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The Guardians by Chloe Black
Chapter 7 : Confrontations and Reunions
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 15


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The Guardians

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these wonderful characters; they all belong to the magnificent J.K. Rowling. (Except for the original few that you'll be able to recognize yourselves!)

A/N:
There is mild violence in this chapter, but nothing too ridiculous.

Chapter 7: Confrontations and Reunions

Twelve days after Harry's Birthday, was the birthday of someone else residing at Privet Drive although Harry had no idea until midnight on August eleventh, when an unfamiliar owl flew through the open window and went right to Ginny.

"I wonder what that is." Harry inquired.

"Probably just a birthday gift." Ginny replied nonchalantly.

"Why didn't you tell me it was your birthday?" Harry felt bad that he had no idea. He knew he couldn't buy her a gift or anything, but it still would have been nice for him to acknowledge it before the owl flew in.

"It doesn't really matter much, Harry." She seemed really indifferent about it, and for some reason this irritated Harry.

She had made such a big deal out of his birthday. She made him a cake for Merlin's sake. He didn't even know it was her birthday until a moment ago. "It matters to me. I know I couldn't buy you a birthday gift, but the least I could do was wish you a Happy Birthday."

"It's not too late, silly. My birthday just began, say it now." She said cheerfully.

"Well, Happy Birthday then." He said guilt still evident in his voice.

"Harry, you really shouldn't feel so bad. My family hasn't been making a big deal out of anyone's birthdays since last year." She explained, trying to make him feel better. But what she said made him feel even worse.

"What about mine? Your entire family gave me gifts and I'm not family!" His voice was rising slightly. He knew that if he got any louder he'd wake his aunt and uncle up, but he didn't care right now. He couldn't believe that the Weasley's barely acknowledged their own daughter's birthday, but his they could take time for.

"Harry, you're you. They just want to make you happy. We've celebrated our birthdays every year consistently and you've never had that!" She was struggling to explain it to him, but he didn't want to hear it if it was only about him being Harry Potter.

"Just because I'm the bloody Boy Who Lived doesn't mean your parents have to treat me better than their own children!" His voice was steadily rising once again, and Ginny looked nervous.

"Harry please, just calm down, I didn't mean to upset you. You don't want to wake anyone--" Her plea was cut off by a high pitched screeching coming from outside the open window.

The screeching became louder and all of a sudden Hedwig flew into the room wildly; her attempt to make it to her cage was unsuccessful. The cage crashed to the ground making a horrible noise, not to mention the unbearable screeches that were still emanating from Hedwig. Harry and Ginny rushed over to help the poor bird; Harry picked her up off the ground and placed her on his bed. "Hedwig…" She was bleeding and her right wing was badly damaged.

Before Harry got a chance to fully examine her and figure out what he could do to ease her pain, a very purple faced Uncle Vernon burst through the door screaming at the top of his lungs. "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE, BOY! THE NORMAL PEOPLE IN THIS HOUSE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP!"

"Normal people?! Normal people don't scream at the top of their lungs when everyone is sleeping." Harry spat back.

"NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT KEEP BLOODY OWLS AS PETS. SHUT THAT THING UP BEFORE I DO IT FOR YOU!" He stepped closer to Harry with every word.

"Someone seems to have beaten you to it!" Harry began, gesturing wildly to the helpless Hedwig, who was still screeching loudly from his bed. "Now, please get the hell out of my room so I can help her before she dies!"

"HOW DARE YOU! THIS IS MY HOME, YOU UNGRATEFUL FREAK! AFTER ALL WE HAVE DONE FOR YOU!" Their faces were quite close now, and Ginny who had been trying to quiet the still suffering Hedwig, stepped closer to try and pull Harry away.

"I'm ungrateful? You have never done anything for me to even be grateful for. So don't tell me that I'm ungrateful!"

"THEN GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! RIGHT NOW! GO!" He pointed fiercely to the door.

"Believe me, if I had any other choice, I'd be gone by now. I've told you that already. So maybe you should start getting used to it. I can't go anywhere." The bitterness dripped from Harry's voice, and he had hoped that his uncle was done with this ridiculous, fight.

But, Vernon didn't seem to hear a word that Harry had uttered; he continued, "FIRST I HAD TO DEAL WITH YOU BEING HERE, BUT NOW YOU BRING THIS TRAMP INTO MY HOME AND I WON'T STAND FOR THIS ANYMORE. YOU FREAKS WILL NOT DICTATE MY LIFE ANYMORE."

Up until that point Harry had stayed relatively composed, but something in him snapped and he lost all sense of composure. "TRAMP? YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT! GET OUT! GET OUT OF MY ROOM! NOW!"

"You listen now boy!" As he said this, he raised his right hand like he was going to strike Harry.

Before Harry had a chance to comprehend what was going on, Ginny stepped in front of him and took the blow that was meant for Harry and crumpled to the floor.

"GET OUT!" Harry's anger flared ten times more than it had before; the lights were flickering with uncontrolled magic.

Uncle Vernon just stared dumbfounded obviously in shock of what he had done.

"GET OUT, NOW!
" Harry said more forcefully. His uncle walked out the door and Harry slammed it in his face.

The lights stopped flickering, and a shaking, still angry Harry, knelt down beside Ginny who was now sitting up.

"I'm so sorry Ginny. This is all my fault. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have let it get that bad…"

"It's not your fault. You didn't make me stand in front of you; I chose to do that." She smiled weakly at him.

"Why?" He whispered in a barely audible voice.

"I--didn't want him to hit you. And I didn't think he would actually hit me, but I guess it happened too fast for him to realize I was blocking you." She replied her voice was as low as his. "I'm not hurt though; the back of his hand collided with the side of my head. I think I was just unprepared for it; that's why I fell." She said more confidently; he could tell she was trying to make him feel better, but it wasn't working.

"Your lip is bleeding." He said as he gently wiped the blood off with his thumb.

"Thank you." She whispered, looking into his eyes. "Hedwig!" She added more urgently a few seconds later, as she remembered the whole reason they were in this mess. They both stood up, walking back to where Hedwig was still screeching.

"Harry, I think we should put a silencing—" She was cut off by the door crashing open once more. Harry spun around quickly, on his guard for another argument, but was shocked to see Mad-Eye Moody and Remus in the doorway.

"What are you—" Harry began.

"What in Merlin's name is going on here, Potter?" Moody asked, his magical eye whizzing around, and then stopping while facing the back of his head as if he was looking through the wall. Harry guessed he was keeping an eye on the Dursleys.

Harry quickly explained everything that had happened in the last few minutes. Both Remus and Moody looked significantly relieved when they realized that neither Harry or Ginny were seriously harmed.

"Remus, please don't tell my parents, or my brothers what Harry's uncle—"

"Don't be ridiculous, Ginny…they have to know." Harry cut in harshly. He couldn't believe she was saying this.

"Harry, if they find out, they aren't going to let me stay here anymore, and I have to stay here." She looked at him pleadingly; her chocolate brown eyes were full of fear. He didn't understand; shouldn't she be afraid to be there after what just happened?

"She has a point Harry, although I'd prefer if your family did know Ginny. I don't think they'd appreciate it if they found out we were lying to them." Remus argued.

"But how could they possibly find out if we all swore not to tell them? Remus, I'm begging you, this is my life, and they don't need to be bothered with this. It's not like he purposely tried to hit me, I stepped in front of Harry." Ginny declared adamantly.

Harry began to protest again, but Remus cut him off, "Leave it alone, Harry. Now, let me see Hedwig." He walked over to where she was still laying helplessly, and screeching in pain on Harry's bed. Remus shook his head in disbelief. "We'll have to take her with us, and Hagrid can examine her. We're also going to have to look into how this happened, because by it appears that someone tried to take her down." He said this last part grimly. His prematurely lined face was set into a frown.

"Whoever did it couldn't have been far," Moody growled, "Because with an injury like that, your owl couldn't have flown very far."

"You think someone knows we're here then?" Harry said worriedly. First the attack on his mother's brother's house only a block away, and now this; they had to know they were here; there was no way this was all a huge coincidence.

"That's fairly irrelevant though, because no matter what, they can't get to you. You are protected here until you turn seventeen, Harry. They could be standing right in front of the house, but have no way in." Remus sounded confident, so Harry would take his word for it.

"Alastor, please take Hedwig back to Hagrid. I'm going to stay here for a while longer." Remus added. With that, Moody disappeared from the room.

"Why?" Harry was certain he already knew the answer to this but he had to ask anyway.

"I don't trust your uncle. I know it was an accident, Ginny," he said, putting his hand up in defense, "But he's getting to be a little ridiculous. He knows what's at stake here." Remus said soberly.

Harry couldn't argue with that; his uncle was well informed about the situation. You would think that Vernon, who feared magic, would at least respect the fact that Harry had to stay under his roof for his own protection; which, Harry hated to admit was for the entire world's benefit; wizard and muggle alike.

"Don't you think Dumbledore should come have a talk with them again?" Harry put in.

Remus seemed to think this over and sighed, "Yes. I do, but Dumbledore is very busy with other things at the moment." He paused and Harry tried to read his face, but he couldn't figure out what had his former professor so concerned, "Some of those reasons are very valid; but then there are others that I think are much less important than our situation right here."

"What do you mean?" This worried Harry and it seemed to pique Ginny's interest too. They both looked at Remus expectantly, waiting for him to respond.

He shook his head, "I can't—Get some sleep." Remus gave them one last glance and then exited from the room.

"This is all very odd." Ginny said, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

"You're telling me. What's on your mind?" Harry didn't hide his annoyance nearly as much as she tried to.

"I don't understand why we can't be told about things that obviously concern us. Or at least just you! All of this, everything…it concerns you. They should tell you! I finally understand why you always get so angry about everything!" She threw herself down on the bed in defeat.

Harry wasn't entirely sure why but he burst out laughing at the sight of her. She sat up and stared at him, looking irritated but then she too burst out laughing. Ginny picked up a pillow and threw it at him, "I think we should take Remus' advice."

"Yes, but there's just one thing I'd like to say before we do that." Harry said, grinning.

"What's that?"

"Happy Birthday, Ginny."

She glared at him and then began laughing again, "Honestly, I'd nearly forgotten after all of that."

"Well, I suppose that makes me better than you, because I didn't forget." He scoffed and quickly gave her a kiss on the cheek. He surprised himself, because it was usually she that kissed him on the cheek, but he owed it to her after everything that he unintentionally put her through.
~*~

When Harry awoke the next morning he was surprised to find that Remus had spent the night on the sofa. And much to the dismay of both Petunia and Vernon Dursley, he was planning to stay for the remainder of August (with the exception of the full moon, of course; but the Dursleys were not informed of Remus' lycanthropy). Harry had assumed that Remus had spoken to the pair about it the previous night, for when he asked his former Professor he told Harry that it was taken care of. He seemed in much better spirits than the night before, so Harry decided not to press it.

Although the Durselys were clearly displeased by the presence of the fully trained wizard in their house, they tried their best not to show it. Dudley was so terrified (for now there were three magical people at his house) that he spent every possible moment out with his gang.

For Harry and Ginny, on the other hand, the company was much more enjoyable. They finally had a connection to everything and everyone that they missed so dearly.

The Saturday following Ginny's birthday, the three of them were chatting in the sitting room, while the Dursleys were out for the afternoon. Tonks was due to stop in after her shift of guarding Privet Drive was finished.

"You said that Dumbledore was busy…" Harry had not quite figured out how to word his queries, but he was eager to know what Dumbledore was up to and why Remus had seemed not to approve of it.

"I already told you that I'm not at liberty to discuss such topics. Besides, I'm not even entirely sure what he's up to." Remus' concern for the situation was written clearly upon his face. "I do know, however," He continued after the slight pause, "that whatever it is, his intentions are…sincere."

"You don't seem too convinced." Harry stated flatly.

Remus allowed himself to laugh briefly, "I'll admit that I'm not, but this is Dumbledore we're talking about."

Despite Harry's hostility towards his headmaster, he had to agree with Remus. He knew that even Dumbledore's decision to withhold the prophecy from him, was made with good intentions.

Harry looked back up at Remus, about to ask just one more question regarding Dumbledore but Remus held up a hand. "I promise you'll find out more as soon as he sees fit; but for now, that's all I'll say on that subject."

The rest of the weeks flew by after that; they had many visits (although most of them were very brief) from various members of the Order from time to time. And before they knew it, it was the eve of September first. Harry and Ginny packed their trunks with all of their new school supplies that had been sent via Tonks just a few days prior, while Remus arranged their safe departure for Kings Cross the following morning.

Harry also made sure to pack the majority of the contents of the two boxes that he and Ginny had found in the attic. As he double and triple checked his room for things that he might have forgotten, he realized with a sinking in his stomach, that he did not have his Firebolt.

"You'll get it back once we're at Hogwarts." Ginny had reassured him.

About fifteen minutes later, they were finished. They both sat at opposite ends of Harry's bed, sharing a box of Every Flavor Beans. "So, are you happy to finally be going back?" She asked him, as she carefully selected a light yellow bean.

He took a minute to answer, "Of course. But, Ron and Hermione…" He trailed off knowing that he didn't have to finish his statement. She had become quite attune to his thinking after all this time they had spent together.

"You've got no deadline to tell them, so just take your time." She smiled reassuringly, "But don't push them away, Harry."

He sighed, "It's not like I'd do it on purpose."

"I know, and I'm sure they do by now too. You just can't forget that we're here for you, above anything else." He looked up into her warm brown eyes and it made him slightly more at east.

But her expression changed instantly as she bit her lip, as if she were contemplating whether she should tell him something. "Harry," she began, "I've just remembered that since I'm a prefect, I have to sit in the prefect's carriage and patrol corridors on the train. I'm sorry." She took to chewing her lip again.

Harry had to admit, he did forget about this. He had become so accustomed to Ginny always being there that he hadn't even think about what would happen once they returned to Hogwarts. After all, it wasn't just about her being a prefect; she was a whole year younger than him. They weren't going to be spending every hour together anymore. He pushed those thoughts away for the time being and decided that he wouldn't be difficult; it wasn't fair to be difficult.

"I'll be fine. I'm sure Neville and Luna will be around."

"But, you know I could probably sneak off for a while if you wanted. Besides, there are plenty of other Gryffindor prefects to get the job done; they wouldn't miss me very much."

Harry smiled, "You shouldn't neglect your responsibilities right away. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble because of me."

"Harry, you're way more important than being a prefect. Even if I did get reported to McGonagall or Dumbledore, what's the worst that could happen? They would understand."

Harry laughed in spite of the seriousness of this conversation, "We can probably get away with anything if we really wanted to."

Ginny raised her eyebrows amused, "What are you implying? That if we were found in a broom cupboard together, I could just say that I was merely trying to lift the Chosen One's spirits?"

Harry burst out laughing and Ginny followed. "Ginny Weasley, your mother would be horrified at such talk!" He said mockingly, but reflected that it was probably true.

"I have six older brothers Harry; she's heard worse."

"I'm sure they wouldn't be too thrilled at that idea either, would they?" Harry said before he thought it through entirely. He supposed it could have been worse; he could have voiced his opinion of the idea—which was that he definitely approved. He glanced at Ginny who stared at him as if she was trying to read his thoughts.

"I don't suppose they would." She said quietly, leaning over to select an Every Flavor Bean from the box that Harry had been holding.

Harry couldn't help but notice the loose lock of hair that fell in front of her eyes as she leaned over. He impulsively tucked it behind her ear. She abandoned her search through the box and their eyes locked. They leaned in closer and he could feel her warm breath on his face.

"Harry—" Ginny whispered, but was interrupted by a knock on the door. The two instantly jumped apart before the door opened slightly to reveal Remus.

"Everything's set for tomorrow! Two more order members and myself will be escorting you to Kings Cross. We'll take a portkey around 10:30 tomorrow morning, to a designated spot near the station and we'll walk the rest of the way to the platform." Much to Harry's relief (and probably Ginny's, as well), Remus hadn't noticed the awkwardness that was now present due to his interruption. If he had noticed, he didn't mention it.

"Harry, your aunt mentioned that she would like to speak to you before we depart tomorrow, so I suggest you get that over with now." Remus added.

"Did she say what it was about?" He couldn't imagine that she actually wanted to wish him well for his next coming year at school.

"She didn't say much. Come on, we'll all go downstairs and while you talk to your aunt, Ginny and I can have a round of chess." He smiled.

Harry sighed in resignation, and he and Ginny followed Remus out of the room. He left them in the sitting room and made his way into the kitchen. His aunt was sitting at the table, and he noticed that his mother's diaries were to her right. He took the seat opposite her, and waited for her to speak.

"I wanted to talk to you about the reason why we took you in." Aunt Petunia began to explain, but it looked as if it were difficult for her to decide what to say next. Luckily for both of them, Harry could figure out where she was going with this.

You're referring to the bond with my mum's blood, aren't you?" Harry was surprised that she was bringing it up. Upon seeing his mother's diaries he had assumed that she was just going to give them back and that would be the end of it. But he could tell she was really trying her best not to be rude to him, which was usually characteristic of their very brief conversations. He figured that as long as she could be respectful, so could he.

She nodded silently, but then continued, "That man, the one who's been staying here said that—"

"Remus." Harry cut in, almost bitterly. He couldn't help it though; he hated when both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon refused to say someone's name just because they were wizards.

"Yes, Remus said that you've been made aware that I have a brother." She said this with as little emotion as possible. He really wondered if she had communicated with him after all these years and if she hadn't, had it even bothered her in the slightest.

She decided to continue when Harry's silence made it clear that he wasn't going to respond until she gave her full account of things. "My brother, Richard was always more accepting than I, of what Lily was. That—Dumbledore man said that you would be much safer, if you grew up very far from anything involving…magic." She said the last word as if it was something disgusting.

Harry still waited for her to go on, "I already know all of this, so if that's all—"

Aunt Petunia cut in, as if she was in a rush to spit the next few words out, "I know that I have always acted as if I've hated Lily, but that isn't true."

"So you're telling me that you've been faking it for all of these years?" Harry asked, disdainfully. If she had been faking it for all that time, she was pretty convincing; but Harry didn't believe it.

"No, I was just…" She trailed off and looked down at her hands.

"Just what?" Harry persisted. He tried to keep his tone civil, but he knew it wasn't working.

"Jealous." She answered quietly. "I was jealous of perfect Lily, who had everything! Friends, brains, talent, beauty and boys!" Aunt Petunia sounded much more like herself now as she complained about her sister.

It made perfect sense to Harry, though; she hadn't ever hated Lily, she just desired everything that she had. Aunt Petunia continued her rant, "She was special! She was a witch. And I wasn't." She said this last part more quietly than the rest, but with just as much malice.

Harry stared at her incredulously for a few minutes. Her hatred for magic was not out of fear, like Harry had been lead to believe for so many years; but because she could not perform it herself. "You were jealous of my mum, because she was a witch?" He finally replied, still in disbelief.

"Yes." She said quietly. "I regret treating Lily as I did. I loved her Harry, you have to believe that."

"If you loved her so much then why have you treated me so dreadfully for all of these years?" He couldn't help keep the bitterness out of his tone. If what she was saying was true, in the event of her sister's death, wouldn't she have done whatever she could to make her nephew's life more bearable? Everything that Aunt Petunia had put him through pointed to the exact opposite.

"Vernon knew all about what she was and he was terrified! Lily always tried to reconcile with me but at the time I still resented her. It wasn't until she…died, that I finally realized how childish it all was."

Harry couldn't tell exactly, but he thought she had tears in her eyes. "You shouldn't have let what your husband thought of your sister stop you from seeing her." He stood up from his place at the table, making it clear that he was done with this conversation.

"Wait—don't forget these. She would want you to have them." He had almost forgotten about the two diaries that his aunt was now handing to him.

"Thanks." He muttered, and exited the room. When he entered the sitting room, Remus and Ginny weren't playing chess as they had planned; the two were sitting on the floor facing the door to the kitchen rolling up a long flesh colored string.

"Eavesdropping, were we?" Harry smiled in spite of his now sullen mood.

"It was Ginny's idea." Remus said innocently, holding both hands up in surrender.

Ginny's jaw dropped, "You're the one who brought the extendable ears with you in the first place!"

"Every order member has them; especially when we're on duty keeping a watch on the two of you." He added with a grin.

"I think you'd make Sirius and my dad proud." Harry couldn't help but laugh. He knew that when they were younger, Remus was always the one to make sure his fellow Marauders weren't going to cause too much trouble.

Remus chuckled, "You're probably right."

"Anyway Harry, we were just discussing your conversation—" Ginny began.

"Aren't you worried that she's going to hear us?" Harry cut in.

"Harry, don't you know how to eavesdrop? We put a silencing charm on our end of the door. We could hear you, but you couldn't hear us." Remus replied matter-of-factly.

"Are you channeling them or something?" By 'them' he meant his father and Sirius.

Remus laughed again, "I've just learned a thing or two from them, is all."

Ginny and Remus both shared their opinions of Aunt Petunia's jealousy. They had both agreed that it made perfect sense, yet Harry still couldn't understand why she would extend her resentment to him if she had felt so badly for how she had treated her sister.

"Well there was your uncle's opinion and she probably didn't want to upset him by treating you with any bit of kindness. And she never got the chance to apologize to your mum so she may have come to terms with it, but she never came clean about it." Ginny had explained.

"It certainly wasn't the right way of going about it, but it's very typical of Petunia." Remus added.

Soon after, Remus ordered the two teenagers to go to bed, for they had to wake up early the next morning.
~*~

As promised, Remus woke Harry and Ginny up early enough so that they would both have time to get the rest of their things together. Harry had not slept well, which was not unusual, but the prospect of going back to Hogwarts in just a few hours made it easier for him to drag himself out of his make-shift bed.

Harry, Ginny and Remus waited in the sitting room for Tonks and Moody to arrive. They were all relatively quiet, Harry especially. He was anxious, both to return to Hogwarts and because of the impending conversation he was inevitably going to have with Ron and Hermione.

"Are you alright, Harry?" Ginny broke the silence.

"I'm fine." Harry lied. He knew that neither of them were fooled.

"You don't have to tell anyone anything until you're ready." She reminded him yet again.

No matter how many times that anyone said it, he couldn't seem to grasp how true it was. They would all think that he was still brooding over Sirius' death, and while this was still the truth, it wasn't all of it.

"I know." His voice was nearly drowned out altogether by loud cracks that announced the arrival of the rest of their guard.

"Wotcher." Tonks said to the room at large. Her hair was her usual bubble gum pink today, but she dressed less conspicuously, as did Moody who had a bowler hat tipped down to cover his whirring magical eye.

"Hello. Aren't you going to make sure it's really us, Moody?" Harry asked wearily.

Remus chuckled and Moody nodded, "Yes of course. Potter, what did I say to you last summer about your wand when we came to retrieve you?"

Harry grinned in spite of his sullen mood. "You said I shouldn't put my wand in my pocket because you have known even fully qualified wizards that have—"

Moody waved a hand for him to stop. "That'll do Potter. Now, Weasley what is the reason why you are here this summer?"

"Professor Trelawney made another prophecy regarding my bond with Harry."

"Remus, why have you been staying here for the remainder of August?" Moody growled.

"Vernon Dursley accidentally," He glanced over at Ginny, "hit Ginny Weasley, so I stayed to make sure that her and Harry were completely safe."

"Right, let's get going then." Moody glanced at his watch, "This portkey is going to activate in two minutes; grab your belongings." The portkey was an old tattered book, which didn't seem to have a title printed on the front any longer. The five of them took hold of the book; Harry felt the familiar sensation of the activating portkey and saw Number Four Privet Drive dissolve around him.

When they reappeared they were in an alley a few blocks from Kings Cross, Remus shrunk their trunks so that they could hold them easily in the palm of their hands. It took about ten minutes to make it to Kings Cross and another five to make their way through the crowds of muggles to Platform 9 ¾ .

They quickly passed through the barrier to the magical side and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He was finally somewhere that didn't require him to pretend; he was almost home. He tapped his trunk, muttering Finite Incantantum, to return it to its original size.

"Do you know if my brother and Hermione are here yet?" Ginny looked around.

"They should be." Tonks replied, peering through the crowds.

Immediately after this exchange was made, Ron and Hermione walked off the train. Ron spotted Harry and grinned. Ginny grabbed Harry's hand reassuringly, as Hermione ran at the pair of them, full speed catching them in a hug at the same time.

"It's great to see you!" She beamed at them both. Harry realized that he couldn't stop grinning and was relieved that his anxiety from before wasn't making itself known. He feared that it would return but he didn't have much time to linger on that thought as Ron came over and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Good to see you, mate. My sister didn't drive you too crazy, did she?" It was almost as if Ron was hoping that Harry would say yes.

"Occasionally," He grinned at her, but then admitted, "Actually, Ginny's been my rock."

Ron's face fell slightly, "Oh, well, that's—er great." Hermione elbowed him in a not so subtle manner.

"Come on Harry," She said taking his hand again. "Let's go say hello to my mum and dad." They walked off to where her parents were conversing with their guard.

"Ron didn't seem too thrilled." Harry noted.

"He's just jealous that I'm stealing his best friend from him." She said, sticking her tongue out at him.

Mrs. Weasley was overjoyed to see them and engulfed them both in hugs countless times. She fussed over how skinny they both were and began to cry when she had to say goodbye.

"Mum, we'll be home for Christmas!" Ginny reassured her.

"Oh I know, but I haven't seen either of you in months and now I have to say goodbye so soon." Mrs. Weasley hugged both of her children as well as Harry and Hermione, one last time and they began to walk back towards the bright red steam engine.

Remus pulled Harry to the side, "Tonks just told me that she found the other mirror in Sirius' old room while I was staying with you. Moody was able to fix yours as well." Reaching into his pocket, he handed Harry the previously shattered mirror.

"If you need anything at all, even if it's just to talk, don't hesitate to call on the mirror. And there's one other thing." He reached into his pocket once again and took out a square parcel covered in brown paper. "The note in there explains it. Be careful Harry, and don't dwell on anything too much, okay?" He added very seriously.

"You too." Harry returned, and Remus pulled Harry into a fatherly hug.

When Harry boarded the train it didn't take him long to find Ginny, Ron and Hermione. They were in the corridor talking to Neville and Luna; their conversation ended abruptly when they spotted Harry. He glanced at each of their faces, trying to read if they were talking about him. Ron and Hermione avoided his stare, but Neville and Luna were as friendly as ever. Harry sighed inwardly.

"Hi, Harry." Neville greeted him.

"Hi Neville, Hello Luna." Harry replied, "How were your summers?"

"It wasn't very eventful, but I can't complain." Neville answered.

"My father and I went looking for crumple-horned snorkacks. We had a great time!" Harry couldn't help but smile at Luna; she was one of the most interesting people he knew; she never cared what anyone thought of her, no matter how odd she came off as.

Hermione began to laugh, but quickly covered it up with a coughing fit.

"Well, we better go look for a compartment. Come on Harry. We'll see you later." Ginny said as she began to lead him down the corridor.

"Er...Ginny, you just finished telling us that you're a prefect, so you have to sit with the rest of us." Ron began.

"I know." Ginny continued down the corridor, opening a door here and there, finding them already occupied and Ron and Hermione followed.

One particular occupant of a compartment made Harry stop. Inside was a girl that looked about their age, but he had never seen her before; she had long, straight black hair. When she realized someone was standing in the doorway, she looked up.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Harry said quickly and they moved on.

"Who was she? I've never seen her before." Ron stated after they were well out of earshot.

"Me either, but her eyes, they looked so familiar." Harry said contemplatively.

"Her eyes? You've seen her eyes, but not her?" Ron asked him in confusion.

"No, somebody else has those eyes." Harry explained. Ron still looked at him puzzled but they didn't get a chance to discuss it further, for Ginny had found an empty compartment. They stored their trunks safely and sat down.

"We should probably head over to the prefect's compartment." Hermione stated.

"You two go ahead, I'll come in few minutes."

"Ginny you have to come, it's your—" Hermione was cut off.

"Gin, just go, I'll see you later." Harry said irritably, and glared at Hermione.

"Just don't take too long, Ginny. Come on Hermione." Ron said taking her arm and pulling her out. He had been quicker than Hermione this time, and Harry was grateful.

When Harry was sure they were out of earshot he turned to Ginny, "Are they scared of me or something? They've barely said a word to me." He sounded very angry.

"Harry, they don't know how to act around you. Give them a little time."

"Why did Hermione want to rush off to the prefect's compartment so quickly? Do I look like I will break the moment they talk to me?" He went on heatedly.

There was silence as she stared at him, the answer evident in her eyes.

"I do, don't I?" He said quietly.

"Well...maybe to them. But not to me." She replied and pulled him into a hug. He felt so estranged when it came to Ron and Hermione, but it was completely different with Ginny, which was so new to him.

"I guess you should go now." He said after a few minutes. And then he added seeing her look of protest, "No...I'm sure. I'll see you later."

Ginny left the compartment and Harry was alone for the first time since she arrived at Privet Drive; Neville and Luna had said that they would find him later. Tired of the silence and boredom after mere minutes, Harry decided to see what was in the parcel that Remus had given him. He unwrapped the brown paper slowly, uncovering a note covering an image on a picture frame. The note read:

Harry,

Sirius left this just in case something happened to him. He wanted you to have it. I hope it will help, but remember it is not really him, just an imprint. Take care, see you soon.

Remus

Harry removed the note to find a small portrait of Sirius, which looked just as he had the last time Harry had seen him. Tears rose to his eyes, as he became overwhelmed with emotion. The portrait was sleeping soundly within its frame and Harry was hesitant on waking him.

"Sirius." Harry said quietly. Nothing happened, so he said it again.

The portrait Sirius yawned, and slowly opened his eyes. "Harry!" Harry was speechless. He hadn't thought of what to say.

"You okay, you look like you've seen a ghost or something." The portrait Sirius looked concerned.

'Does he know?' Harry thought to himself.

"Right, you're talking to the portrait of your dead godfather, that's bound to be strange. I'm not really used to this yet." The portrait Sirius said, but grinning as if trying to reassure Harry.

"Neither am I." Harry admitted. There was a short silence until Harry added, "I miss you terribly."

"I'm sorry I didn't listen to Snape...I should have known better. I'm sorry for leaving you, Harry."

"It's not your fault. And it's not mine either." He said the last bit more to himself.

"Why would you ever think it was your fault?" The portrait asked him, concerned.

"I've been trying to convince myself that it isn't. Ginny's been helping me."

"Ginny? Got a thing for her, do you?" Portrait-Sirius said raising his eyebrow, with a mischievous grin. "You Potters and your red heads…" He added, shaking his head.

Harry couldn't help but blush. "Shut up..."

Time passed much quicker than Harry would have imagined, as he filled Portrait-Sirius in about his summer. He was so like the real Sirius, and Harry had to keep reminding himself that he still wasn't alive. The more he talked to him, the more it made him ache for the real Sirius; it wasn't easy. Portrait-Sirius seemed to realize this and said,

"Harry I can see this is still very hard for you, so you can put me in your trunk for a while, I promise I won't mind."

"Are you sure, I—"

After making sure it was perfectly fine with Portrait-Sirius, (who said he wouldn't mind at all for, he would just sleep) Harry safely tucked it into his trunk.

With lack of anything else to do, Harry decided to change into his robes. After, he sat on the bench looking out the window at the passing countryside. He didn't know how long he sat there, but was interrupted by a soft knock on the compartment door. He was surprised that anyone would actually knock, so he slid the door open to see who it was.

To Harry's astonishment, it was the mysterious girl with the grey eyes. "Er...hello. You haven't seen a kitten have you? She escaped when someone opened my compartment door." She looked nervous as she asked him.

Harry noticed that she had a slight British accent, but not nearly as prominent as everyone else he knew. "No, I haven't, sorry. But if I do, I'll let you know."

"Thanks. I'm Cassidy by the way."

"I'm Harry. Nice to meet you. Er...what does your cat look like, so then I know what to look for."

"Oh, well she's a magical cat that changes colors...a meta-meta..."

"Metamorphagus? A friend of mine is one. I didn't know there were animals like that." He made a note to ask Tonks about it the next time he saw her.

"I didn't know there were people like that! But I'm new to this world, so I really don't know much." She shrugged her shoulders, and smiled nervously.

"I know how you feel." He muttered.

"Well, I should keep looking for her, thanks for your help. I'll see you around I suppose." And with that Harry was alone again.
~*~
Ginny sat in the prefect's compartment, Hermione on one side, and Colin who was the other 5th year Gryffindor prefect on her other. The Head Boy and Girl were speaking to them, and Ginny wasn't paying much attention; her mind kept wandering to Harry. Everyone in the compartment stood up; she hadn't realized that they were each given an assignment of what corridor to patrol

"Did you pay attention at all, Ginny?" Colin asked with a smirk. Colin and Ginny had become very good friends since the beginning of her second year. He was able to accept Ginny despite the many mistakes she had made the previous year; she was very grateful for his friendship.

Ginny blushed, "Was it that obvious? I just had more important things on my mind."

"Oh? Would these more important things have to do with someone with 'eyes as green as a fresh pickled toad'?" Colin asked and then burst into laughter.

Ginny glared at him, "As a matter of fact, yes, but not in that way."

"Oh, really? I saw you holding his hand before." He said smirking again.

"We are friends, and nothing more. Now I have to go see how he is. I don't care about patrolling corridors. See you later, Colin!" She replied as she started towards the compartment where she left Harry.

"Of course, I'll cover for you Ginny!" He laughed at her retreating form.

She glanced back one more time, "Oh and for the record, it was Fred and George who came up with that horrible singing Valentine!"

When she arrived at the compartment that she left him in, she found Harry lying on his back, hands behind his head staring at the ceiling, already in full Hogwarts uniform. She lifted up his feet and sat down, replacing them on her lap.

"Shouldn't you be patrolling a corridor or something?" Harry asked her sounding as unconcerned as she felt about the matter.

"Colin's covering for me."

"Where are Ron and Hermione?" Harry asked, clearly trying to hide his longing for them to be there.

"I didn't wait up for them...do you think I should have?" She said a bit guiltily.

"I dunno...they should have come here themselves if they'd cared enough." He said a bit bitterly.

"Harry, don't be ridiculous, you know they do. They just need—"

"Time to adjust to me, yeah you've said that already. But don't you think the whole bloody summer is long enough?" She sighed, it was impossible to change his mind right now.

But she smiled almost smugly as the compartment door slid open to reveal the two in question. However, the smile was quickly removed from her face when she saw the guilty expressions that they both wore; apparently they had overheard Harry's short outburst.

"We didn't mean to give you the impression that we don't care." Tears were swimming in Hermione's eyes. "I'm so sorry."

"I'm sorry too, you just seemed so closed off…" Ron trailed off.

"I won't break...or explode. You're probably more concerned about the latter happening because that's what I did last time." Harry replied calmly, now sitting up.

"So...er...how have you been?" Ron began again.

Harry shrugged his shoulders, "Still healing, but if it wasn't for Ginny I would be a lot worse. She kept me together, as best she could." He glanced at Ginny as he said the last sentence, making her smile slightly.

Hermione wiped her eyes, as the tears fell. Ron glanced between the two of them and Ginny could only guess that it was beginning to bother him that his best friend had formed such a close relationship with his little sister. She imagined that if circumstances were different he would try to prevent it as best he could.

"I still miss him terribly though." Harry said after the slight pause.

"Of course you do." Hermione sniffled, as she enveloped Harry in a hug, and Ron and Ginny followed.

"Oh isn't this nice!" The sneering voice was impossible to not immediately recognize. Malfoy and his two troll like cronies, Crabbe and Goyle were standing in the doorway of their compartment. Malfoy's features were arranged in a haughty expression; while Crabbe and Goyle looked on stupidly.

"Get out Malfoy!" Ron said angrily.

"No, I haven't had my fun yet, Weasel."

"If I were you, I would, unless you want me to use the Bat Bogey Hex." Ginny said nastily.

Ignoring Ginny, Malfoy went on, "So, Potter...did you have a nice summer? Or were you crying over your good for nothing godfather every waking moment?"

Harry nearly pounced on Malfoy ready to pummel him, but Ron, Hermione, and Ginny pulled him back. Harry struggled against the three of them but could not escape their grasp. "You better get out now, if you know what's good for you!" Harry seethed.

"Ooooh, I'm really scared!" Malfoy said in a mock worried tone. Crabbe and Goyle snickered stupidly.

Ginny let go of Harry, and pulled out her wand. She put it within inches of Malfoy's face. "Now." She said as calmly as possible, but all of the anger evident in her threatening stare.

Malfoy was about to reply, but Ginny didn't let him, she raised her fist about to punch him, but he was quicker than she expected; he grabbed her arm tightly and began to twist it back down towards her side, as hard as he could, making Ginny wince.

Harry's struggled against Ron and Hermione was instantly won as he slammed into Malfoy, removing him from the compartment with much force. He pinned him against the wall next to the compartment door, "If you EVER touch her again, you will NEVER live to see another day!" Harry reentered the compartment, slamming the door in the bewildered Slytherins' faces.

"Wow...I've seen you angry before, mate, but not like that." Ron said sounding very much impressed.

"Didn't that make you angry at all?" Harry asked Ron, a bit exasperatedly.

"Of courses I did, but you acted so quickly, that I didn't get a chance to er...how should I put this? Attack?" Ron replied, laughter rising in his voice.

Harry grinned half heartedly in response.

"Not that I don't think he deserved that, Harry, but don't forget Draco is still a prefect, and if he wanted to he could get you in a lot of trouble." Hermione reminded him.

"I don't really care if I get in trouble...I've got more important things on my mind." Ginny glanced at him, after his clear reference to the prophecy. He looked like he was mentally kicking himself, but he saved himself by quickly adding, "He's still a prefect? Even after everything he pulled last year?"

"Yes, unfortunately that's not for us to decide. Snape insisted that he's still responsible enough to uphold his duties." Hermione said exasperatedly. Much to Ginny's relief, and also Harry's, Hermione had not made a comment about his other statement.

Harry's eyes narrowed in disgust, "Dumbledore allowed Snape to make that call?"

Hermione looked as if she was going to respond, but their conversation was quickly ended by the arrival of Neville and Luna. "Did something happen in here, with Malfoy?" Neville asked as he took a seat next to Ron.

"Yes...he was just being Malfoy, and Harry got—" Hermione began.

"Out of control." Harry finished quietly and almost as if he didn't care.

"I wasn't going to say that." Hermione told him, wounded.

"I know, but it's true." Harry said, and began looking out the window again.

"I don't think you were out of control." Ginny said quietly, looking in his eyes for the first time since the incident a few minutes before. The conversation around them changed to other topics and neither of them paid attention.

Harry looked back at her, "You mean it?"

"Harry, that was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me."

"It wasn't much..." He looked down at his hands.

"No, but it was sweet." She said smiling.

"Wouldn't you consider saving your life much nicer?" He turned to look at her.

"Well...that was more...noble. This time it was more because you care about me; because we're friends." She told him. "Thanks Harry."

"Anytime. Thanks for standing up for me too."

"No problem...but I'm disappointed." She pretended to pout, "I really did want to punch him!" She added impishly.

"So is there anything going on between them?" Neville inquired quietly, nodding towards Harry and Ginny who were talking inaudibly to one another.

"Not that we know of, but I suppose it's possible." Hermione responded, smiling. She didn't think it had happened yet, but she was pretty sure that it was very likely in the near future.

"Well if there isn't anything going on now, there will be soon." Luna said distantly. Hermione was surprised at how close Luna's comment was to Hermione's own thoughts.

"And what about you two?" Neville asked grinning.

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked, ears turning scarlet. Hermione's face was also a stunning shade of red.

She glanced at Ron out of the corner of her eyes, and noticed that he was doing the same. Hermione's fading blush crept back into her cheeks and she returned her gaze to her hands. Since Harry hadn't been around during the summer, Ron and Hermione got to spend a lot more time being alone together, and although they had not yet made it official, their relationship was definitely going beyond friendship. They had both agreed not to tell anyone just yet.

Neville and Luna began laughing, obviously at the embarrassment of their friends.

The rest of the train ride was peaceful and went rather quickly, without any more visits from Malfoy or any mysterious girls. Before they knew it they were in Hogsmeade Station. The six friends made their way off the train and headed towards the carriages pulled by thestrals.

Harry patted the thestral on its head before getting into the carriage. The ride towards the castle was very quiet. When they arrived, Harry stepped out of the carriage and looked at the towering castle.

"Are you going to be all right?" Ginny asked, slipping her arm through his, before they continued.

"I think so." He smiled to assure her. They continued walking up the steps to the giant oak doors into another year at Hogwarts.

A/N: Ten points to whoever guesses whose eyes Cassidy's resemble. :)


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