Chapter 27 : O.W.L.'s and Surprises
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“That was great everyone. Thank you. We’ll see each other next year.” Harry said.
It was the end of the last DA meeting of the year. The next week, fifth and seventh years would already start O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams and the other years would start their own exams not much later. None of the DA members seemed to be in a hurry to leave however, and they all hung out in the Room of Requirement for a while.
After they had been chatting for a while, Seamus suddenly said: “What if something happens during the holidays?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“Well, if the Death Eaters attack somewhere during the summer… I know we’re not going to fight all the time, but if there is an attack and one of us is in danger. We should have a way to warn each other, right? Owls are too slow.”
“You’re right.” Harry said. “But I don’t know…” He looked helplessly over to Hermione.
“I already thought of that.” Hermione said.
“Of course you did.” Colin Creevey grinned.
Hermione gave him a warning look before she said: “I have been working on a variation of the Protean Charm. You know the one I used on the coins? I think I might alter them so we can send each other small messages.”
“But there is no known variation on the Protean Charm, is there?” Michael Corner asked. He looked at the other Ravenclaws who all shook their heads.
“Well, no.” Hermione admitted. “I kind of – you know – invented it myself.”
She reddened slightly when they all watched her with open mouths.
“You invented your own spell?” Fred asked weakly.
“Well it wouldn’t be the first time.” Harry said. “You discovered that four point spell last year. But this is far more advanced, isn’t it?”
“It’s not really a new spell.” Hermione said modestly. “I just changed the formula a bit. And I’m not even sure it will work.”
“Of course it will.” Ginny said confidently. “You’re absolutely brilliant Hermione.
The others nodded agreeingly.
“We should have a place where we can get together outside of Hogwarts too.” Ron said slowly. “I mean if something happens over the summer and we need to get together, we won’t be able to get into the Room of Requirement. We should have a fixed place where we can meet safely before we do something. Even when that charm of Hermione’s works, we will only be able to send very short messages.”
“What about Grimmauld Place?” Ginny asked.
Ron nodded, but Harry shook his head.
“Not everyone can get in there. The only fireplace that’s connected to the Floo Network of Grimmauld Place is The Burrow. For obvious reasons. Otherwise anyone could get in.”
“Hogsmeade?” Parvati proposed.
“Too dangerous. It would be kind of suspicious if we suddenly turned up with all of us in the Three Broomsticks during the holidays.” Hermione said.
“What about the Shrieking Shack then?” Ron offered.
“I’m not going into the Shrieking Shack!” Lavender said immediately.
“It’s too dangerous anyway.” Hermione said. “Wormtail knew how to get in there. He probably told Voldemort. Don’t you think it would seem like a good hiding place for the Death Eaters?”
Harry nodded. “Well, I’ll talk to Dumbledore about it. Maybe he’ll know something.”
“It’s 10.30h.” Hermione pointed out. “We broke curfew again.”
“You’re going to have to give us detention, Hermione.” George smirked.
“Otherwise we’re never going to learn.” Fred added.
It became quickly clear that the last D.A. meeting was the last fun they would have for a very long time. All that was happening in their lives was studying right now. Harry had one last lesson with Dumbledore planned on Thursday. His last lesson with Snape had already passed. Harry could push Snape out of his mind now if he tried to invade it and he had learned a lot of useful spells from him too. The only thing that still troubled him was Legilimency. Snape had told him that he definitely had an aptitude for it, but he just needed practice. He already promised him to try and come by Grimmauld Place as much as he could to continue his lessons.
When Harry met with Dumbledore for his last lesson, he was disappointed to hear his headmaster hadn’t found the time yet to search for the rest of the Horcruxes. Apparently there had been a lot of problems at the Ministry lately, because it had been infiltrated by several Death Eaters and Scrimgeour seemed to count on Dumbledore to clean up his mess. Therefore, there wasn’t really new information for them to discuss and they just talked about the investigation of the Aurors and the progress of Dumbledore’s Army. Dumbledore seemed to be extremely pleased about the latter.
Right before Harry would leave, he suddenly remembered something he needed to ask Dumbledore. “Professor, could I ask you something?”
“You just did, Harry.” Dumbledore said and Harry smiled involuntarily when he thought of the memory of his first year. “Go ahead.”
“Actually, it was something Ron said at our final meeting.” Harry said. “We were talking about communicating with each other over the summer in case one of us was in danger. Ron said that we should have a place outside of Hogwarts where we can meet safely. We thought of Grimmauld Place of course, but well, no one can get in there except for members of the Order.”
Dumbledore nodded. “That is quite perceptive of Mr Weasley.” he said. “And as for sending each other messages…?”
“Oh, Hermione already took care of that.” Harry said. He quickly explained about the Protean Charm and the alterations Hermione managed to make. Dumbledore looked genuinely impressed.
“Very impressive.” he mumbled. “Very clever indeed. Of course Miss Granger is one of the cleverest students Hogwarts has seen in decades. But still…”
Harry smiled to himself as he thought of what Hermione’s face would look like if she had heard the headmaster.
“So you have already overcome that problem.” Dumbledore said. “As for the second part, may I suggest the Hog’s Head?”
“The Hog’s Head?” Harry asked surprised. “We thought of Hogsmeade, but we thought it would be suspicious if a large group of students suddenly appeared there during the holidays.”
“Indeed it would.” Dumbledore said. “But you could use the Floo Network or apparate directly into the bar for those of you who can. The Hog’s Head is rarely full and those who go there never ask many questions.”
“But still...” Harry said slowly. “It’s kind of public, isn’t it?”
“Well yes, but I am sure the owner can provide you with private quarters, if needed." Dumbledore said. “He won’t mind.” he added when Harry wanted to interrupt.
“You know him well?”
“We are quite familiar, yes.”
“Well, I guess that will be it then." Harry said, still not really sure about the whole idea.
“Great. I will ask Aberforth myself, but I don’t think he’ll have any problems with it. He can be a bit blunt, but he’s a good man.”
“Aberforth?” Harry asked, remembering the name Dumbledore had mentioned once before. “Wasn’t he – ?”
“My brother, yes.”
The next two weeks were dominated by the exams. The first exam for the fifth years on Monday would be Charms. When they entered the Great Hall where the theoretical part of the exam would take place, they saw that the staff table and the house tables had disappeared and were replaced by dozens of small tables for the students to take their exams.
Although he never suffered much of school-related stress, Harry felt slightly nervous when Professor McGonagall handed out the exams.
All the fifth years turned over their parchments simultaneously as Professor McGonagall told them they could start and turned around the giant hourglass that stood in front of them. Harry breathed out slowly and started to read the first question:
How does the Protean Charm work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
Harry quickly glanced at Hermione who was seated two seats in front of him on the left. He saw that she was already smiling at him knowingly. He smiled back, turned back to his parchment and started to write.
After the first week had passed, Harry was relatively content about his exams. Charms had been quite easy for him, as was Care of Magical Creatures. Divination had been a disaster of course, but Herbology and Astronomy had gone fairly well.
They still had four exams left after the weekend and the first two were the worst. Professor McGonagall had told him which N.E.W.T.’s he needed to get into Auror training and Potions and Transfiguration were two of them. He would need at least an Exceeds Expectations to get into McGonagall’s N.E.W.T. class and he knew he didn’t receive that mark from her much. Potions seemed to be the biggest problem. Despite the fact that Snape had been much more lenient towards Harry, he still refused to let anyone into his N.E.W.T. class who didn’t receive an Outstanding on his O.W.L.. Harry’s potion making skills had improved drastically, thanks to a lot of useful hints from Snape, but he still didn’t quite reach that level.
Monday evening after their Potions exam, the Gryffindors were complaining loudly in the common room. Even if the exam hadn’t been made by Snape, it still was one of the hardest, probably the hardest, they had had so far. Harry didn’t say much. His exam had gone surprisingly well and he was silently hoping he managed to get that O.
Transfiguration made him a lot less optimistic the next day. He managed to succeed in all the assignments during the practical exam, but he knew he had made several small mistakes. His examiner seemed to be unsure of his judgement until they came to the part of animal transfiguration.
“Now Mr Potter, if you would please transfigure this book into a small animal? Your choice.” the examiner said.
Harry pointed his wand and quickly looked over at Malfoy who just started his practical exam next to them. He knew Malfoy hadn’t really done anything to him lately, but he just couldn’t resist. “Viverra Mutatio!”
The examiner clapped into his hands enthusiastically as he watched the white ferret scurry around.
“Very good, Mr Potter! Very fine, indeed!”
Malfoy seemed a little less approving.
History of Magic the next day was another disaster, as was to be expected. The last exam was the only exam Harry had full confidence in and he actually looked forward to: Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Harry never thought he would ever enjoy an exam, but the practical part in the afternoon was rather a piece of cake. Various DA members were doing their practical exam at the same time as Harry and he was proud to see that they had little to no difficulties with the spells. Harry had taught them much more advanced magic during their meetings, way beyond O.W.L. level.
The end of the exams brought an exuberant atmosphere into Gryffindor common room that night. The next day they would return home for the holidays, but that night the common room finally hosted one of those famous Gryffindor parties again.
Harry and Ginny sat down on the couch and discussed their plans for the holidays. Seeing as the Death Eaters were openly showing themselves, they probably wouldn’t be able to leave the house at all for two months, but the fact that the Weasleys were staying at Grimmauld Place made a big difference. He wouldn’t be separated from Ginny at all this summer.
His eyes were drawn to the entrance of the common room when the portrait of the Fat Lady opened. He was surprised to see Albus Dumbledore climbing through the portrait hole. The noise in the common room ceased at once. The only teacher who they had ever seen in the common room was Professor McGonagall and she was head of Gryffindor. The fact that the headmaster was there now couldn’t mean good news and that foreboding wasn’t negated by the solemn look on Dumbledore’s face. Seamus Finnigan quickly stuffed two bottles of Firewhiskey under the cushions of an armchair.
“I am sorry to disturb you everyone. Harry, could you come with me for a moment please?”
Harry slowly stood from the couch and followed Dumbledore outside. His first thought was that Dumbledore had found another hiding place of a Horcrux and had fetched him to go and get it, but the troubled look in his headmaster's eyes confused him.
“I do not really know how to tell you this, Harry, but I do not have much time.” Dumbledore said. “Grimmauld Place is currently under attack.”
“What?” Harry asked. “What do you mean under attack? It’s protected by a Fidelius Charm.”
“I do not know how, but I received a Patronus from Remus Lupin ten minutes ago. Hagrid, Minerva and Nymphadora have already left to help them there. I need to leave too.”
“I need to go.” Harry said immediately.
Dumbledore sighed, but Harry knew he had expected him to say that. “I told you this because I thought you and the Weasleys should know as your families are there, but you will be safe here, Harry.”
“I don’t care.” Harry said stubbornly.
“Alright then.” Dumbledore sighed again. “But we cannot use the Floo Powder. We will take a Portkey from my office. Go fetch your friends.”
“My – my friends, sir?”
“Yes, Dumbledore’s Army.” Dumbledore said. “They will not thank you for it if you go there without them, Harry. I give you the choice to do what you think is best. You should not deprive them from the same choice.”
“But most of them don’t know anyone who lives there right now.” Harry said. “Why would they come?”
“Do it, Harry. Quickly.”
Harry looked at his headmaster for a moment and nodded. He jumped back into the common room and ran over to Ron, Hermione and Ginny.
“Harry, what’s wrong?” Ginny asked anxiously.
“They’re attacking Grimmauld Place, the Death Eaters.” Harry said quickly. “I have to go and help them. You guys can come if you want. You don’t have to.”
But the three of them had already jumped up and were making their way out of the common room, calling Fred and George on the way out. Lee Jordan immediately followed them.
“Grimmauld Place?” Neville asked. “Your house?”
Harry nodded and Neville walked towards him. “I’m coming with you.”
He was immediately joined by the rest of the fifth years and Alicia and Katie.
Harry looked at them surprised. “You all want to come?” he asked.
“Of course, you prat.” Seamus said. “Let’s go!”
Harry thought of resisting for a moment, but he immediately knew it wouldn’t help.
“How are we getting there?” Katie asked.
“Portkey.” Harry said. “Dumbledore’s arranging it.”
He quickly left the common room with the rest of the DA members from Gryffindor in his wake. They were watched leaving by the other students admiringly, sometimes enviously.
“Good, there you are.” Dumbledore said relieved. “Let’s go, quickly.”
Crossing the seventh floor towards Dumbledore’s office, Harry said to Hermione: “Shouldn’t we send a message to the rest? Luna would probably want to come.”
“Already did.” Hermione said. “And they’re all coming. The only one that didn’t respond was Zacharias.”
“Weaseled out, did he?” Dean said.
“Hey!” Ron and Ginny shouted together.
When they arrived at the gargoyle that led to Dumbledore’s office, the rest of the DA were already waiting for them.
“Zacharias?” Ron asked.
“He didn’t see the message and we didn’t tell him what was going on.” Ernie responded. “He’s – er – he’s not feeling too well.”
Harry raised his eyebrows at Justin. Justin grinned and mouthed ‘drunk’ to him.
“What about Colin and Dennis?” Luna said as they entered the office.
“Oh they had already gone to bed.” Hermione said. “We didn’t actually think about it… Should we have woken them?”
“Well, it’s too late now. We don’t have time.” Harry said.
He was secretly happy about it. He didn’t want Dennis fighting Death Eaters just yet if he could help it.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore had taken two books from his desk and gestured everyone to gather around him.
“Portus.” he said as he tapped both books. “This will take us to the highest bedroom of Grimmauld Place so we won’t appear in the middle of fighting. Before we go, I want to say that I truly appreciate that you are all here, but I have to ask you not to take unnecessary risks. Our primary concern is to protect each other and the inhabitants of Grimmauld Place.”
They all nodded and lay their finger on one of the books.
“Everyone ready? Three, two, one…”
Harry felt the familiar pull behind his navel and they were transported instantly to Grimmauld Place. They landed in a bedroom where the floor was covered in feathers.
“Didn’t Buckbeak stay here?” Harry asked Dumbledore.
“I did not think of that, to be honest.” Dumbledore said apologetically. He looked at the open door. “Seems like he left.”
“Buckbeak? Wasn’t that the Hippogriff that attacked Malfoy back in third year?” Seamus asked as they made their way to the door.
“Yeah, long story.” Harry said.
“Oh dear.” Dumbledore muttered as they came into the hallway.
Buckbeak had apparently cornered two Death Eaters who were searching the house and they were both cowering against the wall at the end of the hallway.
“This way, quickly.”
He led them to the staircase and they descended the stairs following the noise coming from downstairs. It became quickly clear that the fighting took place in the living room.
Dumbledore walked straight through the open door without a hint of fear or cautiousness with an anxious Harry in his wake. Dumbledore immediately took out four Death Eaters with one spell.
“It’s him!” one of the masked men shouted in panic and without another word he jumped out of the nearest window.
Harry saw Sirius battling a giant blond Death Eater who had pulled of his mask and he quickly jumped to his aid.
“About time!” Sirius shouted as they took the Death Eater on two against one.
“You mean you didn’t expect me to stay safely at Hogwarts?” Harry asked. “Protego!”
“Stupefy!” Sirius shouted. The red beam of light missed the Death Eater by an inch.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry shouted. The Death Eater’s wand flew into Harry’s outstretched hand.
“Incarcerous!” and the Death Eater was bound in robes and fell down. “You’re a Potter.” Sirius said simply. “I would have been baffled if you stayed safely at Hogwarts.”
They saw Regulus laying in a pool of blood by the fireplace and a hairy man scurried over to him on all fours.
“What is he doing?” Harry asked puzzled, but Sirius was already hurrying over to them.
“Greyback!” he shouted.
The man – if it was a man, he didn’t seem to be quite human – growled and turned around.
“Impedimenta!” and Greyback was thrown backwards over two people duelling viciously.
“Stupefy!” the masked person of the two said and the other, who Harry now recognized as Sturgis Podmore fell . The Death Eater pulled of her mask and Harry recognized her immediately.
“Well well, if it isn’t my two dearest cousins.” Bellatrix sneered. “You don’t look so good Regulus. Surely you knew you were choosing the losing side when you defected?”
Sirius attacked immediately. “Sectumsempra!”
Bellatrix jumped out of the way and her smile faded. “You dare use such spells, dear Sirius? Taken a fancy to our magic at last?”
“You’re insane.” Sirius growled. “Stupefy!”
Bellatrix blocked him and smirked again. “You can’t win from me, cousin. You never could and you never will. I think your time has come. Avada Kedavra!”
“No!” Harry shouted. He jumped towards Sirius and they both crashed into the ground on top of each other. Bellatrix’ killing curse skimmed over their heads and hit the wall, a few inches of James’ and Lily’s portrait.
Hermione’s voice came from nowhere and Bellatrix was thrown backwards in the same direction as Greyback.
“Thanks” Harry muttered.
“Bloody noble Potters.” Sirius mumbled. “You could have been killed.”
“So could you.” Harry rebuted.
Sirius slowly started to grin, but then –
“Quickly behind that couch!” he shouted.
The three of them jumped behind the couch as two more Killing curses came their way. The two short Death Eaters – they looked like brother and sister – came their way, but were taken out by Cho and Luna.
“Nice one.” Sirius said, receiving a sweet smile from Luna that seemed to threw him of his balance for a bit.
They looked around them and saw that the fight was almost over. A lot of the Death Eaters had fled when Dumbledore arrived. Harry saw Ron take out the final Death Eater with a well-timed stunning spell and he quickly bound him so he couldn’t escape too.
“Where’s Bellatrix?” Sirius said.
“She’s gone.” Dumbledore said walking over to them. “She fled the moment she saw me.”
“Bloody coward.” Sirius grumbled.
“If she was brave she wouldn’t be a Death Eater.” Lupin said calmly while Tonks and Mrs Weasley were taking care of Regulus. Harry and Sirius kneeled beside them.
“Will he be alright?” Harry asked with a look at the white, concerned face of his godfather.
“He’ll be fine.” Mrs Weasley reassured them. “But he has lost a lot of blood. He will have to rest for a while.”
“How did they get in?” Ron asked sharply. “The Fidelius Charm didn’t just stop working. We must have been betrayed. Who is the Secret Keeper?”
“I am, Mr Weasley.” Dumbledore said calmly.
Ron turned red immediately. “But – but then, how?” he stammered.
“A question I have asked myself also.” Dumbledore said, turning to Sirius, but it was Bill that answered him.
“The Floo Network.” he said. “They used the Floo Network.”
Harry frowned. That was impossible, wasn’t it? You could Floo out of Grimmauld Place, but the only place from where you could Floo in was…
“The Burrow.” Dumbledore said, just as Harry reached the same conclusion. “We didn’t turn off the Floo connection with the Burrow after the Weasleys moved in here.”
Sirius cursed loudly. “I’ll do it immediately.”
He left the living room and they heard him descend the stairs towards the kitchen.
“So they got into the Burrow?” Molly asked weakly. She and Tonks had just returned from bringing Regulus to his bedroom.
“I am afraid so.” Dumbledore said. “I am very sorry, Molly.”
“The important thing is that we weren’t there.” Arthur stated, putting an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “We’re all safe here now. They won’t be able to get in again.”
Meanwhile Harry was already checking up on all the DA members. He was extremely relieved to see that all of them were unharmed, accept for some scratches and bruises. After he had made sure everyone would be fine he turned back to Dumbledore.
“Why did they attack?” he asked. “They knew I wouldn’t be here.”
Dumbledore quickly glanced at the other DA members before he answered and Harry knew he was wondering how much he had told them.
“I think they wanted to drive you out of here. Voldemort wants you to think you’re not safe here. He wants you out in the open so he can finish this.”
He seemed to thinking for a minute before he said: “He wants to finish this before you get stronger. I think he is more afraid of you than you are of him, Harry.”
A long silence followed. “What?” Harry asked, half laughing. “Why would he be afraid of me? He’s one of the most powerful wizards in the world. I’m not even sixteen years old yet.”
“Age plays a small role when it comes to power, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “Just as small as ancestry does. You survived when he tried to kill you as a baby and he has been trying to get to you ever since. You stopped him from stealing the Philosopher’s Stone when you were only eleven years old... There is something about you, Harry, that Voldemort does not understand, nor match. And I am fairly confident that that will be the reason of his demise.”
Harry looked around him at his friends and family and saw they were all looking at him with a mixture of pride and awe. “But still”, he said stubbornly. “I’m not nearly as powerful as he is.”
“Oh you have a power, Harry, that exceeds all the powers Voldemort has combined.” Dumbledore said earnestly. “That power has saved your life on numerous occasions. It saved Sirius’ life when he was caught and it saved Ginny’s life in the Chamber of Secrets.”
“What power?” Harry asked puzzled.
“Love, Harry.” Sirius said from the doorway. “Love.”
“Love is not the opposite of power. Love IS power. Love is the strongest power there is” – Vironika Tugaleva
A/N: So this is the final chapter of this story. I know the story isn’t finished, but I decided to start a new story, so this one wouldn’t get stretched out too much. The new story will be titled ‘This Is The End’ and as the title says it will lead up to the final confrontation with Voldemort.
I want to thank all of you who read this story and especially those who left kind reviews. I hope you stay with me for the sequel and I hope you like it too.
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