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Standard Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT TO CANON. IT’S AN AU SIXTH YEAR FICTION.  Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away I owned Harry Potter, but I lost Harry Potter and Chewbacca in a poker game with JK Rowling. So it’s all hers. I bow before her awesome presence. Damn Wookie!

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 2

Diagon Alley…

Remus Lupin kept the hood of his cloak up to cover his face as he apparated to the Leaky Cauldron. He had every faith in Hermione’s potion making efforts, but he’d order a set of Wolfsbane doses along with the regular ingredients, just in case.

He made his way carefully to the back of the Leaky Cauldron, his enhanced senses working on overdrive, trying to spot trouble. He had a portkey in his hand. If necessary, all he needed to do was give it a squeeze to activate it.

The apothecary he wanted wasn’t far from Ollivanders. He quickly made his way to the store and checked the windows to see how crowded it was. Entering the small shop, he crossed to the counter and made his request to the shopkeeper, who bustled about, getting the necessary ingredients and potions.

As Remus watched the clerk, a voice whispered in his ear.

"Remus, we need to talk," the voice was familiar.

Turning slightly, he saw a non-descript man standing next to him.

"Tonks?" he muttered under his breath with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"Yes. Now get your stuff and follow me out, Remus. Either we talk or I’ll haul your ass in for questioning."

Remus sighed. He knew going to Diagon Alley was a risk. Silently he followed her out of the shop after collecting his purchases. Remus’ mind was a whir with possible courses of action. The one thing he couldn’t do was let Tonks take him back to Grimmauld Place, or even the Ministry. That left him with few options. He could overpower her, his werewolf reflexes and strength would make that easy, but he couldn’t do that in the broad light of Diagon Alley. Besides, he really didn’t want to hurt her. Maybe if he could get far enough to use his portkey?

Exiting the shop, the non-descript man grabbed his arm. Remus quickly spotted three other Aurors closing in on them. With his choices reduced to one and unable to shake Tonks’ hand from his arm, he cursed savagely and gave his portkey a squeeze. They vanished from Diagon Alley.

Hogwarts Headmaster’s Office…

Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape and Filius Flitwick sat in front the Headmaster’s desk for this special meeting he had called. After the obligatory offer of lemon drops, Dumbledore began the meeting.

"I called you all here today so that you could prepare in advance. I’m convinced that this coming year will be a pivotal one in the life of Harry Potter. He stands on the cusp of his life and has a choice to make, to remain faithful to the light, or to turn to the dark. We can, of course, influence that decision as much as possible, but we must be watchful and see that he does not turn into another Voldemort.

"But Albus," squeaked Flitwick, "do you honestly think Harry would turn dark? I have watched the boy since he started and he seems to be the most light-oriented boy I have ever met. His grades are good and his loyalty to his friends and to his house are even stronger than his father’s."

"Yes Filius, I believe there is a chance this year could see a change in Harry’s behavior. That is why I have decided to lighten his load this year. I am not revoking his lifelong Quidditch ban, despite Minerva’s protests, nor will he be made a prefect. I will, however, allow him to continue his Defense club, under the supervision of Severus here. In the meantime, we must all watch him closely.

Minerva frowned. "Albus, I will follow your directions, but I want to go on record as stating that I, for one, believe your actions will only succeed in driving him away from us."

"Believe me Minerva, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t truly feel it was necessary."

"How do you want us to do this then, Albus?" she asked.

"I have asked young Mister Weasley to speak with several of his friends and get them to keep a watch over Harry, mostly your Gryffindors, I’m afraid, Minerva. Severus will observe his Defense club to ensure Harry is not teaching any dark art spells to the members, or practicing them himself. I will also ask Severus to begin again with the Occulumency lessons when he returns to school.

"As head of his house Minerva, you will get reports from Mister Weasley and relay them to me. Filius will have to contend himself to merely watching him in class," Dumbledore concluded.

"I still think you should reconsider his Quidditch ban, Albus," Minerva said.

"So convinced you can’t win the Quidditch cup without him, Minerva?" sneered Snape.

"Enough! My decision is made and it’s final. I will not listen to you to argue about the Quidditch cup again," Dumbledore snapped, dismissing them from his office.

Padfoot Manor, Library…

Harry had been reading the Occulumency book Hermione had found and had discovered something fascinating. Though the book contained just over two hundred pages, he had finished reading it in less than an hour. It seemed as though he had read and absorbed the book into his mind. He could recall any page in the book and it’s contents, but more importantly, he had managed in that single reading to grasp its concepts almost as if he had sucked the information from the book. Setting the book down, he leaned back, closed his eyes, and applied the techniques to building his own mental shields.

Within minutes he had an impressive set of shields that could stop most intrusions. He was about to apply the technique of reflexive Occulumency when he heard a disturbance from the foyer of the large house.

He jumped from his chair and ran to the foyer with Hermione hot on his heels. Arriving in the foyer, he saw Remus being held by a strange man. Without thinking or drawing a wand, he shouted, "Stupefy!"

The stranger shouted, "Protego," putting up a shield, while Remus shouted, "WAIT!"

Harry’s stunner shattered the stranger’s shield, and hitting him in the chest. Both the stranger and Remus were thrown right through the front door and landing a good thirty feet from it on the lawn.

Harry and Hermione rushed out to help Remus, who was dizzily trying to get to his feet.

"Merlin, Harry! If that was a stunning spell, I’d hate to see what your other spells look like," exclaimed Remus.

Dan and Emma stood watching from the door as Harry removed the wand the stranger was holding. He was about to bind the man when Remus stopped him.

"Don’t, Harry. You don’t recognize her, but that’s Tonks. I want to hear what she has to say. I would have sworn she was about to have me arrested."

Harry scowled and shook his head, looking at the very stunned witch. "Alright then, let’s get her inside on a couch and we’ll see what she has to say. If necessary, I’ll Obliviate her and send her on her way."

"Harry…" began Remus.

"No, Remus. She’s a member of the Order and I don’t trust her. She’s endangering Hermione and the rest of us. Be thankful I won’t do any worse than a memory charm," Harry stated flatly.

As he spoke, he stood fully erect and his eyes seemed to dance with the power behind them. His tone was cold and harsh. Hermione could tell that, despite the progress he had made opening up to her and reconciling himself with his past, the most recent betrayal had hurt him deeply.

Remus stared worriedly at Harry before levitating the Metamorphmagus into the house. Everyone followed the werewolf into the house, passing the wreckage that used to be the front door to the house. Harry stopped in the foyer and with a wave of his hand the doors were repaired. Turning quickly, he followed the others.

Once in the living room, Remus laid Tonks on the couch and cast a quick Ennervate to wake her. She groaned and slowly opened her eyes.

"Cor blimey! What the ruddy hell was that?" she asked, looking up at Remus.

"That, Tonks, was Harry’s stunning spell," replied Remus softly with a bit of a smirk.

Tonks glanced up at the people in the room, taking in the Grangers and Hermione, Remus and Harry. Spotting Harry, she jumped off the couch and walked over to him. She got within three feet before bouncing off the shield he had erected, a shield that was not visible. Her brow furrowed at the idea of a barrier between them.

"Harry…," started Remus.

"NO! How do you know she doesn’t have a portkey on her, Remus?" He then turned his gaze on Tonks. "What were your plans for Remus?   I know he wouldn’t have brought you here unless something had gone wrong.   Were you going to drag him Dumbledore and let the old man crawl through his mind?   Or maybe take him to the Ministry so Umbridge’s crowd could torture themselves a werewolf?" he asked scathingly.

She staggered backwards from the sheer power rolling off him, waves of it. The house groaned from the pressure of so much magic and Hermione stepped up quickly to Harry’s side, touching his arm. He seemed to relax a little and his magic bled away.

"I suggest you start talking, Tonks. And it had better be good, or I’ll send you back to Dumbledore to report as little more than a vegetable," he said coldly.

"Harry, relax," Remus began. "We don’t know what she wants. Let’s give her a chance to talk first before you do anything."

Tonks kept glancing at Harry. He had changed considerably in the last few weeks since she had seen him. He was taller than she was now and his power seemed incredible. His simple stunning charm had blown through a shield that was supposed to be able to handle spells a lot more powerful.

"Harry, we’ve been looking all over for you. The Order is looking for you, V-V-Voldemort is looking for you, everyone. I only wanted to talk to Remus.   I didn’t know the other Aurors were there.   Remus saw them before I did and portkeyed us away," she said.

"And whom do you represent, Tonks? I seem to remember you being both an Order member and an Auror," Harry replied. He was leaning against a wall now, his arms crossed over his chest, staring at her. The eerie light behind his eyes made her nervous.

"I’m not here to bring you back to Dumbledore, Harry. I’m here because Amelia Bones is worried about your safety. We’ve been investigating your case and we’ve uncovered a fair number of irregularities that shouldn’t have happened. I’m here because the Ministry wants to know you’re protected."

"The Ministry? They won’t be able to do a damn thing with Fudge in charge, Tonks. Dumbledore will run all over him," Harry snorted.

"Fudge may be an incompetent idiot, but Amelia is running your case personally, with Fudge’s support. I know you don’t have reason to trust a lot of people, but there are people on your side that you don’t know about," Tonks stated quietly.

Harry ran his hand through his hair, which had started to grow of late. It wasn’t long yet, but it was less unruly than it had been. He turned to look at Hermione and Remus, the appeal evident in his face. Hermione could only shrug. She was as unsure as he was. Remus nodded and turned back to Tonks.

"Why don’t you tell us what you know and what you can offer Harry? I should warn you, he’s aware of what Dumbledore has been doing and has lost all faith in the Order of the Phoenix and its membership. We," he said, pointing to Dan, Emma, Hermione and himself, "are the only reason why he hasn’t already Obliviated your memory."

Tonks cringed and looked around at the people in the room. For the next couple hours, she told them what the Ministry had discovered and why she thought the Ministry was so willing to support Harry against Dumbledore. When she finally wound down, Remus recounted some of what they had found out and explained why Harry was so mistrusting of others. When Remus got around to explaining why he had removed Harry from Privet Drive, he opted to tell her about Harry’s Matura in vague terms. He left out how long he had been sick. Tonks was surprised to hear how late his Matura was, and she was visibly angry when Remus said he felt the lateness was due to his abuse at the hands of the Dursley’s.

Harry stood silent during the conversation, watching Remus and Tonks talk. It slowly dawned on him that both of them had feelings for each other. He trusted Remus implicitly and started to feel that if he could trust Remus, then he had to trust Remus’ feelings for Tonks as well.

Tonks kept glancing at Harry as Remus spoke. She seemed saddened by the fact that Harry had suddenly grown up. Sure, he was just going on sixteen, but he looked and acted more like a twenty year old. And his sense of presence was incredible. Muggles might not be able to sense it, but it hammered against anyone magical.

Harry glanced at the clock on the mantel, sighed and broke into the conversation. "Remus, we need to put an end to this. I’m going to be blunt. Do you trust her? Say the word and I’ll go along with it."

"Yes, I think I’m willing to trust her, Harry," the older man replied.

Harry eyed him carefully. "Now tell me you trust her with your head, not your heart, since you obviously fancy her."

Hermione looked shocked for a moment, and then started to snicker. Her parents smiled as Remus started to sputter, "I do not fancy her!"

"Oh, come on Remus! I can see it all over you when you talk to her," Harry replied grinning. "You lean in close and talk in soft tones, you make a lot of eye contact and your hands keeps inching forward like you want to hold hers."

Tonks looked between the two in amazement. Finally she turned to Remus. "Is it true, Remus?" she asked shyly. Remus looked at her, blushed and suddenly he found his feet very interesting.

"I think that we should let Tonks and Remus talk alone for a while. Let’s go into the study until they’re done," suggested Emma, smiling at the two of them.

Once in the study, Harry sat down and picked up his book again.   With a frown, he turned to Hermione. "The Matura… does it only affects magic or can it affect other things?" he asked her quietly.

Hermione paused and thought carefully before answering. "I’m not sure, Harry. No one has undergone a Matura as long as you have. If pressed, I’d have to say it’s affected other things as well about you. Look at yourself. You have grown a good six inches in the past three weeks, you’ve probably gained a good thirty pounds in muscle mass, even your hair is growing out. It’s logical to assume it’s affected you in other ways."

Harry nodded thoughtfully. He stood and walked over to a bookshelf and pulled down another book.   Scanning it quickly, he walked back to join Hermione.

"Harry, what happened to the volume on Occulumency?" she asked curiously, eyeing the new book.

Harry shrugged. "That’s why I asked if there were any other changes. I finished that book already."

Hermione’s jaw dropped. "You finished it? You barely had an hour with that book!"

"I can’t explain it, Hermione. It wasn’t like normal reading. It was more like absorbing the book. Half an hour after reading the book, I’d built a complete set of shields. Since then, without even thinking about it, I’ve been reinforcing them."

"Is that why you’ve picked another book Harry?"

Harry looked sheepishly at the volume in his hands. "I was curious to try a new subject and see if I could pick it up like the other book."

"So what’s that book?"

"Um… ‘Magical Transportation, a Guide to Things the Ministry Doesn’t Want You to Know’," he replied.

Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and eyed him suspiciously. "Harry, that book is illegal."

"I know Hermione, but considering what I’m up against, some of this might be useful to us," he replied.

"Well, it’s bigger than the first book, so maybe it is a good way to test your ability to read and retain the information," she said, a little put out.

He nodded and sat down, eagerly opening his book. Hermione watched as Harry started reading. He was turning pages at an unbelievable rate. In less than an hour he closed the book, leaned back and closed his eyes for several minutes. Then he leaned forward, tapped the book twice with his wand and murmured, "Portus".

Standing he picked up the book and vanished. He reappeared in front of the bookshelf, where he put the book back and pulled another from the shelf.

Smiling, he walked back to Hermione and leaned down to whisper in her ear.

"You’re still the smartest and prettiest witch I know, Hermione."

Hermione felt chills running up and down her spine. She shivered and was unsure whether it was because of his warm breath on her or that he called her pretty. Is Harry flirting with me? She wondered.

Meanwhile, Emma was tugging on Dan’s shoulder to get his attention from the book he was reading. Both of them watched as Hermione blushed and Harry sat down next to her.

Hermione frowned, then an idea hit her. She summoned a quill and some parchment.

Leaving the table, she started walking up and down the bookshelves, making notes and absently humming to herself. Occasionally she’d pull a book off the shelf and levitate it back to the table.

"Uh oh, Harry, better run," Emma said, grinning.

"Most definitely. Run Harry, she’s humming," added Dan, trying hard not to laugh.

"Humming? What does that mean?" Harry asked, confused. Hermione never hummed!

"It means she’s got a new project, Harry, and I suspect that project is you," replied Dan. "With you reading and retaining things, I suspect she’s picking out books for you to read."

Harry was banging his head against the table as the door to the study opened admitting Remus and Tonks. Unsurprisingly, they were holding hands. Remus looked startled to see his ward’s behavior and he turned to look questioningly at Dan and Emma.

"Oh, he’ll be fine. Hermione has decided to make him her study partner and is busy building up a book list for some light summer reading," Dan said with a smug grin. As he spoke, three more books floated down the aisle between the shelves and added themselves to the considerable pile.

Remus blinked, looking at the growing pile, then yelled for Hermione to come join them. A moment later, she came running lightly down the aisle and stopped when she saw Harry, still banging his head against the table.

"Oh really, Harry! Think about it. There are only about thirty books there. At an hour apiece, that’s just a few day’s reading for you," she said snippily. Harry looked up to eye her warily, then he sighed heavily in defeat.

"Alright you two, worry about that later. Let’s talk about what we’ve decided to do," said Remus trying not to laugh at the look on Harry’s face.

Tonks walked over to Harry and took a seat next to him. "Harry, I don’t pretend to understand all of what has happened to you since I saw you last, but I’m trying to help you. What I would like to do is arrange for you to meet with Amelia Bones. I know you won’t come to the Ministry building, so we’ve decided to meet in muggle London. I’d like you, Remus, Amelia and I to sit down and plan for your safety, and to put those that have wronged you where they belong.

"I’m not going to lie to you, kiddo. This won’t be easy or quick. Dumbledore is chief Magistrate of the Wizengamot. That means our case has to be airtight and waterproof. Building that sort of case will take time and a lot of planning. Some of the things you might be asked to do may be dangerous, or unpleasant. But if you’ll let us help you, we will. You’re not entirely alone in this Harry. Besides the Ministry, and myself, I ran across the Weasley twins and they are dying to find you. They said they have important information for you, but wouldn’t tell me what it was about."

Harry looked into her eyes, wishing he had read a book on Legilimency. He wasn’t sure of her motives, but perhaps there was a way to protect himself and the Grangers.

"Alright Tonks, I’ll agree to your meeting. But first, I’ll want your witches oath that you will not reveal the location of where we are without first asking Remus or me first. Also, I want Hermione and her parents at the meeting, and Susan Bones," said Harry.

Hermione looked at Harry and frowned. She sat down in a chair next to her parents and glared at Harry.

Tonks smiled. "Very well. I give you my oath as a witch that I will not reveal your location to anyone without your prior approval." Standing, she looked at Remus.

Remus coughed and looked embarrassed. "Would you like me to show you out, Tonks?" he asked nervously.

"I’d like that, Remus," she replied shyly. Remus opened the door and led Tonks from the room.

Harry noticed the glare coming from a certain bushy haired book witch and sighed. He looked at her apologetically and said, "Think about it. Amelia wouldn’t dare bring her niece to a trap. If Susan does show up, it should be safe."

Hermione’s gaze softened and she smiled gently at him. Harry leaned back and looked at the stack of books she had selected.

"Alright Hermione, I’ll read them. But this afternoon we’re going to try that pool out back. Remus spent yesterday cleaning it up. Besides, this looks like the only chance I’ll get to learn how to swim."

Hermione blinked in shock. "You can’t swim, Harry? But what about the second task of the Tri-Wizard tournament?"

"I used gilly-weed, Hermione. I’ve never been anywhere where I could swim before," he replied softly.

"I think that’s an excellent idea, Hermione. We could have lunch by the pool and then you could help Harry learn how to swim," offered Emma with a broad smile.

Later that day, Ministry of Magic…

"Director, Auror Tonks requests a moment of your time."

"Send her in please," replied Amelia.

A moment later Tonks walked in and took a seat in front of Amelia’s desk.

"Director, this afternoon I managed to locate Harry Potter. As Dumbledore suspected, he was removed from 4 Privet Drive by Remus Lupin. But not for the reasons that Dumbledore suspects."

Amelia conjured two cups of tea and handed one to Tonks, then motioned for her to continue.

Tonks smiled appreciatively for the tea. "Apparently, Lupin went to visit Harry roughly a week after he had left the Hogwarts Express and found him deathly ill. Harry was undergoing his Matura and, while they wouldn’t tell me how long he was sick, I suspect it was quite lengthy, days long maybe. Lupin tried to convince the muggles to get help for Harry. They told Lupin they had already informed Dumbledore several days earlier of his illness. Dumbledore’s reply was, ‘It will pass, and you need not worry’. Later that night, Lupin snuck back into the home and removed Harry. But before he did, he gave Mundungus Fletcher, the Order member on guard that night, a bottle of fire whiskey. Fletcher, of course, drank the whiskey and fell asleep on duty.

"Lupin has Harry in a place that is both unplottable and protected by a Fidelis charm, as well as multiple other wards and masking charms. Once he had Harry in a safe place, he found help in the form of Hermione Granger and her parents. Hermione is close a friend of Harry’s and her parents have some muggle medical training, which they used to help Harry get over his illness.

"I should warn you, Director, Harry has become extremely wary of trusting anyone. He’s aware of some of what Dumbledore has been doing to him and he’s more than a bit bitter about it. Right now, he trusts a grand total of five people, including myself, and that took a witches oath to get.

"The home they are staying in is safe for the moment, at least. And it’s masked to prevent Ministry detection of underage magic. He’s become incredibly powerful, Harry cast a simple stunning charm at me that blew right through my shield and threw me a good thirty feet.

"There you have it, Director. He’s safe and willing to meet you in muggle London to discuss what the Ministry can do for him.   He also insists you bring your niece, Susan, along. I think he figures you wouldn’t bring her with you if you intended to spring a trap on him. He’s extremely powerful now, and frightened. I think he believes everyone is out to get him," she concluded.

Amelia leaned back in her chair and for a long moment she stared at the ceiling before turning back to Tonks.

"Given Mr. Potter’s history, if he’s aware of even a little of what Dumbledore has done, he has every right to be cautious. Very well, inform Mr. Potter that my niece and I will meet him for dinner at Pico’s, just off Kensington Road and Sloane Street, near Hyde Park. It’s a nice little Italian restaurant. We’ll see him at five p.m. Friday," Amelia said with a smile.

Tonks nodded and stood up to leave when Amelia stopped her.

"Oh and Auror Tonks, other than yourself, who I expect will be bringing Mr. Potter along, I don’t want to see any of the other task force members. If Mr. Potter is as scared as you say he is, let’s try to start this off on the right footing, shall we?"

Tonks frowned.   "Speaking of that, Director, there’s something you should know.   Kingsley Shacklebolt is a member of the Order."

Amelia scowled.   "And why didn’t you inform me of this fact earlier, Auror?"

"In all honesty, Ma’am, I didn’t think of it.   I was so angry about Dumbledore and worried about Harry that I simply forgot about Kingsley," Tonks replied, shaking her head at her own carelessness.

Amelia stood and leaned over her desk, glaring at the young woman before her. "I trust you realize that your lack of attention to detail could have blown this case out of the water before we were able to gather enough evidence?"

"Yes, Ma’am," Tonks said, wanting nothing more than to kick herself for her mistake.

Seeing the shame in her eyes, Amelia sighed heavily. "This will not happen again, Auror Tonks." It was not a question, and the young Auror knew it.

"No Director, it won’t," she said with conviction.

Meanwhile, at The Burrow…

Ron had invited some friends over to the Burrow and Dumbledore had assisted by providing portkeys for them. Now Ron sat in his bedroom talking about Quidditch with Seamus, Dean and Neville. None of them noticed the flesh colored thread that quivered under the door.

"… and that’s why I think the Cannons will take the cup this year," concluded Ron.

"Yer barmy mate! The Cannons will never get Goodrich as Keeper. Even if he did leave the Irish National team, the Cannons couldn’t afford him," exclaimed Seamus.

Ron looked around the room at his friends before changing the subject.

"Guys, there’s something else I want to bring up. It’s very important, something Dumbledore told me."

Unlike Ron, the others had had little contact with the Headmaster. To them, he was a god on high, a paragon of magic and virtue. They all looked at Ron expectantly.

"He wants us to keep an eye on Harry this year. He’s afraid Harry is going to turn dark and he wants us to keep McGonagall informed about everything he does," concluded Ron.

Seamus and Dean nodded wide eyed at Ron. The very thought of Harry turning dark made their blood chill. Neville frowned.

"That’s bollocks Ron and you know it! Harry would never turn dark. Now what the bloody hell is going on?" asked Neville heatedly.

"Oh come on Nev, you’ve seen him, all shirty and brassed off for the last two years. I’m telling you, Dumbledore has the right of it," replied Ron.

"Sounds pretty dodgey if you ask me. Look mates, if you want to spy on Harry, fine, but I’m not going to do it. I won’t tell him you’re doing it, but I trust Harry and you bloody well should also! I can’t believe that you’d even suggest such a thing, or go along with it, Ron. If it weren’t for Harry, your sister would have died in our second year! GAH! You’re all nutters! Count me out," said Neville, then stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Seamus and Dean looked at each other for a long moment, and then Dean turned back to Ron. "We’re with you mate, tell us what to do. We don’t need Neville. Besides, he’d probably only trip over his own two feet."

"Well, Professor Dumbledore wants to get as many Gryffindors as possible on board, so speak to your friends. Get them to help and have them speak to others. They’re to report to me or Professor McGonagall everything Harry does," said Ron, puffing out his chest and looking proud. With the most important part of the conversation over, the extensible ear quietly retracted out of sight.

Padfoot Manor, Later that day…

Dan and Emma Granger, both wearing bathing suits, sat with Remus at a table by the pool, enjoying cool drinks in the summer sun. Dan was trying to explain to Remus the concept of barbequing, when Hermione came out. She wore a light blue bikini and carried a towel over her shoulder. Her parents had included her on many trips to the continent, both before and during her time at Hogwarts, so body modesty wasn’t that big a deal to her. While she had visited clothing optional beaches with her parents, she had learned to accept what people wore, even if she wore a more modest style of swim wear.

She sat on the edge of the in-ground pool with her feet dangling in the water, waiting for Harry to come out. Harry walked out wearing a pair of shorts that were several sizes too big for him and his towel was draped over his shoulders in an effort to cover some of the scars on his chest and back. His bathing suit was tied off with a piece of rough cord to keep it tight.

Remus frowned seeing Harry. Spotting his frown Dan and Emma turned to watch as well.

"Before we meet with Amelia we’re going to have to see about getting Harry some new clothes. Every thing he has is either stuff Sirius left here for him, or hand me downs from those damned Dursleys," he growled.

Dan and Emma could only nod in agreement. Physically, Harry looked great, but his clothes did little for his image.

Harry kept his eyes down as he walked up to the pool. He quickly tossed the towel on a lounger and stepped into the shallow end. Looking up, he spotted Hermione and his jaw dropped. So much skin! Hermione smiled at his reaction and beckoned to him with a finger. Slowly he made his way over to her, trying very hard to keep his eyes fixed to her face, the trees behind her, the pool side, anyplace but her bikini!

Getting close enough to touch her, he stopped and looked at her face. She smiled sweetly at him and he blushed and dropped his gaze for a moment. His embarrassment fled and his expression darkened as he reached out with one trembling hand and touched her.

Hermione was initially surprised that Harry would be so forward, but then realized what had really caught his attention. Dan, spotting Harry’s movements and being at the wrong angle, immediately assumed the wrong thing. He surged from his chair, but halted when Hermione held up her hand.

Hermione watched as he traced a single finger down the length of her scar, the scar given to her by Dolohov in the Department of Mysteries not too many weeks ago. She was surprised when she saw the first tear roll down his cheek. The adults looked at each other with concern as his shoulders started to shake, creating ripples in the water.

"I-I-I’m S-s-sorry Hermione! I nearly got you k-k-killed," he choked out and started to back away from her, the panic and pain evident in his eyes. Hermione slid carefully into the pool and walked to him. He flinched away from her touch. She tried again, and he flinched once more.

"NO! How can you stand to be around me? I nearly got you killed! I led us into a disaster! You c-c-could of died, Hermione!" He screamed at her, his body stiff with shock of seeing the extent of her injury. Hermione moved closer and pulled him into an embrace.

"You got h-h-hurt because of me. And Sirius… oh god… Sirius… what have I done?" he wailed.

He broke down completely, weeping on her shoulder. The adults were now standing at the edge of the pool, watching anxiously. Emma climbed down into the pool and walked over to them. She helped Hermione guide him back to shallower water. Once there, they sat on a ledge in the pool and gave him time to work it out of his system. Hermione held him closely, refusing to let him go. Slowly his sobs grew quieter until they eventually stopped.

Still holding him, Hermione started talking. "Harry, you didn’t get me hurt. Dolohov was the one to cast that spell that hurt me." She took his head in both hands and looked him straight in the eye. "You didn’t kill Sirius, Bellatrix did. Voldemort did. You didn’t."

"If I had listened to you, we never would have gone there that night," he said, trying to wipe away fresh tears.

"Shhh… We did everything we could to try to verify the vision, Harry. If it weren’t for Kreacher, we wouldn’t have been tricked," she replied, sliding her arms down along his sides and holding him. She leaned her head forward until she was resting her forehead against his.   "You didn’t hurt me that night. I’ve seen you so angry your magic has literally shaken the trees around us, but you’ve never once hurt me. I know you’d never deliberately hurt me," she whispered to him.

He looked into her eyes. "N-N-No, Hermione. I’d rather die than see you get hurt again."

"I know, Harry. Now, how about some swimming lessons?" she asked with a smile.

Harry smiled weakly back at her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, then he blushed. "Thank you, Hermione. I’m not sure what I’d do without you around. I think you’re really pretty in that bikini," he whispered.

The two teens broke apart as they realized everyone was watching them and grinning. The adults waved them off to start the lessons and returned to their table. Hermione stood blushing almost as brightly as Harry. It took a great deal of effort before she could start teaching Harry to swim.

"I think he’ll be better now. I know Hermione’s helped him come to grips with what the Dursley’s have done to him, but that’s the first time he’s cried over Sirius," Remus said quietly.

"It will take more than a single crying session, Remus, but I do agree he’s finally starting to grieve like he should. In some ways, the emotional damage will last much longer than the physical damage. I don’t remember much from my college psychology, but I do know he’s still got a long way to go," Emma added as she watched Hermione showing Harry how to swim.

All three adults looked up as Tonks came walking out the back door to join them.

"Cor blimey! Nice pool Remus!" she said breathlessly.

"Alright then, Amelia and Susan will meet you and Harry, on Friday, five P.M., at Pico’s just off Hyde Park. She suggests you bring anything which would help the investigation, as well as any legal paperwork that might help Harry," she added.

"I was thinking of taking Harry clothes shopping that day. Do you think Hermione would like to go along?" Remus asked Dan and Emma.

"Go along? She’d probably love to help Harry get out of those dingy clothes," replied Emma.

"I know Amelia wouldn’t have a problem with it, Remus. Heck, bring them all if you want. We’ll just get a private room. I know Pico’s really well and they can handle a private dinning room," Tonks said with a grin.

Remus watched the two teens swimming. Harry seemed to be getting the idea and Hermione had him swimming the length of the pool now. Suddenly an idea hit him. Startled, he turned back to the others.

"You know, we’ve been sitting here planning on what we’re doing, and we’re making roughly the same mistake that Dumbledore’s made. We need to include Harry in on these decisions. I’m not saying he’s an adult, not quite yet at least, but he’ll be more trusting of us if we at least ask him about it," he stated.

The other three looked guiltily at each other, acknowledging that Remus was probably correct.

"I’ll speak to Harry this evening, tell him what’s going on and ask if that’s alright with him."

"COR! I forgot to tell you! We’ve set up an owl drop at the Ministry for any owls for Harry and the rest of you. I’ll check them twice a day and pick up any letters to deliver. If you don’t mind, Amelia would like me to spend time here. She’s uncomfortable that other than Remus, there are no other adult wizards protecting Harry and Hermione."

Dan and Emma both sighed in relief. "Thank God," Dan exclaimed. "I don’t think Hermione could live if she didn’t find out her… what did you call them? OWL? Owl scores?"

The Burrow…

Ginny Weasley walked into Ottery St. Catchpole. It had become a habit for her. Every few days she walked the distance to the small combination muggle and Wizarding town. Normally, she went to pick up a few items of produce her Mum needed for dinner that night, but every time she went in, she brought with her a gradually thickening letter.

After completing her shopping, she stopped, once again, at the post office to attempt to mail her letter. To her complete surprise, the owl blinked at her, took the letter and flew away. She swayed with relief. Hopefully, Harry would make some sense out of what she had written.

With that thought firmly in mind, she paid for the delivery and headed home.

Meanwhile, Ron had also developed a daily ritual involving his owl. He had a letter for Hermione and one for Harry that had been written for weeks and every day he’d offer them to his owl, Pig. Today, like Ginny, he discovered the owls were finally accepting mail for them both.

He made a mad dash out of his room and down the stairs to find his mother. "MUM! The owls are accepting letters to Harry and Hermione again!" He shouted.

Molly looked up in surprise and quickly dashed off a letter to Dumbledore, which she gave to Errol. Hopefully, the dumb bird would survive the trip to Hogwarts.

Padfoot Manor, two days later…

Hermione bit her lip as she watched Harry. It seemed to her that in, showing Harry how to swim, she had created a monster. Every morning he’d get up at six A.M. to swim laps in the pool, then, before bed, he’d repeat the process. He said he wanted to get into shape and that, in her considered opinion, was patently impossible. Since his recovery from the Matura, his magic had accelerated his growth considerably. She didn’t think Harry could get into any better shape, and if he did, she didn’t think she’d be able to stand it. What she didn’t understand, until he explained it, was that he was trying to improve his endurance. The swimming provided him with that.

With Harry’s morning swims becoming a routine, everyone had decided that having breakfast out by the pool would be appropriate. As Dan, Emma, Hermione and Remus enjoyed their morning tea, watching Harry swim his laps, they were joined by Tonks.   She pulled a stack of letters from her robe and placed them on the table.   Most were addressed to Harry.

Remus quickly looked through the stack of letters, and then turned to the pool. "HARRY! MAIL!" he called.

Harry looked up as he was about to turn to start another lap and nodded. He climbed out of the pool and cast a drying charm on himself before putting on a shirt. He was still self conscious of the numerous scars on his back and chest. Walking over to the table, he took a seat and Remus handed him a stack of letters, then passed several letters to Hermione.

He sifted through the letters, looking at whom they were from first, before picking one to open. He was about to open a letter from Ginny when Tonks placed a hand on his arm, causing him to stop and look at her.

"Harry, the Ministry decided not to screen your mail, but they are asking that any letters be saved as possible evidence. We are checking for obvious stuff like letters with hexes or portkeys. Obviously they don’t want to see any letters that concern your love life, or your fan mail, but anything else they are interested in seeing. Also, we have contacted our Australian counterparts and they are taking some steps to insure Hermione and her parents are ‘seen’ around that area," she said softly, looking at him.

"My love life? Oh, like I’ll ever have a chance at that, Tonks. I’ll save anything that seems like it may be useful for you though," he replied with a snort and a grin.

Opening the letter from Ginny he read quickly.

Dear Harry,
I hope this letter finds you and that, wherever you are, you’re safe and happy. In fact, I don’t want to know where you are. Something weird has started to happen here and I need to tell you about it. I’ve overheard several conversations and I am still shocked over what I have heard.

I’m afraid this letter will contain little good news, Harry, and it may seem that everyone has turned against you. I want to assure you this is NOT the case. Fred, George, Bill and I are all angry about what’s happening here.

Ron had been meeting with other Gryffindors over the past few weeks. He’s told them that Dumbledore is convinced you are turning dark and wants them to report all your actions to McGonagall or Ron. All of your immediate dorm mates, with the exception of Neville, have agreed to go along with this. Neville told Ron to piss off before he stormed out of the Burrow, very angry. I broke up with Dean because of his agreeing to go along with Ron.

I also overheard a conversation between Ron, my Mum and Dumbledore about removing money from your trust account? I didn’t understand it at the time but it now explains how my parents seem to have more money to spend. My Mum is quite incensed over the fact that they can’t touch the account until you return to Hogwarts. Also, if you can reach Hermione, you have to warn her!! Ron is supposed to slip her a potion at the Welcoming Feast, which will put her under his control. I know he’s obsessed with her, but I never thought he’d stoop so low as to do something like this. Nor can I believe Dumbledore is willing to go along with it. He’s having Snape make the potion! Isn’t that illegal?   If not, it should be!

Harry was so angry, his eyes shone with an intense green light. Grinding his teeth and ignoring the others at the table as they stared at him in concern, he continued reading the letter.

Harry, just what the hell is going on here? I like you, you’re like a brother to me and I don’t understand why my family is suddenly so angry with you. Can you please explain to me what is going on?

Please be safe and careful Harry,
Love from,

Harry stood up so fast he knocked over his chair. Caught in the chair legs, he staggered a bit. In a fit of anger, still clutching the now crumpled letter in one hand, he picked up the chair and hurled it into the pool. The chair hit with such force it threw up a huge spray of water and the legs bent at odd angles.


He stood there for a moment, then the ground rumbled ominously. Several trees nearby swayed violently. He felt a tug on the letter in his hand and noticed Hermione was standing next to him. Taking a few calming breaths he closed his eyes, trying to push back the anger and his magic.

"Harry… relax… that’s it, take a centering breath… and another… relax. There’s nothing we can’t deal with, but you have to stay in control," she said to him.

Slowly, he calmed, and then he smiled down at Hermione. He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on her forehead. "Thank you, Hermione. I can always count on you to help," he said softly, then he handed her the letter to read before turning to Tonks.

"Auror Tonks, you wanted evidence? Well, you’re going to get it. But I’m also going to tell you right here and now, if the Ministry fails to help in this, I’ll tear Hogwarts apart, stone by stone if I have to," he said in a cold tone.

Hermione, reading the letter as Harry spoke, suddenly paled, and then gasped in outrage. With trembling hands, she passed the letter to her mother. Tonks looked up at Harry in surprise and shock. She was unused to people issuing threats to her, but she could still feel and see the magic burning behind his green gaze.

Harry held the Aurors’ gaze for a moment longer before turning back to Hermione, who was near tears. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into an embrace.

"Don’t be afraid, Hermione. I won’t allow anyone to hurt you," he whispered to the trembling girl.

"Why, Harry? Why would they do this to me?" she asked, trying hard not to cry.

"Because, of all the people around me Hermione, you were the one thing they hadn’t planned on. Think about it. I met up with Ron on a full train, yet he was alone in the compartment, all the others were full. It was a set up, I think, the two of us meeting. But you weren’t something they planned on. A muggle born witch, incredibly smart and driven to prove herself, who later become my friend, then my best friend? You have influence on me they can’t control.

"It’s all clear now. The Dursley’s, all the incidents at school, even the Department of Mysteries, everything’s been aimed at keeping people they can’t control out of my life. I think part of it might also be to keep me dependant on Dumbledore. Sirius was another unplanned element, so they orchestrated lessons that would leave me vulnerable to Voldemort’s visions, knowing Sirius would come to my aid.

"What they hadn’t counted on Hermione, what they hadn’t anticipated, was you or your impact on me. The Dursley’s taught me to respect and fear authority figures. They thought I would willingly rely on Dumbledore, but instead, I did things myself, or relied on you. Growing up in a loveless environment, they never expected me to find someone I could learn to love…" he trailed off, looking at her, still ignoring the adults only a few feet away.

Hermione looked up at him, smiling shyly. "Do you really mean that?" she asked softly.

"I think so," he murmured. "I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, but is it love? I don’t honestly know. I know Sirius loved me in his own way, so does Remus. But this is different somehow. Is it love? I wish I could say one way or the other. Damn the Dursley’s! Here I am, stuck trying to say what I feel and I can’t even describe…"

Hermione stopped him by placing her hand gently over his mouth. "I think I see what you’re trying to say."

Hearing an odd sound, Harry looked up to see Tonks snickering at the two of them. He scowled at her and Hermione stepped out of his embrace to face the smiling adults around them.

"Oh don’t give me that face, Harry. If you can’t take heat from friends, how can you take it from enemies?" Tonks quipped with a smirk. "I have the letter and I promise you, we will take steps to protect Hermione. Now check the rest of your mail. There may be more letters we can use. In the meantime, I’ll make a note to talk to Fred, George, Bill and Ginny. If they are on your side, they may have more information we can use."

Hermione sat back in her chair and Harry turned towards the pool and sighed. With a scowl, he levitated his chair out of the water and brought it to him. He repaired the chair quickly and sat down next to Hermione. Picking up his mail once again, he went through the pile until he came across a letter from Dumbledore. He frowned at it for a moment before opening it.

I hope this letter finds you well, but I must insist that you send me a note telling me where you are so we can pick you up and return you to your family. Voldemort will stop at nothing to find you and you are not safe where you are. Only with the Order protecting you, and your family’s presence, will you be safe.
Albus Dumbledore
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry rolled his eyes and gave the letter to Tonks. The next letter was from the Ministry.

Mr. Harry Potter
Pursuant to Wizarding Regulation 157-86b, here are the results of your OWLS. Please note these represent total scores, summing both the written and practical exams (where applicable). Scores that earn an OWL grade are O and E. Owls are not awarded for any score below that level.

Class                                                                                                 Score                                                
Potions                                                                                           O
Charms                                                                                         O
Transfiguration                                                                O
Divination                                                                                 A
History of Magic                                              D
Care of Magical Creatures                                   O
Defense Against the Dark Arts                   O+
Herbology                                                                               O
Astronomy*                                                                                 E  

*All results for this subject were graded on a curve due to the disturbance during testing.

Total Owls: 8. (Please note: the O+ counts as two Owls, the extra credit awarded by a very impressed examiner.)

This places you as one of Hogwarts top ten students, with an overall ranking of five. Please inform the Deputy Headmistress, Professor McGonagall, which classes you wish to attend next year before August 10th.

In regard to your Quidditch ban, we recognize that the ban was emplaced illegally. However, the matter of the ban is now in the hands of the Headmaster of Hogwarts. It is up to him to lift or keep it in place.
Mathilda Hopkiss
Department of Examinations
Ministry of Magic

"I got eight owls from nine courses," Harry said a shocked voice.

Remus grinned broadly and took the letter from Harry’s unresisting hand to see for himself. Hermione immediately tore open her letter. Scanning quickly then she yelped.

"I got eleven owls, Harry! Oh, this is perfect! What ranking did they assign you? I’m ranked second. I wonder who’s first?" she babbled excitedly.

Chuckling, Harry looked at the last letter he wanted to open. Now he wasn’t sure about it. The letter was from Ron. Gritting his teeth, he tore it open.

Hey mate! I don’t know where you’re hiding but Mum and Dad are sure worried about you. The muggles couldn’t have been all that bad could they Harry? You need to write back so that we’ll be able to get together this summer and practice Quidditch.

Mum’s all weepy about your being missing and it’s driving me barmy. I saw Snape in Diagon Alley the other day.   Can you believe that greasy git is still greasy, even during the summer?

Write back soon you git! We’re all worried about you.

Wordlessly, he passed the letter from Ron to Hermione. He arched an eyebrow at her when she gave him one in return.

Thank Merlin this letter is able to reach you! How is your vacation going sweetie? Is Australia warm? I can’t wait until you get back here and we can be together again. I miss everything about you Hermione, from your smile to your hair.

There’s no news on the Harry issue. The rich bastard is still missing. If anyone asked me, I’d say the dumb git is probably laying on a beach somewhere, waving his money at anything that looks remotely female in the hopes he’ll get lucky. Personally, I wish everyone would just shut up about him. I’m tired of being in his shadow all the time.

Write back love, I really need to hear from you!

Hermione quickly scanned the letter from Ron and was struck by the completely different tones between them. She glanced up to see Harry’s anger threatening to overwhelm him again. Under the table, she laid a hand on his leg and gave it a gentle squeeze. In response, Harry closed his eyes and took several cleansing breaths. Opening his eyes, he smiled apologetically at Hermione before turning to Tonks.

"What are we to do about these letters? Do we reply to them?" he asked.

"That’s up to you, Harry. If you do reply to them, you have to do it real carefully. We don’t want to tip off anyone about the investigation. Why don’t you do nothing until we’ve had a chance to talk to Director Bones?" she replied.

Harry thought about it for a moment. Not answering at least meant he didn’t have to deal with any anger possibly spilling out into the letters. He shrugged.   "All right, I’ll wait. There’s something else I need to ask you about though, Tonks. Would you please ask Madam Bones about locating a tutor in Occulumency for Hermione and me? I need someone I can trust to help me develop my skill in that field, and Hermione will need someone who can teach her from scratch. I can pay for the tutor, if necessary. Between what my parents left me, which I can’t touch yet, and what Sirius left me, money isn’t a problem."

"I’ll ask her about it, Harry. She might be able to find you an Unspeakable," Tonks said, her eyes gleaming with excitement. "They have techniques which aren’t generally known."

That evening at Grimmauld Place…

"It seems that Harry Potter is once again reachable by owl, but as yet, we do not know where he or Remus Lupin are, and have received no response from any owls we have sent. On the other hand, one of our Order representatives spotted Hermione and her parents in Sydney, so that puts one issue to bed entirely. Until we can locate Mr. Potter, finding him is still our top priority."

Dumbledore turned to Arthur Weasley. "What can you tell us about what is going on in the Ministry?"

"Minister Fudge has authorized a force increase in the Aurors that would swell their numbers ten fold. Also, the MLE is currently involved in some sort of top-secret investigation and all the records are being sealed. No one seems to know a thing about it," Arthur reported.

Dumbledore looked to Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt, both of whom were Aurors.

"I can’t really add much to what Arthur told you," started Kingsley. "Yes, there is some sort of investigation going on, but it’s been compartmentalized and only those in on the investigation have any idea of what they’re doing."

Dumbledore nodded. "I’ll try sounding out Amelia about it when I see her next. Now, moving onto other business…"

Gringots, Ollivanders and Snape…

The next morning, Harry finished his laps in the pool, showered, and dressed for the trip to London. When Remus handed Harry a new vault key, he turned it over in his hand and noted the very low vault number engraved on it. Raising his eyes, he looked at Remus questioningly.

Remus shrugged. "You’re the sole heir to the most Noble House of Black, Harry. As such, it’s only right that you get access to the family vault."

Harry gulped nervously and nodded.

Everyone gathered in the foyer, waiting for Tonks who was bringing concealment cloaks that would allow them all to move about freely in Diagon Alley without being recognized. Hermione and Harry were especially pleased to be getting out, even if it were only for a day.

Their time in the Alley would be short.   Harry had two stops that he needed to make and, while the risk of being seen had been limited with the cloaks, no one wanted to take chances.

Tonks eventually showed up and passed out the concealment cloaks to everyone. The cloaks were a light gray and, in Harry’s opinion, pretty boring. Borrowing from a book he’d read the night before, he cast a charm to put a Celtic cross on the right breast of every cloak.

Hermione arched an eyebrow at him. "Well, it’s pretty Harry, but even better, it’s a highly protective rune," she said, smiling at him. "I’m just curious as to why you’ve been looking up fabric marking charms."

Harry managed to look very embarrassed and then told her he wanted to try his hand at making some t-shirts like Tonks’ Weird Sisters shirt.

Once the now decorated cloaks were donned, they portkeyed to the Leaky Cauldron. From there, they walked out the back entrance and opened the doorway to Diagon Alley itself.

Arriving at Gringots, Harry’s expression grew sly. With a grin, he turned to Emma, Dan and Hermione.

"You guys don’t have a vault with Gringots, right? You usually just come in and exchange muggle money for galleons?" he asked.

"That’s right. We’ve never seen a need to open an account for Hermione, although we thought about opening one as a present for her at graduation," replied Dan.

"Well, why don’t you come with me to my vault then? I think you’ll find the trip very interesting. You might even seen some of the more unique security features," Harry said innocently. Remus and Tonks were staring at him, both trying very hard not to grin.

"Are you sure, Harry?" Hermione asked. "I don’t want to pry into your affairs, but I’m curious now."

"Really, it’s quite alright for you to come along. You won’t be able to enter the vault, but I think you’ll enjoy the trip to it," he replied.

Dan and Emma looked at each other before nodding to Harry. Hermione, in her excitement, grabbed Harry’s hand, startling him for a second. With a smile, he led them up to the manager’s desk. Pushing back his hood to reveal his face, he turned to the managing Goblin.

"Good Morning. I would like to ask that Griphook take my friends and myself to my vault, please," Harry said.

The goblin peered down over his high desk and asked, "Your name?"

Harry cringed, but replied as Remus had coached him. "Harry James Potter-Black"

The goblin leaned back and smiled toothlessly at Harry. "Of course, Lord Black. I will have Griphook attend to your needs immediately."

Hermione looked at Harry in surprise. "Harry?" she breathed.

He shrugged and leaned closer to her whispering, "Sirius wasn’t kidding when he called it the Noble House of Black."

A moment later Griphook appeared and bowed. "If you will all follow me please?" he stated.

"It is good to see you again, Griphook. Have you been well?" asked Harry.

Griphook looked surprised that a wizard would remember him, or even ask for him by name. "I’m sorry, my Lord…" he began.

"Please, just call me Harry, Griphook. I feel very silly having someone call me a Lord," Harry said, wanting to cringe.

Griphook smiled toothlessly and bowed again. "It would be a pleasure to call you Harry. I was just surprised that you would ask for me. Most wizards couldn’t care less about Goblins."

"I understand, Griphook, but I remember quite fondly my first trip to Gringots and you seemed like a fine fellow. Whatever other wizards might think of Goblins, I assure you, I do not echo their sentiments."

Griphook grinned again at the compliment and led them to a small wheeled cart on a track. Seeing the look of confusion on the faces of Dan, Hermione and Emma, Griphook jumped in to calm them.

"Please do not be alarmed. All of the older vaults can only be reached via the track. The cart is spelled with sticking charms so no one will fall out during the trip. But I do caution you not to stick your hands outside of the cart. When we arrive at the vault, please remain seated until I have secured the vault dragon."

Harry helped Hermione into the cart, Dan and Emma took the seats behind them.

"Did he say dragon?" asked Dan incredulously.

"That’s correct, Mr. Granger. All of the older vaults are guarded by dragons," replied Griphook. Dan looked stunned and wondered how Griphook knew his name. Emma and Hermione looked very excited at the chance of seeing a dragon.

Griphook climbed into the front seat and checked to see if all his passengers were seated properly, then he turned and placed a hand on the front railing. The cart suddenly surged forward at a high rate of acceleration. Emma whooped with joy and Dan joined her as the cart zoomed along the little track, taking impossible turns and death defying dips. Hermione, on the other hand, closed her eyes and buried her head in Harry’s shoulder. Twenty minutes later, the cart started slowing again as it approached its destination.

Hermione looked up and Harry smiled weakly at her, murmuring an apology for not warning her about the ride. She smiled back at him and nodded, then looked around curiously. Each vault was inset deep inside its own private cavern, the entrance guarded by a dragon. Eventually, the cart came to a halt outside a cavern and Griphook made a series of gestures to the dragon that was tethered to the wall.

The Hungarian Horntail strained against its neck chain and slowly moved away from the entrance. Smoke puffed from its nostrils and the claws left gouges in the stone as it stared at them balefully.

Dan looked apprehensively at large creature, while both Hermione and Emma struggled with the cart’s sticking charm trying to get a better look at it. Slowly the cart entered the cavern and rolled to a stop in front of a platform that ended in two huge doors. Griphook climbed out of the cart and waited for Harry.

"Harry, as the new Lord Black, you will have to key the doors to your blood. Place your key into the keyhole and put your hand on the round centerpiece, then state your complete name, including title. You will feel a pinprick as a sample of your blood is taken and the doors are re-keyed. Your friends may join you on the platform, but cannot enter the vault itself. Only Black family members and their spouses may enter," Griphook lectured.

Harry nodded and walked over to the massive doors as the others got out of the cart. He placed his key into the door, then put his hand on the center round piece molded into the two doors.

"Lord Harry James Potter-Black" he stated clearly, embarrassed by the grandiose title.

There came a series of clicking noises and he felt a sharp pain in his hand, which faded almost as soon as he felt it. The two vault doors swung inward with a rumbling groan.

While Dan and Emma continued to watch the dragon, Hermione, now fully curious, craned her neck to look into Harry’s vault. She gasped when she saw that the vault was nearly the size of the Hogwarts Great Hall and full of money and what appeared to be furniture, trunks, books, and even a few suits of armor. Harry walked over to a pile of galleons and scooped a bunch into his moneybag. Tying it off, he turned and walked out of the vault. As he exited, the vault the doors swung closed behind him.

"I not sure about the exchange rate, but I pulled out about five hundred galleons." Harry said.

"Today’s rate is quite favorable Harry, one galleon to ten pounds," replied Griphook.

"That should be enough money then, right Hermione? I don’t know what muggle clothes cost. I’ve never been shopping before…" he trailed off, thinking about all of the things he’s never done before.

Hermione nodded mutely. She’d never gone shopping with five thousand pounds before. While her parents were certainly affluent, they weren’t extravagant spenders. Harry looked at her, embarrassed. She knew he was still wearing Dudley’s old clothes that he’d transfigured into something that looked better. But in a few hours, the spell would wear off and his clothing would return to its shabby state.

Back in the lobby, they met up with Remus, who handed Harry and Dan each a wallet containing a card. Remus explained that, since they were helping Harry this summer, he had arranged special Gringots cards for the Grangers. Dan tried to protest, but Remus insisted he accept it, telling him that it was the least he could to do since they were helping Harry. The Gringots card would work at either Magical or muggle stores.

Harry watched the conversation for a few moments before going over to convert his galleons to pounds. Personally, he thought the wallet was a nice idea. It was less bulky than a moneybag and the compartments were cool. He could even put photos in them! The Gringots card was a nice touch. It was keyed to his Black vault and it meant he never had to visit the vault again to withdraw heavy coins.

From Gringots, Harry led them to Ollivanders, as he had a specific purchase in mind. Entering the dingy shop, Mr. Ollivander looked up at the group of people. Harry approached the counter.

"Welcome, young Master Potter. How can I be of service to you today? Some polishing cream, perhaps? Or does your wand need to be serviced? A chip or crack needing to be mended?" asked the gnomish old man.

Harry looked startled. "I’m sorry, how did you know it was me, Sir?" he said, pushing back his hood.

"Concealment cloaks are nice Master Potter, but even the best of cloaks cannot fool a keen mind. Now, what can I do for you today?"

"Wand Holsters, Sir. I’d like to enquire as to what types are available?" Harry asked.

Tonks pushed the hood of her cloak back revealing her face. "Ollivander, give him the Auror model. He needs them to be summon proof," she said.

Ollivander smiled at Tonks. "So nice to see you again, Auror Tonks. Might I suggest that he get two then? One for his wrist and another for his leg?"

Tonks nodded in approval while Harry grabbed Hermione and pulled her closer to the counter.

"For myself and my friend, please," he hastily added. Hermione tried to protest, but Harry told her he didn’t want her going unarmed this summer and a holster would do the trick for her.

Ollivander smiled at the startled Hermione. "Good day to you, Miss Granger. I trust all is well with your wand? Vine wood, if I’m not mistake, with a dragon heartstring core.   A lovely wand, excellent for Transfiguration."

She smiled weakly at Ollivander and nodded as the old man flicked his wand at her, taking measurements.   Repeating the process with Harry, he ducked behind the counter and returned moments later with four boxes.   Setting two near Harry and two near Hermione, he waved them over.   In minutes, each was wearing their new holsters.

Ollivander showed Hermione how to move her hand to extract the wand. Harry watched for a moment, repeated the motions himself and smiled as his wand appeared in his hand. Hermione had to practice it for a while before it came easily. Harry paid for the purchase with his Gringots card, thinking that the forty galleon price tag wasn’t bad when one was protecting one’s buttocks.

Making sure everyone was properly cloaked, they walked out of the shop and moved towards the exit of Diagon Alley. Remus had just passed the entrance to a small alley when a hand shot out and pulled him in.

Remus was pinned against the wall with a wand to his throat.

"Well, well, if it isn’t Lupin," sneered Severus Snape. "You’re coming with me. Dumbledore wants a word with you."

Suddenly Snape’s wand flew from his grip and landed in the hand of one of the gray cloaked figures. The figure snapped the wand in two and tossed the pieces at Snape’s feet. The same figure gestured and Snape found himself pushed against the opposite wall and pinned there. Another, smaller figure pulled a wand and Snape’s robes were transformed into a pink sequined evening gown and a large feathered boa wrapped itself loosely around his neck.

Still stuck against the wall, Snape’s eyes bulged as Remus pulled up his cloak.

Dan Granger stepped up next to Remus and placed a hand on his shoulder. Remus pulled the hood of his cloak up around him while Snape tried to look past the concealment illusion surrounding the second figure.

Dan then did something that surprised everyone. "Go back to your Order and tell them that the Brotherhood protects Harry Potter now," he snarled. With that, he turned and followed Remus out of the alley and the small group walked out of Snape’s sight.

Snape struggled to free himself from the sticking charm. By the time he had, Remus and the other strangely clad figures had vanished from sight. Grimacing at his outfit, he scooped up the pieces of his wand and made his way to Ollivanders.

Dinner at Pico’s…

Leaving Diagon Alley, they headed into the heart of the London shopping district where Harry suddenly found himself at the mercies of three different women. He was measured from top to bottom in each store they visited. Tonks carried a bottomless bag for the purchases. After several hours of the women approving and disapproving the selections, Dan Granger pulled him aside.

"Harry, I know this shopping is new to you, but you can’t let the women pick out everything for you. If you let them do that now, they’ll want to do it every time you go shopping. Now, I want you to go find something that you know they’ll hate, even if you know you’ll never wear it, and insist on buying it," he said in a hushed voice so the nearby women wouldn’t hear him.

Harry nodded at Dan and smiled. Turning away, he walked down a few aisles, trying to find something that would suit his purpose. Eventually, he settled on a couple neon yellow t-shirts.

Seeing his choice, the women immediately objected, but Harry remained firm, telling them he had plans for the t-shirts. Finally, all three women gave up in disgust and let him make the purchase, each sure that he’d never wear them.

In the last store they visited, Harry picked up several pairs of black jeans and some black shirts as well as new shoes. He wore one set from the store, leaving behind the Dursley’s cast-offs forever.

Pico’s turned out to be a nice little neighborhood restaurant. It had the usual Italian décor, but better still, it was the type of place that only the locals knew about and loved because the food was great. Tonks told the waiter by the door that they were with the Bones party. He smiled and then ushered them all into a small side room with a table set for eight.

Throwing back his cloak, Harry reached out with his mind, trying a technique he had read about. He was trying to sense and detect the magic around him. Ignoring Remus, Tonks and Hermione he reached further and his eyes glazed over.

"There’s a witch and a wizard nearby, not Aurors. There are four Aurors taking up positions near this block, but I don’t think they’re interested in what’s going on in here. Their attention is focused outwards. Two witches are approaching, having just arrived via portkey I think. Strange, they arrived in the kitchen…"

"I must say, Mister Potter, you’re quite good. Susan and I did arrive via portkey, the owners of Pico’s are friends of mine," said Director Bones entering the room.

Harry blinked a few times and reconnected to those in the room. Susan rushed over to him and gave him a hug that had Hermione fuming. Amelia took a seat at the end of the table and invited Harry to sit next to her. Susan, to Hermione’s annoyance, took the chair right next to him, so she had to settle for a seat on the other side of the table, opposite of Harry.

"Harry," began Amelia, "with your permission, I suggest we keep our conversation to enjoyable topics during the meal. We’ll talk business afterwards. Susan, I know, has been dying to tell you something, so I’ll let you three talk. We’ll get down to business soon enough."

Harry nodded and watched as two waiters came in and started putting food on the table. Pico’s was a family style restaurant. The tables were loaded with food and everyone filled their plates with whatever they wanted. It was a concept similar to Hogwarts, but it was the first time Harry had experienced it outside of school.

Harry filled his plate and looked at Susan who squirmed in her chair. She looked ready to burst if she didn’t speak soon. He grinned at her. The blonde girl had matured like Hermione and was really quite pretty. He knew her from the DA, where she had been one of the better students, if a bit shy around him.

"Harry, I tried to owl you three days after we got of the Express, and every day since.   But the owls kept refusing the delivery," she began.

Harry arched an eyebrow at her in question.

Susan suddenly seemed unsure of her self. Her hands trembled and her voice dropped to just above a whisper. "I live with my Aunt. She had gone to work that Monday, leaving me at home with two house elves and my friend. Four Death Eaters attacked the house an hour later. They killed the Auror on guard and had us trapped in a room upstairs. I hurt two of them, but I couldn’t get away, If it hadn’t been for the DA and what you taught me…" she trailed off, lost in the memory of the event.

Harry glanced at Hermione, who was staring at Susan with nothing but compassion in her eyes. Hermione reached over and grabbed Susan’s hand, causing the girl to jerk back to the present and look up at her.

"You did what you had to do to live," Hermione told the blond in a quiet voice.

"Hermione’s right, Susan. All we did was give you the tools to survive. Don’t feel bad about hurting two Death Eaters. They would have felt no guilt about raping and killing you. I’m sorry I had to say that so bluntly, but we’re at war. In war, you kill, not arrest your opponent. You did nothing to be ashamed about or feel guilty over. You survived an attack that would have killed most adults. You should be proud of that," Harry said, looking into her eyes and smiling at her.

Amelia had been watching the interaction of the three teens and realized that her niece’s life had been saved because of what Harry had taught her.

"Harry’s right, Suse," she said. "You saved your own life and held off those other two Death Eaters until help arrived. I’m very proud of you for that. And I see I owe my niece’s life to you, Mister Potter."

"Oh no, Director. I may have taught Susan the spells, but ultimately, she’s the one who saved her own life. Our DA was just a study group because we had a bad Defense teacher last year," he replied.

"BAD DEFENCE TEACHER??" Hermione exclaimed. "Harry James Potter, that woman! That toad! She wasn’t bad…she was downright cruel. And don’t think for a moment I don’t know about the scar you keep hidden, or that she tried cursing you in her office."

"Scar? Curse?" asked Amelia, frowning.

Harry looked at Hermione, his face stricken. It had not been his intent to bring up Umbridge at this meeting.

Hermione launched into a description of the events of the past year, the ‘educational decrees’, the torture sessions for detention, the attempt to cast the Cruciatus on Harry in her office, even the inquisitorial squads. Throughout her description, Harry stared down at his plate, pushing the food around with a fork, his scarred hand in his lap. In a way, Hermione’s words wounded him deeply. For all of her understanding of his background, she still didn’t understand that, although he hated being the Boy-Who-Lived, he tried very hard to live up to that impossible image.

Hermione trailed off as she noticed Harry’s reaction to her tale. She quickly stood up and walked around Amelia to reach Harry, who was sitting in his chair, biting his lip. Wrapping her arms around him, she whispered an apology in his ear. Amelia watched Hermione calming him and realized they were developing a relationship, even if they didn’t know it yet.

Hermione looked up and smiled gratefully at Amelia when the Director offered to change seats with her.

"Harry," Amelia said gently, "may I see the scar Hermione spoke of?"

Hermione took her new seat and smiled encouragingly to him as he reluctantly pulled his hand out from under the table. He pulled up the cuff of his long sleeve shirt to reveal the words "I WILL NOT TELL LIES" carved into the back of his hand.

Amelia paled at the broad scar and pulled out a parchment to take notes. She had Hermione repeat the story and asked questions from Harry as well. Hermione gripped Harry’s hand tightly throughout the conversation, while Susan watched wide-eyed.

"Harry, the use of a blood quill has been outlawed for nearly a hundred years. That and the other things she did to you and the other students will be enough to bring her up on charges. I’ll assign some Aurors to investigate this. We’ll do our best to make sure that you don’t have to testify. We may need a deposition, however," Amelia said.

Harry nodded gratefully at her. Emma shot Hermione a glance that she was well familiar with. It said simply, "I want to talk to you later tonight". Sighing, Hermione nodded at her mother then went back to eating her dinner, wondering what she had done wrong this time.

After dinner, Remus gave Amelia the ledger that Sirius had stolen. After copying it, she returned the original to him. He also showed her Harry’s emancipation papers, which still hadn’t been filed. She and Remus had a long conversation, while Harry was busy talking with Susan and Hermione.

"Harry," Amelia said once she’d looked over the paperwork, "are you willing to trust me?"

Susan smiled encouragingly at him and Hermione squeezed his hand. Reluctantly, Harry nodded, much to Amelia’s relief.

"Excellent. Let me suggest a plan to you and you can tell me if you like it or not."

Harry motioned for her to proceed.

"All right, first things first. Security. I’m concerned that there aren’t enough adult wizards protecting you. Right now, there’s only Mr. Lupin. I’d like to assign Auror Tonks and four others who could rotate in twelve-hour shifts. That way, there would always be three Aurors nearby for your own protection. I will ask that at least one of the Aurors be willing to help you and Hermione train up in dueling.

"Next, Auror Tonks has made me aware of the problem with Miss Granger at the coming welcoming feast at Hogwarts. I intend to see she’s given supply of a Ministry restricted potion neutralizer. It’s designed to neutralize ninety nine percent of the potions out there.

"I understand you need an Occulumency specialist to help with your training and I’ve located a retired Unspeakable who’s willing to help you with it. The Ministry will pick up the cost of this for you. It will be necessary for you, Hermione and, I’m afraid, Susan, to learn Occulumency. Her being here at this meeting puts her at risk also.

"I am also willing to remove the tracking charms from both of your wands so you can perform underage magic anywhere. However, I trust you to be responsible with this and follow the guidelines all adult wizards must follow.

"In return for all this, I ask that you cooperate in our investigation, that you return to Hogwarts this year, where you will continue your education and, hopefully, cause the suspects to trip up further. We are dealing with some very high profile people. Our case must be airtight. The Ministry will take every step we can to protect and help you, but you need to help us as well," she concluded.

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment. "One change, Director." He glanced at Remus with a grin before turning back to Amelia. "I trust Auror Tonks a lot. I think it would be ok if she just moved in. There are plenty of bedrooms in our location."

Amelia glanced over at Tonks, who suddenly found the carpet highly interesting, then looked at Remus, who was stirring his coffee like a madman. Looking between the two with a slight frown, she wondered what was going on. It was a small enough request however, so she nodded in agreement.

Later, as they stood to leave, Harry reached out and offered his hand to Amelia.   As she shook it, she looked into his eyes and saw the pain and doubt in them.

"I know it’s hard, Harry," she said quietly, "but you can trust me.   I won’t betray you."

He nodded, though his expression didn’t change.   When he turned away and gathered his family around him to leave, she repeated that vow silently to herself.

Author Notes: (kind of long this chaper, so skip if you’d like)

Wow, folks!   That’s a lot of reviews for one chapter.   Thanks, everyone!   Sorry for the long A/N that follows, but we wanted to address your questions/comments. Hopefully the length of our chapters will make up for it.

Yep, we’re back.   We know HBP comes out in a few days, but this story wouldn’t leave us alone.   So to all of you who read our previous stories, welcome back and we hope you like this story.   To the new folks, we hope you enjoy our work.   This story will be different from our previous, in that we’re taking a LOT of ideas that we either KNOW won’t happen in canon (hence the AU listing) or don’t really like and are trying to make them work.   Think of it as the authors stretching their wings and writing against their inclination.

As for HBP, we know everyone’s going to rush out and read it as soon as they can (we will too!), but don’t worry, we’ll be here when you’re ready for more fan fiction. (Bob’s note, I suspect that having read and written two fics already, I may not enjoy HBP because it doesn’t match my vision of where Rowling should go.)

A reviewer asked a question about the size of our chapters.   To answer, yes, all of our chapters are nearly the same size — 30-32 pages. Occasionally, we’ll go over that, but have never posted anything over 40 pages per chapter.

How long was Dumbledore/Riddle/Merlin’s Matura?   No one knows.   Remember, asking about the Matura is a horribly rude thing to do, as it’s such an intensely private event.   There are no records kept about such things.   However, as the authors, we can tell you that nobody’s Matura has lasted as long as Harry’s. (Bob’s note: Why is this important? This is a very private thing. I don’t ask you how often you play with yourself do I? * Grin *)

Yes, this is a Super Power Harry story that takes place in 6th year (the 7th year story will follow this one, just like we did with DA and SC). But Harry isn’t flaunting his powers in Sunset…at least, not yet.   Will he ever flaunt them?   We’re not telling (Evil Cackle).

We like Remus too.   We wouldn’t hurt him…would we? Muahahahaha…

Dumbledore isn’t evil…he’s just VERY misguided!   Yeah, that’s it! Think of him as a keebler elf with an attitude.

If something in the story happens and isn’t explained right away, keep your shirts on.   Most likely, it will be answered further down or in another chapter. Yes, we know, we’re making you wait…but that’s part of the fun, right? Patience, Grasshopper…all will be explained in time :D

As for the Harry/Hermione ship, we know people are split over it.   It’s either love/hate with little room between.   As for ourselves, we’re not big on Harry/Hermione either.   However, we did it this way for three reasons.   First, our last stories were Harry/Ginny.   Second, we wanted to do something we didn’t like, and see if we could make it work.   Third, the plot itself called for Harry/Hermione, and we don’t argue with the Muse when she’s on a roll! (Bob’s note: I PROTEST! THIS IS SEXIST! WHY IS THE MUSE FEMALE?)

Arthur’s involvement in Harry’s trust?   Let’s put it this way.   He knows about it and did nothing to stop it, which makes him, at the least, an accessory.

Dumbledore going Vader?   Sorry, but that made us laugh.   "Call me Darth Helmet!" Dumbledore said menacingly.   Hehehe…nice parody material, maybe :D "Hey, your Schwartz is as big as mine!"

Molly, Arthur, Ron and Dumbledore are not giving into the dark.   With the Weasley’s, it’s simple greed.   With Dumbledore, it’s fame.   These things may lead to a path of darkness, true, but in this story, you will not see them prancing besides Voldemort at the final battle.

We’ve had a few people asking for our opinions about their outline(s).   We’re willing to help if you need a sounding board for ideas, but as we’re in the middle of a story, it may take a day or two to get a response from us so keep that in mind.   In any case, anyone can contact us at alyx_nw at yahoo . com (don’t know if Fanfic will allow the email addy to show, but remove the spaces and use the "at symbol" if it does).

We plan to update this story twice a week, possibly more if the muse ties us to our chairs like she did with our last stories.   So for those issuing death threats, relax, take a deep breath and eat a chocolate frog. Just as an FYI, we are currently on chapter 6, with chapters 3-5 being worked on by my wife. We are striving to have at least three chapters complete at all times while another is in the pipe.

A quick note about any spelling/grammar errors you may find in this story.   We thought about finding a beta and I (Alyx) even contacted someone about it.   However, Bob got impatient and wanted to start posting.   As such, all errors can be blamed on him :D

Pet Peeves:

Canon Worshippers! No matter how many times we say something is not to canon, someone has to leave us a review saying "This isn’t to canon". Well you can go suck my er… forget that. Please read the authors notes to see if the author is claiming to be to canon or not before complaining.

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