The Summer Like No Other

So much of the room was familiar. There was the twin bed; the table lamp alongside with the yellowed lampshade belying its age; a beat-up closet that a frantic but valuable house elf once visited; a precious white owl in her cage; all sorts of magical textbooks not-somagically piled everywhere; and a teenage boy. Not just any boy, but The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter sat at one end of the bed, his hair mussed, clothes wrinkled, and a new shadow making itself known to parts of a face famous throughout the wizarding world. Across that face were looks that changed as regularly as the waves breaking upon cliffs of stone. That image from just a few months ago, like so many others, was never out of Harry's mind for very long. Looks of sadness, looks of consternation, looks of wonder all had a right to be there, and each owned his face at any given time. Here he was, 'home' at the Dursley's once again, keeping a promise to that great Wizard, Mentor, Protector, Friend: Albus Dumbledore. Try as he might, almost every thought, every plan, every decision was made with images of Professor Dumbledore flashing through his mind. Memories constantly brought tugs to his heart, and Harry could not see himself clear of that. In fact, he really wasn't sure if he wanted to avoid them. He was now driven, with only one goal in mind. The Prophesy stated that Harry must kill the evil Lord Voldemort, and as part of that process, Harry also wished to extract revenge on Professor Severus Snape. Snape, his tormentor. Snape, the killer of Professor Dumbledore. Nothing else truly mattered, nor was anything or anyone truly safe, until both of these were accomplished. This was not the summer of years past, in which Harry suffered at the hands of his relatives. Harry was different. The world was different. Even the Dursleys were different. Harry's cousin Dudley was changed. Already grown stronger and leaner than his piggish younger days, his countenance had matured. Harry attributed this to his and Dudley's encounter with the dementors a few years earlier. The terror turned into a blessing that Harry was thankful for. Uncle Vernon had grown quiet, as if his verbal exchanges with members of the Order of the Phoenix had convinced him that there was much more out there that threatened him, and he had better pay attention. Aunt Petunia, sister to Harry's mom Lily, was just plain scared. She clearly knew more than she was letting on, and Harry felt confident that in time all she knew would be revealed. All this was trivial at the moment, though, for Harry had many things of great consequence to deal with. Harry felt, whether it was correct or not, that he was in charge; and even if he wasn't 'in charge', he was very well going to do what he thought needed to be done. After all, everything depended on him in the end, anyway. Or so he thought. Harry and his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, had ended last term at the funeral of Professor Dumbledore. At that time they made a pact, a commitment to each other. Whatever it took and wherever it took them, they would do what was necessary to accomplish the mission. To kill Voldemort was the goal that every living thing counted on, whether aware of the fact or not. Evidence of this mission was everywhere around Harry.

1

Strewn across the bed were dozens of messages and correspondence that were coming in from all corners of the earth now. On the table and below the lamp, always within Harry's reach, was a gold coin. To the untrained eye, it looked like your normal Galleon, if you could consider those coins normal to anyone but a wizard. Along one edge of the design, barely noticeable, were the letters "DA" written in ancient runes. Harry's idea, Hermione's expertise. This was the emergency communication method for the growing numbers in 'Dumbledore's Army'. Harry had put his best friend Ron in charge of organizing the DA. Ron would help in another chess game with very real outcomes. After the years of head-in-the-sand neglect by the likes of Cornelius Fudge, former Minister of Magic, it was time for all the pieces, and more, to be put into action. Most important to Harry was the large piece of parchment hanging on the wall across from the bed. For the moment, all that was written on the parchment was visible. Harry had asked Remus Lupin, member of the Order of the Phoenix, werewolf, close friend of Harry's father, James, and one of the original creators of the Marauder's Map, to help Harry make a similar parchment for the war at hand. Harry picked up a recent message from the bed and read it. A quick glance at just the related part of the 'war parchment' revealed boxes and circles with such labels as "Giants", "Schools", "House Elves", and "Order of the Phoenix". Three other messages brought Harry's eyes to other parts of the parchment, all equally revealing and no less important. In particular, "Horcruxes" was written in bold. Things were happening, and for Harry to get the normal life that he had always craved, he had to make it all succeed. This was a summer like no other, as Harry organized and planned with the gathering storm clouds overhead. This would also be a year like no other, as the battle lines were drawn in the effort to defeat the most evil wizard in history. Outright war was approaching. Harry's heart pounded as he picked up a quill and a small piece of parchment. He sighed as the realization struck him that his whole life had brought him to this moment. Clenching his jaw, Harry began to write yet another message. Many such moments were coming, for the war had now begun.

2

Minister Morte
At those words, the large wooden door swung silently open, and a tall figure cloaked in black entered the room. Seemingly gliding across the floor, all that was visible were bony, almost taloned fingers, creakily extended from equally white hands, and two red eyes glowing ominously from beneath the hood. Bound by a rope that seemingly had no knots, the man sitting in the chair glanced up. Though he could see little but those eyes and hands, he had seen enough; more than he ever cared to, for the knowledge that accompanied what he saw sent shivers up his spine. Beads of sweat began to gather across Fudge's brow, and the shivering cascaded throughout his body as Voldemort approached. When he got near, Voldemort leaned over and faced Fudge. The sound of Voldemort's breath, slow, raspy and almost inhuman, was practically drowned out by the pounding of Fudge's heart. Though scared countless times throughout his life, Fudge was discovering a whole new meaning for the concept of fear. "Minister, welcome," Voldemort hissed. "How kind of you to accompany my two Death Eaters on their travels to join me." Voldemort did nothing else to acknowledge the two, who stood at attention behind Fudge. Though full of anticipation, both knew better than to let their excitement show when the Dark Lord was possibly circling in for the kill. Unless told otherwise, these moments with special enemies belonged to him and him alone. As Voldemort spoke, his fingers constantly curled and opened. Fudge watched those fingers do their slow dance front of his face, and he could not help but feel like a fly in a web being gloated over by the spider. The moment was not lost on Voldemort either, and he swooped lower, now face-to-face with Fudge. Looking into those narrow red eyes, Fudge was vaguely aware of that hissing voice speaking once again. Wishing beyond all hope to be anywhere else but here, he knew he must focus if he were to have any chance at all. "… woman worked at the Department of Mysteries," the voice hissed. "Although she and her miserable husband deserved to die, I had wanted to save her for but a few more minutes so that I could extract the information I needed. Unfortunately, she chose to sacrifice her life for her son. And although he did not die just then, I promise you that he will soon." Voldemort stared into Fudge's eyes and continued, "I need to know, Minister. What is behind the locked door adjacent to the room that contains the Veil of Death? Rumors abound, but you know how rumors are. So tell me, Minister, what is so well guarded there? It does concern horcruxes, I hear." Fudge caught his breath, and the words practically choked in his throat as he tried to speak. "I, I am sorry Tom. I cannot tell you that. It is a secret so important that no more than a dozen wizards and witches even …" The sentence was never completed as Voldemort's rage erupted. "Idiot. Do not think that you can avoid telling me the truth." Fudge mustered up every once of strength he had, which was never known to be very much to begin with. "No," he stammered. It was barely more than a squeak. Voldemort stood up, his eyes wide and glowing red, his breath even sharper. Without ever 3

taking his eyes from Fudge's, he spoke to the tall blond Death Eater. "Lindgren, come out from behind the Minister." Lindgren obeyed and moved around to Fudge's right, just within his view. Voldemort leaned forward once again. "Minister," he spat, "I want that information. Nothing will stand in my way of getting it." With that, a tortured sinuous ribbon of green light forked its way from Voldemort's wand and struck Lindgren square in the chest. He dropped on the spot, dead. "Not even, Minister, my servants." Fudge's eyes bulged. The point was taken. Voldemort backed away from Fudge, whose color was a crimson red slowly changing to blue as he fought himself to take a breath. The Dark Lord's fingers began to curl once again. "Let me introduce you to my other Death Eater." She stepped over Lindgren's body and came forward without so much as a word from Voldemort, and Fudge could see a pale slender face framed by straight glossy-black hair. "I took her years ago, before my unanticipated demise, from a muggle leader in Europe. The fool considered himself to be a great leader of muggles. So much so, in fact, that he named this daughter after the daughter of another muggle king. An ancient king, one who lives on in muggle lore even today. He named her Electra. Not only did he not realize how insignificant he was, but he had no idea about the power within this girl . . . but I did. From miles away I sensed her potential, and I took her away the first moment I could. I trained her in the dark arts, making her more powerful than any other of my Death Eaters. And not until my resurrection in the cemetery did I even allow her to be seen by any other of my followers. But now, here she stands, ready to do my bidding." Voldemort stepped back, and Electra stepped in front of Fudge, mercilessly staring into his eyes. As she reached into her cloak, Fudge could see a necklace around her neck. The chain was silver with sapphires, and hanging from it was a silver eagle with black enamel claws. The incongruity of such beauty being in a situation like this amazed Fudge, and he forget for just an instant the grave danger he was in. "Crucio," Electra whispered. A jet of red light shot from her wand and struck Fudge. He screamed as needles of pain shot through every nerve in his body. Never had he felt anything else like this, and never would he again. The terror and the pain were too much. In perhaps the bravest thing it had ever done, Fudge's heart ended the agony. Voldemort and his Death Eater stood there, silently contemplating the prone lifeless minister before them. Finally, Voldemort spoke. "It seems that you are in death, Minister, as you were in life. Worthless. No matter. It is an inconvenience, but nothing more." As he and his Death Eater left the room, a small glint of silver could be seen reflecting off the hand of a shivering terrified object hunched deep in the recesses of the dark corner.

The War Parchment
4

An 11" wand made of holly touched the parchment. Light of touch but firm of purpose, the hand that guided the wand placed it where it had been dozens of times before. "Neither can live while the other survives." Only three people knew to use these words… From one corner of the large parchment, a thin black line began to trace its way along the surface. Green eyes watched intently as the parchment revealed all that it had to offer. Words, seemingly drifting into consciousness as they emerged from nowhere, were connected by hand-drawn lines placed with careful thought but not with care. As headings such as "Hogwarts", "Order of the Phoenix", and "DA" appeared, Harry's mind wandered as much as his eyes. While it seemed like so much was going on, Harry knew the wizarding world would soon be enveloped in turmoil that would crescendo from the current levels into a virtual cacophony of fury. In just a few months, the battle between good and evil had accelerated. Lord Voldemort had become even more bold, sending his Death Eaters on missions to places that could not yet have been anticipated. Voldemort himself seemed to have become equally active if the disappearance of Fudge was an indicator. Spies of The Order were actively trying to substantiate every morsel of information that could be gleaned from every tidbit overheard or gathered. Harry told himself to focus. He had assumed the role of 'leader', not by the actions of others but by his own. No one, not by age or experience or knowledge, could deny Harry's right for resolution. 'Revenge' would be no less accurate a description, revenge for Harry's parents, for Dumbledore, for countless others. For all the arguments that could be posited against his active role, this is where circumstances had led. Harry would move from this point, and everyone, from Ron and Hermione to The Order to the DA, would follow. It was a matter of necessity; it was a matter of respect. Ignoring all the headings that deserved attention, Harry once again, as he always did, brought his formidable attentions to "Horcruxes." 'Seven,' he told himself for the hundredth time. One, the diary. For all the mayhem it had caused during Harry's second year, most especially the near-death of Ginny, it was now destroyed as was one incarnation of Voldemort himself. Harry's plunging the tooth of the basilisk into the diary was a momentary inspiration for which Harry had no real explanation, yet he could not deny the appropriateness and effectiveness of the action. However, the nagging thought remained that each horcrux might have a similar incarnation associated with it. There was no way to know just yet, but Harry and everyone else could only hope that such was not the case. Two, the ring. Dumbledore had destroyed it with the apparent sacrifice of his hand and likely his life essence itself. Three, the locket. Much had been lost in the recovery of its shocking replacement, and much mystery was still attached to the disappearance of the original. However, Harry and

5

The Order had an excellent idea as to its location, and the authentic locket would soon follow the ring into oblivion. Four, the cup. The subject of much rumor, some fact, and an enormous amount of conjecture, its location was a mystery at the moment. Five and six were complete mysteries. Resources were being expended, more than some thought prudent, to discover their true nature and present location. Harry was of the opinion that too much effort could never be enough if it meant the destruction of the horcruxes and Voldemort along with them. Seven must surely be the last portion of Voldemort's soul; the one that still resides in his reanimated body. That could only be effectively dealt with when the other six were destroyed, clearing the way for Voldemort's final demise. This was one of those concepts that was as clear as day when conceived but would be the devil to put into action. The irony of that thought was not lost on Harry as Voldemort could well be considered the Devil himself. With a blink of the eyes and a snap of the head, Harry cleared his mind and tried to guide it to more pleasant thoughts. Those green eyes once again moved but this time with purpose and forethought. He first looked at the name 'Hermione', and he knew that somewhere, most likely still in the comfort of her home, she was poring over book after book after book. Given an assignment, Harry knew of no one who was as studious and tenacious as Hermione when it came to academics. For now, she was trying to surmise all connections between the known horcruxes. She excelled at this work, but it was by no means her only strength. To underestimate her sheer magical powers as a witch would be any opponent's last mistake. Harry couldn't help but smile at that thought, having benefited as much as anyone from the "cleverest witch of her age". But Harry was wrong, for at that moment Hermione was running a brush through her hair, smiling as she looked in the mirror. Harry next looked at 'Ron', his best friend, and his smile broadened even wider. No words could properly describe the value that Harry put on Ron's friendship and the feelings that he had towards him. Harry knew that, and just the knowledge that Ron was there was all the reassurance that any best friend could want. At that, Harry knew it was time for his last full night's sleep at 4 Privet Drive. Harry lifted his wand and gently touched it to the War Parchment. In a voice of calm resolve, Harry said "for Lily and James," and all that the parchment contained slipped into invisibility. Harry rolled up the parchment and laid it in his trunk. He hopped off his bed and went to Hedwig's cage. He opened it, and she fluttered onto his arm. Green eyes stared into yellow eyes as they nuzzled each other. Harry could no more imagine life without Hedwig as he could without Ron, Hermione, or Ginny. He walked the beautiful white owl to the window and launched her into the night. As she soared off into the night, Harry's heart soared with her. Such moments, brief as they were these days, were so very valuable. Harry knew all too well that tomorrow was promised to no one. It was sad that one so young must learn that lesson, so Harry had come to savor

6

every uplifting moment that he could. Not only had he grown, but he had matured beyond his years - a fact not lost on Dumbledore even in Harry's first year. With that, he hopped back onto the small twin bed next the old night table and lamp and turned the light off. Back at the Burrow, Ron was rummaging through his closet for his dress robes. As he pulled them out, he noticed his old and very dreadful hand-me-down frilled robes he would sooner be tortured over than wear again. He smiled, still marveling at the fit of uncharacteristic generosity and civility that had prompted Fred and George to buy Ron these dashing new robes two years ago. One more look at the old robes, and Ron realized that he really didn't care why they did it. All that mattered was that he had them. At that same instant, Harry smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

Gold and Red
7

The first ray of sunshine shot its way through the dusty old blinds, creating a taut beam of golden light that attached itself to the closet door across the room. Though silent, it announced the new day as it always did to those who looked upon the morning rays as things you hang your hopes on. Harry's eyes shot open as the beam entered the room. Full of anticipation, Harry reacted instantly to the quiet singular grandeur of the day's first arrival. Jumping out of bed, Harry pulled the blinds up to see the Ministry vehicle patiently waiting for him on the street below. Standing alongside the driver was the auror on protective detail. While relations with Rufus Scrimgeour were strained at best, the Ministry knew what was at stake. Begrudgingly, Harry would be given added protection until Lord Voldemort was destroyed. With equal reluctance, Harry accepted it on a parttime basis. In what seemed like one beat of the heart, Harry was showered, packed, and in the car on his way to the Burrow. Thanks to a little magic not unlike what Harry had seen on the Knight Bus, the car soon pulled over the hill and within sight of the Burrow. Harry caught his breath as the beloved Burrow had been transformed from the frumpy old home of the Weasley's into the centerpiece of a resplendent medieval scene complete with open tents, banners and carriages. Hedwig hooted her approval. Nary a head save for one turned as Harry entered the crowded bustling kitchen. Harry's presence was felt instantly. It was the kind of feeling people have when so deeply 'connected' with another living soul. Ginny turned and their eyes guided each other into open arms. Mrs. Weasley, as mothers do, immediately felt their embrace. At her reaction, all the room turned to Harry and Ginny. Flustered by all the hellos and a million questions, Harry smiled, shook a few hands and begged off to Ron's room. After all, he said, there are more important matters at hand. Harry burst through the door, prompting Ron to rise up from the edge of his bed. They shared a best friend's hug, a manly kind of hug - the kind that speaks of commitment, of shared danger, of an undying trust. The young men were at that point now. Although it had always been such, their friendship had now crystallized with maturity tempered by all they had seen, all they had done. Reassurance was no longer a matter of words, and both were grateful. They chatted away as they distractedly cleaned themselves up. Hours later, having breathlessly discussed all the issues of the wizarding community, they finally donned their dress robes. By the time they hit the bottom stair and had bounded into the kitchen, many of the people had made their way to the large open tent. Only Mrs. Weasley and Mme. Delacour were in the house. They were on mother duty, and nothing in the world would dissuade them from their last-minute attentions to Fleur and Bill. In fact, no one with any modicum of sense would dare interfere. In the large open tent, Harry and Ron saw many familiar faces as they approached their seats in the front row: friends and faculty from Hogwarts, The Order, distant relatives of Ron's, and many Beauxbatons friends of Fleur's. The Veela present practically stopped

8

Ron in his tracks, and Harry reached back with a smile and a tug to keep him moving along. The Ministry was also well-represented, and every auror present was there for pleasure and business both. Looking ahead to the front row, Harry spied Ginny and sat himself in the seat next to her. Ron slipped in next to Hermione and gave her a warm smile that was returned in kind. Harry felt sure that red ears were hidden beneath that cascade of curls. The world was indeed changing, and some of it for the better. Bagpipes signaled the beginning of the processional, and those in attendance ceased their anxious buzz. All heads turned to the end of the aisle. First, Charlie Weasley and Gabrielle Delacour, as Best Man and Maid of Honor, came down the aisle arm-in-arm. No one found the differences in age or height anything less than 'simply charming,' as the whispers once again increased. Next down the aisle, Bill and Mrs. Weasley walked slowly. Looking at Mrs. Weasley, it was impossible to get past the smile of pure joy that radiated her intense love for her eldest. Bill, for his part, walked with equal pride, not only for the mother who had his arm but also for the man he was. And on this one day, that mother would not even notice the long red ponytail braided with bones and teeth, origins unknown or unspoken. Next came Fleur and her father. She was the quintessential beautiful bride, dressed in a simple satin white gown with her neck adorned by a single strand of blue aquamarines, chosen in homage to the water and all that it meant to her. Her fine blonde hair was in two braids wrapped around her head, making her look for all the world like a goddess wearing olive branches. And who could say that she wasn't? Bill, who now took her hand from her father's, felt deep in his heart that she was indeed that goddess, and he was the luckiest man in the world. Once the ceremony actually began, Harry and Ron found it most difficult to concentrate on the proceedings, and both fidgeted. Hermione and Ginny looked at them, then at each other and rolled their eyes as if saying, 'Boys!' Some things never change. As the vows were exchanged, Harry found his attention once again back on the bride and groom. The Minister, in his final official act of the ceremony, had Bill and Fleur turn to all the celebrants as he said, "Relatives and friends, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. William Weasley. May their love and devotion serve as an unwavering beacon of hope in these troubled times." In that instant, as if every witch and wizard had bent their combined wills to make it happen, the setting sun dipped below the edge of the tent, sending a sheet of red light across the wedding party. The red light made Bill's red hair look lighter and Fleur's golden hair distinctly redder as they took on nearly the same tint. Everyone from the most cynical old warrior to the most innocent of children held their collective breath, for it was the most sublime of moments, the kind that dreams are made of. Late into the night, many revelers were dancing to hypnotic songs spun by a chorus of Veela. Harry danced slowly with Ginny held close, her head resting against his shoulder as they luxuriated in all their senses had to offer. Harry's hand felt as if it had been made to curl around Ginny's waist, and it fully assented in its own way. Over her head, Harry could see Ron and Hermione dancing, as well. He smiled, his heart so glad to see that

9

they had finally gone beyond the immature bickering that had characterized the tentative early years of their 'courtship.' As Harry and Ginny slowly rotated around the floor, following no particular orbit other than what they felt was right for their universe, Ginny began to talk about recent dreams. These were not just any dreams but ones concerning her First Year and her days intertwined with Voldemort. Harry held her closer, reassuring her with the warmth of his touch. Feeling her angst, Harry gave his lip an empathetic bite. He had not wanted to broach this subject with Ginny if he could have avoided it, and that made the bite just a little bit more poignant. One does not always choose the moments for things to occur, Harry thought to himself, so he took a deep breath and stepped onto the path where he had clearly never wanted to take her. Harry gently pulled Ginny's shoulders away so he could look into her eyes. "I know how these dreams must be upsetting you," he offered. "Even in my waking hours the connection with Voldemort brought me terror and pain. But I have been thinking about them of late, trying to fathom if we can somehow turn them to our purpose. I have an idea…"

House and Home

10

The next morning broke as the curtain of darkness slowly rolled down the gentle hills. Illuminating the very tree tops, the new golden honey of the day dripped down from bough to bough, bringing warmth and promise with it. An undulating layer of mist wrapped the floor of the dale in gray serenity, and the dew-laden grass found itself pockmarked with the footprints of scurrying garden gnomes. All evidence of tents, carriages and the throngs of guests had been magically whisked away. Skirted by the mist, the downstairs windows of The Burrow glowed brightly through the suspended drops of water. Inside, Mrs. Weasley glanced at the family clock, patiently waiting for the children to come down for breakfast. While they wrestled with sleep and hunger upstairs in their rooms, she prepared a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausages and syrup. Although she was, by rights, exhausted from the previous day's wedding, Mrs. Weasley was determined to stretch her wave of motherly nurturing just a bit longer in order to see all the kids safely and happily off. The breakfast table was satisfying and the conversation spirited, but soon Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione excused themselves up to Ron's room for some discussion. Mrs. Weasley understood completely and would not have allowed them to leave for school without that time together. She was aware of how important the coming days and months would be, and her stake in these matters was more than most. "Neither can live while the other survives." Four pairs of eyes gazed at the War Parchment as Harry touched his wand to it, and its contents came into view. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, sitting on the edges of the two beds, were astonished at all that it now contained, and they were beside themselves as the temptation to ask questions bubbled to the surface, but each waited, maybe not patiently but mindful of their roles and the job that Harry had to do. They also waited for Hermione to perform silence charms on all the posters and photos inhabiting Ron's walls. Although they could probably trust the eyes and ears of Viktor Krum, other Quidditch teams and various tourists in the snapshots taken near the pyramids in Egypt, they all agreed that it would be wise to not take any chances. "Better to be safe than sorry" was an idea that would underlie many courses of action in these times where trust was a luxury they could ill afford. Harry appreciated the silence of his friends, and he showed them as much respect as they afforded him by carefully reviewing most of what was happening and was going to happen in the wizarding world's conflict. As he began to explain what was to transpire, it dawned on Harry that these were all plans and nothing more. It would be sheer folly to assume that all would occur according to plan, but he had to start somewhere. The biggest unknown would be Voldemort and the plans he must be formulating this very instant, indeed, plans that he might already be putting into action. To think otherwise would be dangerous, and every witch and wizard had now seen where that would lead. Each listened intently as Harry described some of the entries on the War Parchment. "During the summer, Hagrid and Mme. Maxime were actively contacting Giants in

11

various regions of Europe. They traveled to the mountains of central Europe as well as the Urals in Russia. From what I've heard reported back, little progress has been made. The Giants are very divided over what path to follow, if they were to choose any path at all. Considering that their temperaments, let alone mental limitations, often get in the way of their decision making, that is not a surprise. It is, however, a disappointment nonetheless. Much more progress has been made with the House Elves. It seems that Hermione has created a great deal of good will with them." At this, Hermione could not help but beam and give Ron a good-natured jab in the ribs with her elbow. Harry continued, knowing full well that he deserved an equal dose of Hermione's righteousness, "Dobby has been actively working with the House Elves, and most seem ready to help when asked. Their peculiar variety of magic is quite powerful, and I believe that it will be very useful to us in the fight against Voldemort." Each part of the War Parchment brought its own bit of fascination and intrigue. Harry knew that now was the time to designate the roles of Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. He hoped they would not balk simply on the unavoidable necessity that each would be separated from the others. He went on determinedly, "Ron, I need you back at Hogwarts to run the DA. They need greater levels of organization and skill, and there is no one I trust more to do the job than you. Please set up weekly meetings in the Room of Requirement, and each week I will have an auror or member of the Order come out and give a lesson on specific charms, deep, dark and powerful ones that we will doubtless be needed - and soon. Many of the aurors are, by their nature, more wary and far less political than the Minister. They will help. Hermione, we need you to continue your research into the possible horcruxes and any connection that exists beyond the obvious one of Voldemort. He simply does not do things randomly, and there must be some symbolism to his choices. We just don't see it yet. If you need to, please access the libraries at Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Mme. Maxime and Professor Nedkov, the new Headmaster at Durmstrang, are expecting you and say you are most welcome. If anyone can solve the riddle, you can." "For Lily and James." At this, Harry turned to Ginny and reached out to her, his hand resting gently on hers. Her mission had already been discussed the night before, and he was sure she had shared it with the others. The relationship of the four encouraged complete and open communication, and Harry knew they could not survive without it. It was now time for all to head out on their appointed tasks. Harry, preparing to leave for 12 Grimmauld Place, stood outside the front door of The Burrow and gazed at the vista that represented so much of what he loved. Archie McClendon, the auror who was now stationed at The Burrow full time, was walking through the garden area enjoying the beauty of the country but nevertheless warily taking its pulse. That was his job, and Harry felt secure he was good at it. The Ministry knew Harry would

12

be spending much of the next year there, and they considered this one of the necessary precautions. Harry trotted over to McClendon and shared a few words, followed by a firm handshake and pats on respective shoulders. As Harry walked to the clearing, he clutched his DA galleon in his hand and sent a message. He sighed wistfully at the prospect of leaving The Burrow, but the house at 12 Grimmauld Place was his, and right now it represented much more than that.

Kreacher Comforts
13

The bright light of day caused Harry to squint as he emerged from the train station onto the tainted limestone of the plaza. Muggles, and more than a few wizards and witches, interwove as they went about their business, hardly looking up at each other or even at the stone obelisk with the cross that signified the station. Having ridden the train and being here at King's Cross made Harry miss Hogwarts station all the more. Simply thinking of Hogwarts gave Harry an added boost, and he quickened his step as he crossed the plaza, mindlessly avoiding the throngs of people. Emerging from the plaza onto the street, he turned away from the river and walked toward 12 Grimmauld Place. Harry's strides were long and purposeful, and he soon found himself crossing Grimmauld Place's square and stepping onto the pavement as he approached The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. As many times as he had run through this moment in his head and tried to convince himself otherwise, Harry still ached at this reminder of the loss of Sirius. There was no getting around it, so Harry raised his head, threw his shoulders back and took a deep breath as he walked up the stone stairs that brought him to the weatherworn black door. The coiled snake that was the door's knocker as well as a recurrent motif within the house perfectly represented the great conflict that tore through the Black family. There was such good as well as such evil within the very same branches of the family tree, and much pain and anguish had resulted from that. Members of the family had felt it, innocent victims had suffered for it, and Harry's loss was even greater for it. All the ironies were not lost on Harry as he surreptitiously drew his wand out from underneath his jacket and gently touched it to the door. Musty air and oppressive darkness greeted Harry as the door quietly swung open. Harry stepped across the threshold into the solitude and despair that was the Black House, and no amount of sunlight streaming through the door could change that. If anything the contrast intensified the expectations of what lay ahead. The light felt like nothing more than a false hope as the door swung closed, and Harry had to light the lonely candles of the candelabra by wand. No one should have been here since the Order abandoned 12 Grimmauld Place as its headquarters. Harry glanced down the entrance hall as it danced in the flickering light of the flames. At the end of the hall was a wide but steep stairwell that led down to the kitchen and beyond that his target. Before Harry would head that way, he wanted to be certain that all was as he remembered it. A mistake in memory now was a risk he did not want to take, so he turned and headed up the stairs. The banister felt smooth under Harry's hand as it slowly inched its way upward, and his feet nestled into the gentle grooves worn into the stairs by years of use. Each floor was as it should have been, from dusty neglected bedrooms all the way up to Buckbeak's den in Mrs. Black's old bedchamber. Satisfied that everything was as expected, Harry made his way back downstairs into the dining room. Habit made Harry glance around one more time before he descended the final staircase into the large kitchen. Mixed memories greeted Harry once again: bright warm fires, important people, conflict, pain, Snape.

14

Had Sirius still been alive, this was a house he could have loved, but now his heart was filled with loathing. That disgust was only accentuated by the knowledge of many deeds yet undone - acts of vengeance and acts of necessity all standing in Harry's path. Harry reached into his pocket, grasped the DA Galleon once again and sent a message. Within moments, two house-elves appeared out of nowhere. Dobby was dressed in an orange and brown checked shirt, green woolen socks and a blue knit hat that almost certainly had been made by Hermione. The sight of Dobby could not help but bring a brief smile to Harry's face. Harry already knew of the other house-elf, Rekky. Carefully chosen by Dobby for his trustworthiness as well as his youth and skills, Rekky was dressed in more normal garb for a house elf, even one from such an enlightened institution as Hogwarts. Harry had been very careful to impress upon Dobby that this was all business, and he appreciated their help and considered them virtual equals. It took a direct order even then, but the two house-elves accepted Harry at his word. Thus, with plans already in place, nothing more than a nod of acknowledgment needed to be exchanged among the three. Harry lit his wand, walked to the door of the boiler room and entered with Dobby and Rekky close behind. Carefully and deliberately, Harry walked to the doorless cabinet along the wall, crouched down, and reached over to the filthy rags below the pipes that Kreacher, Harry's inherited house-elf who was now assigned to Hogwarts, once called home. Harry lifted one corner of a rag, revealing the edge of a picture frame. This was not at all a surprising sight considering Kreacher's penchant to preserve all things Black, particularly objects related the nastier side of the family. As the rag was lifted, more and more of the red frame was revealed until, at last, Harry could see the face of Arcturus Black. Tension made the silence even more overbearing, but it was broken the moment light from Harry's wand touched the eyes of the figure in the picture. At that instant Arcturus Black let out a loud call of alarm which was immediately echoed by a blood-curdling scream from upstairs. Mrs. Black had picked up the alarm, and her shrill voice filled the entire house and beyond. Harry, Dobby and Rekky all stood up and looked around out of sheer habit. In that moment of weakness, they heard a 'pop' behind them, followed by a familiar sneer. Harry, Dobby and Rekky spun around only to see the back of Kreacher as he disappeared into a secret door in the wall behind his rags. Surprised but not unprepared, Rekky dove through the secret door with all the intensity of equal purpose. What Rekky saw was so unlike a house-elf that he had to put his amazement aside and concentrate on chasing Kreacher. The path wound through the walls of the house, lined by old curtains and bedsheets discarded over the years by the family. Looking ahead, Rekky scampered through the twisting turns, barely able to keep Kreacher visible. As Rekky emerged onto the first floor, the wall opened up into a small sanctuary hidden somewhere between the rooms. The floor of Kreacher's hideout was covered with old clothes, many from eras of days gone by but all tied together by threads of the Black Family Tree. With Kreacher nowhere to be seen, Rekky raced through the opening at the other end and continued his pursuit

15

upward. The second floor sanctuary was lined with repaired pieces of the Black Family china, all the seams expertly and lovingly sealed together once again. The chase continued with the third-floor hideout covered with more clothes and the walls lined with knives and swords dating back hundreds of years. As Rekky sped upwards, there was no way for him to know that one particular dagger had been removed from its perch. . . Harry and Dobby raced up the main staircase of the house, Dobby actually in the lead as he sensed the location of Rekky and followed it as best he could. When it appeared to Harry that the two house-elves might be heading to Kreacher's old lair in the attic, he raced to the top room and waited, both he and Dobby on high alert. . . . nor could Rekky have foreseen what was awaiting him on the fourth floor. He flew out of the tunnel and emerged into a brightly lit room, the walls covered with Black family portraits and jewelry everywhere. Nearly blinded, Rekky raised his hands over his large protruding eyes, needing a moment to adjust. That hesitation, along with the element of surprise, was all that Kreacher needed against the agile young house-elf. Instantly, a dagger was sent flying through the air, and it found it's target in the chest of Rekky, driving him backwards and pinning him to the wall. Rekky looked down in pain and shock as the cross guard of the dagger was firmly against his chest. The handle of the dagger, composed of a snake with emerald eyes, was the last thing Rekky ever saw as his head slumped forward. Kreacher cackled, grabbed a golden object off the wall and bounded through the tunnel up to the attic where Harry and Dobby awaited. As he emerged from the tunnel and stood up, Dobby gave him no chance whatsoever as he shot out both his hands, fingers curled forward, and two green sparks shot straight into Kreacher's chest. The look of surprise was frozen on his face as he died on the spot, slumping to the floor. Dobby, knowing that Rekky was dead, walked over and stood above Kreacher, glaring but saying nothing. Harry realized it too, and a tear fell from his eye as he walked over to Kreacher and removed the golden locket from his hand. Harry placed the locket on the table, aimed his wand, and said "Soulus Exctinctus." A teal light shot from his wand and enveloped the locket, causing a vacillating glow that lasted for nearly a minute as it destroyed the Horcrux within. Slowly, the light dissipated as the locket returned to normalcy. Harry found the light entrancing while it went bright and dim, and also perversely satisfying as it did its job. Somewhere, Lord Voldemort was gripping the edge of a table in a rage as his one-seventh soul screamed in silent agony at what had just occurred.

The Headmistress
The silhouette of a solitary figure framed below the iron and stone gate drifted to and fro, 16

barely illuminated by the day's fading light. As Harry approached the school grounds, the excitement of seeing Ginny and the prospect of being back at Hogwarts played a duet that made his heart race. Harry's shoes scratched softly against the cobblestones, making just enough sound for Ginny's acutely tuned ears to pick up. She spun and raced toward the sound, throwing her arms around Harry's neck the moment his features emerged from the grey of the evening. Harry and Ginny talked rapidly in hushed tones as they walked hand-in-hand toward the castle, and once they entered, they wound their way toward the late Professor Dumbledore's office. Only four people at Hogwarts knew that Harry would be arriving this evening, and he made sure that only Ginny actually met him. Harry hoarded each and every precious moment with her that he could. They arrived at the gargoyle-guarded entrance to the office, and Ginny spoke the password, "Quidditch Tabby." Like Dumbledore's, Professor McGonagall's chosen passwords brought a smile to Harry's face. The rotating spiral staircase with the golden eagle at the top delivered them to the impressive old oak door of the office, and Harry knocked. The door swung open immediately, and there stood the Headmistress adorned in her new gold and black robes. Even the old bent hat she'd worn for years had been replaced to better represent her new office. Professor McGonagall strode forward at the sight of Harry and gave him a massive hug that would have made Hagrid proud. The sincerity of her warmth pleased Harry, and her emotions were equally reflected in her watery eyes as she stood back and looked at him. Professor McGonagall motioned Harry and Ginny into neighboring chairs and then gave Harry a brief overview of the goings-on at school. Harry's attention grew keen when the Headmistress came around to their shared passion of Quidditch and how Gryffindor was fairing in its quest for the Cup. Throughout the previous months, Harry had kept Professor McGonagall abreast of all things war related and appreciated her counsel whenever she offered it. The time they now spent talking brought smiles and laughs as Hogwarts was truly home to both. When all the pleasantries were finally finished, Professor McGonagall pointedly asked what she could do for Harry, knowing full well there was a specific reason for his journey. Harry took Ginny's hand as she sat in the chair next to his and explained his ideas to the Headmistress. The thought had occurred to him that since both he and Ginny had suffered mental connections with Voldemort, perhaps there were subconscious bits of information buried deep in their minds they were not aware of - memories and information that perhaps had entered without their knowledge or even Voldemort's. Harry became introspective, "What I would like, Professor, is for Ginny and me to use the Pensieve to see if we could retrieve those memories and somehow put them to use." Professor McGonagall's eyebrows rose in surprise, and then she smiled. "Harry," she offered, "I think that is a brilliant notion. However, seeing Professor Dumbledore retrieve memories is not nearly the same as doing it yourself. Pick up your wands, both of you, and follow me." Professor McGonagall rose to her feet and walked straight to the cabinet containing the Pensieve which she threw open and then turned to face them. "Now then," she said, as a silver aura traced her outline from behind, "let's 17

have at it." Harry recalled how imposing Professor McGonagall had looked the day of the final competition for the Triwizard Cup when she and Professor Dumbledore and Snape had saved him from certain death at the hands of Barty Crouch, Jr. At this moment, with the silver light riding her shoulders, the Headmistress looked majestic, and Harry would have followed her anywhere. The next hour was spent in lessons on how to retrieve memories, and both Harry and Ginny needed every minute to get it just right. Each in turn began to pull the silver threads of 'Voldemort' memories from their minds. The process proved to be slow and frustrating as the young minds didn't have the mature development necessary to focus properly. Finally, both Harry and Ginny had extracted every memory they could root out. They discussed each one they could recall retrieving then both slumped in their chairs. Ginny was the first to verbalize what both she and Harry were thinking, "That was awful. Not nearly enough. Those memories were ones we already knew were there. How can what we already knew help us? There must be more, lots more!" Ginny jumped out of her chair and continued to ramble on as she paced the floor out of frustration, arms gesticulating and fists clenched. Professor McGonagall stood up, an understanding smile on her face. "Both of you come with me." She led them up the winding metal staircase to the second-floor room of her office, explaining her ideas the whole way while expertly guiding ahead of her the levitated Pensieve. Once in the room, Professor McGonagall placed the Pensieve next to the brown, cracked-leather couch toward the back of the room by the bookcase. She motioned Harry onto the couch, and he lay down. Professor McGonagall walked over to the couch and slowly waved her wand the length of Harry's body, and then twice around his head. Harry instantly fell asleep, and as soon as he did, Professor McGonagall placed her wand to his temple. She withdrew it slowly, and a set of fine interlaced silver tendrils containing many subconscious memories wove their way through the air from temple to tip. She guided the memories to the Pensieve and repeated the process over and over until her wand told her all was done. Harry was awakened, and Ginny then took his place. Soon the expert hand of the Headmistress completed the task. Back downstairs in the Headmistress' office, the three decided the following day would be a good time to discuss how best to use these memories. Clear minds would make the best decisions. Ginny stood up and went to the door, but pressing down on the large handle she found it locked. She turned and looked to Professor McGonagall with wideeyed alarm. Immediately, the Headmistress swept from behind her desk with a commanding sense of urgency, her wand at the ready. Up in the Owlery, three owls were landing at that very moment, including a tawny owl whose wingtip had apparently been clipped.

The Serpent and the Blade
18

Up in the Owlery, the elder Crabbe, Draco Malfoy and Peter Pettigrew used Dark Magic to transfigure back into their normal forms. The three figures moved to the landing at the top of the stairs where Pettigrew took his silver hand from his pocket and reattached it to the stub of his arm. They paused a moment to look over the stone balustrade and down upon a dark Hogwarts, accented by the occasional brightly-lit window and outlined only by a half-moon now dropping toward the horizon. If Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle had completed their assignment successfully, Professor McGonagall would now be sealed in her office. Nonetheless, they knew that time would be of the essence, so they rushed down the stairs and headed for the main building. Harry reached into the pocket of his robes the instant that Ginny spun around from the door. Hesitation was no longer an issue for Harry, and before Professor McGonagall could even utter a word he had grasped his DA Galleon and sent out an alarm. Experience and great depths of magic had finely honed Harry's intuition, and he knew that danger was at hand. Ron and Hermione received the alarm instantly and sprang into action. All those sessions of practicing charms and all those meetings on procedure would now be put to the test. Hermione raced from the Gryffindor dorm and went to get Luna while Ron had but a short run up the stairs to get Neville. Established procedure dictated that only five would do the initial response to any emergency. The rest of the DA were aware of the alarm, though, so everyone knew to prepare. Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew threw open the large wooden double doors of the building and went straight up the main staircase. Malfoy took the lead at the top of the wide stairs, a place where he had once made overtures of 'friendship' to Harry at the start of their first year. The group went up one more flight and then turned down the long hallway where, three-quarters of the way down, they turned once again and burst into the second-floor girls' bathroom. It appeared empty, as expected, so they went straight to the sink that contained the engraved snake on the brass faucet. Crabbe had been taught the necessary amount of Parseltongue by Voldemort, so he uttered from memory the correct phrase to open the surface entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. The rumbling of all the sinks moving aside sent vibrations throughout the whole room. Moaning Myrtle, disturbed by the commotion, poked her head through the wall of the last stall as Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew jumped down the entrance into the Chamber. Myrtle was astonished to see that blonde-haired boy back here at school. She was infuriated and hurt by all that had transpired at Hogwarts the previous year, not only the murder of Professor Dumbledore but also the pretense of Malfoy's poor pitiful acts as well. Angry and aghast, she stretched her ethereal body through the wall and out into the hallway. The first live person she came across was Neville Longbottom as he ran around checking the second floor. At Myrtle's behest, Neville charged into the girls bathroom, only to find the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets open and no one else around. He stood there waiting. Two years of dedicated practice had made his mind keen, but his shaking wand hand told the story that his experience battling at the Ministry wasn't quite enough. Professor McGonagall raised her wand as Ginny moved back away from the door. 19

Silently, she uttered the same charm that Professor Dumbledore had used to blast MadEye Moody's door open two years earlier. When nothing happened, Professor McGonagall stood there as wide-eyed as Ginny had been moments before when she found the door unexpectedly locked. All three feverishly began to think about what to do next. Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew dodged the piles of loose boulders that littered the subterranean entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and made their way to the locked vault door. Crabbe once again uttered his rote phrase of Parseltongue, thus sending the bewitched metal snake on its journey to unlock the vault. Pettigrew squeaked as the long line of stone snakes came into view. One could not help but be awed and intimidated by the sight. It was now Pettigrew's job to finish the mission, so he left the others behind and waddled down the stone path to the main chamber. As he emerged from the tunnel, he looked up at the giant serpent's stone head that loomed menacingly above the pool of mirror-like water. Pettigrew worked his way around the pool to the stone wall and clambered up the rocks to the serpent's head itself. The mouth was beyond his reach, so he took out his wand and charmed it into a long pole with an adjustable noose on the end. Balancing precariously, Pettigrew reached out and placed the loop around the nearest large fang. The loop tightened around the stone tooth, and he yanked with all his might. The stone fang came loose far easier than expected, so much so that he nearly fell backwards at the release of the tooth. Catching himself, he contracted his wand and took hold of the fang. He scurried back to his nefarious companions, and they headed up to the girls' bathroom with all possible speed. Harry looked from Professor McGonagall to Ginny, as perplexed as they were by the fact that all of them were still standing there. Quickly, they tried the same opening charm, together this time. The door did not budge. Harry thought a moment and then spoke Parseltongue. The door quietly opened. "Stupid Slytherin gits," Harry muttered. "Neither they nor Voldemort had any idea I would be here." Without another word, Harry, Ginny and the Professor rushed out of the office and into the main corridors of Hogwarts. Luna was urgently checking the outer buildings of Hogwarts while Hermione checked each of the houses, and Ron took up his post outside the Great Hall. Neville's post was now dictated by circumstance as he waited, but a nervous placement of his free hand into the side pocket of his robe chanced upon the DA Galleon. Exasperated by his foolishness, he sent out a call for the DA to come to the second-floor girls' bathroom and none too soon, for moments later three people emerged from of the Chamber of Secrets. Luna and Hermione screeched to a halt at Neville's call while Ron, the nearest member of the DA, leapt up the stairs three at a time and made his way down the second-floor hall. Neville's wand hand shook even more as he now tried to stare down Crabbe, Malfoy and Pettigrew. Realizing the odds, the three slowly separated across the bathroom, forcing Neville to look back and forth and hesitate even more than he already had. Crabbe made eye contact with Malfoy, then immediately called, "Longbottom." At that, Neville turned his head toward Crabbe. That one moment of miscalculation was all Malfoy needed as he forced his voice to speak the most horrible of the Unforgivable Curses, a curse that sent a

20

jet of green light into Neville's right side. Moaning Myrtle, peeking through the transom out of pure living habit, screamed. Ron stopped well short of the girls' bathroom, completely horrified when he saw the streaks of green light flash across the hall as they escaped through the cracks around the door. He didn't need Myrtle's scream to tell him what happened. Taking a deep breath, he raised his wand and aimed it down the hall. Three figures scrambled through the door, turned right and headed toward the end staircase that led to the building's side entrance. Knowing what had just happened made Malfoy's back a perfectly justifiable target; years of torment made this easy. Ron screamed, "Avada Kedavra," and Malfoy fell right on the heels of Pettigrew. Pettigrew froze in his tracks as a second jet of green light shot past Ron's left shoulder and slammed into Crabbe's chest as he turned to look at Malfoy. The Killing Curse from Professor McGonagall's wand sent Crabbe's lifeless body tumbling down the stairs. The scene outside the girls' bathroom was almost surreal as Hermione and Luna came charging down the hall, wands at the ready. Myrtle wailed, Ron stood in the hall muttering, "Bloody hell." to himself over and over, and Professor McGonagall stood tall over a cowering Peter Pettigrew, who clutched in his only real hand the ruby-handled knife of Godric Gryffindor himself.

Debt Unintended
"It's not here. . . It's not here."

21

Peter Pettigrew muttered that same phrase over and over as he sat bound to a plain wooden chair, secured upright by Professor McGonagall's invisible rope. Harry, Hermione and Ron stood near the door, while Ginny was remaining outside the Great Hall to pass on information and instructions to the faculty. Harry and Hermione were still reeling from Malfoy's murder of Neville, a painful shock that left them feeling a loss neither had anticipated. Ron had his own shock - killing another person, even one so deserving as Draco Malfoy. In the middle of the bare room, her body just a few feet in front of his, Professor McGonagall faced Pettigrew, tall and taut with her arms raised slightly from her body. Her wand was gripped tightly within the straining fingers of her right hand, silently showing the anger the Headmistress felt. This was fury at a level she had never quite experienced before, pain coming to the surface: the murder of Harry's parents, the Longbottoms trapped within their own insanity at St. Mungo's Hospital, the crippling loss of Professor Dumbledore, the tragic murder of innocent young Neville Longbottom. As cloudy as his mind was and as sad as his heart felt, Harry noticed something about the room. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but there was familiarity to it. Professor McGonagall's eyes narrowed with ferocity as she raised her wand, a jet of red light striking Pettigrew squarely in his chest. Harry, Hermione and Ron all jumped, surprised at Professor McGonagall's action and terrified by Pettigrew's screams of anguish reverberating throughout the stone room. Following the echoes around the room, it suddenly dawned on Harry what this room reminded him of: a miniature version of Courtroom Ten at the Ministry, one that Harry had visited both in person when he was put on trial for using magic in front of Dudley and through the memories of Professor Dumbledore contained in the Pensieve. Whether intentional or completely accidental, it was a stroke of genius to bring Pettigrew here just on the chance he was aware of the courtroom and its history. Reaching inside her robe, Professor McGonagall withdrew the ruby-handled dagger found with Pettigrew earlier. She raised it and, speaking in a sharp, understated voice, said, "Explain yourself. Now." Pettigrew sobbed again, this time more reflective of despair than physical pain. His words were jumbled, and Harry had to listen hard as Pettigrew blubbered, "Oh, please, do not hurt me any more. The Dark Lord has done enough to me, I promise you. I have suffered greatly from his cruelty. Just look at was my hand." Professor McGonagall raised her wand again. "Nooooooo," Pettigrew cried, and he continued speaking as fast as he could spit the words out of his mealy little mouth. "The Dark Lord sent us here to recover Gryffindor's Dagger. Seventeen years ago the Dark Lord had it with him at Godric's Hollow; it was intended to be one of his Horcruxes. I made sure that it was found after his demise and hidden for safe keeping. Ginny Weasley brought it back into the Chamber of Secrets years ago. With the recent loss of a Horcrux, the Dark Lord thought it best to keep it under his own protection. That is why we came."

22

A look of wretchedness swept across his face at the thought of the dagger. He sputtered, "But it's not in there. The moment I had the Dagger in my hand and followed the Dark Lord's instructions, I knew that the Horcrux was not in there like it was supposed to be. Oh, he is going to be so angry. But where could it be? He must not even know the answer to that now. But there is more, and I will tell you, kind Professor McGonagall. One of the remaining Horcruxes is in the Hufflepuff Cup. And it is well-hidden in Bulgaria. Where, I do not know, but perhaps that will help you." He looked up at her, a pitiful expression on his face. Pettigrew remembered Lindgren and the capricious way that the Dark Lord had tossed away his life. He did not want to be next, so he looked at Harry and spoke once again, "Kind Harry, you spared my life once, and I am in debt to you for that. There is one more thing I can tell you. It is all I know. There is a lady, very powerful, a Death Eater who has no rival but one. Around her neck is a necklace, something so important that the Dark Lord trusts only her with it. You must watch out for her." He looked up with what could only be assumed as his pathetic version of hope. "Will you protect me? I have helped you; now I need you to help me." Professor McGonagall stepped forward and began talking in stern hushed tones to Pettigrew. Hermione and Ron stepped forward to listen, but Harry just stood there. In his mind he was recounting each and every word Pettigrew had spoken tonight. Over and over Harry mixed and matched each bit of information until it began to resemble images fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. Slowly, the murkiness in his mind began to clear as the pieces came together. Harry's mind suddenly was emblazoned with the light that only accompanies a stunning revelation. He stood there, the knowledge of this revelation spreading through his body, both tingling and numbing at the same time. Nothing - not learning about the death of his parents, to discovering he was a wizard, to facing Voldemort face-to-face, quite matched this moment. And no one, absolutely no one, could yet know what he now knew.

Hermione Dives In
Death and betrayal hung over Hogwarts like an oppressive, fear-inducing fog of night. A 23

fog so thick, so still, that to chance into it would disorient the wanderer, causing feelings of hopelessness and despair. Professor Dumbledore's death was one thing - the murder of innocents like Cedric and Neville quite another. Each death struck the heart and mind in its own way, but all were too close to home and, therefore, too painful, too destabilizing. Every person's psyche had been sent reeling into the mist, and no one knew where they would come out. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny all sat in Professor McGonagall's office, the sullen looks on their faces clearly indicating that they felt that same gloom. The Headmistress sensed the anger, despondency and mistrust that pervaded the school, and she could not blame one single person, be it student of faculty member, for having those feelings. All she could do was lead the way and hope that many, if not all, would follow. Her first act was to expel Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle from Hogwarts, then turn them over to the Ministry for their crimes associated with the invasion of the school. Immediately afterwards, she closed Slytherin House, not only to mollify most of the students and parents, but to protect those members of the house, blameless or not. Harry could not stand the silence in the room, so he began to force himself forward. . . not physically, but mentally and emotionally. All he could think of to do was talk, so Harry simply began to recount all that had just occurred, from the attack on the school to the interrogation of Pettigrew. Ginny paid close attention as Harry kept going over the details again and again. Hermione sat there quietly and listened, taking in each fact and integrating it with all the research she had been doing at Harry's request. During Harry's third iteration of recent events, Hermione lifted her head, eyes open wide, and placed her hands on the long, leather-bound arms of her chair. No one in the room noticed the sparkle in those eyes, nor did it even register to anyone that she had gotten up and moved across the room. It was Ginny who finally noticed Hermione opening the cabinet that contained the Pensieve, and she shrieked when Hermione plunged her head down into the shimmering silver liquid. Professor McGonagall, Ron, and Ginny all leaped to their feet as they watched Hermione's shoes slip down into the Pensieve. Harry could only sit there and smile knowingly at 'Hermione being Hermione'. Hermione was astonished at this world of memories. As she drifted around in the ethereal nebula of silver, hundreds of people in dozens of images were floating by. Hermione recognized some people, but the vast majority of the faces were completely unknown to her. It took very little time for her to realize that all these memories were associated with Professor Dumbledore - and that was not why she was here. Unbeknownst to Hermione, no one had ever attempted what she was now trying - to capture and coalesce the memories of several people whose only relationship to one another may have been scattered strings of shared memories. In another time, another place, the sheer uniqueness of her idea would have given a sense of pride to Hermione; but her concern now was to make her plan work - only she felt totally lost: a stranger in a vast crowd, in which not one single person was capable of either seeing her or helping her. Hermione thought hard - Voldemort, Ginny, Harry. How could she possibly capture all those disparate memories, let alone tie them together into something useful? "Think," she

24

told herself. "How can I get capture these memories and string them together? Come on, think. How can I do it?" Hermione floated around some more, making a concerted effort not to land in any specific memory. She didn't want to be trapped, particularly in one of Professor Dumbledore's memories, and that was most likely of all. Then it dawned on Hermione: "These are Professor Dumbledore's memories, linked together by their one common thread - himself," she said to herself. "These other memories - Harry's, Ginny's and Voldemort's, have no common thread, no way of knowing that each of the other memories are even here - assuming they could know that at all. But I know they're here. I'm the common thread!" Hermione focused all her mental might on Harry, Ginny, Voldemort, and everything that she knew about their connections and shared paths. With that, Hermione placed her wand next to her temple, withdrew silver threads of her personal memories, and exuberantly threw them out into the strange world around her. With her wand, she spun the threads around like lassos, spinning and snapping at wisps of memories that were somehow associated with her own. That was the plan - and it was working! Hermione looked up as her memory threads slowly did their work. Memory after memory, fact after fact - all these gathered around her: ruby-handled blade, horcruxes, Cup , Agamemnon, Troy, mountains, Bulgaria, murder, Ginny, Death Eaters, Harry, monastery, necklace, Electra, Pettigrew and so many more. Each had its own importance, each had its own role in the past and in the future. All around her, the subconscious memories of Harry, Ginny and Voldemort himself were coalescing into images. As each one became clear, it took its place in a glittering sphere surrounding Hermione. And with that, there was a dawning awareness inside of Hermione of everything that had happened - and much of what very well might be happening. Suspended there amongst all these memories, Hermione giggled hysterically like a little girl. She couldn't help it. No birthday party had ever equaled the thrill and excitement of this moment. There they were: the memories of Voldemort pieced together all about her. As she took in what each memory told her, the excitement turned to wonder. The wonder soon turned to resolve. Some questions remained unanswered, but she knew what was to be done next. Hermione looked upwards and focused on the thought of the Headmistress' office. Slowly,ihe floated upwards through the memories, dispersing them back in the silvery world of the Pensieve. Harry, Ron, Professor McGonagall and Ginny stood breathless and overwrought, subconsciously pushing closer and closer to the Pensieve as they watched Hermione emerge and get to her feet. Hermione's face reflected the mixed emotions she was feeling. Elation was mingled with fear, knowledge fought with the unknown and strength was battling inexperience. Looking from face to face, Hermione wasted no time in speaking. "There was one Horcrux for each founding member of Hogwarts, and it seems that there were two for Slytherin. The ring and locket, as well as the diary, are now destroyed. The Hufflepuff Cup is one, and the Gryffindor Blade was intended to be one. That remains an unsolved mystery. However, I know where the Cup is hidden. Follow me. We must get to the

25

Owlery as soon as possible. I will explain on the way." Ginny, Ron and Harry turned to follow Hermione as she strode through the door. As soon as Harry had taken his first step, Professor McGonagall called to him, "Harry, a moment of your time, please." Harry turned and looked at her, surprised but open to anything she would say to him. The Headmistress continued, "I have a final message for you from Professor Dumbledore." Harry could not prevent himself from glancing up at the portrait on the wall. She continued, "I had planned on giving this to you at a later time, but circumstances seem to dictate otherwise. I cannot predict when I will see you again. Very simply, the message states that you must go see your Aunt again. She has something of importance to give you." Harry looked at her, his raised eyebrows showing his surprise. Harry did not know what he was expecting to hear, but it certainly wasn't that. He thanked Professor McGonagall and, before he turned to race after his companions, he gave her a hug. Partly in thanks, Harry found that he needed that little bit of emotional grounding. Harry gave the Headmistress one more small, knowing smile, and then left.

Ghost
26

Folds of black cloth swayed back and forth in a determined rhythm as Hermione strode down the hall toward the West exit. Her gesticulating arms followed no pattern but that of an animated and agitated dialogue. While the words may have seemed syncopated to her, but Harry, Ron and Ginny had all they could do to concentrate on her talking, let alone keep pace with her walking. Hermione was operating on a different plane now, shot through with adrenaline and driven by the clarity of thought from her new knowledge. Harry strained to listen. ". . . of the plan are really quite clever, everything that we should have expected from Voldemort. The Horcruxes - at least five of them, anyway - were supposed to be contained in heirlooms of the Hogwarts founders. Why Voldemort would show such affinity to the school is beyond me, but that's where we are with it. Perhaps both the locket and ring, being Slytherin-related, are his way of showing dominance. . . maybe attachment. . . no, definitely dominance," Hermione rattled on. She continued, barely taking a breath, "The Hufflepuff Cup is hidden in Bulgaria - inside the Troyan Monastery at the base of Stara Planina, to be exact. That's in the Balkans, by the way." Hermione couldn't resist throwing that in, and Ron rolled his eyes just as naturally. Hermione didn't miss a beat as she continued on, "That's where his new Death Eater, Electra, is from. Don't you see it? Electra, Agamemnon, Troy. That's why Voldemort chose that monastery - because of her and her background. It is a clever word association but definitely a surprise that Voldemort would show anyone any type of consideration whatsoever." Hermione paused, and then looked pleadingly into Harry's eyes as she said, " Harry, beware. . . she is powerful, she is important - and she wears the Ravenclaw necklace." Hermione's oratory had taken them all the way to the Owlery at the top of the West Tower. As she burst thought the door, the noise sent the owls flapping off their perches in fright. A look of anticipation and great concern still on her face, Hermione turned to Harry, Ron and Ginny who staggered up the final steps. She was excited to have successfully learned what she did, but with that knowledge came deep distress. Matters were becoming graver by the day, an unavoidable fact upon which they were all focused. Plans were formulating in Harry's head at every word spoken by Hermione, but he never got the chance to verbalize any of them. Before they could even begin to catch their breath, Hermione took out her DA Galleon and placed it in an envelope. She went over to the Owlery's desk and jotted off a quick note, which was placed in the envelope before she sealed it, and wrote the name "Viktor Krum" on the front. The envelope was secured to the leg of a large Barn Owl, and off it went. Hermione then turned to Ron and told him to send a message to Charlie, asking him to set up within twenty-four hours a Portkey landing site in a secluded spot near Troyan Monastery, Stara Planina, Bulgaria. Ron dutifully took out his Galleon and silently sent the message. Hermione led the group out to the landing where she leaned against the stone and outlined her plan for the Hufflepuff Cup. She, Harry and Dobby would use a Portkey for transport to rendezvous with Charlie and Viktor at which point they would begin to hunt down the Cup. A wave of her hand somewhat diminished the Weasley protests for being left out, and even Hermione's saying that their time would come still did little to mollify 27

Ron and Ginny. The next day brought decidedly bad weather, and early that afternoon Harry, Hermione and Dobby met in Professor McGonagall's office. Hermione was glad for the dreary, wet conditions outside. She wanted everyone to be focused and serious; not that they wouldn't be, but even the slightest optimism brought upon by bright, sunny weather could lead to a mistake later. There were no margins for error anymore, and Hermione had created an edge she intended to keep. She had no idea about Harry's revelation, and that gave them an even greater advantage, or at least Harry hoped as much. Lying on Professor McGonagall's desk was the Gryffindor Dagger which Hermione had converted into a Portkey. The significance of her choice was clear, and her cheeky effrontery gave Harry an inner lift. On Hermione's count, all three grabbed the dagger at the same time and were whisked away to whatever fate the Cup had waiting for them. That thought sobered Harry and brought him back down to earth as he, Hermione and Dobby landed with a thud in a small grassy clearing. Experience had taught Harry plenty, and he was on his feet with wand out in an instant. Dobby already had his hand out, prepared for whatever might await them as Hermione scrambled upright. Charlie Weasley, standing alongside a tall fir tree that skirted the clearing, let out a soft whistle - just enough to get their attention but not enough to cause alarm. All three turned to the sound and quickly made their way over as soon as recognition took the place of wariness. Charlie turned without a word and led the way through the woods. A few minutes later, with a hillside on their right, the group came upon an old, three-story building just beyond the trees. The façade of the monastery was stone and white stucco with two wooden balconies facing out to the town. A lone figure stood on the upper balcony keeping a close watch on the area. Hermione recognized the figure as Viktor Krum, waving not in recognition of Hermione, but in response to Charlie's wave up to him. At that Charlie led Harry, Hermione and Dobby through the main entrance and into the Troyan Monastery. Krum joined them immediately and all exchanged quiet, serious nods - everyone's expressions full of respect and purpose both. Satisfied with the team in front of her, Hermione pulled her shoulders back with pride as she explained exactly what the mission was, and why. Although the monastery was extensive, all agreed that the church itself was the logical place to look for the Cup. Voldemort may have had some symbolic reason for the choice, but just as likely it was chosen for its central location within the monastery; therefore, it was the easiest position to defend. Krum turned and silently led the party through the ring of the building and into the courtyard which contained gardens, statues and a small stone church. As soon as Krum stepped into the courtyard, the air turned bitter cold and became as still as death. Wands out, each person walked slowly and cautiously. Halfway into the courtyard, a soft singing began to waft through the air. From a large, previously unnoticed tomb tucked behind some bushes to the side of the courtyard, a covey of silvery Veela ghosts drifted toward the group. Their singing mesmerized the young men,

28

all of whom stopped dead in their tracks, eyes glazed over, arms limp at their sides. Hermione grabbed Harry, trying to shake him put of his stupor, but as she looked over his shoulder, she cried out in horror. Lying on the ground by the tomb were her parents, throats slashed, lifeless. Floating above the bodies, drifting their way, were a dementor, a giant and Lucius Malfoy. Harry began to hear his mother's screams again, Viktor fell to his knees muttering and covering his head and Charlie clasped his hands over his ears as tears streamed down his face. For Dobby, Lucius Malfoy represented the terror of servitude mixed with anger for the way Dobby had been treated and the things that Malfoy had done - trying to hurt Harry Potter among them. Hermione's wails echoed around the courtyard, surrounding each person's pains with her own shrill agony. It was his anger that kept Dobby somewhat focused and therefore the only one to notice the swords and silver ropes in the hands of the Veela. As the ghosts approached the group, Dobby raised his hand to them and silently said 'Apparitious condensus.' Blue-white streaks of lightning shot from his hand and struck the Veela ghosts, instantly causing each apparition to condense into a tiny spot of white powder that hung in mid-air before falling to the ground and impacting with a tiny puff of white smoke. The swords and ropes fell harmlessly into the herb gardens nearby. Dobby shook his head, trying to keep the cobwebs out and his mind focused as he loped over to where Harry stood. A quick snap of the fingers and a "Pay attention, Harry Potter, sir!" brought Harry's eyes down to Dobby's level. Once Harry noticed his dementor, he knew exactly what was going on. Harry raised his wand, propelled the charm "Riddikulus' with a firm loud voice, and destroyed the boggart which exploded into wisps of smoke and vanished. Harry, now in total control of himself once again, stepped in front of each member of the party in turn and destroyed his/her boggart. As they all sat along the low stone walls and gathered their wits about them, Harry walked over to the gardens and gazed down at the swords and rope that had been brought by the Veela ghosts. Real enough, he told himself. Voldemort had left two layers of terror for anyone who approached the Cup. While the ghosts and the boggarts were meant to incapacitate, the swords were surely meant to kill. Harry wondered about the ropes. . . perhaps their purpose was to add a little sport, torturing the victim before the kill. Certainly, Voldemort and his vicious slaves would not be above inflicting pain and gaining pleasure while doing so. Harry walked over to the group and took charge once again. From high atop the church, a figure draped in black seemingly floated alongside the narrow stone steeple. Incensed at what had just happened, she dared not do anything now. Too much was at risk if she attacked, so she must follow her master's instructions. Electra watched silently as the group moved toward her family's ancient tomb.

Family Surprises
29

Harry walked over to the grey limestone tomb situated along one side of the monastery's central courtyard. Pushing branches aside as he approached, Harry surveyed the tomb carefully. Like many places of burial, there were fine, ornate carvings along the lower edges of the tomb's roof which sloped upward at a low pitch to a central ridge that ran the length of the burial vault. At one end of the roof, a carved stone eagle, flanked by a gargoyle at each corner, stood guard. The sides of the tomb were spotted with the black stains of time. Without really thinking about it, Harry ran his hand along the stone wall finding, to his surprise, that it was rougher than he would have expected. He stepped back as far as the tall bushes would let him and, taking a more careful look, noticed that whatever names may have once been carved along the walls were now obliterated. Harry doubted that nature had been the cause, not when the carvings above appeared to have survived just fine. Curiosity as well as wariness were heightened by this observation, and his fears were confirmed as he rounded the side of the tomb only to find the vault's wrought-iron gate sealed by a metal snake woven through the vertical bars. Hermione, Charlie and Krum came up alongside Harry, and the meaning of the snake was not lost on any of them either. Where reservations may have lingered before, none any longer doubted the location of the Hufflepuff Cup. Hermione's knowledge and Harry's instincts had proven to be accurate once again. Harry pointed his wand at the gate and said, "Fusio!" The iron of the gate yielded beneath the onslaught of the charm's arcing orange light, melting instantly and running down and along the cracks between the ancient cobblestones. For a moment the members of the party found themselves entranced by the glowing red rivulets that wound around their feet. Hermione realized it would be prudent to be done with it and not tarry any longer, so she stepped around Harry and cautiously entered the tomb. Harry followed moments later only to find Hermione staring at the Hufflepuff Cup which was sitting atop a stone pillar. Light from the entrance streamed into the tomb, illuminating the dust-filled air with hazy beams that cast an eerie glow throughout. Remembering the dangers that surrounded the locket in the cave, Harry grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the burial vault. He seriously doubted that things would be this simple - if ghosts, boggarts, rope and swords could be called simple. Hermione stepped next to Krum, who had remained outside with Charlie. She turned back toward the vault, her right shoulder up against Krum's left arm. Harry had already turned to face the entrance, his wand raised and pointing in the direction of the Cup. With a voice of authority none of them had ever heard from Harry, he once again bellowed "Soulus Exctinctus," and a jet of teal-coloured lightning shot into the tomb. The light that Harry had seen emanate from the locket now cast that same eerie glow throughout the small chamber, easily visible from the outside. As he had suspected, Voldemort was not done. Undoubtedly designed to kill anyone who may have touched the Cup, Voldemort's last layer of protection was triggered as Harry's charm destroyed the Horcrux. Within moments, the tomb began to lose its solid appearance. What was once hard, opaque stone now began to take on a translucent appearance and, right before their wide-open eyes, the surfaces of the tomb began to 30

undulate. Seconds later it collapsed in upon itself and became one solid, indistinct mass of stone, lying on the ground looking like any other boulder from the neighbouring mountain. Designed to kill, it may have crushed the Cup as well, but it would have still protected the Horcrux within had it not already been destroyed by Harry's charm. Watching from above, only Electra could see the ghosts of her ancestors expelled from their final resting place, driven to wander aimlessly for all eternity. What little heart may have remained in her left to follow her relatives, ripped out by the sight of her family, and now every bit as forsaken as their ghosts. Her transformation was complete. Two days later, Harry found himself standing outside Number Four Privet Drive. He had no real idea what Professor Dumbledore's message meant, but Professor McGonagall thought it important; she clearly wasn't worried about the message per se - she just wanted to make sure Harry got it. Reminding himself that this was Professor Dumbledore's last message to him, Harry took a deep breath and made his way up the neatly trimmed walkway and between the tall bushes that stood beneath the windows of the house. Harry knocked on the door which was answered by Dudley, now tall and muscular - well built and strong for anyone his age. Dudley greeted Harry and ushered him into the living room, the site of many misadventures in years past. Harry could not help but smile as thoughts of zooming envelopes, floating puddings and engorged tongues flashed through his mind. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were sitting there waiting and were as cordial as when Harry had left at the end of the summer. Indeed, times had changed. Never having been close - in fact, just the opposite - Harry and the Dursleys kept the small talk to a minimum. It felt like an eternity to everyone in the room, however, so Aunt Petunia dispensed with the uncomfortable silences. "Harry," she explained, "soon after you were left on our doorstep as an infant, another package arrived." Harry and Aunt Petunia never actually had a civil discussion until now, and he absorbed all she said as he felt no small amount of amazement. It seems this particular package was inanimate and filled with objects that belonged to Harry's mum, Petunia's sister, Lily Potter. Dumbledore's instructions were simple: when the time came, Harry was to be given the one package that was wrapped in leather and tightly bound. It felt all the world like a book to Harry, but the string would not allow itself to simply be untied. Harry thought for a moment, took out his wand, and pointed it at the binding. Sure enough, the string became undone. As his hands shook and his heart raced, Harry slowly removed the string and carefully unwrapped the leather from around the book. The silence in the room was deafening and the tension palpable as Harry finished unwrapping the book. There it lay on his lap, cover facing upward as the leather draped down over Harry's thighs, and the magical string dangled down toward the floor. Harry looked with astonishment at the cover, which simply read:

The Diary of Lily Evans Potter
31

Meanwhile, at The Burrow, Molly Weasley was keeping herself busy with the daily chores of house and home, but her eyes never strayed from the Weasley family clock for very long.

Anguish
32

Thin curls of grey smoke rose from The Burrow's small exhaust vent which exited through the faded, weather-worn clapboards just above the kitchen stove. From the smell of food that drifted along with the fine particles of smoke, one would think that Mrs. Weasley was busy preparing breakfast for the entire red-headed Weasley clan. However, even on the best of mornings these days, it was only herself, Mr. Weasley and Archie McClendon. As the smoke of breakfast and the early haze yielded their coveted positions as guardians of the morning, a rare English sun took it's rightful place high in the morning sky. Molly Wesley bustled around the kitchen, the enchanted brushes having finished washing the breakfast utensils. Try as she might, Mrs. Weasley could never keep herself from glancing at the Weasley family clock. It was bad enough that Mr. Weasley worked for the Ministry of Magic and would always be at some risk, but many of the children were involved in some form or fashion, in the war against Voldemort. Mrs. Weasley worried incessantly about her family, but she could not begrudge the wizarding world, or Harry Potter, their help. Mrs. Weasley was particularly concerned about the hand of the clock that represented her estranged son, Percy. The 'Percy' hand had been fixed in the 'Mortal Danger' position for the past week, and Mrs. Weasley could do nothing but worry and think back to her dreadful experience with the boggart at number twelve Grimmauld Place. After a day of housework, Mrs. Weasley found herself, as usual, at the kitchen sink preparing vegetables. Her preference might have been to wash with magic, but, when it came to cooking for the family, it was her hand that took the credit. As she absentmindedly glanced out the window while preparing the evening's greens, Mrs. Weasley was completely astonished to see her third child, Percy, walking down the lane toward the house. Accompanying him were two young men of about the same age - early twenties she thought in snap judgement. Putting aside Percy's lack of favor within the family as only a mother would do, Mrs. Weasley tossed the vegetables down into the sink and raced out the door. She greeted Percy with a huge bear hug, tears flowing down her rosy cheeks and barely coherent blubbering. Percy acknowledged her with a cursory, standoffish hug of his own and then introduced his two companions as friends from the Ministry. Once the idea of guests penetrated her excitement, Mrs. Weasley shepherded the three young men into the house and plopped them down at the kitchen table. In no time at all, she had mustered three bottles of cold butterbeer for Percy and his friends along with some bread and cheese, fussing at the 'boys' to eat and drink. Mrs. Weasley turned her attention back to the greens in the sink, talking as she worked, asking Percy why the visit? Even though she was pleased as could be that he had shown up, Mrs. Weasley was equally aware that this was completely unexpected and out of the ordinary. Up until this time, Percy had done nothing that warranted any actions by his being called a 'good surprise.' "Well, Mother," Percy explained between swigs of butterbeer, "we are actually looking for Harry. We had heard he was staying here, and my friends needed to ask him some

33

questions concerning Ministry business. They asked me to help them." Mrs. Weasley's heart practically stopped in alarm as she heard this, and it took every bit of composure she could summon to keep working as if nothing was wrong. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she furiously thought about what to say. Percy's companions eyed her carefully as they awaited her response. Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth to answer although she still wasn't sure what was going to come out. Before the first word could escape her lips, Archie McClendon innocently walked through the kitchen door, and all hell broke loose. Archie McClendon was well-trained and experienced enough to immediately realize something was very wrong, so wrong, in fact, that he withdrew his wand instantly and took aim at one of the strangers. Urgency propelled Archie to fire his first curse right away, but being caught somewhat by surprise forced the rushed yellow beam to be slightly askew and the curse struck the table instead. Shards of china went flying off the table all about Mrs. Weasley, who screamed as she covered her face. These strangers, however, were fully prepared for the Auror. Before a second curse could be uttered, Auror McClendon was felled by a fatal ribbon of green light as "Avada Kedavra!" echoed through The Burrow. Archie slammed back against the tall oak hutch and then slumped forward onto the table, dead. Percy jumped from the table and backed against the wall, a look of shock on his face as terror sparked throughout his entire body. Molly Weasley froze by the sink, terrified. Coherent thoughts were barely possible as she surveyed the scene in front of her: Percy safe but in danger, Archie dead and two figures now draped in black approaching her. The two men grabbed Mrs. Weasley, threw her down into a chair and charmed a rope around her. Pleasantries were the furthest thing from their minds as they began to grill Molly Weasley on the whereabouts of Harry. Each time she refused to answer, one of the men moved closer and closer to her face. At her third refusal to answer, his frustration took over, and he took out his wand. Without even asking a fourth time, he aimed it at Mrs. Weasley's chest and yelled, "Crucio!" Birds fluttered from the trees, and garden gnomes went diving into their holes as Mrs. Weasley's screams pierced the silent dale. The pain shooting through her body was agonizing - more than she could bear - as she fainted dead away in the chair. Before the black figures could decide what to do next, they heard several 'pops' outside near the garden. The two Death Eaters immediately apparated, cursing to themselves at the reception they were sure to receive upon their return to Voldemort. Mr. Weasley and two Aurors burst through the door to find Mrs. Weasley, Percy and Archie McClendon in the kitchen, no explanations forthcoming as to what had happened. One of the Aurors immediately said, "Arthur, we must get them all to St. Mungo's. Please, as quickly as possible!" The scene around Mrs. Weasley's bed was one of great anguish as she lay there unconscious. Each member of the Weasley family save for Percy, who was elsewhere in the hospital, was feeling deep personal strife. Loss in battle was one thing, but an attack 34

on one's wife/mother was taken personally. Harry held Ginny's hand as tears rolled down her cheeks, and the look of anger on Fred's and George's faces was the last thing anyone would ever have normally expected to see from them. Harry released Ginny's hand and gave her a hug. After whispering something to her, he went and kissed Mrs. Weasley gently on the forehead. Without another word, he left the hospital room and headed straight for the Gryffindor common room. He had reading to do and, with Voldemort now searching so intently for him, the journal could no longer wait.

35

Day of the Blue
As much as Hogwarts was 'home' to Harry, the Gryffindor common room was his sanctuary within. Harry's memories there stretched to his very first days at school, moments of pain, anger, learning, camaraderie or joy. They encompassed Harry's experience of being where he wanted to be, making each and every memory special in its own way. Although Harry had actually spent very little time at Hogwarts during this seventh year, the students were aware of everything going on both outside and inside school. They gave Harry the wide berth and privacy he needed without having to be asked. Harry was not sure if this was out of respect or fear or both, but he was grateful for it. Even Colin Creevey resisted severe temptation and held his tongue and, more to the point, his camera. Harry settled himself down in the large armchair by the hearth, and a casual glance into the fire brought a twinge to his heart. One of those many memories was talking to Sirius in the fire. That longing, and the bond they shared, brought Harry right back into focus with an even greater determination. Harry looked down at the journal he had placed on his lap. With a deep sigh, he read the cover for the hundredth time but actually broke it open for the very first time. There was no real plan in Harry's mind on how he was going to approach his mother's journal, so he stood the book with its binding along his thigh and thought about where to start. One part of Harry said to start at the very beginning; another part of him was so anxious to read everything he just wanted to flip through it and absorb each and every word instantaneously. As Harry balanced the book between his hands, he found it parted on its own and fell open onto his lap. Harry looked down and saw the page facing up at him was shimmering like no other page, and in one corner the letters "AD" were scribbled. With a warm knowing smile, Harry realized that the decision had been made for him, so with his heart pounding he began to read: "Tomorrow is the big day, and I'm so excited! When Professor Slughorn helped get me a job in the Ministry and then on the 'Department of Mysteries' research team, he always said that someday I might be allowed into 'The Secret Room.' Well, tomorrow the team will finally enter for a fortnight's worth of research. I guess I am nervous, too, not knowing at all what to expect. James is excited, but he just wants to know what is inside. . . Oh my word, I couldn't believe what I learned today in 'The Secret Room!' It is a small room, barely large enough to fit the seven of us into it. And it is so bare - the room contains only three small black columns, each about one metre tall, arranged in a triangle within the room. But that isn't what's important - it's the glass prism standing upright on top of each column. Together they are called the "Prismata Vita", the "Prisms of Life." Apparently, no one knows exactly how old they are, other than they are about a thousand years old; nor does anyone know who created them. All anyone knew was how to make them work. It was the power that the Prisms yielded which prompted the Ministry to secret them away all these years. And I saw it work today! The team Leader placed a plant in the middle of the Prisms, aimed his wand, and said "Prismata Aqua!" At this, the Prisms turned from clear to a glowing pearly translucence and sent a 36

lavender beam from each Prism to the plant. The lavender light enveloped the plant and, within seconds, removed every bit of water from the plant. In short order the plant collapsed into a tiny mound of powder - all that remained once the water was removed. The demonstration of this power inspired such awe. . . Today we took a mouse and used the Prisms to remove its bones. It made me so sad to do that, but we gave it some Skelegrow to help the bones grow back. . . I wasn't supposed to, but I finally did tell James about 'The Secret Room,' under the promise that he must absolutely never tell anyone. He did promise (I love him so!). James did have an idea, though. He suggested that the Prisms might be used to remove Remus' tainted blood so that he would not have to bear the pain of being a werewolf. That is such a thoughtful, and brilliant, idea. It is also a very dangerous one. What if something went wrong? But I wonder. . . I've decided! Tomorrow I will try my idea! I am so scared, though. What if it doesn't work? What if I die? But I must find out . . . I went in early this morning to the Ministry and headed into the Department of Mysteries, as usual. This time, however, I went to 'The Secret Room' and let myself in. I was so nervous as I stepped in between the Prisms and aimed the wand at myself. I even left a note for James by the door, just in case. Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I said "Prismata Occula Pigmenta!' The lavender light enveloped me, but I felt only a slight tingle in my eyes until the light dissipated, then nothing at all. I took my small hand mirror out and looked at myself. It worked! I had successfully turned my eyes from green to blue! The rush from this success was incredible. I just couldn't help myself, so I walked around all day with my eyes blue! People looked at me funny as I passed them in the halls - they could tell that something was different, they just weren't sure what it was. Ha ha ha. James would have been proud of me! At the end of the day, I pretended to work late. When everyone was gone, I went back to the 'The Secret Room' and reversed the process. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I gazed in a mirror for a few moments - just staring at my green eyes. It was late then, so I Harry closed the book as he came to the end of this page. The look of wonder on his face would have been clear to anyone who glanced his way. Inside Harry the picture wasn't quite so straightforward. The logical de facto leader of the wizarding world's war against Voldemort was trying to process what he had just learned while the emotional orphaned boy felt himself torn apart by this encounter with his dead mother. One thing was certain, however: the world was not yet ready to see this journal or read its contents. Racing through the halls and up the stairs, Harry wound his way through Hogwarts to the seventh floor. Glancing at Barnabas the Barmy, Harry proceeded to create a Room of Requirement solely for the safekeeping of his mother's journal. Should he die, no one would ever find it, and that would be just as well. When he emerged from the room and sealed it, things were churning once again in Harry's mind. Harry reached into his pocket and placed his hand on his DA Galleon, sending a message for Ron and Hermione to meet him back at the Gryffindor common room. By the time they had arrived an hour later, the emotional boy had exited, and Harry had regained full control of his senses. Harry was settled into his favourite armchair by the hearth when Hermione and Ron found him. They pulled their chairs close, facing him, anxiously awaiting to hear why Harry had called for them. Little did they know that Harry was about to reveal how they were all about to end the war.

37

Plans Within Plans
The flames' flickering lights danced across the faces of Ron and Hermione as they listened intently. Harry needed to tell them everything. Each burst of life from the glowing embers revealed wonder and surprise while the shadows of the embers' gasps exposed the sinister side of the world, etched in the recesses of their faces. The fate of magical folk and Muggles alike hung in the balance, and they now bore that responsibility with maturity and dedication. As Harry described his evolving awareness from recent event and and greater perception of Voldemort's plans, neither Ron nor Hermione said a word, as if there were anything they could - or should - say at this critical juncture. Hermione was captivated, and Ron simply awestruck, as Harry outlined his plans to destroy Voldemort. Ron and Hermione would have gladly laid their lives down for Harry, but now all he needed was for them to be the necessary partners. They had always been there for him, so Harry had complete faith in their abilities. Harry leaned toward Ron, speaking in a subdued voice, "Ron, there are two things I need you to do. First, go to your dad and tell him to meet us outside 'The Secret Room' at 10 a.m., two mornings hence. He will understand. Second, ask Fred and George to be here this afternoon; 2 p.m. should do the trick. Perhaps they might consider trading their dragon skin jackets for something a bit less flamboyant." Neither could help a small smile thinking of the red-headed twins in bright green dragon leather. "I will see you next in two days." A brief look of disappointment swept across Ron's face, but he pushed himself up from the cushioned depths of his armchair and with a crisp "Right!" Harry reached out and shook Ron's hand, making sure to look him straight in the eyes and give him every bit of reassurance that he could. Ron spun on the balls of his feet and left the commons room. Harry was glad to see that the handshake had created a renewed feeling of importance in Ron, judging by the crisp manner in which he left. By the time Hermione's head had turned back from the image of Ron's exit past the Fat Lady, Harry had pulled his chair closer to her, their knees side-by-side. He once again leaned forward and, although he began to talk in hushed tones, he was placing great trust in his beloved Gryffindor by even speaking at all. As Harry outlined more of his plans and Hermione's pivotal role in them, he could see the flames reflected in her spellbound eyes. Students in the room, stealing furtive glances, saw the silhouettes of Harry and Hermione outlined with a soft orange glow while the daydreamers in the room who let their thoughts and eyes roam were rewarded with images of two shadows nose-to-nose flitting back and forth on the stone wall. When Harry was done, Hermione looked deep into Harry's eyes, their spirits touched knowingly and warmly, and she immediately left for the kitchens, via her room. "Dobby!" called Harry, speaking to the air. Instantly, the bony, seemingly misshapen house-elf appeared, dressed in a conglomeration of purples and reds, plaids and stripes, that would do a Muggle-imitating wizard proud. "Dobby," Harry said gently, "please inform Winky and the other house-elves that you will be accompanying me to the Department of Mysteries in three days. Please, go and do it now." Before Harry could 38

blink, Dobby was gone. Recent events had provided Hermione with experiences and emotions she could never have conceived, but now those were replaced with the greatest sense of purpose she had ever known. She had always worked hard to help Harry and had even used a smidgen of mischievous magic to help Ron at Quidditch tryouts, but now she was on a mission at Harry's request. Very simply, nothing else mattered, and she proceeded with focus and intensity beyond any she had exhibited before. Her first job was simple: to go get one of her infamous knitted hats, black this time, and meet Harry at the Room of Requirement. She grabbed the last remaining black cap from the S.P.E.W. box under her bed and rendezvoused with Harry in the seventh-floor hallway. He magically opened the door and quickly went inside, Hermione on his heels at almost a trot. As soon as she was inside, though, Hermione's canter came to a complete halt, her feet frozen to the floor. Completely stunned, Hermione's jaw dropped open as she looked down at Kreacher. Harry took the black knit hat from Hermione, handed it to the house-elf, and said with a great sense of urgency, "Now, hurry - you have little time. Be careful and be quick!" At that, the house-elf was gone. Harry turned to Hermione and said, simply, "Polyjuice Potion." It took a few moments for Hermione's head to clear as Harry's simple pronouncement sank in. She wasn't aware of every plan but quickly realized that Harry was setting all the wheels in motion, and she must get on to her next project. With that, she turned and headed straight for the library. There would be no more distractions now. Two mornings hence, Ron and Hermione went to the Great Hall while Harry went to meet Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt - Harry's escorts - by the front gate. Harry and Moody gave each other a respectful nod then all walked together into Hogwarts. Going to the fireplace in the Great Hall, they all used Floo Powder to transport themselves by means of the Floo Network to the Ministry's Atrium - Moody and Tonks first, Shacklebolt taking up the rear. There they met up with Remus Lupin, Charlie Weasley, the Weasley Twins and three other Aurors, all of whom waited by the Fountain of Magical Brethren. Harry took the time to greet each person eye-to-eye, a sign of his growing leadership. With that, he spun on his heels and strode down the corridor towards the elevators, everyone else following in pairs behind him. The group took the elevators down one level and exited onto Nine. Kingsley Shacklebolt emerged first and led the group down the hall toward the Department of Mysteries; Harry now walking in the middle. To this point everything had been prearranged, and all concerned were going to do their best to ensure it stayed that way for as long as possible. Only Harry, though, knew every plan that was now in place. Shacklebolt opened the door, and everyone entered with wands drawn. According to plan or not, taking every precaution would now be the paramount issue. One of the Aurors remained on guard inside the door as he locked the entrance behind him - no one was to

39

have any inkling anyone was in there. Another of the Aurors froze the Rotating Room in place then remained on station as the third Auror led the way through the correct door to the hallway beyond. Emerging into the small area between the door and the Time Room, Harry saw Mr. Weasley to his right, standing as asked outside the Secret Room. Harry nodded and turned left, Fred and George by his shoulders. Harry had gone over this moment many times in his head, but nothing prepared his heart for what he saw. There, at the bottom of the room surrounded by all the benches, was the Veil of Death. Harry's heart ached at all the memories the scene evoked, but for all that he remembered, one stood out - the memory that was his eternal nightmare. Closing his eyes for a brief moment, Harry tried his best to put the pain aside. Only marginally successful, he opened his eyes and walked down to the centre, followed by the twins. Moody, Tonks and Lupin spread out, while Shacklebolt, Ron and Hermione just watched from above. Charlie stood by his father. Down by the Veil of Death, Hermione could see Harry talking intently to the twins as his hands moved about, creating images and exclamation points to highlight his words and ideas. At one point Harry made Fred and George move about as if to completely memorize each aspect of the room. Minutes later, after the twins had walked to the top of the room by the Hall of Prophecies, Fred and George descended back down and talked to Harry some more, looking unusually intent for them. After a few nods and handshakes, Fred and George walked back up and immediately left the Department of Mysteries. Left alone, Harry turned to the Veil of Death, running his hand slowly along its side. Harry knew that this might be his one final chance - perhaps forever - to reflect on Sirius. Beyond the Veil Sirius floated with many other beings, all bereft of their souls. Dispossessed by the Veil, left to wander the ether for eternity, Harry was sure death would be preferable to their fate. He placed his forehead against the Veil's frame and tried to send a message of love out through the disconsolation that racked his body. As Harry turned and slowly, dejectedly made his way up the benches to Hermione, a single tear wound its way down Harry's cheek. Harry's tear was not the only one in the room.

40

The Veil of Death
Nine pairs of wet eyes watched Harry slowly ascend from the Veil of Death to the Secret Room's level, where Mr. Weasley, Charlie Weasley and Hermione stood. Harry's gaze was focused on Hermione, and when he arrived at the door, he took her free hand in his. Harry turned to Mr. Weasley and said, with dead calm in his voice, "Thank you, Mr. Weasley. Fred and George will be returning shortly. They will know what to do." Mr. Weasley gave Harry a small nod and a warm pat on the shoulder then silently swung the door open for Harry and Hermione. Not even Ron raised an eyebrow when seeing Hermione's hand slip into Harry's. Battles have always engendered deep bonds and camaraderie, and Hermione and Ron both had been the ultimate troopers by Harry's side. None of them would have had it any other way. However, both Harry and Hermione knew it was much more than that now. Hermione had helped protect Harry on many occasions and may even have directly saved his life. But now, Harry's life was literally in Hermione's hands, and the significance was not lost on either of them. Hermione's entire life of intense academia had helped prepare her for what was about to occur, but the last twenty-four hours of virtually living in the library - researching, practicing, hoping - was the figurative cramming before the final exam. This final exam, however, would encompass Harry's life and the future of the world. As the door swung closed behind them, a soft light illuminated the room from below. Hermione sucked in her breath and threw her shoulders back in formal deference to the moment, much as she had carried herself with a stiff, haughty air the first time she met Harry and Ron on the Hogwarts Express. Except now any trace of that once-young hint of arrogance was replaced by the tiny adult chill that accompanies the prospect of failure. Harry's already-heavy heart sank even lower as his skin crawled. Here in front him was the room his mother had spoken of - whose words Harry had read, whose descriptions he had translated into visions, yet no amount of imagination could adequately prepare Harry for the reality of the Secret Room. It was not that the room had any particular grandeur to it; it was simply that Harry was now actually here, practically inside one of his mother's most intimate and important memories. . . here because of that memory. It was the reality of this situation that gnawed at both Harry and Hermione - each of their minds and hearts dealing with completely different issues yet, in the end, knowing those issues and paths would join. No hesitation, no amount of time, no prodding of the winds on which the magical ancestral brethren that occupied Hogwarts and the rest of the world seemed to float like gossamer, could change the nexus that was this room. Accepting that, Harry released Hermione's hand and stepped into the middle of the room, standing evenly within the three black columns upon which rested the "Prismata Vita" - "The Prisms of Life." Harry knew what the next few minutes might bring, so he had sent every message, trained every person and created every situation from which each part of the plan would be set in motion. He made sure everyone on the 'good side' was prepared for what the next day would bring. Whether Harry was there or not, the final battle would occur. 41

Nothing could stop that now. Hermione continued to fulfill her critical role even as Harry stepped within the "Prismata Vita". She lifted her hand and opened it, palm upward, to expose the empty Prophecy Sphere that Mr. Weasley had handed her earlier. Hermione lifted her wand and, in a quiet voice reflective of Harry's earlier timbre, softly intoned, "Leviosa." The sphere rose from her hand, suspended in mid-air, protected by her simple charm. There it would await its solemn duty. That task done, Hermione turned and faced Harry with the same determination that Harry had shown by resolutely entering the "Prismata Vita". Harry had stepped into the future, and Hermione must follow. Without thinking, without giving herself a chance to debate the dozens of reasons she could probably think of not to follow Harry's instructions, Hermione aimed her wand with the swift decisiveness of an Auror and pronounced, "Prismata Horcrux!" Instantly, each prism took on the same pearly luster that Lily had described in her journal. The lavender light that grew within emanated toward the centre of the triumvirate - the exact spot where Harry knew to place himself. In seconds Harry was completely enveloped in a light purple chrysalis, no longer visible to Hermione through the brightness. Feeling terrible isolation, her eyes watched with anxiety, her breath stood at a standstill and her heart felt practically rended from her chest, yet almost before she knew it, a small red light floated out toward the periphery of the bright lavender corona that surrounded Harry. Fully prepared, Hermione forced air into her lungs then, with great urgency and complete desperation, practically screamed, "Preservus Orbus Horcrux!" A tight yellow beam shot from Hermione's wand and attached itself to the lavender-encapsulated Horcrux. Holding her breath once again, Hermione guided the small glowing globe to the suspended glass sphere that she had levitated earlier. Thankfully, the charm took effect, and the red ball of light slipped into the glass, now preserved as many prophesies were, within the silica orb. Shaking uncontrollably, Hermione practically collapsed forward from the tension that racked her body. She paused to catch her breath and regain some amount of composure then told herself she must now face the truth. Terrified, she forced herself to stand upright and turn toward the centre of the room. There, as he had minutes earlier, stood Harry. Hermione rushed to him, threw her arms around his neck and sobbed unabashedly onto his shoulder. It was the most terrible ordeal of Hermione's young life, and no number of 'Right thens' from Harry was going to mollify her. Harry waited patiently as it took a solid half-hour before the adrenaline wore off, and Hermione could function. She had earned every minute of that time. Ready for the next step, Harry carefully plucked the glowing red sphere out of the air and purposefully slipped it into the deep, inside pocket of his robe, opposite the one in which he kept his wand. Once again he took Hermione's hand and led her out of the Secret Room. Outside the door, within the Veil of Death's own chamber, Harry found all in readiness.

42

Moody had seen to it that the Aurors had completed their assigned tasks: the twins had returned to prepare their own special roles, and Hermione had now done her major part. Without so much as a word of prompting, Charlie escorted Ron, who, not wanting to leave Harry's side again, was quite reluctant to go into the Secret Room. Hermione followed, and a few minutes later the three emerged, each carrying a long leatherwrapped package. Charlie led the way toward the exit to the Department of Mysteries but not before both Ron and Hermione looked back at Harry one final time. It was shortly after the witching hour when Harry heard the first sounds of battle coming from the outer rooms. Harry felt the same grim satisfaction that all generals throughout history have known: your plan was working, but you could only minimize the rueful deaths of the brave soldiers. The Aurors on duty in the outer hall were surely outnumbered and would just as surely fall, but Harry was bolstered by the knowledge that sending Dobby as Kreatcher to Knockturn Alley had worked. Voldemort and his Death Eaters had arrived early in anticipation of Harry's arrival the coming afternoon finding, instead, the trap laid for them. Those who remained with Harry moved to their designated positions: Moody, Shacklebolt, Lupin, the third Auror and Fred faced the door of the Rotating Room; Mr. Weasley and Tonks donned invisibility cloaks on opposite sides of the room, high above but even with the Veil of Death; and Harry moved back down the benches and stood alongside the Veil. Every step, every movement on Harry's part, was taken with the steady assurance that comes with correct foresight. Harry's insides told another story, however, as his racing heart and rapid, shallow breathing belied his outward calm. It took a great force of will for him to keep the inner turmoil and his outer countenance separate. Just a short time later, the door from the Rotating Room burst open and four Death Eaters entered: Electra, Bellatrix Lestrange, Snape and one whom Harry did not recognize. Dobby and the Gryffindor house-elves had established a perimeter around the Ministry, with instructions to seemingly 'allow' only Electra and four others through. Upon seeing the Death Eaters stride through the door, Harry could only assume that the house-elves had done their job, and one other Death Eater had fallen to the Aurors in the outer hall. As the fourth Death Eater stepped from the Rotating Room, the door behind them slammed shut, sealing the room. As if at a prearranged signal, the closing of the door precipitated an immediate and all-out escalation of hostilities. The final battle had begun. Bodies moved around the room, ducking and jumping as needed to avoid the spells being fired in every direction. During the battle for the Prophecy, the air was filled with beams of every colour imaginable as curses and jinxes of all types were being shot from the wands. Now the air glowed with an eerie green that meant only one thing - this battle was to the death. Harry stayed put in his position alongside the Veil while Mr. Weasley and Tonks maintained their positions. Most everyone else on Harry's side was fighting for one reason and one reason only - to kill time. It was Harry and his team who were the key to this portion of the final fight. As the battle continued, Harry found himself ducking the occasional errant curse. He undoubtedly was the true target of the Death Eaters, but they

43

were under too much duress to focus on Harry at the moment. They thought they were merely trying to survive. All the while Harry kept a keen eye on Electra as she battled furiously. He had guessed that she liked to observe from above as was her want in Bulgaria. At some point Harry had hoped Electra would follow that pattern to observe and plan her next sortie amidst the ongoing battle. As she fought, and as she moved, Harry's left hand kept his DA Galleon firmly in his grip. Mr. Weasley and Tonks did likewise. Indeed, Electra did tend to move about in the battle from the highest points possible, but each time she shifted, it was never quite to the position in which Harry needed her. Finally, Electra moved high and perpendicular to the face of the Veil of Death. Harry immediately sent a signal to Mr. Weasley and Tonks who threw off their cloaks and, with wands aimed directly at Electra, both forcefully yelled, "Petrificus Totalis!" Electra froze on the spot, petrified by the double jinx. Quickly and according to plan, Tonks and Mr. Weasley both silently said 'Leviosa.' Electra rose into the air then was guided down toward the Veil of Death. Mr. Weasley and Tonks deposited her stiff body upright and in front of the Veil. In the ultimate battle between good and evil, fairness and limits have no place. Evil would not care what method it used, as long as it won. Good, on the other hand, might care greatly about the methods it employed, but the wise among them would look at the long term and realize it must win. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by losing. Harry had suffered too much loss, and had matured all too quickly, to give evil any quarter whatsoever. As soon as Electra was in place, he spun out in front of her, raised his wand, and shouted, "Percussus!" A thunderous shock wave, projected out from the tip of Harry's wand, slammed into Electra's chest and sent her body careening through the Veil of Death. As countless soulless creatures looked on with detached curiosity, her soul was ripped from her body. More importantly to all the living souls who existed back beyond the Veil, they saw the Horcrux similarly ripped out of the Ravenclaw necklace. The Veil had done its insidious work. There were now only two portions of Voldemort's soul remaining. Behind Harry, from high in the room, he heard a screeching hiss that could only reflect the pain, dismay and rage of one person: Lord Voldemort himself.

44

Shadows and Lights
The trap for Electra and the Ravenclaw necklace was executed to perfection, but there was no time to savor it. The victory felt fleeting as Harry was taken aback by the sudden appearance of Voldemort. Not that Voldemort's participation in the battle was unexpected - it was just that something struck Harry as odd - and he couldn't quite put his finger on what felt so strange. That moment's hesitation: pondering, questioning, analyzing - something Harry had successfully overcome until now - was broken by that same hissing voice high in the room spitting out, "Avada Kedavra!" Harry turned carelessly, years of habit once again taking over and drawing his attention to the curse's origin. As he spun around, a figure in black jumped between him and Voldemort, great urgency in his tone as he cried, "Potter! Watch out!" With the figure's arms spread wide, Harry's mind instantly flashed a long-ago impression of a black bat, only this bat in front of him now had a green glow spreading across its back. As the figure fell to the ground, Harry looked down to see the pallid face of Snape, whose lifeless eyes looked back in a way that Harry had never seen before, nor had he ever expected. Time seemed to stand still for Harry, the room spinning in a hazy slow motion about him. He stood there, staring incredulously at Snape, as long-cultivated hatred and conflict were dissolving away, leaving Harry shorn of his internal walls of protection. Indeed, inside Harry's head it felt like Snape's shocking sacrifice served to echo Dumbledore's many words of trust, with each silent retort knocking one more brick from Harry's belief system. No longer would the memories of his parents retain the clear-cut simplicity that had driven Harry all these years. Bewilderment brought its own form of shock, and Harry just stood there. Looking down, Voldemort raised his wand, refusing to be denied yet again. As he opened his reptilian mouth to cast the Killing Curse, an extraordinary white flash flooded the room, blinding everyone who still stood. The burst of light brought a dazed and confused Harry back to his senses, the familiarity taking hold and refocusing his mind. Harry now put full faith in the twins. Once the light dissipated and Harry's pupils began to dilate, he immediately turned and rushed through the Veil of Death, disappearing completely from the Ministry of Magic. Lord Voldemort stood at the top of the room, looking down with astonishment as Harry disappeared. His red eyes narrowed as fury replaced amazement. Too many times over too many years, Harry Potter had escaped death. Voldemort would not allow his revenge to be denied this final time, so he launched himself through the air, gliding headfirst toward the Veil. Any risk of entering the Veil was outweighed by the desire to kill the Prophecy once and for all. As Voldemort entered, a small piece of the Veil broke off and attached itself to the shoulder of his body as it passed through. Like Harry, Voldemort simply vanished.

45

George stepped from behind his hiding place, a smile of grim achievement on his face he and Fred had successfully converted the Veil into a portkey. As he stood next to his father, his heart ached, knowing what he had just done to Harry. The air rustled the leaves of the trees as it wound its way from hollow to hillock, carrying the moisture of the night and scents of the nearby countryside. Standing among those trees was an old, mutilated two-story cottage, long-abandoned in terrifying memory of murders most foul. Harry's ears picked up the soft sonic shiver from the leaves, and he felt the cool air caress his face even as his cheek pressed against the decade-old pavement. His senses told his brain that the ruse must have worked, and that knowledge set off an immediate alarm ringing in his head. Wary of imminent danger, Harry vaulted to his feet and scrambled out beyond the perimeter of the columns. If the Dark Lord were true to form, his rage would prod his perception of invincibility to act. And, indeed, Harry had no sooner raised his wand in preparation than Voldemort appeared on the pavement in the very same spot that Harry had occupied but moments before. Long had the world hoped for this moment to happen. Harry remembered Voldemort's sham in the graveyard - tormenting Harry by pretending to follow the niceties of the duel, all the while extending the agony as he circled in for the kill. Harry would take no such chance now, nor would he even entertain the idea that history's most terrible wizard deserved such consideration. Wand aimed, Harry roared "Prismata Potter Hemo!" the instant he was sure that Voldemort had fully materialized. Too early, and the spell might not work. A split-second too late, and the consequences might be too dire to even contemplate. In fact, Harry did not even dare to let his mind consider what might happen if he failed now. The Prismata Vita began their work, turning lavender and immediately encapsulating Voldemort in their light. Struggling against the crushing embrace of the Prismata Vita's spell, Voldemort found himself moving as if in molasses, becoming more entwined in the energy the more he resisted. The light penetrated his body and searched out every molecule derived from Harry's blood, taken by force in the graveyard and used for evil. Once found and identified, the light took back that which was once stolen. Voldemort screamed in agony, a pain so debilitating that it brought back memories of seventeen years ago. With one crucial element of his life force now gone, Voldemort collapsed back onto the lane, his wand clutched in a hand no longer capable of following his will. With a raise of his own wand and a "Prismata Disseminus" spell spoken with soft assurance, Harry saw to it that the pirated blood would be gone forever. Before Harry dared approach the crippled Voldemort, he removed the red glowing sphere from the inside pocket of his robe. Harry levitated the sphere, subconsciously fostering a feeling of magical mastery, then aimed his wand again and said in an even voice, "Soulus Extinctus!" The light from Harry's wand crackled through the air and struck the sphere, likewise turning it teal and bathing the area in a soft blue-green light. Soon, Harry's Horcrux was no more. He grasped the sphere, laid it on the ground and, with an element

46

of finality more for emphasis than anything tangible, Harry crushed the sphere under the heel of his shoe. Harry walked deliberately over to the prone Voldemort, feeling safe now but, nonetheless, completely focused and alert. There was one more thing he wanted to do before ending it all. He reached down and, with one quick determined motion, whisked Voldemort's wand out of his hand. Harry looked at the wand and considered it for just a moment, remembering Ollivander's words on the perverse greatness of this wand's deeds, before plunging the wand's handle into the pavement using force and spell both. Backing outside the perimeter again, Harry illuminated each of the Prismata Vita with a simple "Lumos", then aimed his wand at its brother and commanded, "Prior Incantato!" The two wands connected with arched red lightning, just as Harry had seen in the graveyard three years before. Slowly, as expected, the spectres of Voldemort's victims emerged from his wand. Harry fervently hoped to see his parents one more time and, when they appeared, he resisted the temptation to talk. Harry simply reveled in his love for them, tinged with sadness though it may be. What Harry did not expect was for Albus Dumbledore's apparition to also appear from Voldemort's wand, preceeded by Snape and followed by Amelia Bones and Lindgren. Harry was thunderstruck to see Dumbledore, and the pain he felt increased two-fold. Harry could only surmise that Voldemort sent Snape with his own wand on that fateful night - that Voldemort must have truly hated Dumbledore to take such an enormous risk in order to maintain some direct part in his death. Surprise was followed by even greater animosity, and Harry's resolve became deeper yet. Voldemort's victims made a ring about the prostrate body, their shadows, cast inward by the glowing Prismata Vita, pointing at Voldemort's body as it struggled to maintain its tenuous grasp on life. Each victim, in turn, approached Voldemort and had one final say to him. Harry was moved to tears, his heart touched by each victim, not simply his parents and Dumbledore. When they were done, they completed the circle one more time, nodded to Harry in thanks, then slowly evaporated into a peaceful existence. The time had come. Harry walked up to Voldemort's wretched body with slow, measured steps. As he stood over him, Harry heard a strained weak voice as Voldemort tried to speak. Harry bent his knees, knelt on the ground and leaned over Voldemort. Harry's eyes widened when he finally could hear what Voldemort was saying. With a faint smile on his face, and with the utmost deference to his beloved Professor Dumbledore, Harry simply answered, "Yes, Tom." With that, Harry backed away, aimed his wand and shouted "Avada Kedavra!" Seventeen years of venom and pain lent their combined force to Harry's Killing Curse. Hermione, who had been standing among the trees with Ron and Charlie, their wands at the ready the entire time, screamed as the green lightning bolt from Harry's wand destroyed the final portion of Tom Riddle's body and soul and, along with it, Lord Voldemort. As the echoes of Hermione's scream rolled along the hillocks surrounding Godric's Hollow, the morning sun climbed its way over the easternmost point. Harry looked up at

47

the broken cottage for the very first time. With the upper right slope of the cottage's front wall in stepped tatters, but the majority standing tall in silent memorial, the sun's rays caught the centre tip of the roof. It was the dawn of a new day.

48

5000 Days
Before long, the day of Lord Voldemort's ultimate demise became known as "Potter Day" - unofficially, of course, but nearly universal nonetheless. Those who did not subscribe to that way of thinking were in no position to protest; they found themselves in Azkaban, guarded by the carefully regulated dementors. In the years since that day, the magical world found itself enjoying a tranquility it could hardly have imagined just a decade ago. Even as the Muggles continued to plunge their world into chaos, the witches, wizards and squibs found their lives so much more serene. Each day for them seemed better than the last. And it was. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was enjoying a similar renaissance unlike anything seen for generations. Despite the tragic loss of its great Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, the school's stature had grown considerably as it had become the most highly-respected centre of wizarding education. The classrooms and hallways teemed with a sense of camaraderie and purpose while the bucolic grounds provided an environment for all manner of diversions. First year Glynis Weasley, bedecked in her new black robes and scarlet and gold tie, made sure that she arrived early to her most anticipated subject - her uncle's Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Glynis had bushy brown hair, overly-large front teeth, more freckles then one could ask for and, just like her mum, a voracious appetite for reading. With plenty of time before class began, she pulled out her most-read book, The Fall of the Dark Lord by Luna Lovegood. Luna was one of Glynis's favourite people, as she had known her all her young life. When Harry Potter had finally vanquished Lord Voldemort, it was Luna and her father's magazine, The Quibbler, that had been given the exclusive story. From her initial articles, Luna had developed this book, which had become an instant best-seller. To this day no book in the magical world sells more copies. Glynis began thumbing through the purple and gold book, each page adorned with 24K gold lettering and copious photographs. No expense was spared in the production, and it showed. Following the complicated and tense history of Harry Potter, Luna chose to have a section devoted to those characters involved, each with his or her own page. No person who helped in the fall of the Dark Lord could be discounted, for no role was too small nor any less brave than anyone else's. Simply titled "Vitae," this was Glynis's best-loved section, and she soon found herself idly flipping through some of her most revered personalities: "Neville Longbottom, who through the years matured beyond all expectations, had the greenhouses at Hogwarts posthumously named in his honour. His grandmother, whose personal losses had been almost beyond comprehension, was deeply proud of all that Neville had finally accomplished. Every week, no matter what the season, Hogwarts sees to it that fresh flowers are delivered from these very greenhouses to Alice and Frank Longbottom at St. Mungo's

49

Hospital. Alice and Frank could never understand the importance of the flowers, but they did enjoy the sweet fragrances and the pretty colours." The photograph shows Neville examining his Remembrall, alternating quizzical looks with his broad smile. Glynis, as she always did, passed right over Draco Malfoy and the Malfoy family. "Sirius Black, godfather to Harry Potter and best friend to James Potter, is one of the truly tragic figures in this history. Unjustly imprisoned in Azkaban, he eventually escaped only to meet his end in the Veil of Death. Total vindication came too late for this tortured soul. Harry Potter included Sirius Black in his personal family book, seen only by family members and a few close friends." The photograph shows a young Sirius horsing around with James Potter and Remus Lupin during their student days at Hogwarts. "To this day, Severus Snape, Professor at Hogwarts and enigmatic member of the Death Eaters, remains a mystery. While he clearly absolved himself by saving Harry Potter's life in the Department of Mysteries on that fateful day, historians have never been able to discover the basis for Albus Dumbledore's legendary trust in Snape. This also remains in direct contrast to Snape's apparent killing of Dumbledore on the lightning-struck tower at Hogwarts. Nonetheless, Snape bore out this trust in the end, and for that reason Harry Potter has seen to it that a portrait of Professor Snape hangs in a prominent place in the Potions classroom." The photograph is of Professor Snape lecturing as he stands over his bubbling cauldron. The next few pages were devoted to members of the Order of the Phoenix. Glynis always liked to read the part about Remus Lupin and Tonks, now married and based at the Order's still-secret headquarters. "Muggles have never been able to figure out the meaning of the golden statue of that strange little creature simply engraved "Rekky" that sits in the park across from 14 Grimmauld Place. Having never been able to remove it, they have simply come to accept it." Needless to say, Tonks's hair is a vivid pink in their honeymoon picture taken in Transylvania. A happy Tonks is not above a little gleeful irony, Glynis reflected, smiling. Right after that was Alistair Moody, legendary Auror and now Special Advisor to the Minister of Magic. Glynis always found herself giggling as she recalled stories of Moody and the 'amazing bouncing ferret'. Glynis finally reached the pages that dealt with her family, so reading found itself transforming into 'daydreaming.' Grandfather, Arthur Weasley is now Minister of Magic, and the Ministry is enjoying years of efficiency and good work. Of course, Grandad has added his own little touches such as enchanted Muggle artifacts all over the offices. It is hard to avoid at least one good laugh each day working there, and most everyone wouldn't have it any other way. Nan is completely throwning herself into the role of

50

'grandmother' and is currently in Egypt helping take care of young Auria, whose resplendent golden hair conjures up immediate thoughts of her mother. Uncles Fred and George are becoming even richer thanks to their wizarding-worldfamous joke shop. Birthdays in the Weasley family are always exceptional affairs, and 'Potter Day' is celebrated with no less enthusiasm. Parents and professors alike always hold their breath on that day but somehow manage to also turn a blind eye to the goingson. Turning a deaf ear is quite another matter, however. Even an aging Argus Filch manages to relax the Hogwarts rules just a bit on that day. His treasured ghost, Mrs. Norris, finds the day worthwhile just hanging out with the other ghosts rather than roaming the halls. Father has gone to work for the 'twins' as older members of the family still refer to them. Soon after Potter Day they purchased Zonko's Joke Shop in Hogsmeade and established it as their second location, and upon graduation from Hogwarts, Father took it over. The new shop is doing nearly as well as the original Diagon Alley location, thanks in part to a thriving owl-order business, particularly with Beauxbatons Academy and Durmstrang. Glynis suspects that this is no coincidence, knowing Father's early affection for both Quidditch and the veela. Mum teases him often about that, and Father's red face always brings a smile. Mum's renown continues to this day as she is now the Deputy Minister for Magical Creature Affairs. Her early campaigning on behalf of the house-elves never leaves her heart, and her fantastic work in her Ministry role has brought great peace and respect among all the magical creatures. Her Special Assistants, Dobby, Firenze and Grawp work tirelessly for her, and their efforts have paid off handsomely - those on the side of good are stronger and more united than ever before. Students began to file slowly into class, breaking Glynis' reverie as they entered in small groups, chatting nervously before their new class. Glynis recognized her twin cousins, who spied her from the door and returned her brisk wave. Their mum, Aunt Ginny, has proven to be a very powerful witch. Glynis, being around Ministers, Aurors and members of The Order almost constantly, has overheard many an adult conversation in which people said that Aunt Ginny may very well be the most powerful witch or wizard since Dumbledore. Glynis did not doubt that, for Aunt Ginny is now in charge of training the 'elite of the elite': Dumbledore's Army. No one who becomes an Auror does so without going through this training. Soon all the students were in their seats, the tension almost palpable - not only for Glynis - as this was the class every student wanted to take. Moments later, the side door clicked open and in walked Professor Potter, whose black hair, green eyes and lightning-bolt scar accented the face of the most famous person in the wizarding world. Silence accompanied his taking of attendance, but that only lasted briefly into Harry's introduction into the necessity and subject matter of 'Defense Against the Dark Arts.' As they did every year, the first years practically begged Harry to tell them the story of his early years: the battle with and eventual downfall of the Dark Lord.

51

Glynis leaned forward with intense excitement. No matter how many times she had heard this story, even as a youngster on Uncle Harry's lap, this was going to be different, and she knew it. This was where all her friends would hear it first-hand, and they would be 'allowed' into her family. Nothing in her life thus far would equal this hour, and she knew with complete certainty that her cousins were sharing this very same exhilaration. Harry wound his way through the narrative with each first year completely absorbed in the tale. Their eyes were wide and their mouths open as they hung on every word, every nuance. When Harry got to that fateful moment when he leaned over the doomed Voldemort, he took a long and dramatic pause. One brave first year thrust his hand into the air and stammered, dying to know but completely intimidated, "B-but P-Professor PPotter, what d-did Lord Voldemort say?" The words shot out of his mouth before his fear took over and choked him into silence. Harry took a moment and reflected. As he looked around at all of his students, he could not help but make eye contact with the twins. Young Lily, with red hair and green eyes, and her brother James with black hair and intense blue eyes, both returned his stare with a love that Harry simply could not describe. No parent really needed to. Harry was home, and he knew it. As he looked around at his impressionable charges just a bit more, a small smile broke across his face. In a quiet even voice that totally belied the moment, Harry said, "Tom Riddle's last words were, "Was it the scar?"

52

53