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Legacy by jardyn39

Format: Novel
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 62,456
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild violence

Genres: Mystery, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Hermione
Pairings: Harry/Hermione

First Published: 08/14/2017
Last Chapter: 09/03/2017
Last Updated: 09/03/2017

Summary:



Knowing he only has hours before he finally confronts Voldemort, Harry arrives at his vault at Gringotts and finds Ron. The last Horcrux has been destroyed and he is keen to get away only Ron seems insistent on staying longer. While Ron tries to explain, Harry finds his attention wandering into reminiscences about his regrets and the legacy that would send him on the path towards his destiny.


Chapter 1: Gringotts (Prologue Part 1)
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Legacy

AN: This story begins (and ends) just before Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort but the story proper is actually about Harry’s recollections of the summer after Year 6 (HBP) just before they set out to hunt the Horcruxes.

This story was originally posted on Portkey in November 2006. Minor corrections and edits for language only.

Gringotts (Prologue Part 1)

It is almost a year since they set out to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes …
 

Harry Potter just sat there grinning stupidly. He couldn’t quite believe that he’d forgotten how much fun the exhilarating ride down to his Gringott’s family vault could be. He was almost tempted to immediately beg for another ride through the maze of tunnels deep under London.

The goblin that had accompanied him on the journey had got out from the railed cart and was waiting patiently for Harry to disembark. He didn’t seem to expect Harry to leap out at once and Harry wondered if passengers usually took a moment or two to recover from the break-neck speed of the journey.

Harry wasn’t totally sure that taking such enjoyment out of the simple pleasure of a trip down through Gringott’s tunnels was an entirely good thing. He knew that just lately he had been doing this with so many things he had previously almost taken for granted.

Hermione had noticed it in him too; reminding him that Moody’s advice about constant vigilance was never more apt. That was when she’d caught him watching her writing up her latest findings when she felt he should have been concentrating on the latest Ministry reports she had summarised.

Finally Harry stood up and stepped out onto the wide platform next to the goblin.

“As Sir does not have his key, Sir will need to give me permission to open the vault for you.”

“Oh, right. Um, I give my permission,” Harry said hesitantly, fearing yet another lecture on key security was imminent.

The goblin extended a long finger and stroked it gently down the face of the black metal door. Harry heard a lock mechanism operate and the large door swung open.

“Thanks,” said Harry, stepping inside.

The goblin snapped his fingers and wall lanterns inside the vault sprang into life.

“Thanks,” said Harry again but the goblin was already walking back to the cart.

“I will return for you later, Mr Potter. When you lock the door I will be notified. Your key is inside the vault. I suggest you take care to pocket it before someone decides to lock you inside.”

Harry smiled politely and waved as the goblin rode off.

He turned and re-entered the vault, wondering why the lanterns had been out.

“Sorry I was so long,” Harry said with a smile. “I got to Gringotts within an hour but they insisted upon giving me a lecture on vault security before bringing me down here. I was a little surprised when they contacted me, but it’s a good job they did. I suppose there must be anti-apparition charms around here?”

Ron didn’t answer. He was sitting, hunched up against the far wall of the vault.

“You okay, Ron?”

Ron looked up, but didn’t return Harry’s smile. Harry thought he looked a little shame-faced.

“Don’t worry,” Harry said encouragingly. “No-one else knows you locked yourself in here and that’s the way it’s going to stay as far as I’m concerned.”

Harry walked over to a small table propped against the far wall that had a green velvet cloth draped over it. After pausing a moment to peruse the objects arranged on the table, he dug his hand deep inside his robe pocket and withdrew a small silver cup.

He allowed himself a satisfied smile as his fingers played over the deep scar-shaped crack in the side of the cup. Hufflepuff’s motif was just still recognisable, but none of the artefact’s legendary magical properties remained in the cup now.

Hermione had made it quite clear she thought he had been somewhat irresponsible in the manner in which this particular Horcrux was destroyed. They hadn’t needed to, but Harry wanted to use the method Dumbledore had devised rather than the safer method they had discovered.

He had argued that he was just bored with their solution, although Hermione had seen through this at once. Harry, of course, needed to prove something to himself; he needed to know that he really was finally ready to face Voldemort.

In the event Harry had indeed been both quick enough and powerful enough to despatch the Horcrux single-handedly. His only regret was upsetting Hermione who had left the room muttering about how reckless he had become.

The truth, they both knew, was a little different. Far from reckless, Harry had become cold and calculating over the last year. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d acted on impulse and had spent the entire previous night and that morning making meticulous preparations.

Even so, Harry recognised that as the hour approached the cracks in his façade were growing more evident.

He placed the sixth and final former Horcrux right in the middle of the table and turned to face Ron who was still sitting on the floor.

“We’re eating at your Mum and Dad’s place for lunch,” said Harry, hoping to provoke Ron into saying something. “Hermione wasn’t sure it was wise, but I wanted us all to be together for one last meal.”

Ron began to say something, but his throat caught and he coughed before trying again.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk like that, Harry. You know where he’ll be then?”

“Yes, I think so. Wormtail said he overheard Voldemort telling Snape to meet him at midnight tonight.”

“Are you going to tell us where that will be?”

“No. We’ve been over this. Thanks to you and Hermione, Voldemort is finally mortal again. You’ve given me a chance, and that’s all I’ve a right to expect. Just a chance.”

“I bet Hermione isn’t going to let you go off alone.”

“Well, I was hoping I could rely on you to stop her following; I need to know that you’re safe, at least until the morning.”

Ron sighed deeply.

“Harry, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Sure, Ron. What is it?”

“I’ve wanted to tell you for some time now, only I was too afraid. No, that’s not right,” he admitted. “I was too ashamed.”

Harry frowned slightly, and then walked over and sat down next to Ron on the cold York stone floor.

“What is it?”

Ron handed him a delicate silver necklace. Harry recognised it at once and he held it up, his tiny Gringotts key spinning around and catching the light.

Harry smiled and immediately offered it back to Ron.

“Here, you keep it.”

“When was the last time you were down here, Harry?”

“I don’t know, exactly. It must be a couple of years, I suppose. Why?”

“Look around you, Harry.”

Harry looked around but didn’t see anything remarkable.

“What am I supposed to be looking for?”

“Why aren’t you wondering why there isn’t more gold?”

“Gold?” Harry said in surprise. “I didn’t think there’d be any left the way we’ve been spending it!”

“Well, there isn’t any left, obviously.”

“I said from the outset that every Knut I had in here could be spent, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but,” began Ron.

“Look, I know Hermione wasn’t happy about bribing people, but at the end of the day it worked. So what if it was expensive and we were paying off people we would call less than desirable? That gold got us to a position where all the Horcruxes have been destroyed. What’s more, Voldemort still has no clue what we were really doing. You did brilliantly, Ron.”

“Harry, I spent more than just your gold. I even sold off some of the artwork I found buried underneath.”

“Artwork?”

“They were just old vases and such.”

“Oh, I thought you meant paintings,” said Harry, who had very few reminders of the family he never knew.
   
“No, there were no paintings.”

“Well, I know you just did whatever was necessary. If we were running short then you were right to sell off whatever you could.”

“I, er,” began Ron again, but Harry turned hearing his voice wavering. Ron looked very red in the face now and Harry thought he knew what Ron would say next.

“Your inheritance is all gone, Harry.”

“I’ve never cared about that money. You know that. Ron, please believe me when I say I’m glad we could afford our campaign. Please don’t feel bad for just doing what I asked you to do.”

“Harry, not all the gold went on Hermione’s researches and my bribes.”

“We must have spent quite a bit on Fred and George’s gadgets,” added Harry. “Those Dark Mark seeking rockets were brilliant once they got the charm right.”

He grinned to himself remembering how the Order had gathered at Hogwarts and launched barrage after barrage of enchanted missiles with Harry opening and closing the protective wards just in time to prevent retaliatory strikes. They had even stopped for a brief interlude to enjoy Ron’s barbeque.

Harry was about to remind Ron about that night when he saw his serious expression. Harry felt the grin slide off his face.

“I used your gold for other things too. I took some for myself.”

“Ron, we all had expenses. I told you to take whatever you needed. You were more than entitled, especially as because of me you’ve been unable to earn any gold of your own.”

“You shouldn’t have given me the key, Harry.”

“No? Just how many of those Horcruxes would we still be looking for if it wasn’t for all your efforts?”

“We wasted so much money on false leads, though.”

“Perhaps, but we had to try. For the record, I think Hermione over-reacted to that set of spoons. After all, they might have been genuine.”

“No, I got conned with those,” Ron admitted, rubbing his hands through his hair. “They switched the real ones on me.”

“But you learned a valuable lesson.”

“Yeah, don’t admit to Hermione how much I really paid for things.”

Harry snorted, but was a little concerned not to see Ron even smile. He knew both Ron and Hermione would be upset at his decision not to take them to the final confrontation, but he’d hoped that at least Ron would be more upbeat.

“I’ve tried to get one thing back, though,” said Ron. “I found a chest in here. It was buried and full of gold coins. They were foreign, though, not Galleons. Anyway, when it was empty I wondered if I could get anything for it.”

“Good idea,” agreed Harry.

“Not really. I sold it to Dung.”

Harry’s face fell. He had never quite forgiven Mundungus Fletcher for stealing Sirius’ things and hadn’t once controlled his temper whenever they had met since. Ron had usually acted as an intermediary between them.

“Anyway,” continued Ron, “a while later I saw another chest just like it. Fred had bought it from somewhere, and he told me that it was enchanted to secretly store papers and such. I had no idea it might contain papers about your family, Harry. I did eventually get it back, but it was empty and Dung wouldn’t admit who he’d sold it to.”

“Wouldn’t he have looked before he sold it on?” asked Harry. “I expect he just burnt any papers he found in there.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

“You know? We should probably get going or we’ll miss dinner as well as lunch,” said Harry, hoping that the prospect of a little home cooking would cheer Ron up.

“Harry, do you remember last year? When you returned to your Aunt and Uncle’s place last summer.”

“How could I forget?” said Harry darkly, thinking of the Dursleys’ behaviour.

“I’ve been sitting here thinking about that.”

“Um, why?” Harry felt compelled to ask.

“Why? Well, that’s when it all began.”

Harry immediately stiffened, regretting that he hadn’t been a little sharper on the uptake. He had managed, with no small difficulty, to avoid speaking to Ron about certain events of the previous summer.

Instead they had each pretended that nothing had happened.

“Ron, please.”

“No, Harry, that’s not what I mean. Okay, I didn’t believe you then. Of course, I do still sometimes wonder about now.”

Harry sighed deeply.

“It’s still true, Ron. Nothing has-” began Harry, but he was interrupted by Ron.

“I’ve never dared ask if you’re entirely happy about that.”

“Ron, I’m planning on murdering Voldemort later this evening. I know I’m useless at burying my emotions, but I’d rather not give him too much of an advantage.”

“Sorry, Harry. Why don’t you lock me in again and go?”

“Ron, why would I want to do that?”

“Like I said,” said Ron, now staring up at the ceiling. “It really all started when you went back to Privet Drive. Charlie told me he was going over to see you and explain in person. I mean, I was disappointed but part of me thought it would be good.

“Hermione could never relax when you were around anyway and I figured it would be a good chance for us to finally spend some time together.”

Harry relaxed back against the stone wall, accepting that Ron wouldn’t move until he’d told Harry whatever it was that was really bothering him. In truth, he was more that a little irked that the few hours he had left to enjoy the company of Hermione and the other Weasleys would be reduced.

He had accepted Mrs Weasley’s invitation before he learned where Voldemort planned to be that evening, so he had been spared the dilemma of worrying what he should do with regards to Hermione.

He smiled to himself. He was going to face Voldemort but the only thing that really worried him was Hermione.

“I know what you’re thinking, Harry,” said Ron, making him start. He hadn’t been listening to a word Ron was saying to him.

“Um, what’s for lunch?” he offered hopefully, although privately he shuddered at the notion of Ron knowing what he was actually thinking.

Harry turned his head to look at Ron. He had a far-away look that made Harry wonder if he had even heard him.

“I was so angry with you both,” continued Ron in barely a whisper. “It just made it so much easier to justify what I did; what I-”

Harry knew at once what Ron was talking about, and was once again driven back to the same old dilemma: Should he tell Ron the truth?

The answer before had always been an emphatic no; but later tonight he hoped to challenge Voldemort for a final time. If he died, he would only leave Ron feeling anguished. It might even be worse if he lived and had to face Ron again.

Harry consoled himself with the knowledge that Hermione had agreed that Ron should not be told; at least, not yet. Agreed? That was an interesting way to put it, he mused.

He also hadn’t exactly lied to Ron, although that wasn’t quite the same as telling him the whole truth.

As Ron continued to talk, Harry’s thoughts drifted back to the events of previous summer …

 






Next chapter:-


Two Memories?

“Potter, would you mind telling me why you are pointing your wand at me?”

Harry has returned to Privet Drive for one last time. Professor McGonagall visits him with news about the future of Hogwarts and explains she is carrying a memory Dumbledore intended him to have.


Chapter 2: Two Memories?
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Two Memories?
 
It is just over a week before Harry’s Seventeenth birthday …
 

Harry lay back on top of his bed and wondered what thoughts and feelings would dominate him through that day.

He had arrived back at Privet Drive just after the funeral. Lupin had suggested he take a few days before returned to Surrey, but Harry was keen to leave and it seemed the best way of achieving that would be to arrive as promptly as he could.

Lupin had insisted upon speaking to the Dursleys before he left. He explained to them about the loss of Dumbledore, but Harry hadn’t stayed to listen. He just dragged his trunk upstairs, not wishing to hear their unfeeling comments.

Lupin had knocked on his door before he left and promised that the Order would pop in regularly to see that he was okay. He also gently recommended that Harry should at least try to speak with Aunt Petunia, since he was unlikely to return.

“You’ll be sorry it if you don’t, Harry. Perhaps not now, but in years to come you will regret not attempting to reconcile your differences,” he had said before leaving.

Harry didn’t remember falling asleep that first night, but the next day he woke up questioning everything and exploring some impossible ideas. How could Dumbledore, the greatest Wizard of his age, be dead? Maybe he wasn’t. Could Dumbledore have staged some elaborate hoax? Was he in hiding, biding his time?

Almost imperceptibly, his denial transformed into a terrible anger. He was angry at everything in the world.

He had paced up and down furiously all that day until finally exhaustion brought him back to his bed.

Most of his anger was directed at Dumbledore. How could he have prevented him from helping him that night? Why did he have to trust Snape? Why had he not stopped Malfoy?

It was in the early hours of the next day when Harry finally admitted to himself that what he was really angry about was himself.

It wasn’t that he was destined to fight Voldemort; he’d long accepted that. No, what really tore him up inside was the fact that he had known the risk to the school before they had left to find the Horcrux. Had he refused to leave with Dumbledore, could he have kept him alive?

What if, even now, Dumbledore had planned a way out? He had stopped Harry from intervening, but what if Dumbledore wanted to create the illusion of his death. That would certainly take the pressure off a little. Had he expected Harry to step in and do something? Perhaps he’d actually believed Slughorn’s assertions that he was really good at Potions. What if Harry was supposed to administer a Potion that would revive his Headmaster?

If that was the case, then he’d failed. Dumbledore’s trust in Snape had been misguided, and his belief in Harry looked just as poor judgement from his perspective.

Unless Voldemort was going to offer to settle his claims on the Wizarding world by accepting Harry’s challenge to a Quidditch match, it looked like he was going to be of little use.

Indeed, Voldemort was probably finding Harry's lack of any real magical talent almost as amusing as Dumbledore’s death.

Harry’s convoluted theories to prove that Dumbledore wasn’t really gone lasted the entire day. He managed to cling onto this faint hope until sunset but no more.

His next two days were filled with nothing but apathy. What was the point of it all? Voldemort was bound to win in the end. What could he do without Dumbledore?

Eventually, he came to the inescapable conclusion that no, Dumbledore was indeed gone. The sooner he accepted that, the better. Dumbledore, he realised, had been preparing him for his death for a year. He had known he was the intended victim of a murder plot for months, after all.

Hunger finally drew Harry out of his bedroom and downstairs to the deserted kitchen. In the fridge he found a prepared salad meal wrapped in cling-film. He took it, not knowing who it had been prepared for, and ate.

As he washed up the plate at the sink, he realised that the notion that Dumbledore had been preparing him took him a little by surprise. He climbed quietly back up to his room to consider this further.

He had been so convinced, all those years ago, that Dumbledore had allowed them to learn just enough to give him a chance to face Voldemort when Quirrell had attempted to steal the Philosopher’s Stone.

But Dumbledore hadn’t trained him over this last year, had he? All he did was explain some of Voldemort’s past and shown him his path ahead.

Harry’s head became filled with a jumbled mass of memories from all the times he had spoken to Dumbledore.

What he really needed was to talk the whole thing through; and only one person would do for that.

Unfortunately, it was two o’clock in the morning and he had no idea where Hermione was. He had a telephone number of her parent’s home somewhere, but he wasn’t sure if they were risking returning home or not. Hermione had just said the Order was accompanying them.

He got up and pulled a wad of unused parchment from his trunk, together with a quill and ink.

It would be much later when he realised that something had happened to him in the instant he rose up from his bed. It would be Hermione who would point this out, but in the very moment it happened, he had noticed nothing at all.

The pre-dawn light gradually entered his bedroom window and found him still scratching away with his quill.

Rubbing his sore eyes, he looked around. The room was strewn with parchment, all now covered with hurriedly written lists and notes.

He sat nodding down at the piece of parchment he was holding before a particularly loud burst of birdsong drew his attention outside.

Harry’s gaze returned to his desk. He wanted to continue, but he knew he was growing tired.

It was still a couple of hours before the summer sun would be up. Perhaps a quick walk would wake him up.

He checked he had his wand before heading to the bathroom. There he tried to wash off some of the ink that covered his hands.

A few minutes later, he stepped outside into the cool morning air.

He had the feeling that an owl would be waiting for him upon his return, carrying a message from the Order admonishing him for leaving the house.

Harry, though, decided he could trust Dumbledore’s protections for the next few days at least.

He followed his familiar summer trail, except he was forced to take a detour around the locked park. Rather than following the road, he decided to make his way along a footpath that left the road.

Originally intended as an escape from the suburban traffic for pedestrians, the short stretch was actually notorious as a favourite spot for muggers. This only occurred to Harry when he was halfway along the winding path and was surrounded by thick trees and bushes.

He hesitated, trying to remember if it would be quicker to carry on or go back the way he had come.

Annoyed that he’d forgotten how easy it would be to ambush him along this route, he decided to push on. If there was trouble he had his wand and anyway he could always Disapparate away to safety.

He walked on a few feet, but then stopped to listen.

Had he just heard voices from within the trees?

Harry reached for his wand, although he thought it unlikely that an attacker would announce their presence quite so readily. Of course, they might just be wondering what he was doing there in such an obviously compromised position.

He heard a rustling sound and an instant later a dark shadow darted towards him.

*

Harry just stood there shaking. He looked blankly down at his wand and then down at the animal lying still at his feet.

He couldn’t quite accept what he had just done.

Harry looked around nervously. There was no-one in sight.

He forced himself to pocket his wand and walk back to the path, but his mind was replaying the moment over and over again.

The fox had been much bigger than he had expected. Perhaps that is why he’d reacted so quickly, fearing it was an Animagus.

However, having examined the carcass, he was sure it hadn’t been an Animagus. It was simply a fox.

He wondered that he’d even been able to produce a killing curse. He’d never even practised before, not even when Ron insisted upon sneaking into the Forbidden Forest to try well away from prying eyes.

Ron had only managed to hit an old fallen tree trunk but there had been a rabbit hiding just on the other side that had been killed when the curse managed to get through a gap between the trunk and the ground.

Ron had tried to describe the feeling that producing the curse felt like, but Harry genuinely hadn’t understood. Moody had spoken about that feeling too, but had not elaborated at all.

Having just killed that fox, Harry’s overwhelming feeling now was one of guilt. Even so, he recognised that there was something else there too.

He struggled to identify this new feeling, and was more than a little shocked to realise he was feeling a kind of thrill. Part of him actually enjoyed the kill and was eager to discover what killing something larger would feel like; maybe even something human.

Harry shuddered.

No, he decided. Those were not his feelings.

All he was remembering was Voldemort’s sick mind games.

Harry wasn’t sure when exactly Voldemort had begun to open his mind to Harry. He felt instinctively that Voldemort would not attempt to possess him again. However, because Dumbledore was gone now, Voldemort clearly felt he could chance Harry seeing the occasional flashes.

They were very brief at the beginning, but Harry had stopped taking much interest when he realized Voldemort was selecting what he should see. Accidental or unintentional visions were much more interesting and useful.

Sometimes, however, the images of what Voldemort was either seeing or imagining were so shocking that Harry sometimes had a problem ridding them from his mind. That, he knew, was the point, after all.

Feeling a little vulnerable, Harry headed straight back to Privet Drive.

*

“Harry, I’m really sorry. I thought I should come in person to tell you. Mum is going spare.”

“What’s happened?” Harry asked with concern.

“Don’t worry, everyone is fine,” said Charlie at once, before continuing reluctantly, “The thing is news about the date of Bill and Fleur’s wedding has leaked out. If you come, there’s a good chance the Death Eaters will try to get through the protections at the Burrow.”

Harry’s shoulder’s sagged, anticipating what Charlie was about to say next.

“You don’t think it’s safe for me to come to the Burrow?”

“That’s right, Harry. I’m really sorry. Everyone wanted you there; Mum especially. She isn’t too happy with me right now. It was me that first said it would be risky having you there even in disguise, but Dad agrees with me.”

“I don’t want anything bad to happen just because of me,” Harry said firmly. “I understand, Charlie. Please give everyone my best wishes and say not to worry. I want everyone to just enjoy the day.”

“Thanks, Harry,” said Charlie, looking more than a little relieved that Harry wasn’t angry with him. Charlie knew how much Harry hated staying with the Dursleys. “How long are you planning on staying here?”

Seeing the relief on Charlie’s face made Harry recognise that he was himself feeling a little relieved. He had only ended things with Ginny a few days ago, after all. Harry knew in his own mind that it would be for the best, but he wasn’t at all sure how he would react when he saw her again.

Harry forced his attention back to his conversation with Charlie.

“Just a few more days, them I’m free.”

Charlie nodded and said, "Be careful, Harry. Dad says they are waiting for your birthday but also watching in case you try to leave early."

Harry nodded back but said nothing.

“Oh, I’ve got a letter from Ron for you,” he said, handing Harry an envelope he had removed from an inside pocket.

“Thanks.”

“Is there anything you need while you are here?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine.”

*

Harry sat down at his desk and opened the envelope Charlie had given him.

Dear Harry,

I’m really sorry about you not being able to come to the wedding. I know how much you were looking forward to coming. Fleur was a bit upset but Bill says it’ll be a good excuse to have another celebration when the time is right.”

Harry smiled and nodded.

Mum was all in favour of bringing the date forward and not telling anyone, but as Dad pointed out news could leak out about that too.

Anyway, I’ve been roped in to helping out, but I’ll be free to join you as soon as possible after the wedding. I can’t be specific about the date because they keep changing it and in any case this letter might get intercepted.

Have you heard from Hermione? I sent her a letter as soon as we got home (I’m getting as bad as Percy!) and I got one letter from her but she must have sent hers before she got mine.

Got to go. Ginny is yelling some rubbish about the decorations I conjured earlier. Honestly, what does she expect?

See you, Ron.

*

Harry walked into the living room and smiled seeing Professor McGonagall standing at the window. His smile faltered when he saw how ill at ease she seemed as she turned to face him.

“Is anything the matter, Professor?”

She did not answer at once.

“You have probably read in the newspapers that attacks are now occurring on a regular basis. There was even one in broad daylight two days ago.”

“Yes, I’ve read the newspaper articles.”

“With your birthday only a few days away, you should really begin to plan for your safety. Perhaps a Fidelius Charm would be appropriate. I’ve spoken to Professor Flitwick, and he’s more than willing to help. As a matter of fact he’s getting rather a lot of practise in lately.”

“I can imagine,” said Harry darkly. “I don’t intend to stay here even a minute past midnight on my birthday, Professor. I’d be gone now if I hadn’t given my word to Dumbledore.”

“I’d like you to consider coming back to the school until term starts.”

“No,” said Harry more firmly than he intended. “I mean,” he added quickly, but faltered finding the right words. “I don’t intend to stay at school with all this going on. I’ve got to carry on where Dumbledore left off, Professor.”

“Harry, Professor Dumbledore would have wanted you to graduate.”

“Yes, but my priority has to be Voldemort. Besides, is the school really going to re-open?”

“Of course it is!”

“Professor, how safe will it be? One of Voldemort’s priorities will be to take over Hogwarts. With Dumbledore gone, what chance is there of us preventing that from happening?”

For an instant McGonagall looked at him with indignant anger but then her expression softened and she nodded in agreement.

“Unfortunately, most of the parents and school Governors agree that if Lord Voldemort wants Hogwarts, there is little now to stop him. The Ministry of Magic has already reassigned the Aurors who were protecting the school.”

“Well, I say let him have the place," said Harry. "At least we’ll know where to attack him when the time comes.”

“What an extraordinary thing to say. I rather had the impression that Hogwarts was more of a home to you than this place.”

“It was,” Harry admitted sadly. “It may be again, but not now.”

“I know what you mean,” said McGonagall with a sigh, sitting down. Harry sat next to her on the settee.

“One of the few things Albus advised me,” she confided quietly, “was not to fight to keep the school open. He said that if anything happened to him, then we should not risk casualties. He too was sure Lord Voldemort would want to take the school. Actually, he seemed to think the notion quite amusing.”

Harry smiled at her and nodded.

“I see you are in on the joke,” she added dryly. “I rather had the impression that Dumbledore was considering closing the school next year anyway. He seemed to think you no longer needed its protection.”

“You make it sound like he kept Hogwarts open just to keep me safe,” said Harry.

“I’m quite sure he did just that, Harry.”

Harry frowned slightly.

“Professor, let’s just suppose that Hogwarts doesn’t re-open next year. Professor Trelawney will still have to be protected.  She has no idea of the danger she is in.”

“Actually, Sybill Trelawney has received an invitation to teach at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic from September. Indeed, Madam Maxime has extended kind offers to all of the Hogwarts teaching staff, including myself. However, she stressed that Sybill would be as safe as she was at Hogwarts.”

Harry grinned at her and said simply, “Dumbledore.”

“Indeed. The Headmaster appears to have found time in his busy schedule for a visit to Beauxbatons last year.”

“What about the students, Professor?”

“Madam Maxime has said every Hogwarts student would be welcome to continue their studies at her Academy of Magic.”

Every student?”

“Madam Maxime has perhaps wisely left it to me to decide which students should be invited.”

“Does the Ministry know?”

“No, and frankly we’d prefer them not to know at the moment.”

Harry nodded in agreement and asked, “Will Beauxbatons need to be expanded?”

“Interestingly, no. The Hogwarts castle is much bigger than Beauxbatons but at one time they rivalled us in terms of student numbers. And, thanks to Dumbledore, they've had time to prepare to receive a large additional intake.”

“Have you seen Beauxbatons, Professor?”

“Yes, just the once. It was an inter-school Quidditch competition. Unfortunately, our House rivalry was too great for us to play together as a decent team. We lost in the final by an outrageous margin.”

“Well, perhaps you can organise a return match?”

“Harry, I have no intention of taking up Madam Maxime’s offer. My place is at Hogwarts.”

“No, Professor. I mean, with respect, your place is with your students.”

For a moment, Harry thought she was going to explode. She looked away, looking a little flushed.

“You are not the first to have told me that, Harry.”

“Look,” said Harry, leaning forward. “It would be best to strip Hogwarts of anything you need or want to keep away from Voldemort now. If you wait you’ll just have to go in a panic.”

“The portraits have been saying the same thing for days now,” she said absently, referring to the old Headmasters and Mistresses of the school. “Sir Nicholas and the Bloody Baron have volunteered to stay behind and spy for us, as have Sir Cadogan and one of the Monks on the East Stair.”

“That’s what you intended to do, isn’t it?” said Harry gently.

McGonagall nodded and withdrew a small tartan handkerchief from her sleeve. Dabbing her nose she said, “I know enough of the secret passage ways to stay hidden, even if Lord Voldemort takes over the place.”

“I know you’re brave enough and certainly clever enough to do it, but you’d be far more valuable teaching at Beauxbatons. Voldemort is bound to target that place as well sooner or later.”

McGonagall signed deeply and seemed to be coming to a decision as she said, “Yes, I know you’re right. I’ll get things organised as soon as I return. To be honest, I suspect that Filius and the others may have been making preparations just in case.”

“Don’t forget to free the House Elves, will you?”

“They won’t be happy about that. I think I’ll order them to join us in France instead.”

“Good, I rather like the idea that Voldemort will have to cook his own celebration feast!”

McGonagall snorted.

“So, where will you go, Harry? I’m sure that Madam Maxime will be pleased to offer you a new home before term starts.”

“No, I don’t think France appeals just now, thanks. I’ll get regular messages to you somehow, but I’ve decided that only Ron and Hermione will know my full plans. I hope you’ll continue to use Grimmauld Place. I don’t plan on using it.”

“Thank you, Harry. The Order will be grateful for that. What about your Aunt and Uncle? There will be some risk to them after your birthday.”

“Well, Dudley is away for the summer. I’ve tried to persuade my Aunt and Uncle that it won’t be safe for them here, but they aren’t keen at all about going away.”

“The Order will maintain patrols if you wish,” she offered.

“Thanks. That would probably be best.”

“There are another couple of matters I need to raise with you, Harry. The first concerns Dobby the house elf.”

“He’s alright, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. He’s fine. Albus suggested you might like to take him into your employment.”

“I’m not sure,” said Harry doubtfully. “It might be dangerous, although I could certainly do with his help.”

“Hogwarts would not object if you both agreed terms. I must warn you, however, that the house-elf enslavement laws may be of essential use to you. An enslaved elf cannot ever betray its master.”

“Well, Dobby wanted to be a free elf. I’m not about to upset him by insisting he becomes enslaved to me.”

“May I send him to you so you can discuss it together?”

Harry smiled and said, “No, but you can ask him to pop by because I’d like to see him.”

McGonagall smiled back at him, but then her smile faltered.

“The second matter concerns Albus himself. He had for some time suspected he might not survive for too long once Voldemort returned to his former strength. Indeed, once it became clear what young Draco Malfoy was up to, he asked me to help him.”

She took a deep, steadying breath before saying, “Albus stored a memory, um, in me.”

“Sorry?”

“He gave me one of his memories. I know that it was a message intended for you, but I do not know what the message was.”

“Um, okay. How do I hear the message?”

“He wasn’t specific. There are three methods that I know of. The first uses the pensieve to deposit the memories in a form that you can read. That method will not work in this case, because I cannot recall the message at all.”

“The second requires you to perform Legilimency on me in order to force the memory from my mind. That method has some inherent risks in that my own memories will be affected.”

“What’s the third method, Professor?”

“Albus developed a method some years ago which could be used to transfer a message via a third party who would remain entirely ignorant of the message contents.”

“That sounds like the method he would have wanted us to use,” noted Harry.

“Indeed, however there are problems. At one time memory transfers were a relatively common method of sending secure messages until it was realised that it was relatively easy to intercept the communication.

“The Ministry used to use Muggles under an Imperious Curse. The messages could be blocked by either killing the courier or even just by simply confunding them. In addition, the messages could be retrieved by a sufficiently skilled Legilimens.

“My concern is that the message may already have been read by Snape. He must have an extraordinary skill in order to have fooled Dumbledore like that.”

“I don’t think we should worry about that,” said Harry. “Even if he has read the message, we need to know what it said.”

“Well, yes, but it isn’t quite that straightforward. As I said, Albus developed the method further so that the message was more secure. He split the message into two parts and used two couriers.”

“Oh, so Snape might not know what the message says.”

“No, but he might have recognised the fact that I carried a message. If he removed or corrupted the part I carry, you will never be able to hear it. What’s more, he might actually have modified the memory. Memories are dangerous, Harry. A traumatic event or shock, even if it is a lie or isn’t even yours, can kill. Voldemort drove several witches and wizards to suicide that way.”

“Who do you think carries the other half of the message?”

“I’ve no idea. For all I know, he could have placed it in you.”

“No, he didn’t do that.”

“How do you know? I know for a fact that although Albus used his Legilimency skills sparingly, he certainly used them on you.”

Harry snorted.

“Yes, I imagined he was doing that, actually. Still, he was never as invasive as Snape was. He never made me recall images of memories like he did.”

“Well, Snape wasn’t as skilled a Legilimens as Dumbledore was. Of course, he may well have just wanted to cause you more pain and suffering than was necessary.”

“No kidding,” said Harry dryly.

“Harry, I’d like to suggest a way forward. What if I was to transfer my part of the message to a third party? That way, if anything happened to me the message would be safe.”

“No, it would be best if you transferred it directly to me. If we used someone else, we’d just be increasing the number of people at risk.”

“Well, alright then. I’ll tell you how to summon the memory. However, I should warn you that you may become disoriented for a while. You may also find that you are concentrating on the wrong things. I wonder if it wouldn’t it be better to wait for Miss Granger or Mr Weasley. They could look after you if you suddenly had an urge to leave the house.”

Harry smiled but shook his head.

“How do I summon the memory?”

“You simply point your wand at me and say an incantation. The words to use are Memoria ego voco thee.”

Harry pointed his wand at Professor McGonagall and said clearly, “Memoria ego voco thee!”

There was a small flash and then a ghostly white shape shot out of her forehead and hit him between the eyes.

“Potter, would you mind telling me why you are pointing your wand at me?”

“I’m sorry, Professor,” he said at once, lowering his wand.

McGonagall looked at him sternly for a moment. Harry wasn’t sure what he should say.

“Well, Harry. I think I’ll be heading back.”

“Thanks for coming, Professor,” said Harry, blinking away the sparks in his vision.

“It just remains for me to give you Albus’ memory,” she said, fumbling inside her travelling cloak.

Harry, realising she must just be confused, said, “No, that’s alright, Professor.”

“Harry, the Headmaster was most insistent,” she said, holding up a small crystal phial. Inside, Harry could see a brightly glowing vapour.

“But,” he said in utter confusion.

“Here, Harry,” she said offering him the bottle. “Please give my regards to your friends, Harry.”

“I will,” said Harry, staring intently at the small bottle in his hand. “I’m not entirely sure when I’ll see Hermione, Professor, but she promised to be here before I leave.”

 




Next Chapter:-
 
Hungry, Were You?
 
“Why did you hate my Mum so much?”
 
While Harry waits for Ron and Hermione to join him, Harry tries to talk to Aunt Petunia. Uncle Vernon is upset that Harry has invited his friends to stay.


Chapter 3: Hungry, Were You?
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Hungry, Were You?

Harry closed his bedroom door and took a moment before he managed to catch Ron’s owl Pig as he raced madly around the room. He stuffed the bottled memory from Professor McGonagall safely in his pocket so he had both hands free.

“Let me untie the message and then you can go as mad as you like,” muttered Harry. “Have a drink from Hedwig’s bowl before you go back. I’m sure she won’t mind if you want to stay and rest for a bit.”

To his surprise, Pig flew up beside Hedwig’s cage and took a drink from the water bowl Harry had left out.

Harry smiled up at the tiny owl as he opened the letter.

“Harry,

Thanks for your note. I’ll come as soon as I can, but I’m not sure when that will be.

Things are getting a bit chaotic around here. Dad is rushed off his feet and keeps getting called back in to the Ministry at all hours. I did find time to tell him that I may not be able to spend much time at school next year, though.

I was surprised when he said he understood and promised to break the news to Mum for me when the time was right. He also said he’d try and get me a job at the Ministry, saying that Newts weren’t always needed provided I was prepared to do something fairly unglamorous to begin with.

I said I didn’t mind so long as it wasn’t in the same department as Percy!

The real shame is that I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of becoming an Auror. Still, that was probably always a bit beyond me anyway.

I’ve got to go now. Ginny is yelling herself hoarse as I write! I mean, how was I to know they didn’t want biting flowers?

See you, Ron

PS Hedwig has just delivered a note from Hermione, but I’ll have to read it later when Ginny quietens down a bit. I was going to send this back with Hedwig, but she flew off at once.

Anyway, I hope you don’t mind but I’ve told Pig to rest up at your place for a couple of nights. He just won’t stay still for a moment here with everything that’s going on. Apologise to Hedwig for me will you? Thanks.”

Harry looked up at Hedwig’s vacant cage. He’d told her to stay with Hermione for as long as she needed her, since she didn’t have access to owl post.

He took out the glowing memory and stared at it once more and wondering what it meant.

What he really needed was to talk everything through with Hermione. Had Dumbledore really given two messages to McGonagall? Or, had one of the memories been intended to harm him?

*

“Hungry were you?” asked Harry in an amused tone.

For once, Pig wasn’t flying around the room in a heightened state of excitement. He was, though, looking very pleased with himself.

Harry had no idea what the rodent-like creature was that Pig had returned with. It had taken the tiny owl several attempts to carry its heavy meal up to the open window of Harry’s bedroom. Harry had watched on in amazement but had managed to resist helping the owl with a discrete Accio charm.

He hadn’t received a Ministry warning about his performing underage magic. He had tentatively asked Professor McGonagall if she thought he was likely to receive one. Of course, he hadn’t dared confess he had performed a killing curse, but she seemed to think that minor discretions so close to a seventeenth birthday were generally ignored.

After taking a few moments to recover, Pig started ripping open the prey with gusto.

Harry was used to seeing both Hedwig and the school owls both hunt and eat. They were efficient hunters and their talons and sharp beaks weren’t there just for looks.

Even so, it came as a little surprise to Harry seeing Pig like this. Somehow he had never associated the tiny owl as any kind of serious hunter, seeming to survive on owl treats and bits from Ron’s plate.

As Pig continued to work at the window sill, Harry scanned the dark night sky, wondering if Hedwig was out hunting that night too.

He had felt rather out of sorts since he had summoned Dumbledore’s memory. He didn’t feel ill, exactly, but he wasn’t quite himself.

He was sure now that he didn’t hold the other half of the message, since he had no idea at all what the new memory was. Maybe Hermione could suggest where the other part might have been secreted away if it wasn't in the bottle.

He considered if it could it be in the bottle McGonagall had given him. On balance, Harry thought this was unlikely, given what she had advised him about intercepting messages sent as memories.

*

Harry woke with a start and it was a few moments before he calmed down enough to realise it had only been a dream. Once again he had fallen asleep at the window.

Next to him, an overfed Pig slept on.

Harry ran his fingers through his hair and found he had been sweating profusely. His hair and shirt were soaking wet, even though the night air was pleasantly cool.

He gently picked Pig up and placed him inside Hedwig’s cage. Falling asleep on the edge of the window sill with a shear drop directly below hadn’t been the most sensible thing for the owl to do.

Still, he mused, dreaming about Dementors hadn’t been very sensible either.

Harry went into the bathroom and splashed cold water over his face. Then, deciding he might as well wash properly, he pulled off his polo shirt and filled the basin a little more.

He hadn’t switched on the bathroom light, but the downstairs hall light was still on and this gave enough light to see by.

It was only as he washed that Harry acknowledged to himself the reason why he hadn’t turned the light on.

He hadn’t wanted the recollection of his dream to be disturbed.

He certainly had no love of Dementors, but somehow he knew there was something important he had to remember about them.

His dream had been about the night they rescued Sirius.

Harry dried himself off and returned to his bedroom. He switched on his desk lamp and almost immediately began writing.

In the blink of an eye, or so it seemed, the dawn light flooded into his bedroom.

Harry dimly turned off the lamp, wondering what had come over him. The desk was covered in manic notes with many crossings out and corrections.

*

Harry walked into the kitchen. For once he was there during daylight hours, but this time he was actually going in search of his Aunt.

Petunia was sitting at the breakfast table, looking quite lost in thought.

They were alone in the house, Harry having waited until his Uncle had left for work.

“Cup of tea?” he asked. Without waiting for a response, he switched the electric kettle on and busied himself making two cups of tea.

He placed the two cups down on the table and sat down opposite her. It was the first time he’d seen her properly since he had arrived home.

“Thanks for leaving me those meals,” he said politely. “I couldn’t face coming down before.”

Petunia nodded slightly and lifted her cup to her lips.

“I’ll be leaving in a few days,” he continued. “There will be people to watch the house after I leave just in case Voldemort decides to pay you a visit.”

“Is that likely?”

“No,” replied Harry. “Voldemort knows you know nothing and want nothing to do with me.”

“Might he murder us just to upset you?”

“It’s no secret we don’t exactly get on. Hopefully you’ll be fine so long as you are careful, but the Order’s offer to help hide you still stands. You'd all be much safer if you went with the Order.”

Petunia nodded, but didn’t look particularly reassured.

“I wanted to warn you, though, that before I leave two of my friends will be joining me. Hermione and Ron are from school. They will be staying here a few nights.”

“Vernon will be delighted,” she replied dryly.

“I’d really rather avoid a scene, if that’s at all possible.”

“He won’t be happy about having them to stay.”

“It won’t be for long. I may be stuck here until my birthday and we need to agree between us what to do.”

“What to do?”

“I’m not going back to Hogwarts. There’s nothing there for me now.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Aunt Petunia, Lupin said I should try and make things up with you. He seemed to think I’d regret it one day if I didn’t.”

Petunia said nothing, but sipped from her cup. They sat in silence for some time.

“Why did you hate my Mum so much?” he asked finally.

“I didn’t hate her,” said Petunia at once, but it was a moment before she continued. “I hated what she became and the world she left me for. We had been so close before she found out what she was, but it seemed that in only an instant she had abandoned me. We lost our parents just after I left school, while Lily was in her senior year. She came back for the funeral, but the very next time I saw her was when she turned up and announced she was engaged to him.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “You must have missed her.”

“It was just awful when he turned up with her. He was forever playing tricks and showing off. Lily told him off a few times, but really she found it all just as amusing.

“The final straw was when he did something to my hair just as I was going out to meet Vernon one evening. I have never been so humiliated in my life,” she said shakily. “It was simply awful.”

Harry frowned, curious to know what exactly had happened.

Petunia shuddered and continued, “Lily shouted herself hoarse that time. She said he could go to Azkaban and she would be a witness for the prosecution if he didn’t promise to never do anything like it again. She threw her engagement ring back at him too, I recall. Then she ordered him out of the flat we shared.

“He came back a few days later when Lily was out. He tried to apologise, but Vernon just punched him. He was knocked out cold for a few minutes. I knew he could have easily defended himself, but Lily must have made him promise not to use magic. I later suspected that his restraint was what persuaded her to take him back.

“We got an invitation to the wedding, but we didn’t go. I don’t think I saw him again.”

She looked up, tears filling her eyes.

“I hope you won’t take it out on Vernon.”

“No,” Harry promised gently. “I’ve seen for myself what a prat my Dad could be sometimes. My Mum was having a go at him that time too.”

“How?”

“Um, it was like a video recording, I suppose,” he explained awkwardly.

“Oh.”

“Sirius, my Dad’s best friend, told me he grew out of it. Maybe it took a little longer than I thought, though.”

Petunia nodded, dabbing her eyes with a delicate handkerchief.

“Aunt Petunia, when did you find out about Voldemort?”

“Lily came to see me. She only came the once, and I don’t think your father knew. She was expecting you at the time. She looked ill with worry and wouldn’t stay still for a moment. She was constantly at the windows.

“Anyway, she explained that a wizard named Lord Voldemort was gaining power and that both of them had been targeted. I confess, I was surprised he wasn’t on Voldemort’s side from the way Lily described his attitude to non-magical people.”

“She asked you to take me if anything happened?”

“No. She said they might have to go into hiding and it might be a long time before she saw me again. She brought some hand-knitted clothes for Dudley. I was expecting him at the time, of course.”

“I wish I knew more about her,” said Harry wistfully. “I know a bit about my Dad, but hardly anything about my Mum. Just that she was good at Potions and had green eyes like me.”

“By the time we found you on our doorstep, I had almost convinced myself that I no longer had a sister. It was easier that way, you see? If she was gone, there was no point in spending every minute hating her for leaving.”

Harry nodded.

“It was your eyes. Lily’s eyes. The moment I lifted the blanket and saw your eyes, I knew what had happened. I didn’t need to read the letter. Every day after that, you were a constant reminder of her.”

“So, it was harder to resent her leaving you?”

“Yes. The worst of it was that as you grew it was obvious that you were becoming the very image of your father. Vernon never did forgive him for what he did.”

“You’re not the only ones to have hated me because I looked like my father.”

Harry was surprised to hear there was no bitterness in his voice.

*

“I won’t have it, Petunia!” bellowed Uncle Vernon from downstairs. “It’s bad enough that we had to have him back again without having more of his kind under our roof!”

Harry had opened his bedroom door and was in two minds whether to close it again or go downstairs.

His Uncle had been shouting ever since he had found out that Harry had invited two of his friends to stay. That was three hours ago and his considerable volume hadn’t reduced in the least.

Harry decided he ought to go down. If nothing else it would give Aunt Petunia a rest from being shouted at.

He entered the living room and braced himself for the onslaught. Aunt Petunia gave him a look that said plainly she thought he was asking for trouble.

“I’ll make some tea, dear,” she said before hurrying out to the kitchen.

“Boy! Don’t you dare look at me like that!”

“How am I supposed to look at you?”

“Go to your room!”

“I thought we might talk.”

“Did you indeed?! Talk? What could you say that was of any interest to me?”

Harry made to sit down, but paused to remove his wand from his back pocket.

“Don’t you threaten me with that thing!”

“I’m not,” said Harry. “I carry it around with me in case anything were to happen. That’s all.”

“Likely story,” muttered Vernon as Harry rested his wand at his side.

“Look, it will only be a few more days and then I’ll be gone forever.”

“It was hardly worth coming back, was it? Why did you bother, or did you just want to upset your Aunt one more time?” he added nastily.

“I only came back because I gave my word to Professor Dumbledore. The protection I have here will end on my birthday, because I’ll be of age. He wanted me to have the benefit of that protection one last time.”

“But what good will do?”

“I honestly don’t know,” admitted Harry.

Vernon picked up his evening paper, screwed it up and threw it back down again, clearly too agitated to read.

“What’s all this rubbish about more of your kind coming to stay? This isn’t a hostel, you know?”

“My two best friends are coming here before I leave. I promise we won’t get in the way.”

Vernon just made a derisory, “Hmph,” sound.

“Look, there’s really no point in getting all worked up about it. They have their own things to do. They might not even get here before my birthday.”

“Why do you need to stay until your birthday?”

“Maybe I won’t. Dumbledore didn’t exactly say how many days I had to stay for. I just have this feeling that this year, I have to stay. Before, just a few days would do. I wish I knew myself, but I don’t.”

“Well, don’t feel obliged to stay on my account. Your Aunt has agreed that you can stay until your birthday. For some unfathomable reason, she has also agreed that your friends can stay too, if they turn up. I’ll go along with it just so long as there isn’t any trouble or funny business. The moment any hint that you-know-what has been done, I’m throwing the lot of you out. Am I making myself clear enough for you, boy?”

Harry sighed and nodded. It was more than he expected, anyway.

 




Next Chapter:-


Scruffy Urchin


“Mr Potter, we have never met. What you see before you is a mere memory of myself.”
 
Hermione arrives at Privet Drive earlier than expected and belatedly agrees not to perform magic on the Dursleys. They try to use the Pensieve to view Dumbledore's memory, but Hermione is ejected and Harry meets a younger Dumbledore.


Chapter 4: Scruffy Urchin
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Scruffy Urchin
 
Harry had just carried a bucket of soapy water outside, with the intention of cleaning the back windows, when there was a loud Crack!

“WHAT THE BLAZES!” yelled Uncle Vernon from inside the house.

Harry ran inside, wand out. He rushed into the living room, only to find Hermione and Tonks standing over Uncle Vernon who was lying on his back in the middle of the floor.

“Wotcher, Harry!” said Tonks with a wide grin.

“Hi,” he replied, stuffing his wand back into his back pocket.

“Well, I’d better be off,” said Tonks. “I’ve left your trunk in the lobby, Hermione.”

“Hm?” said Hermione, looking up from Uncle Vernon whose eyes were still moving furiously. “Oh, right. Thanks again, Tonks.”

“No problem,” she said, Disapparating away with another loud Crack!

“Um, I think I should explain something, Hermione,” said Harry carefully. “Uncle Vernon has said we can stay, but only so long as no magic is performed around him.”

“Ah,” she said, leaning over her victim. “Hello, Mr Dursley. I’m sorry I jinxed you, only you were getting a little over-excited. I only put a mild full body bind on you, and I’ll release you in a moment so we can be introduced properly.”

Hermione flicked her wand and instantly Uncle Vernon began waving his arms and legs around. He also began cursing loudly.

Aunt Petunia, who had been cowering in one of the easy chairs, hurried over to help pick him up from the floor. Hermione attempted to help but was brushed away at once.

“OUT!”

Silencio!”

Harry groaned inwardly as Vernon continued to silently mouth obscenities at them.

“That’s better,” said Hermione lightly, lowering her wand. “Harry? Won’t you introduce me to your Aunt and Uncle?”

“Er, sure. Hermione, this is my Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. Um, this is my friend Hermione Granger, from school.”

Hermione grinned at them.

“I’m so sorry for performing magic in front of you," she said sarcastically. "I will of course abide with your wishes and abstain from performing further magic unless there is an emergency. Of course,” she added with a little satisfaction, “I’ll need to refrain from performing the counter-spell to that silencing charm.”

“What?” cried Aunt Petunia. “No! This is too much!”

It was clear that Hermione intended to pay Uncle Vernon back a little for his mistreatment of Harry.

“Hermione,” ventured Harry gently. “I think you should remove the silencing charm. Neither of them have been treated particular well by wizards, and baiting them more isn’t going to help.”

Hermione’s face fell at once. She suddenly looked stricken that Harry should have to admonish her like that.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said quickly, performing the counter-charm wordlessly. “Please accept my apologies, Mr Dursley.”

Vernon didn’t seem to have noticed that he could shout or even speak properly again.

“Come through to the kitchen and I’ll make some tea,” suggested Harry.

They had only got to the door when Uncle Vernon found his voice again.

“You didn’t say anything about a girl staying?!” he yelled.

“So what difference does that make?” asked Harry. “She can stay in the guest room. It’ll only be for a few nights, after all.”

Without waiting for a response, he ushered Hermione through to the kitchen and out into the rear garden where they could talk quietly.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said. “We Apparated almost on top of him. Tonks thought it was too risky to Apparate outside.”

“Not to worry,” he said with a smile. “I’m afraid you’ll just have to get used to the shouting.”

“Well, I’ll try.”

“Where’s Crookshanks?”

“Tonks said she would leave him upstairs for now in his travelling cage.”

“He won’t like that.”

“He’s been in a bit of a mood, Harry. I think we should leave him to calm down a bit.”

“Yes, I often do the same with Uncle Vernon,” said Harry with a grin. “I wasn’t expecting you to arrive just yet. How did the wedding go?”

“I didn’t go, Harry.”

“Why ever not?”

“It just didn’t seem right. Anyway, I think they’ve changed the date again.”

“Just because I couldn’t be there, that’s no reason not to keep Ron and Ginny company. Besides, I’d have thought you would want to stay longer with your parents. How are they, by the way?”

“Oh, just the same,” she said, turning away. “They asked after you.”

“That was nice.”

“I’d have liked to stay, but the truth is I just couldn’t settle. I’ve been a bundle of nerves ever since the funeral, you-know?”

“Me too,” Harry admitted. “Anyway, I am glad you came early. I’ve been trying to make sense of a few things.”

“Really? You have an idea where we should start to look?”

“Yes, but we shouldn’t talk about that out here. Hermione, you’ll need to be very careful around here. I know I’m protected here, but you may not be.”

“I understand, Harry.”

“I wish I did.”

“It’s just amazing that Dumbledore could do anything so powerful.”

“How do you mean?”

“Harry, the moment you stepped outside, you vanished. I can’t see you at all!”

“What? No, that can’t be right. I’m not invisible!”

“You are to me,” said Hermione with a grin.

“But the neighbours have seen me. Some of them even cross the road to avoid me!”

“I suspect that anyone looking for the wizard Harry Potter can’t see you. Perhaps people looking at that scruffy urchin who lives at Number Four aren’t affected.”

“Hey!” said Harry, laughing. “I thought you couldn’t see me!”

“Only outside, Harry,” she reminded him, also laughing.

“Come inside and have a drink,” he suggested.

“Go on, I want to see if I can see you from out here. Pick up the kettle, Harry.”

Harry did as he was told and waved the kettle around before filling it with water at the sink. Hermione came inside again.

“Nothing looked out of the ordinary at all, Harry.”

“What, not even flying kettles?”

“The kettle didn’t move, Harry. It must have been Dumbledore’s protections again.”

“Well, I knew it had to be something good to stop Voldemort trying to find me.”

“How long do you want to stay?” asked Hermione. “Can you get away before your birthday?”

“I’m not sure. It’s hard to explain, but I have this weird feeling of expectation. It’s like I think I’ll just know when the time is right, only before that happens I’ll have to put up with all these butterflies in my stomach.”

“Most intriguing.”

The kettle clicked off and Harry poured boiling water into the teapot. He proceeded to take four sets of cups and saucers out of the cupboard.

Harry smiled seeing Hermione’s raised eyebrows.

“Lupin gave me some advice before he left,” he said quietly, loading up the tea tray. “Come on, let’s have Round Two.”

*

After tea, Harry and Hermione carried her trunk up to the guest bedroom. Harry soon realised that his promise that they would not to perform magic may have been a little rash.

“What on earth have you got in here?” complained Harry from below.

“Stop complaining or I’ll make you carry the heavy end!”

“Hey, I’ve already got the heavy end!” he muttered.

Eventually they managed to get the trunk into the guest room and dropped it at the foot of the bed.

Hermione sat on the bed while Harry just collapsed onto the trunk.

Seeing her looking down at the sheets, Harry said, “Um, sorry. I think Aunt Petunia decided not to risk the good linen.”

“This is fine, Harry. She’s probably heard how sleeping witches can often make fabric colours fade!”

Harry snorted.

“I’ll see if I can find some extra blankets for you.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. I do wish there was a desk, though.”

“Aunt Marge isn’t the sort to want a desk. She’s the only one who stays in here usually. You can use mine anytime, just so long as you can stand the mess.”

“Show me your room, Harry?”

“Um,” he said, suddenly remembering the state of his room. “Mess might be a bit of an understatement.”

Hermione laughed and said, “Oh, just how bad can it be? Come on, I want to see if Hedwig is back yet.”

*

Hermione laughed as Pigwidgeon flew maniacally around her head. Hedwig looked on disapprovingly and Harry wasn’t too surprised when she took off and headed outside to escape the bedlam.

“Oh, calm down. You’re making me dizzy!”

She held her hands up and caught the tiny owl.

“So, you’ve been sharing with Harry, have you?” she asked with a smile, stroking the owl gently. “I wonder which one of you made all this mess?”

Harry just rolled his eyes and continued to stuff his discarded clothing under his bed and out of sight.

“You know? This is almost the room I imagined you living in,” observed Hermione thoughtfully, looking at his old calendar on which he had marked off the days to his return to school last summer.

Harry, who had moved on to tidying his desk, stopped gathering up handfuls of parchment and stood up straight.

“You okay, Harry?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Ever since I had that memory I’ve been feeling odd.”

“What memory?”

“From Professor McGonagall. She visited me earlier and gave me a memory that Professor Dumbledore left for me. I still can’t remember what it is, but she thought the message would be in more than one part for security.”

“That makes sense,” agreed Hermione.

“Well, after I summoned the memory from her, she forgot she’d even had a memory to give me, but she remembered she had to give me this,” said Harry, holding out the glowing crystal bottle.

“This is glowing just like the bottles in the Hall of Prophecies, Harry.”

“Yes, but this one seems to be glowing brighter. I’d like to look at it but I think we’ll need a Pensieve.”

“Oh, right. I suppose we should wait if reading the memory counts as performing magic.”

“Well, actually I’d say that the Pensieve is the magical object so we wouldn’t need to actually perform magic to use it.”

“So, can we try? I’ve always wanted to see what a memory looks like every since you first described it. I’d be especially interested in seeing Dumbledore’s memories first hand,” she said enthusiastically, “unless you think it might be private?”

“Hermione, you know I’ve shared everything with you and Ron. We could look at it now but we need the Pensieve.”

“Er, Harry, so what’s that stone bowl up there, then?”

“What?” he said, turning to see where she was pointing. “How on earth did that get here?”

“Must be magic,” Hermione said with a wide grin. “So, can we have a go now?”

Frowning, Harry went over to his wardrobe and carefully lifted down the heavy stone bowl.

“This wasn’t here this morning,” he said seriously, placing it down on his desk. “Could Tonks have left it here?”

“No, I’m sure she would have said.”

“Yes, she would,” Harry agreed thoughtfully, allowing his fingers to caress the ancient stone.

Harry looked up and saw Hermione was watching him carefully.

“Okay, let’s look at the memory,” said Harry and immediately held up his hands to stop Hermione from interrupting him. “I think we should bar the door so we don’t have any interruptions. Pig? Will you stay and keep watch for us? Just peck us if you need us to come out, but don’t touch the bowl yourself, okay?”

Pig hooted happily and flew up next to Hedwig’s cage while Harry closed the window and drew the curtains closed. Hermione meanwhile had jammed Harry’s desk chair under the door lever handle.

Harry took out the glass bottle and held it up for a moment. The glow was very distinctive in the half-light. He removed the wax seal and poured the contents into the bowl.

“Harry, how will we get the memory back into the bottle again?”

“Er, one of us will have to break his word,” he admitted. Hermione snorted and then bent over the bowl.

“Oh, my!”

Harry remembered his own fascination the first time he looked into the Pensieve.

“Okay,” he said gently. “The sensation takes some getting used to but it’s perfectly safe. Just allow the mist to touch your face.”

Hermione moved closer but hesitated. Harry smiled seeing the nervous grin on her face. She held out her hand and groped around until she found his and clasped it for reassurance.

Then the tip of her nose barely made contact with the surface of the silvery mist. Instantly, Hermione’s entire head seemed to vanish leaving him plenty of room to plunge his own head into the mist.

Harry found himself standing hand-in-hand with Hermione. A cool white mist was all around them.

“Hermione, you can open your eyes,” he said encouragingly.

“Really?”

“Come on, there’s something over there.”

They walked a few paces until they walked onto a plush red carpet. A few feet further on they passed a hat stand with Dumbledore’s tall hat and favourite travelling cloak, and then a side table with several bowls of sweets.

Harry reached down to try one of the sweets but Hermione slapped his hand away.

“It would be polite to wait until you are invited, Harry.”

Harry chuckled and led her further on through the swirling mist clouds. Finally, they both saw the outline of a familiar figure. They smiled at each other and hurried forward.

“STOP!”

They froze, instantly obeying Dumbledore’s booming voice.

“This memory was prepared for Harry James Potter and no-one else! Please leave before you come to harm.”

“Hang on!” protested Harry. “I’m Harry Potter! This memory is for me!”

“You must come alone!” boomed the voice out of the mist. “Be gone!”

Suddenly they were hurled backwards. Harry and Hermione blinked as the bedroom came back into focus. They were both sprawled over the bedroom floor.

“Sorry Hermione, I should have realised.”

“No matter,” she said pleasantly. “Look, you might as well go back now.”

“Oh, okay then.”

Harry got up and plunged his head into the mist, fully intending to rebuke Dumbledore for his rudeness towards Hermione, except this time his nose collided painfully with the bottom of the stone pensieve.

“Ow!” he cried, straightening up and rubbing his nose.

“It vanished, Harry! The memory went as soon as you put your face in it.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Harry, stepping back.

“You must have absorbed it somehow.”

Harry faltered, wondering why the room was growing dimmer. It seemed to be spinning around now, too.

He barely heard Hermione yell, “Harry!”

He wondered for a moment why she was lunging for him. Then the floor seemed to jump up at him, and he knew no more.

*

Harry opened his eyes and looked around. He seemed to be floating on a fine white mist. He lay still for a moment, trying to get his bearings. Unfortunately, the sky seemed to consist of nothing but the same mist.

He made to sit up from his lying position, but found that he had come upright.

Harry then felt himself sink slowly down through the mist until his feet came to rest gently on red carpet.

“Ah!” said a familiar voice. “Welcome!”

Harry struggled to find his voice.

“Mr Potter, my name is Albus Dumbledore. I am, or was, Headmaster of Hogwarts. You may call me Professor or Sir.”

“P-Professor!”

“Please, Mr Potter, take a seat.”

Harry just stood there staring at Dumbledore. The shock of seeing his Headmaster again had rooted him to the spot.

“Very well,” said Dumbledore pleasantly, rising from his chair. “First of all, Mr Potter, I’d like to congratulate you upon surviving to this point. I planned for us to have this little conversation a few days before your Seventeenth birthday.”

Dumbledore smiled, perhaps recognising the dumbfounded look on Harry’s face.

“Ah, you are perhaps wondering how it can be that a mere memory is able to interact with you? You see, the clever thing is that your mind is-”

Harry shook his head slowly and Dumbledore halted.

“No?” said Dumbledore, sounding a little disappointed.

Harry’s shock was quickly becoming replaced with anger. He clenched his fists in a vain attempt to control himself.

“What ever is the matter, Mr Potter?”

“WHY DID YOU STOP ME?!”

“I beg your pardon?”

Harry wasn’t listening at all now. All his pent-up emotions seemed to surge up within him.

“I could have helped! Why did you have to put a full body bind on me? You allowed Malfoy to disarm you! I could have saved you!”

Harry paused to take breath.

“Mr Potter,” said Dumbledore gently, “we have never met. What you see before you is a mere memory of myself.”

“Stop calling me that!” demanded Harry. “Call me Harry. You’ve always called me Harry.”

“Thank you, Harry. Please, take a seat; unless you’d rather shout at me some more? I’m flattered of course, but don’t you think you should be getting past this?”

Still fuming, Harry sat down in the handsome leather armchair and Dumbledore sat again too.

“You will have realised, Harry, that you are at present within one of my memories. Actually, it would be truer to say that my memory is within you now.”

Harry nodded shakily, noticing that the Dumbledore opposite him looked several years younger than he remembered him.

“From my perspective, Harry, I have just returned from Privet Drive having left you in the care of your Aunt and Uncle. As this memory will not be updated, I will know nothing at all about the intervening period.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

“Don’t worry, I’m not remotely curious to know what happened,” said the Professor.

“I’d have thought you’d be curious to know if Voldemort is still after me or not,” said Harry darkly. “He is, by the way.”

“Voldemort will be quite irrelevant to our discussions, Harry,” said Dumbledore lightly.

“What about Snape? He murdered you, right in front of me. You were wrong to trust him, just like I always told you.”

“What do you want me to say, Harry? I do not claim not to make mistakes. I happen to believe in giving people a chance to redeem themselves. I accept that there are always risks with this approach.”

“Risks?” exclaimed Harry.

“Indeed. I assume this Snape is the same individual I am considering appointing to my staff?”

“Yes!”

“Oh, well. Perhaps I was betrayed; and perhaps I was not.”

“How can you say that?”

“Harry, my trust is irrelevant now. I am here for your benefit, not mine. How many of your friends and advisors will betray you, I wonder?”

“Leave my friends out of this. I know who I can trust!”

“As sure as I, perhaps? Or perhaps even as sure as your parents were of their friend, Sirius Black?”

Harry scowled at Dumbledore.

“Sirius didn’t betray my parents. They switched secret-keepers at the last moment. Peter Petigrew betrayed them.”

Dumbledore merely shrugged and said, “My point remains the same.”

Harry looked away, still angry at Dumbledore’s suggestion that one of his friends might betray him.

Eventually, the silence between them dragged on and gradually his anger subsided. After all, this wasn’t the same Dumbledore he had known.

“Um, Professor?” asked Harry. “How come we can interact if this is only a memory? In all of the other memories I’ve seen, the people in them just ignored me.”

“Oh, it’s just a trick, really. You see, I have merely anticipated the questions you will ask and recorded my answers. If you ask something I didn’t anticipate, then I imagine I’d be stuck for an answer.”

“I see. Do you think you would have recorded any more recent memories like this?”

“It seems likely, Harry.”

Harry nodded.

“Harry, may I ask you something? I should point out that as I am only a memory, your answers might be considered as wasted.”

Harry smiled and said, “Ask me anything.”

“Thank you, Harry. Tell me, precisely how old are you?”

“I’ll be seventeen in just over a week’s time.”

“Good. Where are you living now?”

“I’m still at Privet Drive.”

“Ah, so your Aunt and Uncle never moved?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“How have you felt recently, Harry?”

“Strange,” Harry replied honestly. “It’s like I’m expecting something to happen. Will that go when I wake up?”

“No,” Dumbledore said apologetically. “I’m afraid you will need to stay a few days longer and your feelings will be important to the process.”

“Professor, why did you ask me to return here again? I mean, is it really worth it just for these last few days?”

“Oh, yes, Harry. You see, the protections I placed upon you will expire when you come of age.”

“Yes, but I still don’t see why I can’t go now.”

“You could leave now, but you would miss out on the protections I intended you to have as a man.”

“What?”

“Harry, how would you describe yourself in wizarding terms?”

“Sorry?”

“What are you good at? What do you enjoy at Hogwarts?”

“Flying,” Harry answered at once. “I’m good at that, but I’m just average at most things.”

“Average? Is that how others describe you?”

“All that stuff in the papers is just rubbish. I had help or I was lucky.”

“Harry, you seem to forget. I have never spoken a word to another soul nor have I read a newspaper since you were a baby. Please, tell me.”

“Most of my friends say I’m good a Defence Against the Dark Arts. I learned quite a bit when I was entered in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.”

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows and said, “Go on.”

Harry swallowed the pang that hit him whenever he thought of the Tournament, very much aware the Dumbledore was watching him intently.

Harry willed away the vision of Cedric and proceeded to describe how he taught the DA members but seemed to dwell on the things he had difficulties with.

“Do you often need your friend Hermione to show you how to perform charms?”

Harry realised he’d been speaking rather a lot about Hermione’s efforts to help him.

“Well, it depends,” Harry answered coyly.

Dumbledore smiled.

“Well, Harry. Thank you for that. I expect you’d like to know why I placed this memory for you to enter?”

“Well, yes.”

Dumbledore paused to consider his words carefully.

“Let’s just say that from my perspective, I knew that there was a very real possibility that my living counterpart might not live to see you even enter Hogwarts, let alone see you Graduate.”

Harry looked down.

“I needed a method through which I could give you certain information. I should also say, that it was my intention not to give you too much too early.”

Harry did not reply.

“Ah,” said Dumbledore. “I assume from your expression that I erred at some point.”

Harry nodded.

“Oh, well. You are still alive, so the situation can perhaps be rectified.”

“Professor, I think you told me everything eventually.”

“Really? Harry, do you have your wand?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, would you mind bringing that book over to me? It’s on my desk.”

Harry started. He hadn’t noticed a desk there at all before that moment.

He got up and collected a weighty volume that had been placed right in the middle. He brought it back and offered it to Dumbledore.

“No, Harry. That book is for you. Take a look at the subject,” he suggested.

Harry frowned and looked down at the front of the leather bound book. The title was embossed in gold lettering.

Wandless Magic Grade One by Albus Dumbledore,” Harry read aloud. He looked up and said, “I didn’t know you wrote any textbooks, Professor.”

“Oh, what a shame. Actually, I wrote that book while I was waiting for you to appear. I’m afraid I got rather bored at times. Fortunately, perhaps, I haven’t resorted to writing my memoirs just yet.”

“Professor, wouldn’t more advanced defensive magic be more useful?” suggested Harry.

Dumbledore clicked his fingers and instantly ropes appeared out of thin air and tied themselves tightly around Harry’s ankles. He was then hoisted unceremoniously into the air.

“Okay!” shouted Harry. “I take it back! Wandless magic might be just as useful as more advanced defensive magic!”

“Thank you for not dropping the book, Harry,” said Dumbledore with a smile. “When you wake I’d like you to read the first Chapter and try to understand the theory. Don’t worry about attempting any of the exercises just yet. We’ll do that when we meet next.”

“Professor, can I control when that will be?”

“That would be a rather good idea, Harry,” said Dumbledore, clicking his fingers again. Harry felt the ropes release him and he plummeted towards the carpet, but hit only white mist that completely enveloped him.

 




Next Chapter:-

The Index
 
“Well, I only promised not to do magic inside the house, didn’t I?”
 
Harry receives a copy of the first volume in a series of unpublished spell books written by  Dumbledore.


Chapter 5: The Index
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The Index
 

“Harry?”

“Hm? What?”

Harry slowly opened his eyes. He was lying on his bed.

“Guess who I’ve just been talking to?” Harry said a little groggily.

“Who?”

“Dumbledore! Well, actually a memory of himself he made the night he left me here as a baby.”

“Oh, I wondered who you were talking to.”

“You could hear?”

“Um, I heard bits. You muttered quite a lot.”

“Oh,” said Harry, making a mental note to be careful what he said to Dumbledore in future. “Hermione, I’m really sorry if I gave you a fright.”

“You certainly did that!” she replied, and Harry saw that she looked flushed and had puffy eyes.

“I’m afraid it may happen again. He said I had to read Chapter One of a book and then we’d do exercises later.”

“Book, Harry?”

“Yes. It must be around here somewhere,” said Harry, sitting up and realising that Hermione was still clutching his hand. He smiled at her and said gently, “I’ll be fine.”

There was a flash and Dumbledore’s textbook appeared out of thin air and dropped onto the foot of the bed. Hermione dived for it at once.

“Oh, Harry,” she breathed, leafing through the volume.

Harry smiled as she quickly went straight back to the very front of the book. He’d be lucky to have the book long enough to read Chapter One.

“Harry, the Index pages aren’t just for Grade One. This Index lists seven volumes.”

“Seven? Well, I suppose wandless magic must be quite advanced. It probably needs that many volumes to explain it all.”

“No, Harry. Volumes Two and Five are about Charm work and Volumes Three and Six cover Defensive spells.”

“What about Four and Seven?”

Hermione’s eyes were almost a blur as she scanned each section.

“Well, Volume Seven doesn’t have any Chapter headings at all. It just says Advanced Stealth and Concealment Techniques.”

Harry chuckled and said, “Well, the Contents must be hidden somehow. What about Volume Four?”

Hermione grinned and looked up.

“That just says History of Magic!”

Harry groaned loudly.

“I’m just kidding you,” she admitted with a laugh. “It’s Transfiguration.”

“Only one volume on Transfiguration? It was his subject, wasn’t it?”

“Here,” she said, offering the book back. “Read Chapter One so you are ready for your first lesson. Then I want to read the rest of the book. That will be okay, don’t you think?”

“Hermione, how is Dumbledore going to object?”

*

Harry read the first Chapter quickly, but admitted to Hermione that he hadn’t quite grasped some of the finer points of the text. She quickly caught up with him and they discussed the chapter at length before proceeding with the second chapter.

He soon realised that the “Wandless Magic” title of the Volume had been a little misleading. Dumbledore had peppered the book with handy little charms that illustrated the points he was making. He actually found that the subsequent chapters were reinforcing the theories raised in the first.

Although Harry felt the subject matter to be a little advanced for him, and he had no expectation of being able to actually perform any but the simplest of examples, Harry found he was just as interested in reading ahead as Hermione was.

As he read, Harry became quite envious that he had never had Dumbledore as a regular teacher. Even complex theories were explained in terms he could understand. Usually, it took Hermione to help him grasp the finer points.

They had started to read the book first kneeling at the bed but soon moved to lying on the floor when their knees began to ache. However the floor was hard and cramped. In the end they lay side by side on his bed, with their feet on his pillow, reading the book well into the night. Harry’s desk lamp had been arranged precariously to give them just enough light. He was surprised that Hermione didn’t complain that Dumbledore hadn’t provided two copies of his book, but for himself he realised he was quite content; even if Hermione did try to hurry him or lift the pages to read ahead.

“Oh, I wish we could try some of this,” muttered Hermione, now sounding very tired and yawning widely.

“How about we call it a night, Hermione?”

She gave a quite noise of dissent but almost immediately relaxed her head down.

“Yes, I suppose,” she said, rolling herself sideways and off the edge of the narrow bed. He immediately missed her body warmth and this seemed to wake him.

“Goodnight, Harry,” said Hermione, getting to her feet.

“Goodnight,” he said automatically. Then just as she reached the door, he added, “Hermione? I am glad you came early. There aren’t many days I can say I’ve enjoyed being here, but you’ve made this one. Thanks for being here.”

Hermione opened the door and the bright landing light lit up her face. It was a moment before his eyes adjusted. She wore an expression Harry couldn’t quite place and looked like she was about to say something but then changed her mind.

She smiled at him and a moment later was gone.

*

“Ah, good evening, Harry,” said Dumbledore as soon as Harry opened his eyes. They were both sitting in the leather armchairs this time. “I see you read a little beyond the first Chapter.”

“Hello, Professor. Yes, but it seemed it little advanced for me. I couldn’t practice anything, though.”

“Yes, the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery should be respected,” Dumbledore agreed, nodding.

“No, it isn’t that, really. I gave my word I wouldn’t perform magic in the house. The Dursleys don’t like magic, you see?”

“How unfortunate. However, that should not present a problem. Now, unless there are any questions, perhaps we could review some of the exercises.”

“But, I don’t have my wand, Professor.”

“Well, as none of this is real, I’m not sure that should matter. Besides, our subject for this evening is Wandless magic,” Dumbledore said with a smile.

Harry was rather sceptical at first, but he tried none-the-less. He found that once he’d got over the strange feeling that he needed his wand, the exercises were actually not that difficult. Indeed, he realised that Dumbledore had arranged them in an order that made progression much easier.

After what seemed hours, they reached the very end of the textbook exercises.

“Excellent, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “I think that will be enough for going on with. Would you fetch me that book on my desk?”

Accio book!”

The heavy volume flew from the desk into Harry’s hands. He offered it to Dumbledore.

“The book is for you, Harry. Please read the first Chapter, and then we’ll continue.”

“Um, Professor, we must have been at this for hours and hours. Will we have time to complete all seven volumes before my birthday?”

“Possibly not, but we should use the time we have.”

“Right. Professor, how come you didn’t include Fawkes in your memories. He would have been company for you, wouldn’t he?”

“He would, Harry. However, whilst I was prepared to commit myself to sixteen years effective imprisonment, it would hardly have been fair to do the same to another creature.”

Harry frowned slightly, but his feet sank back into the mist before he could respond.

Harry woke in darkness, feeling incredibly tired. He wondered dimly what time it was and just managed to check the luminous hands of his repaired alarm clock before falling back into a deep sleep.

*

“Hermione?”

Harry’s bedroom door opened again and Hermione peered into the room. Harry groped for his glasses.

“I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“No, it’s okay,” he said, yawning widely and stretching. “Is anything the matter?”

“Well,” she began hesitantly. “I’m afraid your Uncle objected when I went down to breakfast earlier.”

“I usually wait until he’s gone to work these days,” admitted Harry. “Don’t let them upset you, Hermione. They’re really not worth it.”

“That’s easy for you to say. I decided to come back upstairs for a bit and I wondered if you still had Dumbledore’s textbook. I couldn’t see it though.”

“It may have gone. We finished that book last night.”

“Really? You entered his memory again?”

“Yeah, well, I suppose he entered mine really. It was strange, though. It seemed like we were practising for hours, but when I opened my eyes before I fell asleep barely an hour had passed.”

“Gosh. It’s a shame you can’t have a go at any of the things he showed you.”

A sly smile grew across Harry’s face.

“Hang on, what are you planning?”

“Well, I only promised not to do magic inside the house, didn’t I?”

“Oh, I think the garden would count as well, Harry.”

“Actually, I was thinking of somewhere outside the house and the garden.”

“No, Harry,” Hermione said firmly. “We can’t take the risk that we won’t be attacked.”

“Well, I’m going to have a wash and then we can have some breakfast and I can have a proper go at persuading you.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and withdrew from the room as Harry threw off his bedclothes. As he absently struggled to find the sleeves in his dressing gown, he wondered whether there would be another book to read now.

He gave up finding his second slipper and ventured out into the hallway towards the bathroom where he met Crookshanks.

Harry smiled and bent down to stroke the cat, but retracted his hand just in time before Crookshanks took a swipe at him.

“Hey, grumpy, what’s up with you? I only wanted to say hello,” complained Harry.

*

Several minutes later Harry returned to his bedroom to find Hermione sitting at his desk and completely engrossed in Dumbledore’s spell book. He was rather glad he saw her as it was his habit to throw off his gown the moment he crossed the threshold.

He threw his pyjamas under the bed with his other laundry and wondered if he had any clean underwear. He quickly grabbed some cleaner things from his trunk and his jeans from beside his bed and left to change in the bathroom.

When he returned again, he was sure Hermione hadn’t moved an inch.

“Hermione, let’s go down and have breakfast. You’ve got all day to re-read that thing.”

Hermione didn’t appear to have heard him, which was not unusual when she was concentrating. He smiled and went over to her.

Hermione was staring absently down at the open book, but Harry knew at once that she wasn’t reading.

He gently touched her arm making her jump in surprise.

“Harry!”

“I’m sorry, Hermione,” he said smiling. “I asked if you’d like to come down for breakfast.”

“Oh, um, sure.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she said quickly.

Harry wondered if anything was the matter, but realised that she was probably unused to having early morning rows with anyone as unpleasant as Uncle Vernon. He decided not to enquire too closely.

“I see you found our textbook,” he observed.

“Yes, only it isn’t the same,” said Hermione, getting to her feet. “This is Volume Two.”

“Charms, wasn’t it? Well don’t get too far ahead of me,” he said with a smile.

“Oh, I was just reading the foreword. Dumbledore speculates what effect living in a heavily charmed house might have on a growing wizard child.”

“What? But surely, wizard houses must have even more charms on them?”

“Well, that is true. However, Dumbledore points out that certain charms may have a greater effect. I mean, the blood protections you enjoy must be unique to you.”

“So, what harmful effects did he anticipate?”

“Oh, nothing injurious to your health, Harry,” said Hermione. “He just thought you’d struggle with a bit with some aspects of Transfiguration and Charms.”

“Oh,” said Harry. “Well, he was only speculating.”

“He mentions your parents, Harry. Dumbledore says that a child who was raised by such talented parents would be expected to excel.”

“Well, that’s possible, I suppose. Mind you, how much did I really lose by not having them to teach and help me? Look at you, Hermione. You parent’s haven’t been able to help you perform magic, yet look how good you are.”

Hermione blushed and looked down.

“But, Harry, what if the charms have affected you? Is it possible that now the protections are being lifted, your true talent will be allowed to shine through?”

Harry snorted and said, “Well, if you want to see true talent you’d better let me make breakfast. On a good day my bacon rashers rival Mrs Weasley’s!”

Hermione laughed and followed him downstairs.

*

“Harry, what was it you said you wanted to talk about yesterday?”

Harry blinked and looked up from Dumbledore’s book. He was just finishing reading the last chapter.

“Um, well I wanted to talk about Dementors. You see, I had a dream about them and it got me thinking. I made a load of notes, actually.”

Harry got up and went over to his desk. He rifled through several sheets of parchment before finding his scrawled notes.

“Okay,” he said, sitting down on the edge of his bed. “I’ll try and explain my idea, but stop me if I’m not making sense.”

Hermione nodded.

“Lupin was the first to actually explain to me why Dementors affect me so badly. They make you recall all your worst memories. He also told me that they were blind and only found their way to their victims by feeling their emotions.

“Sirius told us that they know when someone is dying too; he said they got all excited.”

“Now,” said Harry, getting up and pacing up and down the small room. “We know that Wizards can talk to Dementors. Whenever Fudge or anyone mentioned them before I knew what they were, I just assumed the Azkaban guards were people like us. Actually, I don’t recall Fudge ever saying that Dementors could talk back.”

“Actually, Harry, I rather assumed that they could communicate at some level," said Hermione. "Remember, Fudge gave his permission to perform the Kiss on Sirius.”

Harry’s face brightened and he said, “Right. I’d forgotten that. Maybe this might work then.”

“What might work?”

“Well, in my dream I saw Sirius being given the Kiss again. His soul was almost sucked out before my Patronus drove the Dementors away.”

“Alright,” said Hermione cautiously.

“Well, a Horcrux is a container for a bit of someone’s soul, isn’t it? What we need is a safe method to remove the soul from the Horcrux and destroy it. The Dementor’s Kiss does almost exactly the same thing. I wondered if a Dementor could suck out the torn piece of Voldemort’s soul from a Horcrux.”

Hermione just looked at him with an astonished look on her face.

“I want to try and ask the Dementors how they do it, that’s all. I thought we could try and replicate what they do.”

“Um, Harry, the Dementors are loyal to Voldemort now. Why would they help us?”

“Well, maybe they won’t,” he agreed. “But I’d still like to know how Fudge talked to them. In Defence Against the Dart Arts, we covered Dementors but there was no mention of how the Azkaban Guards were controlled in any of the texts.”

“True. So, how do we find out?”

“Well, I wondered if Fudge might help.”

Hermione tried to keep a straight face for a full five seconds before laughing.

“Well, it wouldn’t hurt to ask him, would it?” said Harry smiling, although he privately agreed that Fudge would be unlikey to help.

“Even if Fudge were to help, how could we be sure he wouldn’t be indiscreet about what we asked him. What if news got back to Voldemort?”

“Have you got a better idea?”

“Why don’t we ask Alastor Moody? As an Auror I bet he had plenty of contact with the Azkaban Guards.”

“Hey, that’s a good idea!” agreed Harry. “I also wanted to ask him why Dumbledore disliked the Dementors so much.”

“You mean, sucking out all the happiness in the room may not have been enough for him?” said Hermione sarcastically.

“I just remember his reaction to them in the Pensieve at Barty Crouch’s trial.”

“Well, someone from the Order should pop by later today to check up on us. We can get a message to Moody through them.”

*

As luck would have it, Mad-Eye Moody had volunteered to check up on them that afternoon so the three of them sat in the living room over drinks of tea.

Moody stretched his good leg out and relaxed back into the easy chair, looking tired and worried.

“I’ve been on the go since before dawn,” he said rubbing his thigh.

“How are things?” asked Hermione.

“Oh, much the same. Actually, things have been rather quiet. We suspect that he’s not risking his senior people at the moment.”

“He’ll need them for when he takes Hogwarts,” said Harry.

“Yeah, that’s what we think. Still, there won’t be much left by the time he makes his move.”

Hermione frowned slightly.

“I was wondering about Hagrid,” said Harry.

“He was very reluctant to leave,” agreed Mad-Eye. “But once he found out McGonagall’s plans he volunteered to help with the move at once. The only problem is that he’s being a bit stubborn about leaving himself. I fully expect he’s planning on making a stand on his own. He thinks he owes it to Dumbledore.”

“What about Grawp?”

“He was due to Portkey over there this morning. There is a forest around the school that he should like. Oh, yes. Professor McGonagall asks if there is anything hidden in the castle that we should move to safety.”

“What happened to the Mirror of Erised?” Harry asked quickly, making Hermione turn towards him sharply.

Moody seemed surprised by Harry’s quick response too and his magical eye scanned him from head to toe several times.

“That’s been placed in the Head’s office. I should explain that we decided not to take any chances and have transported the entire tower.”

“Wow,” said Harry. “How did you do that?”

“Oh, there’s not much that Flitwick can’t do if he’s a mind to. It took him much longer to make the dormitories uninhabitable.”

“Can the Room of Requirement be sealed?”

“We’re not sure how at the moment; but we will if we can. Is there anything hidden in there you need to retrieve?”

“No, I got my Potions book back before we left. The room gave us dark detectors and defensive books that would be handy to keep.”

“What about the Merpeople and the creatures living in the forest?” asked Hermione.

“They will have to fend for themselves,” said Moody. “The Centaurs are the only ones at risk but they have refused our help.”

“Why are they at risk?”

“Well, they claim to read the future from the planets. We suspect that Voldemort will try to learn what they know. He won’t be very scrupulous how he gets that information, either.”

“Yes, I see,” said Hermione.

“So, what did you want to ask me?” asked Moody, looking at Harry.

“We’d like to know about Dementors,” said Harry.

“Dementors?”

“Yes. First of all, I’d prefer it if no-one else knew of our interest. This is something I didn’t get a chance to ask Dumbledore.”

“No problem,” said Mad-Eye confidently.

“Thanks. Can you tell us how you communicate with the Dementors? How do you summon them?”

“Well, I’ve never summoned a Dementor, to be honest. Very few people know how. Fudge can, but I doubt if anyone else at the Ministry can. Dumbledore knew how, I’m sure; but he never did to my knowledge.

“I have been present when Fudge talked to the Dementors, though. On some of his trips to Azkaban, I used to accompany him. That was long before he became Minister. He used his wand somehow and it appeared to ward off the ill effects.”

“He used his wand?” repeated Hermione. “No incantation?”

“No, and there was no Patronus either. I’m fairly sure Fudge was relying on the Dementor’s co-operation too. When they got agitated, I could feel waves of coldness.”

“Did they speak English?”

“Oh, no. Fudge would speak normally, but they seemed to reply telepathically. I never heard anything I understood.”

“Do you know what kept them loyal to the Ministry for so long?”

“I’ve never worked that out. I know that Fudge was genuinely shocked to learn that the Dementors had left the control of the Ministry. He was convinced that they were somehow obliged to them, although Dumbledore always said they would desert the Ministry eventually.”

“Why did Dumbledore dislike the Dementors so much?”

“I don’t suppose that we’ll ever know the whole truth about that now. I know part of it, but I’m sure there was more.” Mad-Eye gave a barking laugh and said, “I used to rib him about it; pretending I knew more than I did. Those were better days,” he added sadly.

“As you know, Dumbledore was the Chief Wizengamot member for years. Years ago, there was a case which involved a Dementor attack which Dumbledore presided over personally. The ruling was considered very controversial at the time because Dumbledore argued for the Dementor’s acquittal, recognising that they had acted out of self defence.

“Unfortunately, the accuser was found a week later minus his soul. The Kiss had been performed on him, apparently as retribution. Dumbledore ordered the trial of the Dementor that did it but they maintained it was their right to feed upon anyone they wanted. They also threatened to abandon Azkaban, which is when the Ministry stepped in.”

“So, they got away with it?”

“Yes. Dumbledore never forgave them. At the time he didn’t get much support because although he argued that they were sentient, everyone else thought they were just unthinking creatures. In the end the Wizengamot ruled that unless they were prepared to abide with the Law then they should indeed be treated as dumb animals.”

“Did the Dementors have an Advocate at the trials?” asked Hermione.

“I don’t know,” admitted Mad-Eye.

“Would Fudge know?”

“Yes, probably. I could find an excuse to ask him, if you’d like?”

“We weren’t sure if we could trust him to keep quiet. Is there anyone else you can think of that might be able to help?”

“No, not really. I’d talk to Fudge if I were you. I can assure you he has no love of Voldemort or the Dark Arts. He was a vain and stupid Minister, but he’s heart is in the right place. He knows that by fighting Dumbledore he allowed Voldemort to gain strength; he wants to make amends, Harry.”

“Well, it’s his brains we are concerned about, not his heart,” added Hermione acerbically.

“Maybe we’ll pay him a visit when I can leave,” said Harry.

He turned and spotted Crookshanks lying under a chair, eyeing him.

“Hermione? Have I done anything to upset Crookshanks? He won’t come near me unless he thinks he can give me a good scratch.”

“Don’t be silly, Harry,” said Hermione, and Crookshanks immediately came out and jumped lightly up onto her lap.

 




Next Chapter:-

Inept

“Nice pyjamas, Harry.”
 
Harry wakes and is most embarrassed to discover Professor McGongall, Mad-Eye and Tonks have arrived to check up on him.


Chapter 6: Inept
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Inept

Harry woke on the fifth day of Hermione’s visit feeling exhausted. Hermione had kept him talking long after Moody had left, keen to learn Professor McGonagall’s plans for relocating the school.

As a result, they hadn’t finished reading the latest volume of Dumbledore’s teachings until late into the night. Although he knew he had barely spent an hour with Dumbledore practising spells from the book, it seemed like hours has passed.

He had quizzed Dumbledore on the Dementors, but he had refused to answer any of his questions. Dumbledore just said enigmatically that Harry should make up his own mind about the Dementors and that his own experiences had probably coloured his views.

Volume Four lay beside him on the bed. He smiled and remembered how reluctant Dumbledore had been to allow him to have sight of this particular volume. This book covered Transfiguration which was Dumbledore’s favourite subject and it was clear he wanted to teach rather than just go through the exercises with Harry. However, Harry knew how disappointed Hermione would have been not to read the book.

In the end Dumbledore had agreed, but pleaded that Harry should not read even the foreword.

There was a quick tap on the door and Hermione peered into the room.

“Morning,” said Harry sleepily.

“Hi, Harry. It’s after nine o’clock, you know?”

Harry yawned widely and offered up the new book.

“Thanks, Harry,” she said stepping inside the room to take the book. “The bathroom’s free,” she added as she left again.

Harry relaxed back into his warm, comfortable pillow and was soon fast asleep once again.

*

Harry reacted instantly to the loud Crack! He threw himself out of bed and found himself pointing his wand at Hermione and three unexpected visitors.

“Sorry,” said Tonks, wearing a wide grin. “Nice pyjamas, Harry.”

Harry immediately grabbed a sheet, blushing deeply at the thought that at least three of them had been in his room apparently examining him as he slept. He assumed it was Tonks’ late arrival that had awoken him.

“Well,” said Professor McGonagall, “at least his reactions are normal.”

“Yes, nicely done, Potter,” agreed Mad-Eye. “I can lend you a detector to warn you of intruders sneaking up while you sleep, if you’d like?”

“That will hardly be necessary here,” said McGonagall.

“Oh, right,” said Mad-Eye, his blue magical eye suddenly darting towards Hermione who flushed red at once.

“I meant, Alastor,” said McGonagall with a touch of annoyance, “that Harry’s foes have no chance getting into this house.”

Mad-Eye grunted.

“Um,” said Harry. “Just what do you lot want and why is it necessary to discuss it here in my bedroom?”

Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow at him.

“I’m sorry, Professor, but I’d prefer to receive guests when I’m awake and properly dressed.”

“Harry, for your information it is gone two o’clock in the afternoon. We are here because Alastor and Hermione were concerned for you.”

“Because I overslept?” he asked incredulously making Tonks smirk.

“No, Harry!” said Hermione sharply. “You just don’t quite seem yourself.”

“Of course I am. Well,” he added pointedly, “apart from my embarrassment at being seen in Dudley’s old bedclothes.”

“Harry, we will retire downstairs,” said McGonagall calmly. “Please join us when you are ready. I’d like you to tell me about these memories of Dumbledore you are experiencing. Your Aunt is out shopping at the moment and I imagine you would prefer it if we were gone by the time she gets back.”

Hermione was the last too leave, mouthing, “I’m sorry,” as she went.

*

Harry washed and dressed quickly before descending downstairs. He entered the living room just in time to see Professor McGonagall repair one of Aunt Petunia’s delicate ornaments he guessed Tonks had just knocked off its shelf.

“I’ll get you some tea, Harry,” said Hermione at once.

“No need,” said McGonagall, flicking her wand at the tea tray on the small table between them. Instantly the teapot leaped up and poured fresh, steaming tea into a clean cup. The saucer picked the cup up carried itself over to Harry’s outstretched hands. The milk jug and sugar bowl hurried over and Harry accepted a splash of milk.

“Thanks,” he said before sitting down next to Hermione. “So, what is this all about?”

“Alastor told me you had asked him some questions when he last visited you,” said McGonagall. “Of course, he didn’t tell me what your questions were nor what his answers were.”

Harry lifted the frown that had been directed at Mad-Eye and mumbled, “Thanks.” Clearly his assumption that Moody would have shared everything with her had been wrong.

“What interested me, though, was his comment about you, Harry.”

“What about me?” Harry asked at once.

“Well, I,” began Moody uncertainly.

“It’s okay,” said Harry. “I trust the Professor and Tonks. You can tell them what we asked about.”

“Right,” said Moody. “Well, it was a couple of things, really. The first was you asking about the Mirror of Erised.”

“What about it?”

“Well, we’d almost forgotten all about it; whereas it was almost the first thing you thought about.”

“That shouldn’t be such a surprise,” said Harry at once. “Ever since I got back here I’ve been thinking about what we have. I mean, things that Voldemort doesn’t. When you add the fact that I’ve been thinking through about just about every conversation I ever had with Dumbledore, it really can’t be so unexpected that I should think of that mirror.”

“True,” said McGonagall slowly, but Harry was sure she was still wondering about him. “What was the second thing, Alastor?”

“Harry asked about Dementors and he specifically linked them with Fudge.”

McGonagall frowned slightly.

“Why,” she began to ask.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry firmly, interrupting her. “We can’t tell you why we wanted to know about Dementors.”

“No, I was going to ask why Fudge?”

“Well, he’s the only one I’ve ever heard of talking to the Dementors.”

“Well, he could communicate with the Azkaban Guards,” agreed Tonks. “I’m not sure he could speak to the others, though.”

“Others?” asked Hermione. “What others?”

“We don’t really know,” said Tonks. “For half a century, the only Dementors in this country were the Azkaban Guards. There were others out there, but we think they were a different family or tribe.”

“So, did the Azkaban Guards really desert the Ministry and join Voldemort, or could they have just fled?” asked Harry. “Maybe the Dementors that Voldemort has aren’t the old Azkaban Guards at all.”

There was silence a moment as they all considered this.

“That is a possibility I didn’t consider,” admitted McGonagall. “Although I fail to see what relevance it has. The Azkaban Guards were hardly friendly.”

“No, but they could be controlled; or at least that’s what Fudge thought,” added Moody.

“Very well,” said McGonagall. “Harry, with your permission I would like to send a delegation to see Cornelius Fudge. I think you two should have a private meeting.”

“Hang on,” said Harry. “I’m stuck here, remember? Besides, I want Hermione to listen to him too.”

“Agreed. We’ll have him brought here. Alastor, can you make the arrangements? He is to have no idea where or when the meeting takes place.”

“No problem,” growled Moody, a smile spreading across his face.

“I’m also waiting for you to explain, Professor,” said Harry.

McGonagall smiled at him and stood up. The others followed.

“Harry,” she said gently, “I just wanted to satisfy myself that you were alright.”

*

Harry was still sat silently fuming when Hermione returned to the living room with two fresh cups of tea.

“You could have woken me, or something,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” said Hermione, sipping her tea. “The two of them insisted going up and seeing you.”

“Why, though? And, how come she went before asking me about those memories?”

“I think they wanted to see if there was any outward sign about what’s happening to you. When you are with Dumbledore, you sometimes repeat parts of your conversation with him.”

“How do you know?” he asked before remembering Hermione had been beside him the first time he’d seen the memory of Dumbledore.

“I overheard you, Harry. You cried out and I was concerned.”

Something told Harry she wasn’t talking about the first time. He sighed deeply.

“Well, at least I remembered to put my pyjama bottoms on last night,” he said dryly. “I only remembered after I had jumped out of the bed.”

Hermione sniggered into her cup.

*

“That was a wonderful meal, Mrs Dursley,” said Hermione. “Thank you. Please, let me put the coffee on and start the washing up.”

“I’ll help,” added Harry, jumping up from the table.

It had been a very strained dinner, all in all. Uncle Vernon had refused to speak to either Harry or Hermione. Normally, Harry would have considered this no bad thing as far as he was concerned, but Vernon continued to make his comments to Petunia.

These comments consisted mainly of his low opinion of Harry and how glad he was that he would be finally leaving.

Harry had heard far worse and was long past caring. Vernon may have realised this because he soon moved on to other, newer grievances. His comments on Dumbledore hit a nerve, but Harry still managed to retain control of himself. It was only when Vernon moved on to Hermione that he finally cracked and Hermione had needed to ask him to sit down. Harry had fully intended to march straight upstairs and get his wand to teach Uncle Vernon a lesson, promise or no promise.

Harry was amazed at Hermione’s self-control, although he thought her valiant attempts to make pleasant conversation all through the evening were pretty pointless.

Harry placed the dirty dishes on the kitchen top while Hermione closed the door.

“I’m sorry, Hermione,” Harry said quietly. “You just need to ignore him.”

Harry looked up and was alarmed to see that Hermione was red faced with watery eyes. She was holding a hand over her mouth.

He immediately went over to her, placing a hand gently on her arm.

“Please don’t let him upset you,” he said in a whisper. “He’s not worth it.”

Harry was a little confused to see her shake her head. It was only when she lowered her hand that he realised she was crying with laughter. He smiled as she reached out to steady herself against him, apparently light headed from not breathing in an attempt not to laugh out loud.

Gradually, Hermione’s breathing steadied and her normal colour returned as she dabbed her eyes.

“You had me going for a moment there,” said Harry with a smile. “You okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” she said a little croakily. “Oh, we’d better put the coffee on.”

“I’ll do it,” said Harry, moving around the kitchen table to the cupboard where Aunt Petunia kept the filtered coffee. As he pulled out the coffee machine and began opening a fresh foil packet, Hermione started to do the washing up.

“Use the dishwasher,” suggested Harry as he picked out a fresh filter paper.

“It’s hardly worth it for these,” Hermione said lightly. “Besides, this might take longer.”

Harry snorted. He had no desire to hurry back to the living room either.

“You know?” continued Hermione, “I’m beginning to see what you’ve had to put up with all these years.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” mumbled Harry, switching the coffee machine on and picking up a fresh towel.

“I mean, no wonder you’re so socially inept if you were brought up like this.”

Inept?”

Harry caught Hermione’s reflection in the window grinning at him.

“Now I know, though. You clearly can only talk about Quidditch during dinner because you don’t know any better. Poor thing.”

Harry laughed at her last comment but said with mock indignation, “Hey, I talk about more than just Quidditch at meal times!” although he privately thought it was mostly true.

Hermione continued to tease him good-naturedly as they washed and dried the dishes until the very last saucepan was dry. Still chuckling, Harry lifted it up to its usual place high up on the wall cupboards.

When he turned back, Hermione was rinsing away the last of the bubbles and staring out of the window. He knew at once that her mood had changed in the split second he had been turned away from her.

The steaming coffee machine make a loud click, but neither of them reacted.

“There’s something I should tell you, Harry.”

They both turned towards the closed kitchen door as raised voices interrupted them. It sounded like Aunt Petunia had been rebuking Uncle Vernon for his rude behaviour during dinner.

Hermione tutted and brushed her hair back.

“Finish the coffee, will you Harry? I’ll try and calm things down.”

“Why not just leave them to it?” asked Harry, who was annoyed that Uncle Vernon had once again managed to spoil the only part of the evening Harry had actually enjoyed. Hermione was gone before be got the words out, though.

Sighing deeply and wondering what it was Hermione had wanted to tell him, he loaded a tray with coffee cups.

*

Harry woke in almost complete darkness, wondering what it was that had awoken him. He listened intently, his wand in hand under his pillow.

The house was completely silent.

He tried to decide what time it was and guessed it was around two in the morning. He turned to look at his bedside table and his luminous alarm clock read ten minutes to two o’clock.

Harry quietly pushed off his bedclothes and stood up from the bed, making sure that his mattress creaks were kept to a minimum.

Ordinarily, Harry would not have bothered to check the house. He knew that Dumbledore’s protections could be trusted. However, with Hermione staying as a guest he didn’t want to take any chances.

He stepped out onto the dark upstairs landing and listened again. He could hear Vernon’s faint snoring, but nothing else.

Harry crept downstairs, careful to avoid the creaking treads, and stood still before the front door. His eyes had become accustomed to the dark but the little light from the outside street lighting showed him the house looked completely normal.

He couldn’t adequately explain his unease to himself.

Harry wanted to dismiss his unease as simple paranoia, but the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.

There had been no sound at all, yet Harry knew with absolute certainty that someone was in the living room.

He approached the half-open door, wondering whether to storm in or enter with stealth. With his wand pointing into the darkened room, Harry raised his free hand to the door jamb and allowed his fingers to play over the surface.

Frowning, he pushed the door open a little further.

With no more thoughts of a possible intruder, he entered the room and went straight over to the chimney breast. Nothing looked out of place at all, yet he felt the presence of something.

Again he raised his hand, but this time didn’t touch the surface. Harry closed his eyes and concentrated upon the very tips of his fingers. It took him a moment, but gradually a mental picture of what he could sense built up in his mind.

Harry smiled to himself from within his calm, trance-like mindset.

He knew now that what he could feel was the residue of Arthur Weasley’s magic that he’d used to reconstruct the chimney.

He opened his eyes and found he could almost see the magical traces. Almost.

A noise behind him brought him abruptly out of his reverie. He turned and saw Hermione was uncurling herself from the settee.

“You okay, Hermione?”

She gave a half-shrug and a small nod before moving towards the door.

“Wait a minute,” he pleaded. “I was worried about you. I woke up just now and felt something was wrong.”

Hermione paused with her back to him. He could just make out her handkerchief balled up in her fist.

“You can tell me, Hermione,” he said gently. “What ever it is.”

Hermione sighed deeply.

“I just,” she began, her voice sounding strained and full of emotion. Harry crossed the room to her, but was unsure what to do for her.

“What is it?” he asked in a whisper.

“I could use some fresh air.”

“Let’s step out into the back garden for a minute then?” he suggested. “Um, we should probably leave the lights off though. Just in case.”

Hermione led the way out into the kitchen and Harry unbolted the rear door before stepping outside, deliberately blocking the door until he was satisfied it was quite safe.

He started to move aside to allow Hermione out but she rested a hand his shoulder to stop him.

“This is fine, Harry. I just wanted some air.”

Harry nodded, his eyes constantly scanning the deep garden shadows and his wand held ready. He felt Hermione relax a little and felt himself calm as the gentle night breeze cooled him.

“Actually, this may be a good way to talk about it,” said Hermione. “I’ve tried a couple of times, but if I don’t have to see your face, maybe I’ll actually do it.”

Harry frowned but didn’t turn.

“Why couldn’t you tell me?” he asked before he could stop himself. Somehow the idea that Hermione, of all people, couldn’t confide in him hurt deeply.

“It just didn’t seem fair, Harry. You’ve got more than enough to worry about without adding my troubles.”

“Hermione, in case you didn’t hear me before, I’ve been worrying about you.”

Hermione leaned towards him and rested her head on the back of his shoulder.

“First of all, I think Ron will pay us a visit tomorrow. He’ll want me to come to the wedding, but I’m not going.”

“Why not? It might do you good to get away from this mad-house for a couple of days.”

“No. Ron will have certain expectations. I just don’t think,” she said before hesitating. “Well, let’s just say that I don’t want to upset him on his brother’s wedding day.”

“But, I thought you liked Ron?”

“Of course I like him; I’m just not sure that I love him that way. Besides, I hardly think that now is the time to even consider a serious relationship.”

“Bill doesn’t seem to share that opinion, and nor does Tonks.”

“Yet you broke things off with Ginny, didn’t you?”

“Yes. Part of it was my fear that she would be murdered or worse because of me. So long as we are clearly not together, the risk to her must be less.”

“What was the other part?”

“Hm?” he replied. “Well, to tell the truth, I’m not sure we would have lasted. Ginny was pretty good about it, but I know she resented my not confiding everything with her like I can with you.”

Hermione squeezed his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m just relieved we managed to part and remain friends. Anyway, enough about me. How are you going to patch things up with Ron?”

“I’m not going to, Harry. I wrote to Ron spelling everything out.”

“Doesn’t he deserve better than that? Why not go to the wedding and see how you feel then?”

“Ron isn’t the main reason I don’t want to go, Harry.”

“Okay, so what is the main reason?”

Harry felt Hermione push herself away. By the time he’d turned around she was back inside and heading out of the kitchen.

He groaned and quickly came back inside, bolting the door and hurrying to catch her up. Although he was sure she would have retreated to the safety of Aunt Marge’s bedroom, he checked the living room just in case.

Hermione was standing with her back to him, facing the chimney breast just as he had done.

Feeling relieved, he entered the room.

“What were you doing here earlier?” she asked.

“Um, I was feeling the magic. Mr Weasley reconstructed this entire fireplace when he collected me to go to the Quidditch World Cup. You can even feel where the magic joined the lumps of masonry.”

Hermione shook her head.

“Here,” he said gently, taking her left hand. “Clear your mind. Don’t force it.”

Harry brought their hands up to the papered wall and held them around an inch from the surface. His fingers entwined with Hermione’s as he traced a stepped line where two clumps of fallen masonry had been reinstated.

Hermione gasped gently as she felt the sensation making Harry smile.

“Oh, Harry. This must be one of the things the protections suppressed in you.”

“No, Hermione. Dumbledore explained that Voldemort armed me. He marked me as his equal, remember?”

“How long have you been able to sense the after-effects of magic, Harry?”

“Um, just since I woke up tonight.”

“Did anything seem different?”

“Yes, now you mention it. I knew you were upset, which made me get out of bed. I also knew you were in the living room, although the chimney distracted me.”

“What else?”

“This is going to sound mad, but I can feel Dumbledore. What I mean is, I think I can feel his enchantments here. That’s why I felt so calm and collected before.”

“Before?”

“Yeah, well I’m a bit worried about you, so that’s why I’m feeling less calm and altogether less collected.”

Hermione snorted and Harry grinned at the back of her head.

He gently squeezed her fingers and said, “Tell me?”

To his consternation, Hermione shook her head and pulled her fingers from his.

“Not tonight, Harry. Goodnight. Get some sleep, won’t you?”
 
 




Next Chapter:-
 
A Personal Invitation

“I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that the two of you were staying here.”
 
Ron arrives hoping to persuade Hermione to go to the Burrow for the wedding but leaves without her. Plans are made for Fudge to visit.

 


Chapter 7: A Personal Invitation
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A Personal Invitation

At a little after ten o’clock the next morning the doorbell rang just as Harry was coming down the stairs. He jumped the last couple of steps and opened the front door.

“Ron! It’s great to see you. Come in!”

“Hi, Harry,” said Ron, wiping his feet on the coir mat.

“No escort?”

“Moody is outside under his invisibility cloak. He said he wanted to keep watch.”

“Oh, right,” said Harry, closing the door. “Hermione said you might be dropping by. She’s in the garden, but I wondered if we could have a chat before we join her. Come into the living room a moment?”

Ron looked at him suspiciously but followed Harry into the empty room.

“The thing is,” began Harry quietly, “Hermione seems pretty set on not going to the wedding. I think she’s upset about something, but she won’t say what it is.”

“That’s why I came.”

“Good. I tried to tell her that going to the Burrow would do her good, so maybe you can persuade her.”

Ron nodded.

“How have things been here?”

“About the same as usual,” Harry replied in an undertone. “At least there’s no Dudley this summer, and Hermione’s been good company.”

Ron nodded slowly, and Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that Ron was assessing him.

“Did she say why she preferred to come here rather than stay with us at the Burrow?”

“No, and I didn’t really ask. I suppose she made up her mind not to go to the wedding earlier than she let on.”

Ron sighed and said, “I’d better go and speak to her.”

“Ron, you’ll be tactful, won’t you? Hermione seemed very upset last night. Having a row won’t help, but a few kind words might just convince her to come back to the Burrow with you.”

“Yeah, well a good row might be what she needs,” Ron said darkly.

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t she tell you about her letter?”

“No. She did mention something about being afraid she’s upset you.”

They were quiet for a moment. Ron was clearly thinking hard and Harry was wondering what to say for the best.

Finally, Ron asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me, Harry?”

“Sorry?”

“I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that the two of you were staying here.”

“Ron, you were invited too, remember?” said Harry angrily, finally realising what Ron was intimating.

“So what? You had a convenient opportunity, that’s all. Anyway, I’m not blaming you entirely. I know it can’t have been easy for you staying here even if it is only this one last time.”

“Why don’t you just say it, Ron?”

“I think she started planning from the moment you broke it off with Ginny. Yes, there was a distinct coolness from then, even before the letters arrived.”

Harry just shook his head in disbelief.

“As far as I am concerned, Hermione has done nothing to deserve your mistrust,” Harry said through gritted teeth.

“So, nothing has happened?”

“No, but that can’t be much reassurance, can it? After all, if you think Hermione has some plan to seduce me, why wouldn’t the plan come to fruition later in the week?”

“You’re even beginning to talk like her, Harry. When did you ever say fruition before?”

“Stop changing the subject,” Harry said seriously, his voice growing louder. “All Hermione has done is act like a true friend. She’s put up with the dreadful treatment the Dursleys have given her and managed to help me through this. That’s not to mention-”

Harry stopped abruptly hearing a soft cough from the doorway. Hermione was standing there, looking like she would rather be anywhere else.

“Your voices were beginning to carry,” she said simply, before adding rather coldly, “Hello, Ron.”

“I’ll go and put the kettle on,” said Harry, saying the first thing that entered his head as he moved for the door. Hermione stood aside for him and he hurried out.

The door clicked shut as he reached the kitchen.

Harry didn’t bother to go anywhere near the kettle and instead headed straight outside into the back garden. They had been doing a little light weeding and as the back flower bed was as far as he could get without actually leaving the property, he settled on continuing with that.

He picked up the small trowel that Hermione had been using and began attacking the soil. He was quite determined not to hear any part of the argument that he was sure was about to reach his ears.

Gradually, however, he slowed. Not to listen, but to consider Ron’s words.

Although Ron was Harry’s best friend, he also knew him to be irrational; particularly when it came to girls.

Harry paused to reconsider this thought. No, he decided, that wasn’t entirely fair. Ron might have appeared to have acted irrationally in the past, but he was actually just reacting when his feelings were hurt.

From what Ron had just said, it was highly likely that Hermione had decided any romantic attachments would be put on hold for the foreseeable future. He wondered if his breaking things off with Ginny had really prompted this.

He supposed he couldn’t really blame Ron for becoming suspicious. After all, Moody had jumped to the same conclusion.

Harry shook his head slowly, feeling annoyed that Hermione should suffer such speculation about herself. After all, it was nobody else’s business, was it?

A shadow moved across the flower bed and he squinted up.

It was Hermione and she was alone.

“I’m afraid I asked Ron to go,” she said quietly.

Harry got to his feet and asked gently, “You okay?”

“I’ll be fine, Harry. I’m sorry to have embarrassed you like that.”

“Hermione, you have nothing to apologise for.”

“Yes, I do,” she said, pulling out a small lace handkerchief and refolding it. “I knew Ron would be upset, but I really didn’t think he’d jump to the conclusion that I was dumping him for you. I just wanted us to take things a little slower, that’s all.”

“I had the impression that you broke up with him,” admitted Harry.

“Well, we were hardly ever an item. It seemed foolish to describe it as a break.”

“Hermione, have you really been fair with Ron? Doesn’t he at least deserve a chance?”

“It would have been less fair to lead him on and let him believe he was the reason it ended.”

“Last night you claimed that Ron wasn’t the main reason you didn’t want to go to the Burrow,” began Harry.

“I’m not ready to share that with you, Harry, so don’t ask.”

“I wasn’t going to,” he countered. “I was going to say that Ron is bound to think he is the main reason. It’s going to be rather difficult for us to track down those Horcruxes if you two aren’t talking. Remember, only the three of us know what we have to do.”

Hermione looked down.

“You want me to go?” she asked tentatively.

“No, but we’ll both have to try harder to make Ron feel included again. Did he say when he’d be back?”

“He didn’t, but Tonks told me before that they planned to escort him back here Thursday morning.”

“Okay, so he’ll probably only be staying over the one night?”

“Well, yes, assuming we leave on Friday.”

“Oh, there’s no assuming about it,” he replied with a grin. “Come on, I want to read Dumbledore’s latest textbook. Have you read any of it yet?”

“No,” she admitted, as they walked towards the house. “I started but I couldn’t concentrate.”

“Good, we can read it together,” he replied.

“Harry, aren’t you worried what Ron might say?”

“I’m more worried that you’ll hog the only comfortable bit of the floor as usual,” he replied, earning himself a playful swipe at his arm. “Hey, you can see me out here now?”

*

Harry thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day. They spent most of the time lying side-by-side on his threadbare bedroom rug and reading Dumbledore’s heavy book. They occasionally tussled over when to turn the pages, but Harry became convinced that Hermione was just playing with him.

His suspicions that Hermione had in fact read most of the book were confirmed when she abandoned the last chapter and turned over to stare up at the ceiling.

Harry closed the book and turned onto his side. He had intended to lie back down, but he stopped at the sight of Hermione.

Her eyes were closed and she looked utterly relaxed.

The frown that had so often been directed at him over the last few months was nowhere to be seen. Her face had thinned ever so slightly too, but her nose and mouth were just the same. Her hair was, well, everywhere.

The sudden noise of beating wings at the open window made him jump and look towards the window. An unfamiliar Barn Owl flew into the room and onto the bedcovers.

Harry looked down again to see Hermione sitting up, brushing her hair back.

He wondered if she had seen him looking at her. He also wondered what he would say if she had indeed caught him.

Hermione reached out and untied the message from the owl’s leg.

“It’s from Alastor Moody,” she said. “He says he’s found Fudge and wants to arrange a meeting. The owl will take our reply back to him.”

Harry scrambled through the debris on his desk until he found a spare scrap of parchment to write his reply.

“Why not write on this?” Hermione asked, holding out Moody’s note.

“No, it might be intercepted. You never know do you?”

Harry showed Hermione his scribbled reply before tying it to the owl and carrying it over to the window.

He turned back to see that a slight frown had returned to Hermione’s face.

“What is it?” he asked.

I should have thought of that, Harry. I mean, if they knew the question as well as the answer of course they would stand a greater chance of understanding the message.”

“So?”

“Harry, I would have sent a reply back before even realising how risky it was.”

“It hardly matters, does it? Mad-Eye didn’t actually name Fudge, did he?”

“That’s only because he’s paranoid.”

Harry chuckled and nodded, but Hermione didn’t smile. If anything, he realised, she was looking more annoyed with herself.

“Hermione, don’t beat yourself up over nothing,” he said reassuringly. “I’m sure you would have realised before sending the owl off again. In fact, I’m more than just sure. You would have thought long and hard about your response, wouldn’t you?”

Hermione shook her head slowly and said, “I’d like to think that, Harry. I’m just not sure.”

He was about to say something more when she continued.

“I just haven’t been able to concentrate lately,” she said quietly. “Even Professor Dumbledore’s books haven’t grabbed me like they should have.”

“Hermione, you read each of them cover to cover,” he reminded her gently.

She looked up at him, and Harry saw something in her eyes.

“What’s the matter?” he asked in a whisper. “What’s eating at you like this?”

Hermione bit her lower lip, clearly wondering whether to tell him when there was a loud crack immediately outside the door.

Harry spun around and opened the door. Tonks was standing there, clearly taken aback at the two wands now pointed straight at her.

“I just can’t get used to Apparating inside this house,” she said. “That time was worse than ever. It’s almost as if the wards are growing in strength and resisting my coming in.”

“You could have just rung the doorbell,” suggested Harry, pocketing his wand.

“No, I didn’t want to be seen.”

“Why are you here?” asked Hermione.

“Well, Mad-Eye asked me to set up the living room. I understand you have a reluctant guest coming later.”

“Reluctant?”

“Yes,” replied Tonks, turning and heading down the stairs. “I had the impression that Mad-Eye won’t be giving your guest much choice in the matter.”

They followed Tonks down and into the living room.

“Yes, this room ought to be big enough,” said Tonks, raising her wand.

“Just a minute!” called Harry. “What are you going to do?”

“Harry, Fudge mustn’t know where he’s being interviewed.”

“But he knows where I live,” protested Harry. “This address was read out at my hearing.”

“Harry, please give Dumbledore some credit. The Wizengamot and Ministry records do not show where you really live. Anyone trying to find you would arrive at a place controlled by the Order. Owls and the like are allowed to continue onto here only when we are satisfied the messages are safe.”

“You read my mail?” Harry said indignantly.

“No, we only make sure it isn’t hexed and such. Dumbledore did screen out your fan mail, though. You’ve had about a ton a year since you were three, apparently.”

“But-”

“Can I please get on with this?” said Tonks, not waiting for an answer. With a long slow swish of her wand the room was instantly transformed.

They were plunged into darkness the moment the window vanished.

“Blast!” said Tonks. “I always forget to light a lantern before I vanish the windows. Lumos!”

The narrow beam of bright light scanned the rough stone wall where the chimney had been a moment ago until it found a torch bracket.

Tonks flicked her wand again and several torches flamed into life.

“That’s better,” she said, looking around at her handiwork with some satisfaction. “Oh, you’ll be needing a couple of chairs too.”

“How about a door?” asked Harry.

“Door?” asked Tonks, looking around. “Well a door would give away the fact that this isn’t really a damp castle cellar, wouldn’t it. You’ll just have to Apparate in.”

“So, what will stop Mr Fudge from Disapparating right back out again?” asked Hermione.

“Oh, Mad-Eye will have that covered. He won’t release him until you agree with a pre-agreed signal.”

“What’s the signal?”

“I’ve no idea? Would you like some torture instruments on the walls? How about a rack or a grate with red-hot pokers in?”

“No thanks,” said Harry dryly. “It might give my Uncle some good ideas about how he’s going to punish me for doing this to his living room.”

Tonks just grinned at him.

 




Next chapter:-

Fudge
 
“Tell us how you communicate with the Dementors?”

Fudge is brought to a disguised Privet Drive where Harry quizzes him on the Dementors. They learn of a leader of the Dementors. Fudge gives them the creature's name and tell them how to summon him.


Chapter 8: Fudge
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Fudge

Harry and Hermione were still discussing how they should break the news of the living room redecorations to Aunt Petunia when Moody apparated in front of them with a loud crack!

“Ah, there you are. He’s inside,” he said, nodding towards the solid stone wall that now neatly blocked the door frame. “I’ll hold him inside until you are ready for him to leave. Just come back outside to me here and I’ll do the rest.”

“You’re not coming in with us?”

“No, I suspect that you’ll get more out of Fudge alone. He seems unusually nervous to me.”

“Well, perhaps he was worried that Voldemort was trying to kidnap him,” suggested Hermione.

“Maybe,” agreed Mad-Eye, scratching the stubble on his chin. “Mind you, when I said I was taking him to see you, he seemed to get even more twitchy. Anyway, I’ve taken his wand for safety’s sake and I’ve run a couple of dark-detectors over him. He should be safe, but be on your guard.”

They nodded, first to Moody and then to each other before disapparating.

Fudge was standing with his back to them, apparently checking the room for concealed entrances. Hermione let go of Harry’s hand and they stepped apart.

Fudge started and turned around quickly.

“Ah, Harry!” he said, fighting to control his breath.

“Welcome, Mr Fudge,” he replied. “Please take a seat. You remember Hermione, don’t you?”

“Of course,” he said nodding to her. “Miss Granger, how nice to see you.”

Fudge sat down on the simple wooden chair near him and Harry brought over a seat for Hermione. As she sat, he brought over a third chair for himself.

“Thank you for agreeing to see us,” began Harry, noticing that Fudge was sweating profusely and looking quite agitated.

“I didn’t get a chance to disagree,” commented Fudge, now wiping the inner brim of his bowler hat.

Harry nodded in understanding.

“I thought you were still staying with your Aunt and Uncle, Harry.”

“I was at the beginning of the summer. Mad-Eye was rather instant that any visitors shouldn’t know where we are really staying, though.”

“Nor be trusted to keep their wands?” added Fudge pointedly.

Harry smiled apologetically and said, “These are difficult times, Mr Fudge. We must all make allowances.”

“Of course, of course,” Fudge said absently. “So, now that I’m here, how can I be of assistance? I’m afraid I have little influence with the Ministry of Magic these days.”

“I wanted to ask you about something,” said Harry. “You see, of all the people I have met in the Wizarding World, you are the only person outside of Voldemort’s circle that may know what I need.”

Fudge jerked violently at the sound of Voldemort’s name.

“Only person?” Fudge repeated.

“Everyone we’ve asked agrees that you are the acknowledged expert in this area.”

Fudge frowned slightly, and Harry thought he saw him grow a little paler as he realised what Harry was about to ask him.

“I’d like you to tell me about the Dementors.”

“Dementors?” asked Fudge, but Harry knew now he’d been expecting the question. “But why ever would you want to know about them for?”

“I can’t tell you, Mr Fudge. Voldemort must never even know we asked. It would be very dangerous for you and your family if he learned we had even spoken together.”

“You are not giving me much incentive to co-operate, are you?”

“In order to defeat Voldemort we need information. I’m not going to force you to talk to us, Mr Fudge, but I’d have thought any opportunity to help defeat the greatest Dark Lord in history would have been incentive enough.”

“What if I went to the Dark Lord and bartered the fact that you asked me particular questions in exchange for the lives of my family and myself?”

“Well, he’d probably go for a deal like that,” agreed Harry. “Of course, he’d murder you all the moment he learned what my questions were and what they might mean.”

Fudge looked at Harry defiantly for two full seconds before his eyes fell and he nodded shakily.

“I know,” he agreed, toying with his hat. “What specifically do you want to know?”

Hermione jumped in and quickly told Fudge what they had learned about the Wizengamot trials and how Dumbledore had felt betrayed.

“Oh, that was only part of the reason Dumbledore disliked the Dementors,” commented Fudge.

“Do you know who the Defence Advocate was?” asked Hermione. “The one who acted for the Dementors on trial?”

“I’m afraid that was me,” Fudge admitted.

Hermione nodded and Harry saw that she had suspected as much.

“So,” asked Harry slowly, “is there more than one family of Dementors?”

“Oh, yes,” said Fudge at once. “The Azkaban Guards were only one family. They reached a deal with the Ministry to take charge of Azkaban. It was actually some way away from their ancestral home, but the Ministry was in no mood to compromise. They had successfully almost eradicated the other Dementor clans from the entire British Isles.”

“Were the Azkaban Dementors different from the others?”

“You mean, were they more controllable?” asked Fudge and Hermione nodded.

“Actually, no. They weren’t more controllable from the Ministry standpoint. There was a difference, though, in that they had a leader who was prepared to ensure that they upheld the bargain that was reached.”

“Are they intelligent?” asked Hermione.

“Very,” agreed Fudge. “I’ve suspected for some time that they imbibe something of the people they perform this kiss on.”

“Wouldn’t that mean they take in the characteristics of murderers and insane wizards?” asked Harry.

“Indeed, which is perhaps why the Ministry lost control.”

“Is that true?” asked Hermione.

Fudge smiled and said, “No, but that’s what the Ministry believe.”

“Tell us about this leader?” prompted Harry.

“Ah, yes. He is very unusual for a Dementor. I suspect that, perhaps many decades ago, he performed the kiss on either a very wise or a very powerful mind. That is the only thing I can think of that makes him so different.”

“Did he desert Azkaban and join Voldemort too?”

Fudge shrugged and said, “Well, he certainly left the island. He also ignored my many attempts to summon him.”

“Do you think he joined Voldemort, though?” pushed Harry.

“I honestly don’t know. I’m sure some, perhaps all, of his family did follow the Dark Lord’s call.”

“Alright,” said Harry. “I’d like to know how you communicate with them.”

Fudge smiled to himself.

“At the risk of sounding immodest,” Fudge said, “I must admit that I am indeed the expert in such matters. It was my Great Grandfather who first brokered the deal for Azkaban. He passed the secret down to his son and so on until it was passed on to me. It ensured that we all had good jobs at the Ministry.”

“Not so good now, though?” said Harry, crossing his arms.

“True,” admitted Fudge, but did not continue.

“It must be a way to counter the effects of the Dementors,” said Hermione. “Do you use a Patronus?”

“I’ve never been able to produce a full corporeal Patronus,” said Fudge.

Hermione frowned.

“I thought the Patronus was the only thing that worked against Dementors,” commented Harry, unfolding his arms.

“Well, it is, provided you want to force a Dementor away,” said Fudge slyly. He leaned forward a little.

“Think what a Patronus is,” he suggested.

“It is made from positive, happy emotions,” said Harry. “It makes the Dementor feed on it rather than your emotions.”

“Yes, but that isn’t entirely it. If a Patronus was just happiness, why would the Dementors be driven back? You’d think they’d be attracted towards the thing, wouldn’t you?”

Harry frowned, trying to remember exactly how Remus Lupin had described the Patronus and how it worked.

Fudge was looking intently at Harry now with a smile playing on his lips. He looked bursting to tell them what they were missing.

Fudge chuckled dryly and said, “Don’t worry. The entire wizarding world hasn’t realised that either. Let me give you a clue or two. After all, I’ve no-one to leave my inherited gift to; so it might as well be you, Harry.”

“I’m flattered,” said an unsmiling Harry.

Fudge coughed and looked up to the dark ceiling.

“Let me see,” Fudge said to himself. “The common perception is that Dementors take away all your happy emotions and memories, leaving just the negative feelings.”

They nodded, listening intently now.

“Well, that is indeed what happens, except those are the effects, not necessarily the cause.”

“Sorry?” said Harry. “What’s the difference?”

“The difference, Harry,” said Hermione, “is that it might not be the Dementors making us feel those negative emotions.”

“Absolutely, Miss Granger. The Dementors just get the blame because they are the ones we can see and feel are there.”

Harry shook his head doubtfully.

“Let’s think about this,” said Hermione. “We’ve always believed that the Dementor will suck out any happiness from those present, but a Patronus will drive them away. Positive emotions drive them away.”

Harry frowned slightly, but decided to keep quiet while she reasoned.

“So,” she continued slowly, “if the happiness in us isn’t being sucked out, it must be driven away because of some other cause.”

“Or,” prompted Fudge.

“Or, we are feeling amplified negative emotions. Perhaps it’s the negative emotions being brought to the fore.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed Fudge. “That’s much closer to what usually happens.”

“Usually?”

“Yes. You see, there is something more that you need to know. Although Dementors do usually fear goodness and are attracted to our worst feelings, that isn’t always the case.”

“The Kiss?” asked Hermione.

“Exactly. During the Kiss, the very essence of a person’s soul is removed and consumed. That essence can be said to be the sum total of a victim’s emotional state. There is no way to filter out the goodness felt by that person, and yet the Dementor is compelled to consume it.”

“Does it harm the Dementor?”

“Oh, yes; and they know it,” said Fudge. “They are like moths to a flame, except they know the flame can be fatal sometimes.”

Harry glanced across to Hermione and was surprised to see her looking at him with a very thoughtful expression.

“What?” he asked.

“Harry, think about all those Dementors that attacked you, me and Sirius that time. They also flooded onto the pitch during that Quidditch match too.”

“So?” said Harry.

“Was that really just a coincidence?”

“Of course it wasn’t,” said Fudge before Harry could respond. “That night we almost caught Sirius Black, the Dementors tried to perform the kiss on you, Harry.”

“Yes, that’s what you said in the Hospital Wing,” agreed Hermione. “It didn’t occur to me at the time, but how did you know they tried to do that? I mean, everyone else was unconscious at the time.”

“Oh, that isn’t a mystery,” said Fudge dismissively. “I was with a group of Dementors outside the school, checking if they had seen anything when they suddenly grew agitated. They gathered together and then entered the school grounds en mass. I tried to call them back but it was no good. I hurried after them but I was much slower than them on foot. It seemed I’d barely got a few yards inside when they all stampeded out again.

“I managed to get one of them to tell me what had happened and they admitted to me that they had attempted to perform the kiss on you.

“I have no doubt now that had they succeeded they would have moved on to both Black and you Miss Granger, if only to hide their crime.”

“Mr Fudge, what did you mean when you said it wasn’t a coincidence that they attacked Harry?” asked Hermione.

“Harry would be quite a prize for the Dementors,” said Fudge carefully. “I don’t mean that the Dark Lord would be pleased, though. You see, Harry’s life-force is quite unique. The Dementors may be quite blind, but they find their way by feeling.”

“So, they can feel a person’s life-force?” asked Hermione.

“Yes. The stronger the life-force, the greater the attraction.”

“And Harry’s life-force is particularly strong?”

“Well, yes; but I think there’s more to it. I said strong, because that’s the easiest thing for us humans to understand. I suspect that a Dementor will see these things more subtly. It is possible that You-Know-Who’s curse would have left an imprint.”

“Mr Fudge, what about when Harry and his cousin were attacked?”

“Well, Dementors can’t usually be used like that. If you sent them out to attack a person, the chances are they would attack the first unfortunate they came across. To achieve success you’d probably have to literally guide the Dementor to their victim.”

“So, how was Umbridge able to send them after me?”

“There is still no direct evidence she did any such thing,” Fudge reminded him. “However, if someone directed the Dementors in the right general direction them I’m convinced they could find you with little difficulty. They can feel your presence over several miles, actually. That’s why being posted just outside the school was such a torment for them.”

They were quiet for a moment, with Hermione thinking hard about what Fudge had just said and Harry just fuming silently.

“Tell us how you communicate with the Dementors?” said Hermione.

“There are three parts you need to achieve before you can communicate, but first I should say that you can’t speak to a Dementor in the traditional sense. I prefer to speak aloud, but you really do your talking with your mind. They respond in a telepathic way, but mostly you get feelings returned rather than an actual voice. You need to ask questions in such a way that it makes it possible for them to respond in simple terms.”

“How do you mean?” asked Harry.

“Well, for example, when on Azkaban island if, say, I asked are all the prisoners secure, then I would generally receive a feeling of wellbeing or contentment.”

“How do you ask anything more complex?” asked Hermione.

“Well, I didn’t in general,” admitted Fudge. “Probably the most complex question involved when a prisoner last ate. In those instances I mostly volunteered various answers until I got a positive response.”

“Somehow I’m beginning to think that communicating with them won’t help us very much,” observed Harry darkly.

“Well, not necessarily,” countered Fudge. “Conversations with their leader were much more satisfactory. He had had extensive vocabulary, unlike most of his kind. He spoke very good English.”

“Oh,” said Harry. “Is this leader still around?”

“He has not responded to my calls for some months now. Indeed, not since they abandoned Azkaban.”

“What is his name?” asked Hermione.

“To speak it, is to call him. You need to know more than just how to summon a Dementor,” said Fudge wisely.

“Alright, tell us about these three things,” demanded Harry.

Fudge nodded and paused to collect his thoughts.

“Firstly, you need to grab their attention. That means focussing a controllable degree of negative emotion. I’d recommend the memory of an event where you felt sadness. Remember, the memory has to be of an emotional pain, not a physical one.

“Secondly, you need to keep a clear head. Many people become so involved in their memories as a Dementor approaches, all they can do is fall unconscious.”

“That might be a problem for me,” admitted Harry. “Without a Patronus to fend them off I kept fainting.”

“Me too,” said Hermione.

“It may not be as hard as you think,” said Fudge kindly. “It was reported in the Press that you heard your parents’ voices when the Dementors approached you. If that was indeed what happened then quite naturally you would have felt compelled to fall deeper into the memory.”

“That’s exactly right,” said Harry, not hiding his surprise that Fudge had been so perceptive.

“So long as you remember that you want the Dementors there and let the feelings wash over you, then you will be able to control what happens.”

“What’s the third part?” Harry asked doubtfully.

“This is the most important point,” stressed Fudge. “You must always keep in mind the fact that these are sentient creatures. For as long as you regard them as intelligent thinking beings you will be safe; but the moment you consider them to be mindless animals they may attack or at the very least refuse to communicate with you.”

“We need to do all three thinks at once?” asked Harry.

“Yes, that’s essential.”

“Um, how did you learn to do it, Mr Fudge?” asked Hermione.

“My father taught me. He summoned the Dementor leader and asked if I could practise. The leader had a good deal more self-control than his underlings, I should add. Eventually, I got it right and we spoke. It got a little easier over the years.”

“We’ve heard that you used your wand to help you communicate with them,” said Harry.

“Ah, yes,” said Fudge. “To be honest that has nothing to do with talking to them. You see, tenses tend to get confused and I found that pointing helped explain what I wanted to explain. My father rather hoped I’d grow out of the habit, but there you are.”

“Could you summon the leader for us and explain that we need to learn too?” asked Hermione hopefully.

“Well, as I said he hasn’t responded to my summons at all recently.”

“Would he respond to a summons from Harry?” she asked.

Fudge considered for a moment before nodding.

“It might be dangerous, though. Remember that all Dementors will feel your call. That means that Dementors loyal to You-Know-Who may respond as well.”

“I think we’ll have to chance it,” said Harry. “If I call him, will you explain that we want to talk to them?”

“That may not be wise, Harry. If I am considered an enemy, they won’t listen to me. No, I think your inherent feelings will protect you far better.”

They were silent for a long moment before Fudge took out a small business card sized piece of parchment from a pocket.

“Here,” he said. “It is the name of the Dementor leader. Take care not to speak it aloud before you are ready. When it is time, you must think it clearly as you speak.”

“You expected me to ask you?” said Harry, reaching out to accept the parchment.

“Yes,” admitted Fudge.

“Did Dumbledore tell you I might?”

“No, it was the Dementor leader himself who suggested it.”

*

Hermione bid Mr Fudge goodbye and disapparated away to fetch Moody. Within five minutes Fudge had been taken away leaving Harry and Hermione alone in the made-over living room.

“What do you think?” asked Harry.

Hermione didn’t answer at once.

“Actually, I don’t think the three things will be too hard to get right. The worst thing for me will be keeping a clear head in their presence.”

“Me too,” agreed Harry.

“I’m rather hoping that as this Dementor leader is expecting your call and is clearly much more intelligent than the others; perhaps then he will be more tolerant.”

“Good point, unless he just wants to kill us.”

Hermione snorted.

“How do you know the leader is a he? She could be female.”

Harry chuckled and nodded just as Tonks apparated before them.

“All done?” she asked brightly.

The nodded and stood before Tonks restored the living room with a wide sweep of her wand.

“That’s much better!” she declared.

Harry coughed and pointed up to the ceiling where a solitary stalactite still hung where the lamp shade should have been.

 






Next chapter:-

Obsessions
 
“I know what you’re thinking, Hermione, but we didn’t summon this one.”

A Dementor arrives but Harry realises they hadn't summoned him. It is the leader. While they practise the requirements for communication, Harry accidentally sees part of Hermione's memories.


Chapter 9: Obsessions
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Obsessions

Harry and Hermione practised studiously all through the next day even though they had no means to know how effective their efforts would be.

They broke off for dinner and then sat out in the garden to enjoy the warm evening. The grass was not exactly lush due to lack of watering but it was dry and fairly comfortable.

Harry lay back looking up at the gradually darkening sky while Hermione sat next to him with her legs tucked under herself.

“Harry, have you thought about what we should do after we leave here? I mean, it’s not long until your birthday now.”

“I know,” said Harry, stretching his arms out. “I think we should go to Godric’s Hollow first and see what’s there.”

“Okay, but there may not be much to see.”

“Maybe,” he agreed.

“Your parent’s house was protected by a Fidelius Charm. We may never find it.”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t know if I was even walking when Voldemort attacked, but I think there is a good chance my parents made sure I was told the location by the Secret Keeper even so.”

Hermione turned her head quickly and frowned down at Harry.

“But how will you remember?”

“I’m hoping the Fidelius Charm will enable me to see the house. It’s probably still a ruin, which won’t be too hard to spot. If we can’t find it I was planning on asking Hagrid to show me.”

“Of course! He fetched you that night, didn’t he?”

Harry nodded sadly as Hermione carefully picked a spot next to him and lay back as well.

“Wouldn’t that be a more sensible idea to ask Hagrid to show us anyway?”

“Well, he’ll be busy with the move from Hogwarts.”

“Alastor Moody said he suspected that Hagrid will want to make a stand at Hogwarts,” Hermione reminded him, picking a stray blade of grass from her hair. “Do you think we should see if he still intends to stay?”

“I think he will have every intention of staying,” said Harry with a smile. “Actually, it’s an idea that appeals to me as well. I wonder how many we could pick off before we got caught.”

“Harry! You cannot be serious!” exclaimed Hermione, raising her head up. “Dumbledore entrusted you with a much more important task.”

Harry turned his head and grinned at her and she rolled her eyes, annoyed with herself that she’d believed him.

“Well, we can’t let him face Voldemort alone,” continued Harry. “Maybe we could persuade him that he’ll be doing more by continuing to teach. He can’t doubt that Dumbledore would have wanted that.”

“But you think he will need a little encouragement?”

“I’m sure of it. Hagrid has his pride. Before he’ll leave himself he’ll need to hear it from us - that we know he isn’t going because he’s afraid.”

“Is that all he’s waiting for?”

Harry shrugged and said, “I thought I’d leave the finer points to you, Hermione. You are the expert when it comes to getting Hagrid to do what you want.”

Hermione snorted and turned onto her side to face him.

“How do you think you will feel when we go to Godric’s Hollow?”

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “I expect it will feel strange. I don’t expect I’ll actually remember anything.”

“You’ll be closer to your parents than you’ve ever been,” she said quietly.

“I try not to embarrass you with my crying,” he said with a smirk.

Hermione immediately plucked a few blades of grass and threw them at his face. Harry laughed and brushed away the two that had actually reached him.

She sat up and brushed herself down.

“I think I’ll have a shower and turn in.”

“It’s way too early to go to bed, Hermione. It can’t be nine o’clock yet.”

“It’s a little after nine-thirty, actually. Besides, I want to write a couple of letters.”

Harry made a dissenting noise as she got up.

“Goodnight, Harry. Sleep well.”

“You too,” he managed to say before she reached the rear door and disappeared inside.

Harry relaxed and lay back again. The warmth from the sun was gone now but the grass he was lying on still had the heat of the day to warm him. He would stay out here a little longer.

He closed his eyes and listened carefully to the neighbourhood noises that reached him. It sounded like a couple of children were protesting to their mother at being called inside and a baby was crying somewhere in the distance.

Otherwise all he could hear were birds calling.

His ears twitched at a much closer sound. The bathroom window was being opened and made a distinctive rattle as Hermione fumbled with that catch. There was a slight squeak of metal rubbing followed by a clunking sound that told him she was done.

Harry’s thoughts turned again to Hermione.

He had been at a total loss how to get her to tell him what was troubling her. He had twice that day almost come out and demanded to know, but she had introduced a new topic of conversation before he had the chance.

He listened as the rushing sound of water hitting the steel enamelled bath began.

The last thing he wanted was to upset Hermione even more, but he was at a loss to think how he could help her.

He almost hoped that he would pay another, long overdue, visit to see Dumbledore’s memory that night. Not that he would be of much use. Harry was beginning to think of the memory as a very pale imitation of the real thing.

Harry’s nose twitched as the smell of warm, humid air drifted down to him from the open bathroom window, carrying a distinctive scent.

He had no idea what the perfumed shower gel was, but it struck Harry that it was the only evidence he had ever found that Hermione had even been in the bathroom. Harry himself found it almost impossible to remove every single strand of hair from the bath after he had finished bathing, and he had been amazed that Hermione had contrived to leave the bathroom in an even cleaner state than when she entered.

At first he even suspected that Aunt Petunia had been waiting to clean the moment Hermione undid the chrome bolt on the bathroom door.

This proved to be incorrect, however.

Harry blushed furiously in the darkening garden as he remembered the moment it struck him that it was a very strange thing to think; let alone actually look for evidence as he had done. He had tried to convince himself that he didn’t want Aunt Petunia to find anything to complain about, but he was still awfully glad that Hermione wasn’t a Legilimens.

He turned onto his front and realised the ground wasn’t as warm as it was. He would go inside soon, but not for a moment or two.

He blamed Ron for all this.

Before Ron’s brief visit to accuse him and Hermione, he had hardly given a thought to her in that way. Now, however, he could hardly stop himself.

He was sure Hermione knew this, of course. Since Ron’s visit she had hardly touched him; whereas before she hadn’t hesitated to hold his hand or touch his arm to show her support.

Harry sighed deeply and looked around for something else to think about. That way he might at least get inside before dawn, he thought.

He shivered and rolled over before he carefully sat up.

There was another squeak from above and he looked up just in time to see a bare arm pull the bathroom casement closed.

*

Harry woke with a start and it was moment before he realised where he was. He had fallen asleep at the kitchen table. Harry blinked until his eyes became accustomed to the bright fluorescent lights.

He was surprised that his Aunt hadn’t woken him, but he remembered he had been the last to turn in that night.

Harry got stiffly to his feet and was almost at the door when he remembered his mug of drinking chocolate. Aunt Petunia absolutely hated anything to be left unwashed overnight, so to avoid an argument in the morning he went back over to the sink, pausing only to pick up the offending article from the table.

He poured away the dregs and proceeded to wash the mug in the remaining cold washing up water.

As he did so a sudden coldness came over him. It was a moment before he realised this coldness had nothing to do with the temperature of the air.

Harry dropped the mug and quickly wiped his soapy hands on his shirt before grabbing his wand.

He couldn’t see anything outside but he was sure a Dementor was close. He unlocked the rear door and looked out into the night.

There was nothing that he could see.

Harry was about to step outside when he had an idea. He felt by the door jamb with his free hand until he found the wall switch.

The moment the lights went out he saw it.

The Dementor was floating over in the far corner of the garden with its back to him. It turned slowly to face him.

Harry automatically raised his wand and had every intention of producing his Patronus when someone grabbed his wand arm.

Once he realised it was Hermione, Harry stopped resisting.

“I know what you’re thinking, Hermione, but we didn’t summon this one,” he whispered.

“We must at least try to communicate with them,” she whispered back urgently. “We are only a few feet apart and yet I don’t feel faint at all. I haven’t remembered anything bad yet. All I feel is a little coldness.”

Harry considered getting her a coat or something when the Dementor floated forward. It stopped about ten feet from them, but all Harry was aware of was Hermione’s nervous shaking.

“Hello,” she said, sounding scared but determined. Harry knew she was holding the three things Fudge had told them in her mind.

Harry decided he should make an effort as well.

He looked at the cloaked Dementor and wondered if it was the leader. If it was then it might really be intelligent and capable of talking to them.

“Hello,” he said, but the Dementor did not respond in any way.

“Don’t forget the offering, Harry,” Hermione whispered.

It was a moment before Harry allowed himself to relive the memory of the moment Dumbledore was hit by the killing curse. A wave of emotion hit him and the Dementor lurched forward, closing the gap to barely four feet.

Hermione gasped and grabbed Harry’s arm tightly.

Harry Potter,” said a low voice in his head.

“Yes,” answered Harry in complete shock. “I can hear you.”

“What?” said Hermione. “I didn’t hear anything.”

Your friend will not hear us tonight,” said the voice in his head. “Her chosen memory will never be enough to hold our attention while she has a much stronger emotion to give.”

“He says you won’t hear him tonight, Hermione,” said Harry.

“Oh.”

Harry turned back to the Dementor and asked, “We wanted to ask you something.”

No. It is not safe tonight,” said the voice. “We did not intend you to see us this evening. Had you not put those artificial lights out, you would not.”

“Not safe?” repeated Harry.

Go inside now,” directed the voice. “Call my name tomorrow after dark if you wish, but I cannot enter this dwelling and it may be unsafe for you outside. Ask your friends to help you find a suitable meeting place.”

Harry nodded and said, “Okay.”

The Dementor glided away from them and floated over the fence, vanishing the moment the light from a street lamp hit it.

Harry turned to Hermione who was still staring at the spot the Dementor vanished. He realised she was trembling.

“Let’s go inside,” said Harry gently, taking her arm and guiding her back inside.

Harry switched the lights back on and was alarmed to see how pale Hermione looked. He had intended to talk to her in the living room, but her appearance made him change his mind at once.

He pulled out a kitchen chair and said, “Sit down, Hermione.”

Still staring off into space, Hermione obeyed at once. Harry knelt before her and took hold of her hands. They were as cold as ice so he warmed them in his until she came to herself.

Presently, she looked down at him.

“That wasn’t as easy as Mr Fudge implied,” she said, her voice timid and shaking.

Harry smiled up at her.

“There are a couple of things I should tell you before I forget,” he said.

Hermione forced herself to sit up a little and pay attention.

“The first thing is the strange way he spoke,” explained Harry. “He referred to himself in the plural. You know, he said us instead of me. Otherwise his English was excellent.”

“What did it sound like?”

“It was male and quite deep, although sometimes there was a kind of echo in my head. Do you think there could have been more than one?”

“I don’t know, Harry. What else did he say?”

Harry proceeded to tell her the rest including how the Dementor had said it was unsafe tonight and wanted them to call him tomorrow evening.

“There’s one more thing,” said Harry, who still hadn’t let go of her hands. “He gave a reason why you couldn’t hear him as well.”

Hermione’s hands tensed.

“He said the memory you used wouldn’t hold their attention while there was another one to give that was stronger still.”

Hermione looked down, going very red in the face.

“I thought it might be something like that.”

“Please, Hermione. Let me help you,” pleaded Harry. “I don’t know what it is you’re suffering, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you won’t tell me, let me call Tonks or McGonagall?”

Hermione shook her head no.

“How about something to help you sleep then? Hot chocolate? I could raid Uncle Vernon’s booze for some brandy.”

Hermione snorted and again shook her head.

“I’ve something upstairs, but a glass of water would be nice.”

Harry got the glass at once and helped Hermione upstairs to her bedroom. She must have seen some of the anguish in his face because before she closed the door she said, “I’ll be fine, Harry. I promise.”

The door closed with a soft click, leaving Harry standing there completely at a loss as to how to help her.

*

Hermione slept late the next morning, and it was Harry who briefed Moody on what the Dementor had said, although he didn’t mention anything about Hermione.

“Hm,” said Moody thoughtfully. “We need somewhere other than here that is under cover. How about Arrabella Figg’s place?”

“How will she feel about inviting a Dementor into her home?”

“Not best pleased, I’d imagine. Perhaps we shouldn’t tell her. Tell you what, I’ll discuss it with the others and get back to you.”

“Okay, thanks. There’s one more thing. Could you ask Tonks or Professor McGonagall to pop by to see Hermione?”

“Well, I’ll try to get a message to out but I know Tonks is on duty for the Ministry all day and McGonagall is in France. Is there a problem?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“What about Molly or young Ginny?”

“Mrs Weasley might do,” said Harry slowly. “I’m just not sure, though. Actually, probably not. She might be annoyed that Hermione isn’t going to the wedding.”

“I’m sure Molly wouldn’t hold a grudge, especially if there really is a problem,” Moody said reassuringly. “I’ll ask her to be on duty this evening anyway. That way, she’ll be on hand if needed.”

“Thanks.”

*

Hermione got up at midday and managed to eat a light salad lunch, although she still looked pale. Even Aunt Petunia expressed concern for her.

After lunch Hermione insisted that they did a little practise for summoning the Dementor.

Harry wasn’t at all sure she was up to this, but joined her in the living room. Sat opposite each other at the dining table, Harry watched as she closed her eyes and concentrated.

A range of expressions passed over her face as she allowed herself to remember, the last of which seemed to be utter despair.

A heavy tear drop fell from her cheek and Harry gasped.

Hermione opened her eyes at once and in the moment their eyes met images flashed across his mind. The flashes ended almost the instant they had begun.

Hermione looked down, and he knew she was trying to prevent him seeing anything more, just as he had done with Snape.

Harry said nothing, but he tried hard to recall the images.

He had absolutely no idea how he had been able to perform Legilimency, but he was sure he had just witnessed something of what was troubling her. He had, after all, been desperate to know what was troubling her. Perhaps that had helped subconsciously.

There had been a bright green flash to begin with. Unmistakably it had been a killing curse, but fired by whom and who was the intended victim?

There had been a woman’s scream. It was someone he didn’t know.

Then there had been the image of a dark cloak being thrown over her head. Before it went dark, Hermione had been looking at a skirting board. Above, the wallpaper was a flowery pattern and the carpet was a mottled red. He recognised none of it.

Harry came back to himself and realised Hermione was looking at him intently, perhaps wondering if he had seen anything. What should he tell her?

This question was answered as soon as he thought it. He would tell her the truth, whatever the consequences.

Hermione looked away again.

“Ready to try again?” she asked.

“Sure,” he replied, noting that she wasn’t risking eye-contact again.

Instead of practising as he knew he ought, Harry went over the images again in his mind. Gradually they became a little clearer, and he realised that something of the person who threw the cloak could also be seen.

After a while, he realised that he had seen their boots. They were brown leather boots with matching leather straps.

Harry sighed with frustration, realising that he not only didn’t recognise the boots but he also had no idea if the wearer was male or female. They looked on the big side for a woman and small for a man.

He was confused about the skirting board too. It was almost as if she had been looking down so she wouldn’t have to see something else.







Next chapter:-

Mrs Figg’s

 
“Are all the families loyal to Voldemort now?”

The Order has arranged for a back room at Mrs Figg's house to be magically expanded so they can practise summoning the Dementor leader. They learn that not all the Dementors are on Voldemort's side.


Chapter 10: Mrs Figg’s
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Mrs Figg’s
 
At dusk Harry and Hermione walked casually over to Mrs Figg’s house, surrounded the entire way by an honour guard of at least a dozen large cats that dashed from car to car.

As they approached the garden gate, the front door opened silently and they hurried along the short path and into the house.

Harry led the way into the tiny living room which looked exactly the way he remembered it.

“Go straight through to the back room,” directed Moody from behind them.

They went through the narrow doorway and into an empty area that had obviously been magically expanded into a space of dance hall sized proportions. The room was square on plan with each wall about fifty feet long and with a ceiling twenty feet high. The floor was covered with old linoleum and Harry saw that a patch repair had been duplicated in several places across the room.

Mrs Figg's meagre collection of dining room furniture was neatly stacked in one corner and in the far wall there was a single normal sized window that overlooked her small back garden.

“We thought you’d like some space to manoeuvre,” said Moody. “Arrabella and me will be out back. Molly and three other Order members are concealed out front and the cats are out patrolling the entire area. We also have about a dozen Order members on standby in the air. We can all react at a moment’s notice.”

“This will be fine, thanks,” said Harry.

“We weren’t too sure if your visitor could get in, so we left the window just in case.”

“Good point,” agreed Harry. “Perhaps we should leave it open.”

Moody pointed his wand at the window and the lower sash slid upwards at once.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so. We won’t try anything until the sun has completely set, though.”

“That’s only about five minutes away, actually,” said Moody before he disapparated with a crack!

“You okay?” Harry asked Hermione for perhaps the hundredth time that afternoon.

Hermione smiled at him and nodded. As annoying as Harry had been that day, she knew he was only concerned for her.

Harry removed the piece of parchment that Fudge had given him from his pocket and unfolded it. This was the first time he had actually seen the name.

“Together?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Hermione, coming closer to read the neat manuscript.

“On three,” said Harry. “One. Two. Three.”

Sapien!” they said in unison.

Almost instantly the air grew cold and the lanterns went out. The lace curtains began to billow in the moon light.

Then a shadow passed in front of the window and then came inside.

The Dementor had arrived.

Pausing to apparently take in the room, he glided over to Harry and Hermione.

Ah,” said Sapien appreciatively in a deep, breathy voice. “Thank you, my dear,” he added with a slight bow of his hooded head.

“You can hear him?” asked Harry.

“Yes,” said Hermione.

Harry nodded and said, “Thank you for coming. Fudge said you suggested we might want to talk to you. How did you know?”

We rather assumed it would be the case. You see, Voldemort summoned us to him. I knew from the moment he admitted us into his presence what he had done.”

“What had he done?” asked Harry carefully.

He has split is soul into several parts.”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes. We think there are six parts that he cut away and stored in objects known as Horcruxes.”

As many as six?”

“We fear so, yes,” agreed Harry. “Two have been destroyed and we know what one of the Horcuxes is, except we don’t know where it is yet.”

“Why did he summon you?” asked Hermione.

He summoned all the Dementor families from all over the world. It was the first time in Centuries that we had gathered together. Even so, old rivalries surfaced again. Some of our brothers have never forgiven us for aligning ourselves with the Ministry of Magic.

Voldemort had us gathered together so that he could address us. As expected, he promised to allow us free reign over our old hunting grounds.”

“Where did you meet?” asked Hermione. “It must have been a large gathering if all the Dementors in the world were together.”

Actually, I was shocked to discover that so few of us had survived. It was a rather small gathering.”

“Are all the families loyal to Voldemort now?” asked Harry.

That’s an interesting question. Before Voldemort actually made his appearance, we were probably unanimous in our support. We were united against our oppressors.”

“What about after his appearance?”

Well, our younger brothers could sense that something wasn’t quite right with the Dark Lord, only they didn’t know what it was. We older family members could see what he had done to himself. Fortunately, neither he nor his human supporters understood our reaction and took our abhorrence for delight.”

Harry frowned, hardly daring to believe what he was hearing.

We decided it would be prudent to go along with his plans for the present. Our numbers were dangerously low and we needed to do something about that.”

“What about the attacks that have been reported?”

Not one witch or wizard has been given the Kiss since Voldemort sent us out. It is true that we have fed upon the general Muggle population, but that was out of necessity. The alternative was starvation.”

Harry looked at Hermione who was frowning slightly.

“There weren’t that many newspaper reports, actually,” she said. “I suppose they could have been mistaken. There certainly haven’t been any Kisses reported recently.”

Oh, we did scare a few people away from our gathering places,” admitted Sapien.

“So, none of you are really loyal to Voldemort?”

We are of one mind.”

This time the echoing was strong. It was as if dozens had spoken at once.

“So, if you ordered it, no Dementor would attack us or our friends?”

Sapien hesitated.

No. I cannot assure you of that. Some of our younger brothers are not yet wise enough to conquer their instincts.”

“Is that why I was attacked?”

Yes.”

Harry sighed deeply.

“Alright. The most important thing is to defeat Voldemort. Dumbledore left me the task of destroying the remaining Horcruxes to make Voldemort mortal and vulnerable again. The problem is I have no idea how to destroy the Horcrux. I had the idea that the piece of soul might be sucked out in the same way you perform the Kiss.”

That is very perceptive. I have never felt the presence of a soul in anything but a living organism before.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

However, there is no reason why it cannot be done. We imagine the Dementor would die almost immediately.”

“Why?”

Such a tainted soul would be poison, even in a diluted form.”

“Did I imagine it when I saw part of Sirius’ soul being sucked out?” asked Harry.

No, that can indeed sometimes be felt. We have never heard of a Wizard having sight of that though. Perhaps we were correct about you after all.”

“So, how about if the piece of soul was removed but not actually ingested?”

Sapien considered for a moment.

When the Kiss is abandoned, the soul returns to the source. How does that help you?”

“The source!” exclaimed Hermione. “Wouldn’t it head back to Voldemort rather than back into the Horcrux?”

Well, true,” agreed Sapien. “However, are you sure that you want to face a Voldemort with more than one-seventh of his soul?”

“He’ll be mortal,” said Harry. “That’s better than the alternative.”

“Presumably Dumbledore didn’t think this approach would work, though,” said Hermione. “He was clever enough to consider this too, only as far as we know he didn’t try it.”

Dumbledore disliked us intently,” said Sapien.

“We heard,” said Harry dryly. “Fudge told us about the trial.”

Ah, yes. That event had several consequences. Perhaps the worst was how it finally drove any remaining sympathy away from Dumbledore. I very much regretted those events.”

“You attacked your accuser after the trial?”

It hardly matters now. Dumbledore was furious, but not because he had been personally embarrassed. Fudge does not know what really happened, of course. Our accuser was a man who we later learned had lost both his brother and his son to the kiss. He just wanted revenge and unfortunately for him the trial went against him.

He decided to launch a more direct offensive against us and was caught trying to break into the guard house on Azkaban island. He managed to kill several of our brothers before he was taken prisoner.”

“Why didn’t you send him to trial? The Wizengamot had been fair to you before, hadn’t it?”

Dumbledore had been fair to us. He over-ruled the Wizengamot, but he was losing his credibility. Besides, the prisoner was dead before anyone off the island knew anything.”

“What happened?”

He was dying from his injuries. We can tell these things. Unfortunately, a younger brother gave in to temptation and performed the kiss a moment before he died. We were in the wrong, I know. It must have seemed to Dumbledore that we were indeed mindless animals.”

“He was the most forgiving person I’ve ever met,” said Harry.

He could not forgive the other matter. You see, the Ministry saw their chance and offered us a deal in order to avoid another trial which we had no chance of winning. Under the terms of that agreement, we agreed to perform a certain service for the Minister, as well as continue our duties as Azkaban Guards.”

“What was it?”

“We agreed to terminate a number of people who were becoming inconvenient to the Ministry.”

“No,” breathed Harry. “No way.”

We felt we had no choice. The Ministry were threatening to eliminate us entirely. They had become rather good at killing Dementors, actually.”

“When did Dumbledore learn this?”

That would be when he interfered with a termination. I did not go myself, but our brothers had been guided to the location. There one kiss was performed on an adult as requested. We only found out afterwards that the victim was not the intended one. Somehow, Dumbledore had contrived to substitute the victim for the then Minister. This was all several years ago.”

Harry smiled coldly.

“How did you know it was Dumbledore?” asked Hermione.

He did us the honour of paying me a visit shortly after the inconclusive Ministry inquiry. He left no room for doubt.”

“Alright, can you help us?” said Harry. “Can you teach us to perform the equivalent of a kiss on a Horcrux?”

We will help you, but you must understand how dangerous this is. We speculate that Dumbledore would have thought of this solution, but dismissed it as too abhorrent. We Dementors place ourselves at mortal risk when we perform this kiss.”

“I’ll take that chance,” said Harry. “We’ve no other ideas right now.”

It won’t be just your risk, Harry Potter. One human alone could not cope with this; especially one in your condition.”

“My condition?”

Yes. Your scar shows you are marked. That failed curse has not yet run its course.”

“I could die just by performing this kiss?”

Your soul, Mr Potter, was fractured. The magic that connects you and Voldemort is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t believe you have seen its full effects yet.”

“So, how can we get past this?”

“Me, Harry,” said Hermione. “It has to be me.”

Indeed,” said Sapien. “I feel your pain, Miss Granger. Regrettably, your agony will serve to protect you both.”

“What?” said Harry in confusion.

We propose to give each of you half the secret, on the strict understanding that you will never, ever, reveal the missing part to each other.”

“There might be a problem, then,” said Harry. “Hermione, I’m sorry, but earlier I saw something when we were practising. I was concerned about you and wished I knew what it was that was upsetting you, but I promise I didn’t intend to perform Legilimency. I only saw a flash, but it was only the second time it’s ever happened. I’m sorry.”

Hermione gave him a half-smile and nodded.

“I thought as much.”

What did you feel?” demanded Sapien. “Did you feel her pain?”

“Um, no,” said Harry. “I mean, I did feel, but that was just my own concern I think.”

“Then there should not be too great a risk.”

“But, when I learn what it is, might I not imagine the same pain?”

“No,” said Hermione. “You couldn’t imagine it.”

A pang hit Harry as she said these words and he held out his hand to her. Sapien glided back and seemed to react to Harry’s thoughts.

You know, we believe he could indeed feel it,” he said, recovering and gliding back. “Voldemort really has no idea what powers are assembling against him.”

Harry frowned. Sapien sounded almost amused.

We suggest that Miss Granger should be shown first. She will draw out the soul and you, Mr Potter, will destroy it. We will teach you tomorrow night, and at midnight we’ll kill your first soul.”

“I’m not leaving Hermione alone,” said Harry at once.

“I’ll be okay, Harry,” said Hermione. “You can wait in the front room.”

No, he must not risk hearing or, more likely, feeling. Harry Potter, you must leave this house. We will not harm Miss Granger.”

“Alright,” said Harry. “There’s just one thing I’d like to get straight.”

Indeed?” said Sapien.

“Yes. What do you want? What do you want in exchange for your help?”

You have nothing to give. We mean, you will give all you can when the time comes. We cannot ask any more.”

“You want nothing?”

Well, if you insist. Provided the Dementor brotherhood acts honourably, will you argue publicly that we should be allowed to live in these islands, free of Ministry control? We assume you will wait until after the Voldemort crisis is over.”

“If you act honourably, I will,” promised Harry. “You have my word.”

Sapien bowed to him.

 






Next chapter:-
 
Ron the Spy
 
“Just so I know, are we continuing with the no magic policy? I only ask because you appear to have forgotten.”
 
Harry has promised to free the Dementors provided the brotherhood acts honourably once Voldemort is defeated. Hermione appears finally to be ready to tell Harry what happened, but Ron is discovered spying on the house.


Chapter 11: Ron the Spy
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Ron the Spy

 
Harry stepped out into the cold night air and wondered how he could get around into the Mrs Figg’s back garden where she and Moody were stationed.

“Harry?”

He turned to see Mrs Weasley hurrying towards him along the pavement.

“Hi, Mrs Weasley.”

“Come along, dear. We should get you back to your Aunt and Uncles house.”

“No,” said Harry firmly. “I’m not going back without Hermione.”

“How long will she be?”

“I’ve no idea. She’s having Dementor lessons.”

Mrs Weasley pulled a face making Harry smile.

“At least let’s keep moving. We can walk up down and still see if she’s coming out.”

“Okay,” said Harry and they walked slowly down the road.

“Harry, dear? Alastor asked me to be here tonight in case I could be of help. Is anything wrong?”

“Yes, but I don’t really know what it is. Hermione has been really upset by something, only she won’t tell me what it is.”

“Tonks may know,” said Mrs Weasley. “Professor McGonagall assigned her to look after Hermione. In fact, she only wanted Tonks to keep an eye on her.”

Harry looked around and saw Hermione emerge from Mrs Figg’s house.

“That was quick,” he said.

“I can see movement further up the street, Harry. You go to Hermione and I’ll head whoever it is off.”

“Okay. Thanks, Mrs Weasley. Bye.”

Harry half ran to meet Hermione.

“Okay?” he asked tentatively. Unfortunately, Hermione seemed incapable of speech.

He took her hand and said, “Let’s get back.”

*

Harry couldn’t quite understand how it had become so late. It had been early evening when they had left to visit Mrs Figg’s house; yet it was late at night when they arrived back again. It seemed to him that they had spent very little time in the company of Sapien.

This was the least of his concerns, however. Hermione was now shaking violently.

He guided her into the kitchen and tried to get her safely seated. It was some time before he was able to fill the kettle for a hot drink.

Suddenly Hermione said, “I need some air.”

She was up and at the back door before he had a chance to object. Harry hurried after her, but stopped a couple of feet from where she stood in the middle of the lawn.

Hermione turned, her eyes brimming with tears and mouthed some words silently.

Harry stepped forward at once and she threw herself at him, gripping him tightly and sobbing uncontrollably into his chest.

All he could do was hold her as she tried to stifle the noise of her cries. There were words somewhere in there too, but he couldn’t make out the meaning of any of them.

All he could do was bow his head down and hold her.

Harry had no sense of the time that passed while they stood together, but eventually he felt Hermione breathe in deeply and then she loosened her hold.

Harry did not remove his arms but whispered, “That was a while coming.”

Hermione nodded against him.

“Do you want to talk tonight?”

She shook her head.

“Tomorrow, then?”

She replied with a nod.

*

At sunset, Harry stepped out into the rear garden having spent all day with Hermione. He felt completely drained, but knew this was nothing compared to how Hermione was feeling.

“Sapien?” he said to the shadows.

Yes, Harry Potter?” said the voice in his head.

“I was wondering,” said Harry.

You would like to postpone our appointment? We understand. We’ve been feeling your emotions all day.”

“Yes. Hermione is exhausted. She’s sleeping now and I’d rather not disturb her.”

Until tomorrow night, then?”

“Thank you, Sapien.”

Harry turned to go back inside when he heard the Dementor whisper, “It seems that not only Dementors are drawn to keep a vigil here.”

“What was that?” asked Harry, turning and drawing his wand in one swift movement.

“Come out!” he demanded, pointing his wand at one of the evergreen bushes at the end of the garden. “I can see you moving.”

Harry was shocked to see Ron’s head emerge as he stood up. He was looking thoroughly embarrassed, but by the time he joined Harry, he was looking angry and defiant.

“Come inside,” said Harry, pocketing his wand.

“No thanks,” said Ron abruptly.

“What were you doing out here anyway?”

“I needed to see for myself. Good job too!”

“See what?”

“What? How about seeing you and Hermione? Seeing her spend the entire day no more than two feet away from you, and with you putting your hands all over her at the slightest excuse.”

“Ron, that’s just not true.”

“I saw you, Harry! With my own eyes! I’m sorry, but you can’t lie your way out of it this time.”

“Well,” said Harry with false calmness, “if you were watching then you’d have seen that all I did was offer her my arms occasionally.”

“You were standing in the middle of this lawn holding hands for over an hour this morning.”

“How long have you been out here?” asked Harry, noticing Ron’s face looked very sun-burned.

“Long enough!”

“If you’re hungry, I’ll make you something to eat. How about cheese on toast?”

“Y- No!”

Harry smiled and immediately knew it was the wrong thing to do.

“I trusted you Harry!”

“Spying from those bushes is hardly a mark of trust, Ron.”

“You are supposed to be my best friend. What kind of a person steals his best friend’s girlfriend?”

“Well, first of all I haven’t stolen anyone’s girlfriend. All I’ve done is comfort a friend in need.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Ron, if you feel like crying I’m here for you. No hand-holding though. Apparently it’s the kind of thing that can upset a best friend and I really wouldn’t want to upset my other best friend.”

Ron threw a fist at his face which he easily dodged, but when he straightened up Ron was pointing his wand at him.

“STOP!”

Ron instinctively pointed his wand at Hermione as she hurried out of the rear door. At this Harry drew his wand and Ron immediately pointed his back at Harry.

“Put those things away!” demanded Hermione. “Now!”

They lowered their wands slowly.

“Come inside, both of you,” she said sounding very cross. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your voices could be heard three streets away.”

They followed her inside.

“Harry, make us some drinks,” she ordered abruptly. “Ron, sit down. You’re all burned up.”

“It’s nothing,” he said, trying to wave her away.

“Don’t be silly,” said Hermione, pointing his wand at his face. “Stay still for a moment.”

A white mist emerged from the end of her wand and bathed Ron’s face. A moment later he was wet but no longer burned.

“Thanks,” he said sheepishly, touching his face.

Harry placed three steaming mugs of hot chocolate on the table and sat down.

“Ron, how come you managed to evade the Order? They are supposed to be on guard.”

“I told them Harry said I should practise stealth techniques. Moody was quite enthusiastic, actually. He even offered me his invisibility cloak.”

Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Well, I’m glad you are finally here, Ron,” said Hermione.

“Yeah? It didn’t look like that to me,” he replied nastily.

“That will do,” said Harry.

“Thank you, Harry,” said Hermione pointedly. “As a matter of fact, I was very glad that I had one friend to comfort me. It would have been nice to have both of my best friends though.”

Hermione brought her mug to her lips in two hands. Harry watched as the cup trembled slightly, telling him she wasn’t quite as recovered as she first seemed. She took a quick fortifying sip of her drink and then carefully placed her mug down.

“Ron, I owe you an apology,” she began, still looking down at her drink. “I’m afraid something happened recently that greatly upset me. I didn’t feel that I could cope with anyone else knowing just yet. Harry has been badgering me to tell him what it was for some time. Well,” she added with a smile to Harry, “he was until he realised how serious it might be.

“I only decided today that I was definitely going to tell him; but it was only then that I realised just how upset I was. I’d just bottled everything up, you see? After a while it seemed easiest to deny that anything was wrong. I feel just terrible about not telling you both the truth.”

As interested as he was in hearing what Hermione wanted to say, at this moment Harry was watching Ron very carefully. It seemed to him that although Hermione was pouring her heart out, he was getting an altogether different impression.

“I felt I had to avoid the wedding for the same reason. I couldn’t bare the idea of so many people asking how I was and wanting to hear that everything was fine.”

Ron was looking down, his expression oddly blank. He hadn’t touched his drink and was toying with his wand.

“Hermione,” he said interrupting her. “I only need to hear one thing. I’ll forgive you, I promise. I just need to hear you admit what happened between you and hear you apologise.”

Hermione just stared at him open mouthed.

“Well?” he demanded angrily, an instant before Harry’s red stunner hit him square on the chest sending him flying.

*

Harry couldn’t ever remember seeing Hermione that angry with anyone before. Only her wish not to disturb Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had prevented her yelling herself hoarse.

“You heard him. Are you seriously telling me he didn’t have it coming after demanding you apologise?”

“It’s not up to you, Harry. You’ve no right to interfere.”

“Hermione, he wasn’t even listening to you.”

“So? Ron hardly ever listens, does he?”

“Look, how about if I have a word with him?”

“No, Harry, I think you’ve helped enough.”

“But, Hermione.”

“I absolutely forbid it, Harry. Give me your word that you won’t tell him anything.”

Harry scowled for a moment, but in the end said, “Okay. You’re making a mistake, but I promise. Besides, there’s not much I can tell him is there?”

“Just so I know, are we continuing with the no magic policy?”

“Yes, of course,” replied Harry, still nettled.

“I only ask because you appear to have forgotten.”

“You can talk!” he spat angrily.

“Well, one more lapse won’t hurt,” said Hermione, pointing her wand down at the still unconscious Ron.

Ennervate!”

Ron stirred at once but it was a moment or two before he came to himself.

“Up you get, Ron,” Hermione said kindly, helping him to his feet. He swayed slightly with a confused look on his face until he saw Harry.

Ron immediately looked around for his wand, but Hermione had it.

“I think we’ve had enough magic for this evening,” said Hermione firmly. “Harry, please remember to lock up. The back door is still unbolted. You can sleep downstairs tonight. The couch should be quite comfortable.”

Hermione stepped towards the door.

“Ron, come upstairs with me.”

“What?” said Harry and Ron in unison.

“You can sleep in Harry’s room tonight, but I want a private word with you before you turn in. Goodnight, Harry.”

The coldness in her tone towards him seemed to cut through Harry.

He felt angrier than he could remember, and yet at the same time he was so ashamed. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking badly, much like he felt inside.

He listened intently as the two of them quietly ascended the stairs. There were a couple of muffled words exchanged followed by the distinctive click of the guest bedroom door closing shut.

Harry stood rooted to the spot, waiting for a sound he never heard. He had expected to hear his own bedroom door being closed.

As the seconds stretched into minutes, Harry realised with a shock that it wouldn’t need to close it the room wasn’t being used.

In a daze he bolted the back door again and turned the lights out. Before he knew it he was sitting on the living room couch, still listening intently. All he could hear was Uncle Vernon’s familiar snoring.

Harry shivered. He could do with a blanket, but he certainly wasn’t going to go upstairs to the airing cupboard.

He lay back and stretched out, his legs overhanging the couch arm.

Harry knew he had been a fool to himself. Of course he had been there for Hermione as a friend. All she had wanted was comfort and understanding. She had stood still for an hour, saying nothing, but never once letting his hands go. He supposed she just needed to know he was there.

Still, a small part of his mind had to admit, he had begun to imagine that there might have been something more.

He would never have dreamt of saying anything, but he had enjoyed the fantasy while it lasted.

Harry turned over, wondering if Hermione would mind him summoning a blanket from upstairs.

He swore quietly to the room.

Thinking about Hermione, blankets and upstairs wasn’t helping.

*

Harry woke early even though he had slept for barely two hours. The first thing he did was kick over the neatly folded pile of blankets with a pillow on top that was beside him.

He groaned, realising the Hermione must have sent them for him last night. Of course, he had been too annoyed to put the lights on to see them.

Harry had hoped that the dawn would bring an ease to some of the pain he had felt the previous night. Unfortunately, he had been a little too optimistic in this regard.

Deciding he needed to get out of the house for a while, he washed quickly at the kitchen sink and resolved to go out on one of his longer circular walks. It seemed ages since he’d been out walking.

A long walk would also give him a little longer to practise how he was going to react around Ron and Hermione.

He crept to the front door and quietly slid the bolts. Harry turned the latch and opened the door. He immediately breathed in the calming fresh morning air.

“Harry?”

It was Hermione.

Harry turned around and closed the door again.

“You going out?”

“I was just going for a walk,” he replied, aware that she was coming down the stairs but somehow quite unable to look her in the face.

“I was hoping we could talk, Harry,” she said quietly.

There was no trace of anger or annoyance in her voice, but very little registered with Harry as she rounded the newel and made for the kitchen.

Harry almost opened the front door again and ran. Almost.

He walked into the kitchen. Hermione was filling the kettle and had already taken two mugs out of the cupboard.

Harry sat down and studied the patterns in the Formica tabletop.

“Thanks for the blankets.”

“That’s alright. I was worried after that you might not find them.”

“I found them this morning.”

Hermione snorted, making Harry look up at her. He looked down almost at once, her features etched in his mind as he grew more embarrassed. Her hair was wild and her smiling face looked fresher and more relaxed than he remembered seeing for months.

Harry redoubled is attentions on the tabletop patterns, determined not to risk another peek into Hermione’s mind. He even shuddered at the possibility of this.

Hermione placed his tea down and sat opposite.

“If I don’t know better,” she said mischievously, making Harry tense. Just for something to do, he reached out and slid his drink towards him.

Harry considered lifting the mug, but right then he wasn’t sure if he could quite co-ordinate himself. Indeed, he doubted he had the strength to even lift it.

“You know? Moody is going to laugh himself silly when he hears. Tonks said he suspected Ron had grounds to be jealous. When he finds out there are two of you, goodness know what he’ll say.”

“This isn’t helping, Hermione. And it isn’t true,” he added as an afterthought.

She reached out to him but Harry pulled back.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry, more forcefully than he intended. “I think I’ll go for that walk now.”

“Harry, we need to talk.”

“It’s none of my business.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“I just need time, Hermione. If you’ve made things up with Ron, then great. I’m pleased for you, even if I don’t sound it. I suppose I just never seriously considered.”

Harry stopped, feeling his face redden further.

“That’s hardly fair to Ron, is it?”

“No? Well, maybe it isn’t. It’s still true, though. Don’t worry, Hermione. I’m not about to interfere or cause friction.”

“I wanted to explain, Harry.”

“Please, Hermione. Not now. I can’t hear this now.”

“You’re not listening at all, are you?”

“No. All I’m asking for is a little time. Give me a chance to get used to the idea first.”

“What if that idea isn’t what you fear it is?”

“I allowed myself to care. I felt your pain more acutely than I’ve ever felt before. I know I’m being selfish, but please try to understand.”

Understand? Harry, I get the impression that you intend to shift our friendship from the genuinely care category to the pretend to care one.”

“No,” he said whilst at the same time thinking she was half right. “That isn’t fair.”

Hermione smiled and seemed about to agree but he continued, quite determined to have his say no matter what it cost him.

“There couldn’t be any pretence about how much your friendship has meant to me. Your being here has meant more to me than I can say. Even through your pain, you brought me brightness and hope. I was wrong to mistake my happiness for something more in you. I’m sorry for that.”

Hermione didn’t respond at once. He could only imagine the expression on her face because he just couldn’t look up.

“Well, before you exchange all your feelings for pretend ones, perhaps you wouldn’t mind listening to one thing?”

Harry didn’t answer.

“I’ll say this only once, Harry. I’ll never mention it again unless you choose to raise the subject with me,” she began.

“For as long as I’ve known you properly, Harry, I’ve realised that you are an emotive person. I’m not saying you can’t think or work things out, but the over-riding factor in any decision you make is always what you feel. Call it instinct, if you like, but at the end of the day it is your emotions that motivate and drive you.

“It is also fairly obvious that your complete failure to learn Occlumency is a direct consequence of this. You can’t hide or deny your emotions because they are too important to you.”

Hermione took a deep shuddering breath.

“After everything that happened, Harry, I just wanted to escape. I made Tonks and Professor McGonagall hide the truth. I told them I just needed time to come to terms with my feelings. The truth was, of course, that coming here gave me an opportunity to pretend nothing was wrong.

“It didn’t work; as they told me it wouldn’t. They said you were the best person to confide in. I think that’s why they were so relieved I agreed to come here. You knew straight away, didn’t you? Not like poor Ron. I’ve never seen him so embarrassed as when I finally got him to listen.”

“He knows, then?” asked Harry flatly.

“Yes,” Hermione said in barely a whisper. “But I wanted you to know something. I was pretty much out of it all day yesterday, absorbed in myself.”

Harry shook his head and was about to protest when Hermione held up her hand.

“It can’t have been easy for you, Harry; just standing or sitting around for hours with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but you were just what I needed. I’ll be stronger now, and I won’t ever forget what a friend you have been. I honestly don’t think truly I appreciated how special you are to me before now. In fact, it almost seemed like a betrayal telling Ron before you.”

Harry gave half a shrug, still staring intently at the tabletop but started as he felt a hand rest gently on his shoulder. Hermione was at his side, although he hadn’t noticed her getting up.

“Harry, listen. I-,” she began when the sound of loud rattling and banging came from upstairs.

“What’s that?” asked Harry, looking up.

“It sounds like Ron,” said Hermione, turning and heading for the door. “I locked the bedroom door so we wouldn’t be disturbed while we talked. I’d better go and let him out before he wakes the entire house.”

Uncle Vernon began yelling right on queue.

Harry sighed and followed her as far as the front door. With a quick look to see Hermione hurrying upstairs, he opened the door and went out into the cool morning air.

*

Harry Potter,” said a familiar disembodied voice.

“Oh. Hi, Sapien,” Harry replied without looking up. “I assumed you’d prefer it if I waited until dark before calling you.”

Well, you could see us but otherwise the darkness isn’t important.”

Harry nodded and looked around.

“Where are you?”

We are sitting next to you on this fallen tree trunk.”

“So close? I don’t feel cold or anything.”

That is because you are not afraid. Well, not afraid of any thing. Of course, you do fear. You’re angry with yourself for allowing yourself to-.”

“Yeah, thanks, Sapien,” said Harry, cutting across him. “What time do you want to meet tonight?”

Time?”

“Yes. The quicker I can stop looking like I’m talking to myself in public places the better.”

We are quite concealed here, Harry Potter. We are afraid most of the other people haven’t enjoyed their day at the park. They seem to have left early.

Harry snorted and said, “Well, feeling strangely depressed and cold probably had some part to play.”

Anyway, we have come here to teach you.”

“But how will I see what to do?”

You are the Wizard, Harry Potter. We cannot demonstrate because we cannot perform magic.”

“Oh, right. You’re going to describe what I need to do?”

Indeed. Now, we suggest you stand.”

Harry stood.

Calm your emotions,” directed Sapien.

“That has never been easy for me.”

We are not asking you to stop feeling. All we want is for you to concentrate on the task in hand. You must be singularly determined.”

“Alright, Sapien. Tell me what to do.”

You need to understand a little of the nature of the human soul. You must learn to recognise the particular feel of a unique and wonderful thing. The soul grows in a lifetime, although that life span may be short or long. Only we Dementors enjoy the privilege of actually feeling that life essence.

You must learn to recognise the soul that is breaking lose from its mortal coil. This is something that should only happen when death is about to take someone.”

Harry nodded, listening intently now.

We know you respect life, Harry Potter. Even so, we must warn you that should you take or damage a living soul from a sentient life-form that is not dying is a terrible crime against nature. The Brotherhood of Dementors would avenge that soul without mercy.”

“So, why aren’t you all attacking the Death Eaters then? How many killings have they been responsible for?”

This is hardly the same thing.”

“I know,” admitted Harry. “In nature, life comes to an end all the time, with or without Voldemort.”

Indeed. We cannot stress enough that the soul must be treated with the utmost respect. Done correctly, the removal should be painless. Dementors perform the Kiss with love, not hate, to break the final ties.”

“I remember.”

“Very well. Firstly, listen to the sound the leaves are making in the trees.”

“Er, okay,” said Harry doubtfully.

Close your eyes if that makes it easier. There are thousands leaves. As the wind blows, it makes individual leaves rub together. The sound is tiny, but when they all rustle the sound is quite distinctive.

As a Dementor, we are blind. We cannot see the many souls around us, but they sing to us just as the leaves do to you.

If you listen carefully, every now and again a sound will reach you that stands out from the rest. Your mind will direct you to look in the right direction, even though you may not be sure that you even heard something.”

Harry nodded slowly, his eyes still quite shut. Then the trees slowly quietened down until they were quite silent.

Harry opened his eyes. The trees were fading to be replaced with thousands of shimmering spots of light on the horizon. He also seemed to be floating a few feet above the ground. They were surrounded by darkness now, making the lights stand-out like stars. Some were bright while others were hardly visible at all. Most were still or moving very slowly.

Look ahead. Pick one of the moving lights and concentrate. Bring it into your field of perception.”

Harry spotted one of the quicker moving lights. He guessed it was someone driving along the road that ran past the park. The road would normally be concealed from view by the trees.

Forget your reality for a moment. Concentrate on the soul, not the vehicle or the road or the trees. They are not important.”

As Harry concentrated, the other stars seemed to grow fainter while the bright star slowed and came closer.

Good. Remember this and then come back.”

Harry blinked in the bright daylight and sat down again. It had been a very strange feeling to be dragged back to the fallen trunk in the middle of the park.

“We were moving, weren’t we? We got closer to him, but it felt like I was pulling him towards me.”

That is correct, Harry Potter. Now, do you recall what he looked like?”

“Well, he looked just like a bright spot of light.”

Yes. He was healthy and happy. It would be a terrible thing for such a soul to be kissed.”

“Okay. I’m only interested in destroying one soul, though. What does Voldemort’s soul look like?”

We are blind, Harry Potter. We cannot say what his soul looks like. What you have just seen is quite unlike what we Dementors sense.”

“Right. I’m sorry, Sapien. I didn’t think.”

It is our nature to be blind. The lack of sight means nothing to a Dementor. He has lost nothing, so please do not worry about offending us.”

“I’m still sorry,” said Harry.

Tonight you will destroy a soul that your friend will summon. It will not be Voldemort, however.”

“Hang on,” said Harry slowly. “I’m not about to kill anyone apart from Voldemort.”

The Kiss does not kill,” Sapien reminded him.

“As good as,” retorted Harry. “What’s the point in living without a soul? I will not do it.”

Your young friend didn’t agree either,” said Sapien sounding a little amused. “We will only say to you, as we did her, that the intended victim has robbed more people of productive lives than either of you could imagine. If you saw a catalogue of their crimes, you would unhesitatingly brand them evil.”

“Who is it?” asked Harry.

Merely a subject for you to practise on,” replied Sapien.

“That’s not good enough.”

No harm will come to them, we assure you. In fact, they are quite looking forward to it.”

“No way!”

Oh, yes. You see he will forget his crimes the moment his soul is destroyed. He will no longer be burdened by his conscience. He will be free and innocent once more. He will be given another chance to begin again.”

“Begin again?”

Yes, indeed. You see, the Ministry of Magic rarely allows a victim of a Dementor’s Kiss to re-enter society. However, they can and do begin their lives again. As their demons are excised, the motive for criminal or antisocial behaviour is usually gone.”

“Is that always true?”

No. Where the individual returns to their previous influences, they are often tempted to fall into old habits.”

Harry frowned.

Your friend said she could see the advantages. If a person forgets they performed an act of evil and also forgot their motive, could they not go on to lead productive lives?”

“Voldemort hasn’t exactly performed an act of evil, has he?”

We don’t think she quite believed Voldemort himself could be redeemed. Remember, the kiss is always reserved as the last resort.”

“So, what’s his name and what did he do?”

You are not his judge, Harry Potter. You are merely the executioner of his past life. He will come to you willingly at midnight. You will then either do it or not; but it would be a kindness to allow him to forget.”

“Hermione will never agree,” said Harry.

That is the least of your worries where she is concerned, Harry Potter.”

“Hey, stop reading my mind! That’s private!”

Do not be ashamed of your feelings for her. They are honest and true. She loves-”

“I’m warning you, Sapien,” said Harry angrily, getting up from the tree trunk and storming out of the clearing. “I’ll call you at midnight,” he shouted over his shoulder.

*

Harry’s anger with Sapien lasted him almost all the way home to Privet Drive. The Dementor had seen plainly the very thing Harry was willing himself to deny.

He would just have to try harder.

Harry turned out of the alley-way almost walked straight into Ron.

“Harry! Where have you been?”

“Erm, I just went for a walk.”

“All day?”

“Sure. I just needed to think. How’s Hermione?”

“Worried about you, mainly. Actually, that’s why I’m out here. I was hoping we could have a talk.”

Harry hesitated before nodding, knowing he had little choice. He turned and Ron followed him back down the short alley.

“I couldn’t believe she didn’t tell me,” Ron began presently. “I mean, I can understand why she didn’t tell you, Harry. She was afraid you’d go off on some half-baked rescue mission. Actually, maybe that should be revenge mission since it sounds like there is anyone left alive to rescue.”

Harry still had no idea what it was that Hermione had suffered, but he was by now expecting something very bad. He was also determined not to hear whatever it was from Ron.

“I could,” said Harry darkly. “I meant, that’s not entirely why she didn’t say anything. I did almost the same thing when Sirius was killed. I didn’t tell the Dursleys so they assumed he was still alive. Uncle Vernon still liked to make the odd dig at him, but there were times when I was glad to pretend Sirius was still with me.”

“Oh,” said Ron.

“It didn’t last long, actually. By the time Dumbledore came to collect me, I’d accepted what had happened.”

“I’ve apologised to Hermione,” said Ron awkwardly. “I’d like to apologise to you too, Harry.”

“There’s no need.”

“She said I should listen more in future,” Ron said with a smile.

“That sounds like Hermione.”

“She also mentioned something about you not listening to her properly either.”

Harry shrugged and they turned into the adjacent avenue.

“Last night, when we went upstairs,” began Ron.

Harry realised there was something else he didn’t want to hear from Ron; or anyone.

“Ron, I really don’t want to hear this. If you must know, Hermione tried to tell me as well this morning. I didn’t listen to her then and I’m not listening to you now. Do me a personal favour and spare me the sordid details, will you?”

“Harry, I wasn’t trying to boast or anything,” protested Ron, matching Harry’s quickening pace. “Do we have to walk this fast?”

“Not if you change the subject,” said Harry firmly.

“Okay, okay,” said Ron.

Harry relented and slowed down.

“Hermione said you think you’ve figured out a way to destroy the Horcruxes.”

“Yes. We’ll know tonight if it might work.”

“You know how then? Hermione said you’d need to be taught the Dementor’s secret tonight.”

“No, I learned that this afternoon,” said Harry, thinking back to the moment he’d seen that soul driving past the park. He’d felt that life and seemed to know instinctively how to destroy it.

“Really? How’s it done?”

“I gave my word not to say, Ron. So did Hermione about the part she needs to do.”

Ron frowned slightly.

“Ron, I know it sounds like I’m cutting you out, but it really isn’t like that. This really is a terrible thing we’re learning to do. Just imagine, reducing a person so they are worse than dead.”

“If it works it will be worth it.”

“If it works, it will mean we’ll have to put all our efforts into finding the hidden Horcruxes,” said Harry.

Then he made a decision. As angry as he felt with Ron at that moment, he knew he needed Ron’s help. Harry needed to put their differences aside for the greater good.

It was easier than Harry felt it should have been, but it was like slipping off a heavy overcoat. Perhaps it was Sapien’s influence, but Harry’s emotions calmed and evaporated leaving a colder, less emotional Harry.

“If you are still with me, I’d like you to take charge of something.”

“Of course I’m still with you! What do you want me to do?”

“I see it like this,” began Harry. “Hermione will do most of the research for us. She’ll need books and goodness knows what. I want you to do two things. First, you will be in charge of getting whatever she needs. Of course, I’ll fetch and carry; but you’ll act as banker and buyer. You’ll control the finances. Secondly, I want you to help track down whatever items she shortlists as potential Horcruxes.”

“Why me, Harry?”

“Well, Voldemort must not find out what we’re really doing. While you are getting what we need, I’ll be making sure that I’m in the news for any other purpose. I’m going to start a small war, Ron. It will be a war that cannot stand a hope of succeeding, but it should throw Voldemort of your scent.”

“That’s mad, Harry.”

“Insane,” agreed Harry. “I’m still going to destroy the Horcruxes, of course. I also expect we’ll have to fight to get hold of some of them, but as far as possible I want you to buy rather than us having to steal them. That way Voldemort won’t know what we are doing.”

“How will we afford it?”

“We’ll use the gold in my vault of course.”

“There isn’t enough gold, surely.”

“Don’t forget Sirius left me his gold too. The Black family was one of the richest in the Wizarding world.”

“Pity Sirius didn’t have a chance to enjoy it. He would have wanted you to have that money, Harry. It was for your future, not some mad scheme.”

“If we succeed, Sirius’ money and the money my parents left me will have been used for all our benefits, Ron. I won’t argue with you on this. My mind is made up. All I need is to hear you say yes.”

Ron sighed.

“Okay, Harry. Of course, I’ll help in any way I can.”

“Good. When we get the chance we’ll go to Gringotts and give you authorisation to withdraw cash on my behalf.”

“I wonder if Hermione knows about accountancy,” mused Ron.

Harry snorted.

“Don’t worry about the book-keeping, Ron. Just take what you need. I’m more concerned about your safety than the gold. You’ll be selling as much as you buy, I expect. We won’t need to keep artefacts we know aren’t Horcruxes.”

“Sure, but information won’t have a resale value.”

“You’ll just have to learn how to haggle, I suppose.”

“Hey! Remember who my brothers are? It’s in the blood, Harry.”

Harry smiled and nodded.

“You may find yourself in situations that might be considered beyond the law,” Harry reminded him.

“Let’s just not tell Hermione about that and then take it by ear,” suggested Ron.

“Good idea,” agreed Harry.

“Harry,” said Ron. “About Hermione.”

Harry slumped inside. He had hoped they would be past this.

“Harry, I said I was sorry and I am. What I didn’t say was that I’m still pretty mad at you. I know Hermione was upset and you were there for her, but I didn’t see just that. If Hermione wants to insist that nothing was going on; well, okay. I don’t think I was entirely wrong, though.”

Harry stopped and turned to face Ron.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to say, even at the moment he started speaking.

“Nothing actually happened, Ron.”

“I know. I saw, remember? I’m not taking about what happened.”

“Then you have absolutely nothing to complain about, Ron.”

“No, I suppose I don’t,” agreed Ron, who seemed to be waiting for more from Harry.

Harry was tempted to say a little more, but knew it would lead to still more awkward questions. Even an admission that for the few hours he’d remained so close to Hermione he’d been able to exclude almost every other fear he’d had. Her well-being had become the only thing he had any concern over.

“We should be getting back,” said Harry uncomfortably, who was quite determined not to give any assurances of his future conduct.

He moved off, but he was a few steps away before Ron hurried to catch him up.

“I knew she was wrong,” said Ron brightly as he matched Harry’s stride.

“Sorry?”

“Hermione. She said I shouldn’t say anything. She seemed to think you might hex me or something.”

“Not out here in broad daylight, Ron,” said Harry dryly. “There’s a nice dark alleyway we’ll need to cut through up ahead, though.”





 
 
Next chapter:-

Taken
 
“So, what happened to him?”
 
Ron returns to the Burrow, but not before letting something slip to Harry. Back at Privet Drive, Hermione is struggling to clear up after Ron's attempt at making a birthday cake for Harry. Hermione breaks down and finally tells Harry what happened.


Chapter 12: Taken
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Taken


Harry looked at his watch again, confirming what he knew already; it was still too early to meet with Sapien.

“If you fancy getting away from this place, I’m sure Mum would be glad to see you for dinner at the Burrow,” said Ron from beside him as they walked along. “There’s loads of food left over.”

“No,” said Harry absently. “We need to meet the Dementor this evening.”

“Oh, right. I thought you could come back for that.”

“I’d rather not chance being late, especially since we put him off last night. Tell her I’d have liked to come, though?”

“Sure. Looks like I’ll have to face her alone then.”

“Sorry?”

“Well, Mum said I had to go back and make things up with Ginny. She says I’m not leaving school early unless I do.”

Harry smiled and nodded.

“She has a point,” said Harry. “I expect she’s just afraid of you turning into another Percy.”

“Excuse me, but I’m hardly as bad as that prat of a brother of mine!”

“You need your family, Ron. No matter what happens, you need to stick together.”

“Yeah, I know.”

They emerged from the same alley that Harry and Mrs Weasley had the evening before and turned towards Mrs Figg’s house.

“So, do you have any messages for me to take back?” asked Ron. “Hermione said Hedwig has been gone for a couple of days. I only ask because I know Mum wrote and told you all about the wedding.”

“I haven’t even opened her letter yet,” admitted Harry. “Did the wedding go okay?”

“Yes, it was fine.”

“Did Lupin turn up?” asked Harry. “Your Mum was worried about him, that’s all.”

“Yes, but he didn’t stay long, obviously. Tonks let him stay for the ceremony but took him back before the reception.”

Harry slowed and came to a halt. Ron continued forward a couple of steps but then stopped.

“What is it, Harry?”

“Why?” asked Harry coldly. “Why is it obvious he didn’t stay long?”

Ron swore under his breath.

“Erm,” said Ron, now shifting nervously from foot to foot and edging towards Mrs Figg’s house.

Harry waited, all the while fighting to control his anger.

“I shouldn’t have said,” began Ron. “You’re not supposed-”

“Clearly,” agreed Harry, cutting across him. “So, what happened to him?”

“He’s fine, Harry. Really.”

“Tell me,” demanded Harry.

“No, I can’t. I promised.”

“Haven’t you already broken that promise?”

“No, not entirely,” said Ron defensively, pushing up his sleeve to read a wrist-watch that wasn’t there.

“I really should be going, Harry,” he said, walking on towards his sanctuary at Mrs Figg’s. “I’m supposed to check in with Arrabella Figg and Floo home from there.”

Harry followed, wishing they had spoken earlier when Ron would have had no idea how to get back to Mrs Figg’s house on foot by himself.

Ron quickened his pace until they arrived, clearly very keen not to have a chance to be questioned further.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” said Ron, without looking at him. “I really didn’t mean to let anything slip.”

Ron pressed the doorbell.

*

Harry closed the front door and was about to go up to his bedroom to retrieve Mrs Weasley’s letter when he heard a noise coming from the kitchen. Harry had wondered if her letter might shed some light on Lupin’s condition.

A rather strange smell reached his nose. It was like a pungent combination of tar and fried tomatoes.

Curious, Harry walked past the stairs and opened the door. Harry wafted away the thick greenish smoke that hung in the air.

“Hermione?”

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, it’s you, Harry. I was afraid your Aunt had come back early.”

The top of Hermione’s head bobbed up from the other side of the kitchen table as Harry walked further into the room.

“She’s going to have a fit,” noted Harry.

“Tell me about it,” said Hermione angrily, refolding a rag she was using to clean the floor with. “Ron, close the door after you. I don’t want the smell of all this to get into the rest of the house.”

Harry leaned back and pushed the door closed, observing that the entire back of the door, like most of the kitchen units, walls, ceiling and floor was caked in a foul smelling substance that had the consistency of thick treacle.

“Where’s Ron?” asked Hermione in surprise.

“He’s gone back to the Burrow,” said Harry. “He was in a hurry to leave actually, but at the time I assumed that was because of something I said.”

“What?” said Hermione, suddenly looking aghast. “Typical!”

“Um, so what happened here?”

“Ron decided it would be a nice surprise if he made you a birthday cake for tomorrow.”

Harry nodded and said, “Well that explains the baked beans and cake mix, but it doesn’t quite explain what they are doing all over the ceiling.”

Harry ventured another small step. The mixture had the curious property of being incredibly slippery underfoot until his weight was shifted. Then it became like glue and it became an effort to lift his feet off the floor.

“Ron thought he would hurry things along using a little magic. I’ve no idea what he did really, but nothing your Aunt has in the cupboard seems to shift this stuff. I swear I caught a bit of slime trying to get out from my bucket again.”

Hermione slipped as she tried to get up and groaned as she landed in yet more mess.

Harry carefully picked his way over, trying to avoid some of the sloppier patches and offered his hand to help pull her up.

“You’ll get as messed up as me,” warned Hermione.

“Come on,” said Harry.

Hermione reached up but pulled back at the last moment.

“Harry? What is it?”

“Here,” he said, wondering how she had read his mood so easily. “Let me help you up.”

“What did you say to Ron, Harry?”

Harry sighed and straightened up.

“I asked him why Lupin had to leave early when he attended the wedding.”

Hermione stared up at him for a long moment, apparently lost for words. Harry stared back, feeling mounting anger that she had kept so much from him.

“Harry, I,” was all she managed to say.

Hermione’s cheeks reddened and tears began to form in her eyes.

Harry withdrew his wand, choosing not to question why he felt so unaffected by Hermione’s obvious anguish.

Ron’s culinary creation resisted Harry’s first try to scurgify it away but his second more determined attempt was successful in vanishing the foul mixture. With another flick of his wand, Harry opened the windows and door wide and fresh air blew in, banishing the worst of the appalling smells.

The various pots and pans heaped into the sink were soon gleaming and flying back to their usual storage places and the empty jars, cans and packets that were strewn around were vanished.

Finally Harry looked down.

Hermione was still sitting on the floor, sitting in a neat circle of the last remaining cake mixture.

“Get up and I’ll finish,” Harry directed.

Hermione sniffed but shook her head.

Harry was in no mood to be patient and understanding with her now.

Levicorpus!”

Hermione was picked up bodily and hung limply like a pathetic rag doll while Harry cleaned first the floor and then her clothes.

Hermione began to cry loudly, attempting to say, “No, leave me. I deserve it.”

“How did you get so much in your hair?” asked Harry as he slowly rotated her, vanishing the last of the mess. Finally he was finished and lowered her gently back down to the floor.

When it became clear that Hermione was just going to collapse down in a heap again, Harry kept her a few inches off the ground and levitated her out of the kitchen.

“I think we should have a quiet chat now,” Harry said gently, although Hermione flinched as if he had berated her.

Hermione nodded, her eyes quite closed.

“Living room or upstairs,” said Harry to himself. “Upstairs, I think.”

Harry released Hermione next to her bed, guiding her down and making sure she was safely propped against the mattress.

Hermione reached out and supported herself.

“I’m just going to check and see if Hedwig is back, okay?” said Harry. “Do you need anything?”

Hermione shook her head no.

“I won’t be a moment,” he promised, quickly returning to his bedroom.

As he feared, Hedwig had still not returned. He was beginning to grow a little worried about her, since he didn’t usually stay away on hunting trips this long. Harry had wondered if Pig had been annoying her, but if anything the tiny owl’s behaviour had improved immeasurably over the last few days.

Harry went over to his desk and picked up his unopened letter from Mrs Weasley. This had been the real reason he had left Hermione.

He tore the letter open and began to read.

Dear Harry,

I just wanted to write and tell you the wonderful news before I finally turn in. You know, I had no idea when I left you the other night that I’d be whisked away to the wedding. Yes! It’s finally taken place.

The ceremony was simply wonderful. I cried through the entire thing, of course, and-”

Harry skipped ahead and quickly scanned through the text looking for any mention of Lupin.

It was rather a shame that Tonks took Remus away early, especially as he looked like he could do with feeding up. He paid me such a nice compliment about my hat too. Oh, Fred just interrupted me and insisted I said, Hi. Where was I? Oh, yes. Fleur looked simply radiant and-”

Harry reached the end of the letter but found no further mention of Lupin. At least he seemed to be okay.

*

Harry knocked gently on Hermione’s door and entered. Hermione was still sitting on the edge of the bed but had now stopped crying.

Harry closed the door and sat down on her trunk.

“Don’t be angry with me, Harry,” said Hermione in a tiny voice. “I couldn’t bare that as well.”

Harry sighed deeply.

“Tell me about Lupin.”

“He’s fine, honestly. He’ll be back to his normal self in a few weeks.”

Harry twisted around to face Hermione.

“Okay. So what happened to him?”

Hermione frowned and wiped her face.

“Ron didn’t tell you? I assumed he would.”

“No, he didn’t tell me a thing. To be honest, I didn’t let him tell me much about anything, but that was before he let slip about Lupin.”

“Oh. What time are we meeting Sapien?”

“Don’t worry about that. We’re not going to meet him until I get some answers.”

“But it’s important, Harry.”

“No,” Harry began, before he checked himself. “There’s plenty of time and besides, I’m sure he’ll wait for us.”

Harry decided that now was not the time to explain that he had his own reasons to delay the meeting.

It was a moment before Hermione said anything.

“You are going to hate me for not telling you sooner, Harry,” she began.

“No,” he responded at once, but she wasn’t listening. Hermione was looking intently down at her hands and Harry thought she was trying her level best to maintain her composure.

He was about to tell her not to bother, when she continued.

“I don’t know if you knew this, Harry, but the Ministry laid on extra protection for Muggle families this year. They hired several coaches to bring parents to King’s Cross and then take everyone home again. It meant that as many people as possible could have Auror cover. In the event, nothing happened but the threat was taken quite seriously.

“Some people used the Knight Bus, but there wasn’t room for everybody and we got a ride on one of the Ministry coaches that they had hired. They hadn’t had time to improve it magically, so it took a little while to get through the London traffic.

“Even so, we made good time and by early evening everyone else had been dropped off. We were last because Professor McGonagall didn’t want anyone else to know where we intended to stay for the holidays. The Order had set us up with a temporary holiday home, you see?”

Harry nodded silently.

“Anyway, after three trains and a rather exciting mini-cab ride, we finally arrived. Everything was fine for the first few days. It was a very remote location and we hardly saw another soul, but even so the Order checked in with us every day. It was usually Tonks and on the last Thursday we were there she persuaded Remus to join us for a day on the beach.

“The weather had been kind to us and we had such a wonderful time for those few days. I’d forgotten how much I missed Mum and Dad, but they were just what I needed after the last year.”

Hermione took a deep breath before continuing. Harry noticed Hermione’s hand was shaking as she brushed back her hair.

“Around four o’clock on the Thursday Mum and Dad said they would go back and start putting the dinner on. It was only about a hundred yards away from the cottage, but even so Remus insisted upon going with them.

“Tonks wanted to play a little more beach badminton, though. I was hopeless of course, and in the end Mum agreed to stay behind for one more game while Dad and Remus went back. In the end we only stayed about another half-an-hour, because the wind came up and it looked like rain later.

“It didn’t take us long to pack everything up and between us we carried everything back.”

Hermione swallowed loudly.

“We were almost at the cottage before we knew anything was wrong. There was a short stretch of long grass you had to go though but otherwise you could see for miles up and down the beach. The only place where the visibility was really impaired was when the path went through a gap in the cliff but that was deserted too, just like normal.

“We followed the path further along the top of the cliff until it dipped down. Then there was a sort of hedgerow. That-”

She paused and swallowed again.

“That was where two of them jumped out from behind the hedge and fired at us.

“If it hadn’t been for Tonks’ quick reactions I would have died, I’m sure of it. I fired back blindly but she got one and made the other run away.”

Harry reached out and placed his hand over hers.

“We found,” continued Hermione, but her voice tightened into nothing.

Harry got up and quickly sat down next to her on the edge of the bed, not lifting his hand.

She tried again, clearly determined not to stop.

“We found Remus on the path. He had been hit a few times but he’s well on the mend now. We found Dad in the hallway. He had entered the cottage first and gave the alarm. They think there were more of them waiting inside, but he must have put up a struggle.”

“Oh, Hermione,” breathed Harry.

“They said it was quick. He wouldn’t have suffered,” she managed to say before her voice broke.

Harry wrapped his arms around her. Hermione sniffed loudly and turned her head. Harry closed his eyes, at last feeling her pain and knowing she had more to tell.

“Crookshanks saved me the second time. He knew there was someone still in the house, you see? They were hiding under an invisibility cloak but he must have heard them because he jumped down at them from a high cabinet.

“I was rigid with fear, Harry. I knew I should go to Dad, but I was so scared of what I’d see. Tonks barged me out of the way and killed whoever it was under the cloak. Then she grabbed me and disapparated us both away to safety.”

“But, your Mum,” said Harry before he could stop himself.

“Tonks went back straight away.”

Harry waited, not wishing to break the long, terrible silence.

“T-The cloaked attacker couldn’t have been the last one after all. Tonks disturbed one as they checked to see if Lupin was dead or not. Dad’s body had been taken.”

“Why would they do that?” Harry asked, more to himself than Hermione.

“You think he might not be dead?”

“Well, there must be a chance.”

“No, Harry. The Order and the Ministry say that there is almost no chance he is still alive. Even if he was alive, he must be dead by now.”

“Um, what about your Mum?” Harry asked gently, swallowing his objections.

“She had been behind us when they opened fire. They think she had been hit by one of the curses aimed at Tonks and me. They don’t know what hit her, but she wasn’t dead. The Healers at St Mungos seemed quite at a loss what to do for her. None of the painkillers seemed to work. They just seemed to be hoping for a quick release.”

Hardly Voldemort’s style,” Harry thought to himself.

“The worst thing was, she kept asking for Dad. They didn’t want her to give up, so they said she shouldn’t know. I spent our last hours together just lying to her.”

Harry closed his eyes and held her tightly.

“Then-” Hermione tried to continue. “Then-“

Harry didn’t need to hear.

Shh. I know,” he said in a whisper. “You don’t need to say it.”

“No, Harry. You don’t understand.”

Harry opened his eyes and frowned.

“They came back. The Death Eaters came back.”

“What?”

“They took her. They took her from the hospital during the night. She was being guarded by the Ministry as well. I overheard Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt talking afterwards when they thought I was asleep.

"Professor McGonagall thought I may have been their intended target, but Kingsley thinks it was just part of a sick game. They just want to terrorise us.”

 

 




Next chapter:-

The Test
 
“I know you won’t have an answer for me. It’s just that if I don’t tell someone I’ll just go mad."
 
Harry meets the second memory of Dumbledore. Harry and Hermione agree to Sapien's final wish.


Chapter 13: The Test
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The Test
 

“So, Harry? Enjoying a little cat-nap before your exertions later this evening?”

Harry opened his eyes and sat up. Dumbledore was smiling at him with a glint in his eye. They were sitting opposite each other and Dumbledore was behind his familiar desk.

Harry realised that he must indeed have nodded off, although he hadn’t intended to. Right then he was waiting for Hermione to freshen herself up in the bathroom before they both made their way over to see Sapien.

“Hello, Professor. Did you want to go through some more exercises? The thing is, only I don’t have much time. I’m afraid I didn’t read anything in the last book, either.”

As he spoke he realised they were in Dumbledore’s circular office rather than the usual white mist.

“No, Harry.”

Harry straightened up and realised that this Dumbledore wasn’t quite the same as the memory he’d received his recent lessons from.

“You’re the second memory? The one Professor McGonagall carried?”

“I do indeed intend to place part of this memory in her. I had previously taken the liberty of transferring the bulk of the message during the times we met over this last year.”

“Oh.”

“We are speaking now because you are now ready, Harry. You no longer need the protections I left for you at your Aunt’s home.”

“Really? I haven’t tried any of the things you taught me yet. Actually, that’s not entirely true.”

His former Headmaster smiled and nodded, apparently knowing that Harry had adapted one of Dumbledore’s trickier transfiguration spells to remove the remains of Ron’s cooking skills earlier.

“I should apologise for giving you that earlier memory, Harry. It was rather crude, but at the time I was fearful that I might not live to meet you in person. I confess I’d almost forgotten I’d left them with Professor McGonagall. However, as it happened, Voldemort’s agents were rather less brave without their leader.”

Harry nodded.

“No,” continued Dumbledore slowly. “Those lessons were not what I was referring to.”

“Well, what then, Professor?” asked Harry.

“During the last few days you spent back in Privet Drive, Harry, you should have begun to feel the effects of my wards being lifted. Interestingly, the most powerful protections were actually the first to go. Right now, only those that conceal your whereabouts remain, although I alone knew this, of course.

“For perhaps the very first time you should have begun to feel your true magical potential. Do not be concerned if you feel unable to control your emerging skills straight away. With time and a little practise, you will reach your potential I am sure.

“I am sorry to have prevented you from knowing this before now. Your marks at Hogwarts must have suffered as a result.”

“But why, Professor?”

“Well, firstly there was an effect from the wards. I knew it would happen and eleven years is a long time for a wizard to be in direct contact with such powerful magic. Indeed, it might be truer to say the magic was that powerful because of your presence. Anyway, I did consider making an adjustment to dampen the effect. The reason I did not was simply because I was convinced that your magical development needed to come second to your development as a person.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?”

“No, not at all. Harry, your entire life has been a series of struggles. Had you not struggled, you would not be the strong young man I see before me. Had magic come easy to you, you would have used it to ease that struggle.”

“Voldemort,” said Harry. “You were afraid I might turn out like him. You think I might have used magic to hurt Dudley?”

“It did cross my mind, yes.”

“I might have at that,” admitted Harry, shaking his head slowly and making Dumbledore smile.

“You are a powerful wizard, Harry. I guess it may take some months, perhaps even years, before you are finally ready to face Lord Voldemort.”

“Yeah, we still have to find the remaining Horcruxes.”

“That time will be of value to you, Harry. Your magical powers will grow stronger from now on. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that you will not be overcome by the true power you have within you. There will be times that you will be tempted to take the easy path and let that power dictate your actions. Whatever path you take, Harry, you will know that this way you at least had a choice.”

Harry looked down.

“Don’t worry, Harry. Things will work out in the end. Until they do, Tom will have to contend with the disappointment of being only the third thing you fear most.”

“Third?” said Harry, stopping himself from asking what the second was.

“Indeed. You second fear is disappointing me. I, of course, am quite overwhelmed to rank so highly.”

“I should already be a disappointment to you,” admitted Harry. “You know I’m considering actually performing a Dementor’s kiss later?”

“Come now, Harry. We both know you are planning far more than that.”

Harry looked up sharply.

“You are right to consider the things I did not. It is a rather good idea.”

“Why didn’t you use it?”

“I had a couple of reasons. I knew Sapien would never willingly reveal their secrets to me, but in truth the main reason was that I didn’t think I could trust myself. You’ll learn to know a person’s worth by the light of their aura, for want of a better word. If I had the ability to judge a person so absolutely and then have the ability to remove them of their soul, I’m not sure I could restrain myself. You, on the other hand, have never yielded away from the path of right. Sapien’s voices know this.”

“His voices?”

“Well, yes,” said Dumbledore thoughtfully. “I imagine the Sapien you met was rather different from my acquaintance. He seems to change with every generation, but I suspect that even his capacity to absorb life essences is reaching his limit.”

“So, he’s really a collection of minds,” reasoned Harry. “I wondered, because sometimes there’s an echo in his voice, and sometimes not all the voices are saying the same thing.”

Dumbledore nodded.

“Do you think we could recruit him?” asked Harry. “His knowledge must be tremendous.”

“Formidable,” agreed Dumbledore.

“But you don’t think so?”

“No, I do not. I tend to agree with you.”

Harry flushed a little that Dumbledore could read his thoughts so easily.

“Um, Professor? What is it about this memory that needed to be given over such a long period of time?”

Dumbledore smiled mischievously.

“All in good time, Harry. In time you will know. For now, though, let’s say that I’ve been adding a few memories here and there. Your knowledge will be richer in parts and you will enjoy quicker recollections and connections.”

“That’s started to happen already.”

“Good.”

“So, what else?”

The image of him seeing Dumbledore walking towards him at the Ministry of Magic came into Harry’s mind. He recalled how unconcerned Dumbledore looked and remembered how scared he had been for his Headmaster.

“Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore, clearly able to share the memory. “Well, there it is. I was not always so confident, but Tom’s duelling prowess is not something I feared. I suspect that that when you are ready to face him, you too will find him a disappointingly predictable opponent.”

Harry nodded in understanding but not really believing that.

“An interesting predicament,” agreed Dumbledore, again reading his thoughts. “Sapien is unlikely to be fooled.”

“I’ll manage,” said Harry, although he knew Sapien too could read his thoughts very well by now.

Harry looked up into Dumbledore’s blue eyes. Somehow he knew this would be their very last chance to talk like this, face to face.

“That is correct, Harry. I have been removing the last of my implanted memories over the last few hours.”

“Oh, is that why?” began Harry, prompting Dumbledore to shake his head no.

“No, Harry. You have only yourself to blame for that. I hope you live to regret it.”

“I’m surprised you’re not more critical,” admitted Harry.

“There isn’t much of me left, Harry. These thoughts are more yours than mine.”

“I wondered, you see? Ron’s behaviour was so strange.”

His behaviour? You should concern yourself with your own behaviour, Harry. Sapien will never yield his final legacy to you if he realises. Of course, I have an advantage right now when it comes to reading your mind. You never know, you might be lucky.”

Harry snorted knowing that Dumbledore must really be going if he was repeating Harry’s own hopes ahead of his logic.

“Ah, well,” said Dumbledore gently. “You have your own to live and mine is over. I just wanted this last opportunity to say how truly proud I have been of you. You have a fine mind, Harry. I’ve enjoyed my short stay here.”

“There’s something I want to tell you,” said Harry. “I know you won’t have an answer for me. It’s just that if I don’t tell someone I’ll just go mad. I must control this.”

Dumbledore nodded, his smile slipping from his face.

*

Harry was silent as he and Hermione walked over to Mrs Figg’s house once again. Hermione had shaken him back into consciousness just as he and Dumbledore had stood to shake hands and bid themselves goodbye for the final time.

He opened the garden gate and moved aside for Hermione but saw that she was still looking at him apprehensively.

Harry smiled at her and said, “Let’s just get this over with, shall we?”

Hermione didn’t answer but went ahead and entered through the open door.

“Moody?” asked Harry, once he was alone.

“I’m here, Potter,” said a familiar disembodied voice.

“Where is Professor McGonagall?”

“Paris. She’s due to be back here tomorrow.”

“You know about Hermione’s parents?”

“I’m not supposed to, actually. I overheard a few things at the Weasley’s reception. I wouldn’t have suspected a thing except someone warned me not to tell Molly anything. After that I made it my business to ask a few questions.”

Harry turned to face an empty street, but guessed Mad-Eye was only a few feet away.

“So, all these wedding rehearsals?”

“That’s right, Potter. They were nothing but an attempt to provoke the Death Eaters from attacking. The Order has been desperate to capture one or two of them. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to ground.”

“I’m not alone in thinking the Grangers are still alive, then?”

“No, but it has to be said hopes are fading. It’s been too long.”

“Why didn’t they tell us everything from the start? Well, tell you at least.”

“It seems Shacklebolt and McGonagall both agreed my priority should be keeping an eye on you. Miss Granger was intent on not telling anyone, so they went along with it.”

“That was a mistake.”

“Yes, but an understandable one. They were afraid you’d go off and do something stupid. Were they wrong?”

“No,” admitted Harry. “No, they weren’t.”

“Well, it’s done now.”

“Who else is on duty tonight?”

“I’m on my own until eleven.”

“What? Is that wise?”

“Well, Dumbledore’s protections haven’t been breached yet, have they? The risk will be at midnight when you come of age. By then there’ll be over a dozen of us here, and that’s not even counting the Weasleys.”

“Alright,” said Harry. “I want you to go back to the Burrow now and get Mr Weasley to tell you everything he can.”

“Arthur won’t like going against McGonagall’s orders.”

“Tough. Didn’t Hermione tell me that you were the only Auror to secure the release of a kidnap victim alive during Voldemort’s last attempt to seize power? They need your experience, Moody.”

“I was lucky, that time,” admitted Moody modestly.

“So, be lucky again,” said Harry in a threatening voice that was quite unlike his own. “Just promise me that you’ll get back here as soon as you can? I’ve an awful feeling that Hermione’s parents are being kept for a special birthday treat just for me.”

Moody swore quietly before Harry heard a sharp Crack!

Harry stood at the gate a moment longer and pondered his decision regarding Sapien. As he did so a large ginger cat jumped lightly up onto next door’s garden wall.

Harry smiled and said, “Hello, Crookshanks. You on duty too?”

He offered out his hand, giving the cat every opportunity to scratch him again.

“I know it was my fault,” he said quietly.

Crookshanks moved forward to close the gap between them and muzzled Harry’s hand.

*

Harry stepped back into the magically enlarged back room of Mrs Figg’s home. They had arrived a little earlier than the last time, so Harry walked all the way over to the window in the far wall.

It was farther away than he thought.

He opened the window and looked out at the tiny unkempt garden and then up into the reddening sky.

Harry turned back and saw that his long shadow stretched back across the linoleum and almost reached Hermione as she stood patiently waiting for him.

He walked slowly back to her.

“Um, Harry?”

“Hm?”

“You know what Sapien is planning for us to do this evening?”

“Yes, of course.”

“How comfortable are you about it?”

“I’m not going to deprive anyone but Voldemort of their soul, Hermione. Sapien seemed to think it would be a release, but I’m not so sure. How about you? I was sure you’d object too.”

“Well, yes. Actually, I’d pretty much decided to keep quiet. I mean, if you decided this was necessary, then I’d accept it.”

“No, Hermione,” said Harry firmly. “Let’s get this straight right now. I need you to tell me what you really think. If you think something is wrong I need you to shout about it, just like always.”

Hermione smiled at him, looking relieved.

“You always seemed so annoyed when I argued with you.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t annoying,” he replied at once with a flash of a grin. Then his face grew serious again. “It’s important, Hermione. I’m going to make mistakes. I have already.”

“What is it, Harry?”

Harry sighed deeply.

“It was before you arrived. Something happened a few days ago. I went for a walk as usual, but that time something darted out from the bushes as I went through the park. I thought it was an Animagus.”

“What happened?”

“I killed it. It was all over before I knew it, but when I fired I was absolutely convinced a witch or wizard was trying to attack me. If that animal had been another person, I’d be a murderer now.”

“Gosh,” she said softly. “You are sure it was only an animal?”

“Yes, pretty sure.”

“Good.”

“Anyway, I wanted to ask you if you really believed what Sapien said. You know, that a person can really start again after a Kiss has been performed on them. Surely if a lifetime of experiences is wiped away, what’s left to live on?”

“Not much,” agreed Hermione. “But, remember the Kiss doesn’t actually kill. Whatever the Kiss removes, it isn’t life nor can it be the instinctive parts of our nature. I imagine they are much like a newborn baby in that respect. They’ll know how to breathe and that they need food to survive, but probably all their learned skilled would have to be re-learned.”

Harry pulled a face.

“What?”

“Should we have brought nappies?”

Harry! That’s awful,” said Hermione, laughing despite herself.

“It may be true,” he said chucking.

“Let’s be serious for a moment. We don’t know who Sapien is bringing here, do we? It could be anyone.”

“I suppose,” agreed Harry, looking down.

“Are we really going to go through with this?”

Harry didn’t answer.

“Harry?” she prompted him.

“I think we, well I mean, I’m going to end up going through with it.”

Hermione frowned at him.

“You know? You know who Sapien is bringing?”

“No, not for sure. But I think I can guess.”

“Who?”

Before Harry could answer, the window curtains billowed inwards and Sapien swept into the room.

“Hello, Sapien,” said Harry. “We were just discussing your little test.”

We assumed you would be,” replied the Dementor, gliding towards them. “Before we begin, do you have any further questions?”

“Erm, we’re still not happy about this,” said Harry.

Granted, but I was thinking more general questions.”

Harry and Hermione both shook their heads. Sapien drifted over towards Hermione and appeared to consider her a moment.

“I know,” she said with a touch of annoyance, and Harry realised they must have been communicating in private.

Sapien slid sideways until he faced Harry.

Sapien froze and the air suddenly grew much colder.

Harry stepped forward, holding his hands out.

“I didn’t even try to hide it,” said Harry. “I knew you’d read it in my mind.”

Sapien moved back a couple of feet.

What is this?” asked Sapien.

“Wasn’t it inevitable?” asked Harry. “Go ahead and look.”

This cannot be. You even have a plan. A plan!

“Well, kind of,” admitted Harry. “You gave me the idea, you know? It was when-”

Do not speak it aloud!”

“Sapien, please. Wasn’t this inevitable? Hasn’t this always been with me? The only difference is that I understand a little better now.”

I did not see this in you,” said Sapien, the echoes now strong. Some of his voices sounded alarmed. “I felt your emotions. You used them to shield the truth from me. You deceived me! Will you betray us all?”

“No,” said Harry firmly. “Look deeper,” he pleaded.

Sapien grew silent and Harry felt himself being probed, not for memories but for feelings.

Dangerous!” said Sapien. “No mere human can resist temptation. What if Voldemort reads your mind and learns this?

“So? This is one thing I wish he would read. Don’t you see? Voldemort’s the one individual who could never use this knowledge. He is fuelled by hatred.”

SAY NO MORE!”

The voices yelled in complete unison this time and Sapien’s robes billowed out as he jerked violently in his agitation.

Harry decided to calm his mind and wait.

The Dementor clans will be banished!”

“That isn’t what you are afraid of,” said Harry quietly, looking around to see Hermione looking at him and wondering what they were talking about. He gave a quick shake of his head to warn her not to say anything.

Harry turned back to Sapien, and reasoned that he might as well bring things to a head.

“Look, I’ve decided what I’m going to do. You’ve seen this in my mind and the knowledge and understanding that may just make it a reality. So there are only two things you need concern yourself with.”

Sapien stopped and came a little lower to the floor.

The last time a human came close to this, the Dementors were nearly driven to extinction!

Harry was tempted to ask which of Sapien’s voices used to be that very human. He was sure they were in there somewhere.

Sapien glided around the large room, apparently thinking deeply. Harry discretely withdrew his wand and indicated for Hermione to do the same. She looked at him with some alarm but did not voice an objection.

The Dementor came back over to them.

I now see you have realised the ultimate knowledge of how to perform destruction of the soul, Harry Potter. I trust you will use that knowledge wisely. I have little choice now but to give you my trust.”

“I will try, Sapien. I promise.”

You are perhaps the only living Wizard I could ever entrust my knowledge to. You have never once been tempted to follow the dark path. Even so, you will need the guidance of others. Trust in your friends, Harry Potter. Trust in each other.”

Sapien glided backwards into the centre of the room.

Now, are you ready?” asked Sapien.

Neither Harry nor Hermione moved.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” said Harry. “You expect us to perform the equivalent of a Kiss on you.”

Yes, Harry Potter.”

“Why?” asked Hermione.

You know why. Both of you know,” said Sapien, rising up to the high ceiling. “I performed a Kiss on a great wizard, many hundreds of years ago. It should have killed me, but somehow I survived. I learned many things, including an understanding of the human world and its fragile, vain and proud inhabitants. Not only that, it awoke the voices of my past victims in me too.

The wisdom I have was not mine by right. I did not earn it, so I can lose it so very easily. Another Dementor, for example, might easily rob me of my consciousness.

It is my consciousness that has survived all this time, not this body. As a Dementor I have allowed the Kiss to be performed on us several times in order to cling onto life.

The risk, of course, is that a Dementor loyal to Voldemort may steal my knowledge in the same way. I have read both your minds, remember. I know all your deepest secrets. I could betray so much.”

“If you are afraid, we can protect you,” said Hermione, although Harry knew he had little choice now.

Afraid? If I was still a true Dementor I would have no fear. As it is I do indeed fear what I have become.”

“Please,” pleaded Hermione, looking to Harry for support but hesitated when he looked away.

“What is it?” she asked.

He had no intention of allowing me to leave,” said Sapien with barely a single echo. “He was going to kill us anyway.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Hermione earnestly.

Yes, it does. I have enjoyed sharing your lives and feelings, but that time is over now. I will attack you shortly. Please remember, when it is over no part of me will remain. Only a reborn Dementor will survive. That Dementor will be tempted by both your life-forces. You may need to conjure a Patronus to encourage it to move on.”

Sapien did one slow majestic flight around the perimeter of the room while Harry and Hermione raised their wands.

“I don’t think I can do this,” whispered Hermione.

“Concentrate,” advised Harry.

Suddenly Sapien turned and dashed diagonally across the room directly towards Harry. He dived and fired a stunner, but it had no effect whatever on Sapien.

Harry suddenly felt a coldness eat into him.

He raised his wand, knowing his Patronus would have no effect but unable to think of anything else.

Sapien charged at him once more, his black robes billowing out behind him.

Suddenly Sapien froze and twisted around in agony. Hermione was pointing her wand at the Dementor.

Harry looked back and saw a flickering light emerge from Sapien’s mouth.

There was an agonising scream of hundreds of voices crying out in agony and Hermione lost her concentration. Harry could see the flickering light slowly returning to Sapien.

Hermione tried again, but with no success. Harry could see the Dementor’s effects were beginning to overpower her.

“Again!” he demanded. “Come on, Hermione! Try again!”

Harry threw his left arm around her back to steady her and lifted her wand arm to encourage her to try just once more.

Hermione pointed her wand up at Sapien.

Harry lowered his hand and blanked everything out except Sapien. He no longer saw a raging Dementor. Instead, there were hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tortured souls trapped inside.

“Yes!” breathed Hermione, as a much brighter glimmering light emerged from the Dementor’s mouth. This time, they weren’t screaming or resisting.

Harry stepped aside, making sure Hermione would be safely apart from him when he performed the final stage.

He lowered his wand and summoned the collection of souls towards him. In an instant they were within touching distance of his mind.

As Sapien felt his presence, the Dementor again began to flail around in a desperate attempt to keep hold of the life essence, but as Harry’s mind engaged in a final, ruthless act of determination, the flickering lights lost their cohesion and were extinguished.

Harry blinked.

“Sapien?” he asked.

The Dementor did not reply. Instead it hovered a few feet away, clearly considering what to do.

Finally, it decided and they both felt the extreme coldness descend over the room. The Dementor hurried over towards them.

Expecto Patronum!”

A blindingly white stag erupted from the end of Harry’s wand. It immediately lowered its massive antlers and charged the Dementor which gave up and flew straight for the open window.

The Stag slowed and cantered over to the window, but did not return to Harry as it usually did.

Instead it lowered its head down to a white otter. At the instant their noses touched, they both vanished into thin air.

*

They walked back over to Privet Drive in silence. Harry had expected Hermione to demand that he finally listen to her properly, particularly as Ron would be out of the way for one more night.

However, she remained deep in thought.

Harry himself was in a contemplative mood.

He was troubled, although not by the demise of Sapien; which is what he suspected was preoccupying Hermione so much.

He was more concerned that he didn’t feel more for the loss. Even now he was unsure what he ought to be feeling. Sapien was an intelligent creature that had helped them. He knew he should care.

It was true, Harry reminded himself, that the Dementor hadn’t intended to pass on the full legacy. He had only intended to give him just enough to destroy the Horcuxes.

Harry frowned to himself. That was a cruel thing to think. Given the anguish Harry had seen in Sapien at the moment of his release, it was little wonder that the poor creature hadn’t been able to control and restrict the knowledge better.

It was a moment before Harry realised he was drifting away. He looked down with only mild interest at himself and Hermione standing just inside the garden gate. He had come to a complete halt.

Harry watched indifferently as Hermione grabbed his arm and shook him.

“Harry?”

Harry blinked and shook his head, realising that he had returned to himself. He looked up and found his vision was darkening.

“What is it?” asked Hermione, sounding concerned.

“Something’s wrong,” Harry heard himself say, although his voice sounded remote.

Harry felt himself being guided along the path to the front door. An instant later, or so it seemed, he was in the kitchen.

He reached up and clumsily wiped his face, feeling neither his hand nor his face properly.

“Wet,” he said simply, looking down at his hand.

Hermione was refilling a glass of cold water, clearly intending to throw it over Harry again.

“Harry?”

Harry smiled at her weakly, seeing her concerned look.

“I’m okay,” he said quietly.

“You’re shaking, Harry,” said Hermione. “Sit down a moment.”

Harry sat down at once and was pleased to discover that a chair had been placed right behind him. He closed his eyes, feeling the towel Hermione was gently pressing to his face.

“What happened?”

“I think it was Sapien. Seeing those souls being released. I think that part of me wanted to go with them. I felt their joy at being released.”

Hermione stopped dabbing his face abruptly.

“You’re scaring me, Harry.”

He opened his eyes and reached out for his glasses. Hermione placed them in his hand but his fingers failed to grab hold of them. Hermione unfolded the arms and put them on him.

“You know you said I was only pretending to care?” Harry asked, feeling better but sounding a little shaky.

“I didn’t mean that, Harry. I’ve been kicking myself all day for saying such a horrible thing. Of course you care. I don’t know anyone who cares as much as you.”

Harry shook his head slowly.

“It’s hard to explain,” said Harry. “Something’s different. Something’s gone.”

Gone?”

“Look, when we spent most of yesterday together, I felt nothing but compassion for you. I had no idea what was wrong, but I don’t think I could have felt any worse.”

Hermione looked down and nodded.

“Well, right now, I can’t feel that. In fact, I can’t even remember what it did feel like. I only said compassion, because that’s what I think I ought to feel.”

Hermione looked up, a slight frown on her face.

“That’s nonsense, Harry. How could you suddenly not care?”

“I don’t know.”

“Could this be something to do with the wards that are about to fail?” she suggested. “There’s only hours to go now, after all.”

“I don’t think so,” said Harry. “I said goodbye to Dumbledore’s memory earlier. He said the blood protections were already down. Only the secrecy protections will be in place for a little longer.”

“Goodbye?”

“Yes. He’s gone now. For good this time.”

“How do you feel about that? Won’t you miss him?”

Harry shrugged.

“It was what he wanted. I’m glad we had a chance to speak though.”

“I asked you how you felt,” Hermione reminded him. “You said goodbye to someone who has not only protected you since you were an infant, but has guided you and ultimately gave his life so you could go on. Are you seriously telling me that you feel nothing?”

“I’m sure I did feel something,” said Harry. “It’s just that right now I can’t remember what it felt like.”

“I think we’d better tell someone about this,” said Hermione seriously.

“Moody promised to come by later. Actually, it sounded like there’ll be a small army with him.”

“Where is he now?”

“At the Burrow, I expect. I think I’ll go and change my shirt,” he said with a smile. “For some reason I seem to be all wet.”

Hermione gave half a laugh and said, “Well, you shouldn’t have gone all weird on me. It’ll be quicker if I dried you with my wand.”

“True, but I feel like a change of shirt.”

“Alright, I’ll make us some tea.”





 
Next Chapter:-

Hedwig Returns
 
“No, Hermione. I’m not angry. I’m not anything.” 
 
Harry struggles with his unfamiliar unfeeling state as the hour of his birth approaches. Hedwig returns and wants to show him something.


Chapter 14: Hedwig Returns
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Hedwig Returns

 
Harry peeled off his wet shirt, threw it down on the floor and then began his search for a clean shirt. He found one that he remembered stuffing under his bed the day Hermione had arrived and another at the bottom of his trunk that was several sizes too small for him.

Neither were clean enough to wear in company.

He opened his wardrobe and rummaged through the junk inside until he pulled out an ancient looking Polo shirt that Dudley had grown out of years ago.

Harry held up the creased, musty smelling shirt and pulled a face before throwing it back into the wardrobe.

He turned and looked down at the shirt he had discarded, thinking he’d probably have to put that one back on again.

He sat down and wondered if Moody had found anything out yet. He was sorely tempted to go straight to the Burrow and demand his own answers. So what if he didn’t wait for his actual birthday?

In the quiet solitude of his bedroom, Harry actually began to seriously consider this.

Dumbledore had admitted to him that the protections were already down. All that remained were the secrecy wards.

He wondered what would happen if he did leave early. Would the Death Eaters come here to Privet Drive or could they track him to the Burrow. He certainly wouldn’t want to endanger the Weasleys. On balance, Harry thought it was unlikely that Voldemort could track his actual movements.

So, if the Death Eaters came calling it would be his Aunt and Uncle who would remain to face them.

Harry kicked his shirt with annoyance. As much as he couldn’t care less about the Dursleys, or anyone else at that moment, he couldn’t leave them to Voldemort. Deep down, Harry suspected his lack of feeling was only a temporary effect. He concluded that his conscience was clearly unaffected.

Harry snorted and began again, going through several scenarios that had two common factors. The first was that he invariably left immediately and secondly that he took with him some as yet unknown notion about what to do once he did get away.

Giving up, he stretched down and picked up his original shirt and held it out at arm’s length. From the weight of the shirt, Harry wondered how many glasses of water Hermione had actually thrown at him. The shirt was more damp rather than wet, but he knew that having lost his body-heat, the shirt would now be very uncomfortable to put back on again.

Thinking he’d better get it over with, Harry pulled the shirt back on. Once his initial shuddering was over with, he struggled to straighten his sleeves.

Just as he was contorting himself reaching behind to pull the back of his shirt down, Harry heard a flutter of wings at his window.

“Hedwig!”

Hedwig landed on his bed and Harry sat down to stroke her. Hedwig immediately tried to peck at his arm.

“What’s up?” Harry asked, seeing that Hedwig was in an agitated state.

“You look exhausted,” said Harry.

Hedwig caught hold of his shirt sleeve and tugged.

“What is it?”

There was another flurry of wings and Pig dived in through the window.

Harry looked up, wondering what was going on but Hedwig hooted to get his attention back.

Hedwig spread her wings and took off, landing by the window board and looking back at Harry. She immediately took off again, this time landing on his trunk.

Harry got up from his bed and knelt down beside Hedwig. The owl was now pecking furiously at the trunk lid.

He reached out and Hedwig stepped onto his forearm.

Harry lifted her up and then lifted the trunk lid open.

Hedwig hooted again as Harry reached inside and lifted out his precious Firebolt.

“You want me to follow?”

Hedwig took off again for the window.

“Just a minute, Hedwig,” called Harry. “You’re exhausted. I don’t know how far you’re flown to get back here, but you need to rest a while.”

Hedwig ruffled her feathers indignantly at him.

“At least drink some water?” pleaded Harry, reaching up and bringing down her bowl.

Hedwig drank gratefully and Harry began to think what he needed to do. He pulled on his travelling cloak and stuffed his invisibility cloak into one of the deep pockets before transferring his wand from his back pocket to somewhere more secure for a night flight.

Harry turned hearing the padding of someone hurrying up the stairs.

“Harry? What are you doing?” asked Hermione.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted looking up at her. Hermione had a very wary look on her face, as if her worst suspicions had come true.

“Hedwig wants to show me something.”

“Harry, you can’t just fly off!”

“I think I should,” said Harry, checking his trunk in case he had forgotten something.

“But it’s so late. Why not wait a few minutes for Moody?”

Harry looked at his watch and shook his head no.

“He won’t be here for over an hour, Hermione.”

“I’m coming too, then.”

“How? You can’t Apparate because I’ve no idea where Hedwig has come from.”

“How will you let us know if there’s trouble, Harry?”

“Pig can fly with us and bring you back a message. How about that?”

“It might take him half the night to get back here,” Hermione pointed out. “Hedwig’s been gone days!”

“I’d better get going, then.”

“Harry!”

Hermione grabbed his arm, looking quite alarmed.

“Please,” she said in a stressed voice. “I know what this is, Harry. You’re just looking for an excuse; any excuse. You just hate the idea of something more bad happening that you can’t do anything about.”

“Perhaps,” he admitted, the truth of her words preventing him from wrenching his arm away.

“You showed me what a friend you were to me, Harry. Now let me help you. Accept it. They’re gone. Hedwig won’t be taking you anywhere except away from the very place you need to be. Let’s wait for Moody and the Order to turn up.”

“Hermione, please,” Harry said gently.

“Harry, you’re not yourself,” she said, changing tack. “You said so yourself. Please reconsider.”

“Tell Mad-Eye what happened. I think he’ll have a fair idea what we can expect to happen around here when the wards fail completely.”

“You’re expecting an attack? Here?”

“Yes, kind of.”

“So, you’re happy to leave your Aunt and Uncle unprotected?”

“I’m not that bothered about them. Although, I’m not entirely comfortable about leaving you here.”

“What do you think will happen at Midnight, then?”

“Midnight? Nothing will happen at Midnight, Hermione. The wards will last until the hour of my birth. These are blood protections.”

“So, what time were you born?”

“I’ve no idea, but I’m guessing it was sometime after twelve.”

“But, how can you know that?”

“Why not use Mrs Figg’s Floo connection to contact the Burrow?” suggested Harry. “Get them to come over early if you’re worried.”

“Floo connection? Mrs Figg doesn’t have a Floo Network connection. If she did I’d insist you come with me to call them.”

“Ron said he needed to Floo back from there.”

“Why? He’s been Apparating everywhere lately.”

“But he hasn’t passed his test,” said Harry, wondering why Ron would lie but realising he had wanted to get away from him.

“You don’t have your test either, Harry,” Hermione reminded him.

*

Hermione followed Harry downstairs, all the while voicing her concerns. Harry didn’t stop to argue with her, especially as he knew she was probably right. The sensible thing to do would be to wait.

Finally Harry stepped out into the back garden and mounted his broom.

“This is because you’re still angry with me, isn’t it?”

“No, Hermione. I’m not angry. I’m,” he said before pausing to consider what emotions he was feeling. “I’m not anything,” he admitted with a shrug.

Hermione was very red in the face now and toying with her wand. Perhaps she was considering a last resort to keep him there?

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he promised.

Hermione sniffed and angrily wiped away a tear. Harry hesitated, knowing that he ought to be feeling something other than relief at the prospect of getting away.

“I’ll send Pig back with a message as soon as we get there. If there are too many of them, I’ll Apparate straight back.”

Harry looked up to his open bedroom window where Hedwig was readying herself for flight.

He nodded and she took off at once. Diving down to below head height, she then climbed skilfully up into the night sky.

Harry kicked off in eager pursuit with Pig following on behind after he’d done a couple of laps around Hermione.

He climbed high above the rooftops and spotted Hedwig heading in a Westerly direction. He dived down, matching her speed.

“Come on, hop aboard!” he shouted, taking one hand off the Firebolt. Hedwig didn’t respond at once, clearly wary of trying to land on a flying broom.

Harry slowed a little more and Hedwig landed awkwardly. Harry expected her to sit on the broom handle but instead she nestled herself on his thigh. He cradled her with his right arm and was about to speed up when Pig arrived and attempted to land as well.

Harry gently caught the tiny owl and stuffed him into an inside pocket.

“Hold tight,” said Harry, leaning forward and willing his Firebolt onwards.

*

About an hour later Hedwig began pecking his arm urgently and Harry slowed. Harry’s face was stinging with cold, but he had been determined to get there as quickly as possible. Through Hedwig’s directions, given as pecks telling him to turn left or right, they had followed a Motorway and flown over several landmarks including a couple of tall spires in small towns.

Harry would have preferred to go around and avoid the more populated areas, but he didn’t want to risk Hedwig becoming disoriented.

They were now approaching what looked like a small village.

Hedwig directed them past the high street and on to a remote farm estate. Harry stopped behind a group of tall trees and looked over the tall brick boundary wall. He could see a large building that was mostly in shadow. The lights flickered and Harry guessed this place did not have electricity.

He turned slowly and flew back to the village, ignoring Hedwig’s protests.

“It’s okay, we’re not leaving,” he assured her in a whisper. “I want to send Pig back with a message.”

They landed at the outskirts on the far side of the village in complete silence. They were at a bend in the main road, but the road that led to the village was overgrown and the traffic markings gave no indication that there was a turning at all.

Looking around at the tall trees, Harry wondered if passing traffic could have any idea they were passing by a village. Perhaps the village occupants would prefer that.

Harry stepped off his broom and stretched while Hedwig flew over and landed on top one of two posts. He realised that these posts had once supported the sign proclaiming the name of the village, but it had gone now.

“Lumos,” whispered Harry, holding his cloak over his wand to stop too much light giving them away.

After a little searching, Harry finally found the old sign amongst some of the longer grass by the tree line.

The sign read, “Welcome to Hobb’s Weir. No through road.”

“They don’t seem very welcoming now, do they?” said Harry getting some paper out of a pocket and hastily scribbling a note.

Hermione,

Time now 0:15 am. We’ve just arrived at a Village called Hobb’s Weir travelling due west. There is an estate on the far side of the village that we’ll investigate now. No sign of trouble but they’ve gone to some lengths to hide entrance from passing Muggles.

See you later,

Harry.”

Harry sealed the message and handed it to Pig.

“Now listen,” he said seriously. “Get this message to Hermione as soon as possible. If you can’t find her then any member of the Order will do. Watch out for yourself, okay?”

Pig flew off at once and they watched until he disappeared from view.

Something large flew overhead them, heading in Pig’s direction.

“What was that?” asked Harry in alarm, looking up. He had only seen a dark outline for the briefest of moments.

“It looked like an eagle.”

Before he finished speaking, Hedwig had flown off after Pig.

Harry reached for his Firebolt and took off. By the time he’d got to the treetops, the birds were out of sight. He was about to follow when he stopped himself. He would only be guessing their direction and in any event Hedwig had brought him here for a reason.

A little reluctantly, he flew back down towards the village. He found somewhere to hide his Firebolt and donned his invisibility cloak before walking down the main street of the village towards the estate.

This way he’d be able to assess any threat in the village. If there was trouble and he needed to escape he intended to summon his Firebolt to him.

He walked past several unlit electric lamp posts. Clearly this was until recently a Muggle residence. Ahead, lanterns hung from the building entrances lit his way.

Most of the buildings looked very old and some had thatched roofs.

He passed a corner-shop that looked like it had stopped trading some time ago. There was only one building that had any lights on inside. As he approached, Harry realised it was the local pub.

Curious, he crossed over the road to look into the windows.

Considering the late hour, he was surprised to see that the lounge bar was full. Every seat was occupied but no-one was making a sound. It seemed hardly normal for a public house.

Harry frowned to himself and stretched to see further.

Then he realised that none of the tables had glasses on them, although some had empty dishes.

In the middle of the room, an old man suddenly burst into tears and covered his face with his hands. Then Harry saw the Dementors. One was floating behind the bar and another was gliding between the tables.

Harry drew back.

He couldn’t risk discovery just yet, but he vowed to return later and help these people if he could. It was only as he left the far side of the village, having seen no other sign of activity at all, that he wondered why he hadn’t felt the presence of the Dementors at all.

*

Harry walked right up to the heavy iron gate at the entrance of the estate and peered inside. There was a gravel road with wide grass verges that went right up to the building.

From this side he could see that the structure was actually a large farmhouse which had been joined to various utility buildings and barns to form a courtyard.

He stepped back from the gate, careful not to even touch the railings. If this was a wizard home there would be charms to keep out uninvited guests. He remembered Mr Weasley about the charms he had needed to deal with on the Malfoy estate gates. Those gates actually attempted to grab unwelcome guests and impale them upon the railing spikes.

Harry had chosen the spot he would Apparate to, just beside the open courtyard entrance and concealed in shadow.

He concentrated and tried to Disapparate, but found he couldn’t. Clearly this was a wizard place and one with anti-apparition measures as well.

Thankful that he’d discovered this early, Harry began to walk around the boundary intending to find a place to climb over.

Then he heard voices approaching from behind.

Instinctively, Harry crouched down into the shadows even though he was wearing his invisibility cloak.

The heavy iron gate swung open unassisted, protesting with a loud note as metal scraped against bare metal.

Two figures were approaching the open gate and Harry decided he would follow them through before the gate closed again.

“See sense, Jack,” one was saying.

“That jumped up son of a worm has no right to give me orders!”

“You need to be more careful. He got old Carmichael killed because he spoke up for himself, didn’t he? While the Dark Lord favours Mr Pettigrew, he can give whatever orders he pleases.”

Mister Pettigrew,” said Jack contemptuously. “I still remember when he burst into tears and then tried to get Black to beat me up; just because I shouted at him for ruining my Potions homework.”

“That was years ago. Just let it go.”

“Wormtail isn’t letting anything go, is he? Why d’you think he always gets us to do his clearing up? He hasn’t got the stomach to do his own dirty work, that’s why!”

The gate closed behind them with another jarring note.

“I expect Mister Pettigrew will find another excuse to exclude us from tonight’s events too,” grumbled Jack as they headed towards the courtyard entrance.

“Personally, I’d be glad to stay away.”

“Why? A bit of excitement would do you the world of good.”

“What exactly to do imagine will happen? That place will be swarming with Order Members and Ministry people.”

“Yeah! I can’t wait to see their reactions.”

“I suspect they will rather quickly stop reacting and start killing, actually.”

“Oh, come on! The Order’s no threat now Dumbledore is rotting.”

“I don’t agree.”

“Don’t let Mister Pettigrew hear you say that,” teased Jack, his voice echoing slightly as they walked under the archway. “Mister Pettigrew says they’re all washed up. Mister Pettigrew says-”

“Yes, very funny,” said the other dryly.

“Anyway,” continued Jack. “I heard Carmichael got it for a different reason.”

The other wizard remained silent.

“I heard Carmichael asking how it could be that the Dark Lord was so unwell just recently.”

Harry pricked up his ears. Voldemort had been ill?

“I’d rather not hear this, Jack. You’d best keep such ridiculous thoughts to yourself. What ever it was, the Dark Lord has cured himself now, hasn’t he?”

“Yeah, it seems so. But what could it have been, though? I mean, he defeated death, didn’t he?”

“I’m sure it was nothing serious, Jack.”

“Liar! Pettigrew was petrified he wasn’t going to recover. They were all scared.”

“Mr Pettigrew being an acknowledged expert in medical matters?”

Mister Pettigrew being an acknowledged coward, more like!” said Jack with a loud laugh which his companion didn’t share. “Oh, lighten up, will you?”

“Will you please keep your voice down?”

“Pettigrew isn’t here, is he?”

“You’d better hope not. However, he may have left an informant here.”

“Who?”

“Which one do we do first,” said the companion, not answering Jack.

“The one in the larger barn. I don’t see why he needs to be secured before we move him, though. I mean, what does Mister Pettigrew expect him to do?”

They changed direction and headed for a large doorway in the corner of the courtyard. Jack opened the door and Harry immediately saw two boots lit by soft lamplight.

Jack swore loudly as they both withdrew their wands and stepped over the unconscious guard.

“He can’t have got loose from those chains,” whispered the companion. “He probably just got lucky and threw something.”

Harry gently pulled the door closed after him, not wanting to draw attention to the goings on in the barn.

The floor of the barn was covered with a thick mat of straw. He carefully stepped over the unmoving guard noting the thick mass of blood where his head should have been. Harry almost tripped over the anvil that he had been hit with.

As he considered who might be strong enough to throw something as heavy as an anvil several feet across a large barn, Jack silently signalled to his companion who nodded. The prisoner must be concealed amongst some bails of hay at the back of the barn.

Jack made to advance but the companion waved for him to stop while he went for reinforcements.

This was sensible, but not something Harry could allow.

Jack crouched behind a small stack of bales as his companion turned to leave. The moment Jack’s head had turned, Harry threw off his cloak and stunned the companion. The red glow momentarily lit up the barn.

“What the?” was all Jack managed to say before a massive fist came at him from a narrow gap between the bales he was hiding behind.

Harry ran forward as the bales tumbled away to reveal a familiar figure.

“Hagrid?”

“Alright, ‘Arry?” said Hagrid as cheerfully as if they had met in his Pumpkin patch.

“What are you doing here?”

Hagrid raised a manacled arm in answer.

“They got me as I was leaving the Three Broomsticks. I know I wasn’t supposed to leave the school grounds alone, but I felt like some company. It’s been really quiet since Grawpy went.”

“Did they charm these manacles, Hagrid?” asked Harry.

“Nah, they used rivets. Good ones, too,” he observed.

Harry knew that charmed manacles might be more difficult for him to remove, but an experienced wizard would probably know the counter-charm to release themselves whereas Muggle rivets might be more of a challenge.

Harry concentrated and touched the steel manacle at Hagrid’s wrist. Hagrid jumped as if receiving an electric shock but the bracelet fell away.

“Sorry, Hagrid.”

“No worries.”

“I think we should try and get away as quietly as possible. My cloak should cover most of us, but it’s a good job it’s dark.”

“Right. Harry, how come you’re here? Not on yer own, are ye?”

“Hedwig must have found you. She directed me here. To be honest, I was half hoping to find someone else.”

“Clever owl, that one. Anyway, you’d best use the cloak and get out of here.”

“You’re coming too,” Harry reminded him.

“Sorry, Harry. Can’t. You’d best be off. I’ll follow in a bit.”

“Hagrid?” Harry asked suspiciously. “Why can’t you come now?”

“Oh, I’ll follow you. I just need to check there aren’t any other prisoners.”

“Right. Sorry, I didn’t think,” said Harry, knowing that once again his lack of consideration had almost allowed him to leave straight away. “Where do you think we should look first?”

“Harry, is this sensible? I mean, I got the impression they took me with the very idea of getting to you.”

“Yes, Hagrid, I think that’s almost right.”

“So, how about you Disapparating to bring help? You know I can’t.”

“I’m not going anywhere while there might be more prisoners. I’d feel terrible if I left someone else here. I know that is what I ought to feel, anyway. That’s final, Hagrid.”

Hagrid scowled down at Harry and Harry scowled right back.

Finally, Hagrid said, “Alright, but you’re to give me your word that at the first sign of trouble, you’re to-”

“No, Hagrid. I gave my word to Dumbledore like that and look what happened. That’s never happening again. We’re in this together.”

Harry raised his wand and put and end to their discussion by saying, “Nox!” All the lanterns went out at once and Harry gently pushed open the barn door.

“Y’know? One of these days you’re goin’ to have to teach me how to do stuff like that.”

*

They searched the stables first but found the building to be completely empty. Harry wasn’t too surprised since it, and all of the other outbuildings that formed the courtyard, had no lanterns at all.

“I recon we should try the house,” whispered Hagrid before they went outside again.

Harry looked through the door up at the two storey farmhouse. Lanterns were lit in almost every room.

“Which door should we try?” asked Harry. “There’s one in each corner and one by the archway.”

“Not the centre one,” said Hagrid adamantly.

Harry nodded in agreement. If there was someone keeping watch, they’d be just inside there.

“Let’s go for the closest,” said Harry quietly. “I’d like to check upstairs first. Unless you think there’s a cellar?”

“Nah. This was a Muggle place. They’d have windows or vents down low.”

“Okay.”

They slipped outside and followed the wall around until they got to the door. Harry tried the handle but found it was locked.

Alohomora!” whispered Harry and the lock clicked open. They entered quickly and closed the door behind them.

Inside there was a circular staircase. The winders were worn stone and pegs were provided instead of handrails or ropes.

“I’d best stay down here,” said Hagrid. “That looks a bit narrow. This must have been a servant’s staircase at one time.”

“Okay. I won’t be long.”

“Put your cloak on,” ordered Hagrid.

Harry didn’t argue, and pulled his invisibility cloak over his head. He then began to climb the winding stair. Before he had got far, Hagrid called, “Don’t forget to search the attic too.”

Harry knew he meant to be quiet, but the bare stone walls and steps seemed to amplify Hagrid’s voice.

He went past the first level and climbed on up to the attic as Hagrid had suggested. There he found a narrow corridor that led from one end of the old farmhouse to the other. The roof was filled with small plain looking rooms that he assumed were originally servants bedrooms. They were all empty.

Harry descended at the far end and followed a slightly wider corridor.

This part of the house was clearly occupied, so he moved more cautiously than before. He was about to check the first room when he heard someone climbing the stairs. The corridor was too narrow for him to try and stay out of their way, so Harry hurried towards the servant’s staircase. He didn’t dare chance entering one of the rooms.

He got to the shadows of the staircase and turned to watch. As he fought to control his breathing, the lanterns along the corridor grew lighter. Then Harry saw an elderly looking witch enter the corridor from the far end. She was levitating a tray before her.

She came to a halt and as the tray hovered in front of her she took a phial from her pocket and deftly shook a few drops into the bowls on the tray. She then stirred the potion into the food wearing a truly evil sneer.

When she was done she returned the phial to her pocket and raised her wand.

She was about to unlock a door when suddenly she turned to look directly at Harry. He dived down, forgetting for a moment that he was wearing an invisibility cloak. Had she seen him? Perhaps a foot had been uncovered?

The witch did not, however, come and investigate further. He heard her unlock a door, mutter something to the occupants. A moment later she had re-locked the door and the lanterns grew dimmer again.

Harry looked up just in time to see her enter the far staircase.

He hurried along to approximately where she had stopped. Unfortunately there were several locked doors on both sides that the witch could have opened.

Harry listened at each but heard nothing.

Then he heard raised voices from somewhere below.

Where are those two idiots?”

There was nothing else for it. The alarm was about to be raised and they would be discovered anyway.

Harry pointed his wand at the first lock.

Alohomora!”

The door clicked unlocked and swung inwards. There was nothing inside but a soiled mattress.

He unlocked the next door, and then the next. All were empty.

Harry fought to remain calm even though he was sure either he or Hagrid would be discovered any moment. The fourth door opened to reveal movement just visible in the darkness.

Lumos!”

 




Next Chapter:

Return
 
We must feed.”
 
Harry and Hagrid search the old farmhouse for more prisoners but eventually they have to fight their way out. Harry returns to find a fight raging in Privet Drive.


Chapter 15: Return
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Return
 

Harry fought to remain calm even though he was sure either he or Hagrid would be discovered any moment. The fourth door opened to reveal movement just visible in the darkness.

“Lumos!”

One of the figures was lying on a thin mattress while the other dropped a bowl of soup and tried to protectively cover the other.

“It’s okay,” said Harry, throwing off his cloak and quickly advancing into the room. “I think there’s something in that food. Did either of you eat anything?”

Harry did a double take looking at the astonished face looking up at him. Those eyes and wild hair looked strangely familiar.

“Is he okay?” asked Harry, looking past her and down to the figure lying down. His eyes were open and moving but he looked delirious. His face was horribly bruised and bloody and one eye was swelled but he was breathing normally.

Harry knelt.

“How about you, Mrs Granger?” he asked, turning to the woman.

She held up a quivering hand and touched his face as if to make sure he wasn’t just an illusion.

Harry smiled and briefly pressed her hand against his cheek. He was pleased to see that she appeared to be uninjured although her clothes were ripped and she was filthy dirty.

“You’re Hermione’s friend. H-Harry?”

“We need to get you out of here. How bad is he hurt?”

“Harry, you can’t be here. They took us because-”

“I know,” said Harry, standing. “My cloak will cover three people but there’s no chance of covering Hagrid with it too. Can he walk?”

“No. I think he’s still concussed from his last beating. We tried to escape again two days ago, you see?”

“Just concussed? Nothing broken?”

“No. I thought he’d broken a couple of ribs but they fixed those. They were careful to fix anything life-threatening.  Do you think you can carry him?”

“No, I’ll levitate him but you’ll need to guide him along. Remember that if I have to shoot or defend myself, the charm may break and he’ll fall.”

“Okay,” said Mrs Granger shakily. “Um, how’s Hermione?”

Mobilicorpus!”

Mr Granger floated up off the mattress like a limp manikin and a groan of pain escaped his lips. Harry threw the cloak over him.

“You get under too,” Harry directed. “Grab his arm or something so you can follow. He won’t have any weight now.”

Mrs Granger felt for the hem of the cloak and disappeared underneath.

Harry straightened the cloak so they were covered completely and said, “Hermione’s been pretty upset but otherwise she’s okay.”

“Where is she? What about Remus and Tonks?”

“Look, I think we should get out of here first, okay?” said Harry, checking that the corridor was clear. They could hear distant shouts now and Harry was sure someone must soon come up to make sure the Grangers were still secure.

“Of course,” said Mrs Granger from right behind him.

“Okay, let’s go. At the first sign of trouble dive for the floor in case I need to shoot behind.”

Harry ran along the corridor to the staircase where Hagrid was hiding. He heard Mrs Granger padding along behind him and when he paused at the top of the stair she collided into his back.

“Sorry! I wasn’t looking.”

“This spiral stair is pretty tight,” he began to say when the sound of urgent banging came from below. “Come on!”

Harry jumped down the stairs taking three steps at a time. He got to the bottom just as Hagrid let go of the door handle. He had obviously been trying to keep the door closed.

“I’ve ‘ad quite enough of this,” growled Hagrid and he shouldered the door.

The heavy door and frame flew out, taking several lumps of masonry with it and collided painfully with three unfortunates who had been trying to get inside.

Harry dived after Hagrid and fired stunning spells at two more who were far enough away to avoid the debris. Meanwhile Hagrid was throwing bricks and rubble at the wizards now streaming into the courtyard.

Harry was sending a variety of hexes that were enough to keep them at bay but he knew it was only a matter of time before their superior numbers began to count.

He managed to block a volley of impedimenta spells but one got through and narrowly missed Hagrid’s head.

“Too many, ‘Arry!” shouted Hagrid. “Come’n, let’s find another way out!”

He backed into the gaping hole where the staircase door was and pulled Harry back with him.

“Mrs Granger?” called Harry, afraid she may have got caught in the crossfire.

“We’re in here, Harry!” came a muffled voice from inside the staircase.

“Harry, seal that opening while I make us another!” ordered Hagrid.

The opening where the door one was now about twice as wide as the old door frame, thanks largely due to Hagrid using the brickwork for ammunition. As a result, Harry wasn’t entirely confident about being able to close up the opening.

Accio door!”

The heavy wooden door jumped up and flew back towards him, spells bouncing off the back.

Pointing his wand out Harry stopped the door and held it in approximately its original position.

Colloportus!”

Mrs Granger gasped audibly as the brickwork around the gaping opening rearranged itself to neatly seal the door closed.

“Nice one, Harry!” yelled Hagrid from within a great cloud of cement dust.

“Hagrid?”

Harry lit his wand and could see that where there was once just a plain internal wall there was another Hagrid-sized opening.

“Er, I think we’d better follow,” said Harry. “I suppose he knows what direction he’s going in.”

“We’re right behind you,” called Mrs Granger.

Harry stumbled over the brick debris into a large kitchen. Opposite, a larder door was wide open and Hagrid was already using a heavy bench as a battering ram.

“Can I help, Hagrid?” asked Harry as he hurried over. Just then there was the sound of more falling masonry accompanied this time urgent shouts of alarm.

“Opps,” said Hagrid, reaching down for more bricks to throw.

Harry ran forward and out through the opening. Through the confusion he could see that Hagrid had broken into a large staging area. Fortunately, Hagrid must have come through at a structural pier because he had brought most of the floor down on them as well.

Harry only needed to fire a couple of stunners to disable the one witch who had escaped injury by hiding in an alcove in the far wall.

They crossed the hall sized room with some difficulty while trying to ignore the groans coming from under the fallen floor.

“Why didn’t they Disapparate?” asked Hagrid, reaching out to help lift the Grangers over a massive overturned table that crossed their path.

“I think there’s an Anti-Apparition charm around this place, like at Hogwarts.”

“Good.”

“Good?” repeated Harry, scrambling over the table.

“Yeah. They won’t be going for help in a hurry, will they?”

“True, but we’re stuck too, remember? Anyway, where are we going, Hagrid?”

Hagrid didn’t answer. They were now at the end of a long wide corridor and at the end were a wide pair of doors.

Hagrid began to run at the doors.

“Hagrid, wait!” shouted Harry, running after him. “This must be a magical corridor! Stop!”

Hagrid ignored him and charged onwards. Harry knew from his observations of the outside of the property that this corridor could not be part of the original Muggle building.

Knowing that Hagrid would not stop, Harry pulled up and took careful aim at the doors.

His spell hit the doors a moment before Hagrid and they exploded outwards in a shower of red and gold sparks.

“Mrs Granger?” called Harry.

“In front of you, Harry!” came her disembodied voice. “Come on!”

Harry rolled his eyes and set off again after them. The cool night air hit him as he ran outside. Ahead, Hagrid was almost at the gate and Harry could see the gravel being kicked up as Mrs Granger ran after him.

Harry caught them up at the gate.

“I can’t get the damn gate open!” shouted Hagrid as Mrs Granger could be heard panting from under the invisibility cloak. “I can’t even touch the metal to climb over.”

“Let’s go over the wall, then,” suggested Harry.

“Nah, that’ll be charmed too. Hogwarts has the same kind o’ protection.”

“We should get out of sight, anyway. The boundary wall goes close to those trees over there,” said Harry pointing with his wand.

They hurried across the grass and entered the tree line. Soon they were standing next to the brick boundary wall which was around six feet high at that point.

Harry pocketed his wand and took a run at the wall. He pushed himself up and grabbed the top of the coping with both arms so he could pull himself over. He was about to pull when he felt a tingling sensation and he was thrown bodily backwards down onto the soft earth.

Hagrid chuckled and picked him up again.

“I thought that might ‘appen. That’s why they’re not in a hurry to find us.”

Harry swore and then remembered they weren’t alone.

“Sorry, Mrs Granger.”

They heard a quickly stifled invisible snigger.

“So,” said Hagrid. “Ideas?”

Accio Firebolt!”

“That may not work, Harry. The charms may keep it outside.”

“Yes, but if we do get on the other side of this wall we may need to get away in a hurry.”

“Good point,” agreed Hagrid. “Here it comes now, look. My, that’s a fast broom.”

Harry neither heard nor saw the Firebolt arrive until it was right at the boundary wall. It hovered tantalisingly out of reach barely four feet away, but clearly it could not cross the boundary.

Harry sighed.

“What if I go back and grab one of them? I came in through the gate. Maybe it will open if we have a Dark Mark.”

“Nah, these lot aren’t good enough to be Death Eaters. I doubt if there’s a Dark Mark between them. Anyway, I don’t like the idea of you going back in there, either. Come’n, Harry. You must’ve learnt something we can use in six years.”

Harry leaned back against the bare brickwork as Mrs Granger pulled off the invisibility cloak looking daggers at Hagrid. Mr Granger was still floating just behind her.

“That’s hardly fair!”

Hagrid smiled at her and said, “You know, you remind me of someone.”

Harry looked up and said, “Sorry, I forgot you’ve not been introduced. Hagrid, this is Mrs Granger. She’s Hermione’s mother. Mrs Granger, this is Rubeus Hagrid.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Hagrid,” said Mrs Granger stiffly, holding out her hand. “Hermione written to us about you, of course.”

As they shook hands Harry turned to face the wall. He closed his eyes and held his hand up, trying to feel the charms on the boundary.

Harry felt along the wall. There was something there, but the clarity he’d felt before was just beyond him.

Sighing with frustration, he opened his eyes and turned to face the others.

Harry was taken aback to see Mrs Granger and Hagrid rigid with fear and shivering. He looked around and saw that at least a dozen Dementors were hovering just on the other side of the boundary wall. He hadn’t felt their presence at all.

“It’s okay,” said Harry. “Fight it, Hagrid. They can’t get you. They probably know that some of them in the farmhouse are dying, that’s all.”

As he spoke Harry looked out through the trees towards the farmhouse. He was alarmed to see a gathering of witches and wizards just outside the tree line. Fortunately, they too were affected by the Dementors even at a distance and showed no inclination to come closer.

Harry thought.

He was fairly sure that his inability to feel the charms in the brickwork was linked somehow to his loss of feeling emotions.

He had assumed that it had been a side effect of Sapien’s legacy that had robbed him of his emotions, but what if that wasn’t true?

Voldemort had been ill recently. What if his cure had affected Harry as well. They were linked, after all. But what had Voldemort needed to cure himself of?

Harry felt a cold hand grasp his wrist. He looked down and saw Mrs Granger’s terrified wide-eyed expression. He knew she could not see him now. She was wrapped up in her own worst nightmares and memories.

“It’s okay,” he said gently. “It isn’t real.”

For the briefest of moments her eyes focussed on him and she released him. In that moment, however, Harry saw Hermione in those eyes and finally understood.

Harry’s knees gave way and he fell as the pang of emotion hit him.

“Blimey,” muttered Hagrid as the Dementor’s fell back, apparently in some distress.

Harry forced himself to get up and almost fell face first into the wall. His hands were spread wide and still smarting from the impact of his fall but Harry could feel the charms now. Harry closed his eyes, although this time it was more to stem his tears of emotion.

There were five overlapping charms that he could count, four of which were to keep intruders out. The one holding them in was strong but uneven. Harry realised, without understanding how he knew it, that these charms were placed imprecisely as if in a hurry.

He felt along the wall a short distance and smiled as he felt the charm dissipate. They hadn’t bothered to protect the wall right down to the ground.

Keeping his back to the others, Harry tapped the brickwork with his wand and blew a sizeable opening through the bottom of the wall. It would be a tight squeeze for Hagrid, but at last they had an escape route.

Harry turned back to see Mrs Granger looking at him with some concern.

“Are you okay, Harry?”

“I’ll be fine,” he answered a little croakily. “Let’s get out of here, shall we?”

“You go through first, Harry,” said Hagrid. “Keep those Dementors back.”

“What about the others from the farmhouse?” Harry asked.

“Some have run but most seem still affected for some reason.”

Harry scrambled through the opening and then helped Mr and Mrs Granger through.

“What did Hagrid mean?” she asked. “Oh, no. It’s going cold again!”

Harry turned to face the Dementors and then walked forward. One of the Dementors came forward to meet him.

You bear the Legacy. You may leave. The others must stay.”

“No,” said Harry, his mind so set that several Dementors fell back. “These three people are my friends. They leave with me.”

The Dementors did not respond.

“You will release the Muggles in the village. All of them.”

We must feed.”

“You can feed on that lot in there,” said Harry, pointing over the wall.

We cannot enter that place.”

“You won’t need to. I suspect that they won’t want to wait around here much longer. When Voldemort discovers they messed up my birthday treat, I expect he’ll pay them a visit. I should wait by the gate, if I were you.”

About half of the Dementors flew off over towards the boundary gate.

Do you know how dangerous you are to us, Harry Potter?”

“I’m beginning to realise, yes,” admitted Harry.

Will you betray us as well?”

“I will keep the word I gave to Sapien,” promised Harry solemnly.

Sapien was more wizard than a brother at the end.”

“Sapien knew that Voldemort would destroy you all in the end. He must realise eventually that you know his secret.”

Indeed.”

“So, will you join us in the fight against Voldemort?”

That would not be wise for us. We will continue to use our instincts as an excuse not to follow his orders to the letter, but outright rebellion is out of the question.”

“But feeding on the occasional Death Eater or sympathiser is okay, right?” asked Harry with a smile.

We must feed.”

The last of the Dementors floated off and Harry helped Mrs Granger pull Hagrid through the opening in the wall.

“I think I saw somewhere in the village that have some ropes we can use,” said Harry. “We need to rig up some kind of harness so we can all fly.”

“What time is it?” asked Mrs Granger.

“Just before one o’clock,” answered Harry. “It took about an hour to fly here, but we’ll be quicker going back.”

“What, even carrying all of us?” said Hagrid sceptically.

“What choice do we have?” asked Harry. “I can’t make a Portkey.”

“I say you should fly back and get help,” said Hagrid, brushing himself down. “I overheard that the attack was due to start sometime before dawn today. Mr Granger is in no condition to be moved and that Firebolt may be good but it’ll still struggle to lift me on my own.”

“I’m not leaving you,” said Harry firmly. “Especially around here.”

“I’ll use your cloak for a few miles. I’ll be able to cover quite a distance before dawn.”

Harry shook his head.

“You were taken because of me. I just can’t leave you in danger.”

“Harry, this wasn’t your fault,” said Mrs Granger gently. “We’re not in immediate danger now, are we? We’ll be fine with Mr Hagrid.”

*

Harry and his Firebolt Apparated into Privet Drive still travelling at top speed. He fired a stunner at one masked Death Eater and allowed himself to collide with another before coming to a halt.

Number Four and both adjacent houses were ablaze but there were no other Death Eaters around.

He could see huddles of frightened people covering in doorways and windows and there were distant cries of distress.

Harry climbed high over the rooftops and saw sparks and reflected light from a fire fight in the next street. He urged his Firebolt forward, just skimming a tile ridge and diving down right into the fight.

Hermione was cornered behind a low garden wall, surrounded by attacking witches and wizards.

Harry launched a barrage of spells against them.

He’s here! The boy’s here!”

Tell the Dark Lord! We’ve got Potter!”

Harry ran forward and dived over the garden wall to join Hermione. Unfortunately he landed on a very indignant Uncle Vernon.

“Oh, it’s you,” he shouted.

“You okay?” asked Harry, ignoring Vernon and crawling over to Hermione.

“Yes, just about. I tried to get them away, but they have the area surrounded. Have you seen Moody?”

“No. He was supposed to be back before midnight.”

“Yes, he did come back but we lost touch when the attack started. I hope he’s okay. He said the Order would be delayed but would follow. He said they had a lead and had to investigate.”

“It was probably a false one, Hermione. Oh, by the way. I’ve a message for you.”

Hermione ducked down as a hex blasted the stone coping before jumping up to return fire.

“Message?”

“Yeah, your Mum says Hi.”

Hermione had half jumped up again when she froze and stared at Harry. He reached out and forced her down under cover again.

“W-What?”

“Hagrid is taking her and your Dad to safety. She’s fine but your Dad is pretty beat up. He’ll be okay, though.”

Hermione’s mouth moved but she made no sound.

Harry smiled and leaned towards her.

“They’re alive, Hermione,” he whispered. “Hedwig found them.”

Just then the gate pier exploded.

“I’ve just about had enough of this!” yelled Uncle Vernon. “Now look here,” he began angrily, standing up before Harry could stop him.

Harry was expecting him to be shot down, but instead the firing stopped and they heard laughter  from their attackers.

“I insist you cease this nonsense at once! This is a respectable neighbourhood. You weirdo types should know that you’re-”

“Oh, be quiet, Muggle, before I silence you permanently.”

Harry began to stand but Hermione grabbed his front and pulled down hard.

“Not going to say hello, Harry? We’ve been looking everywhere for you. I so wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”

There was more laughter and Harry touched Hermione’s hand gently. She released him at once and they stood up together. Aunt Petunia remained hidden below the low wall, sobbing quietly.

Lord Voldemort’s lipless mouth stretched into a wide smile.

“The Order seems a little light on the ground tonight,” he observed as two masked Death Eaters dragged a limp Moody over and dumped him in just in front of the wall.

“I expect they had a prior engagement,” said Harry, stepping through an opening made by a spell impact.

“Yes, they’ve been rather busy lately,” said Voldemort conversationally. “They were hoping to spoil a birthday surprise I’d planned for you.”

“It wasn’t that much of a surprise, was it?”

“Perhaps not. Still, it’s the thought that counts.”

“I heard recently that you’ve been ill, Voldemort. Is that right?” asked Harry.

Voldemort’s smile vanished at once and his Death Eaters looked at each other with distinct uneasiness, but Voldemort quickly regained his composure.

“Thank you for your concern, Harry. I’m quite well, thank you.”

“Oh,” said Harry, hearing Hermione join him at his side and feeling his strength grow. “Unfortunately your followers at Hobb’s Weir didn’t seem to be quite so sure.”

Voldemort gave no indication that he was in pain, but Harry knew he was in agony. Harry’s scar hurt when Voldemort felt anger or hatred. It was only to be expected that he would suffer when Harry felt strong emotions of love.

“So, where’s my surprise?” tormented Harry. “I don’t mean to hurry you but you know you don’t have long.”

Harry stepped forward, utterly unafraid. This was the first time since his return that his scar hadn’t burned with pain in Voldemort’s presence.

“You do know that, don’t you, Tom?”

Anger flashed across Voldemort’s face and he raised his wand. Harry did the same.

Then three of the Death Eater’s wheeled around and were immediately hit by red stunners. Voldemort and the other Death Eater’s Disapparated with a loud Crack! before Harry’s stunners could hit any of them.

More cracks followed and witches and wizards appeared all over the street.

Ron came running up to them looking very pleased with himself.

“D’you see that! I got him! Did you see, Hermione?”

Harry turned to see Hermione looking up at him.

She was about to say something when Ron called, “Hermione, what’s the charm for ropes again?”

Incarcerous, Ron,” she said absently. “No, you’re forgetting the hand movement too.”

She stepped reluctantly away and Harry nearly stopped her. It was almost too much to bear for her to be ignorant of the fact that he had his feelings back in force and what the most important of those feelings were.

*

The next few hours went by in a blur for Harry. Privet Drive and the surrounding streets were a hive of activity as several teams from the Ministry of Magic modified people’s memories and repaired the building damage.

Number Four and the adjoining properties had been expertly restored after their fire damage, although Aunt Petunia insisted there was still an unpleasant smell of tar and fried tomatoes in the kitchen that had the officials from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes completely baffled.

Professor McGonagall turned up later in the morning bringing Hagrid and the Grangers with her. Mr Granger seemed back to himself if a little tender and was able to appreciate the emotional greeting Hermione gave them.

As they hugged and cried with relief, Professor McGonagall took Harry off to one side for a quiet word. They went out into the garden.

“Hagrid told me what happened. I’m not sure whether to congratulate or reprimand you.”

“I know,” said Harry. “I just couldn’t bear to do nothing.”

“Indeed. It was a mistake for you to leave Miss Granger and the Dursleys unprotected. We were very fortunate that there were no fatalities this time. Fortunately Voldemort wanted an audience for once.”

“Would you have got to the Grangers in time?”

“No,” replied McGonagall. “We had no idea where they were being held. We didn’t even know Hagrid was missing. I thought he was up in the mountains.”

“Well, I’m glad he was there to help. I’d never have got them out without him.”

“Indeed.”

“How did you find them so quickly, by the way?”

“The Ministry has had several reports of Muggle motorists phoning into local radio stations with reports that a giant set of legs was running along the motorway just before dawn.”

Harry laughed and said, “Well, maybe we can find him a bigger invisibility cloak?”

Harry felt the smile slip from his face.

“You should have told me,” he said seriously. “You should have trusted me. Mad-Eye and Mrs Weasley too.”

“I know,” said McGonagall quietly. “I rather assumed Miss Granger would tell you sooner than she did, despite her convictions to the contrary. She was afraid you’d go off an do something stupid, for some reason.”

Harry watched as Hermione and her father hugged in the kitchen. She seemed unwilling to let him go. She turned her head and stared directly at Harry.

He looked away feeling awkward and saw that Professor McGonagall was observing him closely.

“I still wonder if I’m doing the right thing,” she said lightly, distracting Harry.

“What do you mean, Professor?”

“Well, I’ve hardly been gone five minutes and look what happens.”

“It would have happened anyway,” Harry assured her. “Voldemort knew the wards were coming down.”

McGonagall smiled to herself and looked at her watch.

“Well, I’d better be getting along. Needless to say, Sibyl is proving to be just as impossible in France as she was in Scotland. Honestly, what does it matter which non-existent mystic line her tower is on?

“Anyway, please give my warm regards to Miss Granger. I shan’t disturb her at the moment but I’ll make contact with her soon. The temporary library facilities at the Beauxbatons Academy are rather impressive and I know Madam Pince wants to show it off to someone who will appreciate it.”

“Of course, Professor.”

“By the way, now that it is no longer necessary for you to stay here, I’d like you to come early to Beauxbatons. The facilities there are quite excellent and we might as well make good use of our time.”

“Actually, Professor, I’ve still not changed my mind. I won’t be coming back to school.”

“Nonsense, Mr Potter,” she said crisply. “You have yet to complete your education.”

“I thought after we spoke before that you understood.”

“I have had time to reconsider my position.”

“There are things I need to do. Things Dumbledore wanted me to do.”

“I have no objection to you studying under a more flexible timetable and there is no reason why you can’t base yourself at Beauxbatons and excuse yourself when necessary. I suspect that Miss Granger will have need of the library facilities and as far as I’m concerned there is no reason why you can’t occupy your spare time with lessons to further yourself.”

Harry smiled and nodded. It was true that he anticipated that there would be quite a lot of idle time between their hunt for each Horcrux and he didn’t object to learning more advanced magic. He wasn’t so sure Ron would be so enthusiastic, though.

“Good, that’s settled then. I’ve asked Hagrid to stay with you in the meantime.”

“Thanks,” said Harry quietly.

McGonagall walked over towards the house where she was less likely to be seen and Disapparated with a soft Pop!

Just then there was the sound of flapping wings and Harry instinctively held his arm out. Hedwig landed heavily.

“Hedwig! Are you okay?” he asked with concern. Her white leg feathers were covered in blood but she seemed to be uninjured.

Hedwig hooted softly and held out a foot.

“Oh, my,” breathed Harry, as she gently dropped the heavy Eagle’s head into his hand. “Been in the wars too, have you?”

Harry dropped the decapitated head at once and began stroking her, wondering that she could have defeated such a large opponent.

“I’m just glad you’re okay. How about Pig?”

As he spoke Pig dived into the kitchen causing pandemonium as he attempted to deliver his message to Hermione. Unfortunately, Pig had brought a larger and significantly more bloody trophy back with him.

Harry went over and sat down at a garden chair with Hedwig.

Inside they heard Aunt Petunia shrieking and chasing Pig from room to room, and everyone else chasing after Aunt Petunia.

Hermione sat down quietly next to Harry. She was red-eyed and apparently feeling too emotional to say anything. Together they quietly began stroking Hedwig, each completely oblivious to the chaos inside the house.

 





AN: Back to Gringotts for the last Chapter and conclusion to the Prologue…
  
The Legion (Prologue Part 2)

Harry, your eyes. They seem different, somehow.”
 
Harry and Ron finally return to the Burrow where Hermione is waiting. Before Harry finally leaves, the three share a toast.


Chapter 16: The Legion (Prologue Part 2)
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The Legion (Prologue Part 2)
 

Back in Harry’s vault at Gringott’s  …

Harry’s stomach made a loud grumbling noise, breaking him out of his reminiscences of the previous summer. He looked surreptitiously sideways at Ron, who had finished talking and was now sitting quietly, staring down at the floor.

Harry looked at his watch and was dismayed to see how late it was.

“Ron, we should really make a move.”

Ron nodded absently. Clearly his thoughts were far away too.

Harry got stiffly to his feet and offered his arm out to help pull Ron up. As Harry went around putting the lanterns out, Ron lingered over the selection of artefacts on the small table.

“I suppose this is really it,” he said. “I honestly never hoped to believe we could destroy all six.”

“I know,” said Harry, his head still full of memories of his seventeenth birthday.

Harry wasn’t entirely sure when he first realised that his birthday marked the start of the Order’s fight back against Voldemort.

They had found Wormtail lying unconscious behind some bushes in the next garden. Hermione had managed to hex him before the other Death Eaters got away and Harry suspected he had been hoping to avoid risking being fired upon.

Harry wasn’t totally convinced even then that he was doing the right thing by letting him go. He was such a miserable creature, crying and begging for leniency that Harry had been tempted to allow the Ministry to take him after all.

Instead he released him on condition that he act as a spy for them.

“You can’t trust him, Harry,” Tonks had told him. “Besides, You-Know-Who is bound to suspect he made a deal. How else could he have got away?”

“I’ve told him to tell Voldemort everything,” Harry had replied. “He’ll say Voldemort can feed us false information through him pretending to spy for us.”

“So? What use will he be, if everything he tells us is rubbish?”

“Well, Wormtail isn’t particularly trustworthy, is he? He’ll betray anyone if it serves his own interests. I think if he’s frightened enough, we’ll be able to get what we need.”

“You’re going to be more frightening than You-Know-Who?”

“Not to you, maybe,” he had admitted. “Besides, Wormtail has messed things up yet again. I know he’ll blame others, but Voldemort must be losing patience with him. His failure to torture and kill people targeted to cause me maximum distress wasn’t his worst mistake tonight.”

“It wasn’t?” asked Moody, whom Harry thought hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation.

Tonks took a step back to include Mad-Eye in their discussion. He was sitting on the low garden wall rubbing the back of his head.

Harry smiled seeing he was recovering a little and said, “Well, no. Voldemort’s biggest mistake was to show me how vulnerable he is. I can’t tell you how tempting it was not to, well, use what we learned from the Dementors.”

Tonks frowned but the eyebrow above Moody’s normal eye raised a little.

“You must mean the Kiss. You can do that?”

“Well, kind of. With Hermione’s help.”

“Why didn’t you?” demanded Tonks angrily.

“Now isn’t the time,” said Harry, holding his hands up to stem her protests. “All that would have happened is that he would be alerted to something that could help us. The Kiss would not have killed him, I promise you.”

“As good as,” retorted Tonks.

“No,” said Harry seriously. “Remember, he came back to a body from almost nothing before. He could do that again, except I mean to finish him permanently. That’s a promise.”

Tonks seemed to shudder a little as he said this and she looked away.

“What?” asked Harry, but Moody snorted with amusement.

“It- It was just something we were talking about a few days ago,” she said hesitantly, before looking him full in the face to answer him properly. “You know, um, Dumbledore?”

Harry just nodded slowly to encourage her to continue.

“I mean, well, sometimes he was a bit intimidating. I mean, he could be charming and witty and kind most of the time. But sometimes there was something scary about him. It was in his eyes.”

Harry smiled and nodded.

“I know what you mean,” he said fondly. “I could never describe him as scary, though. It was just like sometimes you saw a glimpse of the power he wielded.”

Tonks looked down and nodded.

“So, um,” said Harry, hoping she would continue.

“She sees it in your eyes too, Harry,” said Moody with a wry smile.

Harry gave him a sceptical look but Moody shook his head.

“Oh, I’ve seen it too. Why’d you think that maggot Wormtail practically wet himself?”

“So, you think we were right to let him go?” asked Tonks.

“Not for one second,” replied Mad-Eye bluntly. “Still, it is consistent for a bunch of leaderless, no-hope softies like us, eh?”

“Let’s hope so,” seconded Harry.

Harry smiled remembering Tonk’s look of simple incredibility on her face.

Meanwhile, the Grangers had somehow managed to persuade the Dursleys to accept the protection offered by the Order and they were whisked away before noon complete with the entire house contents. The only time he had seen Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon since then was briefly at the following Christmas, although Remus Lupin insisted upon giving him regular reports about their well-being.

He saw a little more of the Grangers because they were moved to a small cottage in the grounds of the Beauxbatons Academy where they helped out by giving demonstrations of Muggle technology to sceptical students.

Professor McGonagall had been right to describe the temporary school facilities as impressive. Harry was amazed to see a massive tent the size of the Great Hall that had been erected in the grounds adjacent to the Academy’s great château. This had been the only equivalent space Beauxbatons had been unable to provide within their existing buildings, and Harry rather liked the interior décor which Professor Flitwick had conjured to match the original; even down to the enchanted ceiling. They hadn’t actually needed to replicate the Hogwarts kitchens as well, but Professor McGonagall seemed to think it would keep the house elves happier.

In addition no less than four of the high Hogwarts towers had been transported over to France and were now balanced impossibly on the side of the stable complex which Professor McGonagall had converted into classrooms.

The thing that made Harry smile widest, though, was seeing Hagrid’s house by the lake, complete with vegetable patch and a paddock for Buckbeak. Right next door was an almost identical house except that it that was Grawp sized.

At first the schools operated independently, and although lessons continued to be held separately gradually more and more students from each school would eat in each other’s dining Hall.

Harry suspected that Mrs Granger might have begun this as she so often wrapped her arm around his and insisted taking him off to eat in the Beauxbatons elegant white and gold hall just so she could quiz him. It would be years later before she admitted to him the anti-muggle charms inside the Academy meant she had to be in contact with a witch or wizard in order to see any of the finery.

Harry and Hermione both enrolled for their final year at the school, although Ron declined and preferred to set up shop in Diagon Alley. Ron tried briefly to get Hermione to skip school but gave up as soon as he saw for himself the extensive library facilities.

Harry himself actually spent relatively little time at the school once term started, his activities with the Order taking him away for much of the year.

Just as predicted, Voldemort had taken Hogwarts at the beginning of September. There had been no battle to prevent them.

Ministry Aurors, observing from brooms at great heights reported Death Eaters searching the deserted village and grounds before returning to wait for the train bringing the new students.

The train never even left King’s Cross Station. Unsurprisingly, not one student turned up.

Even the Slytherins had stayed away.

Harry’s main concern over the temporary surrender of Hogwarts concerned Dumbledore’s white tomb. He was sure Voldemort would desecrate it as soon as soon as he arrived but Professor Flitwick assured him that no such thing would happen.

“He’s still at Hogwarts,” the tiny Professor had whispered conspiratorially to him as they walked down to help Hagrid redecorate Grawp’s cabin. “We’ve moved him into one of the wilder parts of the forest, that’s all.”

Harry smiled remembering the smokescreen of seemingly pointless stunts they had conducted to conceal their hunt for the Horcruxes after that. He had been quite open with Fred and George when he approached them, telling them everything he could except about the Horcruxes themselves.

“You want us to plan this?” George had asked. “Surely the Order would be better equipped and far more experienced in hunting dark wizards?”

“Look, you must understand me,” Harry had said earnestly. “This isn’t the real hunt. What I need are a series of deadline grabbing stunts. I want Voldemort to see the Order blundering around and failing for the most part. We will be going after genuine Death Eaters and their sympathisers, but the true purpose will be to conceal what is really going on.”

“Okay, so what will really be going on?” asked Fred.

“I’d rather not compromise you by telling you too much,” Harry said carefully.

Fred looked offended for a moment but George said, “Fair point, Harry. Can we assume that your other teams won’t know about our activities?”

“The Order’s teams, you mean. That’s right, only the three of us will be involved with detailed planning. I’m going to ask you clear everything through me, but this is really your show. Ron and Hermione will know a little more, but everyone else will just follow your orders as far as your plans are concerned. Ron will fund anything you need.”

Fred and George looked at each other a moment.

“Sorry, Harry. It’s just that headline grabbing never seemed to be your thing before.”

“On purpose, anyway,” said Harry with half a laugh. “That’s why I came to the experts.”

“So, what are our terms of reference?”

“Whatever we do, it must either be hidden from the Muggles or easily explainable as a natural or normal catastrophe. But the most important thing is that all reasonable precautions must be taken to make sure there is no loss of life or serious injury. To anyone, not just bystanders.”

“Anyone?”

“Anyone,” said Harry firmly.

“That’s a tall order, Harry.”

“Remember we won’t be the main event. I want the wizarding world and Voldemort to see a couple of small victories in an otherwise misguided campaign that will be doomed to failure.”

Fred and George had shaken their heads but in the end agreed.

Less than a week later the twins contacted him with their first idea. Mr Weasley had received a tip-off that a wizard family was harbouring some fugitives and they had persuaded him to delay putting a report in so the Order could raid the place ahead of the Ministry.

The Daily Prophet and local Muggle news-outlets ran several stories on the wide crater that had appeared overnight and for a while it was feared that no-one had survived to bear witness to what had happened. However, it later emerged that three suspected Death Eaters had been taken into Ministry custody and the family they had held captive had been moved to safety.

Despite the minor inconvenience of the Ministry turning up a little too promptly, Fred and George’s pretend war went from strength to strength.

It had come something of a small shock when, not long after, Harry realised that Order members were coming to him for advice on their own campaign as well. He confided this to Professor McGonagall during one of their practise duelling sessions.

“Well, that shouldn’t be so much of a surprise,” she had said. “After all, you alone seem to have some idea of how to rid of us of Voldemort once we catch him. This way you not only know just about everything the Order is doing but you can also ensure our efforts are not misdirected.”

“I’m not even a member of the Order of the Phoenix,” Harry had said.

“We do not accept people who are still of school age,” she had replied with a small smile. “I thought you knew that?”

Harry snorted and was punished for his lapse in concentration by a hex that gave him a dead wand arm for the rest of that evening.

Harry instinctively rubbed his arm, remembering how Professor McGonagall had at once increased the ferocity of her attack. It was a pattern that they would repeat many times. Far from being annoyed with her, Harry was glad she understood that mercy was something the Death Eaters never showed their victims.

As Harry waited by the door to the vault, Ron reached under the table with the remnants of the Horcruxes for something wrapped in a dark cloth. He discarded the cloth and then pointed his wand at the last lantern over the table and plunged the vault into darkness.

Harry heard a curse as Ron walked into something hard on his way across towards the exit.

“Perhaps we should have put the lamps out from the door,” suggested Harry in an amused tone.

“Ha. Ha,” said Ron, coming out of the darkness rubbing his shin.

“What’s that?”

“Hm? Oh, just something I put to one side,” he replied, holding up a dusty green bottle with a wax sealed cork. “I’m not big on vintage wine, but this you just had to get. This is from the very last case in existence.”

“You’ve been lecturing me on how my inheritance has all gone and you’re proposing we drink my last remaining asset?” said Harry laughing.

Ron chuckled and nodded.

“Yep. That’ll teach you, won’t it?”

The Gringotts cart flew around the corner and stopped at the small platform to return them to the surface.

*

“I should be going, Ron,” said Harry nervously, still dragging his feet as they approached the back door. Now that he was finally here, Harry realised he would really much rather just go and face Voldemort.

“Not yet, Harry. You’re not leaving me to explain how stupid and inconsiderate you are.”

“It’s late, Ron. Everyone is in bed.”

“Yeah, right,” he replied sarcastically.

They crept into the Burrow’s kitchen. The house was dark and quiet.

“See?” whispered Harry.

“See what?” asked Hermione, appearing at the door to the living room and holding up a small lantern.

Knowing he had no choice now, Harry entered the room properly while Ron just sniggered and fetched three large crystal wine glasses and an ornate decanter from a display cabinet.

Hermione placed the lantern down on the table and turned the brightness up. Harry sensed her tenseness as she waited in silence next to him.

Harry noticed that the latest edition of the Evening Prophet lay on the kitchen table, its headline confirming that countless numbers of Dementors had surrounded the Hogwarts grounds. The paper speculated if Voldemort was about to unleash another attack, but Harry knew better.

At Harry’s invitation, they had actually been blockading the school for some weeks now. The Death Eaters inside could not Disapparate nor any longer Floo out to safety. They were trapped. Tonight, though, would be the last night of the blockade. Harry fully intended to remove the wards keeping them out before he faced Voldemort.

Ron returned quickly and pointed his wand at the bottle top. The cork popped out and up into the air. Ron caught it expertly and sniffed the darkly stained stopper.

“Don’t you have to let it settle or something?” said Harry.

“The term is decanting, Harry. And, no, not if you have a wizard around,” said Ron, pointing his wand down at the base of the bottle and giving it a flick.

The decanter began to fill from the bottom and Harry saw that the deep red wine was completely clear.

Ron filled each of the wine glasses with a generous amount and placed the decanter back down. Harry was studying Hermione’s face as he did so. He could see she knew what this must mean.

Ron raised a glass.

“A toast,” he said brightly.

Harry picked up the glass nearest him and Hermione did the same. He sniffed cautiously and caught some of the bouquet.

“Here’s to you, Harry. I truly hope you manage to get out of one more scrape. Just one more should do it, eh?”

Ron took a deep drink, almost emptying his glass.

“Oh, yes,” he continued, refilling his glass. “Try to remember, just before the end, that I-” Ron hesitated before continuing. “Well, I wasn’t afraid to be with you for the end.”

Harry lowered his glass and watched as Ron took the decanter and his glass out of the room.

Hermione, who like Harry hadn’t joined in with Ron’s toast, was holding the glass at an alarming angle with the wine threatening to pour out and over the floor.

Harry gently plucked the glass from her fingers and poured all the remaining wine down the sink. He turned back to see her frowning at him.

“What did you do that for?” she asked seriously.

“Well, a couple of reasons, actually,” admitted Harry. “Firstly, I need to keep a clear head tonight and secondly I didn’t really feel like celebrating.”

“So, you’re really going then. I’m sorry if Ron made you come back.”

“No. I fully intended for us all to have dinner together before I went. I must admit, though, that I was dreading telling you.”

“You know I want to come with you? Ron too.”

“Yes, but if it happens tonight then it’ll only come down to the two of us in the end.”

“What if Wormtail lied? It could be a trap.”

“He did lie, Hermione. It is a trap. It is also exactly what I’ve been waiting for.”

“What about the wine?”

“What about it?”

“Was it poison?”

Harry shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. Clearly Hermione had been suspicious as well. Ron would usually draw attention to the fact that they hadn’t even tasted the wine.

“It’s not important. If I had to choose what to believe, then I’d choose to believe that Ron didn’t know. I’m sure it is slow acting, so you’ll have plenty of time to get him help if he needs it.”

“What about the missing gold?”

“Nothing is missing as far as I am concerned. I asked Ron to manage the finances and that’s what he did. I said he could take what he wanted.”

“No, Harry. You may have said to take what we needed, but not what we wanted.”

“Same difference.”

“Not if he’s been funding the Death Eaters! I told you ages ago, there has to be thousands of Galleons missing, Harry.”

“It’s not important.”

Hermione shook her head slowly and Harry sighed gently. This wasn’t what he wanted to talk about.

“He tried to tell me earlier, Hermione. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying much attention though. I was remembering about last summer and Sapien.”

“He admitted helping Voldemort?”

“Ron hasn’t helped Voldemort,” Harry assured her. “He just got mixed up with a few of his followers while he was making the deals that got us here. Some of them don’t need Voldemort to make them take advantage of people. I think he just found himself in a corner.”

“So, what did he admit?”

“He didn’t need to admit anything, Hermione. Ron’s our friend. He didn’t know it, of course, but he’s actually been helping in a strange kind of way. The Ministry and Gringotts have been tracking where the money goes for months now. They couldn’t before, because they didn’t have any serial numbers.”

Harry took half a step closer and said gently, “None of this matters now. By the morning either I will be dead or I won’t. If I die, there will be no proof of Ron’s duplicity. If I live, I can protect him.”

“How did this happen? Ron, of all people.”

“Like I said, I wasn’t listening to the detail. Maybe he was blackmailed into it or maybe they used an Imperious curse on him. He never could shrug that one off, could he? Look, in the end, it was my fault it happened.”

“Attempted double murder and a suicide was your fault?” she responded sarcastically.

“That was never going to succeed. Even if I hadn’t known you would have-”

Known?” Hermione said sharply.

“How about suspected, then?”

Hermione just tutted.

“If I live, then everything will have been worth it,” he assured her.

“Surely, only Voldemort being dead would make that.”

Harry smiled coldly and said, “Oh, he’ll be dead alright. Besides, Snape and I have unfinished business too.”

“But, Dumbledore made him. He was dying anyway from when he destroyed the ring,” began Hermione, but then she stopped herself. “I refuse to argue with you tonight, Harry. Please,” she added as her voice cracked. “Please come back so I can lecture you some more.”

Harry smiled down at her and lifted his hand to wipe away a tear from her cheek. Hermione grabbed his hand tightly and kissed his palm.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ve been an idiot.”

Hermione just nodded.

“I supposed you’ve known all along?” he asked.

“Yes, pretty much. Ron’s continued jealousy was one reason, even though you never gave him any reason to be. Quite the reverse, actually. When did your feelings really return?”

“I saw you in your mother’s eyes the night of my birthday. Whatever Voldemort had done, it began to break down when I thought of you. When he turned up, I could feel his discomfort. But when you stood up beside me to face him, that’s when he was really hurting. He was in agony at so much emotion going through me.”

“For all this time you’ve been pretending not to care?”

“I had to, Hermione. Voldemort has no idea where my strength really comes from. He only knew his pain started as the wards began to come down. I had to let him believe it was that.”

“I suppose.”

“I hope you appreciate how much I’ve suffered too,” said Harry with a smirk. “It hasn’t been easy.”

“Oh, poor you!”

Harry’s face fell as he prepared to tell her what he knew he must.

“I’ve left letters for you, Ron and a few of the others. If it all goes horribly wrong, I’ve made plans for your escape. There isn’t much money, but it will do you for a while. Don’t share the contents of your letter with anyone until you are safe. Anyone, okay?”

Hermione shook her head as if refusing to hear him.

“I told Hedwig that you’d look after her. She’ll bring you your letter when,” he said before hesitating. “Well, she’ll know.”

He felt a fresh tear run down over his hand.

“Try not to worry, Hermione. I’ve still not forgotten what Sapien tried to tell me, although I’ve tried hard enough.

“He told me I shouldn’t be afraid. He said I should just let go and accept it; that my feelings were just what happens when you fall in love.”

Hermione let go of his hand but pushed herself towards him. Harry wrapped his arms around her back while she sobbed quietly.

“I used to think that only a Dementor could make me feel like I’d never be happy again,” said Hermione, sounding muffled against him. “I know better now, though. Sapien told me I’d be unhappy. I told him I could bare it; I was determined to be as strong as you, Harry.”

“He knows,” Harry said gently.

The kitchen clock chimed and Hermione tensed.

“I have to go,” Harry said quietly. “I have a Prophecy to fulfil.”

Finally Hermione released him and looked up. As determined as he was to go, Harry had found himself quite mesmerised. Hermione frowned slightly, and this broke the spell.

Knowing he had no more time, he leaned down and kissed her lightly. Their kiss deepened but it was Hermione who eventually broke away.

“Harry,” she said. “Your eyes. They seem different, somehow.”

*

Harry stepped out into the yard and walked the few feet from the house before he could Disapparate away. Harry had no idea what Hermione meant when she said his eyes seemed different. He pushed this notion to the back of his mind and as he allowed feelings that had been suppressed for far too long to come to the fore.

At one time he would not have acknowledged the true source of his inner strength. Now, though, as he turned and thought of his destination, Harry knew he had never been stronger or more confident in himself as he was right at that moment.

He thought of Hermione waiting for him and a fresh imperative surged through him. Voldemort had better hurry up and die because he was determined not to keep Hermione waiting.

Harry reached the gate, thankful that he’d resisted the temptation to look back at the window he was sure Hermione was now looking at him from. He wondered briefly if he might not have the strength to go if he saw her anguished features.

He was about to Disapparate when he sensed something.

He looked far into the distance with his mind’s eye just as Sapien had shown him. Voldemort was over a hundred miles away, and yet Harry picked him out straight away.

Suddenly two cloaked figures jumped out of the darkness towards him.

Harry disarmed them with barely a flick of his wand; finding himself faintly annoyed that Voldemort should have sent such inept and clumsy attackers to him.

The two attackers would be found the next morning still trembling with fear and begging to be released from the permanent sticking charms Harry had used to glue them to the trees. Unfortunately, their ordeal would be exacerbated by the attentions of the Dementors who were never far from Harry these days.

Harry looked out at the horizon once more and summoned the remaining seventh of a soul to him. Just like a Dementor, he found himself compelled towards Voldemort’s remaining life essence, damaged as it was.

As he approached, Harry fancied he could see fear in that dwindling unnatural soul. It was as if Voldemort had suddenly felt the chill of his soul being exposed to him.

Harry thrilled as he felt his connection with Voldemort tense.

Could Voldemort really know? Harry neither knew nor cared. Tonight for the first and hopefully last time in his life he would deliberately take a human life. Well, he was human once, he supposed. Harry knew this wasn’t what Voldemort feared, though. What he really feared was what Harry fully intended to do: he was going to expose Voldemort to the full extent of Sapien’s legacy.

Harry had suspected before that Hermione knew at least part of the truth that not all of Sapien had perished that night.

It had been Harry, not Hermione, who had actually succeeded in releasing Sapien that night. Harry had instinctively known that it was love that released the soul during the Kiss. Knowing this, Sapien, or part of him, had not been able to leave.

For all this time, Harry had nurtured a Dementor’s essence within him; a soul with the knowledge Sapien intended him not to know.

Harry now knew the dangers that Sapien foresaw.

He hadn’t once been tempted to abuse his knowledge. This seemed to surprise the remaining elder Dementors. Perhaps that was why Harry was now able to communicate freely with the legions of Dementors, even if he couldn’t command them.

They would shortly begin hunting down the last of Voldemort’s followers, although Harry knew they would follow his suggestions only to a point that suited their interests. Regardless, he was determined to free all the Dementors, and the last of Sapien, before dawn.

Just as Dumbledore had speculated, Harry could read a person’s soul just like a Dementor. After only a short period in a stranger’s company, Harry knew enough to judge them. No secrets or lies could protect them. Even so, Harry never judged others; not even Ron.

Harry’s knowledge did allow him to examine himself, however. He had confirmed his own suspicions that he himself was fractured. That fracture would be healed tonight, even at the cost of his life. Hermione had the right to him whole or not at all.

Harry urged himself onwards through the night.

Before the end, he thought grimly, Voldemort would truly understand the Dementors’ abhorrence at what Voldemort had done to his soul.

 

END


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