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A Time to Live by ladymblack
Chapter 13 : Chapter 13: Muggle Studies
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 16


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Chapter 13: Muggle Studies

 

Harry suddenly had a horrible sense of foreboding as he considered Ron’s words.  His heart pounded and he knew he didn’t need to look out the window.  He knew what the sky held.

 

“I’ve got to go to Bill’s,” Ron shouted.  They all looked at him as though he was crazy.  He said, “Bill’s also partially contaminated, remember?  He might be able to help us.”

 

He turned to Minerva and asked, “Is the password still the same?”

 

As she nodded, Ron left the room without further ado.  He didn’t wait for confirmation from the rest but just ran through the castle to the Headmistress’ office.

 

Hermione walked around to Ginny’s other side, putting her arm around her.

 

Harry felt like he was dying though and finally broke away from Ginny’s arm and headed for the room where Madam Pomfrey was tending Teddy.

 

“No, Harry!  What are you doing?” she cried.

 

“I need to know what’s going on, and if you hadn’t noticed, Madam Pomfrey hasn’t done anything and he’s still crying his head off!” Harry rambled, storming into the room that they were in.

 

Madam Pomfrey was shaking her head and said, “I don’t know.  I think he may be teething.”

 

“You were keeping us out of this room for that?” Harry asked loudly, so that she could hear him.

 

“No, there’s something else wrong, but I can’t place it.  He’s got a fever and I can’t find the source.  I’ve tried all of my fever potions, but none of them works!” Madam Pomfrey exclaimed, obviously concerned that she couldn’t find a cause.

 

Harry was scared to tell her.  He remembered Remus’ problems when people found out what he was.  Then again, she had approved of him.

 

“I think I know what’s wrong with him,” Harry said. He picked Teddy up.

 

“Well, what’s wrong with him?” she asked, curiously.

 

“How well did you know Professor Lupin?” Harry asked.

 

Her expression softened for a moment and she said, “Yes, I know that he was a werewolf, but he was still one of the best professors this staff has ever seen.”

 

Her eyes misted briefly and Harry just held Teddy, who couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to cry or chew on Harry’s shoulder again.

 

“I don’t know if he has some contamination like Bill does, but Ron just went to get him,” Harry explained to the nurse.

 

She just shook her head in dismay, “I can’t believe I didn’t even think of that!  He’s right though, because this is a case that we really don’t know about.  I don’t know of another child conceived under these circumstances.  If only Remus was here.”

 

Harry was privately glad that Remus wasn’t there.  He would have been ashamed of himself again.  Then again, he might have been able to calm his son even in his wolfish state, having taken the Wolfsbane Potion.  Harry tried to push it from his mind and did his best to sooth Teddy.  Madam Pomfrey swabbed an ointment onto his gums to ease the teething which seemed to help somewhat.

 

Ron came running into the room with Bill behind him.  Bill was still in his dressing gown, but he held his arms out to take Teddy.

 

He looked at the baby and said, “I know, Ted.  It’s a tough time, but we’ll get through it.”

 

“Oh, the poor child!” Minerva exclaimed.

 

“I know, kiddo,” Bill said, bouncing Teddy up and down.  The baby seemed to find contentment there in his arms, and Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione all breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Harry finally asked, “Bill, what do we do?  How do we help him?”

 

Everyone looked to Bill for an answer, but all he could say was, “There’s not much.  I know how I now feel during the full moon, and I would expect that Teddy feels the same thing.  It’s like a there’s monster trying to get out of you but can’t.  I’ve always done my best to stay away from you all, and even Fleur, at that time because my temper isn’t my own.  As much as she hates to be parted for that night, obviously right now she understands it’s for her protection and our child’s protection.  It’s a hard thing to control.  Fleur’s at Mum’s right now.”

 

“But I don’t remember this happening last month,” Hermione said, still trying to grasp these new concepts.

 

“He’s a baby, Miss Granger,” Madame Pomfrey said.  “He might not have fully been affected.  He’s more fully aware of the world around him now and that could easily explain why this wasn’t a problem before.  He may just have seemed fussy that night, too.  Mrs. Tonks might not have recognized the reason for it.  I know he is teething right now, which may have augmented the problem.”

 

Harry tried to clear his mind.  His worry and fear were threatening to overwhelm him but he knew to push those feelings aside in order to understand.  “So, what can we do for him tonight?” he asked the nurse.

 

“I’ll give you this balm to put on his gums so that the breaking teeth won’t hurt so much, but I’m afraid that babies do sometimes just cry in the night,” she said apologetically.  “I put some on awhile ago, but if he seems to be biting on things again just dab a bit more on.  And as Bill has said, there’s nothing we can do about the werewolf contamination.  There’s no use giving him Wolfsbane Potion, since it’s only really meant to keep a werewolf from leaving his human mind during transformation.  He’s not a werewolf and won’t become one.  I think all I can suggest is to hold him.”

 

They all nodded.  Harry approached Bill to take Teddy back into his arms.  The baby didn’t stir, but they all silently nodded at Bill.  He left the Hospital wing.  Everyone was fearful of waking Teddy so they all went back to their rooms as silently as possible, Minerva escorting them to Gryffindor Tower to avoid another run-in with Filch.

 

It was two o’clock in the morning when Harry and Ginny climbed the stairs, as quietly as possible, to Harry’s dormitory.  He gently laid Teddy down into his cradle.  This didn’t work however as the baby let out an enormous scream.

 

Harry thought of the Muffliato charm again and their room was silenced.  He picked Teddy back up and said, “I’ll take the first watch, Gin. Try to get some sleep.”

 

Sitting down in the rocking chair with Teddy, he watched Ginny climb into their bed without him.  He rocked back and forth, almost afraid to go to sleep.  He drifted off a few times, but the discontented sounds coming from the bundle in his arms kept him going.

 

Ginny awoke with a start, hearing some baby gurgling coming from the other side of the room.  Recognizing it immediately, she realized it must be her turn to take care of Teddy.  What she found was Harry fast asleep with his head hanging over the back of the rocking chair and Teddy lying in his lap wide awake.

 

She tried not to laugh, so that she wouldn’t wake Harry, and picked up Teddy as gently as possible so to leave Harry where he was.  Teddy’s eyes had reverted to Harry’s green and his hair went from black to red upon seeing Ginny.

 

“What?” Harry said, awaking suddenly, feeling the weight lifted from his body.

 

“Sorry!” Ginny said, guiltily, “Why don’t you get in bed, babe?

 

“What time is it?” he asked groggily.

 

“About nine,” Ginny said.

 

“I’ll assume you mean morning,” Harry responded still trying to wake up.

 

“Why didn’t you wake me up?  I would have taken my turn,” Ginny said, earnestly.

 

“Turn?  Oh, turn!” Harry was still trying to get his mind around what was going on.  “I must have forgotten.  I think we both finally fell asleep at some point.  Not much use in trying to get back to sleep now though, I’m up.”

 

Teddy didn’t seem interested in the bottle that Ginny was trying to feed him with, so they put it back into the diaper bag to take down to breakfast with them.

 

Yawning widely they sat down at their table.  Ron and Hermione joined them shortly thereafter, neither looking terribly refreshed either.

 

“Long night?” Neville asked, taking a look at his friends.

 

“You have no idea, mate,” Ron told him.  Indicating Harry and Ginny he said “Had to be worse for them though.  Did you ever get him to sleep?”

 

“Kind of.  We must have fallen asleep at some point, cause I woke up in the rocking chair this morning,” Harry responded on a yawn.  He leaned his head in his hand and closed his eyes briefly.  Ginny swished her wand quickly to pull his cereal bowl away from him before he could fall into it.

 

“Here, Harry, why don’t you have some coffee,” she suggested, pouring a cup.  He drank it greedily, not bothering to open his eyes.

 

“Thanks, Gin,” he muttered.

 

“Hey, guys,” came a voice from across the table.

 

“Morning, George,” Harry said in reply.  Then his eyes flew open as he looked up to see George sitting there with Percy, Charlie, Lee, Oliver, Alicia, Angelina and Katie.  “Am I dreaming?  What are you guys doing here?”

 

Oliver laughed and said, “Did you forget about the Quidditch game this morning?”

 

The four sleepy people looked at each other and groaned loudly.  “I guess we did.  We were up most of the night with Teddy,” Ginny explained on a yawn as she tried to give the baby his bottle again.

 

“He wasn’t very happy between teething and the full moon,” Ron added, pouring himself a third cup of coffee.  “I think I’ll go ask Madam Pomfrey if she has some Pepper-Up Potion.”

 

 

He staggered up to the staff table and then followed her out of the Great Hall to the Hospital Wing.

 

“Let’s just pray she does, or else I don’t know how we’ll stay on our brooms,” Harry said.

 

“You’ll be on our team, right, Harry?” Oliver asked.

 

He hadn’t considered this and looked at Ginny.  “I figured they’d want you on their team.  I have Denis Creevey as seeker for the school team and he’s actually quite good.  It would help for him to have some practice since if I’m still captain this fall I’ll probably keep him on the team.”







“We need a beater though, Oliver,” Harry said, peering at him through half-closed eyelids.

 

“That’s what I’m here for,” Charlie pointed out.

 

Ron ran back into the Great Hall with four vials and handed three of them to his friends, who accepted them gratefully.  Feeling rejuvenated they headed down to the pitch.  Hermione took up the responsibility of caring for Teddy once again as Ginny headed to the changing rooms. 

 

The alumni team had chosen to wear purple robes instead of the Gryffindor red so that there wouldn’t be any confusion on the field.  They had hoped that since there wasn’t a cup or anything at stake with this game that Oliver’s pep talk might not be quite as long-winded as it used to be.  Not quite so, as Oliver said, “Okay, team, so we’ve got to play our best to keep that Quidditch Cup…”

 

“Oliver, we aren’t in school anymore!  There is no Quidditch Cup to win!” Angelina exclaimed.  This made no difference though and so they all just sat there waiting for Oliver to finish his speech.

 

As they made their way out onto the field George winked at Harry and said, “This was a great idea!  We should have an alumni game every year!”

 

Lee had gotten into the commentator booth and they could hear his voice booming their names as they flew into formation.  Ginny then led her team out to enormous cheers as well.  He wondered how the two teams would match up.  The alumni team hadn’t practiced together in several years, although Katie and Oliver both played professionally.

 

As Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle into the air, Katie immediately took possession as she, Angelina and Alicia flew together seamlessly towards the other end of the pitch.  With some artful passing, Alicia quickly scored.  Harry knew this would be bad for Ron’s morale.

 

“That’s 10-nil for the alumni team!” Lee shouted.

 

But Ginny wasn’t known as a superb chaser for nothing.  She took possession immediately afterwards and dodged the bludger George sent at her gracefully.  She swerved in between Angelina and Alicia, ducking another bludger before passing to Dean.  He managed to keep hold of it, Katie narrowly missing an intercept.  Following the tactics they’d discussed, Dean sent the Quaffle back to Ginny who managed to score against Oliver.

 

The crowd cheered loudly at this unexpected event and Lee was shouting himself hoarse.  “WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED!  THE YOUNGEST WEASLEY SEEMS TO HAVE OUTSHONE HER BROTHERS!”

 

Oliver called for a time out, his team converging on him.  “Well, I don’t think any of us would have guessed that!” he said in awe.

 

Harry smiled wickedly and said, “Oh, she was on my team two years ago.  She can chase and she can seek alright.”

 

“I guess so!  I think we need to change tactics though.  Fred, George,” he said, his mouth falling open in dismay at his own words. The entire team seemed to have drifted downwards, their brooms having dropped several feet in the air.  Angst and tears swam in every face.  Oliver looked around at his friends and cleared his throat.  “Right, so, George, Charlie, keep a close eye on your sister.  We’re going to have to send as many bludgers her way as possible if we’re going to have a chance at winning this thing.”

 

The team silently nodded.  “Let’s go,” Oliver said, sending them back into formation.

 

Play resumed with George and Charlie doing their best to thwart Ginny.  She knew her business and she knew her chasers though.  Their attempts to sabotage her went almost unnoticed and she managed to get five goals through before they knew it.  Alicia, Angelina and Katie decided to fight fire with fire and scored once each against Ron.  Harry finally spotted the snitch fluttering near the ground.  He raced towards it.  Denis, catching on, followed in hot pursuit.  About 10 feet from the ground Harry lifted his hand in triumph, Denis almost colliding with him.

 

They all headed back to the changing room, Oliver just shaking his head.

 

“I can’t believe we were almost beaten by a bunch of kids!” he said in utter disbelief.

 

“Sorry, Oliver, we did our best,” Charlie said.

 

“Harry, has Gwenog seen Ginny yet?” Oliver asked.

 

“Of the Holyhead Harpies?  No, I don’t think so, why?” he replied.

 

“She’s got a few players that recently got married, which means in the next year or two she’s going to need replacements.  I’ll talk to her when I see her later this week,” Oliver said.

 

Harry had a sudden idea though and asked if Oliver could have the woman correspond with him rather than Ginny.

 

“Can’t think of a way to outdo yourself for her birthday, Harry?” Charlie asked knowingly.  “You should have waited to propose.  Then you wouldn’t have to think of something.”

 

“Well, it’s a bit late for that, unless I’m going to try to get the ring back off of her hand,” Harry laughed.  “No, I shouldn’t have a problem coming up with something, but it doesn’t mean much to just spend a bunch of money considering how much I have.  By the way, I know it’s traditional to give a wizard a watch for coming of age, but what about a witch?”

 

“Usually, it’s a necklace with the witch’s birthstone,” Alicia offered.

 

“Good, cause I was thinking about getting her a nice watch since she’s always looking at mine for the time,” Harry said.  He’d send Molly a quick note, just in case.

 

Everyone trooped back up to the castle for lunch, exhausted from their active morning.  Despite Oliver’s slip during the match, George seemed to be in higher spirits than when Harry and Ron had seen him the day before.  George slipped onto the bench between them and asked, conspiratorially, “So, I’m assuming you are planning some sort of spectacular prank for your last day here?”

 

Harry and Ron shared a look of surprise that they hadn’t thought of this.  “I think we should,” Harry said mischievously.  Ron got a twinkle in his eye and agreed readily.  They would have to come up with something fun and exciting.  If George wanted to help plan it, they’d be happy to include him.

 

After lunch, the alumni joined their younger friends in the new common room.

 

“This would have been really convenient,” Percy commented.  “I know it was a right pain when Penny and I were going out, trying to find a place to hang out together.  It’s brilliant!”

 

Before he got down to his homework, Harry decided he’d better take his opportunity to talk to Percy and asked him to talk apart from the others briefly.

 

“I got your note yesterday.  I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner,” Harry said.

 

“Don’t worry about it, Harry.  Obviously you had your hands full,” Percy said pompously waving a hand over at Teddy.

 

“Anyway, I told George in no uncertain terms yesterday that the shop will be opening the day after we finish our exams here.  Ron and I have been talking about it though, and we’re thinking it might be better if the shop is somewhat cleaned up first,” Harry told him.

 

“I was thinking about that as well.  I don’t see any reason to bother Mum and Dad with it, but maybe Bill, Charlie and I can see what we can do.  You guys obviously have your plates full here with schoolwork and everything.  I’ll let you know how it goes?” Percy suggested.

 

Relieved, Harry thanked him as they rejoined the group. 

 

Charlie was talking to George saying, “You really should take up Bill’s offer.  Go and stay with them for awhile, get away from everything.  Fleur really is quite a good cook, and they live on the shore so there’s plenty to do.”

 

“Come on, George, I’ll come and we can go hang out in the village and stuff,” Alicia said pleadingly.  She placed her hand on his arm and gave him a hopeful look.

 

“Yeah, I think I will.  Maybe a change of scenery would be nice,” George said indifferently, allowing Alicia to leave her hand on his arm.

 

The team stayed for the afternoon, happily gossiping and talking about the game while the rest made their way through their mountain of homework.

 

After dinner they all made their way to the Headmistress’ office.  Harry and Ginny had decided to bring Teddy back to the Burrow for the rest of the weekend.  They were both exhausted from the previous evening once the Pepper-Up Potions had worn off.  Harry explained everything to Andromeda who told him that Teddy had seemed to be inconsolable one night the previous month.  She happily accepted the balm for Teddy’s teething gums that Madam Pomfrey had given them and told Harry that she would see about having it replenished once they ran out.

 

Sunday, immediately following lunch, Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Neville, Parvati, Luna, Dean and Susan headed for Dudley’s office, dressed in muggle clothing.  Minerva had arranged for a Portkey to take them into an alley behind a cybercafé not too far from Hogsmeade.

 

Slamming into the ground they all dusted themselves off.  Dudley shook himself and said, “Right, I don’t think I much fancy Portkeys.  That was bloody awful.”

 

As they looked around, Dudley noticed a muggle tramp staring at them in shock.  “Do you reckon he saw us?”

 

“Judging by the look on his face, I think we have to assume he did,” Hermione said.  She pointed her wand at the man and muttered an incantation.

 

The man’s eyes rolled back, his face cleared and he growled, “This is me alley.  Find yer own!”

 

“Alright, well, let’s go inside, shall we?” Dudley asked, leading the way around to the front of the building.

 

Upon entering, Dudley paid for the use of ten computers and then indicated for them to sit down.  He set Harry on one side of the aisle and Hermione and Dean on the other, so that they could help everyone else.

 

“Okay, so if you’ve never used a computer before, don’t even touch it until I tell you to,” Dudley said, drawing curious stares from the other patrons.  Dudley began to explain the parts of the computer and what they were used for.  Picking up the mouse and telling them what it was caused Draco, Parvati and Susan to scream in fright.  Dudley had a look of controlled patience, as he struggled not to laugh, and said, “It’s not a real mouse.  It’s just pretend, see?  Anyhow, you’ll notice three buttons.  We’ll really only be using the one on the left, so don’t go touching the other two.  Go ahead and click the left button on your mouse.”

 

Obeying the instructions there were several gasps and expressions of “wow” among the group as the computers came out of hibernation.  Dudley continued once the excitement had abated somewhat, “Now, on your desktop, there’ll be an icon of a blue letter ‘e.’  Double-click on that.”

 

There was a great deal of head scratching following this instruction except for Harry, Hermione and Dean, who’d all had experience during their muggle upbringings.  Questions and comments varied among the students like Ginny saying, “What’s an icon?”

 

Ron was looking around the ground and asked, “Are you sure?  Maybe it fell off?”

 

He got off of his seat and was on the floor beneath his desk.

 

“Ron!  What on earth are you doing?” an exasperated Hermione asked, causing Ron to hit his head on the bottom of the desk as he tried to get up.

 

“Well, I don’t see a blue ‘e’ on my desk.  It must have rolled onto the floor,” he replied.

 

Hermione had an extremely strained expression on her face as she struggled not to laugh at her clueless boyfriend, Dudley coming over to explain.  He was suppressing laughter as well and had some difficulty showing Ron what the desktop and icons were because he was shaking too much.

 

After about 10 minutes, with the help of the muggleborns, Dudley managed to get all of the students in the same place with a browser open.  Not wanting anymore uproars, Dudley told Harry, Hermione and Dean to go ahead to a search engine to begin their research and asked the rest of them to wait until he got to them to do anything.

 

“So, Hermione, have you thought about how we’re going to do this?  It’s not like they’re going to have a website,” Harry said, turning around to look at her.

 

“No, what we’ll be looking for are rumors.  Dean, you remember what Greyback looks like, so why don’t you look for any hint of recent werewolf attacks.  I’ll look for the Carrows in Albania.  Harry, you take Dolohov,” she suggested.  As Dudley went amongst the students, Hermione gave each of them a different Death Eater from their list.

 

Harry thought this search might be useless as he had no clue where to even begin looking for Dolohov.  So he was watching his classmates work with varying looks of confusion on their faces.  As no one was troubling to keep their voices down, Harry had the feeling that they were going to have to modify every patron’s memory in the cafe.  As this thought occurred to him he saw a patron heading for the exit muttering, “Where are they from, another planet?”

 

Harry whipped out his wand as discretely as possible and whispered, “Confundo!”  Directing the man’s mind to remember nothing but an ordinary visit to the café, the man went home.  Harry then whispered to Ginny that they were going to have to keep a close eye on the door.

 

“Do you want me to put a charm on it to keep anyone else from coming in or out?” she asked.

 

“No, I wouldn’t want them to lose business because of us.  Just let me know if you see someone leaving and I’ll confund them.  We don’t want the Ministry tracking us down here for underage magic,” Harry reminded her.  She wrinkled her nose in annoyance, but turned her attention back to her computer.

 

Once Dudley had gotten everyone settled and working, he paced back and forth in case there were more questions.

 

“Dudley, there’s something wrong with my cormpuster!  It says to press any key to continue, but there isn’t any,” Neville exclaimed in frustration.  Dudley rushed over to him.

 

“Oh, just hit any key,” Dudley told him, kindly.

 

“But there is none, look!  Maybe they made my keybud wrong?” Neville suggested, still scanning the keyboard for the missing key.

 

Dudley really did laugh at this and, hitting a key to unlock the computer said, “It just means that any one of the keys will work to move on.”

 

“Ohhhh!” Neville said, his face reddening.  “Why didn’t they just say that?”

 

Just then Draco let out a yelp and shouted, in a panicked voice, “Ah!  Professor Dursley!  Professor Dursley!  I did something wrong!”

 

Everyone looked over to Draco and burst out laughing upon viewing his screen.  It seemed as though he’d stumbled upon a site that had absolutely nothing to do with what they were looking for.

 

“This wasn’t what I was looking for!” Draco pleaded, looking as though he might cry or be sick.

 

Dudley let out a great sigh and asked, “What exactly were you looking for?”

 

“I was just looking up wands.  I wanted to find a new wandmaker because I don’t think Ollivander will make me a new one and Gregorovitch is dead,” Draco replied.

 

“Well, as muggles don’t use magic wands, I doubt that there would be any sites advertising them,” Dudley reminded him as quietly as possible.  “And the word ‘wand’ can have other…uh…inappropriate meanings, as you can see.”

 

“Oh……so, can you find girls on here then too?” Draco asked excitedly.

 

Before Dudley could respond, Hermione rose from her seat.  With her hands on her hips, she strode towards Draco scolding, “That’s not what we’re here for!  I know you just broke off your engagement with Pansy, but now is not the time to look at girls.  We’re here to look for Death Eaters.”

 

“Right.  Sorry,” Draco said, with an air of guilt.

 

Ron suddenly shouted, “Dudley, my comporter’s been frozen!”  He pulled his wand out of his pocket and aimed it at the monitor.

 

“No!” cried Dudley and Hermione in unison, trying to tackle Ron.  They weren’t quite quick enough and the glass monitor had cracked.  The computer gave a strange noise and then fell silent.

 

“Ron!  Exactly what spell did you use?” Hermione asked incredulously, while Dudley just looked at the now dead computer, with his mouth hanging open.

 

“Well, it seemed like it had been put under the body-bind curse, so I used the counter-charm for it,” Ron explained, pointing out the obvious.

 

The café owner rushed over to them and said angrily, “If you folks can’t stop disturbing everyone in here, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.  What are you guys, all foreigners or something?”

 

“Foreigners?  We’re not foreigners,” Ron remarked, confused.

 

Hermione elbowed him in the ribs and began saying, “Yes, yes we’re just foreign…”

 

But Ron, rubbing the place that Hermione had jabbed, said, “No, I’m not a foreigner, I’m from…”

 

Hermione placed her hand over Ron’s mouth.  She tried a different tact and said, “Sorry, we’re just here with some….mentally disabled people….and….we’re trying to teach them how to use computers.”

 

Harry didn’t think this sounded very convincing and apparently the owner didn’t think so either.  He gave Hermione a dubious look and said, “Well, it looks as though these…patients…of yours haven’t ever even seen a computer.  And what the hell happened to this one?”  The owner indicated the computer that Ron had destroyed.

 

Hermione looked like she was at a loss and Dudley whispered to her, “I don’t have enough money with me to pay for a new computer.”

 

She whispered back, “Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be able to fix it.”

 

But this didn’t help the owner any and Harry realized that they were going to have to modify his memory before they even got out of there.  Harry confunded the owner as quietly as possible.

 

“Oh, and a Happy Easter to you as well,” the owner said vaguely, heading back to his desk.

 

“Harry, that was a bit strong, don’t you think?” Hermione whispered.

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it to be that strong.  Then again, it didn’t seem like he was going to let it go anytime soon,” Harry muttered.

 

“Okay, I think we need some rules here.  First of all, if anyone has a question or thinks their computer is broken, just call me over quietly and I will fix it.  I don’t want to see any more wands aimed at the computers either.  They’re not going to help you in these circumstances,” Dudley finally said, in that controlled voice that he’d had for the past half-hour.  Then he whispered to Hermione, “Can you fix it?”

 

“I think so,” she replied and went to work putting the monitor back together.  She enlisted Dean’s aid, who always fiddled around on the computer when he was home for the holidays.  Within minutes the computer was working perfectly once more.  Dudley just turned away, rubbing his temples with his fingers.  Harry was sure his cousin was getting a rather nasty headache trying to handle a bunch of wizards using computers for the first time.

 

Ron just said, “Sorry.  Hermione, why did you elbow me?  It hurts.  And what’s this about us being ‘mentally disabled’?  It makes us sound like we have something wrong with our brains.”

 

“Well, yes, that’s generally what mentally disabled means.  But every muggle in the world knows about a computer.  I tried to come up with something that would be plausible to the guy,” Hermione explained.  “Just don’t use your wand on the computer again. If you have a problem, ask one of us.”

 

Ron nodded his head, looking around to see if any of their friends were looking at him strangely.  For quite awhile they all worked in quiet, Dudley running around answering everyone’s summons.

 

Hermione finally said, “Harry, is this person familiar?”

 

He swiveled around in his chair to look at her screen.  He was wracking his mind.  The face looked familiar.

 

“I don’t know, Hermione,” he said honestly.  He moved in closer to look at the image and accompanying article.  The writer claimed that the man was a vampire.  The article had originated from Albania, in a small town.  He called over to Draco to join them.

 

“Do you know him?” Harry asked.

 

Draco too looked intrigued and said, “He looks really familiar.  Do we know him?”

 

Harry thought for a few minutes before he realized where he thought he might have seen the man and said, “Could that be Sanguini?”

 

“Sanguini?” Hermione asked.  It seemed as though she’d recognized the name, but couldn’t quite place it.

 

“Wasn’t he at Slughorn’s Christmas Party two years ago?” Harry asked.

 

Comprehension dawned on Hermione’s face and she called over to Luna and Ginny to look at the hastily taken photograph on her computer.  They too agreed that this looked like the vampire they’d met.

 

Harry turned to Draco once more and asked, “Did Voldemort try to enlist any vampires?”

 

Draco nodded and said, “Yeah, he wanted any dark creatures possible to join him and the vampires were one group he was after.  I don’t ever remember Sanguini coming to the Manor though, and I’m sure my mother would have been keen to point him out, just as she was with Greyback and the other werewolves.  It’s certainly possible, though.  I could see him working with the Carrows.”

 

Everyone had then gathered around Hermione’s computer and nodded in agreement.

 

Hermione asked Dudley if he had some money so that she could get a color printout of the picture and article she’d found.  They’d found a few more articles, but nothing concrete and printed them out to peruse at a later time.  Before exiting, Dudley suggested that they modify everyone’s memories.  Those that were of age went through the café confunding the patrons.

 

Once on the street, Dudley noticed a convenience store across the street and told them, “Hang on just a second.  No one move.  No one say anything, just wait.”

 

Dudley came out of the convenience store a few minutes later with a full case of beer under his arm and indicated that they should find a place to take the Portkey home.  Dudley handed the case to Harry, who shared the burden with Ron so that none of the bottles would break.  They arrived back in Dudley’s office without too much fanfare.  Most left save for Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Susan.

 

“So, is there such a thing as a refrigerator in the Wizarding World?” Dudley asked once they’d all regained their feet.

 

“Here,” Ginny said, moving forward to put a cooling spell on the case of beer that Dudley had bought.

 

Harry laughed and asked, “Class not what you thought it would be, Dud?”

 

Dudley just shook his head with his eyes closed.  He waved a hand at the case of beer in invitation.  They all grabbed one out of the box.  Ron wasn’t sure if he cared for it, but seemed to become accustomed to the taste as he continued to drink.  He kept rubbing his head and the spot on his chest where Hermione had elbowed him.

 

Dudley sighed and said, “What if my dad was right?  What if I’m not really cut out for this kind of work?”

 

“I thought you did really well!” Hermione told him.  “It might take awhile to see where you need to start with someone who’s never even seen a computer, but I thought that you were really patient with everyone and did a good job of answering questions.”

 

Dudley gave a hollow laugh.  He took another long swig of his beer and said, “Yeah, perhaps next time I won’t take so many students with me!”

 

“Sorry,” Ron said, with a red face.  “I just thought that someone had cursed my computer, so I figured I’d fix it.”

 

At that point the memory of Ron trying to undo the body-bind curse on his computer had become a source of amusement rather than the nightmare it might have been.  The group started laughing hysterically at the images that were playing in their heads.

 

The week passed in a flurry.  The D.A. meeting went well, as Harry was working with them on some of the spells they had found useful while they were on the run.  He couldn’t help but be proud of his classmates as they mastered spell after spell.  One morning, as Harry and Ginny walked down to breakfast they came upon Draco and Pansy in a deserted corridor.

 

“Please, Draco, can’t we at least give it another chance?” she asked tearfully.

 

Harry and Ginny peered around the corner, curious.  Draco awkwardly put a comforting arm around her and said, “I don’t think it’ll make any difference.  I know how you feel now.  I’m glad you were at least honest about it and told me what you thought of me.”

 

“But, Draco, I was just distraught and I really do want to understand why you would betray us all the way you did,” she pleaded.

 

“I don’t think that you could, Pansy,” he said matter-of-factly.

 

“Why?  I just want to know why,” she said firmly.

 

“Not that it’s really any of your business anymore, but I did what I had to in order to try to keep my family alive.  You were never a Death Eater so you could never really understand.  Torturing and killing people is a…a horrible thing,” he said with disgust.  “I really couldn’t murder someone.  It wound up being repugnant to me, but it was my only recourse if I was to keep my mother alive.  Then I had to sit idly by and watch people be tortured and killed.  Those sorts of things change a person.  I’m not the boy you knew a few years ago.”

 

“But the Dark Lord only ever tortured those who deserve it!  Muggles, mudbloods and blood-traitors; they don’t matter!” she said derisively.

 

“First of all, Voldemort didn’t just torture and kill those sorts of people.  He would torture and kill his own Death Eaters if they thwarted him or made mistakes.  It didn’t make a difference to him.  Second of all, if you’d ever watched someone be tortured you’d realize that it doesn’t really matter who it is.  They all feel pain, regardless of who they are,” he said, although it was apparent in his voice that he expected this to fall on deaf ears.

 

“Hah, I’ve watched people be tortured.  I even did some torturing last year for schoolwork.  It wasn’t that bad, especially as it was against those stupid rebels.”

 

Draco just shook his head and Harry could imagine him rolling his eyes.  “That was nothing,” he told her.

 

“You’re just a weakling and a coward, Draco!  I even heard that when Potter and his friends showed up at your house you tried to pretend you didn’t know them.  You tried to keep Granger from being tortured.  Is that the reason you dumped me?  Are you panting after some filthy little mudblood?” she said, her voice dripping with venom.

 

Draco gave a small laugh and said, “No, I wasn’t interested in Granger.  But that didn’t mean I wanted her or any of the others to be hurt.  If by denying it was them it would save them from torture, death or worse, I would have to try.  I don’t think it’s something you’d understand.”

 

“I hear she’s been helping you with that stupid Muggle Studies class that Potter made you take.  So what’s that all about?”

 

“So, she’s nice enough to help me.  Not that it really matters anyway, Pansy.  Nothing has changed.  You still don’t understand and I don’t think you ever will.  Move on, find someone new.  There are bound to be a few other purebloods out there for you.”

 

“You don’t understand, Draco.  I’m sorry if I got jealous.  I know you need to pass that class to get out of Azkaban,” she said pleadingly.  “But, my parents are hounding me to try to work things out with you, regardless of the circumstances.”

 

He gave a hollow laugh and said, “And that’s really what this is about, isn’t it, your parents?  My mother’s pleased with my actions and that’s all that matters to me.  I would suggest you tell your parents whatever you need to in order to make them see that I’m not suitable for you.”

 

Draco stalked away from her, while she stood there in tears.

 

It felt strange, feeling sympathy for Draco Malfoy, of all people.  But Harry and Ginny couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.  He’d chosen the proper path in the end, but he would always pay for it.  He was no longer accepted in his previous circle of friends and the rest of the Wizarding World would always see him as a Death Eater.  They shared the scene with Ron and Hermione when they got to the Great Hall, Draco not bothering to show up for breakfast.

 

“I feel kind of sorry for him too,” Hermione admitted.  “I remember him trying to block it all out while Bellatrix was torturing me.  I would have to assume that wasn’t the first time he’d watched one of her victims based on the way he tried to not identify us.”

 

“I dunno, I still feel like he’s a git though.  And I don’t really care for how much time you’re spending with him, Hermione,” Ron said warily.

 

“He’s alright.  He wants to be able to take his Muggle Studies N.E.W.T. in August so he’s been studying for it almost constantly.  I’m all caught up on my own work, and I have you guys all set with yours, so why shouldn’t I help him?” she asked with a shrug of her shoulders.  Ron still didn’t look happy, but he ignored her comments.

 

Friday morning brought Harry’s 18th Birthday.  They had decided that they would take an evening off from work to just relax and pick up Teddy the next day.  With their workload and the busy weekends, they felt the need to have a lie-in on Saturday.

 

At breakfast a peck of owls swarmed at the Gryffindor table bearing cards from what appeared to be every witch and wizard in the country.

 

“Oh no!” Harry said.  After the initial furor of the first week with autographs and people chasing him down the halls, things had died down rather nicely.  Now, however there was a scattering of envelopes and parcels.

 

“Well, some are bound to be from the family,” Ron said, trying to sort through them.

 

“Yeah, let’s not open any that aren’t from people we know,” Hermione suggested.

 

“I feel like Albus,” Harry commented, opening another book.  The entire Weasley family had sent books about the Auror Department and/or Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Hermione had given him an appointment planner for when he joined the Ministry that she thought would be helpful.  “I could really use some new socks and everyone will insist on giving me books!”

 

They all laughed at the comment that Albus had made all of those years ago.  “These should all come in quite handy though,” Harry commented as he was glancing through the titles.

 

“It’s my turn,” Ginny said.  She handed him a small envelope, inside which there was a picture.  He recognized the mirror immediately as being a Foe-Glass from when he’d been in Moody’s office.

 

“Wow!  That’s really awesome, Ginny,” he said excitedly.

 

“It was too big to give to you here, so I had Kreacher take a picture of it,” Ginny said, with a laugh.

 

“You know what would have been even better?” he asked with a smile.

 

She seemed a bit crestfallen and said, “No, what?”

 

“A kiss would have made the perfect present,” Harry said.

 

Ginny laughed at him and said, “Well, you can have that any old day!  I guess I’ll have to make it pretty special if that’s what you want for your birthday.”

 

She made a nice show of snogging him right there at the breakfast table.  It wasn’t long before Neville shouted, “Alright, you two.  Go get a room!”

 

As they pulled apart, Ginny teased, “Hark, who’s talking?  How on earth you and Parvati plan on passing your exams I’ll never know.  Don’t you two spend most of your evenings in the new common room snogging?”

 

They both had the grace to blush and look sheepish at this remark.  Parvati said earnestly, “Maybe there’ll be something on the exam about that.  We’ll ace that part!”

 

“Believe it or not, Ginny, I’m pretty well caught up,” Neville said proudly.  “Not the snogging part, well, I guess that too, but I’ve got my schoolwork done, thank you.”

 

Hermione sighed and said, “So, what do we do with all of the rest of this?” indicating the pile of unopened mail.  Harry decided that he’d rather not even bother with it and it all disappeared.

 

“What’d you do with it?” Ron asked.

 

“Vanished it,” Harry said.

 

“What if there was something good in there?” he said incredulously.

 

“Would you have liked to open it all to find out?  Let’s not forget that I still have enemies out there.”

 

“Oh yeah, that wouldn’t be too much fun would it, if one of them was cursed?” Ron said, looking glum.  As they all began to rise from breakfast Ron told the girls to go on ahead so that he could talk to Harry in private.  Once they’d left the Great Hall, he turned to Harry to hand him his present.

 

“Not another book, Ron?” Harry asked.

 

“It is, but it’s by the same blokes that wrote Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches only it’s about wives.  It says on the back that dealing with a wife is a bit different from dealing with a girlfriend.  I thought it might come in handy, ya know?”

 

Harry laughed and said, “Thanks, Ron.  I’m sure I could use it.”

 

By the end of the day, Harry sank lazily onto a couch in front of the fireplace in the common room.  As he looked around he thought it seemed rather empty, aside from himself and Ginny.  There were only a few people scattered on the various sofas and armchairs.

 

Hermione and Ron came in, just as Harry thought an evening nap might be just the thing.

 

“Hagrid’s?” Ron asked.  Harry didn’t much feel like walking all of the way down there, but he hadn’t seen Hagrid all week and so agreed.  As the four approached, they found most of Gryffindor House along with Dumbledore’s Army waiting for them.

 

“Surprise, Harry!” they chorused.  Hagrid thumped Harry on the back and handed him a large brandy.  Harry mingled with his friends as they discussed classes and what everyone wanted to do after school.

 

It was beginning to get late.  Harry and Ginny were about to head back up to the castle when a Patronus came bounding straight for them.  Harry recognized it as being Arthur’s weasel before it shouted, “Harry, attack at the Burrow!  Come quick!”


A/N:  As always, thanks for the reviews, folks.  Sorry to leave you with  yet another cliffy!  Hope everyone is  enjoying the story.


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