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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 25 : Autumn in December
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 19


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A/N Please don't hate me. : D Kyle


Chapter 25: Autumn in December


The next three days sped by in a whirlwind of visitors and laughter. By the end of their third evening it was Christmas Eve and Harry had tired himself with all the fun activities the Weasley twins had planned for them. The most memorable had of course been the Quidditch match in the back yard where he had the opportunity to play seeker opposite his father.

Everyone had laughed as it had been nearly impossible to tell one boy from the other. It had been several tough matches that day, each team winning several times, but thanks to Harry, James had met his first, second and third losses ever. James was a good sport about it, but Sirius simply reminded Harry that when they got home, there was no way James would ever admit to having been defeated.

Charlie and Bill had arrived early that day to join in the festivities and Mrs. Weasley had jumped at the opportunity to tell her oldest son he should cut his hair and get rid of his fang earring. He gave her the regular maybe later look before excitedly greeting his fellow Gryffindor visitors.

The two eldest Weasleys were placed in their twin brothers’ room and before long the night once again came to a close. He, unlike everyone else, knew what was in store for the Weasleys the next day and wanted to be as rested as he could for the festivities.

Christmas morning dawned bright and early and Harry was pulled from his bed by James and Sirius, both boys eager to get downstairs where they could smell Mrs. Weasley’s famous cooking wafting up and into the guests’ rooms. They quickly woke Marc but then spent an additional five minutes getting Ron to open his eyes and put on some decent clothing before dragging him down the stairs behind them.

Upon entering the kitchen they were all surprised to find Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Lee, Fred and George chatting with Remus over one of the largest bacon sandwiches he had ever seen. The boys all joined the crowd and it was nearly a half-hour before the five girls came down as well. They all looked remarkably alert and well done up for having just woken up, but this was explained when Hermione told them they had already been awake and preparing for the last hour.

‘This hair doesn’t just happen you know,’ Alicia joked with a grin as she pointed to her usual pulled back simple style.

As soon as the meal was done, the crowd moved into one of the large family rooms where the Weasleys had decorated no less than three Hagrid-sized Christmas trees. Mrs. Weasley warned them not to start until everyone had arrived and Ron made a show of sighing loudly in impatience. Harry had found this odd at first glance, but when he saw the quantity of presents mounded beneath them he understood why three trees were required. He had never seen so many gifts in one room at the same time, and though he was excited to tear into them, he was unsure as to where they had all come from.

Ron was first to reach for a gift but found it was impossible as he received an electric shock when his hand came in contact with the wrapping.

‘Oi! What is this?’ he shouted, pulling his hand away and rubbing it with a scowl.

‘I warned you Ronald,’ his mother said with a shrug of her shoulders as she bustled into the room. ‘We wait for everyone to arrive before opening gifts. It’s been the same every year.’

‘Who are we waiting on?’ Fred asked then, and his mother threw him a dirty look.

She opened her mouth to say something in response but closed it again as the flames in the fire grate burst upwards in an emerald green and Percy walked into the room. Mrs. Weasley rushed forward to hug him, but she only held him for a brief moment before pushing him aside and standing ready in front of the fire grate once more. Another burst of green flames signalled another arrival and next to step out was Penelope carrying a very tiny Weasley clung tightly to her chest. She had barely taken a step into the house when Molly was upon her.

‘Oh Penelope dear, how are you? Did you have a nice time on your trip? Is this my granddaughter?’ she asked, and everyone grinned knowing exactly which answer she obviously wanted first.

Penelope gave a small laugh. She was looking quite well for someone who had just had a baby, but Harry could tell that both she and Percy looked extremely tired. Apparently their travels had taken a toll, though he thought a honeymoon was supposed to be relaxing and fun.

‘I’m doing just fine Molly. Our trip was wonderful and yes, this is your granddaughter,’ she said with a wide smile and then started to pull back the many folds of blankets around the little bundle in her arms.

Everyone in the room took several steps closer to get a good look at the newest member of the Weasley clan, and all of the girls made little noises when they saw her.

The tiny baby girl was still so small it would be a while before they could say which of her parents she looked like, but it was very obvious that she was a Weasley by the large quantity of auburn hair piled atop her head.

‘Everyone,’ Penelope said, holding the baby up for them all to see, ‘meet our daughter, Autumn Livian Weasley.’

Taking that as her cue, Mrs. Weasley swept forward and grabbed the little girl from her mother’s arms and hugged her tightly with tears streaming down her face. Percy and Penelope stood together and watched his mother with wide smiles as Molly hugged and coddled her first grandchild.

When the very excited grandmother finally released Autumn from her surprisingly strong grasp, Ginny was first up to hold her niece and then each of the other Weasleys in turn starting with Arthur and going down. When Ron finally reached his turn, Harry could not help but laugh along with Hermione at the uncomfortable look on his face. It was clear that he had never held a baby before and the look of surprise on his face when Penelope called him Uncle Ron was one that Harry would never forget.

By the time everyone had had the chance to hold the baby and ask Penelope or Percy about their extremely extended honeymoon, nearly an hour had passed and it was Ron who once again brought up the gifts by trying and failing to pick one up. After a brief glare from his mother, Ron was assigned the job of handing the gifts out to everyone before he could tear his own open. Harry and Hermione tried not to laugh while he randomly picked them up and flung them around the room at people, whether or not they were looking.

With all of the Weasleys present and accounted for, the large gathering of friends and family began to open the large assortment of gifts. Hermione acted surprised every time she opened a new one and found a text or guide of some sort, but Harry figured it was an act, as her gifts, even though well wrapped, were very much stackable.

Christmas was Harry’s favorite time for seeing Ron; he always became so excited at the prospect of anything new that he looked like a five-year-old. This year was no exception as he tore open Harry’s gift of a new set of Quidditch gear and a large assortment of Honeydukes sweets. He bowled Harry over in a huge bear hug as soon as he’d opened the gift, and then surprisingly did the same to Hermione after opening her gift of the new Chudley Cannons book.

Hermione looked slightly taken aback at first but then quickly straightened her clothes and got back to opening her own gifts. Moments after opening her gift from Ron and Harry, she leapt to her feet and took them both down in enormous hugs, making everyone in the room laugh at the stunned looks on the boys’ faces.

Harry had asked Ron to go in on a gift with him as he had found the perfect thing for her that was not a text, but it was quite expensive, and though he could have afforded it alone, Ron could not have. Hermione now held in her palms what looked like a small dinner plate made of stone rings, each of them able to spin around and align the many symbols found along them. When certain combinations were lined up between the rings, Hermione would very easily be able to decipher her ancient ruins.

‘This is wonderful!’ she said after hugging them both tightly. ‘I’ve been wanting one of these all year. Thank you so much you two. I can’t wait to write my holiday essay now. It will be beyond simple. Lily, would you look at this,’ she called to the redhead as she walked over to where she was seated opening gifts.

Harry took this chance to start opening his own Christmas presents and found that as usual, there were more than he knew what to do with. He unwrapped the puppy-sized lumpy package first and found his usual Weasley sweater in emerald green along with some meat pies and homemade fudge from Mrs. And Mr. Weasley. Next were a dueling technique text from Remus and an amazing leather necklace from Charlie, with a single dragon’s tooth dangling in the center. This time Charlie’s slightly singed card told him that the tooth was in fact from a Hungarian Horntail. Putting it around his neck, Harry moved on to his extremely large package of sweets and jokes from the twins, making Harry realise that he would never be out of prank material for as long as he lived. After that had been a text on breaking ancient curses from Bill that Harry figured would come in handy one way or the other.

Percy and Penelope had brought everyone back a miniature Eiffel tower, however these were not like the ones Harry had seen before. When tapped on the underside, all the lights around the tiny tower went out as though stolen by a put-outer and then the top of the tower itself folded over to create a platform on which hundreds of witches and wizards were celebrating the holidays in style. Penelope explained that they themselves had been on that platform two days earlier and that it was then that Autumn had decided to make her first appearance. Everyone laughed and watched the tiny people dance around the brightly lit platform while tiny fireworks went off in all sorts of colours and designs.

Harry received his usual Defense text from Hermione, which as usual would prove to be ridiculously useful and then he opened the large sac of sweets from Ron. After thanking them both he opened a flat rectangular gift from Marc, expecting yet another text of some sort. He was pleased to find, not a book but a picture frame, and in it a photograph of he, Marc, James, Sirius and Remus in the common room right after they had won the Quidditch match. Sitting in front of the boys were Lily, Gwen, Sophie and Helena, and on both ends who other than the Prewett twins. Harry grinned down at the smiling figures as they all waved up at him from their celebratory scene. Harry quickly hugged Marc and thanked him profusely; this was one of the best gifts he had ever received.

The picture was handed around the room and many people became teary-eyed as they looked on the faces of old friends or people they knew had now passed on. Remus held onto the picture for a little while longer than the others and simply stared at it with a smile on his face. Harry decided he would ask Collin to make another copy for him when they got back to Hogwarts.

Marc in turn had been thrilled with the personal set of Beater’s bats Harry bought him, each inscribed with ‘Marc Evans, Gryffindor Quidditch team’s iron arm’.

Ginny had purchased Harry a new broomstick servicing kit, telling him jokingly that his ruddy broom would soon be a heap of junk if she did not intervene. Harry’s last gift came from Lily, James and Sirius together. Lily gave him a small picture of just the two of them from the same night as Marc’s, and James and Sirius gave him a picture of just the five boys: Marc, Harry, James, Sirius and Remus. Across the bottom of the photograph were the words, ‘The Real Marauders,’ and Harry could feel the tears in his eyes as he read the words.

Lily explained that they had intended to give him the photos on the night he and Marc were leaving, but then they had grown suspicious of his odd behaviour and instead followed him. They figured the gifts would have made an early Christmas gift anyhow, so this way he simply got them at the right time. Harry gave them all hugs and sat back down. He tried to ignore the tear-filled looks the adults and Hermione were giving him.

Harry then handed out the rest of his gifts to everyone in the room, and everyone seemed extremely pleased with what they received.

Marc’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s gifts had by far been the most expensive, but still he chose to give something, small as it may be, to each of the Weasleys; they were after all practically family. Mr. Weasley had been the easiest to shop for, having known for years now about the man’s odd propensity for love of all things Muggle. He had simply found a kit used by Muggle children to build random circuits and small electronic devices. To finish the gift off, Harry had simply wrapped the box and then tied a bow using an extension cord. Harry had never seen Mr. Weasley so excited as long as he had known him; after a brief hug of thanks, the red-haired man quickly moved to the kitchen to further explore his gift.

Mrs. Weasley had been more difficult to buy for, as she truly was like a mother to him and he refused to disappoint her. He had finally decided on a self operated vacuum cleaner that roamed the house at will and kept things in order. Hoping it would be alright, Harry was pleased to see her ecstatic look at opening the odd-shaped package before having his view obscured by another of her rib-crushing hugs. Harry laughed as he imagined her crushing the air out of Hagrid.

Charlie was also difficult to shop for as he had a love of all things dragon, yet he worked in such close proximity with them most of the year that he would already have anything he wanted. Hoping that Charlie might find it useful, he had brewed one of the more difficult potions from the advanced text Krum had sent from Durmstrang. The potion smelled terrible and was quite illegal, but it was one of the most effective and quick-acting burn remedies in the world; Madam Pomfrey had verified this. Charlie had opened his gift and gave the small bottle an odd look before reading the card with it and giving Harry a smile and a wink.

Next up were the twins, and all Harry could think of were suggestions for the business. He had written up a list of things that could possibly help them expand Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes such as having other stores open out of the country, and then some possible ways of getting new testers at Hogwarts. Upon reading their cards, Fred and George both grinned evilly and gave Harry thumbs up in reply.

Percy and Penelope had been quite difficult to buy for as well, especially since he did not know Penelope all that well, and he had never met Autumn. He opted for the simple baby necessities, hoping that wizarding families used things like bottles and fleece pyjamas. Percy held the bright pink, furry sleep wear up with a raised eyebrow making everyone laugh, but Penelope thanked Harry for the wonderful gifts.

For Remus, Harry had decided on something that he already owned. During his brief stay at Grimmauld place he had been reminded of the one thing that could have saved Sirius’ life, and after repairing the damage he had caused to the other half of the pair, he decided that Remus should be the one to hold the other mirror. When Remus opened the oddly thin package he said nothing at first; he simply smiled. Harry knew it had been the right gift and from the looks James and Sirius exchanged, he knew it was. It had taken all of his will not to give the mirror to his father in hopes of contacting them when they got home. He figured it probably would not work, and if it did that it would be a history-altering mistake.

Harry had deliberated a long time on what to get his late Godfather. At this age, Sirius had already received what he had most wanted from the Weasley twins in the form of a large box filled with their joking materials. As he knew that the three guests would have their memories altered before going home, Harry decided there was no point in giving them anything sentimental. Instead he opted for a set of personal Beater’s bats like Marc’s, only with a different inscription: Padfoot, Hogwarts’ best Slytherin crusher. Harry

Upon reading the inscription, both James and Sirius howled with laughter and Sirius clapped him on the back in thanks, saying he had always wanted his own bats. Remus read what the bats said and then gave Harry an odd look before bending down and whispering to his two best friends. Both boys’ eyes widened in surprise at whatever they were being told and they both looked over at Harry again before whispering back to Remus. Harry was not sure what was happening, and did not fully understand when Remus picked up Sirius’ bats and tapped them with his wand. Handing one over to Harry, Sirius asked what he thought of it.

Turning the bat over to read the new inscription, Harry read: Padfoot, Hogwarts’ best Slytherin crusher. Darkmane

‘What’s this?’ Harry asked confused.

‘Every Marauder needs a name, don’t they,’ James replied and the three Marauders grinned.

Harry could not help but grin himself as he said his new nickname out loud. It was perfect. Everyone else in the room was oblivious to its meaning as they did not know he was an Animagus, but all that mattered was that he truly was a Marauder now.

Harry tried his best to calm down as he gave his parents their gifts. For James, it was a personalized snitch engraved with the name Prongs, for Harry remembered the memory he had witnessed in Snape’s pensieve where James had been playing with a borrowed school snitch. The dark-haired boy immediately began playing with his new gift, releasing it and immediately snatching it out of the air.

Lily had been the most difficult person to buy for by far. How could Harry decide what to buy his sixteen-year old mother? Though he had decided not to do anything sentimental, he broke his rule and had a copy of his pendant made at a shop in Hogsmeade. Knowing he could not have his name engraved on it else history be changed, he simply had his initials scratched on. Lily nearly cried as she clipped the small silver pendant to the back of her own and hugged her son tightly.

‘You didn’t have to do that you know,’ she whispered in his ear as she hugged him.

‘I know its silly, but I don’t want you to forget me,’ Harry replied and felt as she tightened her hug and told him she never would.

Harry nodded in response but knew that in a few days time she would have no recollection at all of the time she spent with him.

For Ginny, Harry chose a nice unicorn pendant on a silver chain from the fine jewellery shop in Hogsmeade and wrapped it in a fancy box with a large bow. Ginny squealed in delight as she opened the small crimson box that held it and in seconds had her mother put it on for her. Harry once again ignored the odd glances he received from everyone in the room. For all they knew, he and Fleur were still an item.

All of his gifts passed out, Harry tried not to grin when he noticed the curious look on Bill’s face; he had been the only person not to receive a gift from him. Looking at his watch, Harry grinned when everyone turned to listen to the Know-it-all Knocker’s announcement of ‘Masters, two delightfully snobby creatures have arrived.’

Laughing loudly at the confused looks on everyone’s faces, Harry announced that Bill’s gift had arrived and that he hoped Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t mind two more guests. She shook her head in approval and looked on with everyone else as Harry went to let the new guests in. The stunned faces continued when Harry walked back into the living area, closely followed by Fleur Delacour and her sister Gabrielle. She said hello to everyone and they all snapped out of their daze to be polite and say hello as well.

‘How nice of you to join us,’ Mrs. Weasley said to welcome the blonde girls. ‘I would have thought you and Harry would come together,’ she added.

Seeing the awkward look on Bill’s face, Harry took a deep breath and decided it was time.

‘Actually Mrs. Weasley, Fleur and I stopped seeing one another nearly two weeks ago. It just wasn’t meant to be.’

He could feel the colour rising in his cheeks as everyone stared at him with surprised faces once again at not having been told.

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ Molly said but then gave Fleur an odd look.

Everyone was obviously wondering the same thing, but it was Percy who voiced the concern. Trust Percy to be the person to bluntly say anything that needed to be said.

‘Not to be rude Miss Delacour, but if you and Harry have indeed stopped seeing each other, may I ask why you’ve joined us this evening? You and your sister are of course welcome to stay,’ he added.

Fleur smiled nervously for a moment and then looked up to Mrs. Weasley.

‘To better explain why I am here, I should tell you zat ‘arry and I are no longer togezer because I am steel een love wiz someone else,’ she said and smiled at the round-faced woman.

Mrs. Weasley looked confused for a moment, but then her eyes widened and she turned her gaze to her eldest child. Bill looked just as surprised from where he stood between Charlie and the twins on the other side of the room.

‘Wiz your permission Mrs. Weezlee I would very much like to speak wiz Beel,’ Fleur continued.

‘Of course. Go right on ahead,’ Molly flustered.

Everyone remained silent with their eyes trained on the part-Veela girl in front of them as she crossed the room to stop in front of Bill. The tall young man simply stared at her without any perceptible feeling on his face.

‘Hello Beel,’ Fleur started, and raised a hand to his mouth to stop him speaking. ‘I know you must be very angry wiz me for just leaving ze way I deed. I deed not mean to hurt you. I was just scared. I thought I could seemply leave and pretend zat I ‘ad never met you, but I was wrong. I am steel very much een love wiz you Beel, and eef you weel steel have me, I want to show you how much for ze rest of my life.’

Mrs. Weasley and Penelope both gasped and raised their hands to their mouths as Fleur dropped onto one knee and grabbed Bill’s hand with a smile and tears in her eyes.

‘Weel you marry me Beel Weezlee?’

Silence echoed through the room as every person watched for Bill’s reaction. For a moment, he looked so stunned that Harry was afraid he may fall over. After a moment of shock, Bill gave a laugh and pulled Fleur to her feet and into a hug.

‘Of course I’ll marry you Fleur. Accio ring,’ he shouted and Harry watched as a tiny shining object flew down the stairs and landed in the palm of his hand. ‘Now it’s my turn,’ he said and dropped to his knee, holding the ring up. ‘Marry me Fleur and make me, and my mother,’ he rolled his eyes, ‘the happiest people in the world.’

Everyone laughed as he slipped the ring on her finger and then stood up to kiss her while Mrs. Weasley swatted his arm. The next little while was spent with everyone congratulating them and telling them how perfect they were for one another.

Fleur stole a moment away from her soon-to-be mother in law to hug and thank Harry for all he had done to help set this up and he was happy to congratulate her as well.

‘You’ll make a great Weasley,’ he told her, and the pair laughed at the prospect of tiny Weasleys that would be part Veela.

*


The hours went by filled with fun and excitement as everyone talked and played various games in anticipation of Christmas dinner. Mrs. Weasley had disappeared into the kitchen soon after Fleur’s proposal and managed to pull the blonde away from her fiancée long enough to talk her ear off while preparing the meal. Penelope had opted to join her in the kitchen along with Alicia and Angelina, leaving Percy to hold his squirming daughter while she was away.

Harry was genuinely surprised at how well he handled Autumn, and decided that of all the Weasley’s Percy was the last person he would have chosen for fatherly duties. Actually, he tied with Ron. Everything was always by the book with Percy, but sitting in front of him while he coddled and smiled down on his daughter gave Harry a very different view of the third Weasley boy.

‘Did you like the chocolates Penny and I sent, Harry?’ Percy asked when he looked up from a gurgling Autumn.

‘Oh yes, they were great! Thanks,’ Harry lied with a smile, having completely forgotten about the kind gesture.

‘And you Hermione? Penny thought you’d like them best.’

‘What chocolates?’ Hermione asked, but quickly turned on Ron who was trying to discreetly sneak out of the room.
‘Ronald Weasley! Did you eat my chocolates?’ she asked in such a firm voice that everyone went quiet.

Ron paled and began fidgeting with his hands while his ears became bright crimson in colour.

‘I didn’t eat them Hermione,’ Ron said quietly. ‘I just haven’t given them to you yet. We weren’t exactly speaking when they arrived and then with Harry disappearing I completely forgot about them.’

Hermione opened her mouth as to argue but closed it and sighed when Ron mentioned Harry’s disappearance.

‘Well alright then,’ she said plainly. ‘But I want them as soon as we get back to school.’

Ron nodded and Hermione went back to discussing her Transfiguration essay with Lily and Ginny, while Ron sunk into an armchair next to Harry and let out a pent-up breath while Harry laughed. Harry soon had Ron, Marc, James and Sirius playing a game of exploding snaps and most of them had had a body part singed or covered in soot when an owl flew in through the open living room window.

A gorgeous black owl swept in gracefully and landed on the side table next to Ron where it held out a talon on which a small colorfully wrapped package hung. Ron quickly untied the obvious Christmas gift and led the beautiful bird into the kitchen for some water. When he returned, he attached a small package to the owl’s leg, thanking it for the delivering and wishing it a Happy Christmas before the bird flew off the way it came. Ron then tore into his gift after reading the attached card and smiling. He explained that the owl’s name was Persaeus and that the gift had come from Parvati.

Ron was soon wearing a pendant around his neck attached to a thick leather cord similar to the one Charlie had given Harry. The golden pendant was in the shape of a roaring lion and on the back the inscription read: Weasley is my king.

Everyone complimented the gift but left it at that. Knowing the way his older brothers enjoyed teasing him, Harry found it odd that they did not jump at the opportunity to belittle his relationship with Parvati. Ginny had asked Hermione if Roger had sent anything for her, and Harry heard the bushy-haired girl tell her that she had ended things the day before break. She explained to Ginny that as great as Roger was, they were simply on different paths in life and that there was someone else out there for her.

Looking up at Hermione, Harry now understood why nobody questioned her further. She had also complimented the nice pendant, but now she was staring at Ron from across the room where she sat with a forlorn look on her face. Harry seriously wished that they would both just admit that they liked one another, but he realised that there was just always something to prevent them getting together. First it was immaturity, then it was Roger Davies, and now it was Parvati Patil. It seemed fate did not want them together, no matter how much Harry knew they should be.

On a trip to the lavatory, Harry had looked in on the girls in the kitchen and found that the room had been enlarged so that a table nearly as long as the ones found in the Great Hall sat comfortably in the center of the room. He wondered who else could possibly be coming to dinner, but soon enough his question was answered.

First to arrive had been Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt at the front door. James and Sirius were having a right old time listening to the knocker’s announcements. Harry was surprised when Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher arrived next by Floo, closely followed by none other than Mrs. and Mr. Granger. The new arrivals were warmly welcomed, and as soon as Hermione had hugged both of her parents, they were cornered by Arthur Weasley, keen on discussing the tools used by modern dentists.

The living area was becoming quite full by this time and Harry wondered who else could possibly show up, but once again his question was answered as the knocker on the front out made another crude introduction.

‘Masters, a demented old dingbat and bearded curser of goats have arrived.’

Everyone watched as a laughing Albus Dumbledore walked into the large home closely followed by a person who could very easily have been his double. This man had bright blue eyes and the same silvery hair that the Headmaster bore. The only visible difference between the men was the stranger’s missing inch of height and the several inches of beard not present. The stranger also wore similar glasses, only they were not half-moon but rectangular instead.

‘Happy Christmas Professor,’ Charlie said, walking up and shaking his old Headmaster’s hand. ‘You too of course Mister?’ he paused unsure of the man’s name.

‘Dumbledore,’ the old wizard offered his name and his hand to Charlie, who smiled in understanding.

‘Everyone, this is my dear younger brother Aberforth. I do hope Molly has room for another.’

Mrs. Weasley popped her head out of the kitchen and wished both men a Happy Christmas before disappearing back into the hidden and wonderfully smelling room.

The Dumbledore’s made their way leisurely to where Harry was seated, and Harry quickly got to his feet to wish them both happy holidays and to shake Aberforth’s hand.

‘I’ve heard so much about you Harry,’ Aberforth said and when he smiled, Harry grinned at seeing the identical sparkling blue eyes he had so often been looked upon with by the Headmaster.

‘Who hasn’t?’ George said, and Fred started to chuckle along with his twin.

‘This is true,’ Aberforth laughed as well, ‘but can everyone say that they’ve heard their facts first hand from Albus Dumbledore?’

Both twins continued laughing but told him he had a point, and Harry could feel the colour once again rising in his face. He discussed a few things with the friendly wizard, and it took all he had to not bring up the supposed goat incident for which the man was infamous.

Several more members of the Order trickled in over the next hour and soon Harry felt his stomach rumbling in hunger. He hoped that everyone had arrived as it was now nearly six o’clock and he was ready to eat. A few moments later Mrs. Weasley came bustling into the living area and did a quick head count before announcing that dinner was ready and that they were only waiting on five more guests. The other four women joined the other guests in the crowded room and soon everyone began mingling once more.

Harry heard the burst of flames from the fire grate and hoped it would be the final guests arriving, but nearly fell out of his seat when he heard his name called out by an extremely familiar voice. Turning toward the originator, Harry was stunned to see Dudley wiping the soot from his robes and walking across the room toward him.

‘I’ll never get enough of that Floo thing you all get to do,’ he said with a grin when he plopped down next to Harry and Ron. ‘Oh, Happy Christmas Aunt Lily,’ he added at seeing the redhead seated with Hermione and Ginny.

‘Dudley! You came,’ Lily called excitedly and ran up to hug the blonde boy. ‘And your mother?’ she asked, but the response came as another burst of flames and Petunia Dursley stepped into the room holding a tiny bundle against her chest tightly.

‘What are you doing here Dud?’ Harry finally asked the question that he along with Ron and Hermione were obviously wondering.

‘Aunt Lily invited us last week when she came over. Isn’t it great her being here and all?’ he said with a smile. ‘She’s really great and I can’t wait to meet Uncle James. Is he coming?’

Marc and Sirius started to laugh, while James glared at them before standing and holding his hand out to the boy.

‘I’m James Potter. Nice to meet you Dudley,’ he said in as adult a voice as he could muster.

‘Bloody hell, you look just like Harry!’ he shouted and suddenly everyone around them started to laugh.

Harry was thankful for the chance to laugh, because if things became any odder he was not sure he could handle it. Dudley being here was one thing, but Petunia was another. He had been hoping for a nice holiday dinner, not a Dursley dinner; perhaps he could sit at the other end of the table. Harry quickly introduced his cousin to the rest of the crowd, but his attention was then pulled over to where Lily was standing next to Petunia.

‘Harry, come and meet your new cousin,’ she said, and Harry got to his feet under Petunia’s glaring eyes.

He walked over to look at the four-month old girl in her mother’s arms and was pleased to find that everyone else had followed him to get a closer look as well. He hated to admit it, but the little girl was cute, and surprisingly had hair as dark as his, and the trademark Evans eyes; as bright green as his and Lily’s.

‘Harry,’ his aunt said blandly, ‘meet your cousin Priscilla.’

Harry surprised her then by smiling at the little girl and holding out his arms to hold her. Petunia looked frantic for a moment but then slowly handed the bundle over to her nephew who held her closely and looked into the eyes that reminded him so much of the night he had seen himself as a baby. Everyone laughed when Priscilla’s little hand reached up to grab hold of Harry’s hair, and it took several minutes to get her to let go. The little girl was soon returned to her mother and other guests began to approach Hogwarts’ newest Professor with congratulations and questions on how she liked the school.

Harry thought she was doing quite well considering the awkward situation she was in. She managed to keep a smile fixed on her face through all the questioning and she even managed to answer positively in most of her responses. She explained that she was simply doing Dumbledore a favor until her predecessor could return and that it really was the only way to find out if it was the proper school for her daughter. The one thing that did shine genuinely through was her pride for her daughter. Everyone congratulated her on Priscilla’s being a witch, and reminded her of how great she would certainly be with Evans blood in her veins. Petunia actually took this as the compliment that it was and told them all that she was certain of it.

Once the guests had finished meeting the newest Dursley, Petunia eyed Mrs. Figg on a sofa and made a beeline for her. Harry heard her questioning her about her affiliation with the magical world, and could tell that she was unimpressed at being lied to for so many years, but eventually she managed to simply discuss gossip from around Surrey and more specifically Privet Drive.

‘So Dud, how’s your year been?’ Harry asked his cousin now that the initial shock had worn off and he was able to think straight.

‘It’s been great. Remember how I told you about me an’ Maria? Well we’ve been going steady since then. She said to say hello by the way.’

‘That’s great Dud, I’m happy for you. I see you’ve been running still,’ he commented after noticing that Dudley had shed yet even more weight and was really looking healthier than ever.

‘Yeah. Every morning Maria and I go with a group of friends. Even Piers comes along now too,’ he said. ‘Here Harry, I saw this and thought you’d like it. Believe me, it took all I had to get mum to take me to that alley where you brought me,’ he said and held out a package in Harry’s direction.

‘You got your mum to go to Diagon Alley?’ Harry said in astonishment. ‘I never thought I’d see the day.’

‘Actually no, but she got the Headmaster at the school to convince Tonks to take me. It was really great,’ he said with a grin and then waved up at Tonks who was sitting next to Mrs. Granger with bright orange hair piled atop her head.

Harry looked down at the small package in his hands before tearing the yellow wrapping away and finding a small aquarium-like tank with an amazing little creature inside. Harry stared in amazement into the bright purple eyes of the electric blue spotted Spewt that he and Dudley had seen in the Magical Menagerie when they had been to Diagon Alley in the summer.

‘Do you remember her?’ Dudley asked then.

‘Of course I do,’ Harry said with a grin. ‘How could I not? I just can’t believe you remembered this. Thank you so much Dud,’ he said, and Gave Dudley the second hug he had ever given the boy in sixteen years.

‘Is that a Spewt?’ Hermione exclaimed as soon as she saw the tank. ‘Pass it over,’ she asked excitedly. ‘I’ve always wanted to see one. They’re the most remarkable creatures, and they’re so rare. I’d bet Luna would like this.’

‘What’s so remarkable about them?’ Sirius asked, holding up the container and looking in at the tiny animal.

Before he could put the tank down, he handed it over to Lily asking her where it had gone. She laughed in his face and pointed at the bright purple eyes that seemed to hang in the air.

‘Spewts are one of the only known creatures that can make themselves invisible at will. I guess she didn’t like your face Sirius,’ she added, and everyone burst out laughing again.

‘Great,’ Harry said jokingly, ‘an invisibly animal should be easy look after.’

‘What are you going to call her?’ Marc asked, and Harry stopped to think for a moment.

He thought about the bright orange and lime green rings covering the lizardesque creatures skin and announced that her name was Trippy. As soon as he had named her she reappeared and Ginny decided that she must have approved of the name. Harry told his friends that he was just going to put Trippy in his room and that he’d be right back, and laughed as he saw Dudley turning down a chocolate from Fred. Apparently he would never get over the toffee incident, but at least he knew to be on his guard with the twins.

He heard someone Floo on the way up the stairs and on his way down he hoped to Merlin that the final guests had arrived. If they did not, he was going to eat anyway. Re-entering the thankfully enlarged living room, he wished with all his might that he could take back his last thought at seeing Professors Snape and Black now being greeted by Order members and Lily. Harry wondered irritably if his mother had invited every person that made his life difficult, because as things were going he half-expected Malfoy to walk through the front door next.

Before he even got a chance to think about avoiding the newest arrivals, Mrs. Weasley popped her head out of the kitchen and called everyone in for dinner, telling them all to look for their names for their seats. The next few minutes were a tangled mess as the guests all circled the table in search of their names, and Harry watched while they took their seats.

Mrs. Weasley had done a fairly good job in placing guests with people they would most feel comfortable, like aunt Petunia next to Mrs. Figg and across from the Grangers. Next to them of course was Hermione and then Ron, Marc and Sirius. Harry unfortunately only had Mrs. Figg and Dudley as buffers between himself and his aunt, and then James, Lily and Ginny before both Professors Black and Snape. Perhaps Mrs. Weasley was playing a cruel joke and he was the mark. He wondered briefly if he had kept the receipt for her vacuum cleaner.

Despite the odd mix of company, Harry found that the feast Molly had prepared was the best she had ever made. Every year it seemed she outdid herself. He was surrounded by his closest friends and family and honestly had what would soon be one of his favorite holiday memories.

After a long evening of eating, drinking and general merriment, the dinner guests began to slowly take leave. Petunia had been one of the first to leave with Priscilla, explaining that the baby needed to get to bed and that Vernon would be arriving from his sister’s shortly. She hugged Lily goodbye and told Dudley to follow her shortly after he had begged to remain behind a little longer. Just before she disappeared into fire grate, Harry could not help but notice the harsh glare she sent in Professor Black’s direction.

By half past ten, the Nest was host only to its residents, the Weasley’s, the Dumbledores, Dudley, and of course the close-knit group of Gryffindors. Hermione was preparing to say goodbye to all of her friends before taking leave for the rest of the holidays where she intended to spend as much time as was possible with her parents, when the Headmaster cleared his throat and stood to make an announcement.

‘Firstly, my brother and I would like to thank you Molly for including us in you delightful celebration. I must say that you have once again outdone yourself.’

‘Oh nonsense,’ she said with a scoff. ‘You know you’re welcome any time.’

‘Now I hate to bring bad news on such a wonderful evening, but the Minister has contacted me and made it quite clear that our guests must return home by no later than tomorrow evening. I will come and meet you here and this time we will ensure that nothing goes wrong,’ his eyes twinkled brightly as he said this. ‘The Minister had given me permission to send you back using a Time Turner and with instructions to give my younger self upon your return. This way I can send it back alone and no harm will have been caused.’

‘Do they have to leave so soon sir?’ was the only thing Harry could think to ask.’

‘I’m afraid so Harry. If I do not comply with the Minister’s wishes I feel very strongly that he may come and deal with it himself. There is really no need for that.’

‘I guess not,’ Harry agreed somberly.

‘Well, I’m afraid I must take leave, so I thank you all once again for the wonderful evening and I will see you all tomorrow evening at six o’clock.’

Aberforth waved them all goodbye and soon the pair of silver-haired wizards had left the Nest for the night. Now Dudley and Hermione were preparing to leave, so they were now saying their final goodbyes to James, Lily, and Sirius.

‘It was really great to meet you Aunt Lily. After everything Harry told me about you, I couldn’t wait when mum said you were here. I’m sorry I’ll never see you again, because you’re definitely my favorite aunt.’

Lily smiled at the tall blonde boy and pulled him into a hug.

‘Good luck Uncle James. I’m really glad I met you too, because you’re the only uncle I know,’ he grinned and shook James hand.

‘You take care Dudley, and make sure that sister of yours turns out alright. She’s going to be a right great witch I bet.’

‘She will if we have anything to do with it,’ Dudley said pointing between himself and Harry. ‘Goodbye Sirius. It was great to meet you too finally. Harry always spoke about you at home, and now I understand why he wanted so badly to live with you. I bet you really would have been a great dad like he said.’

Sirius’ eyes had flown wide open when Dudley said this, and Harry busied himself looking at the kitchen door to avoid the embarrassment. Sirius shook Dudley’s hand and after a quick goodbye to everyone else and a shout of ‘Number Four Privet Drive,’ he disappeared in a burst of green flames.

Next was Hermione’s turn to bid them all farewell and Harry could hardly stand seeing all the girls crying. She told Lily that had they been in the same year, she was sure they would have been best friends, and Lily told her that she considered her one now anyway. Hermione promised she would never forget how great a friend she was and that she would never remove the bracelet she had given to both her and Ginny for Christmas.

She hugged both James and Sirius, and wished them well when they got home. She even surprised Harry when she told them to aim for Flitwick’s left leg as it was the one he used to bear most of his weight. After a quick laugh, Hermione went on to hug all of the older Weasley’s goodbye and then Marc, Harry and finally Ron. She held on to Ron for slightly longer than usual and everyone noticed the red creep into his ears but said nothing to save them the embarrassment.

‘Don’t you two forget to finish your assignments,’ was the last thing she said before disappearing into the fire grate and leaving them all to clean up.

A few well cast spells and help from Mrs. Weasley’s new vacuum had the house looking as good as new in no time at all. Everyone shared a glass of eggnog in the now normal-sized kitchen before one by one they began to go up to their rooms. Angelina had surprised the younger guests by kissing George goodnight before going up to bed with Alicia, Lily and Ginny. Harry had forgotten that they were an item.

With everything in its place and the lights turned out, Harry let his mind drift to sleep in his four-poster after one of the most incredible evenings of his life.

*


When he awoke the next morning, the excitement and thrill of the holidays had lost their effect on Harry, for he knew that this would be his last day to ever spend with his parents and Godfather. He woke up early and sat at the windowsill as he had often done over the years, watching as the sun rose over the Forbidden forest off in the distance, extending its golden rays over the town of Hogsmeade and creating a false atmosphere of hope inside him.

It was not long before Marc awoke, and the others soon followed, filling the bedroom with the yawns and grunts of the sleepy teenagers. Once dressed, they went down for breakfast where the girls had surprisingly arrived along with the rest of the Weasleys, minus Arthur, Bill and the Twins. Mr. Weasley and Bill had been called into work early and the twins had said that there was much to prepare for in their shop. The holidays were the busiest time of the year for Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, and Harry could hear the voices of Hogsmeade residents in the shop downstairs, where Lee was currently taking care of things.

Breakfast was an awkward situation, as everyone tried to enjoy the food and make light conversation while trying to avoid the subject of that evening’s departure. Harry wanted to suggest something great to do on their last day together, but for all he tried they had had the most fun by just doing whatever came their way.

Just as things began to go smoothly, the post arrived and Mrs. Weasley reacted quite oddly at seeing the cover of the Daily Prophet. One hand to her mouth, she tried her best to stifle a cry of surprise before rushing out of the kitchen. The guests heard the sound of the Floo network being activated and her shout of ‘Albus Dumbledore,’ before Harry got to his feet to look at the copy of the Prophet she had let fall on the tabletop. Eyes narrowed and jaw clenched, he read the headline for which he had been waiting days now.

DEATH EATERS ESCAPE FROM AZKABAN!

Early this morning, the alarms at the Ministry of Magic were blaring, informing the Auror division of a security breach at Azkaban prison. For several months now, the grotesque and feared Dementors that played what we thought were loyal guards to the prison’s residents have been missing, leaving the prison to be manned by Aurors themselves. Suspected to have gone to serve He-who-must-not-be-named, the Dementors actions have now classified them as highly dangerous creatures to be avoided at all costs.
After a brief inspection this morning, it was discovered that five prisoners have disappeared and in their place were Muggles under the Imperius curse. Three of those Muggles are now suffering from permanent dementia and the Auror staff is unsure of exactly how long the prisoners have been missing. After a brief search through Muggle missing reports, it is estimated that the prisoner switch could have occurred as far back as five days ago.
Minister Fudge is personally looking into the affair and promises swift and effective action. For further updates, continue reading the Daily Prophet in the days to come.
Daily Prophet Reporter, Rita Skeeter.


Below the article were the five pictures of the escaped convicts and just as Harry had seen in his nightmare, Lucius Malfoy’s gaunt face sneered up from the black and white journal. He had been right all along, and now Dumbledore would have to believe him. The only problem now was that he still lacked any hard evidence against Professor Black.

Harry tossed the Prophet down for the others to read and quickly entered the next room where he was certain he would find Mrs. Weasley speaking with the Headmaster.

‘Professor,’ he called at seeing the old wizards head staring gravely up out of the green flames. ‘Do you believe me now? Lucius Malfoy is free and I know that Professor Black is a Death Eater,’ he said loudly, trying to get his message across.

‘Harry, I’m afraid I should have believed you about Malfoy, but I’m afraid we both saw Hyacinth’s forearms and she did not bear the Dark Mark. I still believe that Tom is trying to confuse you, and turn you against our good Professor for some reason or another.’

‘Good, professor!’ Harry exclaimed in outrage. ‘If she’s good, then I must be Death himself, I can’t think of a single thing that woman has done to help our side,’ he continued to shout.

‘She is a valuable member of the Order and I must ask that you lower your voice Harry. While I may not be able to change your opinion of her, I must ask that you not convey these ideas to others, no matter how bothersome you find them,’ the Headmaster said seriously and sighed heavily.

Harry stopped speaking when he learned that Professor Black was in fact a member of the Order of the Phoenix. How dare she infiltrate the Order right under Dumbledore crooked nose? And furthermore, how could the Headmaster be so blind to what was more than obvious about the Dark woman? Having nothing more to say, Harry shook his head in disgust and stomped out of the room, trying his best to keep his anger in check so not to ruin the entire day. Why of all the days did the article have to be published today?

Harry sat back down at the breakfast table and watched darkly as everyone discussed the Prophet article with interest. Not one among them seemed frightened or even disturbed, but several were angry. Ginny and Ron were angriest of all, and Harry could tell that they felt the same as he did, for they had risked their lives the night the escapees had been captured and imprisoned.

In an attempt to salvage what was left of the day, Harry took a deep breath and pushed his concerns to the back of his mind before smiling and asking Lily to pass the platter of bacon. Understanding what he was trying to do, everyone else fell silent about the subject at had and continued to eat in relative silence.

After their meal, the teenagers decided to play a quick game of Quidditch with Alicia, Angelina and Charlie for old time’s sake. Though Harry was not sure how fun it would be, all of his worries disappeared the instant he felt the wind rushing past him on his Firebolt. Once again, it was difficult to decide who the better seeker was when both boys won an equal amount of matches and they agreed to be equals.

Once they had finished their games and cleaned up, James mentioned again that he wanted to go into Hogsmeade to make a few last-minute purchases. Everyone agreed that it would be fun to go into the village and Harry very much wanted a butterbeer, having missed going to Hogsmeade with his friends due to his month and a half long trip through time.

It was not long before the friends had bundled themselves up in scarves and gloves and were walking down the narrow road to Honeydukes.

The shops were far more deserted than Harry had ever seen them, on account of it being Christmas holidays meaning that most students had gone home to see their families. This made selecting sweets and joke items far simpler without the large crowds and before long, James Sirius and Lily had all bought a sufficient amount of items. Harry had waited outside of Zonko’s joke shop with Ron and Ginny, as they both felt unwelcome in the shop and did not dare go in for fear that the owner would yell at them.

They all had a quick butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks where Madam Rosmerta took a seat and chatted kindly with them all, before the group of seven students made its way back up to the Nest.

Time sped by upon their return and before Harry knew it, dinner was served and they all sat down for their last meal together. Mrs. Weasley had made another large dinner, saying that it was a special goodbye meal, and made the favorites of all three guests.

Up until the knocker announced Dumbledore’s arrival, Harry had managed to pretend that his parents were not leaving, but when the old wizard strode into the kitchen, he knew it was time to say goodbye. Ron and Ginny said their farewells and left the kitchen with their mother and the others residents, but Harry was surprised to see Marc stay behind.

He was uncharacteristically quiet for a while before Lily gave him a long hug and told him that she would miss him. Marc looked on the verge of tears as he hugged her back and then went on to hug James and Sirius as well. Harry had not realised how close Marc had felt to his friends, but then again, he had known them for as long as Harry had.

Once Marc had left the room, Dumbledore waved his wand and the pensieve he had lent Harry before appeared on the table in front of him.

‘I thought that perhaps you would all like to leave your memories of your time here with Harry, rather than having them altered.’

All three of them nodded and smiled their approval before the Headmaster gave them a moment of privacy and left the room. Harry simply stood in front of the three people he had wished he would have in his life for so long. He could not decide what to say because there really was no way to say goodbye to your parents forever. Thankfully it was Sirius who spoke first.

‘Well Harry, I’m not so great with goodbyes so I’ll make it quick. I’ve had some of the greatest times of my life with you and Marc and I want you to know that you really are a great kid. I’m just sorry that I don’t get to see more of you.’

Harry could feel warm tears falling down his cheeks as he stepped forward to hug his Godfather goodbye.

‘I’m so sorry Sirius,’ Harry whispered.

‘Don’t be. You did a great thing for me Harry. You saved me from a fate worse than death, and you gave me two more years to get to know you. I’m really glad your parents choose me to be your Godfather,’ he said with misty eyes and a grin. ‘Oh, and do me a favor would you? Take care of ol’ Moony alright. He’s going to need someone as bad as you. Just remember that,’ he said with a wink, and then proceeded to remove the wispy strands of memory from his mind.

With the crucial memories floating in the stone basin and his trunk floating behind him, Sirius Black gave a last wave in Harry’s direction before leaving the kitchen to find Dumbledore. Now Harry was left standing with only his parents and a warm and tear-stained face.

‘There’s really no good way to say goodbye to you is there,’ Lily said, also crying now, and Harry shook his head as James blinked away a tear as well.

‘I’m so glad I got to meet you. I’ve wished of nothing else for so many years and I finally got what I wanted. I guess it goes to show that if you do enough right for the good side, it really does pay off,’ he sighed.

‘Oh Harry,’ Lily said, and gathered him in a tight hug. ‘You deserve so much better.’

‘We’re both really proud of you Harry, and we know that you’re going to be just fine,’ James said, stepping forward to hug his family.

‘Well, I may be seeing you again sooner than you think,’ Harry said quietly.

‘Don’t you talk like that,’ Lily said firmly, pushing him back a bit and staring him in the eyes. Remus told us about what you told him in the Shrieking Shack.’

‘He what?’ Harry said in surprise.

‘You mustn’t be angry with him Harry. He just thought we should know,’ James said.

‘I know you’re going to make the right decision Harry,’ Lily said with a teary smile.

‘And you’re going to win,’ James said confidently.

‘I hope so,’ Harry said in a wavering voice. ‘I have little option really. It’s murder or be murdered so either I join you both very shortly or I become a murderer. Wonderful isn’t it? What you always hoped for in a son,’ he tried to laugh it off.

‘It’s going to be alright Harry,’ James said. ‘And no one will think less of you for staying alive. You have been chosen for great things, and no matter what happens you need to know how much your mother and I love you. You’ve had a ridiculously hard life and I just wish I could have been there to help you through it all. When you finally fight Voldemort I’m certain that you will succeed where I failed,’ he said with a firm nod.

‘You didn’t fail at all dad,’ Harry whispered with a quivering lip. ‘You stood in front of Voldemort and denied him what he wanted, knowing full well what the consequences would be. When I heard both of you stand up to him the way you did, I’d never been prouder in my life to be Harry Potter.’

‘You were there?’ James said in shock and looked horrified when Harry turned his eyes away.

‘Oh Harry!’ His mother rushed forward to hug him again. ‘No child should ever have to see that. I’m so sorry.’

For the next few minutes the three teenagers hugged in silence; each of them understood who they were and how much they meant to one another. To anyone looking in on the scene it would have looked like three best friends saying farewell, but to Harry it was the second chance he had waited sixteen years for.

Harry watched in silence as his parents added their memories to Sirius’ and then they all left the kitchen to find the Headmaster. He and Sirius were waiting for them in the living room next to the large fire grate where they appeared to be having an interesting conversation. When Harry entered the room with his parents, Dumbledore stood and handed Sirius a bit of parchment; probably the directions for his younger self to follow when the teens got home safely

‘Now if you could all please grab hold of the Portkey,’ he said kindly, holding out a blue and yellow wool sock. ‘We need to be in my office before I send you back.’

Lily hugged him again and whispered something interesting into his ear.

‘Take care of your aunt and your cousin for me. I know she can be difficult, but you have to understand that she has your best interest at heart.’

Harry promised that he would, and she stepped back to where Sirius and Dumbledore stood. James walked up to give him one last hug as well, and he too whispered something strange.

‘I didn’t want to say anything before, but you talk in your sleep. You said the prophecy over and over again last night, and I may be wrong, but only one thing came to mind. Use our wands.’

This being said he stepped back to join the others and they all grabbed hold of the old sock in the Headmaster’s hand. The last thing Harry saw of his parents and Godfather was their smiling faces and his mother calling out ‘I love you,’ before they disappeared.

*


After his family’s departure, Harry had immediately gone up to his shared room and asked Marc and Ron to leave him alone. He changed into his pyjamas with the intentions of sleeping for the next five days and not leaving the bed until Hermione had to come and drag him back to the castle for lessons.

He had sealed his pensieve and placed it securely in his trunk where it now lay as the single most valuable thing in his life. He decided that he would go through the memories another day, when the pain of losing his parents was not so fresh. Laying his head down, Harry found it difficult to clear his mind of thought but at this point he really did not want to clear it. He fell asleep rather quickly and his mind immediately began dreaming.

These dreams were not the average Harry Potter dreams however. They were comprised of silly memories with the Marauders and of his adventures at Hogwarts with Ron and Hermione. For once his dreams were rather enjoyable, until things changed from the regular smooth scenes of fun and excitement, to frightening snap-shot like images flashing before his eyes. He saw Death Eater masks and Voldemort’s snake like face. Then he saw Lucius Malfoy’s signature smirk and finally Hermione’s tear-stained and screaming face.’

Harry sat bolt upright in bed and looked around frantically. Marc and Ron were both sleeping soundly and everything was perfectly still. Still not breathing properly, Harry leapt out of his four-poster and grabbed his wand off the bedside table before rushing over to shake Ron awake.

‘Ron! Ron get up quick. We have to go,’ he shouted and did not wait for a response before going on to shake Marc awake as well.

‘What is it Harry?’ Ron groaned as he sat up in his bed. ‘Did you have another nightmare?’

‘It’s Hermione Ron. She’s in trouble. We’ve got to get to her.’

Before he had even finished his sentence, Ron was on his feet with his wand in his hand.

‘We’ll Floo then?’ Ron said in a panicked voice, but was confused when Marc picked up a piece of parchment and asked Harry to write down Hermione’s address.

‘We’re using a Portkey,’ he said, and not a moment later the three boys felt the familiar sensation of a hook behind their navel and the feeling of pavement beneath their feet.

Looking up at the row of nearly identical townhouses, Harry was mortified to see, fifty feet in the air above Hermione’s home, the large green skull with a snake protruding from its mouth; the Dark Mark.

Without even thinking, Harry began to sprint toward the front door of the yellow home, hoping with all his might that they were not too late. Ron was several steps ahead of him and was the first to bang through the slightly open front door. What Harry saw next nearly made him vomit.

The walls of the narrow entrance corridor were covered in the scorch marks of ricocheted curses, and at the end of the hall two masked Death Eaters were standing over Hermione’s prone figure with their wands still trained on her. Before he could even react, Ron had rushed forward and in a voice Harry had never heard before cried ‘Avada Kedavra!’

Harry and Marc watched as the green light rushed at the nearest Death Eater and heard the familiar hollow thump of his lifeless body hitting the floor. The other Death Eater froze in shock at the power of the killing curse, before quickly recovering and disapparating before Ron could fire another shot.

Ron was the first to reach Hermione on the floor and quickly rolled her over to face them. Harry felt tears roll down his face as he stared into the familiar glassy eyes he had seen on both of his parents the night they died. His hurt shout of anger joined Ron’s and filled the air as Ron openly sobbed and held Hermione’s body up to his chest.

‘No! You’re not gone,’ he cried. ‘You can’t be Hermione. I love you.’

The soft popping sounds of wizards apparating had Harry turn to find Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt arriving with Remus Lupin.

‘We were too late,’ was all Harry heard Marc tell Tonks before he slumped to the ground in tears.

He could hear her telling Ron that he needed to let go of Hermione, but he continued to grip her as he sobbed. The last thing Harry saw before everything went dark was Tonks grabbing hold of Ron’s robes and all three figures disappearing.


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