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Harry Potter and the Final Riddle by Timechild
Chapter 1 : Four Privet Drive - One Last Time
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 21


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The sun was just beginning to rise as Harry walked down the lane past Magnolia Crescent. He stopped just long enough to look at the structures. They reminded him of that wet cold night almost four years ago, when he had sat on the curb wondering what he was going to do. That was when he saw Sirius Black for the first time, though he did not know it then, as Sirius had been in his canine form. Harry sighed at the memory of his late Godfather. He wished he could just talk to him once more and tell him all the things he wanted to tell him. However, he could not. Sirius was dead, as were his parents and Professor Dumbledore. Everyone who had given so much of themselves to look after Harry in his life had been taken away from him.

It had been a tremendous burden just to stay alive over the past three months. Walking away from Dumbledore’s funeral had been hard. He could still smell the flowery fragrance that came only from Ginny. He could see Ron slowly stroking Hermione’s hair as she cried on his shoulder. Harry managed a small chuckle as he thought of his two best friends. He knew they would end up together eventually; assuming, of course, that anyone made it out of this mess alive. He had immediately gone to the library after the funeral reception and had started to study like he had never done before. Spells, incantations, potions, anything, and everything he could find, with one singular purpose in his mind… to destroy Voldemort.

At first, he had to read under his Invisibility Cloak so that Madam Pince or some other teacher would not see what he was reading. Most of it was from the Restricted Section and, as school was not officially open, he did have to be somewhat cautious. However, he did not have to hide very long. He quickly developed a Muggle concept called “Hypnotism,” a sort of suggestion spell that anyone could master if that person had either the desire or the patience to learn. He soon discovered that Madam Pince was, in fact, very susceptible to suggestion and hypnosis. It was not long before Harry simply went into a corner of the Restricted Section where no one else could see him. Madam Pince kept everyone else out, and Harry made sure that all she saw was the corner…very empty.

His first text was, of course, Legilimency & Occlumency. He read how they worked and, more importantly, how to get around them if the person being read could control the information exchanged with the person doing the reading. It gave Harry quite a few ideas on how to go about it. He also picked up a book written (strangely enough) by Dumbledore himself on the use of magic without a wand. That text proved very useful, though it did take a considerable amount of practice to master it. He studied voodoo, curses, hexes, elemental magic; anything and everything that might help. He also retrieved the Advanced Potion Making book that had once been Snape’s. He poured over the pages, not only to learn all of Snape’s special spells, but also to get into Snape’s mind. Many of the spells had some very practical uses for the mission he would have to undertake. He told no one, of course, as his friends would have been horrified to learn what he was beginning to master.

He used the third floor as a practice ground for almost two-and-a-half months, perfecting various spells, hexes, and curses – especially the so-called “Unforgivable Curses.” Harry almost laughed at that title now. My, how much he had changed! Before Dumbledore’s death, he would have never even thought about those spells as anything but unforgivable. Now, they were part of a plan, nothing more. One book even told him how to use a Patronus as an offensive weapon. He liked that one…a lot.

He rounded the corner to Privet Drive just as Dudley was walking the other way. Upon sight of Harry, Dudley face turned ghost white as he ran back to the house, screaming, “He’s back! He’s back!”

Harry just chuckled at his cousin’s complete lack of anything resembling common sense. Of course he was back; Dumbledore had told them that he, Harry, would be returning once more to collect his few remaining things. Leave it to Dudley to make a mountain out of a molehill.

As Harry approached the door to Number Four, Privet Drive, the door burst open to reveal his Uncle Vernon standing at the doorway.

“Just what do you think you’re doing here? You’re not welcome! Scram!” Uncle Vernon thundered. Harry just stood there looking at him with a slight grin on his face. This was going to be fun.

“Rescindo,” Harry called out while moving him arm forward with the palm up. Uncle Vernon slid back from the door all the way to the fireplace, where he crashed with a very loud thud. Harry looked right into his uncle’s eyes.

“You should just sit down and shut up, Vernon, just sit down and shut up…” Harry’s words were slow and methodical, with a very calm rhythm to his voice.

“Sit down and shut up,” Vernon repeated very softly in a trance-like state.

“What did you do to him?” Aunt Petunia demanded in horror as she saw her husband reduced to uttering the same phrase repeatedly.

“I simply hypnotized him, dear Aunt,” Harry said with a mischievous grin. “I could do the same thing to you, but I want you with a clear head while we have this last little chat.”

“Chat? Chat about what?”

“My mother and the real reason you hated her.”

Petunia’s face was now white. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I believe you know exactly what I mean, little miss jealous.”

Right then Dudley came charging at him, hand raised, ready to strike. “Don’t you dare talk to my mother like that, Potter!”

“Petrificus Totalus!”

Dudley came to a screeching halt.

“Well, that takes care of him,” Harry said with a smile. “Now, where were we? Oh, yes, the real reason you hated my mother so much. Namely that she got selected to attend Hogwarts and you didn’t.”

“That’s absurd!” Petunia looked at Harry with complete disdain. “Wherever did you get a silly notion like that?”

“From this.” Harry pulled out a piece of parchment from his left pants pocket and handed it to Petunia. Petunia opened it up and gasped, for the parchment was a copy of her denial letter from Hogwarts stating that they did not feel she had the emotional capacity.

“Where did you get this?” Petunia asked

“From the records section, as I can get to just about anywhere in the school now. I came across it while searching for some more information on my Mum and Dad. Imagine my surprise when I found a file on an applicant called Petunia Evans.”

“So what do you want?”

“Nothing. I came to hand you that, get my stuff, and go. And…” Harry paused to stress this point “You will never see me again, ever.”

Petunia just looked at Harry for a moment, and then said softly, “I am sorry to hear that.”

“Why?” Asked a shocked Harry, “You never wanted me in the first place. Why do you care all of a sudden?”

“Maybe that’s the point; I should have cared long before this. I never realized that I had transferred all the jealousy to you over your mother getting in and me not. I should have let it go, but I could not. I actually studied for the entrance exam night and day for three months. Then I get the rejection letter. I was devastated. Then your mother walks right in and gets accepted without so much as an effort.” Petunia started to cry.

Harry stared at his aunt with total amazement, as if seeing her for the first time. He had intended to embarrass her, but he had never expected this kind of reaction.

“Thank you for keeping your promise to my mother.”

“You’re welcome. Can I please have my husband back?”

“Of course…” Harry snapped his fingers and Vernon shook his head as if he had just awakened from a long nap.

“What the bloody hell just happened?” he shouted angrily.

Harry chuckled, “You don’t want to know.”

“I most certainly do want to know! What makes you think you can just march into our house and do…do…whatever to any of us?”

“Well, mainly the fact that you couldn’t stop me if you wanted to,” he said.

Vernon stared at Harry with that long, angry scowl that Harry had seen many times before when his uncle had felt he had done something wrong, which was most of the time he was living in their house. There was, however, one distinct difference between this time and all those others. Today he just did not care.

“In fact,” Harry went on to say, “if I really wanted to, I could make the whole lot of you dance naked all up and down your precious neighborhood giggling as if you were completely intoxicated. Now, wouldn’t the neighbors just love to see that sight?”

Harry paused, and looked his uncle up and down. “Then again…maybe not.”

Harry gave Vernon a look that, for about one minute, startled the middle-aged man. Then, as the gist of what Harry had just said began to slowly sink in, Vernon began to start slowly shaking with fear.

“Well, now, I see we understand each other. So I will just go upstairs and retrieve my few remaining items, and then I shall be on my way.”

As he slowly made his way up the steps to the room that had been his since he returned from Hogwarts after his first year, he began to realize that Mrs. Weasley would say he had behaved rather badly in that last exchange. However, after seventeen years of almost complete mistreatment boarding on abuse by his “family,” he allowed himself a small indulgence instead of completely venting his anger out on them as he had on Vernon’s sister, Marge, over three years ago. Has it really been three years since she went flying over London looking like a lost float balloon in a parade? Harry went into his room. There really was not much there, and nothing of any real value to him, except that by showing up it had agitated those downstairs so excessively.

He was very surprised by his aunt’s confession. He had figured to get at least some denial on her part when he confronted her about not getting into the school. In fact, he pulled the denial out of her mind no more than a second before he told her.

“I guess I finally have Legilimency down,” he mused as he packed up some clothes and then went downstairs.

When he got down there he could hear his aunt and uncle having an argument. Actually, it was a sort-of debate rather than an argument. They never raised their voices to each other…only to him.

“Well! Ready to GO?” Vernon screamed at him. “You might just catch the last train if you hurry.”

“Oh, I’m not taking the train. I’m going via Floo Powder.”

“The stuff through the chimney that awful Weasley person used? Oh, no, you’re not!” Vernon pointed to the fireplace. “I had it bricked up when that idiot left the last time.”

Harry pulled out his wand and simply smiled.

“Bad move, Uncle Vernon... You should not have done that. Bombarda!”

Suddenly the contents of the chimney exploded outwards, sending dust and bits of brick everywhere. Harry carefully stepped in, grabbed the Floo Powder that was in a pouch on his belt, and called out, “the Burrow!”

With the characteristic ‘whoosh’ of the green flames, Harry left Privet Drive for what he sincerely hoped would be the last time.

***

Shortly thereafter, the chimney inside the Burrow reverberated with the rattling of Harry’s arrival. As the dust settled down, Harry stepped out with a semi-light heart. He had enjoyed his last “visit” with his aunt and uncle; he realized that he had enjoyed it perhaps too well. The last few months had hardened him and given him a steely temper he had never had. Gone was the youth with belief in the righteousness of anything. Replaced was the young adult Sorcerer who knew that things would need to be done that the old Harry would never have considered. However, the old Harry had died at Dumbledore’s funeral. He had found and studied things that had repulsed him before that tragic event.

“Good gracious, Harry! Where have you been? I’ve been sick with worry!” exclaimed Mrs. Weasley. “I expected you yesterday!” She rushed over and hugged Harry so hard he almost lost his breath. Then she added quietly, “She’s upstairs and waiting for you...”

“Oh, boy that does not sound good,” Harry replied.

“Can’t be helped dear, she cried all the way home from the train when we got to the station.” Harry’s heart gave a little tug at hearing that news. Ginny had been so strong and understanding at the funeral. She had known what he had to do and that being with her would mean the very large risk of her joining the list of people dying because they loved him. He also mourned that moment, but it was simply necessary. Snape’s betrayal had brought it on…something else that Harry personally vowed that wretch was going to pay for.

Fred and George Weasley came into view next, looking gaudy as ever. Those two had a great head for business and were the first Weasleys to possess significant money, but they did not have a single ounce of fashion sense.

“You’d better run, mate! She’s been preparing for you!” laughed George.

“What have you been doing all this time, hiding from her? No wonder she’s in a lather.” Fred was laughing as well, but Harry just gave them a look before casually waving two fingers on his right hand. Suddenly both Fred and George were upside down in mid-air.

“Actually, I’ve been getting considerably stronger in my powers…boys.” Both Fred and George simultaneously gulped. Everyone in the room recognized the Levicorpus spell, especially Ron, as Harry had cast it on him accidentally last year. What they were all shocked at was that Harry was not using a wand.

“Oh, really, and we’re supposed to be impressed with that?” called a voice from the stairs as a white bolt of energy suddenly shot out, and the previously airborne Fred and George hit the ground with an equally sudden thump.

Harry stared at Ginny as she stood there in the stairwell. He remembered the first time he had seen her there – dressed in her flannels and looking at him with a face of sheer terror as she ran up the stairs. Had that already been five years ago? He stifled a chuckle at that thought and noticed that what she was wearing right now was not flannels, nor the look of terror on her face. Instead, she was in a red and gold satin nightgown that went to her mid thigh and a face of sure determination. Harry had been forewarned, but he did not realize the extent of how the break-up had affected her until now. He just could not deal with that. The only person who could stop him from doing what he needed to do to get ready for Voldemort was Ginny…and she looked damn ready to try just that.

Harry headed for the door. Ron and Hermione stopped him just long enough to hug him and whisper that they could try to run interference, but Ginny was totally committed. Harry kept going, to the shock of the crowd in the Burrow’s small kitchen. Ginny, however, was not shocked; she was flat-out mad.

“No bloody-hell way are you getting away from me that easily!” she screamed, “Stupefy! Petrificus Totalus!” This shocked everyone even more.

“Since when can you throw two jinxes at once?” gasped Hermione

“When you’re flat-out pissed off enough, that’s how!” replied Ron, who then ducked out of the way.

Harry was caught off guard by that too. He spun around in a full circle, wand out, and blocked both hexes, but it gave Ginny the opening she needed. “You may have gotten stronger, but so have I!” she said and, before anyone could intervene, ran straight on and tackled Harry to the floor.

“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” Harry bellowed at her, “Don’t you know how hard this is on me, too?”

“And it’s about to get a whole lot harder!” she said with the most wicked grin that he had ever seen her wear. Ginny then jumped on top of him and, to everyone’s amazement (and probable delight), began to tickle Harry unmercifully. Also to everyone’s amazement, it took almost two whole minutes for Harry to start laughing.

Ron rubbed his forearm over his head with a “whew” that immediately drew a poke in the ribs from Hermione. Fred started to say something, but George poked him in the ribs, whispering that he would like to stay on terra firma this time. Mr. Weasley entered the hall, saw what was going on with his only daughter…and headed straight for his chair and the Daily Prophet.

After about five minutes, or was it five hours, of the sheer torture that only having one’s ribs tickled can cause, Ginny finally relented.

“No matter where you go, you can’t escape the fact that I still love you.”

“Ginny, you know…”

Ginny put two fingers to his lips and shushed him. “You are here now, and you don’t have to be that rock hard, stone cold person today. I’ve got you for a few more precious moments.” She looked him squarely in the eyes. “So I am not going to let you waste them by ignoring me, got it?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Harry replied quickly.

“Good, much better!” she nodded.

Mrs. Weasley laughed when she saw Ginny’s face. “There’s no arguing with her when she has that look, Harry.”

“I know! I know!”

Harry looked around at the scene. Everyone was smiling at him and Ginny with that warmth he had always known at the Burrow. This had been home to him more than anywhere else he knew, maybe even Hogwarts. Here he had had his best moments, as he actually was now.

“Welcome home, my love,” Ginny cooed in his ear. Her breath awakened quickly the “monster” that had grown inside him all last year until they had kissed after the last Quidditch match. He gulped a little, to which Ginny just smiled that wicked smile for the second time that day. Harry knew Ginny understood perfectly. She knew what he had to do, and that would mean the true final separation shortly. He also knew that she was going to milk every second with him she could get until that fateful moment. He stared into her eyes and saw it all. Her love, her fear – of his leaving and maybe never coming back, her desire for him that was at least as strong as his was for her. If only things were different. What he wouldn’t give right now to sweep her away, elope and live happily and quietly in a little cottage somewhere away from all the crowds and cities and ministries.

“Yes, my love, that would be a very nice thing indeed,” she whispered.

“I see you have Legilimency down pat too, eh?”

“Yup,” Ginny replied, and then giggled.

“If you two are quite through,” stated Mrs. Weasley in that ‘don’t even begin to question me’ tone, “breakfast is ready.”

“You are hungry, right?” asked Harry.

Ginny smiled again that wicked smile. “Yes, I am, and for breakfast as well.”

***

Breakfast consisted of porridge, toast, jam, fruit and the company of the only people Harry had ever known as family in his entire life. Despite his resolve to separate himself from those he cared about so that they were not put in any more danger, he could not help but feel warm inside, both from the porridge and the love being passed around the table. He looked up at the Weasley’s special clock with the pictures of all the family members on it. Everyone’s hand was still pointed at “Mortal Peril,” except for Percy’s. His pointed simply to “At Work.”

“When did Percy suddenly become safer than the rest of us?” Harry commented.

“Whadda you mean?” Ron asked him with a quizzical look on his face. Harry pointed to the clock.

“Oh, that,” Mr. Weasley quipped. “It is probably because Percy never leaves the Ministry offices anymore. He has been sleeping in the apartments upstairs that Fudge used to use because no one else wanted them.”

“How does that make him safer? Voldemort has penetrated the Ministry defenses before.”

“We have put such…ah…explosive defenses in place that he would have to put a serious effort to get through. Probably more than the Ministry is worth to Him now that…” Mr. Weasley stopped there.

“Dumbledore is dead. Makes sense, and I am not surprised that Percy is hiding there. He never seemed the courageous type. No offense, sir.”

“None taken, because he isn’t. However, he is there because Scrimgeour has been running him ragged. The man is abusing him, but Percy wants no help from me, so I just ignore it.”

“How could you help?” Harry asked somewhat confused.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” Ron chimed in while smacking himself on the forehead. “Dad’s been promoted again. He’s Deputy Minister now!”

“Congratulations, sir!” Harry shook Arthur’s hand.

“Thank you, Harry, although it isn’t that big a deal.” He leaned in closer. “No one else wanted it. The old man is getting paranoid. But the increase in pay is welcome.”

“I can understand,” Harry smiled. His run-ins with the Minister of Magic had also been much less than pleasant. Twice Scrimgeour had tried to persuade Harry to be the Ministry’s poster boy, including at Dumbledore’s funeral three months ago. In both cases, Harry had flat-out refused.

“Has everyone had enough to eat?” asked Mrs. Weasley.

“You did yourself proud, Molly, my dear,” Arthur Weasley said with a look at her that made her blush. Hermione and Ginny giggled at each other. The Weasley boys made faces as though they were going to be sick. Harry could not help but smile at the whole scene.

“So, is everything set for the big day?” Harry asked.

“If you mean Bill and Fleur’s wedding, of course not!” Molly Weasley gasped and then threw up her arms. “Two days to go and the flowers aren’t right, I can’t find a good photographer, and we haven’t found a decent jumping broom.”

“Jumping broom?” Harry asked.

“Oh, that’s right, dear, you haven’t seen a wizard wedding yet, have you? There is a point in the ceremony where the new couple jump over the broom to start their new life together.”

“I see. Sort of like the lighting of the mutual candle in the Muggle ceremonies I have seen. Not that I’ve seen many.”

Hermione chimed in “Exactly, except it is with a broom and they jump it, not light it.”

“Well, that part’s good,” Harry retorted, “I wouldn’t want to put out any fires at a wedding.” Everyone laughed at that statement, including Harry. However, while laughing, he noticed Ron and Hermione exchanging a glance at each other that he had not seen before. Now that he thought about it, he had not heard them arguing with each other as he was used too. “I guess it has something to do with the wedding,” he thought to himself. Although that look he saw said something more, but he was not sure what. Harry stood up from the table and pushed in his chair.

“Everything was wonderful, Mrs. Weasley. However, I need to be going.”

“Going? Where? Surely You-Know-Who can wait a few more days.”

“He can, but my parents can’t. I promised to go to their graves, and I have not done that yet. I will be leaving right after the wedding to continue the search.” He saw Ginny slightly grimace when he said the last part. Ginny then nodded slightly before standing up herself.

“Ok, let’s go then. We need to be back by dinner time.”

“We? Who said you were going?”

“Do you think I am going to let you stroll into a place alone where you can easily be set-up? Even Death Eaters can figure out that they might get you alone at your parent’s graves. You can’t find the Horcruxes if you are already killed in an ambush, can you?” Ginny looked at him with a glare.

“And we are also coming,” added Hermione

“Yup,” said Ron.

At this point, Harry was a bit concerned. If going back to Godric’s Hollow meant walking into a trap, then he definitely did not want anyone else trapped. Mr. Weasley stood up quietly and turned to Harry.

“All things considered, I think you need to bring as many people to as much of this venture as you can. I would go with you, but that would seem out of place. Your friends going with you would not. You really need to look as normal as possible.”

“And not give anyone a chance to take you out before you reach Voldemort,” Ginny added.

“I seem to be outvoted,” Harry realized. Dumbledore had told him many times not to isolate himself, and now he was reminded of that advice. “Okay, let’s go out back. I have transportation already set up.”

“Portkey?” Ron asked.

“No, we’re going to Apparate.”

Ron looked shocked. “I thought you hated that.”

“You get used to it after about fifty of them.”

“Oh.”

The four of them went out the back door to the grassy knoll. Harry looked at his three dearest friends. Deep down, he was happy they are coming too, though he was afraid for them. Hermione was arm in arm hooked with Ron. Ginny ran up and slid her hand into Harry’s arm.

“When did those two get so chummy?” Harry whispered to Ginny.

“Since they came back from that fact-finding mission you sent them on. What’s more, they have said next to nothing about the trip either; except that they found something useful.”

Ron and Hermione caught up to them and they stood in the open field.

“Grab on and hold tight!”

They grabbed onto Harry’s jacket. Then Harry’s eyes refocused as he said quietly, “Godric’s Hollow.” Everything around them went to black and the air began to swim around them.

When the colors around them returned to something besides black, they were standing at the base of a hill. All around them were grass and oak trees. To the south, they could see a small house about half a mile away on a parcel of flat land that had been plowed into a farm. The sky above shined the brightest blue, which had clouds interspersed here and there to sparsely block the sunshine from coming completely from the heavens to light up the ground. Hermione looked around the area, very confused.

“This is it? Where are your parent’s graves? I was expecting a cemetery. This is actually somewhat…peaceful. Who thought of laying them here to rest?”

“Hermione, you’re babbling.” Ron nudged her as he said this. Hermione turned to say something, but then caught Ron’s face and simply nodded. Harry decided he had to find out what happened to them to change their relationship so drastically.

“In answer to your questions, Hermione,” Harry started, “First, yes this is it. Secondly, I believe my parents themselves decided that they wanted to be buried here. I technically own this parcel of land. The farmers over the south fork there own most of the rest. My parent’s graves are up the hill under that oak tree.” Harry pointed up to a large tree about one-third the way up the moderately steep hill. They began walking up the slight incline toward the tree. As they got closer, they could see a square slab of stone about six feet by 10 feet made out of what was obviously a very good quality of white marble. On the top of the slab was a small bowl imbedded in the center, made out of gold. As soon as the four got near the marker, an image arose. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron gasped in surprise as they saw the image, but Harry knew it all too well. Hagrid had given the same image to him before he boarded the train to return to the Dursley’s after first year. It took more of a three-dimensional shape to it as the image went all the way around the golden bowl. You could see the back as well as the front; the same as if you were actually standing behind or in front of James and Lily Potter. The image was also life size, so that Harry could see that his father was actually about three inches taller than he was.

“Incredible,” said Hermione.

“Kind of creepy, if you ask me,” stated Ron. “It’s almost like there ghosts.”

“Oh, come off it, Ron!” snapped Ginny.

“What? They are life size and look the same as Nearly Headless Nick, except…that they’re Harry’s parents.”

“Yes, I can see your point,” Harry commented. They did look a little like specters in this image. “It isn’t like I can say, ‘Hi Mum,’ and get…”

“Hello, my son,” came forth the voice of Lily Potter. “We knew that sooner or later you would find your way here. We have prepared for this day. You must have questions, please ask?”

“Are you a ghost?”

“No, Harry, what you see are mental images of us taken shortly before our deaths, though exactly when is not in the knowledge of either of us. We are a three-dimensional version of the portraits you see in Hogwarts, but accessible only to you.”

“Do you know anything about the Horcruxes?”

“I am afraid not, Harry, for they were never mentioned to either your father or me. They must have been discovered after our deaths.”

Harry’s face turned red. “How could you have trusted Wormtail?”

“Wormtail? Oh, you mean Peter Pettigrew. I did not really know them by their Marauder names, Harry. Peter volunteered when it was decided that Sirius was too risky, being the obvious choice. Who would have thought of little Peter? Why do you ask this?”

“Because he is the one who betrayed us…twice. Now the magic you gave your life to imbue to me no longer works. My blood is in Voldemort’s veins, thanks to him. He found a way of nullifying your love with his fear and hate.”

“My dear son, there is more to the spell than you know. Surely, Dumbledore has told you that love is the greatest magic on Earth. It is the focus of all things good. It lets you sacrifice when others would hoard. Give when others take or withhold. To fight the hate that is Voldemort, you must battle with love in your heart.”

“Your mother is right, Son.” Now the image of James Potter appeared to join Lilly. “The reason Voldemort chose you was because he knew your mother could do this type of magic.”

“What should I do now?”

“Seek out Dumbledore, he will lead the way.”

“Dumbledore is dead! Snape killed him!”

“Is he? Is he?” The images began to return to the original image of them holding Harry. He looked around and saw the faces of his three friends. They each had a look of utter shock.

“How did they do that?” Ron asked as he shook his head violently.

“Probably with Dumbledore’s help, although Lupin did say my Dad was one really creative and strong wizard,” Harry commented.

“It seems that maybe you need some help after all,” Ginny whispered into his left ear, away from the others. “I bet Dumbledore had something set aside for this. He had to know that he might die before the work was done. He also knew of the prophecy, so it would be just like him to prepare a contingency or two, eh?” When she looked up at him, she was surprised to see him crying. He continued to do so while Ginny, Hermione, and Ron came and hugged him.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Harry spoke. “Those are the last tears I will ever shed.” The others stared at him in total disbelief. “It is time to return. Let’s go.”

They gathered around him and held on as he Apparated all back to the Burrow.

***

The quartet arrived back at the Burrow just around dinnertime. There they saw Remus Lupin instructing Bill Weasley. The scars on Bill’s face had healed a bit, but he still showed quite plainly his battle with Greyback the night Dumbledore died. Harry listened quietly to Lupin’s instructions on the Wolfsbane potion and when it was to be taken right before the new moon…wait a minute...

“Did I hear you say new moon, Professor Lupin?” asked a very puzzled Harry.

“I’m afraid so, Harry, and please call me Remus as I am not your professor any longer,” Lupin answered in a calm manner. Of all his Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, he had liked Lupin the most. After all, Lupin had taught him the Patronus Charm that helped him save himself and Sirius back in his third year. The fact that he was one of his father’s best friends also helped in that department. “Bill’s condition is turning out to be totally different than a typical werewolf. He does not transform, but does become quite unstable during the same time of every month. And it is the new moon, not the full moon he has to be careful of.”

“What do you mean, unstable? Either he is or he isn’t, isn’t he?”

“Honestly, Harry, we’re in new ground here. Greyback was not in his werewolf form when he bit Bill. It is almost like he becomes a werewolf on the inside but not the outside.”

“Oh, great, just what we needed in the family, a stealth werewolf!” Ron cried out.

Hermione and Ginny tried to shush him, but he would have none of it. “Hey, he’s my brother too, you know. I care a lot about what happens to him, but we will not be able to see him lose it! That has to be something we need to worry about. Nothing personal, Bill.”

“No offense taken, Ron,” Bill replied. “In fact, I think you’re being quite smart about it. Maybe now you can convince Mother to be a little more cautious. I don’t know what I am going to do, but she seems so sure I am no danger, despite what Remus is saying.”

Lupin chimed back in at this point. “There are internal signs, Bill, that you yourself are going to have to watch for, and make yourself scarce when you feel them, even with the potion. Everyone else just needs to understand that, when it is getting close to the new moon, you are going to be on a little trip away.”

“Nice way to put it, a little trip away,” Bill replied.

“Hey, at least it isn’t a ‘furry little problem,’” Harry retorted. Lupin chuckled at the obvious reference to how James had addressed his condition. Harry laughed too. He then turned to see Ron and Hermione talking quietly in the corner of the room. It seemed to Harry that they were doing a lot of that lately. A thought hit him that maybe there was more to this, but he shrugged it off. It would not be the first time that there had been a sign that those two were becoming more than the companions and occasional verbal combatants that they always had been. Although they had seemed closer after Dumbledore’s funeral and Ron’s near brush with death, thanks to Malfoy’s poison, intended for Dumbledore but that had been inadvertently drunk by Ron last year in Slughorn’s class. Hermione looked over and saw Harry staring at them and tugged Ron on the sleeve. She pointed to Harry. “Well,” he thought, “if they are going to leave me an invitation that pronounced…” He walked over to join his two friends.

“So what are you two conspiring about over here? Don’t I have enough to deal with outside?” Harry smirked at them as he said this. They both gave him a dirty look, but knew that he was talking in jest. They all knew each other just too well.

“Actually, we’re just going over the research you asked for on possible Horcrux sites,” Ron stated in a matter-of-fact tone. “We just didn’t want to interrupt everyone with this stuff because it would bore everyone.”

“Who told you it would bore everyone?” Harry asked, quite startled.

Hermione pointed over Harry’s shoulder. “They did,” she whispered to Harry. “It seems after the scare factor wore off, it just went over everyone’s head.”

“Since when is Ron working with you, Hermione? Research isn’t exactly his strong suit, is it?”

“No, but collecting things and covering my back outside is. A young woman by herself attracts attention. A young couple acting like newlyweds everyone ignores, if you can believe that.” Hermione shook her head in total disgust. Harry looked at Ron, who simply nodded.

“I believe it,” was all Harry said, when suddenly he caught that flowery scent he always liked just as two arms were circling him from his waist going upward and stopping at his chest.

“You know, Ginny, if I did that to you, your mother would scream bloody murder right now as to where my hands would be.”

Ginny smiled that wicked grin, “Then we are just going to have to find somewhere where you can do it so my mother doesn’t see it, won’t we?”

“What did I just hear you say?” Mrs. Weasley commented in a very shocked tone.

“Nothing, Mum,” came Ginny’s sweet, sing-song reply.

“Now don’t give me that tone, Ginny Weasley. I did not raise my only daughter to behave in such a fashion as that.”

“As what?” Ginny spun around immediately with that hard look Harry had seen only a few times before, as in a few hours ago. Harry gulped. He did not want to be in the middle of this fight.

“You know what I am talking about, young lady.”

“No I don’t, mother dear, why don’t you explain it to me?”

“Now see here...”

“No, YOU see here!” Ginny screamed. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked right at Ginny. “I have had just about enough from this family talking to me about so-called morals. I have not done anything do deserve this treatment and I am sick of it! The whole lot of you can just go kiss off! There is no one in the family who has the right to judge me. I haven’t cheated on Harry, nor have I done anything that would even come close to being called reprehensible…” She stared at Fred, then George, then Ron. “unlike some of the male offspring in this family.”

“That’s not the same, Ginevra!”

“Oops,” thought Harry, “Molly just used Ginny’s full first name; this is getting bad fast.” He looked at Arthur, and Mr. Weasley nodded. Intervention was necessary fast, and quickly.

“Like HELL it isn’t. I am tired of being treated with less respect just because I am the youngest and a girl…”

Harry stepped in front of Ginny as Arthur grabbed Molly by the elbow. Both men were trying to calm down their respective loves on this issue. Harry had not realized that Mrs. Weasley would react this way about Ginny’s advances toward him. He looked in Ginny’s eyes very deeply. “Ginny, this isn’t the time for…” Ginny grabbed him by the ears and planted the biggest kiss yet right on his lips. Mrs. Weasley screamed, but Mr. Weasley just held on to her.

“Molly, it’s all right. It’s Harry, and he is very good for her.”

Ginny looked right back at Harry with those eyes in an expression so deep that Harry could have melted right there. “I have only wanted you, Harry. You know that, right?”

“Of course I do. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, you wouldn’t have had to go looking at anyone else.”

“I did that to get you jealous.”

“Oh, you succeeded quite admirably.” Harry chuckled again. “But what has got your mother in a bind?”

“Dear old mother thinks I have been acting like a slut, thanks to two certain brothers of mine blowing things out of proportion so bad. She thinks I was sleeping with Dean and Michael…at the same time.”

“I never said that!” Molly Weasley yelled, quite offended.

“No, you have just hinted at it since last Christmas. I will say it in front of witnesses, right now. I haven’t slept with anyone…yet.” She emphasized the word “yet” to make an obvious second statement. Namely, that she was planning to make Harry number one on that score. “And only” she then whispered softly in his ear. Harry had to tell the monster in him to stay down or they would all be dead.

“Molly, there is no reason to think otherwise. Remember that no boy could get into the girl’s dorm in Gryffindor.”

Mrs. Weasley was not looking convinced, but she did change the subject with a little coaxing from Mr. Weasley. “Dinner is ready. Everyone is welcome to stay.”

Ginny grabbed Harry’s arm and led him to the table. Mrs. Weasley looked at her daughter again.

“Get used to it, Mother,” Ginny said quietly

“You are still underage, Ginevra.”

“That is only true until the holidays.”

Harry was taken aback by that. As Ginny was a year behind in school, he always thought that he was a year older than she in everything else was as well. Hermione could almost read Harry.

“She’s only about six months younger. She will be of age before she gets through her sixth year.”

“Really?” Harry thought to himself. The monster was laughing inside him at this thought.



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