across from Harry again, she looked in wonder at her gift. "Harry, I’ve never seen anything like this before. Where did you get it?" she asked breathlessly, still flustered.

"I owled Remus. Between him and Tonks, they found several people who all had a hand in making it," he replied shyly.

"It’s a one of a kind?" She asked incredulously.

Harry smiled. "Yes."

She frowned. "Harry, this must have been terribly expensive! You shouldn’t have."

"Hermione, I have more money than I can possibly spend in my lifetime. My great grandkids won’t be able to spend it all. If I can toss some of it into something that makes you smile, it’s worth it to me," he said firmly, refusing to back down.

She recognized his stubborn tone and knew she wouldn’t be able to move him. She had to admit she was greatly pleased with the jewelry/music box, but she shuddered at the thought of the cost of it.

Later that evening, Hermione showed Ginny her birthday gift and they both listened to the melody as they watched the images float across the lid top. Ginny sighed over the romantic gift and went to bed, muttering about seeing what kind of artistic talent she might uncover in Neville.

Ron’s Gift…

The morning after her birthday, Hermione was returning from an early morning trip to the library. She’d made it a practice to select a book or two for Harry every night before meeting up with him in the Great Hall. Despite her impressive intellect and maturity, she was still a girl at heart and as she left the library, her mind was replaying the conversation she’d had with Harry last night in the Room of Requirement. His comments left her feeling bubbly and excited.

Hermione was very smart and confident but, in some ways, Harry’s affections towards her caught her completely by surprise. Hermione did not consider herself to be beautiful, or even pretty. Her love of books had earned her few friends before she learned she was a witch and, in the end, she had resigned herself to never having any real friends. Then she met Harry and Ron.

She knew Harry could have his pick any girl at Hogwarts or choose from hundreds of willing witches outside of school. That he had picked her had helped to change her own opinion of herself.

In retrospect, losing Ron’s friendship had been a process that had begun in their third year, when he blamed her for Crookshanks chasing Scabbers. Things had only gotten worse with Ron’s jealousy over Harry in the Tri-Wizard tournament, as well as Viktor Krum. To offset the gulf between them, Hermione had become fast friends with Ron’s little sister, Ginny.

While Ron’s feelings towards her had been obvious, his jealousy had been even more so. Harry, for all his moody moments and anger, had always tried to support her and be her friend.

And so it was that, with a light heart, Hermione exited the library to meet Harry in the Great Hall for breakfast. She had only gone a short distance when a hand shot of out a darkened corner and grabbed her hand, spinning her around. Her books went flying and she felt something being slipped on to one of her fingers.

Then Ron stepped out of the shadows, still holding her hand and he bent her wrist cruelly, causing her to cry out in pain and back into the wall. He leaned heavily against her and she could smell the fire whiskey on his breath. Pulling her hand up, he thrust it under her nose.

"See this ring, ‘Mione?" he asked with a cruel chuckle. "This is a promise ring. It’s charmed so only I can take it off. It will never allow another ring on that finger, unless I put it there. You’re mine ‘Mione and I’m not going to let that bloody rich bastard have you. EVER!"

He kept her hands pinned and pressed his lips against hers. She turned her face away from him and she struggled against him, her eyes filling with tears.

Realizing her struggles were only making him tighten his hold, she relaxed.   When Ron felt her body soften against him, he released one of her hands to grope at her breasts and she nearly shouted in triumph.   Instead, she yelped in pain when he squeezed one of her breasts hard and twisted the nipple, causing several buttons on her blouse to pop off.

With a low angry growl, she grabbed his hair and yanked back hard.   When his neck snapped back, she brought her knee up between his legs with all the strength in her small body, intent on driving his testicles into this throat.

With a hoarse, retching sound, Ron released her and fell to his knees. Hermione stepped around him, dug her hands into his hair and slammed him head first into the wall.

When he slid down to lay on the floor, barely conscious, she spun and fled down the corridor, sobbing, her books still scattered throughout the hallway.

The Great Hall (breakfast)…

Harry kept an eye on the entrance to the Great Hall while he ate breakfast. Hermione was late and he was starting to get concerned. He looked up as Professor McGonagall stopped in the entrance and motioned for him to join her. Grabbing his book bag, he stood and left his half eaten breakfast.

"Mr. Potter, we need you in the infirmary. If you would follow me," McGonagall said sternly.

Harry followed his Transfiguration Professor as she moved quickly to the infirmary. When the double doors opened, he spotted the sobbing form of Hermione sitting on the bed with Professor Flitwick patting her on the back.

When he rushed to her side, she spotted him and blanched. She turned away, refusing to face him.

He looked at Professor McGonagall, worried, but puzzled.

"Ginny Weasley found her this morning. She was in the girl’s dormitory bathroom, crying and trying to take off a ring. She’d cut her finger in several places trying to remove it. Professor Flitwick has tried to dispel the charm on the ring to no avail. We don’t know how she came to be wearing it and she hasn’t told anyone. Nor will she let anyone touch her. We thought that perhaps you might…" McGonagall trailed off, waiting.

Harry nodded and knelt by the sobbing girl. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently turned her to face him. His heart ached to see the shame and pain in her eyes. She tried several times to turn away, but he wouldn’t let her.

"Hermione…" he whispered. "That ring, do you want it off?"

She sagged against him and nodded mutely. He brushed her hair out of her eyes and whispered, "Let me hold your hand, Hermione… let me help you."

Harry ignored the Professors, who both stood, watching mutely, as he took her hand. He reviewed all of the dispelling spells he’d learned and quickly decided that the best approach was the brute force method. It would either work or he’d have to try each of the spells individually.

Clasping her hand in his, he drew on all of his power and whispered, "Finite Incantatum."

His hands erupted in a white aura and he grasped the ring and gently pulled it from her finger. As soon as the ring was off, his hands returned to normal.

Harry tossed the ring onto the bed next to hers and pulled her into his arms while she sobbed in relief on his shoulder. Neither student saw the look exchanged between the two Professors at the display of wandless magic.

When she had calmed down enough to talk, he pulled away from her enough to look at her. As he did, he couldn’t help but notice the popped buttons, and the bruises forming on what he could see of her breast.

Harry bolted to his feet, his body crackling with energy. He seemed to grow taller and more imposing and his hair seemed to move in response to an unfelt wind. His school robe billowed out behind him and his eyes blazed emerald fire as his magic roared within him.

"Who did this to you?" he ground out between clenched teeth.

Hermione looked up, startled. She’d only seen him like this once, over the summer, and she knew that if she didn’t help him calm down, Hogwarts would soon be a rubble heap. Hermione jumped up, her own shame forgotten now and she grabbed him whispering in his ear, trying to calm him.

Both McGonagall and Flitwick were surprised by Harry’s display and the amount of energy radiating from him.

Harry fought back his rage with Hermione’s help. As he did, the power engulfing him ebbed away.

When the couple turned to face the two Professors, Harry reached down and scooped up the ring in one hand, while Hermione explained what had happened to her. McGonagall was outraged and expressed the desire to see Ron expelled.

Harry shook his head grimly. "I’m sorry, Professor. I truly respect you, but I doubt you’ll be allowed to expel, deduct points or otherwise punish him."

"Mr. Potter, I can assure you I will do my best," replied McGonagall stiffly. Then she peered hard at the couple. "Miss Granger, Mr. Potter, I release you from this mornings classes. I expect you, Mr. Potter, to escort Miss Granger safely back to our house where she can change her clothing."

Harry nodded mutely and put an arm protectively around Hermione’s shoulders. She leaned into him, taking comfort from his presence. The two teachers filed from the room and Harry took Hermione back to Gryffindor house.

After Hermione had changed, Harry took her outside of the castle for a walk down by the lake. She was uncharacteristically quiet and Harry was reluctant to disturb her, knowing she needed time to collect her thoughts.

He settled her on rock and sat down next to her.   They both stared out across the lake, watching the giant squid perform lazy back flips and listening to the songbirds.

When he could stand her silence no longer, he placed a comforting arm across her shoulder and asked if she was all right.

"No, but I will be," she replied. "I think I’m still in a bit of shock, Harry. This morning I felt like I was on top of the world, only to have it come crashing back down on me. I can’t believe that arrogant, bloody bastard would do that!"

Harry’s jaw dropped open.   Hermione never cursed! The look on his face must have been amusing, because Hermione started to laugh.

As her laughter died away, she pulled away and turned to face him.   The day had shaken her confidence on several levels, and she needed reassurance.

"Harry, do you think I’m pretty?" she asked quietly.

He blinked in surprise. "Yes, I think you are very pretty, on both sides."

"Both sides?" she asked, puzzled.

Harry looked skyward trying to figure out how to reply without getting himself into too much trouble. Finally he turned back to look at her. "Hermione, did you know that you and Ron were the first friends I ever had? Sure, I liked and still like Hagrid, but you two were my first real friends. I learned things about you that I liked in a friend. Do you know how much I envied both of you? You had parents, a family and both of you seemed to be willing to share a little of that with me. I know, now, that Ron was lying to me, but you weren’t.

"Over the years, I came to understand just how special you were. When you were hit in the Department of Mysteries, I realized that I’d risked someone very important in my life and it felt like a piece of my heart died. On the Express home, I wanted to tell you that, but I thought you fancied Ron. I was afraid to tell you and more afraid I’d ruin our friendship by telling you.

"When the summer came along, I realized my beautiful friend had turned into a beautiful woman… Merlin, Hermione! Sometimes I think you ask me these questions just to torment and tease me. Don’t you know what you do to me?" he finally asked plaintively, running a hand through his hair in frustration.

Hermione smiled. "You still didn’t answer my question though, Harry. What do you mean by ‘both sides’?"

Harry stared out across the lake, his eyes taking on a far away look. When he started to speak again, she had to strain to hear him. "You’re beautiful. On the inside and the outside, and they both affect me in different ways. You’re Hermione, my best friend, and smart, brave, loyal, stubborn, frightened, happy and sad. And that Hermione is someone I care deeply for, someone I want around for a long time. Someone I want to protect. You’re Hermione, beautiful bookworm, and your looks make me nervous, scared and excited. How you look makes it hard sometimes for me to concentrate, and gives me ideas that shame me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want you. Unlike Ron though, I want you to want me as well. Does that make any sense?" he said very softly.

Hermione moved closer and wrapped both arms around his neck. "It makes perfect sense, Harry. And I do want you as much as you want me. But those sort of things take time," she whispered.

"I know," he replied softly. "But don’t be surprised when I keep making an idiot of myself around you. Sometimes you distract me so much I can’t put two words together."

Hermione smiled gently and trailed soft kisses from his ear to his cheek, then down his neck, causing him to shiver. Leaning back, she looked at him carefully.   His eyes were glazed and his smile was slightly lopsided. With a soft laugh, she took his hand in hers and turned back to gaze out across the lake.

The two sat for a long while before returning to the castle. He never did recover his ability to talk while they sat there.

They returned to the castle for lunch, which Ron missed, much to their relief. Harry wondered if McGonagall had actually managed to carry through with her threat of punishing him.

Wherever Ron was, it appeared as though he’d managed to tell someone that he’d given Hermione a promise ring and, being Hogwarts, the word has spread like wildfire. The result was an endless stream of girls coming to the Gryffindor table, wanting to see it.

By dinner everyone knew about the promise ring, only now the story was that Hermione had accepted it willingly and that an engagement would soon follow. Harry, Ginny and Neville sat with her as people around the Great Hall threw her knowing looks while she fumed.

Just before the meal was served, Ron waltzed into the Great Hall, a pleased look on his face. McGonagall brushed by him, every square inch of her body expressing the fury she felt. Harry caught her eye and he nodded slightly.

McGonagall hated to admit it, but Harry had been absolutely spot on. The Headmaster had refused to allow Ronald Weasley to be punished in any way. He had been so much more interested in the ring that McGonagall, in a fit of anger, hadn’t bothered to tell him that Harry had broken the charms on it.

Ron sauntered up the aisle feeling very smug with himself. He had lied to Hermione and she’d believed him. The ring didn’t just have a sticking charm on it; it also had a love charm on it. Unlike potions, love charms are slow to work and not nearly as reliable. Love charms also suffered from the fatal flaw of being unable to work if the person was already in love.

Ron moved up the aisle figuring that Hermione would be under the influence of the charm enough that she’d be friendly towards him. Stopping behind her, he was about to tap her on the shoulder when Harry stood up and faced him. Ron glanced at him and, for the first time, noticed the power flowing off the young man in waves that beat at him. Harry’s face darkened and he scowled. Hermione looked up, startled, as she felt the heavy stone table tremble and the waves of Harry’s magic buffeted her.

Seeing the danger they were all in, she took action.   Jumping to her feet, she climbed up and stood on the top of the table.   When Harry, Ron and the rest of those in the Great Hall all turned to stare at her, she scowled.

"Listen up, you lot," she said angrily.   "Ronald Weasley forced a ring on my finger, physically attacked me, nearly breaking my wrist, and then sexually molested me. When he let go of one of my hands, I was able to move him back enough to drive my knee between his legs and get away."

Ron’s face was nearly purple with rage as he stared up at Hermione.   At the Head table, Dumbledore’s expression was a mixture of fear and anger. Minerva sat back with her arms crossed, scowling at him.

The Headmaster stood.   "Miss Granger, I really don’t think this is the place…"

"I did not accept the ring, I did not want the ring, but I couldn’t get it off.   It had to be removed with powerful magic," she continued, ignoring Dumbledore.   "And yet, here he is, walking free without a care in the world.   Why?   Because Professor Dumbledore has done nothing to punish him for his actions!"

"Really, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, as silence descended on the hall and all eyes turned towards him,   "I have only your word on the matter.   Mr. Weasley has assured me that he did not hurt you in any way…"

"I have the bruises to prove it.   And if that’s not enough for you, Sir, a Pensieve and a few drops of Veritaserum would erase any doubt about the truth of my words," Hermione countered.

"I don’t think that will be necessary…" Dumbledore began.

Hermione spun away from him and faced the students once more. "For the girls here, I tell you to beware.   Our Headmaster doesn’t mind if a woman is raped within the halls of Hogwarts!"

Dumbledore placed his hands on the table and leaned forward.   Before he could speak however, Ron, who’d just noticed the ring missing from Hermione’s finger, leapt forward.

"You bitch!" he screamed. "What did you do with my ring? You weren’t supposed to be able to remove it!

Hermione looked down at Ron and her eyes turned hard. "I didn’t remove it Ronald, Harry did after two Professors were unable to. Now sod off you bastard and leave me alone!"

Ron started to leave when a cold voice stopped him in his tracks. Turning, he faced Harry.

"Weasley, if you ever touch her again, I’ll rip you apart," he said quietly, his voicing so low only Hermione, scrambling down from the top of the table, heard him. Then, reaching into his pocket, he pulled out Ron’s ring and tossed it to the ground between them.

Ron’s fists balled up and he lunged for Harry, swinging hard.

"Nail him, Ron!" shouted Seamus.

Harry ducked out of the way and moved back slightly. He was just seconds from pulling his wand when a voice barked out in the Great Hall, stopping both men in their tracks.

"THAT IS ENOUGH!" said Dumbledore. "Mr. Weasley, find yourself a seat and have dinner. Mr. Potter, that will be twenty five points from Gryffindor for fighting."

"Headmaster, Potter wasn’t the one fighting!" protested McGonagall, furious over what she had just witnessed.

"Professor, kindly remember I am Headmaster of this school," admonished Dumbledore.

McGonagall looked down at her plate, furious that Dumbledore would reprimand her in public and that he could be so patently unfair.

Harry held out his hand to Hermione and they turned to leave.

"Mr. Potter, you and Miss Granger have not finished your meal," the Headmaster called.

"That’s all right, Sir," Harry said, turning to face him. "The company is enough to turn our stomachs.   We couldn’t possible eat a thing."   His eyes bored into Dumbledore’s, glowing eerily.   When the old man looked away, Harry escorted Hermione from the hall.

Dumbledore returned to his seat and frowned. He’d expected to see hurt in Harry’s eyes, not cold, calculating anger. The more Dumbledore thought out it, the more it bothered him. It was obvious that the Granger girl was upset, but her display in the hall was shocking.   If her resentment of him became too strong, she’d be able to influence Harry, and that couldn’t be allowed.   He had to find a way to reach the boy!

Sixth Year Boys Dormitory, Hogwarts…

Harry slid under the blankets, thinking that life truly sucked. The number of friends he had could be counted on two hands. The rest of the school either openly mistrusted him, or hated him.

The last three weeks had seen several meetings of the study group. He’d also had several extra lessons with Romany, working on trying to control the amount of power he put into a spell.

Snape was sleeping normally again, which made him his usual ugly, greasy self. Harry was seriously tempted to give him another dream loop, but refrained from doing so. Snape had cost Harry nearly 100 points in the last three weeks, which only fueled the animosity the Gryffindor’s were feeling against him. Even McGonagall seemed to be a little put out with him over the loss of points.

Earlier tonight, he and Hermione had tried to do their homework in the common room with Neville and Ginny, but had been disturbed by comments coming from Ron, Dean and Seamus. Ginny had broken up with Dean over the summer and looked to be centering her attention on Neville.

Like Harry, the summer had seen some major physical changes in Neville He’d dropped a lot of the baby fat and shot up a few inches. His actions at the Department of Mysteries had done much to boost his confidence and replacing father’s wand with a new one tuned to him made his spell casting much easier. Neville carried himself with a new air of confidence now and it showed.

Harry considered his friends carefully, as he did every night. He had a vague idea of a plan and it was important to him that every one of them was protected. With that thought, Harry slipped into an uneasy sleep.

For several hours there were few sounds, other than the occasional snore from within the dormitory. That changed around four A.M. when one figure stirred in his bed.

The figure took a glass jar containing a large spider from under his bed. He then pulled out his wand and pointed it at the spider.   "Imperio," he whispered.

The hyper-aggressive spider froze in the jar and then relaxed.

Carefully opening the jar, he placed it on the floor and flicked the wand towards Harry’s bed. The light brown, palm-sized spider climbed out of jar and scurried towards the bed as instructed.

In the heat of the dorm room, Harry slept with only a light sheet covering him. The spider easily passed his wards, as they were designed only to keep people out. He shifted and, in doing so, exposed his right leg to the night air.

The spider slowly crawled up Harry’s leg, the glass-like hairs slicing into his skin, anesthetizing the cuts and coating them with a mild neurotoxin. Stopping at his calf, the spider raised its two front legs in a high arc and froze for a moment. Then it plunged its quarter inch fangs into his calf, injecting its deadly venom.

Harry howled and bolted from his bed. The sheets flared and fell on the spider, pinning it in place. He looked at the bed as a wave of pain and nausea washed over him. His leg felt like it was on fire. Staggering, he headed for the door and the lit common room where he could see his leg. Each step was agony and his body broke out in a cold sweat. He leaned heavily against the wall as he stumbled down the stairway, his heart beating like a jackhammer.

When he finally reached the common room, he knew he was in serious trouble. He was only wearing his boxers and he could see what appeared to be fine cracks developing over the skin on his leg, like a bullet hole in a pane of glass. Another wave of nausea passed over him and spots danced in front of his eyes. Stumbling towards a couch, he bumped it slightly and the pain caused him to collapse with a whimper. The spots whirling before his eyes grew larger until unconsciousness took him.

Sixth Year Girls Dormitory, Hogwarts…

Hermione awoke to a strange glow she didn’t recognize and a soft pinging sound. It took her a moment to recognize that her charm bracelet was the source, and then she bolted upright, staring at the bracelet in horror.

Romany had shown her a new personalized warning charm and had helped her enchant one of the charms on her bracelet with it. It was designed to warn her whenever Harry’s life was in danger and the golden snitch on her bracelet was now glowing brightly and chiming.

She quickly threw back the curtains to her bed, put on a robe and ran down the stairs to the common room. She stopped when she entered and cocked her head slightly, hearing a tapping sound. Walking around to the back of one of the couches, she was horrified to see Harry on the floor, his heels pounding the floor while the rest of his body convulsed.

"HARRY!!!" she screamed, her voice echoing in the room. She dashed for the door and McGonagall’s apartment.

Grimmauld Place…

Tonks had just come off duty and Remus was up waiting for her in the kitchen. Sitting at the kitchen table, they waited while Dobby prepared tea.

"So," said Remus, "how was your day?"

Tonks snorted. "Same old stuff, Remy. With Harry in school, I’m playing ‘show the brotherhood’ by walking around in my cloak. How’s Narcissa doing?"

"Danni says she’s doing quite well. She says she’s over the addiction and now it’s just a matter of rebuilding her strength…" he trailed off as Dobby approached.

Dobby made a funny whining sound and his eyes grew even larger. Both Tonks and Remus turned in surprise to look at the little house elf.

"Master Harry is in trouble!!" Dobby cried out loudly, then he vanished with a loud pop, the tea service in his hand crashing to the floor.

Minerva McGonagall’s quarters…

Grumbling, Minerva threw on a robe and put on her slippers. Whoever’s was banging on my door had better be reporting a fire or they’ll regret waking me at this hour of the night, she thought to herself, annoyed.

Minerva threw open her door and was shocked to see one of her favorite students in a state of complete panic.   "Miss Granger, whatever is the matter?" she asked, surprised.

Hermione grabbed her hand and started tugging on her. "Professor you must come now… Harry… something is dreadfully wrong… Please, oh please Professor…" sobbed the girl.

Minerva frowned and let the girl lead her back to the common room, where Harry lay still convulsing. Her jaw dropped in shock as she spotted his leg and the fine web of cracks extending out from a central point. Stepping to the fireplace, she threw a pinch of floo powder into the fire and stuck her head in.

A crowd had formed in the common room. Hermione stood to one side, her hands twisting into tight knots. Neville came to her side and put a hand on her shoulder. His eyes were fixed on the ugly wound still growing on Harry’s leg.

McGonagall pulled back from the fireplace and conjured a blanket to place over Harry.

"Professor," said Neville, "that looks like some kind of insect bite. He’s going to need an anti-venom."

Ginny moved to stand next to Hermione, while McGonagall stared up sharply at Neville.

Hermione turned to the red head girl, who wrapped an arm around her. "He’s in so much pain," she sobbed into the younger girl’s shoulder.

The floo flared again and Madam Pomfrey appeared in the fireplace. A moment later Professors Snape, Dumbledore and Blackthorne joined them. Harry was still convulsing and showing no signs of stopping.

"Severus," snapped Poppy. "I need to look at his leg, help me hold him still."

Snape leaned down hard on Harry’s leg, pinning it to the ground, while Poppy peeled away the blanket. She cast a few diagnostic spells, frowning at the results, as Harry’s convulsions grew weaker and his strength ebbed.

"It’s some kind of venomous bite, but from what? Using the wrong kind of anti-venom could kill him," said Poppy in frustration.

"Do you not know, Poppy?" asked Dumbledore worriedly. To have the boy die now would ruin everything!

"No, I don’t!" she snapped. "It could be anything…"

There was a loud pop and Dobby appeared carrying a bundle.

"Miss Hermy!" he cried running up to Hermione. "Dobby caught bad bug that bite Master Harry Potter!"

McGonagall rushed over to the little elf and conjured a large glass tank. "Put the bug in here!" she commanded.

Nodding, Dobby placed the sheet into the tank and Minerva conjured a lid. Carefully grabbing one end of the sheet and threading it under the lid, she started pulling on it. Neville knelt by her side, his hands poised to press down on the lid at a moments notice.

Slowly, the large, light brown spider was revealed. It reared the front of its body up and venom dripped from its fangs in gooey droplets in the tank.

"What is that thing?" someone asked.

"It’s a Jordanian Glass Razorback Spider. Its bite is lethal without the anti-venom," whispered Hermione, stepping back from the now caged arachnid.

Madam Pomfrey stepped to the fireplace and placed another floo call. A few minutes later, a man dressed in Healer green stepped out carrying a very small vial and a needle. He looked at Harry for a moment, then at the glass tank now sitting on a table.

"My word! A Jordanian Glass Razorback! What an wonderful specimen," he exclaimed.

"Healer Hopkins, if you please! Your patient needs you," snapped Poppy.

Hopkins blinked for a moment and reluctantly turned away from examining the spider. "Oh right, Madam Pomfrey. I’ll need someone to hold his leg still. I have to inject the anti-venom close to the bite site."

Poppy and Snape held down Harry’s leg. Hopkins drew a small amount of liquid from the vial and plunged the needle into Harry’s leg, very near the bite.

"If the anti-venom takes, we should see him stop convulsing and relax in five minutes. If not, we have to repeat the injection, increasing the dosage."

Hermione sat on a chair nearby with Ginny and Neville perched on both sides. She kept glancing at the clock, then back to Harry, who was still twitching. She was holding Ginny’s hand so tightly that Ginny wondered if she had any broken bones.

Two and a half minutes into the injection, McGonagall started sending students back to their dorms. She allowed Hermione, Ginny and Neville to stay, but the others had to leave.

Three minutes passed with no change and Hermione’s face crumpled as a sob escaped from her throat.

Nearly four and a half minutes into the injection, Harry’s back arched like a tightly drawn bow. Hermione cried out in fright as he arched again, then sank back to the floor and lay still.

Poppy and Healer Hopkins ran several tests before looking at each other and sighed in relief. Hopkins nodded to the medi-witch and she conjured a stretcher. When she moved to levitate Harry, Dobby beat her to it.

Poppy smiled at the little elf, who returned her smile shyly then he levitated the stretcher for her. Hermione followed her and Hopkins as they left the common room, leaving Dumbledore, Blackthorne, Snape and McGonagall behind with Ginny and Neville.

"How do you suppose a middle-eastern venomous spider got to be in the boy’s sixth year dormitories?" asked Blackthorne in a quiet voice, watching the others closely.

"Yes, that is most curious. I would hazard to say this was a deliberate attempt on Mr. Potter’s life. Ah well, at least this will convince him that staying inside the castle is his best course of action if he wishes to remain safe," said Dumbledore.

Romany’s eyes narrowed and looked at Dumbledore speculatively before leaving the common room.

Hogwarts Infirmary…

Poppy stood over the prone figure of Harry Potter. His leg was covered in a healing salve and wrapped in bandages. Hermione sat next to the bed, watching her carefully.

Healer Hopkins had explained the prognosis for a Glass Razorback bite once the anti-venom had taken effect. Poppy now watched her patient, worried. He was not going to be happy when he woke up.

Dobby had left a short while ago, returning to report to Remus and Tonks. Many people were awoken as word of the attack on Harry spread. Amelia rushed to her office and, after a hurried conference with the duty officer, she sent an Auror to escort Minister Fudge into the office. Ten Aurors were immediately dispatched to Hogsmeade wearing concealment cloaks and had specific orders. A special owl was prepared to send to Hogwarts. Amelia and Tonks coordinated the best way to provide additional protection to Harry, and a cover story to explain the increased law enforcement presence.

Minister Fudge and Amelia then conferred with the Hogwarts Board of Governors, in most cases waking them up to apprise them of the situation. The Board of Governors had been reluctant to apply a permanent solution, but eventually a compromise was reached between the Ministry and the Board.

Back at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger sat next to the bed of a sleeping Harry Potter, his body exhausted by the ordeal, and wept quietly as the first rays of dawn touched the cold stones of the castle.

Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…

Dumbledore rolled out of his bed. It had been an eventful night and he was already trying to come up with ways to turn them to his advantage.

He was just getting around to his first cup of tea when he heard tapping at his bedroom window. With a sigh, he walked to the window and opened it, admitting a jet black, long eared owl into the room. When the owl landed on the table, he removed the letter and the bird immediately took off in a flurry of feathers.

The address on the envelope simply read ‘Headmaster’, with a Celtic cross in the corner. He frowned and pulled out his wand, running several detection spells on it. Detecting no magic, he opened it and extracted the letter.

The Brotherhood will tolerate no further assaults on Harry Potter or his friend. You have been warned. Do not cross us again.
The Brotherhood.

As he finished reading the short note, the paper curled and started to smoke. In another moment it flashed into flame, leaving a stunned Dumbledore wondering how he had failed to detect the burning charm on the note. It never occurred to him that he had just experienced chemically treated flash paper, designed to burst into flame. A Muggle spy technique the MLE had borrowed from the MI6.

Dumbledore’s fireplace suddenly flared to life and Professor McGonagall’s head appeared. "Albus, Minister Fudge and Amelia Bones are approaching the castle with a large crowd of people, mostly Aurors from the look of them. Also, I’ve received a floo from Aberforth in the Hogs Head. He says that Hogsmeade is crawling with Brotherhood members."

"Minerva, please escort the Minister and Director Bones to my office. I will be there shortly myself," he replied.

Could this day get any worse? He wondered as he dressed and prepared himself to meet the Minister and Director of Magical Law Enforcement.

Author’s Notes:

And now for the dreaded Authors notes. OH NO! NOT THE AUTHORS NOTES!

The threat to press charges is largely a empty threat. If you haven’t figured out by now that there is an ongoing investigation into Dumbledore and his cronies then we haven’t done our job. Pressing charges would disrupt said investigation.

Harry will not be a phoenix animagus in this story, nor will he get Fawkes either. If Fawkes returns to this story it won’t be until the near the end of the planned sequel to this story. As to why Harry won’t get Fawkes, well you’ll find out in a chapter or two.

Those people reviewing and complaining that they don’t believe the abuse angle belong in the same group as those people that believe sticking a 12 yr old in a room with bars in the window and feeding him thru a cat flap in the door is normal. The abuse issue is a primary catalyst for this story and it will slowly filter its way out of the story. What JKR does and what we do are different. That’s why we call it AU. If you don’t like, don’t read.

Athenakitty: "How much longer will Millicent chase Snape?" Not long. I suggest rereading the chapter. "Will Harry kick the Order out of Grimmauld?" I suggest going back rereading earlier chapters. Do you actually read this story or are you pulling Luna’s trick and doing it upside? * grin *

We don’t like the redeemed Draco either. But that isn’t the point of him. To us, taking a character we hate and rewriting him into one we like is an exercise in testing our writing skills.

Snape’s cover has been blown. He’s stuck in the castle for a while. Of course that while may be shorter than he thinks if he keeps annoying our version of Harry.

I disagree with the idea that we have a H/G in canon. At the end of HBP he broke it off and from the lack of quality I suspect that JKR heading for a more unorthodox pairing. My guess is H/Hedwig for book seven. Attention! Sarcasm was included in this comment!!!

Yes the sorting hat song had the meter skewed. I did that because its AU and I hate poetry that rhymes on every other line. My wife who likes poetry that way didn’t want to rewrite what I had written. I’d offer a refund but I’m out of checks. Will you take an IOU? My first pass of the sorting hat song was to make it sing limericks.

There was wizard from surrey,

Who’s wand was quite furry.

Ginny was into petting

But Harry was not letting.

He’d rather stick it in curry!

Some of my favorite Fan Fictions are listed in my profile, and I strongly recommend No Thanks and Letters and Lunches by Old-Crow. Excellent work in my opinion.

Pet Peeves:

Authors that jump topics/locations/points of view with no logical separation between the text. Don’t you just love reading something like this?

"Wormtail! CRUCIO!"

"Harry, get your hand out of my skirt!" said Ginny hotly.

Is it too much to ask for some kind of separation between story sequences?

  • Previous
  • Next