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Over the Hill Harry by Prudence Prior

Format: Novel
Chapters: 34
Word Count: 118,710

Rating: 12+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence

Genres: Action, Humor, General, Mystery
Characters: Draco, Ginny, Harry, Dumbledore, Hermione, Lily, Neville, OC, Remus Lupin, Ron, Snape, Voldemort, Fred/George, Tonks, Luna, Seamus, M. McGonagall

First Published: 11/26/2004
Last Chapter: 03/23/2005
Last Updated: 07/29/2005

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Harry Potter is an ‘over the hill’ hero who has been wounded and left to write his memoirs until he receives a surprising invitation that will take him back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he will embark on a new quest to save those he cares for and rescue his world from a dark menace not unlike the old. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, George and Fred reunite to fight the new and terrifying peril. This adventure story was written before book six.

Chapter 1: Harry, the Hero
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Chapter One

Harry, the Hero

He fixed himself a cup of tea. The simple act of pouring the steaming water onto the bag brought his sorrow into more manageable proportions. It was such a loss, to him, to the entire wizarding world, everyone. It was an end to an era.

Harry Potter sat down on the sofa in front of the fire. The house was very quiet. Winter without the boys around was lonely. He missed his wife. He’d been working on his memoir but it hadn’t been going very well. He’d never been one for books and was now sorry that he’d ever agreed to write his story in the first place. There were too many decisions on what to say and what not to say, too many secrets, too many disappointments.

He heard a familiar voice. “Dad? Are you there?”

Harry looked over at the mirror that always sat on the easel next to his desk in the far corner of the room. He’d given James and Sirius the match to it when they’d left for Hogwarts School two years before. They’d hardly ever used it.

“Dad? I know you’re there,” said the voice again, this time a bit exasperated.

“Yes, I’m here.” He got up and limped over to the desk. His wound from the Chinese oracle thief hadn’t healed properly, though it’d been a month since he’d been released from St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies.

“Are you alright?” Sirius looked concerned. Harry couldn’t help smiling at his son’s hairstyle. He’d grown it long, which only made the inherited Potter hair look all the more tortuous.

“I’m fine. Where’s your brother?

“I’m here.” James shoved his brother over to look into the mirror at his father. “Mom said we should talk to you, just in case, you know…just in case you were down about Dumbledore’s kicking it and all.” James’ face was more like his mother’s. His twin boys were not identical in body or spirit. Sirius was a healthier looking and taller replica of Harry at thirteen while James favored his mother’s side of the family. It made his heart ache again to see the red hair, the green eyes and the vivid smile.

“Why couldn’t she talk to me herself? Seems like she should. Considering.” He was feeling sorry for himself and rather grumpy that his wife, Ginny had left angry, packing up and saying she'd be away until he came to his senses.

“She’s still pretty mad with you, Dad,” said James, always the blunt one of the two. “She said that you bloody well better sit by yourself for a good long while. I’ve never seen her like that, Dad. She was howling like a howler.”

“She sent me one.”

“No way! Dad, you really blew it this time. I can’t believe she sent you one. Wow! You’re toasted good.”

“I thought you were meant to cheer me up? Your mother will forgive me, someday. She knows what I do. I had no choice. That oracle was important. It had to be saved." He had very nearly been killed and Ginny had been insisting that he retire from his work as an Auror, but he felt he still needed to have an occupation at the relatively young age of thirty-seven.

Sirius stuck his head up next to James. They looked joined at the neck. “Angus McManus said that you flew right into the Griffin’s nest, Dad, said you nearly lost your whole head when the Queen entered the cave.”

“I think Angus was adding a bit of drama to an otherwise routine mission,” answered Harry with all the gravity he could muster. “The dangerous part was when the oracle thief caught me off guard with a stunning spell, the griffin nearly tore my leg off. It seemed to know my every move. I never saw it coming at me and couldn't get away. If Seamus hadn’t dragged me from there and fought them off, I might have lost more than just the full use of my leg. He’s the one that scared off the wizard, not me. I’m getting too old for fighting, I guess.”

“That’s what Mom said,” said James. “She said that she’d forgive you when you retired to write your memoirs and not before. She’s staying with Grandma, by the way. If it makes you feel any better, she won’t last there much longer. Granny’s making her learn to knit and do chores because she thinks she should go back home to her husband and quit being such a priss. She’s nagging mom something fierce.”

“Really? Molly always did favor me, didn’t she? Good. The house is lonely without you lot around to muck it up. Shag’s the only one to keep me company and he’s not happy with me because I can’t take him for long walks.”

At the sound of his name the great large mound in the corner of the room rose and stretched. He lumbered up to Harry for a head scratch.

The boys both cooed at Shag, their great large dog that had been a gift from Hagrid, who was still gamekeeper and teacher at Hogwarts. Harry was struck again by the passage of time and the finality of death as he watched them jabber at their dog while Shag jumped up and down, very confused as to where their voices were coming from. He suddenly remembered Sirius Black, years before, running about to see him off on the Hogwarts train, a great large black dog. He barely participated in the rest of the conversation with his sons. Now, Dumbledore was gone, as well. Everyone had left him. The boys rang off with a great shouting song about some Gryffindor win at Quidditch but he hardly heard them. His body ached with misery and disappointment.

He’d forgotten how much he missed Sirius. His godfather had been such a comfort to him for a few short years during his school years. When Sirius had died tragically in one of his battles with Voldemort and his followers, Harry had mourned him daily for years but it had been a decade since he’d relived that bitter disappointment and loss.

Dumbledore’s death had been such a shock. He’d first read the announcement in the Daily Prophet on the morning before, and soon after, everyone seemed to know. The owl post had been visiting hourly all day. The hole in Harry’s heart began to tear again as he searched the tabletop next to his chair for his handkerchief. It was hard to believe it had been almost twenty years since Hogwarts, and harder still to think that Dumbledore hadn’t wanted to live longer, that he’d let himself go, that he was really dead. The letter from the ministry had arrived by late afternoon. It had been a stark statement of the fact:

Albus Dumbledore
Order of Merlin, Headmaster of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Died this day November 22.
Memorial services
By order of the ministry of magic
Tuesday next, 4:00 o’clock, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry
Rigus Mortis Nelson Chapel

He’d never gotten a chance to say good-bye. Years ago, he’d accepted the realization that Dumbledore was a mentor and almost a father to him. He’d never known his real father. Sirius, his godfather, had been in his life for a only a painfully short time. Albus Dumbledore had always been there albeit often on the sidelines, watching him fall, guiding him to win what had been for both of them the ultimate prize, Voldemort’s obliteration. He and Albus had even discussed his bizarre coming of age and subsequent victory on several occasions. Their relationship had made him the man he had become, the famous fighter who had not only vanquished the great evil madman but had led him to make a name for himself as a formidable Auror. Dumbledore had led him to this point in his life and had always been a tower of strength that even now seemed beyond Harry’s reach. Someday, he would like to be as wise and farseeing as Albus Dumbledore had been for so many years. There was so much more that he could have learned from him.

There was a delicate tapping on the windowpane, the dying light outside showed just a shadow outline of a small owl. He sighed. It would likely be yet another letter of condolence. Harry limped to the window, unlatched and opened the sash. In flew the owl, settling on the mantel, close to the fire. Even owls must feel the cold of the sleeting autumn weather outside.

“So what’ve you got for me?” asked Harry. He creaked over to the mantel to fetch a small package hanging from the bird’s leg. The little thing squawked and hopped over Harry’s head, landing on his desk at the far end of the room. She stepped sideways and back again, squawking and clearly agitated.

“That is for me, isn’t it? Give it here, please, if you don’t mind.” He limped again across the room. Playing tag with an owl messenger was not what he wanted to do at the moment. “I’ve got a gimpy leg, friend, don’t make me chase you.”

The owl flew past him toward the pantry and settled on a tin of coffee on the counter. Harry considered him. “Are you hungry, bird?” he asked. He opened the fridge, a present from the Weasley’s on Ginny and Harry’s eleventh wedding anniversary. Mr. Weasley liked giving them muggle presents.

Harry sorted through some wrappings and came out with an aged looking scrap of meat. “Alright, now, you give me the package and I’ll give you this. Deal?” The bird gave a friendlier hoot and edged closer to Harry, who gave the wee thing the scrap while he untied the small red package from its leg.

Inside the box was a ring that he recognized with a pang of regret. The heavy gold embossment of a sword straddled the shining ruby red of the stone. Dumbledore had worn the ring since he’d seen him on that first day, many years before. Harry’s tears began to fall on it. He was glad to be alone with his grief. His loss was great.

He sniffled and limped back to the sofa with the box, admiring the ring, and remembering its wearer. Slowly he unfolded the envelope, which was inscribed:

Harry Potter
Over the hill
And lame

It had to be a joke. Probably Ron had sent it thinking the gag would cheer him up. Working at the Ministry had gone to Ron’s head. He took liberties with his authority, sometimes. Harry didn’t feel he had the right to have Dumbledore’s ring. Ron shouldn’t have taken it.

Inside the envelope was a long letter in a spidery hand, definitely not Ron Weasley’s:

Dear Harry,

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I am old, but not, in fact, dead yet. I have decided to take a sabbatical and visit the isle of birth. My death is merely a way to disappear with no questions left behind me. I have a wish to refresh myself in the warm waters of my youth.

You are, no doubt, curious as to why I’ve sent you the enclosed ring. Professor Dippet, the previous headmaster at Hogwarts and my mentor during my early years, gave it to me years ago.

I’m afraid that I have a great favor to ask of you and hope you will accept this ring along with my request. As you know, it has been many years now since Voldemort was defeated. And, thanks to you and your fate to slay him, we have enjoyed some years of relative peace. But, it has not been the peace that we all imagined upon the dark lord’s death. As an Auror, you are no doubt aware that for some time there has been a new dark menace brewing in our world that threatens us. And unlike before, there is no name to fix on this menace. Its existence is why you have been called away so often to fight. There has been someone or something else that like a large storm out at sea seems to be about to drown us with its vengeance.

With this in mind, I ask that you kindly return to Hogwarts in my absence and take up the task of being the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. It has been awhile since we’ve lost a teacher to madness and mayhem, but our esteemed Prof. Flaggett disappeared suddenly two weeks ago. I do not know why but I am sure that your new position as teacher should be relatively safe. I would think that our dear Ginny would approve of you not traipsing through the countryside looking for danger, as well.

Most importantly, I wish to have you close to Hogwarts to watch and make ready should any dangerous elements enter its doors. The students will need to learn from your experience to face the future and I cannot, at the moment, continue there, nor protect them.

Take the ring and wear it always. It has the power to protect, the power to predict, and the power to teach. It is a source of great wisdom. Wear it well, my friend.

Yours fondly,
Albus Dumbledore

Harry sat for some minutes in a mild shock. He looked at the ring, then at the fire and then at the letter again, all with disbelief. Albus Dumbledore was alive. Albus Dumbedore had done what he’d always done, left Harry out of the loop, hadn’t told Harry what he needed to know and left good old Harry to fight some battle without all the facts for he’d gone on holiday. Destiny had settled on his shoulders once again and Dumbledore was out of town.

He was, dangerously close to forty and a father with three children, a loving albeit stubborn wife, and years of experience as an Auror fighting evil at every turn. For heaven’s sake, he had almost single-handedly defeated Voldemort, the great evil magician of their age. He was an acknowledged hero; everyone said so. He had been offered 50,000 Galleons to write the story of his life. Yet, here he sat, like the teenager of old, wondering what in the world was going on. Here he sat, as before, trusting Albus Dumbledore to have all the answers.

“Will it ever stop?” he cried to no one in particular. The fire spit and crackled almost as if in answer. He fervently wished that just once, it would be nice if Dumbledore would tell him everything from the beginning, instead of letting him stumble around like the great big git that he felt he was. Maybe that was his own particular magic, the ability to persevere and win despite his obvious ignorance of all the facts.

Harry got up, stoked the fire, threw another log on and then started to laugh. At first it was just a chuckle, but soon it became a gut splitting laugh at the absurdity and joy of his life. He hadn’t felt so deliriously happy in years. He knew just what he would do. He’d stop by the Burrow and pick up Ginny. She was bound to approve.

After all, as far as he was concerned, they were going home.

Chapter 2: The Broomstick in the Cupboard
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Chapter two

The Broomstick in the Cupboard

Getting to the Burrow with Shag was no picnic. If he hadn’t had the dog, he’d have left that evening by floo powder but the floo network, and the ministry in particular, frowned upon traveling by fire with animals. He and Ginny had picked their house because it was a place of peace and privacy away from the glare of Harry’s magical fame, but it was so far removed that there was no other means of magic transport. He had to take the train, muggle style and hire a taxi from London to make it to the Burrow with Shag.

By the time he’d made it to the shire it was four o’clock in the afternoon and both he and Shag were exhausted. As he walked through the front into the house, a wave of nostalgia washed over him. The Burrow always did that for him. It had not changed in so many years and it always was a place of comfort, smelling of love and family, something he had never had in his own childhood. Shag immediately went to the fire rug and threw himself on it for a snooze.

“I think you married me just so you could always walk through that door without knocking,” said Ginny, walking from the room beyond the kitchen. She spoke as if he hadn’t just traveled hundreds of miles in a great rush to claim her but had merely been out to the market to fetch milk for the meal. She smiled and opened her arms but before they could embrace a wind broke out and whirled past her.

“Daddy, daddy! You’re back!” yelled Lily, his youngest and only daughter, who pushed past Ginny and jumped into Harry’s arms.

“Hello, pigeon,” he said gladly, giving her a big bear hug and kissing her cheek.

“Daddy, tell me you’ve come to take us home,” bubbled Lily, not stopping for breath, “Mommy and Granny are always fighting and there’s no one to play with except cousin Billy and I hate him, Daddy, I really do! He says that I’m too little to ride a broomstick and he bosses me all the time and I can’t stand it, Daddy!”

Harry looked to Ginny. “I take it Ron’s let Billy stay over to keep Lily company while you, ahem, hide out here?” he asked. Ron was separated from his wife who’d decided to study in the orient and leave her husband and son behind. Ron, single working father on the slow climb up the ministry hierarchy had often depended on his family to help him with his growing son, now ten and a year from Hogwarts.

Ginny gave a cluck with her tongue and smiled. “Don’t start, Harry. It’s been awful and I’m sorry.” She smiled, a beautiful smile that made her look as she did at twenty. “Mother’s been a tyrant. Ron just dropped Billy off because he needed someone to take care of him and yes; we missed you terribly.” She hugged he and Lily both.

“Mommy and me have been very sad, Daddy,” said Lily. “We’ve wanted to come home to you but it’s hard, mommy says, to say you’re sorry when you’ve hollered and been really, really frightened and mad.” At five years old, Lily was wiser than her years and cuter than she should be. They both looked at her, their child, the perfect blend of Potter and Weasley with bright green eyes and very dark hair that glinted red in the light. Harry, who had never had a family life before he and Ginny had married, was the perfect picture of a starving man who’d come home to a feast as he looked from his wife to his daughter. As no one else, he needed his family near him. They made him feel whole.

“I have news,” he said simply. “We’re going to live at Hogwarts. I’m to be the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. Apparently, Dumbledore’s not dead, but out on some mission of a sort or a vacation, perhaps, I’m not sure which, and Hermione told me that the Dark Arts teacher simply disappeared a few weeks back, no one knows where.”

“You spoke to Hermione?”

“On floo, yes, she told me that they’re expecting us as soon as we can get there.”

“Why didn’t you contact me first?”

Harry was perplexed. Could Ginny be jealous of Hermione, of all people? “Well, I just thought I’d talk to her about where we’re to live, since she’s there already.” He was confused by the look on her face. “I was just planning ahead…I…just…”

Ginny laughed. “Harry, the look on your face is too much. I was just teasing you.” She kissed his cheek. He was relieved but still confused.

Lily, who was still in his arms watching her parents quietly, put a hand to her mother’s face. “Mommy, don’t tease. Be nice. I’ve missed Daddy ever so much.”

Both Harry and Ginny laughed.

“Well, thank heavens!” said a familiar loud voice from behind them. “Oh! Harry, dear boy, thank heavens you’ve come! I’ve been so worried.”

Harry handed Lily to Ginny and went to kiss his mother-in-law and receive a hug. “Hello, Molly, I’ve come to claim my family. Thank you for keeping them,” he said.

“Harry, dear, I don’t blame you, I really don’t,” said Molly with a pained expression of martyrdom and drama. “I’ve told that daughter of mine time and time again to go home and forgive her husband for JUST DOING HIS JOB! My own daughter! And after you’d been in hospital for more than a month. You almost died! And what does she do but leave you!” She wagged a menacing finger in Ginny’s direction. “I warned her that her stubbornness was ridiculous, but Harry, dear Harry, SHE WOULD NOT LISTEN!”

“All’s been forgiven, Molly,” Harry told her, “and I bring good news, as well. Dumbledore is not dead; he’s just gone on holiday, the Daily Prophet and the Ministry got it wrong once again. He’s asked me to take a teaching position at Hogwarts.”

“On Merlin’s beard,” cried Molly, putting a hand to heart and sitting with a thump in the nearest chair. “I can’t believe it! Imagine. Wait until I tell Mr. Weasley.” She promptly began to cry, loudly.

It took Harry and Ginny most of the next two hours to calm her down she was so excited. When Mr. Weasley and Billy returned from a Quidditch match for supper she started right up again until all went to bed in exhaustion.

The next morning, just after dawn, as Ginny slumbered serenely next to him, Harry was awakened by the sudden knowledge that there was something watching, very close in the room. His years of training as an Auror told him to hold still and listen intently for the direction of breathing, if there was any. He had a momentary lapse in his cold calmness when he realized that his wand was ten feet away on the dresser.

“Daddy, are you awake?” came the soft whisper of the intruder. Harry relaxed, smiling at the ceiling before answering.


“Yes, you are, silly. Shhh! Don’t wake mommy. I have a secret to show you.” She took his hand in her very small cool one and pulled on him to get out of bed. “It’s downstairs, Daddy, come, in the cupboard.”

Harry followed her through the quiet house, limping down the stairs in his nightshirt and bare feet, feeling ridiculous and happy at the same time, being led by his precious one, his baby. She, for her part, would scoff at the baby part, being five and turning twenty very soon.

“It’s here,” she said, still whispering, “It’s in the cupboard under the stairs. My secret.”

Harry laughed to himself, remembering a life, a very long time ago, when he lived, a secret, in the cupboard under the stairs. The ironies of his life never ceased…

“Look,” Lily said, holding up an old dilapidated broomstick to him as if it were real treasure. “It’s very old, Daddy, but it still works.” He held it up to look at it but couldn’t see very well in the soft light of the perpetual fire in the hearth that had burned, untended through the night. He walked over to the fire, careful not to disturb Shag who had not moved from his spot on the rug.

“Why, my word, it’s my Firebolt!” he exclaimed. “I haven’t seen this in ages. You can still see the burn marks.” A flood of memories came back to him. The last battle with Voldemort, his escape from that hell, limping on the broomstick to the ledge…”

“It still works, daddy,” Lily said reverently. “I tried it.”

Harry turned to her, stunned. “You’re too young, pumpkin! You mustn’t fly yet. You’re only five! Promise me, that you won’t try anymore, especially on this old one!” He was suddenly horror struck that his little daughter had tried flying without him, probably in secret. She could have been killed.

“I won’t promise, daddy,” she stomped a foot. “I can fly. You’re acting just like Billy! This is a special broomstick. Its sings when it flies and talks to me. It taught me to fly it.” Her face was stubborn, like her mother’s, beautiful and no force of nature could dissuade her.

“What do you mean, it talks to you?” Real fear welled in Harry. “Broomsticks don’t talk to people, even witches.”

“This one does.”


“When I fly it. It tells me how to hold on, it tells me where to go, how high and slows me down if I’m too fast. And, it doesn’t say that I can’t fly, daddy, like you and Billy. It told me that I’m really good. It told me that it used to fly with you but you threw it away and now it will fly with me.”

“You must promise me not to fly it, Lily!” Harry felt a panic growing. Could Voldemort’s magic have something to do with the broomstick? Had he carried something evil out of that place with him? “I’m going to keep this away from you in a safe place. It shouldn’t have the magic to talk, little one.”

“NO! Daddy, No! It’s MINE!”

“No, baby, it’s not,” Harry steeled himself for the possible tantrum. “I will buy you a nice new broomstick when you’re six and I will teach you to fly it myself. Even six is much too young, but if you must fly, I will do it then.”

“NO! You’re not fair, daddy!” she wailed. “I want this one! It’s special.”

Harry’s fear for her safety hardened his resolve to resist her. “No, my love. This broomstick is mine. I will get you a new one.”

“NO-O-O-O-O!” she wailed and wailed until the whole house was awake, out of their beds and gathered around the fire. Everyone was talking at once. A new day had emerged with a vengeance

Chapter 3: Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Emporium
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Chapter Three

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Emporium

Arthur Weasley, of all of them, was the most upset upon the discovery of a talking broomstick found in his own cupboard. Of course, everyone had to take Lily’s word that it did, in fact, sing and talk because it uttered no sound in anyone else’s presence. It was not unheard of for a thing to be possessed by magic, only unusual, and it often meant some dark magic had tampered with it. No good could come of such a thing as a broomstick with a mind of its own.

“If that broom has been meddled with in any way, Harry,” Arthur assured him, “I’ll find out what they’ve done.” They were sitting in Fred and George Weasley’s office at the back of their Emporium. The establishment had grown to be a very popular joke and tricks shop on Diagon Alley. Harry, Arthur and Billy were having tea with the twins, while Molly, Ginny and Lily treated themselves to shopping and pumpkin crèmes down the road. Billy sat in the corner listening intently. He was sick of hearing about the silly broom that his Uncle Harry and Grandpa Arthur had been discussing ceaselessly for days. He’d been hoping, rather, to glean as much from his Uncles as her could while he was with them. Billy considered them geniuses.

“Check it carefully, Arthur,” said Harry seriously. “I rode that broomstick out of the Liar’s Lair and if I brought something out with me, it must be destroyed.” For three days they had struggled with finding out how the broomstick worked but to no avail. Harry could not even make it fly any longer. It was old, with barely enough tail-twigs to qualify as a broom.

Lily, for her part had refused to help them. Though Mr. Weasley had explained again and again about the importance of not touching a thing that can think for itself because it might have dark magic in it. “It’s not dark, Grandpa,” she had said over and over until she refused to talk to them any more about it. “It’s nice. It taught me to fly. You’re mean.” It wasn’t until they had arrived at Diagon Alley, with all its exciting sites and sounds, that she had relented and begun to talk to either Harry or her grandfather again.

Fred and George had listened intently to their story, while sipping tea and answering questions from employees when they popped open the door. The joke shop was bustling with holiday shoppers for it was the start of their busiest season. Every wizard child loved to receive a trick candy, a joke spell or firework from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes on Christmas morning. They had two annexes, in Hogsmeade, Scotland and Old Bosum, Wales, as well as a warehouse in Chelsea. Many of their children, the ones who were no longer in school, worked in management. Fred and George had ten children between them. They’d been very successful in both business and family.

“I wouldn’t worry too much, Harry,” said George finally.

“We’ve seen a lot stranger things down the Alley, of late,” said Fred.

“New creatures, not approved by the ministry on Knockturn Alley,” said George.

“And, more things, boxes, baubles and junk that talks or does magic,” said Fred.

“We even sell a broom that sings songs, and tells jokes. It’s the newest fad, nothing to it, really. It’s just a spell,” said George.

“Yeah, we get them from a new outfit, makes toys, bottled potions and such. What’re they called?”

“Riddle’s Remarkables,” answered Fred.

“And, blimey,” said George, “You’ll never guess who runs the company, Harry!”


“Marcus Flint!” they both said at the same time.

Harry looked stunned. “You mean, the Captain of Slytherin’s team in my third year?
That Marcus Flint?”

“The one and only!” said Fred.

“Who knew that he had a sense of humor?” said George
“And, from Slytherin, as well. Would have figured him for Quidditch management, or…”

“…beating up little old ladies…”

“…not, a toy company.”

“Course, don’t forget the best bit, Fred. Harry will appreciate the irony in that.”

“Oh, yeah! See, Flint’s company is part of a larger group of companies he runs…”

“Your old nemesis, Draco Malfoy runs his potions division. In fact, the whole lot of them are a Slytherin’s crowd,” finished George.

“Well, that’s a relief,” said Arthur, not understanding what his sons were on about with Slytherins and toy companies. He ignored the mention of a Malfoy, having never liked the father. “Perhaps, a training spell has been put on the broom Harry, what’d you think? Since, as Lily says, it taught her to fly. Muggles have those sorts of things, to train them, maybe it’s like that?” Arthur had seemed to age three years in three days of worrying that something sprung from dark magic had come from his house. What little hair that was left on his balding head seemed to have turned completely gray overnight.

Harry didn’t have the heart to remind him that this particular broom had been his, and that it had carried him away from his last battle with Voldemort. It had sat in a cupboard, untouched, as far as he knew, for years since then. “I suppose that we shouldn’t worry so much,” he said carefully. “Perhaps, it is just a training spell of some sort.” It didn’t really matter any more, because the broom was safely away from Lily. It was back in the cupboard at the Burrow, waiting to be taken to the ministry for checking. He didn’t know what to make of Draco Malfoy or Marcus Flint. He’d spent years trying to forget Malfoy.

Molly, Ginny and Lily walked into the office, red cheeks shining with the November chill outside. “Oh, Harry, Arthur!” Molly beamed. “We’ve had such fun! I bought Ginny and Lily new robes at Madam Malkin’s and some lovely things for the boys at Christmas.”

Fred and George rolled their eyes and made a face mimicking their mother. Lily laughed at them. She loved her funny uncles.

“We went to Flourish and Blotts bookstore, Harry,” said Ginny, “and guess who we ran into?”


“Luna! Luna Lovegood! She’s promoting her new magazine, a toney new monthly called Wizarding Digest,” said Ginny. “It’s a start-up that’s real stories by real wizards. I’m so excited!”

“She’s asked Ginny to send her a story,” said Molly. “Told her that she’d be the perfect writer, that maybe she should do a regular column. I’m so proud!”

Harry smiled for his wife’s sake. He’d never been very keen on his wife’s career as a writer. He’d had too many unhappy experiences with bad press and one reporter especially; Rita Skeeter, had made his life miserable for years. Plus, Ginny had worked with Luna before, when they were much younger and had done a stint at the Quibbler that had taken her all around the world, away from him and their young family, to search for the weirder, stranger stories of their world. He hoped Ginny didn’t want to travel the world for a story any longer.

“So Luna’s moving into the high society world of monthlies, heh?” he asked. “I remember her at Hogwarts walking the corridors like she was in a trance half the time.”

“That was just her way, Harry,” said Ginny. “She always had more on the ball than people gave her credit for.”

“Yes,” Harry remembered, “she saved my hide and my spirit on more than one occasion.”

The next morning they stood on Platform nine and three-quarters waiting for the whistle to board. The platform was not the bustle and hum that it had been at the start of the school year or as it would be come Christmas break. The Weasley and Potter clan consisted of the largest group, a gaggle of family, trunks and a great many animals. There was their ginger cat, named Grafton, their great dog, Shag, their owl named Ruby and Billy’s toad, which had no name because Billy couldn’t think of a good one.

“Oh, Ginny, dear,” cried Molly, tears flowing. “I’ll miss you so!”

“I’ll miss you, as well, mother,” said Ginny, all arguments forgotten in their good-byes. She hugged her mother. “Tell Charlie and the children a Merry Christmas from us!” The Weasleys were leaving in a less then a fortnight for Romania where Charlie was Director of the Ministry’s program with Dragons. He and his Romanian wife had four children, two of whom were in their third and fifth years at Hogwarts, two others were graduated and living, one in Paris and the other in America. The Weasley progeny had spread far and wide in the wizarding world where they’d become famous for their sheer numbers.

Molly turned her teary attention to the little ones, Lily and Billy, and enveloped them in her arms. “You two be good,” she said, bending down on one knee to kiss them both soundly and pinch their cheeks.

Billy, for his part, was outraged that Granny was acting like he was a baby. He was ten, after all. “Don’t worry, Gran,” he said. “I’ll make sure that Lily doesn’t do anything stupid and play with hexed brooms this time.”

Lily kicked him.

“Lily, behave!” admonished Molly. Then she kissed them both again and stood up to weep in Harry’s arms.

Billy, as tall as his father had been, with the same lanky gait and bright red hair, pinched Lily on the arm when he was sure none of the adults were looking. Both he and Lily were beside themselves with joy on going to live at Hogwarts. Billy especially, because it meant that he didn’t have to travel to Romania with his boring Grandparents, and that his father would surely come to stay with the Potters at Christmas time. Ron was working as the new head of the Auror division at the Ministry and he’d been traveling all the time, of late. It was a very prestigious and powerful position. He was Harry’s boss. Billy worshiped his father but had hardly seen him in two years. He’d been shuffled from one Weasley clan or another for most of the year.

The Potter party was finally settled in the train compartment just before lunch, having endured many hugs and tears. Ginny watched Harry as he settled nervously in the seat next to her. She knew that he was still agitated about the broom problem. “Harry, dear,” she said, “stop worrying so much about what that broomstick means.” She reached out and held his hand. Her touch was always his comfort. “Dad will take care of it. We’re going to Hogwarts to live for pity sake! Aren’t you excited?”

He was excited. He let his worry go and relaxed to enjoy the ride as they pulled out of the station. Together he and Ginny reminisced about the many rides they’d taken in their school days, as Lily fell asleep on Shag and Billy buried his face in a classic comic book: The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle.

Harry teased Ginny about her boyfriends in school and how it had driven Ron crazy that she was so casual when it had been so hard for him to work up the nerve to date.

“That’s because he always wanted to be Hermione’s boyfriend,” Ginny recalled. “He just couldn’t get past the fact that they could have been friends and more than friends at the same time. He was such a twit.”

Billy barely rippled his copy of the Mad Muggle, but they knew he’d been listening.

“Speaking from experience, it was hard being a teenager. The girls were always such an enigma for me,” confessed Harry.

“Well, I used to just pretend that I was dating some of those boys, you know, just to drive Ron crazy.”


“ I must admit that watching Ron turn red was rather fun on occasion.”

“I’m always surprised that we never dated at Hogwarts.”

“Oh, Harry, you wouldn’t have anything to do with me. You were too worried about what Ron would say, or that I was too much like a sister to you and worry, worry, and more worry, as you always did.” Ginny laughed at the memory of him. “If I hadn’t decided to track you down at St. Mungo’s to write that story for the Daily Prophet about you finally defeating old-stick-in-the-mud Voldemort, we would never have been a we.

Harry laughed. Ginny had tracked him down all right, stuck in hospital with nowhere to go. He’d almost lost the use of one of his arms, the healers weren’t sure that he’d ever walk normally again. As Voldemort had burned in that hole, he’d limped to the broomstick, had clung to it for dear life and had barely made it out. If it hadn’t been for Hermione and Ron, he wouldn’t have.

Hermione had discovered hints to a long forgotten Germanic curse that had made the final victory possible in one of her Ancient Runes books, of all places. Ron, like himself, had nearly died in that hell with him. They both now had matching scars where Voldemort had tried to rip out their hearts with his magic. They were V shaped purple welts just above their navels. Ron had used his to impress his love interests for years after. He’d often told Harry that he was only sorry that it hadn’t actually improved his magical powers in any way. He’d been hoping for some of Harry’s extra gifts.

Ginny had come to hospital on the premise that she was best suited to get the real story from Ron and Harry, being a relative of one of the heroes. Witch Weekly had given her an exclusive and it had launched her career as a reporter. She had nursed him, visiting daily at hospital and then at his house at Grimauld Place for several months until he was in better health. They had fallen in love somewhere during that time, dating for more than a year and then marrying. Old news.

“Let’s face it, Harry,” said Ginny. “I practically had to throw myself at you before you finally realized that you were in love with me.”

Billy put the comic book down with a huff and made a face that made it plain that their conversation was just plain dumb. “I’m hungry, Aunt Ginny,” he said.

Ginny bustled with a basket of food she’d brought and Harry looked out the window. Lily woke up from her nap and rubbed her eyes. They’d left the city far behind and Harry was lost in his reverie of years gone by until lunch was served. Ginny had fixed them all sandwiches of buttered beast and Stilton with chips and pumpkin juice for the train. Delicious.

“I just had the most lovely dream, mommy,” said Lily as she sipped her juice. “We went to live in a beautiful house! It was covered with lots and lots of flowers that were taken care of by fire fairies.

“That shows you what you know, Lily,” said Billy. “We’re to live at Hogwarts in a great big castle. Dad says that the stairs move and there are lots of dark hallways filled with ghosts.

“That’s enough, Billy,” said Ginny. “The ghosts are not scary, Lily. They’re often very nice, especially Gryffindor’s ghost, Nearly…. I mean…Sir Nicholas.”

“Don’t worry,” added Harry. “We’ll probably be in one of the towers. There’ll be lots of light and you’ll be able to see for miles around. Hogwarts School is a very special place.”

“I’m not scared, Daddy. Billy told me about Nearly Headless Nick ages ago. I really want to live at Hogwarts, it’s just that this dream seemed so real and the lady that lived in the house was so nice.”

“There was a lady there?” asked Ginny.

“Yes, she was standing on the porch when we arrived and she told us that we’d be ever so happy to live there. She had long silver hair and a long glittery dress. She was very nice.”

“Sounds like a Veela,” said Harry. “Did she dance?”

Ginny poked him.

“What’s a Veela?” asked Billy.

“They’re very beautiful creatures that mesmerize men to act like idiots, dear,” answered Ginny as she and Harry both laughed. “Your uncle Harry was once kissed by a girl who was part Veela and he liked it very much.”

“Well, I don’t think she was one of those,” said Lily, eyeing her father with suspicion. “She seemed very sensible and she wasn’t dancing. Anyway, I know it was just a dream.”

They all settled back into their luncheon as the train rattled on. Eventually, the sky outside had started to turn a reddish purple and night was coming as the train rushed ever faster to their new home.

Chapter 4: Thorns and Roses Cottage
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Chapter Four

Thorns and Roses Cottage

There was quite the crowd to meet them at the station. Harry was a little taken aback. The boys were there to greet them boisterously, especially their dog, and there was also Hermione, Hagrid, and Professor McGonagall, who was acting Headmistress in Albus’s absence, even Argus Filch was there to guide them with his lantern.

“Yer a site for sore eyes, you are!” cried Hagrid crying openly. He picked up Lily and threw her into the air, catching her lightly as she screeched happily.

Herimone threw herself at Ginny, then Harry hugging them each hard and bubbling through tears of welcome until she came to Billy. “And, who is this?” she asked with a shy smile. “Who is this that looks so much like Ron did at eleven?”

Billy stretched himself to a new height in pride at the thought of being both eleven and just like his dad. “I’m Bill Weasley, m’am. Ron Weasley is my father.”

Herimone smiled a secret sort of smile that she shared with Harry and Ginny but that Billy did not quite understand. “Well, Bill Weasley,” she said, “ I am honored to meet you, the son of Ron. I am Hermione Granger. Your father and I were in school together.”

“I’ve heard of you,” he said, realizing who she was. “You and my dad liked each other. I’ve seen your picture on his desk.”

At that, Ginny and Harry laughed outright, while Hermione merely blushed.

Professor McGonagall stepped forward to officially welcome them. She looked exactly the same, stern but Harry recognized the kindness that he had not as a young man. She wore her hair down her back in a long braid, probably in deference to her new position as headmistress. Her robes were a rich red and she wore a bright gold cap that hung down to the side with a large tassel attached. She shook Ginny’s hand to welcome her and then turned to Harry, taking both his hands in hers and fixing her intelligent eyes on him. “I’m so glad you’ve come, Harry. You have our deepest gratitude for accepting this position and bringing your lovely family to live with us at Hogwarts.” She had not let go of his hands and she examined both sides with great interest. Everyone around them looked at one another, wondering what she was doing. She then bent close to Harry’s ear. “You must wear the ring, Harry Potter,” she whispered so that only he could hear. “Always.”

She stood back from him, let go of his hands, straightened her robes and smiled at everyone. “Shall we show them their new home?” she said looking at Hermione and Hagrid.

“Oy, Mom,” called Sirius, “Wait ‘til you see it!”

“That will be all, Mr. Potter,” said Professor McGonagall in her stern manner of old. “Your parents are to be surprised, remember?”

“Sorry, Professor.”

“I would think with end of term exams looming that the two of you must have some studying, have you not?”

“But, gosh, our parents just got here,” said James. “Can’t we go with them to their new digs? I want to see their faces.”

“That will be all, you two,” interrupted Hermione in a way very much as Professor McGonagall. “I know for a fact that your Transfiguration exam will be more than challenging. You both go up with Hagrid to the castle and get on task. There just might me a surprise quiz since its Friday tomorrow.”

“Ah! Professor, NO!” groaned the twins. “We’ve got Quidditch practice in the morning!” Like their uncles, Sirius and James had both made beaters in their second year.

Hermione softened, probably at the memory of Harry and Ron. Since the twins were not identical but one with red hair and one with black, she had often been nostalgic about her old friends when they were in her class. “Tell you what,” she said, “we’ll have a right little party at the…erm…apartment…tomorrow evening. You’ll have time to visit with your parents all weekend if you like.”

The twins grumbled, but hugged their parents and followed Hagrid and Filch up the path with the trunks to one of the carriages.

Ginny, Harry, Billy and Lily mounted the carriage with Hermione and Professor McGonagall while the boys gave a nervous look at Hermione and climbed in the other carriage with Hagrid. The carriages made their way slowly up the hill to the castle. Ginny chatted with Hermione while Harry quietly wondered to himself about the surprise that they were in for and why Professor McGonagall had felt that wearing the ring that Dumbledore had given him was so important. He hadn’t felt as if he deserved to put it on. It was still in its box somewhere in his trunks. It seemed so absurd to wear such a special ring. Certainly people would know that it had been Dumbledore’s ring. They would ask him why he had it. What would he say? Dumbledore had said that it had the power to protect, predict and teach. He wasn’t sure that he wanted that kind of power. His experience with Voldemort’s powers had taught him that with added abilities comes added responsibilities. He was sure that Dumbledore had some new challenge that he felt Harry should enlist in. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to.

Then Ginny said something to him about being happy and they were both lost in the throes of nostalgia again. Hogwarts had been such a large part of their lives and though they had visited Sirius and James during their first year at Hogwarts, the thought that it was now to be their home overwhelmed them.

To their surprise, their carriage did not stop once it was within the gate walls at the main entrance. Instead, it glided past around to the south side of the castle toward the greenhouses. Herimone laughed at their expressions of question and confusion. “Just wait until you see where you’re to live, Ginny!” she said, excited.

Professor McGonagall clicked her tongue. “It’s a surprise, Professor Granger,” she said to Hermione. “Don’t tell.”

Lily clapped her hands together delightedly. She loved surprises.

The carriage rounded the corner and paused for moments at a tall stonewall behind the greenhouses. As students they had all lounged during the summer under the elms just outside the wall, but they had never been on the other side of it, nor did either Ginny or Harry remember the large heavy gate that was opening to let them in.

As the gate opened, the carriage continued along a path of crushed oyster shells that glittered in the moonlight. At the end of the lane stood a medieval cottage that seemed to be their destination. It was lit top to bottom by candlelight and fire fairies hovered about the porch tending to what seemed in the moonlight to be thousands of blooms of roses. It being November, roses in bloom were a curious sight.

“They bloom all year, even in snow, Ginny!” Hermione declared. “Morgana herself built the house and planted the roses, Harry. It’s such an honor to have use of the house. No one’s lived in it for two hundred years!”

“Hermione, please!” said Professor McGonagall sternly, though she was smiling a bit at the corners of her mouth. “Albus and I discussed it before he took his leave. We thought that living at the castle might be frightening for Lily and that as a family you might feel more comfortable in a home of your own.” She sniffed, trying to get back her composure. “We have so few young children and families here at Hogwarts. We’d hoped that you’d be pleased.”
Billy, who’d been the most quiet throughout the whole arrival at Hogwarts, forgot himself for once and started bouncing up and down and pointing through the window.

“Lily, Lily, look! It’s your house! Just as you said it would look!”

Lily also was jumping up from her seat to hang out the window. “It is! It is! Mommy, look! Just like I dreamed it!”

The adults in the party all looked at each other. Hermione and Prof. McGonagall were questioning while Harry and Ginny looked to each other in fear. Between the dream and the broom, Lily had been showing some unusual abilities.

“What’s this?” asked Hermione. “Lily dreamed of the house?”

“I did, I did, Professor, m’am” said Lily. “But I don’t see the lady on the porch.”

“Lady?” said Prof. McGonagall alarmed.

Lily calmed down. Prof. McGonagall’s stern questioning look took the excitement right out of her. “I saw a lady with long silver hair, m’am,” said Lily seriously. “She had a glittery dress and she welcomed us to our new home.”

They all held their breath. “And what else did you see in this dream, child?”

Lily looked to her parents for support. She climbed onto Ginny’s lap. “We went inside and there was a great large hearth with a wreath of flowers carved in stone. The lady stood in front of it and said that we would be happy here but that we weren’t to touch the flowers. She said that the fairies would take care of them. She told us that if we pricked ourselves on the thorns we would all fall asleep and the cottage would be covered with thorns and we would sleep until the charmed one came to wake us up.”

“How strange,” said Hermione, “the muggles have a story like that. Prince Charming must kiss the princess to wake up the household.”

Prof. McGonagall sat a bit stiffer and peered at Lily with that look that could quiet a noisy classroom in thirty seconds, “It’s a true story,” she said. Her face was pale and she looked frightened. “Prof. Dumbledore and I discussed the danger of the roses but we decided that even if someone did prick themselves, we had the charm that would awaken the house.” She rearranged the folds of her robe while they all waited for her to tell them more. “Morgana, the great witch, did indeed build this house. She was a formidable and ancient witch. She bred the roses as a protection from intruders, we believe. This was long before the breeding restrictions, of course. There are no other roses in the world like them. The fire fairies that tend them also, are not found anywhere else in the world. They are not stupid, as we know other fairies are. You will find them friendly, even chatty. They are unique and intelligent. She…made them so…no one knows how. The fairies will not tell us or perhaps, don’t know themselves. They are highly evolved magical creatures, who will never leave this place.”

“Cool!” said Billy. “What a great house! Can we go in, can we?” His enthusiasm was infectious. They all seemed to start breathing again. The carriage had stopped but no one had moved while Prof. McGonagall had spoken.

“Let’s go look at our new home, shall we?” said Harry. He was intrigued by the story. They all save Prof. McGonagall and Harry piled out of the carriage.

McGonagall held his arm to stop him. “A word, Harry,” she said. “When Albus and I talked of the cottage, he did not mention a woman with silver hair.” Her look was worried. “I will have to contact Albus and inform him. Morgana was known as the white witch because of her silver hair, Harry. If she is here somewhere, be warned that she was a very powerful witch.”

“An ancient ghost isn’t what’s worrying me, Minerva,” said Harry solemnly. “What worries me is that my daughter dreamed of this place on the train.”

“Yes, yes, that too is most unusual.”

Lily ran down the steps of the cottage and pulled open the carriage door. Her face was delighted and her dark hair glistened fire red in the candlelight from the house. “Come, daddy, it’s beautiful,” she cried. “You must see it! And the hearth is just as I saw it. I love this house!” She dragged at his arm and both he and the Professor stepped from the carriage.

The fire fairies were singing a beautiful and happy tune as they danced among the flowers. Every window was lit with candles and the whole house seemed alive with light. Lily stood next to Harry holding his hand as they gazed at it. “The lady was right, daddy. We’ll be very happy here.”

Harry looked down at her, not sure if he should be happy or afraid for her. “I hope so, pumpkin,” he said. “I hope so.”

Chapter 5: Preacher, Creature, he's just a Teacher
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Chapter Five

Preacher, Creature, he's just a Teacher

The next morning, very early, Harry Potter dressed for breakfast. He was nervous. His first day back at Hogwarts and he was to be introduced at breakfast as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. His first three classes were to be on Monday. He could hardly believe it. He was to sit at the dais at the teacher’s table. Somehow, it seemed more impossible to him than the time he had escaped being scorched alive by a Bulgarian Ridgeback dragon.

He pulled the box with Dumbledore’s ring from his dresser drawer and slipped it on. It felt heavy on his finger. Nothing happened. He’d half expected to feel a warm tingling or some sort of magic awakening in him but there was none. Encouraged, he padded down the stairs, still with the limp that seemed never to heal. Outside the house, he stood on the porch breathing the cold November air, steeling himself for the walk to the castle and his entry to that world.

“Good luck!” said a melodious voice.

Harry started. “Who’s that?” he asked.

“My name’s Reep,” said a fairy that now flew closer and hung in the air two feet from his nose. It was bright like a light shined from within it and looked exactly like a tiny human with wings. It was very unlike the fairies that Harry had seen before, which never talked and whose limbs were more insect like. This fairy was as large as a pixie but pretty and he could tell that it had a mind that thought of more than wreaking havoc with humans.

“I’m Harry Potter,” he said.

“You’ll be fine, we thinks, today,” said Reep. “Not a worry for you, we thinks. Except mayhap one who doesn’t like you.”

“Doesn’t like me?”

“Yepper, we thinks he doesn’t likes you.”


“Snakes o’ course.”


“You member him, yep. Snakes.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Hurry, Harry Potter. Not to worry ‘bout ‘ol Snakes. He won’t hurt you. Just hates you, he does.” The fairy flitted back to disappear in the rose bush that Harry could see completely covered the railing of the porch and traveled up the posts some twenty feet high. There were thousands of blooms and a magnificent perfume scent in the air.

He walked slowly up the path and out of the walled garden toward the castle. Inside he turned up a wide corridor toward the great hall. Again visions of his past hit him as he entered the great hall. He remembered the thousands of entries he’d made through the doors, even recognized the scent of the breakfast, the murmur of voices.

Normally, breakfast was a casual sort of come and go affair, but as usual news traveled fast and the whole school was aware that he had arrived the night before. The house tables were almost full, with students whispering and watching him. He felt a little sick.

“Hey, Harry, over here,” called Hermione. He sat down next to her on the far end of the teacher’s table.

Hermione patted his leg. “Are you nervous, yet?”

“I am, I’m surprised to say. Yes, I am.”

“Not to worry. Everyone is on the first day. Listen, Harry, I want to warn you….”

Too late, the menace she was about to speak of stood behind them.

“Well, if isn’t the famous Harry Potter come back to Hogwarts to lord it over us,” said an all too familiar voice.

Harry looked up into the face of Severus Snape and saw within his eyes the same hate and malice he remembered. He’d forgotten, nearly, how awful the Professor of Potions could make him feel. He awkwardly rose from his chair to be at eye level with his old nemesis. Professor Snape had not aged a day. He still looked a greasy soul-starved mess. Harry would have felt pity for him had he not hated him so.

“Severus,” he said, emphasizing the first name basis they’d be on and reminding himself that Snape could no longer threaten him with expulsion, “the same sunny disposition, I see.”

“Don’t be insulting, Potter,” answered Snape raising his eyebrow. “I see that you wear the ring. The same coddled heir apparent. Disgusting. I, for one, was against your coming. Let’s just make sure that you stick to the rules…Professor.”

“What rules?”

“Ahhh! As usual, I see you have come completely unprepared. Your famous luck won’t help you here. Be warned, Professor Potter.” Snape glared meaningfully at him for good measure and walked to the other side of the table to sit down.

Hermione pulled on Harry’s robe and he sat down. “I wanted to warn you about Severus,” she said. “He was rather vocal about your returning to Hogwarts. He’s been harassing the students all week making them miserable. I think he’s docked Gryffindor fifty points in his wretchedness. James and Sirius have suffered his wrath, especially.”

“I’ll kill him.” Harry’s old anger blinded him. He rose from the table.

“Harry, stop,” whispered Hermione. “Snape is awful but he won’t do anything to them other than make them uncomfortable. James and Sirius are much more resilient then you ever were.”

Harry sat down staring at her in disbelief. He’d fought with Death Eaters, Voldemort, and countless monsters. He felt that he’d been very resilient in school. “What are you on about? I was very strong willed.”

“Ha! Strong willed and brave, yes,” said Hermione rolling her eyes. “No one questions that, Harry. Let’s face it. You hated Snape just as much as he hated you. The twins just dismiss his belligerence as silly. You were never confident enough to do that.”

She had a point. The man made his skin crawl. He’d always had a visceral dislike for him.

“So, do you have your lesson plans ready, Harry?” whispered Hermione, changing the subject.

“What lesson plans?”

“Oh, Harry,” moaned Hermione. “You’ve got to have lessons planned, especially for your first class. I’ve been having an awful time since Dumbledore left. I’ve not only had to teach my upper level Ancient Runes, but McGonagall’s first through third years in Transfiguration, as well. I’ve had to sprint for a three levels of curriculum in a month.”

“Hermione, give me some credit. I have more experience then most in the dark arts. I just thought that I would go in, talk to the students, find out what they’ve learned and teach them what I think they need to know.” It was slowly dawning on him that he would have to actually teach these students something. As he sat with the other teachers on the dais and viewed the hundreds of students at their house tables below him, he began to see that Severus Snape had a point. He was unprepared. Somehow, he had developed the vague notion that he would be a friendlier sort of teacher, as Remus Lupin had been.

“Just remember, Harry,” Hermione was whispering furiously in his ear. “They are not your friends. These students don’t want to be your friend. In fact, they don’t want to have anything to do with you if they don’t have to. To them, you’re old. Trust me, Harry, I’ve been teaching here for ten years.”

“That sounds a bit harsh, don’t you think?”

“Were you ever friends with any of your teachers, Harry?”

“Remus, was our friend, wasn’t he?”

“That was different. He’d known your father. He was practically an uncle,” said Hermione dismissively. She looked at him as she had in their school days, as if he didn’t have a clue to what was going on. “Just think about this, for instance, Professor Potter: You’ll have Draco Malfoy’s son in your class. It’s his a first year. Believe me, he’s every bit as much of a pill as his father. Will you be his friend, or will you be as Snape was to us and favor only your own house?”

“ Now that you mention it, I’d never thought about it that way.”

“Lesson plans, Harry,” Hermione whispered just as Professor McGonagall was clinking her glass for morning announcements. “Creative lesson plans, attainable curriculum goals, class management, threats of detention, and docking house points; those things are your friends!”

They all stood clapping as Harry was introduced as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. As he stood and bowed to the welcome cheer, he looked out at the ocean of young faces before him. He realized that he was in for a new challenge. He saw expectant faces, suspicious faces, smiling faces and unbelievably, he saw frightened faces before him. Unlike fighting monsters, dark wizards, and those who just wanted to kill him, he was facing something else. He was suddenly feeling a headache coming on and wanted to lie down somewhere.
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Chapter 6: Domestic Duties of a Dobby Kind
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Chapter six

Domestic Duties of a Dobby Kind

That first day for Harry Potter as resident teacher at Hogwarts went by in a blur. He found his office, which Prof. Flaggett had left in disarray, as if he’d gone missing in a great hurry. Chairs had been upended, tables pushed over and papers were everywhere. His heart nearly stopped when he opened a cupboard and a Boggart jumped out, but his reflexes were such that the thing hardly had time to become the Dementor that he stilled feared. He whirled out his Patronus and herded the thing into a vacant trunk. It irked him that he still feared the Dementors after all these years. They were such horrible creatures and despite his long experience with monsters of every kind, the memory of his mother’s scream that he heard when a Dementor was near would always haunt him.

It took most of the morning just to put everything back to rights. It was strange being in the room that he remembered so vividly from his student days. It was hardly different at all once he’d put it all back together. He sat on the teacher’s desk at the front of the room and since no one was there, he pretended to lecture, waving his wand in the air with purpose. Then he got a glimpse of himself in the mirrored wardrobe that years ago had held his first Boggart. He stopped short and looked at his reflection. He was a man, now. He looked so much as he remembered the image of his father and yet not. His hair had not thinned but was still a dark and exuberant mass atop his head. He was taller, and more angular and muscular than his father had been. Years of Auror work showed on him. He had a lot more scars than anyone else he knew.

The students began to stop by for a peek at the Dark Arts professor by the afternoon. Over the years, he’d become used to attracting curiosity wherever he went. He’d had long years of experience in fame. It was why he and Ginny had settled in Wales, far from prying eyes.

Angus McManus, who seemed to be the president of the Harry Potter fan club on campus was hovering about his office for most of the afternoon, along with a few other 3rd and 4th years asking questions about his greatest duel, worst scar and other silly nonsense. Being famous had never sat well with Harry. It made him uncomfortable because in his experience, with fame came hatred. Someone was always a resentful spoiler. Draco Malfoy had only been his first bitter public while he’d been in school. There’d been others. Sometimes, their snide remarks had been hard to bear. He’d wanted on more than a few occasions to bludgeon some of them.

He escaped from the office as soon as he could, loaded down with books that Hermione had shoved at him: A Wizard’s guide to Youth Development; A Magic Education, Theories and Practice; Developing a curriculum for Modern Magic; and Don’t Drop that Wand and other Stories in Education. He hadn’t realized that teaching at Hogwarts would mean that he had to go back to school, as well. He’d thought he was finished with doing homework.

Harry noticed the quiet of the house as soon as he walked through the door. The fairies, for instance, were not at their posts tending the roses. It was eerily quiet.

“I’m home!” he said loudly.

“Back here, Harry” cried Ginny from a far room. “I’m in the study.”

“We have a study?” he asked, as he tossed the heavy books on the nearest chair and made his way past the entry, through the large central living room with the great stone hearth, to where Ginny’s voice had come. He entered another spacious room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Ginny was busy unpacking books with about twenty fire fairies flying around her with books in the air.

“Put that on the top shelf, please,” she said to a female, who flew high above with a book three times her size. Ginny sat back and looked at Harry. Her red hair was held up in a cloth bow and she looked a dusty sight. “This is a great house, Harry. You’re going to love it here. We’ve got lots of help.”

Reep flew close to Harry and hung in the air before him, “member me, Harry Potter?”

“I do, Reep. How are you?”

“I fine, tanks. Geeny says she will tell a story about us.”

“I told them that they would make a great story for Luna’s new magazine, Harry,” explained Ginny. “Don’t you think she’d love it? They’re so unique and she always loves the …um …exceptional, don’t you think? And Reep says that he’d love for me to write a story about him.”

“We’ez love stories,” said Reep flying away to another corner of the room.

Harry bent down and kissed Ginny. He wiped a smudge from her nose.

“There’s a surprise for you in the kitchen,” she said with a twinkle of amusement. “Go look. Lily’s in there now.”

She got up to follow him. As they walked through the central room toward the kitchen she wrapped her arm around his shoulder and kissed him on the ear. “I can’t wait to see your face,” she whispered.

As he entered the kitchen, Harry forgot himself and let out a hoot. “Dobby!” he cried. “You’re here!

“I is!” laughed Dobby, hopping off the tall stool in front of the sink where he was directing dishes to be washed that floated about in the air then deposited themselves in the drainer. He scurried over and stood holding onto Harry’s robe. It was the closest he felt comfortable with in welcoming an old friend, who was also a wizard. “I’s happy, so happy to see Harry Potter, my friend.”

“How are you, Dobby? I can’t believe that you’re still at Hogwarts!”

“He’s not just at Hogwarts, Harry,” said Ginny. “He’s our new house elf. And he doesn’t come cheap.” She made a face.

“I is paid, Harry Potter. I am a business!”


“Dobby is rich, Harry Potter!” He magically produced a business card that he handed to Harry.

Dobby’s Domestics
Quality Help for every Wizard’s Home
‘free it’s not, cause free we is’

Dobby adjusted the smart looking red cap he wore on his head, and Harry noticed that along with a nice red woolen jumper, he was wearing a pair of jeans and sneakers, as well. “I’m very impressed, Dobby,” said Harry. “I like your…clothes…you look, uh, handsome!”

Dobby looked very tall for standing only two feet high.

“Daddy, look,” cried Lily, who was sitting at the long table in the center of the kitchen with none other than Winky, the elf with an affinity for the drink. “Winky is teaching me to shuck peas! Watch!” She pointed her finger and slowly split open the pod with her magic. The peas fell into the bowl.

“Very nice work, Lily. You didn’t need a wand!”

“Simple, Simple, if you know how!” said Winky not smiling. Years of drinking were showing on Winky. She wore an old muffler on her head, and her face was so wrinkled that she looked like an old rotten apple.

“weeze almost ready for your party!” said Dobby.


“The boys and Hermione are coming to dinner, Harry,” explained Ginny. “Dobby and Winky have been getting the house ready for us all week. Hermione arranged for Dobby to take care of us. It’s amazing what you find in a house that has been hidden by a spell for two hundred years.”

“So that’s why we never saw the house before. A spell, of course.”

Just then Reep came banging through the door so fast that he hit the wall at a flying clip and was flung into a tea cozy lying on the counter. “Geeny! Geeny!” he called, finding his wings again and flying toward her. “Quick! Come! Quick!” and flew out the door.

They all followed quickly after, coming to a halt in the entryway where a small owl sat patiently waiting to be noticed. It eyed the fairy that whirled about its perch suspiciously.

“Reep, calm down,” said Ginny. “It’s only Pig-three, my mum’s owl. They must have sent us a letter, that’s all.”

“It’s news! It’s bad! It’s bad news!”

Ginny looked alarmed for a moment and then dismissed the notion that Reep could know it was bad news. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “How could you know?”

She untied the note from the owl’s leg and the owl flew off to parts unknown, probably to join Ruby, their own owl, now at home in the attic.
“Oh, dear,” she said after reading it. “Mum’s said that they got home from King’s Cross and the broom had broken out of the cupboard!”

“What?!?” cried Harry. “We put a magical lock on it. That’s impossible!”

“She says that there was a small hole eaten in the wood, as if a rat had gnawed its way out. Dad thinks that a wizard must have broken the spell with magic. The broomstick is gone.”

“Told you, I did!” said Reep. He flew to alight on Lily’s shoulder. She was standing in the doorway looking guilty.

“I’m sorry, mother,” she said in an eerily sophisticated way. Ginny had never heard call her anything but mommy.

“It’s alright, Lily,” Ginny assured her. “You didn’t know that the broom had dark magic. Believe me, I know! I once made that mistake myself years ago and was possessed by some very bad magic.”

“It’s not bad,” Lily said quietly. “The lady told me that the broom is just a wood nymph that was changed. She said that it’s very scared, that it escaped to the broom and has been hiding there from its makers. She says that it’s coming to find me.”

They stared at her.

“Did you have another dream?” asked Harry, finally.

Lily nodded her head and looked at her shoes.

Reep patted her hair and whispered in her ear, then flew up and out of the room.

Lily looked up to watch him go and then looked to her parents, who still stood stunned, wondering what they should do. Harry, for one, was not sure that he liked how his homecoming to Hogwarts was turning out. Not only was it a whole new challenge to teach where he had once been a student, but also his daughter was showing signs of strange new precocious behavior that he didn’t understand

“What did Reep say to you, Lily?” asked Ginny.

“Not to be sad,” she answered. “He said there’s no shame in talking true but not everyone wanted to hear it.”

Chapter 7: A Tale Told: Death to Voldemort
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Chapter Seven

A Tale as Told: Death for Voldemort

Dinner at the Potters that evening was a crowded affair. After eating, they all retired to the main room before the great open hearth of stone. Hermione, James and Sirius were there, of course, and so was Hagrid, who sat oddly on the biggest chair in the house near the fire after dinner. Billy was jabbering with the twins about their Quidditch match to be held on the following day and even Dobby and Winky sat on stools as guests. Ginny and Harry sat holding hands and Lily sat in the center on the rug nearest to Shag and the warm fire.

Old friends, together after many years, they were a family of a kind. It was a blissful occasion for Harry. He was overcome with happiness that they were all together, save Ron, of course. But he’d be with them come Christmas.

“Peter Martin says that you tell them a story about Dad when you start a new Runes class every year, Professor Granger,” said James.

“I do, yes, every year,” said Hermione.

“It’s the stuff of legends, it is!” said Hagrid with pride. “Why Hermione’ll tell it, won’t she? Sure, crackin good story that ‘un. I specially like the part that I’ve got!” Hagrid had not changed. He was still a great shaggy hulk of a man with a little more gray showing in his beard.

“So you’ve been spreading legends about us, have you, Hermione?” asked Harry.

“Just the one, Harry. Your secrets are safe with me. I tell it in Runes to get them interested in why a supposed dead language is still important in their world. After all, it was the Runes that partly saved us.”

“I suppose, that’s why I found out today that I’ve a ridiculous fan club at Hogwarts, then?” He shook his head in amazement.

“Load of rubbish, that is, Dad,” said Sirius. “They tried to have us join, but we said we’d have nothing to do with it. They just play a dress up game where they pretend to duel one another. Angus’s dad bought him an invisibility cloak in Persia and he thinks he should be you all the time.”

“You’re joking,” said Harry, aghast at the thought.

“No, that’s the truth,” Sirius assured him. “The bloke’s obsessed. I can’t wait to see him make a fool of himself in your class.”

“Tell the story, Hermione,” urged Hagrid. “Harry’ll never ha’ heard it, I imagine.”

“Please, please, Professor!” cried Lily. “Daddy never talks about the battles!”

“All right, all right, but if I do, I’ll have to have some props to do it right,” said Hermione. She stood up and took out her wand that she flicked in the air. She transformed before them dressed in a purple light gauze cloak with the hood up, her long thick hair hung loose where it had been in a bun a moment before. A slight breeze in the air appeared from nowhere and she seemed larger than her true size. She dimmed the candlelight in the room and drew a ball of light from her hand that hung in the air before her.

“My, you do put on a show, Hermione,” commented Harry. “You do this for the students?”

“It gets their attention, doesn’t it?”

“I guess.”

“Okay, shut it, Harry and listen…” said Hermione, dryly.

As she began the story, her voice changed and became louder and deeper “I will tell you the story of the Ancient Runes and the power of three,”, she said. And with that, images from Harry’s memory and hers emerged from the floating ball and a holographic-like world appeared before them. “The story begins not at the beginning but at the end. The last year for Harry Potter and his friends at the Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry.” There was Harry, years younger at eighteen with Ron and Hermione walking through the courtyard of Hogwarts.

“Whoa, dad! You look like Sirius with glasses!” cried James.

“I was younger once, yes.”

“Shhh!” said Ginny. “Listen.”

“It was at the end. They’d been beckoned and a great fight was coming. The dark lord, Voldermort had captured the great wizard, Dumbledore and was holding him captive in a mountain stronghold called the Liar’s lair. The dark lord had become very strong and what he desired more than anything else was to eliminate his greatest threat. For Harry Potter wore the mark, the mark that prophecy said would lead him to kill or be killed by Voldermort. The Dark Lord had captured Dumbledore to lure Harry Potter to his ultimate doom.”

“Harry and his friends had searched the library archives for some way to enter the lair undetected for it was protected by many Death Eaters and had a strong magical charm.”

At that Hermione stepped back and the images of the three friends standing in the courtyard, a place that was only yards from their house but years away in time enlarged before them.

“We must save him, somehow,” said the young Harry.

“But if Dumbledore can’t get out? How are we to get in, save him and get out again? He’s more powerful than we are, surely?” said Ron.

“I’ve done a lot of digging,” said Hermione, “and I think I’ve come up with a possible plan. It’ll be dangerous, but it might work.”

“Since when have any of your plans not been dangerous?” said Ron, rolling his eyes. “Someone’s always trying to kill us.”

Billy, in the Potter living room, took a deep intake of breath. His father looked so young. He wanted more than anything else to be just like him.

The magic holograph showed the three friends run into the castle and then appear again in the library where the younger Hermione stood before a very large book and was showing Ron and Harry something written inside of it.
“I’ve been writing my Runes thesis on a very obscure legend told in the most ancient of Runes,” Hermione was saying. “It’s the story of Vulcan who had invaded from the south. He had gone to terrorize the Germanic tribes in the north, who were rebellious, it says, and growing stronger. This Vulcan character was a god to his people and very powerful. He could change mountains and bring fire upon the land. He could, if he decided to, destroy man with fire.”

“Sounds like Voldemort to me,” said Ron sarcastically.

“Ron, I think it’s just a legend,” said Harry.

“No,” said Hermione. “I don’t think it is. I think it’s true. I think that this god was a wizard. Look at his picture here.” She pointed to a crude, very old black and white engraving with hand coloring of a large man being held up by two robots made of gold. As they watched the engraving moved and the robots seemed to be carrying the larger man on their shoulders.

“You see, he lost the use of his legs when he got in between his parents during fight. His father threw him off a mountain and he was crippled but still very powerful.” She looked to both Ron and then Harry. “I think that these were real people. I think that these were wizards pretending to be gods. That they passed themselves off as omnipotent to muggles but that they were, in fact, very powerful wizards.”

“All right, Hermione,” said Harry. “Let’s just say that they were wizards. So what? What has this to do with Voldemort holding Dumbledore in the Liar’s Lair? How will this help us get him out?”

“Because of how Vulcan died,” she said, turning the page. “You see, Vulcan went into the north to quiet the muggle tribes there, but what he didn’t reckon on was that there were wizards living there, as well. Magic made with runes and ancient practices of the north. Three particular wizards went to stop him. The Runes tell the story.
At first, he laughed at them as weak minded, he being the great and powerful one with the power of fire but the three wizards conjured a spell that was not just a spell, but also a curse, a potion and a spell. It was the power of three. It made them stronger than Vulcan. They obliterated the guy, wiped him right off the face of the earth. Then when Vulcan’s parents heard of the death of their son, the father went north to seek his revenge. Then again, they used the power of three and murdered him. That father was Jupiter.”

“The roman god, Jupiter? You think that he was a wizard?”asked Harry.

“That’s daft, Hermione,” said Ron.

“It’s not, listen to just the spell part, it’s written here.” Hermione began to read out a spell in Runes, raising her wand to the air. From her wand emerged a red fire that flew from her wand into the air.

Lily, who was watching intensely from the floor gasped. The fire behind her also seemed to swell up in awe at what they were seeing.

The holographic image of the three friends in the library seemed to flow back into the ball of light and Hermione stepped forward and began to speak again. The breeze in the room became more of a wind whipping at her hair. Her beautiful face glowed in the light of the ball and looked otherworldly.

“The three young wizards decided to try and save their leader Dumbledore from the evil dark lord by attacking Voldemort at the stronghold of the Liar’s Lair. They studied and practiced the spell, and the curse. They made and tested the potion, all in secret.” She paused and looked around the room. All were quiet, completely lost in her story.

“Then they advanced with their new power, confident that they would win.” She said more loudly.

“Like hell,” said Harry under his breath, knowing they’d been scared to death.

“Shhh! Daddy, you’re wrecking it!” said Lily, completely enthralled in the story.

“Now, there were those in the castle that would thwart our three friends. Peers that did not want our heroes to succeed,” continued Hermione.

“Malfoy,” whispered Ginny.

“Don’t forget Snape, he was always getting in our way, as well!” answered Harry.

“Will you two be quiet!” said Hagrid. “It’s my bit that’id be comin’ next.”

Hermione gave a small hint of a smile but didn’t break character. She continued with the story. “They decided to enlist their great and heroic friend, Hagrid, the gamekeeper at Hogwarts to create a diversion for their escape to the mountains and their fate therein.”

Hagrid puffed up and sat straighter in his seat.

“Now, for years they had kept a secret, a secret that few at Hogwarts knew. For, within the dark forest beyond the castle was hidden a great and formidable giant. As many of you know, giants are dangerous to man, but this giant was their friend and brother. His name was Grawp and he and Hagrid entered the castle pretending to create chaos. They were pursued into the forest by our friend’s foes, giving our hero’s a chance to escape and make haste to meet their fate.”

“I wish I’d seen that!” whispered Sirius to James. “Betcha Filch was livid!”

Hermione stepped back from the ball and there came again the holographic image of the young Harry, Hermione and Ron flying on their broomsticks deep into the mountains. They halted above a great cavern at the top of a mountain. It was the mouth of an ancient volcano. Hermione looked to Ron, Ron to Harry and all three of them reached out and held hands in a circle mid-air.

“Now remember,” said the young Harry. “He’ll be most interested in getting to me. Once we find him, we must join together for protection and isolate him before he realizes what we’re about.”

“Once we’ve made the circle,” said Hermione. “We must throw the potion at him at the exact same time. That’s very important. We’re dead if it doesn’t hit him at the right moment.” Hermione looked at Ron. “Remember Ron, we must also sing together.”

“I’m not so hot at singing.”

“No one cares what you sound like, silly,” said Hermione.

They let go of each other’s hands and descended into the dark void. The image receded and Hermione stepped forward.
“Our heroes wandered within the mountain fighting off many Death Eaters and searching for Dumbledore or Voldemort or both. Battle after battle they fought, spell against spell, until they came upon Dumbledore unconscious in his cell deep within a magic chamber.”

The image came alive again and Hermione was shown close up with Dumbledore hovering unconscious in the air. “You two hide until I get back,” she whispered. “I’ll go quickly. I’ll find you. Remember that you mustn’t fight Voldemort. We must be together to finish him off!”

The image faded again and Hermione stepped forward. “She swept up with the great wizard Dumbledore tethered to her and dropped him as gently as she could alongside the mountain. By the time she returned, Harry and Ron were battling with several Death Eaters and Voldemort had wounded them by trying to rip out their hearts. Both Harry and Ron were bleeding from the wound but they had managed to shield themselves from the worst of the spell. As Hermione entered she flew down to complete a circle around Voldemort who was busy gloating that he had nearly killed them. He did not notice that they surrounded him, nor did he realize that the circle was important.”

The image came alive again and Hermione was screaming at Ron and Harry. “Now!” as the potion bottles flew into the air hitting Voldemort on all sides. Hermione’s narrating voice rose behind the image describing the scene as they watched it. “They jumped on their brooms, their wands held high and began to chant the spell, the song, the curse woven in ancient words, the same words that had felled a false by mighty god.”

Together the three were surrounding Voldemort as faster and faster they flew around him. The Death Eaters showered them with curses but nothing touched them. Once they had begun to swirl they had trapped Voldemort seemingly with their momentum of voice and broom. The chant, the spell, the curse grew louder each time they repeated it. The holographic image of their magic rose above the heads of those in the Potter’s livingroom… the three young friends chanting at full voice in ancient runes… ich maiaz purisaz ach…they sung…. napiz algiz wunjo mit foe….The Death Eaters were throwing killing spells at them from below. Voldemort rose with them and seemed immobile in the center of their swirling. He could only move his face, which was alive with his rage… kenaz raido kenaz raido shorn…they chanted, now lost themselves in the making of the curse, they rose higher and higher taking Voldemort with them…mannaz kenaz sunna ki…colored fire shot from their wands, one blue, one yellow, one red and as they swirled around at greater and greater speed, their flight created a beautiful and terrible rainbow of color and smokeless fire. Voldemort fought harder against his unseen bounds. At first, he had laughed at their spell…he hadn’t recognized the chant…the words in ancient runes certainly were familiar and yet not to him. His face looked smug, dismissing their strength in his arrogance. Then as he rose with them higher and higher, a look of terror came into the Dark Wizard’s face. They all saw it, there in the Potter living room, and they all saw him wreath in real pain, his flesh being eaten, but not scorched by the flames. On and on Harry, Ron and Hermione flew until they became a swirl of color flying into the sky above, with the Death Eater flying in pursuit from below them. There were at least twenty, cursing them as they went. Then, suddenly as if the three had planned it, as if they’d become with their chant just one mind, just one soul exacting revenge on the Dark Lord, they then pointed straight upward into the sky and released the swirling mass of fire from their wands. It was hurled, a terrible thing, back into the mouth of the volcano below. As it dropped the ball of magic flame hurled into the on-coming Death Eaters absorbing them in the fall. Harry, Ron and Hermione joined hands above the mass and spoke the final words of the cursing spell…finale finale ullr uraz mannaz! mannaz! mannaz!…they hollered, their voices now hoarse…Almost instantaneously the ball of colors exploded as if it was a gigantic firework with sprays of light and sound covering the ceiling of the Potter’s living room.

All then went black.

Hermione stepped forward, the small ball of light now the only light in the room save for the fire in the hearth. “They all died that day, the Death Eaters, and the Dark Lord, all but the three wizards and the one they saved. The lesson learned is an important one for us. Their victory is our victory, learned from the Ancient tongue, the Runes of the north.”

There was silence for a few seconds.

“Bloody hell, I am so-o-o going to take Ancient Runes next year!” cried James.

“Ditto, compadre. Ditto, here, mate,” said Sirius.

Author's note: For those of you who are familiar with Runes, you’re probably scratching your heads. Runes look a little like horse shoes with lines so the best I could do was the German pronunciation. I’m open for any better suggestions. Don’t forget to review…Pru

Chapter 8: Sybil, Sybil, Sybil
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Chapter Eight

Sybil, Sybil, Sybil

Hermione moved her wand in the air and the lights went back on in the room. Her hair was back in a bun and she was wearing her regular more severe robe. In the light, everyone noticed that there were more of them. At least twenty of the fairies were perched on the mantel or the windowsill. Everyone sat as if stunned.

“Well,” said Harry, “I think you exaggerated it just a bit. I remember barely making it out of there. Both Ron and I were wounded badly. I almost blacked out at the end, I hardly remember landing on the ledge where Hermione had put Dumbledore. We were in hospital for a long time.”

“Harry’s right, Hermione, I remember that he and Ron looked just awful.” said Ginny. “That was a brilliant telling, though!”

“It’s exactly as I remember it,” said Hermione. “ I relive it each year at the beginning of my lower level Ancient Runes class. I can’t show the bit about Harry and Ron almost getting their hearts ripped out because I wasn’t there. The students are always disappointed not to see the gory details.” She sat down in the chair and took a big sip of her drink. “You can just imagine that I get the student’s attention when I perform it on the first day of class in Runes. I teach a much more exciting class than in my day, let me tell you!”

“But Professor,” said James, “I don’t understand how you three could get so close to Voldemort, when there were so many Death Eaters there protecting him. How’d you do it?”

Hermione looked to Harry with quizzical look on her face.

“Sure,” said Harry, “you can tell them. He can’t hurt us anymore.”

James and Sirius both asked in unison. “Who?”

“Voldemort,” said Hermione hesitantly, not liking to say the name even years after the evil wizard was dead, “Voldemort and your father were connected in their thoughts. We never would have been able to trap Voldemort but for Harry’s power to connect with him.”

“Whoa!” they both exclaimed.

“I can’t believe that you never told them, Harry,” said Hermione.

“It’s not something to brag about is it?”

“So how was he connected?” asked Sirius.

“Well,” began Hermione, “You-Know-Who had marked him with the scar, you see, but it was ever so much more than just a scar. They could read each other’s minds. Your father fought the idea for a long time. He wasn’t comfortable reading the thoughts and feelings, sharing them, with such an awful…being.

“I don’t miss the head-aches,” said Harry under his breath.

“Then one day, that last year we were at Hogwarts, Ron suggested that Harry should use the thought connection to his advantage. He reasoned that it was the only way to get the upper hand. Ron thought that they could use it as a warning system but it became, oh, so much more than that.”

“What a surprise that was,” said Harry.

Hermione nodded her head in agreement. “They started playing games with it at first, just seeing if Ron could help shield Harry from Voldemort detecting him. They went looking for Voldemort with their minds. Ron became sort of a portable Pensieve. They experimented supporting each other with their thoughts. Harry would hide memories in Ron’s mind and then filter You-Know-Who’s mind through his. They wanted to see how far into Voldemort’s mind Harry could get undetected. He and Ron spent weeks working on blocking Voldemort’s detection while Harry was able to wander around inside his head. They messed up a couple of times. Voldemort was beginning to suspect something.”

“It was bloody awful,” said Harry. “But eventually, we got it right and we learned quite a bit about the dark arts that we’d never learned in school. Voldemort never found me in there. Both Ron and I used the knowledge from Voldemort when we became Aurors.”

“Once Harry started working with Ron supporting him, he was able to detect not only Voldemort’s thoughts and emotions but also where he was in the wider world. He could pinpoint his whereabouts exactly. It’s how we knew where Prof. Dumbledore had been taken. Harry could see what he was thinking without being detected.”

“One time,” said Harry, “when we were at Hogsmeade, a Death Eater spotted me and started tracking us. That’s when I discovered that I could pretend to actually BE Voldemort and enter a Death Eater’s mind just as he did.”

Harry visibly shivered. “I was able to step into the mind of the creep tracking us and change his thoughts. That had always been Voldemort’s secret way of dealing with his followers. He could read their minds and manipulate them, as well. Like so many of Voldemort’s talents, I was able to do the same.”

“When we entered the Liar’s Lair,” said Hermione, “Harry was able to manipulate You-Know-Who’s protecting Death Eaters and know where he was at the same time. Harry had isolated and trapped Voldemort before he knew what we were doing.”

“Bloody brilliant, that was,” said James.

“Can you still do it?” asked Sirius.

“What?” asked Harry.

“Read minds, manipulate thoughts and stuff?”

Harry didn’t answer. He just grinned at his son.

“Oy, James! That’s how he knew we’d been the ones that set that ruddy stinker-puss loose at the Quidditch match last summer!”

“No fair, Dad!” they both said in unison.

“I do what I have to do,” said Harry.

Everyone was laughing. Hagrid whacked James in the back and almost sent him flying. It was wonderful, having all of the people he loved most in the world around him.

“I wish Ron could have seen you tell the story,” said Harry, suddenly missing his best and oldest friend. “I wish he could have seen the way you tell it. You made it all sound so, well, heroic. It makes me sad that I never see him anymore.”

“Me, too,” said Hermione. “I miss him all the time. I often wish that we all could be together again.

“He’s coming for Christmas,” said Ginny. “He’s promised to stay through the New Year. We’ll have a lovely holiday, all of us, together again.”

Hermione began to cry. Her performance had brought out long suppressed emotions. She reached for a sleeve, a napkin, or a scarf, anything to hide her tears as they fell. Harry patted her on the shoulder and then noticed that both Hagrid and Billy were crying, as well.

“You tell a right nice story, Hermione,” said Hagrid through his tears. “I miss Ron, me self.

“It made me miss my dad something awful,” sniffled Billy. “Thank you so much for telling us. Dad’s told me the story loads of times, but to actually see it, that was splendid!”

The twins both placed comforting hands on Billy’s back and he smiled at them. All seemed happy in the aftermath of the story, except one.

“Are you, okay, Lily?” said Ginny. They all looked to Lily who they’d forgotten sitting quietly before the fire. She looked dazed and her eyes were as big as saucers, shining and bright. She stood suddenly and backed toward the fire, her face seeing nothing. Shag, the dog jumped out of her way and went to hide on the far side of the room, whimpering.

Everyone became alarmed. Ginny ran to her, as Hagrid cried, “Don’t touch her! She’s in a trance, she is!”

The fire rose higher as if a wind had swept through the room though none had. A pale luminous smoke that was not smoke rose around her. The ring on Harry’s finger felt warmer and began to glow. He watched as a woman who was not a woman with long silver hair and a glittering torso stepped from the fire and hovered protecting over Lily. The woman’s face looked directly to Harry.

Ginny ignored Hagrid’s warning and reached for her daughter’s hand as tenderly as she could in her panic. The moment she touched her, it was as if all air sucked from her and she became something else. Harry saw the woman move into Ginny, who stood up next to Lily, stiff, her eyes open but sightless. She opened her mouth to speak.
Harry recognized the voice instantly. It was the same harsh, deep sound of the voice of Sybill Trelawney when she had prophesized about him years ago in his youth. Her voice was many voices in one voice. He froze with fear.


Ginny took a ragged breath and shook violently.

Hermione was first to her feet as she jumped to hold up Ginny now slumping to the ground. “Ginny, are you all right?” she cried.

“She’ll be okay, professor,” said Lily softly. “The lady’s not very comfortable sharing with mommy. They’re both very tired now.”

Harry rushed to pick up Lily. He just wanted to hold her and make sure she was whole. The thought that something had been in his daughter and his wife was frightening.

“She didn’t come into me, daddy,” said Lily, reading his mind. “I’m too young.”

Harry hugged her, still not sure. He looked to the fire for the woman but she was gone.

“She’s very old, daddy, much older than she looks, I think,” said Lily, knowing he had seen her, too.

Hermione looked at Lily strangely. “Could you see her, did she speak to you, Lily?” No one else in the room had seen her.

“She told me lots of things that I don’t understand. She was listening to your story and she called you a wise daughter of man. She said that Vulcan was not a bad wizard but he made a mistake in his loyalties. She told me that the wizards in the old times were liars and had to be stopped or man would be no more.

“It’s the Ancient Runes,” said Hermione carefully. “The ancient wizards fooled them with their powers over the muggles. That was why they were defeated.

“Runes rock!” said Sirius poking his brother in the ribs.

“It sounds wicked wondrous! I can’t wait. We’ve gotta protect the little sister, after all,” answered James.

Lily jumped from Harry’s arms and ran to her brothers, hugging them fiercely.

“Blimey, who knew that a bunch of old stinky words from a language that nobody uses anymore could signal the start of an adventure?” added James, taking Lily onto his lap.

Harry looked alarmed. “Don’t even think about this as an adventure, you two!” he said sternly. Memories of his youthful responsibilities that had been pre-ordained still haunted him. “I’ve heard that voice of prophesy before. This is a very serious turn of events.”

Ginny began to stir and she reached for Harry. “I saw something,” she gulped. “I saw you in the story. The three of you with Voldemort in the middle and he was burning, disappearing, then it was Tom Riddle standing in the cave. You know Harry, in the basilisk’s cave, where you saved me from the book? You swung the sword and chopped off Riddle’s head and all these snakes sprang out of it and slithered away.”

“Very gross, mom,” said James.

“Truly yuk, I think,” said Sirius.

Hermione laughed. “Only you boys would be silly at a time like this!” She shook her head despairingly.

“And to think,” said Ginny, “that I barely passed Divination with an A level.”

“Prof. Trelawney would be so proud,” said Harry grimly. He helped her to her feet and they all settled back in their respective chairs and sofas in silence. Harry hugged Ginny and wouldn’t let go of her. Lily’s protecting brothers enveloped her. It had turned into quite the memorable evening.

Dobby appeared from thin air with a tray of butterbeer and passed them around. He looked quizzing at Harry as he took his drink. “Me thinks, Harry Potter,” he said hesitantly. “That this be a good thing.”

“Huh?” said Harry.

“Knowing ahead of danger. If weez know danger comes, we can lick it.”

“Yeah, dad, Dobby’s right!” said James. “Just because we know that there are some snakes slithering around out there from Voldemort’s head doesn’t mean that we made them, does it? It’s a just a warning.”

“Cool! We know ahead of time that something bad is coming!” said Sirius.

“Let’s not forget, boys,” said Harry, unconvinced. “That I’ve heard such warnings before and just like before, the warnings come with very little information. We have no idea what the danger is or who it’s from.” He, more than anyone in the room, knew what being called to duty to protect all wizard-kind meant. He wasn’t sure he was up to it any longer.

Dobby noticed Shag waiting patiently at the door. He put down the tray and walked over to let him out. With a snap of his fingers, he opened the door.

It was a mess in entry. Everyone had arrived for the evening and thrown their cloaks, hats, mittens, and a broomstick onto the inglenook in the doorway. With a snap it was tidy again and the assortment of human trappings safely away in the cupboard under the stair. He did not notice anything odd in the assortment or see the slight shiver of the broom.
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Chapter 9: Malfoy Redux
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Chapter Nine

Malfoy Redux

First period, first years, Monday morning, Harry opened the door to his classroom and swept into the room. He was not going to be outdone by Hermione. With determination and planning, he’d come up with a lesson that would catch their attention. They’d been working with Prof. Flaggett on Goolfarcs and Hinkipucks, creatures rarely seen and hardly dangerous. He could do much better than old Flagellant seemed to have been doing. Over the weekend, with his family forewarned of imminent danger, he had decided to take the future in hand. If a new dark threat approached, it would be his job to guide the students to protect themselves. First years might not be capable of grasping the particulars but what fun to inspire them to try!

“I am Professor Potter, replacing your missing teacher,” started Harry. “I’m sure you’ve heard of me and know that I have had much experience with defending against the dark arts…” he stopped short. A blonde student in the third row was hunkered over and whispering to some buddies. Malfoy. It could be no other. What had Hermione said his name was? He couldn’t remember.

He moved to loom over the boy. “Mr. Malfoy, I presume,” he said in a way he had learned from none other than Severus Snape. “Have you some joke at my expense to share with the class?”

“No.” said Draco’s son and he said it with the same irritating arrogance as his father. Did they breed it in their children purposely?

“Then I suggest that you refrain from chattering in my class,” said Harry imperiously. It was rather easy, really, to be Snape. He remembered the humiliation so well. “I suggest, as well, that you address me as ‘sir’ as is the custom here at Hogwarts when addressing a professor. What is your first name, Mr. Malfoy?”

The boy hesitated. Harry was very adept at seeing weakness in another. Good. This youngster might be only eleven but he was a Malfoy and he must be handled.

“My name is, Lucius….erm, Sir,”

“Of course, you are,” said Harry reflectively. Somewhere deep inside, a part of him screamed to take revenge on the boy, a little public humiliation, it would be so easy. He was so-so tempted. He’d learned a little cruelty at the right moments…but then he remembered Severus Snape and the years of hate that he had endured, and still endured, because of his own father’s youthful arrogance. His heart softened a tiny, tiny bit. “I suggest, Mr. Malfoy,” he said weightily. “That you and I come to an understanding right here and now, shall we?”


“I suggest that you not condescend and whisper in my class, Mr. Malfoy. I propose that you listen and learn some magic that may just come in handy in your future. As I was just saying to the class, I do know a fair much about the dark arts, young man. And I, in turn, will not hold my past relationship with your father and grandfather against you.” He let the moment draw out. Silence, he was realizing could be a handy teaching tool. “Do we have an accord?”

Harry almost wept for the boy when he saw actual shame and embarrassment in the facial expression of a Malfoy. “Yes, sir.”

“Good, then as I was saying,” he began, turning on his heal, “though He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named is long dead, we must still be vigilant. The darks arts are still used and used, I am so sorry to inform you, my young students, against others like you. You must learn to block spells, reflect spells and hide. Yes, surprising as it sounds, I do mean HIDE, from your adversary. Only a fool makes himself a target for his enemies. Turn to page 288 and gaze at the image on the page. It showed a wizard in a top hat and tails flipping out his wand and disappearing from the page.

“An Illusion Charm can hide you, giving you valuable time to escape from a foe,” said Harry. He turned dramatically and looked about the room making sure not to hide his scar. Still red, still livid and in the shape of a lightning bolt. “Hiding until you have the upper hand can be very handy. Trust me on this point. I’ve hidden from danger loads of times and here I am before you, alive to tell the tale!” And with that, he disappeared from view. “The Illusion Charm is not strictly disappearing,” said the rippling air that was Harry. “You’ll Disapparate when you’re of age, but even then, it’s rather a loud process. It won’t hide you. Sometimes you need to be inventive!” The class began to mumble at his disappearance, with most of them looking wildly about for the source of his voice.

He appeared before them again at the back of the room. “For now, if you find yourselves in danger,” he said in a booming voice. The class gasped as whole and turned around in their seats. “You’ll have to be clever. I’m meant to teach you how.” He had them. This was fun. They listened to his every word for the rest of the lesson and nearly fell out of their seats to be first to try the practicum.

Not many first years were successful at the Illusion Charm but he wasn’t discouraged. All he had wanted was to capture their imagination. He was quite impressed that a few actually could perform it for a short time after several tries. Malfoy, Jr. and his Slytherin friend, Flint did it first. Harry tried not to hold it against them.

He shook his head to think that he had both Malfoy’s and Flint’s sons in his first class. His new life at Hogwarts was one surprise after another. If he’d really been on top of his game, he’d have docked Malfoy some house points for his initial insolence, but there was a learning curve to the teaching trade, obviously. He’d be quicker next time.

Severus Snape was no surprise in any way. Just as he remembered him, Professor Snape went out of his way to boldly insult him at every turn. Albus Dumbledore, not being present at the school, only made him more insidious.

“Still here?” he said at luncheon. Many of the teachers sat at the dais table during lunch. They discussed school needs, events or Quidditch scores. “I would have thought you not up to the challenge, Potter,” sneered Snape as he hovered over he and Hermione as they tried to eat their lunch. Severus was no different than he had been years ago. Harry suspected he’d been playing with his potions to keep himself looking younger than he really was. The thought made Harry realize that he saw Snape as much less the threat. He seemed, or his constant sniping seemed, so very insignificant. Harry finally saw the menacing Severus Snape as his father must have viewed him, as a mean spirited, moderately knowledgeable, pain in the neck.

“Severus,” said Hermione, who sat next to Harry at table. “We’re not your students any longer. And speaking as the one, whom was always an insufferable know-it-all in every one of your classes, kindly make some effort to get over this childish behavior you exhibit whenever Harry’s around! Dumbledore sent for him, Severus. He’s here. It’s done!”

“As usual, Hermione,” spat Severus, “you cover for your friend’s incompetence.”

Harry couldn’t help himself. Maybe in his middle years he had become more like his father had been. “Now, Severus,” he said snidely. “Play nice with the kiddies. I’m rather enjoying myself, being a teacher. Why just today, I used some tricks of intimidation that I learned from you. You should be proud of that!”

Snape stood looking agape at him. “You insufferable…” he stammered.

Professor McGonagall leaned over her soup to shush them. “Will you please set an example for the students, gentlemen?” she said.

Severus swept to his seat. Murmuring his apologies as he went by to McGonagall.

Harry watched him go and then leaned over and whispered to Hermione. “I’m enjoying this equality with Snape bit of fun.”

“Do behave, Harry,” she said rolling her eyes.

As they sat at table, Harry took in watching the students in a much more relaxed manner than he had on the Friday before. He envied the Gryffindor table. His boys sat together. Sirius and James had been inseparable friends since their birth. There had been times as they were growing up that he had envied them their brotherhood. Strange to think about, when viewed in hindsight, his upbringing and theirs. They’d been loved and it showed. As twins they resembled none other than the Weasley boys, Fred and George, in their persistent pleasure in being alive and having fun. As a father, he was rather proud that his sons had no knowledge of the emotional loneliness that he had endured in his adolescence.

Harry had grown up virtually alone at the Dursley’s, barely tolerated by his aunt and uncle at best, and the subsequent years of challenge from Voldemort had made him a very different sort than his own boys were bound to grow up to be.

He watched them now and was reminded of the years that Ron, Hermione and he had sat at the same table deep in their plots to defeat Voldemort. Fighting his evil threat had consumed most of their education. How different for James and Sirius whose only worry in the world was defeating Slytherin in Quidditch or whether they’d be able to pass the next exam.

“They aren’t so much different than we were and yet they are,” Harry said nostalgically to Hermione.

“I know,” she agreed. She sat back and looked at the Gryffindor table. “I’ve often thought the same thing sitting up here looking down on them. The years don’t seem so very far away and yet they really are.”

“So much has happened since then,” he finished her thought.

“Yes,” she answered. Hermione paused in that way she often did before she was about to say something she’d been unsure about bringing up. “Harry,” she began, “about Lily and what happened the other night.”

“Yes, it disturbed me greatly, too.”

“The thing is, Harry,” she began again, obviously struggling with how to put it. “You know that I never set store in predicting the future, especially from fools like Professor Trelawney,” she lowered her voice as she’d said the name. “But, after that prophecy about you and you-know-who had been destroyed, you remember, at the Ministry of Magic? I realized, especially after I saw that room filled with them that such prophesies are a reality in our world.”

“Yes, even Trelawney, occasionally got it right.”

“Yes, well, I’ve been thinking about what Lily said. How the lady had come to her in dreams and that she was too young to merge with and all.”

Harry knew what was coming and dreaded it. Was that his premonition, the ring on his finger or just plain fear?

“Well, I think…I think that Lily has been chosen a Sybil. That is what the last part of whatever it was that merged with Ginny meant when she said ‘I am come, she is come, the Sybil.’ I think that this must be a very, very old being that has been with humanity for generations. I think that this spirit has chosen your daughter to become the next Sybil, a real seer. There hasn’t been a real one in generations.”

Harry buried his head in his hands. He was devastated for his daughter. She was only five. Harry knew, probably as few others, what it was like to be chosen at a young age. He knew what responsibility in youth really meant. Glory and heroism could so easily be replaced with misery and fear for someone so marked.

“I think that we should discuss the possible ways to proceed with Professor McGonagall,” Hermione continued. “We may want to inform Dumbledore, wherever he is, as well. They might know something of what a Sybil actually is. There have been very few throughout history. I did some research over the weekend, and Harry, even in ancient times, there have been very few.”

“She’s only five.”

Hermione looked at him sympathetically.

“I just don’t know, Hermione.” He looked around the room. Hundreds of students were laughing and living their lives. Most were only concerned with their own social tragedies or joys. “You know, Ron always made times like these laughable. He always did or said something funny. I wish he were here, now.”

“Oh, so do I,” said Hermione sadly. “So do I.” The look of memory on her face told him everything.

Teachers tend to talk. They discuss. They strategize. They gossip. They grouse. The students are rarely interested in anything more than their own life’s issues and never notice the behaviors of their professors outside the classroom. A reason students never hear their teacher’s worries, fears, hopes or dreams was because teachers always kept a special place for themselves away from interested young ears. Hogwarts had such a place. It was a room down the south hall, away from prying eyes and with a beautiful view of the valley below. Much more than a just a room and so much more than a house common room, it always had a fire glowing in the hearth, a place to sit comfortably with nibbles and snacks set around.

“Professor McGonagall?” said Harry, approaching her as she sat near the fire at teatime. Harry had finished his last class for the day and had arranged to meet her in the Teacher’s room.

“Harry, dear, sit,” she said motioning to a chair opposite her. “You’ve had quite the homecoming so I’ve heard.”

“Hermione told you?”

“And Hagrid, as well,” she said. “I suppose you have some questions?”

He had thought that he would take his time, maybe ask about her life, perhaps comment on being glad to be back at Hogwarts, but instead he launched himself head first into quizzing her.

“First of all,” he began, “how much do you already know? The trail of events has me confused as to what is going on. For one, Dumbledore leaves Hogwarts and requests for me to be here. Then your Dark Arts teacher disappears mysteriously. Add to that the house we’re given to live in has some creature in it that has more than a passive interest in my young daughter and now I’m told by a prophecy that there is some Voldemort legacy coming to harm us. I’d like to know what you know, Professor.”

McGonagall was not easily ruffled, being made of stern stuff, but she fidgeted a little under the intensity of Harry’s assault of points in need of clarification. Harry had grown into an intense and serious young man as was his right considering what he’d been through during his adolescence.

“Harry, dear boy,” she started. “We owe you so much, don’t we?” She reached for her handkerchief from inside her sleeve.

She was going all misty on him. It was something he wasn’t prepared for. “I’m sorry, Minerva,” he said kindly. “I didn’t mean to be so aggressive and blunt. I’m just very worried about my family. I’ve heard prophesies such as these before, as you know. If something awful is happening, I want to know what it is.”

“That’s just it, Harry! We don’t know!” She reached for her tea and he could see that she was trembling. “Firstly,” she said, gathering her nerves, “you may as well be told that the Dark Arts Professor, Mr. Flaggett did not disappear as we’ve led you to believe.” She sighed and threw up her hands in a helpless fashion. “He was sacked! Dumbledore found out that he was involved with some very unsavory people in London who were practicing the dark arts. He’d been moonlighting on Knockturn Alley, can you imagine? A professor at Hogwarts! It’s unacceptable, not to mention that if the parents had found out. I dare not think about it!”

“What exactly had he been doing?”

“We’re not sure! Dumbledore’s left Hogwarts to find out about that and other unusual happenings throughout the world that may be connected. I believe he’s in France, at the moment.”

“So what does Dumbledore think is happening? How is Voldemort involved?”

“Dumbledore believes,” whispered McGonagall, though no one else was in the room, “that when you destroyed He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, that he’d been working on the creation of a new kind of army. He thinks that he was changing nature’s order for his own means and as everyone knows, his main purpose was always to rid the world of muggles.”

“Enslave them, more like, Minerva,” Harry told her grimly. “Let’s not forget that I’ve spent some time in that decrepit mind he had.”

She winced. “I’m so sorry, Harry.” She leaned forward. “You know that many of the Death Eaters died that day, but not all. Dumbledore believes that the ones that were left are still out there carrying out He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Name’s plans.”

“But Minerva, why haven’t they come forward before now? It’s been so many years.”

“A gathering storm.”


“That’s all Dumbledore would tell me! I’m not at all sure what it means.”

Harry realized that he knew what it meant. Something inside of him snapped awake and it was as if a part of him that had been closed off for a great many years opened a door and had walked out to join the rest of him.

“It means a tempest is coming,” said Harry feeling a storm of his own anger gathering within him. “It means that they’ve waited until they were strong enough and until they thought we’d not be looking for them.” There was a singularly cold sureness that came over him. Harry Potter had not carried the mark of Voldemort on his forehead all his life for no reason. Voldemort had marked him as an equal. He was no longer a youth searching for answers to what his life was about, nor was he struggling to be accepted by those around him. He knew who he was. The man that Harry Potter had become could see the monster’s threatening approach for what it was. He might be older, and maybe a little lame, but he was going to be ready.

Chapter 10: Misery loves Company
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Chapter Ten

Misery Loves Company

“Harry! Harry! He’s here!” Ginny called up the stairs. Ron was hugging his son, who’d happily chased the carriage all the way up the walkway.

“Let the man sleep, Ginny,” said Ron cuffing Billy’s ears for sport.

Billy was jumping about in the hall like a wild child while Lily kept trying to trip him to see what would happen. The fire fairies swirled about Ron’s head. “So you’ve written an article for Luna’s new magazine, have you?” he asked conversationally.

“About the fire fairies. It’ll be in the January issue. I’m so excited. She loved the idea.”

“Alright already!” cried Ron to the curious fairies. “You’ve seen me, now let me have some room to breath, if you please?” Ron was very tall and he seemed to fascinate them. He’d grown up to look very much like his brother Charlie, but he was taller and more angular in body, with a face like an open book.

Harry came down the stairs. He was a bit rumpled from sleep. It was the Saturday at start of Christmas break and he’d been working non-stop to catch up with his classes for the last few weeks. It’d been exhausting. He perked up at the sight of his old friend.

“Oy, mate!” he cried, “Are you a sight for sore eyes. Man, I’ve missed you!”

“And I you, old man.” They grasped hands but their emotions gave way and they hugged each other. It’d been a long time.

“How’d you get here so early in the morning?” asked Harry.

“Oh, I stayed at Hogsmeade with Fred last night. His daughter’s running the shop over there and Fred’s up for Christmas to visit with his wife and the littler ones.” Ron looked at Ginny sheepishly. “Don’t be mad with me, Gin, but I might have let slip that it’d be fun to have a party here for Christmas and well, George’s has got wind of it and is threatening to come up with his whole lot. You may have a full house come Christmas Eve.”

“That’s a great idea! Dobby and Winky will be here to help. The fairies will love it. It won’t be too much work. It’ll be loads of fun.” She winked at him and pinched him on the arm.

“Ouch! What’s that for?” cried Ron.

“Just because you’re here,” said Ginny with a mischievous grin. “I just wanted to make sure that it was really you.”

“Hey Ron,” said Harry, “you want to watch a Quidditch match at noon? It’s the last one before the students leave on break. Sirius and James are playing.”

“Of course! What’d you think Billy?” said Ron turning to his son.

“Whoopee!” yelled Billy.

“Hermione’s staying over for Christmas, too,” said Harry. “She decided not to go to her visit her parents, since you’re here and all. She might be there today, as well. It’ll be like old times.”

“Like old times,” repeated Ron. He had a curious far away look and then said to Billy. “So where am I sleeping, son? Let’s levitate the old bags for practice. You’ll be a student at Hogwarts next year, after all. Show me where they go, how about it?”

Billy grinned ear to ear. He was so excited to be with his father again.

“I’ll help, Uncle Ron!” shouted Lily. “I don’t need a wand!” But Ginny held her back bodily so that Ron and Billy could have their time.

Lily squirmed in Ginny’s hold. “Do stop, you little zealot! Uncle Ron wants time with Billy, leave them alone.” Lily loved all her uncles and always wanted to be at the center of them.

Harry grabbed her from Ginny and threw her over his shoulder like a knapsack. “Come, heathen, let’s find breakfast for daddy,” he said walking toward the kitchen with Lily giggling hysterically upside-down across his back.

The clubhouse near the Quidditch Pitch was packed with parents and siblings come to pick up students on their way to holiday and catch a quick Quidditch match on the way. The clubhouse was a great round two-story room with a glass top that had built in the 19th century and modeled after the Crystal Palace in London. Some donor of years gone by was not about to be outdone by mere muggles when it came to architecture. It was a stunningly airy and beautiful building with glass plates set in a wrought iron grid from bottom to top. Along the second floor was a shallow balcony walk draped with the house flags that added color to the room. It was a festive atmosphere inside with music playing from somewhere and Alumni and children grabbing at trays laden with food and drink hovering untended about the guests. Everyone seemed excited for the end term, the start of a game and the beginning of the Christmas holiday.

“It’s fun to be back a Hogwarts to visit, isn’t it?” Ron was saying to Harry while noshing a crumpet snatched from a passing tray. “It all comes back to you when you’re standing where you’d stood years ago, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s been quite the trip down memory lane, for me. Not all of it happy. Did Ginny tell you what’s been happening around here?”

“I always said,” Ron started but finished his crumpet first. “I always said that I thought there was something wrong after we bumped off You-Know-Who. In the end, they all just finished, didn’t they? Even the Dementors, they all just disappeared, along with the Death Eaters, gone, as if they hadn’t existed. And, I’ve noticed things. Things the Ministry wants to ignore.”

“Like what?”

Ron lowered his voice. “You remember the last mission you were on?”

“You mean the one where the Griffin almost ate my leg off? How could I forget?”

“Yeah, well, that …” he stopped short. “Malfoy’s here! Over there, looking his old smug and pompous self, as always. Merlin’s beard, I hate that bloke.” Ron frowned and glared in Draco Malfoy’s direction.

Ginny strolled over to them with Billy and Lily in tow holding toffee bags and arguing about a popping toy. She took in Ron’s frown. He was never one to hold back on his facial expressions. “What’s with you, big brother?” she asked.

“Draco Malfoy’s here,” answered Harry. “Ron’s just seen him.”

Draco was standing at the entrance with his son and other Slytherin Alumni. He had grown up to look very much like his father with a shorter crop of hair and a more modern taste in clothes. He noticed Ron glaring at him and walked straight for them with little Lucius trailing behind. Lucius did not look so keen on getting too close to Prof. Potter and his family.

“So, Weasley and Potter,” Draco said with his usual sneer. “Together again, at last! How touching.”

“Be good, Malfoy,” warned Harry. “There are children present.”

Draco looked down at his son who took him in doubtfully. “That’s exactly why I’ve taken my valuable time to talk to you…. Professor...” His smug smile had only gotten more irritating. Lucius cringed behind him. “I’ll not tolerate you taking our admittedly less than desirable relationship out on my son, Potter. Do I make myself clear?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry, Draco,” said Harry dryly. “I’m not like some types that we all know and loathe that seek revenge for no good reason.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Any revenge that I seek is just deserved, Potter. Let’s not forget the death of my father.”

“Draco, Draco, as usual, an egocentric. I wasn’t referring to you, but now that you’ve mentioned it, you were a …”

“Stop it you two,” interrupted Ginny. “Honestly, grow up.”

Draco looked apologetic to her. “Sorry, Ginny,” he said. “I don’t know what it is about Potter that gets me going.” Ron and Harry almost fell over in their surprise. They’d never heard Malfoy apologize for anything.

“I’ll try to do better,” said Harry sarcastically.

Draco grimaced and Harry could tell that he wanted to punch him but he held back, surprisingly, for Ginny’s sake. Shock of shocks! Draco a gentleman!

“How are you, Ginny?” asked Draco politely, though Ron and Harry could both tell that it was killing him to bite his tongue.

“Fine, thanks, Draco,” answered Ginny. Draco had never been as mean to her as the others, but she was hardly fooled by his polite posturing. He’d never been very likable either.

“I read your article,” he began, “about the fire fairies.”

“How? It’s not been published. How could you possibly?”

“I have my ways,” said Draco carefully. “Luna Lovegood has always had a taste for the unusual and I keep my eye on things.”

Harry felt Lily as she moved forward and put her hand in his. She looked worried and wouldn’t take her eyes off Draco. The ring on his finger began to feel warm. “Why in the world would you be interested in fire fairies, Malfoy?” Harry asked suspiciously.

“I just am, Potter,” said Draco through gritted teeth. “I’d like to come and see them, if you’d let me,” he said to Ginny.

“I guess…”

“No, I don’t think that would be wise,” interrupted Harry.

“And why not?” Draco’s voice began to rise. The bells for the start of the match rang and people were starting to move out the doors to the stands.

“I’m sorry,” said Ginny, ready to move on with the crowd. “If Harry doesn’t think it’s a good idea, Draco then it isn’t. Besides, the fire fairies don’t like strangers, they wouldn’t want you there.” A small lie, but she’d never liked the man. Why should she share the fairies with him?

They moved off past him with the crush of people moving out the doors. Draco stood watching them go with his son. He looked very put out.

As the match began and they were settling into their seats, Harry was trying to let his distaste for what had just happened go but it kept nagging at him. It was as if a voice kept calling him back to the confrontation with Malfoy to pay attention. The ring was still warm but nothing more than that but the foreboding he felt kept building. By the time the first half was finished, the unfocused nagging sensation had become downright irritating.

Lily looked up at him and whispered, “He’s gone there. That man, he’s there now.”

Realization crept over him. The nagging feeling was that he’d known Malfoy would go without them to look for the fairies. He didn’t quite understand his interest in them, but the danger he felt had to mean something.

“Come on, Ron,” he said. “Malfoy’s gone to the cottage.”
“How do you know?”

“I just do, come on.” He got up and started to move away with Ron following.

“I’ll come, too!” shouted Billy, getting up to follow him.

But Lily held onto his shirt. “You mustn’t go, Billy!” she cried. “That man’s there! You mustn’t!”

He tried to push her off him so he could follow his Dad and Harry. “Cut it out, Lily.”

“You mustn’t, Billy! The lady said that you’d get hurt!”

That stopped him. Lily might be a little brat but she knows what she knows. He sat back down nervously to wait for them to return.

Ron and Harry walked across the lawn toward Thorns and Roses cottage. Harry’s leg was still stiff and it was slower going than he would have liked. By the time they reached the gates to the cottage, they could see Malfoy and another man on the porch. The fire fairies were in a swarm and looking very agitated. Ron left Harry behind and ran up to the house toward Malfoy.

“Oy! Malfoy! What in blazes do you think you’re doing?” yelled Ron.

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” sneered Malfoy.

“Harry told you not to come here!”

“So? When have I ever listened to Potter?”

The other man on the porch was trying to catch the fairies. He held a large cage in his hands. By the time Harry made it to Ron and Malfoy arguing near the front of the porch, they were both reaching for their wands.

The man on the porch started screaming. The fire fairies were attacking him. Ten or so at a time swooped down on him, held on to his skin then flew away. They appeared to be burning his skin each time they touched him. He was screaming in pain and trying to swat them out of the way. Malfoy, Ron and Harry all turned to watch as he ran back and forth on the porch trying desperately to get them off of him.

Suddenly, every door and window of the house flew open and a broomstick came shooting out the front door making straight for Malfoy. It beat him about the head and herded him toward the rose bushes. Both Ron and Harry stepped back in shocked horror.

Reep started shouting at Harry from the porch. “Run, Harry Potter, RUN!!!”

Harry saw it in an instant. It was as if he could see it three steps ahead. He grabbed Ron, who stood gaping at the broom attacking Malfoy. “Run! Ron,” he cried. “Run for your life!”

Harry couldn’t run very fast, but they managed to make it to the gate at the entrance where they turned to watch. “Why’d we run, Harry?” panted Ron. “I was enjoying watching Malfoy getting beaten with a stick.”

Just then, the broom managed to smash Draco Malfoy into the roses. He screamed angrily as the thorns ripped his flesh. “I’ll get you for this, Potter!” he yelled. Both Malfoy and his friend tried to run for it and had managed to get a few yards from the house but the long thorny branches swirled about and grabbed them back. They were caught. Malfoy started screaming with real fear, “Help me! Help me!”

It was the last thing they heard him yell before the bushes grew so dramatically that they looked as if they were going to consume the whole house. Ron and Harry watched helplessly as the roses rolled both of them into a cocoon of thorns and dragged them back onto the porch.

The branches grew amazingly fast, covering the entire house in minutes. There was a loud shudder and the entire giant mass of rose and thorns literally sucked the whole house into the ground. All that was left when all was finished were two large rose bushes on a small mound of dirt.

“Cursed roses,” said Harry. “Sorry, Ron, we forgot to tell you. They’re meant to protect the house and the fairies.”

“Blimey! They work well, don’t they?”

They walked over to the rose bushes. Draco and his friend could barely be seen inside the mass of branches. They were a mess, with bloody scratches and torn clothing.

“Are they dead?” asked Ron.

“No,” answered Harry, shaking his head. “Unfortunately, they’re just asleep.” They both started to laugh at the absurdity before them. “Just think, Ron,” Harry said through tears of laughter. “Of how much his giant ego will be hurting when he wakes up!”

“Attacked by a rose bush and a broom!” laughed Ron. “That’s rich! So, how do you think we wake them up?”

“Damn,” said Harry stopping his laughter. “It’ll be a potion, or perhaps a charm of some sort.”

“Snape,” said Ron, now sad. “The very last man I’d like to see on my holiday.”

They turned back up the walk and headed out the gate. Very, very slowly they made their way to the castle to look for Professors McGonagall and Snape.

Author’s note: Kapow! God that felt good!

Chapter 11: The Night Before Christmas
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Chapter Eleven

The Night Before Christmas

The snow blanketed the landscape, a lovely mantle of cold that brought tears to the eye, not because of emotion, but to keep the eyeballs from freezing solid. The weather was the kind for sledding and snowballs, hot chocolate peppermint drinks and truffle cakes powdered with iced sugar. The Potter and Weasley clan had a grand time being together. There were trips to Hogsmeade for Christmas shopping, sledding down the back gate, a snow battle between the children and the Fire Fairies and lots of wrapping and gifts prepared. The Weasley end of the family descended on the cottage in droves. The children spent an entire blissful week of holiday cheer surrounded by uncles, aunts and cousins.

All was merry at the Potter household on Christmas Eve. The house was full to brimming with family and the fire fairies were a fair crowd, as well. The usual twenty fluttering about counted fifty amongst the rafters in the great room in the center of the house. Fred and George with a multitude of family were there. It was as if most of the world was peopled with redheads. The twins, James and Sirius had moved out of Gryfindor house and were bunking with Billy and Ron. Hermione was there in a spare room, as well.

Dobby and Winky were popping in and out with relishes on crackers and tiny mincemeat pies with clots of butter, and the coffee rums and fluffy eggnog flowed and flowed. There was a cauldron of fizzle juice made with vanilla beans for the children. The main trestle table held veal with cherry sauce, a pheasant stuffed with nut and teezle mushroom mixed with sesame bread and there was plain old-fashioned fresh chocolate bread pudding for dessert.

The tree was twenty feet high, with magical candlelight and ornaments that Ginny, Lily and the Fire Fairies had taken great pains to place correctly. Glass crystals dripped from the branches. The giant star at the top was at least two hundred years old they guessed, as they had found it in the attic. They weren’t very sure that it really was a Christmas ornament, at all. It may have been something else entirely, for it glowed vibrantly as if it had energy within it and occasionally played a tune that no one had heard before.

George Weasley was peppering Harry with questions that he had no intention of answering in front of his twin sons.

“So what’s happened to it, Harry, after all these years?”

“What, Uncle George?” they asked.

“The Marauder’s Map, Harry. Cough it up. What’ve you done with it?” said George.

He gave George the eye. “I’ll not be telling, will I?” he said. “As I’ll also not be telling about the vanishing cloak, or any number of tricks from my youth. My sons take after their Uncles much too much for me to be encouraging them!” He laughed, as did George at Harry for pretending to be the innocent one. Harry had gotten himself into just as much trouble as George and Fred while a student at Hogwarts.

“They still keep the swamp, did you know that, George?” said Harry.

“Yeah, course! My sons were quite proud of the Weasley reputation for mischief until they realized that the professors expected them to follow in our footsteps and watched them like hawks. Poor blighters.”

“What’s the Marauder’s map, Dad?” James and Sirius weren’t about to let the adults off that easy.

Harry and George just laughed and laughed.

“A family legacy that you’ll not be sharing in is my guess, boys,” said George finally.

Ron and Hermione were in the corner of the room reacquainting themselves. It was something that they’d been at all week. No one was fooled. Their love affair had been a long-standing question. The family had given up on whether they did or didn’t as old news. The titillation of such a question had long since bored them. Suffice it to say that

Ron and Hermione had a love pairing of a sort. That Hermione had been secretly visiting Ron on occasion in London. That they both were engrossed in their careers but considered each other the one and onlys of their lives. They were happy with their existence for it wasn’t always a sad thing to like your work above raising a family. At least, it wasn’t sad until Hermione turned thirty-seven and realized that she may never have children. Being a witch doesn’t make you less human or make life’s decisions any less confusing.

“Ron, I’ve been so emotional, lately. I’ve been crying when anyone mentions your name practically. People will surely notice,” said Hermione.

“Let’s face it, Luv. You’ve been a bit high strung from the get-go. No one’s going to notice. Why don’t you come and live with me in London? I’d like that.” Ron was holding her hand, which he kissed. “Please, Hermione, come to London?” He and Hermione had been on and off again since leaving school, and more on than off since Ron’s wife had
left him.

“I couldn’t leave Hogwarts, Ron, you know that,” said Hermione sadly. “My work is very important, especially now.”
She chewed her lip nervously.

“You’re talking about the prophecy, the one from Ginny?”

“It’s something about this school, Ron. I feel it coming, it’s as if I’m called to be here when it arrives. I don’t know why.”

“I’ve seen it in the field, as well, and had the same nagging at me,” said Ron seriously. “I’ve tried to get the ministry to pay attention but they just don’t want to hear it. Old man Vickery is just as deaf to any controversy as Fudge was when we were younger. I started talking with Harry about it the last week just before Malfoy got messed up by the thorn bush.” They both laughed.

“I’d feel sorrier for him,” said Hermione through her merriment, “if he hadn’t been such a cheeky so & so all his

“You should have been there,” remembered Ron. “I’ll always treasure the moment. Malfoy yelled ‘help me’ in such a pitiful sorrowful way. It was priceless. Those rose bushes were lethal.”

“That’s just it, Ron,” said Hermione, serious again. As usual, she was thinking a step ahead of the rest of them. “

Why was Malfoy even interested in those fairies? He told Prof. McGonagall that he’d just been looking at them when
Harry’s broom attacked them. You and Harry saw his friend with a cage. He was going to take some of them. But why,
do you think? What interest would Draco possibly have in them?”

“Don’t know,” said Ron.

“Are you two talking private stuff or may I interrupt?” asked Harry. He stood over them with a tray of eats and drinks.

“We were just talking about Malfoy, so by all means, interrupt us,” said Ron.

“That was hilarious, wasn’t it?” agreed Harry.

“You realize that they’ll be an inquiry after the holidays, Harry,” said Hermione. “Malfoy was telling everyone that you pushed him into the rose bush with your broomstick. He said he’d take it up with the board of administrators and you should be sacked.”

Harry shook his head in disgust. “Malfoy has been a pain since our first day of school. It’s ridiculous how struts about, even now as a grown man he’s a major irritant. Besides, he was stealing the fire fairies. Ron saw it. He’ll back me up.”

Ron nodded in agreement. “There is no more broomstick as far as we’ve been able to find, anyway. Harry and I turned this place upside down looking for it once the house was put right.”

Fred and George wandered over to join them. “We heard about you tossing that bugger Malfoy into the bushes, Harry,”
said George.

“He more than deserved what he got,” said Fred settling himself into an empty armchair. “He’s a pain in the royal backside to work with, as well, let me tell you. He has zilch sense of humor, that man does.”

“You work with him?” asked Hermione. “What exactly does he work at? I didn’t think Draco needed to do anything.”

“Doesn’t actually work much at all, if you ask me,” said Fred. “He runs around making trouble for us poor laboring folk with his pal Flint’s outfit. They’ve got him doing potion research and such. Load of rubbish, I’ll tell you.

George and I did much better work when we had the time to mess about with potion work. We told you about the company Harry, remember? Riddles Remarkables is the group. Bloody thieves, the lot of them, if you ask me.”

“What kind of potions?” she asked.

Fred and George grinned mischievous grins. “Remember our miracle cures for the Umbridge menace and how you kept poring all our fine work down the toilet, Hermione?” asked Fred.

“Riddle’s Remarkable’s been making a fortune now doing just about the same thing,” said George.

Ginny came over to the group and put her arm around Harry as she sat on the arm of his chair. She’d just caught the tail end of what George was saying. “Riddle what? What’s that?” she asked.

“Oh, we’ve just been talking about Malfoy’s company. He and a bunch of Slytherin-no-goods have put together a novelty outfit that makes potions and stuff. A bloke named Flint is top dog, you remember, Gin, he was Captain of the Quidditch team in your first year. They’re making a bloody killing, those guys. Riddle’s Remarkable’s, they’re called,” explained George.

Ginny blanched, as did both Hermione and Harry in the same moment. It had clicked for all for them when George had said Slytherin. They’d heard the prophecy; the slithering snakes. “They’ve named the company after Tom Riddle, Harry!” cried Ginny.

“Unbelievable!” cried Hermione. “But why?”

“What are you on about?” asked Ron, who hadn’t been there and had never heard of Riddle’s Remarkables before.

“Ginny’s prophesy,” explained Harry. “She saw me cut off Tom Riddle’s head and snakes came slithering out.”

“Bloody hell,” said Ron. “That’s really gross.”

“It makes perfect sense,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “They’re a Slytherin company that’s named themselves after the muggle name of Voldemort. It must mean that they’re up to something, right?”

Fred and George looked skeptical. “Hermione, luv,” said Fred. “They’ve a novelty company that makes trick potions, exploding what-nots and spell cast thing-a-ma-jigs. That’s not exactly what I would think of as the road to end life as we know it, now is it?”

Ron looked skeptical, as well. “George and Fred are right. What’s a bunch of magical toys and tricks got to do with a coming storm and Voldemort’s legacy?”

“Maybe it’s nothing,” said Harry soberly. “But the coincidence alone should point us to look in their direction. I say we do a little research on the Riddle group to see how deep down into the dark they go. What do you say?”

Everyone in the group looked at each other nodding in agreement. “George and I could do a little asking around, Harry,” offered Fred. “We’ve a few, ahem…sources on Knockturn Alley, you know.”

“Sure,” said George with a grin. “Fred and I have been growing soft on our laurels. Do us a lot of good to get our hands a little dirty. We’ll have a bit of fun with it, won’t we?” The twins looked very jolly about the prospect.

“I can help out at the ministry, as well,” said Ron. “I’ll put some feelers out when I get back to work.” He sighed and looked at Hermione, who reached out and patted him on the knee and rubbed his back.

The rest of the group snickered at the lovebirds.


The children had refused to go to bed until they’d threatened to shut the chimney on Santa. They could do it too, being wizards and all. Lily, five-years-old and overjoyed at everything to do with candy, presents, Christmas, presents, and well, presents, jumped up and down on the bed singing “A jolly, jolly Christmas…” until Ginny informed her that she would take out her wand and burn every single one of her presents if she didn’t go to sleep. Billy at the sophisticated age of ten was not much better. Harry caught him sneaking down the back stairs with Fred’s youngest boy for more crumble cake and told them that he would personally see to their having a miserable first year at Hogwarts if they didn’t march themselves back up the stairs.

When the children were finally asleep, the adults huddled together in a romantic and nostalgic go over of the years gone by after-party. They lounged around on the various couches and chairs together, sipping evening drinks and nibbling on the endless array of food that kept appearing before them.

George and Fred retold the story of the swamp creation for the hundredth time but they were so funny that Hermione accidentally snorted her rum cream and Ron had to pat her on the back to keep her from choking. Fred’s wife, who’d
been in Hufflepuff third year at the time, told them how she’d said to her girlfriend that day that she was going to marry Fred because she’d been so impressed with his creative genius. Harry tried to sing a funny limerick about a girl from Brazil but every one told him to stick with being a has-been hero and leave the comedy to someone else. Ginny finally confessed to Ron that she hadn’t really dated half the boys that she told him she had, that she’d only told him about them to get his goat. Ron threatened to disown her as a sister and so on and so on. It was fun for all them until they rolled upstairs to their various bedrooms to sleep the deep happy slumber of Christmas night.

Harry kissed Ginny goodnight but couldn’t get to sleep. It had been a wonderful Christmas Eve but something was nagging at him again. He lay for an hour listening to the house sounds until finally he got up and tiptoed down the stairs. The house was very quiet. Even the fairies were sound asleep in the rafters. The tree was still twinkling with light and the fire was still ablaze but otherwise, silence hovered.

He fixed himself a warm drink and pulled up a chair in front of the hearth. Starring into the fire only brought more questions and worries for him. “Have you anything to say about the turn of events, Sybil?” he asked absently not expecting an answer. His ring began to glow and warm his finger.

She appeared before him in the fire, glittering, transparent and beautiful as a human woman but definitely not human. Her arms opened to him and she looked at him with what seemed a very sympathetic face. Harry was still suspicious of her motives. Sybil or not, she was too covetous of his daughter. “What are you, anyway?” he asked.

The translucent figure swayed forward but Harry held up his hand. “Don’t you dare possess me, Sybil! I just want to know why you want my daughter and what exactly you are,” he said.

She stopped and contemplated him. A thin trail of the smoke that was not smoke reached for him. It caressed his cheek almost as if a human hand had touched him. He was aware suddenly of other voices, flashes of images, many he didn’t understand. He saw people in a temple, with great stone pillars and a fire burning on a large flat plate. It was an altar. There was a battle of some sort going on with lightning bolts striking from the sky and people everywhere screaming and running for their lives. Wizards were amongst them for some looked as if they were hurtling curses above them into the sky. In the center of the mayhem stood three decrepit old women before a giant glittering tapestry that shimmered freely in the air but was attached to what looked like a large loom. It pulsed with light and energy. The tapestry was mesmerizing, Harry could swear that he could see that it was made up of millions of human souls glittering and moving in its weave.

He listened as the three women spoke in unison and turned to rip the tapestry from where it hung. The mêlée carried on around them. They worked quickly as if in panic but they didn’t stop their rhythmic chant as they pulled at the stays that held the tapestry to the large frame structure. Harry watched fascinated as they ran to the fire with the tapestry between them.

It was then that Harry saw them. Horrible creatures, the Dementors were swarming above the fray as the women jumped together to the edge of the altar of fire. Harry watched in horror as the Dementors attacked seemingly hundreds of fleeing people both in the air and on the ground, sucking the souls from their fleeing bodies as they went. They
devoured as if in a frenzy. It was horrendous and gut wrenching to watch.

The old women stood in a circle on the edge of the fire screaming their chant over and over again. Their flesh seemed to be untouched by the roaring flame as they draped the tapestry around them. Before Harry could realize what he was watching they flung as one bodily into the fire. The fire roared with power and glittered and snapped.

The Dementors stopped their swarming and killing to watch. They hovered over the flame as if waiting. Nothing happened for several minutes. It was a horrible sight with the bodies of hundreds of people strewn about the floor and the Dementors hanging in the air seemingly waiting to devour the poor old women when they reappeared.

Then, from the flame emerged not the old women but the Sybil. She sprang from the fire with light hurling from her like a great beacon. Her face beautiful shone, and her long silver hair danced in the wind of her own energy. She attacked the Dementors with vengeance. They scattered to flee, flying away from her but long tendrils of glittering flame sprang from her fingers catching them and dragging them back into the fire. She was merciless in her destruction of every last one of them. He had never heard such terrible screaming as the Dementors were destroyed.

Harry shivered in awe of her.

When it was over, she stood quietly on the altar floating amidst the fire. Harry thought that she opened her arms toward him as if she really saw him though he now knew that he was looking at a memory from the distant past. People emerged from the shadows with garlands of flowers that they laid before her. Others began to drag the bodies of the
fallen away. For several minutes he watched as people knelt before her.

Harry awoke and shook himself. He was again in his living room before his own fire. The lady was gone. His face was wet with involuntary tears for what he had witnessed had been so enormously terrible and epic that it had hit him emotionally full frontal. He was overwhelmed by the expanse of it. He understood what she was.

She was a sacrifice. The sisters of Fate had saved humanity from the Dementors by wrapping themselves in destiny’s tapestry and transforming in the fire. She was a truer hero than he would ever be.

What that had to do with Lily, however, he had no inkling of.

Chapter 12: Babbling on Boxing Day
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Chapter Twelve

Babbling on Boxing Day

Christmas day was as it should be, filled with happy children and exhausted adults. Santa had come. The children hooted and hollered while stuffing themselves with candy. Everyone ate and drank too much.

On Boxing Day, only Hermione and Harry even knew what it was and they were determined to introduce the Weasley’s to the special holiday. The Weasley clan had never celebrated the day after Christmas.

“Let me get this straight, Hermione,” said Ron. “Today we give the servants the day off while we go off partying some more?”

“Well, that’s the original idea,” said Hermione patiently. “Hardly anyone has households full of servants anymore. Now it’s just a nice day to go visiting friends and to drink and sing down at the pub. It’s a fun day. It’s really just an excuse for more celebrating.” She kissed his cheek laughing at his puzzled expression.

“And the boxing part?” he asked.

“On Christmas day the servants used to have to work but they made twice as much food as they needed so that the next day it could be boxed and taken to friends for their own Christmas visiting,” she told him.

“Me likes the day,” said Dobby, who was standing on the kitchen table amidst boxes of cakes and pies. "Wizards should give us holidays! humpf! I and Winky is visiting the castle.” Winky dragged in from the pantry trailing a large bag behind her. She proceeded to stuff it with boxes of food.

“We’ll be visiting Hagrid, today,” said Hermione. “Then we’ll take him and all go into Hogsmeade to see George and Fred and their bunch off to London. We’ll have a little fun in town and then come home. We’ll have a great time, you’ll see.”

Harry and Ginny came into the kitchen looking for them. “Come on, Ron,” said Harry, “Let’s go pick up Hagrid. He should be back from his visit to Grawp by now. Fred, George and their bunch are meeting us in town. The twins went with them.” They grabbed a couple of boxes, pulled on coats and gloves and walked en masse toward Hagrid’s cottage. Billy pulled Lily along on the sled.

Hagrid was a little under the weather but glad to see them all. He had a black eye and his arm was in a makeshift sling. They crammed into the little hut and sat about the center table. “How’d you hurt your arm?” asked Harry. “I thought that Grawp had stopped bouncing you around ages ago, Hagrid.”

Hagrid shook his head. “It’s those young’uns of his, Harry. Don’t know their own strength those two.” Hagrid was speaking of Grawp’s two sons. Hagrid had successfully found his brother a mate, though she had run off not long after the boys were born. Giants were not known for their wifely or motherly inclinations.

Lily and Billy came slamming in from their snowball fight outside. They tore off their mittens, hats and coats and flew to the fire. It was cold outside. As Billy was warming his hands by the fire, he noticed something familiar in the corner. “Look, Lily,” he said. “There’s that old broomstick that everyone’s been looking for.”

They all turned surprised to see that there was indeed Harry’s old firebolt in the corner.

“Is that yours?” asked Hagrid. “I wondered where it come from. The little thing hasn’t shut up all week.”

Harry went over and picked it up. “You got it to talk?” he asked as he examined it.

“Can’t get it to shut-up more like,” said Hagrid. “Been raving about masters and demons for days. Skittish little thing. I jus thought it were possessed or something.”

The broom began to tremble in Harry’s hands as if it were about to fly off. “Whoa,” he said, “Calm down. We aren’t going to hurt you.”

Lily came over and reached up to touch the handle. She stroked it and it stopped trembling. “It’s scared, Daddy,” she said. “That bad man frightened it.”

“What man?” asked Hagrid.

“This is the broomstick that hit Draco Malfoy last week and pushed him into the magic rose bushes, Hagrid,” Harry explained.

“Lily, talk to it,” suggested Hermione. “Maybe it will tell us what it’s afraid of.” They all knew that the broom had been spooked by something Malfoy and his friend had done that day.

Lily took it from her father and stroked it gently. “I’ll not let them hurt you,” she said. “Won’t you tell us what happened? It’ll be all right. Come out and show yourself, don’t be shy. We know you’re a wood nymph. The lady told us that you were coming to see me.”

The broom gave a shudder and the brush on the end began to move. It transformed before their eyes into a tiny six-inch high nymph, though it was like no nymph any of them had ever seen before.

“Why, I’ll be,” said Hagrid, who always loved unusual creatures.

It was completely brown in color like the broom. It had two stick legs and two stick arms and one long body where the head and body looked all of one piece. Lily laughed at it. “You’ve been in my broom all this time?” she asked in awe. “Thank you so much for teaching me to fly. I’m ever so grateful.”

“You’re welcome,” said a melodious voice that sounded like a flute playing. “I liked the company.”

“What are you, little one?” asked Ginny.

“A wood nymph, a fairy, a trike,” it said.

“All of them? How is that possible?” she asked him.

The creature started trembling all over and looked as if it was going to jump back in the broom. “Don’t fuss,” said Lily to it. “We only want to know how you came into the broom.”

The nymph turned to point at Harry. “He took me from that place.”

“What place?” asked Harry.

“The mountain place,” it said. “You know. Where the demons were.”

“It must have jumped on your broom, Harry,” said Ron. “When we were wandering around in the caves looking for Dumbledore in the volcano years ago.”

The nymph nodded its whole body. “Yes, yes, escape from the demons.”

They all paused while the memory of their triumph over Voldemort and the impact that this little thing had escaped with them so many years ago sunk in.

“Why did you attack those men the other day?” asked Ginny finally.

“Bad men. Smell like demons. They steal the nice fairies. Bad men.”

“That says it all for me,” said Ron laughing. “Malfoy smells like a demon. I’m using that next time he mouths off at me.”

Lily considered the thing for a while. “How come you hide like you do?” she asked. “What are you afraid of?”

The nymph trembled all over. It was obviously very anxious. “I was changed. I don’t remember how, to be what I am. I talk and I couldn’t before. I feel things emotion. I is changed forever. The demons were there, the ones that ate us. Awful place; the mountain is. I escape from there.”

Harry looked puzzled. He’d never heard of Dementors eating. They fed on the souls of humans. What could this little thing possibly do for them? Were the Demons that it was afraid of something else?

“You’re safe with us,” said Lily firmly. “We won’t let them hurt you. What’s your name?”

“No name.”

“How can you not have a name?” asked Lily

“No name.”

“Every creature’s got to have a name,” said Hagrid. “We’ll call you Babbling, what’d you say to that?”

“Babbling, oh, yes, Hagrid!” cried Lily happily. “The babbling broomstick!”

Hagrid busied about the fire and they all had tea and treats from the boxes until it was time to leave for town. It was yet another day of story telling and reminiscing about the old days. They made a funny sight walking down the road chortling and chatting as they walked along.

Lily insisted on carrying the broomstick with them to Hogsmeade. She and Billy happily chitchatted with it while they all relaxed in the pub. The cousins gathered around them laughing and giggling with the broom. People in the pub looked at them funny, talking to a broomstick but the children ignored them. At one point in the evening all the children skipped outside to take turns riding the broom until Hagrid noticed them gone and Fred went to fetch them back.

They’d crowded into the back room and all of them with Fred and George and their crew made up a fair crowd in the little area. They were a noisy bunch, as well, especially when they started singing. Ron led them three times in a rousing chorus of the Chuddley Cannons fight song. The barkeep had to shush them several times. He was at a loss as to why this group was so fired up. Most of his customers were sluggish on the day after Christmas.

As the evening wound down, people began contemplating being on their way. Lily had fallen asleep on Harry’s shoulder and Billy was curled up in a corner almost, but not quite asleep. Ron stood up to make an announcement.

“Hermione and I’ll be getting married this summer,” Ron blurted out.

“Ron, I thought we weren’t going to tell until we talked to Billy?” said Hermione.

“It’s family, Hermione,” said Ron rolling his eyes. “Of course, we have to tell them.”

“Honestly, Ron, you’re one big kid!” She was smiling happily.

None of them were at all surprised, least of all Billy, who’d been trying to avoid them whenever they were together kissing and stuff. It was embarrassing. Ron hadn’t slept in their bedroom all week. Billy was just glad to have it out in the open.

Everyone had been expecting some sort of announcement if not all week then for years. It was hard to miss their love for each other. It’d been like a billboard sign with a naked lady painted on it.

“Bloody well about time, brother,” yelled Fred.

“We were about to throw a bucket of water on you two!” cheered George.

Everyone let out a cheer so loud that the barkeep came over and asked them to get on with it and let him close up for the night. "It's usually a quiet night the day after Christmas," he told them. "What could you possibly be celebrating?"

"Boxing Day!!!!" they all shouted at the poor man.

As they were leaving in various directions from the pub, they all decided that Boxing Day was a ‘must do’ every year. They made vows to bring more Weasleys in on the holiday next year. Arthur Weasley, for one, would love it. Who’d have thought that the muggles were such a clever bunch to come up with such a jolly holiday?

Chapter 13: Up to No Good
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Chapter Thirteen

Up to No Good

There is a saying that every bathtub has its bottom.

In the wizarding world, the bottom of the bathtub was Knockturn Alley. It was a dark little alley where the buildings huddled so closely together that barely any light came from above and the street was only wide enough for two people across in some parts. There were lots of dark little corners to hide away in if you had something or someone to hide.

The Doused Lantern pub was at its center with Wizard Stocks and Whippets across the way. Harry Potter had been in the Borgin and Burkes, the largest establishment on the alley years before when he’d stumbled from a fireplace there. There was no bank on the Alley but there were other ways to obtain funding. The streets were usually full of trade or some sort of business, little of it good. Smuggling abounded and everything and anything could be gotten down its short few blocks. Pity the stray child who wandered there. Slavery could catch you up in its teeth and never let you go. There were potions, as well that would bring you back again and again if you were but to taste a drop, until you died a death unsung in the dung heap down the end of the road. Or, so mothers would warn their children.

Fred and George Weasley had been there many times and were well acquainted with the inhabitants and the goods sold there. When they were young and still in school they had snuck down into its pit often enough to be familiar with the landmarks there. When they had become businessmen trading in tricks and such, they’d traveled there simply for inspiration. They had always looked on their forays into the depths of the Knockturn as a search for new ideas. For there were things to be found there, Dark Arts magic and creatures of every kind that one just didn’t see anywhere else in London. There were people who were not to be found elsewhere, people who had stories to tell if you had the time to listen.

In the Doused Lantern, Fred and George sat with a squirrel of an old gentleman name of Beekes, Thelonius Beekes. He was a crafty character with grizzly strings of hair falling from a bald dome. He wore tiny spectacles and was examining a trinket that George and Fred had brought for him to buy. It was merely a rouse to get him talking.

“You say you have more?” asked Beekes. He held in his hands the talon of a dragon. Not so very rare, but rare enough that they fetched a fair amount in bulk. Wizards found them useful in numerous potions. When ground and mixed they provided a very powerful punch. George and Fred had a ready supply of the stuff, scales as well, from their brother Charlie.

“We’ve loads more, if you’re buying,” said George.

“So how is business these days, Beekes?” asked Fred. “We rarely see you topside on Diagon anymore. Have you been traveling?”

Beekes cackled. It sounded a bit like a crow’s caw. “Been so busy boys that I rarely have a minute to sight see, let alone visit a hoity-toity establishment like that one you run. Lots of the Dark about, if you catch me drift.”

“Really?” asked George. “Do tell. We never see anything interesting anymore. Since You-Know-Who kicked it we’ve not seen anything new of the Dark Arts.”

“Crafty bunch, these new blokes,” whispered Beekes. “Very well placed, you know and all hush-hush about who they be. Real nobs with attitude, if you ask me.” Beekes leaned over to them conspiratorially. “Can’t stand the lot of them. Always asking for the impossible and when I can’t get what they want, they threaten me. Ha! As if they could catch Beekes if he don’t want to get caught. I ask you?”

“Come off it, Beekes,” said Fred. “How tough could they be? What are they up to?”

“Been making what they shouldn’t,” said Beekes.

“Like what?” whispered George. “What are they making?”

“They been mixing nature’s normals, they have,” whispered Beekes. “I seen um once when I delivered a load a Cornish pixies to their place.”

“Seen what?”

“Dementors,” said Beekes.

“No!” whispered Fred and George together.

“Almost soiled my shorts, let me tell you!” said Beekes. “They rushed me outa there mighty quick-like, but I ain’t blind. Dementors. Bigger than I ever seen ‘um and I seen a few in my day. They’ve been messing with them.”

“Dementors don’t actually breed or anything do they?” asked George with a sick queasiness gripping his insides.

“Na! Ha! Ha! That’d be something to watch and die of fright afterward, now wouldn’t it?” laughed Beekes. “By Merlin's testis that is one dark thing to ponder, gents. No, Dementors are old creatures that don’t die. They be biblical demons, those awful things. Straight from the beginning they come. That’s why them changing is so horrible.” Beekes leaned back and took his pipe out. He pressed the tobacco into the bowl and lit it with his fingernail. “And they have other things, there as well. I smelled dragon’s breath.”

“Dragons?” asked Fred, amazed that Beekes was so talkative and at what he was saying. “Where are these people, Beekes? They can’t possibly be in England, can they?”

Beekes leaned in whispering. “Boys, I likes ye. You’ve always been good to this old bird, even when I didn’t have two knutes to rub together you always bought from me. But I daren’t tell you who they are. They’re snakes, that’s all I’ll be saying. Snakes, the lot of ‘um."

Fred and George nodded understanding. They knew exactly who the snakes were. What they didn’t know was where they were and Beekes wasn’t about to tell them. They thanked Beekes after a few more words of chatter and a promise to supply him with more dragon talons by spring. They left him with a little coin for a few more pints and went on to their next stop.

The street was quiet and yet not. Voices were murmuring in the shadows. Someone screamed or maybe it was perverted laughter down the road. The lanterns along the alley were lit but the glass was so dirty in the globes that not much light reached the street. The Knockturn rarely frightened Fred and George, being very tall fellows, but they did keep their wands at the ready.

The bell clanged merrily at Borgin and Burkes shop as they entered it. Always dusty and dim inside, George and Fred
had stopped in every time they could when they’d been down the alley.

Mr. Borgin had long since passed being so old and decrepit that he’d given up carrying on with it. Mr. Borgin, Jr.
now ran the shop and he was just as greasy and obsequious as his father had been.

“Well, well, well,” he said, recognizing them instantly. “It’s been a very long time, Messer’s. Weasley. Yes, a very long time. I hope all the little Weasleys are doing well?” He had one of those drippy smiles, long practiced with just a touch of drool at the edges. George gave an involuntary shudder when he got too close.

“Yes, thanks,” said George, not sure that Borgin knew if he had children or not and hoping that he’d never find out. People did assume that the Weasley’s would have children. There was a Weasley reputation for progeny, after all. “We just thought that we’d stop by, Mr. Borgin. Since we were walking the alley. To see if you’ve anything new or unusual.”

Mr. Borgin looked at them for a few moments as if in scrutiny. “You gentlemen have not been in to buy for many a year, now,” he said most carefully. Mr. Borgin kept abreast on who was who in the wizarding world. He knew quite a few things about the Weasleys. They were famous for more than their numbers. He knew, for instance that they had a brother who was an Auror who was also very chummy with a rather famous wizard by the name of Harry Potter. Mr. Borgin’s father had done quite a nice bit of trade in the Dark Arts until Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley had put an end to it.

“The tricks and novelties business has gotten a bit stale is all,” said George. “We’re just out exploring. We’re fishing for ideas.”

“We’d heard that there’ve been new creatures and arts of interests,” said Fred. “Thought we’d take a look-see.”

Mr. Borgin did see. He saw very well. The Weasleys were on a quest of some sort to ruin his business with their good works. “Well, I have this cross, gentlemen,” he said. “It’s said that it was worn by Jack the Ripper, himself. He was a powerful wizard of the nineteenth century. Murderer of muggle women, he was. It’s got a curse that grips the
throat of those who wear it. Nasty thing, of course, but if you’ve a mistress bothering you, it could come in mighty handy.” Mr. Borgin giggled at his own joke. Fred and George did not. “Or this,” he said pointing to a large purplish glob. “This is the dried heart of Siberian Dragon. It’s said that merely touching it can make a spell ten times more potent than any living dragons. They’re extinct.” It was all fluff to Mr. Borgin. He knew that they’d not be interested in things of death.

“Na, Borgin,” said George. “What about new creatures? Living ones, mixed perhaps, have you seen any?”

“That’d be against the law sirs, you know that,” crooned Mr. Borgin. “You’re not trying to trick me, are you?”

George and Fred looked innocent. It was a manner they had practiced from an early age. They’d often fooled their parents. “It’s okay, Borgin. If you’ve not anything of interest, we understand. We just thought because one of our suppliers said to look you up is all.”

“And, who would that be?”

“It was Marcus Flint,” said George. “What was it that he said Fred?”

“That we should see the new thing that Borgin had got,” answered Fred.

Mr. Borgin was alarmed but he didn’t show it outwardly except for a tiny shake of his fingers. “Why that’s most unusual, gentlemen,” he said slowly. “I’ve not heard of this person. He said to look me up? Like that?”

Fred and George both nodded.

“Well, I’m most aggrieved. I have nothing of creatures here, only antiques of unusual magical properties; you know…perhaps he meant to say Wizard Stocks and Whippets? People always mix us up you know.”

They all agreed that perhaps that was the case and the Weasleys walked out promising to return on another day when they had more time. As they were leaving and up to the end of the street, George remarked, “Nervous bugger when we mentioned Flint, don’t you think?”

“I think we might want to prepare ourselves, George.”

“For a visit.”

“A visit.”

The twins left the Knockturn behind and walked on out into the fresh air of Diagon Alley. It was bustling with normal folk. The children and people looked as if they’d eaten a hearty meal on occasion. Both let out a sigh of relief.

The visit they were expecting came the very next day from none other than their favorite Slytherin, Draco Malfoy. He walked into the shop in fine form with his straight back and good looks. The healers had done some excellent work on the scratches he’d gotten from the Thorn and Roses cottage incident of less than two months before. With him were two very large men who stood at the front door like bookends.

Malfoy sneered at the young girl behind the counter, who unfortunately had red hair but was no Weasley relation. “I’d like a word with Fred and George, Miss Weasley,” he said shortly.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not a Weasley. Gosh, everyone makes that mistake,” she giggled. “My name’s Claire.”

Draco stood looking at her as if she was both deaf and dumb.

“Oh, yes, sorry sir, I’ll fetch them,” she said, flustered equally by his good looks and his belittling stare.

Miss Claire rushed into the back office, being careful to close the door behind her. Fred was playing with a magic pitch game. George had wagered him three Galleons for twenty hits in a row.

“Mr. Weasley, sirs. There’s a gentlemen out front to see you. He’s ever so handsome.”

“Pull yourself together, Miss Claire,” said George. He raised an eyebrow at Fred. “Is he blonde with near white hair?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Slight sneer, with a stick up his bum?” laughed Fred.

“Sir, I never!”

“Malfoy!” said both with a laugh.

“Show him in, Miss Claire,” said Fred

“We’d love to see him,” said George

The nervous young girl showed Malfoy to the office. The large men escorted them to the door.

“No need for goons, Malfoy.”

“We’ve been expecting you.”

“We know you’re tough,” said both. “You know we’re not impressed.”

Malfoy signaled the men to stay by the door. He walked in and stood by a chair waiting.

“Oh, sit down, you silly sod.”

“No pomp and circumstance around here, Malfoy. Don’t forget…”

“We were old school chums.”

Malfoy sat in the chair. “Very funny, boys,” said Malfoy relaxing. “So what’s this I’m hearing?”

“About what?”

“Don’t be coy, Weasles. You’ve been asking in the Knockturn.”

“Have not.

“Have to.”


“To! Bloody hell, this bites it!” yelled Malfoy ticked. “You two have been asking about Marcus Flint in the Knockturn. Why?”

“We were interested in certain rumors that we’ve been hearing about the Slytherian crowd you run with,” said George more seriously.

“And Marcus Flint, in particular,” said Fred.

“Heard you’ve been making stuff...”

“That seems to border…”

“On the dark.”

Malfoy had learned the art of manipulation from his father. After long years of practice, he’d perfected a way to both frighten and gain respect from those he dealt with. It was all a matter of pushing the right points to achieve the desired ends. He’d learned over the years to make it less personal than in his earlier stumbling years.

Unfortunately, with Fred and George Weasley such subtlety would be useless. “You hooligans know damn well that you have no business insinuating that Riddle’s Remarkables has anything to do with the so-called Dark Arts!” he hissed at them. “No one practices such magic any longer and you bloody well know it. We’re a novelty and potions company with a few other choice holdings and nothing more.” He looked them in the eye one at a time. It was a skill that would work on the Weasleys.

“What are you on about, Malfoy? No dark arts practiced?” Fred shook his head in mock disgust.

“There are three ruddy blocks down the Knockturn to prove you wrong.”

“We were just asking, Malfoy…”

“because we’d heard about you Slytherins changing things…”

“from the normal…”

“to the perverted.”

Malfoy looked at them with an exasperated expression on his face. “You do realize how ridiculous it is to hold a conversation with two grown men that talk in tandem?” he said. He sat back as if he was deciding on what coarse of action to take. It was another trick of the trade. He’d long since decided how he’d handle these two buffoons. “Once and for all, gentlemen,” he began again. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. This normal to the perverted thing that you’re talking about sounds more like your area than ours. Don’t forget that we’re old school chums. I was there for the famous swamp and fireworks festival.” He smiled sweetly and rudely at the same time. It was something Malfoy had always been a master at. “Riddle’s is a sound company with loads of assets. We are above suspicion and very respectable. You know that. You’ve been doing business with us for years!”

“Yeah, we know…but,”

“why’d you try to steal Ginny’s fairies, Malfoy?”

A smile lingered on Malfoy’s lips though he tried to squash it. “So that’s what this is about? Potter’s bloody fairies?”

Fred and George shrugged.

Malfoy sat watching them. “I’ve always hated Potter,” he said frankly. It was always best to have a little truth within a lie for potency. “The man killed my father, who admittedly was a stupid Death Eater, as we all know.” He involuntarily grimaced at the thought of his beloved father dying that death in the eating flame with Voldemort. No Malfoy should die so dismally. “But that’s old history. He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named was a villain, who was crazy to boot.” He let out a well-placed sigh. “There are no Death Eaters any longer. Our company is not practicing the Dark Arts. I merely wanted a few of the fairies for study in our laboratory is all. They’re unusual and we deal in the unusual, as you know gentlemen. We do NOT change the normal.” He spent a small second running his fingers through his hair in mock frustration. “I acted badly at Hogwarts,” he said humbly. “ I concede that I should have been more respectful of Ginny’s wishes but I just can’t help it when it comes to your beloved Harry Potter!” He shivered and snarled, non-scripted. “The idiot makes my very skin crawl. I simply hate the man. I always have. I’m sorry.” He shook his head. He’d instantly regretted what he’d said. Harry Potter had done it to him again. He’d let out too much truth about his feelings to the Weasleys.

Fred and George were a little taken aback by the confessions of a Malfoy. They weren’t sure how to proceed. On the one hand, Thelonius Beekes had convinced them that there was, indeed something dark about the Slytherian crowd’s going-ons, but on the other hand, the man seemed to behaving honestly. Of course, Draco Malfoy, although cunning and good at many things, was not the sharpest sword in the Slitherin stack. Marcus Flint was the powerhouse. They’d felt the brunt of Marcus Flint’s attacks too often in Quidditch to underestimate the man that he’d become. He was the boss of the company, after all.”

“We’ll convey your apology to our sister, Malfoy,” said George.

“But you shouldn’t go taking what’s not been offered,” said Fred.

“Maybe we could have a tour of this lab, you speak about?”

“Yeah!” said George enthusiastically. “Fred and I would love to see what you’re up to. We’ve long since given up the chemistry set and tools. It’d be fun to take tour. How ‘bout it?”

George and Fred were forever the champions of enthusiasm for mischief and merriment. Sure, they could be serious when it was needed, but why bother?

“I’ll arrange it,” offered Malfoy slowly. Internally he was kicking himself. Things would indeed have to be arranged. He’d stall them for a few months if he could. But perhaps it would be for the best, to let them see a staged version of the lab, if only to shut the damned Gryffindors up.

Chapter 14: The Dark Lord's Crystal
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Chapter Fourteen

The Dark Lord’s Crystal

“Fred and George Weasley were always a pain in the backside,” said Marcus growling. He was angry with Draco Malfoy for opening the doors to his company to Gryffindors.

They were in Draco’s office, a pristine modern suite of gold toned silks and velvets. Draco Malfoy felt most comfortable in rooms of muted light and color. It was probably his years of below ground living in Slytherin House that had inspired him to decorate his lair as if it were a cave though it was on the fifteenth floor of the Riddle building in central London.

“I don’t see what you’re worried about,” said Malfoy. He didn’t like to see Flint angry. He reminded him too much of Flint’s father, a very unsavory personality. “I will merely take over the lab downstairs and make it look like we use it. I never intended to take them to Cornwall, Marcus. Give me some credit, please.”

“They won’t buy it, Draco. The Weasleys might seem like imbeciles but they’re not. They’ll know that it’s a stage set and then they’ll be even more interested in snooping about our business. Those two were always a clever pair.”

“Strong-arming them won’t work. They merely winked at the guys,” muttered Malfoy.

“I'm not surprised,” said Marcus getting up from his seat to open the curtains and look out at the view. He was a tall man with dark hair, dark eyes and an athletic build. He still played Quidditch, among other practices, to keep in shape. He was a credit to his house, a man of clear goals and purpose. Nothing would get in his way. “You think that Harry Potter is behind their snooping?” He turned and was a dark figure against a vista of gray sky.

“Yes, Potter is always at the center. The idiot is a born leader of other stupider idiots.”

“Harry Potter is not an idiot, Malfoy, nor are the Weasleys,” said Flint stepping away from the window to glower at him. “I don’t know why you’re so jealous of Harry Potter.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Admit it, the man makes you crazy with jealous hate. He always did, even when we were at school.”

“I’ll only admit to hating him.”

“Your kind of hate will get in my way, Draco. Beware of getting in my way.” He said it simply. There was no malice in the way he said it.

Draco Malfoy heard the meaning behind Marcus Flint’s words, however. He would not want to fail his boss again. Damn the Weasleys and the Potters! They made him look bad.

“You’ve disappointed me twice now, Draco,” said Flint coldly. “I’d wanted to take a look at those fairies. The article that Potter woman wrote said that they could see things ahead of time. I need that trait for our project to succeed. Now you’ve blundered again and gone and invited Gryffindors to my house. I don’t like it.”

“How was I supposed to know that the damned fairies were protected by those cursed roses?” Malfoy whined. He squirmed under Flint’s stare. “As for the Weasleys, I can stall those buffoons, forever.” He looked at the portrait of his father, which hung in a place of reverence on a sidewall in his office. A candle always burned before it in remembrance. He wondered about his father, if he had squirmed under the scrutinizing eye of the One-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. He couldn’t imagine the regal and elegant man feeling uncomfortable before anyone, but it must have happened. The Dark Lord had made everyone squirm.

“Those roses are interesting, as well,” mused Flint out loud. “It’s said that Morgana herself created that house. She’d have changed the roses and the fairies, as well. I’d like that magic for our project, Malfoy. Imagine, the great witch of her age being able to do such magic so long ago. Find a way to get the secrets to that house, Malfoy.”

“I’ll do my best, sir,” said Malfoy firmly. He stood in deference to his boss and ever so slightly bowed in his direction.

“I’m going to Cornwall for the new dragon tests. When I come back, I want this problem solved. Either put the Weasleys off the track or I’ll have to do it myself. That won’t make me happy, Draco.” He watched Malfoy as this sunk in. He sorely wished that he had Voldemort’s talent for reading minds. He’d never mastered the finer points of occulmency. The Malfoys were always ones for cold unreadable exteriors.

In fact, his conversation with Malfoy reminded him of the last time he’d spoken with the Dark Lord. Voldemort had said the exact same thing to him, “When I come back, I want this problem solved or I’ll have to do it myself.” Marcus involuntarily shivered. Voldemort had not come back. He was dead. It had been left to him to carry on. He’d been working toward his goal for almost twenty years and it was nearly completed. Soon, he knew it in his heart, very soon.

He left Malfoy without another word apparating to his own office on the top floor. Unlike Malfoy, he enjoyed natural light. His palace in the sky was spacious and open. He’d always loved flying and up here in the clouds was where he felt most comfortable. On the rare clear day he could see the twist of the Thames and all the tiny muggles of London. Someday it would all be his.

On a whim, he went into a small chamber he kept off the main area of his suite. A tiny room in comparison, a perfect nine by nine square with no windows. The ceiling and walls were charmed with the night sky: swirling clouds of stars, a beautiful horse nebula, and the scene shifting slowly ever slowly around the center pier. A large crystal of great value sat on the center pier. It always struck Marcus with wonder to gaze at it.

He’d found it years ago in the rubble that had been left behind by Harry Potter and his friends when they’d destroyed Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Marcus had gone to the mountain to see for himself where his father had died, where all of them had died. Such a huge wasted effort. Harry Potter had taken that from them. He would have his revenge on the Gryffindor heir. Harry Potter would pay for his offense to his family legacy, and his house.

Unlike Draco Malfoy, however, Marcus Flint did not blindly hate Harry Potter. There had been some logic in what he had done. Both Potter and Voldemort had been guided to collide because a prophesy. Voldemort had hated Potter in the end and look where it’d got him. No, Marcus Flint would keep his emotions in check and merely manipulate Potter into destroying himself. If only he could find a source for his own prophesy. It would make all the difference in what was to come.

The great crystal seemed to speak to him with the hundred lives within it. He caressed it with both his hands. The dead souls inside vibrated at his touch. For that was what it was. He had recognized it instantly when he’d seen it years ago, a dusty white rock covered in ash. It was they, all of them magically pressed into a single object, a crystal made of wizards flesh and bones. It was beautiful and yet horrible to behold. It was an inspiration to look at it.

He remembered how upset he’d been when he’d walked around in the rubble, crying for the loss of their future, his future. He’d felt a devastation that he’d never known himself capable of. He was lost without them. Then he’d seen the crystal and all somehow had been restored. A goal for him had emerged from the wreckage and focused in on the
crystal. It was triumph, that goal, in its simplicity. He’d resolved to carry on with his father’s vision.

He meditated on the crystal, now polished and glittering with a thousand lights. He’d often contemplated his next move along his path in life within that room while gazing at it. Sometimes he saw images, flickers of them within it, though he’d had his experts go over it time and again. They’d found nothing. Most believed him a bit loopy about the rock. At first, he’d shared it with all the followers that were left, but he’d given up getting them to see it as he saw it. He’d built this room of magic and the crystal had laid here ever since, his own personal shrine to his ambition.

There was a familiar twinge in his arm. He often felt it in the room with the crystal. He looked at the mark, the dark mark of Voldemort, still on his arm for all to see. It had been a miracle or perhaps the mark of his fate that his had never faded as it had in others. They called to him, those within the crystal. His father called to him. Dead they all were, gone forever, but their magic selves were encased in the magnificent crystal that glittered with light. It still sang to him.

Chapter 15: The Potter's Study
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Chapter Fifteen

The Potter’s Study

Since they’d been married, Harry and Ginny had always had a room or a corner in which to read and reflect their universe in. Both of them had had contemplative childhoods. Harry more so, for the obvious reasons, having grown up alone and mostly unloved among his muggle relatives, he had spent much of his childhood alone. Ginny also, had been isolated and alone when she was young. As a child, the youngest and a girl amongst a crowd of brothers, she had created a private place within herself where she was most comfortable. It was why she’d become a writer. Only those comfortable with being alone have the nature to be writers. They like the introspection and company of spending time with themselves. In fact, they relish in it.

Ginny’s time to be alone was in the morning. She’d taken on the task of instructing both Billy and Lily in the particulars of academics, teaching Lily to read and write and corralling Billy into learning the finer points of math and sciences in preparation for his first year at Hogwarts. But while Harry busied himself with things at Hogwarts, and the children were readied for the day by Dobby and Winky, Ginny had a few short hours in the study to write in solitude.

Harry’s time to be in the study alone was tea to supper. Every day, when he returned home and had been greeted by the enthusiasm of his family, he would retire to the study with the door shut. Harry was certainly not writing for he had avoided writing his memoirs for most of the year. His alone time was spent in the exercise of his body and mind.

He’d started the practice years before of listening to the muggle news while doing his wand exercises. The news part was a habit he’d picked up at the dreaded Dursleys. Through the years, especially when he was looking over his shoulder for Voldemort at every turn, he’d discovered that the news of the muggles sometimes held within it news of the Wizarding world. Being always vigilant even after Voldemort’s defeat, he still listened to the news, just in case. The news was a background noise to his other act of contemplation, his wand exercises.

After he and Ron had graduated from Hogwarts and defeated Voldemort, there had been a time of drifting in Harry’s life. In short, he went into a deep and gloomy funk. It was a long two-year period where he’d wondered what to do with the rest of his years. His entire adolescence had been spent trying to not get himself, or those around him, killed by the evil Voldemort. When he’d finally accomplished the task that he’d been born for, he became surprisingly depressed and directionless. Harry was still angry even without the Dark Lord to focus it on. He became a very troubled young man after his great victory.

He’d been released from St. Mungo’s after a few months, and he and Ginny had fallen in love and eventually married, but he didn’t actually DO anything for a long while. It had been like he was in shock or, as the muggles would describe it, battle fatigue. He had lost his way. He had no clear purpose any longer and because of his nature to be stubborn, he had sunk into a depressed oblivion that showed no signs of waning.

Ginny had been frantic with worry, as were all of his friends, but they had also known him as the brooding angry young man for so many years that they, also, didn’t know how to help him onto a more constructive path for the rest of his life.

It was around this time that Albus Dumbledore had introduced him to a man named Spiff Whitaker, an acknowledged master in the art of the wand. Albus had been visiting Harry in London quite often and he and Ginny had cooked up a plan to get Harry out of his slump. Albus had often suggested that Harry carry on with his studies and become an Auror as Ron was already doing, but Harry had always balked at the idea. He’d had his fill of fighting the Dark Arts. He’d stubbornly refused to do anything with his life.

Albus and Ginny finally persuaded him to go to Spiff’s studio where he’d taken to Whittaker’s teaching instantly from the very first day. He’d immediately seen the worth of the practiced art of the wand. It was a long revered spiritual regiment of meditation and exercise. Harry had spent the next two years there with Master Whitaker. He and Ginny, though newly married, had lived mostly separately. She traveled with Luna Lovegood around the world and he had studied with Spiff Whitaker.

Wand Art is a basic practice, seemingly simple in steps. It is a matter of using the wand as an extension of your body and mind, a focal point, if you will, of your energy. As everyone knows, it is a basic premise in magic that the wand is a conduit for a wizard’s own magic, for otherwise, it’s just a stick. Wand Art takes that premise and builds it into an art form that melds the body and wand as one unit. It is a physical endurance builder that looks as if the person is performing a dance. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. When practiced consistently over a long period of months and years, it changes you.

Harry eventually mastered the practice of it with time and effort. His body was toned, his ambitions focused again. Fumbling for the wand was a thing of the past. His temper and occasional brooding nature surfaced less and less. In fact, he’d learned to use his anger as a tool to focus his power. Most importantly, he’d learned to control himself. Harry had, in short, become even stronger and more fearsome through his practice of Wand Art. He had gone on from Spiff Whitaker to become one of the most revered Aurors of his era. His career had taken off after that. He was a living legend.

Until the griffin had almost killed him, that is, or when his wife had forbade him from crusading against Dark Wizards anymore. And then there was his being at Hogwarts, a mere teacher, as well. But he kept in shape as best he could. He still practiced his Wand excercises even lame and over the hill old as he was, every day.

As Harry moved through the study in exercise he tried to clear his mind.

Reports from Somalia where witnesses say that thirty people were killed in the blast that blew up in a green gassy light that exploded …

It was February and much had happened since Christmas. Ron had visited every other weekend. He and Hermione had decided to make an effort to be together as much as possible. He had been at Roses and Thorns cottage for Lily’s sixth birthday the week before.

BBC London, a shooting yesterday evening in North Hazelton has residents…

Ron had told him about Fred and George’s visit with Malfoy but more disturbing had been their report of findings in Knockturn Alley. Perversions and changing of the normal the man named Beekes had said.

Strange sightings in Cornwall last night of UFO’s off the coast…

It was exactly as the Sybil had said it would be. They, who were coming, were defying the laws, the laws of nature.

“Saw fire shooting out its mouth and then it was gone! Poof! Like it was never…”

Harry moved through his motions swaying and turning, trying to get his mind in focus. Usually he used the sound of the news as background as white noise that he only barely heard, but tonight he just could not concentrate. He stopped and switched off the T.V. set instantly with a swish of his wand. His leg was hurting him and his heart just wasn’t in his exercises. He’d become unhappy.

Harry had felt isolated at Hogwarts these last few weeks. His classes were going fine, he’d started his third years on casting and protecting and they’d all been doing fairly well. He’d had to spend hours of time planning for his classes but he was working it all out. The knowledge of the coming revenge of Voldemort’s legacy that the Sybil had warned them about worried him. He wanted to personally run down Draco Malfoy and rip the truth from his Slytherin mouth.

He could feel his old anger rising in his chest. Draco Malfoy had always bugged him. That now Draco was somehow mixed up in dark doings was no real surprise to Harry but it irked him that he couldn’t just go up to the man and confront him with his knowledge that he was up to something evil. Draco was just like his father. Lucius Malfoy had tried to kill Harry on numerous occasions. He’d been the right hand of Voldemort. It had been a secret pleasure to kill him. Now Draco Malfoy was going down the same path. He wanted to cleave his head with an Unforgiveable Curse. He…

He must get a hold of himself. Hermione had warned him to keep his cool and wait. Harry breathed deeply, trying to compose himself. He focused on his wand, holding it up with both hands before his eyes, very close to his mouth. He watched his breath move across the surface making the wand shimmer with light. He calmed himself down and focused on what was important. Fred and George would go exploring the Riddle’s laboratory and report back to him. He was strong enough to wait.

He faltered a bit when he wished for the thousandth time that Dumbledore would return and fill him in on what was happening out there in the Wizarding world. He was going buggy sitting on his wand to kill time. Dumbledore’s silence was irritating and worrisome at the same time. He felt the levels of his anger rise again.

Harry found himself pacing aimlessly in a crazy eight circle. He needed to distract himself or he would surely explode. He walked over to the partner’s desk that he and Ginny shared and shuffled through the drawers. In the bottom drawer underneath the papers for the memoir he was supposed to be writing, which he never seemed to have time to get to, was the Marauder’s Map.

“I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good,” he said tapping it with his wand and sitting in the chair at the desk. He unfolded the map with a tinge of nostalgia. He hadn’t really looked at it in many years. It wasn’t much use outside Hogwart’s grounds. Now that he lived here again, he’d been meaning to sneak it out and have a look around.

The map revealed itself and Harry’s eye wandered around the corridors feeling the impish voyeur on the doings of the castle. It was very crowded in the main hall. The letters of people’s names jostled for position and he couldn’t read a word of it. There were so many students eating their supper that the letters were jumbled together popping and bubbling about the hall. His sons were probably amongst the names, eating their dinner at the Gryffindor table along with the others.

“Hold on,” he said out loud. Severus Snape was leaving the main hall and heading for the entrance to the lower realms.

Harry felt his finger getting warm. The ring was calling him to attention. He’d found that since wearing the ring, it warned him of special things about to occur. That had been why he and Ron had escaped before the roses had attacked Malfoy. He believed that the ring warned had him somehow of what was to come.

Severus Snape turned on his heal and seemed to be running down the corridor. He nearly collided with Hermione Granger who had been walking from the library.

They stood for some minutes most probably talking and then Hermione went on down the hall. Severus stood watching her. Harry knew this by the position of the footprints. When Hermione disappeared around the corner he turned and walked very quickly not to the lower realms but toward the entrance to Dumbledore’s tower. Harry remembered it fondly.

It was then that he noticed Dumbledore. Albus Dumbledore was in the castle! He was right there in his office! Harry watched as Severus glided up and into the office. They stood close together and then settled at opposite sides of what was probably the desk in the center. “For a bloody little chat!” yelled Harry.

Harry’s pent up frustration exploded at the thought that Dumbledore was slighting him. He should have been called! He should be the one to discuss events with Dumbledore that were surely more important than any that Severus Sodding Snape need talk about. He threw down the map and was flying at the door of his study to confront them both in the castle when a pain of indefinable magnitude shot through his hand and brought him to his knees.

He fell on the floor wrenching in pain. The ring had made its presence known. “Temper, temper, Harry, dear friend,” it said to him.

“What the hell?” said Harry, realizing as the pain ebbed that he wore a charmed unknown on his finger.

“We never had this trouble with Albus, Harry,” it said. “He learned to listen right away, but you seem so deaf to us. Sorry, we had to stop you from being foolish. Lords but that is an awful temper you have.”

“What are you?”

“A friend.”

“That hurt, friend,” he snarled.

“You don’t want to really interrupt them right now.”

“And, why the bloody hell not?”

“Check the temper first and then we’ll tell you. Your temper has always been your downfall, Harry. You may very well have done well in Slytherin. You would have been better off if you’d learned to control it and they would have taught you control.”

Harry contemplated his hand. In a way, the ring was right. His temper had led him to brash and foolhardy events in his younger years. He’d learned to control it most of the time through Wand Art and meditation but he still had his moments, especially in the last half-hour.

“Okay,” he said taking a big breath and settling on the floor next to the door. “I’m calm. Now tell me why I shouldn’t go and interrupt Albus when he’s talking to Snape.” He gnashed his teeth as he said Snape’s name.

“Snape mustn’t know that you know Dumbledore’s here before he does.”

“Why in blazes not?”

“Because he hates you so much and Albus wants him to be on our side right now. Severus Snape is a very handy ally, Harry. You are a fool to provoke him.”

Harry remembered his old confrontations with Severus when Voldemort had threatened him at every turn. Though they’d always hated each other, Severus had always been loyal to Dumbledore.

“Your hate for all things Slytherin is almost comical, Harry.”

“I don’t find the Slytherin house or it’s people funny in any way.”

“They’re only ambitious, Harry. It’s what makes them appear so mean.”

“Appear mean? Ambitious? You call Voldemort merely ambitious?”

“Well, he was an exception, now wasn’t he? But he’s dead. Thanks to you and your Gryffindor friends.”

“What about the new menace? You obviously must have been here when the Sybil spoke.”


“Well? What about them?”

“They will have to be stopped.”

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

“There’s that temper erupting again.”


“Has it ever occurred to you that evil does not know that it’s evil, Harry?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Is evil really so black and white for you, dear? Are you so very sure that Draco Malfoy is evil or that his friends are out to destroy the world?”

“You heard what Ron said. They’re changing the Dementors and the dragons. Merlin knows what they’re doing to them!

“Yes, I’ll be curious to see.”

“You mean you don’t know?”


“What are you exactly?”

“Gadzooks, Albus asked us that all the time. We’ve no answer for either of you. You’ll just have to trust us. Albus did and now he’s given us to you.”

“Great! Now what?”

“You can go and see Albus now, if you’d like. Severus has just left him, but you must not let on that you know to Severus. He’s very sensitive to his position. He’s very determined man.”


“Yes. Now go and see Albus. He’d love to see you, you know.”

Harry thought about it. He’d like to find out what Albus Dumledore had found out in his travels. Albus might be able to answer some questions about what was happening with the Slytherins at Riddle’s Remarkables and perhaps what was happening between the Sybil and his daughter.

After thinking about it, he was very comforted that Dumbledore was nearby.

“See? We told you. Leave the temper at the door and go and see him, Harry. The password is iced cherry cordial.”

Harry opened the door to his study. Lily was standing at the door with Shag, their dog. The pair made a funny picture. Shag was taller and wider than Lily. She looked a little embarrassed at first because she’d obviously been caught listening.

“Who was that you were talking to, Daddy?” she asked.

Harry looked down at his daughter but did not answer her right away. Picking her up, he kissed her on the cheek. Ginny was reading in the main room near the fire. He walked with Lily over to her. Shag followed and dropped himself on the rug before the fire.

“It seems, Pumpkin,” he said to them both. “That Daddy has a magic ring on his finger. It talks to me.”

Ginny looked at him quizzically. “Really?” she said. “You’ve been talking to the ring Dumbledore’s given you?”

“Yes, and I’ve more news. Dumbledore’s sitting in his office in the tower right now as we speak. I think I’ll skip supper and go to see him.”

He placed Lily on the ground, kissed his wife good-bye and headed for the door, whistling.


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Chapter 16: A Very Old Man
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Chapter Sixteen

A Very Old Man

Harry walked through the corridors to the hall that led to Albus Dumbledore’s tower office. He was not surprised to see Prof. McGonagall gliding toward him. She knowing Dumbledore had returned was to be expected.

“I was just going to fetch you,” said Minerva kindly. “Albus is upstairs waiting for you.”

“I was on my way to see him.”

“We’re getting older, Albus and I,” she said reflectively. “We don’t bounce back as we used to.”

“What are you saying? You look fit as a fiddle.” He gave her a teasing grin.

“Potter, don’t talk nonsense,” she said sternly. “I’m as old as the hills, and Albus, well, he’s much, much older. Be easy on him.” Her eye twinkled.

He laughed at her.

She stood with him at the bottom of the stair. “Iced Cherry cordial,” he said. “Don’t worry, Minerva. I won’t hurt him. I’ll be gentle.” He winked at her shaking head and clucking tongue at his cockiness as he glided up on the revolving stair.

In the great man’s room he was a little more humble. Albus Dumbledore rose to meet him from his chair. He seemed to have shrunk in size since he’d seen him last. “Harry, my boy, so good to see you, again,” said Dumbledore. “I do so appreciate your moving your family to be here at Hogwarts in my absence.” He opened his arms to Harry.

“I’m glad that you’re back, Albus,” he said, giving him an embrace. It did feel wonderful to see him again. The anger that he had felt when he’d thought Albus had slighted him was forgotten.

“Told you,” said the ring.

“I’ve not come back, Harry,” said Albus peering at him over his spectacles. “I’m here temporarily only. Just a visit and then I’m off again. Minerva’s in charge of Hogwarts now and she’s doing a superb job.”

Harry realized that Dumbledore was shorter than he was. He’d never noticed before. “Why can’t you stay?” he asked.

Albus tottered over to his seat and sat back down. He looked tired and worn out. “I’m retiring, Harry. Permanently. It’s inevitable. I’m almost two hundred years old.” He looked off to the many pictures that hung about on the wall. Some were listening and some had nodded off to sleep. “We all have to go on the last journey sometime and I’m soon on my way. Two hundred years old seems ancient, doesn’t it?” He shook his head in wonder.

“There’s so much that you can still teach us.” Harry wasn’t very happy about the direction of their conversation. He needed Albus Dumbledore to do what he always did. He wanted him to show him the way, give him the answers, and be there to save him if he failed.

“You have the ring,” said Albus eyeing it on Harry’s hand. “It will teach you all that I know.”

“I just experienced a painful bit of it before I came,” said Harry ironically.

“They don’t do it often. Hardly ever experienced it except once or twice when I was a bit older than you. The young get angry at injustice and those of the ring don’t like anger much.”

“So it would seem.” He twisted the ring on his finger. It was warm to the touch and he was tempted to remove it to give back to his mentor.

Albus laughed at him. “Harry, Harry, Harry,” he said softly. “I so remember the young and lonely boy you were when you first came to Hogwarts. How proud I was of your strength and how afraid I was for your burden.” He chuckled and the twinkle came to his eye. “You didn’t let us down, now did you?”

“No, sir,” said Harry. “But there is this new prophesy. A legacy from Voldemort and…”

“Yes, yes, I know. Awful news that the house of Slytherin is up to its old tricks again.” Dumbledore nodded and smiled at Harry. “You and your friends will sort it out.”

“Did you find out anything on your travels? About the perversions the prophecy talked about?”

“No, not really,” said Dumbledore casually. “I spent time in the South of France. Did I ever tell you that I’d been spent summers there as a boy?”

“No, sir.”

“Yes, in a lovely small town on the coast. Cassis, it’s called. Our house was on a cliff overlooking the sea. The whole world spread below me, a beautiful wide expanse. My life has been like that. Truly beautiful to see.” He watched Harry, his eyes smiling and indulgent.

Harry felt his frustration rising. “I had rather thought you were looking into this Slytherin problem.” Dumbledore must know more than he was telling. He had often held back information until it was absolutely necessary to explain when Harry was younger.

“Harry, I’ve enlisted you to carry on with that. It’s your time now, son,” said the older man.

“But sir, I hardly think, I mean what if something happens?”

Harry was at a loss. He suddenly didn’t feel so old anymore. He felt how young and inexperienced he really was. He felt sixteen again in Dumbledore’s presence.

Albus Dumbledore smiled at him that indulgent knowing smile that Harry knew so well. “I’ll miss not seeing the end,” he said. “I think it’s the only thing I might be sad about. Not seeing you become totally who you will become.” Dumbledore shook his head sadly. “You will not let me down, Harry. You never have before.” Dumbledore rose creakily from his chair and went to pet Fawlkes who sat on his usual perch. Harry had not noticed him as he was so mesmerized by Dumbledore.

“I’m sorry, Fawkes,” he said. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Yes, Fawkes, dear Fawkes. He is old too!” said Dumbledore. “Ever so much older than I am.” He petted the bird cheerily. “He’ll come to you when I’m gone, Harry.”


“When I’m really gone, he’ll come to you. That’s how you’ll know.”

Harry was so distressed at the remark that it overwhelmed him. Dumbledore was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Ask him!” shouted the ring from inside Harry’s head.

“What?” Harry thought.

“About the Sybil. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t.”

“Don’t you know?”

“Ask him, foolish boy!”

“The ring wants me to ask you about the Sybil,” said Harry, feeling at once foolish and stupid.

“Ah, yes,” said Dumbledore, turning from Fawkes with a wide smile. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“I’m not so sure,” answered Harry warily.

“Oh, but it is, Harry!” said Dumbledore enthusiastically. “Your daughter will be a triumph for us!” He smiled at Harry’s questioning face. “She will, you’ll see it, Harry.” He came over and held Harry firmly by the arms. “Don’t be afraid. She’ll be just fine. The Sybil protects the chosen one.” He patted Harry on the shoulder and tottered back to his seat.

“But what does she want with Lily, Albus?” Harry asked pathetic. “She’s only six years old, for pity sake!”

“And you were only a year old when you were chosen by the evil one. How much nicer to be chosen by the Sybil, don’t you think?”

“That depends on what she plans.”

“Free choice, Harry.”


“It’s always our free choice. Even you chose to be who you are. That’s the beauty of prophecy. It’s still our free choice.”

“Are you saying that I chose to fight Voldemort?”

“You did, don’t you remember?” Harry could tell that Dumbledore was teasing him a little like the old days.

“I don’t remember the choice part,” he said sardonically.

“That’s because you were defending yourself against him. You wanted to live. He also thought that he had no choice because of the Sybil.” Dumbledore chuckled almost to himself. “Tom Riddle was such a foolish man. Giving up his humanity, like that. Such a waste.” Dumbledore looked at Harry seriously. “I can tell you now. I am old and he is dead. Tom Riddle was a great wizard who made a foolish choice out of senseless hate and he paid with his humanity. Not just his life, Harry. There’s a difference. His humanity. He gave it freely. Tossed it away like so much trash. Why do you think he did that?”

“He was crazy.”

“Yes!” Dumbledore laughed. “He was insane! His hate did that to him. I knew him when he was young. It consumed him even then. He was such a sad young man; so intelligent, handsome and powerful, but never, never happy. His hate did that to him. It wasted him away to a demon for all of us to despise. He was Slytherin, as well. They will attain their goals by any means necessary but when their goals are insane, what then?” Dumbledore smiled indulgently.

“Now you’ve just confused me.” Harry felt lost in the conversation, as if part of what was being said was beyond him.

“It’s because you’re not listening with your heart and mind together,” said the ring. “Must I tell you everything?”

“The ring doesn’t seem to think I’m capable of understanding.”

“Oh, that’s just because it’s often cranky. Don’t let them goad you.”

“What about Lily, Albus?”

“She’ll be beautiful as you and her mother both are.”

“What of the Sybil?”

“She will choose the Sybil, Harry. Don’t try to keep it from her. She will want it freely, as I’ve said.”

“And what of the Slytherins?” asked Harry helplessly. This wasn’t going as he’d hoped. Dumbledore was leaving it all to chance and Harry’s meager efforts.

“You will stop them. They are not Voldemort, Harry. It is not the same as before.” Dumbledore shook his head. “I don’t know what they’re doing but it is not the same. They have only made foolish choices. They are still human. They have chosen the wrong goals these Slytherins. You will change that. I don’t have any doubts that you will.” He looked at Harry scrutinizing him. “You may have to give up your own hates to do it, you know, of Slytherin. Severus Snape will help you if you leave your hate of him behind. Help him find a way to trust you, Harry. You’ve never really made the effort and well, neither has he, for that matter. Be the bigger man, my son. You must find a way to bring back the Slytherin house to us. They must be with us to survive. It’s important to remember that.” He nodded his head encouragingly, and then yawned.

“Are you tired?”

“Oh, very. All the time, I’m afraid.” Dumbledore seemed to forget where he was for a moment, as if he’d fallen asleep with his eyes open. “Have you ever been to the south of France, Harry? It’s beautiful, even at this time of year. The sun shines. It’s a lovely place. I love to watch the young people as they go about their lives. It brings new life to me, there in the south.”

“Are you going back?”

“Oh, yes, very soon. I only came back to take care of a few things.” Dumbledore had said it with a gleam in his eyes.

“Ask him, idiot!” said the ring.

“Why did you give me the ring, sir?” he asked quietly.

Dumbledore smiled and rose yet again. He meandered around the desk and stood before him dragging Harry to his feet. He looked at him for a long time. Harry was speechless and waiting. Dumbledore held him then. Hugged him tightly then released him. “I gave you the ring, Harry, because you are my free choice. You, son, will carry on for me in this life. You will be the next great and wise wizard, the good fates willing. You will be the inevitable that is who you are.”

Tears ran down Harry’s face. He felt helpless and dim-witted. Surely, this couldn’t be happening. Dumbledore was meant to come back and tell him what to do. He was meant to explain things and make things right in the end. He was not supposed to leave on vacation or die on him. Dumbledore hugged him again then turned and slowly made his way back to his seat. Harry stood stunned watching him feebly walk around his desk. He had never looked so old or so frail.

The pictures began clapping. All the old wizards within Dumbledore’s chambers seem to have been awake and watching the touching scene. Many seemed to approve whole-heartedly, others merely clapped politely. Phineas Black, his godfather Sirius Black’s ancestor watched unkindly with his arms crossed. He had occasionally visited Harry at Grimmauld Place over the years in the painting that hung there. He had always given advice, not all of it wanted. “Well, if it must be someone,” he grimaced after the clapping had died down, “I suppose it should be you. But you had better tone down your intolerance of Slytherin, young man!”

“It’s all joy,” said Dumbledore eyeing Harry craftily. “Life is all about joy. You watch it slowly unfold with wonder and then it’s over with. Poof! Like magic!” Phineas rolled his eyes in disgust and left the to find a quieter painting to view from.

Harry found his voice. “You can’t die on me, Albus!” he croaked. “You can’t possibly mean that I will replace who you are.”

“No, dear boy, of course not! You will be your own man. But the ring, Harry, it will guide you as it guided me. You will live a long while as I have. I am much older than most, as you know. That is the ring, Harry. You will become very much like me in the end, I think. It’s your free choice, my old friend. Yours alone. The ring, Harry, the ring.”

“He’s an old coot,” said the ring.

“The ring says you’re an old coot.”

“They’re just bitter sometimes. Ignore them.”

“What is it, Albus? What is the ring?”

“I don’t really know but I have my suspicions.”

“He always was a romantic fool,” said the ring.

“Do you remember the story of Godric Gryffindor and the other founders of Hogwarts, Harry?”

“Yes, Slytherin left because he didn’t get along with the other’s open door policy. He didn’t want muggle borns to be admitted.”

“That ring belonged to Godric Gryffindor, as did the sword, but the ring he wore all his life and then gave it to the next in line who became a Headmaster. I think he’s among the voices that you hear.

“A crazy old geezer, that’s who he is,” said the ring.

“A magician leaves his mark on the ring, Harry. So many souls, I believe within it. A bit of me as well, Harry, with you always.” Dumbledore laughed quietly. “Again, a thing to wonder at, don’t you think?”

“See? I told you,” said the ring. “A bloody romantic idealist.”

“Harry, I’m tired,” said Dumbledore abruptly. “I must rest. We’ll talk again, perhaps, what do you think? Can you see it?”

“I hope so.”

Dumbledore smiled weakly. “I’ll be in Cassis if you really have need of me,” he said. “Don’t look so glum, son. As I’ve said, I’m not dead yet. There’s still time. I’m only tired, is all.” He smiled encouragingly at Harry.

Harry rose and headed to the door. He turned suddenly knowing he had to say it outright so that it was said. “Thank you, sir,” he said. “I’ve always loved you, sir, as I would have my father, if I’d ever have known him. I only have snatches of memory of him, but you were always there. Thank you.”

“It was a pleasure to be there, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “Always. I’m very proud of you.”

Harry turned then and walked out the door before he made a complete soppy fool of himself. As the stairs slowly dropped him at the bottom floor he looked at the ring in wonder. His heart was full of emotion.

“Isn’t it all glorious, Harry?” said the ring.


“How special your life can be in the eyes of those who love you.”

“Yes,” he whispered out loud. “Truly glorious.” He walked slowly down the torch lit corridor deep in thought.

Chapter 17: House of Gryffindor
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Chapter Seventeen

House of Gryffindor

Sirius and James sat in the Gryffindor common room eyeing each other over a game of wizard’s chess. Their uncle Ron had taught them to play years ago. He was the real master in the family. Sirius had become pretty good, as well and picked up a little pocket change on the side from his schoolmates who thought they could beat him. Many had tried and failed. At present, he had a small wager going with James. He wasn’t at all sure that he would be winning this time either because his brother seemed very determined to beat the pants off him.

“You don’t have to take it so seriously, bro,” said Sirius.

“Shut your trap.”

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“Well, you did.”

“I’m sorry.”

Sirius had hit a little too close to home teasing his brother about a certain girl who had an enormous crush on James. Although James rather liked the girl he wasn’t about to tolerate kissing noises and idiotic remarks from his brother whenever she was around. Sirius had stepped over the line when he’d read a note she’d sent to James to all the boys in their sleeping chambers. Angus McManus among others had had a right little laugh at his expense.

“It was just a joke.”

James growled as he moved the bishop to take the Queen. “You’re going down, traitor,” he said with certainty. Her head came off in one clean slice from the bishop.

Their wager was that Sirius would cease and desist all further harassment if he won at chess. James’ back up plan was to threaten to tell their Dad about Sirius pilfering the Marauder’s map from the bottom drawer of the study at the cottage if he didn’t quit teasing about Mary Beth Morley.

They’d seen the map on the floor open one evening and had recognized it instantly. At Christmastime, they’d cornered uncle Fred to tell them more about what it was after their father and uncle George had laughed about it. Sirius had gone back on an evening they’d been to dinner and rifled through the drawers pocketing it.

James wanted very much to win the chess game because it would gut him to give up the map or the fact that they’d taken it. The king was gone in two moves. He smiled triumphantly at Sirius who looked stricken. He’d taken a little pride in his ability to beat everyone but uncle Ron at chess.

“That’ll teach you not to be such a prat!” hissed James.

“I said I was sorry,” said Sirius. “I’ll not tease you about Mary Beth Morley again, mate. I swear to you.”

Angus McManus and Tom Riley walked by them on their way to dinner. “Stop your fighting, ladies,” said Angus. “Let’s go to dinner.”

They all walked through the portrait hole of the Gryffindor common room talking about the exam coming up in their Dark Arts class. “I wish you two would join our club,” said Angus for the hundredth time as they neared the great hall. “You being Potter’s and all would mean a lot.”

James sniggered. “Why should we join a dress up dueling club where you’re always our father?”

“Besides,” said Sirius. “There’s a real menace out their coming to Hogwarts that you should be preparing for, not playing silly games.”

“What menace?” Angus said warily. The Potters were always making jokes about his obsession with their father’s legend.

“Shouldn’t say, really,” said James while punching his brother in the arm.

“Ouch! That hurt.”

Angus watched the exchange. They were seated at table waiting for the evening announcements before he leaned over to Sirius whispering, “What menace? You’ve got to tell us, now.”

Sirius looked around at his mates who were huddled together and waiting.

“Our sister sees things,” said James over Sirius. “She’s a seer.”

They all laughed but James and Sirius. “Right!” said Tom, “Your little sister’s the next Trelawney. I wouldn’t believe a prophesy from that old bat if she said the Grim was sitting right on my shoulder!”

“Your sister is a little kid,” said Angus reasonably. “Little kids can’t be seers. My mom says they’ve got to be at least thirteen.” Angus’ mother ran the Stars of Divination shop on Diagon Alley. Prof. Trelawney was always using him as an example of true sight in class because his mother sort of had the gift. He was always getting teased because she’d single him out in class.

“Our sister’s been chosen by the Sybil,” said James seriously. “We saw it with our own eyes.”

“Prof. Granger was doing that bit she does at the beginning of her Runes class for us just before Christmas,” said Sirius.

“It’s brilliant,” said Angus.

“Bloody awesome,” said Tom.

“Well, after it was over,” said Sirius, “and we were all talking, Lily went into a trance! Mom rushed over to her and when she touched her, the Sybil went right into mom talking out of her mouth.”

“I almost wet my pants,” admitted James.

They all laughed at him.

“You weren’t there!” said James defending himself. “The voice was like lots of voices and really loud. It wasn’t human.”

“James is right,” added Sirius. “It scared the piss out of me, too!”

“Okay! Okay!” said Angus taking leadership. “What’s this Sybil, first of all?”

“How the heck should we know?” said both the twins.

“That’s just what it called itself,” said James.

“So what exactly did it say?” asked Angus.

James cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “Be warned, Hero. Stop those who defy our law or all is lost!” he coughed. It was hard to imitate the voice.

“Then she said something like the one who is coming, the one sprung from the head of the dark lord, he will have his revenge on us,” added Sirius.

“That part was really gross,” said James. Sirius nodded in agreement.

“What was gross?” asked Tom, riveted now to what they were saying.

“Well, mom was possessed by the Sybil, see,” said Sirius, “and when she woke up she said she’d seen this image of Tom Riddle, that’s Voldemort’s real name for those of you not knowing it.” Everyone gasped but James, who smirked at his brother for showing off. “Anyways, this Tom Riddle got his head lopped off by Dad with the Gryffindor sword and a bunch of snakes came out of the head and scattered in all directions.”

“Wicked!!” they all chorused.

“It also said that Dad would be guided by the power of thrice, you know just like Granger in the story,” continued James.

“And aided by his own blood,” said Sirius, “don’t forget that!”

“Yeah,” said James nodding, “we figure that’d be us. We being his closest relatives and all. We’ll be aiding Dad in killing the Slytherin slithering snakes.”

“Wow!” They all turned as a group and looked at the Slytherin table smirking and smiling. A few of the Slytherins caught them looking and made faces at them.

“So what else?” asked Angus as they turned back to the table.

“Well, then the Sybil went on and said that Lily was the new Sybil and that was pretty much it,” said James.

“Then our uncles Fred and George went to the Knockturn to ask around for Dark Arts stuff,” said Sirius. He was enjoying all the attention and enthusiasm of his fellow Gryffindors.

“You have the coolest relatives,” said Steven Man who’d joined them at the snakes from the head part. “I’ve always wanted to go down there and look around but my mum would have my guts for garters if she caught me.”

They all snickered at him.

“Anyways, Fred and George found out that the Slytherins have been changing stuff from the normal to the perverted,”
said Sirius.

“Like the Dementors,” said James.

“There are no Dementors around you silly sod,” said Tom. “My dad told me how awful they were. He saw one try to do the kiss on someone once. He said they all went away when your Dad killed that Dark Lord guy.”

“They didn’t,” said James.

“They’ve been hiding them and changing them,” said Sirius. “My Dad and Uncle Ron think that they’re making a new army to take over everything just like Voldemort wanted to.”

“With dragons, too,” added James. “They said they had dragons, as well”

“Wow!” the group said in unison again.

James and Sirius had exhausted the extent of their information but the crowd of Gryffindors wanted more.

“Right,” said Angus taking lead in the conversation. “That clinches it. You two are joining our dueling club pronto.”

“Says who?” the twins both said in unison.

“Says us,” answered Angus with all the others nodding in agreement. “We’ve a lot to prepare.”

“What’re you on about, Angus?” said James.

“If you two are facing some menace with your Dad, then you’ll have to have some back-up, won’t you? That’s not to mention that you’ll need a few more skills than you’ve got currently in your poxy arsenal. You’ll need to improve your talents.”

“And you’re the one to do it, heh?” sneered Sirius. “You don’t know any more than we do!”

“Yeah, but now we have a reason to go out and find the skills, don’t we?” said Angus. He was so excited at the prospect of all out war he was beside himself. “Your Dad could teach us some more potent magic, for instance.”

“Come hell or high water,” said James somewhat defeated. “He forbids us to even think of getting involved.”

“Well,” said Angus thinking, “we’ll just have to find some other way. The dueling club’s the answer, boys. Books, maybe or another teacher…”

Prof. Snape appeared from nowhere standing behind Angus’ head. “What are you Gryffindors up to?” he said suspiciously. “Your food is sitting untouched and you’re whispering feverishly about dueling clubs?”

They all froze. James forced himself to answer. Snape just got worse if you didn’t pretend to show him some respect.
He’d learned to get around the idiot by being overly fawning towards him. “Sorry, Sir,” he said humbly. “We get rather carried away with our games, sometimes. We were talking about a dress up game that we were playing in our dueling club and we didn’t even see the food come. Sorry, sir.”

“I believe,” said Prof. Snape clipping his enunciation for full impact, “that if Gryffindor house has so much free time when exams are so close that perhaps I will assign some extra work in class tomorrow.” He smiled as they all groaned as one.

“Eat your food, gentlemen!” he commanded as he strode off to the teacher’s table at the head of the hall.

“That bites it!” growled Sirius.

“Never mind Snape,” said Angus. “Eat your food and let’s make some plans. We’ve a lot of work to do.”

Gryffindor house was up for the new challenge. An almost visible charge of energy ran up the table as the word spread. If there was a war coming to Hogwarts then what better house then Gryffindor to find the courage to wage it with?


Prof. Snape was true to his threat and added a paper about mixing aphrodisiacs herbs with different elements to vary the type of love potion needed for particular purposes. Mary Beth Morley, who sat next James in Snape’s class smiled sweetly at him and asked if he’d like to work on it together. Sirius, who sat behind them, held his tongue.

Angus McManus had come up with a plan for them within a day. They were going to talk Prof. Potter into teaching them the Patronus charm that he had learned in his third year from Prof. Remus Lupin.

“You’re very scary sometimes, Angus,” said Sirius dryly, as they were walking to Harry’s office to enlist him. “You know way more about our dad than we ever will.”

“Yeah,” said James, “you should write his memoirs for him. He’s taking forever doing it himself.”

“Your dad’s writing his memoirs?” said Angus. “Gosh, I’d love to read that. Imagine how exciting it will be!”

James and Sirius rolled their eyes and shook their heads in disgust.

They walked into Harry’s office just as he was readying for his next class.“Boys,” he said surprised to see them. “What’s up?”

“Well, Prof. Potter, sir,” started Angus with reverence in the slight treble of his voice. “We were wondering, sir, if you would mind being the guest lecturer for our dueling club, sir? We would like to learn the Patronus charm, as you did in your third year.” He almost bowed to Harry. James was sorely tempted to kick him in the pants.

“I told them that you’d learned it at our age, dad,” lied Sirius. “Now they all want to learn it. You know, dad, they’re real fans.”

Harry looked at his son’s innocent faces. Oblivious to their motives, he was thinking of how young they were. He was
amazed that he had ever been so young and innocent.

“Why, of course, I’ll lecture for your club,” he said. “But Sirius, James, I thought you weren’t in that club? Have you joined up then?”

“Yeah,” said James, “Angus talked us into it. It’s kinda cool, after all, especially if you’ll help us.” He fixed a subtle pleading in his eyes. It was nothing very obvious because his Dad would spot it otherwise.

“Brilliant!” enthused Angus. In his excitement, he shook Harry’s hand vigorously. “Can we do it this afternoon, sir? We can ready the troops in a very short time. If you’re up for it, we can start right after classes.”

“Troops?” asked Harry bewildered.

James and Sirius both shook their heads. “His dad was in the muggle armies,” sighed Sirius. “He tends to get a bit carried away with the war jargon.” Angus shot Sirius a long look.

“Army, huh?” said Harry. “And your mom runs the Stars of Divination shop on Diagon Alley, as well, right?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Angus, now thoroughly embarrassed before his idol. “It was a case of opposites attracting, sir, or so my father tells it.”

Angus punched Sirius in the arm when they’d gotten well enough away.

“Ouch! Will you people please just quit hitting me already!” he shouted.


There were about thirty students waiting in Harry’s classroom when he entered it later that afternoon. The dueling club usually had no more than ten members at any given time and all of them from Gryffindor. When the students had heard that Harry was to show them the Patronus Charm and that the Slytherins were to be excluded there was a clamoring from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, as well. The Slytherins were kept out of it because as Angus had explained it, they were among the enemy. He loved that blood and guts mentality.

Harry welcomed them all. They reminded him of the club that he and his friends had created and called Dumbledore’s Army so many years before. He explained to them Patronus Charm, the incantation and how to perform it, as well as what situations to use it in. He did not skirt the issue of the Dementors or pretend that they were no longer a threat, but he did try to warn the students, who’d never seen one before, of how frightening they could be when attacking.

“Your happy memory should be a very strong one in order to work,” he explained. “It must be the happiest moment in your lives. Dementors are very frightening.” He chuckled magnanimously. “I’ll admit to you that I used to faint if they got close to me. I took a lot of teasing about it in my youth.” The class laughed politely.

He busied himself with the cupboard, which held a bogart. “Remember, a Patronus against a formidable enemy such as the Dementor can save your life. Now, I’m going to demonstrate how it is done but I have two warnings for you.” He spent a small second to look a few of the eager listeners in the eye. “The bogart in this cupboard as many of you know from my previous classes will take the form of that which you are most afraid of. A Patronus charm is most helpful against Dementors. Many of you have never seen a Dementor. They are frightening and horrible creatures. Just remember, that when this Dementor appears from the cupboard that it is not actually a real one. They are ever so much more terrible than what you are about to see.” He watched the students, a few of the girls were hugging each
other in frightened anticipation.

“My second warning is that my Patronus is a full Patronus. When you have practiced hard and long at it, your full patronus will take the form of a significant animal in your life. But in the beginning, you will at most get a light coming from your wand or perhaps a few sputters. Don’t be discouraged. It's only with constant practice that you will be able to achieve a full Patronus. This is considered very advanced magic. You should be very proud of yourselves for even attempting to learn it.” The students relaxed a little being proud of themselves. Angus punched Sirius in the arm again in his excitement and pride.

That being said Harry walked to the door of the cupboard, told everyone to stand back and released the bogart. The thing rose up and hovered high above him as the whole class gasped and at least two of the girls screamed in terror.

None of the students had ever seen anything like a Dementor before. They had not been seen anywhere in almost twenty years. Harry pulled out his wand and pointing it at the threatening creature, he yelled "Expecto patronum!" and out from the tip of his wand came the familiar Stag that chased the bogart-Dementor back into the

There was palpable relief rippling through the crowd of students. James and Sirius, who had heard about the Dementors all their lives but had never actually seen one, were having second thoughts about being the blood relatives that would be helping their dad save the world. Dementors were very scary.

All the students started chattering as one. Harry was just about to ask for the first volunteer when suddenly the door to the classroom slammed open and Hermione Granger came bursting through it. She walked purposely up to Harry after glaring at the students in the room. She was obviously in a twist about something. “Harry, may I have a word with you?” she said almost hissing.

With the purposeful look on her face, there was no way that he would say no. “Class take a minute and discuss what I’ve just demonstrated,” he said. Then to Hermione, “What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?”

Hermione was so angry that it took her a few moments to gather her thoughts into a coherent whole. She shifted from one leg to another. “YOUR SON'S have told the WHOLE school that there is a war coming to Hogwarts, Harry.” She gasped for breath. “They and their little dueling club, which should be known as the Harry Potter fan club have made it clear to the whole school that Slytherin is the new enemy. When Snape gets wind of this, and it’s only a matter of time before he does, you’ll be looking very bad, Harry. You’re going to be seen as playing favorites and that is not good in a teacher. Add to it that Snape will make it out to be your idea and well, it’s just bad!” She looked at Harry’s shocked face, biting her lip as she had so many times in her youth when she’d been the bringer of bad news.

Harry saw red. It was all he could do to keep it in. He’d been trying so hard to control his own prejudice against Slytherin. He’d made a real effort to be egalitarian with his students. This was going to destroy all of his efforts as well as his reputation as a teacher. Parents would be coming out of the woodwork clamoring for his head.

“Temper, temper, Harry, dear boy,” whispered the ring. “Get a hold of yourself, boy. You can save this if you talk to Snape right now, before he finds out from someone else.”

Harry took a deep breath, turned his back on Hermione and glared at the students. “I’ve just been told by Professor Granger what this little dueling club is really all about,” he said in a steely tone that James and Sirius had never heard before. “I am very disappointed in all of you. So, hear it from me, right now, boys and girls.” Harry could be very scary when he needed to be and this was the scary Harry the students were seeing for the first time. “There will be NO WAR coming to Hogwarts if I have anything to do with it and more importantly, there will no ganging up by the other houses against Slytherin House. I AM NOT GOING TO SUPPORT SUCH A BLATANT INSULT TO AN IMPORTANT HOUSE OF THIS SCHOOL!” It almost killed him to say, he was gagging on the very words. “What my sons,” he paused glaring at them selectively, “what my sons, have led you to believe is none of their business. I will deal with them later.” The twins blanched at the very thought of it. “Right now, I will have to go and EAT CROW while I apologize for this insult to Prof. Snape, Head of Slytherin House. Don’t be surprised if I have a decidedly difficult paper for you to write by the end of this week, ladies and gentlemen.”

With that said, he strode out the door heading toward Snape’s office, leaving Hermione and the students staring after him.


A/N Thank you all for your reviews. So many of you seem to like the story and I am happily overwhelmed. I also would like to thank our wonderful administration and staff for recommending this story on the home page. The response has been amazing. Thank you all!

Chapter 18: Eating Crow with Severus
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Chapter Eighteen

Eating Crow with Severus

“You must be respectful,” coached the ring. “Don’t go rushing in there with anger!” Harry raced along the corridor fuming as he went.

“That would be hard to do at the moment,” said Harry through gritted teeth. “Especially when Snape starts off as his pompous arrogant self when I approach him!”

“Get yourself humble and friendly before you walk through that door, boy! You might as well leave and go home to your hideaway in Wales, if you don’t. You’ll not be teaching at Hogwarts after Snape gets through with you,” said the ring.

Harry stood at Snape’s door, his hand poised to knock, breathing heavily. So many memories crowded in on him, suddenly. They swarmed and rushed through his brain making him dizzy and disoriented. The battling with Snape over the Occlumency lessons when he was still fighting Voldemort, the feelings of hatred he’d had of Severus over so many years; the Bogart disguised as a Dementor that he had just warned off with the Patronus Charm, the screaming students, his mother screaming, a possible war coming, his reckless sons, his daughter’s changing, Voldemort’s hatred. It had all swiftly overwhelmed him. It was such a useless waste of energy that hating of others caused. It was all so much regretful pain and suffering. He was feeling faint.

Severus Snape’s door flew open and the man himself stood before Harry glaring at him. The ring took that particular moment to send searing pain through Harry’s hand. He fell to his knees before Snape’s shocked form. “I…need…your help…” he managed to get out before blanking out completely.

He awoke lying on a settee in Snape’s office with a cold compress on his forehead and the smell in his nostrils of something foul and medicinal. “Potter,” said Snape sarcastically, “you were always one for the dramatic entrance.”

Severus sat next to him on a stool watching him carefully.

“I should have come to see you in the very beginning,” Harry began not knowing how he would speak to Snape. He tried to gather his thoughts but his head was still swimming from his swoon. “I should have come to you,” he began again, “but you were your usual unwelcoming self and I simply didn’t want to talk to you.”

Snape eyed him suspiciously. He removed the compress from Harry’s forehead and set it on a plate. He narrowed his eyes at Harry seemingly trying to pierce him with his stare. “Don’t be coy, Potter, it’s hardly believable coming from you,” said Snape evenly.

“You and I, Severus, we don’t much like each other,” said Harry sitting up and smiling slyly at Snape’s wary look. “But we have a long history together and ironically, we can be very much alike.”

Severus merely raised an eyebrow of disbelief.

They sat eye-to-eye, not more than three feet apart. “You know, the sorting hat wanted to put me in Slytherin House years ago and I asked it not to,” said Harry, stalling for want of something more constructive to say. “ I don’t think that I’ve told anyone that but Dumbledore or Hermione and Ron in all these years. When I did tell Dumbledore, I was very young at the time, he pointed out that I was always meant for Gryffindor.” He sighed sadly at his memories. “Now that I’m an adult, I rather think he only told me that to make me feel better. I rather feel that I might have done well in Slytherin even with Voldemort out there trying to kill me all the time. You and I may have been friends.”

“That would never have happened, Potter,” said Snape with a sigh. “You would have never been my friend and you would have never gone into Slytherin House.”

“How can you be so sure, Severus?”

“What is that you’ve come calling at my door for only to faint away at, Potter?” asked Snape avoiding answering the question.

“There’s been another prophecy regarding me and my family. I had not thought until recent unfortunate events that I should very much like to include you in knowing it.”

“Why?” asked Snape, doubtfully.

“Because the prophecy implicates Slytherin or those who once were in your house in trying to change the laws of nature and take revenge for the death of Voldemort.”

Severus Snape rose within himself. His back straightened and he closed off any expression from his face.

“Careful, now, boy,” whispered the ring. “Be ever so gentle with him.”

“There is a Sybil,” continued Harry, “who is residing in the cottage where we live that has decided that my six-year-old daughter is going to be the next seer of our age. I’m not at all happy about it” he sighed unhappily. “This Sybil possessed my wife just before Christmas and said that the one sprung from the head of the Dark Lord wants to have his revenge on us, that we must stop those that defy our law.”

Snape raised his eyebrow again, this time adding a grimace for good measure. “Why are you telling me this, Potter?”

“Because we found out that Wizards from Slytherin, Draco Malfoy and Marcus Flint to name the ones that I know of have been messing with creatures such as Dementors and dragons and changing them. We were just investigating, I’m not saying that it’s even true.” Harry closed his eyes, willing himself to be humble. “My silly sons overheard us discussing it and have decided with half the school, it would seem, that Slytherin House is to blame. They’ve been spreading rumors that the next coming war of the Dark Lord is at our doorstep.”

Severus Snape, head of Slytherin House and longtime hater of the Potter family both father and son said nothing. He got up from his seated position and walked over to his desk, his back to Harry. He was thinking.

“He’s considering his hate for you versus his loyalty to Dumbledore, Harry,” said the ring. “It hinges on this. Will he choose hate or loyalty or perhaps there is a middle road? It’s a tough choice for a Slytherin. It wholly depends on what his goals are in his life. That is the strength of his house. Whatever it takes, they will do it.”

Harry waited while Severus chose. There was surprising comfort in what the ring said. Shocking as the revelation was to him, he found that he felt no hate or fear of what Severus Snape would choose. It was a cathartic experience.

Severus turned around slowly and stood watching Harry. Again, Harry marveled at how Prof. Snape had changed very little in almost twenty years. He had been young when Harry had first known him, probably younger or nearly the same age as Harry was now. He still looked the same; greasy hair, severe looks and dress. Snape had not changed. His beetle black eyes fixed on Harry Potter with their old fierceness.

“I’ve always hated you, Harry,” said Severus. “I find you egotistical, self-centered and reckless with other’s lives. What you did while a student in this school was scandalous. That you have returned as a teacher is difficult for me to tolerate. I have often thought that He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named only was able to return because of your irresponsible behavior. Dumbledore should never have allowed you such free range to wreak havoc on all of our lives.

The Dark Lord would never have killed that boy at the tournament to return in the flesh if it hadn’t been for you, nor would your beloved Sirius Black have died if you had just held your immense ego in check. I believe you aided the Dark Lord in retaking his power before you destroyed him so miraculously for all of us.” Severus stood before Harry as if he were the great proclaiming hero. It was an obvious relief for him to finally voice his opinion aloud to the very person he felt was to blame for all their troubles.

Harry held onto himself with great effort. Severus Snape speaking so frankly about the past was difficult for Harry to take, especially since Snape’s skew on the past was so differently shaped. He had hated Severus as much as he had been hated. Mutual hate had led them to this moment of revelations.

“Hate is the great divider,” said the ring. “Rise above it and conquer.”

“Albus Dumbledore has asked me to consider you an ally and friend. I cannot do that in all conscience,” continued Snape almost dejectedly. “You have been returned a mere few months to Hogwarts and already yet another quest against evil and the House of Slytherin to be blamed is at our doorstep. I find such grandstanding repulsive and so typical of your blood. I hardly find it surprising that your sons have instigated this assault on the integrity of my house.

You tell me that the students are up in arms against us and that rumors are spreading amongst the students of a coming war and I find you, the great hero Harry Potter at the center of it. I can only tell you that I will blame you for this fiasco when it inevitably comes to light.”

Harry picked his words and his manner very carefully. “I promise you Severus that I will deal with my sons and Gryffindor House. I cannot condone the students flying off helter-skelter on a witch-hunt among the houses. They have acted in a ridiculous manner.” Severus’ incredulous look was not lost on him. “Yes, you are right. They have acted very much as I would have done in the old days.” He pressed his palms to his forehead wondering how to proceed. The ring was silent. “I’m sorry, Prof. Snape, for all the trials I have inflicted on you to over the years.

I am sorry also for my father and his friends. How you were treated was unforgivable. I am embarrassed for my sons who have somehow decided to carry on the family propensity for arrogance of feeling. I can only promise that I will punish them and labor to squash that tendency if I can.” It was the most self-effacing he could muster under the circumstances. Surprisingly, he meant it as he said it and realized how true his words really were.

Severus Snape seemed at a loss for words. A gaping silence stood between them until Snape finally found his voice.

“Not good enough,” said Severus evenly. “You must cease and desist this ridiculous so-called investigation you are conducting with your hooligan friends, as well. No doubt Ron Weasley, your beloved comrade in arms is also involved. I will not allow you to slur the good names of Slytherin House, Potter.” Severus’ eyes twinkled in challenge. He felt he had the upper hand and was relishing it.

“He’s negotiating,” said the ring. “Finesse is what’s called for. Do not promise not to investigate, only to

consider it.”

“I will not slur the good names of Slytherin House, Severus,” said Harry ignoring the ring.

“Interesting take on don’t promise, son,” said the ring sardonically.

“Good,” said Severus mollified. “I will leave you then to deal with the typically abysmal behavior of your house.” He smiled in triumph but then Harry noticed a slight wavering in his smug face as he got up to leave him.

“Potter, tell me,” said Snape, “why did you faint on my doorstep?”

Harry grinned mischievously at him, which only had the affect of disconcerting Severus further. “It was this damn ring that Dumbledore gave me,” he said holding up his hand to show Snape the glittering ruby ring. “It gives me a severe shock if I get angry and fly off in a temper.”

Severus Snape’s smirk of triumph returned to his face. “Do tell?” he said. “How very nice.”

Harry exited the door. He too, was feeling triumphant. An understanding had been negotiated with Severus Snape. He had only said he would not slur the ‘good’ names of Slytherin house. He did not consider either Malfoy or Flint ‘good’ names. He had every intention of getting to the bottom of Malfoy and Flint’s dark doings at Riddle Remarkables.

“You’ll have to be more careful now, boy. If Severus discovers that you are still investigating the Slytherins he’ll have your head on a platter. You must stay here at Hogwarts,” said the ring. “Dumbledore is depending on you being here.”

“Well, let me tell you this then, if you DARE cripple me like that again, friend,” said Harry out loud. “I’ll throw you in the deepest darkest hole that I able to find so that you may never see the light of day again.”

The ring said nothing.

Chapter 19: The Ironies of Life
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Chapter Nineteen

The Ironies of Life

Harry sat in the study contemplating his next move. His wayward sons, Sirius and James, along with their friends would have to be dealt with. They’d have to be handed down an appropriate punishment. Hermione and Ginny might be able to help come up with something creative to dissuade them from getting themselves hurt. He wasn’t very sure if he would be able to convince the boys to leave off pursuing their course but he knew he had to make the effort. When he and Ron were young, they had carried on with their plans often enough when told not to and had almost gotten killed on any number of occasions. It was different since they were his sons. He’d persuaded himself that they were much younger and much more reckless than he had ever been. Voldemort had marked him for his destiny. He’d had no choice in the course that he’d chosen. They had no such hardship and should just be children. It was not their fight as far as he was concerned. He wanted the twins to be safe and not go looking for danger as he had been compelled to at their age.

It was not lost on him that his rationalizations were full of holes. Both Dumbledore and Snape had convinced him of that. Severus Snape, especially had lit old flames of doubt in him concerning the actions in his youth. What Snape had said, that Harry had been in part responsible for the rise of Voldemort struck deeply buried chords of guilt long submerged by the passage of years. Sirius might yet be alive if only…

Ginny walked into the room and came over to rub his back. “What’s wrong, Harry?” she asked. “You look so blue. Didn’t you have a good day?”

Harry was still reeling from his conversation with Severus. The realization that he had reached some sort of compromise with his old nemesis was slowly seeping into his consciousness. “I just had the strangest conversation with Prof. Snape, Ginny. Somehow, I think that he and I have reached an understanding.” He shook his head in disbelief. “I asked him humbly to let me punish our sons in my own way and he remarkably conceded.”

“Punish our sons?” she asked in amazement. “Whatever for?” She stopped rubbing his back and instead unceremoniously wheeled his chair around to face her. Ginny had never really liked Prof. Snape either and though she was by and large the sweet and pleasant girl she had always been, she was still her mother’s daughter. She had the same motherly instinct to protect her children.

Harry tried to control his features and squash the grin forming on his face. Her face was contorting at the thought of anyone the likes of Prof. Snape wanting to punish her babies. “Sirius and James have incited the whole school about your prophecy,” he said calmly. “It seems they’ve decided that all of Slytherin is suspect and they’ve created a club like our Dumbledore’s Army of years ago. I think they’re planning a crusade of sorts against the evil villains from Slytherin House. They asked me to teach their little club the Patronus Charm because I think that they’re planning to face off the Dementors with me.” He laughed at her vivid reaction.

“You’re joking!” she said putting her hands on her hips and stomping her foot. “Stop laughing, Harry Potter! This is not funny!” Her eyes sparkled with emotion.

Harry was laughing because Ginny, as well as her brothers and Harry had been just as reckless and daring in their youth. They had had the evil Voldemort breathing down their necks for most of those years. She had gone along on any number of their exploits with Harry and the others. She had almost died in her first year at Hogwarts because Lucius Malfoy, Senior had slipped one of Tom Riddle’s books in her cauldron for school. She had nearly lost her life again when they had broken into the Ministry of Magic in her forth year. Ginny was brave and daring and Harry loved her for it.

As a mother, however, all bets were off in regard to the boys as far as she was concerned. Her children would not be getting themselves killed, nearly or otherwise. Ginny Potter would not have her son’s in harms way. “Harry, you’ve got to stop them!” she said panicking at the thought. “They’re bound to get themselves hurt, otherwise!”

“I have every intention of stopping them,” he said more soberly. “I’m just contemplating now whether to lock them in a closet for the rest of their lives or to pull out their fingernails one by one.” He was kidding, of course, and yet not. He had no idea how to go about punishing them. Locking them in a closet until they were seventeen was the best he could come up with.

“It’s ironic isn’t it, dear?” said Ginny, finding some perspective in his strength and sarcasm. She relaxed a bit more and sat on the desk next to him. She ran her fingers through his hair and settled back into her more comfortable and placid self. “We stole the thestrals and flew them to London, do you remember? And we broke into the Ministry of Magic to fight Death Eaters. It’s a little perverse that now we are sitting here contemplating stopping them from fighting whatever the Slytherins at Riddle’s Remarkables are up to. Who would have thought?” She had smiled finally.

“They’re children.”

“So were we.”

“Do you want me to stop them or not?” said Harry confused at her sudden change from mad protective mother to placid philosopher.

She laughed at his exasperated expression. “Stop them, of course.” Ginny knew that Harry would find a way. Once he’d decided on a course of action, he was always dependable to follow it through to the end. Harry would protect their children. Harry had always been her hero. She eyed him craftily. “You know, Harry, since we’re talking about the irony of our children being just like we were? Guess whose little baby girl has been sneaking out with Babbling Broomstick for flying lessons?”

“But I FORBID her to!” bellowed Harry aghast.

It was Ginny’s turn to laugh at his overly protective stance in regard to their children. “Yes,” she said rolling her eyes, “but she’s been sneaking out the back garden behind the wall. I’ve been watching her. She’s just like I was, stealing my brother’s brooms to practice on. She’s pretty good, really. Babbling’s rather like a built in training broom. He sings to her and tells her when she’s going too high or too fast. It’s sort of sweet.”

“She’ll have to punished,” said Harry feebly. “I expressly told her not to fly it! I wish they’d just be children and stop…well, I wish they’d just do as I say and not as I did!” He ran his fingers through his hair, rubbing his scalp in frustration. It only made him look the wild professor in his black robes with his hair standing on end in every direction. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Now his daughter was teetering on the edge of danger, as well!

Ginny patted his knee sympathetically. “Don’t worry about Lily. She’ll be fine, dear. I’ve watched she and Babbling. The broom nymph is very careful with her.” She kissed Harry on the forehead and he was somewhat mollified.

“We’ll have to come up with something really dramatic to get the boy’s attention, however. They can’t be allowed to carry on thinking that they’re going to battle with you and they can’t be picking fights with Slytherin even though the people in that house so often seem to deserve it.”

“That’s just it, Ginny,” said Harry. “Prof. Snape and I came to a compromise but only because I suddenly saw our hate for all things Slytherin from a different point of view. I realized that to hate them with such absolute suspicion the way I do is wrong. The ring said something very powerful, it said ‘hate is the great divider, rise above it and conquer.’ I’ve assumed hate for them and they have hated me in return. I’m not necessarily always right, am I?” He grinned at his own soapbox proselytizing. “I mean to say that they are not always evil. We might be wrong to think so.”

She looked at him trying to understand what he was talking about. So many evil people had come from Slytherin House. Harry had been a magnet for their meanness and abuse more than anyone.

“Still,” he said laughing at the incongruity of him defending Slytherin. “They are a miserable group of no goods if you look at them as a whole. Look at all those who came from Slytherin: The Malfoys, Flint, all those Death eaters, not to mention Tom Riddle the evil master of all of them. And, of course, Severus Snape is no party picnicker, either. A right nasty group the lot of them, if you ask me.”

“Well, which is it, Mr. Hero?” asked Ginny humorously. “Hate them or love them, you tell me!”

“Oh, let’s love quarrelsome Prof. Snape, what’d you say, dear? Just for a change of pace?”

She punched him exasperated at his sense of humor in the face of such a serious situation. “I swear, Harry that that ring is making you as incomprehensible as Albus Dumbledore!

“Merlin help us, if that’s the case,” he answered truthfully.

“We’ve got to do something about the twins, Harry,” said Ginny trying to get them back on track. “They’ve become very much like my brothers, who never listened to my mum and dad, either.” She swayed her legs back and forth under the desk while she thought. “Why don’t we bring them here?” she said. “We could sit them down with Hermione, you and me. We could threaten them with a lifetime of detention and see if that works.”

Harry thought of Hermione. He’d forgotten her in his rush to see Severus Snape and had left her sputtering in anger. “You should have seen Hermione when she told me about what they’d been up to,” he said. “She was spitting she was so mad. I haven’t seen her so fired up in years. She used to get that mad at Ron and I, remember?”

“You three were quite the team, I remember,” said Ginny. “Mom and dad used to worry constantly about Ron getting himself killed. I guess that I know now how they must have felt.”

“Hey!” said Harry, “why don’t we send them a howler like your mum used to?”

“Ooooh, yes! To arrive at lunch tomorrow, yes! That will get them,” she was clapping her hands with enthusiasm.

“Ron always hated the howlers,” remembered Harry.

“It got his attention, didn’t it?” she said jumping from the desk. “I’ll get the parchment and quill. We’ll compose a really loud and threatening one that the whole school will hear.”

“Yes,” said Harry joining her with interest. “I think I’ll be attending that lunch tomorrow just to see it arrive!”


The next day at lunch, Harry arrived early. He sat at the dais with Hermione waiting as the students meandered to their house tables. Harry and Hermione tried not to grin as James, Sirius and Angus slunk into the hall and sat at the very back end of their table as far from the teacher’s table as they could possibly get.

Severus Snape came up and stood behind Harry. “I hope you have put a stop to your Gryffindor hooligans, Prof. Potter,” he said coldly. “My students have been complaining all morning of this outrage.”

Harry turned and smiled slyly at Snape. “I think you’ll be pleased as punch by the demonstration we’ve staged for lunch, Professor.”

Severus merely raised an eyebrow and walked to his seat.

Hermione watched him go. “What did you say to him, Harry? I’ve never seen him so pleasant to you. He had the perfect opportunity to be insufferable and he kept quiet.”

“Snape and I have come to an understanding,” said Harry a bit smugly. “He still hates me but I’ve learned that a well-placed apology and empty promises can do wonders to take the venom out of his bite. I’ve discovered late in my life that winning and losing is all in your point of view.”

She looked at him oddly. It was rare for her not to understand all around her but Harry had become strangely philosophical and prudent of late.

The owls began to arrive and Ruby, the Potter’s owl, swooped over the Gryffindor table dropping the Howler into Sirius’ lap. In surprise and shock he threw it up in air like it was a hot potato and it fell to the middle of the table. All the Gryffindors nearby starred at it.

“You’ve got to open it,” warned Tom Riley. “They only get worse if you don’t.”

James reached for it looking sheepishly at his father across the long room. Harry pretended to be very interested in his sandwich.

James unwrapped it tenderly as if it would blow up in his face. He jumped when it suddenly flew into the air and as if by loudspeaker burst into a tirade. It was Ginny’s voice doing the yelling. She and Harry had decided that she’d inherited her mother’s ability for top vocals, so…

Sirius and James Potter! You will be punished within an inch of your life for this outrage! Insulting an important house such as Slytherin was uncalled for and simply hateful! Your father and I are ashamed of your behavior!

You and your ruffian friend, Angus McManus are COMMANDED to be at Thorns and Roses Cottage this evening at six o’clock sharp to suffer your punishment. I demand that you to apologize to each and every member of Slytherin House for your insulting presumptuous performance!

As Howlers will do, it ripped itself in a thousand pieces that rained down on their heads. The twins and their fellow would-be warrior, Angus McManus looked mortified. There was silence throughout the hall for a few moments until the entire Slytherin table erupted with a loud cheer, clapping and hooting catcalls at the Gryffindor offenders. Severus Snape looked especially pleased. He clapped his hands in triumph until Prof. McGonagall reached over, slapped his knee unceremoniously and shushed him.

Hermione leaned over and whispered to Harry. “You’ll have to dock them points, as well,” she said suddenly horrified at the prospect. “I was so hoping for a Gryffindor win in my first year as head of their house.” She looked very disappointed.

“Don’t you dare go soft on me, Professor,” scolded Harry. “We’ve a performance to put on tonight and you must be resolute! Otherwise we’ll have teenage warriors on our hands and the Slytherins revolting, as well.”

Harry snuck a peak at her confused expression and then at the rest of the teachers down the table. Most looked bewildered, some oblivious; Minerva McGonagall was looking pointedly at him for some explanation, which he knew he’d have to have forthcoming. Severus Snape was looking happy and yet disconcerted at the same time. It was probably the first occurrence that a Headmaster had ever slapped his knee. Harry couldn’t help indulging a small smirk. Prof. Snape was most likely wondering how to proceed. The old comfortable mantle of hating all things Potter was likely changing. Severus Snape would have to re-evaluate his old prejudices just as Harry was attempting.


For the next few hours after lunch, the young Gryffindors of Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry endured probably the most tortuous and demoralizing afternoon of their young lives. Slytherins were coming out of the stonework in droves making them apologize. Most Gryffindors were hiding in their common room whenever possible and no one planned on attending dinner.

Lucius Malfoy and his friend Thomas Flint, first years that ought to have known better, were an especially nasty encounter for the Potter twins. The two troublemaking squirmy Slytherins startled James and Sirius on their way to the stairs for their Divinity class. Just as they were about to climb the steps, the much shorter boys jumped in front of them from behind a statue.

“On your knees, Potters!” smirked Malfoy. The steps gave them height and fortitude. “You’re to apologize to your betters.”

“Shove off, maggots,” sneered Sirius furious. “You snakes had better learn some manners toward your elders.” He was sick of apologizing when he didn’t see the reason for it.

“Tut-tut,” said Flint confidently shaking his wand at them. “Papa Potter has told you to apologize to all Slytherins! We’d love to tell him that you’ve not complied.”

Sirius was just about to push his Slytherin head into the nearest balustrade when James stepped in front of him and stood a short three inches from Flint’s no longer smug face.

“We’re very sorry,” he said insincerely, staring him in the eye not blinking. “You’d better move on now little men. Our dad said nothing about stomping on your heads AFTER we apologize.”

The younger valiants moved away, their Slytherin confidence ebbing like so much tide. James and Sirius, now late for Trelawney’s class groused at each other as they climbed the stairs.

“We could have taken both of them, easily,” complained Sirius.

“Shut it, Sirius,” said James. “You saw dad’s face. He’s going to cut us a new spleen tonight. Don’t make it
worse by getting into fights with stubby first years!”

When they’d arrived late to class, Angus McManus hissed at them as a very doddering Trelawney was on the other side of the room singing predictions to a group of students huddled around a cup. “She’s already predicted that a snake will bite me and I might lose my life at the hands of another,” his said indignantly.

“Don’t get your undies in a twist, McManus,” whispered Sirius. “She’s always predicting our lives ending, as well.”

“Yeah, but your dad was pretty angry with us,” said Angus miserably. “It could very well be his hands doing the ending tonight.”


The three young Gryffindors walked slowly up to the porch of Thorns and Roses cottage but hesitated at the door before going in for their just desserts. The fire fairies danced about them giggling and pointing. Angus turned to flee more than once.

The door suddenly swung open of its own accord and they all three stood rooted to the spot. Harry stood back from the entrance in full robe attire. The rooms within were very dark with only the light from a roaring fire inside. Both Ginny and Hermione wore full robes with the hoods pulled up. They sat in front of the fire and rose when Harry herded in the silent boys. He had to practically push them from behind. They were told to sit together.

“As you can imagine, you have embarrassed and disgraced us. Do you know why that is?” asked Harry looming over them.

James was first to speak. “Dad, mom, Prof. Granger,” he began diplomatically. “We apologize for putting you in such an embarrassing position, but frankly we don’t understand WHY you’re so mad.” The other boys shrugged and looked at their shoes trying to dissolve into them.

“See,” said Sirius trying to look Harry straight in the eye but failing, “we heard you talking about what the Slytherins were up to and we thought, since the prophecy said that you’d be helped by your own blood…”

“That it would be Sirius and me doing the helping,” finished James.

“And we just thought that they should be better trained,” said Angus finding his voice, barely.

Harry fished around in the minds of the boys for some thread of their understanding the wrongness of what they’d done. He only rarely used his old Voldermort trick of Legilimency. He had seldom used his talent on his children. It made him uncomfortable to invade anyone’s mind. It seemed wrong, somehow, but he was desperate to fathom whether the boys comprehended any of what he was trying to accomplish in punishing them.

Disappointingly, all he saw within them was adolescent griping and confusion. Sirius was especially angry at the injustice of it. His mind bubbled and fumed. In James, he glimpsed a memory of a confrontation with Lucius Malfoy, which only made Harry feel guilty. Their Gryffindor loyalties were in turmoil. He had thrown his own sons to the Slytherin wolves and it hadn’t taught them a thing.

He abandoned any thought of finding understanding within them and was no longer as confident in his decision to make them apologize to the Slytherins. All they’d learned was the chaos of raw emotion, confusion and he was chagrined to see, resolve. They seemed more determined than ever to stomp on the Slytherins. He felt dreadful at being their father.

Hermione gave a valiant go at being firm. “You’ll be docked twenty-five house points each, gentlemen, for your foolish behavior.” She stood stony faced as they groaned as one.

Ginny tried next. “You’ll not be going to Hogsmeade for a month, James and Sirius,” she said sternly. “And, you, Angus McManus, I will personally write a long letter to your mother about what you’ve been up to. I’m sure she’ll have an appropriate punishment for you.”

Both Ginny and Hermione waited for Harry to give his two Knutes but no words came to his mind. He knew it was no use. They would never persuade the boys, they were Gryffindors, after all. He shrugged his shoulders. Ginny glared at him. He tried again weakly. “Your antics have put a real wrench in my plans, boys,” he said finally. “I wish you would just leave the Dark Arts questing to me and concentrate on your studies.”

The boys looked miserable. Both James and Sirius were especially interested in the floor.

Ginny was the first to start laughing. What Harry had said was just the lamest try at convincing that she’d ever heard. Hermione couldn’t help but join in. “We’re abysmal at this, you know,” she said laughing at Harry’s stricken face. Then all three older Gryffindors were crying with laughter. Hermione and Ginny were hugging each other while Harry tried to hide under a hand.

The boys sat looking at the grown-ups like they’d gone loopy. They’d spent the entire afternoon being cornered by Slytherins making them apologize and now the grown-ups were laughing, as well. It was humiliating! Life just didn’t seem fair. The stupid Slytherins WERE the enemy, the adults as much as admitted it.

“You can’t go around inciting animosity against one of the houses,” said Harry finally finding his voice and trying to be solemn again. “We are taking this prophecy as seriously as you but it isn’t so black and white as you seem to see it. Your fellow students are not meant to be the enemy. It’s much more specific than that. We’re gathering information on a company named Riddle’s Remarkables and in particular, those people who run the company. It has nothing to do with Slytherin House or your fellow students and nothing whatsoever to do with Hogwarts. To put it plainly, gentlemen, it’s none of your affair and you’d best stop interfering.” It was probably more than he should have told them but he desperately needed them to give up and go back to being students.

“You must trust us to do the right thing, boys,” said Ginny kindly. “We do not want you to put yourselves in harm’s way.”

“You need to study for your exams,” said Hermione.

“Leave the crusading against the dark enemies to the grown-ups,” said Harry biting his tongue. He didn’t look at Ginny or Hermione for fear that they’d start laughing again. The paradox of his own children acting exactly as he had done was a difficult pill to swallow without laughing his head off or crying his eyes out.


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Chapter 20: Battle Aloft - Baffled Below
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Chapter Twenty

Battle Aloft
Baffled Below

“I just want to hit someone!” yelled Sirius. “And I want that someone to be a Slytherin!”

“Calm down, bro,” soothed James. “The whole school will hear you.” They were slogging through a light rain to the Quidditch Pitch for practice with Angus, who was the alternate keeper. He was scheduled to be playing in Saturdays upcoming match against Slytherin. Their regular keeper had been benched for flacking excessively in the last Quidditch match against Hufflepuff. It was unfair how Gryffindor had been taking undue abuse from their elders of late.

Sirius had been ranting since they’d left Gryffindor tower. In fact, he’d been angry and grousing since they’d left their parent’s house the evening before. The punishment, as their dad had called it, wasn’t as bad as him making them apologize to every idiot in Snake House all afternoon. The injustice of it all that was killing him. “They hate Slytherin just as much as we do,” he complained. “What a bunch of hypocrites!”

“Your dad’s just trying to keep his job, Sirius,” said Angus defending his idol as always. It had wounded him deeply to watch the great Harry Potter look at them as if they were merely silly children. When the grown-ups had laughed at them, he’d wanted to melt into his shoes in shame. They’d only been trying to do what was right. They may have gotten somewhat carried away when they’d excluded the stupid Slytherins perhaps, but it was only because the Slytherins were always suspect.

“Angus is right,” James reasoned. “Dad had to act like he did. There are probably reasons that we know nothing about as to why he had to embarrass us like he did.”

“Codswallop!” barked Sirius. “He’s a hypocrite pure and simple! I’ve been listening to stories about him my whole life and now he’s gone and tortured us for doing just as he would have done. It’s criminal!”

“It was unreasonable, I agree,” said James. “Docking points was a mite extreme, but making us apologize, well that was awful. We’ll have a tough time winning the House Cup now, as well. He was sort of a traitor, wasn’t he?” There was an impromptu moment of silence between them in sorrow.

They rounded the corner nearer the field just in time to see the Slytherin team coming up from their practice. They all jeered at the three Gryffindors. They’d never live down the humiliation of what their elders had done to them. The Slytherins were merciless and cruel. Life was so unfair!

“Wotcher,” greeted Julian Kemper as they burst into the locker room to suit up with rain gear for practice, all of them growling about the Slytherins. Julian was a handsome seventh year with ambitions to be on the Chudley Cannons after leaving school. He was none too happy that they were down a hundred points in the tournament to Slytherin. It grated him, this being his only year as Captain. “Oy! You lot had better be wanting to smash a few Slytherin heads this Saturday. I don’t know if your dad’s done us a favor or not.”

“Huh?” said Sirius still grumpy. “He’s made a mess of my life, let me tell you!”

“Good,” said Julian pleased. “I want to see you Beaters good and mad come Saturday. Take it out on the Bludger, Sirius and maybe then I’ll forgive you and your dad for my having to apologize to EVERY BLOODY Slytherin at Hogwarts. If we win on Saturday, I’ll bless you, but if we lose, I’ll have you grounded. Your antics have us down for the house cup by seventy-five more ruddy points, thank you very much, surely!”

“Don’t call me Shirley!” growled Sirius.

“I’ll call you anything I like, you twit!” snapped Julian. “Now suit up and get out on that field. Show me you mean to win come Saturday!” They all dressed quickly. Julian was in no mood to coddle them for their father’s sins. That had been made perfectly clear.

The Slytherin/Gryffindor rivalry was big time; much more so than when Harry Potter had been a student at Hogwarts. The spring match was the second most attended of the year, the first being the last Slytherin/Gryffindor match that took place closer to the summer holiday. Parents arrived taking the train in from all parts of England to see it. A face off between the Slytherins and the Gryffindors had created fervor and excitement ever since Harry’s time at the school. Matches were rated, and as the year got nearer its end and the Quidditch Cup almost within reach, the matches between those two houses became more and more attended. Harry’s performance in his youth was mostly to blame. The Hogwarts School rivalry between the two houses that had deepened since that time had become like a raw sore. Everyone knew that Voldemort had been Slytherin and everyone knew that Harry Potter, and the house of Gryffindor had defeated him. The alumni of Slytherin were a powerful and wealthy group, purebloods all of them and proud, very proud. The Gryffindors had rubbed their noses in their dirty little secret and there was resentment in abundance.

There was no war, and wizards lived in relative harmony throughout their world, but there was a remembered bitterness in their defeat. Those whose names might have been great, if only their parents hadn’t been Death Eaters secretly blamed the Gryffindors. Consequently, the matches between the two houses had spawned an almost rabid following. Every year, especially when the race was close, hordes of disgruntled Slytherins and proud Gryffindors flocked to see their children score points against each other. Albus Dumbledore had been forced more than a decade before to limit attendance and reservations were made a year in advance. Some of the students even had an underground business in ticket scalping.

The parties alone were proof of the pudding. Invitations to the best affairs were embossed with ever more exotic magical touches. Whole industries had emerged in Hogsmeade to serve the tastes of the alumni showing up the other team’s alumni. Even Wizard Wheezes Annex did a bang up business at the height of the season. Things had indeed changed at Hogwarts when it came to the Quidditch Cup battle between Slytherin and Gryffindor. There had been a new Inn built at Hogsmeade just to accommodate the overflow crowds on the years when the rivalry was close. Two catering companies from Diagon Alley had moved seasonal kitchens to the area to cater the parties. Certain ladies of distinction ruled the top lists of guests; Draco Malfoy’s mother Narcissa amongst them.

Things had changed and Harry and Ginny were first made aware of it when their home became a landing pad for the Weasley clan. When they had lived in Wales, they had never sought out the limelight. Harry had frankly become, in part, a recluse. He was happy when not out fighting evil wizards as an Auror to be home with his wife and children. He had played with his dog, done his Wand Art exercises every day and ignored the rest of the world.

Now, they suddenly lived in a fulcrum of the social circuit. They had no choice but to participate. Fred and George arrived first and unannounced with their large clan. Ginny tried to point out to them that they should stay this time with George’s daughter in Hogsmeade but the twins would have none of it.

“You’ve a big enough house, dear sister,” explained George. “My daughter’s place is too far away from the action. It’s the biggest sales season of the year up here when the fans arrive to watch their kiddies at play. We’ll only be underfoot for a day or two.”

Ginny gritted her teeth. “You were just here at Christmas and Mum and Dad will be here, as well,” she moaned.

“Better to have us about,” said Fred unapologetically. “Mum’ll drive you mad and you know it. We’ll keep her occupied and out of the kitchen always having a fry up or getting her nose out of joint for us not eating enough.”

“You’ll be thanking us,” said George.

They had a point and Ron was to stay with Hermione at the castle, so it might turn out all right. At least it would be until her mother arrived.

Molly and Arthur Weasley arrived to a torrent of welcomes from their children and their families. Thorns and Roses cottage was bursting again with red heads. Harry walked in from his classes after four o’clock on Friday to a party going on at his house. Arthur shouted above the fray as he entered the main room.

“Harry, dear boy,” called Arthur. “So good of you to have us all. It brings tears to the eyes to have my children and grandchildren round me.”

Before he could answer Molly swooped in from behind him. “Harry, dear, I’m so excited!” she said gasping for a quick breath. “You’ve no idea what this means to us! Staying here with all our family around us.” She started to tear up, reaching for her handkerchief. “You’re such a dear boy for having us.”

“Well, of course, Molly,” said Harry hesitantly. Molly’s emotions often left him tongue-tied. “It’s wonderful to have everyone, of course.” He’d had no idea that so many were to be staying at the house. No one had bothered to tell him.

Molly rubbed her nose daintily, then pinched his cheek and hugged him. “You’ve just come from teaching, Harry?” she asked. “You must be starved! Let me make you something special, I’ll…”

“Here, Harry,” said Ginny butting in with a tray of appetizers. “Have a gnosh before mother marches off to the kitchen to cook for this army.”

“Ginny, dear,” said Molly oblivious to Ginny’s sarcasm. “Have you enough for everyone? We’ve such a large group! I’m always wondering how I ever did it with so many at home.”

“Mom, relax,” said Ginny already exasperated. “Dobby and Winky will take care of the food, don’t worry. We have plenty.”

“Are you sure?”

“Come, Harry,” said Arthur who’d stood silently with Harry watching the women until he’d had enough. “Tell me about teaching at Hogwarts. Has it been all that you’ve wanted?”

Harry let Arthur lead him into the room closer to fire while Arthur probed him with queries about Hogwarts and teaching. He hadn’t even put his satchel down. Ron joined them and they moved onto Ministry affairs. Conversation, food and drink flowed in abundance as the evening went by in a flash. Harry was surrounded with family and the upcoming Quidditch match between Slytherin and Gryffindor excited everyone. All thoughts of evil descending, wayward children or inadequate parenting were forgotten. Gryffindor had a match to win.

The Gryffindor team sat in the locker room listening to a pre-match pep talk from their fearless leader, Julian. “I want to see your anger out there today, ladies and gentlemen. The Slytherins must be stopped! I want to see some blood. I want injuries!” He stood before them as the invincible leader that he was, secretly desperate to win because his father was watching in the stands. “ Felicity, you had better not be fussing with your make-up when that snitch comes into sight. I want to see that fancy flying you’re supposedly so famous for.”

The Gryffindor seeker, a smart and peppery fifth year named Felicity Morgan, tried to be the voice of reason in the face of his onslaught. “Shut it, Julian,” she said. “Let’s just get out there. We’re ready, for Merlin’s sake!” There was grumbling agreement in the ranks. The other Gryffindor Chasers: Michael Dorkin and Kathleen Quigley were sick of Julian’s lecture. They’d been sitting in the locker room for fifteen minutes listening to him rant and had had enough. They stood up to go but Julian wasn’t done with them, yet.

“Sit back down on that bench, people!” he roared. “I’m not finished.” They sat back down grudgingly. “You two,” he said pointing to the twins. James and Sirius sat stony faced, waiting. “You owe me this! Your dad has made fools of Gryffindor. I’m sure he had his reasons, but I don’t care about that. What I care about is getting our own back. What I care about is being able to hold my head high once again at Hogwarts.” He stood silent staring at them. “I want to see that Potter magic out there on the field today,” he whispered. “I know you have it in you.”

“We won’t let you down,” said Sirius.

“We’ll kick butt, don’t you worry, Captain,” added James.

“Good,” said Julian, still quiet. “Because my mum and dad are in the stands. I want to show them how good we really are. Winning against Slytherin would mean a lot to them. Now let’s do the yell.”

The team rose as one yelling and shaking their brooms like sabers. Their voices were loud, clear and true. The Gryffindor team was finally ready to kick some Slytherin hind end.

As they walked out onto the field, the roaring of the crowd deafened them. Thousands, it seemed like thousands anyway, of people in the stands stomped their feet and cheered. There was booing, as well but it was drowned out by the joyous Gryffindor side. Professor Avatar, the flying instructor greeted them with his whistle as they approached the center of the field. Slytherin’s team was just entering from the other side of the field. As if with one thought, the whole Gryffindor team wanted more than anything else in the world to wipe the smirking smarmy looks off their Slytherin faces.

“Ladies, and Gentlemen,” said Prof. Avatar, very seriously when the two teams stood side-by-side glaring at each other. “I know you’re pumped up. I know you want to show your parents and friends a win for your team. But I want to see fair play out there today! You know the rules. I don’t want any excessive fouling out there!” Both teams smirked in answer. Prof. Avatar blew his whistle. “Mount your brooms!” he yelled. The battle had begun.

Ron, Hermione and the Potters sat together with the children, Billy and Lily. The rest of the clan was scattered throughout the stands. There were too many of them and seats were too precious to have afforded to sit all of them together.

“This is the hardest part for me,” said Harry to Ron. “Watching them flying when I’d like so much to be out there with them.”

“Yeah,” said Ron, who’d made keeper in their fifth year and had held that position, making Captain in their seventh year. “Every time I see a Quidditch match, I think of how we might have gone professional if it hadn’t been for old what’s-his-name getting in our way all the time.”

And they’re off! The Gryffindors are running the Quaffle up the field! Kemper passes to Griffiths to Dorkin and eee gads! The Slytherin Greengrass has snuck out of nowhere! Look at that flyer make a beeline for the Gryffindor Keeper. McManus is standing in for O’Hare. OH MY GOD WHAT A BLOCK!

The crowd stood roaring as Angus McManus had thrown himself full frontal before the hoop to block the shot. Kemper picked up the Quaffel and it was rallied back up the field. The two seekers floated high above waiting their chance at the snitch as the two Gryffindor Beaters flanked the Quaffle runner Kemper protecting his flanks.

Listen to that crowd roar as Potter flies upside down, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? UPSIDE DOWN! To knock the Bludger out of the way….OH NO! Right into Grassgreen…can he do that? OUCH!

Sirius did a head over head to hit the Bludger from behind him. The trick was to time it just right and create enough momentum by flying at high speed upside down and whirling to whack the thing with the extra power of centrifugal force into to the other team. Sirius was glad when Grassgreen took it to the shoulder. Glad that it hurt him.

And they score! Julian Kemper scores ten points for the Gryffindor team!

Both Ron and Harry jumped into the air at the play yelling heartily at Sirius and slapping five between them in their delight.

“Someday you’ll be out there,” said Ron to Billy as they settled back down. He patted his son on the shoulder.

“Do you think, dad?” asked Billy, not sure at the age of ten that such a thing was possible.

“Sure!” said Ron. “Think of it like this, son. Your uncle Charlie and your uncle Harry were both famous Gryffindor seekers. Your uncles Fred and George were both Beaters as are your cousins and your old dad was a keeper and the Captain, I might add. You’ve no choice, son! You’re bound to be a winner for our team!”

Billy smiled, unsure if he were happy or scared at the prospect of following on the heels of his great family. It was a lot to live up to.

SLYTHERIN’S STOLEN THE QUAFFLE! RIPPED RIGHT OUT OF DORKINS HANDS! LOOK AT POTTER FLY FOLKS! STRAIGHT AT HIM! STRAIGHT AT HIM! Oooooohhhh! Foul called by Avatar for James Potter blatching the player with the quaffle. Too bad! Slytherin gets a free try at the goal hoop. AND THEY SCORE! TEN POINTS FOR SLYTHERIN! LISTEN TO THAT CROWD ROAR! Poor McManus looks dejected by the loss. Cheer up Gryffindor!

The Slytherin side of the stands erupted with a frenzy of excitement at tying up the game so quickly. They sneered and hooted at James as he flew by on his way to the next set up. The Quaffle was tossed into the air by Avatar and they were racing around the field once again.

It was an exciting and very close match up until the end. At one point Kemper, Dorkin and Quigley did a Hawkeshead Attacking play straight through the Slytherin break with Quigley taking the Quaffle from Kemper at the last minute for a surprise goal scoring. The crowd had gotten so excited, that play was held up when four or five of the Gryffindor fans were accidentally pushed out of the stands and had to be carried off the field to hospital or flown back to their seats.

As the match flew on, the players started to get a tired and mistakes began to happen. Kemper almost lost his head when James aimed a Bludger toward a Slytherin only to discover Kemper was in the way. The Slytherin side got sloppy when they tried to blurt Dorkin forgetting that their own brooms had braking charms, as well and they flew into an off sides wall. Two players, Gryffindor’s Dorkin and Slytherin’s Le Mort were knocked off their brooms. Luckily, they’d been close enough to the ground to continue play.

At the top of the game, Gryffindor was up only twenty points and there was still no sign of the snitch. Felicity Morgan had started doing loop-dee-loops in the air while trolling for any sign of the glint of its gold. People were beginning to wonder if there was a snitch. Slytherin had the Quaffle for the third time in as many runs for the goal. McManus was starting to feel punched with holes from the many times he’d been hit. James signaled Angus to hold tight and yelled to Sirius as he batted the Bludger in a surprise move. He smacked it not at the Slytherins but toward Sirius.

“Toggle it, bro,” he yelled as they set up. Sirius, grinning from ear to ear, batted the Bludger straight up into the air as the Slytherins closed in on McManus with the Quaffle in a dead run, both Kemper and Dorkin were bumping alongside the Slytherins in a squeeze and had heard James yell the signal.

What happened next was so quick and so dazzling that the whole school repeated the story of it over and over for weeks.

James and Sirius locked hands mid-air rising straight into the air together toward the Bludger now traveling back down to earth as if gravity drove it instead of magic. The twins swung as one head over heels hitting the Bludger together for the most incredible Doppleganger Defense play that anyone had ever seen. The force of the Bludger whirled toward the wedge of Slytherins who looked like so many bowling pins. They never saw it coming. Their only hint that doom was near was the look of horror on McManus’ face as he gauged the speed of the Bludger and his ability to run from it. The Bludger hit and all three Slytherins fell in a heap to the ground. Le Mort was in hospital for two days with a concussion and Locke’s arm was broken.

It was at that point that Kemper snatched the freed Quaffle and headed straight for the Slytherin keeper for an easy goal. Their Keeper was still in shock and barely saw him coming. As the goal was met and with the crowd roaring, all three Gryffindor heroes, Julian, James and Sirius did a victory run around the field with Prof. Avatar blowing his whistle for them to stop showing off for the game wasn’t over yet.

At that stunning moment, when all was right with the world, Felicity spotted the snitch. The Slytherin seeker had seen it, too. Like two raptors after the same mouse they darted straight down from their high perches at lightening speed. Felicity Morgan was faster and caught the snitch mid-air just in time to brake hard left and miss the ground. It was a Harry Potter type of move if EVER there was one. The crowd went BERSERK.

The Gryffindors had won.

Ron and Harry were crying openly and hugging each other with joy. Hermione and Ginny were jumping up and down chanting, “They did it! They did it!” The Gryffindor stand was in danger of falling down from the tumultuous stamping and noise of the crowd. As the Gryffindor team did its sweep past the stand with Felicity carrying the snitch high above her head in the lead, the crowd just couldn’t get any more excited.

No one noticed the Slytherin side of the stands in silent defeat. No one cared that the Slytherins trudged off dejected to their lockers. They didn’t count. Gryffindor had won spectacularly and it was all that had mattered to any of them.


Narcissa Malfoy had planned the after game parties for the Slytherin/Gryffindor games for several years. Albus Dumbledore had only allowed her the opportunity if she assured him that the parties would be equable. She had promised him that if Slytherin lost, there would still be celebrations. She had gotten used to a defeat or two over the years and it had not ever bothered her. There would always be next year and Slytherin, because it was a superior house to the rest, often won. But this particular party, with Gryffindor winning in her grandson’s first year at Hogwarts and the dreaded Harry Potter in attendance was especially hard on Narcissa. That Harry Potter had inherited Black’s dilapidated mansion at Grimmauld Place in London had been difficult for her. Her cousin, Sirius Black had been an idiot but she could live with his bad judgment and sacrilege to his family. When Harry Potter had killed her beloved husband it had been well nigh unbearable for her, as well. But the awful Dark Lord had been a liability and Merlin only knows what might have happened if he’d stuck around. She’d gotten used to being alone. That Harry Potter had had the audacity to wrap her son Draco in thorn bushes was uncalled for and simply rude, but he had healed properly and seemed none the worse for wear.

For all of that, she would have been more than happy to host the party that took place in the clubhouse that afternoon when Gryffindor had so despicably stolen the match, but for that horrid little goody-two-shoes, Molly Weasley. She could not abide that woman, especially when she could be expected to gloat loudly, because the woman just couldn’t keep her mouth shut, as she floated about Narcissa’s perfectly planned party like she was the Queen
mother of them all.

Being the fine lady that she was, however, Narcissa coldly greeted Molly Weasley, who felt the chill. “So nice of you to come, Mrs. Weasley,” she said formally as if they didn’t know each other when they certainly did. There weren’t that many purebloods families left, frankly.

Molly eyed her suspiciously. “So nice of you to plan such a wonderful party, Narcissa,” she said purposely using her given name.

“Thank you,” Narcissa said just as her son Draco came up behind her with his son, Lucius.

“Hello, Mrs. Weasley,” he said politely smiling and saving his mother the trouble. “How are you?”

Molly was suddenly a little bereft at not to having her family around her when she was facing such awful people. She looked about her in desperation, for once lacking any words to speak, just as Harry came up with Lily in his arms to save her. They were in a room filled to the brim with music, laughter and chatter from hundreds of parents and students, but you could have bounced a ball on the tense silence that sat between them as Slytherin faced off against Gryffindor once again.

“Daddy!” said Lily. “It’s the man in the rose bush.” She said it plainly and because she was six and innocent, Draco presumed not to hold it against her, though he should have, for bringing up a less than pleasant experience on purpose.

“Yes, dear,” said Harry not taking his eyes off Draco.

“Come, Harry, dear,” said Molly seeing danger in Narcissa’s face. “Let’s let the Malfoys greet their many guests.”

As they moved away, Narcissa burned a hole in Harry’s back with her eyes. “You must do something about that man, Draco,” she said. “Surely, you have some pull with the Regents as your dear father did.”

“It would not work, mother,” said Draco with a clenched jaw. “He is too much the darling, still. I am waiting to see what happens. Eventually, Potter will do something stupid. He always does.” He hated when his mother interfered with his affairs. It was bad enough to be talked to about his failure with Potter by Marcus Flint. It was ridiculous for his mother to harp at him, as well.

“Don’t wait too long, darling,” said Narcissa imperiously. “Remember what happened to your dear father for biding his time. Let’s not forget that Mr. Potter is teaching my dear grandson. I don’t like that, Draco. I don’t like it, at all!”

Lucius reached for the edge of Draco’s robe. He didn’t dare reach for his hand. Looking at his father he saw a statue, cold and unreadable as Draco stared off at Prof. Potter with an unfathomable look on his face.

As parties will do, the affair swelled and moved in a crowd. There were high points, as when Fred and George let fly some magic explosions to advertise Wizard Wheezes Annex or when the Gryffindor winners made a grand entrance to the party. The team had dressed in clean robes and had entered the clubhouse together amidst a rousing cheer from their fans throughout the room. Students were only allowed if their parents were in attendance but there were plenty around to swarm the Gryffindor heroes as they made their way through the crowd greeting friends and family.

Eventually, the fervor died down, some parents and children left to go to other parties and the loudness had settled down to a dull murmur of adult chatter.

Angus, James and Sirius with Julian Kemper watched the swirling crowd as they picked at the dessert table commiserating and congratulating each other on their genius for winning against the Slytherins. “You two did well, today,” said Julian for the fifth time. “I’m relieved that I’ll not have to ground you.”

“We are, too, Kemper,” said James. He licked éclair goop from his fingers and then reached for a napkin. He was watching for Mary Beth Morley, hoping that she’d seen his genius play. When his mother next let them go to Hogsmeade, he was going to ask her to come with him. It was time to take the next step, he thought, now that his brother had quit teasing him in front of everyone.

Sirius was absorbed in watching Lucius Malfoy and Thomas Flint. He was still smarting from the little runts accosting them on the way to Divinity class earlier in the week. “Who is that man with Malfoy and Flint?” he asked of all of them.

Angus looked toward them, as did the rest. “That blonde bloke is certainly Malfoy’s father,” said Angus. “The little termite is a replica of his dad, that's obvious.”

“He works with Marcus Flint,” said Kemper nonchalantly. “He runs the Riddle’s Remarkables Company in London.” The other three Gryffindors stared at him recognizing the name. Harry had told them about the company. He’d said that they were the ones that were the Slytherin threat. “My dad does business with them sometimes,” continued Julian. “I’ve been to their offices. They’ve a big building in the center of London. It’s rather posh. I think they’re really rich, the Flints. My dad doesn’t like them much.”

“So, you know where this building is then?” asked Sirius. “You’ve been there?”

“I have, why?” asked Julian.

“Nothing,” said Sirius eyeing both Angus and James, who both looked at him understanding. “We just might want to visit it next time we go to London, that’s all. I hear that they’ve got lots of unusual stuff. Our uncles own Wizard Wheezes, you know, and the unusual is something our family is very interested in.” The group of Gryffindors watched the Sltherins with new and avid interest.

Chapter 21: Potter and Malfoy
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Chapter Twenty-One

Potter and Malfoy

The Future

Lily snuck out after breakfast. Her mother was in the study writing. She had an hour before anyone would come looking for her. Billy had taken to ignoring her whenever he could so he would never even noticed her gone.

“I’d like to go over by the lake today, Babbling,” she said as she mounted the broom.

“You can’t swim,” it said. “We’ll not go too close.”

“Oh, bother!” she pouted. “But may we go to lake, please? I want to see if the Mer people are sunning themselves. We’ll just go along the edge, is that all right?”

Babbling sang her a bawdy song about the Mer people in answer. It was something about selkies and a lost mermaid.

As she flew above the trees, her heart soared with her. She loved to fly. It was a freedom so delicious that it made her giddy. She giggled with delight. Everyone at home had been yelling and serious lately. Her brothers had been getting into trouble. Up here in the sky, she forgot all of about them in her glee.

She had reasons to be seeking escape from her stresses. Her dreams had been coming every night and they were not always nice. The Sybil had tried to explain that everything would be all right but she’d still been very afraid.

Sometimes, she just wanted to get away from all that in the future to simply fly! Once, when she’d seen a thing so terrible that she’d hid her face in the folds of the Sybil’s skirt, she’d calmed herself with thoughts of flying up high, the cool mist of the clouds against her face, the sun shining too bright to open her eyes. The Sybil had called her a name when she’d hid from the future by imagining a flight in the sky. Icarius, she’d called her.

When Lily had asked Auntie Hermione what it meant, she’d looked at her strangely. It was a look Auntie had done a lot lately. She’d explained the story of the boy that flew too close to the sun so Lily knew why the Sybil had called her Icarius, but she hadn’t told Auntie. Both the Sybil and she knew that she wasn’t going to fall. The Sybil had merely been reminded of someone she’d known, nothing more than that.

She felt safe in the sky. Her dad was too much of a worrywart. Babbling would never let anything happen to her. It was singing a tune that Billy had taught it about farting, smarting and other rude things. Lily laughed at its silliness.

When they’d reached the lake, they hovered just above the trees looking for Mer people. It was too cold for them to sun. Hogwarts was much colder than in Wales. The lake was like a plate of gray glass, almost a mirror that reflected a sun that gave little warmth.

“I’m cold, Babbling,” she said. She was wearing a woolen jumper and mittens but the high cold air was penetrating through to her skin. “Let’s look for a sheltered place to sit. I took a little cake from the pantry to eat. Let’s find a sunny rock near the shore.”

She and Babbling flew closer looking for a place to land. Lily spotted a lone boy, a human boy by the lake tossing rocks in and walking along the shore. Coaxing Babbling in for a closer look, she flew slowly up behind the boy a few feet off the ground. She loved to spook. Billy always jumped when she snuck up on him.

“Hello, there,” she said, coming up close quietly.

He startled and swung around. He was the boy with the white blonde hair. “You scared me!” he growled at her. “You’re supposed to warn people, not sneak up on them!”

“I didn’t sneak!” said Lily indignant. Technically, she had been trying to startle him but she’d be darned if she’d admit it to the likes of him. She floated eye to eye with him. “You’re that boy with the bad man, aren’t you? I saw you at the Quidditch match.”

“My father is not a bad man and you’re a dumb little girl.” Lucius was not pleased at being startled by a girl. He’d come to the lake to be alone with his thoughts. She’d intruded and she hardly seemed sorry a bit.

“You’re not being very nice,” snapped Lily. Her temper rose a little. She vaguely remembered something about the boy.

Lucius glared at her and went to walk away but she followed him, riding alongside as he walked away from the lake.

He wasn’t getting away that easy.

“I’m Lily Potter, what’s your name?”

He stopped and starred at her. She was Prof. Potter’s brat, the one the whole school was talking about. She was supposedly a seer, which was an absurd Gryffindor fabrication, of course. She was just a stupid little girl.

“My name’s Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy,” he said pompously. “You shouldn’t be talking to me, either. Our parents hate each other and you’re ridiculous Gryffindor house.” He, like all of his mates were pretty peevish at what Gryffindor had been up to lately.

“That’s a dumb thing to say.”


“I’m only six-years-old, silly. I don’t get sorted for years. My cousin Billy will be in Gryffindor, though. I dreamed that he would next year, when he goes to Hogwarts.”

“Dreamed it?” Lucius was a little leery of the strange little girl. He started to walk up the path very fast in an effort to lose her, but she kept up with him chattering away like a lunatic.

“I dream things, you see, and they come true.” She hummed along with him. “Hey, don’t walk so fast!” she demanded. He was making her cranky.

Lucius stopped and looked at her as if she’d grown three heads. “I’m TRYING to get away from you, little girl. I don’t want to have anything to do with the likes of you!”

She’d remembered it then, the something about this boy named Lucius Malfoy. “But why?” she asked. “We’re meant to be friends, you and I.”

“Who says?”

She grinned shyly and hopped off her broom. She took his hand with both her tiny ones and looked up at him. “When I’m bigger,” she said softly, “you and I will be good friends.”

She was starting to really scare him. She was practically a baby but there was something in her eyes that seemed older. He snatched his hand away and stepped back. “I don’t want to hear about it,” he said.

Lily shrugged as if she didn’t care a wit what he thought. “The fairies told me that sometimes people just don’t want to know the truth. It’s all right, I understand.” She hopped back onto her broom. “I’m going to look for Mer people. You want to come?”

“Of course, not!” he said affronted.

“Suit yourself, Lucius,” she laughed at his scrunched up features. He looked so insulted at the very idea. “I’ll be SEEING you!” she said ominously and laughed at his horrified look as she flew off back to the lake.

He watched the frightening little girl fly away and then turned to run as fast as could back to the safety of Hogwarts castle.

The Past

Ginny sat in Luna Lovegood’s posh office on the second floor above the Stars of Divination Shop on Diagon Alley. Luna had asked her to come down to London to discuss a possible regular column in her magazine.The magazine launch had been very successful and Ginny’s article on the fairies had generated some favorable feedback from readers. They were discussing recent events at Hogwarts, and Ginny told her all about it. In her quirky way, Luna was very intrigued.

“Why not write about what’s happening at Hogwarts, Ginny?” She flipped her long blonde hair and played with her spotted white kneazle that sat on her lap. Luna had become one of those winsome beauties, as she’d grown older. Her face and body had caught up with her large eyes and she’d developed an exotic appealing look. Her unique way of dressing, as well as her taste in men was catching rave reviews with the Wizard’s press. Luna was current and hot.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Luna,” said Ginny. “Harry already has a problem with my writing for your magazines again. He’ll not be happy if I write about something so close to home. Besides, it may compromise his position, me writing about what’s happening at the school.”

“Hmm,” said Luna vacantly. She dumped the kneazel from her lap and wandered over to the window to look out onto the street. Silence stretched in the room but Ginny and Luna were old friends. She knew not to rush Luna unnecessarily.

“Okay. Okay,” said Luna slowly, her back to Ginny. “What about,” she said turning, “if you wrote about the houses? What about if you wrote about the alumni, the history, the personalities of the houses?”

“Maybe…it would be interesting, wouldn’t it?” said Ginny, intrigued. “With research on the history and with talking to graduates, yes, that might be an interesting series to do.”

“I think that you should begin with Malfoy and Slytherin,” said Luna.

“What!!! Are you mad, Luna?” said Ginny, aghast. “Harry would kill me…no first Ron would kill me and then Harry would kill me. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t!”

Luna smiled at her. She had a very sweet smile. “You remember when that Umbridge woman got Draco and his friends to police the school looking for so-called troublemakers?”


“Remember how they went around being big bullies taking away everyone’s house points and how they cornered us in Umbridge’s office and tried to hurt us?”

“How could I forget?”

“That was fun.”


“Well, I suppose almost getting killed in the Ministry of Magic wasn’t exactly fun and Draco Malfoy hurt me in that office, but overall, Ginny, be honest. It was thrilling.” Luna twirled a strand of her blonde hair starring at Ginny with her large eyes. “Admit it, Ginny,” she said. “It brought us together. We’re still friends you and I, two girls from different houses. Draco did that with his strange bullying ways.”

“I suppose,” said Ginny unsure of where Luna was going with her thoughts. It was a common thread in conversations with her. Luna Lovegood saw the world through different colored lenses. It was her unique brilliance. Ginny had faith that they were leading somewhere. She and Luna had been friends for many years.

“Wouldn’t it make a great series of stories to look at the houses and the people? Wouldn’t it be great to write about it from an unbiased view?”

“How can I be unbiased about Slytherin? I’m a Gryffindor!”

“And wouldn’t it be another way to get your foot in the door and find out a little more about what Draco and his fellow Slytherins are up to at their little company?” asked Luna innocently.

Light dawned on Ginny’s thick marble head. “Why, yes, Luna, luv,” she said slowly. “It would, indeed.”

“I insist you write the stories, Ginny,” said Luna, now all business. “I’ll keep you honest on the unbiased part. I’ll knock off a note to Draco and tell him that you’re coming. We can have lunch this afternoon and discuss it after you meet with him.” She got up to walk to her door. “Miranda, dear,” she called to her secretary, a very pretty girl who looked about fifteen but must have been thirty. “Would you mind terribly sending a parchment to Draco Malfoy at his office to tell him that I’m sending a reporter to see him, dear?”

The girl scurried to her task.

“What makes you think that he’ll see me on such short notice, Luna?” asked Ginny.

“Oh, he’ll see you,” said Luna absently. “I’ve let Draco hang about the office snooping for unusual things for years. He’s always around gathering information. He flirts with poor Miranda all the time thinking he’ll get snippets of the inside scoop from her. He’ll be intrigued, don’t you worry. He’ll definitely want to see you.”

“Until he actually sees that the reporter you’re sending is Ginny Potter, that is,” said Ginny dryly.

“Well, yes,” said Luna smiling innocently. “There’s that, too.”

Ginny sat in Draco’s outer office gathering her thoughts. It had been a few years since she’d done any interviews. She felt a little rusty. She had her quill and parchment ready to auto record their conversation but she wasn’t so sure about what all her questions would be. It was probably a mistake to come without researching her subject first.

She vaguely looked out the window feeling nervous. The offices of Riddle’s Remarkables were very nice. Malfoy’s office was high up on the fifteenth floor of muggle London. She was very surprised that a Slytherin firm would have offices amongst muggles. What she did not realize as she had walked in the front door downstairs, however, was that Riddle’s Remarkables owned the entire building and block on which it sat, or that the entire building was disguised from muggles. Only magical folk saw the large building. Muggles saw a big hole in the ground with a chain link fence around it. Riddle’s Remarkables had developed a new magic that worked automatically to repel muggles and welcome magic folk. There was no need any longer to pretend around the muggle populace. If a witch or wizard merely walked up to the building they disappeared from the sight as well as the minds of any nearby muggle folk. Riddle’s used the new magic at all its locations and was even negotiating with the Ministry to install it at several of their sites.

Malfoy stood watching Ginny through his office mirror. He was shocked to see that Ginny Potter was the reporter sent by Luna. Damn his luck. The world was popping up Weasleys everywhere snooping about his business. He couldn’t imagine Potter sending his own wife round to do a story on him in order to get information. It seemed a bit low even for Potter. Still, he did owe Luna a few larger than life favors.

“Mrs. Potter,” he said moving smoothly past his secretary’s desk to Ginny standing to greet him. “I must say that I’m very surprised to see you.”

“Call me Ginny, Draco,” said Ginny. “Let’s not be formal.”

He held her hand looking into her eyes. “Alright, please come into my office,” he said. “You can tell me what all this is about, then.”

They walked into a large and spacious chamber. The furnishings were very modern but plush and soft to the touch. The curtains were drawn and there was a hush of quiet in the room with a burnished gold color from the soft lighting throughout.

“Your office is lovely, Draco!” she said honestly.

“Thank you,” he said pleased and indicating where she should sit. “Now before you tell me why you’re here, let me just say that I’m sorry. No, that I’m deeply ashamed for my behavior at your house before Christmas.” It was best to be diplomatic with the press even if she was a Potter and horrors, a Weasley, as well.

“Yes, Draco,” said Ginny trying not to laugh out loud at him. He had not seen himself wrapped in the rose thorns, being asleep at the time. It had been very funny. “You were frightful. But if you cooperate with Luna and I, I’ll try to forgive you everything.” She smiled. Ginny always had a very honest and beautiful smile. Most people responded by smiling back, not being able to help themselves. Draco smiled in response. It was a good sign for a Slytherin.

“How may I be of help, then?” He placed himself behind a wide desk made of a dark polished wood carved with snakes slithering along the edge.

“Luna and I want to do a series of articles on the houses at Hogwarts,” she began. “It will be an unbiased look at the philosophies of the houses and personalities of the alumni. We’d like to show how our school years influenced the people that we’ve become. Luna wants me to interview you and the Riddle’s Remarkables success.”

“Sounds interesting,” he said non-committingly. “But, why would I cooperate with you, Ginny? You can’t possibly be unbiased about my house. You’re a Gryffindor and more importantly, you’re a Potter. Your husband and I have never liked each other, as you well know.” He watched her trying to be cold in his manner. It was a natural pose for him, though he had always found it hard to maintain around Harry Potter. The man aggravated him.

“Luna says she’ll keep me honest,” said Ginny. “Don’t you think, Draco, that it would be rather fun to see how the other half-lives? Aren’t you at all curious about the others? What happened to them? Slytherin is no island. Have you never wondered about why Gryffindors are so righteous or what motivates Ravenclaw to their logical heights? Luna and I are just in the preliminary stages of this, but I think it will be a widely read series of articles. You saw how many of our old school mates were still interested in Hogwarts at the Quidditch match. We want you and your Slytherin slant in the article. Hogwarts isn’t Hogwarts without Slytherin. I’ll even have to interview Severus Snape, if you can believe it. You can imagine how keen I’ll be to do that. Luna wants you in it, too, Draco” She smiled once again at his stoney face trying to press her case. She had the suspicion that getting Draco to talk might be a bit like pressing blood from a stone.

Draco folded his hands under his chin. Ginny Weasley was a very pretty woman if you liked women with red hair. He did not. “I just don’t see what’s in for me though, Ginny,” he said finally after some thought. “Why should I even be talking to you now? We come from different worlds you and I.” He flicked a small fleck of lint from his knee.

“You mean because I grew up in a house full of boys with nary two knutes to rub together while you were rich as Lucifer and an only child?” snapped Ginny. The man was impossible. She could feel her emotions rising.

“Something like that, yes,” he said honestly. “That and you being a Potter and a Gryffindor. Not to mention that your Weasley brothers have accused me of stirring up the Dark Arts and other insulting things. Yes, I find myself hard pressed to be cooperative with you at all.” His face was both handsome and frozen in steel.

He was so like his father. A picture of Lucius Malfoy hung in what appeared to be a kind of shrine on the side of the room. She remembered how much she had hated him. It surged in her as she looked from the portrait to Draco. The Slytherins were so Slytherin. She steamed within; ready to drop the whole matter until she remembered Harry. He’d told her of his conversations with the ring, Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. He’d been telling her of his new ideas that Slytherin might not be just filled with hateful people. Hate is the great divider, he had said. She’d taken it to heart.

“I hated your father, Draco,” she said quietly trying to quell the emotion in her voice. “He almost killed me that first year at school. I was only eleven. We’ve never talked about it you and I."

“I can’t help what my father did to you,” said Draco through gritted teeth. He would not have this pestilent Potter woman insult his beloved father with accusation.

“I got to know evil first hand that year, you know, by living with Tom Riddle,” she said, looking him straight in the eye. “I couldn’t help but follow him,” she whispered. “I had no choice. Even though he was not the full-fledged evil one. He was only a ghost of his future self and yet I could not say no to his power. Your father did that to me.”

Draco said nothing but what she said affected him deeply. It was how he’d remembered it. There was no saying no to He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. The Dark Lord had made his father do what he did. He’d had no choice. If the Dark Lord had succeeded all would have been different. Even Draco was not so sure for the better. He had only seen the Dark Lord fiend twice but both times had been frightening and unpleasant. Voldemort had not been human, not really. The
creature he’d seen looked human but had been something else. He’d been secretly afraid for his father and was glad when Harry had gotten rid of the mad thing that Voldemort had become. He was thankful that he had never been forced to wear the dark mark or follow in his father’s footsteps.

However, he would never admit as much to a Potter and would also have done almost anything to have his father back. “He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named is dead, Ginny,” he said coldly.

“There is a Sybil at our house, Draco, a spirit that is a seer,” she said deciding what she would say. “It made a prophecy. That’s why my brothers have been bothering you.”

He looked up waiting for her to continue, willing himself to harden his soul but failing miserably. This was what Marcus Flint had been searching for: Their key to the future.

“Harry cut off the head of Tom Riddle and out came snakes that slithered away. They were Slytherin snakes, Draco. The Sybil said that he who had sprung from the head of the Dark Lord was seeking revenge. That he is going against our laws and must be stopped or all of us are lost. All of us, Draco, even you. She said that they would kill us all. What is your house doing that such a prophecy would bring a Sybil to say such things?”

Draco said nothing. She’d told him more than she should have. He looked up to the portrait of his father for strength. He knew exactly what she was talking about. Something buried deep inside him broke free. A Sybil had predicted disaster for them all from Slytherin House. He could pretend not to believe her but he knew in his heart that she was speaking the truth. Something profound within him shuddered and his right became his wrong. A sudden
doubt ebbed and flowed through his psyche threatening to consume him. His deepest fear began to throb. What they
were doing, this power that Flint sought, was not worth dying for. His emotion was bubbling to the surface and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

“I can’t help you, Ginny,” he said more weakly than he’d wanted. He got up and walked over to her sitting in the chair. A Malfoy must not falter. He reached out and took her hands in his, looking her straight in the eye as she stood to meet him. There were tears threatening to spill from her eyes. He could not help but admire her. She had that irritatingly beautiful Gryffindor courage. “Truly, Ginny,” he said as unemotionally as he could manage but his voice unintentionally cracked. “I don’t think that you and I meeting like this is a very good idea. I’m sorry. I think you should go.”

She nodded watching him stare for stare. Her worldview shattered and lay on the floor about her. She had touched within a Slytherin soul for only a moment and somehow, miraculously she understood Draco Malfoy. Her memories of him changed in an instant. All those years of the past, the hated one was understood from a different perspective. She was shocked.

It was a thing wrought of magic, that understanding. Wizard to witch stood transfixed. Two people from completely different universes suddenly saw the other for the very first time. It was a thing of wonder. She dropped her hands from his and tore away her eyes, bolting from the room.

Chapter 22: A Weasley Conclave
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Chapter Twenty-two
A Weasley Conclave

Ron had rushed to meet them at Weasley Wizard Wheezes as soon as he’d been called. The owl message had been urgent and he’d walked out of afternoon meetings in a rush to come to his brother’s aid. He arrived to see Fred and George sitting with their arms crossed and tut tutting at Ginny who’d apparently been crying in their office for an hour.

“What the hell is going on?” he said when he took in the scene.

Fred looked disgusted. “Our sister’s gone and told Draco Malfoy about the prophecy,” he said.

“Now, we’ll never get into that lab to see what’s going on,” said George.

“He seems to have grown a heart since we’ve last seen him you see, Ron,” said Fred. “Our sister saw it in his eyes.”

They both nodded in unison and clucked together in disbelief.

“I’m sorry!” wailed Ginny still weeping. “I don’t know what came over me!”

Ron was shocked. “How could you, Ginny? And Harry, your own husband!” He’d never have believed Ginny to be such a traitor. It was awful and with Malfoy of all people!

“I, I,” cried Ginny gasping for breath, “I couldn’t help it, Ron! There was Lucius Malfoy’s portrait staring down at me, and me remembering all those years ago when I almost died because of he and Tom Riddle. You remember how awful that first year was for me, don’t you?” She blew her nose into a tissue. “Draco was trying to act just as his father had but there was something different about him, Ron. I swear to you, there really was. It was as if Draco really was all right inside. He seemed, well human, not the pompous prig he usually is. I suddenly realized that I could tell him and he would understand, that perhaps, he would stop whatever they’re doing if he knew that they would kill us all. I thought, I thought,” she said still gasping, “I thought that I could stop him if I just told him!”

“I’ve heard of the Malfoy charm,” said Ron bewildered, “but I’d have never believed it of my own MARRIED sister!” He was horrified at his sister’s foolishness.

“Oh, shut up, Ron!” she snapped at him. “It wasn’t like that at all.”

“Well, what was it like, then?”

“We’ve been listening to her rant and rave for an hour and we don’t understand what she’s on about,” said Fred to Ron. He threw up both his arms in mock confusion. Both the twins shook their heads in amazement.

Ginny shot all them a glare with her red-rimmed eyes. “I tell you he was understanding. He was a human with a soul, not just a Slytherin!” she yelled at them. “He knows what he’s doing is wrong! He was trying to be the same cold-hearted bastard that his father had been but he isn’t! He’s lying to himself and he knows it!”

“I can’t believe you’d betray us like this, Ginny!” said Ron astounded.

Ginny frowned at him. “Harry will understand what I’m talking about,” she said angrily. “You lot are just thinking about your hate for Slytherin! Harry’s the one who changed my mind about them.”

Ron starred at her. Hermione had been telling him about what had gone on recently at Hogwarts. Something was happening up there. Harry had made amends with Severus Snape. That in its self was unbelievable. Hermione had said that Harry was being coached by Dumbledore’s ring. She said he’d changed, become more diplomatic and less reactionary. He was mending bridges. The most bewildering thing she had told him was that Harry had made his own sons apologize to Slytherin House for their actions. She’d told him on the weekend of the Quidditch match against Slytherin but he’d frankly not believed her and he and Harry had never talked about it. Such behavior on Harry’s part was unimaginable for Ron. It was a slap against their house. Harry, the Gryffindor hero in cahoots with the Slytherin devils was inconceivable.

“Ginny,” began Ron, “I’ve been looking into this thing with the Riddle’s Company at the Ministry, as well.” He’d planned to tell them all later after he’d gone and looked for himself, but Ginny needed to be convinced not to tell Draco Malfoy about any more of what they were doing. Malfoy was not to be trusted. It was absurd to think that Ginny thought such a thing possible. He was a snake. “I’ve discovered a few things about Riddle’s activities that are of interest. They’ve got a secret place down in Cornwall that we’ve been watching for a few weeks. There have been dragons spotted by muggles along the coast. What they’re doing is against our laws and is very wrong. I’ve been discussing the problem with Charlie and he’s coming himself to have a look-see with us on what’s going on down there.

“We’d love to come, thanks,” said Fred and George together.

“It’s ministry business, you two,” said Ron irritated. “You know that you can’t come along. You’ve not had the training and you’ve never been out in the field.” Even after all his years in the Ministry along with his Auror training, his older brothers still tried to bully him about.

“Our baby brother’s a bit of a prat,” said George to Fred sarcastically.

“As if he could ever stop us doing what we want,” said Fred rolling his eyes in disbelief.

“Harry should be there,” whispered Ginny. She had no wish to send her husband into harm’s way again but she knew that he’d never forgive her if he were kept out of it. Harry was what he was. He would fight for what was right with every fiber of his being. He’d never run from a fight in his whole life nor had he sherked any duty that he’d thought needed done just because it was difficult or that he might die.

“Harry’s on a leave of absence, Ginny,” said Ron with authority. “He’ll not have clearance, either. He’s retired and he’s lame. There’s a good chance that he’ll never return to the field. The ministry is fully capable of handling this situation without our most famous and revered hero getting in harm’s way.” He felt in control. Charlie would be in the office the next day. Ron didn’t need Harry for this mission and certainly not Fred and George. He definitely didn’t want to involve Harry if he was developing bizarre sympathies for the enemy.

Ginny’s tears were dried instantly. She stood to her full height and glared at Ron in anger. The guilt-ridden blob of seconds before had transformed into a tower of strength. She wasn’t Molly Weasley’s daughter for nothing. She protected her own. “Ronald Weasley!” she roared. “You pompous prig! How dare you talk about Harry like that!!” Both Fred and George laughed. Ginny sneered at them but returned her onslaught to Ron. “What makes you think that you are going to keep Harry out of it? As if you could have a hope of doing this without him!!! The very idea!!!” she shrieked.

One of the clerks from outside the office shut the door all the way. The customers could hear her yell, and had started to look alarmed. In fact, the whole of Diagon Alley could practically hear her she was so loud.

“But Ginny,” tried Ron feebly. “I thought you didn’t want Harry to do any more Auror missions?”

“You weren’t there that night, you sorry sodden so and so!” she railed. “You have no idea what the Sybil said! Sometimes I think you’re so conceited that you haven’t got the brains to understand what’s happening right in front of you. You’re just envious of his powers, you ungrateful git! Harry will save us, Ron!” Ginny faced him in her fury despite his taller figure. She was a whirling dervish protecting her husband from her brother. “Harry was the hero! Not Ron, not Fred, not George. Harry’s the one, Ron! That’s what the Sybil said and you had better get your petty jealousy in check, Mr. big fat Minister or you’re going to go and get yourself killed!”

“Who you calling fat?” said Ron flabbergasted. He was not envious. Harry was his best friend. “I am not jealous of

Harry Potter, missy smarty pants! I’m sick to death of people saying that!” Ron had endured that stigma since they were teenagers. Ever since the Tri-Wizarding Tournament in their youth they’d all dismissed his opinion because he was supposedly jealous. It was a crock as far as he was concerned. Harry was his best friend. “I’ve never been jealous of Harry Potter!” he yelled.

“Then you’ll be in denial, Lord of the not-so-great!” yelled Ginny right back at him. “You’ve been jealous of Harry since day one! He’s the one that’s always got the glory. That’s what you’re always thinking because you’re too thick to see that it’s him that’s had all the knocks, as well!”

“Children! Children!” yelled George calling for calm and clapping his hands loudly. “All this name calling is giving us a headache. Leave it!”

“It’s ministry business, Ginny,” said Ron more quietly. “You’ve no right to interfere.”

“Right? I have no RIGHT?” she narrowed in on him. She was frightful to witness. The sweet Ginny that they all knew and loved had been replaced by some weird red-headed Sheeva creature, who in any minute was going to take out her blade and chop every man’s head off. “How dare you talk about the right of the ministry?” she shrieked. “You owe

Harry! He’s saved your sorry hide on numerous occasions. You, you, Percy back stabbing git, you!”

“Ginny, stop it now!” Ron had had enough. His sister might call him fat but comparing him to Percy was where he drew the line. Of all the Weasley brothers, their brother Percy had been the only one to grow up to be an insufferable bureaucratic bore. Ron had secretly hated him for years. Just because you were born to the same parents didn’t mean you had to like all your siblings. “We’ll call Harry on floo, Ginny,” he said to placate her. “I’m sure he’ll see my reasoning. We’re only looking at the place in Cornwall, you know. Nobody’s said we were raiding the place yet.” He’d have said anything just to shut her up.

“We’re still coming,” said George.

“I’ll bet Harry will want to be there, as well little brother,” said Fred.

“You haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping him out of it,” said George.

“You better watch yourself, Ronald Weasley,” sneered Ginny meanly. “Or you’ll have your little sister there along with everyone else. Don’t forget I was with you dueling with the rest of them for most of your so-called glory days, Mr. Pompous Poop. You might have become the big bad Auror Minister Muckity-Muck but I’ve a few tricks of wizardry if you’d like to try me on!” She stood before him with a crazed look. She was Antigone gone righteous witch. He didn’t dare say another word until she calmed down.

Harry was there by late afternoon. They ordered out for supper not having the house elf advantages at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. By the time of Harry’s arrival, Ginny and Ron had come to a truce. Ginny had no intention of gallivanting down to Cornwall with her brothers with children at home. Harry would handle it. She’d gone back to her lovely kind self again to everyone’s relief. She was a little disheveled and worse for wear but pleasanter to be around and certainly a lot quieter.

She threw herself at Harry the minute he staggered from the hearth already crying again and hugging him madly. He tried to comfort her while looking to Ron for an explanation of his wife’s obvious emotional state. Ron wasn’t having any of it.

“You’ll have to ask her, mate,” said Ron. “When she comes up for air. You married her.” He suddenly had a panic attack thinking that Hermione was a bit high strung and might blow up sometime like Ginny had.

Ginny pulled herself together and shot Ron a long look. “I’m sorry, Harry,” she began with her head on his chest because she was not brave enough to look at him yet. “Luna and I cooked up this scheme to have me go over to Malfoy’s office to interview him for a story. Things sort of got out of hand and I told him about the prophecy.”

Harry moved Ginny’s face into his hands to look at her. He smiled at her wet and puffy face. She was beautiful even in a state of trauma. “It’s okay, Ginny,” he said loving her with his eyes. “The Slytherins would have found out eventually. Our son’s have told the whole school. It was just a matter of time before everyone else will have heard it.” He laughed good naturely and hugged her to him.

She threw her arms around him kissing him heartily and burying her face in his neck. Her relief was palpable. There was nothing so sweet as a husband’s forgiveness after an afternoon of guilted angst and tyrannical temper.

“Of course,” he said slyly, “you’ll have to explain what you meant by things getting out of hand with Draco Malfoy, however.” She jammed him in the ribs but didn’t let go.

“Well, this is all very charming and all, dear sister,” said Fred. “But we’ve got Harry here for reasons other than to snog you.” All three brothers sniggered with each other as Ginny dried her eyes and moved away from Harry. She settled herself on top of a desk to watch.

“Right! Harry,” said George. “We’ve a mission planned but our little brother here thinks we’re not official enough to tag along with him.”

“That means you, as well, Harry,” added Fred. “You’re on a leave of absence and won’t be allowed.” Both brothers crossed their arms in unison waiting for Ron to answer to their accusation.

Ron looked embarrassed as Harry looked to him to fill him in. “Well, you see, Harry,” said Ron humbly. “The ministry has taken an interest now in the Riddle’s and what they’re possibly up to. There’ve been sightings amongst the muggles of dragons flying around and about Cornwall. Charlie’s arriving from Romania tomorrow and we’re going to do a little reconnoiter down there to see what they’re up to.”

“That’s great!” said Harry. He looked to Ron with excitement. “I’ll be very interested to see what they’re doing!”

He looked around the room at them. They were finally going to get some answers to what was going on. This was brilliant news. “I can take a leave for a few days to come with you.”

“You’re not invited,” George informed him. He gave Harry that look of all knowing and pointed at Ron.

“It’ll be official business, Harry and Mr. Minister of Magic here does not need your assistance,” added Fred.

Harry looked to Ron in surprise. But, he understood his friend sometimes more than his own family did. His face softened rather than hardened to his oldest friend. “You’ve no choice, Ron,” he said almost sadly. “I’m coming. So are George and Fred if they’re wanting it.”

“But Harry,” started Ron. “It’s not like you’ve been in the field for a while. You’ve a gimpy leg and this is just reconnisance! You’ve no need to be there. I promise that I’ll report to you what we find out.”

Harry loved Ron. His friend had followed him on countless battles, and some of them had turned out to be just fighting windmills but Ron had always been there for him. Ron had even helped Harry by letting him use his mind to trap Voldemort. He’d been there when Sirius had become his Godfather again. He’d been there when they’d battled the

Death Eaters. He’d been there when they’d finally trapped and vanquished Voldemort. There was no one greater than Ron in friendship and loyalty.

“You must convince him of the value in what you say,” said the ring quietly. “There is no greater ally than such a friend as he.”

The ring need not have said it. Gone were the days of his youth when a cross word or an insolent comment had made him turn from his friend in anger. “Ron, listen to me,” said Harry. “I have to go with you. It’s not to show you up.

It’s not even because I want to be the famous Harry Potter and be the hero one more time.” He put his arm on Ron’s shoulder. “You know how hard that’s been for me. No one but you has seen me suffer that silly mantle of ‘Harry Potter is a hero’ more than you.”

“I know,” began Ron. “It’s just that everyone always thinks I’m jealous. I just need to prove that I can, you know, without you, for once.”

“Ron,” said Harry with tears in his eyes. “Have I ever faced any danger without you? Isn’t it me that needs you with me?” It wasn’t technically true. Harry had faced numerous terrors alone, but Ron had always been near him. Ron had always been his friend and support.

Ron gave up with all of them looking at him like he was an idiot. “Oh, hell, come if you must! It’s not like anything’s going to happen. You’d think I was some troll or something the way you’re all looking at me”

“Thanks, mate,” said Harry hugging him. “You’re a true friend.” Both of them were very emotional.

“That was a lovely scene,” said George sarcastically. “It brought tears to my eyes, it did.”

“I especially liked the bit about never facing danger without friendship. It gutted me. See? I’ve a tear, as well.” He leaned over to his brother showing him his eye.

Harry, Ron and Ginny, all with real tears in their eyes, all with large hearts and strong feeling of friendship and joy blew raspberries in the general direction of Fred and George.

“Is nothing sacred to you?” asked Ginny laughing at her wonderfully irreverent brothers.

George threw a magic firecracker into the air, which made a loud pop and showered light on them all.

“I can’t think of much,” said Fred laughing.

Chapter 23: Those Talented Few
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Chapter Twenty-Three
Those Talented Few

Ginny left that night to see to the children. She had difficulty in saying good-bye to Harry. He had to swear to her that he wouldn’t get himself killed and that he would be home safe as soon as he could. Her brothers made faces behind her back and rude kissing noises. Ignoring their jeers, she’d hugged him tightly and kissed him passionately before she entered the fireplace for home.

Charlie Weasley arrived by the next morning. They were all sitting in the Pig’s Ear Eatery on Diagon Alley having breakfast and filling Charlie in on particulars. They sat in the back of the restaurant trying to act inconspicuous by whispering and talking in hushed tones, but four red headed Weasleys and the famous Harry Potter were bound to be noticed by everyone. The waitress kept finding excuses to fill their water, or tidy up their table, which made discussing the trip to Cornwall all the more difficult.

Charlie was fascinated with the possibility of dragons that had been changed somehow. Harry told him about the prophecy and what they suspected the Riddle’s were up to. “Are you sure, Harry?” he asked several times in his excitement. “This Sybil thing or whatever she is said that they’ve changed nature? It’s fascinating, don’t you think? I’ve always said that there was much more that could be done with magic, especially with the dragons. The possibilities should be explored but the Ministry is so conservative that they’ve never allowed it.” He’d never dared asking the Ministry but the dragons were so talented and their strength of character so unique that he was sure that they were more intelligent than the Wizarding world wanted to admit. “What if they’ve bred them for something specific? You know what would be really exciting? If they’d bred the magic right into them, that would be bloody brilliant!”

Fred leaned over to his older brother whispering, “You’re meant to sound more like you disapprove, Charlie. Not like you’d like to join the other team,” he said. He shook his head in disapproval while George nodded in agreement.

“Doesn’t look good, brother,” said George. “You being a big muckity-muck dragon authority in the ministry and all.” He clucked his tongue.

“Don’t be daft!” said Charlie affronted. “Messing with dragons is a punishable offence that cannot be tolerated.” Shamefaced, he spouted the party line. “Dragons are too dangerous. It’s just fascinating, that’s all.” He sipped his cup of coffee trying to look less interested.

It was only Harry that noticed Draco Malfoy enter the restaurant. The tall blonde wizard often breakfasted in the place before going into the office. He noticed the Weasley table immediately. It was hard to miss them. Alone, without his usual bodyguards, he was somewhat outnumbered but he wasn’t the type of man who’d get caught scurrying from any Gryffindor mob and he knew that Potter had spotted him. He had every intention of continuing on, perhaps grabbing something to go quickly but that, he was sure, would look like running. Harry Potter was never going to see him do that again. He walked over to their table. No one stood.

“How quaint,” he sneered. “A Weasels-Potty reunion at the Pig’s Ear, how very fitting.” He ran his glare over all of them and settled it on Potter, his favorite target.

“Push off, Malfoy,” said Ron through gritted teeth.

“So when are we going to visit your lab, mate?” asked George smirking right back at Draco. He knew full well that Malfoy had no intention of letting them get within ten feet of any lab at Riddle’s Remarkables after Ginny’s ridiculous confession. He and Fred laughed at the look on Malfoy’s face. They shared a joke between them at his expense.

Draco Malfoy still felt the emotional impact of his meeting with Ginny Potter the day before. She’d gotten to him somehow, and though he didn’t like her having any influence over his emotions, he was also feeling the guilt and doubt that he had felt so intensely. He was afraid of what she’d told him. Flint’s ambition to have his control of the future at any cost now made him very uncomfortable. Malfoy wanted to live. What they were doing was wrong and this knowing and controlling the future was a mad obsession not worth the effort. He eyed Harry.

Probably, for the first time in either of their relations with each other, neither said anything to the other while they starred each other down. Harry knew what Draco was thinking. Advanced Legilimency was after all, a talent of his. What he saw in Draco Malfoy’s mind he had never seen before and it stopped him from commenting or encouraging any of the usual baiting of Malfoy’s famous meanness. Harry saw fear in him and something new, doubt. Draco Malfoy had strong doubts. Ginny had said that she’d sensed it and she had been right. He also saw Marcus Flint in Draco’s mind and his obsession with knowing the future. Somehow, this obsession was tied to what they were doing.

“You better watch yourself, Malfoy,” said Ron rising from his chair in a threatening manner.

Draco broke away from Harry’s stare to confront Ron. “Don’t be a fool, Weasles,” he said falling back into old habits with a sneer curling his along his lip. “You’d better learn not to threaten your superiors. The Ministry of Magic won’t take kindly when they hear of you acting like a common muggle thug toward an innocent wizard.” He smiled in that way only a Malfoy could. Breeding always wins out in a pureblood Slytherin. Ron wanted to hit him with his fist not just curse him into next week.

There was a loud scraping of chairs on the floor and the other three Weasleys all rose as one. Malfoy was hard pressed to smart off in the face of their threatening stance. He looked to Harry who still sat watching him intently, never having said a word.

“I’m sorry about Ginny, yesterday, Potter,” he said squinting at Harry and ignoring the Weasley wall of growling brothers. “I know that she was upset when she left our building. I don’t blame her. I was fairly put out about what she told me, as well.” He looked around at the four Weasleys who still stood watching him. “You’re wrong about us,” he lied. “Your Sybil cannot possibly mean Riddle’s Remarkables is what you think it is.” His chin jutted out in stubborn defiance.

“Then let us visit the labs, Malfoy,” said George quietly. He knew it wheedle Malfoy.

“I said I would, sometime. That isn’t going to change your minds,” said Malfoy coldly. “You’ll find nothing wrong.”

Ron was just about to say something about Cornwall when he felt Harry’s old familiar presence in his head shushing him. It felt as if Harry squeezed his larynx shut and that he looked at Malfoy through four sets of eyes. He wasn’t used to the sensation any longer and felt dizzy. He looked to Harry and abruptly sat down. The other Weasleys followed his lead. Draco Malfoy looked around the table at all of them a bit surprised.

“I’ll tell Ginny you asked after her, Draco,” said Harry politely when everyone had reseated.

There was nothing more to do but leave for Malfoy. He took a last look at Harry Potter, a question in his mind that he would never dare ask, and left quietly with no more than a tip of his head. He had no idea how close he’d come to being stomped on by the Weasley clan. Everyone turned to watch him walk out the door and then turned to Harry for an explanation.

“What the hell did you do that for?” asked Ron fuming. “I could have got information out of him!” He looked fiercely at Harry.

“What in the world happened?” asked Charlie. “One minute I was standing staring down that punk and the next I’m seated not knowing how I got there.”

“Yeah,” said George.

“That was weird,” finished Fred.

“It was Harry,” said Ron angry. “He can get inside your head, tell you what to do. He’s an expert at Legilimency, better than Voldemort ever was and blasted insufferable about it! It’s damned uncomfortable, having you dance around in my head, Harry and I’d like an explanation of why you did it!”

“Ron, we’re going to Cornwall,” said Harry. He had hardness in his voice and a calmness of spirit about him. There was no denying that he was a leader forged from a life of experience. “You were going to alert him to the fact that we know about what they’re up to. You were going to tell him that we suspect him and the man’s already scared to death of what he’s doing.” Harry calmly sipped his tea and then got to his feet. “You would have only warned him that we’d be coming and we need it to be a surprise if we’re to see anything useful. Come on,” he said throwing down some coins on the table and ignoring Ron’s reddened face. “I’m sick of talking about going. Let’s just go, already.” He waited for them to acknowledge the inevitability of being on their way and then strode purposely for the door. The Weasleys rose as one to follow him. Breeding will always win out in a pureblood Gryffindor.

It ended up taking hours longer to get going. The Ministry and its entire do-nothing regulations and procedures held them up. They weren’t able to leave London until late in the afternoon and all of them were grumbling and antsy.

When they finally were able to leave, it was just a simple matter of apparating to a known point on the outskirts of Porthleven in Cornwall. Lizard Beach was just outside of town, with its great rock off shore that looked as if a giant dragon had just broken water. Both Harry and Ron had been there before and Harry gave the others the picture of it in their minds. It was an ancient place of magic and sea breezes. The Cornish wizarding community had a rich history tied to the sea. When they arrived, it was sunset and the ocean beyond sparkled and looked as if it went on endlessly. The wind hit them immediately and they had to shout to each other to be heard.

“That’s a handy trick, Harry,” yelled Charlie as they were walking along the beach to get closer to the point that housed the Riddle building. “I didn’t know anyone could do that and control a person’s movements, as well. I can see why they don’t teach Legilimency at Hogwarts. Can you imagine the confused and bewildered students?”

They’d been commenting on Harry’s abilities sporadically throughout the day. It was getting on his nerves and it was all he could do to gnash his teeth and ignore them. They came upon a trail up the rock face, a small path wide enough for one to walk along. It was sheltered from the wind on the leeward side of great large boulders.

“It’s more than a little spooky,” said George for the fifteenth time. He and Fred were behind Charlie, so thankfully, Harry could ignore them.

“I’ll be thinking twice before drinking with you, mate,” called out Fred.

Harry was used to such talk amongst the other Aurors who had always looked on his more unusual powers with suspicion, but having his friends carry on endlessly was grating on him. Though he’d saved more than a few lives over the years, no one could ever seem to forget that he was The-Boy-That-Lived, even on into his thirties. They always remembered that some of his traits were the same as Voldemort’s and were guarded with him. He made a mental note to rip up the contract sitting in his desk at home. He’d never write his memoirs. It caused him too much headache when others knew the facts about his life.

The Ministry of Magic had arranged a safe haven for them. It was a little house, muggle owned but the owners had been called away to visit a great aunt and wouldn’t be returning for a week or more. The cottage was built on a ledge of rock that overlooked a lonely stretch of the long beach, a mile or two away from other muggle eyes. It was very close to the secret Riddle holding that was built right into the rock. They could keep watch two at a time to observe the comings and goings of the Riddles from the beach. In late winter, there was nary a soul around in the dying light of the afternoon. The sun had set and the five stood out against the pale rock as they made their way along the narrow path to the house.

Once inside the house, they all visibly relaxed. It was one thing to want to see what the evil ones were up to and yet another to actually be so close to potential danger. As the evening came on, they decided to start watching the Riddle stronghold in partners so they could watch all night and through the day for any activity.

Harry and Charlie took the first watch at dark. At six o’clock they were hidden behind a rock to shield them from the wind and had been sitting with nothing to watch for most of an hour. Charlie had placed an Illusions Charm to keep them from being spotted. There wasn’t a soul or a light nearby. They sat quietly, or at least Harry did. His training had taught him not to speak for long periods when on duty. It was harder for Charlie, who was more used to managing the many wizards required to handle the dragons. He occasionally asked Harry questions to which Harry gave exceedingly short answers so as not to encourage chatter.

There was a movement on the horizon just out to sea around eight o’clock. Something or someone was flying very low just off to the right. Only a wizard would have been able to see it flying from so far away. The thing was very large and Harry whispered dragon into Charlie’s mind and pointed. Charlie nodded in understanding and they started to move away from the rock to get a better view of it but Harry suddenly heard something very different and dragged Charlie back behind the rock. He held Charlie tight, a look of alarm on his face as he adjusted his mind to what he’d heard.

Harry was hearing Parseltongue spoken very faintly. Charlie started to question him and made an effort to wriggle away but Harry put a finger to his lips and signaled that he was listening to a sound. It was definitely Parselmouth, very faint and with a strange accent that he’d not heard before. Harry was surprised. He didn’t think there’d be snakes on the beach and truly it didn’t sound right for a snake. Even more alarming was that he had slowly realized that the Parseltongue was not coming in from his hearing but from inside his head. He was reading the thoughts of a creature that must be very close by.

“SISSTH OTTH” he heard, or ‘another approaches’ in a Parseltongue. The speaker’s weird accent made listening and
understanding difficult. It continued. “Little brother?” it asked. It repeated it again, louder. Harry wondered if it was able to sense him somehow. He was flummoxed and grasping around with what to do.

For want of something better, he spoke out loud in Parseltongue “Who is little brother?” he asked. Charlie jumped away from him in alarm but Harry shook his head and signaled that Charlie should stay quiet. There was a sound halfway up the beach and one of the large gray boulders moved. Charlie saw it too and poked Harry mouthing the word dragon and pointing to the rock that had not only moved but was moving straight toward them at a lumbering clip.

It was calling to Little brother and sniffing in the air. The Illusion charm would certainly hide them from the dragon but it wouldn’t hide their odor or shield them from being trounced on by the large creature. It was heading toward them and quickly.

Harry thought, “Stop!” in Parselmouth and the dragon stopped looking directly toward him. It had heard his thoughts! And at this distance! It communicated in Parselmouth! His mind was reeling. Was this normal for dragons? Did they normally speak Parseltongue? He’d met a few in his time but had never realized the possibility that he might be able to communicate with them. How handy it would have been at the Tri-Wizard Tournament in his youth, for instance.

He wasn’t at all sure if speaking with these dragons was a good thing or not. “We hide from men,” Harry whispered out loud in Parseltongue. Charlie watched him wide-eyed and cautious. “We must not be found,” he continued to the dragon.

“Escape!” hissed the snake sound in his head. “You escape from the men.”

It didn’t know yet that they were men. It only heard the thoughts of a fellow Parseltongue and had heard nothing else. They were downwind from it.

The dragon that they had first spotted out to sea alighted next to the other dragon now a few hundred yards down the beach. Harry could faintly hear them communicating. It was fascinating to listen.

“Another down beach,” one hissed. “It hides from they on two legs.”


“A slithering one I thinks. Small, low to ground. Like little friend, Sasha,” it answered.

They think that I’m a snake thought Harry. Good. He turned to Charlie and signaled that they should retreat to the house. He wanted to discuss with them what he’d heard before they went further. They made the way quietly and slowly along the path, but just as he and Charlie topped the cliff, he heard the dragon call out to him.

“You man!” it hissed and flew up into the air toward them. “Man!” It settled down in front of Harry ignoring Charlie who had taken out his wand ready to strike.

She was a beautiful shimmering female, much smaller then some dragons Harry had seen, but truly lovely to look at. She glowed in the moonlight, her scales reflected color and light. Her long neck was a graceful curve to a diamond shaped head and two orbs of opalescent for eyes. The dark vertical slits of her pupils widened in what Harry could tell were surprise at him. She was an unusual looking and magnificent dragon.

Harry hissed, “You’re beautiful,” for want of better to say. You never knew when a creature needed petting. Perhaps it was vain.

“Flattery,” it answered dismissing his paltry try. She had intelligence. This couldn’t be good. The dragon lowered

its head close to him and sniffed. Harry could smell the sulfur of her breath. If she fired up he’d be charcoal in seconds. “Man not other, not Flint, not Swift, who?” asked the dragon.

“It’s a secret,” hissed Harry. He worried. She’d said Marcus Flint’s name. It was not inconceivable that he spoke Parseltongue, as well. He was Slytherin, so it was possible.

“You hide from them. Why?” it asked. “They are like you. Why hide?”

“They do not like me much,” answered Harry truthfully.

The dragon gargled deep in its throat. It was laughing at him. Charlie lowered his wand in amazement. In all his years with dragons, he’d never heard one laugh let alone act like it could communicate. “Ask it what it is, Harry,” he whispered. “Ask it how it came to be.” Charlie’s eyes shone with wonder at the creature.

The dragon eyed Charlie, listening to him talk. She put her head close to him sniffing him as she had Harry. “Man, friend?” the dragon asked.

“Yes,” hissed Harry, “friend.”

“Smell of us, smell of dragon,” it observed.

“Yes, he is friend of many dragons,” said Harry carefully.

“I understand man. But you think as we do. Is different. Are you like us? Dragon?”

Now it was Harry’s turn to laugh. “No, not dragon.”

“The others do not think our words, only speak, and not very well. You are different.” There was a call from the other dragon below. A fluting sound that was unusual and lovely the way it melted with the sound of the wind. Harry heard and understood it say ‘come now’ to the dragon before him. A light flashed on the more distant cliff where the Riddle stronghold was. “They call,” it said. “Must go.” It eyed him sideways with one eye, blinking. “I keep your secret, man,” it said. She was about to leave and then circled round and brought her face close to his. He shivered from a tongue of fear that ran up his back. Her whole head was as big as he was. “Be careful of those men,” it said. “They seek an evil power. Are dangerous.” She rose up to her full height, then, she jumped into the air, flapping her wings once and gliding over the cliff toward the light beyond. Harry and Charlie watched dumbfounded. They had not expected anything like this.

As they made their way back to the house Charlie raced ahead in his excitement to tell the others. He was chattering away to himself, over the moon with the exhilaration of their discovery on the very first watch.

Harry lagged behind. Something about what had happened felt very wrong to him and he was desperate to figure it out before he faced the others. The ring warmed on his finger. It had been silent to him for the whole day. He stopped and turned back toward the ocean absently twisting the ring. The cliff and the endless night sky beyond would have been an inspiration at any other time. It was as if he stood on the cliff of forever, a large black void pierced with stars and serenaded by the wind and waves.

“This is bad,” said the ring quietly. “This is very bad, much worse than we had thought.”

“What is it?” whispered Harry. “I have the same feeling and I can’t shake it.”

“Do you not see the pattern? There is always a pattern.”

“I’m trying, I,” he stopped. He had realized the link that was frightening to him. “They all talk, but more than that, they all seem to think. They all have spoken of good and evil,” he said. That was it. Babbling Broomstick had been the first. It had said that they’d changed it to think and talk. It had told them at Christmas that they had changed it to be what it was. Then they had tried to steal the fire fairies, unique creatures that talked and thought, also. Now the dragons, they too seemed intelligent and they communicated. The Remarkable’s were interested in remarkable thinking creatures.

“Yes,” said the ring. “These Riddle men seem to be looking for something in these creatures they change. But what?”

“And what of the Dementors?” said Harry in horror at the thought of it. Fred and George had said that their informer had seen Dementors that were larger and more frightening. He felt sick remembering their rattling breath before he could push it away. “What are they doing with them?”

“We must stop these Slytherins before they kill us all with their search as the Sybil has warned us,” said the ring.

“Where will they stop? What of the giants? So many creatures, so much of nature perverted. They must be stopped!”

“Malfoy was afraid because of Flint’s obsession in attaining the future or something along those lines. He was afraid that what they’re doing isn’t worth dying for.”

“Yes, there must be a connection,” said the ring. “A pattern must exist between the creatures and this obsession.”

“The griffin,” said Harry soberly.

“The griffin?” asked the ring.

“It was able to catch me. On my last mission, the one that lamed me before I came back to Hogwarts. The wizard controlling the griffin wanted the Oracle, a piece of the future. I’d wondered how the griffin could possibly have caught me as it did. I know that it didn’t talk, I’m sure of it, but it knew what I would do to trap me. It knew what my every move would be before I did it. That’s how it caught me.”

Standing on the cliff before the night sky, he was amazed as he realized all the connections in his life. This path went all the way back to Voldermort, all the way back to his birth, and it all connected in him: Prophecy’ s power. His parents had been killed because of a foretold future, he had become Voldemort’s nemesis because of that same prophecy, and he had defeated him also, because the future had been his. “That griffin had seen my every move, just enough of the future to catch me. Someone had messed with it and had changed it to do that.” He thought of more connections, making it all fit in his mind like a puzzle being solved. “Then they wanted the fairies after Draco Malfoy had read in Ginny’s article. They wanted the fairies because they talk but also, I think, because they see a bit of the future. Ginny said as much in her article for Luna’s magazine.” It all fit. They were changing creatures to be intelligent for this peculiar reason. This was the legacy of Voldemort’s revenge. “They’re looking for control of the future and they’re looking for a creature that they can change to give it to them. We must get to one of those dragons to find out if they too, are able to see ahead!”

“It must be more than that,” said the ring unconvinced. “It’s an army of some sort. Controlling the future is too simple and it will not give them enough power. What of the Dementors? What of the Sybil’s prophesy of revenge? Creatures who see the future are not a threat, merely a nuisance. Look at the creatures that they’ve chosen, Harry! Dementors, griffins if you’re right, and dragons! These are powerful creatures to fear! Power is what they seek. It is always about power over others. That is their ambition, as it was Voldemort’s.”

The ring was right. Perhaps controlling the future was too simple. And what could they possibly accomplish with such simple creatures? Whether they could talk or not, they would still be less than a human in brainpower. What power would they have in seeing the future of mankind through non-human eyes? Such foretelling would be nothing compared to a wizard with the sight.

Harry’s heart stopped, not literally, he only felt like it would flutter and then squeeze close if his thoughts continued.

“Yes,” said the ring hearing his thought. “We must finish here and return.”

“Lily.” Harry was screaming her name in his mind. His precious child! They would find out about Lily’s gift of the future! He must stop them before they found out about her.

Chapter 24: Raiding the Remarkables
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Chapter Twenty-four
Raiding the Remarkables

“Do not panic, Harry Potter!” yelled the ring inside his head. Harry had turned in a panic, running as fast as his lame leg would allow him toward the house.

“I promise you, friend,” he warned the ring. “If you dare shock me again, I’ll be dropping you into the ocean! I wear you voluntarily because I owe Albus Dumbledore with my life and I also find your advice useful at times but don’t test me on this with my daughter’s life at stake.”

“That is not certain. You know that. You are rushing on a hunch only,” warned the ring. “It’s not certain that they will seek her out.”

“I am certain of it,” said Harry angrily. “I saw it in Draco’s mind. I’m absolutely certain that when they hear the rumors they will try to steal her. You of all who know such things should realize that Slytherin would stop at nothing to get what they desire.”

“Too true,” whispered the ring. “Whatever it takes, they will do it.”

Harry made it to the house after what seemed like hours though it was only minutes and burst through the door. Charlie was animatedly telling the others about the dragon talking to Harry but all of them looked up alarmed at the sight of Harry. He looked like the mad prophet. His hair was crazier then ever, windswept by the sea air, he had a wild flushed look to his face and his glasses were fogged and askew. He was breathing heavily from running as fast as he could on his gimpy leg.

“We must stop them!” he cried. He panted and slammed the door behind him. “We must stop them tonight! I must get in there to talk to the dragons.”

“Whoa! Harry, Whoa!” said Ron jumping up and pushing Harry into the nearest chair. “Calm down, mate. We’ll get the dragons, of course,” he assured him. He patted Harry on the back. “Charlie was just telling us. Amazing that you can talk to them in Parselmouth.”

“NO! NO! NO!” yelled Harry slamming his fist into the arm of the chair. “I’ve figured out what they’re after! I know why they’re changing the creatures!”

They were all huddled about the fireplace. Even in the cozy little room, the wind from outside seem to be finding ways to sneak into the cracks and corners. Harry’s panic made the room seem even colder. “What do you mean?” asked Ron, a chill running up his spine. “Harry, please DON’T tell me that the ring has told you that we must invade Riddle’s tonight.” Ron was simply too skeptical of all that had happened of late. Prophesies of doom, rings that spoke to only the wearer and Ginny making eyes at a Malfoy, not to mention dragons speaking in Parselmouth. It was all too much for him to take in.

Harry realized that he must calm down to convince them for he needed them to go along with him. He found the place of quiet deep within and breathed his calming breath. He closed his eyes willing his self some composure, searching for that small point inside. They all waited. Ron nervously glanced at his brothers. You never knew when Harry Potter was so agitated, what might happen next.

When Harry found his point of calm, he opened his eyes and began to speak. “They’ve been searching for the power of knowing the future within the creatures that they change,” said Harry. There was steel in his voice and a resonance of determination that all in the room were startled by. “It’s why the creatures have been made intelligent. It’s why Babbling Broomstick is what it is, or why they wanted to steal the fairies, why the dragons think in Parseltongue and why the griffin was able to defeat me.” He looked at Ron, staring at him with somberness.

“Yes,” said Ron reflecting his stare. “I was going to tell you about the griffin at Christmastime but so much had happened that I forgot. The griffin was different. We finally caught up with it a month after you’d been wounded. It’d been changed magically and the wizard has been arrested.”

“Was he connected to the Riddle’s?” asked Harry.

“I don’t know,” said Ron thinking. “I never imagined the possible connection until now.”

“They’re connected, Ron,” said Harry. “It’s all connected. It’s what the Sybil told us. ‘He who sprung from the head of the Dark Lord is seeking his revenge on us.’ This goes back to Voldemort. It’s something that he began back then that they’ve pursued all these years. I don’t know why finding a creature to give them the future is important to them. That’s why we’ve got to get in there to speak with the dragons.”

Harry was so very tempted to enter Ron’s mind and make him obey his will. It would be so easy. But he was then instantly ashamed of his impulse. Power was so seductive. He had to consciously be diligent against abusing his.

“Harry’s right, Ron,” said Charlie. “We’ve got to get those dragons away from them, especially if they’ve been changed. Harry’s the only one that can speak to them. Now is the time.”

“We can raid the place, there’s enough of us,” offered George. A Weasley twin was always up for adventure! “Then we could get the dragons to Romania for safe keeping.”

“I wish that I could talk to a dragon,” said Fred.

“Don’t be an idiot, brother,” said George. “You’d have nothing to say.”

A smile flickered on both Harry and Ron’s faces as they eyed each other. “Say we did do a bloody raid, Harry,” said Ron reluctantly. “You know as well as I do that we’ve no frigging plan. It’s slipshod to just barge in on them, isn’t it?”

“You said the Ministry has been watching the place for weeks,” said Harry. “Who’s done the watching?”

“Seamus Finnigan was down here the last few weeks and a new kid that you don’t know name of Moss. Dilbert Moss, he’s just out of Hogwart’s and Seamus has been training him. They’ll have seen the comings and goings right enough.”

“Get them down here. Tonight. It’s not yet late. We’ll be ready before dawn if we’re lucky. If they’ve seen things that we can plan around then we’ll be all the better informed.”

“Harry,” said Ron shaking his head. “You know that I’ve got to go through channels. I’ll need to get permission to pull two Aurors in here.”

“Do it, Ron,” urged Harry. “Do it for me. You’re my oldest friend. Don’t tell them why you want Seamus! Just get them down here. If we fail, I’ll take the fall for it. But if we don’t and we get those dragons for the ministry, then you can take all the credit.” He looked to the others with a sly grin on his face. “Your brother’s will be happy to swear that I used Legilimency on you, won’t you boys?”

“Love to!” said George and Fred together.

“Ron, they’ll be interested in Lily’s gift of seeing the future, if it’s true,” Harry whispered, hardly daring to say it out loud let again acknowledge it. “If we don’t stop them now, or at least find out what they’re up to, they’ll be coming for her just as they did the fairies. It’s the future that they want.” He choked and coughed with grief at the thought of it but held his voice strong. “I saw it Draco Malfoy’s mind. Flint is determined to control the future.”

Ron was shocked. “Is that possible?” he asked. “Could they control the future?”

Harry sighed. “The world is full of strange magic, Ron,” he said sadly. “Everything’s possible as far as I can see. It’s a Wizard’s world that we live in.”

“Bloody hell,” grumbled Ron. “Those sodding Slytherins will be the death of me.”

“Crying shame for them to go after our little sprog, Lily, Ron,” said Fred with real tears in his eyes.

Of course, he relented after that.

Seamus and his protégé Moss arrived just after midnight. Fred and George had taken the next watch and lumbered in from the beach just after Harry, Ron and Charlie had brought Seamus and Dilbert Moss up to speed on what had happened.

“Nothing much going on out there,” said Fred as he sat at the front door inglenook and took his shoes off. The sand dumped onto the carpet.

“That’s disgusting, Fred,” said Ron.

Fred took out his wand and swept the sand out the door with a whoosh and a flick. “Shut your trap, little brother. Let’s talk about the disgusting noises you make at night while you’re sleeping, shall we? I remember them well. Poor Hermione.”

Seamus Finnegan laughed. “I forgot what it was like to be surrounded by Weasleys and now I’m just remembering the lively banter.”

“We’re colorful, our mum used to say,” said George.

“Now, it’s our wives and kiddies that advise us that we’re nuts,” Fred snickered.

“Tell us about the Riddle’s,” said Harry to Seamus. “How many do you think are in there?”

“I’d say there are about five dragons and five riders,” said Seamus. “There could’ve been more. We were never able to get close enough to see the riders. The dragons are allowed to hunt alone. We saw them plenty. The local sheep farmers must wonder what’s happening to their flocks. They also seemed to hunt at sea. The riders are a sight to watch though. It’s amazing to see wizards astride dragons in flight.”

Charlie was shocked. “They actually ride them? Like they were horses or something? Incredible!”

Seamus looked taken aback that Charlie didn’t know that fact yet. “I wrote it in my report, didn’t you see it? It was incredible to watch. The Minister was amazed and grilled me about it. He hadn’t believed us, I think.”

“He never even mentioned it,” said Charlie.

Ron looked at his shoes. “The coward did sod-all with the report,” he said ashamedly. “He told me that he refused to believe the rubbish that you wrote and threw the report in a file. He wouldn’t even let me read it.”

Seamus, who’d grown into a handsome man with broad shoulders and the strength of two men, spat unceremoniously on the floor of the house. He was blistering mad. “I wouldn’t be surprised a bit if our damned Minister of Magic was in the Riddle’s pocket,” he said bitterly. “Damned bureaucratic berk!”

“Seamus,” said Harry. “How will we get in the place? It’s built into the rock. Did you see an entrance?”

“They come out riding the dragons over the sea,” said Seamus. “Once, Moss and I spotted the handlers milling about on the south side as if they’d nothing to do. The next thing we noticed was that they’d disappeared. That must be an entrance. They either disapparrated from there or they went inside an opening. It will be the first place we should try to get in.”

“Harry, we’ve got to have a plan,” said Ron. “We can’t just show up and say that we’ll be taking the dragons now, and Bob’s your uncle. We’ve got to have a plan.”

“We’ve no choice, Ron,” said Harry. “Let’s go in shifts, just in case we’re seen. You, Seamus and I will go in first, followed by Charlie and the others.”

They started to suit up with wands, cloaks and boots readied and worn. The band of raiders started from the house in the early morning darkness with only the stars to light their way. Though the cliff that held the Riddle stronghold was fairly close, it took them a good half an hour to reach the south side. Harry held his wand out searching for the entrance. “Reveal,” he called to the rock touching it with his wand.

At first nothing happened. They stood around and looked about for a hole or something in the rock face. Then they heard a chunk sound, as if a rock had fallen and the whole side of the cliff face slid open.

“Blimey!” said Ron. “That was almost too easy.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “They must be pretty confident that no one’s coming in without an invitation.”

“Not many idiots would do knowing dragons were inside, mate,” whispered Fred.

When they’d gotten inside, they rethought their plan immediately. They had entered a huge cavernous hole that seemed to have dozens of caves scattered about it high above. It was as if they were inside a small beehive. Harry grabbed

Charlie and the others hauling them inside just before the rock face closed behind them. The interior was not quiet and nor was it dark. It was lit throughout by torchlight and there was the unmistakable sound of dragon roaring and sulfur gas sighing.

“They’ll be in those holes in the walls over there,” whispered Charlie. “This looks very similar to the housing we’ve got for them in Romania. Dragons feel most comfortable living in the rock caves.”

Ron and Harry looked at each other. The interior that they had entered was eerily like the stronghold of Voldemort in the volcano that they had entered just before they had destroyed him years ago. “The Death Eaters were in the caves and tunnels, remember?” said Ron.

“Yes, and we had to search them out first with my mind.” They stood still, listening. Harry listened with his mind while the others did the same with their hearing. “They’re above us,” he said finally, spotting a narrow stair carved into the rock. “They’re high up. I’d say that there are more than five of them. There are at least ten minds of wizards that I can hear. They are not together. Some are amongst the dragons.”

“Are there too many for us, Harry?” whispered Ron.

“No, no I don’t think so.”

“Sssssth, ssssittthhh, sssssoth,” said a now familiar voice in his mind.

“Greetings, friend dragon,” hissed Harry.

“Danger, for you,” said the dragon. “They know. Flint comes for you to trap you.”

Harry whirled around to his companions. “They know we’re here,” he said urgently. “Scatter and protect yourselves. Ron and I will take the stairs to them. The rest of you hug the walls and face the caves. I’ll try to get to them with my mind before they strike.”

He jumped past them and flew up the stairs. His leg would not let him go fast enough. He was a hindrance to the mission. His handicap was going to get them all killed if he couldn’t move faster.

“You’ve no time for such useless whining, idiot boy,” said the ring. “Search them out with your mind!!! Forget your silly leg.”

Harry complied by instinct. He and Ron reached the first landing with their wands out and ready. There were two wizards running at full tilt around the ledge path. Harry was ready for them and attacked them viciously with his mind by closing down their air passages. They stopped short in shock. One fell over the ledge and crashed onto the stone floor some twenty feet below. Certainly he was dead. The other fell to his knees gasping for air and pointing his wand toward them feebly.

“EXPELLIARMUS!” shouted Ron and the wand flew over the edge. They both approached the wizard whose breath was almost gone.

“Icarcerous!” said Harry quietly and thin tendrils of rope tied up their victim. He released the wizard’s breath that came in gulping desperate breaths.

There was commotion and mayhem throughout the cavern as others were alerted to their presence but the wizard that lay nearly unconscious and bound before him struck Harry dumb with shock.

“Look at his face, Harry,” said Ron in horror. “He doesn’t look normal! He looks like, like..”

“Voldemort,” hissed Harry.

The face of the wizard looked weakly up at them. His eyes and head were what were wrong. The shape of his face was triangular and his eyes were reptilian. “You can’t ssstth hothshh.. take them…,” said the wizard before he lost consciousness. He had spoken in Parceltongue and English. Harry was horrified by what this man’s deformity meant. They’d changed wizards, deformed them, and for what purpose?

Two more wizards ran toward them with wands out and shouting killing curses. Harry’s instincts were such that he jumped and threw a curse toward them before the killing spell could hit him. Ron rushed full tilt at them with his wand spewing the deathly green fire of a murderous curse. There was no waiting on ceremony when under attack. Harry and Ron had long years of experience in battle. The wizards both fell dead. Harry turned toward a building of noise from the center of the cavern. Looking over the side he spotted Charlie and the others were battling below them. Shards of light from the combat were bouncing off the walls. There was yelling, screaming the acrid smell of sulfur and fire in the air.

Fred and George had miraculously thought to bring their latest invention, collapsible brooms and were whooshing about the cavern above dodging a dragon and rider that was pursuing them in the air. It would have been comical if it weren’t so deadly. The creature was having a hard time maneuvering in what for it was a smaller space with Fred and George whirling about it as if they were starlings.

Harry had just enough quickness to dodge a bolt of fire from another dragon that emerged from its cave. They were sitting ducks on the ledge and would be burnt to a crisp.

“Harry, RUN!” yelled Ron who was farther down the path.

“Man, come!” hissed the friendly dragon. Its great head had emerged from a cave a hundred feet down the path. He could barely see her with all the smoke filling the cavern. “Come! Ride! Come! Flint will kill!”

Harry ran toward it as fast as could, which just wasn’t fast enough. He cursed his lameness in anger just as a killing curse barely missed him from above. Marcus Flint was above him flying on the dragon.

“Harry Potter!” he yelled. “You’ll die for this! How dare you!” Flint turned his dragon for another run but it was too difficult to maneuver very fast and the smoke was making seeing anything difficult. Harry finally made it to the dragon, leaping to its side. Ron was following him close behind.

“RIDE! RIDE!” the dragon hissed. “SAVE YOURSELF!”

“Now what?” said Ron, not hearing the screaming of the dragon as Harry had.

“Jump on!” yelled Harry. He grabbed the strap that hung off the dragon’s back and climbed up the scales to mount her.

Ron stood his ground. “No way am I going up there!” he said just as Flint came in for a killing run.

The dragon bolted forward and jumped into the air to avoid the on coming dragon. Ron jumped to the back of the cave just as a bolt of fire barreled toward him, barely missing him and choking him with smoke.

Harry was flying on the back of the dragon that was already turning in the air to face Flint on his dragon. The sensation was not unlike flying a hippogriff but the dragon was much, much larger. Harry had to grip the rope on her back to stay on and wedge his feet into the scales for balance. Luckily, he could also hear her thoughts and was surprised to realize that he could hear many of the other dragons, as well. They were all panicking and their instincts were to run. The dragon that had pursued Fred and George had lost its rider and was running for a great large door at the front of the cavern. It was shut tight and it looked as if in panic the dragon would crash into it. Harry had seconds to watch as Fred and George pointed their wands at door blasting it into a thousand pieces as they all three rushed out to the night sky and the sea beyond.

Marcus Flint was flying straight for him with his wand pointed at his head. Without planning, without thinking, because it came from somewhere deep within that made him who he was, Harry had a brilliant vision. He held the image of his son Sirius in the Quidditch match in his head and he pulled up on the rope. The dragon saw the same vision and as Harry stood up on the dragon’s back, she shot straight up into the air above. Dragon and rider did a wide loop in the air. As he began to swing back around he pushed out his wand above his head shouting “EXPELLIARMUS!” at the surprised Marcus Flint who was looking up at him. The spell hit him squarely knocking his wand from his hand and would have knocked him off the dragon if he hadn’t tied himself on. Flint hung stunned from the dragon’s side as the great large beast flapped its powerful wings and fled for the door.

Harry and his dragon finished the loop in time to watch as Flint’s dragon flew through the opening. He wanted to race after him but his loyalty to Ron and the others was too strong. He went in search of his friend, instead.

“SSSSSSiiiissssth!” whispered Harry in thanks to his dragon as he turned her to search for Ron. The few dragons left in the cavern were still panicking and Harry tried to soothe their fears with his thoughts. One by one they stopped circling above to land on the ledges to watch.

Ron had made it back down to the others at the bottom of the cavern unhurt but blackened from the dragon fire soot. Charlie and the others had managed to capture all the riders and had them huddled together with the rope charm. They stood gawking at their captives. All present were appalled by the look of them. They didn’t look human.

“Slap my bahookey,” said Seamus. “I’d have never thought such a horror were possible in this day and age.”

“It’s obscene,” whispered Ron to Charlie.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing to themselves,” said Charlie.

One of the captives grimaced and starred at him in what looked to be anger.

Harry had landed with the dragon and hopped off to walk over to them. He caught a thread of thought from the wizard and turned to face him.

“Ssssth othsssth?” asked Harry.

“I do and it wassssn’t willinggg,” answered the man. “Sssthh haaasss sssssth.”

The raiders all gathered around Harry. “What is it, Harry?” asked George. “What did he say?”

Harry shook his head sadly. “He was changed by them in order to speak to the dragons.”

“How did they make you?” he asked of the wizard.

“They threatened myyyyy family,” the wizard answered haltingly. “We drank a potion to become thessssse thingsssss.” The poor man hung his head in shame.

They all stood in silent horror. They’d killed some of these snake men and they’d only been protecting themselves. It was awful to realize.

“But Flint didn’t drink the potion, did he?” asked Harry.

Thoughts of hate and fear entered the poor man’s mind. “He sssssspeaks Parcelmouth.”

“Really?” said Fred. “I don’t remember him speaking Parselmouth at school. Even when everyone was looking for the heir of Slytherin he never bragged about it. Being Slytherin, it seems to me that he’d have been bragging. Bloody snakes.”

The doomed man just squinted at him and said nothing. Harry could read his thoughts. He was stunned.

“Voldemort?” he gaped at the man. “Voldemort taught him?”

The wizard looked surprised. “You are a Legilimentic?”

“Yes,” said Harry sternly. “Tell me how Flint knows how to speak Parseltongue from Voldemort.”

The man hung his head afraid to speak.

“Must I threaten you?” whispered Harry. “You must tell us what you know.”

The other snake men struggled against their bounds and grumbled. “Tell him,” hissed one of them. “We are all dying anyway.”

“We don’t plan on killing you, if that’s what you mean,” answered Harry. “You’ve done enough suffering. We’ll find a potion to make you right again. Now tell us!”

“He isssss Voldemort’sssss sson,” said the wizard finally.

All the raiders gasped. “Ballocks!” yelped George. “That’s not possible! We knew him in school. We’d have known it!”

But Harry could tell that the man was telling them the truth as far as he knew it. Marcus Flint had told the man that he was Voldemort’s son. He saw the memory in him. It was in a place of fear within the man. “He’s telling the truth,” said Harry. “I don’t know how it’s possible, but he’s telling the truth.”

“I won’t believe it!” said Fred. “I’ve seen his parents. He’s the spitting image of his mother and he looks nothing like Voldemort did.”

“When did you ever see Voldemort?” asked Ron incredulously.

“Didn’t I?”

“No,” said Ron disgusted. “But I did and you’re right, he looks nothing like Voldemort.”

“It’d be Tom Riddle that he would look like and none of you but Ginny and I have ever seen him,” said Harry. “It’s a moot point, anyway. He speaks Parselmouth, he has a dragon, he’s escaped and we must find him and stop him. It doesn’t much matter who he’s related to. Voldemort is dead.” Harry had a venomous dread about the way this quest that the Sybil had set them on was shaping up. Voldemort was dead, and all that he was should be gone with him. He had fought this war nearly twenty years before. It was supposed to be over!

“Harry,” said Charlie, tapping him on the shoulder. “The dragons! look at the dragons.”

They all looked up as the dragons looked calmly down on them listening and waiting. They were humming quietly. The snake men roped together smirked down to a man. “They watch you becaussse they’re lissstening to you,” said the one.

“They’re amazing,” said Charlie. “We must get them back to Romania to study.”

“We haven’t time to take them, Charlie,” said Ron. “We’ve got to go after Marcus Flint. We’ll have to contact the Ministry and tell them what’s happened.”

“Ron,” said Seamus, “what if the Minister really is in the Riddle’s pocket? They didn’t believe Moss and me when we
reported seeing them ride the dragons. What if we can’t trust the Minister?”

Ron and Harry looked at each other. Harry didn’t dare enter Ron’s mind. “What’d you think, Harry,” asked Ron. He smiled a half smile, knowing he’d proved to both of them that he was above jealousy, after all.

“I don’t know, Ron, Seamus is right,” said Harry. “We don’t know if we can trust the Ministry. Why don’t we send Dilbert Moss here to report to them so that these men can be admitted to St. Mungo’s and hopefully get them back to normal humans once more? Charlie can get word to his people in Romania to get the dragons out of here before the Minister can say yea or nae to the move. You and I with Fred and George can go after Flint.”

“But Harry,” said Ron, “Where will we look?”

Harry turned to the snake man. “What’s your name?” he asked.

The man eyed him with pride and rose to his full height despite the bounds that held him. “Jon Swift,” he said with the effort of not sounding like a snake.

“Mr. Swift? Where would you look for this son of Voldemort, if you were looking to stop him?”

The man laughed. “I’d look to the heart of it,” he answered slyly. “When an animal runssss. They go home where they feel mossssst sssssafe.”

“London,” said Ron. “It’ll be the Riddle’s building, for sure.”

“Aye,” said Harry laughing at Ron’s determination. They all stood around congratulating themselves. It’d been many years, at least for George and Fred, since they’d done anything so exciting as dueling. They’d be a bit sore come morning.

“You man!” hissed the dragon that had saved Harry’s life. Harry walked over and stood below the waiting dragons. The pretty one that had befriended him let it’s head stretch over the ledge.

“Can you help me?” hissed Harry. After all, he’d talked his friends into raiding the Remarkable’s stronghold just to ask them. “I must know if you can see the future.”

“Thissss issss not ssssso!” hissed the dragon in what seemed like shock. “You seek what Flint seekssss!”

He could feel the dragon’s disappointment. “No! I only seek to protect my daughter. I have to know if you can see the future.”

A larger dragon with white scales and a roughness about the face spoke harshly. “We have no USE FOR SUCH as you SEEK!” he growled bitterly. “Humans are stupid creatures.”

“What of this daughter?” asked the pretty dragon. “Why would this matter to her?”

“If Flint seeks the future in creatures and doesn’t find what he wants than he may be interested in her. She does see the future.”

The dragon made a low humming sound deep within her throat. “We are old creatures,” she said solemnly. “Many of ussss died for what Flint sssseeksss. He gives us a fire that kills most of ussss. We are those few that have lived. We ssseee all memories. You humansss are sssmall.”

Harry understood. He’d talked with the centaurs often enough to understand what the dragon was saying. Marcus Flint would not have found the future in these creatures even if they could have seen it. They were too much of themselves and saw the world too differently. He turned grimly to his friends.

“We must find Marcus Flint,” he said. “Before he realizes that what he seeks cannot be found in the creatures that he changes.”

The dragons raised their heads and sang out a song that filled the cavern with a deep and melodious hum that rumbled from deep within them. Charlie Weasel clapped his hands in delight. Ron walked over and put his arm around Harry’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, mate,” he said quietly. “They’ll not get our Lily. We’ll find him. If I have to tear out Draco Malfoy’s heart to get to Marcus Flint, I promise you, I’ll do it.” He looked up at the dragons, a glorious sight, indeed. “It’ll be a pleasure,” he said grinning at the thought.


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Chapter 25: Sliding Doors
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Chapter Twenty-Five
Sliding Doors

“A muggle’s concept of magic is unique and alien to that of an educated wizard and must be understood with the effort of simpatico for the muggle’s point of view. Though a wizard may easily conjure something from nothing with his will and a wand, a muggle has no such advantages and will do what they call magic tricks, instead. Granted, to the wizard this may be mere muggle silliness but to these muggles and to those muggles that perform these ‘tricks’ they are indeed something to look on with wonder.

The muggle’s call these performers of ‘magic tricks’ Magicians. An educated wizard must not look on them and scoff at what they might perceive as presumptuousness, for these muggle Magicians have some genius in their use of props.

Although they do not perform real magic, they do create with the slight of hand or the use of a mirror the illusion of magic. A sliding door may be the only thing needed to change the world from their easily duped points of view.

Many muggles who witness these tricks are befuddled and temporarily mesmerized by these performances. We learned wizards must show respect for our relatives, the muggles, and try to understand that these small labors at performing magic are perhaps the first efforts of those lesser beings whose children may eventually attain the higher status of wizardry.”

Excerpt from the A Wizard’s Guide to Understanding the Muggle Mind (1925). Wood, T. Pg. 356.

Malfoy’s Muse

Draco Malfoy had left the Pig’s Ear in more of a funk than when he’d entered it. The Potters and Weasleys were becoming more of a nuisance in his life than he was willing to tolerate. Ginny Weasley or Potter, or whatever her frigging name was now had sent his life into turmoil and doubt. Even Harry Potter was beginning to act civilly, as well. It was all so bloody confusing. His life couldn’t get much worse.

He walked the few blocks toward the exit of Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron and then spontaneously made a turn toward the Stars of Divination shop around the corner. He wasn’t ready to face the lab and what awaited him there. He’d go and see what Luna had to say for herself first.

He waited in her reception room glaring at the pretty girl he usually had kind words for but couldn’t be bothered to be charming for in his present mood. Luna appeared at the door, shrugged her lovely shoulder and tossed her blonde hair from her eyes. “Oh!” she said dithering. “It’s you, of course.” She turned gracefully and waved him inside. “I forgot that you’d be coming.”

“What are you on about, woman?” growled Malfoy. He had to be mad at someone. It might as well be Luna Lovegood for sticking the whole Weasley clan on him in the first place.

“Didn’t you see, Ginny?” asked Luna, her eyes wide with wonder. “Didn’t you give her the interview?”

“I did and I didn’t!” he said indignant. “What do you mean sending that woman to see me? Are you out of your mind?”

He plopped himself in a chair and pouted. “It was a ridiculous idea. I could have strangled her!”

Luna looked at him startled. She was not, as some made the mistake of thinking, a woman who missed much. “You didn’t, did you?”

He glared at her. “Don’t be silly, of course not!”

Luna sat at her desk watching him as her kneazel jumped to her lap for a scratch and a purr. “What happened, Draco?” she asked sweetly. “Did she ask you things that put you in this mood? Did she make you feel guilty, perhaps?”

He sneered at her. “Don’t play me as a fool, Luna. You and I have played footsies for far too long. You sent her to me on purpose.”

Luna sighed and dropped the kneazel to the floor as she rose to walk over to Draco. “I did, Draco,” she said. “I sent her to disturb you and I think it worked, didn’t it?”

He said nothing but squinted up at her in anger.

“You’ve come to me these last few years because I was useful to your goal, Draco,” she said coolly. “I didn’t mind it much. You were useful for me, as well.” She looked at him wide eyed. “But what Ginny told me shocked me.”

Draco Malfoy frowned.

“Draco, you and your friends have been up to no good.”

“I didn’t come here to get lectured to,” Malfoy snarled. “What I do is none of anyone’s business but my own.” It was true. What he did at Riddle’s Remarkables was his own affair.

“Don’t be a simpleton, Draco,” said Luna. She reached out and ruffled his hair. He grabbed her hand hard with a stony look on his face that would have sent most women screaming. Not Luna. “Don’t you want to be on the winning side for once in your life, Draco Malfoy?” She asked him coolly.

He released her hand reluctantly. He let out a low grumble.

“I know that you’re frustrated, Draco,” said Luna calmly walking back to her desk. “I know that you’ve had visions of greatness and ruling the wizarding world and all that funky weirdness that you’ve yearned for all your life.” She picked up her kneazel and stroked it musing on Malfoy. “But Draco, all you’ve become is another cog in the wheel that drives Harry Potter’s greatness. Yet again, he is RIGHT and you are WRONG. You’ve only become what you most hate. All of you Slytherins, you’re the BAD GUYS.” She smiled at him showing her teeth. “What a waste! You are all so very talented, well most of you anyway. Your friends Crabbe and Goyle are dunderheads, but you Draco, you have always been very good at potions and you have such strong magic within you. It’s such a waste of your genius.”

Malfoy held back from jumping over the desk and throttling the stupid woman. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said coldly.

“But I do,” said Luna calmly. “It’s why you’re here, as well. Draco, I’ve been watching people and looking for the different in all things for my whole life. It’s why I’m successful. I can read people whether they want to be read or not. My father and I traveled all over the world when I was young searching for creatures that no one believed existed and we sometimes found them. I met many, many strange and shall we say less than reputable wizards. Dark magic, cruelty, and weird beings, these are all sights and knowledge I’m familiar with. You must know this, since you’ve hung about this office and looked into my business all these years.” She narrowed her large eyes on him. “You’ve got a secret horror, Draco Malfoy, that’s eating away at your will to succeed. Something you’re doing is so wrong that even your Slytherin ambition cannot make it right for you any longer.”

Draco jumped from his seat and slammed his fists onto her desk. If it hadn’t been between them, he’d have pummeled her on the spot. “SHUT UP! YOU BLOODY WOMAN!!!!!” he roared.

Luna’s eyes widened and she looked frightened. Malfoy could be very frightening when he exploded. She had, perhaps pressed him too much with the truth.

Malfoy growled, he snarled and he pounded the desk again for good measure but he was losing ground within. Luna was right about one thing. He had to give her that. He wanted to be on the winning side for once in his frigging life. Just once.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” said Luna whispering. “I’ve only said it because I care what happens to you. I’m rather fond of you.” She looked vaguely at him as if nothing in the world could faze her, a half smile on her lips.

He relented with an eyebrow raised and his signature Malfoy smirk. Who was he fooling? She was right, wasn’t she? He rounded the desk and took her in his arms. Hugging her gently, he kissed her on the forehead, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, Luna,” he whispered. Releasing her, he looked out the window behind her desk. “I just don’t know how it got this way,” he said grimly. “It was all going so well and we were making such progress and now it’s all gone to bloody hell.”

“Maybe you’ve just lost sight of the larger picture, Draco,” said Luna reaching up to touch his smooth face. He was an exceedingly handsome man. “Maybe in your push to succeed, you’ve lost something important.”

Draco looked into those mysteriously wide eyes. She had always surprised him. “I’ve got to go,” he said.

“Stop them, Draco,” said Luna putting her hand in his.

He looked down at their hands entwined; a feeling of utter hopelessness consumed him. “I’m the them, Luna. I’m the one that’s at the center of this.” He dropped her hand and turned to go.

“Then stop your self, Draco Malfoy before it’s too late and you silly Slytherins make Harry Potter the hero once again,” she called to him as he strode for the door.

He lifted his chin in stubborn defiance at the thought of his nemesis in glory once again. Damn that Harry Potter.

The Gryffindor Scouts

Gryffindor House had not sat back on its laurels of victory at Quidditch doing nothing but primp and ponder other more glorious Quidditch wins. Nor had they sunk into their common room in shame either, having survived the great apology blasphemy brought on by Prof. Potter’s mistaken notions of peace between the houses. Gryffindor had walked away from the celebration that fateful day of the Slytherin/Gryffindor match and started a campaign to new greatness.

Angus, again, was the instigator. He wanted in every way to help his hero, the great Harry Potter to see a resolution to the call of the Sybil’s prophecy. As they had stood at the Quidditch banquet watching young Malfoy and Flint, he’d hatched a strategy for the House of Gryffindor to save face and help his hero at the same time.

When they’d returned to the common room that night, he’d begun to enlist the others. Sirius and James were easy to get on board for they’d already the beginnings of the same plan, but over the next few days, Angus had recruited two others to their number as necessary back-up. Tom Riley and Steven Mann joined them. Angus decided that was enough for what was wanted.

The plan and goal that had emerged from the mind of Angus and his band of brothers was to get into Riddle’s Remarkable’s and find out what they were up to. Surely, when they reported back to Harry Potter their findings he would leave off this insane peace between the houses blunder and return to lead them to victory over the Slytherins.

The small band of wannabe Marauders made ready and prepared. They’d practiced their Patronus charm continually since the day that Prof. Potter had misguidedly turned on them. They’d used the Marauder’s Map to snatch the Bogart from right under Prof. Potter’s nose and had lifted it to a vacant classroom that had showed up on the map as never used.

It was a large room in the south wing of the castle that seemed to have once been a room for studying bones. There were dusty skeletons of great beasts strung around the room and in the corners. The Gryffindors merely shoved it all aside and used the center for their practice. They practiced hexes and stunning spells. They borrowed books from the teacher’s library with the use of Angus’ invisibility cloak. They prepared and planned.

What they were after was surely beyond their reach and they had no business thinking they were up to the task but they were hell-bent to reach the Riddle’s Remarkables building and find out what went on inside it. It became a weird wizard’s holy grail for them. It was their nature to be so focused. There was a certain undeniable tenaciousness about the Gryffindor psyche once it was firmly set upon a righteous quest. Sirius and James knew that their uncles had unsuccessfully tried to enter the evil Slytherin lair by diplomatic means and had failed miserably.

The young Gryffindors felt that they were made of more adventurous and talented stuff than their elders seemed capable of. Grown-ups were too afraid for their skins to see the larger picture.

They saw their chance to act on the afternoon that both Ginny and Harry Potter were gone from Hogwarts at the same time. This was the fateful day that Harry had flown to Ginny after he’d been called to Wizarding Wheezes. But the boys were ignorant of the events that would cascade in motion without them. These Gryffindor scouts, as they so thought of themselves, had only their simple mission in mind. Invade the Remarkables and find out what they could for their team.

“Okay, so we’re set,” said Angus as they’d readied for action. “I’ve sent an owl to mum saying we’d be coming to visit for the week-end. She’s sent the tickets.” They were in their bone room hideaway gathering their wits and gear.

“We’ve told Julian that we’ve got head colds and aren’t to practice on orders from the nurse. He’s also given us directions to the Riddle’s building without knowing he’d done it. It’ll be easy. It’s only a couple blocks from the Leaky Cauldron,” said James.

“Then we’re ready to roll, my fellow scouts,” said Angus proudly.

“It’s almost too easy to escape this place, if you ask me,” said Sirius slyly. “We should do it more often.”

“We’ll try to cover for you as best we can,” said Steven Mann. “If Prof. Snape notices you missing we’re goners.”

“Snape’ll never even look in our direction over the week-end,” said Tom Riley. “He’s too busy smirking about his win over Gryffindor pride.”

“Our Quidditch victory took him down a notch or two,” snickered Sirius.

“You’ve got to admit, Bro,” said James. “That Snape’s been aces more likeable since Dad’s made us apologize.”

“Don’t remind me,” growled Sirius. “I’d rather have the old Snape stabbing me in the back than the smirking one.”

“Shut it, you too!” said Angus. “Who cares about Snape? This is more important! Keep your mind on it.” Angus grabbed the Marauder’s map from James and spread it on the table. All their gear was gathered in knapsacks and ready, including Angus’ precious invisibility cloak wrapped reverently in tissue and stuck under sandwiches.

“I swear that I’m up to no good,” he said tapping it with his wand. “I love doing that! This is so much more fun than the dueling club.” He watched as the map came into focus and the feet of professors and students wandered about the castle. Sirius and James couldn’t help but share a roll of the eyes at Angus’ expense. They knew he was living his Harry Potter dream.

“Right, then,” said Angus. “Snape’s in the dungeons being Snape and McGonagall’s in the north wing. We’ve a clear walk to the statue and we’ll take the secret passage to Hogsmeade, catch the train from there with the tickets mum’s given us. No one’ll be the wiser and we’ll be in sitting in mum’s parlor by nightfall.”

“Your mum’s not going to suspect anything is she?”

“Nah!” said Angus. “Dad’s been in the Middle East for three months and all she does is worry and fret that he’ll get himself shot up by stupid muggles. She watches him constantly in the glass. She’ll not notice us much. Tomorrow we’ll head out in the morning for the Riddle building and just tell her that we’re going shopping. She’ll never notice us gone. Saturday’s the busiest day in her shop.”

All five of the scouts grasped hands in union and fellowship. The three adventurers and their escort were walking quietly down the corridor with Tom Riley in front to offset any stray obstacle and Steven Mann in the back as a follow-up. The would be marauders Angus, Sirius, and James were on their way to London in less than ten minutes time. Leaving Hogwart’s had been a snap. Getting into the Riddle’s building was bound to be as easy.

Mengele, Malfoy, Bogeyman, Thief

Draco Malfoy strode down the stairs from Luna’s offices and knocked down one of three idiot teen-aged boys that had emerged from the Stars of Divination shop on the ground floor.

“Watch where you’re going,” he barked at them as he strode by angrily.

Angus had been first out of the shop and was knocked to the ground by the blonde man. Sirius and James stood gawking after him as they held out hands to help Angus up off the ground. His mother, Lavender Brown McManus had seen what had happened and barreled out the front door of the shop.

“Are you alright, Gus?” she cried.

“Yeah, mum,” he said embarrassed, “don’t make a fuss!”

“Well, I’ll give that Draco Malfoy a piece of my mind when I see him, let me tell you! Knocking my son over with not so much as a sorry to you. The very idea!”

“He probably has a lot on his mind, m’am,” said Sirius smirking. He was thinking that Malfoy was probably busy thinking thoughts dastardly and hadn’t a moment to spare for stubby teenagers in his way.

“Sorry, Mrs. McManus,” said James, wanting to follow Malfoy. “We’ve got some people to meet, we better run for it.”

Lavender smiled. “You’ve some girls to meet, I’d imagine. How very sweet!”

“Geeze, mum!” Angus groaned.

“That’s right, Mrs. McManus,” said Sirius quickly, knowing they’d make it away to follow Draco Malfoy if they got rid of her quickly. “We don’t want to be late, you know, girls are funny that way,” as he dragged Angus away from her. They ran for the Leaky Cauldron just in time to see Draco Malfoy pass through the opening.

He was a block ahead of them by the time they’d made it through the opening and out of the Cauldron.“I don’t know why we’re rushing after him,” said Sirius. “It’s obvious where he’s going.” They could see the Riddle’s Remarkables building plainly two blocks ahead with Draco Malfoy striding straight for it. Julian had told them it was a tall silver building that stuck out like a sore thumb plain as day. Draco Malfoy walked amongst the muggles as if they weren’t all around him. He practically flattened a little old lady who’d had the audacity to come round a corner with her walker. She stumbled backwards but he kept on walking. A passerby stepped over to help her up. No one had seen Draco Malfoy, they’d only seen the old lady suddenly careen backwards and lose her footing. Draco never walked through muggle London without a charm to hide himself from their eyes.

The muggles did see the three teen-aged boys dressed as minstrels with cloaks and knapsacks as they struggled along, however. Even the little old lady was taken aback at their strange get-up as they waded their way through the crowds fighting to get a glimpse of Draco as he strode through the front doors of the building. A few of the muggles watched the strange threesome meander up to the chain link fence that kept intruders from a great hole in the ground and worksite. But then they forgot they existed as soon as the boys shoved through the doors of the Riddle’s building. Such was the magic of Riddle’s Remarkables creative genius.

Once inside, the three marauders lost their nerve, a bit. The receptionist coughed and asked them what they were gawking at.

“We’ve just seen Mr. Malfoy come in,” said Sirius thinking on his feet. “And our friend, Lucius Malfoy told us we should come and see his dad if we were in town.”

“I expect he’ll be in the labs,” said the girl. “But you can’t go down there without a key. His office will be listed over there. Take the lift to your right.”

The boys moved off to the elevator and looked for Malfoy’s name. “Hey,” said Angus, “Here’s Marcus Flint’s name. He’s on the top floor. Maybe he’ll have a key to the labs up there. What’d you think?”

“Yeah, like we’ll just walk into his office and ask,” said Sirius sarcastically.

James walked back over to the receptionist. “Our friend Tom Flint’s dad works here too, I think,” he said to the girl.

Her eyes widened. “Duh!!!” she said sardonically. “Of course he does, silly goose! He owns the whole shebang.”

“Is he in? Maybe we could say ‘hello’ to him while Mr. Malfoy is in the labs.”

“He’s in Cornwall this week, sorry kid. You’ll just have to wait for Mr. Malfoy in his office. No one’s upstairs.”

“Where are the labs, exactly?”

“You can’t go down there,” she said starting to get suspicious.

“Sure, of course not.” James walked back to Angus and Sirius at the elevators. “Flint’s out of town. Let’s go up there and see if there’s a key or a back elevator to the labs.”

They were giddy with excitement and oblivious to any danger as they rode up the lift.

Draco was downstairs in the labs. There had been a time when he’d enjoyed his work in its labyrinth. They’d made great strides and some of his accomplishments with potion making rivaled any that had ever been accomplished in the history of magic. He’d been quite proud and would have loved to share his experiments and research with the world but his work had been too controversial and Marcus Flint had decided that they should keep their discoveries largely secret. The Ministry of Magic had always been leery of experiments involving creatures and they would’ve all been thrown into Azkaban for some of the things they’d been experimenting with. Now that he’d developed a bloody conscience about the whole mess, it was just as well that no one knew about his magic work.

The Dementors hadn’t been his idea in the first place. They’d always been in Flint’s domains. He’d started that project under Voldemort’s rule and had carried it through to today. Malfoy had never had the stomach for what their upkeep entailed. He only entered their special area on this day because Flint was out of town and had specifically asked him to look in on Crabbe and Goyle. His old buddies from Hogwarts had been more useful over the years there than actual friends. Now that they had spent so many years caring for the Dementors, he hardly recognized them as people.

“Wotcher, Goyle,” he said as he entered the control room to see Goyle trimming his fingernails.

“Oy there, Malfoy!” said Goyle with a sneer. He hadn’t cracked a smile in years. “It’s been a longtime. Where’ve you been hiding?”

“Where’s Crabbe?” asked Malfoy ignoring his question.

“He’s in the chamber readying the next victims,” he answered licking his lips. “You’re just in time to watch.”

“Oh, joy,” said Malfoy sardonically. He was dying inside. A slow grip of nausea was whipping his stomach into action. It was just what he didn’t need to see at the very lowest moment of his life.

The control room was a modern room done in the muggle style with electricals that had been modified with magic and buttons and knobs on a great large panel. There was a great large window that overlooked what at first glance looked like an ice rink, a great oval slab of ice in a great cavernous room. It was so large that you hardly noticed the Dementors as they hung in a circle floating about the room. Even with the magic and the glass protecting them, Malfoy felt the bone chill of their presence. The interior of the rink was dimly lit with perpetual fire lamps that had been his invention. He’d discovered a fuel from the seed of a south African berry that when crushed into oil and combined with other ingredients didn’t freeze and would stay lit around a Dementor. The fire had been very useful in keeping the Dementor’s contained, as well. The frightening things didn’t seem comfortable crossing the light.

As he watched, he saw Crabbe across the rink in a chamber with a smaller window. He had his wand out and was unwrapping three muggles from their bounds who stood looking about in fear. Crabbe and Goyle had taken special delight in choosing their victims from the streets of London. They’d perfected it to a science of ingenuity and tended to pick the younger crowd who were homeless or street bound and could easily be picked out and forgotten by any that might be attached to them. They were only muggles, after all, and the lowest of the low even in the muggles hierarchy. These poor victims were just expendable garbage to such reprobates as Crabbe and Goyle.

Draco had never had a love of muggles or even mudbloods for that matter. He’d spent a lifetime avoiding any contact with the scum but even he saw the monstrosity in using muggle street persons to feed the Dementors. It was abysmal, at best.

Goyle leaned over a tube and shouted to Crabbe. “Go ahead, Crabbe! Malfoy’s here, so hurry it up.”

Crabbe waved from the far booth and pushed the muggles down a chute. Draco grimaced as he witnessed them slide down and across the ice. They attempted to stand but slipped and fell and held onto each other. He’d always failed his father in this one thing. He’d never developed the taste for cruelty. In this he was truly a failure. Draco watched and felt his disappointment with each flailing arm and leg of the struggling losers below.

“Look at the fat one. He keeps pulling the others down!” Goyle’s attempt at jocularity only made it all the more nightmarish as the Dementor’s began to swirl into frenzy. They swooped in on their victims tasting and dipping and diving. The poor muggles screamed in terror but that only made them worse. Goyle leaned into the mike again. “You better release the pixies, as well, Crabbe. Those three are not nearly enough to keep them quite,” he said calmly.

Draco died inside once again. The pixies had been his creation. He’d been the one that had developed a stronger potion from earlier experiments during Voldemort’s time that had given them the capacity for happy memories and made them think and feel. They’d become a new source of food for the Dementors whose taste for happiness had become insatiable. The pixies had been so successful that it had cut down on the need to capture muggles to feed them as often. The pixies tended to breed quickly and had seemed to make the Dementors grow larger and stronger with regular feedings.

Crabbe released a large group of them from another chute and Malfoy finally had to turn away as the Dementors raced about the arena capturing their fill. There was a cacophony as the souls of creatures and muggles were sucked dry. Goyle had kept the sound on and seemed to get a thrill from hearing the screaming.

Draco barely made it from the control room before heaving his breakfast out onto the floor. He crashed into a chair next to the door and took out his wand. He scourgified the evidence of his shame and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Life just couldn’t get much worse than this.

The boys entered the bright chamber of Marcus Flint quietly, just in case anyone was about. Luckily, there was no security system in place. No one in their right mind would invade a Slytherin’s lair.

“Wow,” whispered Sirius impressed. “This place is brilliant! Look at it! It’s a flaming palace!

“Shhh!” said Angus suddenly afraid. “Somebody might hear you”

“Who is going to hear us, Gus?” sneered Sirius. “There’s nobody here, mate.”

“Don’t call me Gus, Sirius.”

“Your mum did. Why in the heck not?” asked Sirius while laughing at his friend’s embarrassment.

“I hate it, now shut it.”

James had ignored them at the entry bickering like children and had ventured in to look around. He’d found the room that Marcus Flint had magically altered to house the Dark Lord’s Crystal. “Wow!!!!!” said James when he entered the chamber. “Come over here, ladies and take a look!”

Sirius and Angus closed into the small room behind him. It was a starry night sky all around them and a single polished crystal sitting on a pedestal in the middle as if it were the source of the whole universe. The three teenagers stood in awe for several minutes.

“It’s bloody amazing!” said Sirius. “It looks like a giant diamond!”

“I think I see things moving inside it!” said Angus reaching out to touch it.

“Don’t touch it!” whispered James. “What if it’s got a protective hex on it or something?”

Angus held back his hand. He had the overwhelming urge to touch it though. It was as if the thing was calling his name or something. He couldn’t tear his eyes from it. There was what seemed like images or snatches at least floating within the polished misshapen globe. Sirius and James wandered about the chamber goggling at the night sky.

“I don’t like the look of this place,” said James afraid. “It’s got some magic weirdness in it.”

“It’s like it’s a shrine or something,” said Sirius. “It’s creepy.”

Angus stood starring at the crystal. He definitely needed to touch it. He reached out. What could it possibly hurt to touch it?

“What was that?” said Sirius jumping.

“What?” said James.

“I heard a noise…. a weird whisper sound,” said Sirius. The twins stood together looking around them very afraid.

Angus was still reaching out to touch the crystal when both Sirius and James yelped in fright. A great large white snake had entered the room and was poised in a striking position on Angus. Those were real fangs.

“Don’t move a muscle, Angus,” said Sirius. “Ssssssth. There’s a snake about to kill you.”

“Heh?” said Angus tearing his eyes slowly from the crystal and turning his head to look into the eyes of the snake.

The snake was swaying back and forth. James reached into his pocket for his wand, drawing it out very slowly so as not to alert the snake to his movement. He pointed it at the snake one second too late. It saw the movement and dropped to the ground just as he began to yell “EVA…!” The snake was already slithering from the room.

Sirius and James both ran after it.

“Come on, Angus!” said Sirius as they ran by. Angus looked back longingly at the crystal then gave into temptation. He snatched it up in both hands, dropped it into his knapsack taking out the invisibility cloak to have room for it.

“Come on, Angus!!!! There’s an alarm!!!!” yelled James from the entry. The twins watched in terror as a red light blinked and the elevator that was their only known escape showed that it was fast descending away from them.

Angus ran up and they all stood watching the dial sink to a place labeled DL. It could only be the dungeon labs.

Their goose was cooked.

Draco waited to get his composure back before he felt able to go back into the control room. It was beyond belief what he was made to endure. He couldn’t take much more of this self-doubt and disappointment. Gathering his strength again, he was just about to go back in to face the horror within when Goyle threw open the door.

“Somebody’s on Flint’s floor!!! The snake’s just hit the alarm!” yelled Goyle. “The boss is going to murder us!!!”

Draco shook his head in disbelief. “Don’t be a dolt, Goyle!” he snapped. “The blinking snake probably tripped it by accident. It’s happened before. Only a nutter would steal from Marcus Flint and we don’t let them in the front door.” He sneered at Goyle’s stupidity. “I’ll go up and take a look. You finish up here, will you?”

“Sure, Draco,” smirked Goyle relieved he wouldn’t have to do anything. “It’ll be a pleasure to finish up, don’t you worry ‘bout it.”

Draco waited in relief for the lift. Anything was better than going back in that frightening control room again.

“What do we do?” asked James. He was scared witless. The lift was fast rising toward them. The snake had returned and was watching them from a fair distance. All three boys had their wands raised and ready in case it came near them. They were so scared that they’d completely forgotten they were underage wizards that could get expelled for using magic. It didn’t matter. If they were caught they’d have to leave Hogwarts anyway, expelled and forever banned. They were trapped.

“Quick,” said Angus, finally coming around to their danger. “Let’s all get under the invisibility cloak and when they come out of the lift, we’ll go in and take it down before they see us.”

It was their only plan and only chance. Angus threw the cloak over their heads and thanked every power in the universe that his parents had thought to get him an extra large one that covered them completely. They waited next to the elevator for whoever was fast approaching them.

After what seems hours but was only seconds, Draco Malfoy stepped jauntily from the lift. He had not expected anyone to actually be in the room. He was feeling relieved to be as far away from the bloody Dementors as he could possibly get. He walked inside and stood staring at the snake that was in attack position and swaying furiously on the far side of the room.

“What the heck has got you into such a snit?” he said to the snake as he walked straight for Flint’s wet bar. He needed a strong one after his ridiculously stressful morning. The snake was swaying and hissing like a teapot. Draco raised an eyebrow in distain and raised his glass to it. He drained his drink with a sigh of relief.

He never even noticed the elevator doors close or its fast descent.

When the boys reached the ground floor they were still huddled under the cloak in terror and stayed that way past the receptionist and out the door until they made the three blocks to the Leaky Cauldron and were safe inside. They all sat down in a corner booth and breathed for the first time in what seemed days.

“I think I wet myself,” said James weakly. His comment inspired them all to laugh uproariously in relief.

The barkeep walked over and they all ordered butterbeer. The adrenaline in their blood was still pumping furiously in their trembling teenage hearts. “I can’t believe we actually were there,” said Sirius.

“We didn’t see anything,” said James. “It’s not as if we’ve done anything good.”

“I was so bloody scared,” said Sirius. “I don’t think I’ve been that scared in my whole life!”

“Shame that we didn’t get to see the labs, though,” said James.

Angus sat quiet sipping his butterbeer, which was entirely not like him, especially after an adventure campaign. He was usually the gabby one.

“What’s up with you, Angus?” asked James.

“Yeah, why are you so quiet?” asked Sirius. The twins both eyed him suspiciously.

Angus frowned and looked guiltily at them both. “I pinched it. Took it with us. It’s in my knapsack.”

“What?” the twins said as one.

“I took the crystal,” he said defiantly in case they got mad. “I had to have it!”

Sirius and James didn’t know what to say. They just gawked at him.

Draco had a second drink and felt much better. The silly snake was still dancing around like it had gone insane. He took out his wand and threatened to make it disappear if it didn’t stop acting nuts. The snake was Marcus Flint’s special pet and he wouldn’t have hurt it but the snake didn’t know that. It stopped dancing and slithered across the floor toward the chamber where Flint kept his crystal. Draco hated that crystal. Flint had tried to convince him that it was all that remained of the so-called valiant wizards that had died with Voldemort. The thought of his beloved father crystallized as a decoration for all to see was abhorrent to him. He refused to believe it possible. It was just a damned rock.

The snake lifted its head as if wanting him to notice it. Draco did and followed. When he got inside the chamber his heart sank with dread. The crystal was gone. The frigging bloody crystal that Marcus Flint worshipped was not on its pedestal. The magical sky circled slowly. Draco stood as still as stone feeling for all the world as if he were falling through a dark hole in the universe.

The snake was swaying to and fro in its dance again. He could swear it was laughing at him. The snake hissed and swayed as Draco Malfoy starred at the empty pedestal in disbelief. He had had the very worst day of his entire life. When Marcus Flint got wind of this, it could very well be his last day on earth. He was a dead man.

Just in case you all didn't notice, that was a fun chap to write. I stretched a little writing muscle getting two chaps to entwine. What'd you think? Cheers, Pru :)

Chapter 26: Your Goose is Cooked
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Chapter Twenty-six

Your Goose is Cooked

Marcus Flint dangled semi-conscious from the saddle for only a few minutes. When he got his sensibilities back he was hanging upside down and the dragon was flying over the open ocean. He grabbed his leg strap and swore loudly as he heaved himself upright. It was a good thing he kept in shape or he’d have had a hell of a time getting back up on the dragon otherwise. As it was, he was bleeding profusely from a shoulder wound. He must have sliced it on one of the dragon’s scales when the infuriating Harry Potter disarmed him with that spell. Marcus ripped off his shirt, cursed the cold wintry wind and made a tourniquet for his wound. He then soothed the dragon that was flying out to sea in fright with his words and smoothly rounded it back to the shore. It would be useless to return to the stronghold without his wand, so he headed it north toward London. If he could stand the cold wind and not fall off, he’d make it London sometime in the morning. He hunkered down close to the dragon and held on to the reigns steering the beast towards home.

By the time he’d made it to the Thames he’d gotten control of his anger at Harry Potter. The man was a menace. He finally realized why Draco Malfoy hated the berk so much. Not only had the man been presumptuous enough to invade his stronghold but he’d surely never been on a bloody dragon before and he’d ridden the thing like a ruddy broomstick!

As Marcus landed the tired dragon on the roof, he’d decided on what he would do. He was weak from the cold, but he ignored that incidental distraction as he jumped off the beast and strode to the door and downstairs. The poor dragon collapsed exhausted and forgotten.

Marcus entered his penthouse office. “Sasha!” he called as he walked to the bedroom suite. “Sasha! Where are you?” He walked into the bathroom and turned the tap on in the bath. He was a scary sight. His hair looked as if it had frozen solid straight up on his head. The wound on his shoulder looked ghastly, his blood had soaked the tourniquet. He rustled around in the top drawer of his dresser for a spare wand, took the ripped shirt gingerly from his shoulder and went to work on scourgifying and sewing up the wound with magic. It throbbed with pain but that felt good. Pain made him feel alive.

He stepped into the bath with its exquisite pleasure of warmth and soaked and washed away the scum of battle and defeat. He cursed Gryffindor House and damned Harry Potter. He couldn’t wash thoughts of them away. He’d have to close up shop in London and escape. The irritating Ministry would have to do something when that infuriating Potter and his gang of hoodlums announced for all the world to hear that they’d had dragons housed on precious British soil. No amount of Gringotts gold would shut the Minister up after that. This was going to set his plans back considerably.

Marcus dressed and went out of the bedroom suite to the main office intending to search for Malfoy and get the ball rolling on moving operations. Certainly he could send a fast owl to Malfoy’s home and get him here quickly.

He stopped dead at his wet bar. His snake Sasha was halfway out of a bag, out cold, her long white snake body still as stone. He ripped off the bag, took out his wand. “Envenerate!!” he said casting a spell at the snake. Sasha instantly came alive and curled in on her self.

“Ssssssthh, sssthhsssshh, sssssss” she hissed for several seconds not making any sense at all.

“Sasha!!!” hissed Marcus in Parselmouth. “What happened to you?" He was very put out at her incoherence.

“Sssit’s gone, massster!!!” she finally got out.

“What’s gone?”

Sasha seemed to find her wherewithal again and rose up and swayed in agitation. “They took it!!! Beggar boys took master’s crystal!” she announced hissing madly.

Marcus Flint’s heart skipped a beat as he froze mid breath. It only took a moment for something very crucial in the wizard Flint’s brain to snap. “AARRGGGHHHH!!!!!!” he roared from his Slytherin head to his Slytherin toe. He raced the few steps to the room that housed his precious crystal and stood screaming in rage at the empty pedestal for several minutes. Not many men could stand the anger that soared through his veins without blowing a blood vessel or suffering a heart attack but Marcus Flint was not like most men. He kept in shape.

Still, it took a good five or ten minutes before Flint stopped breathing like he’d run a marathon. He’d started to feel the unmistakable tingling in his fingers of hyperventilation before he got control of his hysteria. Someone had taken the Dark Lord’s Crystal! It was the precious orb that had been his center of power for so many years. His lord’s purpose and command was gone. Stolen by some thief-unknown from his very home and the center of his universe.

Sasha slithered up beside him in the chamber.

“Who did this?” he hissed.

“Beggar boys cloaked with magic!” she hissed. “Three beggar boys disappeared with it!”

Marcus turned and headed for the lift. Someone would pay for this.

Malfoy was out cold. He had spent the afternoon before getting plastered with the snake. He’d drunk everything in Flint’s bar and at some point he’d tired of the snake’s company and had hexed it. As Flint sent an owl in search of him, he was splayed out on his massive desk in his office downstairs, his face being embossed by his quill pad. He’d wiped everything else out of his way in a mad rush to be horizontal.

Flint finally tracked him down and barreled into his office. He stood marveling at Malfoy’s disheveled body lying out like some bizarre human sacrifice on the desk. Despite his anger, the thought of Draco Malfoy in such a state made him want to laugh. “Malfoy!!!” he yelled. “Wake up!! Malfoy!!!” he punched him in the ribs, and then punched him again. Malfoy didn’t budge. Halfway to noon and Draco Malfoy was passed out on his desk, drunk as a skunk, smelling of liquor.

Flint walked over to the ridiculous perpetual shrine to Lucius Malfoy and grabbed a lit candle. He slowly dripped the burning wax onto Malfoy, who started to come around. Malfoy felt himself screaming in pain from very far away, his hands flailing. He sat up and tried to focus on Marcus Flint standing before him. His head pounded but at least the room had stopped spinning.

“You’re squiffed!”

“Totally,” said Draco, his mouth felt like it’d grown hair.

“What happened to the Dark Lord’s crystal?” said Marcus in a deadly cold voice.

The intimidation was lost on poor Draco who’d given up on his miserable life the evening before. He knew that Marcus Flint was capable of murder. He’d seen him do it countless times for less. He was a dead man.

“I have no idea,” said Draco thickly. “I was downstairs in the lab with Crabbe and Goyle and the alarm went off.” He jumped off the desk and stood watching the room spin again. He managed to get his balance before he went over to a nearby sink to stick his whole head under the tap. “I went upstairs to check on your office and your snake was going crazy hissing like a teapot. That’s when I discovered it was gone.” He shook his head sending rivulets of water onto Marcus who stood watching him impassively.

“Sasha said three beggar boys took it,” he said.

“Well,” said Malfoy with a sneer. “I wouldn’t bloody well know that since I don’t speak Parselmouth, now would I?”

“Don’t sneer at me, you ruddy berk. MY CRYSTAL’S BEEN TAKEN!!!!” yelled Marcus making Draco’s head pound with the sound. “Why were you drinking, man? You’re smell and look disgusting.”

“I had a very bad day.” He felt pitiful.

“Throw yourself together, and quickly,” said Marcus. “We’ve an emergency on our hands. Not only has someone stolen my crystal but your friend Harry Potter and his friends have raided our station in Cornwall. They’ve captured the dragons and we’re bound to be raided here at any old minute.”


“You heard me!!!” said Marcus stomping for the elevator. “We’re about to get our behinds kicked into AZKABAN if you don’t pull yourself together and help me take down the lab! This is an emergency, you idiot! You know the drill! Get rid of anything we can’t take, we’re moving operations. And get your stupid friends Crabbe and Goyle in here to give a hand. I can’t move the Dementors all by myself! Your bloody friend Harry Potter has made a mess of all our lives!”

Draco Malfoy ran his hand through his wet blonde hair and shook some sense into his brain. He wasn’t going to die just yet, he thought. Small wonders. He jumped into action, whipping out his wand to swipe the office clean. But then he stopped dead to glare at Marcus Flint’s back as he walked into the lift. Harry Potter was NOT his friend!

The boys sat gazing at the crystal in Angus’ childhood bedroom. A large poster of the Chudley Cannons team from last year’s win over France hung on the blue wall. Stacks of magazines and comic books lined the shelves, along with several trophies. Angus’ collection of Harry Potter action figures sat in a special case under the signed framed photograph of the great man himself that Sirius and James had given him in their first year at Hogwarts as a joke. It was no joke to Angus and was his most treasured possession. There were several smaller crystals that hung from the window sparkling in the Sunday morning sun. Lavender McManus felt magic crystals to be a strong source of power in any young wizard’s life. She also believed it prevented the cold and flu.

The crystal was lying on the bed sparkling in the morning sun.

“Now what do we do with it?” asked James. “Should we give it to Dad?”

“Are you nuts?” said Sirius. “We’d be grounded for the rest of our lives.”

“Well, Angus took it,” said James. “It’s not like we did anything.”

“No,” said Sirius disgusted. “We only broke into some Slytherin’s place and stole something probably important or evil!”

“I said I was sorry, already!” said Angus. “I couldn’t resist it. I swear that there’s something inside that was calling me!”

“You know what our parents are always saying about touching dark magic things,” said James. “So what do we do with it, Angus?”

Angus looked at the crystal that he still saw strange snatches of images inside of. “Let’s show it to m’mum,” he said slowly. “We don’t have to tell her where we got it. We could tell her it’s your dad’s and she’d never question it. She was in the D.A. with him in school.” Angus pretended to be casual about this fact but he was very proud of his mother. James and Sirius had only heard about how Lavender Brown had been a friend and fellow fighter of Harry the Hero about a million times.

For want of anything better, they trooped through the flat and entered the kitchen to show Angus’mum the crystal. Lavender and Luna Lovegood were having tea together in the sun drenched breakfast alcove. Luna and Lavender had both been in the D.A. together while in school. Though they had not been the best of friends then, when Luna had had an empty vacancy of the downstairs shop and living quarters, she’d offered it to Lavender because of their school ties and all. She and Luna had become better friends and Luna often visited when Lavender’s husband was away.

“Mum,” said Angus timidly. “We wondered if you could have a look at this.” He set the Dark Lord’s Crystal on the table. “It’s Harry Potter’s,” he lied. “He sort of gave it to us. What’d you think?”

Both Luna and Lavender looked wide-eyed at the lump of polished crystal on the table. “I don’t know, dear,” began Lavender staring at the thing like it might bite her.

“You say that Harry gave it you?” asked Luna setting her great eyes on Sirius and James as she said it. They both gulped, instantly sure that she was suspicious of them. They both nodded silently.

Lavender jumped up and pulled the curtains against the light. The crystal was reflecting the sun and hurting her eyes. They all gasped as the room had darkened to a light gray but the crystal still sparkled and glowed. “It looks alive!” whispered Luna surprised.

“Wow,” said Angus. “It wasn’t doing THAT before.”

Lavender approached the misshapen globe intently. She was a professional, after all. They all watched as she touched it on each side and brought her face very close in to view it. For several minutes she mumbled at it and gasped dramatically a few times. The boys felt the fear of yesterday’s exploit well up in them again. Whatever she was seeing inside the crystal was bound to get them in big, really big trouble.

Finally, Angus’ mother released her hold on the crystal and sat back in her chair thinking. Luna watched her, waiting patiently. The boys couldn’t stand it any longer. “Mum,” said Angus anxiously. “What did you see?”

She looked at Luna instead of Angus. “I think there are wizards trapped inside it, Luna,” said Lavender afraid. “I saw snatches of people, I think. The thing makes me very afraid. I think it’s dark magic of some sort.”

Luna’s eyes got wider, if that were possible and she turned to fix them on the boys. “You say that Harry actually gave it to you?”

They stood looking as guilty as the criminals that they were dithering about what to say. Luna narrowed her gaze suspiciously but Sirius, who was admittedly the slyest of the bunch, found his voice. “He didn’t GIVE it to us,” he said. “He only asked us to show it to Mrs. McManus because he’d found it recently and didn’t know what it was. He thought since she was a seer and so good at Divination and all that maybe she’d know what it was.”

Luna still looked unconvinced but Lavender gushed. “Harry said that?” she squealed. “About me? I always said that Harry was a wonderful, brilliant and sensitive man!!” She smiled with pride. “He and the others were always a little jealous of my abilities at school but he was always a gentleman, even when Hermione and Ron scoffed at me on occasion.” She turned her attention to Sirius and James. “Your father is a very great man and you should be very proud of what he’s done for all of us.” They both nodded speechless. “To think, Luna! Harry Potter asked for my opinion!” She reached for a tissue. She was so emotional that she had tears of joy in her eyes. Luna patted her hand. The would-be Marauders looked horrified. If they got caught out in this lie, they’d be dead, for sure.

“Perhaps I should go up to Hogwarts myself and tell him that I think it’s got some evil magic in it?” said Lavender to Luna.

Sirius jumped forward and grabbed the crystal. “Nah, Mrs. McManus,” he said. “We’ll tell him what you said. I’m sure that he’ll be giving it to our uncle Ron as soon as he hears what you said. You know, he works at the ministry and they’ll know what to do about something with dark magic.”

“Erm,” said James fumbling for escape. “Look at the time. We better get ready if we’re going to make the 11:30 to Hogsmeade, Mrs. McManus.”

Lavender was taken aback. She was still relishing in being the expert in Divination that Harry Potter had asked the opinion of. She felt a void when Sirius took the crystal and handed it to James. “I suppose you’re right,” she said vacantly.

Luna Lovegood, however, was nobody’s fool. She knew liars when she saw them. These young Gryffindors were amateurs. She made a mental note to arrange a trip to Hogwarts to see Ginny. There were certainly a few things going on up at the school and her reporter’s nose knew a story when she smelled it. “I’ll go to the train with you, shall I?” she said to Lavender. “You know, I think perhaps I’ll just make a quick trip up to Hogsmeade to see Ginny.” She noted the looks of sheer panic on the boy’s faces and resolved that she would, indeed accompany them on their journey, and not wait ‘til later, after all. Spontaneity and flexibility was a weapon in the hands of a reporter. She smiled sweetly. “I’ll just pop upstairs to grab a few things.” She rose gracefully. As she passed by them, she patted James on the shoulder. The poor thing looked as if he’d swallowed a toad. He suddenly reminded her of Ron. “Don’t worry, you dear boys. Your mother will appreciate my accompanying you, especially when she hears what Lavender has to say about that crystal. Why I’d be worried sick letting you travel all by yourselves.” She didn’t start giggling until she was well out of earshot.

The boys sadly retreated to the temporary sanctuary of Angus’ bedroom. It was now a holding room for the damned. Three cooked gooses were painfully realizing that the end of life as they knew it was only a train ride away.


A/N I’ve just uploaded the 4th chapter of another story called A Soul’s Fire that all of you who are reading this story might like, as well. I’ve set it within the 5th book with Harry and gang all young again and plan to write it until our fearless leader JKR comes out with the next book. I’m planning a little romance this time, but I assure you that I’m mostly interested in loads of adventure and all the magic fun I can put into it.

I always wondered, as I read J.K. Rowlings 5th book, what all those supposed grown-ups were DOING while poor Harry was struggling with his Voldemort visions of the Department of Mysteries. They were always too busy to pay attention to him, so what were they up to? I’m planning on having all the oldsters, especially Remus Lupin and Sirius Black and I might venture to try and kill off Severus Snape once just to save him again. He’s such a killjoy and all, that I thought it’d be a lark.

You know that I love my magic adventures if you’ve been with me this far. Take a peek and tell me what you think. Thanks to everyone for all your wonderful and inspiring reviews. I promise we’ll finish this book we’re reading together soon. We’ve got perhaps five chapters left to go. I’m anxious to see what happens * wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more* :) Pru Prior

Chapter 27: Sobering Times
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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Sobering Times

Harry was raging about the dragons and the Ministry. Young Dilbert Moss had done his job too quickly and had returned with orders from the Ministry that they were all to sit tight and not leave the premises. The Minister had written on a very official looking parchment that he wanted proof of what Seamus’ young rookie had told him. He was on his way to meet them but he was taking his own sweet time getting there.

Charlie’s people also hadn’t arrived yet. He’d spent several hours receiving owls from his people who were stuck in some paperwork snafu at the border. The Ministry had put a hold on transporting dragon equipment across borders because there were no dragons in England and questioned why the equipment would be needed. Someone in the Ministry, and they all suspected that it was the Minister himself, was obstructing them.

“Well, I have NO DOUBT in my mind any longer that our Minister is in the Riddle’s pocket,” Harry raged. Even the ring seemed to be in support of his anger. It kept quiet throughout his ranting. “This delay is going to only make it less likely that we’ll be able to catch up with Flint! I cannot believe that they would let him get away like this!”

Seamus was in full agreement. “I’ve a mind to deck the prissy potentate!” he yelled. He was all for leaving immediately, even though he’d certainly lose his position as an Auror.

Ron called for calm. He was, after all, technically everyone’s superior. “We’ve got to calm ourselves, here mates,” he said. “There’s nothing for it until they all arrive and see for themselves their proof.” He pointed toward the group of snake men that they still had confined in a holding area. “Those poor unfortunates will be all the proof the Minister could possibly need.” They’d made them more comfortable and had given them food and water, but they were so unnatural looking that no one was willing to allow them freedom. Besides, they’d been followers of Marcus Flint, no matter how unwillingly.

It was three o’clock in the afternoon of the day after they’d raided the Remarkable’s stronghold and still the Minister hadn’t shown up. Everyone was restless to get on with it. Harry was desperate to fly after Flint. He’d stopped raging and yelling but now he’d descended into manic pacing and talking to himself in his frustration. He kept trying to convince himself that the Minister wouldn’t dare have him arrested if he didn’t follow orders. The more rational part of him knew that he couldn’t count on it. He’d faced off with the Ministry before and though he’d gotten off, it had usually been because others had stepped in. Dumbledore, for instance, had helped him numerous times.

The Minister and his entourage finally arrived around four in the afternoon. By that time, the small group of raiders had sat around for the entire day grumbling about what an idiot-bungling bugger the Minister was.

“I’ve a mind to take your papers for what you’ve done, Mr. Weasley,” said the Minister pompously to Ron as soon as he saw him. “You’ve no idea the trouble you’re in, invading private property without following proper channels. The very idea of it!”

The Minister might have been better advised to keep his mouth shut until he knew all the facts or he may not have experienced Harry’s anger. A whole day waiting while frustrated had never been Harry Potter’s strongsuit. He had never been famous for his patience.

Before Ron could get out a word, Harry was in the Minister’s face. “How dare you!” he hissed. The crowd of raiders gathered behind him. Fred and George made whooping noises that were completely inappropriate but apt. The Minister and his group stood facing them. It was a face off between the band of Irritable raiders and the presumptuous administrators. The dragons that were watching from the ledge above thought the humans were very amusing.

“I beg your pardon?” said the Minister pretending to be nonplused by the hero Harry Potter’s less than favorable greeting. “May I remind you Mr. Potter that I am the Minister and you are still technically in the employ of the Ministry?”

Harry stood silently looking at him. His anger suddenly crystallized into action and with everyone witnessing but not realizing what he was doing he intruded into the minister’s mind. The man gasped, and stepped back, but Harry had seen quite enough.

“How dare you, Mr. Potter!” He experienced a moment of vertigo.

Harry sneered at him. It didn’t look good, him using his power on the Minister and later he would feel badly but he didn’t care at that particular moment. “You’re going to go back to your Ministry office and write Ronald Weasley and the others in this party accommodations for a job well done, Minister,” he said evenly. Harry had seen that the Minister had been a very naughty boy.

“What are you saying?” said the Minister, who knew that his mind had been invaded but not how or how much.

“What I’m saying is that I know about you and Riddle’s Remarkables little business deal. What I’m saying is that if you value your position that you’ll not be going against my wishes. Come here,” said Harry walking over to the area where the snake men were.

“I will not…” but the Minister’s words were cut short and he stiltingly walked as commanded. When Harry released hold of his mind the Minister had no choice but to look at the handiwork of his benefactors. Appropriately, he gasped in shock.

“Yes,” said Harry. “This is what your friends have been hiding. It wasn’t just the dragons that they had assured you were perfectly tame and manageable. You have been a party to THIS abomination Minister. So, if you want to save your sorry hide you had better switch sides and be on MY side or you’ll kiss your wife good-bye on your way to Azkaban.”

“But they’ll kill me, Harry…I,” he whispered so no one could hear.

Harry lowered his voice. “If you don’t change sides this moment, Mr. Minister then I’ll kill you myself. And trust me when I say that no one will know that I’ve done it.” He watched the Minister as he ran his eye over the snake men. They were the only ones who could hear them and just for good measure, John Swift stuck out his forked tongue and made a low hissing noise. The Minister shivered with fear.

Harry smiled his thanks to Mr. Swift. “What you have to realize, sir,” he said to the Minister. “Is that you’ve no choice, because right now, I’m leaving with my friends to hunt this Marcus Flint down. You’re going to allow Charlie Weasley to take the dragons back to Romania and stop messing with his people on the border. You’re going to make sure that these men receive help at St. Mungo’s for their predicament and you’re going to help me catch Mr. Flint in any way you can from now on. I would also suggest that you close up that little bank account you have at Gringotts, sir.” The Minister gasped. “Doesn’t look good, you know. Taking money from those who are breaking our laws. Makes you look like you’re in cahoots with some very bad men.” Harry winked at the man.

By six o’clock they were finally on their way. It was just a matter of moments then and Ron, George, Fred and Harry were standing in front of the Leaky Cauldron gazing down the blocks to the Riddle building.

“Don’t suppose you’d fancy a pint before we start off, heh Harry?” offered George. After all, they’d been stuck inside a dragon’s den for the whole day.

Harry gave him a smirk and then walked purposely up the street. There wasn’t a chance in the world that he was going to delay another minute to get into the interior of Riddle’s Remarkables.

They all entered the building through the front entrance. It was night, but there was no charm or lock on the door to keep it closed. The building looked empty. In fact, it looked and felt empty. A feeling of the utmost defeat came over Harry as they strode about the building. At first, they looked about quietly alert and ready to fight, but after they saw the remains of what must have been the labs in the dungeons, they knew that they were too late. There was only what looked like a muggle style ice rink with melting puddles of ice. Ron did discover a few dead corpses of Cornish Pixies, but that wouldn’t provide evidence of anything and they smelled so bad that they all decided to leave them where they lay.

They took the lift up through the various floors. There were whole sections of the building that belonged to other companies. Those looked undisturbed. There were so many magical manufacturers in the building it was disconcerting. Even Fred and George didn’t know that the Riddle’s had so many tenants from the Wizarding business trades. It meant that the Riddle Company was very well connected, much more so than would be realistic for a mere joke and novelty potion company. All the shops on Diagon Alley and a few from Knockturn Alley seemed to have an office in the building. Even Olivander’s wands had a small workshop. Fred and George were beginning to feel that they’d been left purposely out of it and were highly insulted.

Ron and Harry explored what had been Flint’s office suite but again, it had been stripped bare. Everything. Every piece of parchment, every quill, any record that may have been kept there was gone. There was nothing to indicate that Marcus Flint or Draco Malfoy had been ever there.

Harry and the others were sitting in the Leaky Cauldron having a pint no more than an hour after they had begun the search that they had waited all day to do. The raiders of the Remarkables sat dejected in the pub. Fred and George ordered some food for all of them and they sat numbly eating. Harry’s head was swimming in disappointment. They had been so close. He had looked Marcus Flint in the eye. He’d disarmed him while flying a bloody dragon upside down and still he’d gotten away. He felt a failure.

“I don’t know, Harry,” said Ron as they all sat around looking defeated and depressed. “I could go back to the Ministry and get some help to go look at their homes. Maybe their wives know where they’ve gone to.”

Harry nodded unconvinced.

“Cheer up, Harry,” said George. “At least we’ve got them on the run. There aren’t too many places that they could hide.”

“Yeah,” said Fred. “We’ll find ‘um. Malfoy’ll be easy enough to spot no matter where he is, the jerk. He won’t last long out in the cold.”

Harry shrugged his shoulder. He felt utterly dejected.

“You go back home to make sure everyone’s all right,” said Ron eyeing Harry with a worried look on his face. “You need to be home.” Harry looked at him with that old look of disappointment that he remembered from their youth. “I’ll follow you on to Hogwarts tomorrow after I’ve finished up here. We’ll figure this out together, Harry.” He put his arm around his friend. “It’d be for the best for you to go to Ginny,” he said.

“I just can’t believe that we were so close and now we’ve got to start at square one all over again to find them again,” said Harry.

“Not to mention that now they know that we’re after them,” said George.

“Go home, Harry,” said Ron. “Ginny and Lily will be needing you there.”

Lily watched her father from her upstairs window as he slowly walked the distance across the Hogwart’s lawn to the front gate of Thorns and Roses cottage. It was growing dark and the moon hadn’t yet risen.

She loved her dad very much and knew that at this moment he was extremely tired and sad. She’d been waiting for him to come home for almost two hours and had been watching every movement on the grounds, hoping for a glimpse of him. She hadn’t dared go downstairs where there’d been yelling and many tears earlier that afternoon. Her brothers had been very bad. They’d almost gotten themselves killed, though they didn’t know it and were paying for it. Even Billy was hiding in his bedroom reading comic books not wanting to get involved.

The thing downstairs that they’d stolen frightened her. It was the Dark Lord’s crystal, she knew because she’d seen it before in her dreams. She also knew that her dad would be very upset with what was about to happen and though she wanted to help him, she didn’t quite know how.

Harry walked slowly up the path to the house. He was beginning to relax again after his ordeal. Though he was dejected that he’d failed to stop Flint, he was more than happy to be home again. The fire fairies swarmed about the porch and seemed to hum a soothing welcoming song to him. He felt grateful to them. It was a lovely house and he had never been so glad to see it. It felt like the home that he’d always dreamed of.

Reep, the fire fairy flew up to greet him. “Harry Potter,” it said sadly as if it knew his mood and was reflecting it.

Harry stopped and maybe for the first time, really looked at Reep. When you thought about it, the fire fairies were really very strange beings. “Can you tell me the future?” he asked the fairy.

“Yes but no,” said Reep hovering in the air.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Knowing what happen not help you much, Harry Potter,” said Reep. “The future comes, no matter what.”

Harry felt too defeated to even pursue it. He only wanted to see Ginny and Lily to make sure that they were all right. He wanted to sit in a big chair and forget that he was who he was, have a kiss from his wife and hug his daughter.

When he walked in the door, Ginny jumped up from the group of familiar faces in the large drawing room to run to him. “Harry!” she cried with gratefulness. “Thank heavens you’re home!” Kissing and hugging his wife he surveyed the faces. Hermione was biting her lip looking nervous, Professor McGonagall was looking very stern and tight-lipped, and to Harry’s great surprise, Luna was there as well but he could never tell what she was thinking. The boys Angus, James and Sirius looked extremely guilty. His heart sank knowing that they’d gotten themselves in trouble again.

“What’s happened?” he asked.

“Now, Harry,” said Ginny in that way he knew meant he was about to be upset. “I want you to come in and sit down before we tell you anything.” She glared at the boys. Her anger was far from dissipated. The last thing she wanted to do was upset Harry after goodness knows what he had probably been through in Cornwall.

Harry was so tired that he let Ginny lead him to an empty chair.

“Now, Harry,” Ginny began again. “The boys have something to tell you.” All in the room were tense and Harry was too shagged from the last two days of fighting to bother being worried.

“What’d you do, now?” he asked the boys impassively.

The boys looked at each other helplessly. Their moment had come. They’d spent the entire afternoon cringing while Ginny, Professor Granger, and Headmaster McGonagall had taken turns telling them how stupid they were, and how lucky they were to have not gotten themselves arrested or killed. Headmaster McGonagall was still contemplating expulsion and Professor Granger had already docked them fifty house points apiece. Between this incident and the apology to the Slytherins fiasco, they’d be lucky if their fellow Gryffindors ever spoke to them again. There never were three more miserable boys.

“Well, you see, dad,” started James bravely. “We thought that we’d help with your Riddle’s Remarkables problem.”

“We figured you needed it and all and we went to London,” interrupted Sirius.

“I seem to recall my saying specifically that I DID NOT need your help,” said Harry dryly. He was paying for his youth, certainly. It was the sins of the father visited on him in his own children.

“It’s all MY fault, Professor Potter!!!” cried Angus miserably, bursting into tears. “I made them come with me and I planned it all!!! I was the one that took it!!! If you’re going to kill anyone it should be me!!!” He buried his face in his hands completely undone by the pressure of failing before his hero. He wanted to throw himself at Harry’s feet and beg his forgiveness.

Harry looked to Ginny for more of an explanation. There had to be more to it, surely. Ginny stood before him with her hands on her hips and glared at the boys again before explaining.

“They went to London and broke into Riddle’s Remarkable’s, Harry!” she said angrily. “Just waltzed in and made themselves at home. They’re lucky that they weren’t caught. Malfoy was there and everything. They could have gotten hurt!”

Harry came alert and narrowed his eyes on the boys.

“Look at me, boys,” he commanded. They did. Ginny folded her arms with a look on her face that said now you’re going to get it. There is little so satisfying as a strong husband who’ll back you up with wayward children.

“When were you there?” asked Harry.

“Yesterday,” they said as one.

“What did you see?”

They looked at each other dumbfounded. Their father wasn’t mad at all. He wanted to know what they saw. All the women in the room looked shocked except Luna who wanted to laugh.

“Well, we went to the Leaky Cauldron and followed Mr. Malfoy,” said James.

“But we weren’t fast enough,” said Sirius. “He’d already gotten downstairs to the labs and the lady at the front wouldn’t let us go down there.”

“So, we went up the lift,” said James. “But instead of going to Mr. Malfoy’s office, we went to Mr. Flint’s office on the top floor to look for a key or some elevator that might get us downstairs to the labs.”

“We knew you wanted to see what was down there,” said Angus finding his voice. “We only wanted to help.”

“But, when we got to Flint’s place there was this room with a magic ceiling and all.”

“I didn’t see any magic ceiling,” said Harry interested. The boys had obviously seen much more than he had.

“Yeah, it was there in a small room in the center,” said Sirius. “Inside was a crystal and it was a really creepy place. It was like a temple or something. And then this snake came and an alarm went off and we ran for it.”

“Angus is the one that took it, dad,” said James before he realized what a traitor he was for saying it.

“Took what, Angus?”

Angus looked down at his shoes in shame. He was an idiot, for sure. Now, Professor Potter would really get him expelled or worse, put him away in Azkaban. “I took the crystal from the room,” he said. “It felt like it was calling to me or something and I pinched it.” He hung his head.

“Then we put on Angus’ invisibility cloak and got out of there before Mr. Malfoy caught us,” added James trying to deflect the stealing the crystal part quickly.

Harry sat back in his chair thinking. The boys started feeling very nervous again.

“Where is this crystal that you took?” he asked.

All in the room looked toward the middle of the table while Ginny moved out of his line of view so that he could see the crystal sitting there.

Harry stood up like he’d been hit by a bolt of lightening and grabbed his forehead in pain. “Arrrhhhhgggg!!!!” he cried helplessly.

His scar that had faded over the years, burst into a bright livid red again. The crystal began to glow. Everyone in the room screamed in terror. Something awful had just happened and no one understood what it meant. Harry backed away from the awful thing as far as he could until the pain ebbed enough for him to be able to see again. He was sweating and panting as if he’d just run a kilometer in a minute flat.

He stood at the far end of the room speechless, as they all were. The silence loomed as Harry caught his breath and the others instinctually crept away from the glowing orb.

Lily quietly walked up to him and hugged his waist. She wanted so much to help him. “Don’t worry, daddy,” she said quietly. “They can’t really hurt you anymore. They only think that they can. You’ll kill them.” She looked toward the crystal, a look of frightened emotional pain on her young face.

Harry looked down at Lily. His eyes began to stream with tears. He knew exactly what she meant. The others looked at the crystal and backed still further away from it.

“Is it him, baby?” he asked numbly. His stomach was sick with what he knew was in the crystal.

“Yes, daddy,” Lily said solemnly. “All of them. They’re still in there but they can’t get out. The Sibyl said that YOU are the only one with the power to destroy the Dark Lord and it’s still true.” She held his hand in hers and kissed it. She wanted so much to make his hurt go away.

Harry stood looking across the room at the crystal. It was a misshapen mass of glowing light. All these years gone and still Voldemort was not destroyed. His life was a sham.

All of them gathered around him silently as they stared at the crystal. Ginny came up to him and hugged him. Harry looked to Hermione who had that look on her face like she was thinking hard. Thank all the powers above for Hermione in a crisis.

“There’s got to be something, Harry,” she said hopefully catching him looking at her. “It’s got to be something that is unique to you and you alone.”

“But what will we do with it until we figure it out?” said Harry helplessly. He knew he couldn’t even get near it. “I thought it was over.” His voice cracked. He was a man in shock. “I thought they were all dead and gone.”

The front door came open seemingly of it’s own accord but really it was Reep and some of the fire fairies that had pushed it open. Reep beckoned them to the porch where they all assembled forlornly.

The fire fairies had gathered along the sides of the winding path to the house. For the first time, Harry saw that when lit up at night like that, it looked for all the world like the winding body of a snake. They all watched from the porch as the fire fairies gathered at the top of the S-curve and formed what looked like the head of a snake.

“That’s where we’ll bury it, daddy,” said Lily confidently. Now that the crystal had finally come, she was resigned to what would happen. Her dad would make it right. “It will lay under the ground at the head of the snake until they come, and when you destroy them, you will know how to destroy it.”

Ginny was crying helplessly and bent down on her knees before her daughter. “When will they come, baby?” she whispered through her tears. She was so frightened for her daughter, so frightened for them all.

“At pumpkin time, mommy, when Billy will be in Gryffindor and we’ll all be waiting.” She was crying sadly. “They’re really scary, mommy,” she whispered, her voice shaking in terror, “but we kill them forever. The Sybil promised me that this time they will NOT come back. We will make them really, really dead.”

Ginny hugged her daughter, wanting so much to protect her from what she saw. What an awful burden to bear for her child. The whole group of them stood looking out at the front garden. The boys, Luna, Headmaster McGonagall, Hermione, Harry, Ginny and Lily all looked out at the garden and saw the future presented before them by the fairies.

The fire fairies had lit up the path like a giant and fearsome snake poised to strike.

Chapter 28: Uncle Sevvie and the Spy
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Chapter Twenty-Eight

Uncle Sevvie and the Spy

Lily moved stealthily behind the bush watching the man as he picked in the garden. He was only a few feet away but hadn’t heard her approach. She knew who he was. She had, of course seen him in her dream, but experience had taught her that people didn’t like being introduced when you already knew them and they didn’t know you. She had to pretend to him. She was good at pretending.

“Boo!” she said popping out from behind the bush lifting her hands in mock attack at him.

Severus Snape initially jumped. He’d been thinking about the paltry state of the foxglove, but merely straightened up and stared at the little ragamuffin once he’d gotten his balance back. “What do you mean sneaking up on strangers, young lady!” he scowled at her. “You should have better manners, miss!”

Lily smiled affectionately. He was so funny. His tall dark form, so thin and severe, so unlike her dad’s and yet she felt instant affection for him, knowing him as she did in her dreams. He would read her stories and teach her music.

He was going to tell her about the plants and protect her from those awful people things. She liked him instantly.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said humbly knowing he would soften. “I only meant to frighten you a little bit. I didn’t mean to really scare you.”

Severus Snape looked aghast. “I was hardly frightened by a small child. You merely startled me.” He walked closer to her and observed her. She was a pretty little thing, with jet-black hair that hinted red in the pale sun. Her eyes seemed intelligent for such a young child and she didn’t look to be the silly type. “I suppose that you are Potter’s child, the little girl who sees the future?” He lifted his eyebrow in disbelieve and followed it with a frown. Lily felt her stubborn streak emerge.

“Uncle Sevvie, you look mean when you do that thing with your eye.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“When you lift your eyebrow so high, it makes you look mean.”

“Are you afraid of me?”


“Well, then,” he said dryly. “What does it matter if I look mean then? You obviously know that I am not, in fact, mean.” She put her hand in his and he let her, looking down at her with pleasure, though he’d never have shown it. “I am not to be called Uncle Sevvie, by the way,” he told her sternly.

She laughed at him. “Yes, you are!” She hugged him before she thought anymore about it. “Up!” she said, as if she was a toddler. She held her arms open to him. “Pick me up, please.”

He was thunderstruck. “I really think we should be a bit more formal, Miss Potter,” he said.

She shook her head as if he were a stupid idiot that needed to be coddled. “Very well, if you must be so stubborn,” she sighed. “Come sit with me on the bench and tell me something useful.” He let her lead him to a nearby bench though he had no idea why and was of half a mind to tell her how presumptuous she was being. He held his tongue. The child intrigued him despite his reservations.

“Now,” she said frowning severely. “You’re Professor Snape and I know you hate my father but it’s all right. He doesn’t much like you, either.” She patted his hand sympathetically. The unfamiliar sensation of a grin tried to break out on the professor’s face and failed miserably.

“You’re an odd child, are you not?” he stated. “Coming upon a complete stranger, trying to scare him and then telling him that your parent dislikes him. Are you always this forward?”

“No, sir,” she said solemnly. “You’re very special.”

This time the grin appeared halfway on his face. It looked as if it might hurt him a little.

“Tell me about the plants, please, sir,” she asked politely not wanting to overtax him on their first visit. For Lily, time and space was in different proportions then for others. Her identity had happened to her slowly, but it was there, nonetheless. She no longer remembered her old ways and had become what she was. At six years old, she saw life in a series of mirrors that blended and dipped and were ever changing in a path of concentric circles that turned to winding paths. She was not destined for a linear life and she already knew it. She accepted her existence and in fact reveled in it. She knew that some would feel sorry for her but she didn’t much care what others thought. For Lily was, in many ways, or at least in points along the curving path of her psyche, no longer a child.

Severus Snape was enamored with the little girl despite himself. She was quick to learn and seemed especially interested in the plants. He forgot she was a small child as he related the many uses for foxglove. She seemed to even understand when he explained the special poison in the pulverized seeds of Monkshood. Others may have found his lecture tedious, most in fact found him tedious most all the time, but Lily seemed to enjoy what he said, remembered the key points and most importantly, asked the right questions. He discussed with her the plants in the garden and their uses in potions for a good hour and he thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her company.

“You must shield your hands with the Gukdeflecto Charm to protect yourself when working with poisons,” he told her.

“Uncle Sevvie, someday I’ll have a wand and help you make potions.” She looked at him as sweetly as she could. It had been in her plan all along.

“You needn’t have a wand to make potions, child,” he assured her. “Many of those in my house learn to boil and mix simple and safe potions at a very young age.”

“Would you teach me?” she asked. “Could I learn, even though I probably won’t be in your house?” She watched him carefully, willing him to say yes. “I’d very much like to learn.”

Professor Snape was first and foremost a teacher. He liked this child and saw no reason not to help her. She seemed so sincere. He thought to himself sarcastically on how she didn’t seem like a Potter at all. She seemed so much more of a pureblood child. Perhaps, something in the Potter/Weasley combination had gotten it right. “You may help me if you’d like, Miss Potter, with your parent’s permission,” he said. “But I’ll warn you that I can be very difficult.” He looked at her sternly. “There are those that criticize my methods of teaching. You are very young and I may make some adjustments because of that but the moment you behave like a silly little girl and our lessons will be over.”

She laughed at him. “It’s alright, Uncle Sevvie, I know you have a hard time smiling. I’ve heard mommy say that you have a stick up your bum and that must hurt.” He looked at her horrified and she realized that she’d said something wrong. “I’m sorry, sir,” she said humbly. “Daddy says it’s not nice to speak of private parts. Forgive me.”

Severus Snape, for the first time in many years, laughed out loud. It ended quickly and he lifted an eyebrow in distaste as he looked around him making sure that no one had heard.

By the end of term, when the students were engrossed in exams and dreaming of summer holiday, Lily and Professor Snape had fallen into a regular routine. Lily met him in the garden twice a week and he taught her about plants. Once a week she was allowed into the castle, escorted by one of her brothers to help in the dungeons. Her brothers balked at first, not wanting to get anywhere near Snape on their off hours, but she threatened them with knowing that they’d stolen daddy’s map. They gave in. The boys couldn’t risk getting into any more trouble.

Her mother had also resisted letting her anywhere near Professor Snape. She was suspicious of his motives and it had taken all the influence Lily could muster to convince her that Professor Snape sincerely wished to teach her and she, herself wanted him to. She tried to enlist Dobby to drop several hints about what a good teacher Severus Snape was, but Ginny never believed him, having had a very different experience with him as a professor. Finally, Lily let mention that the Sybil had said that she’d be very good at potions when she grew up and that she would help discover a cure for the Cruciatus Curse someday if only Professor Snape would be able to teach her potions. She had no idea what this curse was but it had floated around in her mind sometimes and she knew it was really bad.

Her mother had blanched a pale white almost yellow color as if all the blood had left her face when she’d mentioned the curse. The power of words always amazed Lily. Someday, when she had a wand, words would have even more strength and purpose, she could hardly wait.

“You’re sure that the Sybil said that particular curse, Lily?” her mother had asked her.

Lily had nodded and the look of fear on her mother’s face made her worry that she had somehow overplayed her cards. She’d tried for months to beat Billy at Hearts but he could always tell when she lied to him about trumps. Perhaps her mother could tell, as well.

In the end, her mother had relented and weeks later on a fine sunny day while her brothers worried over exams, Lily and Professor Snape were tilling in his own private plot. He grew common plants such as St. John’s Wort and Monkshood but also Filigreed Weed and Stumprucker Prickles that could only be found in the south of France except Professor Snape kept them warm with a special spell he applied once a week. All of his plants had special magical uses and Lily found them fascinating.

Uncle Sevvie was helping her with the hoe, which was too big for her to grip properly. He’d shortened the handle for her smaller arms and was explaining the importance of not dancing around so much or she would compact the soil and crush the roots, when Lily stood stark still with a look of terror on her face.

“What is it, Miss Potter?” asked Severus alarmed.

“A snake is watching us, sir,” she whispered. She reached for him.

“Snakes don’t watch, child,” said Severus dismissively. “They are nature’s creatures and do not care about us.”

“This one does, Uncle Sevvie,” she said still whispering. “He’s listening to us talk.” She reached up to Professor

Snape for protection, as a child will do when they’re scared. Instinctually, Severus picked her up and held her. Granted, it was an uncharacteristic action to be natural for Severus Snape, but he felt the need to protect her, nonetheless. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding her cheek close to him listening. “Ssssth, Ssssth, lisssp” she said quietly.

Professor Snape almost dropped her in shock. The child was speaking in Parselmouth. This was not good. Of course, he knew that her father could speak it but that was because of his special relationship to Voldemort. Lily speaking in Parselmouth was alarming to him.

A large, long snake, the color of white mud slithered from behind a bush. It made straight for them but then stopped a few feet away, raising its head to a four-foot height.

“Ssssssfth,” it said to Lily to which she answered in kind.

“It’s a spy, Uncle Sevvie. Its name is Sasha and it’s looking for daddy.” Her eyes never left the snake. She trembled in fear.

Severus reached for his wand slowly so as not to alert the hovering snake, but it sensed his actions immediately, lowering itself and swishing away to the underbrush before he could react. It was gone.

Lily burst into tears and hugged her uncle Sevvie, burying her wet face in his neck. A warmth of feeling gripped Severus Snape, who was stricken by her emotions as he held her close hugging and reassuring her.

“There, there, child,” he said, his voice soothing. “A snake cannot harm you. It’s gone now. Calm down.”

“No, Uncle Sevvie, NO!” she wailed holding onto him so hard that he tried to disentangle her from his neck. “You don’t understand, you don’t understand,” she kept repeating.

Although Professor Snape liked the child very much, he was fast loosing patience with her theatrics. He walked over to the nearby bench, disentangled her finally and dropped her on it.

“Now listen here, young lady,” he said firmly. “You’ve got to pull yourself together. Snakes are not harmful creatures. If you work in a garden you’ll find snakes. Granted, that snake was much larger than most and I have very strong doubts that it is a native of these parts, but it did NOT do anything to us. You’re fine. Stop your crying this instant!” Severus was desperate for her to stop. He hated such raw expressions of emotion almost as much as he hated silliness.

Her hands covered her eyes but she pulled herself together and wiped her face with them. “You don’t understand,” she said coldly in a voice way beyond her years that suddenly made him afraid for her. “That snake was a spy. They’ll come soon to look for me. We cannot stop them. They’re supposed to come when the pumpkins come. It’ll tell them about me and…” Her tears began to spill again. “They’ll come and…” She began to wail miserably again.

Severus bent down and picked her up. She buried her face in his neck again still wailing as if someone had died, as if the whole world was coming to end, as if her little heart had split in two. He gave up trying to get her to stop, shaking his head in distaste. He carried her as fast as he could out of the garden, and up the path toward Thorns and Roses cottage. Quickly, he walked through the gate toward the house. The fire fairies hovered forlornly and silent around them. Little Reep settled on her shoulder and before Severus swatted him off, he whispered into Lily’s ear. “Be strong. Cannot stop them. Look beyond where you are safe.”

It calmed her so that by the time Professor Snape barreled through the door unceremoniously, she had stopped crying.

Ginny had heard the commotion and come running from the study. The sight of her daughter’s tear-stained face sent her into a panic. Professor Snape’s face was not reassuring, either. He looked undone. The man was obviously not one to deal with young children. “Lily!” she cried. “Are you hurt? What happened?”

“I’m fine, mommy,” said Lily sniffling. She refused to let go of Professor Snape when her mother reached for her.

Severus struggled to untangle her to hand her over to Ginny but the child had an iron grip.

“Let go of Professor Snape, baby or you’ll make him cry,” said Ginny trying to reassure Lily.

Severus glared at Ginny. “I do not cry, Mrs. Potter,” he said tartly.

“I’ll only let go if you promise to stay and have tea, uncle Sevvie,” said Lily. Yet again, she had a purpose in mind.

Severus raised an eyebrow, realized that he’d been played like a fiddle but succumbed to having tea with the Potter women.

“You realize, that I am very uncomfortable around such displays of emotion, Miss Potter,” he said darkly. He sat down on the sofa in the drawing room and allowed Lily to sit next to him while Ginny went into the kitchen to ask Dobby to make tea.

“I know, uncle Sevvie,” she said quietly patting his hand. “The snake really was scary and you need to hear what mommy is going to tell you, because you and I are friends, professor, sir.”

“What am I going to tell him?” asked Ginny walking in at that moment and seating herself in a nearby chair.

“I saw the snake today, mommy,” said Lily.

“What snake?”

“The spy snake from that bad man who wants his crystal back,” said Lily.

Ginny blanched. Snape looked confused. “What’s going on?” he asked.

Lily nodded at her mum encouragingly, as if Ginny should certainly understand that he should be told what was going on. “Erm…are you sure, Lily?”

Snape was getting agitated. “I will repeat, Mrs. Potter. WHAT is going on?”

“Better tell, mommy. Uncle Sevvie has a temper worse than daddy’s sometimes.”Ginny cleared her throat and Severus glared down at the top of Lily’s head. She didn’t look up.

“You see, professor,” began Ginny carefully. “Harry and my brother Ron had a little problem with Marcus Flint at Riddle’s Remarkables a while back.”

“Professor Potter assured me that he wouldn’t pursue the matter any farther,” said Snape coldly. He should have known better than to have thought Potter would keep his word.

“They were experimenting on dragons in Cornwall, Professor. They’d used potions to change several poor wizards into snake like men so they would speak Parseltongue to the dragons and they threatened killing their families if they didn’t comply. These people, Flint and maybe Malfoy, are not ones that you should be protecting.”

“It’s true, uncle Sevvie,” said Lily. “The bad man, Flint has been changing things with potions for a long time. He’s been doing some really bad stuff and he had this crystal that has the Dark Lord in it but then my brothers took it and we buried it in the front garden.”

“I thought that I was the one to tell it?” asked Ginny dryly.

“You were, mommy but you were going too slow and uncle Sevvie was about to explode,” answered Lily.

At the moment, Severus looked frozen in stone. The mere mention of the possibility that the Dark Lord could be anywhere but dead was bound to shock the man.

“Its all true, sir,” said Lily. “The Dark Lord is trapped in a crystal and we buried it in our front garden and when the pumpkins come, you will save me from the bad man who’s coming.” She held onto is arm for support. “That’s why you have to be told, sir. You will save me.”

Snape looked down at her face. Lily was earnestly watching him for clues to how he would react.

Severus Snape thought about his whole life in perhaps a second and a half. He thumbed through the years of servitude to the Dark Lord, the deaths, the misery that Voldemort had wielded, the hundreds of students fouling up their potions and finally his being given a second chance by Dumbledore. He skipped the part that included the Potters or it would just gum up his thought process. He did NOT, under ANY circumstances wish the Dark Lord to be coming back and he certainly would, when asked, save this child from a bad man.

He turned to Ginny and fixed his beady black eyes on her. “I suggest you start at the very beginning, Mrs. Potter and tell me everything. I want to know all the details of what you know.”

At that moment, Dobby popped in with the tea tray. He stopped short and almost dropped it when he saw Professor Snape in the Potter’s drawing room. Lily would have laughed at the funny look on his face but she was concentrating on not doing anything silly in front of the man that would be saving her life. It was important that he hear everything that mommy had to tell him.


A/N: As a teacher, I work with gifted children and I have found over the years that they are sometimes more than just surprisingly bright. They are often as small adults in their manners, bearing and outlook. It is true that emotionally they are almost always as their age level, given to the same impulses, and shall we say idiosyncrasies of whatever age they are at, but I assure you, it is mind boggling what they are able to grasp about not only academic subjects, but also the social, and the spiritual subjects of we humans. I only say this because I’d rather not have reviews telling me that Lily is an unrealistic child and doesn’t seem like a six year old. I happen to know children not unlike Lily, and though they aren’t wizards, they certainly seem so often to me as if they could be someday. Their minds are so magic.

And, geeze, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s killing me to write this next bit. Spur me on! Make me leap into that pool of psychic burning lava. The poor lamb.

Chapter 29: Snape's Snake Hunt
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Chapter Twenty-Nine

Snape’s Snake Hunt

Summertime at Hogwarts was a peaceful pleasant time. The students were gone, as well as many of the teachers. Headmaster McGonagall often went to visit family in other parts of Scotland but this year, her first year as Headmaster, she decided to stay close to home. There was much to do. Professor Granger and her fiancé, the Auror and fellow Gryffindor alum, Mr. Ronald Weasley had decided to be married on the Quidditch Pitch. Almost everyone, it seemed, would be coming.

There was also the looming season of fall to plan for. She’d decided to take an inventory of the magical protections on the castle. If they were indeed to be visited by some evil come October, as young Miss Potter had predicted, she would be as ready as possible.

Severus Snape also did not leave for the summer as he had planned to. Usually, he spent some weeks in the French Alps gathering rare plants and small animals near the glaciers. On alternating years he would also make the long trip to either Mongolia or Beijing to search the magic markets for special potion ingredients. This summer, however, he decided to forego such travel and instead, began a little reconnaissance amongst the best Slytherin families for word of what was going on with the Flints and Malfoys of the world. He’d been very disturbed at the notion that yet again, members from his house would be so foolish as to continue on with the Dark Lord’s ridiculous plans or worse, keep Voldemort in stasis as some bizarre ornament in hopes of his return.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Minerva McGonagall one morning in the teacher’s room. She was enjoying a breakfast meeting with Severus Snape. “We all stood looking out at the front garden, Severus and the fairies had lit it up like a giant serpent!” She pinched her lips together in a long severe line. She would go to her grave with the horrible scene deeply etched on her brain.

Snape grimaced at her only slightly veiled repulsion of the revered symbol of his house, the serpent. “I have been invited to spend the week with Narcissa Malfoy in London,” he said steering Minerva back to his plan. “I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’m sure to find Draco Malfoy. He has never been one to hide from me for long. I don’t care how old he is, now. He has a lot to answer for.” It made his blood boil to think that a Malfoy had once again been party to staging disaster for them all.

Minerva was approving, but surprised. “You’ll be here for next Saturdays wedding, Severus? You cannot miss it.”
“Yes,” said Severus through gritted teeth. “Heaven forbid that I miss a wedding that is a decade or two overdue. Young Miss Potter has informed me that if I don’t attend that I shall die a death stung by bees.” He shook his head, not sure if he should be amused or irritated. “We’ll have to watch that one, Minerva. She’s showing signs of manipulating the future for her own ends as Trelawney has attempted for so many years.”

Headmaster McGonagall reached for a napkin to giggle into. “I dread the teen-age years,” she said. “She has the potential to be worse than…” She stopped at the look of malevolence from Snape. “Well, she has a great deal of the Potter side in her blood, Severus. You cannot deny it.”

“I often ignore that part and try to look at her brilliance, instead,” said Snape stonily. “She has an uncanny aptitude for potions and a thirst to learn. If she were old enough to perform the magic aspects of potion making, I have no doubt that she would be a prodigy.” Somehow, he had become very attached to the child. It was disconcerting to him.

Severus looked out the window at the angle of the sun. He’d have to rush along to make it to Narcissa’s for lunch.

“I must run, Minerva,” he said standing. He looked down at her as she raised a teacup to her lips. “I’ve a few snakes to bag,” he said and smirked slightly as she almost dropped her teacup at his attempt at humor.

Before leaving Hogwarts, Snape stopped by Thorns and Roses Cottage. He only barely shivered as he walked up the path passing the spot where Lily had showed him where they’d buried the Dark Lord’s crystal. He’d been very tempted to dig the thing up and try his hand at destroying it. A corrosive and poisonous potion would do the trick, certainly. Potter was obviously never going to get around to it.

Harry and Lily were sitting on the front veranda almost as if they’d known he was coming. Father and daughter sat on a long rocking bench, with the fire fairies chattering around them. It was a picturesque scene straight out of a muggle fantasy book. Snape felt only a slight momentary pang of envy before he clamped down hard to squash it.

“Potter,” he said in greeting as he walked up the steps.

“Professor Snape!” cried Harry. “It’s a pleasure to see you.” He was biting his tongue at the irony of hearing himself saying it, but Lily had made him promise to be nice.

“Uncle Sevvie, come sit with us,” commanded Lily. Snape sat gingerly on a wicker contraption that seemed too small for him.

“I’m off to Malfoy Manor for the week,” he said, getting right to the point. He fixed his stare on Harry. “If I’ve not returned by the day of the Weasley’s bridal burlesque on Saturday, you are to assume the worst.”

“Will you contact us if you find any clues to Flint’s whereabouts?”

“Do not be ridiculous, of course not, Potter,” he sneered deja vu of the old days. It had been no surprise to him that Harry had spent year’s reaping the rewards of fame for killing Voldemort only to find out that he’d botched the bloody job. “I only want you to be aware of where I am. I doubt that anything will occur. Narcissa is planning to have some garden party on Friday night so I shan’t return until the day of the long anticipated Weasley/Granger nuptials. I believe that I will at least be able to locate Draco, who has bound to be in touch with his mother. They’re very close.”

“I really appreciate all you are doing for us, Severus,” said Harry sincerely.

“I am not really doing it for you, Potter.” He looked severely at Lily, who jumped down from the bench and wrapped her arms around Snape’s neck.

“Thank you, uncle, for everything,” she said kissing his cheek.

Severus allowed her to kiss him and then rose to go. “I expect, Professor Potter,” he said glaring down at Harry. “For you to put your keen mind to the problem of how you’re going to destroy that monster that is now buried in your front garden while I’m gone.” With that he turned and stormed off down the front path, his black robes billowing behind him.

Lily climbed onto her father’s lap and they both watched him go. “I just can’t believe that that man is somehow your benefactor, Lily, dear-heart. The man has the emotional stretch of a vampire, not to mention that he’s always looked like one.”

“Daddy,” Lily warned pointing her finger at him. “Be nice! You promised!”

Harry laughed at her concerned little face and hugged her warmly.

Malfoy Manor was truly a pleasure castle in many ways. The Malfoys had always been rich, and always pureblood. Though the men in the family had tendencies toward cruelties and other quirks common throughout the pureblood clans, the women always kept the environments they lived in elegant and beautiful. Narcissa Malfoy was probably the most refined and most cultured queen of the purebloods that Severus Snape had ever known.

That she had invited him to stay for an entire week was not unheard of. When they’d been younger and Lucius, senior had been alive, he’d stayed at the house often. The Malfoy’s had always entertained. But over the years, and after

Severus had declined her invitations, he had ceased being invited. When he had found out what Draco and his friend Flint had been up to, he’d written her to say that he’d like to discuss something important with her and this, he supposed was her reasoning in having him stay an entire week.

The invitation may have also been because of her grandson, who had just finished his first year at Hogwarts. Narcissa had always had great ambitions for Draco who, though he had done well enough, was not his father. Narcissa seemed to have transferred her ambitions for pureblood grandeur to the grandson and since Severus was head of Slytherin House, having him as a friend of the family again could do no harm.

Young Lucius Malfoy lived, when away from school, with his grandmother. Draco had certainly had a wife at one time but Snape wasn’t sure what had happened to her. She may still have been around. Severus wasn’t sure and didn’t really care enough to ask. He was only there to find out where Draco had gotten himself. The rest was detritus.

Snape suffered through the usual trappings of Malfoy charm with Narcissa and her many friends in the beginning of the week. Thankfully, she left him to enjoy the grounds and library by himself for most of the day. Unfortunately, though he had prodded her in every way, he had been finding it hard to pin her down on what had happened to Draco.

There was no persuading a Slytherin woman when she was protecting her own, but he was patient. Something was bound to happen.

It was on the third day of his stay, when the summer weather had turned gray with rain that he wandered into the library only to come upon young Lucius Malfoy looking decidedly guilty about something hidden behind a door. When Snape had entered the young man was just closing it hurriedly as if he’d heard him coming.

“Are you hiding something, Mr. Malfoy?” he asked sternly.

The young man stood in front of the door as if to shield what lay beyond it. “No, sir,” he said.

Snape walked closer to the boy and fixed his eyes on his. Being an expert Legilimence he saw immediately through the garbled mess that was the boy’s mind to the very picture of Draco hiding behind the door.

“Tell me, Mr. Malfoy,” said Snape coldly. “Have you perhaps been in contact with your father, lately?”

“No, sir.” The boy shifted nervously looking down. He did not have the natural insolence of his father, or even the exaggerated arrogance of his grandfather. At least, Snape thought ruefully, not yet.

“I just find it odd that your father is nowhere to be found and his mother will not speak to me about where he might be.”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Step aside, Mr. Malfoy. I wish to look inside that closet.” He pushed the boy aside and opened the door. The elder Malfoy was sitting on a small stool amongst cloaks inside. He looked up defiantly at Snape who leaned against the door jam carefully blocking his escape. “Mr. Malfoy,” he drawled. “As I live and breath, I was just speaking of you with your son.”

“Very funny, Professor,” said Malfoy angrily. Draco did not look as he usually did, which was well suited and combed. He had an air of disgrace about him that Snape actually found appealing.

“I understand that the Ministry of Magic has been looking for you, Draco,” said Snape snidely. He bodily blocked his exit from the closet. “What have you been up to, may I be so bold to ask?”

“It’s none of your business, Professor.”

“Draco, it has become my business,” said Snape in a deadly voice that made a shiver of memory run up Draco Malfoy’s spine. He and Professor Snape had a long history of confrontations and Snape had often won them. “A certain foul souvenir from your father and the Dark Lord has turned up and I’d like to know what fool had the brilliant idea to keep it?”

Draco stood up, coming face to face with him. He’d hardly slept in over a month for he’d been forced to live in a hole in the ground with Flint and the damned Dementors for the whole time. He was an emotional mess. “I’ve had a very bad time of it, professor and I would very much appreciate it if you’d let me pass.”

“Draco, who was it that kept the Dark Lord’s crystal?”

“If you have it,” said Draco tiredly. “Throw it in the nearest dung heap. Marcus Flint will tear heaven and earth apart to find the bloody thing and I have no idea why. Please, professor, I really just need a drink. I just got here and I’m shattered. I’m not running anywhere."

Snape let him pass. This defeated Draco felt a much more trustworthy sort of human. Severus was almost touched. Almost. “So what hole was it that that you’ve crawled out of, Draco?” he asked, his voice dripping with false sweetness.

Young Lucius Malfoy watched the two elders as if he were memorizing their every word. They were two masters of manipulation and cunning at work.

Draco went to the bar and poured a large fire whiskey straight. He held the bottle up to Snape non-verbally asking if he’d like one and then poured him one, too.

That done he plopped himself into a chair in front of the fire. He felt he would be cold for a year after having spent so much time close to the Dementors.

Severus sat opposite him watching him shrewdly. “You haven’t answered my question, Draco. What hole did you crawl out of?”

“Can’t I just enjoy a few moments of peace before they throw my behind into Azkaban?” He looked surly, gazing into the fire. Lucius hovered on the other side of the room watching them. He’d never seen his father, whom he worshipped
look like this.

Severus took in the whole scene and made a strategic decision. It was a chess move, a maneuver, whatever one calls it when you make a leap of faith to make something you want very much to happen. “There really is no reason that you should go to Azkaban, Draco,” he said quietly.

Draco looked at him astutely. “What are you saying?”

“Did you have anything to do with the dragons?” he asked.

At first Draco had the look of a man that was about to deny the whole thing. He wondered how Snape had found out but then realized he didn’t really care anymore. “I made the ruddy potion that did the damage to those men, if that’s what you mean.”

“Who knows that?” said Snape slyly. “Where is it written?”

Draco smiled, a sly wicked smile of old. “It’s all been destroyed.”

“Yes, of course, it has.” Snape pretended that he was thinking. “So that would mean that it’s not provable that you had been involved, correct? What the Ministry knows, they found in Cornwall. Did you ever go to Cornwall?” Snape held his eyes for a moment but then Draco looked away before he could get a fix on his mind.


“Did the men that were given the potion, ever actually see you?”

Draco was laughing now. “No! Flint had others down there.”

“So no one, except, well, who knows about you?”

“The only ones that could really hurt me are Flint, Crabbe and Goyle,” said Malfoy. “We destroyed all the records and evidence.”

Snape smiled slyly. “So, what hole did you crawl out of, Draco?”

Draco’s face shut down. He avoided his eyes. “No, professor, I like my life too much. I’d rather go to Azkaban than betray Flint. You don’t know him. He isn’t the same person that he was in school. Working as a Death Eater those last few years with Voldemort changed him. He thinks that he’s Voldemort’s son, can you believe it?”

“How is that possible?”

“That’s what he told me when I first joined the company. And he speaks Parselmouth, something he never did at Hogwarts. He’s different and he’s completely obsessed with finding some creature that’ll give the future. He keeps insisting that knowing the future will give us the edge we need to control the whole shebang and rid ourselves once and for all of a world filled with the mudbloods and muggles. We’ve been working on changing creatures for years. It’s amazing but it’s very possible. We were so close. But, Flint, you’d never recognize the man, sir. He’s possessed by this weird vision that he claims the Dark Lord’s Crystal gave him. I swear to you that we’ve had that damned crystal checked time and again and found nothing. It’s just a rock but he thinks it’s the blessed stone of Merlin.”

Snape said nothing. Draco was babbling information that was useful and he wanted him to continue it. He obviously had no idea what the crystal contained.

Lucius inched forward to stand near his father, bringing himself to stand alongside him. “There’s a girl at Hogwarts who tells the future all the time,” he said quietly.

If Snape could have smote the young man on the spot, he would have. Never in the history of Snape’s glaring had a more deadly glare been placed squarely on another. Even in the days of old, when Harry Potter arrogantly strutted about the castle, never had Snape managed a more loathsome stare. Lucius recoiled in fear.

“Leave him alone, Professor Snape,” growled Draco. “Who is this girl?”

Snape regained his composure. “I promise you, Draco that I will kill you personally if anything happens to the girl.” He smirked at Draco and his treasonous son. “Her name is Lily Potter.”

“Potter’s daughter sees the future?” Draco asked incredulously. “That man will be the death of me. I wish he’d just step off a cliff and die.” He said it flatly. He’d always hated the berk. It was in his very blood.

“Nothing must happen to this child, Draco,” warned Snape with icy steel in his voice.

Draco waved his hand dismissively. “There’s no possibility that I’d tell Flint, Professor. I’m leaving town. I’m going to a nice beach somewhere to wait until Flint hangs himself on his own hysteria. I’m not escaping from the Ministry, sir. I’m escaping from Flint. I’ll go live amongst muggles before I go back to that place.”

“Do tell,” sneered Snape, “Draco Malfoy amongst muggles?”

“Mother’s set it up in America somewhere. I’ll wait it out until it’s safe to come home. As long as it’s warm, and far away from here, I don’t care anymore.”

Snape had a fleeting image of Malfoy laying on a beach, falling in love with a mudblood and having ten children. He shivered.

Tears streamed down Lucius Malfoy’s face. “Father, take me with you!” he cried. “I want to come with you.”

Draco patted his son’s shoulder. “No, son, I promised your grandmother that you’d finish at Hogwarts first.” He smiled weakly at the boy’s stricken face. “Don’t worry about me, Lucius. The Malfoys are very hard to kill. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Snape bit his lip at the truth of that statement.

For the rest of his visit at the Malfoys, Snape kept close to Draco’s side. He coddled him, pampered him, and soothed him, whatever it took to get what he wanted. It was obvious that Draco had been through hell and back. He actually appreciated the attention. He slept between meals, all of which he ate in abundance as if he’d been starving. He kept to the library for most of his waking time, attended by Lucius and Snape. He couldn’t go out, nor be seen and he was trying to grow a beard and was considering a potion for his hair color.

Finally, when Draco was drearily pouting that he’d have to hide away with a garden party going on in the house, Snape felt he’d primed him enough to get him to talk. They were sitting in the library, as they had already done for days at a time.

“I’ll not miss it in London, really,” said Draco. “It had all gotten stale for me long before this happened. I never did have the stomach for it.”

“Stomach?” asked Snape innocently. “Stomach for what?”

Draco fidgeted in his chair. He’d been avoiding looking Snape in the eyes for days. His father had warned him years ago that Professor Snape was a Legilimence. It had been a necessary tactic in his youth and now it was just a habit.

“All the potion making and changing of the creatures,” he lied. “I never really was good at it.” He made the mistake of looking at Snape, who fixed on him in an instant.

Before Draco could break eye contact, Snape had finally seen it. The hole that Draco had crawled out of was more dreadful than he’d imagined. He remembered the place all too well. “So,” said Snape coldly. “You’ve been messing with the Dementors, Draco.”

Lucius had been slouching nearby reading but not willing to be far from his father’s sight. He sat up alert.

“You know, my father warned me about you, Professor,” drawled Draco, pretending it didn’t matter. “He said that you were devious.”

“Well, he was one to know.” Lucius Malfoy, senior had more deceit and trickery in his little finger than Draco would ever have. Snape rose from his seat. He held out his hand to Draco, who looked surprised.

“What’s that for?” he asked.

“I’ll take your leave, Mr. Malfoy,” said Snape. “I’ve got what I came for. Good luck to you.” Draco rose to shake his hand. “You’ll not go to Azkaban, son. Just remember that they can’t prove anything.” He slapped Draco on the back. “You’re not your father and that I’m afraid is a good thing. Don’t dally around here too long. Flint will come looking for you here just as I have. You are too predictable. I would advise leaving tonight.”

He walked over to Lucius sitting in the chair trying to be invisible. “Lucius Malfoy?” said Snape imperiously.

“Sir?” he said snapping to attention.

“Give your grandmother my regrets that I must leave before the party,” he said. “And do me a favor, young man.”

“Yes, sir?”

“I want you to remember that I am Head of your house and that I do things for very good reasons. Don’t talk to anyone about Lily Potter, do I make myself clear?”

“No, sir, I mean yes, sir.” Lucius was confused. Why did the Head of his house care about a silly little Gryffindor girl?

“Lily is special to me personally, young man,” said Snape reading his mind. “It would behoove you to remember that in future.”

That said, Snape apparated with a pop to the hole in the ground.


The night air was cold, though it was summer. There was a wind on the rim where he stood. It had been many years since he’d been to the place. It had been a tourist attraction for years until the Ministry of Magic put a halt to any visitors. The terrain to the bottom was treacherous, especially in the dying light. Severus stood on the edge looking down into the wide cavern. The interior of the long extinct volcano was a mile across and just as deep. In the distance far below, he saw a light shining. Marcus Flint would be there, with the Dementors. He made the treacherous walk down a rocky and uneven path toward the light.

Wandering through the old tunnels toward his goal, Severus thought back to his days as a Death Eater spy. He’d been

to this place, Voldemort’s stronghold not too far from Hogwarts, only a few times before Voldemort had had the audacity to kidnap Albus Dumbledore. It had always been a crude place, but at one time it had bustled with people and projects.

As he drew nearer the light, he felt the coldness of the Dementors. His wand was already out and he was highly alert to the danger. He remembered that there had been a holding area for the Dementors years before, but who knew if it were still intact.

Crabbe and Goyle were playing cards on a small table illuminated by a floating circle of candles.

“Where is Flint?” asked Snape, his wand up. Both men started and overturned the table but they didn’t reach for their wands. Snape knew that they were too stupid to see him as the threat he was.

“Cor blimey, sir!” said Goyle. “You scared the piss out of me!”

“Sir,” said Crabbe. “What are you doing here?”

Snape lowered his wand and walked closer to them into the light. “I just came from the Malfoys. I’m looking for Flint.” He fixed his eyes on the two Slytherin reprobates. They represented the dim side of his house, certainly.

The two oafs looked at each dumbly. There wasn’t a brain cell between the two. “He’s gone looking for Malfoy, sir,” said Crabbe. “Said he’d be back in a few days.”

“How long has he been gone?” asked Snape keeping his voice level.

“Only today, sir. He said he’d be going to his home then he’d go over and drag Draco back here.”

“Hehehe,” snickered Crabbe. “Malfoy doesn’t like camping much, sir. He whined the whole time. Marcus tried to hex him, once.”

“You should’ve seen Malfoy’s face!” They both fell about laughing like idiots.

Snape sighed, disgusted. “Where are you holding the Dementors, you simpletons?” They really were a pair of numb-nuts.

They both looked at each other as if they didn’t know what he was talking about. “Marcus is going to have a fit, if Draco told you about them, sir.”

“He did not, in point of fact, tell me about them,” said Snape dryly. “Did you two never know that I am a Legilimence?” Talking to these two was useless. “Let’s not forget that I am head of Slytherin House. Where are the Dementors?”

They both hesitantly pointed down a tunnel to the left.

“How many do you have?”

“Dunno, twenty, I think,” said Crabbe.

Merlin, they were stupid.

“You have them safely away? They will not escape?”

“No, sir, we’ve got plenty of supplies here. If we need anything for the Dementors, one of us can just pop to town for what’s needed.” Crabbe snickered at Goyle’s joke, jabbing him in the ribs. Snape had the impression that he didn’t want to know what they were gibbering about.

“Tell Flint that I’ll be back to talk with him in a few days,” said Snape. “Tell him that I will seek him out. It isn’t safe near the castle for him. The Ministry is looking, still. Can you two remember that between you?”

The oafs both nodded.

Snape sighed and apparated to the Hogwarts gates, which sadly were not too far away.

He didn’t immediately go to the castle. Instead, he headed across the lawn toward Thorns and Roses Cottage, walking under the moonlight with a heavy heart. He stopped at the gate looking toward the veranda. He could see Lily’s small figure waiting for him in the light of the fire fairies. He walked up the path silently and sat down on the bench next to her. She smiled shyly at him. He understood, finally, why she was the way she was. She had known where he had been. She had known to wait for him.

“I made something for you while I was in London, Miss Potter,” he said gently. He took a small box from his pocket and handed it to her.

The little child’s sweet face welled up with tears. “I’m so frightened, uncle Sevvie,” she whispered, rubbing her hands over the box.

“Don’t be, child,” he said kindly. “Open the box, it will help you.”

She opened it with shaking hands. Inside was a teardrop necklace. The small teardrop was filled with a black liquid. He helped her put it around her neck.

“That is a part of me,” he said, battling down the visceral emotion he was feeling. “It’s a magic potion just for you. If anything happens, no matter where you are, I will be able to find you. Wear it and I’ll find you.”

She nodded, the tears streaming down her face.

“Lily,” he said quietly. “Don’t cry. Crying does nothing, solves nothing.” He sighed deeply and glared off down the garden toward where the crystal was buried. This was the Dark Lord’s doing. He hated what this was doing to such a small child.

“You say you know the future?” he asked her. “Do you know that you’ll get beyond this?”

“Yes, sir,” she said. “But I can’t see clearly, you know? I can’t see everything, only little stuff. I’m really, really scared when it happens and it’s hard to see anything more.”

“Well, then, miss,” he said firmly. “Just you remember that we will get through it together. You shall have no more worries. We have the future on our side. It is more than most people can dare hope for, is it not?”

“Yes, sir.”

He kissed her on the top of the head. “Go to bed, Lily,” he said. “We’ve this poxy wedding to attend tomorrow. I suppose the entire Weasley entourage is wandering about the Hogwart’s grounds by now lit up like candles?” He lifted a brow in distaste.

She laughed. “You promised to be good, uncle Sevvie!” she admonished him. “Daddy and mommy are at the tents now. Everyone is here. I told daddy that I was tired and wanted to stay home with Dobby so I could wait for you.”

“You had known that I would be coming?”

She nodded sadly.

“Well, I suppose that we will be the only two well rested souls at the party tomorrow then?” He got up to leave. He stood and laid his hand on her head for a moment, then strode purposely down the steps. She watched him walk off into the dark before slowly moving toward the door to the house. She touched the necklace for comfort. He really was her benefactor.

That night the Sybil sang her a lovely song. She said that the future was not the only place to see. She led Lily to a place that she’d never been. The Sybil said it would calm her down, make her less afraid. It was lovely in that place, high up on a hill that overlooked a small town. The house was a kind of open-air castle with large columns shaped like pretty ladies and there was a pool just for reflecting light. There were people there, too. They were very beautiful, young and dressed in loose flowing robes of white and pale colors. It was summer there with flowering trees and green grass that Lily sunk into and wriggled her toes in the moist warmth of. It was a beautiful dream and she slept peacefully on the grass under the warm sun. The Sybil said only one thing that she was able to remember and she held onto it long after for strength. “The future will come and cannot be stopped but the past is all what you make of it.” She had no idea why it helped, but it did.


Is everyone as nervous for Lily as I am? I'm biting nails! Please review! Pru

Chapter 30: Summer Wedding
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Chapter Thirty

Summer Wedding

A bride should never be worried or stressed for the simple reason that a wedding is always beautiful. At your wedding all the people in your life will gather together to celebrate your future and wish you well on life’s journey. Everyone has to behave, act like they like you, and at least pretend that they are enjoying themselves. A nice delicate frosting on the cake is always good to remember, as well.
Terry Thorton-Trump’s ‘Guide for the Calm and Collected Bride’ Witch Weekly, June Bride’s Issue

Harry woke up with the blinding morning light streaming onto his face. It was not welcome and he would have liked to have a little more sleep. They’d feasted and drunk until the early morning hours. He turned to look at Ginny’s sleeping figure next to him. He smiled and put his hand on her hip. It had so much fun the night before. The wedding had brought all their friends and family to Hogwarts. Everyone had been buoyant and jolly.

Ginny moved his hand away and grabbed a pillow that she plopped on top of her head. Obviously, she did not want to wake up yet.

He slipped out of bed quietly and walked tiredly down the stairs and into the kitchen. Lily was sitting at the table eating mush with cream and strawberries. Dobby hovered as soon as he walked in the door.

“May I have some very strong coffee, Dobby?” he asked and went to kiss Lily on the head. “Good morning, pumpkin,” he mumbled.

“Daddy, you promised not to call me that, anymore,” she said sourly. “Pumpkins are bad.”

“Sorry, honey. Daddy’s very tired this morning.” Dobby set the coffee before him. He sipped it gratefully.

“Uncle Sevvie came to see me last night, daddy,” she told him. She jumped off her seat to get closer to him. “He gave me this.” She showed him the teardrop necklace. “He said that it has a potion just for me, that he would be able to find me anywhere if something were to happen.”

Harry felt a pang of fright, jealousy and anger all in one emotion. Lily was his child, his to protect. “That’s nice, dear,” he said evenly. He clenched his jaw so hard that his head began to throb. Lily had told him again and again that Professor Snape was important to her and yet he just couldn’t fathom why she would attach herself to such a cold-hearted man.

“Daddy, you promised not to think like that.” She was looking at him and frowning. “I can see it on your face. Uncle Sevvie is going to save me.” She looked down at his coffee because she couldn’t bear to look at his face. “You’ve much bigger things to save us from.”

He reached out and hugged her to him, kissing her forehead. “Nothing is more important than saving you, baby,” he said softly. “As long as you know that you’ll be safe, I’ll let him save you just this once.”

This fear that hovered over his daughter, this knowing that something in the future was frightening her was killing him inside. It was so like what he’d lived with in his youth, knowing that Voldemort would be out there to fight and perhaps kill him someday. At least, he’d been older. She was still so very young.

“I dreamed of a wonderful place last night, daddy,” said Lily in a cheery tone. She was determined to enjoy the wedding day of her aunt and uncle despite her fears. “It was magical. The Sybil said that it was a place from her past and it was truly wonderful. I slept in the grass there!”

He laughed at her courageous cheeriness. “Are you excited about being in the wedding, today?”

She nodded. She was going to be the flower girl and throw petals everywhere, especially on Billy because he’d get mad.

“Your aunt Hermione missed you last night at the party. There’s a crown you’re to wear in the study with lovely flowers and streaming ribbons” He watched her face light up with delight. “You’re allowed to wear it now if you promise to be careful.”

Lily jumped for joy and ran from the room. Harry loved so much to see her happy. She came back in seconds and spent the rest of the morning parading around with the crown on her head, still in her P.J.’s.

The Quidditch Pitch had become a small city almost overnight. Since it was summer and the castle was too cold and imposing, it had been decided that all the overnight guests would be housed in tents for the wedding festivities.There were about forty tents, all white and gleaming in the sun on one end of the pitch and a garlanded and canopied alter for the ceremony at the other end. The actual wedding reception after was to take place in the glazed Quidditch clubhouse.

Hermione had been planning the wedding with all the trimmings for months. Being the efficient and thorough person that she was, she’d left nothing to chance. Despite her heavy schedule at the end of the year teaching, she still had seen to every little detail right down to the shoes on Lily’s feet and the centerpieces for the table settings. She’d even found an untraceable climate spell in case the weather didn’t cooperate but thankfully it did. The Saturday of she and Ron’s wedding was a beautiful, warm and sunny day.

Hermione had a suite of rooms in the castle that looked down on the Pitch. She was a nervous wreck by two o’clock that afternoon.“Ginny, I can’t believe I’m leaving this to the last minute,” she fretted. Ginny, Lily, Hermione’s mother, and Luna were helping her get ready for the ceremony. She was dressed in pale pink robes covered in white embroidery.

Ginny was trying to calm Hermione down but Hermione wasn’t being cooperative. She was agonizing over the flowers that had come in that morning and were too dark in color to suit her. “It’s a mess! The whole wedding will be ruined!”

Ginny was trying to get her to hold still in order to fix her unruly hair that seemed impossible to stay put. She finally used her wand and used a flattening spell for the stray curls that kept popping out. “Calm down, Hermione!” said Ginny. “You’re getting hysterical over nothing. Isn’t she, Luna?”

“What?” Luna looked up from reading a magazine. She hadn’t been listening. The whole wedding extravaganza thing was not really her cup of tea. Though, she did very much like the party part and Hermione and Ron’s star power was going to make a great cover story. She’d brought a photographer with her who was down on the Pitch roaming the crowds.

“Isn’t Hermione getting hysterical over nothing? Do you think that anyone’s going to care that the flowers are a deeper shade of pink?”

“I certainly don’t care if they are,” said Luna and went back to reading her magazine.

“It doesn’t matter, dear,” said Hermione’s mother.

“I like the darker color, better!” said Lily trying to please her aunt.

“No one is going to look at anything but you,” said Ginny pushing her toward the full-length mirror. Hermione looked absolutely beautiful.

“I’m too old to be getting married,” said Hermione frowning at the image of her self in the mirror.

Ginny made to strangle her. “You’re not, but if you don’t stop fretting I’m going to march right down there and ask Professor Snape for a potion to calm you down and everyone will know that you’re being insufferable!” She meant it, too. Merlin knows that they all should have forced Ron and Hermione to get married years ago. Now she knew why they’d had taken so long. They were both intolerable worrywarts.

The guests were starting to arrive. Those not staying in the tents had apparated to the Hogwarts gates and were walking across the lawns. Some had arrived by floo network. The main hall hearth had a stream of people coming through it.

Lily looked out the window from their perch up high in the castle. “Look, mommy! I can see Professor Dumbledore from here! Uncle Sevvie is helping him walk.”

Ginny looked out the window over her head. She could see the two making their way to the seats under the canopy. She hadn’t seen Dumbledore in many months and even from this height she could tell that he’d aged quickly and become very fragile. Severus Snape was a tall dark contrast to his shrunken form. “You’d better stop fussing now,

Hermione,” she called over her shoulder. “Take some deep breaths and let’s get downstairs. We don’t want a delay just because you’re nervous. Dumbledore’s here and we should get started.”Hermione bit her lip and nodded. Merlin, she was feeling mental.

Ron and Harry were already standing in the canopied alter area and watching everyone arrive. It was as if the entire wizarding world had come to Hogwarts for a party. Everyone was dressed to the nines and smiling. Even the Minister and his wife were there. Neville Longbottom with his wife and three children had just walked in. Neville, who had been a freckled faced, very tall youth at school, was still freckled and tall but had filled out around the edges. He worked with Harry and Ron at the Ministry. Neville sat his family down and walked over to Harry and Ron grinning happily.

“I can’t believe that we’re finally here for this, mate,” he said. “It bloody well took you long enough.”

“Yeah,” said Ron frowning. “I’ve heard it all, mate, so don’t bother saying it. I’d almost talked Hermione into eloping but she wasn’t having any of it. I feel like a monkey at the zoo.” Hermione had insisted that both he and Harry be in fitted black formal robes for the ceremony. “I feel like Snape’s twin in these robes and the tight collar is strangling me.”

“Buck up,” said Harry laughing. “It’ll all be over soon and we’ll take these darn things off.”

“No,” said Ron sadly. “She’s said I’ve to wear the bleeding thing through the whole damn party. She’s been nagging me something fierce let me tell you. For a month now, all she’s had to think about is this wedding and all I’ve had to think about is that I can’t wait for it to be over.”

The entire D.A. from their youth had been invited to the wedding, along with half the ministry and all the Auror department that Ron was head of. The place was packed with people from years gone by and both Harry and Ron were waving every few seconds and having snatches of conversations with what seemed like hundreds of people.

Harry watched Snape arrive with Dumbledore and left the crowd that had gathered around them to go say hello.

“Albus,” he said greeting his mentor warmly with a handshake, “I’m so glad that you could come.” Though he’d only seen him a few months back, Dumbledore looked much more fragile already. Snape had sat him at an aisle seat and was standing stiffly next to him as if he was his bodyguard.

Dumbledore held Harry’s hand in both of his and peered over his spectacles at him. “It’s good to see you again, Harry. How’s our little project?”

Harry looked uncomfortably at Snape who said dryly, “I think you’ll find, Albus, that Mr. Potter has managed to bring wreck and ruin to our fair school yet, again. He’s been quite entertaining.”

Dumbledore reached up to Snape, patting him on the arm. “You always were too hard on the boy, Severus. It’s not his fault that Voldemort did not exactly die.”

“You know about the crystal?” asked Harry.

Dumbledore said nothing. The onslaught of people in the aisles was crushing in as people streamed to their seats. “

We’ll talk later, Harry,” he said, winking at him. He turned to look up at Snape. “Please sit down next to me, Severus. You’re blocking my view of everyone arriving standing there like a statue.” Severus went to sit uncomfortably next to Dumbledore. Harry stood up straight and came face to face with Remus Lupin who had gone totally gray but still looked his same good-natured self.

“Lupin!” he cried. “It’s so wonderful to see you!”

“It’s been too long, Harry,” said Remus kindly. He shook Harry’s hand with both of his and then gave that up and hugged him.

“I’m so glad that you could get away,” said Harry. “When did you get back to England?” Remus Lupin was an ambassador of sorts for the Ministry of Magic. He headed the Department of Werewolves relations. The world of wizarding had realized after the defeat of Voldemort that they needed to be more open-minded to those afflicted with Remus’ condition.

“I’ve been back for a few weeks,” he said. Remus rested his hand on Albus’ shoulder. “Sir,” he said in greeting. He looked over at Severus. They both raised eyebrows in acknowledgement.

Harry left Lupin and Dumbledore to talk when he had spotted Lily running across the lawn being a scamp and moved to stop her. She had just run by Billy and slapped his behind and run off again. Billy was closing in on her to retaliate. If he caught her, the dress, the shoes and the crown would be a jumble. She was moving at a clip and bound to trip and fall. He moved fast to intercept her but Molly got to her before he did.

“Young lady!” snapped Molly Weasley at her errant granddaughter. “The whole wizarding world just saw your unladylike behavior. And you, Bill Weasley, what were you going to do when you caught up with her?”

Lily stopped short, as did Billy just behind her. Both looked suitably chastised. They knew the drill.

“We’re sorry, grandma,” said Lily with honey in her voice. It usually worked with grandma. “We’re just very excited.”

Molly smiled at her grandchildren indulgently. Even though she had many, she felt there could never be enough Weasley children in the world. “Don’t you look beautiful, my angels?” She kissed them sloppily on the cheeks. She smelled of sweet perfume and powder. Billy Weasley endured the kiss and stretched at the collar of his robe. He too had been forced into a monkey suit.

Harry walked up to Molly giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Dumbledore’s just arrived Molly,” he told her. The children ran off as soon as the Harry and Molly started talking to find others their age. The seats were filling up and children of every age were loping around the edges on the lawn. Molly nodded, pinched his cheek for good luck and went off to pay her respects.

Ginny came running up to him, which was hard to do in high heeled shoes and dress robe on the lawn. “Harry, dear,” she said panting. “Gather everyone if you can. Hermione is going to explode if we don’t start soon. She’s as nervous as a cat.”

Harry kissed his wife and twirled her around. “So is Ron but he’ll never admit it,” he said laughing because now she looked dizzy. “I’ll gather your brothers to round up the children.”

She rolled her eyes. “As if Fred and George could possibly be helpful.”

They then rushed off in different directions.

As with all weddings, the ceremony was beautiful. None of the guests noticed that Hermione’s bouquet of flowers shook like a leaf or that Ron forgot one of his lines and Hermione had to prompt him. Harry had a panic attack when he couldn’t find the rings for a few seconds and Lily pitched the flower petals mostly at Billy instead of delicately throwing them as she’d been told to. When it was over the happy couple kissed and smiled radiantly at all their friends and family. No one remembered later that it started a half hour late or had gone on a little too long.

By the time everyone was ensconced at the beautifully decorated tables laden with food and drink in the clubhouse, all anyone could recall was how it was surely one of the most enjoyable weddings that they’d ever attended.

Harry was standing with the Weasley brothers at the bar while the band played a waltz for the happy couple. He noticed that Lily was intently talking to Albus Dumbledore who was sitting at a table with others. She had crawled up into his lap and they were whispering a conversation so that no one else could hear them at the table. She was probably telling him some secret. Albus laughed out loud at something she’d said to him. It was a sweet picture of youth and old age and Harry memorized it to always remember. He wondered what they were talking about so intently.

Albus seemed to be asking her questions about something and Lily was very seriously answering. He was so curious that he walked over.

“So you two look like you’re up to something,” he said. “Are you making plans?”

Albus’s eyes twinkled with pleasure. “Lily is telling our future,” said Dumbledore. “It’s delightful!”

Lily smiled shyly up at her father. She would keep this secret from him. “We are just talking about silly stuff, daddy. Uncle Albus is a very great wizard and he’s promised to show me a secret place in the castle.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled with amusement at her little white lie.

“You are our triumph, my dear,” he said gaily and kissed her on the cheek.

Lily frowned thoughtfully. “I’ll do my best for you, sir,” she said seriously.

Severus sat casually at the table as if he were bored to tears, which he certainly was. He was dressed as always though it was a very hot. He wore black. He rose suddenly from the table and stood next to Harry starring down at Lily. “Since you’ve hood winked me to attend this illustrious event, Miss Potter,” he said. “I might as well teach you to waltz. Your father has much to discuss with Professor Dumbledore and you have monopolized his time enough for one day.” He glared meaningfully at Harry and frowned when Lily jumped down, laughed at him and dragged him onto the dance floor.

Harry watched them for a moment and drew up a chair next to his mentor. “He’s right, sir. We’ve much to discuss. I need your help.”

“Of course, Harry,” said Dumbledore kindly. “How may I help?”

Harry didn’t know where to begin. “Well, there’s the crystal in the front garden, first off,” he started. “And there’s something horrible that Lily sees happening to her that Snape is to save her from and I have no idea how to handle it all, sir. There were dragons, and …”

Dumbledore raised his hand. “Harry, Harry, Harry,” he said and wheezed.

“Are you all right, sir?” Harry was suddenly worried for Dumbledore, as well.

Dumbledore waved him off, coughed again and smiled warmly at him. He put his hand to Harry’s cheek. “You will do it, son, without me.” He smiled at Harry’s face that was frozen in confusion and frustration. It reminded him so much of the boy he remembered. “Have you figured out the secret of the ring, yet?” Dumbledore’s eyes were laughing at him.

“The ring, sir?”

“Here we go, again,” said the ring in a sarcastic tone. Harry had not heard a peep from it since the dragons at Cornwall. “That man is an incorrigible troublemaker. He just cannot let well enough alone.”

“I thought that you said that it was a little part of all the Headmasters at Hogwarts.”

“Did I say that?”

Harry’s mouth gaped open.

“Oh, never you mind, my son,” said Dumbledore kindly. “You’ll figure it out someday.” He laughed lightly at the flummoxed look on Harry’s face.

Just then Arthur Weasley came up with Molly and an aging Kingsley Shacklebolt to greet Dumbledore and Harry was pushed to the side as others from the old Order of the Phoenix also joined them to greet the revered great wizard.

Ginny came up behind him and since he looked so lost, she asked him to dance. She lead him out on the dance floor where they danced very close to Snape with Lily standing on his feet as he swung her about the floor growling at her not to jump up and down on his toes.

“You do realize, Harry,” said Ginny, as they danced. “That your two sons missed the entire ceremony and only just arrived because food was being served.” James and Sirius, along with Angus and a few of their other Gryffindor friends were sitting at a far table as if in conference, stuffing their faces with food.

“I hadn’t even thought about them. Where did they go?”

“The entire crew was down by the lake,” growled Ginny. “I’ve no idea what they were up to but now the whole lot of them are filthy dirty.” Sirius felt his parents watching and waved at them happily. Ginny growled again.

Hermione and Ron cut the cake to cheering and jeering for being such muggle traditionalists. Arthur had insisted on taking pictures of them stuffing cake into each other’s mouth because he’d read that muggles did that at their weddings. Mr. and Mrs. Granger, though long since used to Arthur Weasley and his weird ways, looked confused. Ron got cake on his jacket, Hermione said on purpose, because then he was able to remove it.

The Weasley brothers meanwhile, Fred, George, Bill and Charlie sat with Tonks at a back table drinking shots of fire whiskey. The group was strategizing how they would create a diversion to get past Molly Weasley's watchful eye and kidnap the bride and groom to throw them into the lake nearby. Remus joined their table for a moment but turned away when he’d heard what they were planning. He bent over his wife’s shoulder to ask her to dance and get her away from the wicked wedding deviants. Tonks, who had long since dumped the pink hair for a sensible blonde, now looked more her age but you’d never have guessed she was the mother of two grown up children. She and he stepped off to the dance floor where the band had decided to play something a bit more modern for the latter half of the party.

The many dignitaries at the event stayed through the first hour and half of the party but started to leave after the band seemed to get louder and more jarring to their elder ears. Seamus Finnegan and the other Aurors in Ron’s department tried to steal the extra brooms in the clubhouse and start a Quidditch match outside. Headmaster

McGonagall caught them in the locker rooms and as if the years had not gone by, marched them back out to the party to behave. She went to sit next to Dumbledore and they both laughed about students who never seem to grow up.
People loosened up as the night wore on. Many of the older crowd returned to their tents. Snape and McGonagall led Dumbledore off to the castle for a rest. Snape wanted to escape the idiocy of the Weasleys who had used a spell to create a light show in the open space of the dance floor. Dumbledore would have liked to have stayed to watch but he was, indeed, very tired.

Neville Longbottom tried to do some wild dance move and his wife had to lead him off the floor because he’d wrenched his back.

Harry carried Lily, who’d fallen asleep in a corner back down the lawn to the cottage. He dragged Billy along with him though he’d not wanted to leave the party. The twins had disappeared with their friend’s ages before. Only Ginny seemed to be upset with them. When Harry returned from putting the children to bed he arrived just in time to see Ron soaking wet. The Weasley brothers had decided not to dunk Hermione after all, because they suspected that she’d curse them but Ron wouldn’t have a chance at catching them. Then Fred and George started setting off magic fireworks over the dance floor that splayed out little lewd insults about the bride and groom.

Needless to say, the Weasley/Granger wedding was a fun time had by all.

The next morning at Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry there was a crowd of friends with hangovers. The Thorns and Roses house, and parts of the castle were filled with last minute guests. It doesn’t happen often, but when wizards drink, and there certainly was a lot of that at this wedding, they were forbidden by law to apparate. Too many wizards over the years had broken their necks falling out of trees that they’d mistakenly landed in. Just in the last year, a hundred lives had been lost due to the stupid behavior of apparating while intoxicated. One poor gentleman in April had left a pub in Middleton and ended up in the lion’s pen at the zoo. He had barely made it out alive.

Eventually, groups of guests settled in for the morning after breakfast in the main hall. Just as in their days in school, many of the house tables were filled, this time with Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws of all ages. The Slytherin table sat empty.

Groggy and a little worse for wear, the Aurors from Ron’s department gathered around Harry discussing the Riddle problem over very strong coffee.

“They had a terrible time finding an antidote potion for those snake men,” said Seamus. “The git Minister was stewing for weeks because the press kept sneaking into St. Mungo’s and taking photos of the poor souls.”

Neville, who’d been an Auror almost as long as Ron and held an accessory position with him agreed. “There was talk of him losing his position but everyone’s forgotten about it now that the snake men have returned to normal,” he said. “We’ve had a terrible time tracking Marcus Flint and the others. They’ve disappeared off the face of the earth.” There was nothing that Neville Longbottom would like more than to find Draco Malfoy and kick his can into Azkaban for all the years that he’d had to endure that jerk’s antics. He still smarted from the Umbridge year when Draco had been appointed by Umbridge to police the halls.

Harry looked at them all grimly. Many were his mates from his school days, but he just didn’t know how to confess the new more awful twist in the Riddle problem and Ron had suggested that it’d be better coming from him. “I almost don’t know how to tell you this, men,” he started, “but there’s been a few new developments that only Ron and I know of.”

They all looked expectantly at him.

“It turns out that Voldemort didn’t exactly die all those years ago when Hermione, Ron and I cornered him at his stronghold.”

They all gasped as one.

Neville found his voice and stammered at little as he’d done in his youth, “Wh-what are y-you saying, Harry?” His pale face had gotten a lot paler.

“Well, it turns out that we trapped them all in a magic crystal that Marcus Flint’s had in his office at the Riddle building all of these years. They can’t get out of it, but it may have been the reason why Marcus Flint has been doing the things that he’s been doing. Voldemort may have been influencing him somehow. I’ve got the thing buried in my front garden at the moment.”

Neville stood up so fast that he gave himself an instant headache. “Harry!” he cried. “You’ve got to get rid of it!

You’ve got to put in a vault or something!”

Harry felt guilt as he looked at Neville. He had been with him years ago in the Department of Mysteries, seen the prophesy destroyed, and Sirius killed. Neville would understand but would be hurt by what he was about to tell them.

“There’s been another prophesy, Neville,” he said slowly. “That these people will try to do something to us around Halloween, that I will finally destroy Voldemort then. I’ll need your help to get ready for them. It’s important, more important than before, that we find Malfoy and Flint. They are at the center of this. But you and I both know, Neville,” he gulped at the enormity of his responsibility in this, “that wizard prophesies come true. They’re coming here to Hogwarts and this is where we’ll meet them. Ron’s suggested that we should set up an alert system to call you here when that time comes. Just as in the old days with the Order of the Phoenix, we need to do this without the knowledge of the Ministry. For reasons that I can’t say, the Minister might not be helpful.” He felt the weight of it all sinking in.

Seamus grunted. “It’s no news that the Minister’s a git,” he said darkly.

At that moment, the bride and groom made their entrance to the hall looking happy but a little dazed by all their guests still being present. Everyone stood and called out insults and clapped. Ron blushed bright red and Hermione held onto Ron’s arm with a fierce grip. After it all died down and people went back to their breakfasts, Ron and Hermione walked over to Harry and the group of Aurors.

“So you told them then,” said Ron taking in the looks on everyone’s faces.

“Yeah,” said Harry.

“Right, then,” said Ron with authority. “No telling the press or the Ministry about this, mates. We’ll be ready when they come, but let’s make a real effort to find Flint and Malfoy beforehand. I’ll be back from,” he paused at looked at Hermione sheepishly, “um, our holiday by next week and we’ll get to work. The Minister might not be too keen to find Flint and Malfoy, but we are.”

All the Aurors were nodding in agreement. Neville felt a little as he had in the old days of the D.A. When it was time to fight, they would be ready.

Just as everyone else had finally left by mid-morning, Hermione pulled Harry aside. She handed him a heavy bag.
“What’s this?” He opened it up to find two very old books. The leather spines were worn and ripped and they smelled of aged dust.

“I dug those up from the teacher’s section for you. They’ve been hidden on purpose for years. Madame Pince, before she died had hidden many of the worst dark magic books, that she didn’t approve of.” Hermione bit her lip, a sure sign of nerves and trepidation.

“What are you saying, Hermione?” he asked. “Do you think that I’ll have to resort to dark magic to destroy the crystal?”

“I’m not sure, Harry,” she said miserably. “I’ve searched everywhere in the Ancient Runes for an answer and they give no hint that what happened should have happened.” She felt that she’d failed him years ago and now again. She would probably never perform her Runes lesson on the Death to Voldemort in class again.

Harry reached out to hug the worried Hermione. He held her for some moments and then kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t worry Herimone,” he said softly. He looked at her and smiled encouragingly. “We’ll do it. I know we will. After all, we’ve the future on our side. Lily says that I’ll do it and so I shall. So what if we thought that it was all behind us. We were getting lazy in our old age.” He smiled warmly but she didn’t look so convinced. “I promise you that I’ll crush that monster in my bare hands if I have to, Hermione. You go on your honeymoon and forget about it.”

Chapter 31: Waiting
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Chapter Thirty-One


Snape waited two days only before checking to see if Marcus Flint had returned to his lair in the mountain. He was fast becoming impatient. Flint, according to the idiots Crabbe and Goyle had been delayed. He decided to seek him out by going again to London. Since he had no idea where Flint’s home was, he stopped unannounced at the Malfoy’s to find out if Narcissa knew.

Narcissa greeted him warmly, which was surprising since he’d arrived without an invitation and had left her house days before without even a good-bye. She led him into her own personal receiving room and closed the pocket doors behind her.

“I wish to thank you, Severus,” she said immediately. “For helping my son, as you did.”

Snape then understood the warm reception. “So he was able to avoid Mr. Flint?” he asked. Leave to Malfoy to escape to nice beach in the sun on the other side of the world.

“Yes,” said Narcissa smugly. She straightened her back and fussed with her blonde hair. She acted very irritated at the mention of Flint’s name. “My dear Draco left that evening of my party, when you told him that he should. That awful Marcus Flint came prancing in here the next morning at an ungodly hour. The very idea of it, Severus!” She frowned and walked over to him. She reached out for his hands. “I owe you so much, my dear friend.”

Snape was surprised but didn’t show it. She was not one to usually touch. “He was not nice to you, Narcissa?” he asked with some guarded concern.

She led him to sit next to her on a settee. She did not let go of his hands, something he was finding a little too intimate. He and Narcissa had known each other a great many years, it was true but she had always been a Black or a Malfoy and not given to shows of affection towards he, a mere Snape. As pureblood families went, his was not in the same league.

“He was not only rude, my friend,” she said finally releasing his hands. “He was also unhinged. He ranted for I don’t know how long that he’d get even with my dear son for his desertion and though I said endlessly that I’d no idea where Draco was, he didn’t believe me.” She bowed her head. “I’m not sure if I should be afraid for my life.”

Snape was alarmed. “Narcissa, I remember Marcus Flint from his days at Hogwarts and I don’t remember him as being especially violent, at least never to a Slytherin, let alone that Slytherin’s mother.” Draco had said that Marcus

Flint had changed and now Snape began to suspect that some influence from the Dark Lord’s crystal might have changed Flint somehow. How else could he have spoken Parselmouth when he never had before?

“I must find Marcus Flint, Narcissa. The more you speak of him, the more dangerous he sounds.”

Narcissa smiled gratefully and reached out to him again. “It is so comforting that you care so, Severus,” she said.

He shifted uncomfortably. Her touching him was unnerving.
“Where is his home, Narcissa?” he asked.

She rose from her seat and went to the writing desk. “You’ve got to stop him hurting my Draco, Severus.” She said handing him the address.

“Oh, I’ll stop him,” said Severus, not caring a flying flick for Draco. He opened the doors to leave after bowing to her in thanks only to find young Lucius Malfoy standing just outside. He’d been listening at the door.

“Lucius Malfoy!” Narcissa cried. “How rude that you were listening to an adult’s private conversation!”

Lucius looked at her coldly. He suddenly looked very much like his grandfather to a rather amused Severus Snape. “I only waited for a word with Professor Snape, grandmother,” he said loftily. “I have something private that I wish to discuss with him before he takes his leave.” The air could have been cut with a knife it was so thick with Malfoy arrogance. He had perhaps misjudged the boy.

Snape smirked at Narcissa and felt a little pride at Mr. Malfoy’s authority. He would be coming along nicely in the Slytherin line of command.

“Well,” she said saving face in her retreat. “I’ll be in the library if anyone has need of me, then. Thank you very much for your visit, Severus.” She glared imperiously at Lucius and filed out down a hall.

Lucius let out an audible sigh of relief. The young man had just been flexing his new fledgling muscles. “What do you wish to discuss, Mr. Malfoy?” he asked sternly.

“When Mr. Flint was here he mentioned that girl, Lily,” Lucius said urgently. “That’s why grandmother thought that he was ranting. He kept telling her that when he had the crystal and the girl he’d come and get father, as well. He said that she would give him the power to find him no matter where he was hiding. Grandmother doesn’t know anything about the crystal or Lily, but I knew that you’d want to know.”

Something inside Severus Snape shrieked. A part of his brain that had been locked away deep opened and let out a primordial scream from the dark. It was several seconds before he felt he could breath again. For probably the first time in many years, he had no idea where to turn or what to do. He stood as still as stone.

Lucius Malfoy watched him waiting. “I think that Thomas Flint may have said something to him, sir,” he continued. “Just as I did the other day. Everyone at school knows about her and if Mr. Flint was talking to Tom about wanting the future then he would have told him.”

Severus snapped back to the here and now. “You’ve done well, Mr. Malfoy,” he said in his old controlled manner. He looked piercingly into the young man’s eye. “When it comes time to choose a prefect in your year, I will remember to put your name at the top of my list.” With that said, Severus disapparated with a ‘pop’.

“Yes, sir,” said Lucius proudly into the empty air.

Snape had reached a scarily panicked state by the time he’d found out that the Flint mansion was completely empty of people. There weren’t even any house elves to yell at. He paced on the front step for several seconds highly irritable. He wanted very much to return to Hogwarts and make sure that Miss Potter was still there and intact but knew that he had better alert the Ministry first.

Though it killed him to do so, he went through the excruciatingly slow entry there and barreled into Neville Longbottom’s office in the Aurors Department. A pox on Ronald Weasley for having the audacity to vacation at a time like this, he thought as he impatiently waited for the ridiculous secretary to alert Longbottom to his presence.

Severus Snape’s entry into the Ministry had not gone unnoticed. Three quarters of the building had taken his potions class in the last forty years that he’d taught it and all remembered him vividly in their nightmares. Neville’s secretary was shaking with fear at the sight of him.

“Miss Everett,” he said to the secretary coldly. She’d been a Hufflepuff of the giggly type, if he recalled correctly. “My seeing Longbottom is most urgent. If you do not fetch him this instant, I will cause a scene that I assure you that you’ll regret.”

“Sir, he’s in an important meeting…” she froze at his look. “I’ll go this moment, sir.” She hustled out the door.

Neville returned following her with a look on his face that might have been unreadable except for the slight twitch in his left eye. Neville Longbottom may have faced many a dark wizard in his time but Severus Snape would always be his Boggart.

“Sir?” he said, forcing the tremor out of his voice. “Is something wrong?”

“Longbottom,” said Snape coolly. “I’ve come about Flint. I believe that I know where he is and if you move fast, you’ll catch him.”

Neville gaped at him.

“Longbottom! Pay attention,” barked Snape.

“I-I’m sorry, sir, it’s just that I didn’t know that you knew about any of that.”

“I do and I’ve come to inform you that you must get your esteemed Auror butt in gear and go and get the man. Since Weasley is swanning somewhere with his new wife, I’m guessing that you’re the man for the job.”

Neville came to from his initial shock. “Yes, sir, come into my office, and tell me what you know.” He led Professor Snape into his office and after a nanosecond of hesitation at the thought of being locked in a room with the man, he shut the door.

An hour and a half later, Severus was standing again at the gate of Thorns and Roses cottage with Lily waiting for him on the veranda. She saw him and waved. “Daddy, daddy,” she called into the house. “He’s here! He’s here!”

Harry stepped out of the house and came down the steps to greet him. Severus had never been so grateful in his life knowing that Harry Potter was nearby. It was an odd sensation. Of course, the man was an imbecile for botching the job of killing Voldemort but he was certainly more than capable of killing Flint if he came near Lily.

“Potter,” he said not unkindly.

“Lily told me that you’d wish to speak to me when you arrived, Severus?”

Lily bounced over and held onto Harry’s hand, squinting up at Snape.

“Yes,” said Severus taking inventory of her to assure himself that she was all in one piece. “I’ve just come from Longbottom at the Ministry. I informed them that I believe Marcus Flint will be at the volcano where you did NOT as it turned out, destroy Voldemort. Flint has those two idiots Crabbe and Goyle there tending to some twenty Dementors that he has been hiding for years. I went to Flint’s house in London and there was no one there. I’m guessing that Flint has returned to his hiding place and if the Aurors are worth the Galleons that they’re paid, then they’ll be arriving there shortly to capture them.”

“I suppose that we’ll just have to hope that they’ll catch him,” said Harry wishing he could be there with them. He’d almost forgotten about the Dementors.

Lily turned sadly and walked back up onto the veranda to watch them from afar. She had no desire to hear what came next. Snape watched her go and turned to Harry.

“Marcus Flint knows about your daughter’s ability to tell the future,” he hissed. “Young Lucius Malfoy told me that he’d heard him talking about her to his grandmother. If the Ministry does not successfully capture him we will have to be diligent.”

Harry’s stomach constricted. He needed to hold onto something and reached out for support, holding onto Snape’s arm. The two men starred at each other for what seemed like an eternity, both thinking the same thought. Their animosity for each other had withstood the test of time yet now they would unite in this one aim to protect Lily Potter from all harm. A stranger pair had never been so bonded by need.


Summer is a wonderful time in England. Some days are lazy with heat but frankly those are very few. It often rains lightly for part of a day and then clears to a lovely clean sunshine. Some summers can bring a light rain almost every day. The long summer that Lily Potter waited for the pumpkins to grow fat and orange was a truly wonderful Englishy type of summer. Weather wise, it was perfectly pleasant with just enough rain to keep the grasses green and the flowers pretty but not enough rain to keep Lily off her broom and indoors on any one day.

Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnegan and the other Aurors that went looking for Marcus Flint did not find him. They found, instead two near dead men with their souls sucked out by Dementors. Those faceless ancient demons had escaped to parts unknown. Crabbe and Goyle’s day of entertaining themselves with muggles snatched from the street was over.

Marcus Flint had completely disappeared. His wife and family claimed that they’d not seen him all summer. He was gone without a trace.

The Ministry was understandably more worried about where the Dementors had gotten to more than anything else. The Minister was not so keen on finding Marcus Flint, seeing that the man had bribed him and such facts may come to light if he were found.

At first, the Minister also had tried to put down all the rumors that the Dementors were possibly at large as hogwash, but someone in the Ministry, perhaps an Auror with an Irish accent named Seamus, leaked the story to the press. He’d had to confess the truth of it. Many in the Wizarding world were now calling for the Minister’s resignation. The wizarding community was up in arms over the Dementors. The Daily Prophet ran endless advice on how to protect against them were they to show up anywhere.

Severus Snape visited Thorns and Roses Cottage every day, sometimes staying for dinner. This was extremely unnerving for James and Sirius who usually found some excuse to leave the room when he was nearby. Sitting down to dinner with vampire man was causing them to lose their usually tremendous teen-age appetites. They found that they spent less and less time in the house and more and more time exploring the grounds. Just as their father and his friends had, James and Sirius began to spend many hours with Hagrid. He, in turn, delighted in their company and because of his duties, often took them with him into the Dark Forest. That summer, the twins learned a great deal about thestrals, unicorns, giants, centaurs and, though they were scared witless, spiders.

Ginny found time to write in the study. Entertaining Severus Snape in her house was a duty she very much tried to avoid. She’d been working on the articles about the Hogwarts houses despite recent events that had delayed her. She had modified it to a series of stories about the houses themselves. In that way, she could write long sections on the fascinating history, as well as the alumni who were either living or dead.

The most surprising item to come out of Snape’s frequent visits was that Harry quite enjoyed his company. Ron, though often at Hogwarts to see his family, was always too busy to do much more than come to pick up his son.

Severus, it turned out was a winning wizard’s chess player and quite witty to talk to when he wasn’t sneering or glaring about Harry’s faults. He also was very interested in helping Harry find a solution for destroying the Dark Lord’s crystal. Both he and Snape spent long hours practicing spells and discussing some of the more pertinent magic in the books that Hermione had given Harry.

One of the books was especially fascinating. It was entitled simply Blood Magic and had been written by a little known wizard by the name of Bartholomew Marchbanks, who had coincidentally been the aged Griselda Marchbanks’ father. He was an English wizard who had traveled widely in the East, as well as South America where blood magic harkened back to the Mayan times. Though it had been written some two hundred years before, it was very readable and surprisingly interesting. Severus had even discovered that Dumbledore had written notes in the margins. Having seen the Headmaster’s handwriting for so many years, he had recognized it instantly.

“I have no doubts that the Albus Dumbledore is well versed in all aspects of magic and wizardry. He is surely the greatest wizard of our age,” said Severus one day when they were sitting in front of the hearth in the main room. “It never made sense to think that he didn’t know just as much or more than Voldemort did.”

“I am just amazed that Dumbledore studied Dark Magic, is all,” said Harry. He’d been having trepidation about the blood magic. It was Dark Magic and his acquired tendencies from Voldemort made him very leery of his practicing it. He had always felt that he had to be diligent not to be the evil Dark wizard that Voldemort had become.

“Dumbledore did not practice Dark Magic. That is the difference,” said Snape grimly. “Voldemort lost his humanity in the practice of the Dark Arts. He used hate and fear to frighten people. He enjoyed torturing. He killed people simply because he could. The fiend brutalized souls for his sick entertainment.”

“I’m sorry, Severus,” said Harry softly. “I’m so sorry that that happened to you.”

Snape rubbed his arm that still held the faint outlines of the Dark Mark and frowned. His arm ached with recollection and felt stiff. He stuffed the memory down deeper.

Both men turned their gaze to Lily to change the subject. She was leaning against Shag, the dog in front of the fire. Shag was aging quickly and now spent longer and longer hours lying on his rug. Lily was flipping through a muggle fairy tale book that Hermione had given her to read. She was comforted by the sound of their conversation.

She had kept very close to both Severus and her father during that summer to the point that she often begged her father to fly with her on his broom so that she could at least be up in the air occasionally. She never felt safe in the air alone anymore.

September and the start of the school year was closing in on them and still they’d found no solution to the dilemma of the crystal, nor had the Ministry located Flint. “Perhaps, we could use a potion?” offered Severus, still looking at Lily. He had said it many times. He still was of a mind that a corrosive potion would just melt their troubles away.

“The crystal is starting to glow at night,” said Lily from her spot on Shag.

Both men stared harder at her. “What are you saying, Lily?” said Snape.

Harry was too shocked to speak.

“I’ve seen the ground glow,” she said still flipping through her fairytale book looking at the pictures. She looked up at them. “I’m not scared or anything anymore.” She touched her necklace, something she did often for comfort. She knew it would not happen until the awful, evil pumpkins were orange in the fields and she had decided not to think about her terror anymore until then. She hated being sad and scared.

“I watch it sometimes from my window,” she said. “They can’t get out. That I know for sure. The Sybil said so. Daddy will destroy them.” She didn’t bring up the rest of it. She’d learned during the summer to section out her feelings and not panic about the really scary stuff. Uncle Sevvie had been teaching her without his even knowing it. He didn’t think of the icky stuff from his past. She had learned to forget things on purpose by sectioning them off and not looking. Even the Sybil had told her that it was a good trick to know.

Severus looked sharply at Harry. “Are you getting headaches?” he asked with a hard edge to his voice.

Harry didn’t answer at first. He was rubbing the lightning shaped scar on his forehead that had become more vivid than it had been in years. His headaches had been getting worse but they were nothing like the blinding pain of connecting with Voldemort that he remembered. “They haven’t been anywhere near the same so I haven’t thought anything of it. I assumed it was the stress of waiting.”

Snape sat frowning. His forehead furrowed. He growled without realizing that he’d done it. He rubbed his arm again.

Lily jumped up from her place by the fire and rubbed his forehead in an effort to flatten out the wrinkle, then hopped onto her father’s lap and rubbed his forehead, too.

Snape watched them for a moment, and then got up abruptly. “I’ll go, now,” he said. “I’ve much to think about. Though it may hurt you, Harry, we might want to consider digging that thing up and experimenting on it. I’ll mull over the possibilities and return tomorrow. The longer that fiend sits out your front door, the more dangerous it will become. I have no doubts about that. Anything to do with Voldemort is dangerous, even if he is supposedly safely encased in a rock.” He left angry and unsettled.

The next day Snape dug up the Dark Lord’s Crystal. Harry and Lily sat watching him from the veranda because Harry’s head shrieked with pain if he got within ten feet of the crystal. Lily shook her head sadly for her friend. Severus Snape would take the Dark Lord’s crystal to his dungeons where he would work diligently to destroy it with potions, Dark Magic, and whatever he could find that just might work. He would just get frustrated, lose sleep, and find that his Dark Mark started to hurt again. He would become grouchier and more snarling than she’d ever seen him. Then finally, just when the students would be arriving, he would bury the crystal back in the same spot again. Only her dad could destroy Voldemort.

Chapter 32: Pity the Child
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Chapter Thirty-Two

Pity the Child

Albus Dumbledore had shown Lily a secret place in the castle. He had laughed at the white lie that she’d told to her father at the wedding when she’d said that they’d been talking about a secret place when really they’d been talking about the future of Hogwarts. But as uncle Albus had explained it, sometimes a lie can become the truth. He did actually have a special secret place. He did show it to her. It had a view of the great hall and now she was the only person at the school who knew about it.

As she sat within the ancient cupboard in the great hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry she thought of the funny old man. He was older than old. He was so old that she practically couldn’t count that high let alone imagine living that long. Uncle Albus was going to die soon, she and he both knew, but he didn’t seem too terribly bothered by it. She was afraid of dying but he said that he wasn’t afraid at all. He had told her that he would be seeing old friends and that it would be as if he’d just come home after a very long time away. He also said that in death he would be better able to watch over those that he loved. That had sounded rather nice and not scary at all to her.

Lily knew that if she were caught in her hiding place, she’d be in big trouble. She wasn’t supposed to be inside the castle at all without her dad or her brothers. If anyone found out that she was sitting inside the large china cupboard with a perfect view of the entire hall, she would probably be grounded for a month. Uncle Albus had shown her the passageway that lay just behind a holly hedge outside the castle. It was a perfect little round hole that he had said would open up with a password that she was sure to remember: chocolate frogs. It was her favorite food, bar none.

Her mother was sitting not very far away from her perch. She watched her mother who hovered at the doorway waiting. Billy would be sorted tonight and she had come to watch from the door. Her mother thought that she was at home with Dobby.

The hall was magical at night. She’d never seen it lit up like it was before. The ceiling looked as if the whole universe was up there and she could see stars flying. She watched the older students as they waited for the first years to enter.

The blonde boy named Lucius Malfoy was there. She could see him talking animatedly with his friends. Her brothers, Sirius and James were talking very intently with a pretty girl at their table. Daddy sat in between uncle Sevvie and aunt Hermione with the other teachers and Headmaster McGonagall at the teacher’s table. Uncle Sevvie looked really mean. He sort of did look like a vampire as her brothers kept telling her. There was also a ratty old hat sitting on a stool that looked as if it was tipping its pointy top in her direction in a wild sort of way but she wasn’t sure. She hoped that it wasn’t going to tell on her.

When the first year’s entered, they looked really scared. It made her laugh. Then one by one aunt Hermione put the yucky old hat on their heads. Billy went to Gryffindor House, which she knew he would and Sirius and James slapped him on the back and let him sit between them. She wondered if they’d be that nice to her. Then all too soon it was time for her to high tail it back to the house and pretend to have been sleeping. Her mother was standing up to leave.

She raced across the wet lawn. Barefoot and dressed in her P.J.’s, she flew past the gate and the crystal that glowed all the time now and in through the door. She was upstairs and in bed by the time her mother came in to check on her.

Ginny thought about how the children were growing up too fast as she returned from the sorting ceremony. She went upstairs to check on Lily. Surprisingly, she’d gone to bed very early. She felt the child’s forehead. It felt hot and sweaty so she went downstairs to fetch a potion. Lily seemed to be coming down with something.

One day about a week later, Lily was in the back garden chasing rabbits on Babbling Broomstick. She never ventured very far or very high any more. It was nearing the bad time when the pumpkins would be orange so she needed to be careful. In another month, she was planning on not venturing out of the house at all.

The rabbits were so quick and fast that she got to do some fast flying but very low to the ground where she felt safer. She flushed a big cottontail from its hiding place in the grass and it ran under the back gate and across the lawn toward the castle. It was a smart little thing and kept dodging back and forth, stopping and then starting again, trying to lose her but she was right on its tail. It made a quick turn and headed past uncle Sevvie’s garden and on down past to the Herbology green houses. She fairly zipped along happily laughing.

A group of students was heading for Herbology class and she had to stop fast to avoid hitting them. They looked like so many black crows with their robes flapping in the slight breeze. She stopped to watch them.

“That looks like fun,” said a boy who came up behind her. He was standing next to Lucius Malfoy who was looking at his friend quizzingly. She was flying a worm ridden old broom and his friend had a brand new Fireshot.

“It is,” she said and hopped off her broom. She came over to them. “Hello, Lucius.” She looked up timidly at him.

“Hello, Lily,” he said in a much nicer way than the last time that she’d seen him. “Did you have a nice summer?”

“Not really.” She swung her arms absently from side to side.

The other boy seemed surprised. “You know her?” he asked.

“Yeah, Tom,” said Lucius snidely. Tom was acting very strange. “Professor Snape told me to watch out for her.”

Lucius smiled smugly in memory of the Professor’s promise that he would be Prefect some day. Then he remembered that this was Tom Flint, who might be a good friend but who was also the son of the crazy man that had upset his grandmother and said he was going to find his father. “Come on, Tom,” he said. “We better get to class.”

Tom ignored him. “Can I ride your broom for a minute before class?”

“Sure,” said Lily handing him the broom. “But be careful with it, please.”

“No, don’t Tom,” said Lucius suspicious. “We need to get to class.” He didn’t really want to be late again and Tom was always fooling around.

Tom laughed at him dismissively and hopped onto the broom heading quickly around the back of the green houses toward the lake.

They watched him go. Both stood silent for a while but Lucius felt the need to fill up the space with conversation.

“So Professor Snape was pretty worried about you when he was at my house this summer. Must be pretty strange being you.”

“Sometimes,” she said cautiously. She was feeling a little timid around him and didn’t know why. It wasn’t something she normally felt.

“Are we really going to be friends someday?”

She looked shyly down at her shoes. “Huh-huh.” She looked up at him. “Maybe we could be friends, now?”

Lucius laughed at her. “You’re rather little to be taken to Hogsmeade, Miss Potter.” She was such a strange little girl. Too bad she was a Gryffindor. He could see why Snape was worried about her though. She was sort of cute and that Mr. Flint seemed very intent on getting her. He felt a pang of need to protect her, as well. He looked around for Tom, who was nowhere in sight. “Let’s walk over to the lake, Lily. I’ve got to get to class and Tom’s taking too long. I better find him.” They made their way around the bend at the greenhouses.

“I saw you the other night at the sorting,” she said. “I have a secret hiding place that my uncle Albus showed me.”

Lucius stopped short. “Albus Dumbledore showed you? Albus Dumbledore is your uncle?” he asked incredulously. “Wow! You know everyone.” Even a Malfoy could be impressed with that.

“Well, he’s not really my uncle and neither is uncle Sevvie but they let me call them that.” She was having a little spasm inside. Something was wrong and she couldn’t recall what it was.

She was thinking of this as they walked along and out through a stand of trees. When they came to the clearing, she stopped dead in her tracks. Lucius pulled up, too. “What’s wrong, Lily?” he asked.

She stood staring at a field of pumpkins. They were giant orange pumpkins. Her mind went numb. It was too early. It was too early. It was too early.

“What is it?” The look on her face was frightening him. “What do you see, Lily?” She reached for a small necklace she wore and made a strangling sound.

“They’re just pumpkins,” he said reaching out to her. “They grow them magically so that they’ll be ready for autumn decorations in a few weeks.” He put his arms around her feeling again the need to protect her. She was shaking like a leaf.

She hung onto him, burying her face into his waist. “Help me, Lucius,” she said. That was what she’d forgotten. That was what she’d said. She remembered the dream, now, standing in Lucius’ arms. Like a kaleidoscope of fear and terror the images unfocused, scrambled and became focused again. “Help me, Lucius,” she whispered into him, and then she looked up into her fate.

She didn’t hear him after that though he was shouting at her to run and hide. He’d taken out his wand and pushed her into the pumpkin patch, trying to shield her. He was shouting over and over for her to run, run for her life. She’d stood there watching the scene unfold, not even realizing that she was screaming, screaming, screaming in terror as a great large dragon swooped down upon her, grabbed her in its talons and took her high up into the sky.

Lucius stood watching in helpless horror trying to remember anything he knew about dragons, anything to stop what was happening but failed miserably. He was only a second year and had barely learned advanced hexes. Everything he tried failed. The spells just bounced off the great large beast. Dragons had magically tough skins. Hagrid had said that. And then it was high above and flying into the northwest. He could still hear Lily screaming though now it was memory because she was almost out of sight.

Tom Flint came flying up on Lily’s broom. He got off and started laughing. “Did you see that, Lucius?” he said. “That stupid girl never even saw it coming and she’s supposed to see the future.”

Lucius turned as if in a trance on the boy that he’d known as friend for his whole life. “Did you know that was going to happen, Tom?” he said evenly.

“Sure, my father and I have been planning it.” Tom smirked. “I just had to lead her down to the lake. It was cake.”

Lucius was gripping his wand, still in shock at what he’d seen. He hauled off and sucker punched his oldest friend.

Tom went down before he could even reach for his wand. Lucius kicked him where it hurts right between the legs after he hit the ground. Tom lay writhing in pain, not able to speak, his wand finally in his hand flailing uselessly.

Lucius grabbed the wand and despite the pain it caused him, snapped it over his knee. He knew it was against the law and ethics of wizarding. It hurt, too. The thing made a pop and burned him but he didn’t care. He turned and ran faster than he’d ever run in his life for the castle.

Through the corridors he ran, past the great hall, straight down into the dungeons. He barreled into the potions room and stood hanging onto the large door to hold his self up. “PROFESSOR SNAPE! PROFESSOR SNAPE!” he cried to the startled room of first years. Professor Snape had been in the storeroom to fetch Limpus Weed for the potion that he was instructing them on.

“Wh..?” He stood gawking at Lucius Malfoy who had the audacity to be yelling in his class at the top of his lungs.

“He’s taken her, sir! Flint’s taken her!!!!!”

Billy Weasley was sitting in the back row but stood up with a look of panic on his face. “Lily,” he gasped.

“Yes, sir. It’s Lily, sir,” said Lucius running up to Professor Snape who had not moved. He stood still as a statue with the bundles of Limpus Weed hanging from both hands. “Flint’s taken Lily Potter!!!!”

Snape dropped the weed on the floor and grabbed Lucius by the shoulders. “What happened?” he said fiercely. “How?”

“He was riding a dragon, sir. Right down there by the lake. Tom Flint led us down there and must have told his father, somehow. The dragon swooped out of the sky and grabbed her, sir. I tried to stop it.” He started crying at his failure. “But I just couldn’t.”

Snape looked over at Bill Weasley who still stood stunned. “Mr. Weasley? Go tell Potter. RUN!” he yelled to Bill’s back already going out the door. “Class dismissed!”

The class filed out slowly, chattering in muffled tones and curious about what had just happened. Snape was still gripping Lucius’ shoulder. “MOVE!!!” he thundered at them. “OUT OF MY CLASS THIS INSTANT!!!!!!” The first years scrambled after that, some even leaving their book bags behind in an effort to get out faster.

Snape released Lucius and started calling out questions as he went to a cupboard and grabbed things from it. “You say a dragon took her? Where did this happen?” asked Snape. He pulled out a heavy cloak, a strange brass globe with a clamp on the end, and the biggest, blackest broomstick that Lucius had ever seen in his life.

“Down by the lake, sir,” he said.

Snape pushed him along out the door. “Show me,” he commanded.

Lucius ran after Professor Snape whose long legs and deadly earnestness seemed to enable him to go faster then he’d ever imagined the elder man could run. When they reached the outside, Snape straddled the broomstick and picked Lucius off the ground and threw him onto the broom. They raced at lightning speed down to the green houses and around toward the lake. Tom Flint was still hobbling around in the same spot, unable to get his legs to move properly because Lucius had kicked him so hard. They landed and Professor Snape pointed his wand at Tom. The boy stood in stark terror of Severus Snape looking down on him as if he’d use an unforgivable.

“Mr. Flint?” he said coldly. “Where has your father taken her?”

“I d-don’t, sir,” he managed to strangle out of his mouth.

“Pack your bags, Mr. Flint. When I get back, I’m going to see to it personally that you are expelled from this school. You’ll be the first student in several decades that will have had that honor.” He narrowed his eyes with an intense malice then he turned sharply away. He took the brass globe from his pocket, clamped it onto the end of his broomstick and stuck his wand into a hole in the top. He then straddled the broomstick again, rubbed the wand between his hands muttering an incantation until a blue ball of magic flame appeared at the tip. Lucius watched transfixed as the blue ball moved away from the end of the wand leaving a string of blue still attached. The ball flew up above the trees into the western horizon leaving a string still attached to the end of the wand.

“Lucius,” said Snape. “Go and tell the Headmaster, immediately.” He rose into the air without another word and swooshed off into the sky guided by the blue string. It was the same direction that the dragon had taken Lily.

Tom Flint stood glaring at him but Lucius didn’t care. He picked up Lily’s broomstick with a pang of defeat. He’d been bloody useless, worse then useless. He’d failed to protect her, practically led her to her doom. The wormy old broomstick suddenly shuddered and flew out of his hands. It flew straight at Tom Flint and began beating him about the head. The boy tried to duck his head and run for the castle to get away but the broom held fast and followed him.

Lily, wrapped in the talons of a great large dragon, screamed for what seemed like hours before she fainted. When she finally came around again she was dazed and freezing cold. She was still wrapped in the dragon’s grip and flying over an immense ocean. She could barely make out the outline of a tiny island before a grassy earth seemed to rise up out of the ocean at her and her stomach rose to her mouth. The dragon had headed straight down for the island and the rush of the earth coming toward her caused her to black out again.

When she came to, she was lying in a field with the sound of sheep nearby. She could hardly turn her head. Her whole body ached with soreness. Slowly looking around, she spotted a great large man jumping off the dragon that had landed a few feet away. She’d never seen a dragon before except in her dreams. It was enormous and frightening. It smelled awful. She nearly fainted again.

All she could think about was her fear, nothing else. It felt thick, cloying and seemed to cling to her very skin. Fear was what she felt when the man swooped her up like she was a bag of potatoes and took her into a little house nearby. The man didn’t say a word and dumped her onto a bed in the center of the room. It smelled of sweat, and another smell, of the dragon. The smell made her fear deepen. The man grunted at her prone form and then went to pick up a washbasin and began to wipe her face with a cloth. He wasn’t gentle. He just seemed to want to scrutinize her.

Her face must have been bleeding because the cloth was red with blood. Her arm stung, too. She looked down slowly, afraid to look away from the man who acted as if she weren’t there, as if she weren’t even a person. She looked at her arm that was indeed bleeding from a gash. The man took out his wand and cleaned it, then cleaned her. All this she watched quietly in fear. The terror inside her was a large hole, a frighteningly large hole of dread that she had sunk into. The man rubbed her arm with the cloth. The magic hadn’t thoroughly cleaned it. He was rough and tears of pain came into her eyes.

“Your father will pay for what he’s done to me,” said the man fiercely. He had a crazy look in his eye. Her fear deepened further, if that were possible, and she nearly fainted again. She’d forgotten how to breathe.

He stared down at her. “Tell me what I need to know and I’ll not hurt you,” he said. His voice was cold.

She nodded numbly. It was not possible to move, her fear was so intense.

“What will happen next?”

She didn’t understand. Then she realized that she didn’t know. She couldn’t see anything. She couldn’t feel anything in the future. It was a void of space. The Sybil was gone. She began to cry.

“I-I d-don’t know,” she whispered her voice was hoarse from screaming. “I-I’m a-afraid.”

“Bahh!” he said harshly. “Tell me where the crystal is.”

This she did know. She did know where the crystal was.

“We buried it,” she whispered.

“YOU TOOK IT?” The man’s eyes grew wide with anger.

She shook her head. “No, my brother’s took it.” Her tears began again. She wanted her brothers. She wanted her mother, her dad. Her thoughts suddenly fixated on Severus Snape. She frantically, painfully reached up with her hand and felt for the necklace. It was still there. She clasped it triumphantly.

“What is that?” the man demanded.

She shook her head.

“Let me see it.”

She held on tighter.

He pried open her hand and grabbed the necklace that he yanked from her neck. Her heart plummeted has she watched him examine it. “Please, sir,” she whispered begging. “It’s a present.”

“Who gave it to you?” he asked.

Lily knew enough about the world of magic to say nothing.

“WHO gave it to you, I asked?” he yelled.

“I did,” said Severus Snape standing in the doorway, his wand pointed directly at Marcus Flint. “EXPELLIARMUS!!” said Snape before Flint had even drawn his wand. He was so worked up with anger that the spell hit him with the strength of ten and threw him into the wall knocking Flint completely out.

“ICARCEROUS” said Snape over Flint’s limp form. The binding curse wrapped him up in a flash. All that was needed was a bow.

Lily lay in the bed looking up at her benefactor, crying her little eyes out in relief. She tried to move but couldn’t.

Snape sat on the bed, lifted her up and cradled her in his arms. “There, there, Miss Potter,” he said. “Don’t cry. We did it, just as you said. I’ve saved you. It’s done.” He held her to him as gently as he could though the force of his emotions wanted to squeeze her with relief that she was all in one piece and safe in his arms. The unfamiliar sensation of tears stung at his eyes. He was momentarily amazed that it was even possible for him to cry, it had been so many years. “You’re safe, Lily,” he said looking at her sweet little face.

“I want my mommy and daddy, uncle Sevvie,” she whispered still crying.

“I’ll take you home, dear child,” he told her. “Can you sit up by yourself?”

She nodded.

He tenderly left her on the bed sitting, wiped his eyes of the rusty tears and walked to the small hearth. He took out his wand and started a magic fire, and then running his hand along the mantle, he found the small box of floo powder. He knelt before the fireplace, threw in the powder as he shouted the words “Ministry of Magic Emergency” and stuck his head into the fire.

Ernie Kravatz, who was on duty that day in the emergency wing of the Ministry of Magic got the shock of his life when the head of his potions master from school came through the floo network shouting loudly “This is an emergency, get me Neville Longbottom at once!”

He stood gaping at the head in horror, wondering if he were having a waking nightmare when the head shouted at him again. “Are you an imbecile? Get me Neville Longbottom, this instant! Tell him that it’s an emergency from Severus Snape.”

Ernie got Snape transferred to Neville as fast as his nimble fingers could work the network. He had nightmares for weeks after.

Neville Longbottom assured Snape that he would personally get to his position on the island in the Hebrides to collect Flint immediately.

“Let’s hope you don’t fail me this time, Longbottom,” the head of Snape said dryly. “I knocked him out and tied him up with the binding curse so I’m sure you can’t mess it up this time.”

Neville rushed out the door to alert Ron and the others that Snape had captured Flint but he also took a quick moment to ask his secretary to make up a potion powder for his nerves before he left.

With that job finished, Snape creaked back to a standing position. He rubbed his knee and looked at Lily, who was smiling at him.

“You really are a Mr. Gruffy Guts sometimes, uncle Sevvie,” she said.

“Yes, well, it works doesn’t it?” he said smirking. He sat on the bed next to her and kissed her on the top of the head. He let out a long sigh. “Lily, child? You are not going to need anymore saving are you? I’m feeling a little old and set in my ways for being the hero. It is certainly NOT what Slytherins normally are made to do.”

Her look darkened. It was not a good sign.

“Ah, yes, your father still has the Dark Lord to contend with, doesn’t he? Very well, then,” he said grimly. “Let’s go home and help him, shall we?”

The entire Potter family, Ginny, Harry, James and Sirius were sitting with Lucius Malfoy, Billy Weasley, Hermione, Dobby and Winky in the Potter drawing room when Snape and Lily came through the Sybil’s hearth at Thorns and Roses cottage.

Ginny was the first to her feet. She threw herself at them, grabbing her baby and checking her cuts and bruises, hugging her madly. Harry was next, grabbing his daughter from Ginny’s reluctant grasp. Lily buried her face in Harry’s neck bawling, she was so happy to see her parents. Snape stood amidst the fray with one eyebrow raised and feeling most uncomfortable.

Ginny couldn’t hold onto her emotions and did what she never in her life thought that she’d ever do. She hugged Severus Snape in thanks and kissed the greasy geezer git right on the cheek with relish.

“I don’t know how I can ever thank you enough, Professor,” she said through her tears.

“Mrs. Potter, I so wish that you wouldn’t bother,” said the suffering Snape. He only wanted to sit down.

Harry passed Lily over to James and Sirius and went to shake Snape’s hand. He had no words to express his gratefulness.

Snape, being the practical one, could not help but smirk at the great hero Harry Potter groveling in thankfulness.“One foul fiend down, Professor Potter,” said Snape narrowing his eyes at him. “One monster in the garden to go. I do believe that it is your turn to serve in the next set, sir.”

Harry looked over Snape’s shoulder at Hermione who stood near them gloomily.

“He’s right, Harry,” she said. “If Flint is taken care of, there’s still the rest of them in the crystal.” The tears shown on her face for she felt such a failure not being able to help. All her knowledge, all the books that she’d read and still she had no idea how to help Harry destroy Voldemort’s crystal.

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Chapter 33: A Dementor's Dream
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Chapter Thirty-Three

A Dementor’s Dream

Harry woke up with a start. The dream had seemed so real, so horribly real. Then he remembered it had been real. He had heard his mother screaming a thousand times, seen her face a thousand times. Her eyes, her green eyes on him willing him to remember her.

It took a minute to get his breathing calm again. He slipped out of bed and walked quietly down the stairs and into the kitchen where he fixed a cup of hot cocoa. He walked into the drawing room where the Sybil’s hearth held a constant flame. He pulled up a chair in front of it and for many minutes stared into the flames sipping his drink.

The fire was comforting, as was the house as a whole. He was thankful for his family, his home, and his life. All this he thought about as he gazed into the flames. He thought of his mother and the dream that he hadn’t had in many years. It was the night that she had died. Her green eyes looking at him, he could see her mouth moving, talking to him urgently. She’d squeezed his little hand hard and he remembered that he’d cried and so had she. There was blood. He hadn’t remembered the red of it in her hand until this version of the dream. It had seemed particularly real this time. She’d hugged him close all the while singing, or perhaps it was chanting to him to comfort him. Her eyes, he remembered her eyes so well.

Then everything changed when there was another person with them in that room within his memory. The dark figure had wielded a green magic flame and he heard again her scream, the long drawn out scream. He remembered it all in his dream so vividly and yet he had only been a year old.

Dumbledore had said that she’d protected him with her love and that it was a part of him, within his very skin. She had shielded him somehow from the curse that all others had died from. He, a one-year old baby, the boy-that-lived, how had she done it? Even Dumbledore had not known. No one seemed to.

The flames gathered energy and form. The Sybil was watching him, he thought. “Have you come to tell me my future, Sybil?” he asked.

The flames flickered and changed shape but said nothing.

“Thank you for my daughter, Sybil,” said Harry to the flames. “Snape would never have found her if you had not warned us.”

The flames flicked and snapped. They seemed to change color to hundreds of shades of yellow, gold and red.

There was a small sound next to him and Harry looked up. His daughter Lily was standing near him watching. He’d never made the connection before, but Lily looked so much like his mother. In the light of the fire her black hair glinted red and her green eyes were intensely so.

“Hello, sweetheart, did I wake you up?” he asked her.

She shook her head and went to crawl into his lap.

“Would you like some of my hot chocolate? It’s really good.”

She nodded, taking a sip and settling herself against his chest. She too, stared into the fire with him. Somewhere a clock ticked. The house was otherwise still.

“Daddy?” she said sleepily. “I think they’re coming soon. They’re very close.”

“Who is, sweetie?”

“Those people things.”

“What people things?”

“They’re really big, they kinda float and they’re very cold. There’s a rattling sound and they don’t have faces, just holes.

The flames in the hearth seemed to rise higher and hotter. The fire seemed to breathe. Harry sat still as stone.

“When will they come, honey?” he whispered.

But Lily was asleep on his chest. Her breaths were peaceful, her eyes closed.

Harry ever so gently got up holding her in his arms and then settled her back into his chair. He walked to the front door with a dread weighing him down. Out on the veranda, the fire fairies were fully awake though it must have been past midnight, they fussed and hummed, and their lights were twinkling. He looked up to the full moon that shown down on the garden path. Reep came close to him and sat on his shoulder.

“They come soon,” he said.

“When?” Harry did not need to ask whom. He already felt the chill of them in his memory.

“Very soon, Harry Potter,” said Reep. They both looked out upon the front garden to the spot where the snake’s head now glowed. Voldemort was buried there with all the death eaters and he was calling out to whomever would listen. As he had done with Marcus Flint, as he would do to Harry, if Harry were to walk close.

“You must gather friends, Harry Potter, to fight,” said Reep.

It would come to this, thought Harry grimly. The Dementors would come again to Hogwarts. Voldemort was calling them. They should have thrown the thing in a vault as Neville had told them to.

“Reep,” he said. “Gather your fairies inside the house. It won’t be safe for you outside.” Harry ripped open the front door and flew up the stairs. He ran into the bedroom.

“Ginny, wake up,” he said shaking her awake.

“Wh-what is it, dear?” she said sleepily. He hair was mussed and he had woken her from a deep slumber.

“Ginny, it’s an emergency, wake up.”

Her eyes flew open. “What’s happened?”

“The Dementors are coming to Hogwarts. Voldemort, the crystal is calling to them,” he said. He was frantically pulling on a robe, sticking his feet into socks and shoes. “I’m running to the castle to alert them. Curse that we never hooked up to the floo network.” He grabbed his wand. Ginny was already half dressed by the time he was running out the door. He rushed back and held her in his arms, kissing her. “Seal the house against them, my love.” He ran out the door, down the steps and out the back door. He wasn’t about to run by the Dark Lord’s crystal.

Harry raced across the lawn. He suddenly and absurdly realized that his limp was almost gone. The wound was finally healing. He could almost run normally.

The night sky was clear with thousands of stars twinkling under a full moon that hung over the castle. He shuddered when he saw that he could barely make out tiny shadows flying before it. They were coming and they would be here all too soon. Harry sprinted through the castle to the gargoyle entrance of the headmaster’s stair and shouted the password. “Haggis!” he yelled and ran up the stair as best he could as it unfurled to the tower top. “Headmaster!!” he cried. “It’s Harry! Headmaster!” banging onto the great carved door.

The door came open. “You needn’t shout so!” said Minerva McGonagall grumpily from deep within the shadowed room. The lamps slowly lit, and the paintings of the past headmasters sleepily came awake. The Headmaster appeared in her dressing gown, her hair in some sort of scarf, obviously straight from bed. She did not seem to suffer from sleeplessness as Dumbledore always had.

“They’re coming, m’am. The Dementors are being called by the Dark Lord’s Crystal,” said Harry panting from the adrenalin pumping through his veins. “We must alert the Aurors, awaken the teachers, and seal the students into their houses.”

“Are you sure, Harry?”

She didn’t wait for an answer. Of course, he was sure. She rushed to a cabinet that still held the many mysterious gadgets and gismos as when Dumbledore was Headmaster. She grabbed a brass horn. “Move aside if you value your hearing, Harry dear,” she said briskly. She brought the thing to her lips. “Attention prefects, and teachers. Hogwarts is under attack. Prefects seal your houses, the students are NOT and I repeat NOT to leave their houses. Teachers please assemble quickly in the great hall.” She let go of the horn that hung in the air still. It kept repeating what she’d said over and over every few seconds.

“We must alert the Ministry,” said McGonagall with some concern.

“No,” said Harry. “Hermione will have heard your message and already gotten a message to Ron and the others. We planned an alert system in the summer just in case. We should seal the castle.” It had been Marcus Flint that they had thought would be attacking. The Dementors, they had never considered.

Sirius, James and Angus all jumped from their beds grabbing their wands and gear. They’d been practically disowned by their brethren last year when they had almost single-handedly brought Gryffindor in at dead last for the house cup. They knew, however, that their fellow Gryffindors had very short memories when a battle was called and the boys had known that something bad would be coming in the autumn. They had prepared. They were dressed and ready in minutes. James had the Marauder’s Map, Angus had the Invisibility cape and Sirius …Sirius had his pants on. They hung back as the rest of the boys in their year rushed downstairs to the common room to see what was going on.

McGonagall’s voice was still blaring through the castle telling them not to leave their houses.

“Do you think that she means us?” asked James smirking.

“I’m sure that she means us,” said Sirius. “But I’ve been deaf for a while now.”

“You realize what trouble that we’ll be in,” added Angus.

“How much more could it be?” James drew out the map and tapped it. “I swear that I am up to no good,” he said and the map came alive with the details of the castle and the grounds. They watched as the particulars of what was happening outside their room appeared. The teachers, including their dad had gathered in the great hall. Both Harry and Professor Snape could be seen pacing around like caged animals while the rest of the teachers seemed huddled together.

“Holy crap!!!” cried Sirius. “Look at Thorns and Roses cottage!!!” They watched as a series of shadows converged on the house.

“What do you think it is?”

“Dunno,” said Angus peering closer at the map. “But look who’s just arrived at the front gates of Hogwarts!”

The names of Ronald Weasley, Seamus Finnegan, Neville Longbottom and several others appeared to be running across the grounds toward the castle. They had just made it to the outside doors of the great hall when Neville and Ron stopped and seemed to turn around to face the cottage.

“Merlin’s balls,” cried James. “Something is happening at our house!”

“THE CRYSTAL!!!!” they all shouted together.

The shadows that had enveloped the house started swirling around the front garden so that they could see the names of Lily and Ginny Potter still in the house.

“Mom and Lily are still in there!” cried Sirius.

“Right!” said Angus sternly. “Let’s go.” They didn’t need to explain, justify or even realize what they were about to do. They hardly thought of the consequences or the fact that yet again they were going against the orders of the adults in their lives. The possibility of death did not faze them. They were Gryffindors and Gryffindors saved others in danger without thought for themselves, especially when family was in jeopardy.

Angus threw the invisibility cloak around them and pulled it closed. They walked down carefully from the dormitory into the common room where the crowd of Gryffindors had gathered. Everyone was talking at once and the prefects were trying to yell everyone down and get them settled but it only seemed to get louder and worse. Everyone was so preoccupied with the noise and finding out what was going on that no one saw the painting open and close.

The prefects gave up trying to keep everyone quiet and barged through the crowd, magically sealing the entrance as per their instructions so that no one could leave. The would-be Marauders had escaped just in time.

Ginny ran to Lily’s room after she’d gotten dressed and almost had heart failure when she saw that Lily was not in her bed.

“Lily?” she cried. “Lily, where are you?” She ran down the stairs screaming for Lily but Lily did not answer. As she rushed by the front window, she saw them in the front garden. There were several Dementors hovering about the spot where they had buried the crystal, she could see it glowing.

With a ‘pop pop’ that made her jump, Dobby and Winky appeared out of nowhere next to her. “Ginny! Missy Ginny! Come quick!”

“I know, Dobby, the Dementors. I’ll seal the house to them.”

“No! No! Come look! Lily!” Dobby was dragging her away from the window to the drawing room. When she looked up at what he wanted her to see, she gasped in shock.

Lily was standing in the fireplace. The fire spit and cracked around her. Her long hair floated as if it was dancing in the flames, her eyes were completely white, pulled back into her head and she looked to be in a trance. All the fire fairies danced about the room in a frenzy of excitement. They were whispering a musical song that seemed pure emotion. Lily stood stiff as if she were a statue

“COME TO ME, WITCH MOTHER,” said the familiar rasping voice of the Sybil from her baby daughter’s mouth.

Ginny felt shivers of fear rage through her body as Lily opened her arms beckoning her. She watched as the cloud of the Sybil took shape. She ran for her daughter. She wanted to snatch her from the fire. The second she touched Lily, however exactly what had happened almost a year before happened again. The cloud of the Sybil enveloped her and she also went into a trance.

Ginny blinked. She was standing in sunshine next to a reflection pool. “Mommy, mommy,” cried Lily. “Isn’t it beautiful? It’s not real or anything. It’s just a memory. This is the Sybil’s hiding place. I’m so happy that you get to see it.” Lily was standing next to her holding her hand.

“Lily, baby,” said Ginny. “The Dementors…what happened?”

“I have to go help, mommy. You have to stay here.” She let go of Ginny’s hand. “I’ll be back for you, I promise,” and she was gone.

Ron and Neville looked in horror as what seemed like fifty Dementors swirled around Thorns and Rose cottage. They were huge and looked in a frenzy. They surrounded the house and rose high up into the sky like a whirling storm.

“Dilbert!” barked Ron at the young Auror who had been with them in Cornwall. “Get inside and tell them that the Dementors are at the cottage. Tell Harry to get his arse out here and then tell McGonagall to seal the castle. Move!!”

Neville, Ron and the others stomped off across the lawn toward the frightening beings. The looks on their faces said it all. They were facing the grim reapers and they knew it.

“Bloody hell, I can’t believe that we’re doing this,” growled Ron. “The ruddy Dementors were supposed to gone.”

Harry, Snape and Hermione came running down the lawn after them with Dilbert lagging behind. Their wands were drawn and at the ready.

The world of wizard’s magic is very old. There are centuries long forgotten filled with the lives of wizards who played Gods to their fellow humans. There were beings in ancient times that are now extinct that roamed the earth with awesome magical powers now lost. And then there were the Dementors. They were beings that fed on joy, memory, and a human’s very essence of being human. They suckled it, digested it, and left only the dire part. They left only the fear and the hate. Great and powerful wizards had made them in those ancient times that are long past. Those wizards held great treasures that they wanted to protect from all others. Greedy, were these wizards and without thought or love for their fellow men. They conjured up these almost invincible beings to stop thieves even after their deaths. These were guards that would never die.

But after several centuries, probably thousands of years of guarding treasures that were merely bauble and stone, the Dementors lost their memory of purpose and remembered only that they were hungry to destroy the human desires.

Once they had only fed on the desires for their master’s treasure, but now they fed on all desires that were human. Their thirst for desires became insatiable and intense. Evil they were not. Evil wizards had made them, but their original purpose had been lost to time. The Dementors roamed the world unguided. They had no life, no future save only their thirst for that human soul, which was around them in abundance on this earth.

Voldemort, because he had given away his humanity and because he also had no happy memories of joy that they might feed upon was able to control the Dementors. They, more than any other beings, missed him when he was gone and desired his return to them.

When he called to these beings, from deep within his prison, he recognized the timbre of their need. They heard him, as no human seemed to. They came for him. Dug into the earth for their treasure, the glowing stone that was their past master. He sang to them and offered them the souls they sought. His voice was sweet and familiar for it was laden with that hate they recognized. He was a distant voice of their past masters long ago. It was joy, love, and human bliss that they fed on and he promised them this with a hateful purpose that they understood.

Lily’s mind returned to the Sybil that was her mother. The body of Ginny stood stiff as if in a dream but when Lily returned she spoke.


Lily looked into the vacant eyes of her mother. The voice was not the voice of the Sybil in her dreams but she wasn't afraid any longer. This dream she remembered clearly and knew that there was nothing for her to fear. She would only concentrate on what the Sybil had taught her. She knew exactly what she must do and would be brave as a Gryffindor was made to be.

“I’m ready, Sybil,” she whispered.

The Sybil that was Ginny reached out for her hand and with Ginny’s wand in the other pointed to the front door of the house that came open with a bang. The fire fairies sang a high melodic song at the top of their lungs, loud and clear. Lily felt bolstered by the heralding chorus and set her jaw. They walked out onto the veranda to face the Dementors.

The three would-be Marauders escaped from the castle just as the doors were sealed. They were hidden under their invisibility cloak, congratulating themselves on how smart they were, when they came face to face with what a real wizard’s battle looked like. What they saw of the magnitude and horror of battle shocked and appalled them. The Gryffindor boys were stunned by what they witnessed the adults do. They did not run into battle as they had imagined that they would do but stood gaping in terror, instead.

The Dementors had dug up the glowing orb that was Voldemort and drifted toward the human souls that ran toward them from the castle just as the Dark Lord had promised. Their feast approached and they smelled the sweetness of their desires and joys. There on the lawns of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry the battle began between the ancient beings of need and the living souls of desire.

Harry, Snape and Hermione caught up with Ron and the others just as the Dementors had swarmed toward them. Hermione reached out for her husband’s hand. They had only a second to say everything for a lifetime before the Dementors bore down on them.

“I wish that you’d have stayed behind, Hermione,” he said painfully. His face was a grimace of disappointment and longing for her to be anywhere but there.

She cocked her and smiled her half smile before turning to face the menace. “You’re not the only brave Gryffindor in this family, Ronald Weasley!” she shouted as she threw her Patronus into the air, her happy thoughts of Ron and their future.

The rattling of the Dementor’s breath and the coldness of their presence set everyone’s teeth chattering as they gathered together in a line of defense against the horrors. The some fifteen Aurors and teachers faced the onslaught with wands raised shouting Patronus charms and other magic fire spells. Many had full Patronus’ but some did not. Poor young Dilbert’s looked like nothing more than an umbrella. Ron’s lion, Harry’s stag, Snape’s serpent and Hermione’s silver otter all seemed to gather strength with each other and became a force of their own.

But these Dementors seemed so much bigger than anyone remembered. They swooped down on the fighters in their dipping and tasting frenzy. Harry could hear his mother’s screams. Hermione nearly tripped and went down but Ron
caught her and dragged her from the path of an oncoming Dementor. They all fought valiantly. Together they created a curving shield that held their attackers at bay but it did not stop their approaches. There was a loud magical wind from the swooping monsters, and the ever-ominous sound of rattling death. The emotions of the wizards were being sipped upon and the noise of their screaming agony was horrifying but still they did not stop.

James, Sirius and Angus hid behind a tree in terror. It was nothing like they’d imagined. It did not look fun or exciting. It was frightening and it looked as if the adults might lose the fight. The shield was not holding and some of the Aurors were falling before the onslaught. The boys were terrified for them.

Harry stood next to Severus Snape. Both men, and all those with them were calling up all of the magical energy they could possibly rally to repel the assault. It was Snape that saw Ginny and Lily approach from the cottage gate. He caught Harry’s attention and pointed. A cold dread connected their minds.

As all the others were shouting spells and great shards of light came from their wands both men charged ahead toward Ginny and Lily. Unbelievably, Ginny had raised her wand and created a shield all by herself around them as they walked. She looked calm, as did Lily. It was as if they were just out for a stroll on a stormy night. Ginny shouted nothing, no spell, no incantation, nothing. Nor did she look toward the swooping Dementors but only toward Harry and Snape with a serenity that was unnerving to the two would rescuers that ran to meet them.

The men raced up but as they reached out to Lily and Ginny, the Sybil held up her hand and spoke in a loud rasping voice that could be heard above the noise of battle, “HEROES STOP AND LISTEN. GIVE THE CHOSEN YOUR HANDS. YOU MUST TRUST US AND DO AS WE SAY OR ALL WILL BE LOST TO THESE DEMONS”

Harry, who had heard and seen the Sybil use Ginny before did as he was commanded. Lily took out a knife and cut a line vertically into his palm. He sucked in the instant pain of it as he watched his blood flow.

“Uncle Sevvie,” Lily shouted up at him when he looked askance. “You must!!!” He handed her his hands to be cut. “Hold onto to daddy’s hand.” She fixed their holds together. “Say the Sybil’s words, both of you!!” she yelled at them.

“SKOTONIS TO YAVALO!!!! PROSEKA TIN PSYHI MAS YA MONO TON THEO!!! SKOTONIS TO YAVALO!!!” The Sybil roared the words at them. Hesitantly, they repeated the ancient words. Severus recognized the phonetic Greek, Harry remembered his vision that the Sybil had shown him on the night before Christmas and realized what they were doing. He shouted the words, hoping they could destroy the Dementors just as he had seen that night. He thought fleetingly of the sacrificial fire.

The Sybil handed the wand to Lily in return for the knife. Their movements were smooth and in sync. Lily did as they had practiced in secret many times. She stood in the middle of the three of them and lit herself on fire with her mother’s wand. Harry gasped in fear. The flames rose around her and spread to include all three adults. She held the wand high up above her head so that the flames would reach over the heads of the taller adults. The shield was gone but they were all engulfed in a huge fire that licked and snapped about them but did not burn.

The Sybil sliced open Ginny’s palms and grabbed the free and bloodied hands of the men. She forced their hands toward Ginny’s wand until all their wizards’ power touched it and traveled through it. Thin lightning bolts shot from the tip. All the while the three kept chanting gripped by then beyond thinking by the power of the magic that they were wielding.

The Sybil had held the Dementors off simply by raising her wand. The other Aurors were not so lucky. The swooping Dementors were writhing as one in a frenzy of lust for their souls and the shield that they struggled to maintain was getting weaker. Both Dilbert and Seamus had fallen and Neville struggled to reach them before the Dementor went in for the kiss.

Suddenly all of the Dementors stopped their frenzied onslaught for the Auror’s souls. They rose up into the air away from the wizards and hung above and entranced by the flame. The ancient language that they recognized from the earliest masters attracted them. A faint memory of the gods they were made to serve. Though they still held Voldemort’s crystal near them. These words from their creators were stronger.

The flames grew higher and their chanting grew louder. The Dementors hovered transfixed above them waiting and watching. They’d forgotten their feeding frenzy.

The others stood watching in awe, as well. Ron especially was gobsmacked by the sight of them engulfed in flame and chanting while the Dementors hovered around them.

The boys forgot to be afraid and stepped forward to stand with them.

They all watched as the thin tendrils of flame and fire came out of Lily’s wand, out of Lily’s eyes, her hair. Ribbons of flame burst out toward the Dementors, gripping them, wrapping them up and bursting them into a thousand nothings. And still the three, the Sybil, Snape and Harry chanted the ancient words. They were lost in the magic that they wrought. The Dementors tried to flee from the onslaught but the fire found them in flight. Farther and farther they tried to flee, but the flame caught them up and destroyed them.

The sound of a Dementors death was frighteningly loud. It was the sound of all the souls that they had fed upon released into the air. Everyone watched the savage horror not realizing that they should rejoice because it was all so horrible to see and hear. Even in the castle, from the windows of the Great Hall where the students had been allowed to gather once the castle had been sealed, they watched the destruction in awe.

When it was over, and the Dementors to the last one had been destroyed, the flame did not die out at first. Lily was as still as a statue, her arms raised holding the wand in the air. Then she collapsed, as did Ginny and the fire was gone. Harry and Snape both tried to catch Ginny as she fell almost on top of her daughter, her hand lying on Lily’s arm. They still held each other’s bloody hands. Harry looked down on his wife and daughter looking as if they were dead and fell to his knees weeping. He was afraid to touch them, so afraid that they were dead. He thought of the sacrifice of the Fates with dread. Lily and Ginny were as still as stone.

Hermione, Ron and all the others came rushing forward and surrounded them. Hermione bent over Lily and listened for her heartbeat. The look on her face said no, that she couldn’t hear one and Harry wailed in agony. Snape wept openly into his hands. The blood covered his face. The boys fell to their knees and cried bitterly. Harry thought of nothing but to die. He wanted to die. He could not go on.

It was then that he caught a glimpse of the Dark Lord’s Crystal still glowing beyond the crowd. It was lying on the ground discarded by the Dementors. He wanted to die. He got to his feet, pushed through the crowd and stomped toward it.

The intensity of his emotion cannot be explained. Even Harry didn’t know what he felt. All he thought about was his beautiful daughter, his loving wife, the loss of his mother and all the others that he had loved taken by the horrible monster that still lived within the rock. Voldemort just would not die.

Voldemort attacked him then and Harry felt his head screech in the old familiar pain, but he did not stop and he did not black out. His head felt as if a sword had pierced through his skull bone. This fiend would die. He would crush him with his bare hands or die trying. It was he, HE that would kill him.

Harry made it to the glowing orb as if he were fighting a solar wind. Each step took effort but he was beyond caring. He reached it and fell on the horrible thing not even realizing that he was roaring with an anger so fixed that it could be heard all the way back to the castle. He was screaming the Greek words again, willing this demon to die as the Dementors had. ALL HIS LOVES THIS VOLDEMORT HAD TAKEN.

“SKOTONIS TO YAVALO!!!! SKOTONIS TO YAVALO!!!! SKOTONIS TO YAVALO!!!!” he bellowed with an intensity of emotion that even he had no idea that he possessed.

A green and glowing flame came directly from Harry’s bloodied hands then. There was no wand. The magic came from deep within him. The attack that he wielded on the stone that was Voldemort came straight from his heart, from his very skin, his blood. He knew in an instant it was the gift of his mother. She had sacrificed her own self for this moment. It had always been there. It had always been possible. He had only to discover it. The green flame burned and somehow Harry knew how to wield it and make it stronger by instinct. He saw her green eyes willing him on and he knew exactly what to do. The power of his magic surrounded and swarmed the crystal and then with all his might, Harry grabbed onto it and squeezed, roaring the chant the entire time with the force of his emotions and the searing pain in his head of Voldemort fighting for what little of his life was left.

The crystal resisted at first. He plunged deeper within himself until every fiber that was Harry Potter burnt with a passion to destroy the thing in his hands. He felt it give way until it crumbled to rubble. It finally disintegrated and disappeared into a pile of dust that drifted away in the wind. Voldemort was gone.

Harry, still on his knees with no more foes to focus on sat back on his heels and wept with grief. He was stunned by what he had just done.

“Daddy, daddy!” cried Lily running up to him. “You did it! You did it!” She grabbed his face in her tiny hands. “I knew you would,” she said and hugged him.

Harry was in shock. He fumbled to his feet. “Everything’s all right, daddy,” said Lily up at him. “I had to get Mommy first. She was in the Sybil’s hiding place.” She pointed toward her mother who was wobbling toward them, still not sure of her legs. Harry opened his arms to her gripping them both in his joy and relief.

The others stood by and watched, unable to breath at first or believe what they had just seen under the full moon still shining down on them. Voldemort was dead. They had all witnessed it. Finally he was only dust blown away with the wind.

The aftermath of the battle was quiet and numbing, at first. The tears of the living, the sound of their breathing, the joy of seeing each other’s faces alive made it something not to be forgotten.

Angus, James and Sirius ran to Harry, Ginny and Lily and surrounded them jubilantly. Sirius lifted Lily into the air, hugging her. “Little sister, you are one hell of a Gryffindor!!” he said kissing her.

“Yeah,” said James. “No way we’ll ever top that for bravery. Setting your self on fire and destroying Dementors. Woot!!!”

All three boys called out. “Woot!! Woot!! Lily Potter rocks!!!”

She giggled at them.

Their enthusiasm was infectious and the seriousness of their surviving such a battle dissolved as well for the adults. Hermione and Ron openly kissed passionately.

“Hey, hey, hey, none of that children,” said Seamus slapping Ron upside the head.

They all three laughed uproariously.

Neville went to help Snape up from the ground. “Never thought I’d live to see the day that Severus Snape shed a tear, let alone bawled like a baby, sir,” he said dragging the older man to his feet.

Snape stood, his face a bloody mess from blubbering into his hands. He glared at him. “Longbottom don’t be impudent,” he barked. He wiped off his robes of grass and muck.

But Neville wasn’t having any of it. He’d seen Snape both heroic and tearful. The man would never be his Boggart again. He smiled with joy at the thought.

By the time they walked back to the castle, the doors were opening and the students were cheering their entrance into the great hall. Lily rode atop her brother’s shoulders in triumph and joy. All around him congratulated Harry. The wicked Voldemort was really truly gone and the great Harry Potter had done it.

It would be a brand new day without fear when the dawn broke.


A/N: There’s one more chapter to go, folks. And let me just say, that this chapter was wicked good fun to write! Please review, I’d love to hear what you think.

Many thanks to my friend Cynthia for the phonetic Greek translation: Skotonis to yavalo: Repel (kill) the devil. Proseka tin psyhi mas ya mono ton Theo: Save our souls for God alone.
Maybe now she’ll bother to read the bloody story….

Pru Prior

Chapter 34: Together at Last
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Chapter Thirty-Four

Together at Last

Music drifted through the dungeons like a bizarre reverie for the dead. The sounds of two violins playing an emotional and tear-inspiring dirge made the near empty castle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry seem like the opening credits for a muggle horror film.

Lily started to giggle. She couldn’t help it. It was so hard to concentrate on such dreary music when her day of triumph had finally come.

“Miss Potter! How do you expect to ever get this right if you lose your concentration and giggle like a Hufflepuff when we are only halfway through the suite?” snapped Professor Snape.

“I’m sorry Uncle Sevvie,” said Lily flipping her long black hair out of her face. “I’m just too excited about the first years arriving this evening to concentrate.” She smiled up at him and did a little quick two-step.

“You are jumping up and down as if you’ve spiders on your legs, young lady,” said Severus still cross with her. “It’s useless to continue this lesson. And may I remind you for the hundredth time to not call me Uncle Sevvie!!”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Lily looked humbly at her shoes not wanting to look him in the eye.

“I’ll not have you embarrassing me in front of the students, Miss.”

“I promise, sir. I won’t forget.”

“See that you don’t.” He sighed. “What are you going to do all afternoon while you wait?”

“Well, this afternoon, I’m going to Aunt Hermione’s...”

“Professor Weasley, Miss Potter,” warned Snape.

She really wanted to glare at him but knew she’d pay for it later and so she kept her face impassive. “Professor Weasley’s, because she asked me to watch the twins while she finished getting ready, sir.”

“And what time will you be at the top of the stairs?”

“Five o’clock sharp if I’m to be sorted, sir.”

“Is your mother bringing you?”

“Yes, sir.”

Severus Snape looked hard at his protégé, Lily Potter, a gangly eleven-year-old but already a tall beauty. She was almost to his chin. He was sad that their lessons would come to an end now that she was beginning her time at school. She would only be in his potions class, where she would, of course shine head to toe over her fellow first years.

“Sir, may I ask you a question?” Lily had wanted to ask him for weeks but had been too afraid to broach the touchy subject with him.

“What, Miss Potter?”

She laid down her violin carefully in the case and stepped toward him reaching for his hand. “When I’m sorted into Gryffindor House, will you still love me?”

Though he had never once in five long years told her anything of the kind. “Yes,” he sighed. He shook his head at her for her brazenness. “But I will still dock you house points at my discretion without any glaring or argument, Miss.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You should go and have lunch before going to Professor Weasley’s.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” She smiled at him and before he could protest, kissed his cheek and hugged him. She then snapped her violin case shut and flew out the door.

Severus Snape shook his head and looked skyward in exasperation. Although brilliant, she was a trial.

Lily ran up the dungeon steps, and down the corridor nearly colliding round a corner with Headmaster McGonagall.

“Miss Potter! Have you no decorum? We do not run in the halls at this school, Miss!”

“Yes, m’am,” she answered looking down at her shoes again and thinking to herself that everyone was snapping at her unreasonably.

“You will be at the stairs, at five o’clock sharp, Miss Potter.”

“Yes, m’am.” She looked bravely up at the stern Headmaster.

“Good luck, this evening, my dear,” said Professor McGonagall more softly. “I know that you’ll make your parents proud.”

Lily smiled. “Thank you, Headmaster.”

By the time she made the kitchen at Thorns and Roses cottage, people had already eaten the served lunch at the table. Only her cousin Bill sat at the table. He was already wearing his Prefect robe. Dobby and Winky were singing a jig from the sink entertaining the twins. The two sons of Hermione and Ron Weasley were sitting on the counters clapping along with their hands. Hermione Weasley was looking frazzled. She’d tried to pull her thick hair up into a matronly bun but it was busting out all over.

“Thank Merlin, you’re back, Lily!” cried Hermione. “Would you watch the twins earlier for me, dear? I have so much to do and they’ll be here in five hours.”

“Sure, Aunt, I mean Professor Weasley,” said Lily.

Bill smirked at her.

“Don’t you dare think you’re going to lord it over me just because you’re a Gryffindor Prefect this year, Billy Weasles!”


“Sorry, Auntie Hermione, but he asked for it. He’s been bossing me around all week.” She stuck her tongue out at Bill who was looking very superior and smug.

“I haven’t, Professor Weasley,” he said emphasizing the correct name for his stepmother just to irritate Lily. “She’s been annoying me, more like. She tried to unseat me yesterday by swirling around my broom when I was practicing shots." Bill was a Gryffindor Chaser and a shoe in for Captain next year.

Hermione was exasperated with their constant bickering. “Really, Bill, you’re sixteen, you must stop fighting with your cousin!” she said. She rushed over to the twins, two redheads, four years old, and very energetic. Kissing them both squarely on both cheeks, she rushed out the door. “Dobby will take them at four o’clock, Lily! Good luck, tonight!” The door slammed and she was gone.


“Yes, missy Potter?”

“Where are mum and dad?”

“In the study, missy,” he said while blowing soap bubbles toward the twins who laughed at him and tried to blow them back.

“Would you mind if I go have a quick word with them? Will you watch the twins and then I’ll take them into the front garden to play with the fire fairies?”

“Yes, missy,” said Dobby. He smiled shyly at her. “Missy?”

“Hmmm?” she said absently pinching Billy on the shoulder to bug him.

“Good luck, tonight, missy.”

“Thank you, Dobby!” she said grinning and then sticking her tongue out at Bill. He was such a pompous puss prancing around in his Prefect robes when they’d still all afternoon to get through before the train arrived.

Rushing in the door of the study, she found her parents both sitting at the partner’s desk opposite each other as if the other wasn’t there. Her father was searching for a spell in a large dusty volume and muttering to himself. He was probably having a conversation with that weird ring of his. She could swear that he was getting more like old Dumbledore by the day. When his hair went white, she was giving up on him. She was very glad that she’d be long gone from Hogwarts by the time he became Headmaster. She walked over and petted Fawkes who sat on his perch and acknowledged her with a tip of his head.

Her mother was editing an article for one of Luna Lovegood’s magazines and usually, she wouldn’t dare disturb her but today was special.

“Well, I finally asked Professor Snape,” she said lightly.

“What’s that dear?” asked her mother who now wore little spectacles when she read so she looked like a professor herself.

“I asked him if he’d still like me when I’m in Gryffindor.”

Harry snorted but kept flipping pages looking for a special spell.

“Of course, he will, dear,” said Ginny. Then she smiled in memory of Professor Snape in her day. “Just don’t expect him to not dock you house points when you’ve misbehaved, dear. He only plays favorites to Slytherin House and he’s notorious for cheating at the house cup by docking unnecessary points.”

“Ginny,” said Harry looking up from his book. “We’re trying to lessen our prejudices, remember?” He winked at her. “Besides, I keep it even by docking Slytherin on a regular basis.” They both laughed while Lily rolled her eyes. Her parents were bonkers.

“So, I guess I’ll go take the twins out into the front garden to play with the fire fairies, mother.”

Ginny had already gone back to editing. She edited for hours, it seemed. “Huh-huh,” she said absently.

“Remember that I have to be at the stairs at five o’clock sharp.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Are you going to watch?”

Ginny looked up, again. “Of course, dear. I wouldn’t miss it. I’ve staked out a seat next to the door so I’ll be able to watch. The Headmaster said it would be fine. I’m very excited. We’re so proud of you, dear.”

“Will you be proud of me if I’m in another house?” Lily asked shyly. “I’m pretty smart and maybe the sorting hat will want me in Ravenclaw.”

“Are you going to be in Ravenclaw?” asked Ginny, knowing that Lily did probably already know.

“I don’t know, mother,” said Lily lying. “I haven’t looked on purpose so it’ll be a surprise.” It was a white lie, of course, but she did it on a regular basis. Most people just didn’t want to know. She understood.

“You’ll be in Gryffindor, dear,” said Ginny firmly. “I have no doubts. Gryffindor has been our house for several generations.”

“I found it!” yelled Harry making them both jump.

He hopped up and walked over to a pile of magazines and books piled on the library table about two feet high. Taking out his wand he read an incantation from the book and all the paper, magazines and books flew through the air rushing to their various places neatly put away. “There!” he said to Ginny in triumph. “I cleaned it up! Everything’s filed correctly. HA! I told you that there was a spell! YES! Mrs. Know-it-all! I won the wager, now pay me!” Harry was grinning proudly from ear to ear.

Ginny was laughing and shaking her head.

Lily shook her head in disgust. Her parents were barking mad.

That evening she stood eagerly waiting on the steps, dressed in her robes with Professor Weasley at the top of the stairs. It was dark and the torches smelled of some oily odor that made the moment feel different than her dream. It was often true that even when she’d seen something ahead of its time, she noticed that when the moment was actually happening it was much more real and there were still surprises.

The first year’s came to the bottom of the stairs with Hagrid carrying a torch. His hair had gone entirely white and he looked like a giant Santa Claus dressed in brown robes. Lily waved to him and he waved back. The first years walked timidly up the stairs to Professor Weasley and gave Lily the once over with questioning faces. She smiled at them.

Professor Weasley did not smile but stood towering over them on the first step. She accomplished this by making the first years stand two steps down and she used a spell to give the illusion that she was tall. She informed them that they would be sorted into their houses. “Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin,” she fairly chanted it. It was the same exact speech as she remembered Professor McGonagall speaking of so many years before in her first year. She would never forget it and every year that she recited it, she still felt a catch in throat at the end.

When she’d left the first years by themselves on the steps, many of the students turned to stare at Lily.

“Who are you?” asked a girl with brown hair and an arrogant piercing look.

“I’m Lily Potter,” she said proudly.

“You’re Harry Potter’s daughter, aren’t you?” said a boy with prominent teeth and freckles. “I remember you. I saw you ages ago. My dad’s Neville Longbottom. I’m Frank Longbottom.” He reached out and they shook hands.

“Oh, I know you,” said Lily. “You were at my aunt and uncles wedding years ago. I chased you, I think.” She laughed.

“Yeah,” he said with pride, already feeling that he belonged.

The brown haired girl acted a little friendlier. “Are you nervous then?”

“A little, maybe,” said Lily, but then she thought the truth would be better. “Well, no, because it’s brilliant what’s about to happen, and I just can’t wait. I saw my cousin Bill when he was sorted and it’s not so scary. They put a ratty old hat on you and it tells you what house that you’ll belong in. That’s all.”

All the first years listened aptly to her as she explained to them that they had nothing to fear and that all the houses were super and that everyone would have a wonderful time. Her enthusiasm bubbled over and the crowd of first years was feeling very excited and a lost less afraid.

“I sure hope that I get into Gryffindor,” said Frank mistily. “My dad really wants me in his house.”

“Well, I hope that I’m in Ravenclaw,” said a girl who was wearing glasses.

At that moment, Professor Weasley sternly came back to fetch them.

“Come with me, quietly, students,” she said and then lead them into the great hall, its magic ceiling alight with the constellations and night sky. The students all gazed up at the ceiling and floating candles that hung in the air illuminating the hall with a warm and pleasant light. Every first year, including Lily felt their heart flutter in anticipation.

As they walked past the older students, all of who sat at the house tables watching silently, many of the first years thought they’d faint from nerves. They huddled together for mutual support at the bottom step of the teacher’s table platform before a stool with the oldest crumpled and mangled wizard’s hat that anybody had ever seen.

All in the great hall hushed. The teachers at the table watched intently. Lily snuck in a wave to her dad, who smiled proudly. Then she smiled and winked at Professor Snape, who looked as if he’d eat her if she dared wave or act impertinent.

The Sorting Hat grumbled and puffed a bit, then sang out its song,

A day we’ve long looked forward to,
I sing to you each year,
But this time let me tell you
That day is finally here!

For you who are most loyal
That life is truly bliss,
For you who are the smartness
And honing your own mind,
For those of you most daring
Who fight for what is right,
And for those of you most cunning
With ambitions noble might,

The future of our houses, friends
Remains in your young hands,
So enjoy youth’s many pleasures
And the peace we’ve all had planned.

The whole hall erupted with clapping. It had been many years since the sorting hat had been the somber herald of the grim years that Harry remembered. His heart was bursting for his daughter’s sake. She looked so young and happy. He was so glad to be able to share this moment with her. He watched gaily while the first years timidly stepped forward one by one and were sorted into their houses. Each time a house was called, a roar of applause went up from that house table.

Harry looked over the heads of the students for Ginny, who was hovering at the door watching her daughter’s first year sorting. So many emotions, he knew that they both felt at this moment. It was as if the years had gone by in a flash and that it had been much easier than he surely had thought at the time. All leading up to this happy moment, this triumph as Albus Dumbledore had said so many years ago when Lily would start her journey and grow up to be the woman he hoped she would be.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” said the ring, but he heard Dumbledore’s voice in the sound. “Your daughter will be a triumph for us!” For some reason, the thought that part of Dumbledore resided in the ring made him feel sad. How he wished that Dumbledore were still there. Tears welled in his eyes.

“Don’t be daft, boy,” said the ring in the more familiar voice. “Can’t you ever just enjoy the moment? Let it go and be happy!”

Harry said nothing but smirked a little. The ring was really a pain sometimes. How did Dumbledore stand it all those years?

“Because I was very patient, especially after I figured it out,” said Dumbledore’s voice again.

“Heh?” Harry thought. “Dumbledore?”

“Yes, Harry, I’m here.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you, Harry? Think, son.”

It dawned on him suddenly what the ring really was. It wasn’t a charmed thing at all! It was a conduit from beyond, to wherever they were, in death. He was surprised and thrilled. He had always suspected that there must be a way to communicate after he’d seen the veil in the Department of Mysteries and heard the voices behind it so many years ago.

Hermione called Frank Longbottom’s name and she turned to look at Harry, which brought his mind back to the sorting. She looked as if she was making a real effort not to get emotional but Neville Longbottom’s own son was putting her over the edge.

“GRYFFINDOR!” shouted the hat. It was all Hermione could do not to turn and smile at Harry.

All too soon it was Lily’s turn. “ LILY POTTER” announced Hermione and Lily literally skipped up to the hat in her excitement. Hermione carefully placed the hat on her head when she sat on the stool.

“So you’re finally here,” said the hat sniggering.

Lily made a face. “I am,” she thought. “Are you glad?”

“Humph!” said the hat. “You know what to do? You’ll not fail us?”

“I won’t fail you, I promise. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it,” she said out loud. Hermione heard her and looked down at her questioningly.

“Then let’s begin it,” said the hat.


Hermione almost fainted in her shock and fumbled to take the hat from Lily’s head. Lily hugged her as the Slytherin table erupted with applause, singing, “We got Potter! We got Potter!” at the top of their lungs.

Ginny at the back of the hall did faint and Filch, who’d been standing nearby frowning at the whole proceedings grumbled and went to prop her up in her chair.

Lily jumped up and down and ran to the teacher’s table grabbing her father and kissing him soundly on the cheek. “I’m so proud of you, darling girl,” he whispered through his shocked tears. She next ran to stand in front of Professor Snape where she did a very undignified little jig, pointed at him and said quietly so only he could hear, “GOTCHA! Sir,” she said. Then she smiled mischievously and curtsied.

Professor Snape smiled as good a smile as he good muster. It was smug, and partly a smirk, but inside his heart was bursting. Slytherin had finally been the right one, the winning one, and the best one. They had gotten his brilliant Lily Potter.

Lily ran to her housemates who all stood at their table still roaring and chanting, “We got Potter! We got Potter!” She danced by each one slapping their hands until she got to Lucius Malfoy, a tall blonde prince, head boy and proud, who smiled broadly and opened his arms. “Welcome home, Lily,” he said hugging her.

“Thanks, Lucius,” she said as they all quieted again. Everyone sat down.

Lily looked over to the Gryffindor table and found Bill Weasley’s face. Her cousin had been the only one that she’d told ahead of time. After she’d explained the logic of it, he’d seen the rightness of it, as well. After all, he was of Gryffindor House. He smiled and gave her a thumbs up that she returned in kind. It was beginning, at last.

Hermione found her voice and continued the ceremony, although she fumbled the names a bit.

Harry was quietly sniggering through his tears at the whole scene. Headmaster McGonagall tried to keep her lips pursed together tightly but the shock of irony was making her want to split sides with laughter and she could hardly contain herself. Poor Snape couldn’t get enough of it and sat looking as if he’d tasted something very tart.

“So the Slytherin heir has finally arrived,” said Dumbledore’s voice in the ring.

“What?” said Harry taken aback.

“Yes, Harry, now the event that we’ve all been striving for has finally come to pass. The prophecy has finally been fulfilled, the one of ages old, one of the oldest in the Department of Mysteries. It was predicted by Cassandra Trelawney herself.”

“Prophesy? Again a prophesy?” Harry was double gobsmacked; first the ring, now yet another prophesy.


“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“Sometimes, knowing ahead of time isn’t what’s best,” said Dumbledore’s voice in the ring. “You of all people should know that, Harry.”

Harry couldn’t believe it. He looked around the hall at all the happy faces. His own sweet daughter was laughing and talking with Lucius Malfoy like he was a long lost friend. He looked so much like his grandfather it was uncanny. He had an involuntary shiver. Bill Weasley had gotten up from his table and walked over to them. Lily jumped up and hugged him, and then Bill held his hand out for Lucius to shake. Lucius Malfoy shook Bill Weasley’s hand with a broad friendly grin. The world was suddenly a very different place.

Harry laughed out loud. It was unbelievably absurd and wonderful all at the same time. He kept on laughing, not being able to stop. His life was a bumpy and joyous ride. McGonagall tried to shush him and the teachers were looking at him as if he was a nutter but he didn’t care. Harry Potter was the happiest wizard on earth. His future, as far forward as he could guess it, certainly looked bright.

The End

I wanted to take a moment at the end to thank all of you who traveled this writing journey with me. Your reviews spurred me on and I have to say that I just love this book, and thought it was brilliant fun to write. And for those of you kind enough to have read this but were too shy about reviewing, please leave at least one review behind to tell me what you thought of the book. I'd love to hear.

Thanks so much to Dumbeldave for being my first and very enthusiastic reader, Phineas for making me laugh, John (Xavierjx) for his unbridled enthusiasm, Eternal Turmoil for giving me the idea to teach fan fiction to other ten year olds, Hooked Reader (Kristy), Cocoapuffshooter, Tara, Moe (MagGirl), Cleo and Bold Jennii for cheering me on, and Matt (Guilded Sorcerer), BJ (auth) & Charles (Edward Olivander) for their valuable insights. Let’s face it; ALL of you who reviewed were unbelievably nice to me. Hugs to all and if I EVER get my “real” book published, I’ll send you copies. *Wink wink*

My most important thank you of all, of course, is to J.K.Rowling for creating such wonderful books filled characters that we just can’t stop loving to write and read about. I can’t wait to read her next book come July.

Cheers, Pru Prior