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The Apprentice Piece by jardyn39

Format: Novella
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 37,484
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild violence, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

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

First Published: 09/16/2017
Last Chapter: 09/22/2017
Last Updated: 09/22/2017

Summary:



In the Summer before Sixth Year, Harry gets a job as an assistant to a carpenter. Harry is soon called away but not before he completes an unusual apprentice piece. After surviving an examination review, an encounter with an Unspeakable and a hunting trip with Hagrid, Harry’s optimism for the new school year is sorely tested by Ron and by something Moody describes as "lethal and completely unsuitable for teaching a young would-be Auror. Right up your street Potter, Eh?"


Chapter 1: Summer Job
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The Apprentice Piece

by Jardyn39

Part One of "The Apprentice Piece"

Introduction

The Apprentice Piece was first published on Portkey in February 2005 and is the first of five self-contained but linked stories set during Harry’s Sixth Year at Hogwarts. Minor edits and shorter chapters have been combined.

The five consecutive parts are entitled: The Apprentice Piece, The Crucible, The Dragon, The Sword of Light and The Accord.

Prologue

Harry has returned to Privet Drive after finishing his Fifth Year at Hogwarts. He is resigned to staying with the Dursleys for the entire summer.

Summer Job

On a dull Monday morning in late July, Harry Potter found himself leaning against a wall watching the slow rush-hour traffic move occasionally along the high road. It was just after 7:30 and Harry hadn’t quite woken up yet.

Harry heard a beep from a car horn and looked up as a plain white transit van drew up to the kerb and stopped. Harry stepped over to the van and opened the door.

Harry climbed in and slammed the door closed.

"Morning, Harry. Local job today," said the driver as they pulled away.

"Morning, George," replied Harry as he gave an involuntary yawn. George just smiled.

This was the start of the second week that Harry would be helping George Hellar as his assistant. Harry’s Uncle, Vernon Dursley had arranged for Harry to have this part time job, although Harry didn’t think he would see any earnings for himself.

George was a carpenter and joiner, and Harry guessed he was approaching retirement age. So far they had been to several houses to fit new windows and doors or do minor repairs.

Although Harry was happy to get away from the Dursleys for a few hours a day, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of doing carpentry at first. He didn’t think he would be of much use, never having handled tools nor done any woodwork.

Harry, though, had immediately taken a liking to George who would patiently explain the job, the tools they would use and talk about the various timber species that would be suitable. Harry would be directed to fetch, carry and clean up as needed but at least once each working day he would be directed to do something actually for the job.

The first day had been the worst.

All he had to do was cut off a measured length of timber. The ends were to be square and it would be used as a packing piece at the back of a frame. George made the first one in about twenty seconds, including measuring.

Simple Harry had thought.

He was wrong. No matter what he tried he could not make a straight cut with the hand saw. He was soon mortified to discover he was surrounded by an odd assortment of cut wood. He eventually finished by using a rasp to square off his best effort.

After what seemed to be an age Harry returned to present the finished article to George, dreading what he would say about the quality of his effort as well as the amount of wood he had wasted.

George however carefully examined the piece with a wry smile. He wedged it into a gap between the frame and the brickwork and directed Harry to pick up the electric drill. Following George’s specific instructions Harry then fixed the window frame with four long screws.

It was rather satisfying to get something right.

"Okay, now let’s see about the other side. We’ll need two more packing pieces."

Harry’s heart sank as he followed George around the house back to the cutting horse.

George selected a piece of wood from the ground. Harry grimaced as George examined it, the end of which was particularly bad. Not only was the cut not straight at all but it had split at the end. Splinters were jutting out at an alarming angle.

George picked up the handsaw and cut the end off the wood.

Harry marvelled. He didn’t need the set-square to see it was a perfect cut. Not only that, George had cut through the wood like it was made of butter. Harry had struggled to keep the saw from jamming every time he used it.

George smiled and handed the handsaw to Harry who shook his head slightly but none-the-less took the saw. George moved around and placed his hand over Harry’s around the saw.

"No, place your index finder along the handle. Gives more control. Good. Hold the timber with your other hand. It mustn’t move. Make your thumb knuckle like this as a guide and draw the blade against it. The teeth are too low to cut you. Place the saw at the cut position and draw the saw back."

Harry pulled the saw backwards and the cut started.

"Now move the saw forward in a slow gentle action. Don’t fight the wood."

Harry felt the saw move as George cut through the wood.

"Now stop almost at the end. Finish with short cuts and support the end so it does not splinter. Okay?"

George let go of the saw handle.

"Okay, now measure the length we need and draw a square line around it as a mark."

Harry did so and prepared to make the second cut. He waited for George to take the saw again but he didn’t. He only made a small adjustment to Harry’s grip on the saw again and also adjusted the position of his other hand.

"Go ahead," George directed quietly.

Harry drew back the saw trying to remember the feel of the saw when George had been cutting. The saw actually started cutting in the right place for once.

Here goes then, Harry thought as he pushed the saw forward in an even cutting motion. The end of the wood splintered slightly even though George was holding it.

"Well done," George said simply. "Cut the other one while I fix this one. Then we’ll need to clear up."

When Harry said goodnight to George when he was being dropped off back at Privet Drive that evening, he felt rather proud of his achievements.

He actually laughed out loud to himself when he thought of both Ron and Hermione’s reactions if he boasted he had cut a piece of wood on his own!

*

The next day the traffic was a little better as Harry stood in his usual place along the high street waiting for George to pick him up in his van. There was a familiar beep of the horn as the van drew up and stopped.

This morning, however, the passenger side door opened before Harry got to the van. A young man jumped out. He had close cropped light coloured hair and was wearing a wide grin.

"You must be Harry. My name is John Read," he said shaking Harry’s hand. He held the door open and Harry climbed in and slid himself along the front bench seat.

John jumped in pushing Harry along further and slammed the door shut.

"Morning, Harry," said George as usual.

"Morning, George," replied Harry as they sped off.

George, as usual, was quiet while he drove. John, on the other hand chatted constantly, making observations and jokes. John was probably in his late twenties and wore a designer polo shirt with fancy sunglasses in his top pocket. Harry would have bet that his tatty jeans were also a designer label.

John explained, eventually, that he was assisting today because they were to install a large timer screen in a large house that was being refurbished. Harry started to say he knew as he had helped load the van with the screen components yesterday, but John carried on explaining that screen has been prefabricated at the workshop but has been disassembled for transporting.

John was constantly making quips that reminded Harry strongly of Ron.

They arrived at the site and Harry followed the other two up the stairs to where the screen would be installed. Harry had never been to a building site before and looked around with great interest, although he felt rather self-conscious wearing is brand new safety helmet and borrowed safety boots.

Unfortunately they found the opening that would receive the large screen was not ready yet. John did not appear care very much but George was clearly annoyed that his plans for the week had been disrupted.

Harry noted how much George was respected on site. No-one used coarse language around him. Harry listened as George patiently explained to the Architect why his joinery details of the remaining screens to be made wouldn’t work and tactfully suggested the correct way to proceed.

As they couldn’t fit the screen they’d brought that day, they spent the morning hanging doors and fitting locks. Harry just fetched and carried, and he knew that the materials were far too expensive for him to risk messing up.

John chatted constantly most of the time.

Read was very curious about Harry. Harry was obviously evasive when he answered Read’s questions. Read had noticed that he was not like the usual troublemakers George usually took on.

Later George returned from a meeting held upstairs saying they would pack up and come back in a few days time. Before they left he went to the foreman to get their record sheet signed. The foreman was reluctant to sign and George was not very forceful.

George left the sheet with the foreman while he packed up but Harry noticed Read go into the office to have a word. He emerged looking uncharacteristically serious with the record sheet, which he handed to Harry. Harry noted it was signed and the hours have been adjusted to the entire day.

John Read clearly didn’t like George being taken advantage of.

*

The three of them spent lunch in the park. George was engrossed in a letter as John quizzed Harry some more about his school. Harry had been avoiding these questions all morning.

"You go to a private boarding school? That’s not exactly a normal background for an apprentice carpenter, is it? Normally George takes on yobs, like me. Trouble makers, you know?"

They both laughed.

"Well, to hear his Uncle talk …" began George not looking up from his letter.

"Anyway, Harry’s not an apprentice,” said George. “He’s just helping us out, that’s all. Oh, Harry, I’ve just remembered. You forgot your wages from last week. Here."

"Er, thanks. Are you sure? I thought my Uncle …" Harry began but trailed off as he took the small brown envelope. Uncle Vernon had told him George would be sending his pay direct to him.

Besides, Harry was sure he had wasted twice as much in wood alone last week, something he had confessed to John earlier. John had laughed and assured Harry that he had wasted far more when he started.

"Thanks," Harry said again quietly, realising that George intended him to have at least part of his earnings.

"First pay packet, eh?" John mused. "Can’t remember what I spent mine on."

"I seem to recall it was alcohol related," George said dryly.

John laughed and nodded enthusiastically.

"Hey, what time is it? There’s a reserves game on this afternoon. Coming Harry?"

George shot him a warning look.

"Hey, I promise not to let him spend his money. Or get drunk. Or …"

This continued for some time until they eventually bid George goodbye.

The reserves match was held at a football stadium a short walk away. John explained that the quality of the play would be pretty poor since they were only reserves and the club was in a lower division. When they arrived the gates were open and they entered for free.

They joined a small but loyal group of supporters and Harry had a good time cheering and groaning with the rest.

Harry didn’t mind at all that it was a truly terrible match. He even retrieved the ball when it had been kicked high into the empty stand.

Although neither side really deserved to win, the match ended 1 – 0. It had been an own goal and John had been practically in tears laughing at it.

The small band of supporters made their way outside, making commiserating remarks to each other. Harry and John made their way to the station where John made Harry take the money for his fare. They bid each other goodbye and as Harry entered the station, John went straight into the adjacent pub.

*

An Unexpected Guest

At about four o’clock Harry got off the local train at Little Whinging and ambled along the platform to the exit thinking about whether or not to tell Aunt Petunia about his wages. As usual at that time during the school holidays it was very quiet and he was glad to avoid the crush of returning commuters later on.

He held is ticket ready to show it as he exited but no-one was there. He put the ticket back in his pocket, thinking Mr Weasley might like it, and walked through the ticket office and past the taxi rank that had no taxis.

He looked around before crossing the road and saw two youths with bikes that he recognised from Dudley’s gang. Their attention was drawn to a young woman sitting on a bench looking through her bag. They must have made some remark because she looked up to them looking distressed. Harry recognised her at once and turned to go over to her.

"Clear off, you two!" Harry said aggressively as soon as he got close. “Now!”

They turned quickly, looking alarmed. Harry for once was pleased that his false reputation was intact. They withdrew hastily, only risking a couple of shouted insults when they were far enough away.

"Hello, Pansy. Are you okay?" he asked smiling down at her.

Pansy Parkinson just stared at him, clearly very surprised to see him.

"Those idiots were friends of my cousin,” he explained. “Everyone around here thinks I go to a Secure School for Incurably Criminal Boys. You look a little flustered."

"I think I got off at the wrong station. Now I’ve lost my ticket and the Muggle in the ticket office said I didn’t have enough money for another. Millicent was supposed to come with me. Mum gave me a Muggle fifty note for emergencies."

There was a quiet desperation in her voice.

"Fifty Pounds? That should be plenty of money."

"I bought a tin of drink earlier and the Muggle gave me change," she said, holding out just three coins. "I think I was short changed. And when I eventually got the stupid thing open it spilled."

Harry nodded sympathetically as she held up the twisted can. Somehow she had opened the wrong end.

"Some day you’re having. Come on, let’s check the train times and the ticket price. Then we’ll get you a drink."

*

"Okay, the good news is we’ve got enough money for your train ticket. The bad news is there will be more than a two hour wait for the next one that stops here. We will have some change over but I think you should keep that for emergencies."

She nodded silently.

"If you’re up for a short walk we can get you something to drink and eat at the Dursley’s."

"You really do live with Muggles?" she asked, standing up to follow him.

They walked back to Privet Drive and Harry enjoyed himself abusing the Dursleys and their habits as they went.

*

As Harry led Pansy into the kitchen his worst fear was realised. Uncle Vernon was home early.

"Er, Pansy could I introduce my Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon? This is Pansy Parkinson. She is from a school in the village close to my school. We met at the train station and I invited her for some tea as she has a long wait until her train."

"BOY!" Uncle Vernon yelled. "How dare you bring another … another …"

He just couldn’t bring himself to say the words.

Pansy cut across him.

"I hope you’re not suggesting I’m one of those freaks that attend that mad-house," she said imperiously.

Uncle Vernon looked quite shocked as Pansy continued, "You may not be aware but sometimes they let them out of school to wander around the village."

She sat down uninvited and continued.

"On several occasions I have had to send Potter packing. They do respond to simple instructions but it can be hard work sometimes. This one seems particularly dense sometimes. You must be incredibly patient."

"Please stay for tea."

Harry marvelled at Pansy. She was clearly in her element. Both Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia revelled in her effortless insults at Harry. They simply loved her and Harry thought she was enjoying herself too as he was ordered about.

In no time at all they were being dropped off at the station by Uncle Vernon who had insisted taking her in his car. He wasn’t intending to take Harry as well but Pansy just ordered him into the car.

Waving a cheery goodbye, Uncle Vernon drove off. Pansy turned to Harry who was now grinning at her.

"I can’t believe it! He actually just drove off and left you here!"

Harry laughed and shrugged.

Pansy’s face was still serious as she said, "That was horrible. They are awful people, Harry. I almost punched him when he showed off your cupboard."

She looked genuinely upset.

"Well, thanks for acting like you were having a good time," he said smiling.

"Come on or you’ll miss your train," and he steered her through the ticket office and onto the platform. It was still early but the station was now busy with people returning from work.

"Send me an owl so I know you got home safe, okay? Here’s a list of your connections. Your ticket is good for the entire journey. And, Pansy?"

"Yes?" she asked absently, not looking up from the list, clearly thinking of her journey ahead.

"Thanks for using my first name."

He closed the door to the train and waited until it had gone before turning and walking home. As he passed a waste basket he dropped his empty wage packet inside.

*

The Workshop

The next day John insisted that George had to pack up early. Today George had been invited to the graduation party of another apprentice named Helen Smith.

George was especially proud as she has just completed her part-time degree. She was currently working for a large contracting firm and has just been promoted to become an assistant site manager. John had quietly told Harry that at first Helen had been more trouble than any of George’s previous trainees, including John himself, when George had first taken her on.

Before he left, however, George wanted to leave Harry with some instructions.

"Harry, come and look at this. This is a technical drawing of a piece I want you to make this afternoon. I have asked John to take you back to the machine shop so he can show you how to use the equipment. Together you can do some practice pieces but you are to do the final piece completely on your own."

"That looks like an apprentice piece," said John looking at the drawing.

Harry looked down at the drawing and was immediately worried. It had very specific dimensions all over it and it had a rather complicated profile.

"That’s exactly what it is,” said George. “You can use off-cuts to practise with but I’ve put aside some timber that you are to use for the final piece. Unfortunately I don’t have that much of it so you’ll only have one chance to get it right. It’s been in the kiln drying out and it’s ready now.”

George looked seriously at Harry before continuing.

"Harry, promise me you won’t let anyone help you with the final piece. You are to be the only one who will work the timber and no-one else is to even touch it until you have given it at least one coat of the varnish that I’ve prepared. It’s all laid out in the shop."

John looked down at Harry and seeing his worried look said, "No problem. We’ll have this done in no time."

"Promise me you’ll let Harry do the piece on his own,” said George. “No help for the final piece."

"Yeah, Yeah."

"It’s important."

"Why? He’s never going to do a proper apprenticeship, is he?"

"Harry may not be a proper apprentice but he deserves a chance."

"He won’t be able to use all the equipment. The piece will be wrong …"

"The piece has nothing to do with it,” insisted George. “No-one helped you when you did your final pieces did they? Of course not. When you presented them you knew they were the best you could do. They weren’t perfect, but they were good and you were proud to have made them. Don’t try and tell me you weren’t, because you were. I’m asking you not to take that away from Harry."

George’s words clearly affected John and eventually he just nodded.

George turned to Harry.

"Harry, I just want you to take something away with you. I want you to look at the piece knowing that even though it was something new and different you managed to create something on your own. It will be a reminder that whatever you choose to do, trying your best will always produce results."

Harry nodded, although feeling more than a little apprehensive.

"Wood is a natural material,” continued George gently. “You never know what you’ll find when you work it. Something unexpected is bound to come up. It will go wrong, especially since you haven’t used the gear that much. Just do your best and don’t be too critical of yourself."

*

John took Harry back to George’s machine shop. As they drank tea, John walked him around the workshop explaining the various items of equipment and describing how they worked and what safety equipment was needed.

He selected several off-cut pieces of timber from the store at the back of the workshop and they set to work. John was clearly very skilled in using both machine and hand tools. First off, John made a piece almost entirely on his own, showing Harry how to use the equipment.

Then they made a second with John setting up the machines and Harry going most of the working.

Finally they made a third piece where Harry did almost all the work under John’s constant supervision.

"You learn quickly!" said John, "must be the brilliant teaching, of course," he added with a wink.

Harry smiled as he held the final practise piece. Maybe he could do this after all.

The hardest part for Harry had been setting up the many machines in the workshop, but this had only taken them so far. To his and John’s surprise, the hand worked final stages had actually gone well.

Harry realised that in making this apprentice piece, he was actually using all the skills that George had so patiently been teaching him.

"Okay, I’m going to call George to ask why he’s not drunk yet,” announced John. “You go and get the proper wood for the final piece."

Harry went over to the small kiln at the back of the workshop that John had pointed out. He unbolted the catch and opened the still warm door. Inside was one straight branch about 18 inches long and about an inch in diameter. Harry reached in and drew it out.

He stared at it. It still had bark on part of it.

This was nothing like the practise pieces which had all started with wrought timber that had planed smooth sides.

"Harry? There’s no answer from George. I’m going over to his place to see he’s okay. It’s just up the road. Will you be okay on your own for a bit?"

"Sure, okay," said Harry, still looking at the branch in his hands.

He sighed and thought back to George’s words earlier. He supposed he had better make a start then.

*

About half an hour later Harry had prepared the branch and was just setting up the first lathe when he heard a small pop from behind him. He whirled around and was surprised to see Kingsley Shacklebolt standing there looking serious.

"What’s happened?" asked Harry.

"Have you finished? We need to get away," Kingsley said seriously.

"Er, no. I’ve just started."

"What are you doing, anyway?" said Kingsley and he reached out to pick up the prepared branch.

"NO!" shouted Harry, grabbing the timber away just in time. "I’m sorry, it’s just that George, Mr Hellar, made me promise not to let anyone else touch it. I’ll put it away if we have to go."

"Sorry, Harry. Dumbledore says you are to finish the piece and then come. Let me check this place is secure and then I’ll fill you in. You carry on."

"Er, okay," said Harry, now feeling more than a little confused. "Oh by the way, John Read went to check on George, he’ll be back soon."

Harry thought he heard, "No he won’t," from Shacklebolt as he walked out the door.

*

A few minutes later Kingsley returned with two cups of tea. Harry knew he had used magic because the fine china looked out of place in the workshop. Kingsley seemed to realise this because he put the cups down on the bench and waved his wand. Two chipped enamel mugs appeared. He handed one to Harry.

"I’ve sealed the doors and windows. George Hellar was attacked in his home tonight. He is fine but he’ll have a headache in the morning. We intercepted Read as he arrived. He’ll have his memory modified. We don’t know who did it but they used stunning curses. We knew there would be a risk but both Dumbledore and Hellar thought it would be worth it.

"You know George? Is he a wizard?"

"No, Dumbledore knows George. He’s a widower now but his wife was a witch. She was very good friends with Arrabella Figg. She’s mad at you, by the way."

"Me? Why?"

"She heard you brought a certain young lady back for tea and was offended you didn’t bring her round to see her."

Shacklebolt was grinning as he said this.

"She wasn’t a certain young lady, she was someone from school,” said Harry. “And if I had thought of her it still would have been a difficult to choose the Mad Cat Lady with Hundred Year Old cake over the Dursleys.”

“Please don’t tell her I said that," he pleaded as an afterthought.

Shacklebolt laughed and held up his hands.

"So are you going to be long? I’ve no idea what you’re making, by the way."

"Well, it’s not going too well so far. That’s the drawing I’m working from over there."

"Hmm. Looks a bit like a wand, apart from the shape. I’d help but I’ve no idea what this stuff does."

Kingsley indicated the machinery as he spoke.

"It’s okay, I’ll manage. It could be a long night though. Are you sure George is going to be alright?"

*

At just after 3 am the piece was finally finished. After a final check of the finished dimensions against the drawing, Harry wiped the timber free of dust and applied the special varnish that George had prepared.

It dried very quickly.

"Do you think I should add another coat? It has dried already," asked Harry.

"Well the drawing says four coats and it is okay to touch or levitated after the first coat."

"Levitated? Show me?" said Harry and Shacklebolt handed him the drawing. "It’s changed. These instructions weren’t here before!"

Shacklebolt levitated the piece and Harry applied three more coats. These took longer to dry than before but eventually Harry held the finished article in his hands.

"Be careful not to perform any magic, Harry," said Shacklebolt as he took the piece. "Mr Ollivander would be proud, I’m sure."

"It doesn’t have a core. It can’t really be a wand, can it?"

"I don’t know but Dumbledore thought it was important."

"Yes, so did George but not for a magical reason. He said it was for pride, like it would symbolise an achievement."

"Okay are we done? You won’t be coming back and your stuff will have gone from the Dursley’s by now."

"But George …"

"Will understand. You can write to him later. Do we have to switch this stuff off?"

"Yes, I’ll do that," said Harry and he went around the workshop turning off the breakers as John had shown him.

"Here, take the drawing. I have a Portkey, Harry. It will operate when you touch it. I’ll Apparate."

"Hang on, I’ll turn the lights off. Are all the Muggle locks in place?"

"No, I used magic."

"Well let’s lock up properly and then use the Portkey outside."

 











Next chapter:-

The Ministry

"Lily? You’re Lily’s son?"

Harry goes to the Ministry and meets Professor McGonagall. When leaving, an Unspeakable named Fides introduces himself. Back at Hogwarts, Harry has lunch with Dobby. After a brief hunting trip with Hagrid and Dumbledore, Harry meets the Hogwarts Express from London.


Chapter 2: The Ministry
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The Ministry

Harry slammed into a polished wooden floor. He picked himself up and dusted himself down.

Where was he?

Ahead of him was a large window with small panes of glass with a glazed door next to it. It looked like he was inside a shop. It was dark inside but moonlight showed the street outside was deserted.

Harry stepped towards the door.

Behind him he heard someone clearing his throat. Harry span around and automatically pointed the apprentice piece as if he had his wand.

"Mr Potter, welcome. I … oh!"

"Mr Ollivander. Sorry, you surprised me," said Harry and he quickly lowered his arm.

"Ah, is that the piece. May I see it?"

"Sure," said Harry and he held it out but Mr Ollivander moved away.

"I cannot touch it, Mr Potter."

"No, it’s okay. No-one but me touched it until was varnished."

"I still can’t touch it. Please hold it in the light so I can see it better."

Harry held it up next to the lamp on the counter.

"Very nice. Very nice," muttered Mr Ollivander, now getting very close to it.

"Is this a wand, Mr Ollivander?"

"It is, although I could not be certain until now."

Mr Ollivander straightened up and looked at Harry with his unblinking eyes.

"Albus wanted me to check it was suitable. It is. You’ve done well. You notice the unusual profile? It starts as an octagonal shape at the handle end, changes into a square profile, followed by a round circular profile and ending with an eclipse."

"Shouldn’t anyone else hold it then?" asked Harry.

"Oh, no. There’s no core, so it will act just as a piece of machined timber in the hands of most people."

Harry nodded as Mr Ollivander opened an empty long thin box and indicated for him to place it inside. Mr Ollivander closed the box and handed it to Harry.

"The wand chooses the wizard, Mr Potter. You must not attempt to use it until you get back to Hogwarts. It would be best if you entrusted it to someone else until you get there. It should be safe in that box, but even so.”

Harry had so many questions he didn’t know where to begin.

“Don’t ask me any more about the wand or its purpose now. You will know very shortly. Albus will tell you. For now, just know that the power this wand can give its true bearer will overwhelm an untrained wizard."

"I may not be the true bearer?"

"No. You may not be. Albus will know only when you attempt to use it. Now, if you’ll permit me I’ll walk you over to the Leaky Cauldron. Tom has a room for you."

*

"Mr Potter, Sir. Good evening. I’ve been expecting you," said Tom as Mr Ollivander bowed them goodbye.

"Mr Shacklebolt is in the bar, Sir."

"Harry, Hi! Come and have a drink."

"Er, I’m not sure I should," said Harry uncertainly. Shacklebolt looked like he had a few already.

"Here, Mr Potter. This is a hot toddy. It will help you sleep," and Tom handed him a steaming tankard. Harry took a sip and felt the hot sugary alcohol sting his throat. He took another, and immediately felt much more relaxed.

"How are George and John?" Harry tried to say but his voice was just a whisper.

Shacklebolt suppressed a snigger.

"They are fine. Both asleep, which is what sensible folk do at this time of night."

"Sleep would be good," admitted Harry. Tom appeared to show him to his room.

"Nine o’clock, Harry."

"Pardon?" he asked, his thoughts on the bed waiting for him upstairs.

"You appointment at the Ministry is nine tomorrow morning. You can Floo there from here."

*

At 8:45 the next morning, Harry approached the security desk in the atrium to the Ministry of Magic. He queued behind an old visiting witch who thoroughly annoyed the security guard by spending ages searching for her wand.

Eventually Harry presented his wand and was told to take a seat in the waiting area. As Harry sat he watched witches and wizards move in an out of the atrium, all the time worried about why he had been summoned. He couldn’t think what he’d done wrong this time.

"Mr Potter?" said a loud voice that startled Harry for a moment.

"Er, Yes?"

"Good morning. My name is Mr Wilkes. Thanks for coming in. Let’s go up to my office shall we?"

Harry followed. Wilkes was as tall as Harry but quite rotund. He had a jolly look and said hello to everyone they passed.

"Here we are!" said Wilkes as they reached the end of the corridor.

Harry read the sign next to the office door and had a mild panic attack. It read "Examination Board – O.W.L." Resisting a strong urge to just run, Harry followed Wilkes into the room. There were only two desks but the entire room was surrounded with an odd assortment of filing cabinets and stacks of paper.

Two people were already present in the room. An elderly witch behind desk was chatting to Professor McGonagall. They looked like old friends. Wilkes greeted the Professor and started to make teas in the corner after indicating to Harry that he should sit.

"Hello, Harry," McGonagall said greeting him with a warm smile.

"Hello, Professor," he replied giving a nervous smile.

Wilkes started speaking with his back still towards the others.

"I hope you don’t mind my inviting Professor McGonagall, Harry. You should really have a parent or guardian present for the interview but I thought this might be better."

"Er, not at all," said Harry.

After handing out the teas, Wilkes took out thin folder from one of the filing cabinets. He opened it flat on his desk and suddenly masses of paper appeared. He picked up a summary sheet of parchment and considered it.

"Now, about these marks," he said seriously.

It turned out, however, that Harry got good marks in both practical and theory papers for most subjects and Wilkes complimented him on his DADA marks. Wilkes commented that this year Hogwarts had an exceptionally wide range of marks on DADA, a few rather good but most exceptionally bad. McGonagall smiled knowingly at him.

"The Minister stepped in and insisted we review your marks when he found out You-Know-Who might have been interfering."

"And we told him he shove it …" piped up the old witch.

"Yes, thank you Agnes. The examination board is independent, Harry. No-one can tell us what grades we may or may not award. However we routinely review and re-grade papers and we like to think we take into account any special circumstances."

Wilkes looked down at the papers in front of him.

"Now, there are a couple of subjects that we need to look at."

Harry’s stomach seemed to clench.

"Divination. Everybody fails this. Okay, what colour tie will I wear tomorrow?"

"What?"

"Pick a colour."

"Red," said Harry and Agnes snorted loudly.

Professor McGonagall took out her wand and transfigured a rubber stamp into a lurid red tie. It had "It’s Wednesday" neatly stitched across it in gold. Harry stared open mouthed at the Professor but she didn’t look at him.

"Thanks, I’ll wear it tomorrow. Sorted. Divination passed if prediction correct."

Wilkes wrote a few notes before continuing.

"Astronomy. As Professor McGonagall disrupted the exam …" Wilkes paused as she gave him a severe look. "Sorry, couldn’t resist. As there was a disruption during the examination, everyone’s marks were adjusted. You scraped a pass, Harry. Okay?"

He looked up at Harry who nodded.

"Now History of Magic. Not so good here but the Examiner noted that you were taken ill during the examination."

Wilkes asked Harry some History of Magic questions and, after considering his answers, asked if Harry thought he would have passed this anyway.

Harry looked down. "Not really. I barely managed to stay awake in Professor Binns’ class this year."

"Well, your end of year tests before OWL weren’t that bad," added Professor McGonagall, "I still think you would have passed."

"I’m going to mark this as a fail, Harry, but invite you to re-sit the examination in November."

"Okay, thanks."

*

Lunch with Dobby

"Professor? Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it."

In response Professor McGonagall just smiled at Harry as they stood in the lobby waiting for the lifts.

"Do you know how Hermione did?"

"You have to ask? Actually, Agnes thinks it may be a record. They are still checking so don’t say anything yet. I’m not supposed to know anyone’s grades yet."

"Okay, sorry."

"You are to Floo directly to Hogwarts and stay there for the remainder of your holidays. Hagrid and Dumbledore are there but most of the other staff are away at the moment. I suggest you ask them to take you on one of their hunting expeditions. They barely need half an excuse anyway."

"They hunt?"

"Well no, not really. They usually spend half the time tracking some beast until it gets their scent and they spend the rest of the time running away. Stupid really, but they seem to enjoy it."

Harry wondered for a moment what kind of creature would both Hagrid and Dumbledore running away. Two chimes rang out announcing the arrival of the lifts.

As the gates slid open Professor McGonagall said quickly, "Well, I’ll see you in a few weeks. I’m going up for another meeting. Is that box for me to take?"

Harry quickly handed her the box with the apprentice piece and then hurried to enter the lift opposite. He pressed the button for the atrium and gave McGonagall a short wave as her lift went up.

After a moment’s hesitation, the lift gates slid shut and the lift car descended. Harry watched as the floors passed. As the atrium level approached, Harry readied himself to leave, but to his consternation the lift continued down. He tried pressing the atrium button again.

The lift continued down and Harry was becoming concerned now. He didn’t remember the lifts even going down this far before.

The lift eventually stopped and the gates opened. As they did so, lanterns lit themselves outside revealing a stone walled lobby. Harry drew out his wand and listened intently. He heard faint shuffling ahead and a shadow emanating from a doorway reached across the floor and up a wall to the side.

"Mr Potter! Welcome to the Department of Mysteries."

Harry stared at the smiling wizard that had appeared at the doorway and was walking over towards him.

"My name is Fides, I’m an Unspeakable," he said extending out his hand. "It’s alright, the lift won’t move again until you’re ready to leave."

Harry was a little taken aback that the wizard had known exactly what he was thinking. He stepped forward and shook the man’s hand.

"I didn’t think the lift went down this far."

"It doesn’t," said Fides un-helpfully. "It’s a mystery," he added and smiled.

"I’m sorry to have brought you here like this. Unfortunately I missed you earlier so I asked the lifts to bring you down when you were free. I know I should have waited for you but I’m not keen on crowds."

"So, er, what did you want to see me about?" asked Harry with some trepidation.

"Well, I’d offer you a tour around the department, except I’m sure you aren’t too enamoured with this place at the moment."

Harry just nodded.

"I just wanted to let you know that you are welcome to return at any time, when you feel ready. Just enter a lift and think of this lobby and the lift will bring you. Please just remember that we don’t allow just anyone down here so make sure you are alone in the lift."

"Thanks," said Harry, "but what makes you sure I’d ever want to come back?"

"The Department of Mysteries is a rather misleading name. It implies that we are just an obscure part of the Ministry. The Unspeakables are actually custodians of a knowledge much older than the bureaucracy above us."

"And is that knowledge why you don’t let anyone down here?"

"That and the fact that it annoys Fudge," Fides said with a smirk.

Harry snorted despite himself.

"One day you will have need of the knowledge we guard here, down in the lower levels. It is protected because usually something that is a powerful good is usually capable of being powerfully evil. Any wizard wanting to use our knowledge would have to prove themselves worthy. It has been fatal to those found lacking or who have selfish motives. Can I offer you a cup of tea, Mr Potter?"

Harry stayed for some tea. Fides told him a little of the wonders they kept down there. Harry was sure that Fides was keeping something from him, perhaps something specific to Harry.

Harry listened intently to Fides as he chatted until eventually it was time for him to leave.

As Harry re-entered the lift, a question occurred to him.

"Has Professor Dumbledore ever been invited down here?" he asked.

Fides smiled and said, "Yes, indeed. He’s practically an honorary Unspeakable, although that’s really only because we have never been able to put up wards strong enough to keep him out."

*

Harry fell out of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. As the green flames died he picked himself off the floor and dusted himself down before heading out of the portrait hole. He asked the Fat Lady what the password was but she said there was none during the summer holidays.

He decided to head down to the kitchens for something to eat.

As Harry walked past the Great Hall he heard wild high pitched chattering coming from inside. It sounded like a party.

Feeling curious, he went over and pushed open the heavy doors into the hall and entered.

Seated at the four house tables were hundreds of house elves. They were chatting happily and loudly to each other. Harry was quite taken aback by the shear number of them.

Quite suddenly, the chattering stopped and all of the elves looked over to him.

"Harry Potter, Sir!" shouted a familiar high pitched voice. "Dobby has missed you and hopes you are well!"

Harry looked down and smiled at Dobby who had just dashed over from one of the tables.

"It’s great to see you too, Dobby."

Seeing that everyone was still staring at him, he continued, "I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I was on my way to the kitchens. Please carry on eating."

"Is Harry Potter hungry, Sir?"

"It’s okay thanks, Dobby. Please finish enjoying your meals. I’ll grab something from the kitchen," said Harry and he made to leave.

"Would Harry Potter like to join us?" Dobby asked with some trepidation.

"Well, I’d be honoured. Thanks, Dobby. Er, that is, if nobody minds?"

Dobby grabbed his hand and pulled him over to a table.

Harry sat and Dobby immediately stood on the next chair and whispered into his ear, "House elves is not supposed to sit at house tables if people waiting to be served so Harry Potter must please not ask house elves to serve or they will have to go."

"Thanks, Dobby. I understand," Harry whispered back.

Harry looked down the table to see all the house elves still staring at him. He reached out and took a roll from the centre of the table. He sensed them relax a little and gradually they continued eating and chatting quietly.

"I had no idea Hogwarts had so many house elves. Do you all work here?"

"No Sir!" screeched a house elf sitting opposite. "Our families are joining us during the holidays."

Harry noticed there were some very young house elves sat amongst them as well.

"Well I hope you get some time to enjoy yourselves while us students are away. May I pour anyone some juice?"

A tiny hand grasped a small cup and held it out. There was a collective gasp as the other elves realised what the child had done. Harry smiled and took the cup from the young elf. He filled it and placed it in easy reach of the child who smiled appreciatively as she grasped it with both hands. Harry thought she was more interested in having some more drink and looked quite unconcerned that a wizard was serving a house elf.

Dobby held out his trembling goblet. Harry filled it from the jug he was holding and was about put it down again when another goblet was held up. He filled it, noticing that all the elves were looking at him in wide eyed amazement.

He shrugged slightly and decided to work his way down the table.

"You know my friend Hermione is quite fanatical about changing the way wizards treat house elves," he said carefully, knowing that the elves didn’t exactly agree with Hermione’s views about their welfare.

"You know? I don’t think she’s entirely right though. You’ve just reminded me that the simple pleasure of serving and helping someone who is appreciative and deserving brings its own rewards."

A few elves nodded to each other as he said this and the volume was noticeably higher by the time he got to the next table.

"Er, did Hermione actually free any of you, you know, leaving the clothes out?"

"No, Sir! She is not our Master," squeaked a house elf as Harry filled her goblet. "Only our Master can give us clothes and set us free!"

"Well, I’m glad. Actually, I wondered how the laundry got done if you couldn’t pick up clothes."

Harry paused speaking but continued to pour.

"I think it’s entirely up to you whether or not you want anything in return for your service."

"Still …" he wondered aloud, quite aware that every house elf was listening now.

"Hogwarts is special. Everyone wants to be here, me included.

"My friend Dobby, over there, was mistreated horribly before he came to Hogwarts.

"Would Professor Dumbledore allow any house elf be mistreated while he was Headmaster? I don’t think so.

"If only we could be sure that house elves working outside Hogwarts are treated just as fairly.

"Hermione is, in her way, campaigning for an abolition of house elf enslavement.

"I personally think that enslavement is wrong, but it should be up to you who you work for and what, if any, terms you wish. If you want to refuse payment and time off, that should be up to you and no-one else. You should not be forced to work for any family that mistreats you."

He paused and then moved on to the next table.

"Somehow I don’t think that a change in wizarding law would affect the house elves’ enslavement. It might improve the conduct of the wizards though. Make mistreatment of house elves properly punishable.

"Hermione can be very determined, you know? Once she decides to do something, nothing can stand in her way.

"That could be a problem. Hermione means well but she could end up creating more problems for you.

"You know what? I’ve come to a decision.

"It’s high time I took a more active role in SPEW.

"What we really have to do, as a top priority, is get Hermione to change her campaign. That won’t be easy.

"She won’t listen to me.

"In fact the only people she might listen to is all of you."

Harry reached the last table.

"If we’re going to get Hermione to draw up a new manifesto, she’ll need to be persuaded quite soon. We were lucky she had OWLs last year, so we might still have time."

He continued silently along the table. The elves held up their goblets but the entire hall appeared to be deep in thought.

"Anyway, are you going to let me help out with some cleaning or what?"

*

The house elves did not let Harry help with the cleaning. He did however spend a memorable afternoon helping in the crèche.

While three female house elves looked on in mild amusement, Harry dashed about retrieving errant toys and curious elf children who were intent on sneaking off to explore.

Harry quickly realised the children were both very magical and very mischievous. They had quite a time lengthening and shortening the legs of his jeans as he walked amongst them. Harry, of course, pretended not to feel the material stretching and contracting until he looked down. He’d then act shocked and bewildered to guffaws of high pitched laughter.

He couldn’t believe how fast they were. While he was allowing several of them to wrestle him to the ground, a new game that quickly became a favourite, Harry saw out of the corner of his eye a small elf get up and make a dash for the open door. Harry tried to get up as quickly as he could to give chase but was delayed trying not to hurt any of the others still clinging on.

"Enjoying yourself, Harry?"

It was Albus Dumbledore smiling down at him with the tiny elf child in one arm. The child was looking rather pleased with itself. As soon as they realised he was there, all the elf children scrambled to greet him.

Clearly a favourite with the children, he beamed back down at them.

"I’m afraid I’ve come to steal Harry away from you."

Harry felt his cheeks redden slightly as the elves protested. Dumbledore drew out his wand and waved his free arm in the air.

Instantly a small table laden with small treats and ice creams appeared. The children all rushed over to the table and Dumbledore put down the child who was now keen to get to the treats.

Dumbledore stood up and turned to Harry.

"Hagrid and I are planning a short trip into the forest. I’m afraid we won’t be able to spend more than a few days in there but you’d be welcome to join us. We were not able to go last year because Hagrid was still away. I should warn you, he’s quite keen on finding an interesting creature to make up for it."

*

Harbinger

Professor McGonagall’s predictions concerning the trip had been entirely correct. Hagrid, as a special treat on account that Harry was to join them, had decided that they were going to track a manticore that he was fairly sure was hiding deep in the forest. Professor Dumbledore had confided to Harry that it was highly unlikely that there really was a manticore in the forest, and that they would probably just spend the time traipsing through the forest.

On the third night they had heard an extraordinary roar that came out of the darkness.

"Hagrid," Dumbledore had said seriously, "that actually sounded like a manticore."

Hagrid had just nodded quickly with a grin as he grabbed his crossbolt and pointed into the darkness. There was another roar and Hagrid pointed over to his right. Dumbledore placed a finger to his lips indicating for Harry not to speak and then held up two fingers to Hagrid. Hagrid smiled and shook his head. He held up three fingers indicating the number of manticores out there.

They had not gone to sleep that night. Each kept watch intently until just before dawn Hagrid silently grabbed Harry’s shoulder and pointed out into the half light. It was an extraordinary sight. A pride of three adult manticores and two small cubs passed by them. One of the cubs looked like it wanted to explore closer to the camp but one of the adults quickly picked it up and brought it back to the others. All of them had blood stains around their mouths, they had clearly had a successful night’s hunting.

They had kept silent for a long time after the pride had disappeared from view. Eventually Hagrid gave a great sigh.

"Now tha’ were some’ink special. Really rare, ‘Arry, to see a pride."

They packed up the camp and started off for the edge of the forest. They had not gone far, though, when Hagrid froze and drew his crossbow up.

"The Manticores?" Harry asked quietly.

"No," whispered Dumbledore. Harry heard no noise but suddenly both Dumbledore and Hagrid looked in the same direction to a spot far to behind them. They nodded to each other and all three of them proceeded with Dumbledore taking the lead and Hagrid walking backwards at the rear. Harry had no idea what was back there but he knew it must be something dangerous. He never did see what it was though and soon they were out of the forest and heading for Hogsmeade.

*

Harry waited on the station platform waiting for the train to arrive. He was looking forward to seeing Ron and Hermione again. He was sporting a bandaged arm covering a souvenir of his hunting trip with Hagrid and Professor Dumbledore. He had emerged from the forest completely unscathed but unfortunately Hagrid had given him a light pat on the back while he re-told of their adventure to the drunken regulars in the Hogs Head tavern. Harry had been propelled across the bar and had cut himself on a glass.

All three of them had sniggered while Madam Pomfrey told them all off, which was as soon as they had got back to the castle.

As Harry sat on a bench on the station platform he thought back to the hunting trip. He hadn’t really spoken that much to Dumbledore. He had listened to both his and Hagrid’s anecdotes about past adventures and was pleased to feel included. They appeared to have been going on these short trips ever since Hagrid’s father had died. Harry jumped as Fawkes materialised in a flash of red and gold flames. Singing, Fawkes flew along the platform and handed on the bench beside Harry.

"Hello Fawkes. It that a message for me?"

Fawkes dropped the scroll he was carrying and took off in a flash. Harry opened the scroll and read the message.

 

"Harry,

By the time the train arrives I believe a gentleman will have made his way to the station platform. His name is Harbinger and carries a black cane with a carved white top.

Please bring him directly to my office. He may be reluctant to come.

Regards,

AD"

 

Harry looked around. No-one else was on the platform. He got up and was about to look around when he heard the train whistle. They had arrived.

*

Harry pushed his way through the crowd, occasionally saying hello as he passed people. He didn’t see Ron, Hermione or any of the others from his year but he had thought he had seen an unfamiliar hat at the far end of the platform.

As the throng cleared he saw a man in a green travelling cloak waiting to board the train. He had a black cane.

Harry walked towards to the far end of the platform. When he’d got two-thirds of the way the crowd cleared and Harry sped up.

Something caught his attention from inside the train. Harry stopped, curious to know why there were still students on the train. Something about their whispered laughs told him they were up to no good.

Harry withdrew his wand and entered the carriage a couple of doors down and made his way quietly along the corridor. There were three of them that he recognised as from Ravenclaw House. They had opened a trunk and were rifling through the contents.

His suspicions were confirmed when he heard one of them say, "Luny’s going to have to start term without a few things."

"I don’t thing so," said Harry. All three spun around and groped for their wands.

"Accio," said Harry almost lazily and he caught all three wands in his spare hand.

"I suggest you repack Luna’s trunk," he said and they hurried to obey. When it was done, they turned back to Harry, visibly shaking and darting nervous looks at his wand.

"I want to make something very clear," said Harry calmly. "No-one deserves having their things tampered with or taken."

"It was just a joke," blurted out one.

"I’m not laughing. Luna Lovegood is a friend of mine. If any of her things go missing from now on, I’ll be holding you three responsible. I suggest you get up to the school before I change my mind about punishing you."

"Can we have our wands back?"

"No," said Harry, pocketing them, "you’ll have to apologise to Luna first."

Harry watched as the three looked at each other until one of them shrugged and left. The other two followed.

Harry stepped out of the carriage hoping Harbinger was still there. However he found himself facing him as soon as he exited. Harry wondered how much of the exchange Harbinger had heard.

"Excuse me, are you Mr Harbinger?"

He looked at Harry in surprise but said nothing. Harry saw that his cane had a carved white handle.

"Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, asked me to bring you to his office," said Harry.

"How did he know I would be here?" asked Harbinger.

"He didn’t say. The carriages are this way. Shall we go? My name’s Harry, by the way."

Harbinger continued to question Harry all along the platform and delayed getting into the carriage. Unfortunately, Harry could provide few answers. Harbinger patted the Thestral closest him absently, still clearly wary of going up to the castle.

After some more gentle persuasion, Harbinger finally agreed and they took the last carriage up to the castle.

*

Harry took Mr Harbinger up the steps and into the entrance hall. They could hear all the students in the Great Hall. They went straight up to the Headmaster’s office.

As they approached the Headmaster’s office they found Dumbledore waiting.

"Welcome back to Hogwarts."

"Hello, Professor," said Harbinger as they shook hands.

"This is Harry Potter, James Potter’s son."

Harbinger politely nodded to Harry but did not react as most wizards did when they met him. He did not stare at Harry’s scar.

"Harry’s mother was Lily. You may remember her as Lily Evans," continued Dumbledore.

Harbinger did stare at Harry this time.

"Lily? You’re Lily’s son?" he asked looking quite shocked.

Harry nodded.

"Harry, would you please go down to the Great Hall and bring Professor Flitwick up to my office. We’ll wait for you upstairs."

*

Harry went down to Great Hall wondering how Harbinger came to know his mother. He met Professor Flitwick coming out of the Great Hall.

"Have you seen the Headmaster, Harry? The sorting hat is entertaining the students with a selection of jokes and songs before the sorting." Harry heard a roar of laughter erupt from the hall. "Oh dear, Professor McGonagall will explode if it gets any ruder!" squeaked the Professor.

"The Headmaster asked me to bring you up to his office, Sir."

Flitwick looked surprised but followed Harry. The Professor gave the password and they rode the moving circular stairs up to the Headmaster’s office.

As soon as they knocked on the door it opened and they were greeted by Dumbledore who welcomed them in. Harry saw Harbinger rise from his chair and turn towards them.

Flitwick froze as soon as he saw Harbinger. They stared at each other for several seconds before Harbinger dropped to one knee and bowed.

"Forgive me," said Harbinger and Harry looked up at Dumbledore who was looking very seriously at the scene before them.

"My boy! Welcome back."

Harbinger looked up. Both of them had tears in their eyes as they embraced.

Dumbledore smiled and said quietly to Harry, "Let’s go down. They’ll join us later."

*

"Professor, who was that?" asked Harry as soon as they exited the office.

Dumbledore about to answer when they heard crashing coming from an empty classroom.

"Peeves! Come out here," Dumbledore commanded.

Peeves appeared looking murderous. Harry assumed he wasn’t invited to the feast again.

"Come with us, Peeves," Dumbledore said dangerously. Peeves suddenly looked worried.

Dumbledore swept down and into the Great Hall at a quick pace. He had said nothing and Harry assumed he was very angry. Harry practically had to run to keep up and Peeves followed muttering simpering apologies that Dumbledore did not acknowledge. Peeves stopped outside the hall and peered in while Harry went in to find a seat next to Ron and Hermione.

"My apologies. I was detained welcoming another guest," announced Dumbledore as soon as he got to his chair. "Before we begin the sorting I would just like to pay tribute to someone who showed great loyalty to the school last year and I didn’t have an opportunity to thank him properly. Peeves, I would like very much if you would consent to join us as our guest of honour."

Peeves looked thunderstruck.

So did Filtch as Peeves floated over to the head table.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Peeves," said Dumbledore clapping. The whole hall erupted with claps, cheers and laughs. Even McGonagall was smiling and clapping.

When Peeves was seated the sorting began.

*

As soon as the food appeared on the plates the volume of noise in the Great Hall increased significantly. Harry had found an empty place at the Gryffindor table opposite Ron and Hermione. Unfortunately he was sitting between the Creevey brothers.

"Harry, we’re going to try out for the Quidditch team this year!"

"That’s great Colin. I hope you and Denis get picked."

"The thing is," asked Denis, "we were hoping you would practice with us, before the try-outs I mean."

"Er, sure."

"We were talking to some others on the train, Harry. Would it be okay if we asked them too?" asked Colin.

"They aren’t all from Gryffindor though," said Denis.

"It doesn’t matter," said Harry tucking into his food. "How about Saturday? Find out if the Quidditch pitch is free and let everyone know, okay?"

Harry noticed Ron frowning at him. "What?" he asked, looking down to see if he had dropped food down himself.




Next Chapter:-

The Regiment’s Challenge

“Are you sure you want it? I’d just burn it if I were you."

Harbinger is introduced as the new DADA teacher and Peeves is chosen to lead the Hogwarts defenders against the Regiment’s traditional challenge. Harry agrees to teach the Quidditch Rebels and also accepts the Captaincy of the House Team, much to Ron’s disappointment.


Chapter 3: The Regimentís Challenge
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The Regiment’s Challenge

When they had almost finished the feast dessert, Professor Flitwick and Harbinger entered the hall. Professor Flitwick lead the way up to the head table. He had a wide smile on his face. Harbinger had paused upon entering the hall to look around before following.

As Harbinger approached the top table, several house elves appeared looking most displeased. He was surrounded and one held up a warning finger.

"Master Harbinger is a bad boy. Master Harbinger did bad things. Master Harbinger is not welcome here! You will go now!"

Dumbledore held up his hands and the elves all turned to him.

"That happened a very long time ago. It was an accident, there was no malice.

"Every witch or wizard here tonight has or will at some point do something rash. I have asked John to join the staff as our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. However, if you have any concerns I would be happy to discuss …"

The house elves turned again as two more people entered the Great Hall.

One of the elves said, "We will discuss this later," and gave Harbinger a dark look. With a snap of his fingers the house elves were gone with a loud crack.

Harry had never seen the house elves so assertive before.

The two uniformed figures approached the top table and gave short bows to Dumbledore.

"Sorry to interrupt but I need to hurry. Dumbledore, may I introduce Lieutenant Davis, he will be staying here to supervise the initial set-up," said the older man.

The Headmaster rose again and shook hands saying, "Welcome back Lieutenant."

Harry, like almost everyone else in the hall, listened intently.

"We’ve just returned from the Fen stores. We found about 300 tents. According to the inventory there were supposed to be over a thousand in store but we can’t find them. We did find two field hospitals though and we found that old Auror training tent you wanted."

"The training tent will be useful. Did you find any wands or weapons?" Dumbledore asked.

"No. It was cleaned out. We caught a group of goblins we thought had been stealing from the stores but they had an official release. I’ve no idea why Fudge would give them anything. I am going to try and track down some of the missing equipment but I’d like to leave a contingent here to start putting up some of the tents and one of the field hospitals. I know we can’t staff it yet but it could come in handy."

"Quite. Please restrict your people to the area of the grounds we agreed."

"Yes, about that. You are going to have a lot of people wandering about the grounds shortly. Not all of them will be trustworthy. Is there a way you can enchant the castle to reject anyone other than staff and students?"

Flitwick nodded to the Headmaster.

"Yes, we will do that," confirmed Dumbledore.

"We don’t have anyone qualified to put up that training tent though. Are you sure you want it? I’d just burn it if I were you."

"Thank you but we will take every precaution."

"I’m sorry to rush but …"

"I quite understand. Good luck, Colonel."

The Colonel bowed again and left in a hurry. The students were chattering to themselves by this time whilst keenly observing the comings and goings.

Dumbledore stood and raised his hands. Everyone in the hall went immediately quiet to listen.

"Hogwarts will shortly be playing host to a number of families who will be coming here for protection against Voldemort and his followers. They will have access to the grounds but not the castle. Voldemort will undoubtedly send spies amongst them. Please make sure you are never alone in the grounds at any time. There will also be a curfew in place when they start arriving."

The Headmaster then introduced Harbinger as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Lieutenant Davis to the students.

"Is there anything you wish to add, Lieutenant?"

"Well I would just thank you for playing host to us and make it clear that we quite understand that given the circumstances Hogwarts will not be able to accept the traditional challenge of Regiment. I’m sure everyone will understand," said Davis with a small grin.

Dumbledore smiled back.

"Well unfortunately I won’t have time to dedicate myself to such a challenge."

As he spoke Peeves turned to look at him in shocked outrage while McGonagall nodded approvingly.

"However, I don’t think Hogwarts has ever declined a Regiment’s challenge and it’s certainly won’t now."

McGonagall was shaking her head now and muttering. Peeves was bobbing gently up and down in excitement.

The Headmaster turned to Peeves.

"Peeves would you do us the honour of taking command of the Hogwarts defenders."

Peeves looked stunned.

"Me?"

The Lieutenant pulled out a glove from his belt and threw it down in front of Peeves. Peeves hesitated for just a moment before diving down and picking it up. He handed the glove back to the Lieutenant who was grinning at him.

"Sir Nicholas, would you act as Second?" asked Dumbledore.

The ghost floated forward at once.

"I would be honoured. Lieutenant please have your Second contact me to agree the rules of engagement." They bowed slightly to each other.

"That’s settled then. I will arrange for a suitable prize," finished Dumbledore.

*

Luna came over to the Gryffindor table at breakfast the next morning and sat down next to Harry.

"Hi, Luna," he said, "are you okay?"

"I’m fine, thank you, Harry," she said quietly. "A strange thing just happened though. Three boys cornered me this morning and said I had to accept their apology. I eventually got them to admit that you had their wands and wouldn’t give them back."

Harry smiled and reached into his pocket. Laying the three wands on the table he said, "Here, give them back to them if you’re satisfied with their apology."

"Thank you, Harry," said Luna picking up the wands.

She was about to get up when Ron rushed into the Great Hall and sat down next to Harry on his other side, completely ignoring everyone else. Without pausing to get himself some food he said very seriously, "Harry. I need a word."

"What is it?" asked Harry, putting down his toast. Harry glanced up to see Luna get up and leave with what he thought was an almost sad expression.

"It wouldn’t hurt you to say good morning to Luna, you know?" said Harry before he caught Ron’s serious look.

"I don’t want you practising Quidditch with anyone not on the team and definitely not with anyone not in Gryffindor."

Harry laughed with relief. He had thought Ron was going to tell him something terrible. He was about to go back to his toast when he realised Ron was not laughing.

"Joke, right?" Harry asked still smiling but feeling something was wrong.

"No," Ron said getting up and leaving.

Harry was too surprised to call after him to ask if was going to have any breakfast. When Ron had gone Harry turned back to the table to see both Creevey brothers watching him.

"Harry, if you don’t want to practice with us, it’s okay," said Denis.

"Don’t be daft, Denis," said Harry, "I said I would practice and I will. I wish I knew why Ron had a problem with it though."

Colin and Denis exchanged a look and Harry raised his eyebrows.

"Well, we heard him talking on the train. Talking about Quidditch. Ron thinks he is going to be made Captain because Katie Bell said she wants to concentrate on her exams this year."

"Katie isn’t playing this year? Shame, she’s really good," said Harry. "Ron, Captain? I suppose after Katie he has the most experience and I'm not on the team any more."

"Yeah. That’s what he thought," said Colin bitterly. "He’s conveniently forgotten that you won the first game last year, not to mention all the other matches you played in."

"The thing is, Harry," Denis said dropping his voice and the three of them lent in to hear, "that’s not all he was saying. Lots of stuff about not standing for any lack of discipline. Anyone not towing his line would be off the team."

"Ron? Tell me you’re kidding, please," said Harry. They both shook their heads.

*

Saturday Practice

Harry woke early on Saturday and couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually he got up, quietly dressed and went down to the common room. He sat down and pondered. The Creevey brothers and their friends wanted to start Quidditch practice early but not quite as early as this. He smiled to himself remembering their enthusiasm.

As he couldn’t think of anything else to do, Harry decided he would make a start on his Transfiguration essay. He grabbed his bag and was about to unpack when he thought he might as well take everything down to the Great Hall. It was early and would be quiet. He could have some breakfast while doing the essay.

About an hour and three cups of tea later, Harry had almost finished his essay. As he was thinking about his conclusion, he was joined by Hermione. She too was carrying her bag and looked surprised to see anyone else up so early.

"Hi," she said sitting down opposite. She leaned over and raised her eyebrows when she saw his essay title. "I haven’t even started that one yet!"

"Morning, Hermione," he said, looking up and stretching. "Couldn’t sleep and couldn’t think of anything else to do."

He yawned widely as Hermione started to unpack her bag.

"Tea, coffee or juice?"

"Um, pumpkin juice please," she answered from deep inside her bag. Harry poured a goblet of juice and placed it in front of Hermione.

"Thanks," she said smiling as she emerged with both hands full.

Harry was about to go back to his essay when a small group entered the hall chattering excitedly and made straight for them. Harry guessed there were about twenty of them including First, Second and Third years.

"Hi, Harry!" shouted Colin and Denis at the same time as soon as they saw him.

"Sorry, Hermione, quiet time is over," Harry mumbled.

She smiled and shook her head.

Harry got up and started to pack away his things.

Some of the group had started to split off and go to their own house table but were called back by Denis Creevey saying, "Let’s sit together so we can agree teams."

He then looked uncertainly over at Harry, asking, "Er, is that okay, Harry?"

"Good idea," said Harry immediately, "but let’s give Hermione some space to do her work."

"Have fun," Hermione said smiling down at her essay.

He grabbed his bag and joined the others at the end of the Gryffindor table. He sat down and became aware that everyone was looking at him expectantly. He felt he ought to say something.

"Grab something to eat and drink and we’ll decide what we’re going to do."

Harry looked on in bemusement as each member of the group scrambled to grab something to eat and drink. As suddenly as they had sprung into action, they became still again, each clutching their chosen food item and goblet. Harry forced himself not to smile and thinking it would be impolite not to join them, poured himself a cup of coffee.

"I thought that as we’re only practising today, we shouldn’t have fixed teams and we won’t be keeping score. Unless anyone especially wants to play in a particular position, we should also rotate around. Give everybody a chance," said Harry.

There was a general nodding of agreement.

"Now just for today, I don’t think we should worry about playing tactics and the like. If you agree, we should only play with one bludger too. We won’t be playing proper rules, as this is just a friendly, but how about if someone commits a foul they just get substituted early?"

Again everyone nodded.

"Okay, good. Unless you’ve got anything to add, I’m going to dump my bag and get changed. Finish your breakfast and then meet me down on the Quidditch pitch," said Harry. As an afterthought he added, "Oh yeah, Madam Hooch said we could borrow some spare pads she has, but there aren’t enough robes. Just wear jeans and a tee shirt or something."

*

Harry stood on the Quidditch pitch looking up at the hectic play and grinning. He looked down at his watch and blew his whistle to indicate another rotation. The players all flew down to form the new teams and Harry took the opportunity to speak to them.

"That was really good!" Harry said enthusiastically before proceeding to confirm the new players and positions. Soon they were off again.

The quality of play varied significantly. Some players were very good while others were poor. Harry had decided to concentrate his efforts coaching those players that looked like they weren’t enjoying themselves rather than those that were good or bad. He was determined that this should be fun.

A lot of the time he felt that the problems stemmed from a lack of confidence in the air. He would choose a player and shadow them, not actually taking part in the game. Some, especially First Years, were poor flyers. He would fly next to them at low level around the pitch talking them through simple manoeuvres. Some were clearly more experienced and this involved dodging in and out of the play.

He derived particular satisfaction when a Second Year beater whose initial terror of the bludger was transformed into a zeal Fred and George would have been proud of. Harry only momentarily wished she were in Gryffindor.

At the end of the session, Harry blew his whistle for the last time and called everyone back down. He looked around the group to see them all beaming back at him. Several were rather muddy, thanks to over enthusiastic dives, but there had been no injuries.

"Well, I enjoyed that. I hope you did too," said Harry, grinning and looking around. Everyone nodded.

"How about next week, Harry?"

"Well, the try-outs will be coming up soon. The House Teams will get pitch priority for practice."

"None of us will get on the House Teams," a Second Year said dejectedly.

"That’s not true," said Harry. "Several of you are good enough now and all of you have the potential once you grow in confidence."

He meant it too but some of them still looked down.

"Tell you what? I’ll ask Madam Hooch if we can practise outside the Quidditch pitch when it’s being used by a House Team. If I get back on the House team I won’t have much time to practise with you, but I promise I’ll spend as much time with you as I can."

*

"How was practice?" asked Hermione as she, Harry and Ron ate dinner in the Great Hall that evening.

"It was good. I think they really enjoyed it," said Harry smiling.

"They weren’t very good," Ron said coldly. "I was watching from the stands," he answered in response to Harry’s raised eyebrows.

"You should have come and joined in. I thought some of them were very good, actually, but that wasn't the point. It was about enjoying playing, not being good."

Ron went back to his dinner but Harry noticed Hermione giving him an appraising look.

"They want to carry on. It worked quite well changing sides and positions but they’ll need to stay in position so they can learn to play better," he said.

He would normally discuss Quidditch with Ron but as he wasn’t interested and he wanted to keep talking about it, he spoke to Hermione.

"Will you divide the teams into houses?" she asked.

"No," Harry replied at once. He had been giving this some thought. "Several of them will be on House Teams anyway and we won’t have enough people to maintain full sides. I think it should be anything but house teams. Besides, the comment I heard most often today was how friends in different houses never get to play on the same side."

Hermione smiled and asked, "Have you thought about organising a league or a challenge cup?"

Harry considered this.

"No, I hadn’t," he admitted and paused. "The problem is that the less experienced players would be disadvantaged. They might even be put off joining in. I want to keep things strictly non-competitive for now."

She nodded.

"I thought I’d split each session into two halves. The first will be coaching on a specific aspect of the game followed by a free-for-all game like we had today, except that people will just be substituted and change sides rather than play in different positions too. I’m going to start with flying practice next week, Hermione, so mark it in your diary!"

Hermione laughed and shook her head. Even Ron, who had been pretending to ignore the conversation, looked up smiling at this.

"Hey, Ron. How about you doing some goalkeeper coaching?" Harry asked hopefully.

Ron’s face grew serious again and he returned to his dinner.

"The House Team takes priority, Harry. I may not be time."

*

On Monday morning, Harry, Denis and Colin were discussing organising their Quidditch practice schedule over breakfast, although Colin was very keen on promoting a Rebel competition like Hermione had suggested.

Denis had just finished explaining that now that news of their last practice was out, a few more people were interested in joining in.

"How many more?" asked Harry and he watched as Colin and Denis exchanged a look.

"Just a few," Colin said evasively.

"Potter, I’d like a word," rapped Professor McGonagall and all three of them jumped. "Please see me in my office at morning break."

Harry watched her go up to the staff table wondering what on earth he could have done already.

Draco Malfoy sauntered past and paused with a sneer on his face. He had Crabbe and Goyle in tow as usual.

"I hear you’re giving Quidditch lessons, Potter," he drawled. "Must have been trying for you, you know, getting the retards to understand the rules."

Draco stopped as he suddenly became aware that he was surrounded by the very people he had just insulted. Several had turned around and more than a few stood up. Crabbe and Goyle didn’t look like they had noticed yet.

Harry just smiled.

"No, Malfoy, they are Rebels not retards. I’m afraid you wouldn’t make it into the squad. You’d be more than welcome to join the remedial flyers though, Malfoy. Next practice is on Saturday."

"Oh, sure," spat Malfoy. "How many remedial flyers are there?"

"If you came," said Harry indicating a mock thought, "It’d be a class of one. All the others are too good for the remedial class."

Draco blanched as laughs and sniggers surrounded him.

"Crabbe and Goyle would be welcome in the intermediate class, of course," continued Harry laughing. He laughed harder when Crabbe and Goyle both put on expressions of surprised pride until they caught Malfoy’s scowl.

As they sloped off, Harry couldn’t resist calling after them, "Malfoy, the remedial flyers are doing take-offs on Saturday, so mind you revise the concepts up and down!"

*

Harry knocked on the door to Professor McGonagall’s office. She opened the door and let him in.

"Please sit for a moment, Potter," she said as she closed the door and returned to her desk. "I have discussed the Quidditch team captaincy with Katie Bell. She has told me she doesn’t wish to continue on the team."

Harry nodded.

"I heard she wants to concentrate on her exams. She is a good player and would have made a good Captain too."

"Indeed. I didn’t offer her the Captaincy but I did ask who she would nominate."

Harry frowned.

"She and I believe you would benefit from that role. Potter, I would like to make you Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team."

"Me?" he said blankly. "What do you mean, I would benefit?"

"It would give you an opportunity to learn and practice leadership. You need to exercise planning, delegation and management skills. All of which you will need to apply off the Quidditch pitch as well. If you happen to win the Cup as a by-product it wouldn’t be too bad, either."

Harry snorted but then asked seriously, "But Professor, I think Ron thinks -"

"He won’t get the Captaincy even if you refuse it, Potter. He’s only played three games and played badly in two. I would rather appoint a younger Captain so the team has consistency for a longer period."

"He was just nervous," Harry said loyally. He paused and said, "He’s going to hate me. He’ll think I took it away from him."

"No, being Captain won’t be easy. Will you take it?"

"Thank you, Professor. Yes, I’ll take it," he said quietly.

"Good. Now I’ve seen Denis Creevey practice. He’s very good. Try him out in different positions, don't assume he needs to match Colin Creevey. Ginny will make an excellent chaser, as will Colin. Beaters will need to be a lot better than last year."

Harry nodded.

"Find your own style of management," she said more gently. "I was watching Saturday’s practice, Potter. Your leadership made it inclusive, fun and safe. It was entirely appropriate for players with such a range of experiences. The House Team will need something more. You will need to motivate to win."

She got up and Harry followed.

"I trust you will be continuing to coach your Rebels as well?" she asked with a smile. "I’ve heard about nothing else all morning."

*

Harry stepped out of the office and closed the door, thinking more about what he was going to say to Ron than anything else.

He looked up to see Colin and Denis Creevey looking at him expectantly.

"Well?" Colin mouthed. They looked too excited to speak.

Harry could not help it. A smile grew across his face and he nodded.

Everyone in the corridor stopped to look as both brothers ran off cheering and yelling at the top of the voices.

*

The Terms of Engagement

"I have been asked to advise you that Sir Nicholas has agreed terms of engagement with the Regiment," announced Professor McGonagall at the end of their next Transfiguration class.

Harry didn’t think she approved of the challenge at all.

"The Regiment is a mobile military organisation. Every few years or so it makes camp in the Hogwarts grounds to carry out training exercises. They are here earlier, though, to set up the refugee camp and provide additional defence for the school.

"The challenge used to consist of things like flying, duelling and the like and only the best senior students would compete. Professor Dumbledore widened the challenge many years ago so that all students who wish to may join in."

Sir Nicholas came drifting through the wall at that moment.

"Yes, indeed," said the ghost. "The Headmaster was a Second Year student at the time. He felt it unfair that the younger students should be left out and issued his own challenge. It was truly anarchic. It took weeks to clear up the mess. Hogwarts won, of course."

"Sir Nicholas, would you like to announce the terms of engagement?"

"Delighted," he said with a bow. "The challenge will take place from six o’clock in the evening of 31 October and will cease at midnight. The winner’s prize will be to set off a display of fireworks commissioned from Fred and George Weasley. The engagement will be strictly limited to a marked out area within the grounds. Projectiles will be prevented from leaving the area.

"Any student may participate in the challenge provided they receive the appropriate training from Peeves and agree to help clean up the mess the next day. The house elves will be forbidden to help.

"Participation is entirely voluntary but only participants will be exempted lessons and homework for training and the clear up. Everyone, though, is invited to the midnight feast after hostilities have ended."

"Are there usually many injuries?" asked Hermione.

"No, Miss Granger. They won’t be fighting as such. It’s a food fight."

"Well, I should go. If you wish to volunteer please sign up in the main entrance lobby, although you may not have time to participate properly," said the ghost and he floated off out of room.

"Let me remind you," said Professor McGonagall, "students Fifth year and over will not be exempted lessons nor homework in most subjects. In addition you may prefer to attend the Halloween ball instead."

"Why are we having a ball?" asked Lavender Brown before Parvati elbowed her. Harry was surprised she asked.

"Defiance," replied the Professor darkly. Harry would have asked what she meant but she was looking very serious and no-one else appeared to want to know.

*

To Harry’s delight, for the remainder of that day students would go up to Malfoy and tell him, "Remember, that way is up and that way is down!"

Harry had tried to tell them that Malfoy would only retaliate with detentions, point fines or worse but it became clear that nothing would deter the Rebels from taunting Malfoy. The detentions and point deductions were like a badge of honour. Harry even found out some younger Slytherins were joining in.

Unfortunately for Malfoy, Professor McGonagall caught him attempting to hand out a record number of detentions to a group of Third years. They appealed to her on the grounds that they were only trying to educate Malfoy.

Harry almost cried laughing when Professor McGonagall announced at dinner that the points Malfoy had deducted would be reinstated and the detentions cancelled.

When he composed himself, Harry asked Hermione, "Where is Ron? I haven’t seen him for ages."

Hermione looked up from her dinner with a concerned expression. "He found out you had been made Captain. Congratulations, by the way. He, well, I think he was a bit upset."

Harry nodded and caught Ginny’s eye.

"He’ll come round, Harry, don’t worry," she said.

*

DADA Lessons Begin Again

Harry woke up early the next day but found he had missed Ron already. He dashed downstairs to the common room to see if Ron was there. He called out to him as he was about to exit through the portrait hole.

"Ron! Wait up. I need to talk to you," Harry said loudly.

Ron paused for a moment and Harry wondered if he would wait. Ron turned though and came back into the common room. Harry made his way down the steps to face Ron.

"I know you must be disappointed not being made Captain, Ron," Harry began.

"Yeah?" Ron said aggressively.

"Ron, you’re my best friend. If there’s something wrong you can tell me," Harry continued, giving Ron an opportunity to get it off his chest.

Ron paused for a moment.

"Yes, Harry, I was disappointed and I’m finding it hard not to be bitter that you took it away from me."

Harry sighed.

"Well, I hope you get over it soon because try-outs are next weekend. I want you on the team, Ron, but it’s up to you. I was looking forward to playing with the King again."

Ron smiled at last.

"You sure you want me on your team?"

"Of course I do!" Harry said grinning. "I just hope Denis doesn’t want to try for seeker. He’s quite good. I didn’t even see the snitch when he caught it on Saturday. Come on, let’s go and get some breakfast."

"Harry," said Ron, "even Captains have to get dressed for breakfast. Go, on. I’ll wait."

*

In their first lesson, which had been delayed until the second week, Harbinger introduced himself and apologised, explaining he had very little teaching experience. He also added that unfortunately they would not find much use for last year’s standard textbook and he hadn’t selected a book for this year yet.

"If no more questions, let’s get started. I’d like four volunteers. It’s nothing bad I promise."

Harry, Ron, Parvati and Neville stood at front of the classroom. Harbinger asked all of them to point their wands up and produce some sparks in turn. They all did so.

"Good, now your homework task will be to write up and explain what you are about to see. You four are exempted from homework for volunteering, of course."

Ron gave a, "Hah!" as those still sat groaned.

"Now, Ron, isn’t it? Please take this wand. Good. Please produce some sparks again."

Ron put down his wand and took the new wand. Nothing happened at all when he tried to produce some sparks. Harry looked as Ron examined the wand, wondering what was wrong with it.

"Good. Ron, that’s exactly what I expected. Now I’d like you to swap wands and so all of you try each wand that isn’t your own. You might like to announce who’s wand you are using before you try it so we don’t get too confused."

All four of them tried each of the others wands plus the new wand. Ron and Neville produced limited sparks with three wands but none with the new wand. Parvati produced strong sparks with three of the wands but again nothing with the new one. Harry produced stronger sparks than the others using the other’s three wands but was staggered when he tried the new wand. The shower of sparks was enormous. Almost the entire class dived under the desks.

Harbinger had been scoring the results in a table drawn onto the chalk board. When they were all finished he thanked the four volunteers who returned to their desks.

He passed the new wand around the class and invited them to each try it. Hermione examined it very closely when she got it, frowning.

"So, who can tell us what was happening there?"

Hermione put her hand up.

"Yes? Hermione, is it?"

"Yes, Sir. Using someone else’s wand never produces as good results."

"Quite right. There is no such thing as a universal wand, after all it’s the wand that chooses the wizard. However, there is a close alternative."

He drew out yet another wand. This one was black and shiny.

"This is a soldier wand. It is a mass produced wand that can be used, with training, by any witch or wizard to produce a limited but fairly effective range of spells. They were developed long ago in answer to the problem of soldiers losing or breaking their wands. They don’t actually have a magical core as such but the casing is made up of a composite material. The core is usually made of a ferrous material and is there just to give the wand strength."

He aimed the wand at the waste basket and sent a red reductor spell disintegrating it.

"Harry, have a go with this one. Shoot a stunning spell at the desk over there."

Harry aimed and shouted, "Stupify!"

Nothing happened.

"Parvati, please have a go."

Parvati produced a weak stunning spell before handing back the wand.

"Interesting, isn’t it. More to think about. So who would like to speculate what happened with this wand they all tried earlier?"

"I’ll give you a clue," he said smiling. "Ron and Neville produced exactly what we would normally expect from the wands they tried. Almost everyone in the wizarding population would produce the same results. Parvati’s results were less common. I must admit though, Harry’s was very unusual. I didn’t expect that at all."

Everyone looked at Parvati and Harry. Hermione put up her hand again and asked, "Professor, what core does that wand have."

"Excellent question, Hermione. In fact it is a relation of the soldier wand except it doesn't produce spells very useful for fighting."

Harbinger smiled seeing all the puzzled faces looking at him.

"I look forward to reading your speculation on the answer in your homework essays," he said smiling.

The bell went.

"Okay, so twenty points each to our four brave volunteers, and twenty for Hermione for asking the best question. Thank you, you may go."

Everyone rose to pack-up and leave except Harry, Hermione and Parvati. Ron and Neville were ready to leave but hung back. Harry looked up to see Harbinger leave. He looked over to Parvati who was thinking hard.

"Parvati, why do you think that happened?"

"I think I know why I could almost use the soldier wand. Before I got my wand I used to use my family's wands all the time at home. Mum's, Dad's, Nan's as well as Aunties and Uncles. Now I can almost get as good results from theirs as mine. We’ve all got different cores and I guess the soldier wand compensates for different users. What do you think the core of the other wand was?"

Harry thought for a moment.

"It felt strange. When I first tried my wand at Ollivanders, it was the only one I could use. As soon as I picked it up it felt almost warm. I could feel the power."

"I’m sure the wood was holly, the same as Harry’s wand. That had to have something to do with it," said Hermione.

"Yes, it was the same wood. When I picked it up I didn’t feel anything but when I aimed it I felt the power running through my entire arm. Hang on, let’s try something."

He dived into his bag and brought out his apprentice piece.

"This may not work at all."

He aimed the wand in the air and produced even more sparks than before. He quickly dropped the wand and clutched his arm in pain.

"That felt like an electric shock!"

Parvati picked it up and aimed upwards.

"Be careful, Parvati, I don’t …"

However she quickly dropped the wand looking annoyed.

"I can’t do it!"

"Harry, what core does that wand have?" asked Hermione.

"It’s not really a wand, it’s an apprentice piece. There is no core. I made it from solid holly."

"Actually, Harry. It is a wand."

They all looked around. Standing before them was Professor Dumbledore, smiling at them.

"I’m sorry if I startled you. I saw the fireworks from the corridor and thought I would investigate. Harry, you will need to be trained before you can use that wand safety."

He perched himself on one of the empty desks.

"In most wands the core provides a means for the witch or wizard to focus their magical energy. For most people holding a piece of wand wood has the same effect as trying to perform wand-less magic. The results are usually disappointing and inaccurate.

"Most children raised by wizard families will get to use a wand before they go to school. The magic they produce is weak because lack of training but their minds get used to it anyway. When they try to produce wand-less magic they nearly always fail.

"Hermione, why don’t you try? Just sparks remember."

She took Harry’s apprentice piece and produced a few sparks and didn’t appear to feel any adverse effects.

"That’s quite good for a first effort," he said smiling. He looked at Harry.

"Professor Harbinger doesn’t know you Harry, nor your wand."

Harry nodded.

"He also has no idea what core your wand has."

Realisation dawned on Harry.

"The holly."

"Only partly, but yes. You have an affinity with that wand because you made it. You may not be the true bearer, but that wand remembers you and the effort you put into its creation."

Dumbledore stood.

"You will receive additional instruction later once the Auror tent is ready."







Next Chapter:-

Quidditch Try-Outs

"Must be on your school record: Watch out for Parvati, she likes to …"

Harry picks his new Quidditch House team. Hermione is upset when one of Harbinger’s lessons goes wrong. Harbinger offers Harry additional tuition. They win the first match but the celebration is short lived.


Chapter 4: Quidditch Try-Outs
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Quidditch Try-Outs

Harry, Ron and Ginny gathered in the middle of the Quidditch pitch. Try-outs had just finished and it was beginning to get dark. Katie Bell joined them from the stands. Harry had asked her to observe the try-outs and give her comments.

"Hi, Katie," Harry said as he greeted her. "Thanks for helping."

Harry consulted the notes he had been taking during the try-outs.

"Okay. First of all Denis Creevey. I thought he did very well as seeker. I only just managed to beat him to the snitch."

"But you got it, Harry," said Katie. "Denis is a good flyer but I thought he did better as a chaser. He and Ginny linked up well a couple of times."

Ginny nodded in agreement.

"Ginny, you are definitely a Chaser. You scored more than anyone else tonight." Harry said smiling making Ginny blush a little.

"I thought Stead did marginally better than the others," said Harry. "I’d select him for the last chaser position."

"Beaters," continued Harry. "Colin Creevey did very well but the second beater is harder to choose. I’d go with Peter Johnson on the grounds that he can hit well and we can work on his flying."

Everyone nodded in agreement. Ron clapped his hands saying, "Alright, let’s go celebrate the formation of a new winning team!"

"Hang on," said Harry, still looking through his notes. "Firstly, I’d also like to nominate some reserves. Patrick Stephens wasn’t bad as a chaser today but he has made a couple of great saves for the Rebels. Smith is a very good flyer as is Brian Clay. I’m going to make all three reserves. They are Second years and may not get a game this year, but if we get injuries we should still be able to put a team out."

"Secondly, Ginny, I’d like you to be lead chaser and play maker. As I’ll be off in the clouds during the match, I won’t be able to direct play. It’ll be up to you to decide play changes during the match. Start by selecting some simple moves we can practice to start with."

Ginny looked at him in surprise but nodded.

"Ron, I’d like you to be Vice-Captain. If any decision is needed and I’m not there, Ron decides."

Harry looked at Ron. He was looking down but nodded in acceptance.

"Finally, I’d like all of the team to help coach the Rebels. Eventually I hope to put together a couple of Rebel sides that we can practice against."

*

Harbinger greeted the Sixth Year students as they entered the classroom saying "Welcome. Please quickly copy down your homework assignment and then put your things away."

On the board were two assignments:

"1. Describe in detail everything to see that appears to be happening to your fellow students including their reactions. You may also describe what you see and feel yourself but this is not a requirement. (Max score 50%)

"2. Speculate on the cause of the effects (if any) observed under Question 1. (Max Score 50%)"

When the last person had put away their things, the classroom door opened. In came Dobby and Winky pushing an enormous wheel-tray of mugs and a large steaming stainless steel urn. Harry could smell hot drinking chocolate.

"Dobby and Winky. Ah, thank you so much," said Harbinger as they came through the door. "Could I ask you to stay and assist?"

Dobby beamed and nodded. Winky looked like she would rather not be there and positioned herself behind the trolley.

"Madam Pomfrey assures me that there is no better cure for a shock than Winky and Dobby’s chocolate drink. You may excuse yourself and partake of a mug at any time. Er, if anyone is unfortunate enough to be allergic to chocolate please say so now. No? Okay then."

He walked slowly around the classroom.

"I’d like everyone to put away their wands. Just as a safety precaution. You’ll understand in a moment why. Good, now everyone stand up and look around."

There was a nervous expectation and a couple of short laughs. Nothing appeared to be happening except that Harbinger was still walking between the desks.

"Just remember you are observing each others reactions. You may not see …"

"ARGH!" shouted Ron and he leapt to one side, grabbed his chair and was about to hit his desk with it when he froze with a confused expression.

He was breathing heavily and shaking as he put his chair back down. He looked at Harbinger and was about to ask something when they heard a small scream.

Harry saw Dobby grab Ron’s arm and guide him over to the trolley.

Gradually the centre of the classroom cleared as more and more people reacted in various ways and were lead over for a chocolate drink. No-one seemed happy to say out loud what they had seen but Harry thought they were each seeing something different.

Eventually only Harry, Hermione and Parvati were left.

"Okay," said Harbinger calmly. Looking over to the remaining students he asked, "Well do you think the should, er, turn up the volume so they can see too or should we let them off?"

He was smiling as he asked this.

As expected, there was a general murmur indicating that they should not be let off.

"Well, perhaps we should ask for volunteers then?"

Harry looked at Hermione who was looking very uncomfortable, and then raised his hand. He saw Parvati had also raised her hand. She was laughing nervously as she looked back at the others.

"Ready with the chocolate, Winky? This might be bad," Harbinger said dryly, looking directly at Harry. Harry braced himself.

Behind him Hermione suddenly gave a loud scream and ran out of the room. Parvati collapsed into hysterical laughter.

Hearing the scream, Harbinger spun around looking horrified.

"Winky, go after her!" he shouted but the house elf had already given chase.

"I didn’t intend that. I was aiming for you Parvati, not Hermione."

"You did get me," she said composing herself, "but Hermione was directly behind. She must have got the same thing."

Harry was halfway to the door when Dobby intercepted him. "Miss will be okay. Winky will see to her."

Harbinger said, "Well on that note I think we’ll leave it there. Class dismissed."

Still giggling a little, Parvati came over to Harry.

"What did you see?" he demanded.

"Hermione might not want anyone to know so I won’t say. It was just an illusion, just a bit different from the others. I got the joke but Hermione wouldn’t have appreciated it. She’ll be fine once she calms down and realises it wasn’t real."

*

Very late that evening Harry waited in common room. Hermione had not returned for any of her lessons and he had been quite concerned. He was dozing but woke when he felt a pull under his seat.

"Hi," he said before opening his eyes.

"Sorry Harry, I didn’t mean to wake you. You were sitting on the handle of my bag," whispered Hermione. She was wearing her dressing gown and had puffy bloodshot eyes.

"I waited ages for you. In the end I thought I’d keep your bag. Knew you’d want it back before dawn," he yawned.

Hermione sat down. She looked calm but had clearly been crying.

"I won’t ask you what happened, but I’ve been worried. Are you okay?"

"I will be. How’s Parvati?"

"Whatever you shared, she really enjoyed it. Said it was a joke but that you wouldn’t get it," he said gently. "She has refused to say what she saw and Harbinger wouldn’t say what anyone saw."

Hermione started to smile but then her face began to screw up as she fought not to cry. Harry reached out and pulled her into a hug. She burst into tears, his shoulder muffling her cries. Gradually her breathing became more regular until finally Harry felt a great sigh.

She pulled away from him.

"Thanks Harry, I needed another good cry."

"Any time," Harry said gently and they smiled at each other. She then got up and immediately sat down on his other side. Harry looked at her confused.

"That side’s a bit wet," she said as she lent in and rested her head on his other shoulder. He snorted loudly, trying to stop when she made a "Shhh" noise.

"About what happened …"

"I don’t need to know, Hermione. Just so long as you’re alright," he whispered and put his arm around her.

"I was so embarrassed. No, it was way beyond embarrassment. I was just standing there wondering how you would react when I realised what had happened. Silly, really. I knew the others were just seeing illusions. I think the others were just seeing things. I first felt it and then looked down and …"

She paused to draw a deep shuddering breath. Harry drew her closer.

"Harbinger apologised after. He hadn’t intended me to feel that at all."

There was a small click that made both of them look up. Parvati was coming down the stairs. Hermione leaned back when she saw who it was.

"You look better," she whispered, kneeling in front of Hermione and smiling. "I saw your bed was empty so I thought I’d look for you. Hey, we hid that bag."

"Sorry, needed it for bait," said Harry.

"I can’t believe you just laughed," croaked Hermione with a smile.

"Well, you know," Parvati said, raising her eyebrows. "I quite enjoyed it really." Both girls laughed silently. "I wonder how he knew I wouldn’t, well …"

"Run screaming from the room in hysterics?"

"Yes."

"Must be on your school record: Watch out for Parvati, she likes to …"

"Hey!" Parvati said laughing. She stood up. "Well as you’re obviously feeling better I’m going back to bed. No more work tonight though, okay?"

She turned and climbed the stairs back up to the girl's dormitories.

Harry realised there was an understanding between them he might never penetrate.

Hermione slowly pulled herself away from Harry and brushed her hands through her hair.

*

Harry entered the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. He was early and as the door was open he decided not to wait outside. Inside the classroom Hermione was talking to Professor Harbinger.

Harry was about to leave, not wishing to intrude on a private conversation, when he realised Hermione looked upset. She was holding an essay.

He turned and closed the door and joined them.

Harbinger smiled at Harry and continued gently, "Hermione, I don’t want you to write about what you saw and felt. No-body got any marks describing their own experiences."

"But I only got a P," she pleaded.

"Only because you didn’t answer the second part. You gave almost a perfect answer to the first part."

"I didn’t know how to answer it," she admitted. "Nothing in the library fitted."

"There isn’t a right or wrong answer. I just wanted you to speculate, that’s all."

They heard a laugh outside which meant they would soon be joined by their classmates. Harry became concerned that Hermione would be embarrassed if the others saw her upset. He made to bar the door but Professor Harbinger pointed his wand at the door and it locked.

From the crash and subsequent swearing it sounded like Malfoy had slammed into the door on the other side.

"How do I answer it if there’s not a right answer?" she complained.

"Well as you won’t let me just give you a higher mark," Harbinger began.

Hermione frowned at him, "Not unless the essay deserves it!"

"Okay. Copy Neville’s," Harbinger said with a smirk. "No, better get Harry to ask Neville if he can copy."

Harry smiled and said, "That I can do!"

Hermione rolled her watery eyes.

"Portus," said Professor Harbinger as he pointed his wand at his chalk eraser. "Both of you take this to Myrtle’s bathroom. Come back when you’re ready, not before."

Twenty minutes later they returned to Harbinger’s classroom and handed him back the eraser.

*

Great Hall Training

Harry pushed open the heavy doors to the Great Hall. It was around nine o’clock in the evening.

The house tables had been stacked to one side and in the middle of the room were five low padded stools surrounded by large plump cushions on mats. The stools had square tops that were about three feet wide. On the top of each stood a small child. Each of the children was laughing and giggling.

"Ah, Harry," said Harbinger as he entered. "I hope this is convenient. I was talking to Professor Dumbledore earlier and he thought you might like to take some additional defence lessons."

"Er," said Harry, "I would."

"Well, as the tent isn’t ready yet, I was hoping to give you something to think about before we start properly. Now, I know you are involved with quite a lot of extra curricula activities, so we’ll move our time around to suit. Is that okay?"

"Yes, that’d be great."

"Good," said Harbinger clapping his hands and moving between Harry and the children. He turned to face Harry and smiled. "Now Harry, I’d like you to met some friends of mine who have volunteered to help us tonight. Everyone, this is Harry."

"Hi Harry!" cried each of the children. Harry waved and smiled back.

"Now I’d like all of you to just stand quietly on the stools while I tell Harry some things," Harbinger said gently.

As Harbinger turned to face him, Harry was alarmed to see one of the children pushed off her stool by some unseen force. She screamed and landed safely on the cushions to howls of laughter from the others. She immediately scrambled up and climbed back onto her stool.

Harry looked at the other children. Each had mingled expressions of anticipation as they waited for the same thing to happen to them. Suddenly two more children were pushed off their stools.

Harbinger cleared his throat above all the noise and Harry’s attention was brought back to him. Harry realised that it was Harbinger that was somehow pushing the children off the stools although he wasn’t using his wand, saying any incantation nor waving his arms.

"Sometimes, you want to do magic but don’t have a wand. Sometimes, you want to do magic, but can’t say the words. Sometimes, you want to do magic, but can’t move your limbs," said Harbinger as he glanced back at the children. All of them had clambered back onto the stools.

Four of them were immediately pushed off, leaving the smallest and youngest looking to complain saying, "Hey, me too!"

She was immediately lifted into the air, turned in a complicated mid-air loop and then drifted gently down onto the cushions. She screamed with delight.

Harbinger went over to them and said, "Okay, It’s getting late."

Harry smiled at their immediate protests, so much like the elf children.

"Okay! Okay, one more go after Harry has a try," Harbinger said raising his hands. Harry immediately felt a push and he landed on the cushions. It was like a momentary warm breeze.

"Alright, which one of you did that? Go and apologise to Harry," he said to the eldest girl, who was looking at Harry sheepishly.

Harry just grinned at her and said, "Show me that again!"

*

Harry carried the chest with the training ball set back to the changing rooms. He was the last to leave the pitch and it was getting dark.

They had just completed their third full training session and Harry was doing some hard thinking. The new Chasers were doing very well. Harry couldn’t believe how well Ginny had organised them. She and Denis already had an impressive list of plays.

Both the beaters were improving and gradually learning to follow the plays. This wasn’t always easy as Ginny changed between plays so quickly. Colin was making a very good beater and Harry was pleased that he was helping Brian Clay, even though he was only a reserve.

Harry stopped before he entered the changing rooms and dropped the chest. He sat down, deep in thought.

His biggest concern was Ron.

Harry hated to admit it to himself, but Ron was becoming a divisive influence on the team. Harry had hoped he would get over his disappointment. He understood that Ron would need time to sort himself out.

Only this evening, Harry had arrived at the changing rooms only to spend ten minutes stopping an argument. Ginny and Colin had been too angry to tell him what was wrong. Denis eventually managed to tell Harry that the Chasers wanted to practise penalties but Ron had insisted that they do in-play manoeuvres again.

Harry had supported Ron on the basis that as Vice-Captain he was entitled to make decisions in Harry’s absence. At the same time he was very angry with Ron for not only creating the argument but also having it in front of the Rebel players Harry had invited.

Harry shook his head and looked up to see Ginny standing a few paces away looking at him.

"I’m sorry, Ginny."

"No, you were right. I shouldn’t have argued," she said as she came over. "Budge up," she said sitting next to him on the chest.

They sat for a moment in the quiet.

"I wasn’t just annoyed with Ron for changing my plans," she said, "it was like he was going to disagree with whatever I said. He wants to be the play maker, like Wood used to be."

"Wood used to do a lot of planning and shout a lot," said Harry, "but he never really influenced the Chasers in play. You are the play-maker, Ginny, and from now on practices will be based on what you need. Just promise me you will go along with whatever Ron decides until I change it for you."

"Thanks, Harry," she said, "I’ll try."

Ginny paused a moment and then said, "Patrick was good again, wasn’t he?"

"Yes," said Harry, "of the Rebels he’s one of the best. I’ve been trying to get some goal-keeping coaching for him, but none of the other Houses have much experience this year and Ron’s pretty cool to the idea."

"Why?"

"I think he feels threatened, that he might loose his place. I’ve tried to tell him that’s rubbish but it’s still that what’s affecting his game."

"Selfish prat."

"That’s not fair, Ginny."

"No? How come you keep making Denis stand in as seeker?"

"He’s good at it and I think he can get better. Actually though, we must try and break his habit of catching the snitch while he’s playing chaser," Harry said smiling, "or Madam Hooch might have something to say!"

They both laughed remembering Denis’ antics.

*

The First Match

Harry rushed into the Hospital Wing, looking around. He saw Hermione sitting on the end of the bed chatting happily to Patrick Stephens who was being fussed over by Madam Pomfrey.

"What happened?" gasped Harry, skidding to a stop.

Patrick was smiling but had a rather flushed face. His arm was in a sling.

"Hi, Harry," said Hermione, smiling at him. "Patrick should be fine, just so long as he stops diving off the tops of staircases. I found him in a heap when I was coming back from the library."

She turned back to Patrick, "Well if you’re okay, I’ll be going. See you later."

Patrick blushed as she turned and went.

"I just slipped," said Patrick, his eyes following Hermione out of the door.

"He’ll be fine. That was a nasty sprain as well as a couple of breaks," Madam Pomfrey. "Five minutes only, Potter."

Harry sat down.

"You’ll be fine. Madam Pomfrey can fix anything," he said smiling.

"Er, I might have to miss a couple of training sessions," said Patrick.

"Take as long as you need but I’d get back up there as soon as I could. I always feel like I leave my troubles on the ground when I fly."

Patrick grinned but then his smile faltered. Harry was about to ask him if anything was wrong when a large and rowdy group of Second Years came to visit.

Harry bid him goodnight as Madam Pomfrey began shouting at the visitors. Just as he closed the Wing doors, Harry found himself facing the Headmaster and stopped abruptly.

"Good evening, Harry," said Dumbledore smiling, "It sounds like Madam Pomfrey is busy at the moment. Perhaps I’ll visit Mr Stephens later."

"Yes, Sir," Harry said smiling and they both turned to walk back along the corridor.

"Professor Dumbledore, could you tell me about my apprentice piece? Mr Ollivander only said it was a wand and that I may not be it’s true bearer. You said the same thing and I've been wondering about it."

Dumbledore stopped a moment and gave Harry a searching look before speaking.

"Where is the piece now, Harry?" he asked.

"Here Professor," and Harry drew it from his pocket, "I can’t explain why but I keep carrying it around with me. What George, Mr Hellar, said was true. I’ve never made anything like this."

"Do you need to carry it to remind you of your pride?"

"No," Harry replied a little indignantly. "It’s more like I’m afraid that I’ll have to surrender it eventually."

Dumbledore smiled and nodded.

"Sir, why couldn’t Mr Ollivander touch this?"

"He probably just didn’t want to hold it," said Dumbledore. "Harry, that wand was carved from a branch that came from a particularly old holly tree. That tree also yielded a branch from which a rather similar wand was made a very long time ago. That wand was destroyed and its bearer is long gone, but the bearer was a particularly Dark wizard. Legend has it that it was the wand that drove the wizard towards dark magic."

"So why have me make another?" asked Harry. "Aren’t you afraid of the bearer turning towards dark magic."

"Well, the bearer was Grindelwald and he was unfortunately evil enough not to need any assistance," Dumbledore said grimly. "Besides, it wasn’t I that had you make that piece."

Harry looked at the Headmaster curiously.

"George’s wife was given the branch and a prophecy several years before her death. I only learned of it when George told me he intended to ask you to make the piece. He asked me for some rather specific details and I became curious and questioned him further."

"And still allowed him to have me make it? That’s why the Death Eaters attacked, isn’t it? They weren’t after me at all. They wanted the branch to make this. What if they had succeeded?"

"Voldemort couldn’t have made that, Harry, no more than Grindelwald could have. It’s far more likely he wanted to stop the wand being made."

"So, who made the last one?"

"I did. I also destroyed it."

"But if Voldemort gets this and it’s that powerful …"

"It would destroy him," Dumbledore said simply. "You made that wand, Harry. It doesn’t have a core. Instead it has something much more powerful. You put a lot of feeling into that piece. A good deal of your feelings are concerned with the defeat of Voldemort and his followers. That wand will never allow itself to be used for anything else."

Harry looked at the wand in his hand and frowned.

"Were you the bearer of the wand you made?"

"No. I wasn’t ready. I made it not knowing that the tree was special and not knowing anything about dark wizards. I didn’t put enough into the wand."

Dumbledore sighed.

"When I was a boy, my brother and I were homeless. We would resort to any means to feed and clothe ourselves. At the time it was much more difficult to catch underage magic. One day we had the misfortune of stealing some clothes and books from a wizard. He recognised us as wizards and caught us easily. He turned out to be Grindelwald.

"He persuaded me to cut a branch from a particular tree and make myself a wand. He assured me I would then be able to perform the complex magic that he could.

"Unfortunately he stole the wand as soon as it was completed. He disappeared for many years but when he re-emerged he was wielding my wand."

"I was only nine years old when I made it and it took a long time for me to rectify my mistake."

They were quiet for a moment and then Harry said, "Kingsley Shacklebolt wasn’t told how important this wand might be, was he? How many Order members were there as well?"

"Everyone. We left the Ministry to be responsible for watching over George, much to my regret. If Kingsley knew anything he would have behaved differently. You needed to concentrate on the piece. The Order was present to provide protection, obviously, but we each wanted to be there. Just being present felt like being part of the creation something special."

"This will really be that important?" Harry asked, more to himself.

"No, Harry. George told you. The piece had nothing to do with it."

"So when will the wand choose the wizard?" asked Harry, not really taking in Dumbledore’s answer.

"Hold that wand properly, Harry."

Harry held the wand in his right hand and extended it out as we would his wand. This time it felt different. There was a warmth and a feeling of power that he could feel through his hand.

"No magic in the corridors, Harry," said Dumbledore winking before walking away leaving Harry deep in thought.

*

"That was a really good training session! I think we’re ready to take on anybody," Harry told the team after their last practice before Saturday’s match against Slytherin.

"Ron, I need a favour."

"What?" Ron asked defensively. Ron’s play was getting worse and his frustration was getting the better of him. Harry was pleased that the rest of the team had taken his wish to lay off Ron.

"I’d like you to talk to Patrick Stephens. He hasn’t been to any of the practices for ages."

"I can’t make him play."

"I don’t want him to play if he doesn’t want to. I just want you to talk to him and see if anything is wrong. I’ve tried to talk to him but he’s being evasive."

"Okay, I’ll try," said Ron

*

Harry felt himself jostled as he sat at the House table trying to eat his breakfast. He didn’t mind at all though.

A little way down the table, Ginny was surrounded by a large group of students who were admiring the brand new racing broom she had just unwrapped. She sat there looking quite stunned, staring at the note attached to the parcel.

Harry knew that the broom was from Fred and George. He had written to them telling them that Ginny was the new Gryffindor lead chaser and asked them to get her a new broom, promising that he would repay them. Harry knew that not only would Fred and George ensure that Ginny’s broom was up to scratch, but also they would negotiate a far better price than he ever could.

Harry had no idea what model it was. From all the fuss it certainly seemed a good one.

*

Harry changed quietly out his Quidditch robes and looked on as his team yelled themselves hoarse. They had won by 450 points to 10. As the score-line suggested, everyone had played superbly. Ron had made some simply impossible saves and the Chasers had played like the opposition had been left on the ground.

When the snitch made its last appearance Harry was half tempted to let it fly away again. It was only after Malfoy started after it that Harry decided he would rather catch the snitch, even if it meant bringing the match to a close.

Harry put his hand on Ron’s shoulder to keep him back before they all went up to the common room for a celebration party.

"You played brilliantly today, Ron," he said smiling. Ron grinned back. "Actually I was hoping you wouldn’t."

Ron’s grin faded.

"It’s just that if you’d played badly you’d have proof that your place on the team is secure. I know you’ve been worrying about your play."

Ron nodded slightly, looking down.

"Ron, please believe me. For the last time, I don’t care how many goals we let in so long as we all try our best and enjoy ourselves," Harry said earnestly.

Ron’s head was still a little down as Harry and he slowly made their way back up to the castle. He really hoped Ron would believe him this time.

*

They were greeted by a wall of noise as they entered the common room. Ron was immediately grabbed and Harry looked around for a drink.

As Ron, now safely the centre of attention, embarked on a re-enactment of his best saves, Harry wondered where the rest of the team were. He scanned the room and saw a couple of them, smiling and watching Ron’s antics.

Just as he wondered where Ginny, Colin and Denis had got to, a note was thrust into his hands from out of the crowd.

 

Harry,

Please come back down to the changing rooms. Colin and Denis are here.

Come alone.

Ginny

*

Harry entered the changing room and found his three missing players, all wearing very serious expressions.

As soon as she saw him, Ginny leapt up. She started to say something, but then burst into tears. Harry held his hands out in confusion and she hugged him, now crying uncontrollably.

Harry was at a loss for words.

"What’s happened?" he asked the other two over Ginny’s shoulder.

"You should hear it from Ginny," said Denis.

"Yes," agreed Colin, "give her a moment."

*

Gradually Ginny calmed down and eventually pulled herself away from Harry. He had felt that it would be best to wait, especially as none of them appeared to be physically hurt.

He looked at Ginny, who looked finally prepared to talk.

"I, I had a word with Patrick after the match. I thought I would drag him away from the party and get him to tell me why me didn’t want to play anymore," she said thickly. "He admitted his fall wasn’t an accident. He said he was threatened at the top of the stairs. He stepped backwards and fell. He doesn’t think he was actually pushed."

"Who was it?" Harry asked as calmly as he could.

"He said it was Ron."

Harry stood there stunned, refusing to believe what he was hearing. Stephens must have lied, he told himself.

"I’m afraid there’s more," said Colin. He opened Ron’s locker and put on Ron’s pair of goalkeeping gloves. Denis held up a quaffle and Colin raised his hands. The quaffle immediately flew towards Colin but fell just short.

"The charm is losing its effect. When we tried earlier it flew right into Colin’s hands."

Denis picked up the quaffle and they tried again. This time the quaffle did not move at all.

Harry stood there quite unable to move or speak.

*

Ron was the last to enter the dark and almost empty classroom. He looked around and did not look entirely surprised to see the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team present.

Harry stood, carried a chair to the front of the room and said, "Thanks, for joining us, Ron, I’ve a couple of questions for you."

Ron hesitated but the shrugged and went over the chair and sat.

"Ron, I saw the strangest thing just after the match. I saw these gloves, your gloves, summon a quaffle right towards them. How could that be?"

"Show me," said Ron.

"I can’t, Ron, the charm wore off soon after."

"So what’s the problem? If there’s no evidence …"

"Do you have anything else to say to us about this?" Harry struggled to ask, still reeling inside from Ron’s answer.

"No."

"Tell us what happened with Patrick Stephens. Did you threaten him?"

Ron shifted in his seat and said, "That was an accident. I did speak to him a bit aggressively, but he was trying to take my place. I didn’t push him or anything."

"But why didn’t you help him after he fell?"

"I was going to but Hermione got there first," Ron said looking down. "I was afraid of being accused of something."

Harry closed his eyes for a moment. He sighed heavily.

"Very well. Professor McGonagall?" began Harry and Ron’s head shot up. He had no idea she was present.

"Gryffindor won the match by unfair means and I’d like the result reversed. Slytherin should be awarded the win and the house points. I take full responsibility and I’ll offer my resignation shortly. I give you my word that no-one else knew about this and I’d like the others on the team not to receive punishment. Gryffindor will withdraw from the Cup competition this year. Ron, you are dropped from the House Team and banned from all Rebel training."

"Professor, there’s no evidence," Ron said at once, "you can’t punish us if there’s no evidence. Besides we scored loads more times than I even touched the quaffle."

"There is evidence, Ron," Harry said angrily. "I witnessed what those gloves could do."

"Four of us witnessed it," said Denis quietly.

"We can’t win by cheating, Ron," said a tearful Ginny. "I feel so ashamed."

Professor McGonagall stood up and looked down at Ron who just looked back at her defiantly.

"Go to my office, Weasley, now. I will deal with you after I have spoken to the others," she said.

Ron stood and left, not looking at anyone.

"First of all," said the Professor, her voice a little softer, "I’d like to assure you all that I accept that none of you knew nothing about this. I’m also very pleased that you brought this to my attention rather than trying to hide it. Madam Hooch had suspected something during play and the match quaffle showed signs of having been charmed when we examined it after the game.

"The match result will be reversed but because of your honesty you will continue in the competition. Other than Ronald Weasley, none of you will receive punishment. Potter, I’d like you to re-consider your resignation," she finished and left the room.

"Please don’t quit, Harry," said Colin.

Harry wasn’t listening. He looked at Ginny who shook her head and said the very thing he was thinking.

"He didn’t even say he was sorry."

*

The next few days were hard for Ron. He had been stripped of his prefect badge and had been given two weeks worth of detentions. He had to endure the cheers of the Slytherins every time he passed and a whispering campaign by the other Houses.

Harry had quickly quashed any open remarks made by the Rebels and fortunately everybody else followed suite. He told them Ron made a mistake and had been punished for it. It wasn’t up to them to punish him any more.

The first thing Ron said to Harry after several days of silence between them was that Harry shouldn’t stand up for him.

"Why are you defending me, anyway?" Ron asked one evening after Harry had found him hiding up in the dormitory.

"Come and play a game of chess and we’ll talk about it," Harry said.

They played down in the common room but didn’t talk. People were clearly surprised that Harry had apparently forgiven Ron so quickly, but seemed to accept it. Hermione looked particularly relieved.

In the early hours of the morning, the two of them were alone when Ron said quietly, "I’m sorry, Harry."

"Sorry you got caught?" Harry asked coldly.

"No, I’m sorry I let you down," he said quickly. When he saw Harry smile, Ron added "Prat," and smiled back.

"I want you to come down to the changing rooms next practice and apologise to the team properly," said Harry, "then you had better get to work earning that prefect badge back."





Next Chapter:-

The Training Tent

"Myrtle, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you."

The lethal Training Tent is almost ready for Harry to use and Madeye explains the strict rules. Harry learns Harbinger was an Auror. He tells Harry about his troubled past and his friendship with Harry’s mother. Hermione angers Harry when she changes Madeye's rules to catch him off his guard.


Chapter 5: The Training Tent
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The Training Tent
 
At breakfast, Dumbledore had announced that an Auror training tent would erected in the grounds that day.

"All students are forbidden from entering without qualified supervision. The tent is trained to attack anyone entering. Staff and students would be at risk. Even qualified Aurors have been killed entering this particular tent. It’s use was stopped when the death toll reached unacceptable levels," the Headmaster said seriously. "If someone is foolish enough and seen entering, do not follow. Raise the alarm."

Looking around he continued, "Many of you will be curious about what goes on inside. Professor Harbinger has suggested we give guided tours to selected groups of students. You will have an opportunity to see demonstration duels in safety."

*

Harry had received a note from Professor Harbinger asking him to meet him at the Auror tent after lunch.

As he approached the tent, he saw Harbinger waiting for him at the entrance. The tent had a large entrance with an extension piece that formed a lobby. The tent flaps opened and a familiar growl said, "Hello, Potter."

Mad-Eye Moody stood grinning at him.

"Hi," said Harry.

"Come in and look," and he beckoned both of them inside.

Before them stretched a large open tent. Light was still getting in through gaps in the side canvas but strange shadows moved around the tied down sections. There were no tent poles inside, although from the outside it looked like there should have been. The atmosphere seemed charged and Harry felt the hairs on the back of his head prickle.

"Not quite finished yet but you can see they are getting excited"

"Who is getting excited?" Harry asked.

"Your opponents," he growled back with an evil grin. "Harbinger here is the last surviving Auror that received training in this tent. It was modified for advanced training against wizards using the dark arts. It is lethal. Killed two trained Aurors the last time it was put up. Good ones too. Scares me to think what it’s capable of, and I don’t scare easy."

"You are an Auror?" Harry asked the Professor, suddenly more interested.

"I was."

"So," Moody began again brightly, "lethal and completely unsuitable for teaching a young would-be Auror. Right up your street Potter, Eh?"

"Huh?" Harry asked stupidly.

"Dumbledore wanted you to face some dark challenges. This tent was Moody’s idea. It is the best we could get," added Harbinger.

Harry was about to query why either of them couldn't teach him. After all, Moody had performed the unforgivable curses on them.

Then he remembered. It was the imposter, not Moody, that had done that.

"Okay, I want to run through the rules for using this tent," said Moody as he stomped back to the lobby. They followed.

"First, only ever enter and exit through this lobby. If you come in any other way you’ll be killed. When outside keep a sensible distance from the perimeter too, its been known to grab people."

"Second, never EVER bring your normal wand into the tent. There will be a box of training wands in the entrance. Each wand indicates the level you can cope with. If the tent senses a normal wand it’s free to use all forms of attack including the unforgivable curses."

"Third, if you get into trouble just drop the wand. The tent should stop attacking after a while. Get to the lobby and then use a summoning charm to retrieve the wand. If you pick the wand up inside the tent will attack again."

"Four. The tent will always try to challenge you. If it thinks you can face more it will increase the level of skills needed. That’s how one of the fatalities occurred so watch out."

"Five. It will not play fair. Expect multiple attacks from all directions including behind and sometimes above. Some distractions will appear too and it won't always let you tell how close to the perimeter you are. I once got so confused that I lost where the exit was."

"Six. You must always be alone when duelling the tent. It will trick you into attacking anyone else in the arena. This thing is evil."

"Seven. Injuries you receive in here are real. Your opponent’s injuries are simulated. They will fall when hit but will soon get up and fight harder still."

"And lastly, well for now anyway, remember that this is an old tent. The dark witches and wizards that the arena simulates are long dead. If you recognise a death-eater or anyone else in here they are real!"

Harry just stared into the cavernous tent from the lobby.

"Don’t worry Harry," said Harbinger smiling, "we’ll go over the rules again when we are ready to start. For now just promise me never to enter the tent again without the direct supervision of Alastor or myself."

Harry nodded.

"The other promise you need to make concerns the control area," continued Harbinger. "You need to get used to the idea that the simulated opponents are real. If you see they are not you will be weakened."

"Okay. Where is the control area?"

"Well, it’s not there yet. There will be some external steps up to another side entrance. The same steps will lead to a viewing area. Please stay off the steps for now. It sounds stupid but it will make a difference."

*

Harry climbed though the portrait hole, walked over to the fire and collapsed in a chair. The common room was empty except for Hermione who was reading a large volume.

"Good practise?" she asked.

"I thought Moody was bad. Harbinger is even worse!"

"I was wondering if we could help out with your extra training."

"It’s dangerous in the tent, but I’ll ask if there is anything you or Ron could help with if you like."

"Thanks, Harry." She paused. "Could I tell you something else?"

"Anything, you know that."

He looked over to her. She was watching him with a pensive look. "What’s wrong?"

"Well, Ron has asked me to go to the Halloween ball with him."

"Oh, I wondered if he would – I told him I was going to ask you if no-one else had soon."

"I didn’t like to refuse. Harry, were you listening to what Professor McGonagall was saying about defiance?"

"Not really. Why?"

She sighed heavily.

"Harry, I’m going to tell you something you won’t like. I don’t want you to hear it from anywhere else."

"What is it? Are you okay?" he asked with concern. She smiled at him nodding.

"Halloween is not a wizarding celebration, Harry."

"Of course it is, we have a feast every year!"

"Not last year. Before we came to Hogwarts Halloween was not the theme of the celebrations. Every 31st October, Harry, the wizarding world celebrates the full of Voldemort."

She paused.

Harry could feel is face redden as anger coursed through him.

"Sure," Harry said through gritted teeth. "My parents died that day. Why not celebrate!"

*

The next day Harry got up early and went in search of Hermione. He found her down in the Great Hall having breakfast early so she could get some library time in before lessons started.

"Hermione, I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I really appreciate you telling me and I hope I didn’t upset you too much."

Hermione smiled at him. "It’s okay, Harry, I understand."

*

Harbinger’s Secret

Professor McGonagall waited for everyone else to leave the classroom before speaking to Harry, who had looked angrier than she had seen him for ages.

"I’m not going," said Harry as soon as the door closed.

"Yes, you are. Please, Potter. You must see how it would look if you didn’t attend."

"Why wasn’t I told?"

"I would have thought that was obvious. Look how upset you are now. I’m sorry we didn’t say something sooner, though. Who told you, by the way?"

Harry just glared at Professor McGonagall.

"You didn’t do anything to them did you?"

"No!" Harry almost shouted in indignation. He sighed.

"Hermione was afraid if I heard Malfoy making a snide remark then I’d do something stupid."

"Well, anyway. There are going to be a number of visiting dignitaries and …"

Harry felt his anger flair up again.

"If you think I’ll just be there for you to show me off …"

"Don’t be ridiculous. You won’t even be required to speak to them. But if you’re not there it would look like we’re afraid. Please be there. You might even enjoy yourself."

Harry felt himself calming down.

"I didn’t even notice we didn’t have a Halloween feast last year," he admitted.

"We couldn’t," she said gently. "It would have looked like we didn’t really believe he was back."

"I know."

*

Harbinger and Harry stood just inside the lobby of the Auror tent waiting for the rain to subside before heading back up to the castle after practise.

"Professor Harbinger, how did you come to know my mother?" asked Harry.

"That’s a long story," said Harbinger looking out into the rain. Harry expected him not to continue, but Harbinger conjured two seats for them.

When they were seated, Harbinger began.

"The first time I got expelled it was because a boy, a Seventh Year, had taunted me about something had happened years before. I was in my Sixth year then and I would have killed him if the house elves hadn’t intervened. I hurt some of them in my rage. Anyway, I apologised for hurting the house elves but refused to apologise for hurting the boy until he apologised for what he said to me.

"Flitwick tried to help me but I was in no mood to listen to sense. I had left Hogwarts before the Aurors arrived to break my wand. They caught up with me about two months later. I put up a fight but they overpowered me eventually. I was expecting to be put in Azkaban but instead Moody offered me a job. I suspect Dumbledore and Flitwick had something to do with that.

"I was just doing paperwork and rubbish but it kept be out of trouble for a while. Eventually Moody started to train me in Defence Against the Dark Arts and two years later he offered me a place on the Auror training programme on condition I went back to school first.

"I really wasn’t that keen on coming back but Flitwick turned up and made me go with him to visit the boy I’d hurt. As soon as I saw him I knew I had been wrong. I apologised to him and lifted the curse so his injuries could heal. Flitwick then persuaded the Headmaster to accept me back to do my NEWTs.

"I camped out in the grounds for a couple of weeks before term began. I was so optimistic. This time it would be different. Unfortunately I soon realised it wouldn’t be. Several students remembered me from before or had heard rumours.

"Moody’s training did help a lot and I think being that bit older, I was a little less hot headed. My retaliations didn’t result in any serious injury and I really did try to keep my head down and work. I really wanted to get onto the Auror programme, after all.

"Even so, it’s not easy to lead a solitary life here, especially when there were so many determined to go out of their way to cause problems."

Harry nodded, remembering his own experiences.

"One evening I came back to my tent to collect some books when I found a group trashing everything. It took them a while to realise I was there. I bound them up and looked through the damage deciding how they should be punished. I was just looking at the tattered remains of some spell books Moody had given me. I was getting angrier and angrier.

"That was when your mother appeared out of no-where. She started shouting and yelling at me. She distracted me long enough for Flitwick to arrive. When she eventually stopped, Flitwick had taken the intruders back up the castle."

Harbinger paused and smiled fondly.

"Harry, your mother was the loudest twelve year old I’ve ever heard. When my ears eventually stopped ringing, I asked her why she had shouted at me. She just looked embarrassed and said she couldn’t think of anything else. She introduced herself and started to clear things up.

"From then on, I sort of became a project of hers. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice having someone to talk to occasionally who wasn’t afraid of me. It’s just she was so bossy. She even appealed to the house elves to let me back in the castle for meals. She had quite a thing about the house elves. I’m sure they only agreed to get her off their backs about the other stuff.

"Anyway, Lily continued to keep me out of serious trouble. She had a real talent for charms, and set up all sorts of wards to keep people away from my camp. Lily would write constantly during the holidays and would send the loudest howlers if ever I failed to write back immediately.

"We would practise Defence together whenever we could. It soon became clear that Lily was becoming a very powerful witch and she used her skills to good effect. Lily couldn’t stand injustice or mistreatment of anyone or anything. She was never afraid to intervene. You know I once saw her take on almost the entire Slytherin Fourth year single handed. I was up in the Astronomy Tower when a scuffle broke out down below. They were picking on a group of first years when things escalated. Lily forced her way into the centre and took on the ringleaders. By the time she'd finished no-one was in any doubt about her abilities."

"Didn’t anyone else help?" asked Harry.

"There were a lot of people just standing by and looking. By the time I got down from the tower it was all over. Lily was still pretty angry. I pulled her away from starting against some people she thought should have helped sooner.

"Lily, being Lily, had opinions on most things. She would generally dedicate at least one evening a week when she would do her homework and help me with mine. She would happily chatter constantly. I seem to recall your father got a mention several times."

"My Dad? I got the impression she didn’t like him much, early on, I mean."

"Well what really annoyed her was that he never tried very hard. He just appeared to get top marks without putting any effort into it, whereas Lily spent hours doing homework and revising. To make things worse, of course, she was sure he didn’t even care what marks he got!

"She was incredibly annoying," Harbinger said with a smile on his face, "but she did manage to keep me out of trouble until the last year of the NEWTs."

Harbinger went silent and his face grew serious as he continued.

"It happened on the same night that I got expelled before. That particular date has always been a bad one for me. It was an anniversary of something terrible that had happened years before. Lily found out about it and came looking for me. She must have cried for three hours solid before she told me she knew about the family plot and what had happened.

"Eventually Lily fell asleep and I left her in my tent while I made my way up to the graveyard through the storm. I only went once a year, but on the anniversary I could never stay away.

"I got about halfway there when Lily caught up with me. She was in a terrible state, pleading with me not to go there tonight. That was when I guessed she knew something had happened in the graveyard. I eventually got there to find the headstones had been vandalised. I approached and found some empty and smashed bottles of fire whiskey. Someone had been having a party and had been dancing on their graves. Someone had dropped a cloak. I held it up and we both recognised it.

"I will never forget the look on Lily’s face just then. For the first time she looked truly afraid, afraid of what I was about to do. As soon as I dropped the cloak she ran to get help."

Harbinger paused and Harry could see he looked haunted by the memory.

"I cornered them up in one of the towers. They had decided to do some more vandalism. The tower was deserted so I sealed us all in and proceeded to vent my anger. I pulled chunks of stone from the walls and hurled them up at them. They were quickly overpowered, being drunk, but I didn’t stop. Eventually the tower was undermined and it began to topple.

"I only came to my senses when I realised house elves were appearing around me. Some of them got the others out and many more tried to shore up the tower. I knew it was hopeless. I looked up and could see the storm above me. The roof of the tower was gone completely and above I could see large stones flying high into the storm.

"I ordered the elves out but four of them stayed behind. I dismantled the tower and threw the stones out into the grounds. It almost worked but the last remaining curved wall at the base collapsed on top of us. At the last moment two of the elves pushed me into a hollow.

"That was the last thing I remember from that night," Harbinger said and he wiped a tear from his face. "I found out afterwards that three of the elves died instantly and the fourth died of his injuries a week later."

They sat in silence for a while.

"So now you know, Harry. I disappeared for a while until Moody found me again. He brought me back and insisted I join the Auror programme. That was blocked by the minister but they gave me a different job, one more suited to my talents.

"After that night I never spoke to your mother again. She continued to write to me, even though I never replied.

"I’m afraid I never read any of her letters until after she died. I was too ashamed. The extraordinary thing is that even after her death, she still managed to reach out to me.

"As soon as I heard what happened to Lily, I shut myself away for a week and read her letters. They were incredibly long and detailed. She told me everything she was doing and was feeling. Towards the end, she wrote very often. Her last letter was full of her fears and hopes. I got the impression there was a lot she wasn’t telling me about. Anyway, she finished with a plea to me.

"I have no idea if she knew what I was doing for the Ministry, but she clearly thought it wasn’t anything good. She wrote that she knew I hadn’t read her letters yet.

"Well, I resigned from the Ministry before I got another assignment. Moody got them to accept it during all the fuss of the Death Eater trials. Since then I’ve tried to live up to Lily’s expectations."

Harry had two questions he was burning to ask.

"Do you still have the letters?"

Harbinger looked at him for a long moment and said, "Yes, Harry. I’ve made arrangements for you to have the letters. You can’t have them immediately because they are in a secure location. Flitwick has agreed to help make copies for me to keep. I didn’t think there was anything in the letters that would cause a problem if they got out but Dumbledore doesn’t want to take any chances. Lily was very clever and she might have put something in code."

"Why might she have done that?" Harry asked.

"She intended for you to have the letters when you were ready. There’s a very good chance she knew what might happen. They didn’t find anything in the house but I can’t believe Lily wouldn’t have written anything to you. That’s why you will get the originals."

"What job did you do for the Ministry, if you weren’t an Auror?"

"Well, I was an Auror, I just didn’t work for Moody. I hunted down and killed Dark Wizards. We were never as subtle as the real Aurors. Moody was livid when he found out what the Ministry had started behind his back. Moody always gathered evidence and then arrested suspects for trial. We had orders to kill first and then look for the evidence."

Harry just looked at him in shock.

"I’m not trying to justify myself, but in all the operations I took part in, only twice did we never find strong evidence of dark power. I queried those two cases and was suspended before anything happened. I went to Moody and he intervened. One of the suspects had been killed but we rescued the other one.

"We then found out there were many other innocent victims. A lot of evidence had been planted to incriminate them. So I then spent some time tracking down my former colleagues alongside Moody. We never did find out the true origin of the orders."

"Do you mind my asking what caused you to loose your temper?"

Harbinger swallowed.

"When I was in my first year at Hogwarts, I received a message that my mother had been taken ill. She had been unwell for some time but I think me and my brothers and sisters were kept in the dark about how ill she was. Anyway, I was summoned home. I went by Floo from Hogsmeade.

"I arrived in the kitchen to find the house ablaze. It had been burning for some time. I tried to put it out but it was hopeless. Never did find out what caused it. A neighbour saw movement and came in to drag me outside. I lost my entire family in that fire. I was the eldest of six children," said Harbinger, now holding his head in his hands.

"I don’t ever remember getting angry before that night. After I was never anything else but angry until your mother came along."

"Those children," Harry began with dawning realisation, "in the Great Hall-"

"- Were my memories of my bothers and sisters," Harbinger finished sadly.

*

"Myrtle, are you in here?"

"Harry?"

"Myrtle, I was wondering if I could ask a favour? I don’t know if you know but there’s a ball on Halloween evening. I was wondering if I could take you?"

Moments later, Harry stood outside the bathroom door. He was wet through and still not entirely sure why.

A simple, "No thanks," would have sufficed, he thought.

He still wasn’t entirely sure why he had asked her, either.

*

The Grey Lady Intervenes

Harry walked into the Great Hall looking for Ron and Hermione. He looked over to the Gryffindor table as he entered. Neither Ron nor Hermione were there yet but he saw Susan Bones sitting alone at the Hufflepuff table.

Something about her caused Harry to look more closely. She was slightly red in the face and was just staring at her untouched plate.

"Hello, Susan. May I join you?"

She looked up in surprise. It was unusual for other houses to sit at different tables but it was becoming more common for breakfast and lunchtimes.

"Sure."

Harry sat and pulled a plate towards him. He grabbed a roll and took a bite. Susan filled a clean glass and handed it to him smiling.

"Thanks. You okay?"

"I just asked … someone … to go with me to the ball. He turned me down though."

"I’m sorry. I asked Myrtle to go with me but she turned me down."

"Myrtle?" Susan said laughing.

"And she turned me down," Harry confirmed, laughing too. He was glad she sounded happier.

At that moment Luna drifted past. "Hi Luna," he said.

Luna stopped, turned and sat down.

"What’s the matter?" asked Susan with concern.

"I’m quite upset actually," said Luna, staring off into space. Harry thought she looked like she was trying not to show how upset she was.

"I asked Ronald to the ball."

"No, isn’t he going with …" Harry couldn’t stop himself saying.

"Hermione, yes. He just told me he couldn’t go with me and I asked why he’d changed his mind. I asked him ages ago."

"Ron wouldn’t do that," said Harry. Luna looked at him with her unblinking eyes and he knew he was wrong. "I’m so sorry, Luna. Ron’s an idiot."

Harry couldn’t believe Ron capable of doing such a thing. For a moment he wondered if his forgiveness hadn’t been too hasty.

"Tell you what," Harry said trying to sound as bright as possible, "I’m asking both of you to go with me. When you get asked or ask who-ever you want to go with you can come and dump me. How’s that?"

They both laughed at him.

"How many girls are you planning on taking?"

*

The next day, Harry was in the library when the Grey Lady, the Ravenclaw ghost, approached him.

"Harry, I’m afraid you’ve upset Myrtle."

Hermione and Ron looked at him in surprise. He hadn’t told them anything about it.

"I think you should come and apologise to her."

"Okay."

*

Harry entered and held open the door to the bathroom for the Grey Lady. She, however, drifted though the wall.

"Myrtle, are you here?" she asked gently.

She emerged from a cubicle, crying. The Grey Lady looked meaningfully at Harry. He took the hint.

"Myrtle, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you."

Myrtle nodded and the Grey Lady smiled.

"You know, Myrtle, I think he shouldn’t get off that lightly. Did he really ask you to the ball with only weeks to prepare? Harry, how could you?"

"I didn’t think," Harry replied trying not to react to the Grey Lady’s smirk that Myrtle hadn’t seen.

"I think you should make him take you, Myrtle. You’ve always wanted to go to a ball, haven’t you? If we all help we should be able to make a suitable ball gown."

Myrtle looked at her with half a smile on her face.

"Is it true that ghosts can … you know …"

"Yes, there is a charm. It isn’t very long lasting though. A couple of dances at most."

Harry had no idea what they were talking about.

"So will you come with me?" he asked.

Myrtle started to cry as she nodded enthusiastically. The Grey Lady put her arm around her and winked at Harry.

*

"Potter!"

"Yes, Professor?"

"Is it correct that you are taking four girls to the ball?"

"Not entirely, no."

"Explain."

"Well, it was up to six this morning but …"

"SIX?" Professor McGonagall exclaimed as the entire class descended into laughs. Harry smiled before he answered.

"Yes but some of them dumped me at lunchtime because they are going with someone else."

"Oh, good. Dare I ask what number you are down to?"

"I was back down to two before Myrtle changed her mind. That’s the best yet."

"Have you given any thought as to how you are going to dance with all three? Please, don’t answer that."

*

Hermione’s Strategy

"Neville, I need a favour."

"Sure, Harry, what is it?"

"You may have heard I have more than one date for the ball."

Neville smirked at him.

"Well, I need a couple of people, you know - kind, loyal friends - who will dance with my dates while I go and collect one of the others. I just want to bring each one into the hall individually but not have the other hang around while I go and get them. Please Neville. Once they are all the in hall I’ll be okay."

"You sound like you are herding cattle. Anyway I’m a terrible dancer."

"Please."

"Okay. Who needs shin pads?"

"Thanks, Neville. I won’t forget this. It’s Susan Bones I need you to dance with."

Neville’s face dropped. "I can’t. I turned her down when she asked me."

He looked down.

"You can dance with Luna then. Why’d you turn Susan down? She’s nice."

"I asked Ginny," he said, going very red. "She’s going with someone else though."

"I’m sorry, Neville. Will you still dance with Luna?"

"Sure, I suppose"

*

Harry waited at the bottom of the steps outside the Auror tent waiting for Harbinger and Hermione.

A group of Second Years descended the steps and a couple of Ravenclaw Rebels stopped to comment on the training they had just witnessed from the viewing platform.

After they had gone, Hermione and Harbinger came down the timber steps. Hermione was carrying two large books and wore a serious expression. She was nodding, listening to Professor Harbinger who was speaking to her quietly.

Harbinger stopped talking as soon has he saw Harry.

"I’ve asked Hermione to review your progress to date and see if she can’t think up a few more challenges on your current level."

He turned to Hermione and asked her, "What did you think about today’s effort?"

Hermione thought a moment before speaking.

"Well, Harry, your reaction times are very good and you’re not getting caught out by attacks from behind. Your aim is getting better as well."

Harry was pleased with these comments but knew she had more to say.

"However, there are areas you need to improve. You left yourself completely open to attack when you went to assist that wounded witch and the hag in the invisibility cloak went completely un-noticed for far too long."

Hermione hesitated. "You know, Professor, the biggest problem is the lack of intelligence."

"Harry’s?" asked Harbinger with a smile. Hermione laughed at the expression on Harry’s face.

"No! I mean the characters in the tent. They always turn up in an identical sequence and then do almost the same attack every time. Harry looked almost bored at times."

Harry raised his eyebrows. In truth he hadn’t noticed that the order of the attacks had been the same each time, but it was true he had dealt easily with each attack. His biggest challenge was coping with the number and frequency of the attacks at times. He certainly hadn’t felt bored.

"That may be a limitation of the tent’s abilities. Harry should be going onto the next level now. What changes would you make?"

"Well, I’d change the appearance of the attackers. Slightly different features like cloak colours and masks would stop Harry knowing in advance what the attack was going to be. I also think–" but Hermione stopped abruptly, looking at Harry.

"-That perhaps Harry shouldn’t hear about your better ideas in advance?" Harbinger finished smiling. "Make a list and we’ll set things up. I’m afraid there isn’t actually a manual or anything but I can show you how to make changes to each level in the control area."

*

Harry stood at the bottom of the steps once more. This time he was angry and literally smouldering.

Hermione skipped down the steps with a wide grin on her face. Harry could hear laughing from an unseen group still on the viewing platform. Hermione’s face fell when she saw Harry.

"Don’t be angry with Hermione, Harry," said Harbinger as he followed her down the steps. "She’s just challenging you."

"You broke Moody’s rules," said Harry through gritted teeth.

"Rules?" Hermione asked blankly.

"Yes the rule about if I recognised anyone then they weren’t part of the simulation."

"Oh," she said and looked fearfully at Harbinger.

Harbinger looked down guiltily, "I know I should have said something. It’s just that I thought it would draw too much attention to the change."

Harry just turned and stormed off. He half expected Hermione to follow, but she didn’t.

Even through his anger, Harry recognised Hermione’s improvements had been good. He had tried the previous level again just as a warm up exercise. He had coped but it was much more difficult than last time. He realised he must have been predicting the attacks before, just as she had said.

The next level had been a complete nightmare. Hermione had created a complete obstacle course. He had been completely fooled and had soon forgotten that he was in the Auror tent at all.

Harry stopped by the lake. He shivered when he remembered that scream. And how the hell had she created that dragon?

It took Harry some time to calm himself down. He was still deep in thought when he felt a hand touch him on the shoulder.

"I’m sorry, Harry," said Hermione gently. "Professor Harbinger said they can repair the damage to the tent."

Harry nodded, still looking out onto the lake.

"I just thought if you thought someone you knew was in danger the pressure would be greater."

"Why Ginny though? She was lying there just like she was in the Chamber. And then you made that creature just stamp on her like that."

"Well, I thought … after you got her that broom … you might be …"

Harry turned to face her, anger rising once more.

"If you want to know my very worst fear, ask Neville. He knows. He saw it happen last year. Ask him. You can add it to the simulation. That’d give me some real pressure."

"I would never," Hermione began looking stricken, "I’d never use Sirius-"

"I’m not talking about Sirius!" he spat and stormed off back up to the castle.

 




Next Chapter:-

The Apprentice Piece

"I thought you couldn’t interfere?"

Harry is becoming very proficient in the Training Tent. Hermione is taken ill and rushed to hospital. A desperate Harry seeks the help of Fides the Unspeakable. In search of an elixir he crosses a bridge that literally splits him into two personalities.


Chapter 6: The Apprentice Piece
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The Apprentice Piece
 
Harry entered the lobby of the training tent with a mixture of feelings. He was still smarting from what had happened in the tent on the previous session but at the same time felt guilty for losing his temper with Hermione. He was still angry with her and hadn’t yet apologised, although he knew he ought to.

Harbinger turned as soon as he heard Harry enter.

"Ah, Harry, thanks for coming," he said smiling. "Did you bring your apprentice piece?"

Harry nodded.

"Before we begin, I’d like to apologise again for not warning you that Moody’s rules might be changed. Please don’t blame Hermione. She didn’t even know about them," said Harbinger and he waited for Harry to respond.

Harry nodded again.

"Thank you. You did quite a lot of damage to the tent but we’ve it patched up. Now I’m not too sure how it will react to that wand," and he picked up two small blue coloured marbles and handed one to Harry. "Put this in your pocket. It should reset the tent for some simple target practice."

Harbinger put his marble into a waistcoat pocket and entered the tent. Harry pocketed his marble and followed.

Before them the tent was completely empty and the light levels were high. At one end a series of targets had been set up.

Harbinger fired a stunning spell at one of the targets which exploded and then reappeared whole again with a small pop. The debris from the original target remained strewn about the floor. He seemed to relax and Harry assumed he was wary of the tent deciding to attack them.

"Now, have you used that wand before, Harry?"

"Just once after our first Defence Against the Darks Arts lesson. I produced some sparks but it hurt my arm. It was like an electric shock."

"Try it again, will you?"

Harry raised his arm and produced a few sparks. It was just as powerful as before but it no longer hurt.

"It didn’t hurt this time," said Harry, "is that because of the tent?"

"No, you are just controlling yourself more," said Harbinger. "Go ahead, hit as many targets as you can, including the moving ones. Nothing will shoot back apart from me."

Harry started and used a variety of stunning and reductor spells for a period of around twenty minutes before Harbinger yelled for him to stop.

"That was good. You have good accuracy and you’re getting quicker. Now shortly a new form of target will appear. They will move around and at various times will be protected by a shield charm. Expect your spells to be deflected and as I’m putting my wand away now you’ll need to protect me too!"

Harry thought Harbinger was quite mad, but took aim and fired.

After another fifteen minutes Harbinger yelled for Harry to stop again. He was beginning to enjoy himself dodging and deflecting his own spells. He even managed to hit a couple of targets with deflected stunners but he had to admit it had been more luck than judgement.

Harbinger had only had to jump out of the way once when Harry’s shield hadn’t been quite in the right place.

They walked back to the lobby.

"I’ll leave you to practice on your own so you can get a feel for your limits without having to worry about protecting me. I just wanted you to know that hurling hexes without any regard for others can lead to problems."

Harry nodded, "Professor, is there a more effective shield I could use? There were a couple of times when I almost missed you."

"Yes but they can be more of a hindrance than help sometimes. The problem is that they often present a barrier that can’t be penetrated by spells from either side. I’ll show you a couple next time. Well, if you’re ready I’m going back up to the control area," said Harbinger. "Oh, and by the way, the targets will start to fire back after a while."

When he left, Harry returned to the tent, thinking about the new wand. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it but he thought the spells he was producing were more powerful and quicker. Then it struck him: he wasn’t saying the incantations out loud either.

The targets were coming quicker than he could speak and at some point he had just stopped shouting the words.

The other thing was the power of the spells. He was controlling how strong each curse was.

As Harry stood in the tent, pondering these thoughts, a magically magnified voice rang out.

"Harry, is everything alright? What was that Professor?" Hermione started to say.

As soon as he heard her voice, Harry realised he was no longer angry with her.

Harry smiled, raised his arm and fired.

*

Back to the Ministry

"Ron!"

Harry ran across the grass as soon as he saw Ron and Hermione emerging from the castle. He had just finished another tent session. They waited until Harry got his breath back.

"Hi, Harry," they said when eventually he could talk.

"I need to ask both of you a really big favour. I wouldn’t but I’m desperate. It’s the ball."

"Neville told us you have got him to dance with one of your dates," said Hermione with an amused expression.

"Yeah," said Harry. "I was hoping Seamus would do the same but Lavender refused to let him. I was wondering if you, both of you, wouldn’t mind if Ron danced with Susan for one dance."

Ron was really his last resort. Harry had been very upset that Ron had dumped Luna like he had. He had decided not to challenge Ron about this as he was still a little upset about the Quidditch situation. Harry had convinced himself that it was a private matter so he hadn’t raised this with Hermione either. He still didn’t know whether she knew anything.

"I don’t mind, Ron, really. It would be a really nice thing to do for Susan," Hermione said, absently rubbing her forearm which looked a little red.

"Well, okay," said Ron flatly.

"Thanks," said Harry.

*

Harry looked up as Neville ran across the courtyard towards him.

"What is it, Neville?" he asked with concern.

Neville took a moment to get his breath back before gasping, "Hermione, Hospital Wing!"

Harry didn’t wait to hear more. He tore out of the courtyard and ran straight to the Hospital Wing.

*

Harry pushed open the doors and rushed into the Hospital Wing looking for Hermione. Ron was there listening as Madam Pomfrey spoke to the Headmaster. Nearby a hysterical second year girl was being comforted by Patrick Stephens.

"What happened?" demanded Harry, "Where’s Hermione?"

"Miss Granger has been taken to St. Mungos for observation. She came in earlier complaining about a skin rash she got from some perfume she received as a gift. I gave her some ointment but unfortunately she stumbled on her way out. Miss Jacobson here helped her up."

"It’s all my fault!" wailed the girl.

"You couldn’t have known that contracting your illness would have affected Miss Granger so badly," said Professor Dumbledore kindly.

"It’s fortunate Miss Granger’s reaction became apparent so quickly. She’s poorly but stable," said Madam Pomfrey.

The girl pushed Patrick Stephens away saying, "Now you’ll get it too! Stay away!"

Crying, she collapsed onto a bed.

*

Over the next week Harry and Ron pestered Madam Pomfrey several times each day for updates on Hermione’s progress, which it appeared had remain unchanged.

One week to the day after Hermione had been taken into St Mungos, Harry made his regular detour to the Hospital Wing.

Harry knocked on the doorframe of the open office and looked in.

Madam Pomfrey was sitting at her desk with a parchment note in her hands. She looked up and Harry saw she had tears in her eyes and her hands were shaking.

Harry stood, afraid to ask anything.

"Miss Granger’s condition has taken a turn for the worse. She’s slipped into a coma. The Healers have no idea what to try. They have been hoping she would recover on her own."

They both stayed silent for a moment.

"Have they no idea what it could be?" asked Harry quietly.

"Well, they know that somehow the perfume dampened her magical abilities. That affected her natural ability to recover. The illness she contracted was far worse because of it. Even so it shouldn’t have affected her so badly. The Healers think there is another factor they don’t know about."

"Do you have any theories?" he asked hopefully.

"Well, just one," she answered hesitantly.

*

Harry hammered urgently on the Headmaster’s office door until it opened, apparently on its own accord. He rushed in.

"Yes, Harry?" enquired Dumbledore, who was sitting at his desk with a quill in his hand. He finished writing and looked up.

"Sir, Madam Pomfrey just told me about Hermione. She’s had an idea. I need to get to the Department of Mysteries and ask Fides for help."

Dumbledore frowned slightly, and for a moment Harry thought he might regret not just making his way there before speaking to the Headmaster.

"You may Floo from here in a moment, Harry," Dumbledore said after a moment. "I must warn you, however, that you may not find what you seek. Did you say Fides?"

"Yes, Sir. He invited me when I was at the Ministry about my exams. Sorry, I assumed you knew."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows, apparently impressed.

"He warned me then, about, well…" Harry hesitated, he didn’t really know what Fides had warned him about, "but I have to try."

*

Harry leaped out of the lift into the lobby down in the Department of Mysteries even before the lanterns had lit themselves.

"Fides!" he shouted, "Are you there?"

"In here, Harry," said a voice from the room to the side. Harry rushed in to find Fides sitting at his desk.

"Hello, Harry, I was just enjoying the commotion you caused upstairs," he said smiling and extending his hand for Harry to shake. "The minister looked quite put out when you ordered him out of the lift!"

"Well, I just needed to get here," said Harry a little sheepishly, wondering how Fides had seen upstairs.

"So, how can I help?"

"Well, a friend of mine, Hermione Granger, is in St Mungos and she’s becoming very ill. Madam Pomfrey had an idea of what was causing it and when she told me I realised that it sounded similar to something you told me about before."

Fides help up a hand to interrupt him and looked at a Kestrel sitting on a perch that Harry hadn’t noticed before.

"Get me the medical notes for Miss Hermione Granger from St. Mungos," he said clearly. Immediately the bird extended its wings as if to take off and then disappeared in a flash of light.

Harry stood staring at the empty perch for a moment before he noticed Fides had lit a fire and had thrown Floo powder into it.

"Hospital Wing, Hogwarts," he told the fire putting his head into the magical flames.

After a few minutes conversing, Fides drew his head out of the flames looking deep in thought. Suddenly the bird appeared in a flash and settled in his shoulder. It dropped some parchment into Fides’ hands. He sat and studied them intently.

After what seemed an age, Fides looked up.

"Miss Granger’s condition is rather serious, Harry," he said handing the notes back to the bird. "Take these back and make sure no-one realises they were disturbed," he said to the bird and it disappeared again in a flash.

"If there’s anything-" began Harry.

"You may be able to help her," interrupted Fides, "but it will have a slim chance of success at best. Not only will you have to endure to obtain it, you must accept that it may not even work."

"What is it?"

"An elixir that must be prepared and administered properly. It’s next door, I’ll show you," said Fides and he led Harry into the next room.

Fides opened a highly polished timber wall cabinet. The inside was velvet lined and hanging inside was a small crystal glass phial hanging from a golden chain. He carefully lifted the chain out of the cabinet and cradled the glass with his free hand.

Harry looked in awe at the glass object. It appeared to glow in the dim light. He was so mesmerised by it, he realised too late what Fides was about to do.

"NO! DON’T" Harry yelled as Fides casually poured the contents into the nearby sink.

Fides smiled.

"It’s okay, Harry, this is just a container. The remains of the liquid I poured away would be quite useless."

He stoppered the phial and handed the chain to Harry who was forcing himself to calm down.

"Put this around your neck," said Fides, "and then I’ll explain."

"This container has to be prepared, both before and after you fill it with the elixir. On your journey to the spring, you must concentrate on why you want the elixir and especially why the person it is intended for is worthy. When you have filled it you must not allow anyone else to touch it before it is administered. Do you understand?"

Harry nodded, grasping the crystal phial.

"Please remember that if the container is lost or damaged, no other will work - well in time anyway. If the elixir is contaminated, no replacement may be sought."

Harry gulped but nodded.

"At some point you should expect to be challenged. No help will be rendered and I cannot intervene. Come now, I’ll walk you to the bridge. Got your wand?"

A sudden panic gripped Harry as he withdrew the apprentice piece from his pocket. He could have sworn he was carrying his proper wand. What was this doing here?

Fides smiled and said, "That will do just fine. I’m sorry to use such party tricks but a phoenix feather core in there might be, er, provocative. Your wand is safe back at Hogwarts."

*

Harry followed Fides silently through a very narrow door and he found they were standing on a small ledge overlooking a wider cavern. Stretching ahead into the gloom was a rope bridge.

"The bridge will fall as soon as you step off the other side. You will need to find an alternative way back. The path gives you the general direction. The most important thing is to keep thinking about Miss Granger and what she means to you. I will monitor your progress as best I can. Good luck, Harry."

Harry stepped onto the bridge and momentarily felt dizzy. Immediately after he heard a deep growling from far below.

It took Harry a few minutes to cross the swaying bridge. He had decided not to light his way in case he dropped his wand. Instead he felt his way holding onto each side with both hands. With each step into the darkness he thought of Hermione.

As he stepped off the end of the bridge and onto a dry stone ledge, Harry realised he had spent most of the time thinking about the good Hermione was capable of and how caring she was. He barely noticed the bridge catch fire and collapse behind him.

Harry grasped the glass hanging around his neck again, realising how afraid he was. He wasn’t afraid of the unknown beast that sounded like it was getting closer, or the darkness around him. His real fear was losing Hermione.

He drew out his wand and barely whispered, "Lumos." The wand tip flared brightly revealing a path that appeared to follow around the face of the rock. The light was much brighter than usual and the beam wasn’t as narrow. He set off.

Harry thought of the many times Hermione had given him unwavering support. An unenthusiastic Quidditch supporter, she had watched and cheered every one of his matches.

Hermione usually knew what was good for him even if he didn’t. The DA that she had pushed him into was the only thing to keep him going last year. The interview with Rita Skeeter had helped enormously.

Harry rounded yet another corner. The ledge became very narrow at this point. With some difficulty he got past, pressing himself against the rock face.

He began to think about the times she had challenged him. He had been stubborn, angry, and reckless. And yet Hermione would never give up.

Harry snorted to himself remembering how annoying Hermione could be at times.

Suddenly Harry could hear the sound of running water. A few paces ahead he found a small spring. What looked like water was bubbling out of a small crack in the rock wall and dribbling down into a small carved bowl.

Harry was suddenly struck with a panicked thought, Was the container prepared correctly? Had he thought enough about Hermione?

He gently held the glass container under the ice cold spring water and it filled quickly. He sealed it and hung the chain around his neck again. Taking his wand he looked around for the path he should take. To his alarm, it appeared to just drop off the edge.

Peering down into the darkness, Harry could see some pockets in the rock that might do for foot and hand holds.

He tucked the phial under his shirt for protection, laid on his front and gingerly lowered himself off the edge.

After what seemed an age and several slips later he dropped onto solid ground. He looked back up, having no idea how far down he had climbed.

Suddenly he slipped and fell face down hard onto the rock floor. In terror he scrambled to check the glass phial. With a relief he realised it was intact. Shaking, he took a few minutes thinking how close he had come to losing any chance of saving Hermione.

He laughed out loud when he realised, for the first time, that Hermione would probably chastise him again for going on another "people saving thing." His laughter echoed around him.

Gingerly his got to his feet and shone his wand ahead. He could see what could be taken for a path leading ahead.

He heard something. It sounded like breathing. It was close and Harry decided to proceed at once although he would have preferred to rest a little.

He came to a steep set of steps that had been carved into the rock. Water was cascading down them. He checked the phial again and started to climb up. Harry got about fifteen feet up the steps when he slipped and painfully slid down to the bottom, separately trying to get a grip on the rock.

Just before he hit the bottom he managed to twist around and somehow held his arms across his chest to protect the phial, but that resulted in the treads of the steps hitting his back and head as he fell.

As he crashed into a heap his first thought was for the phial. Still okay. He shook his hands, refusing to acknowledge the pain from the many cuts and bruises, and began to climb again with grim determination.

With a last desperate effort his hoisted himself onto the ledge at the top of the steps and allowed himself a moment to catch his breath. He was in quite a state. Deep cuts were making his hands shake and he had gashes in both legs. He could also feel a painful bruise on the left side of his face.

As he wiped his face with the dirty water he was sitting in, Harry was surprised to hear a voice come out of the darkness.

"Cup of tea, Harry?"

Harry stood and stared incredulously at Fides who was sitting at a small round table and pouring out two cups of tea.

"I thought you couldn’t interfere?" asked Harry, trying to remain calm.

Fides coughed and said, "Unfortunately Miss Granger’s condition has deteriorated. The elixir is ready and I will allow it to be administered early on condition that you give me your word that you will return with me to complete your journey."

Harry nodded and said, "I promise. Can we go now?"

"We have a special portkey that will activate in about twenty minutes," Fides said pushing a cup towards Harry.

"Why can't we go now?" demanded Harry.

"We need to be careful," said Fides. "The healing elements in that elixir are rather delicate and will not travel well."

Harry sat, wincing in pain as he did so and took the tea with shaking hands. He had the impression that Fides was looking at him rather curiously.

"I haven’t been challenged yet have I?"

"No," said Fides gently as a deep growl came from the darkness, "that comes later. Tell me, do you feel any different here?"

Harry thought about that strange question before answering, "Only slightly. I generally think clearly when I’m in a desperate situation. Why?"

Fides smiled and said, "Let me tell you how to administer the elixir."

*

"My staff will act as a Porkey for us, Harry. While we are away from here you will be tempted to remain. For your sake as well as your friend Hermione’s, you must return with me," finished Fides.

Harry was by now desperate to get to St. Mungos. Fides held out his staff and Harry grabbed hold.






One more chapter to go:-

The Challenge

"What was that look between you and Pansy Parkinson about?"

Fides takes Harry to St Mungos hospital where they meet Hermione’s anxious parents and allowing Harry to experience a glimpse of his potential future. Soon he must return and rejoin with his evil self. At the Halloween ball, Harry asks Hermione to dance with him.


Chapter 7: The Challenge
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The Challenge
  
Harry did not feel a tug as he had with other portkeys. Instead he had a fleeting feeling of being carried in a warm breeze. In a flash of blinding white light he found himself standing staring at a group of people around a hospital bed.

Harry quickly registered that Mr. & Mrs. Weasley and Mr. & Mrs. Granger were there. Before they realised anything was happening, Fides waved his free arm and both Weasleys disappeared.

Hermione’s parents looked up at them in concern. Fides looked rather surprised that they had remained until he comprehended what had happened.

"Ah, you must be non-magical?" he asked politely. "You see I can’t use magic on non-magical people."

"This is Mr and Mrs Granger, Hermione’s parents," said Harry, a little shakily. "This is Fides, he’s a wizard from the Department of Mysteries."

Mr and Mrs Granger looked still in shock but Fides smiled and nodded.

Mrs Granger seemed to recover and she looked at concern at the state of Harry. She reached out to Harry, who immediately stepped back.

Fides stepped between them and said "Harry here has brought an elixir that may help your daughter. It will be useless if anyone else touches it."

Mr Granger immediately pulled his wife away saying, "Go ahead, Harry."

Harry approached the bed and looked at Hermione. She was very pale and still. He reached out and held her hand and was alarmed to feel how cold she was.

Harry unstoppered the phial containing the precious liquid and gently reached under Hermione’s neck. Lifting her slightly, he poured a little onto her lips which opened immediately. Gradually Harry administered the remainder of the elixir before finally withdrawing his hand from under her neck. He gently brushed aside her hair and simply willed her to recover. He would not entertain any other eventuality.

Harry stood upright and looked around as Fides began to speak to Mr & Mrs Granger.

"You daughter will awaken in a few moments," he said pulled out a pocket watch, "but she is not yet out of danger. It is now nine o’clock in the evening. Between the time she wakes until tomorrow morning she must not sleep. At least one of you should remain with her at all times.

"She must also release what was given. You must get her to confess her feelings to herself. Talk to her constantly but tell her nothing of our presence or the elixir. Harry must go for a few hours but we will both be back before six o’clock."

Harry lost the thread of what Fides was telling the Grangers when he realised that in a bed opposite from Hermione was the girl from the Hospital Wing. Sitting next to her was Patrick Stephens looking uncomfortable on a small chair. They were both asleep.

Harry felt a strange awareness of his surroundings. Harry looked closer and realised he was seeing things differently. Patrick appeared to have an aura. The girl did too but it was much fainter. Harry momentarily glanced back at Hermione and, as he feared, her aura was almost gone. Harry noticed that there was something similar about the auras produced by both Patrick and the girl. Instinctively, Harry realised what this meant.

Wake, he thought, looking directly at Patrick. Instantly he did so, looking surprised to see Harry. Harry felt himself refocus and their auras disappeared from view.

"Come here a moment," Harry whispered and the boy stood and walked over to him.

Harry began to walk down towards the end of the ward and Patrick followed. As they walked Harry spoke, "She’s got something similar to what Hermione has, hasn’t she?" Patrick nodded.

"I just realised, you don’t need elixir to help her. Listen, just wake her in a moment and talk to her. Tell her your feelings and don’t stop until she believes you. It may take you all night, but don’t give up."

Harry did not know how he knew this but as soon as he had said it he knew it was true.

Patrick looked at him frowning but looked unable to speak. Eventually he just nodded and Harry smiled.

"You’ll do fine," he said extending out his hand and indicating a chair next to the end bed Patrick should sit in. This one was padded, with arm rests and looked much more comfortable.

Patrick suddenly found his voice when he realised who was lying in the bed looking completely undisturbed, "How did you do that? She was all the way down there a moment ago!"

"It will be more private here," said Harry. "Remember you have only until morning. Wake her now."

As Patrick sat down, his attention now focussed entirely on the girl, Harry turned to rejoin Fides. The curtains around the bed closed as he started to walk away.

"What is going on here-" came a loud voice from the other end of the ward. A furious looking medi-witch was stomping towards them.

Suddenly in a flash she was gone and a rather surprised looking nurse stood in her place. She was older and didn’t look nearly as stern as the previous one.

She looked around and smiled, "Hello, Fides. How can I help?"

"These good people will be remaining with their daughter tonight. There is also a young man visiting at the end of the ward. They are not to be disturbed under any circumstances. No-one but you may enter or leave. We will be back in the morning."

The nurse just nodded, obviously used to Fides’ strange requests.

Harry was now back at Hermione’s bedside and he smiled as she began to wake.

"Harry," said Fides, "we must go before she wakes."

*

In a flash of bright light, Harry found himself standing back on a wet slippery rock floor deep under the Department of Mysteries.

"Can I ask you something?" said Harry handing the empty phial back to Fides. "Was there ever really an elixir?"

"Not precisely, no," admitted Fides, "but it gave you focus, something to concentrate your feelings on. You transferred those feelings when you administered the liquid. You would not have been able to do that on you own, not yet.

"Thank you for helping that young couple. I neglected to ask Madam Pomfrey if anyone else had been affected. The girl caught it from Miss Granger, of course, not the other way around."

"And the challenge?"

"That’s different. I admit it has nothing directly to do with Miss Granger, though again I believe you would not have been able to help her otherwise."

"I could see, well actually it was more like I could feel, their auras. How was I able to feel like that?"

"Hah!" barked Fides, "I thought you’d ask about the bed moving before that!"

"I just thought if the Knight Bus can do it …" Harry said modestly.

"Well the reason you could both feel and perform that rather unusual wand-less magic was that, well, you aren’t quite yourself at the moment."

Harry wondered what he was talking about.

"When you crossed that bridge earlier, you were split into two entities. Standing in front of me now is the Harry Potter that would have existed if Voldemort hadn’t attacked you. Actually, that isn’t entirely true since your personality and upbringing would have been different too but you get the idea?"

"So my other half-"

"-Is quite a piece of work, I can tell you. Angry, bitter, violent. That half is everything of you that you became after Voldemort attacked you but excluding, er, the bits that are in your half."

"But I don’t feel any different."

"Yes, that’s rather remarkable, really. It just shows that you are the dominant half. Dumbledore was right, it seems."

"Dumbledore?"

"Yes. When you were a baby, just after Voldemort was attacked, the Unspeakables took quite an interest in you, Harry. They suspected there was something rather nasty lurking around inside you and didn’t really want to take that chance of another Dark Lord emerging. Dumbledore insisted that good and bad traits aren’t inherited, but are learned."

"You’re going to make me re-join with the other me, aren’t you?"

"Yes, Harry."

"Why?"

"Well, he’s kept you alive, hasn’t he? Can you honestly tell me that you’d feel bothered if you never won a Quidditch match again?"

Harry thought. It was true, right now he wasn’t that bothered.

"Trust me, Harry, Good-Harry is a wimp. You need Bad-Harry to live, even if Evil-Harry is in there as well. I’m pretty sure, also, that at least two of you are needed to use that apprentice piece of yours properly."

Harry sighed deeply.

"Okay, so how do I get back together?"

"In theory, it should be simple. Just embrace yourself. The tricky thing is not allowing him to kill you beforehand. He knows everything you do and has no morals or conscience. Naturally, he will also think you are the evil one."

"Why can’t we split the other one and rejoin me with the less evil one?"

"That bridge is gone, Harry, remember?"

*

Harry stood panting looking down at the miserable creature in front of him. Red eyes stared up at him in defiance for a moment before the figure cowered down, begging for mercy.

For a half a moment, Harry felt pity for the pitiful filthy animal before him. Harry came to his senses just in time. As it lunged for him, Harry raised his arm and brought a rock down hard onto the back of its head.

Harry stooped and turned the creature over, and looked into his own face, one distorted somehow.

"You’re going to feel that later," said Fides from behind him as Harry quickly stuffed the small rock into his pocket in case he needed it again.

Harry did not turn around. He was exhausted. He was determined that this had to end now. For the tenth time that night, he crouched down and gathered up the slumped figure before him.

As he extended his arms and lifted, the creature awoke again. And again the creature bit, punched, kicked and scratched him, fighting with all its strength to get away again.

This time, Harry held on, feeling the pain within him increase. Gradually the creature stopped fighting and then was gone. Harry froze for a moment before falling hard onto the rock floor unconscious.

*

Harry and Fides returned to St. Mungos a little before six o’clock was were greeted in the ward office by the smiling nurse. She looked tired but happy.

"Both of them are doing fine," she whispered, "and have no idea either of you were here last night. Oh, and a Mrs Weasley has been trying everything she can to get back in."

"The wards will be lifted when we go," said Fides. "Thank you for helping, Helen, I’m again in your debt. Well Harry, shall we go back to Hogwarts? I need to give the Headmaster an apology and Madam Pomfrey will want to patch you up a bit."

*

A little later Harry found himself stroking the luxurious plumage of Fawkes back in the Headmaster’s office, not taking a blind bit of notice of what Fides and Dumbledore were talking about.

Harry managed to bid Fides goodbye before he disappeared in a flash but stood there on shaking legs, his thoughts elsewhere.

"What’s wrong, Harry?" asked Dumbledore kindly.

"I just can’t get the image of my other self out of my head," he answered truthfully, "he acted like a combination of Wormtail and Voldemort. He was me. I am him. I am-"

"-Tired and in need of the Hospital Wing," interrupted Dumbledore. "I know it can’t be easy meeting your, er, other side. We are all made up of good and bad, you just happen to have met them.

"Harry, think of the good you achieved last night. I have never really approved of Fides’ methods but I must admit you both succeeded rather well. Not only will Hermione and Mary Jacobson recover but you’ve also seen some of your potential."

"Oh, yes," said the Headmaster with some amusement, "Your wand suddenly appeared on my desk a few hours ago, here."

"Fides told me you argued that I wasn’t going to be a Dark Lord after Voldemort attacked," Harry said. "Thank you for that."

"Actually I only said you might not be another Dark Lord," Dumbledore said with a smile. "It wasn’t actually me that finally won the day on that point. You had a rather, er, vocal supporter. The Unspeakables are still rather terrified of her. She immediately fell out with me, of course, when she discovered I had placed you with your Aunt and Uncle. We haven’t spoken since."

"What is her name?"

*

Halloween

The next morning, Harry woke in some considerable pain. He hadn’t slept well despite Madam Pomfrey’s potions and rather regretted hitting himself with that rock.

Slowly he opened his eyes, wondering what hour it was.

Harry sat up with a shot. He regretted this almost at once and immediately grabbed his head, wishing the room would stop moving.

Surrounding his bed was a small group of house-elves.

"Good morning, Harry Potter, Sir!" shrieked one of them. Harry wondered how long they had been waiting for him to wake up.

"Morning," Harry croaked, "how can I help you?"

The elves looked at each other tentatively.

"Miss Hermione said we house elves could draw up the S.P.E.W. charter of aims, Harry Potter. We did not know what that was so we asked her to help us."

"And what did she say?" asked Harry smiling.

"She said Yes, Harry Potter," confirmed another house elf.

"Well that’s good, isn’t it?"

None of the elves answered, so Harry asked, "Okay, what’s the problem?"

"She gave us her draft and told us to re-write it as we wanted," and he handed Harry a scroll with Hermione’s neat handwriting. Harry took the scroll and read it. After only a few lines, he frowned and looked up again.

"Er, I’m sorry, but I don’t really understand what this is saying."

"Neither do we, Harry Potter. We is afraid Miss Hermione will be very disappointed in us."

"Don’t be draft!" Harry laughed. "That’s the last thing she would be. It’s just that Hermione has been a little over efficient, that’s all. She’s tried to write a legal definition before she’s established what she wants everyone to agree to."

"I will speak to her if you want, but it would be much better coming from you. Be honest with her. Tell her you don’t understand this and ask for her help but be sure to tell her you don’t want her help to write it. You just need her to help draft out and prioritise your ideas."

"She won’t be angry?"

"I can’t believe she would ever be angry with you."

The elves looked at each other for a moment, then shrugged and nodded.

"Thank you, Harry Potter!" called one before they all disappeared leaving Harry alone.

He quickly grabbed a piece of parchment, opened an ink bottle and wrote a quick note to Hermione.

He just finished when Hedwig tapped gently on the window.

 

Hermione,

Hope you are feeling better. Everyone is missing you.

Just had a visit from the house elves. You will be proud! They just need a bit of help drafting the charter in plain English. Just list out all their ideas (even if they sound irrelevant) and then perhaps suggest a priority. Let them discuss what is important and don’t impose your ideas.

When you meet the delegation, insist that you serve them drinks. It’s important.

Hedwig just arrived, she obviously knew I was thinking of you.

Harry

PS Sorry handwriting is shaky, just woke up and I hit my head with a rock yesterday!

 

*

Just before seven o’clock in the evening Harry was waiting outside the girl’s bathroom on the Third floor staring down at his feet. He was far too early but had wanted to get away from Gryffindor tower as soon as possible. He had felt awkward around people all day.

He reached into his pocket and with drew a sealed envelope that Professor McGonagall had handed to him earlier, telling him to read it in private. Harry opened the envelope and unfolded a small note.

 

Harry,

Expect to be told off for not waiting for us to speak to you.

Thank you for our daughter’s life.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I think I know a little what it cost you.

 

The note was signed by Hermione’s mother. Harry allowed himself a small smile as he put the note and envelope back in his pocket.

Hermione had returned to school a little tired but otherwise completely well. She had no idea of Harry’s involvement and the others at St Mungos had their memories modified. Only Mr and Mrs Granger and the nurse remembered everything.

Harry had tried to see Hermione’s aura again but hadn’t been able to do it again. Unfortunately she had also caught him staring at her while he’d been trying, and he had completely failed to think of an excuse.

At that moment the Grey Lady drifted through the door.

"Hello, Harry. You are nice and early. Go in, Myrtle is ready early too," she said smiling. "I’ll see you later. Have a good time." And then she wandered off down the corridor.

Harry straightened his dress robes one last time, knocked on the door and entered.

Standing in the middle of the room looking at herself in a full length mirror was Myrtle. She was wearing an elaborate silver ball gown and looked radiant. Ghostly jewels sparkled in her hair.

"Wow, Myrtle, you look great."

"Thanks," she said smiling and she seemed to blush silver.

"The Grey Lady told me you had invited someone else before I changed my mind."

He was wondering how he was going to break it to her.

"I’m sorry Myrtle."

"It’s okay, I understand. Shall we go?"

Harry felt relief wash over him. He made a mental note to thank the Grey Lady, who had obviously realised how upset Myrtle could get. It was strange, Harry thought, Myrtle’s happiness had been the last thing on his mind when he asked her. Now it meant so much to him.

He held his arm out and she glided over. Her smile widened as she threaded her arm through. When the touched a cold sensation ran through Harry’s arm. He tried not to flinch.

"Dam, I forgot," she said. "Harry, see that small bottle the Grey Lady left over there. Bring it over and open it please."

Confused, he did so. As he broke the seal on the bottle a cloud of vapour enveloped them both. It smelled of fresh air and quickly dissipated.

"Thanks. Let’s see if it worked."

She reached out and touched his face. He felt her touch him. She was solid and no longer felt cold at all. She still looked as translucent as ever though.

"Terrific!" Harry said. "How long will it last?"

"Not long. Just one dance, but that’ll be enough," she said grinning at him. Then he saw that her smile faltered as she turned towards the door.

"What is it, Myrtle?"

"I just remembered something the Grey Lady said. She was just teasing."

Harry didn’t move. "Tell me," he demanded quietly.

*

When Harry entered the hall with Myrtle on his arm the entire hall stopped and applauded. He walked her out to the centre of the dance area and they waited for the first dance to start.

Myrtle had silver tears in her eyes but was smiling at everyone. As the music started they danced slowly. Her dress seemed to be the brightest thing in the room.

As the music ended they stood in the middle.

"Thank you, Harry," she whispered and kissed him gently on the cheek. At that moment he felt the charm end. As she drew away he lost her touch.

"May I have the pleasure of the next dance?"

They turned to see Sir Nicholas smiling at them.

"Would you mind, Harry?" she asked hesitantly.

"Of course not."

*

Harry walked to the entrance doors and turned back to see Myrtle dancing with a wide smile on her face. Sir Nicholas had assured him that she would be dancing all night and would have the best time she could remember.

He turned and hurried to pick up his next guest.

He met Susan halfway to the Hufflepuff common room. She was chatting to the Fat Friar who had been stationed to keep her company.

"Well I must be off," the Friar said in his usual jolly manner.

They watched him drift off before turning to each other. Susan was wearing a shimmering green gown.

"You look wonderful," he said and extended out his arm.

She took it and said, "Thanks. How’s the schedule? Should we hurry?"

He smiled. "The only hurry was for me to get here."

*

Harry led Susan into the hall. More people were dancing now and he could see Myrtle laughing with the Fat Friar.

They were greeted by a smiling Professor McGonagall who said, "Susan, you look lovely."

Harry brought Susan over to the dance area and they waited for the music to begin.

As the music ended Harry lent towards her and whispered, "Thanks."

"M.. May I have the next dance?"

Harry stared blankly at Neville. It wasn’t supposed to be Neville. Neville was supposed to be Ron. Where was Ron?

"Harry?"

"Hm?" Harry managed to mumble, turning back to Susan.

"I asked if you minded?" she said with a small laugh.

"Sorry, Susan. No, of course I don’t mind."

*

As he left the hall Harry was intercepted by Ron.

"Where were you?"

"Neville beat me to you."

"Well you’d better cut in if she decks him."

Ron wasn’t paying any attention to him though. Harry turned to see Luna wander into the hall. She was an extraordinary sight. Clearly deciding not to go with convention, instead of a gown she was wearing a long, thin bright-red sparkling dress that somehow even seemed to rival Myrtle’s dress for brightness.

"Luna, I was just coming to get you ..." began Harry.

She was ignoring him completely and just staring at Ron who was staring back.

"I’d like to dance now," she said dreamily and walked closely past Ron. Ron couldn’t take his eyes off her as he followed her to the dance floor as if on an invisible leash.

Great, Harry thought to himself.

Harry became aware that he must have looked pretty stupid standing and staring off into the dance area and turned to leave when he realised he was standing next to Pansy Parkinson. She turned to him and smiled warmly. Harry returned her smile and was about to ask her to dance when Malfoy shrugged past him and took her arm, pulling her away.

She looked back with a "sorry" expression and Harry nodded.

He thought about getting himself a drink and turned and just stopped. On the other side of the hall sat Hermione alone. She was smiling, looking at the couples dancing and tapping one foot in time to the music.

Harry went straight over.

"Hello," she said smiling as he sat down next to her.

"Hermione, I’m sorry."

"What for?"

"Ron, he …" At that moment Ron and Luna danced by.

Hermione smiled at Harry and lent forward. "I had a feeling they would get together."

Harry found he was momentarily paralysed as he inhaled her scent. His blank expression must have been misinterpreted though because she continued "It’s okay, Harry, honestly. So did you loose all your dates?"

"Yes, it looks like it."

They both laughed as Neville and Susan waltzed past.

Harry looked at Hermione. She was looking quite as beautiful as she had been at the Yule Ball. He couldn’t look away from her.

"Are you okay Harry?"

"Yes. No. Yes. I will be."

She raised her eyebrows.

"Dance with me?"

*

Did Peeves win?

"This is better," said Hermione as they walked outside into the cool evening air.

"Do you want to see the end of the Challenge?"

"Okay, but let’s walk the long way round"

"Why?"

"I just saw a sparkling red dress being chased into those bushes."

"Long way round it is then!"

They walked slowly down towards the lake.

"Hermione, I thought you’d be more upset with Ron," said Harry after a while. "What I’m trying to say is, it’s okay to be upset. I’m getting pretty used to girl’s crying all over me …"

Hermione slapped his arm gently and when she saw he was grinning at her she grinned back at him.

"I’m not upset about Ron. I found out what he did with Luna and I suppose I’ve been waiting for him to come to his senses. I would’ve turned him down when he invited me except after the Quidditch thing I didn’t want to push him away."

"I hope Ron knows what a special friend you are, Hermione."

Hermione put her hand in his and they walked slowly around past the lake. Gradually the noise from the castle began to get quieter. When they heard the first distant bang from the challenge area, Harry stopped to delay their arrival.

"You look really beautiful, Hermione."

"Thanks, Harry. How are you feeling?"

"I was dreading this evening. I think I only asked Myrtle because there was a good chance she would have a tantrum and spend the whole time in her bathroom."

"She looked so happy tonight."

"Yes, and I managed not to be shown off to those dignitaries. I wonder where they were tonight?"

"Didn’t you know? Dumbledore was the first to put his name down as a volunteer. He put all their names down too. I think they all joined in the food fight instead of coming to the dance!"

They heard a distant gong followed by a crowd cheering.

"It’s midnight. I wonder who won?"

"It’s a food fight, Hermione. Peeves couldn’t loose."

"Do you want to go to the fireworks?" she asked. He realised he had been staring at her and thought he should to look away. He couldn’t though.

"I was so angry with Ron. First he asks you before I had a chance, then he dumps Luna and then, just to cap it all off, he just leaves you sitting there."

He was speaking quietly and calmly.

"He thought he had feelings for me. He was just confused. Don’t be angry with him."

"I’m not. Just disappointed. Er, where was I? You’ve distracted me again!"

"Talking about distractions," Hermione said, her eyes narrowing, "what was that look between you and Pansy Parkinson about?"

"It wasn’t a look," Harry responded indignantly, "we just met during the summer holidays and I helped her out, that’s all."

Hermione raised her eyebrows and said, "I’m surprised you didn’t ask her to dance then."

"We were interrupted by Malfoy. Have you finished distracting me yet?"

"I asked Neville what your worst fear was," said Hermione, "but when he found out I might put it in the simulation he refused to say."

"As I was saying," interrupted Harry, "You are really beautiful, Hermione."

"You said that already."

"I like saying it. You’re not making this easy, are you, Hermione?"

She smiled mischievously and shrugged her shoulders as a flash of light lit up the castle.

"The reason I wasn’t listening to Professor McGonagall when she told us about the ball was, well, I couldn’t stop thinking about …" he paused to draw breath. "Well, I just wanted to take you. Thank you for dancing with me tonight, Hermione. You made a dream come true."

Hermione smiled and then her expression grew serious. Suddenly she rushed forward and kissed him. Their lips bumped together only momentarily before she quickly broke away.

She looked like she was shocked by her own daring and clearly about to run as she said, "Happy Harry Potter Day, Harry."

Harry quickly reached out and gently grabbed her arm.

"No, that won’t do at all. Your kisses were much better than that in my dreams." He waited a moment in case she wanted to punch him. "And thanks to Myrtle’s charm this evening I now know we can do better."

"Really?"

"Mmm." He edged closer and leaned towards her. He brushed his cheek against hers and whispered "This is Harry Potter Day, after all," as he wound his arms around her waist.

She giggled and he felt Hermione bring her arms up to his shoulders.

"That was yesterday," she breathed onto his neck.

Harry heard himself groan quietly in frustration. He was finding coherent thought difficult at this point but was determined not to give up just yet. Hermione continued to run her fingers through the back of his hair.

"Well, we’re going to need as much practice as possible if we are going to get to the required standard in time for next year. In fact it would be irresponsible to waste any time …"

He was silenced as Hermione pulled his head down into a kiss.

*

"What’s that Harry?"

"Well, Ron. Hermione wanted to fit in some extra practise and I thought I’d draw up a schedule for her. She always does revision timetables for us so I thought I’d return the favour."

"That looks like a lot of practise. Maybe you should ask for the time-turner back."

A red faced Hermione grabbed the schedule and tore it up as Harry grinned at her.

"Morning, Harry"

"Morning, Myrtle. Have a good time last night?"

"It was wonderful. Thank you – for everything."

Harry watched Myrtle float off with a dreamy look on her face. He still had a smile on his face when he caught Hermione’s eye sitting next to him at the breakfast table.

She was watching him with a shrewd look.

"What is it?" Harry asked quietly.

"You did only kiss Myrtle, didn’t you?" she asked in a whisper.

"Hermione, I was a perfect gentleman."

"What are you looking so pleased about, Neville?" asked Ron, who hadn’t been listening.

"I lost fifty points last night," said Neville who couldn’t stop smiling. "And Snape gave us detention" he added proudly.

"Good for you, Neville. When you have it perhaps you can loose some more."

"We intend to, don’t worry," said Susan sitting down as they all laughed.

END OF PART ONE

 




Summary of Part Two: The Crucible

Just after Halloween during his Sixth Year, Harry looks forward to Christmas at Grimmauld Place. Before then he contends with the ultimate challenge of the Auror tent. After being attacked by a school visitor, they learn of a charm placed upon Harry as an infant. Hermione sets out to break the charm, enlisting a number of co-conspirators including her mother.

Summary of Part Three: The Dragon

Just after Christmas during his Sixth Year, Hermione sets about researching the origins of Harry’s Apprentice Piece. A Death Eater attack interrupts her telling of the story, but Harry intervenes and Ron gets a chance to earn his Prefect Badge back. Later, Voldemort attacks again during a Quidditch match. Although prepared for a Death Eater attack, the DA is helpless against Voldemort’s new pet. Harry knows this is a trap but rushes to the aid of Dumbledore who stands alone in the middle of the Quidditch pitch facing The Dragon.

Summary of Part Four: The Sword of Light

After the battle, the dragon named Kales returns to Harry and introduces him to a new way of travelling undetected. This leads to a shocking discovery that not even the attentions of First Aid Club members and Snape can distract him from. Battling his own conscience, Harry needs a weapon to fight Voldemort’s unseen agents from the shadows. After Harry is stabbed and poisoned, the DA battles to protect Dumbledore and Hermione. At the same time in another world Harry stands alone, fighting the creatures coming out of the darkness to attack his friends as they fight and fall.

Summary of Part Five: The Accord

Two unwelcome visitors arrive at the school and announce that a wizard will arrive shortly to challenge Flamel, the unwell and eldest member of a group of sorcerers that guard Hogwarts’ greatest secret. Can Hermione cope with any more House disunity, Crookshanks’ new look and Harry’s determination to fight the charismatic challenger himself?


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