The Living Dead

Chapter 1: Detention Harry Potter was just heading out of the clearing after encountering the remnants of Lord Voldemort. He knew it was Voldemort because he's the only creature evil enough to attack something as pure as a Unicorn. Harry was eleven years old, and was serving a detention in the Forbidden Forest near the end of his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry was alone in the forest since his ... partner... Draco Malfoy ran off, taking Fang the Boarhound with him. Personally, he thought Malfoy had the right idea. Then he looked at the dead Unicorn, and rage filled him. On second thought, Malfoy's a bloody coward, and I know deep down I wanted to stand and fight. Though I didn't do much fighting. As the little boy walked out of the clearing, the creature watched. I just know if I try to attack one of his little ones Dumbledore will end this. He would have no choice, and I am heartily tired of this, what do I call it, life? No, not life, I've been dead for four hundred years. Sustaining myself on the blood of innocents. This is why I left my Black Forest home, to end it. Well, I guess I must attack, or Dumbledore will never know of my presence. And he jumped the small boy, sinking his fangs in the child's neck almost in an instant. When Harry was attacked from behind, he reacted instinctively. He bit hard into the arm of the person holding him. He was scared when he felt the person drinking his blood. Then the person let go and disappeared into the darkness. Harry collapsed onto the leaf-strewn ground and felt the world going dark. He could hear hoof-beats, but didn't feel rough hands picking him up. Firenze the centaur hurriedly took the injured child up to the castle. The boy was rushed into the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey started trying to heal him, but she already knew it was a lost cause. Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall both came running in, and she turned to the teachers fearfully. “It was a Vampire, Headmaster. And he isn't going to make it,” the head nurse said mournfully.

Dumbledore said, “We must tell the students only that it was a tragic accident in the forest. There would be a panic if word of a Vampire in the forest got out.” At hearing these words, McGonagall burst into tears. She had come to view this precious child as a grandson. He was so brilliant, and sweet; he didn't deserve this fate. He was a model Gryffindor, so brave and noble. Time ticked on. Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, Harry's best friends, were called and told he had been attacked in the Forest, probably by Voldemort. Dumbledore had told this tale because he didn't want to alarm the two first years unnecessarily. Ron Weasley left after that, trying to hide tears. Finally, at almost one o' clock in the morning, Madame Pomfrey checked on Harry and said, “Time of Death: 12:58 on May 27th, 1992.” She choked up saying that; she was also mourning the loss of the sweet little boy. Ron wasn't there to here the announcement. Nor would he be there for the big surprise... Four hours later, Hermione Granger was still crying over the dead body of her best friend. She stared at his sheet-covered face, imagining she could see the look of peace on it. Over the last several months she had discovered how terrible his life had been. And now, he's at peace. He's with his parents. Then, the sheet twitched. It looked like Harry was getting up, but that was impossible... Harry Potter awoke in darkness. He sat up, pushing the sheet down off his head. He saw Hermione backing away quickly. “Hermione, what are you doing in the boys' dormitory?” Harry asked, not knowing where he was. “ARGHH!” Hermione screamed. Madame Pomfrey came running and saw Harry sitting up. She put a hand to her chest and sent a message to Dumbledore. He came quickly, realizing the significance of the warning “HE'S AWAKE!” It could mean only one thing, as Harry was the only patient, albeit dead. He approached the boy cautiously. He wasn't sure if he'd be vicious, like his brethren. “Harry, how do you feel?” he asked. “I feel fine, sir,” Harry replied confused. He recognized Dumbledore's caution, but was unsure as to why the most powerful wizard in the

world would be afraid of a child. “What do you remember about what happened in the forest?” Dumbledore asked next. “Someone grabbed me from behind, I couldn't fight back or get away; he was too strong. I managed to bite him on the arm, but I was really scared when he drank my blood. Why would he do that, was he insane?” Harry asked curiously. “You bit him?” Dumbledore asked, trying to clarify Harry's story, though he didn't need any clarification. The fact that he was sitting up and talking four hours after being pronounced dead was proof enough. The Boy-Who-Lived was a Vampire. Hermione was listening to the whole story, and her emotions were going through the entire spectrum. First there was horror at what had happened, anger that it had happened, then pity for her friend. Lastly, there was acceptance. She was determined to support him, no matter what. She couldn't fathom a time when she would not stand by him. ** A week later, Harry looked very well for being dead. While he was in the hospital wing he had gotten a note and a package from Dumbledore. The package was a ring, and the note said he had found the ring in an old shop he used to frequent. The ring was supposed to hide the effects of living death. It allowed a vampire to look like he was eating real food, when in all actuality the food was vanishing in the mouth. Harry kept the ring on at all times. At dinner one night, Harry noticed that Quirrell looked even more nervous than usual, like he was planning something. He decided to keep an eye on him. When Quirrell left the Great Hall, he left too. He followed the Defense teacher all the way to the third floor where he saw him enter the forbidden corridor. He knew he had to stop him, but he didn't know how he'd do that. He saw a shadow and stepped into it. Quirrell put Fluffy to sleep and went down the trap door. Harry wanted to follow, but he didn't want to risk waking the dog. After a most curious sensation, Harry noticed that he was in an open room

with a large mirror and a lot of pillars. He had appeared in between two pillars behind the mirror. He watched and waited; finally, Quirrell came. Quirrell was trying to figure out how to get the Stone from the mirror. Harry was circling around him, moving from shadow to shadow. He hadn't taken the ring off, but he could feel the adrenaline coursing through his veins. It was affecting him in certain ways: he could feel his fangs starting to descend. He was watching for the right moment to attack. Suddenly, Quirrell turned around. “Ah, Potter! So good of you to join us! But I must ask, how did you follow me so quietly?” Quirrell said with a sneer. “I didn't wish to be seen. That's why you didn't notice me,” Harry replied coldly. He stepped closer, almost threateningly. ** Dumbledore left after that. He had followed Harry down here to see what he was up to, and he didn't like what he saw. He had no idea he had misunderstood Voldemort's meaning. This misunderstanding would dictate how Dumbledore would treat Harry in the future. ** Harry suddenly leaped on Quirrell, drawing his wand at the same time. Quirrell leaped back in response. “Incarcerous!” Harry shouted. Quirrell, taken by surprise by the non-offensive spell, had allowed himself to be caught in the ropes. Harry leaped forward and grabbed Quirrell who struggled out of the ropes and fought Harry off. Harry caught him again and grabbed him once again. This time, Quirrell wasn't able to fight the younger wizard off. He disintegrated after the prolonged physical contact. Voldemort fled Quirrell's body and the school. Now that the threat of the Dark Lord was neutralized, Harry studied the mirror. He saw himself putting the Stone in his pocket, and smiled. He stepped back into the shadows to return to main castle. Once there, he sent Dumbledore the Stone with a school owl. He had

guessed that he'd been followed because he'd felt the fear. Because of that, he didn't want to try to convince Dumbledore he'd been wrong, or he'd still be trying to prove himself years later. He planned to gather proof that he'd always been loyal to Dumbledore over the years then present it to him all at once. **** Chapter 2 Barriers The summer was just beginning for Harry. Usually it would mean two months of degradation, but this time Harry wasn't going to give the Dursleys the satisfaction. He went through the barrier, idly wondering why the sun wasn't bothering him. When he saw the Dursleys waiting for him he went over to them, sighing. “Come on, boy, we don't have all day,” Vernon Dursley said, not seeming to notice that his nephew had grown over the school year. Harry got in the car after stowing his trunk. The Dursleys climbed in and Petunia said, “The roof is leaking and we're expecting a storm tonight. It's your job to fix it.” Harry sighed in response. “Well, boy. Are you going to say something?” Petunia sneered. “Yes, I'll fix the roof, Aunt Petunia,” Harry said dully. The sun kept beating down on his face. It stung a little, but not much. When they got home, Harry saw the roof, or what was left of the roof. He knew it would be an all-night job because more than half the roof was gone. “What happened to the roof? Did you let Dudley up there?” Harry asked incredulously. After saying that he instinctively ducked, just in time to see Vernon's meaty fist swipe the air above his head. Wisely, Harry kept his mouth shut after that. Four hours later, Harry was still working on the roof. He found it easy to scramble along the trusses, almost catlike. The sky started getting darker, but Harry's vision was not being impaired. “Potter, you might as well come in before the storm starts. We don't want you breaking anything because you can't see,” Vernon called up to him.

“I'm fine, Uncle Vernon,” Harry called back. “I can see just fine.” And with that, he continued working. The Dursleys had already strung a tarp below the trusses. Rain drops started pattering down, lightly at first, but soon it was pouring. Harry was still working in the rapidly fading light. Lightning started flashing, illuminating the sidewalk. Suddenly, Harry saw something on the sidewalk. It was two cloaked figures, and they looked like they were having a meeting. Harry wasn't worried about being seen. He slipped his ring off and leaped lightly to the other side of the roof. He looked down, making sure there were no windows, and jumped. He landed with nary a sound. Harry went around the house, keeping to the shadows, and suddenly appeared in a shadow across the street. Now he was close enough to overhear part of the men’s conversation. “... man says the boy lives in this area,” one man muttered. The other man replied, “The Dark Lord needs him to return. He will not thank us to kill the boy now.” Neither man knew Harry was listening to their conversation. Harry, however, had gotten a good look at the two men, even though they had kept their hoods up in the torrential downpour. With one positive ID, and a shrewd guess as to the other man's identity, Harry went back to work. Upon finishing, he put his ring back on and went in the house. “Now mop up the water the tarp didn't stop, boy,” Petunia ordered. Harry went to this new task without complaint. The work would give him a chance to think about what he'd heard outside. ** Two months later, Harry was with the Weasleys at the train station. They were getting ready to board the Hogwarts Express for their next year. Percy had already gone through the barrier, eager for his sixth year. The twins, Fred and George, had gone through for their fourth year of pranks. Ginny had been taken through by both her parents for her first year. That left Ron with Harry. Ron was running for the barrier when Harry sensed something. It was a lack of magic; the barrier had closed early. Before he could warn Ron, the older boy had slammed into the solid brick wall and bounced off. “I was trying to tell

you the barrier was closed,” Harry remarked with a laugh. At that moment the clock struck eleven and the train pulled out of the station, unseen by so many people. Meanwhile, Hermione noticed that neither of her friends were on the train. Luckily, she saw a teacher patrolling. “Professor Snape, Harry and Ron didn't come through the barrier. I think they might have been left behind,” she told the greasy professor. He grumbled and sent a patronus ahead to alert Dumbledore that his precious savior couldn't tell time. ** When Dumbledore received the patronus his blood ran cold. The thought of a vicious vampire loose in a crowded train station in the middle of London gave him goose bumps. He Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron immediately and from there Apparated to Kings Cross. What he saw there filled him with such relief he felt lightheaded, for there was Harry arguing with Ron. “... take Dad's car, he won't miss it,” Ron was saying. “I said no, Ron. Hermione probably missed us and told someone. I'm sure if we wait right here someone will come,” Harry argued back. “Headmaster, you don't have to hide. I don't bite,” Harry said then, without turning around. The young vampire had sensed Dumbledore's approach. “Come along, boys. I'll take you to the castle,” Dumbledore said. “Once we arrive, you can tell me why you didn't take the train like everyone else.” Ron and Harry went with Dumbledore to the Leaky Cauldron, where they all Flooed to Hogwarts. Ron was thinking about what happened. About how Dumbledore came so quickly and the relief he saw on the aged wizard's face when he saw Harry. The conclusion he came to, of course, was that Dumbledore worships the ground Harry walks on and doesn't want him lost. Ron Weasley was seething with jealousy, and formulating a plan to take Harry down a peg or two. Because he was wrapped in his own thoughts, he didn't hear how Harry had

received a visit from a House Elf earlier in the summer, or how he had been warned not to return to Hogwarts on pain of an almost certain death. Later, Dumbledore let them go down to the feast with the other students. That's where Ron decided to start putting his plan into action. ** During the feast, Hermione only had eyes for Ron. He had been telling her some tall tales about how they would have been kidnapped if it wasn't for him, and how it was his idea to wait at the station on the hunch that someone would come. He also told Hermione that Harry was trying to insist they steal a flying car to get to school. Hermione thought Ron was so brave, and got over her schoolgirl crush on Harry. She thought he could never love her back because he was dead. Meanwhile, Harry was staring at Snape. He had never trusted the man, even before that fateful night last May. It seemed that Harry's mistrust only grew after his unfortunate death. “Hermione, how evil would you say Snape is?” Harry asked, calmly. “Harry, don't talk with your mouth full, and I don't think he's evil. He's a teacher, and Dumbledore wouldn't have hired him if he was evil.” Hermione replied absentmindedly. “He hired Voldemort last year. Would you say Voldemort isn't evil?” Harry shot back, but she ignored him. Harry knew then that there was a barrier between him and Hermione. He trusted that she wouldn't reveal his secret, and he guessed that the depth of their friendship had lessened. ** Chapter 3 Close Encounters Harry Potter had left the Great Hall following the Welcoming Feast. He hadn't had anything to eat and he was hungry. He decided he'd go down to the Dungeons for a quick snack. He found an unused room and ducked in there. He pulled a bottle of pigs blood out of his

pocket and started drinking. The door opened slowly, and a shadowy figure crept in. Severus Snape didn't know what Potter would want in the Dungeons, so he followed him. He was good at following people, but he didn't know what he was following, or that his presence had been detected long ago. He drew his wand and lit it, expecting to see his worst enemies' son doing some mischief. What he saw filled him with horror. He dropped his wand in fright and tried to back out of the room. Harry threw the bottle down, smashing it, and leaped behind Snape. He had taken his ring off to scare the Potions Master, and it worked wonderfully. “It's not nice to follow people, Snape,” Harry said coldly. “You might be confronted with your nightmare come alive.” Harry grabbed Snape around the neck and hoisted him up the wall, the teacher's feet dangling off the floor. Snape was wimpering, and begging Harry not to eat him. “I'm not going to eat you, I'd be poisoned by all the grease. And besides, I swore I'd never harm another human being, unless it was a dire emergency. So, you're safe unless you hurt one of my friends. I will let you leave this room with every drop of your blood in your veins, but you're going to have to keep your big mouth shut about what you saw. Or I WILL kill you.” He let Snape down, and the Potions Master ran from the room in terror. Harry left the room later, and ran into Dumbledore. Harry sensed the fear Dumbledore was trying to bank down, and it nearly broke his heart. He knew the Headmaster still didn't trust him, but he was working on a way around that. “I hope you didn't kill Professor Snape, or I will have to deal with you,” Dumbledore said menacingly. “I did not bite that grease-ball; if you don't believe me, check him. I will never hurt a person, unless it's absolutely necessary. Now, if you'll excuse me,” Harry said calmly and brushed past a gaping Headmaster. He continued on to his dormitory, thinking about the two encounters in the Dungeons. He remembered the two men who were plotting near his house, and wondered how he was going to prevent

their plots coming to fruition. He knew exactly who one of the men were, and vowed to himself he'd keep a close eye on him. ** The next day, a man was walking up the drive toward the school. This man was a vampire expert, and had heard there was a vampire at Hogwarts. Once he reached the double doors into the Entrance Hall, he saw two men waiting for him. One man was obviously Dumbledore, and the second... is that the vampire? He certainly looks like a nasty piece of work. Maybe a low-grade Romanian. “Hello, I'm Heinrich Weisen. You called me about an undead problem? I know more than you might think about vampires.” He approached Dumbledore and the unknown man beside him. “Is this the one? He looks like a low-grade Romanian. You don't need to worry about him overpowering anyone, except perhaps a first or second year student,” Weisen, the vampire expert, said. Snape growled in rage. “Though he does sound rather mean,” Weisen added. He didn't see a little boy coming down the steps. “Severus is not a vampire, though he did have a close encounter with a problematic monster last night.” Dumbledore's words ripped through Harry and nearly brought him to tears. He managed to hold them in, and, turning to leave, he stumbled on the stairs. The sound drew Weisen's attention. “Perhaps we should go to your office, Headmaster? I don't want to scare any students.” Dumbledore looked and said, “That's not necessary, Heinrich. The vampire I told you about is this boy.” Harry stayed put, knowing Dumbledore had brought this man here to take a look at him. Since he didn't want to be a pain, he stood calmly. Weisen approached him carefully and took hold of his face. “Ah, yes, I can see now. Now this is strange.” He waved his wand over Harry's head and the results of the diagnostic were shocking. “This looks like a Black Forest, very strong, and not truly dead, at least in a philosophical sense. He still has a soul; this is very rare. You don't have to worry, he's not a monster. In fact, I'll bet he's the nicest vampire you'll ever see.” Weisen ruffled Harry's hair and said,

“He doesn't even look like a vampire.” “That's because that ring hides it. I don't want a panic,” Dumbledore ground out. The aged Headmaster didn't want to think he'd been persecuting Harry for no reason. “Ah, good. Well, if you need any advice on how to care for this young man, just let me know. I'd love a chance to come back and see how he's developing. This is the first time I've ever actually seen a living Black Forest. I also believe he might be viable, so some girl will one day be extremely lucky.” Weisen left after that. He didn't see the look on Dumbledore's face. If he had, he wouldn't be walking down the drive chortling. ** After Heinrich Weisen left, Dumbledore and Snape both started toward Harry. Knowing he was overmatched, Harry fled. He personally hoped the vampire expert would come back, if only to make sure he was still among the living. He ran to his dormitory to give Dumbledore a chance to cool down. He wasn't too afraid of Snape, but Dumbledore was another story. It was lucky classes were done for the day, because Harry didn't want any chance encounters with narrow-minded teachers. The next several weeks passed quickly, and Harry did very well in his classes, though he wasn't sure about one of his teachers. Professor Lockhart wasn't a very good teacher, and he seemed to have a dark side, or at least a dirty little secret. Also, he was positive Ron's rat, Scabbers, was an animagus. He didn't know how he was going to turn the rat back into a human, or let the proper authorities know. Until he got an idea, of course. That's why he was going to Professor McGonagall's office between classes. He already had the rat in question in a cage, and Ron didn't seem to know it was missing. Ron's paying more attention to Hermione than he is to his own pet. Lucky for me, and dare I say it, unlucky for Hermione. “Excuse me, Professor? Can I ask you something?” Harry asked softly after knocking on his Head of House's door.

“Of course, Mr. Potter. What seems to be the problem?” McGonagall replied, putting aside the essays she was grading. “I wanted to ask you about animagi. How do you tell an animagus from a normal animal?” Harry asked, still in a soft voice. He didn't want to wake Scabbers, because he still wasn't sure how to perform an Unbreakable Charm. “Normally, a transformed animagus has some characteristics of the person. For example, eye color or hair color could transfer over. Why do you ask? We'll be covering this next year, you know.” McGonagall was inwardly proud Harry had enough interest in her subject to seek her outside of class. “Is there a way to force a transformed animagus to turn back?” Harry asked next. “Of course there is. It's a spell that requires determination to perform. You have to be determined to overpower the wizard you're trying to turn back, because he will be fighting you.” Now McGonagall was getting very interested. She didn't know why Harry was asking these particular questions. “Well, I think I found an animagus, and I don't think he'll like being transformed back.” Harry saw the look on his teacher's face, and was happy that she didn't seem to be dismissing his concerns out of hand. “Take it out then, and I'll turn him back.” She stood up, raised her wand, and locked the door. When the rat cage was brought out, she looked closely and stifled a gasp. Scabbers was now awake, and could see that he was caught. He scurried around the cage, trying to avoid being picked up, but it no use. Harry glared at him so coldly that he had no choice but to stop. Harry grabbed the shivering rat and put him on McGonagall's desk. She waved her wand, said an incantation, and a blue light shot out of her wand. It connected with Scabbers, and the rat started to grow. He sprouted arms, legs; his head enlarged, and his tail vanished. Within moments, Harry and McGonagall were looking at a very-much-alive Peter Pettigrew.

“So nice of you to join us, Mr. Pettigrew. How was death? Oh wait, you faked your death.” McGonagall now believed everything Sirius Black had told her those long years ago. FLASHBACK It was early November of 1981, and Sirius Black was on his way to Azkaban Prison. Once he had arrived, he was given a chance to call three people for help. He chose Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, and Minerva McGonagall. They came in, one by one, and listened to his story. Dumbledore listened, then laughed and left. Remus listened, and promised he'd give him the benefit of the doubt, but couldn't promise anything. McGonagall was last. She came in and let him tell his story. At the time, she didn't really believe they could all have been wrong about sweet little Peter, but since there had been no body, there was nothing she could do. She wasn't on the Wizengamot, and couldn't change Dumbledore's mind once he'd made it. But she did promise that any rat she came across, she'd check with the Animagus Revealing Spell. She kept her promise, but never found anything. Sirius went to prison without a trial, and McGonagall personally thought it wasn't purely Crouch's bias that did it. END FLASHBACK She promptly stunned Pettigrew, and said to Harry, “I've been looking for him for years, but I never had any luck. Where's he been hiding?” “With the Weasleys. He was using the name 'Scabbers' and was Percy and Ron's pet,” Harry replied. “Why did he hide for so long; was he hiding from someone or something?” “Yes, he's been hiding from the law after he sold out your parents,” McGonagall answered. She went to her fireplace and called Dumbledore and the Ministry. The Aurors came first, and Dumbledore deigned to answer her call some time later. That told her all she needed to know about why Sirius hadn't been granted a trial. Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, had come with the Aurors. He

said, “I will personally see to it that Sirius Black is released. He will have a full pardon, and while Dumbledore hasn't come yet, I feel safe in saying that I'm calling for a No Confidence vote in his abilities to lead the Wizengamot. I've never seen such a miscarriage of justice in my life; throwing someone to the Dementors with nary a thought.” The result of that was that the so-called mass murderer, Sirius Black, was exonerated. He was pardoned, had his belongings returned to him, and granted legal custody of Harry Potter. Unfortunately for Harry and Sirius, Dumbledore had destroyed the Potter's will upon Harry's “death” and there was no proof it had ever actually existed, the destruction was so thorough. The No-Confidence vote in Dumbledore went through without a hitch, and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot became the former Chief Warlock of that prestigious body. ** It was Halloween, and Harry was walking along the halls, deep in thought. He in fact had his eyes closed, and was traversing the castle from memory. That was, at least, until he walked through a cold patch of air. “Mr. Potter, I would thank you to not walk right through me as though I wasn't there!” Nearly Headless Nick exclaimed scandalized. “Sorry, Nick. No disrespect intended. I wasn't watching where I was going.” Harry thought to himself, That's the last time I walk around with my eyes closed. “Hey, Nick, why are you looking so glum? Is there something wrong with the arrangements for your Deathday party?” “How did you know that?” Nick was now very intrigued. This miniature vampire was extremely intuitive. “It's not that hard. I looked in the history books to find what I could, and I discovered that you left the world of the living on Halloween. Upon asking older students and some teachers, I found out that you traditionally host a party to commemorate your death,” Harry lied glibly. While Nick was blustering about how well-informed Harry was,

neither saw Snape duck back around the corner with parchment and a quill. “Well, it's gotten so monotonous that everyone I invited, even the Hogwarts ghosts, declined. So, I'm afraid there will be no party,” Nick replied sadly. “Now, we can't have that. I'll go to your party, and you can tell the Hogwarts ghosts that. Maybe even renew your invitations to other ghosts. I'll even try to convince Hermione and Ron to come, too.” Harry was thinking on his feet how best to deal with the situation. He wasn't using Nick, he didn't want any favors, he just wanted to help a friend. I'm not Dumbledore, to use people until the Dark Lord of the time comes calling. “You'd really do that, for me?!” Nick was stunned. He thought vampires were evil creatures of the darkness, or at least that's what Dumbledore had told him, but this vampire defied all logic. This vampire even had mortal friends; friends, by all accounts, he hadn't fed on. “Of course, you're my friend and I want to help you,” Harry replied, then sniffed. There was something evil in the air. It wasn't Snape, the greaseball who'd been stalking him for no apparent reason. It was something far older, far more evil. This...thing... was as old as the castle itself. He politely ended his conversation with Nick and took his leave. It was this he'd been contemplating when he'd walked through Nick. He followed the smell along the wall, and found a spot near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. He was sure of it, it was inside the walls... in the pipes. That night, Harry managed to convince Hermione to accompany him to the party, but Ron proved to be a different matter. Ron Weasley had, after much thought (which only took all of two seconds), not to attend the party. So, Harry led Hermione down to the dungeons at the right time, and formally introduced her to Nick. “Sorry Nick, Ron couldn't make it. He said he had express orders from his mother not to attend any Deathday parties until he's organizing his own.” Nick let them in with a mournful sigh, and an offer to help Ron organize his own party when the time comes.

“Harry, Ron never said any such thing,” Hermione protested once they were out of earshot of their transparent host. Harry laughed, and said, “I know, but Nick doesn't, and neither does Ron. I can't wait to see the look on Ron's face when Nick comes forward with that offer.” At that, Hermione laughed to. She agreed it would be a good prank. Harry suddenly swept her onto the dance floor, and said, “May I have this dance, m'lady?” She giggled, before she replied, “Of course, m'lord. I would be honored.” And they danced long into the evening, impressing all the other waltzing ghosts. When they left, they were still laughing happily. That was, of course, until they saw what hung on the torch bracket outside of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Harry's keen eyes picked out the spiders scurrying toward the window as fast as they could. Spiders flee before the Basilisk... The crow of the rooster is fatal to it... “Harry, did you kill Hagrid's roosters?” Dumbledore believed me guilty, but vampires feed on blood, and we don't usually strangle our victims without feeding. “Hermione, go ask Myrtle if she saw anything, I'll look for more clues here." Hermione obeyed. Soon after, Dumbledore arrived as students stopped to stare in terror at Mrs. Norris. “So, Hagrid's roosters aren't enough for you, are they? You need to kill something, so you pick the caretaker's cat. You are a monster,” Dumbledore accused. “I did nothing. The cat was already hanging when we got here,” Harry replied calmly. “We? Potter, you are alone. Oh, my mistake, you're alone physically, but maybe the voices in your mind are enough company.” Snape smirked at Dumbledore's jibe. Harry rolled his eyes and muttered something deprecating about Dumbledore and Snape's births. He said aloud, “Hermione and I were coming back from Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday party, when we saw this,” he gestured at Mrs. Norris, “and I sent Hermione on ahead to find help. You must have missed her.” Harry then thought to Hermione, Hermione, stay in the bathroom. I told Dumbledore and Snape I sent you on ahead to find help. I'll draw them off, and then come get you. Just sit tight.

Hermione was so surprised to hear Harry's voice in her head that she didn't think to question him. She also knew he wouldn't leave her there. She just waited patiently. When he appeared in a shadow under a sink, she was surprised. “Come over here, Hermione. I drew them away, but I'm sure they'll be watching. I'll get us close enough to Gryffindor Tower that we won't be noticed.” She joined him under the sink, and found herself being pulled back further into the shadow by Harry. She was pulled into what looked like a vast, black, seemingly boundless room with what looked like little irregularly shaped windows to the outside world, through which she could see light streaming in from the “real” rooms beyond. She guessed correctly that these windows were the shadows. The void looked endless in every direction, and she realized to her surprise that Harry was moving through it effortlessly in three dimensions, guiding them both to their destination. When they came out of a broom closet a few minutes later, it was Harry's idea to mess up his hair and unbutton her blouse a bit, to throw off suspicion in case anyone saw them, but no one did. ** Chapter 4 Snake Infestation Weeks had passed since Harry turned in Pettigrew, and now it was Christmas break. Harry was alone again, but he didn't mind. He didn't want to be around people that much, because he didn't want to be accused of setting Slytherin's monster loose. He knew the monster was loose, he could sense it in the walls. He could also hear it speaking parseltongue. That meant Slytherin's monster was a serpent, and he also deduced that the way to open the legendary Chamber of Secrets was by speaking parseltongue. That's why Dumbledore never could find it, no matter how hard he looked. Personally, I'd be more afraid if he did manage to find it, Harry thought. As he was walking to the library to finish his homework, Harry ran into Dumbledore. He tried to walk past him, hopefully without a confrontation, but it was not to be. It seemed Dumbledore wanted to pick a fight. The Headmaster blocked the corridor and tried to look

menacing. I can do a better job than that, Harry thought smugly, as he held his hands in front of him. He could easily slip the ring off and give Dumbledore the fright of his life. “And where are you going, Potter?” Dumbledore asked suspiciously. “Are you looking for a new victim? Or do you perhaps want to set Slytherin's monster on me, maybe on your master's orders?” Dumbledore saw Harry stiffen, and thought he'd struck a nerve with that last remark. Harry clamped down on his emotions, not wanting to clue the Headmaster in yet. “If I did want to set my pet loose on you, fool, would I tell you?” And Harry removed his ring. He glared at Dumbledore, turning his pain into anger. Dumbledore took one look at Harry, and left. He didn't run, probably because he didn't want to show fear. He didn't know he was shouting his terror from the proverbial rooftops. Harry continued on his way, and replaced his ring. After thinking long and hard, Harry figured out that the way to find out where the Chamber was, was to ask a ghost. They were dead, so they learned secrets after death. Also, no one thought to ask them, and they wouldn't offer information without being asked. They were bound to keep silent unless made to speak. So, Harry sought out Nearly Headless Nick. “Hey Nick, can I ask you something, please?” Harry asked the pearlywhite figure in the ruff. “Ask away, though I can't promise an answer,” Nick replied. He was wary of this little vampire, but he gave Harry the benefit of the doubt because he knew him before he became a vampire. “The last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened, someone died. Can you tell me who?” Harry waited with his fingers crossed. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Nick answered. “Her name was Myrtle Whitman. She was a Hufflepuff third year.” “Moaning Myrtle?” Harry asked. If Moaning Myrtle was the last one to die, and she died in the same bathroom she haunts, the entrance

must be in there. “Yes. She was in the bathroom crying, I heard. When she was found dead, she never left the bathroom.” Nick was getting uncomfortable saying so much about it, so Harry stopped asking. He thanked the Gryffindor House Ghost and ran off. When he reached the second floor girls' bathroom, he made sure the coast was clear, and went in. He heard Myrtle crying before he saw her, and announced his presence. She came through the stall door and shouted, “Leave me alone! The last time a boy came in here, he threw something at me! Well, I won't let you do the same!” And she flew back into her toilet, splashing water everywhere. “Myrtle, I just wanted to ask how you died.” Harry waited for her to respond. Finally, she did. She came back, looking radiant. She told him the entire story with great relish. After the story, Harry went over to the tap where she saw the eyes. He looked it over carefully, before deciding to speak to it in parseltongue. Just as he'd thought, it worked. The sink descended to reveal a large hole and a filthy pipe. He jumped in, closely followed by Gilderoy Lockheart of all people. He didn't hear the bathroom door open, but he had sensed the interloper's presence. When they both shot out of the end of the pipe, they landed on animal bones. “Eurgh,” Lockheart muttered in disgust. “What the hell are you doing?” Harry demanded of the ineffectual teacher. “Dumbledore asked me to keep an eye on you, said he suspected you were behind the attack on the caretaker's cat. I must say, it seems he was correct. Now, I'm taking you into custody,” Lockheart said arrogantly. “You fool! You never should have followed me,” Harry yelled. It seemed Lockheart didn't like being called a fool, and drew his wand. He cast a Reductor Curse, which Harry easily dodged. But the curse caused a cave-in, and small bits of falling debris hit Lockheart on the head, knocking him out. The cave-in blocked the way out, and Harry

decided to go on. Maybe there was another way through. Harry spoke parseltongue at the door of the Chamber, and entered. When he got there, he saw Ginny Weasley holding a small black book. She was speaking in parseltongue, saying, “Speak to me Slytherin, Greatest -.” Her voice sounded different, not her own. It sounded much more masculine and evil. It was too cold to be emanating from that mouth. The only answer, Ginny was being possessed by Voldemort. “Ginny!” He tried calling to her, hoping to distract her while he got the book away from her. He knew the book was causing this. She spun around to face him before she could finish the call to Slytherin's monster. Her eyes were glowing red. He decided to try another tactic. “VOLDEMORT! It's me you want; leave her body now and fight me like a man!” Harry bellowed. It worked, Tom Riddle's spirit left Ginny's body in answer to Harry's challenge. “You want to fight me! Then we shall fight!” Riddle sneered. He took Ginny's wand from her unconscious body and kicked her aside. “Let's have a real hostage for you to fight for. You don't have any feelings for this blood traitor, do you?” And with a wave of the stolen wand, he summoned Albus Dumbledore down there. “But you do have some regard for the muggle-loving fool.” “Let him go,” Harry snarled. He worked on keeping his emotions in check, because he didn't want to reveal to Voldemort the fact that he was a vampire. He wanted to save that for later. “Don't you realize, boy, that the muggle-loving old fool loves muggles more than he loves you?” Riddle taunted. “Yes, he left you with muggles he loves, knowing they loved you just as little as he did.” Harry felt his chest tighten, but hid it well. He kept a tight lid on his emotions, intending to show Dumbledore the entirety of his well of despair later. He knew Voldemort was right, but he wasn't going to say it. He raised his wand and fired a spell at the wand in his tormentor's hand. The wand went flying away, and Riddle turned in fury to summon the Basilisk Harry had already figured resided here.

“Speak to me Slytherin, Greatest of the Hogwarts Four!” Riddle called out. Salazar Slytherin's stone mouth opened wide and a huge Basilisk slithered out. “Destroy the boy.” Riddle ordered it. The giant snake went after Harry, chasing him into the pipes surrounding the Chamber. The great snake chased Harry back out into the open room, and Riddle decided to try something else. “Stop. Leave the boy. Eat the man.” The Basilisk obeyed, and went after Dumbledore. Riddle thought Harry would abandon Dumbledore out of revenge. But he didn't know Harry that well. Harry yelled in parseltongue, “I will not let you harm him.” Then he shouted in English, “Leave him alone!” Suddenly, Fawkes the Phoenix appeared in a ball of fire. Dumbledore thought he was saved, but then he saw that Harry was gaining strength from the Phoenix song. Fawkes dropped the Sorting Hat to Harry, who immediately drew the Gryffindor Sword from it. He threw the sword straight at the Basilisk, and it drove itself through the roof of the snake's mouth. The giant snake died, and Harry walked over to its dead body and withdrew the sword. He knew the book still had to go, so he went over to it, and stabbed it with the still-bloody sword. Ink started spraying everywhere as Riddle was destroyed in mid-lunge. He stabbed it several more times, to make sure, then went over to cut the ropes holding Dumbledore. After the fight, Harry was feeling emotionally drained. “Headmaster, Ginny Weasley is over there and unconscious. Your pet, Lockheart, in unconscious past the cave-in he caused over in that direction. Fawkes can get you out easily, as he is a Phoenix. You can take the Sorting Hat back with you. I will find my own way out.” Harry said all that in a flat monotone. Then he shrank into a shadow and vanished. He reappeared in the bathroom, and saw a bottle of tanning lotion under another sink. He winced when realization came to him. ** Chapter 5 The Prisoner of Azkaban

The rest of the school year passed uneventfully. Harry took his endof-year exams, and was quite sure he aced all of them. Lockheart had been taken to St. Mungo's because the debris hitting him on the head had caused amnesia. Ginny seemed to have escaped possession unscathed, but Harry wouldn't bet on it. Even Dumbledore seemed to be keeping to himself mostly, though Harry could still sense mistrust from the Headmaster. Harry ended up freeing Dobby the house-elf from the Malfoys, and even that didn't ease Dumbledore's suspicion. When Harry got off the train at Platform 9 ¾, the Dursleys were there waiting for him. He got in the car and they drove home. Harry wished he could live with his godfather, but that was impossible. When they arrived, Harry said, “My godfather will be stopping by regularly. I expect you to treat him civilly.” “You haven't got a godfather, boy,” Vernon sneered. Dudley took that as his cue to try to pound Harry into a submissive pile of pulp. He advanced threateningly, but Harry just glared at him and Dudley immediately ground to a halt and started dripping with cold sweat. “Yes, I do. In fact, his first visit should be next week.” Harry took his trunk upstairs and unpacked. He could hear Vernon and Petunia talking downstairs, and guessed Vernon was asking if Harry really did have a godfather. This was confirmed when Vernon shouted, “I will not have another one in the house!” A week later, Sirius came for his first visit. He looked much better than the last time Harry had seen him. He was clean-shaven, he'd gotten a haircut so now his black hair was above his shoulders, and his clothes weren't rags. “Harry, how are you doing?” Sirius seemed determined to make up for lost time. “I'm doing fine. I wish I could live with you, but the puppet-master would take offense to that,” Harry replied with a smile. They both went upstairs so they could really get to know each other. “Sirius, I have something I need to tell you.” Harry was nervous as to how Sirius would react. He didn't want to be abandoned.

“What is it, pup?” Sirius was imaging all the scenarios that could cause fear in a young boy, but what he got wasn't what he was expecting. “You see, there was an accident in my first year. I had gotten detention for smuggling a dragon out of the castle-” Sirius barked out a laugh at that. “You smuggled a dragon out of the school?! I'm impressed, your father and me couldn't smuggle one in, let alone outside. And we had full knowledge of the castle secret passage ways.” “My detention was in the forest. I had to go with Hagrid and find out what had been killing unicorns. It was Voldemort, trying to keep his current host alive long enough for him to get the Sorcerer's Stone, which would return him to full power. On my way back to the castle after discovering that, I was attacked. Because of that attack, I am now a vampire.” Harry removed his ring so Sirius could see for himself. “I have never fed on a human, and never will, unless it's a dire emergency.” Sirius at first appeared shocked, and then he just looked Harry up and down, and said, “I ran away from home when I was sixteen because my family was too narrow-minded. I'd like to think I'm openminded. This may not have been what I was expecting, but I trust you. You have too much of your parents in you to be evil. Now, why haven't you bitten Snape?” “I don't want to be poisoned by all that grease he calls hair. And besides, as a mortal he's creepy enough to scare anyone. If I turned him, I'd have to protect the rest of the castle from him, while I was stopping Dumbledore driving a wooden stake into my chest for what I did to his lapdog.” Harry said that with a long-suffering look that told Sirius he meant what he said. “Don't worry about Dumbledore. I have a good friend who would be glad to set up a nasty little surprise for that old fool. I'll just say it involves a monster under the bed on the full moon,” Sirius replied with a wicked smile. “Also, I have another friend who would give anything to meet you. His name is Heinrich Weisen, and he's a

vampire expert.” “I've already met him, Dumbledore called him to the castle after I threatened Snape. He said I still have a soul, he said I'm probably viable, and he's under the impression that Dumbledore wants me alive. Also, he thought for a minute when he arrived that Snape was a vampire; called him a low-grade Romanian in front of Dumbledore, and survived.” Sirius seemed pleased that Heinrich had already examined Harry, and he was thrilled about the jibe against Snape. “He called Snivellous a vampire?! Hahaha! The score is now 4587-0 Marauders!” Sirius started rolling around on the floor laughing. “So when will I meet your werewolf friend?” Harry asked curiously. “I never said anything about Remus being a werewolf. How did you figure it out so quickly?” Sirius asked in response. “You said your friend would be a monster under Dumbledore's bed on a full moon. A werewolf is the only person who turns into a monster on a specific day,” Harry replied simply. “Really, I'm not as stupid as the Dursleys like to think I am. I'm definitely smarter than Dudley.” After several hours, Sirius left. He had promised to get in touch with his friend, Remus, and warn him about Harry's condition. The next several weeks passed, with the only bright points being Sirius' visits and tentative letters from Remus Lupin. Harry found out that Remus would be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, and that he'd be riding up on the Hogwarts Express. When Harry went to Diagon Alley to buy his school supplies, he found out that someone had escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban. The escapee's name was Peter Pettigrew, notorious Death Eater responsible for the murders of over a dozen muggles and the betrayal of Aurors James and Lily Potter. A day before Harry was supposed to go back to Hogwarts, Sirius asked him a question. “Hey, Harry, where'd you put your Hogsmeade permission slip? Technically, you're not allowed to visit the village without one, though we did do it plenty of times without permission.” “What do you mean, 'Hogsmeade permission slip'?” Harry asked,

bewildered. “Third years are allowed to visit the village of Hogsmeade on weekends if their parent or guardian signs the permission slip. The forms are delivered with the usual letter and list of supplies. Where did you put yours, unless you managed to get those Dursleys to sign it for you?” Sirius went on as though Harry was pretending to be dense. “I didn't get anything like that with my letter; I would have saved it for you to sign if I had.” Now Harry was starting to think who would possibly forget to send one of the standard forms to a third year vampire. “I get it now. Dumbledore's trying to keep me out of the village, doesn't want to risk letting me go to a veritable buffet. Funny thing is that he gives Death Eaters free reign over all those innocent people. I've heard some nasty rumors that Snape has been particularly rude to people.” “Does this rudeness extend to curses?” Sirius now seemed businesslike. “I heard that last year someone refused to sell Marcus Flint some Firewhiskey. Snape came, hexed the barkeep, and got turned into a goat until Dumbledore showed up. Snape got turned back, but Flint didn't get the Firewhiskey he wanted,” Harry replied, confused. “Dumbledore can't do that, that's illegal. I'd better tell the Ministry about that,” Sirius said angrily. “I'll also talk to some people to make sure you get that Hogsmeade form.” The next day, Harry got on the train and found a compartment with Hermione and Ron. They were talking about the escape of Peter Pettigrew and wondering where the rat went, how he escaped, and what Fudge was doing to find him. They spoke quietly because they didn't want to wake the man sleeping in the corner. When Ron mentioned Hogsmeade, Hermione started going on about the history of the place. They got wrapped up in their own conversation, not realizing they were leaving Harry out. Or rather, Hermione didn't realize; Ron knew what he was doing, because it was part of the plan he'd started the previous year. When it started getting cold, Harry

became much more alert. He could sense a sort of emotional void some distance off; there was a whole where there should have been emotion. He didn't know what was happening, but he knew it was bad. He tried to alert Ron and Hermione, but they wouldn't listen. He decided to wake the man, but was afraid to. Harry managed to conquer his fear of the man, and touched him on the shoulder. The man, who didn't look all that strong or healthy, sprang awake and pointed his wand at Harry's throat. “Don't touch me, creature,” he growled. Harry guessed that this was Sirius' werewolf friend. To try to ward off the danger, Harry made his eyes widen with fear. Usually, a frightened child brought out parental feelings in adults; Harry hoped it worked for this adult. It did. His wide green eyes made Remus Lupin lower his wand. “I think there's something nasty coming. I don't know what it is,” Harry said softly. “Oh damn. There're Dementors coming. They're searching the train for Pettigrew,” Remus ground out. He raised his wand again, but this time it wasn't pointed at Harry. He aimed at the door and waited for the Dementors to reach this compartment. The first skeletal hand appeared, creeping around the door frame, and pushed it open. Remus shot gray mist at the thing, and Harry just stood there. The Dementor advanced on him, sensing easy prey. Then it stopped. It couldn't get anything from him. It sucked harder, and still got nothing. Remus looked at Harry in surprise, then remembered what the boy was, and looked away. The Dementor performed its dreaded Kiss on Harry, but the young vampire was unharmed. He got a good look at what was under the fiend's hood, and was thoroughly disgusted. He saw gray, rotted flesh, like the hands. The eyes were sockets with black pits, they were voids. And there were little worm-like things wiggling around beside the sockets. It's nose was crooked and long, almost like Snape's, though more rotted. Harry nearly wanted to vomit. The Dementors left, taking the bone-chilling cold with them. Hermione and Ron were huddling in a corner, Ron looking like he wanted to pass out. Hermione looked very scared, like she had just relived her worst memory. Harry found himself wondering what her worst

memory might be. Was it Ron missing the train before Second year? Was it his own death at the end of First? Was it something he didn't know, wasn't there for? The thought drove home to him that he would never have her, the only girl he could ever want. The only girl who had stood by him, even after his own death. He watched her turn to Ron, and it killed him inside the way a stake never would. The train stopped, and they all got off. They went up to the castle in carriages drawn by Thestrals. He could see them because he was dead. He was able to see them last year too, but it wasn't a big deal. The huge, black, winged horse-like creatures were beautiful in their own way. Ron and Hermione were in their own little world, and Remus was staring at him with suspicion. They were sharing a carriage with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher because Dumbledore had told him to stay with Harry. Harry knew that, but it didn't bother him that much. He'd had time to think things through, and he decided that the best way to keep Dumbledore from doing anything really wrong was to earn the loyalty of his pet teachers. All except Snape, of course. He didn't trust the greasy git as far as he could toss Hogwarts. ** Chapter 6: The Sum of all Fears It was the Thursday after arriving at Hogwarts, and Harry was pretending to eat breakfast. He could still feel the Dementors around the castle, could feel the emotional void they took with them wherever they went. He checked his schedule again before getting up, he'd had dinner the night before, so he wasn't hungry enough to even pretend to eat any more. “Ron, Hermione, are you coming? We've got Defense Against the Dark Arts now,” Harry called to his friends. They didn't answer, so Harry shrugged and left. When he arrived at the classroom, Harry chose a seat at the front. He put his bag down and waited patiently for everyone else to come in. He had an uneasy suspicion that the first lesson would be on vampires, but when Remus announced to the class what they'd be doing, Harry was relieved. They were going to be studying boggarts. They went to the staff room and Remus explained how best to deal

with a boggart. When they were given time to think about what scared them most, Harry thought of the Dementors. Remus called them forward one at a time, and they all faced their fears. Finally, he called, “Harry!” Harry stepped forward and the boggart turned into a Dementor, which advanced on him. He raised his wand and yelled, “Riddikulus!” The boggart/Dementor developed a wheezing, hacking cough. It fell down from the sudden asthma attack, and the next student stepped forward. Harry was surprised to see that Pansy Parkinson's boggart was Dracula. It advanced on her, clearly intent on seducing her before eating her. She fainted and Harry conjured a wooden stake and threw it. The boggart turned to dust, leaving the whole class speechless. Remus finally stammered, “Well, that's how you deal with boggarts and vampires. Good work, Harry, an extra five points to Gryffindor.” The class filed out, talking excitedly about the lesson and the teacher. Later that day, Remus waylaid Harry coming out of the bathroom. “Harry, I know what you are. Sirius told me. I must say, I never thought I'd see one of your kind defending a human.” Harry quickly covered up the hurt that would have showed on his face, and replied, “One of my kind. I knew you'd be like this. You don't trust me, and you believe I'm evil. I'll bet you think I've bitten everyone in the castle by now, maybe turned some people into vampires like me.” “Well, that wouldn't be impossible, would it? I know vampires need blood to sustain themselves, and this is a castle full of people. I don't know why Dumbledore lets you stay in this buffet,” Remus replied coldly. The hate in his voice sent Harry back a step, it was almost tangible. “I know you're reporting to him. You can go right ahead, and tell him if I wanted to eat him, he'd be looking like a raisin by now.” Then Harry ran off, after confronting his godfather's friend. He knew Remus was following him, he had known it the moment the Professor had taken a step. Remus followed Harry to stop him attacking anyone in his rage. He didn't know that Harry wasn't in a rage, but was in pain instead. He

watched him run into the forest, and stopped pursuing him. He went to go find Dumbledore, to tell him of Harry's reaction. He found him in his office, eating lemon drops. “Headmaster, I confronted Harry about his... condition... and he ran into the forest.” Dumbledore nodded, and replied, “I will warn Hagrid to be doubly vigilant. I don't want him hurting anyone.” Remus turned to leave, but when he reached the door he turned back. “Headmaster, he knows what I'm doing. He knows I'm reporting to you, and he gave me a message for you. He said if he wanted to eat you, then you'd look like a raisin by now.” Remus left, not knowing why his heart felt heavy. Harry stayed in the forest for several hours. It was past nightfall when he returned to the castle. When he returned to the Common Room, Hermione glanced at him for a second and was at his side the next. “Harry, what happened? You look like your dog died,” she asked anxiously. “Professor Lupin confronted me about my... death... and said he doesn't know why Dumbledore is letting an evil creature like me stay in a castle full of people,” Harry answered in a monotone. He sounded miserable, and Hermione felt a flash of anger against her Professor for doing this to Harry. She didn't know Harry could feel other peoples' emotions, or she'd be even angrier. Even so, she still decided to pay her teacher a little visit and tell him just what she thought of him for doing that. She arrived at Remus' office, and knocked politely, even though she didn't feel like being polite inside. “Come in,” he called. She opened the door and entered. “Ah, Miss Granger, how can I help you?” She took a deep breath and said, “You can help me by apologizing to Harry for what you said to him. I thought Dumbledore was cruel for openly mistrusting him, but you take the cake.” “I take it you know what he is?” Remus replied, trying to regain his composure. “Of course I know! He's a human being, even though he has a little problem. He still has feelings, even though he has no soul. And you, you ripped those feelings out and stomped on them. He may be dead, but he's still my friend.” She said the last few words slowly and

very clearly, intending to use them to get her point across. “He's a bloodthirsty vampire who will eat you if he gets half a chance. In fact, I'm surprised he hasn't done so already.” Then Dumbledore appeared behind Hermione. She hadn't heard the door open, but she definitely heard him speak. “I trust there's no problem, Remus.” Dumbledore looked Hermione up and down, and she saw his eyes linger on her neck. She knew he was checking for a bite. “There's no problem, Headmaster. Miss Granger was just leaving.” Hermione scowled and ground out, “I'm sure Voldemort sends his congratulations. You're destroying Harry for him. And I'm sure he'd welcome you both with open arms if you made your allegiance to him official by taking his Mark, if you don't already have it.” And she stormed out of the room. ** The weeks passed. Remus kept watch on Harry, making sure he didn't bite anyone, and he still reported to Dumbledore. Harry's mood deteriorated rapidly, as McGonagall watched in silent horror. Of the very few teachers who knew what Harry was, McGonagall alone trusted him. And she also had a suspicion that there was more to Harry then he let on... The day before Halloween, McGonagall was in the library reading up on vampires. She found a book called The Power of the Vampire, by Heinrich Weisen. She had heard what breed Harry was, a Black Forest, so she looked that up in the book. When she found the chapter on the Black Forest vampires, she read it through several times to make sure her eyes weren't playing tricks on her. They weren't. One excerpt that turned on the light bulb for her was this: The Black Forest vampire is very rare, and very territorial. The mainly live in the Black forest of Germany and Bavaria, and rarely venture out. The Black Forest vampire is characterized by its height, weight, and the length of its claws and fangs. The average height may be between 5'5'' (1.68 meters) and 6'3'' (1.9 meters). The weight is all muscle, and they always have broad shoulders and a lean frame. They are faster than other breeds, and have much finer reflexes, and

are more intelligent. Their senses of smell and hearing are about 12 times that of humans, and the Black forest vampires tend to have extraordinary gifts, such as Empathy (which while the rarest, can be dangerous). A sign that a Black Forest is empathic is a deteriorating mood, especially around humans who distrust them. They will seek solitude frequently, as they believe, sometimes correctly, that steadfast friends are secretly expecting to be attacked. Other gifts include increased mental powers (Legilimency and Occlumency), traveling by shadow, multiple animagus forms, traveling in the form of mist or fog, and apparating in a puff of black smoke (this is sometimes called “poofing”). All of these other gifts are very common, and another rare gift is the ability to become part of someone else's dream. McGonagall was horrified. She was now sure that Harry was Empathic, which meant all of Dumbledore's, Remus', and Snape's distrust and were killing him inside. She decided that she was going to make more of an effort to comfort Harry. She left the library in a hurry, to try to find her dead student. She finally saw him from a window, heading to the forest. They will frequently seek solitude... kept running through her mind as she hurried after him. She entered the Forbidden Forest cautiously. She guessed he'd hide up a tree, and started scanning the treetops. She finally saw a dark shape huddled on a branch ahead of her. She called out to him, announcing her presence. “Harry... please come down, I want to talk to you.” He answered in a monotone, “Why are you here? Aren't you afraid I'll eat you? Aren't you worried about me turning you?” “I'm not afraid of you, Harry. I trust you, and I know you're an Empath. You know I trust you,” she answered softly. And she was right. He could read her emotions, and he found no fear or distrust. He jumped down from the branch and replied in a voice filled with misery, “Could you keep this secret from Dumbledore. I plan on showing him how wrong he is at the end of my Seventh Year, if he hasn't staked me by then.” “Of course I won't tell him. Now come on, I'll take you back to the castle and I'll Floo Sirius. I'm sure he can set Remus straight.” They returned to the castle, and along the way McGonagall asked, “I'm just

curious, doesn't the sun hurt you? I thought vampires couldn't stand sunlight.” Harry, surprised and somehow comforted by the question, admitted, “It stings a little bit, but not much. You're right that sunlight kills us, but I think it's because usually vampires have no soul. I, however, do have one, somehow.” They went to McGonagall's office, where she Flooed Sirius. Sirius stepped through, looking furious. “What has he been doing?! I trusted him to look after Harry and be his friend, and he betrayed us! Where is that dirty, rotten turncoat?” “He's with Dumbledore,” Harry replied. “They're in Dumbledore's office.” “Then that's where I'm going. And thank you for calling, Minerva.” Sirius swept out of the room, his Auror robes billowing. He hurried to Dumbledore's office, fuming, and stormed in ready to start screaming. “Remus, you traitor! How could you jump into Dumbledore's pocket?! And you Dumbledore! What in Merlin's name are you playing at?!” Sirius faced the two men, and forced them both back a few steps. They both sat down, as Dumbledore snapped, “Do you know what that... boy... is? Do you know he's bloodthirsty? Do you know-” Sirius stopped him there with another tirade. “YOU GODDAMN DEATH EATER! YOU SHUT YOUR TRAITOROUS MOUTH NOW! DUMBLEDORE, IF YOU DIED RIGHT NOW, SATAN WOULD KICK YOU OUT OF HELL FOR TRYING TO TAKE OVER FOR HIM! AND REMUS, HOW COULD YOU BE SO DISCRIMINATING?! HE'S JUST A KID, FOR MERLIN'S SAKE! YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER SON TO MY MOTHER THAN REGULUS!” Sirius ran out of breath after that rant, and waited for their reactions. Remus looked shell-shocked, while Dumbledore looked livid. His face was contorted grotesquely and the twinkle was gone from his eyes. It was the second time he'd been called a Death Eater, but it was the first time he'd been accused of trying to replace the Devil. “Get out,” Dumbledore snarled. “You are no longer welcome in my castle.”

Sirius left, and ran into Snape. “Snivellous, if you lay a finger on Harry, I'll kill you where you stand. And tell Dumbledore and my old friend Lupin, the same goes for them.” And he swept past Snape, muttering imprecations, and returned to McGonagall's office. Once there, he told her that a certain demon-birthed Headmaster had conveniently forgotten to issue Harry a permission slip for Hogsmeade. McGonagall looked angry and immediately pulled one out and handed it to Sirius. Sirius promptly signed it and handed it back. “I'll file this with the Governors. Dumbledore would have to overthrow the Ministry to get it, but then he'd be declared a traitor and be barred from the Ministry building.” “There you go, Harry. You can go to Hogsmeade with everyone else, tomorrow,” Sirius said happily. ** The next day, the students were getting in line to go to Hogsmeade. Harry joined the line and trooped out with the rest. When he got to the village, he looked for a good shop to visit first. He decided to visit Honeydukes first. He saw Ron and Hermione there looking at a display of weird candies. “Look at the Blood Pops, Hermione. I reckon they're for vampires.” “Honestly, don't you two read? Vampires can't eat people food, they eat people,” Harry snorted. Hermione jumped when she heard his voice. “Harry, I thought you didn't have permission. You should head back to the castle before you're caught.” Harry started shaking his head slowly, trying to control chuckles. “I got permission. Dumbledore somehow forgot I was in Third Year and didn't send me a form, but Sirius brought it up with McGonagall and she coughed up a form. Sirius signed it yesterday.” Ron whooped and ran down the street, calling for Harry to follow him. “Hermione, you'd better be careful. Dumbledore probably thinks you're like me and will try to do you in. And he's mad enough to do some damage. I don't fancy my chances of staying as alive as I am if he finds out he can't bar someone from the castle, and he can't kick me out,” Harry muttered to Hermione under his breath. And he walked away to find Ron, leaving Hermione calling after him, “What

do you mean...” That evening, they returned to the castle for the Halloween Feast. Ron couldn't wait, he said he was starving. Harry rolled his eyes and muttered, “You're gonna eat the rest of us out of house and home.” Hermione chuckled as Ron complained loudly that they don't have enough big Feasts at the castle. Harry whispered to Hermione, “I think that's why the Weasleys are so poor, it's not that Arthur doesn't make enough to feed them all, it's because he doesn't make enough to feed all the starving children in the wizarding world.” Hermione agreed. “What food is Mr. Weasley hungry for? Your food or our food?” Dumbledore stepped out of a shadow behind them, causing Hermione to jump, but not startling Harry. “You don't really think I'd eat my friends, do you? Isn't that what you do? Oh wait, you don't eat your friends, you betray them.” Harry was scowling and giving Dumbledore such a dark look, the aged Headmaster stepped back a bit. Harry and Hermione continued into the Great Hall, Dumbledore muttering about a certain black-haired, green-eyed student's parentage. Harry spun around, he'd heard every word. “That's it! You can insult me all you want, and you haven't insulted my friends, for which I'm grateful, but you DO NOT INSULT MY PARENTS!” Harry's voice thundered throughout the Great Hall. Every person in the Hall gasped and stared at Dumbledore in shock. “Get. Out. Of. My. Castle. This. Instant.” Dumbledore ground out through gritted teeth. Then he looked expectantly at Harry, as though expecting him to be ejected from the castle forthwith. Nothing happened, except the Hall going completely silent. Nothing stirred, except a rat. No one saw the rat scurrying out of the Great Hall. “You'll have to try better than that, Headmaster,” Harry sneered. He grinned wickedly, and if one looked close enough, his fangs would be barely visible extending slightly past the edge of his lower lip. “As the Heir of Gryffindor, I demand that you leave my castle,” Dumbledore snarled. “How about a history lesson, Dumbledore?” Harry mocked. “Eight

hundred years ago, the Heir of Gryffindor was a girl. She married a man named Charlus Potter, thereby joining the Houses Gryffindor and Potter. As far as I have been able to figure, no Potter or Gryffindor has ever married a Dumbledore. And don't bother asking Binns to confirm or deny this, I doubt he's ever taught about anything except the goblin wars since he died, which could have been during the goblin wars.” Then Harry stormed out of the Hall without even pretending to eat. ** That night, after everyone had gone to bed, there was a slight rustling sound. Harry heard it, even asleep as he was, and waited for it to repeat. It was his bed hangings rustling as someone opened them. He lay there with his eyes open and just turned his head when the intruder looked down at him. “Big mistake, Pettigrew.” Harry moved fast, but Pettigrew was close to the open window. Harry dodged a curse and watched as Pettigrew was already going out the window. Harry dashed over and looked out, just in time to see his parents' betrayer turn into a bat. He could see a dark figure on the ground with a wand guiding the bat. He turned back to his room, and saw that everyone else was still sound asleep. ** Chapter 7 Christmas and Beyond The day after Halloween, Harry told McGonagall about Pettigrew being in his dormitory the previous night. She was surprised that he'd gotten in so easily, and very concerned that someone within the castle might be helping him. “It sounds like there's a leak, and I don't know who it could be. Hell, Dumbledore could be a suspect,” she said. “It wasn't Dumbledore. I know who it was, but only because my hearing and night-vision are more acute,” Harry replied calmly. “Well then, who was it?” McGonagall asked, ready to take the information to the Ministry.

“I'll tell you, but you can't tell Fudge or the Aurors yet. I need to stop him myself, as part of my plan. No one but you, Hermione, and Sirius will trust me otherwise.” Harry was still keeping watch on the corridor outside, listening for eavesdroppers. He sensed Remus approaching, and the hate he felt nearly sent him to his knees. “I promise,” McGonagall replied. She had seen Harry's reaction, and guessed someone was coming. “Professor Snape isn't teaching anyone but the Slytherins anything, and he's teaching them how to cheat and sabotage others' work!” Harry complained suddenly. He had heard Remus' footsteps stop outside the door, and tried to tell McGonagall who the spy was in code. It worked. “I'll look into it, Potter, but I can't promise anything. He's been teaching here as long as you've been alive, and the Headmaster trusts him,” she replied, also in code. Harry left, not looking at Remus. Remus walked in and asked, “What did he want?” “He was just filing a complaint against Snape. Truthfully, that's not the only thing I've heard against Snape, but Harry was the only one brave enough to come right out and say it,” she replied, businesslike. She didn't look at Remus, fearing she'd get the urge to hex him into the next century for his treatment of James and Lily's only son. “Severus is an alright sort,” Remus replied. That was the last straw. McGonagall faintly heard Harry cry out in pain, and a thud before exploding. “That is not true! Severus Snape is a dirty, rotten Death Eater! And you had better open your eyes soon, or I'll set Sirius on you! Believe me, I'm going to be racing him for the privilege of hexing you first! You know what, I might just start now,” she screamed. She drew her wand and cast the Empathy Curse before Remus could even draw his wand. The Empathy Curse is a fairly Dark spell, used to make the victim feel the pain of their own last victim. Remus didn't know it was Harry's pain he was feeling, and he was screaming like McGonagall had cast the Cruciatus Curse on him. Dumbledore ran in, thinking she'd done just that. She trained her wand on him, but he disarmed her before she could cast the spell. “Black called me a

Death Eater, when it's actually you. The Ministry would love to have you,” Dumbledore said gleefully. “Go to hell, old man. Oh wait, Satan doesn't want competition,” McGonagall ground out. Dumbledore used his power as Headmaster of Hogwarts to arrest teachers who put the school in danger. Within an hour, she was locked in a Ministry holding cell, awaiting the next launch to the island fortress of Azkaban. The guard walked past the cell, and gasped when he saw who was inside. “Professor McGonagall! What are you doing here? Hold on one moment, I'll have you out in a jiffy.” the guard started searching his keys, looking for the right on to unlock the cell door. “Wait. Please tell Minister Fudge I'm here, and that I'd like to speak to him,” she asked calmly, though she was roiling inside. How dare that man accuse me of being a Death Eater, when it was he who hires them regularly?! The guard, whose eyes had widened upon hearing her request, had gone to get Fudge. He returned a moment later, with Fudge in tow, and panting. “Let me guess, it was Dumbledore who locked you in here. Guard, open the door. She's no more a Death Eater than my grandmother,” Fudge stated, not very surprised. When the door opened she stepped out and said, “Thank you Minister. Yes, it was Dumbledore. Now I need to get back to Hogwarts and check on my student. The damn Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher seems obsessed with criticizing him.” She left the Ministry, and returned to Hogwarts, only to find Harry missing. She checked the forest, where he sought solitude when it all became too much. Sure enough, he was up a tree, but this time Hagrid was there. The huge half-giant was threatening Harry, and the young vampire was looking angry and deeply hurt. Harry lashed out with his claws, trying to drive Hagrid away. He bared his fangs, but did not pounce; he was trying to instill fear in his tormentor, but all it did was get Hagrid to aim his crossbow and prepare to fire. “Hagrid, don't you dare fire that crossbow! Put it down, now!” McGonagall screeched, enraged. Hagrid just glared at her and said,

“Get away from here, he's put a spell of some kind on you. He's got you thinking he's not an evil creature, but he is. Dumbledore said so.” Hagrid almost glowed when he spoke of Dumbledore, but Harry flinched. It seemed to McGonagall that if someone mentioned a name in front of Harry, he'd feel that person's emotions. He had just got a blast from Dumbledore. “Harry, go now. I'll take care of this,” McGonagall said softly. Harry obeyed, and, jumping down, ran deeper into the forest. “Hagrid, I will be informing the School Governors that you were threatening a student, and actually raised a weapon on him. I have no choice, and you are not the only teacher getting reported.” “You can't do that!” Hagrid yelled, outraged. “Yes, I can, as Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. No teacher, not even the Headmaster, can threaten the life of a student.” She turned on her heel, and stalked out of the forest. She returned to her office, knowing Fudge was haranguing Dumbledore. She drafted a report to the School Governors, informing them of all the teachers who had turned militant against one student. To whom it may concern: The following teachers have been abusing a student. The Third Year in question has had his life threatened, and he has suffered mental abuse and extreme discrimination. The teachers responsible for this are: Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Remus Lupin Care of Magical Creatures Professor, Rubeus Hagrid Potions Master, Severus Snape I am filing complaints about all of these teachers. I request that someone see to a suitable punishment, perhaps jail time. Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ** Over the seven weeks, owls flew between the Ministry and Hogwarts almost daily. McGonagall's letter to the governors had sparked intense investigations into the teachers she had mentioned. They had asked her about what kinds of torments the unnamed student had faced, and they were very alarmed that Hagrid had threatened a child with a loaded crossbow. In fact, they had taken Hagrid in for questioning, and had confiscated his crossbow. Dumbledore spent the time trying to placate the Ministry, but his earlier record of having been removed from the Wizengamot after a No-Confidence vote made him look worse. Lupin was already damned because he was a werewolf. The governors had got it into their heads that the unnamed student might be in danger of being bitten by his teacher on purpose. Snape, of course, was seen as a Death Eater who had perhaps marked a child for death. When Sirius heard, which was almost immediately, he went to Hogwarts. He tried to talk to Remus again, but ended up berating him for diving head first into Dumbledore's pocket. When Dumbledore walked into Remus' office and saw Sirius, he snapped, “I thought I told you to get out of my castle months ago.” “I thought I told you, months ago, to leave Harry alone. Remus, I'm almost ashamed that you're a Marauder. Dumbledore, you are going too far, you're pushing him too hard.” Sirius glared at them one last time and left the room. ** It was Christmas the next day. Harry woke early that morning, not expecting gifts, and saw the sun leaking around the curtains. He smiled, knowing it was a beautiful day. He looked around and saw the other boys stirring. “Hey Harry, Merry Christmas!” Ron yawned, and then grinned. “Wow thanks! A Chudley Cannons hat!” He put on the orange hat, and Harry chuckled as his friend's hair turned a matching shade of orange. Harry opened a lumpy package he thought might

have been a Weasley sweater sent by Molly, but it was actually a string of garlic cloves. “Who the hell sent you that, Harry?” Ron was eying the garlic suspiciously. “Was it Fred and Goerge, trying to pull a prank on you?” “It was Dumbledore. There's a note from him, laughing.” Harry handed the note to Ron, as Seamus said, “I heard that Dumbledore's calling you a vampire.” Ron laughed and said, “Not likely. But anyway, Harry, prove you're not one.” Harry went over to the window and said, “It's going to be cold when I open this,” before throwing the window open. He stood in direct sunlight and continued, “Well, I don't think I'm bursting into flames.” After that, all the boys were muttering imprecations about Dumbledore and his parentage. Harry continued opening presents, until he found a long, thin package from Sirius. He tore it open, and exclaimed, “Wow! Look what Sirius got me!” All the boys crowded around, exclaiming about the brand new Firebolt sitting on Harry's bed. “Wow, Harry! Now you don't have to fly a school broom for Quidditch next month.” Harry's old Nimbus Two Thousand had been sabotaged two weeks previous when someone snuck into the boys' dormitory and destroyed it out of jealousy. Hermione came in, carrying an armload of gifts for Harry and Ron. She tossed Harry a box and sat down next to Ron. Harry opened the box, and muttered, “Harity har har, Hermione. Blood pops. Do I have stand in the sunlight and freeze my backside off again to prove I'm not undead?” Harry asked jokingly. Hermione laughed at Harry's joke, then saw the garlic. “Who sent you garlic, Harry?” “Who else, but Dumbledore. It must be his idea of a joke.” Harry waved his wand and opened the window again, before tossing the garlic out. A second later, they all heard a bunch of curses being shouted. They ran to the window and looked down, only to find Snape standing on the ground far below, wearing the string of garlic and jumping up and down. He was shouting up a storm. They looked up and saw the Weasley twins standing at their window. “Who's that

down there, shouting? Can you see?” The twins were straining to see, until Harry called up an answer. “It's Snape. Someone had good aim with a string of garlic. It went around his neck like a necklace.” The twins vanished, but they could still here them laughing loudly. “Hey, Harry, where's that note Dumbledore sent with the garlic? I wonder if you can toss that down and frame him for it,” Ron said. “You like framing people, don't you, Ron?” Harry chuckled and folded the note into a paper airplane before setting it spiraling down to the ground. They saw Snape pick it up, then crumple it up, and laughed. “Good idea, Ron. That was brilliant,” Hermione said. She kissed him on the cheek while Harry looked away. ** In the weeks preceding the Quidditch match, the deep friendship between Dumbledore and Snape soured. Snape took every opportunity to accuse Dumbledore of pranking him with garlic, then laughing at him. Dumbledore denied the accusation vociferously. In the end, he tried to make amends by formulating a plan that would force Harry out in the open. He wanted to prove Harry was evil by backing him into a corner. The night before the match, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, Harry had the strangest dream. It was a vivid dream of there being Dementors at the match. A handful of the creatures were on the pitch, staring up at him. When the next day dawned, Harry went down to the Common Room. He saw a Sixth year finishing up an essay, and wandered over. “Excuse me, you're in Advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts, right?” The Sixth year looked up at the Third year and said, “Yeah. Why?” “You know how to fight Dementors, right?” Harry asked, trying to look innocent. “Yeah. It's called the Patronus Charm. It's really hard to use, but you need a really happy memory and to say the incantation, which is 'Expecto Patronum',” the sixth year said. “Even grown wizards usually can't cast it.” The boy went back to his essay and Harry went down to

breakfast. When he got there, he saw Remus. The Defense teacher glared at him and went back to talking to Dumbledore. Harry had been getting waves of emotions, all of them negative and focused at him, by the time he went down to the pitch. Wood was telling the team their strategy while Harry was trying to block out the emotions of certain teachers. The match started, with Lee Jordan yelling out the players' names. The bludgers were released, followed by the snitch and quaffle. Ravenclaw immediately started by taking the quaffle and trying to put it in Gryffindor's hoops. The Weasley twins sent both bludgers at the Chaser, while Harry sped by and knocked the quaffle from Goldstein's hands. “Wow, look at that! Potter's slipstream knocked the quaffle from Goldstein! That's what happens when you fly a Firebolt!” Lee Jordan was having the time of his life praising Harry's new broom, until McGonagall stopped him and made him focus on the match. “Gryffindor scores! Katie Bell of Gryffindor was flying beneath Goldstein and caught the quaffle when he dropped it! That's ten-nil Gryffindor!” Harry swooped around, looking for the snitch, when he sensed the emotional void. He heard his parents screaming in his ears, and plunged his hand into his pocket to find his wand. It's a good thing I brought this today, he thought. He focused on the memory of Sirius not abandoning him upon the revelation that his godson was dead. That was the happiest memory he had, besides McGonagall's trust of him. He screamed, “Expecto Patronum!” and watched as a gigantic silver stag burst out of the end of his wand. It scattered the five Dementors that had been on the pitch, just like in his dream, and then the stag careened into the teacher's stands. It kicked Dumbledore in the head, charged at Remus with its antlers lowered, and then flew up to kick Snape. It went back to Remus and glared at him before it vanished. Harry then proceeded to catch the snitch, which was just above him. Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, had been hovering and staring at the spot where Harry's Patronus had vanished. Harry flew down with the snitch clutched tightly in his fist while McGonagall ran over to him. “How did you do that? That was amazing, Harry!” she exclaimed.

“I'm not sure. All I did was ask a Sixth year how to fight Dementors because I had a dream last night that there would be some here. But he said it was really hard for even fully qualified wizards to cast that spell. And I'm surprised I was even able to hold onto a happy enough memory long enough to cast it,” Harry said quietly. McGonagall awarded Gryffindor fifteen points for Harry's skill in chasing away the Dementors with such an advanced spell. ** Chapter 8 In the Moonlight Time seemed to fly by. Spring came, bringing with it warmer weather and nocturnal activities. The teachers probably guessed what would happen when students weren't in danger of getting frostbite in the halls during the night, but they didn't step up patrols. Or at least, they didn't look for miscreants performing other kinds of activities. A few teachers were on the look-out for a single student. That single student was usually in his bed dreaming of a simpler life. A pretty girl on his arm, no worries other than end-of-year exams (which were coming fast), and natural things like a heartbeat. But he didn't have either of those things, not even the heartbeat. He couldn't have the girl of his dreams, there were things besides tests to worry about, but he was persevering. On this warm night, Harry Potter was in his bed, dreaming. However, that was not to last long... Harry woke in the middle of the night after a particularly vivid dream. He had dreamed that Hagrid's pet hippogriff was sentenced to die for attacking Draco Malfoy, though the attack had failed. He dreamed that the night Buckbeak was put to death there was a werewolf loose on the grounds. The dream was so vivid, and it brought back memories of that Care of Magical Creatures class when Malfoy thought it was funny to insult a proud hippogriff. FLASHBACK It was the day after Defense Against the Dark Arts. The class was still talking about the boggart Lupin had showed them. They were talking excitedly about the way Neville had dealt with his greatest fear. On

the way down to Hagrid's hut, Ron was saying, “What do you suppose Hagrid will show us?” “Considering it's Hagrid, it'll probably be dangerous. Though I heard Fred and George talking about hippogriffs. Maybe we'll get to see them,” Harry replied with an easy grin. The day was beautiful, and Harry had fed the previous night, so he was in a good mood. When they got to class, Hagrid was indeed standing in front of four hippogriffs with shiny feathers. Hagrid explained quite clearly that hippogriffs were proud creatures and that to insult one was likely to be fatal. Harry looked around, sensing unfocused minds around him. He pinpointed the location, and Draco Malfoy, along with Crabbe and Goyle positively reeked of it. He watched as Malfoy sauntered forward and said to Buckbeak, the silver-gray hippogriff, “You're not dangerous, are you? Are you, you great ugly brute?” At those words, Buckbeak reared back on his hind legs, ready to slash at Malfoy. Harry leaped forward, faster than a normal human, and knocked Malfoy back. “Get back,” Harry snapped to Malfoy. The blond boy scrambled to his feet and ran back to the fence, a grass stain clearly visible on his once-pristine white shirt. Harry turned back to the angry hippogriff he was holding at bay. “Down boy, down. Calm down, Buckbeak.” Hagrid arrived soon after, at first too surprised to act. He restrained Buckbeak, while Harry walked back to his friends, his shirt ripped and a bloody gash on his arm. “Harry, Harry, are you alright?” Hermione seemed very worried. “Yeah, mate, you're bleeding. Are you okay?” Ron chimed in with. “Yeah, I'll be fine. I don't even feel it, so it's just a graze.” Harry gazed down at his arm, surprised that he was hurt. “Well, alright, if you're sure,” Ron said dubiously. He walked on, muttering about macho boys who don't notice when their arm has been ripped open. Hermione stayed back and said, “Are you sure you'll be okay, Harry?” “I just said that for Ron's benefit. The truth is, pigs' blood won't fix this...” Harry trailed off. Hermione looked uncertain for a split second, then nodded. “I'll donate some,” she said.

END FLASHBACK And she did, that night, Harry remembered. He got up to look out the window, and saw the moon. It was shining brightly on the grounds. It'll be full this weekend, Harry thought. It'll happen this weekend. Harry sighed, remembering how smug Malfoy had looked in class the next Monday. Malfoy had just gotten a letter from his father telling him he'd prosecute Hagrid for setting a dangerous beast on unsuspecting children. That had started the whole thing. ** When the weekend arrived, Harry started preparing. He read all the books on vampires he and Hermione could find. They told Madame Pince it was for an extra-credit assignment, and she believed them. Harry discovered that Back Forest vampires could grow wings, so he was anxious to try it out. He hadn't told Hermione yet; he was afraid she wouldn't react well. It was nearly nightfall when Harry, Hermione, and Ron set out for Hagrid's hut. They walked quickly and quietly under the Invisibility Cloak. Harry had warned Ron about the full moon that night. Ron had caught on after a couple of minutes. When they got to Hagrid's hut, they saw that they were too late. The executioner was already there. Ron groaned, and Hermione shushed him. Harry was thinking. “If we wait until they see Buckbeak tied up, then cut him loose when they weren't looking, we could probably stop this,” he whispered. Hermione and Ron nodded in response. They waited until they saw Fudge look out the window; then things started going slightly wrong. Fudge saw them. His eyes widened, but then he winked. He turned away, but kept his back to the window. Harry ran forward, and bowed to Buckbeak. The hippogriff bowed back, and allowed Harry to come closer. He untied the loop holding Buckbeak to the fence with deft fingers. Hermione and Ron came with dead ferrets, using them to lure Buckbeak. They managed to get away silently, and Fudge looked back outside. All was clear, and Fudge grinned, relieved. When Dumbledore and Macnair realized the condemned hippogriff was gone, they were furious. Fudge just kept his mouth shut, happy that justice was being carried out.

The kids ran into the woods to avoid pursuit, and tried to think of what to do next. “I think we should just let him go, let him fend for himself like any other wild beast,” Ron said. Hermione looked torn as Harry retorted, “But he isn't a wild beast. He's been domesticated. I think we should give him to Sirius, at least until the heat dies down. Then, maybe, Sirius can give him back to Hagrid.” Hermione nodded slowly, and said, “I think that's best. Harry, can you get a message to Sirius?” Harry was about to reply when they heard the howling. Night had fallen, and its creatures were coming out. “Hurry, up a tree!” Harry called out, and helped shove his friends into the tallest tree he could spot. Buckbeak had stopped straining to get back to Hagrid when he heard the howl. Instinct was taking over. Harry looked around, trying to spot movement that would be a prelude to attack. He saw it, over in the distance. It was coming closer. Hermione and Ron called out to him, trying to get him into the tree, too. He ignored them, focusing instead on the movement. He ran into a clearing, knowing Remus would follow him. It worked. Remus followed Harry into the clearing, and howled. Harry removed his ring, knowing his friends couldn't see him. He bared his fangs and extended his claws, ready to turn a year of abuse around. Remus lunged, and tried to pounce on the unnatural creature in front of him. He wanted to rip and tear it to pieces, he hated it. Harry realized that Remus hadn't had his potion, so tonight his teacher had no humanity for Harry to find. He sensed the second presence nearly too late. He ducked just in time to avoid the tree branch being swung at him. He heard a frightened squeak, then pounding footsteps. “Damn Death Eater,” Harry muttered, getting to his feet. Remus charged again, and Harry concentrated. Harry felt free when he sprouted the wings. They were huge creations, leathery like bat wings, and had a span of nine feet. He flapped them experimentally, intimidating Remus. They had sprouted out of his shoulder-blades and felt like they could support him. He took to the air, and soared above Remus. Buckbeak galloped into the clearing and reared up at Remus, holding him at bay while Harry returned to the ground. Remus charged at Harry, catching him by

surprise as he had just sensed Dementors coming. Let me guess, Dumbledore figured out I was loose. That coward is going to get me killed—again. Remus managed to sink his claws in Harry's chest, and started ripping. Harry screamed, and brought his rather delicate wings back in. Buckbeak knocked Remus off Harry, but there was still a lot of blood. Harry lay on the ground, panting, as the Dementors approached. Ron and Hermione came running. They had climbed out of the tree when they heard Harry scream. “Hermione, how do we fight off Dementors?” Ron asked quickly. The answer she gave was not one he wanted to hear. “I-I d-don't k-know,” she stammered, terrified. She was reliving her worst memory, finding out Harry was dead. The Dementors were leaving Harry alone for now, and going after Ron and Hermione. Ron fell first, rendered unconscious by the Dementors. Hermione backed away, and tried calling for help. Meanwhile, Remus was approaching Harry's body. He still hated vampires, and wanted to rip this one some more. Hermione shot a spell at Remus, and then help came. A large black dog hurtled into the clearing, and charged Remus. That gave Hermione time to run to Harry. She tried to get him to move, but was unable to. Luckily for them, though, the moon was going down. The battle had taken all night. The sun would soon be up, and Remus would transform back. Hopefully, then he'll grow a heart, Hermione thought desperately. The moon went down, and Remus gave a long scream as he transformed back. Ron was still unconscious, from whatever memory Hermione didn't know. Probably when his brothers transfigured his favorite teddy bear into a spider, she thought disgustedly. Remus lay on the ground, panting, as Sirius crouched beside him for a moment. When Sirius heard Hermione sniffling, he turned to look, and saw Harry on the ground. “Oh Merlin, no...” He scrambled over to his godson and gathered him in his arms. Hermione slid Harry's ring back on him as she heard Ron stirring. Unfortunately for Ron, though, a dead branch high up in the tree he was under decided to fall at that moment. It crashed onto him with a sickening thud. Harry looked just like a normal boy with mortal wounds. As Hermione held him, the light went out of his eyes and his lean body went limp. Sirius closed Harry's eyes, thinking it was for the last time.

Remus finally came back to himself, and checked himself for injuries. He wasn't even scratched, though he still smelled blood. Then he looked at his fingers, and they were bloody. He had obviously injured or killed something. Then he saw Ron under the tree branch, but he wasn't mauled, so it couldn't have been him... Then he looked around him, and saw two people and a pair of legs. A limp pair of legs. He scrambled over to make sure he hadn't done that much damage. When he got close enough, he saw the shock of black hair and the scar. It was Harry Potter, vampire extraordinaire. Sirius looked up as his ex-friend's shadow fell over him. “You tried to kill him...” “He was already dead, you know. That's what vampires are,” Remus retorted tiredly. “That's why I said 'tried', you traitor!” Sirius lurched to his feet, holding Harry carefully. “You did this to him! You attacked him, probably on Dumbledore's orders!” Hermione was quietly crying. “Can I help what I do during the full moon?” Remus asked, almost unconcerned. Sirius ignored him and continued, “Not only did you maul Harry, you put two innocent children in mortal peril.” Remus took a step towards Hermione as Sirius spoke, and saw the truth of it when she flinched away. His failure to take his potion nearly killed two people and finished off their vampire defender. The weight of his ex-friend's words finally started to sink in. When Harry started to stir, Sirius looked like a miracle was taking place. He carefully put Harry on the ground and whispered, “Come on, Harry, wake up. You can do it, come back to us.” It seemed to work, Harry slowly opened his eyes. “It hurts...” Harry moaned. “I...need...blood...” Hermione listened to Harry, and then brushed her hair away from her neck. “If you need blood, then you can drink mine,” she said firmly. Harry tried to shake his head, he didn't want to hurt her or anyone else, but silenced his protests. Remus watched in horror as Harry lifted his head and sank his fangs into Hermione's neck. She moaned deep in her throat as he fed. When he pulled away, she was pale and clammy. Harry was immediately afraid he'd

taken too much, but she quickly assured him that she'd be fine. ** Chapter 9 Quidditch World Cup Harry went home for the summer, hoping he'd see his friends again soon. Of course, the Dursleys wouldn't let him use the telephone, but they couldn't really stop the owls coming. Harry lounged indolently on his bed on the third evening after his return. He crossed his hands behind his head as he lounged, listening to Hedwig hoot softly. Suddenly, there was tapping at his window. A tawny owl he recognized was out there, and it had a letter clutched in its talons. He got up and opened the window. It hopped in and dropped a letter from Remus Lupin on his bed, before drinking some water from Hedwig's bowl. Harry tore open the letter and read it through. It said, Dear Harry, I'm writing to tell you how truly sorry I am for how I treated you all last year. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. And yes, Sirius did remind me once again that you do have a soul. Once again, I'm sorry. Sirius did warn me about your...condition...last summer, but hearing the warnings is very different than meeting someone like that for the first time, when you instinctively despise that kind of person. I have already told Sirius all of Dumbledore's plans for you that I could. I will not repeat them here, just in case you get angry enough to do some harm to your despicable relatives. I'll tell you when next we meet, if you can bear the sight of me. Yours most sincerely, Remus Lupin Harry thought about it for a second, and then replied with a short note telling Remus that he forgave him. He sent the owl back, and went back to lounging on his bed. He was dozing when Petunia screeched up the stairs, “GET DOWN HERE, BOY!” Harry was up like a shot, and dashed downstairs where he saw a most peculiar sight. There was a man in the living room. He looked familiar, but Harry couldn't identify him on looks alone, so he extended his senses. He smirked

inwardly, and waved his hand. “Nice disguise, Dumbledore, but you're going to have to do better than that,” Harry sneered. Dumbledore had his wand aimed at Harry's throat in a second, and replied in kind, “I'm not here for games. I'm here to tell you that you are not to leave this house for any reason.” He lowered his wand, and left with a swirl of his robes. “What did you do, boy, to bring him here and put you under house arrest?” Petunia looked disgusted that he'd apparently be staying all summer. Harry replied with a shrug, “Nothing much, just picked his pocket a couple of weeks ago.” Petunia shrieked in rage, “You WHAT?!” “I picked his pocket,” Harry replied, sounding innocent. “What did you steal, Harry?” Dudley asked excitedly. “A teacher,” Harry replied with another shrug. Dudley guffawed while Petunia glowered at him. “That is not funny, boy.” ** Another three weeks passed with Harry growing more bored every day. He hadn't had any letters from his friends, and guessed that Dumbledore was intercepting them. When the phone rang, Harry listened to his aunt pick it up downstairs. A moment later, Petunia called up the stairs for him. He went down, wondering if it was Hermione calling. As a Muggleborn, she knew very well how to use a telephone, and may have guessed that he wasn't receiving any mail. However, it wasn't Hermione on the phone, it was McGonagall. “Yes, Ma'am?” Harry asked. He smirked inwardly when he heard her reply, “Harry, I fed your aunt a line about how the Ministry is enforcing Dumbledore's decision to place you under house arrest, and how your mail has been cut off because of that. She fell for it hook, line, and sinker.” “Do you know how long my mail has been cut off? I've been waiting for news on whether or not my friend got tickets for the Quidditch match next week,” Harry replied, pretending to be annoyed.

“Unfortunately, I don't know, but I do have some news for you. Sirius has got five tickets for the World Cup. He's given one to me and Remus, he's sent one to Hermione, and he's saving the last for when we get you out of there,” McGonagall said. “Thanks, and could you tell Dumbledore that I think he's overstepping his bounds?” Harry asked. She laughed, and said, “Sirius already told him, but it didn't go over very well. For some reason, Dumbledore got upset for being called a tyrant.” They both heard a click as the other receiver was picked up and McGonagall said formally, “Enjoy your holiday, Mr. Potter.” She hung up, and Harry called out, “You really didn't need to listen to my phone call, Aunt Petunia.” She snorted in response and said, “How else am I supposed to know whether or not your freaky friends are finding some other way to contact you?” Harry hid a snort and smothered a grin. “How else...?” he muttered. ** Two days later, a stray cat found its way into the yard. It climbed up a tree near Dudley's window, and then leaped the distance to the ledge of Harry's window. It walked into his room, head and tail held high, then dropped a note on his desk. It hopped back out, and disappeared. Harry opened the note it had left, and it said simply, Be at the play park by midnight tomorrow. Bring spare clothes. After you leave, your house will be broken into to retrieve your trunk. Sirius. Harry crumpled up the note, and sent Hedwig out ahead. He told her to wait until the next night, and then follow him. She obeyed and, nibbling on his ear affectionately, flew out the window. He watched her fly off into the sunset, wishing he could join her out there. The next day, he made sure his trunk was packed and ready for theft. He waited in his room until the Dursleys had gone to bed, then, grabbing his Firebolt, jumped out the window. He threw on his Invisibility Cloak, mounted his broom, and kicked off. He flew high quickly, to avoid being spotted, and raced to the play park Dudley vandalized every week. When he got there, Hedwig swooped down and landed on a tree limb.

He looked around for his ride, and saw a hulking black shadow. He carefully extended his senses, and discovered that Hagrid was not there to meet him; he was there to watch the Dursley's house. He threw the Cloak back on, and waited. A few minutes to midnight, the same stray cat that had come the previous afternoon returned. It stopped to sniff a spot on the ground, while Harry carefully reached over and removed the note tied to its neck. A moment later, the cat ran off. He used his extraordinary night vision to read the note. It said, Trunk has been retrieved. Other part of plan not aborted. Fly to old Primary School. Moony will meet you there. Sirius. Harry obeyed, after telling Hedwig to follow him. He flew the short distance to the school he hadn't attended in over three years. It was empty, because it was the middle of the night. When he arrived, he sensed the presence of his werewolf contact, and waited. Moony came out of the shadows, and approached him. “Sorry about that. We didn't know Dumbledore would send anyone to watch the park.” Remus then took his hand and apparated them both to Ottery St. Catchpole, and the Burrow. He took Harry to the front door, then apparated away. Harry knocked, and a few minutes later Molly Weasley appeared wearing a fluffy pink bathrobe. “Harry, dear, why didn't you let us know you'd be coming?” “That's because I didn't know myself, and my mail is being intercepted,” Harry replied. “Oh, Harry dear, come in, where are my manners, come in and tell me all about it.” Molly stepped aside so he could enter, then set about getting some leftovers for him to eat. He told her that Dumbledore had placed him under house arrest for picking his pocket, and then Molly shrieked loud enough to wake the entire house. All the Weasleys in residence piled downstairs to see what was wrong. Molly scolded Harry, saying, “You picked Dumbledore's pocket?! How could you! You are going to return what you stole right now, and I'm going to open a Floo channel so you can!” “What did you steal, Harry?” Arthur asked sternly. Harry winked at Ron, Fred, and George, before answering their father. “I stole a teacher. Professor Lupin was in Dumbledore's pocket, and I got him

back.” All the Weasleys except Ron and the twins were dumbfounded. Molly had been about to open the Floo channel, but hadn't done it yet. Instead, it opened of its own accord, and Sirius stuck his hand through to give Harry his ticket and a note. Sorry I couldn't speak to you, Harry, but I just found out the Floo Network is also being watched. The only unwatched fireplace in Britain is Dumbledore's. I broke in to use it for a second, and I had to duck back out before he came back. Remus told me you had arrived safely, even with Hagrid's interference. With this note is your ticket for the World Cup. Hermione has already accepted hers, and will be arriving at the Burrow in two days' time. Be careful, as I suspect Voldemort is regaining his strength. I will see you at the campsite before the match. Sirius. ** Two days later, Hermione arrived. She flew into Ron's arms and kissed his cheek before letting go to greet Harry, who she gave a quick hug. “Thanks for giving me a ticket for the match, Harry,” she said. Harry mumbled how it was no problem, how it was more Sirius who did it for him, but she ignored him. She had gone back to Ron, while Molly looked on contentedly. Arthur, however, watched Harry's reaction, unnoticed by everyone else. When the morning of the match arrived, everyone woke up early. They ate breakfast, with Harry pretending to eat seconds and thirds, and Molly said, “Oh you poor boy, you must be starving, you really should eat more when you get the chance, you're almost rail thin.” Harry just nodded while trying to meet Hermione's eye. That was the signal that he actually was hungry. After breakfast, they all trooped outside and climbed the nearby hill to find the portkey. Harry cast the bits of garbage a cursory glance, and said, “It's the old boot right there.” Arthur picked up the boot and confirmed that it was the portkey. A few minutes later, two more people topped the rise. Amos Diggory sneered when he saw Harry, while Cedric waved. Hermione was busy hanging all over Ron, and didn't notice that they had arrived. Cedric walked over to Harry and said, “I personally find that

disgusting,” while gesturing over to Ron and Hermione. Harry nodded and grabbed the boot. The portkey activated a moment later, and dropped them on the edge of a large field. “Seven past five from Stoatshead Hill,” a voice said over their heads. They got to their feet, and Sirius walked over to them. He looked quite resplendent in his Auror robes. “Alright, Harry, Hermione, come along,” Sirius said. Hermione looked like she wanted to stay with the Weasleys, but Sirius said again, “Come along. We have a different campsite.” Harry went over to him and asked, “Which campsite do we have?” Sirius replied quietly, “The campsite furthest from the Weasleys' as I could get without selling back the tickets I bought.” Harry smothered a huge grin. “Thanks, Sirius,” he murmured. When they reached their campsite, they set up the tents and built a fire. A few minutes later, Remus arrived with water. “I saw Ron,” he said nonchalantly, “and he was flirting with a young blond.” Hermione blanched. Harry saw Remus and Sirius grin and guessed that Remus made that up. McGonagall arrived with food, including a bottle she handed to Harry. He thanked her and wandered off into the nearby trees. When the vendors started arriving, Hermione insisted they go look for the Weasleys among them. Sirius suggested that Remus and McGonagall go with Harry and Hermione, and they quickly agreed. The kids bought green rosettes while the teachers kept them out of trouble. After an hour of walking around, they returned to their campsite to get ready for the match. “Which seats do we have, Sirius?” Harry asked. “Since I'm part of the Auror contingent for Minister Fudge, we're in the Top Box.” Harry nodded understanding, while Sirius continued, “Sorry Hermione, the Weasleys only got General Admission seats.” He didn't sound sorry at all, Harry noticed. They reached the Top Box, where Fudge greeted them jovially. “Hello, there, Sirius. Glad you could make it. And incidentally, you're the first of the Aurors to arrive.” He shook hands with the rest, and said to Remus, “I'm glad you finally saw the error of your ways. For a while there, I thought I was going to see an arrest warrant for you on my desk.” Other dignitaries started to arrive, and Fudge tried to introduce them to his Bulgarian counterpart, with limited results. Finally, the game started. Ludo Bagman announced the team

mascots. First was the Irish Leprechauns, which showered them with gold. Hermione started grabbing it like her life was depending on it, while saying, “I'll give this to Ron.” Harry shook his head and said, “Don't tell me you don't know. Leprechaun gold vanishes after a few hours. You'd just be giving him the lint from the pocket you put the galleons in.” Hermione looked abashed, and dropped the fake gold. Next were the Bulgarian mascots, the Veela. The Veela started singing and dancing, and several men made fools of themselves trying to impress them. Harry wasn't affected one iota, but someone else was. They heard a loud groan, then a shout. Bagman looked down, and said, “Mediwizards are treating a teenage boy who jumped from the stands!” Hermione looked down, and she could barely see the shock of red hair. “Oh my god! It's Ron! He must have jumped because I wasn't there! Oh, I have go to him!” She tried to get up, when McGonagall said, “Hermione listen! He wouldn't have jumped if he was trying to reach you, he would have climbed! What he was trying to do is jump out of the stands, land on the ground a hundred feet below unhurt, then run over to the Veela. He failed, of course.” ** Ron was transported to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to be treated for his injuries. The Quidditch match started after he was peeled off the field, with Bagman shouting out the names of the players. The match started with the Bulgarians playing dirty. They were trying to injure the Irish team. “Oh, that's obviously a foul!” Bagman shouted when two of the Bulgarian Chasers rammed the Irish Keeper aside while the third Chaser scored. “Moran easily puts away the penalty shot, and play resumes...until the next foul! Krum flew into Lynch intentionally! And Mullet puts away that penalty shot, and play resumes.” The Bulgarian Minister of Magic just put his face in his hands and shook his head. “That Krum really is a nasty fellow,” Harry said, while Sirius nodded agreement. At that moment, Harry got a sudden vision of Krum and Hermione dancing at a Ball. Not if I have anything to say about it, they won't, Harry thought grimly. Sirius glanced over at Hermione, who was just staring at the players with glassy eyes. He nudged

Remus, who nudged McGonagall, who then told Hermione, “don't worry; he's probably flirting with the Healers as we speak.” Hermione flinched, and Remus added, “Yeah, maybe even that blond girl I saw him with, what's her name? Oh yes, Lovegood, that's it.” Then he thought to himself, Note to self: inform Luna Lovegood she was flirting with Ronald Weasley before the match. While that was going on, Ireland scored three more times, bringing the score to 190-30 in favor of Ireland. They saw Krum and Lynch hurtling toward the ground, and then Krum pulled up while Lynch didn't. “Oh, a Wronski Feint! I didn't know he could do that! Well, anyway, Lynch is being treated by the Mediwizards,” Bagman called out. Several minutes later, Lynch was back on his broom, then falling victim to the Wronski Feint again. While he was being treated the second time, Krum caught the snitch. Everyone cheered. Bulgarian supporters cheered because Krum caught the snitch, and Irish supporters cheered because they won. “And so ends the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup! Ireland wins 190180 with Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum catching the Golden Snitch!” They all left the stands after the victory lap by Ireland, and Harry was glad that the cheaters didn't prosper. He was also glad that Hermione seemed to have forgotten all about Ron in the celebrations. He noticed Remus ducking out of camp soon after they got back. He returned a few minutes later, and whispered to Sirius and McGonagall, “I just told Luna Lovegood that she was flirting with Ron Weasley. She agreed very quickly, and even said she would gladly do it for real.” The adults snickered and Harry bit down onto his fist to keep from joining in. In fact, he was sure he wasn't really supposed to hear that, but he couldn't stop himself. That night, they were all sleeping when Harry heard a noise. He silently crept out of the tent he shared with Sirius and Remus, and found a large group of people gathering. They seemed to be drunk, and they were all wearing dark robes and skull-like masks. They were Death Eaters. They started marching, and Harry ran to wake everyone else. He saw two figures he recognized, both from the little meeting he overheard during the summer after his first year. He crept over to them, trying to get a peek under one of their masks. He succeeded, and thought immediately, Dumbledore's never going to believe this...

He and Hermione ran into the woods after that, the screams from the campsite echoing behind them. Harry felt the fear of the crowd as a physical pain. He tried to shut it out, but there was too much. Hermione tripped over a tree branch, and Harry caught her before she even started falling. “Thanks, Harry,” she said breathlessly. “No problem,” he replied. They stopped to take a break, and she asked, “The Death Eaters. Did you recognize any of them?” Harry said in response, “I could give you the name of every single person to take the Dark Mark, but for half of them you wouldn't believe me. I can name everyone who will take the Mark within the next three years, but you would hate me forever if I told you. I can tell you with reasonable certainty every witch and wizard born of Salazar Slytherin's line, but you would hate me for that, too.” Soon after Harry's little speech, they heard a twig snapping. Harry extended his senses while Hermione raised her wand. Harry was going to raise his, too, but upon a search of his pockets, discovered it was missing. “Damn, my wand is gone,” he muttered. Hermione snorted softly, and muttered just as quietly, “You don't even need your wand; I've seen you do spells without it.” Harry lowered his voice an octave more and replied, “Yes, but he doesn't know that.” They both heard the newcomer shout, “MORSMORDRE!” and they watched in horror as a glittering green skull rose into the air. They noted that the skull, which glittered like thousands of tiny green stars, had a snake slithering out the mouth like a ghastly tongue. Seconds later, he pushed Hermione to the ground as he crouched over her. A handful of red flashes crisscrossed over their heads. “Stop, those are my kids!” Sirius shouted as he ran into the clearing, his Auror robes billowing. His badge glinted on his chest, catching the light from the glittering skull. Everyone else stepped back as Harry brought Hermione back to her feet. “Careful with those wands, you might hurt somebody,” Harry said sarcastically. Sirius rushed over to them and asked, “Are you two alright?” Hermione nodded in reply as Harry said, “Whoever conjured that thing is over there, and he used my wand.” Bartemius Crouch went to investigate and brought back a house-elf Harry recognized from the Top Box and Harry's wand. He checked the wand, and sacked the elf, which happened to be his. He finally released Harry and Hermione, who left with Sirius.

“Are the Muggles alright?” Harry asked Sirius when they returned. “They're fine. They're getting their memories modified. We couldn't catch any of the Death Eaters, though; they all apparated away when they saw the Mark,” Sirius replied. “It wasn't Winky who cast it. It was a young man, and Crouch is covering it up. He found someone, but is protecting him,” Harry said casually. “And this is going to come back soon to bite him in the ass.” ** Chapter 10 The Triwizard Tournament The Hogwarts Express pulled into Hogsmeade station with a hiss and a clang. Students started disembarking and climbing into the waiting carriages. It was pouring down rain, and no one wanted to wait. No one except Harry Potter, of course. He didn't mind waiting. He knew it would be best if he got in the last carriage. He was starting his fourth year at Hogwarts, and it was starting to show. He was taller and leaner, and some of the new first years on the train thought him to be a prefect. Especially a small mousy-haired boy he was sure was related to Colin Creevy. Colin called out to him, “Hey Harry! Do you want to grab a carriage, Harry?” Harry saw that there was only one carriage left, and it was picking up a few stragglers. Harry shrugged and boarded with Colin, and saw Ginny Weasley and another girl sitting on the bench. Ginny beamed when Harry sat down, but he didn't beam back. He still thought there was something suspicious about her... When they reached the castle, they saw Dumbledore looking out the door as the carriage pulled up. Harry, Colin, Ginny, and the blond girl with the cork necklace got out. Harry distinctly saw Dumbledore look over the three kids, as though checking for puncture marks. Of course, he found nothing, because Harry's not that kind of vampire. The four of them ran in through the doors Dumbledore held open, though the Headmaster tried to block Harry entering. Harry glared at him and swept past, careful not to strut.

The Sorting started a little late, as the boats carrying the first years were blown off course. The boat carrying Hagrid wasn't affected, so he, with the Giant Squid's help, was able to get the kids back on course. And sure enough, that mousy-haired little boy Harry was sure was related to Colin, was called up. “Dennis Creevy!” McGonagall called. The boy stumbled forward wearing Hagrid's moleskin overcoat. He put the Sorting Hat on, and was declared a Gryffindor. The sorting continued, and then Dumbledore stood up. “I have great pleasure to announce that the Triwizard Tournament will be played at Hogwarts this year,” the Headmaster began. As he went on to explain what the Tournament was, Harry looked down the table for Hermione and Ron. They were sitting together, and Ron was looking raptly up at Dumbledore, hanging on his every word. Harry knew that Ron was going to try to enter, no matter what restrictions Dumbledore put in place. The doors opened with a ponderous creak, then a bang as they slammed into the walls. Dumbledore looked over, annoyed, as his speech was interrupted. His face brightened, and he looked triumphantly over at Harry. Harry glanced coolly over the newcomer, and extended his empath abilities. He had gotten some training in that over the summer. It seemed that Remus' werewolf senses included a tiny hint of empathy: he can sense the fear of others. He was able to train Harry some in how to put a lid on his powers, which were admittedly far stronger than anything Remus had ever seen. Harry sensed a pit of evil in the new Defense teacher. “Everyone, may I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Alastor Moody!” Dumbledore announced. Everyone applauded politely, as they didn't know much about Moody, other than that he was a famous retired Auror. “He has kindly agreed to come out of retirement and teach for this year.” More polite clapping, though Harry could distinctly see Ron hopping in his seat for a chance to get a look at the old Auror. “I always knew the Weasley's were either weasels or rabbits...” Harry muttered to no one in particular. “Hey, Colin, do you have your camera with you?” “Sure I do, Harry! Do you want me to take a picture of Moody for you?” the third year asked excitedly.

“You know what, yes. Take a picture of Moody and give it to me. It might come in handy sometime. I was originally going to have you take a picture of Ron jumping in his seat,” Harry answered with a small grin. Colin excitedly snapped both pictures, and said, “I'll get these developed tonight.” Harry thanked him, and went back to staring at Moody. The next morning, Colin handed the pictures to Harry, who looked them over with a critical eye. They had come out really well, and Harry said, “Thanks Colin, they're excellent,” before putting them in his pocket. During break, Harry went up to the Owlery to send the photo of Moody to Sirius. He kept the photo of Ron as blackmail evidence if he needed it. ** “You have no experience with Dark Curses,” Moody growled in class on Thursday. “I am here to teach you about the Darkest of the Dark Arts, so that you can try to defend against them. I have one year to do this, then it's back to quiet retirement.” The class fidgeted with excitement. They obviously thought Moody would be a good teacher. “You, Potter. Do you have any experience with the Dark Arts?” Moody asked suddenly. Harry sat up straighter, as Hermione turned to look at him from her seat in the front row with Ron. “Yes, I do.” Harry answered simply. “Care to elaborate, Potter?” Moody growled. Harry shrugged and said, “I guess I have no choice. Fine. I can cast Dark spells, and I've fought against Dark Wizards and Creatures.” Moody seemed to smile at that moment, though what would have passed for a smile for someone like Snape, only made Moody's face appear more twisted and grotesque. “Go on then. Cast a Dark Curse on me. I will block it, thereby showing the class how it's done, when fighting an amateur,” Moody grinned. He raised his wand, ready to deflect a standard Dark spell cast by an inexperienced teenager. Harry smirked, and said, “You asked for it.” He raised his wand and, without a word spoken, conjured a twelve foot long King Cobra. The pale olive snake recoiled for a moment, but

Harry hissed in parseltongue, “Threaten him, but don't attack.” The Cobra slithered forward, raised its head with its hood opened, and hissed. Its two-inch-long fangs were bared as it hissed. The class was starting to become alarmed. It swayed as Harry spoke to it more, then turned to feign a strike at Ron. When it returned its attention to Moody, Harry said to the teacher, “I can dismiss it now, if you wish, Professor.” Moody tried to banish the snake but, like Lockhart two years ago, the spell only made the snake mad. Moody finally nodded, and Harry dismissed the Cobra with a wave of his wand. An hour later, class was dismissed. Everyone but Harry had homework. “You clearly know your Dark Arts Mr. Potter,” Moody complimented him as the class filed out. “Twenty points to Gryffindor.” ** The next day, Harry got a reply from Sirius. He had sent his godfather a question about Moody's identity, and the answer had taken a little while. The reply said, Dear Harry, I agree that it is a little odd. The last I heard, Moody and Dumbledore had a falling out. Now Dumbledore has called Mad-Eye out of retirement, I don't like it. Keep on your guard. And come to think of it, this photo you sent me of Mad-Eye arriving doesn't even look that much like the Mad-Eye I remember. Assume this is an imposter, and act accordingly. Sirius The next month passed as though in a heartbeat. It seemed to pass more quickly for Harry; as the undead, trivial things like time don't matter so much, as he has all the time in the world. On October 30th, An announcement was made that the delegations from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons would be arriving that night. Classes would let out early so everyone could greet the guests. Harry was having some trouble blocking out all the excitement, and he also kept having dreams involving the Durmstrang Headmaster. He knew, even before

he met the man, that he was evil. The first delegation to arrive was Beauxbatons. Their carriage appeared over the forest, drawn by a team of huge palominos. The horses skidded to a stop, and stood heaving. Their ears flattened and their nostrils flaring, they sniffed around, as though they sensed danger. Harry knew they could bolt at any second, and hurt someone, so he went to calm them. McGonagall watched, ready to run to his rescue if he needed it. Dumbledore watched in disgust and muttered too low for anyone to hear, “...must be hungry.” Harry stopped short, hand already outstretched to calm the frightened horses as the women disembarked. He shook it off, and continued forward. Madame Maxime, Headmistress of Beauxbatons, watched curiously as Harry worked. “Dumbly-dor, is this child your gamekeeper?” she asked in a thick French accent. “No he isn't. He's just a student who I've given up on,” Dumbledore answered with an easy smile. Harry heard that, too, and nearly lost control of his emotions. McGonagall did lose control. She turned on him and screeched, “You cold-hearted bastard! Miss Granger was right last year! What are you, Voldemort's Heir Apparent?!” Everyone winced, and some, like Hermione, actually applauded McGonagall. Moody looked him over appraisingly, as did Snape. The lake started frothing at that moment, and everyone glanced over. Harry looked over at the turbulent water for a second and muttered, “Durmstrang. Sturm und Drang. Storm and stress, clearly. The lake is stormy, and it must be putting stress on the Durmstrang ship.” McGonagall walked over to him, and said, “You know, I've never thought of it like that, but you're right. Let's see, ten points to Gryffindor for your keen observation of language meanings, and I've never seen anyone besides a Ravenclaw who thought like that before. Very good, Harry.” The Durmstrang ship rose creaking from the lake, which settled down. All the students walked down the gangplank to the ground, and Harry saw the man leading them. “Professor, who is that?” “That's Igor Karkaroff. He's the Headmaster of Durmstrang, and just between you and me, he's a former Death Eater. Left Voldemort's side after the war ended. Turned in several other Death Eaters, like

Snape,” McGonagall answered. Harry just glanced once more at Karkaroff, and muttered, “He never left, and neither did Snape.” McGonagall nodded, and replied, “I believe you.” ** The next day, several students put their names in the Goblet of Fire. Harry kept a watch on it, making sure nothing untoward happened. He kept his vigil all the previous night, going without sleep he didn't need. He would not interfere if something happened, but he was determined to know who did it. His vigil paid off, just before dinner on Halloween. He saw Moody stump in, look both ways, and drop a slip of parchment into the Goblet, and stump away, smirking. A few minutes later, a dark-cloaked figure slipped in and dropped a slip of parchment into the flaming Goblet. He left, and another dark-cloaked figure sauntered in and performed the same act as his predecessors. Harry smirked as he thought, I thought so. I guess I should play along, if so many wish me dead. Right after dinner, Dumbledore announced that the Goblet was ready to make its decision. He dimmed the lights, and everyone watched with rapt expressions. The Goblet flared up, and a tongue of flame nearly reached the enchanted ceiling. It descended with agonizing slowness, dropping a slightly charred slip of parchment into Dumbledore's waiting hands. “The champion for Beauxbatons will be Fleur Delacour,” he announced. Everyone clapped politely, while the unchosen Beauxbatons girls cried. A second tongue of flame shot up, and descended, dropping a second piece of parchment into Dumbledore's hands. “The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum.” Everyone clapped wildly, and the other boys from Durmstrang clapped their classmate on the back. A third tongue of flame had already shot up, and dropped a piece of parchment in Dumbledore's hands. “The Hogwarts champion is Cedric Diggory!” All the Hogwarts students went wild at that. The Hufflepuff sixth year stood up to join the other two champions in the side chamber. Harry was about to leave, when something strange happened. The Goblet flared up a fourth time, and spat a fourth piece of parchment

into Dumbledore's hands. He read it, and paled, then read it again, as though it would have changed to announce that it was all a practical joke. It wasn't. “Harry Potter...” he muttered. He spoke again, louder, “Harry Potter.” Harry stalked over to Dumbledore almost threateningly and snarled, “I do not appreciate being the butt of your practical jokes, Headmaster. Grow up.” “Just get in the side chamber, creature. I'll be along shortly to find out how you bamboozled that Goblet,” Dumbledore snapped, intending not to be intimidated. Harry obeyed angrily, and stood in the side chamber. As promised, Dumbledore came in with McGonagall, Moody, and Snape, as well as the judges from the Ministry. “All right, Potter. Explain,” Dumbledore growled. “To put it bluntly, I didn't do it,” Harry said. Moody and Snape snickered as McGonagall glared at them. “I didn't enter my name, and I didn't ask anyone to do it for me, but obviously they did.” “Who would enter your name without telling you?” Dumbledore asked. “Show me the slip with my name on it, and I'll tell you,” Harry countered. Dumbledore thrust the slip of parchment into Harry's hand almost angrily. Harry examined the slip, and smirked. “This isn't my handwriting. This is Snape's. I'd know it anywhere, as he loves to mark random things in my essays.” Dumbledore spluttered with rage, while Snape was incandescent. “You think I would waste my time killing you, Potter?” McGonagall took the parchment from Harry and confirmed it. She stalked toward Snape like a cat stalks a mouse. “If you touch him, Snape, I will kill you.” Then she turned on Dumbledore, and snarled, “He will not compete. He didn't enter and isn't eligible to enter, therefore he can't compete.” “It's a binding magical contract. His name came out, so he entered. He must compete, or he'll die for breaking the contract,” Dumbledore said firmly, with a strange glint in his twinkling blue eyes. **

A week later, Harry was called from Potions class for the Weighing of the Wands and accompanying photo-shoot. He left in a hurry, as he didn't want Snape to try to poison him. It would be too inconvenient if he had to make up some story about how he's immune to the poison. Of course, knowing Dumbledore, Harry wouldn't be surprised if Dumbledore ordered that he drink a cauldron-full of the most lethal poison in Snape's vast repertoire. “Are you excited, Harry?” Colin asked excitedly. He was bouncing along at Harry's side like a puppy. “I'm excited to get away from Snape. Do you know, I heard a rumor that Snape is a vampire?” Harry replied with a grin. Colin nearly fell on his face, he stopped so suddenly. Of course, he was bouncing again soon. “Nooo. I didn't know that. Do you know what kind he is? I just heard in Defense Against the Dark Arts that there are different breeds,” Colin gushed. “Yeah, I heard a vampire expert two years ago call Snape a 'lowgrade Romanian'; of course, never let Dumbledore know about this. He's liable to expel anyone who speaks out against Snape,” Harry replied with a conspiratorial smirk. Colin fell for it easily. “I won't ever tell him you told me. Do you mind if I tell Dennis, though? I wouldn't want Snape to hurt him.” Colin stopped at the doors to the Great Hall, where the Ceremony was taking place. Harry answered quickly, “Sure, go ahead,” before entering. “Ah, now that our fourth champion has decided to grace us with his presence, we can proceed with the Wand Weighing Ceremony,” Dumbledore sneered. Madame Maxime looked askance at Dumbledore at his tone. She didn't think there was anything wrong with this child. He certainly looked innocent enough. Her eyes followed Harry as he took his seat. “To examine the champion's wands, we have the wandmaker Ollivander,” Dumbledore continued. As he called their names, the champions came forward. “Ladies first. Miss Fleur Delacour, if you please.” Fleur stepped forward as Dumbledore announced her. She handed her wand to Ollivander, who took it and waved it. At an incantation, a bouquet of flowers appeared. “Wonderful! Though it

does seem to be a rather unique creation... It looks to be 10 ½ inches of willow with a...Veela-hair core. Is that right?” Ollivander asked. “Yes, that is correct. It is one of my grandmother's hairs,” Fleur answered. “Next up, we have our Durmstrang champion: Viktor Krum” Dumbledore announced. Krum lurched to his feet and thrust his wand into Ollivander's hand. Ollivander examined the wand, and said, “Ah, this is a Gregorovitch creation, unless I'm much mistaken.” Krum nodded, embarrassed. Ollivander caused red wine to shoot out, and then handed it back to its owner, well pleased. “Next is Cedric Diggory of Hogwarts,” Dumbledore announced proudly. Cedric stood up and handed his wand to Ollivander. “Ah, yes. I remember this. Ten and three quarters inches of birch with a dragon heartstring core.” He produced a covey of doves and pronounced himself pleased. Dumbledore stepped forward to speak to Ollivander before Harry could step up. “I have some concerns about the mental stability of Potter. I feel sure he is doing more than dabbling in the Dark Arts,” Dumbledore murmured. Unfortunately, he didn't murmur quietly enough. Everyone heard him, but only Krum and Karkaroff seemed to believe it. Fleur glanced at Harry, patted his hand, and muttered, “I do not believe that. You look too innocent and kind.” Cedric echoed her sentiments, and added, “I'm behind you, Harry. You're too honorable to do something so despicable.” Harry grinned, his eyes wet. “Thanks guys, that means a lot.” Madame Maxime came up behind Harry, and said, “Dumbly-dor told me he had given up on you. I think he gave up before he ever tried to know you, and that was his mistake.” No one noticed the flash of light, or the puff of smoke, as the picture was taken. Dumbledore reluctantly announced the last champion. “The fourth champion, Harry Potter.” Harry stepped forward, and Ollivander said, “I informed Dumbledore that the spells your wands produce are the spells the wizard is more 'in tune' with. Miss Delacour's wand produced flowers, Mr. Krum's produced wine, Mr. Diggory's produced wildlife, and now I will see what your wand produces.” He took Harry's wand, and said, “Yes, how well I remember. Eleven inches of holly with a Phoenix-feather core. Phoenixes are amazing creatures, and uncommonly good judges of character.” He waved Harry's wand

once, and instead of something being conjured, nothing happened. Until, that is, Harry slowly shortened. His arms lengthened into wings and he sprouted feathers. Everyone gasped as Harry straightened. He threw his wings out wide, and let out a burst of song, his emerald eyes on Dumbledore's blue the whole time. “Oh Merlin... Merciful God in Heaven...” Ollivander muttered, awestruck. “I have never seen a reaction like this before in all my years... This is remarkable...” The Phoenix took flight, and alighted on Dumbledore's head. Dumbledore looked up, speechless, at the boyturned Phoenix, before it took flight again. It landed in the same spot before the desk Ollivander was sitting behind, and then turned back. “Mr. Potter... Harry... You just turned into a Phoenix... That proves that not only is your wand in perfect condition, but that you are as much a Dark Wizard as Godric Gryffindor was. Meaning, you are the noblest wizard alive,” Ollivander stammered, still stunned. ** The next day, the newspaper came out. Students and teachers were whispering about it in corridors, and were even seen glaring at Dumbledore. Ron and Hermione flanked Harry as they went to the Great Hall for breakfast that morning. When the owl delivered the Daily Prophet, the headline seemed to jump out at them. Potter Accused of Going Dark! Other Champions and Judges Rally Around Him in Support. by Rita Skeeter With the Triwizard Tournament approaching at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Wand Weighing Ceremony was held yesterday. In a controversial decision, you'll remember from a week ago, Headmaster of Hogwarts Albus Dumbledore announced that the fourth champion selected will compete in the Tournament, even though he is only fourteen years old. Hogwarts Fourth Year, Harry Potter, participated in the Weighing of the Wands. He was last to be called, and before he could be, Dumbledore made his two knuts known. He openly accused Potter of, and I quote, 'doing more than

dabbling in the Dark Arts'.” Commentator Ludo Bagman and Judges Barty Crouch and Igor Karkaroff sat in stunned horror as this reporter witnessed the magical scene. The Beauxbatons champion, Fleur Delacour, and her Headmistress Madame Maxime, as well as the other Hogwarts champion, Cedric Diggory both expressed their support of young Mr. Potter. In a surprising turn of events, young Harry Potter proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is not, nor ever could be, Dark. Ollivander, the famous wandmaker from Diagon Alley, informed everyone that the wands will produce an effect close to what is in the heart of the owner. Mr. Potter's wand turned him into a Phoenix for a short time. Before the spell wore off, Potter flew around the room singing, and even landed on Dumbledore's head. This reporter firmly hopes that Headmaster Dumbledore will cease and desist in his attacks upon Harry Potter's character. Below, it showed a picture of Cedric and Fleur expressing their support of Harry, and Madame Maxime's declaration. There was also a small photo of Phoenix-Harry perching on top of Dumbledore's head. Ron and Hermione laughed, and glared at Dumbledore. Hermione even marched up to Dumbledore and snapped, “Do you have no honor?! Shut your trap about Harry! He's a good boy, and he's going to be a good man!” McGonagall applauded her, and said, “Twenty points to Gryffindor for your loyalty to your friend.” Dumbledore scowled, and ground out, “Deten-” before he was cut off by a pair of giant hands coming out of nowhere. Two swats later, Dumbledore was on the ground trying to count canaries only he could see. “I can read the paper,” Hagrid growled. “I didn't like what you said about Harry. He's a good kid, whether or not he's suffering from any kind of medical condition.” Madame Maxime echoed Hagrid, and threw in her two knuts. “I am stunned you are still Headmaster. Do parents care so little for their precious children they send them to the likes of you?” McGonagall and Hermione applauded the two half-giants. Hermione even hugged Hagrid around his knees as Ron came over to offer his

support. Harry followed, his eyes once again misty as he looked on the smiling faces of his true friends and allies. ** Chapter 11 Let the Games Begin Dumbledore was so angry about the fiasco that was the Wand Weighing Ceremony, and the aftermath, that he felt it would be wise to put this young vampire in his place. This servant of Lord Voldemort isn't going to have a chance to resurrect his Dark Master. So Dumbledore had a plan, and he was going to make sure it worked. “Charlie, I need some extra dragons. For protection of the castle,” Dumbledore lied glibly. “Oh, all right. How many do you need?” Charlie Weasley asked tiredly. “Three for the three real champions. And I need four more for my little upstart,” Dumbledore nearly gloated. He knew he was going to get what he wanted, and he always liked getting his way. “Four! For one person! You bastard! You're going to kill him, you God-damn bastard!” Charlie exploded. Dumbledore whipped out his wand and silently cast a curse. Charlie's eyes glazed over and gained a faraway look. “You will have the dragons you require,” the dragon keeper answered in a monotone. Two weeks later, the dragons were delivered in the dead of night. Harry could hear the roars from Gryffindor Tower. He crept out of the tower and down the stairs for a closer look, as he was curious. When he got outside, the roars were louder, and he followed them around the edge of the forest. He saw the enclosure, and the seven dragons, and thought, Oh goody. He saw that four of the seven dragons were Hungarian Horntails. He immediately started thinking of a way to defeat them, but couldn't find one. It was three days before the First Task. On his way back from the dragon's enclosure, he decided to

shapeshift into a wolf, one of the forms a vampire could take. It wasn't an animagus form, really, so he didn't have to be registered. He felt powerful in his new form. The muscles in his four legs bunched as he bounded several feet at a time. He felt the wind rushing through his fur, then he saw someone approaching. From the scent, he recognized the person as Igor Karkaroff. He ran into him purposely, just to see if he was alone. He wasn't. Harry could smell the presence of another human; it was Viktor Krum. When Karkaroff stumbled as Harry bumped into him, Krum caught him and kept him from falling. “What is it, sir?” Krum asked softly. “It was probably a dog. I believe that half-breed oaf Dumbledore has teaching has a boarhound,” Karkaroff muttered in response. ** Three days later, Harry pretended to eat breakfast, as he had eaten the night before. When McGonagall came to him and said, “It's time to go to the tent for the First Task, Harry,” Harry got up and followed her. “Don't worry, you'll do fine,” she assured him. Harry assumed that Dumbledore hadn't told her about the extra dragons. He wasn't about to tell her, either, as he didn't want her to have a heart attack or stroke. He entered the tent, and saw the other champions and Ludo Bagman. Bagman held out a small felt bag and said, “You need to choose what you will be facing. There are different varieties of the same creature.” Krum pulled out the Chinese Fireball with a number three around its neck. He smirked when he saw it, and said, “Scared, Potter?” Harry just glared and pulled out the next dragon. I knew it. He rigged the drawing, Harry thought disgustedly as he pulled out a group of four Hungarian Horntails with the number four stretched across their twining necks on a banner. “Shut up, Krum,” Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour snapped together. Fleur then reached in and drew out the Common Welsh Green with the number two around its neck. Cedric pulled out the last dragon, the Swedish Short-Snout and the number one. “All right. Now that you know what you're facing, you have a few minutes to think of your strategy,” Bagman said. “All except for you,

Diggory. You're first up.” Cedric was about to leave, but he turned back and stood beside Harry. “Excuse me, sir. There must have been some sort of mistake. Harry pulled out four dragons,” Cedric said, almost angrily. Fleur stepped up and took a closer look. “He's right! These are four Horntails! He can't face that many! He'll have no chance!” she burst out. She ran outside to get her Headmistress. Cedric threatened to hex Dumbledore, but Harry held him back. “I'll be fine, Cedric. Don't worry about me.” Reluctantly, Cedric went to face his dragon. He wanted to get back quickly so he could try to help his younger friend. He transfigured a rock into a Labrador to tempt the dragon, but the dragon wasn't tempted for long. Bagman yelled, “Oh that was brave, and clever! Too bad it didn't work!” Harry heard the crowd's screaming and tried to isolate Dumbledore's yells from the rest. He wanted to feel what Dumbledore felt. He got waves of glee, anticipation, and enthusiasm, and all of that was tinged with pain. Madame Maxime had smacked Dumbledore right before Cedric started. Harry closed his powers off, suddenly overcome by despair. Dumbledore hated him for what he had become, and Harry started doubting his plan to get him back. Fleur was up next. She went out and attempted to charm her dragon. It was nearly asleep when it snorted and set fire to her robes. Bagman shouted, “Oh, that must have hurt. She tried putting it to sleep, but it didn't work! Oh, I don't believe it! She tried again and it worked! That dragon is out for the count! And she's gotten her egg!” Harry knew then that Fleur had succeeded in capturing her egg, and would he talking to a teacher. Harry's heart was warmed by her outrage on his behalf. Next up was Viktor Krum, who was facing the Chinese Fireball. A few minutes later, Harry heard the dragon roaring in pain and outrage, and heard Bagman shout, “I really don't think that was wise! He shot a curse into the dragon's eyes! Oh, that wasn't wise!” Eventually, Krum got his egg, but after several other eggs were smashed. “Next up we have the last champion, Harry Potter! Potter will be facing a whopping four nesting mothers, one of which has the muchsought golden egg! This was a last-minute change in agenda by Albus Dumbledore, who thinks Potter can handle this. Now, let it

begin!” Bagman shouted to a wailing crowd. Harry distinctly heard McGonagall's shrieks of “Traitor!” as she descended on Dumbledore like an avenging angel. He imagined Hermione following after her, just as enraged, like the avenging angel's handmaiden. Harry chuckled at the mental image and left the tent. He approached the four dragons, and muttered, “Hm hm hm, let the games begin...” He concentrated, and sprouted his wings. He had flourished his wand so as to maintain his cover, and the wings came out. He took off, and flew up. He swooped in front of the four dragons, two of which breathed fire on him. He swooped out of the way, an a third came up to chase him. “Oh no,” Harry muttered as he flew away. Soon there were two dragons chasing him. The one with the golden egg was still on the ground, but it was breathing fire on him as the two in the air circled and the third provided rear guard. “Something's making them act cohesively, like a unit. But what?” Harry asked himself. He decided his best bet was to scare at least one, maybe incite rebellion within the ranks. He tried to scare them, like only vampires can, but it failed, miserably. Dragons were just too fearsome to be scared by an undead human, even a wizard. Harry suddenly dived and swooped behind the one guarding the golden egg. The two circling saw him and both breathed fire on him, but they hit the mother dragon. She was enraged, and returned the unwitting attack, with interest. The fourth, the one guarding the rear got swiped by the horned tail of one of the others, and started attacking indiscriminately. Harry dove in between the flailing tails and the streams of fire, and grabbed the golden egg. He swooped back out of the impromptu argument, and flew to a safe distance. The dragon keepers approached with extreme caution to break up the fight. They ended up using about a hundred Stunners to incapacitate the dragons. McGonagall ran up to him, shrieking, “You did it, and against four dragons! Don't worry, that damn fool that set the things on you is busy explaining his actions to the Minister of Magic and a legion of Aurors.” Harry smiled, and muttered, embarrassed, “I still haven't gotten the hang of human transfiguration.” McGonagall nodded for Fudge's benefit. The Minister had wandered over as the Aurors were

trying to take Dumbledore into custody. “Harry, my boy, that was some excellent bit of flying. You handled those wings very well.” McGonagall smiled, and said, “Yes, you did very well for someone not yet in sixth year. Now let me take care of your wings.” Harry retracted his wings as she waved her wand. Fudge wandered back to the Aurors, to harangue Dumbledore some more. When they managed to handcuff him, they dragged him over to his erstwhile victim. “Now maybe you can redeem yourself a tiny bit by showing regret for your actions,” one of the scarlet-robed Aurors sneered. Dumbledore spat on the ground at Harry's feet, and Ron Weasley kicked him. “You tried to kill my best friend!” Ron spat. Dumbledore squeaked in pain, but it came out high-pitched. “Maybe if you repent, some church will let you sing for their choir!” McGonagall laughed. The Aurors dragged Dumbledore away, chortling. ** He was back by sunset. Everyone was sure he had performed some illegal magic to get away, so rumors ran rampant in the weeks following Dumbledore's arrest and subsequent return. The reason for the dragon's concert attacks was debated for the next several weeks. Some believed he had used the Imperious Curse on the dragons, but Moody seemingly quashed that theory with his next class after the task. He announced that he was going to be casting the Imperius Curse on each of them, in turn, with Dumbledore's permission. “First up, let's have Granger,” Moody grinned. Hermione stepped forward bravely, holding her head high, and Moody cast the curse before she could blink. “Imperio!” Hermione's eyes glazed over and became vacant where once they had sparkled with the passion Harry loved about her. “Now, give Weasley and Potter a lap dance.” Hermione looked like she was going to obey, and Ron looked expectant, but then she fought it. After several false starts for the lap dance, she regained control of her actions. Ron looked put out while Harry was relieved she wouldn't have to live with the shame of doing that in public. “Nice job, Granger. You fought it, barely. Sit back down,” Moody said, his disappointment hidden to all but Harry. Harry hid a dark look, and

watched Moody from under heavy lidded eyes. “Weasley, you next.” He raised his wand a second time, and Ron's eyes glazed over. They were blank, giving the red-headed boy an even dopier look. “Jump up and down while barking like a puppy,” Moody ordered with a gleeful tilt to his destroyed mouth. Ron obeyed easily. He wasn't able to fight it at all. Moody kept giving him orders, then finally lifted the curse. “You failed, Weasley. They'd have the time of their lives controlling you, and you'd make it so easy for them it'd be like taking candy from a baby,” Moody barked. Ron sat down, abashed. “That was the hardest thing I've ever done,” he muttered to Harry. “When I tell my parents about this, Moody will lose his job,” Ron continued, slightly happier. “Careful, you're starting to sound like Malfoy,” Harry cautioned him. “Potter, you next.” Moody raised his wand for the third time, and fired the curse with as much power as he could put behind it. Nothing happened. “Are you sure you're doing it right, Professor?” Harry taunted him. “I didn't feel a thing.” Moody growled in rage and Flooed Dumbledore. The Headmaster came and asked, “What's the problem, Alastor?” Moody pointed accusingly at Harry and spat, “That's the problem! My Imperius Curse isn't working!” Dumbledore looked Harry up and down, raised his wand and muttered, “Finite!” Harry blinked, but no spells broke because there were none in place. Dumbledore waved his wand, focused all of his considerable power behind the spell, and bellowed, “IMPERIO!” Hermione screamed, “No!” as Harry continued standing there, unaffected. “He must have some kind of immunity, Alastor. There's nothing we can do,” Dumbledore announced, defeated. Class ended, with no one matching Harry's power and skill. No one even came close. At the end of class, Dumbledore said, “Potter, wait. I want you to try to cast the curse on me. Professor Moody informed me you have a great deal of skill in casting Dark Curses.” Harry looked him straight in the eye and finally answered, “All right. But this might prove embarrassing for you.” “I assure you, I am a master in breaking this curse. No one's been able to hold it on me in over a century,” Dumbledore bragged. Harry shrugged and said, “If you're sure, sir.” Harry raised his wand, and readied his mind for the coming battle. The room seemed to darken

as Harry brought his greatly enhanced power to bear. “Imperio!” Harry incanted. His mind quickly overpowered Dumbledore's internal shields, bringing the bragging master to heel. “Answer my question truthfully,” Harry ordered. Dumbledore nodded, his eyes glazed over. “Do you hate me?” Harry asked in a softer voice. Dumbledore seemed to struggle with the answer, until finally he said it. “Yes,” he whispered. Harry broke off the curse with a stricken look to his eyes. “I never hated you,” he muttered as he turned and ran from the room. ** Chapter 12 The Early Bird Still weeks after the almost-disastrous First Task of the Triwizard Tournament, people were coming up to Harry and congratulating him on his cleverness in attempting to transfigure himself and flying to escape the four dragons. Ron was walking next to him to the Great Hall during one of these encounters. “Harry, mate, don't let it get to you. It'll die down, it always does,” Ron encouraged him. Harry simply nodded, and then his head started pounding suddenly. He swayed, and Ron caught him and lowered him to the ground. “You've got to get this headache checked out,” the red-head said exasperatedly. At that moment, Sibyll Trelawney, the Divination teacher, swooped down like an overgrown dragonfly. “What is the matter, my dears?” she asked in her best mystical voice. “I don't know, Professor. He keeps getting a headache, but won't go to the Hospital Wing,” Ron answered. “My dear Mr. Potter, it looks like you are experiencing the beginnings of clairvoyance. Have you been getting headaches often?” Trelawney asked, still sounding mystical, but with a touch of glee. It wasn't often she got her hands on true Seers before Dumbledore did. “I've had a recurring headache for the past three days,” Harry replied grumpily. He already suspected he might be clairvoyant; he'd had that vivid dream before the Quidditch match. He accurately predicted

the presence of the Dementors the night before the match, helping him to prepare for it. He suddenly cried out, and got a flash. He and Ron were crouching behind a stone reindeer, listening to Hagrid tell Madame Maxime about his giantess mother. There was a strange beetle on the nose of the reindeer, seemingly also listening. They crept away from the reindeer and the private conversation, and instead found another one. Snape and Karkaroff were conversing quietly about something sinister, Harry could feel that much, even through the vision. Fast forward to the Astronomy Tower, a few years later, Snape holding his wand and looking murderousThen the vision ended. Harry lay panting on the ground, feeling drained of energy. Hermione had come when Harry cried out and was there during his vision, holding his hand and trying to soothe him. Trelawney was helping him to stand and trying to get him to tell her what he saw. Harry, however, had no intention of telling anyone other than his friends. When Trelawney finally walked away, Harry spoke. “Would you guys believe me if I said Trelawney was right?” Harry asked quietly. Hermione replied in a voice that clearly said what she thought of the whole thing, “You know what I think about Divination, and about its teacher, Harry. Professor McGonagall said it's a very woolly subject, and I believe her. Trelawney is a fraud.” Ron actually looked a little excited at the thought. “You mean you actually are a Seer?” Hermione huffed, and Harry said, “To put it bluntly, yes. I am.” “Wicked!” Ron whooped. He pumped his fist in the air and immediately asked, “Hey Harry, when's the next quiz in Potions and what are the right answers?” Hermione scowled as Ron pulled some parchment and a quill out of his bag. “Ron, I'm not going to help you cheat, and my vision wasn't even about anything like that. I saw the near future,” Harry replied in the same tone as Hermione. Ron looked put out, and replaced his quill and parchment in his bag. “Then what did you see?” Hermione humored him. Harry knew she

was humoring him. It hurt, but he hid it, as always. “Ron, you and me were listening to a conversation between Snape and Karkaroff. It looked bad, like they were planning something-” Hermione snorted at that, but before she could interject something, Harry continued, “-then it skipped forward a couple of years, I suppose because the next incident was directly related to that conversation. I saw Snape on the Astronomy Tower, holding his wand, and looking like he'd like nothing better than to kill whoever was on the other end of his wand as painfully as he could.” Hermione's eyes widened, then she remembered second year. Harry had asked her how evil she thought Snape was, and she had replied, quite rudely now she thought about it, that Dumbledore wouldn't have hired him if he was evil. She thought about all Dumbledore had done, up to and including setting four Hungarian Horntails on Harry. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, they say. I've been a fool. Snape could very possibly be evil, like Quirrell was, and this just about proves it, Hermione thought. She nearly burst into tears, but she did throw her arms around Harry's neck. “I'm so sorry, I've been a fool about Snape, and I've treated you rudely whenever you said anything about him,” she cried. Harry rubbed her back and whispered soothingly into her ear, missing Ron's scowl. ** For the next week, Hermione seemed to be trying to make amends for her earlier disbelief. She did just about anything Harry asked her, and put in several hours of research into Seers and prophecies. She actually found some interesting things that she wanted to talk to Harry about. When Harry walked into the library, he made a beeline straight for her. She looked up as he approached, but didn't say anything because he looked ready to speak. “Hermione, c-can I ask you a question?” Harry mumbled bashfully. She was so surprised by his manner that she merely nodded. “D-do you want to g-go to the b-ball with me?” he stuttered. He looked down at his hands, which were twisting almost frantically. He looked so bashful and sweet she couldn't give any other answer than the one she did. “Yes, alright,” she replied with a dazzling smile. Harry was so

relieved, it seemed to Hermione that he was briefly projecting it to her, but it stopped, like a lid had been thrown over it. She decided to do some checking into that later. “Thanks so much, Hermione! I promise, this dance will be fun, since we're going together!” Harry replied enthusiastically. She giggled, and neither of them noticed Ron glaring at them from behind some bookshelves. He crept away unseen everyone except McGonagall. She looked suspiciously at him as he left. ** The Yule Ball started on Christmas Day at eight p.m. with a feast. Harry waited by the stairs to the girl’s dormitory for his date to come down. Other boys came down, grabbed their dates, and left. Ginny Weasley came down, looked longingly at Harry, who kept his eyes firmly locked on the door to the girl’s dorms. Finally, Hermione came down. She was wearing a soft pink dress that gathered at the waist and then floated down to her ankles. Her hair was up in soft ringlets, and in Harry's eyes, she looked like the most beautiful girl who ever lived. Ginny flounced out angrily, not accepting that the Boy-WhoLived would pick someone more deserving than her as his date, that he would pick someone he could have a good time with, someone he could have an intelligent conversation with. Once they were seated at the table with the other champions and the judges, Dumbledore leveled a cold glare at them. He ordered his dinner, expecting Harry to cause a scene by trying to order his food of choice, but Harry simply ordered the pork chop. Hermione ordered roast beef, and glanced to either side of them as it appeared. She saw Karkaroff glance at Snape, who was sitting at another table talking to Moody. She touched Harry's hand and his gaze followed hers, as though they were linked more deeply than even the closest set of twins. He saw Snape and Moody both glance at Karkaroff, who nodded imperceptibly—that is, to anyone but a vampire. The Ball started, with the champions opening the dancing. Harry swept Hermione onto the dance floor just like he had two years ago at Nick's Deathday Party. He never stepped on her toes, and he always looked her in the eye, and held her lightly, as though afraid

she would break. Harry signaled with a slight up-tilt of his eyebrow that he was going to spin her around. She smiled beautifully, and he spun her. She spun away gracefully, and then he spun her back with a deft twist of his wrist. He dipped her, and her leg came up next to his thigh by reflex. When she came back up, she looked deep in his eyes, and a warm feeling shot through her body. Everyone else had stopped dancing to stare at them. “Harry, everyone's staring at us,” she whispered, not wanting to break the mood that was forming between them. Harry drew her close, and put his mouth close to her ear, and whispered back, “Let them stare. They're just jealous.” When the first dance ended, everyone else surged onto the dance floor and stared dancing exuberantly. Harry and Hermione noticed that people were giving Fred and Angelina a wide berth as they danced enthusiastically enough to injure those around them. In fact, Fred spun Angelina so hard she knocked into Professor Moody who was barely doing a two-step with Sinistra. He stumbled, and dropped his hip flask, which shattered on the ground. Harry was there almost in an instant to pick up the shards of glass. The liquid which splashed all over the floor was hardly liquid at all. It was a gluttonous substance that looked suspiciously like a potion. He looked up at Moody speculatively as the Defense teacher whipped out his wand and cleared up the mess. Moody glared at him for a moment before moving away. “Did you see that, Hermione?” Harry asked her when he had rejoined her. She nodded and replied, “Yes, I did. You know, that looks like Polyjuice Potion, but I can't be sure.” At that moment, Ron came up to them. He grinned at Hermione, who smiled back, and then he asked Harry, “Mind if I cut in?” Harry saw the hope in Ron's eyes, and the look in Hermione's eyes, and replied almost sadly, “Of course.” Hermione looked as though she floated over to Ron with Harry's eyes never leaving her. He turned away regretfully, and immediately found Ginny there. “Hey Harry, do you want to dance with me? I know you can do much better than her,” the red-head asked with a mischievous smile. Harry guessed that she didn't want to dance so much as she wanted to make out with him.

He didn't even consider her offer before he said, “No, Ginny. Why don't you go back to Neville? I think he's looking for you.” “Oh, Harry, you can do so much better than her. Anything she can do, I can do better; and besides, I'm so much better for you than that nobody Hermione Granger,” Ginny said snootily. “Ginny, I said no. Go back to your date. Remember, his name's Neville Longbottom, and he's looking for you?” Harry snapped. He stalked outside and decided to sit down by the stone reindeer in the garden. Just like in his vision, there was a strange-looking beetle on it, and Hagrid and Maxime were sitting on the bench by the fountain. Harry got up and wandered up the path. It wasn't long before he found Snape and Karkaroff conversing. He crept closer under cover of darkness to overhear them better. “It's getting clearer, Severus. He's coming back. You must have noticed,” Karkaroff was saying. “Of course I have noticed, Igor. Don't fret, He'll welcome us back and put our information to good use,” Snape replied silkily. Then they walked on, and Harry heard some rather disturbing things about how Dumbledore would fare when “He” came back. Harry heard a rustling in the bushes, and a large black dog stepped out. Harry grinned, and followed the dog to a quiet place. Padfoot soon transformed into Sirius, who greeted Harry affectionately. “Remus said 'hi', by the way. Now, I'm going to assume you also overheard that conversation.” Harry nodded, and said, “Voldemort's coming back, and he's going to welcome Snape and Karkaroff back into the fold. Snape is going to try to kill Dumbledore, who wouldn't believe the greasy git's betrayed him until after he's killed, and maybe not even then,” Harry muttered angrily. “Harry, this can be stopped. I hate asking you to do this, but with could pull it off easily: keep Dumbledore out of trouble. If he's walking into mortal peril, follow him. If you need to, kill whoever is endangering him,” Sirius said firmly. “Soon, it's going to be war. In wars, shit happens.” Harry met Sirius' eyes, and nodded. **

Chapter 13 Glub, glub The day of the Second Task was drawing nearer. It was now nearly the end of January, and bitter cold. Harry was walking back from Potions wearing his coat and gloves, while Hermione and Ron shivered. After a particularly violent spasm, Ron complained, “How come you don't seem to feel this cold, Harry?!” Hermione carefully hid a wince, but she didn't need to. Harry already had a good excuse ready. “Because I've already lost all feeling in my body. In fact, the only reason I know I'm standing on the floor is because I can see it below me,” Harry responded easily. Dumbledore heard that and sneered. “No, the real reason Potter doesn't feel the cold is because he's frozen inside,” the Headmaster cut in. Ron was watching Harry as Dumbledore said that, and he saw the pain in Harry's eyes before he could cover it up. “Do you so hate Harry, sir?” Ron asked simply. Harry already knew the answer to that question, but he hadn't told anyone about it. “Yes. He's a sorry excuse for a human being, and I'd rather his parents had never met. Then I wouldn't be stuck with him,” Dumbledore replied nastily. Hermione and Ron exploded. Hermione turned to comfort Harry while Ron drew his wand. “YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT ONE! CRUCIO!” Ron bellowed. He may not like Harry himself, but he was sure that even Voldemort would take Dumbledore to task for that one. All his hatred and anger at Dumbledore's statement came through, and Dumbledore writhed on the ground in considerable agony. Ron was actually starting to like causing the pain, until the spell was interrupted. Harry actually threw himself in front of the spell, taking the full force of it. The suddenness of it knocked Harry out cold. Dumbledore stood up slowly and saw Harry on the ground, Hermione crouching at his side. “You bastard! He took a Cruciatus Curse for you! Can you still say you hate him?” Hermione screeched as Ron stood looking dumbly at

Harry on the ground. He couldn't believe he'd actually used an Unforgivable Curse at all, let alone in defense of someone he hated. Dumbledore answered Hermione's question, but she didn't like the answer. She stood up and kicked Dumbledore in an area he never wanted to be kicked. He fell to his knees as Ron turned his wand accordingly. At that moment, Moody and Snape appeared. They had heard the screams and were coming to investigate. They looked over the situation briefly, and then Moody asked, “What has been going on here?” Dumbledore simply looked up at them, a look of exquisite agony lining his face. Snape saw where Dumbledore was holding himself, and snickered. “Who did that?” he asked with a barely concealed grin. Hermione raised her hand, looking proud of herself. Moody stumped over to Ron and used Prior Incantato. A ghostly image of a sinister-looking spell floated out and held in place for a moment before abruptly disappearing. Moody whistled, “Woah, boy, I never thought you had it in you. Casting the Cruciatus Curse on someone is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. But why did it vanish so abruptly?” “Because Harry threw himself in front of Dumbledore. I'd never cast that spell on my friend, not for any reason,” Ron answered numbly. Moody realized the significance of what Ron said and replied, “The last person who held onto so much hate became the Dark Lord.” Snape nodded and cast a spell to return Dumbledore's ability to walk, though Dumbledore did stomp away bow-legged. “We'll let this slide, you two. Now get out of here,” the greasy teacher muttered. Hermione and Ron helped Harry stand, as he had just woken up, and they all left. “Ron, you do know Dumbledore's going to want revenge for that, don't you?” Hermione asked. “He can do what he wants, as long as he doesn't transfer his hatred to you,” Ron answered. He didn't know, but that was exactly what Dumbledore would do. **

The week of the Second Task arrived. Harry had already solved the clue in the Golden Egg by filling the bathtub in the boys' bathroom in Gryffindor Tower and sticking his head in when he first heard the thing wailing incomprehensibly. FLASHBACK Harry opened the Golden Egg in his dormitory three weeks before the Task, figuring he'd better get a move on and solve the clue. It started wailing immediately, and he tossed it away in surprise. It closed when it hit the wall, but the sound still reverberated in the room. Harry looked thoughtful, because he thought he could recognize a slight tune to the wailing. He crossed the room and picked the egg up again, and opened it. After a moment, he closed it again, and definitely heard a tune to the wailing. He stood there, thinking about sound waves, and thought about how a terrible singer can sound good in a shower because of the acoustics. That gave him an idea and he went to the bathroom. He filled the sink with water and stuck the egg in. The tune was much more pronounced, but he couldn't hear any song. He tried to stick his head in the sink, and could hear words, but the sink was too small. He filled the tub and stuck the egg in after climbing in himself, fully dressed. He submerged his head and listened. While he was listening, he heard a door open and close, and Ron call out to him. “Harry, you here?” Harry couldn't answer with his head in the water, then Ron came in the bathroom. “Harry...” Ron saw him in the tub and jumped to the wrong conclusion. “Christ, Harry!” he swore before dragging Harry out of the water and throwing him on the floor. “What the hell were you doing?!” Ron yelled, spit flying. Harry breathed deeply and said, “I was solving the Egg's clue.” “By drowning yourself? Come on, I'm not that stupid. I know what Dumbledore said two weeks ago hurt, but killing yourself is not the answer,” Ron griped. Harry shook his head in wonderment. “I wasn't trying to kill myself, Ron. The Egg's clue can only be heard properly underwater because it's Mermaid song. The Second Task is to go into the lake and recover what I'll sorely miss,” Harry calmly told his friend. Ron finally looked in the tub, and saw the Golden Egg still

laying there open. “Oh, oh. Sorry about that, mate. I know you can be pretty high-strung, so I guess I just assumed the worst,” Ron apologized. Harry smiled and nodded. “It's alright. Thanks for worrying.” END FLASHBACK Ron had kept an especially close watch on Harry after that, as though worried his jumping to the wrong conclusion may have planted the idea in Harry's head. He doesn't know it, but he doesn't have to worry, Harry thought to himself as he thought once again what he'd miss the most. It was a very short list. There was Sirius, Remus, and McGonagall, of course, but Harry doubted it would be one of them. He rather thought it would be one of his friends. So that left only Ron and Hermione. He guessed it would be Ron; that way, Dumbledore could try to kill two birds with one stone. Harry could swim quite well, but Dumbledore didn't know it, and the Headmaster would want revenge for Ron's cursing him. If Harry conveniently failed to rescue his hostage, Dumbledore would conveniently forget to get Ron out of the lake after the task, and he would drown. ** Finally, the day before the Second Task dawned. It was bright outside, and not as frigid as it was a month ago. Harry had already had a vision showing four people tied to a statue of a merman. Those people were Ron, Hermione, Cho Chang, and Fleur Delacour's sister. The vision had ended with a man with a shark's head nearly biting Hermione in half. Harry swore to himself that would never happen. The next day, he went down to the lake with the other champions. Cedric and Fleur smiled at him and Harry looked back at the stands. There, he saw Sirius and Remus waving at him enthusiastically. He hadn't looked for them before the First Task because he was roiling inside after pulling out four Horntails. Ludo Bagman came around and assured Harry, “There are no cheap tricks this time. I made sure of that.” Harry took his watch off and asked, “Could you hold my watch for me while I go down there, sir?” Bagman nodded with a smile and pocketed Harry's watch. When the whistle sounded, the four

champions dived into the lake. Harry saw Cedric and Fleur cast Bubblehead charms on themselves while Krum attempted to transfigure himself into a shark, but only managing the head. Harry just dived in and struck out for the bottom. Harry used his enhanced senses to tell the direction he was going, and where he needed to go. It was only about ten minutes before he saw the merpeople village. He immediately swam for the stone statue and, drawing the pocketknife Sirius had given him, cut the seaweed ropes binding Ron. Ron floated there, asleep, while Harry went for Hermione. The merpeople lunged for him, but he glared at them, and they retreated. Harry realized a little too late, that he had unconsciously showed them his fangs. He went back to cutting Hermione's ropes. When the merpeople turned suddenly, Harry looked and saw Krum approaching, but the Durmstrang champion was caught by Grindylows. He saw Cedric and Fleur arrive together and both of them retrieved their hostages and swam back up after smiling at Harry. Harry made to follow them, but he heard strange sounds coming from Krum. He turned to look and saw that the older student's Transfiguration skills weren't quite good enough. The spell had worn off when Krum tried to use his wand to fend off the Grindylows. Simply, the Durmstrang champion was drowning. Harry swam over with a few quick beats of his feet and chased the Grindylows away with a quick spell, then grabbed Krum. The merpeople watched as Harry dragged three people up to the surface. When Harry reached the surface, he dragged his friends and Krum up. Hermione and Ron woke up and Harry said, “Nice of you to join me. Could you help me with him, I think he must be a little rusty at swimming.” Hermione and Ron both helped tow Krum to the beach. Once on the sand, Harry coughed and said, “Thanks for your help.” Sirius and Remus ran over to Harry, while Percy Weasley ran over to Ron. “Harry, are you all right?” Sirius asked, concerned. “You were down there for a while,” Remus confirmed. “Yeah, I'm fine. But Krum drowned,” Harry answered.

“He'll be fine, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey broke in. McGonagall was beaming at Harry alongside Hagrid and Maxime. Dumbledore, however, was scowling as he walked towards the merpeople who had risen out of the water. He conversed with them for a moment, and then they descended beneath the waves once more. Cedric and Fleur were both given sixty points for returning first with their hostages. Harry was given sixty points for showing moral fiber in retrieving two hostages and another champion. Everyone clapped at that, with Dumbledore's scowl deepening. He glared so coldly at Harry, it was a wonder his blue eyes weren't boring into the back of Harry's head. After Harry's points were awarded, Krum was given twenty points for going in the lake in the first place. Krum and Karkaroff scowled at that, and Bagman returned Harry's watch, congratulating him in the process. “The Third Task will take place on the grounds at seven in the evening on the 24th of June. The details of the task will be given to the champions precisely one month beforehand,” Cornelius Fudge announced in a booming voice before everyone filed back up to the castle. “Great work, Harry,” the Minister of Magic said before Harry walked away. ** Chapter 14 Filet de Dark Lord Harry was walking down to the Quidditch Pitch with Cedric, Fleur, and Krum. Ludo Bagman was going to tell them about the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament, which takes place in exactly one month. When they reached the Pitch, it was criss-crossed by bushes. Bagman asked, “Can anyone guess what's growing here?” Harry examined the hedgerows, noticed the right angles and long stretches, the shape of the bushes, and asked in response, “I assume this maze will be gone for the next Quidditch season?” “Of course it will be! We wouldn't dream of ruining Quidditch!” the

Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports exclaimed. Harry nodded and said, “That's good enough for me. What about you, Cedric?” he turned to his friend and fellow Quidditch player. Cedric shrugged and nodded. “That's alright, then!” Bagman said jovially, bouncing from foot to foot like a child. “You can all head back up to the castle, then. The Third Task takes place on June 24th, starting at dusk. Your goal will be to find the Triwizard Cup, at the center of this maze. Hagrid will be providing obstacles.” Everyone nodded, and they walked away. On the way back to the castle, Cedric stopped. He turned to Harry and said, “I've noticed some odd things I think you need to be aware of.” He had spoken in a low voice, so as not to be overheard by Krum. They walk a short distance away to the edge of the forest and Harry asked, “What things?” “Moody and Snape are planning something with Karkaroff. I saw them whispering together on my way out here, and I think Dumbledore may be in on it,” Cedric said conspiratorily. Harry looked thoughtful. “I know those three are up to something, and I know that whatever it is, it can't be good. However, Dumbledore's actions are new to me. Unless, of course, it's simply a convoluted scheme to kill or maim me; in that case, it's old news.” “Why does Dumbledore hate you so much?” Cedric asked. Harry sighed and said, “I wasn't planning on telling anyone, but I think I can trust you. You have to promise to keep this a secret, though.” Cedric swore to never tell anyone. “Alright. At the end of my First Year, I was in the forest doing a detention. On my way back, I was attacked from behind. That night, I died in the Hospital Wing. Dumbledore knows this, but has forgotten to practice what he preaches. Because of that attack, I am now a vampire.” Harry looked like he was ready for Cedric to run away screaming, but the older boy didn't move. “You're a vampire?” Cedric said instead. “That explains some things, like the wings during the First Task. What's important is what's inside,

and I know you do have a heart and you wouldn't feed on a human for the sake of it. I know it must have been hard for you to tell me, and I'm sorry if I pushed you to tell me.” “That's alright, I can't keep it a secret forever,” Harry answered. “What's wrong with Dumbledore?! What's he playing at?! Is he trying to join the Death Eaters?” Cedric suddenly exploded, raising questions about a man many call a saint. “I don't know, but he certainly is prejudiced. And you're not the only one to ask about Death Eater sympathies. Hermione, Ron, my godfather, and Professor Lupin have already asked him that question,” Harry grinned at the thought. Cedric laughed as they walked up to the castle. Before they were too far away, Harry stopped. He looked around, alert and watching for the slightest sign of movement. The trees rustled to the left of them, and Barty Crouch stumbled out. “Must...see...Dumbledore...” he wheezed. Harry and Cedric leaped into action. Harry started barking orders, which Cedric obeyed instinctively. “I'll fly up to Dumbledore's office, and bring him down here. When I bring him, I'll need you to wave your wand like your transfiguring me back. I don't want him to know you know what I am.” “Sure,” Cedric replied. He stood over Crouch with his wand out as Harry sprouted his wings. Harry flew up above the castle, then looked down for the tower he knows Dumbledore's office is in. When he saw it, he swooped down and rapped on the window sharply. Dumbledore looked up and scowled. He opened the window to tell Harry to go away, but Harry spoke first. “Barty Crouch is in the forest, begging to see you. I suggest you get down there right away,” Harry said coolly. Then he flew back to the forest. When he got there, Cedric was still standing guard, and Crouch was talking to a tree, calling it 'Weatherby'. Dumbledore was close behind Harry, and Cedric waved his wand like Harry had wanted. “You've really got to practice that more, Harry,” Cedric teased him. “If

you're trying to turn into a Thestral, you've got the wings down pat, but it has a body, too. You keep forgetting that.” Dumbledore hid a sneer, thinking Cedric was stupid and still hadn't figured it out. He fully expected the Hufflepuff to denounce Harry the moment he found out what he was. “Mr. Crouch, I've brought Dumbledore. You said you needed to see him,” Harry said loudly. Crouch immediately fell to his knees and repeated, “Must...see...Dumbledore... done...terrible...thing...Dark Lord...” Dumbledore walked up to him and questioned him. After several tries, he finally got the full story. Crouch's son, Barty Jr. was back in the service of Lord Voldemort, who is trying to return. A Death Eater called 'Wormtail' is helping him, and they'd rigged the Triwizard Tournament, trying to use Harry Potter to help Voldemort return. Crouch Sr. also reported how he had helped his son escape Azkaban by replacing him with his dying wife. Dumbledore glared at Harry and growled, “You cover your tracks well, but I've got my eye on you. I know you're helping him, too.” Harry took a step back, the light seeming to leave his eyes,and said, “You're entitled to your beliefs, though they are wrong.” Cedric glared so hard at Dumbledore's back that he turned to look at him. “You have a problem with that, Diggory?” “Yes, I do,” Cedric replied, and punched Dumbledore so hard he saw stars. “My friend is not a Death Eater. You are.” ** Dumbledore was sitting in his office that night, his head in his hands, as he contemplated the situation. Voldemort already knew about the tournament, and was using it to his advantage. He had several Death Eaters who had already rejoined his service, and his Heir Apparent working for him, and Dumbledore couldn't figure out what to do to salvage this situation. He then heard a noise, and looked up. Severus Snape was standing in the shadows of his dimly-lit office. “Is there a problem, Headmaster?” Snape asked silkily.

“I just don't know where I went wrong, is all,” Dumbledore moaned. “I mean, I gave him to his family after his parents died. I had him brought here when he turned eleven, and I treated him like a grandson. But by the end of the year, he had turned to Voldemort.” Snape listened quietly, then voiced his opinion. “Perhaps he felt betrayed. When he was turned, you did seem to give up on him awfully fast. His kind can sense fear with absurd ease, but I have reason he can sense it more deeply even than others of his kind. I hate to say this, but he is extremely powerful.” “I know. He did mature very quickly, and he was powerful before. But with his family around him, he should be kinder, no matter what Heinrich Weisen said two years ago,” Dumbledore sighed regretfully. Snape, however, winced at the name. ** Over the next few weeks, Harry practiced spells. Hermione, and sometimes Ron, were helping him prepare for the Third Task. The spells he practiced included Stunning Spells, the Impediment Jinx, Jelly-Legs Jinx, the Four-Point Charm, and the Blasting Hex. He did very well, and even impressed Hermione. Ron hid his scowls and jealousy. A few days before the Third Task, Harry had another vision. He saw Wormtail talking to Voldemort, then another man came into the room. This other man was Voldemort's recently-returned servant. Harry knew him to be Moody, or rather, the imposter everyone calls Mad-Eye Moody. Finally, the day of the Third Task arrived. Harry was as prepared as he could be, and he even had his vampire abilities. Between practice sessions, he had gone jogging and had practiced Shadow-Travel and Flying. He just knew that the Third Task was going to be the focalpoint of everything. He knew that Voldemort was coming back tonight, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. When he came back from his morning run, he saw Molly Weasley with her son, Bill. They were walking up to the castle. “Mrs. Weasley! Bill!” Harry called out as he came up to them. They

turned around, and Molly smiled when she saw him. “Harry! We came to see you during the Third Task. We're very proud of you for doing so well,” Molly said, still smiling. Harry noticed that her smile seemed rather forced. He extended his empath abilities and sensed that she was disappointed that he had not started dating Ginny. They walked in together, and saw Ron and Hermione talking together. Molly beamed, until Ron and Hermione started arguing again. They broke off bickering when they saw Harry, Molly, and Bill coming. While Ron was talking to his mother and brother, Harry took Hermione aside. “Don't worry; I'll be fine during the Task. You know I can take care of myself, and I'll just eat something if I need to,” Harry told her, his arm gently around her shoulder. She nodded, sniffling, and said, “But I still worry.” Harry smiled softly and said, “I know, and I love you for it,” as he squeezed her shoulder for a second. Bill saw, and winked. Hermione firmly believed that Harry said he loves her for worrying was just him being nice. She had looked up vampires again just a few weeks ago, and had found nothing to indicate that vampires could have real feelings like that. At that point, she started working to fight her crush on Harry. She decided to settle for Ron, believing him to be the next best thing to Harry. Though how we can have a relationship, I don't know. We fight way too much, and I know that's not healthy. That night, Harry, Cedric, and Fleur met outside the maze. Bagman announced that the three of them would be going in first, as they had done the best in the previous Task, and then Krum would enter forty minutes later. They nod to each other and enter the maze, their wands drawn. When the path split, Cedric and Fleur took the left fork while Harry took the right. Harry continued cautiously, looking around corners before advancing, his wand held straight up in front of his face. When he encountered a wall of gold mist, he examined it carefully. The mist looked innocent enough, but Harry was still wary. He extended his empathy to try to tell if the mist was malevolent, but he couldn't be sure. He finally decided to walk through it. When his world turned upside down, Harry figured out quickly that it was anti-gravity mist. He closed his eyes and kept walking, even though he was walking upside down. When he passed through the

mist, he flipped back over and landed easily on one knee. He stood back up and dusted himself off, and continued on his way. One obstacle passed, I don't know how many more to go. Forty minutes later, Krum entered the maze. Harry could sense him the moment he entered, and knew that the Bulgarian was going to be a problem. It was ten minutes later that a scream rent the air, causing the hair to prickle all along Harry's arms. The fear was so palpable that Harry's eyes dilated and he immediately started sniffing the air. His eyes closed as he let his instincts guide him. He turned toward the hedge across from him and ran to it. He kicked through the bushes, forcing his way through. He strode through and saw Krum torturing Fleur. She had stopped screaming because she had fallen unconscious. Harry leveled his wand at Krum and fired a Stunner. Krum fell back, Stunned, and Harry knelt beside Fleur. He knew she was going to be fine, if she got help. He raised his wand and fired red sparks into the air, then waited until help arrived. McGonagall came and said, “Harry, are you alright?” “I'm fine, but Krum used the Cruciatus Curse on Fleur. She's unconscious,” Harry replied, and then walked away. It was now just he and Cedric going after the Cup, which meant that whatever happened, the victory would go to Hogwarts. A little later, he found Cedric. “Harry! Do you know who screamed? I tried, but I couldn't find a way through!” Cedric called out when he saw his friend. “It was Fleur. Krum attacked her. I sent up red sparks and stayed with her until McGonagall arrived,” Harry replied. “So that means that it's just you and me for the Cup. Alright, a Hogwarts victory is a Hogwarts victory,” Cedric sighed. They decided to team up after that, since two were stronger than one, and they were both from Hogwarts. When they reached the Sphinx, she sat down and gave them their choices: they either try to answer the riddle she'd give, or back off without trying. They chose the riddle.

She stared at them for a second, before saying in a clear, musical voice, First think of the person who lives in disguise, Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies. Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend, The middle of middle and end of the end? And finally give me the sound often heard During the search for a hard-to-find word. Now string them together, and answer me this, Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss? The two boys repeated the lines, trying to figure out the clues. The Sphinx watched patiently, without saying or doing anything more threatening than lick her paw. “My first guess for the first two lines would be Snape,” Harry joked. Cedric laughed suddenly, and then slowly stopped. He repeated the lines again. “Think of the person who lives in disguise, who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies. Snape is a spy.” Harry thought about it for a moment, and then said, “You're right. The first part is spy, and Snape definitely is one.” “'The last thing to mend, the middle of middle and end of the end',” Harry paraphrased next. “I think this one is letters. The last letter in mend is ‘d’, which is also the middle of middle, and the end of the end.” “So 'd' it is, then,” Cedric said brightly. “Now, the sound often heard during the search for a hard-to-find word.” “Er...I don't know,” Harry said.

“That's it! You're a genius! It's 'er'; spy-d-er...spider,” Cedric finished enthusiastically. Harry gave him a high-five, and then turned to the Sphinx. “A creature we wouldn't want to kiss is a spider,” Harry announced proudly. The Sphinx replied, “Correct,” then stood up and moved aside. The boys advanced, grinning. “Though, I wouldn't want to kiss Snape or a Dementor,” Harry joked. Cedric shuddered, and then saw something massive looming above the hedge. “Ohhh... that's not good...” Cedric trailed off. Harry had already seen it, and swore quite colorfully. “An Acromantula! Hagrid got one of his pets from the forest!” Cedric looked stunned as Harry said that. “Those things are supposed to be vicious and man-eating! What the hell is Hagrid doing with one?!” “One?” Harry retorted. “More like one thousand!” Cedric paled. They turned the corner and looked up. The beast was huge, at least twelve feet tall, and its fangs dripped venom. They started firing spells up at its belly, but that caused it to scuttle around frantically. Harry called out, “Cedric! I'm going to try something! Don't be alarmed!” He took his ring off and extended his claws, then leaped up and came down on top of the giant spider, and started slashing at its neck. He drew blood, and the spider started thrashing around until it threw Harry off. Cedric pulled Harry aside just in time, before the spider collapsed on top of him. “Harry! Are you alright?” Cedric asked worriedly. Harry stood up, put his ring back on, and said, “I'm fine. It'll take a lot more than that to kill me...again.” They stunned the spider once it was down, to make sure it stayed that way. They walked toward the Cup, but when they got close enough, Harry stopped. “That's odd. Don't take the Cup, it's enchanted,” Harry ordered. Instead, he walked forward slowly, and circled the Cup. After one trip around it, he was sure it was a portkey. “It's a portkey, set to take the first person to touch it to Little Hangleton.” “What should we do?” Cedric asked once the enormity of the Cup being a portkey had sunk in.

“I'll send Dumbledore a note, telling him. With luck, he can do something from there,” Harry replied confidently. He conjured parchment and a quill, and settled down to write a quick note. Headmaster, The Cup is a portkey, set to take the first person to touch it to Little Hangleton. What should we do? HP Harry used a quick Charm to turn the note into a paper airplane and set it to fly to Dumbledore. Then they waited. Several minutes later, Dumbledore showed in the center of the maze. He looked angry and muttered, “Stupid boy. The Cup can't be a portkey.” As Harry and Cedric looked on in horror, Dumbledore grabbed the Cup, looking smug. His smugness turned to horror a split second before he disappeared in a flash of rainbow sparkles. Harry had tried to grab him to stop him, but even with his vampire speed, he was too late. “That fool! I told him the damn thing was a portkey, and where it would take him, but he didn't listen!” Harry ranted. Five minutes later, Dumbledore still hadn't come back. Harry knew the portkey was enchanted to allow a round-trip and that it would arrive outside the maze. With his Empath abilities fully extended, he would detect Dumbledore coming nearly a mile away. Finally, he'd had enough. He could feel his blood start to heat up, and he wanted action. “Cedric, send up red sparks after I leave. I'm going to go fetch Dumbledore,” Harry ordered. Cedric nodded and drew his wand. Harry raised the hood on his cloak and took his ring off. When Cedric lit his wand, he watched as Harry closed his eyes. Cedric felt smoke move the hem of his cloak, and looked down. When he looked back up, Harry was engulfed in a pillar of thick, black smoke. By the time the smoke cleared a second later, Harry was gone. “That was cool...” he muttered as he cast the red sparks. **

Harry appeared in a column of smoke in the middle of a graveyard. He looked around and advanced cautiously. After a few minutes, he came upon a small gathering. He saw Dumbledore, facing him, tied to a headstone. He saw one other person, who he immediately identified as Wormtail. Harry grinned wickedly, his fangs bared. This was going to be fun... The cauldron sitting in front of the headstone started smoking, a thick curtain rising around it. A tall, dark figure rose out of it and spoke in a ringing voice, “Robe me.” The voice was cold and cruel, and Harry knew instantly who it was. Lord Voldemort had returned. Harry watched, crouching behind another headstone, as Voldemort circled Dumbledore, taunting him. “You thought you were safe. You thought wrong,” Voldemort sneered. “Now I have used your blood to restore my body. I am now more powerful than you could ever hope to be!” “You are wrong... I know who your servants are...and once I get out of here...I'll have the Aurors pick them up...every last one of them...” Dumbledore wheezed. Harry had to smother a laugh; Dumbledore looked so comical like that. Voldemort turned to Wormtail and commanded, “Your arm.” Wormtail held up the bleeding stump of his right arm, moaning piteously, but Voldemort sneered. “Your other arm.” Wormtail moaned again, nearly sobbing, as he held up his left arm. Voldemort pressed a forefinger to the Dark Mark emblazoned on his servant's forearm, and it turned black. Wormtail screamed in pain as it burned. “Now my loyal servants are coming...” the Dark Lord trailed off as black-robed and masked figures started appearing among the graves. Harry knew it would be time to act soon. Voldemort surrounded by loyal Death Eaters, started taunting Dumbledore some more. When he raised his wand for the killing blow, Harry struck. Harry jumped up high into the air and came down, robes billowing behind him, on top of Voldemort. He started clawing, and Voldemort screamed in pain. He tried to get his attacker off his back, but couldn't. Harry clawed and clawed, and the Death Eaters closed in, their wands drawn. Then Harry leaped. He landed behind

Dumbledore's headstone and, with one swipe of his two-inch-long claws, cut the rope holding Dumbledore. Voldemort had already fled, seeing his greatest foe freed by an unknown creature. Wormtail had fled long before. Harry handed Dumbledore the portkey and snapped, “You thricedamned old fool! Take this! It'll get you back to Hogwarts,” before disappearing in a column of black smoke. Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts and announced that Harry and Cedric had tied for the win. They split the prize-money, with Harry giving his to the Weasley twins. Hermione always beamed when she saw Harry, knowing he had rescued Dumbledore from Voldemort. It made it harder for her to give up her crush on him, but there was no way he could love her back... ** Chapter 15 Dementoids Albus Dumbledore walked the long halls in the Ministry of Magic, looking for a specific witch. The witch he was looking for was wellknown for her prejudice against half-breeds, and he was hoping she might have an idea on how to deal with a particularly troublesome creature that had the gall to save his life after betraying him. He reached a door whose nameplate read 'Dolores Umbridge'. He smirked and opened the door without knocking. He was inwardly praying that Fudge wasn't in, as Fudge would likely arrest him if he saw him. “How may I help you, Professor Dumbledore?” a sickly-sweet girlish voice asked him. He hid a cringe behind a conspiratorial leer. “I come seeking your expertise on a matter of great importance,” Dumbledore replied, trying to flatter her. It worked splendidly. She giggled girlishly, stretching her wide mouth grotesquely. “I will do all I can to assist you, Professor. Please tell me about your problem,” Umbridge replied when she stopped giggling.

“It's a half-breed problem, and I've tried everything,” Dumbledore said. “I've even tried feeding it to a pack of dragons, but that didn't work!” “So you want the problem eliminated? I have an idea... I have at my disposal fearsome creatures that are uniquely qualified to destroy problematic half-breeds... What do you think?” Umbridge replied. Dumbledore raised a silver eyebrow and said, “I think I know what you're talking about. Send five of them.” Her eyes went round as saucers, but then replied, “Five it is.” *** Harry Potter was sitting on a swing in the park near his home. He kept remembering the aftermath of the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament, and how it so nearly ended badly for Dumbledore. It's a good thing I went after him, though he would never admit it, Harry thought to himself. He got up to head home at sunset. On the way, he met his cousin, Dudley. Dudley was saying goodbye to his “friends” when Harry came upon them. Dudley gestured imperiously at Harry to follow him. As they were passing an alley, Harry sensed the void. He stopped, and grabbed Dudley's arm. “You really don't want to go down there,” Harry said. But Dudley loved going against what Harry said, pulled his arm out of Harry's vice-like grip and went down the alley. “Dudley, no!” Harry called out, but to no avail. “Shit.” He went after Dudley, and found him cowering against the wall as a Dementor tried to pry his hands away from his mouth. Harry raised his wand, not caring about the Statute of Secrecy or anything like that. He had to save his cousin. “Expecto Patronum!” Harry called out, and a gigantic silver stag burst from the end of his wand and galloped toward the Dementor. “Dudley, stay there!” He went down the alley, looking for more Dementors. He took three steps, and was surrounded by four more of the vile creatures. He spun around with his wand still raised, and called his stag back to him. The noble creature cantered back to him, chasing away two more Dementors before disappearing. The other two closed in on

Harry and tried to administer their dreaded Kiss. Harry had no desire to get another look at what's underneath a Dementor's hood, so he cast the Patronus Charm again, and chased away the last two. He stood there, panting, and saw Dudley trying to get back to his feet. “W-what w-were t-those t-things, H-Harry?” Dudley stammered, his teeth chattering. “Those were Dementors, some of the vilest things in the world. They feed on happy thoughts,” Harry answered, quickly getting his breath back. “Come on, let's get home before more of them come.” He pulled Dudley out of the alley and back home, all the while on high alert. When they got home, Dudley told his parents about the Dementors, and Vernon started shouting at Harry. “YOU DARE SET DEMENTOIDS ON MY SON!” Vernon bellowed at Harry, spit flying. Harry wiped a big glob of spit off his cheek calmly and replied, “I didn't set them on Dudley. In fact, I rather think someone tried setting them on me, and it was chance that they struck while Dudley was there.” “You think someone set them on you. For that to happen, you'd have to be important, which you are not,” Vernon replied more quietly, his voice a little raspy from shouting so loud earlier. Harry looked him straight in the eye and said, “Someone must think I am important, or they wouldn't have set five Dementors on me.” “He's right, dad. Only one attacked me, and Harry did something to it so it left me alone. But I could feel four more of the things near Harry,” Dudley suddenly chimed in, surprising Harry. Harry caught Dudley's eye after that statement, and could feel his cousin's gratitude. He smiled slightly. Vernon and Petunia calmed after that, and Petunia even thanked Harry for saving her son. Harry thought it was over, until an owl flew into the kitchen and dropped a letter into his outstretched hand. He opened it, and groaned. Vernon snatched it away, as though hoping it would tell him who had sent Dementoids after his son. He read it, and crowed, “You get expelled, Potter! The freak school chucked you out!” Then another owl arrived, dropping another letter into Harry's outstretched

hand. He read it and grinned, “You might want to read this, too, before you start celebrating.” Vernon snatched it away, read it, his beady eyes narrowing with every word. He read it again, then went back to the previous letter, and then returned to the second one. “B-but this can't be right! You were expelled, but this one says to disregard the one expelling you!” Vernon complained. Then there was a knock on the door. Petunia went to open it, and saw several people wearing cloaks standing there. Harry grinned when he saw them. “Sirius! Remus! What are you doing here?” he called out happily. “We've come to take you with us, pup,” Sirius replied with a smile. He stepped into the house and sneered at Vernon. “Come on, get your stuff. We have to get you there before our favorite person in the whole world finds out you're gone.” Harry ran up the stairs, and got another vision when he reached his room. He swayed, and Sirius caught him. “Harry, are you alright?” he asked. “I'm fine. I just got another vision. I saw a woman with the face of a toad leering at me. I got a really bad feeling about her,” Harry replied. He quickly gathered his belongings and they went downstairs. When they got outside, Sirius turned to Harry and said, “It's time for introductions. You already know Remus and Mad-Eye, of course, and this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, Nymphadora Tonks, Elphias Doge, Sturgis Podmore, Emmeline Vance, and Hestia Jones. They already know about your condition, Dumbledore let it slip to most of the Order. Dedalus Diggle chose not to come when he found out, but everyone else here trusts you.” Harry nodded to each of them in turn as he put the names to the faces. “This is just the Advance Guard, there are more of us waiting on brooms,” Remus said. Harry took that as his cue to mount his broom. They all kicked off the ground and soared up into the sky and Moody led them to the Headquarters of this “Order” Sirius mentioned. “You said Dumbledore let slip my condition, but what is he doing in the first place?” Harry called ahead to Sirius, the wind whipping his words away. Sirius looked back to answer him.

“We'll tell you when we land. Woohoo! I haven't flown like this in years!” Sirius screamed happily as he swooped around Harry in a figure eight. When they finally landed outside a row of dingy houses, Remus gave Harry a piece of parchment and said, “Read it and memorize it.” Harry obeyed, and Remus promptly burned it. Harry watched as two houses, number eleven and thirteen slid aside, revealing number twelve. They all entered, with Tonks knocking over an umbrella stand. The loud crash brought Molly Weasley to investigate. When Molly saw Harry, she opened her arms wide and invited him to hug her, which he did. When he touched her, however, he saw something. He saw Molly crouching over the dead bodies of her entire family, and sobbing hysterically. “Dumbledore hasn't arrived yet, so the meeting hasn't started yet,” Molly whispered. The rest of them hid their grins, as they weren't yet ready to clue her in yet. “Harry, you can go upstairs. Ron and Hermione are up there, but I don't know where Ginny is.” Harry went upstairs and to the only bedroom he could tell was occupied. He first extended his empathic powers to make sure he wasn't interrupting anything, but Ron and Hermione were busy having another argument. Harry smiled, some things never change. He opened the door and walked in. “Harry!” Ron shouted in surprise, as Harry was driven into the wall by the force of the hug he was wrapped up in. His only visual clue as to the identity of the person hugging him was the mass of brown curls in front of his face. “Yes, Hermione, I love you too, but I have found that breathing is rather nice, too,” Harry said, spitting hair out of his mouth. Mmmm, I guess she likes strawberry-scented shampoo. Wait, does that sound perverted? Harry let his internal debate go on as he inwardly moaned that she had let go of him. “Sorry, Harry, but I missed you, and I was worried. When Dumbledore told us that you had been attacked, I thought the worst.” Harry noticed how much Hermione blushed while she was saying that. Harry smiled softly and replied, “You don't have to worry, I told you

that before the Third Task. It hasn't changed since then.” “Yes, but when you told me not to worry before the Third Task, that was before you jumped on V-Voldemort!” Hermione replied heatedly. Ron was backing away, thanking his lucky stars that Hermione was ripping into Harry now, instead of him. He backed all the way out of the room and closed the door with a snap. The sound of the door closing never interrupted Harry and Hermione. Harry crossed the room to the bed and sat down. “Hermione, I did that because Dumbledore was in danger and I'm the only person who can protect him effectively, because of my new status,” Harry whispered, not hurt at all by her outburst. “Because you're undead,” Hermione confirmed. Harry could see the brief flash of anger leaving her soft brown eyes. “Yes.” Hermione turned around, her arms crossed over her chest. “What if Voldemort finds out you're a vampire? What then? What happens if he kills you, what happens to those who love you?” she asked with her back still to him. “You'll go on living, as I did after I died four years ago,” Harry replied. “Oh, that's right, vampires don't have feelings. You don't care about people, you never will,” Hermione nearly sobbed as she left the room. She never heard Harry whisper behind her, “I do have feelings...I do care...” She never saw the look of pain cross Harry's face. Instead, Ron saw the look on Harry's face. “Let me guess: she accused you of being an unfeeling bastard for making her worry,” Ron stated more than asked. “You're right, she did,” Harry confirmed. Ron whistled in shock, “That's a low blow in my book, but it seems to be the norm when girls worry. They blame it on the men, and it doesn't help us when we're actually at fault.” “Yeah, and that doesn't help me any,” Harry complained.

“It's not supposed to. But anyway, Sirius is waiting for you downstairs in the kitchen, he said he wants to talk to you,” Ron said. Harry nodded in thanks and left the room. When Harry went downstairs, he found his way to the kitchen by following the voices. Sometimes you've got to love being a vampire, Harry thought with a grin. He opened the door and all talking ceased. “Harry!” Sirius called out gleefully. “I told you that we'd tell you about the Order and what Dumbledore's doing. Well, sit down and let's get started.” Harry sat down next to Sirius. “First of all, the Order of the Phoenix is a group dedicated to stopping Voldemort. Dumbledore heads it, just like he did during the first war. Those of us who came to get you, as we told you before, were the Advance Guard,” Sirius said, then he pointed out others that Harry didn't know and weren't a part of that Advance Guard. Once again, there was no mention of a Mr. Dedalus Diggle. Harry pointed that out and Moody commended him on his powers of observation. “Dedalus Diggle isn't here at this preliminary meeting because he'll arrive with Dumbledore,” McGonagall answered with a sneer for the absent wizard. “He seems to have replaced Remus in Dumbledore's pocket.” Harry nodded in understanding. “Now, I'd like to propose something I'd rather Dumbledore didn't find out about until later,” Sirius said. “I'd like to propose that Harry join the Order. His abilities would make him the perfect shock-troop.” After a moment of stunned silence, a hand was raised into the air and someone spoke. “I second the motion,” Alastor Moody said, surprising everyone there, and giving new momentum to Sirius' proposal, which had briefly seemed to die before it could really begin. “I third it,” Minerva McGonagall voted, smiling at Harry. After two of the most influential members of the Order voted in favor of Harry joining at the age of fifteen, everyone else clamored to make their approval known. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Tonks nodded approvingly at Harry, while Kingsley and Moody looked him over appraisingly,

hoping he might also want to become an Auror after school. The motion passed with a majority vote (it was a landslide), meaning that they didn't have to wait for Dumbledore to make an appearance and give them the final word. Dumbledore is going to hate us, Sirius thought with a wicked smile. “I have a question,” Harry said suddenly, and Sirius nodded for him to continue. “Do the Weasleys know about me?” “No, they don't. They weren't here when Dumbledore opened his big mouth,” Remus answered. Harry sighed in relief. McGonagall then conjured another chair and placed it in the shadows in the corner. “You can hide in the shadow and listen to the real meeting. Dumbledore will never know your here until he finds out we voted you in. By that time, it'll be too late,” she said. Harry nodded and took the other chair just as the door opened and Molly Weasley stuck her head in. “Dumbledore's arrived, and he's brought the stragglers.” The door was pushed open wider and Dumbledore, Snape, and a man with a violet top hat came in, followed by Molly and Arthur Weasley. “Now that we're all here, we can begin,” Dumbledore announced, and then the door opened again. “Sorry I'm late,” Cedric Diggory said. “The bat I was following decided to take a wrong turn and leave me in Liverpool.” Everyone chuckled, while Snape looked incandescent. Dumbledore began again, “Now that we're all here, we can begin. Severus, I think you have a report.” Snape nodded and made his report. Harry listened closely, and heard some things that didn't make sense. More likely he's making up this report as he goes! I've got to give the man credit, he sure does know how to make up stories on the fly, Harry thought from his place in the shadows. He caught a crumpled-up piece of parchment that Sirius negligently tossed behind him, and unrolled it. He laughed inwardly at the picture on it of Snape with two heads. One head was telling Voldemort something, and the other was telling Dumbledore almost the same thing. The caption read, Which head is the real one, Snape, Dumbledore, or Voldemort?

Harry guessed that the “head” referred to the head of the Order. Which head is really leading the Order in its fight against Voldemort? The Dark Lord himself, the opportunistic Slytherin, or the “saint” a couple of brave souls have accused of working for Voldemort. Harry had an idea that he would present after this “meeting” was over. This meeting is more like a think tank for Snape to bounce ideas off of, so he can decide which lie the Order would swallow the easiest, Harry thought disgustedly. After the meeting ended, most of the people filed out of the room, leaving Molly to make dinner. As Harry stood up, she screeched, “Harry! You shouldn't be down here! The meeting just broke up!” Harry calmly replied, “I know that. I was invited to listen.” “But you're just a child! You shouldn't be involved in things like this, this doesn't concern you!” Molly wailed, but Sirius overruled her. “As his godfather, I gave him permission to attend the meeting, and besides, this does concern him. It started to concern him the moment Voldemort failed to kill him when he was a baby. That was confirmed when Harry saved Dumbledore from Voldemort in June, but, of course, Voldemort doesn't know it was Harry,” Sirius said, a little coolly. Molly sobered, but then wailed again, “But he's a child! He shouldn't be involved in this, he's too young!” “Harry is not a child, Molly!” McGonagall snapped. “He is fifteen years old, not five! He's nearly full grown, so stop treating him like a child!” Molly finally shut up. “Oh, Harry, I almost forgot, you have a hearing at the Ministry to discuss your use of the Patronus Charm earlier this evening,” McGonagall announced. “I think it's going to be down in the old courtrooms, and the entire Wizengamot is going to be there.” “I'm being tried by the entire Wizengamot? Then I'll make sure to look my best,” Harry said offhandedly.

“You don't mean the courtrooms used during the Death Eater trials, do you?” Molly asked, startling everyone but Harry, as they had forgotten that she was there. “Yes, those are the ones,” Sirius said. Molly looked ready to wail again, so Harry made himself scarce. His enhanced hearing didn't need Molly wailing multiple times. In the hall, he found Cedric waiting there. “Hey, Harry! What was Mrs. Weasley wailing about?” Harry stuck his finger in his ear and twisted it before replying, “She found out I was present at the meeting. And I think I'm deaf in one ear.” Cedric laughed. “Anyway, why did Snape try to leave you in Liverpool?” Harry asked, taking his finger out of his ear and trying to pop it. “Because I told him that I wouldn't join Voldemort,” Cedric replied. ** Chapter 16: The Hearing and the Halloween Party Harry walked into courtroom ten at the Ministry at eight in the morning, looking very well rested. His clothes looked freshly pressed and crisp. He sauntered confidently into the room and sat down in the chair in the center of the room. The chains covering it clanked alarmingly, but didn't move to bind him. He looked up at the Witches and Wizards watching him, and smiled disarmingly. Fudge smiled back, and then the door opened again. Albus Dumbledore walked in, looking for all the world like he had better things to do. He conjured a chintz armchair and sat down next to Harry. Harry felt the waves of hate and fear emanating from Dumbledore, and couldn't hold his tongue. “Excuse me, honored members of the Wizengamot, but can I have a different representative?” Harry asked. Everyone turned to him and Fudge replied, “Why would you ask for someone else?” Harry glanced at Dumbledore for a second before he replied, “Because in the muggle world, the lawyer is supposed to work in the best interests of his client. My lawyer, however, is going to try his damnedest to get

me expelled, and possibly incarcerated in Azkaban by lunchtime.” Dumbledore glared so hatefully at Harry that Fudge nearly granted his request, until a toad-faced woman whispered in his ear that it was unheard of for a defendant to ask for a new representative, especially if said representative is Dumbledore, who is famous for giving second, third, and even fourth chances. “Sorry, but you're stuck with him, Mr. Potter,” Fudge replied. Dumbledore smirked. Harry nodded and sat back down. “Now begins the Hearing set for August the Twelfth at eight a.m. The defendant is Harry James Potter of Number Four, Privet Drive, Surrey. Is that correct?” Fudge stated formally. “Yes, that is correct,” Harry confirmed. “This Hearing is for the use of underage magic in full view of a muggle. Mr. Potter, did you perform the Patronus Charm on the night of August 2nd?” Fudge continued in the same vein. “Yes, I did,” Harry once again confirmed. “Why did you perform the Patronus Charm in front of a muggle?” Fudge asked. “Because five Dementors attacked me and my muggle cousin. I used the Patronus to chase away the Dementor trying to Kiss my cousin, and then four more surrounded me. I had to use it again to chase them away,” Harry stated, drawing surprised looks from most of the Wizengamot. He distinctly saw Amelia Bones' monocle fall out, her eyes were so wide. “What would five Dementors be doing so far outside Ministry control and attacking innocent muggles indiscriminately?” Dumbledore suddenly broke in. Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Personally, I think this story was made up during those long nights my...client...spent making out with his girlfriends,” Dumbledore continued with an evil sneer for Harry.

“Request permission to hex my so-called lawyer,” Harry growled. Fudge glared at Dumbledore and said, “Allow me.” Then he cast a Stinging Hex on Dumbledore, causing him to cry out in pain. While Dumbledore was nursing his stinging cheeks, Harry stated, “For the record, I don't have one girlfriend, let alone two or more.” “Let us take a pensieve memory of the night in question, and we'll clear this up quickly,” Fudge said. Harry nodded gracefully and extracted the memory of the Dementors' attack. The Wizengamot viewed the memory and they all agreed that it was genuine. “Very well, Mr. Potter, you're free to go,” Fudge said. “All charges are dropped. However, Dumbledore, you need to stay here. I'd like to talk to you.” Dumbledore sauntered over to Fudge, but the arrogant confidence was ruined by his cherry-red cheeks. “Yes, Minister?” he asked. Harry decided to stay and watch out of vindictive pleasure, and saw the entire Wizengamot rip into him for his treatment of his client. One voice rose above them all, high and furious, “You should be deeply ashamed of your actions! You betrayed your client, and acted more like a prosecuting member of this body than this body itself did!” Dumbledore winced, and looked up at the portrait that had spoken. It was Phineas Nigellus Black, and he was enraged. Harry stuffed his fist in his mouth to keep from making any noise. It wouldn't do for him to be caught now, so soon after being cleared of all charges. He watched as Dumbledore left the room, as furious as Harry had ever seen him. He knew he'd better watch out, as Dumbledore would not let this humiliation rest. Harry followed him from the room silently and invisible in the shadows. He beat Dumbledore back to Grimmauld Place. ** Sirius was extremely proud of Harry when he told him that not only had Fudge cleared him within an hour, the Minister had also hexed Dumbledore. The Weasleys were celebrating, though Ron was doing it halfheartedly. Molly had forgotten all about Harry being invited to the last Order meeting in the face of his Hearing, though she did try to

make sure he wouldn't be at the next meeting by keeping him with Ginny. Harry managed to throw off the youngest Weasley and retreated to his bedroom for an early dinner. He was just draining the bottle when the door creaked open. His empathy powers fully extended, Harry knew immediately the identity of the newcomer. It was the Black Family house-elf, Kreacher. The elf stopped short when he saw the bottle, and his bulbous eyes widened when he saw Harry's fangs still dripping. He bowed low to the ground, his bat-like ears brushing the floorboards. “Master Potter, Kreacher is sorry he interrupted, but mail has come for you,” Kreacher wheezed. Harry put the bottle back and looked down at the still-bowing house-elf. He retracted his fangs and said, “Please don't tell anyone about this, I'm trying to keep it a secret from others here for a while longer.” Kreacher stood back up, nodded and said, “Kreacher will never tell anyone about Master Potter. Here is Master Potter's mail.” He handed Harry a letter with the Hogwarts Seal on it and left. Harry opened the letter and saw the standard notice that the train would be leaving Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross Station at eleven in the morning on September first. He glanced at the book list and groaned. Ron came in at that moment. “You've seen the book list, right?” Ron asked. Harry nodded, keeping his mouth closed lest Ron see the fangs, which extended again with Harry's anger. He retracted them quickly and said, “I'll bet it was that toad-faced woman at my Hearing who did that. Fudge would want his own people at Hogwarts to keep Dumbledore from raising a coup against him.” “I can see why Dumbledore would want Fudge's job, I'd give anything to have that much power,” Ron said almost wistfully. Harry looked more closely at his friend and said softly, “Remember Ron, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Ron, daydreaming about being Minister of Magic, never heard him. Hermione ran in, squealing, and holding a badge. “Look at this! I made prefect! Oh, which one of you got one?” Ron shook his head to clear his thoughts and tell Hermione he hadn't been made prefect. “Harry, if it wasn't Ron it has to be you,” Hermione said. Harry

dumped his letter, not expecting to find anything, but the badge did fall out. He caught it before it hit the ground and held it up. “Let me guess, McGonagall put her foot down,” Harry said in surprise. “I knew it would be you, mate!” Ron replied enthusiastically, as though to make up for letting his true feelings show too much. I've got to be more careful. If Harry had any brains he would have figured me out after that, Ron thought to himself. “Congratulations, Harry! You're obviously the best one for the job, but I won't let you slack off,” Hermione said, slightly cooler than is usual for her. Harry felt her bitterness over their fight the previous week, and it hurt him more than either of his friends would ever know. “Come on, let's go downstairs to show everyone else,” Harry said. Once they got downstairs, they found Molly in the drawing room trying to deal with a boggart. She was sobbing hysterically, and Ron tried to go help her. Harry's vampire senses heightened, and his eyes seemed to glow slightly. “No Ron, stay back. That's a boggart in there, and it's already had a chance to get stronger off of your mother's fears. For you, it would probably become several spiders,” Harry said firmly. He turned to Hermione and continued, “Keep Ron out here while I go in and help her.” Hermione nodded, scared of the thought of a strong boggart showing her worst fear several times over. Harry went in, stalking quietly like a cat, and joined Molly in the middle of the room. “Mrs. Weasley, go, run! It's getting stronger by feeding off your fears! Let me deal with it!” Harry commanded in a loud voice. He pushed Molly behind him and called out to the boggart, “Why don't you pick on me!” The boggart suddenly became a werewolf and advanced on Harry, teeth dripping saliva, but Harry stood firm. He raised his wand and cried out, “Riddikulus!” The boggart-werewolf suddenly found itself wearing a collar and attached to the far wall by a length of chain. It whined piteously when it found it could not attack its prey, and Harry laughed. The boggart was destroyed, and Harry turned to see Molly still there, crying. By that time, others had gathered. Harry helped Molly to her feet and out of the room. Ron and Ginny came forward to comfort her, and Harry retreated once again, but this time it was to preserve his own sanity. Molly's despair was hitting Harry

hard because his empathy was still fully-extended. After he put a lid on his powers, he rested a little bit. Sirius came up and said, “I'm very proud of you, Harry. You are definitely your father's son. I just have one question for you.” “Shoot, but please not me,” Harry replied, trying to joke even though he was emotionally exhausted. Sirius laughed and said, “Your boggart is new, isn't it?” Harry nodded and Sirius continued, “Does this new boggart have anything to do with Remus?” “No. It's because werewolves are really about the only thing that can hurt me now,” Harry said. Sirius nodded and looked Harry up and down. “I can see why. One day, you're going to make some girl extremely happy.” Harry controlled a blush and said, “There's only one girl for me, but she doesn't know I can even feel that way about anyone.” Sirius nodded knowingly and said, “She'll come around. Your mother did, eventually.” He sat down on Harry's bed and relaxed against the wall, obviously knowing what Harry was about to ask him. “How did my parents get together?” Harry asked. “Simply put, James showed her that he was more than she had thought,” Sirius began. “It all started with my mistake. I told Snape how to get into the Whomping Willow in the beginning of our Sixth Year. He went down there, determined to catch Moony, but instead met a full-grown werewolf. James had found out what I had done and went down there after him. He pulled Snape back, saving his life, and that showed Lily that no matter how cruel our pranks may seem, James is not, nor ever could be, a murderer. I was nearly expelled for what I did, and Remus didn't talk to me for two weeks. Over the rest of that year, Lily looked past the surface of our pranks and she and James grew closer. By Seventh Year, they were going out.” Harry's eyes were shining with the love his parents had for each other, and even for their enemies. Remus came up then and said, “Molly is now coherent, and she's asked who saved her. No one's told her yet that it was Harry.” Harry nodded and said, “I'll go down

myself.” When he walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, he saw Molly sitting at the table with a cup of tea. Moody had just arrived, with Arthur, and they both looked at Harry as he entered. “Mrs. Weasley,” Harry cleared his throat, “It was I who fought that boggart.” Molly dropped her cup, splashing tea everywhere and said, “Harry, no, you couldn't have done that. You're still underage. You'll get in so much trouble.” “It was me, and I haven't gotten a warning letter yet, or been summoned to another Hearing,” Harry replied. Arthur nodded and said, “It's true, Molly. Fudge seems to be considering Harry of-age after that Patronus last week. And besides, this is a Wizard house. The Ministry can't tell if magic used here is being used by a child or an adult.” When that news sank in, Molly threw herself at Harry, hugging him and thanking him for helping her. Moody managed to get her off him when he said, “The meeting's about to start. Dumbledore's going to be here in about fifteen minutes.” Molly and Arthur left the room immediately to call other members, like Bill and Charlie, who was attending this meeting. McGonagall stepped into the center of the room and transformed back. “Most of us are here, what say we start this meeting?” Everyone nodded, then Cedric Diggory arrived. “Merlin, he's insane!” Cedric wheezed as he ran in. “What happened?” McGonagall asked. “Snape happened. A bunch of us were just ambushed by Death Eaters, and Snape started cursing anything that moved, including Order members. We need help!” Cedric wheezed in reply. “Incoming Weasleys!” Moody reported, his magical eye watching the door. “Harry, go with Cedric back to the battle, and bring our people home!” McGonagall ordered. Cedric grinned in relief. “Those Death Eaters are screwed!” he said. Harry got a cloak with a hood and followed Cedric to the battle. When they got there, Harry immediately separated from the main body of combatants and went around. When Dumbledore saw Cedric he said,

“Diggory, I thought I told you to go for help!” “I did,” Cedric responded. “I expect the Death Eaters to realize they're screwed in a few minutes.” Dumbledore scoffed at that and kept fighting. He never saw the black shadow dart into a large group of Death Eaters, but he did see the results. The Death Eaters scattered, but one of them turned back to try and curse their attacker. There was no one there. “What?” Dumbledore muttered, mystified by the Dark Wizards' actions. A Death Eater came up behind him, and Dumbledore heard a muffled cry of pain and spun around. A dead Death Eater lay there, his throat cut. He knelt to take the Death Eater's mask off and saw that it was Yaxley. “Something's killing Death Eaters,” he said to no one in particular. The sounds of battle abruptly stopped and Dumbledore turned around when he heard the crack of a twig behind him. His wand came up in a sweeping motion, ready to do battle with whoever was there. He saw a black-cloaked person standing there, apparently unarmed. He stood up, wand still raised, and said, “Who are you?” The cloaked figure chuckled and reached up to lower his hood. “Did you miss me?” Harry Potter joked. “Just kidding, I know you'd only miss me if you knew I was here all along.” Dumbledore looked around at all the Death Eaters killed or captured and whistled. “When you get into fights with your comrades, you go all out, don't you?” he asked. Harry's face contorted, and Dumbledore raised his wand higher, erroneously believing it was because Harry was angry. “That one behind you was going to kill you. I stopped him,” Harry said coldly, and then he left. When everyone returned to Headquarters, the meeting started. Harry attended, but he was hidden in a corner in a shadow. Dumbledore never knew he was there. *** Harry's Fifth Year at Hogwarts started almost uneventfully. He attended classes and kept a close watch on Dolores Umbridge. The weeks passed slowly, with the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes going the slowest. Umbridge kept trying to provoke Harry, but he never rose to her bait. He kept his temper in check, though it was

simmering just below the surface because of Dumbledore's increasingly snide remarks behind his back. Harry knew he was just leading up to something big, he just didn't know for sure what it was. Finally, Halloween arrived. Dumbledore announced a costume party would be held in the Great Hall on Halloween night, and that prizes would go to the most imaginative costumes. When Harry heard that, he grinned inwardly. He had an idea, and was going to ask Hermione if she would cooperate. “Hey, Hermione!” he called out to her after their prefect's meeting was over. She turned back to him, her eyebrows raised. “Do you want to go to the costume party with me?” he asked. She saw his mischievous grin, and couldn't help smiling back. Vampire or no, there's nothing I can deny him when he smiles that way, Hermione thought. He stepped closer to her and whispered in her ear, “Great, here's my idea...” Her eyes widened and she playfully smacked his arm. “Harry! That might cause a panic! We're prefects!” “Did that ever stop anyone?” Harry asked, still grinning. “No, it didn't,” she admitted. “Alright, we'll do it. Dumbledore won't know what hit him.” ** On the night of the Halloween Party, a strange man came to Hogwarts. Dumbledore admitted him to the castle in secret and whispered, “I've tried getting rid of him myself, but he's too strong and too smart.” “Do you know what breed he is?” the stranger asked. “Heinrich Weisen came a couple of years ago. He said it was a Black Forest,” Dumbledore replied. The stranger whistled quietly. “You do have a problem, but what about other teachers?” “He's already enchanted my Deputy and a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He's also attacked at least two people that I know of, though he hasn't turned them, to my knowledge,” Dumbledore

replied. “Alright, I'll attend your party, and deal with him when the opportunity presents itself.” ** When the party started, students came in wearing some of the most outrageous costumes. Luna Lovegood came in as a “CrumpleHorned Snorkack”, Cho Chang came in as a Valkyrie, and Colin and Dennis Creevey came in as a pair of M&M's. But those weren't even the most imaginative; Fred and George Weasley, and Lee Jordan came in as the Three Stooges from Muggle TV. They were some of the last to come, and Dumbledore thought that Harry would stay away, that perhaps he sensed the presence of the surprise guest. Then the doors banged open for the last time. Two people walked in, a boy and a girl. The boy was holding the girl's hand out on front of them, and they walked across the floor matching each other's pace. The murmur of conversations died down slowly as the pair's strange costumes sunk in. The male of the duo was pale and well-built, and his eyes seemed to stare right through people. His female companion was slightly less pale, and her eyes were just as piercing. Those who looked closely enough saw that both had fangs, but the female's were shorter than the male's. The male had claws, but the female didn't. They strode to the center of the Hall, where the dancing would be, and the male swept his female companion into the dance. They danced very well, very gracefully, almost hypnotically. Soon, others joined them on the dance floor. After a while, they stopped dancing, and started mingling. “Wow, Harry, is that you?!” Ron Weasley exclaimed. Luna Lovegood came up behind Ron and said, “Don't you recognize your friends, Ronald?” Ron jumped, and turned around, startled. He looked at Luna as though he had never seen her before, then he turned back to his friends. “Merlin, Harry, Hermione, how did you do that?” he asked, still stunned. “We got some help from Sirius and Remus,” Harry lied. “They haven't

arrived yet because they wanted to give us a chance to get everyone's attention before they fall over laughing, they said. They'll be here soon.” Hermione looked over to the doors they had left open when they made their entrance and said, “Here they are, and they brought a friend.” Harry and Hermione waved to Sirius, Remus, and Heinrich Weisen. Dumbledore was looking over the most recent arrivals with a look of mingled shock, anger, and resentment. When he glanced over at the two vampires talking to Ron Weasley, his heart nearly stopped. He crossed himself, and caught his own guest's eye. He nodded over to Harry and Hermione and muttered, “He's the one I told you about. She's his girlfriend, I think.” Van Helsing nodded, and stalked over to the two vampires. Heinrich saw him coming and paled “I don't believe it! He's called Van Helsing!” Heinrich swore quite colorfully, then went over to Harry and Hermione. As soon as he got close enough, he realized that Hermione wasn't actually a vampire, but rather a carrier of the retrovirus that caused it. That meant that for one reason or another, Harry had bitten her to feed, and had transferred enough to her so that she'd show some characteristics if she was stressed out, or if Harry activated it himself. Clever boy, Heinrich thought, concealing a smile. “Hello Harry, do you remember me? I'm Heinrich Weisen,” Heinrich said. Van Helsing stopped. “Yeah, I remember you! You're the one who came a couple of years ago,” Harry said with a smile. He surreptitiously signaled Colin and Dennis, who grinned. A few minutes later, word had spread. Students backed away from Snape so fast some fell over. Snape glared around at the kids, and approached Draco Malfoy. Malfoy couldn't get away fast enough, but he tried. He ran away, looking horrified. Snape stopped and turned to glare at Hermione when she giggled. He stalked over to her threateningly. “What did you do, Granger?” he snarled. Harry stepped in front of her and snarled back, “She didn't do anything. It was me. I told everyone you were a vampire.” Heinrich inwardly gloated as he confirmed, “Yes, I've said it once, and I'll say it again. I do believe that you are a

low-grade Romanian.” Van Helsing started looking Snape over speculatively, and then grinned menacingly as he advanced. Snape didn't see him coming, because his attention was focused on Harry and Heinrich while he growled in rage and subconsciously bared his teeth as though they were fangs. Ron backed away quickly, trying to stop laughing but failing miserably, then he tripped over his banana costume. Van Helsing came up behind Snape and tossed holy water on him. It didn't work as he'd expected, then Harry said to Van Helsing, “Toss some shampoo on him now and we'll see what color his hair actually is.” Snape spun around, still baring his teeth, drew his wand and screamed, “CRUCIO!” Everyone ran for the exit when Snape attacked, and Harry saw Dumbledore run out into the courtyard where the garden was during the Ball the previous year. “Hermione, what say we go pay Dumbledore a little visit in the courtyard?” Harry asked her with a grin. She nodded; her eyes alight with passion and humor. “Yes, let's go talk to him.” They step back into some shadows cast by a light, and vanished. A moment later they stepped out into the courtyard in front of Dumbledore. “Where the hell did you come from? Hell?” Dumbledore demanded as he stepped back in shock. Harry bared his fangs and snarled, “Neither of us came from Hell, old fool.” Hermione bared her fangs, too, and said, “I really think you need to apologize to Harry for being so cruel to him. That was low, bringing in Abraham Van Helsing.” Dumbledore retreated another step and stammered, “I-i d-don't kknow w-what y-you're t-talking a-about,” while crossing his fingers behind his back. Hermione zipped around behind him and grabbed his crossed fingers. “Crossing your fingers, are you? What, can't tell a very poor lie without doing that?” Hermione asked with a slightly evil smile. “Maybe I should bite them off.” Dumbledore blanched and yanked his hand away. He drew his wand and backed far enough away so that he could see both of them, stalking toward him. “We're actually not here to hurt you, Headmaster. We just wanted to try to talk some sense into you,” Harry ground out.

“Yes, but every time you see Harry, you have the annoying habit of trying to end him. That's not very nice,” Hermione continued for Harry. “I've done nothing to harm you, and even saved your miserable little life,” Harry went on in the same vein. “When he could very easily snuff it out like a candle,” Hermione pressed two fingers together like she was doing just that. “But instead, I have dedicated my death to making sure you don't join me,” Harry finished. Both of them were now several steps closer to Dumbledore, as they had advanced one step for every time one of them spoke. Dumbledore had backed away an equal number of steps, and Harry could feel his fear as though it was tangible. Harry and Hermione joined hands and cast a joint spell on Dumbledore. This spell branded the Dark Mark on Dumbledore's left forearm, and it wouldn't go away until he realized he was wrong. “That new tattoo will stay until you come to your senses, however long it takes,” Hermione said. She backed into a shadow and waited. “You will actually feel it burn when He summons you, and you will be forced to go to him,” Harry whispered as he joined Hermione in the shadow and transported her back to the Great Hall. No one knew they had ever left. Dumbledore came in a few minutes later and announced, “The winners of the contest are Harry Potter and Hermione Granger for their Dracula and Bride costumes. Second Place goes to Ronald Weasley and Luna Lovegood for their banana and undiscovered creature costumes. The prizes are homework passes.” “Did you know, Ronald, that Crumple-Horned Snorkacks eat bananas? It's their favorite food,” Luna said dreamily. Ron backed away from her slowly and fell over again. **

Chapter 17 Scaring Him Straight Harry Potter had just woken up and was putting his shoes on. It was once again Monday and he was a little late for breakfast. Though of course, Dumbledore will think I already had another student, he thought, a little angrily. He was good at reining in his emotions, no matter what Umbridge declared behind his back to the contrary. He tied the laces and stood up, but they immediately untied and Harry scowled. Dumbledore's up to his old tricks, he thought as he removed the hex. When he arrived in the Great Hall, he saw Colin and Dennis Creevey looking smug, and he noticed that only Dumbledore had the guts to sit next to Snape. When he approached, the Creevey brothers gave him a standing ovation, quickly followed by the rest of Gryffindor, most of Ravenclaw, half of Hufflepuff, and a majority of Slytherin. Harry patted the air in front of him and said in a carrying voice, “Thank you, thank you. I'm glad to serve the school by revealing this shocking information.” Snape sneered, looking more vampire-like than usual. Harry seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, as he shot over his shoulder, “Careful, my dear Professor. You don't want Van Helsing or Weisen to come back, do you?” The Gryffindor table roared with laughter. “Fifty points from Gryffindor for your attitude problem, Potter,” Dumbledore called out. “Belay that order,” Cornelius Fudge called out with a grin. “I've always wanted to say that,” he muttered. “I've just received a report from a trusted informant that you are employing a vampire to teach at this school and are putting him within easy range of countless students. Currently, the Board of Governors is so full of owls from angry parents that the Governors are being forced to meet elsewhere. We just can't open the door. Consider this fair warning, Dumbledore. Within a week you will be brought up on criminal charges.” Dumbledore looked shocked, then he glanced at Snape and they both sneered. “Thank you for the warning,” Dumbledore replied easily, and then he and Snape flinched at the same time. Snape looked appraisingly at Dumbledore, a muscle twitching in his cheek. It was the closest he'd ever come to smiling when there was no one screaming in

unbearable pain. Dumbledore made his excuses and left the school unseen by everyone except Harry. Harry knew that Voldemort wouldn't know about Dumbledore's presence unless Dumbledore chose to reveal himself, and in that case Dumbledore would become a loyal Death Eater. “What're you looking at, Harry?” Hermione asked softly. “Dumbledore. He just left for his meeting,” Harry replied. “Do you ever think we were too harsh on him?” she asked after another moment. “You know very well the Muggles do something like this to teens who join gangs and the like. They scare them straight. We're doing this to show Dumbledore what Voldemort's like, in the hopes that he'll learn I'm nothing like Voldemort,” Harry said. Hermione nodded and sat down to do her homework. “We have Defense Against the Dark Arts tomorrow. Are you worried about Umbridge trying to provoke you?” she suddenly asked. Harry turned from the window to smile at her. “No, I'm not worried. She can't do anything to me,” he replied. ** The next day, Harry sauntered into Defense class in such a way that Umbridge would be sure to take notice. She glared at him and he waved jauntily back, and the entire class grinned. “Mr. Potter, you will not walk that way ever again,” Umbridge declared in her sickly sweet voice. Harry stopped and clicked his heels together smartly. He raised his right arm and said, “Jawohl, mein Führer!” Then he sat down to thunderous applause from the Gryffindors. The Slytherins were quiet but looked like they wanted to applaud. Umbridge turned beet-red and started spluttering in rage, obviously knowing Harry was mocking her. “De-” she started to say, but then Harry was yanked up by the collar of his robes and dragged away as Dumbledore announced, “I will be

punishing Potter for his transgression.” Umbridge looked slightly mollified as Harry pulled out of Dumbledore's surprisingly strong grip. “If you wish to speak with me, all you have to do is ask me. There is no need to attempt to strangle me.” “You can't be strangled, so shut up!” Dumbledore snarled. He was apoplectic with rage, and he grabbed Harry by the upper arm and dragged him to his office. He snapped out the password and threw Harry into a seat in front of his desk. “I have every reason to expel you for what you did to me, but I don't want you becoming Voldemort's apprentice just yet.” “You don't want me becoming Voldemort's apprentice, yet you're the one with His Mark,” Harry said with a sneer that covered up the pain he was feeling. “You gave me the Mark!” Dumbledore shouted, startling the portraits. Harry just sat back lazily and crossed his legs. “I suspected that was what you'd get. I actually have the power to give someone a part of what they're most like. You're acting most like a Death Eater, so that's why you were branded with the Dark Mark. If I chose, I could use my power and give Snape fangs, because he is most like a vampire, but I won't.” “How can you do that?” Dumbledore asked. “I'm not ready to tell you that yet,” Harry said as he unfolded from the chair and almost glided from the room, leaving Dumbledore wiping the sweat from his brow. He didn't return to Defense class because it was almost over. When it ended, Hermione ran up to him, panting. “Harry! What happened? What did he do?” Harry shushed her with a finger placed over her lips. “He did nothing but ask me about his Mark,” he replied. “I've been wondering about that, too. I tried looking again in a book, but I couldn't find anything about vampires having that kind of power,” she whispered. “It's connected to another of my powers,” Harry said, looking over her

shoulder at Ron. Ron joined them and took Hermione's hand. Harry saw that and backed away, hiding his pain. Hermione looked curiously at Ron, who shrugged. “We'd better get to Charms,” Harry said. ** The weeks passed slowly, and Harry was relieved to see that there was no change in Ron and Hermione's relationship. They were bickering just as much as they usually did, and on many occasions Hermione had called Ron insensitive or a wart, among many other names. He actually flinched sympathetically when Hermione called Ron a moronic dolt. One day while Hermione was working on homework, Harry stepped up behind her. As he was massaging her neck, he said, “I thought about that idea you had. It's a good idea, and I've decided to try it out. Gather a few students who want to learn from me, and we can meet in the Hog's Head Pub.” She turned to him, a brilliant smile on her face. “Oh Harry, thank you! I'm so glad you decided to do it!” That Hogsmeade weekend Harry waited at the Hog's Head with Hermione and Ron as other kids started trickling in a few at a time. It was dark in the pub, and the tables were filthy, but at least they'd be able to hear each other, and Harry would be able to see if they were being watched. Finally, as everyone arrived, Harry started speaking. “Welcome everyone; I know you all know me.” Everyone grinned. “But we're not here about that. We're here because I'm offering to teach real Defense Against the Dark Arts, not the crap Umbridge is 'teaching'.” At that moment, another student joined them. He didn't lower his hood, but Harry knew him. “Yes, Malfoy?” he asked, with one eyebrow raised. “Umbridge is coming this way. You've got to get out of here,” the newcomer said quickly and quietly. Everyone stood up and prepared to leave in a hurry, but Harry raised his hand and employed a certain one of his powers to get their attention. “If we run out of here as though the place was on fire, we'd be caught for sure. I propose we stay here like any group of friends enjoying a few butterbeers.”

“She has a spy here that informed her,” Draco said. “Yeah, and I know who he is,” Harry said confidently. Draco raised his eyebrow and inquired, “Who?” Harry gestured to the bartender and said, “Him. Aberforth Dumbledore is his name. He's very close with his brother, and has spied for him before.” Everyone just started chatting, and Harry silently cast a Memory Charm on Aberforth so that he couldn't report that they had been warned. Draco left and told Umbridge that he'd found Harry and his friends in the Hog's Head. The little bell over the door tinkled as Umbridge walked in, followed by her posse. “What is going on here, Mr. Potter?” she asked in her sickly sweet voice. “I'm just out with my friends,” Harry replied casually. “You don't normally socialize with many of these students,” Umbridge pointed out, smirking. Harry ruffled his hair the same way his father used to. “What can I say? I'm popular.” At that moment, Aberforth walked over, still carrying the filthy rag he'd been using to wipe everything down. “Madame Umbridge,” he said, “a few minutes ago someone he knew came in a spoke to them, and then left. I saw Potter get mad.” Umbridge nodded and said with an indulgent, “That was young Mr. Malfoy. He probably taunted Potter; he likes doing that.” Aberforth nodded with an equally indulgent smile, and then walked back to the bar. Harry nudged Hermione and whispered, “Cover me. I'm going to try something.” Then, trusting Hermione to keep Umbridge's attention, he sat back and focused on Aberforth, then uncapped his Empathy. The readings he got seemed to have festered. They were old, but hadn't been released. He was jealous of his brother, because Albus was much more powerful than he could ever be. He was also certain he was working against his brother by doing some freelance spying on the side, with his contact being... Snape. At that moment, a hooded figure walked in, looked around, and then left at a signal from Aberforth. Harry got up and went to the bar.

“You're making a mistake,” he whispered. “Your brother is working with Umbridge, and I know you want to do something to hurt him. You're helping him, and Voldemort's cause.” “You're lying,” Aberforth declared. “I do not lie,” Harry snarled, letting his fangs dip down a tiny bit. “I may withhold information at times, but I do not lie outright.” “Why should I trust you?” Aberforth said suspiciously as he wiped another glass with the filthy rag. “Because I know your secrets,” Harry said, and waved his hand over the rag and cleaned it. “And I know where your brother went after he saw you yesterday.” “Where did he go in such a hurry?” Aberforth asked, now interested. “To see Voldemort,” Harry replied simply. “So did Snape.” “Wait, both of them are with You-Know-Who?” Aberforth asked, confused. “Dear old Albus bit off more than he could chew, but Snape's been with Voldemort since approximately 1976,” Harry confirmed. “And you know this, how?” Aberforth asked, once again suspicious. “Because I have eyes, and I have evidence against Snape,” Harry said. “I know my brother doesn't trust half-breeds, like you seem to be, no matter how much he says otherwise. That means, you're okay in my book,” Aberforth declared, then shook Harry's hand. Harry grinned then went back to his table. “You were saying?” he said pointedly to Umbridge, who glanced at Aberforth who was serenely wiping the glass with a now-clean rag, and then she paled. She gathered her loyal minions, and they all left. Harry sat back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head.

“Now where were we?” “You were offering to teach us real Defense Against the Dark Arts,” Cho Chang offered with a pretty smile. Harry nodded and thanked her. “Yes, as I was saying, I'm offering to teach you all the real things, not the crap Umbridge's been 'teaching' us. If you all want to learn, then simply sign this sheet of parchment and I'll handle the rest,” Harry said. “What exactly are you going to teach us, First Year jinxes?” Michael Corner asked scornfully. Ron scoffed, and then pointed at Harry's chest. “See that there, dimwit? That means he's in Fifth Year or above.” Cho nodded and jumped in. “Yes, I was already here when he was sorted. He's definitely in Fifth Year, though he could probably beat half the Seventh Years.” She thought she was praising Harry better than anyone could, but Hermione had something to say. “Oh, yes, he could probably beat half of the Seventh Years in his sleep. But that's in his sleep; awake, he could beat Dumbledore without breaking a sweat,” Hermione announced proudly. Harry nudged her in the arm and whispered in her ear, “Yeah, because I don't sweat. I haven't broken a sweat in a while.” She giggled reflexively when his breath tickled her ear lobe. Ginny Weasley sneered at Hermione, while Ron looked suspiciously between the two. The group of friends left after everyone signed the parchment. They walked back to Hogwarts, but on the way, Ron asked to speak to Hermione alone. She agreed, and they walked off together. Ginny moved in immediately, and tried to snuggle up against Harry's arm. “Ginny, no. I already told you, I don't feel that way.” He tried to gently push her away, but Fred and George ganged up on him. “Now, Harry, don't you go mistreating our little sister. Our mum already told us that you told her that you like Ginny, but don't know how to proceed. Don't lie to her.” “What are you talking about? I never told your mum anything like that. I don't like Ginny,” Harry said. He heard Ginny sniffle behind him, and

guessed that she used that method to get what she wanted. It always worked for Dudley. Fred and George started advancing on him threateningly. Harry again denied liking Ginny, who pretended to cry. Everyone else saw the pretty little Fourth Year girl crying and surrounded Harry while Fred and George pounded on him. “I said your mum lied to you!” Harry shouted. “Don't call our mum a liar, Potter!” Fred shouted as he punched Harry again, then George exclaimed in glee and Harry ducked, just barely dodging the older boy's foot. George was on his broomstick, trying to gain an advantage in speed and maneuverability. Harry held back his enhanced powers, and didn't try to fight. If a teacher came, he was damned if he was going to get punished for beating up the Twins. Finally, several teachers came. Umbridge appeared, followed by her posse, the Minister of Magic, and Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout. The crowd was broken up and the teachers saw Harry laying on the ground with the twins standing over him. George still had the broomstick he had summoned from the school. Harry wasn't moving, and Ginny was thanking her dear brothers for defending her. “What the hell happened here?” Fudge demanded, hurrying forward to check Harry for a pulse. He found none. “He has no pulse,” he informed them quietly. McGonagall ran forward and started trying to revive Harry. While she was doing that, she surreptitiously cast a spell that make Fudge think Harry had a pulse. “Wait, he's got one now. He's going to make it,” he announced, louder this time. McGonagall sighed inwardly and thought that was close. They took Harry back up to the castle, where Umbridge descended on Fred and George. She had been itching for a chance to discredit the Weasley family over something, and this was as good a chance as she was ever going to get. The Weasley twins, who were of-age, had beaten up, and nearly killed, the Heir of a pureblood fortune. She didn't care that technically Harry was half-blood; he was still the only son of a pureblood line. The twins were banned from Quidditch because they had used a broom to help them beat Harry up. Then Molly and Arthur, who had been called, ran up to them. Molly comforted Ginny, her precious daughter, about Harry rejecting her again, and said, too loud, “Don't worry dear, mummy will fix it.”

Umbridge looked at Molly askance and raised her eyebrow, but she didn't say anything. Instead she glanced at Arthur who was looking sternly at his sons. “Boys, I thought we taught you never to do this sort of thing,” he said. The twins protested. “But Dad, Harry was insulting Mum and Ginny! He called Mum a liar and lied to Ginny! He told her he didn't like her when he's already told Mum that he did!” they shouted, each one trying to outdo the other. Arthur looked at his wife, and then started thinking for himself. He remembered Harry smiling at Hermione in a special way, then thought of the many times Molly had spoiled their youngest child and only daughter. “What you did was still very wrong, boys. Harry nearly died, and you both are of-age. Also, from what I've heard, he never fought back. He was unarmed and defenseless. If he had died, you would both have gone to Azkaban,” Arthur said firmly. The twins paled considerably. At that moment, Ron and Hermione walked in the door. They were both smiling, but Hermione's rather forced smile quickly faded when she saw everyone. “Has there been another attack?” she asked fearfully. She turned at the sound of footsteps, and saw Fudge standing there. “I've just come from the Infirmary,” he announced. “He's going to be fine, though Madame Pomfrey said it was a close call. Dumbledore has been informed, and he will decide punishment for Mr.'s Weasley.” “I have already banned both boys from playing Quidditch, Minister, because they were using a broom to help them attack Mr. Potter,” Umbridge declared. Fudge nodded, and said, “I'm sure the Board of Governors will confirm that punishment, even if Dumbledore doesn't. Now, why do I get the feeling the Board of Governors was going to do something else?” “I don't have the slightest idea, Minister,” Umbridge said. “Fred and George attacked Harry!” Hermione shrieked, when it had finally sunk in. Then Ginny said, “Mum, Hermione's been trying to

take Harry from me, and she's been leading Ron on.” Ron shook his head and smiled triumphantly, “You're wrong there, little sis. Hermione just agreed to be my girlfriend.” Molly smiled indulgently at her youngest son, while Arthur got the feeling that this was very bad news. ** Chapter 18: 'Tis the Season “Okay, everyone, let's start with the Impediment Jinx,” Harry Potter called out during a DA lesson. “Get into groups of two or three, and cast 'Impedimenta' on your partners.” Harry saw Ron and Hermione team up immediately, and his heart sunk. Instead of partnering up with someone else, Harry did what he always does: he makes circuits of the Room of Requirement, checking others' progress. He saw Fred and George with Lee Jordan, but then Lee pointed out Harry to the Twins. Fred and George, out of revenge for 'getting them in trouble' the day they beat him up, ganged up on him. Or rather, they tried to gang up on him, but Harry was too fast. He spun around, a Shield Charm on his lips and a perfect shield already in place in front of him. Their jinx rebounded and hit Ginny, who had just been thrown back by her own partner, Neville Longbottom. She got up and brushed her red hair out her face, then leered at Harry as though she was mentally undressing him. If Harry was mortal, it would have made him very uncomfortable; but as it was, it just disgusted him. “Great job, everyone! It's time to head back, now, so we'll pick up after the holidays. Have a great Christmas!” Harry called out, and then turned to avoid looking at Ron and Hermione orally deciding what they would do for Christmas. At that moment, Harry got another flash, this time of a long, dark corridor, with a man sleeping at the end. There was a gigantic snake slithering silently towards him, ready to kill him. Once the sounds of kissing had died away, Harry deemed it safe to return to his dormitory. He turned a corner, and ran into Dumbledore. He gave the Headmaster a wide berth as he could clearly sense his agitation. A

slight burn in his scar told him why Dumbledore was agitated. Voldemort clearly had forgotten how to tell time, or else he didn't care if his Death Eaters were up at all hours serving him. “Have a good night, sir!” Harry called out to Dumbledore. The Headmaster just grumbled in response. Once in Gryffindor Tower, Harry went up to his dormitory to prepare for his own nocturnal activities. He sat on his bed, his legs crossed, and just focused. He sent his mind winging out looking for Voldemort, and first saw Voldemort giving a group of Death Eaters some orders, then he abruptly saw through the eyes of Nagini, Voldemort's pet snake. Once he saw the snake's location, Harry pulled away and prepared to go there. He threw on a black cloak, pulled the hood up, then 'poofed' out of Hogwarts Castle. He appeared in a column of black smoke in a long, dark corridor. The smoke of his arrival was invisible in the absence of light. He extended his vampire senses to track his prey, and found her almost immediately. Nagini was still hunting her own prey, the human male who was still sleeping against the wall. He crept up behind Nagini, and when she was close to her prey, Harry leaped over her and landed in front of the man. With his night vision, Harry could see that it was Arthur Weasley. Harry nudged him with his foot, causing the red-haired man to wake with a start. Arthur looked up in shock, and saw the tall figure wearing the black cloak. He couldn't see the newcomer's face, but he assumed it was hidden by a mask, and not just by the hood and very poor light. “Get up, now. Voldemort's snake is coming. I'll hold her off as long as I can. You need to get out of here,” Harry commanded in a quiet voice he hoped Arthur wouldn't recognize. He didn't. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Arthur asked his unidentified companion. “My name is not important. My purpose is to save your life, now go!” Harry replied. That just further convinced Arthur that it was a Death Eater. At that point, the snake struck. Harry knocked her head aside and unconsciously let out a feral growl. His claws lengthened, and his fangs appeared. Arthur saw the claws, and correctly guessed that his

rescuer was a vampire. He incorrectly guessed that Voldemort hadn't been able to pay this creature quite enough to ensure his continued loyalty. “Go, dammit!” Harry screamed in annoyance and frustration when he saw that Arthur had not left yet. “The Order of the Phoenix does not abandon allies, no matter how strange they may be!” the red-haired man retorted. Harry barely saw Arthur reach into his shirt to grasp something. Two seconds later, Harry was dodging curses fired by two masked Death Eaters who had homed in on Arthur's signal. “Traitors!” Arthur yelled when he realized what had happened. Harry just glared at the Death Eaters hatefully, drew his wand, and fired off two quick Stunners. “Damn Death Eaters,” he muttered. “Weak bastards never give a good fight.” He then turned to Arthur and snapped, “Why do you never follow orders?! I told you to get out of here why you still had a chance, but instead you had to go and summon Dumb and Dumber!” Arthur raised his wand, prepared to fire if his vampire helper looked ready to eat him. Harry, whose shields had been down since the fight began, felt the mistrust and fear. He backed away, hiding a hurt look. Harry turned away, made sure to step on Nagini, and left without looking back. At the next Order meeting, Arthur reported that one of Voldemort's most able fighters, a vampire he had recruited whoknows-when, had apparently defected to their side. Harry was sitting in the shadows at that meeting, like he did for every meeting he attended, and smirked. “Can you put a name to this vampire?” McGonagall asked from her seat next to Dumbledore. “He never removed his hood or mask, but he was a volatile creature. He very nearly turned on me after he stunned two other Death Eaters,” Arthur said. “Could you identify either of these Death Eaters?” Dumbledore asked.

“No, but I do know that they are traitors to the Order,” Arthur finished grimly. The muttering started immediately, and it increased in crescendo when Snape laughed. “Careful there Snape, someone might just think you were one of the traitors,” Cedric mock warned the greasy spy. “Shut up Diggory. Don't speak of things of which you have no knowledge,” Dumbledore grumbled. “Then I guess now is the time for me to report that I have recruited someone to the Order. He is a most able fighter, and could easily replace the two we know we lost,” McGonagall said with a wide smile. “Who is he?” Dumbledore asked. “And why didn't you tell me you had found someone?” “He has already been accepted into the Order with a majority vote. In fact, it was unanimous. You can come out now,” she called to the room at large. Harry stepped out of the shadows and glared at Snape before turning his eyes upon Dumbledore. Dumbledore winced when he saw how emotionless they were. “You were right, Cedric,” was the first thing Harry said. Next, he said, “Dumbledore, you were right too. Don't speak of things of which you have no knowledge. It just makes you sound stupid.” “You let Harry join?!” Molly shrieked at McGonagall. “I thought you cared about your students better than that! He's just a child!” “Never accuse me of not caring!” McGonagall shrieked in response, her black hair starting to come out of her bun. She stood up to argue better with Molly, who stood up also, but she noticed uncomfortably that McGonagall was taller than her. Harry rubbed his ringing ear and said, “Ladies, please! This is not the time to fight amongst ourselves. We need to uncover the traitors first, and then you can fight all you want.” “But, Harry dear, you shouldn't be here!” Molly argued, tears coming to her eyes.

“Yes, that's right; I should be at home celebrating Christmas with my parents. But Voldemort killed them more than fourteen years ago. I'm not a child, I haven't been a child since my parents died,” Harry said. “And Professor McGonagall, I'd rather you didn't fight anyone over me. I'm not important enough. And besides, I know what happens to those accused of cheating.” “You are important, Harry!” McGonagall hotly defended him. “And what do you mean, you know what happens to those accused of cheating?” “Simple, I'd be betting on you and winning everything. No one likes being cleaned out,” Harry replied innocently. Sirius guffawed and messed up Harry's hair. “Nice job, Harry! James couldn't have said it better himself!” Remus agreed while holding in his chuckles at McGonagall's dumbfounded look. “Now, who're the spies?” Remus asked, trying to distract himself from McGonagall's dawning comprehension. “Snape, definitely, and Dumbledore if he's revealed himself to Voldemort,” Harry said quietly. “What! Dumbledore!” Sirius exclaimed. “What happened to cause that?” “I just put him at the fork in the road. It's his choice which fork he takes out of hatred of me,” Harry replied quietly. “Ah, your powers,” Remus nodded sagely. “How do we know which fork he's chosen?” “We just need to see if he still has the Dark Mark. If it's gone, he's chosen not to serve Voldemort faithfully. If it's black, then he's chosen Voldemort, but if it's lighter, then he's still undecided,” Harry said. “Then we'll corner him after the meeting,” Sirius decided. “I'll help corner him. He won't want to reveal it, no matter how it looks,” Harry agreed.

After the meeting ended, Harry, Sirius, and Remus cornered Dumbledore in the sitting room. Harry came up from behind him and clamped his iron fists on Dumbledore's shoulders while Remus used his werewolf strength to hold his other arm. Sirius wrenched up Dumbledore's left sleeve and gazed on the Dark Mark. “It's light,” he reported. “What does that mean, again?” “Undecided,” Harry said softly. He had expected this, but it still hurt that Dumbledore couldn't decide who he hated more, Harry or Voldemort. He took his hands away and leaped backwards. “Harry, are you alright?” Sirius asked. Harry just looked at Dumbledore and muttered, “Yeah, I'll be fine.” “He's in pain, Padfoot. He's been in pain since he was turned,” Remus said sadly. “What the hell are you talking about?” Dumbledore demanded. Remus glared at him and raised his wand. He cast the Empathy Curse that McGonagall had used on him two years previous. Dumbledore was screaming in agony, and then his Mark burned. He lurched to his feet and ran from the room. Once he was outside, he Apparated to Voldemort's side. When he arrived, he stumbled and fell to his knees as he still felt the aftershocks of the curse. “What happened to you?” Voldemort asked as he came in. Dumbledore muttered in a muffled voice, “Just some old friends who caught me.” He staggered to his feet, and Voldemort raised his wand. “Someone has used the Empathy Curse on you. It looks like you caused someone extreme emotional pain,” Voldemort hissed. He used another spell to determine the approximate age of Dumbledore's latest victim. “You nearly destroyed a teenager. A boy of fifteen, or thereabouts. Nice work, a powerful young wizard is probably going to commit suicide any time now. He could probably have joined my ranks.” “He already has, but he's betraying you. He just joined the Order of the Phoenix,” Dumbledore muttered, confused.

“You fool; I have no one under the age of eighteen in my ranks!” Voldemort screamed in rage. “I order you to stand down, and for the sake of all that is evil, keep your emotions in check! This boy you insist on destroying is an Empath! I want him to join me; his power would be a boon to our side.” “Yes, my lord,” Dumbledore muttered, defeated. But the seeds had been sown... ** On Christmas morning Harry woke up rested and refreshed. He saw a pile of presents at the foot of his bed and grinned. He found the standard Weasley sweater and boxes of sweets from casual friends. He opened a box that contained a few books of Defensive spells from Hermione, and grinned. Ron had given him another string of garlic with a note. Can you forward this on to Snape? it said. Just then, Sirius came in carrying more gifts. He dumped them on Harry's bed and said, “The Order came by.” “Hey, Sirius, how good are you at forging my dad's signature?” Harry asked. “What do you want forged?” Sirius replied. Harry held up the garlic and the note. Sirius put two and two together and barked with laughter. “Remus was the forger. Hang on, I'll get him.” Harry opened his shields because he had a suspicion that Remus was a little busy. He grinned a little wickedly and said, “Don't bother knocking, just go on in.” Sirius saluted him and walked out. Five minutes later, three different voices started shouting different things. Harry walked down holding the garlic and the note, with a satisfied look on his handsome face. Hermione came out of her room and thanked Harry for the book he had got her. “Harry, I've wanted this New Theory of Numerology for ages! Thank you so much!” she shrieked in happiness and threw herself at him. He hugged her back lovingly. “I'm glad you're happy,” he said softly. “Harry, you little devil!” Sirius shouted, and then Remus jumped in,

followed by Tonks. “Sirius, you can't go accusing Harry of things like that! He was nowhere near here when you opened the door without knocking first!” Remus looked outraged. “Yeah, here he is now. Our shouting must have woken him up,” Tonks said sweetly. “Oh, you don't know how wily he is. He told me to go in without knocking, probably knowing what I'd find. He truly is a Marauder, just like James was,” Sirius replied with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. “All true,” Harry said innocently. “Remus, can you forge a note for me? I need to forward this on to Snape.” Tonks took one look at the garlic and laughed hysterically. “Sure, whose signature do you want forged?” Remus replied, shaking his head in wonderment at Harry's skill at pranking. “Dad's,” Harry replied simply. Remus grinned and held out his hand for the note. A moment later, he handed it back. It now said, Harry, my son, can you forward this on to my old friend, Snape? Snape, leave my family the hell alone. James Potter. P.S. Wash your hair, for once in your over-long life! Merry Christmas. Harry grinned and said, “Perfect.” He summoned his owl, Hedwig, and sent her off to Snape with the garlic in a box. Hermione was shaking with her efforts to hold in her laughter at the prank on Snape. ** Chapter 19 “Weasley was born in a bin...” Harry Potter arrived at the Pitch early for tryouts. The team Captain, Angelina Johnson, needed to replace Fred and George Weasley as Beaters. They had been kicked off the team for trying to kill the

Seeker. Of course, that Seeker had made a miraculous overnight recovery, and was now fit as a fiddle. He saw Ginny Weasley arrive at the Pitch with her broom in hand, and got the shrewd suspicion that she was trying out for Seeker. A moment later, Angelina marched up to him angrily. She handed him a note signed by Dumbledore and Umbridge that said he was to be replaced as Seeker. “What did you do, Potter?” she asked through gritted teeth. “I didn't do anything,” Harry said calmly. “But, you know what, if they want Ginny on the team as Seeker, then I'll step aside. I'll try out for Beater. There's nothing in the note about that,” Harry pointed out with a grin. Angelina looked at it again and grinned, too. She nodded and walked away. A few moments later, Harry stepped forward to take his turn. Ginny rushed forward to wish him luck, but Harry held her at arm’s length. “Ginny, stop. I didn't do this for you. Just go back to your spot.” He mounted his broom, grabbed a bat, and shot up into the air. Both Bludgers were let loose and Harry took a mighty swing at one. The sound of the bat smacking the iron ball was deafening, as was the sound of the iron ball striking the ground. Harry went after the second Bludger, with the same results. He flew back to the ground and dismounted in one smooth motion. “How did I do, Captain?” he asked. He suddenly saw a swath of flame-red hair and ducked. “Ginny, I said stop,” Harry said, a little angrily. She pouted and lunged again. Harry ducked again and said, “I never hit a girl intentionally, and I don't intend to start now.” Ron suddenly came up behind Harry and grabbed him around the waist, holding him in place. “Go on Ginny, I've got him. He won't escape now.” Harry rolled his eyes as Ginny stalked forward like a cat hunting a trapped mouse. Except I'm no trapped mouse, Harry thought as he slipped fluidly out of Ron's grip. “Hey, stay put so my sister can kiss you!” Ron protested. Harry was starting to get angrier, and he had to hold himself in control or risk showing his claws and fangs. He clamped down on his shields tighter, hoping for control. The urge to bite Ron lessened. “Ron,” he said softly, “if I kiss Ginny, it wouldn't be fair to her or to the girl I love. I don't love Ginny that way; I never have and never will.” With that, Harry walked away.

On his way up to the castle, Harry was stopped by Angelina. “Harry, just letting you know that you've got Beater. And, I believe you about Ginny. I saw the way she kept trying to trap you.” Harry nodded his thanks and slipped into a shadow. He vanished without a trace, and Angelina shook her head in mystification. “How does he do that...” she muttered to herself. Harry stepped out of another shadow near Dumbledore's office. He was just in time to see Molly Weasley step out, followed by Dumbledore. Harry slipped back into the shadow and made himself all but invisible, and watched. “I don't know what’s the matter with him, Albus. He should be falling all over Ginny by now,” Molly said. “He's as stubborn as a mule and doesn't seem to have his father's taste in women. James always went for the red-heads, like Lily. I would have thought Harry would to,” Dumbledore replied. McGonagall came out of nowhere and said, “That's because you need your eyes checked again. How long has it been since you had your prescription updated, since the war?” “We're at war now, Minerva, or didn't you notice?” he replied patiently, as though she were obtuse. “I meant World War II,” she shot back acidly. “Or it could have been World War I.” Dumbledore winced. “Shut up, Minerva. Baby-killers* like you shouldn't be teaching at a school,” Molly said nastily. That's when Harry stepped in. “Is that what you think of me? That I'm nothing more than a baby? Would you like my birth certificate to prove to you I'm nearly a man?” Harry asked, stepping in front of McGonagall. Molly had to look up to meet Harry's eyes, and she suddenly felt her knees turn to jelly. Her belly started to churn and she started sweating. She realized that she was afraid of this boy, front of her. She lowered her eyes and shook her head no. Harry looked a little smug as he said, “I thought not.” “Headmaster, Professor McGonagall,” Harry nodded his head toward

them in farewell and walked away. Dumbledore looked confused, and McGonagall looked smug as they watched Harry walk away. “Oh, Albus, about his taste in girls. Harry likes the same type of girls his father liked. Young, and bookish,” McGonagall said. Dumbledore's look of confusion became more pronounced. She walked away chortling, which startled several students who saw her. ** Finally, several weeks later, the Quidditch Final was held. It was between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and promised to be a dirty match. Lee Jordan was once again commentating, and McGonagall was once again “supervising” while yelling herself hoarse at her own team. When the Gryffindor team flew onto the Pitch, McGonagall started cheering for them even louder than Lee was. Harry made sure to fly by the tower where they were and waved as he passed. “It looks like Potter is playing Beater now!” Lee yelled in shock. Harry swung the bat experimentally to warm up, and flexed his muscles. The other Beater, Andrew Kirke, flew up next to him. “We're facing Slytherin now, Kirke. Don't worry, they're a bunch of slimy snakes that can't fly,” Harry reassured the new Beater. “Are you sure about that? I've seen Malfoy fly pretty well,” Kirke answered doubtfully. “Look over there, at their Beaters,” Harry pointed over to Crabbe and Goyle. “They need a signpost to find the Pitch. They're our counterparts. All we have to do is knock them out so they can't harass our people; though don't be surprised if the other Slytherin players grab the bats.” Kirke nodded, seeing Harry's point. The match started, and Harry and Kirke took opposite sides of the pitch, patrolling for Bludgers. Angelina grabbed the Quaffle and streaked for the Slytherin hoops. Crabbe sent a Bludger for her, but Harry was there with almost inhuman speed, and deflected it with a powerful swing. He was gone just as quickly. After Angelina scored, Slytherin got the Quaffle. Warrington flew

towards Ron, ready to score. Ron looked sick, and ready to dive to the side, and a roar of singing caused Warrington to grin stupidly. Weasley was born in a bin He always lets the Quaffle in That's why Slytherins all sing: Weasley is our King Suddenly, Sirius handed Pansy Parkinson, who was conducting the Slytherin chorus, a sheet of parchment. She read it and grinned. On the other side of the stands, Remus handed Neville a sheet of parchment. Neville read it and nodded grimly. He stood up to conduct, while watching Pansy out of the corner of his eye. Weasley was born in a bin He's nothing but a cretin He robbed our King That's why Gryffindors all sing: Weasley will help the Dark Lord win Right now Weasley is green But after the match he'll run off with the Queen That's why Gryffindors all sing: Weasley robbed our King

Meanwhile, Pansy was ready to conduct the next part of the chorus. She bowed to Neville across the Pitch, and began. Weasley was born in a bin He's not even worthy of the name cretin He's no true Gryffindor And he doesn't have the brains of a wild boar That's why Slytherins all sing: Weasley robbed the Gryffindor King For the last part of the chorus, Gryffindor and Slytherin sung together, their voices rising in twisted harmony. Weasley was born in a bin He always lets everything in That's why Gryffindors and Slytherins sing: Weasley, return our Queen to our King! Ron had turned bright red during the chorus and glared hatefully at his own House. He was so angry, he didn't notice when Warrington started flying again and sent the Quaffle right through the center ring for the score. It was doubly embarrassing for Ron since he was hovering in front of the center ring. Ginny flew by Pansy and shouted, “Shut up about my brother!” “Your brother is a Death Eater in waiting!” Pansy shouted back. Ginny was too busy shouting at Pansy that she didn't see Kirke hit a Bludger towards her. “That's for my King, Weasley!” he shouted.

“Wow, one of the Gryffindor Beaters sent a Bludger at the Gryffindor Seeker! Go Kirke! Defend our King!” Lee shouted, forgetting all about commentating. McGonagall looked ready to scold him, but changed her mind and grabbed the megaphone. “Mr. Kirke, twenty points to Gryffindor for your loyalty!” she shouted, causing a riot. “Harry, in the absence of a Seeker, I declare you temporary Seeker for this match!” Harry waved at her, handed Kirke his bat, and shot off after the Snitch. He caught it in a record four seconds. “Gryffindor wins 160- 10! Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup!” McGonagall shouted, and then handed the megaphone back to Lee. She straightened her bun, which was starting to come undone, and put on a prim look. Lee saw the banner come up, held by two men wearing Gryffindor colors. “Go Minnie!” Lee read off it. He leaned out the window and yelled, “Hey, you guys holding the banner! I completely agree! You guys rock!” Sirius and Remus gave each other a high-five and Remus threw something up to Harry, who was flying low and waiting for it. Harry caught the ball easily in one hand and fixed one end onto his broom. He flew higher so everyone could read it. The banner read, “Hey, Snape, don't you have a meeting to go to? Voldemort's waiting.” The stands emptied, and cheering Gryffindors lifted Harry on their shoulders. All during the march up to the castle, they were congratulating Harry and his friends on a job well done for the prank and the song. Ron and Ginny Weasley stood by, watching and seething. “He really needs to be taken down several pegs,” Ron said to his sister. “I completely agree, brother dear,” Ginny breathed in a voice so cold it chilled Ron's blood. “Potter's death will be slow and painful.” **

Chapter 20 OWLs and Shades The Quidditch Cup had gone down in history as the most united game ever played. All but a few players and spectators had been united to try to put down a single person. The school was up in arms to defend Harry and punish those who had wronged him, including Dumbledore and Snape. It certainly made Harry feel better that everyone was on his side, and he couldn't feel sorry about the Weasleys. He had thought they meant well, but actions speak louder than words, and their actions were those of a family seeking its own glory. Ron Weasley wanted money and fame; Ginny Weasley wanted the glory, and the title Mrs. Potter; Molly Weasley wanted to be called the mother-in-law of the Boy Who Lived, no matter who she had to go through to get it. However, there was still something very wrong with Ginny Weasley... Two weeks after the match, Fifth and Seventh Years were sitting their OWLs and NEWTs. Harry studied hard, but not nearly as hard as Hermione. Rumors were circulating that she was obsessivecompulsive, or simply insane. Harry quickly got the root of the rumors by watching her. He noticed that when she studied hard, and got obsessed with her work to an even greater degree than usual, she would start getting problems. These problems included the appearance of fangs. “Hermione, you've got to take it easy, before people see your teeth,” Harry cautioned her one day. “Harry, I'm fine. I need to do well on these tests, they determine my very future!” Hermione replied. “You're going to do fine,” Harry said. Since Hermione was not going to take it easy, Harry knew, he'd have to take matters into his own hands. He pushed her down on the couch and looked deeply into her eyes, and concentrated. He could feel the retrovirus that gave her the fangs and reflexes of a vampire, and set to work deactivating it. Once it was done, she sat back heavily. “You were starting to scare the First Years. They begged me to talk to you,” Harry said.

“How is that possible? I'm not scary,” Hermione replied. “Ever since Third Year, when you kindly offered to help me, you've been a carrier of the vampire retrovirus. I activated it temporarily for Halloween, for your costume. And now, I have deactivated it.” “How did it become activated in the first place?” Hermione asked. “The stress of studying for OWLs. You were stressing yourself out too much,” Harry answered. “Of course I'm stressing myself out! They're next week! And Ron won't help me study, or even study himself!” Hermione cried out desperately. “All you need do is ask, Hermione. I have all the time in the world,” Harry said as he grabbed a book and started quizzing her. It turned out that she was having the most trouble in Arithmancy, which surprised Harry, as she loved that class. “I have an idea that might help,” Harry said to a distraught Hermione. “Every night for the rest of the week, I will give you a problem to think about from this book. When you wake up in the morning, tell me the answer.” “How will that help?” Hermione asked, brushing frustrated tears out of her eyes. “Simple, the mind works best at night, when the body is resting. That's why if you sleep on a problem, you have a solution by morning,” Harry said smiling. Hermione agreed to try it. He handed her a book and said, “Now you can quiz me.” While Hermione was quizzing Harry, he suddenly straightened. He seemed to be looking off in the distance, and she saw how glazed his eyes were. “Harry, what's wrong?” “I can see you and me, as well as several others, at the Ministry battling Death Eaters,” Harry said. Hermione shut the book with a

snap. “That's what the DA is for, right?” she asked. “Yes, but in this case, it's a trap. We went there to save Sirius from Voldemort, but he was never in any danger,” Harry answered. “When will the trap be set?” “After we finish our OWLs,” Harry answered. “We just won't fall for it, unless Dumbledore decides he wants to dive head-first into mortal peril again. In that case, you and I will go, and I'll activate your retrovirus.” Hermione nodded acceptance. ** The rest of the week passed uneventfully, except for another fight between Ron and Hermione. Harry stepped into the fight and broke it up. Finally, the day of the first test dawned. Hermione woke up feeling rested and refreshed, and she thanked Harry for making her get a good night's sleep. “See, what'd I tell you? OWLs begin this morning and you're not falling asleep,” Harry said. Hermione nodded and asked, “Where's Ron?” “Sleeping. He studied last night, all night,” Harry answered, hiding his pain at her question. “He actually studied? I thought he wouldn't,” Hermione said. “Last night was the first and last time,” Harry reported. “He's going to fail,” Hermione said confidently. Harry chuckled and they walked down to breakfast. Ten minutes after they arrived, Ron ran in wearing mismatched socks and rubbing sleep out of his bleary eyes. “Harry, why didn't you wake me for breakfast?” he asked, grabbing a piece of French toast, forgetting he didn't like that particular breakfast food.

“I didn't have the heart to pour cold water all over you an hour after you fell asleep,” Harry said innocently. “No, instead, you would have waited until he'd been asleep for an hour and a half,” Hermione cut in. “An hour just isn't your style, Harry. You have more flair with your pranks.” “See, that's why you and I are such a good team. You know me,” Harry said to Hermione as Ron spit out his French toast and complained. “Ron, did anyone ever tell you that spitting your food out at the table is extremely disgusting?” Harry said over his shoulder. “How do you know what I'm doing if you're not watching?” Ron asked. “The magician never reveals his secrets,” Harry retorted as he got up. “Mate, don't you think you should eat something before the exams?” Ron called out. “No thanks, I've already eaten,” Harry said. “He sure does eat fast,” Ron remarked to Hermione. He stuffed his mouth and then leaned over to try to kiss her. “Eeewww, Ron! Stop it!” she wailed before backing away. She got up and followed Harry. “Why do I get the feeling he's trying to move in on my girl?” Ron asked himself. “Maybe because you don't deserve her, Weasley,” Snape said as he walked past the Gryffindor table. “I do deserve her!” Ron retorted. Snape turned around and walked back. “You dare talk back to me? I say you don't deserve her. What have you done to deserve any girl?” the greasy teacher demanded. “I-I deserve her,” Ron stammered.

“Ah ha, even you can't name any accomplishment that gives you the right to procreate,” Snape announced triumphantly. Ron looked dumbfounded. “Careful Weasley, you wouldn't want your face to get stuck that way. It doesn't make you look any brighter,” he warned with an evil smirk. “Now clear out while the Hall is set up for the testing.” “B-but I haven't had enough breakfast!” Ron complained. Snape looked him up and down and said, “You'd be doing the world a favor if you suddenly starved.” Then he walked away. Ron grudgingly left the Great Hall. The students were let back in half an hour later and took their seats. They were seated in alphabetical order by their last names, which quashed any notion Ron might have had to cheat off of Hermione or Harry. Harry looked over his test paper and rolled his eyes at the simplicity. Give the incantation and wand movement required to perform the Levitation charm, the first question said. Harry answered it and moved on to the rest. After he answered all the questions, he looked back over them to make sure he didn't miss any details in his answers. “Put your quills down and pass your exam papers forward, please,” the examiner called out. Harry passed his forward and the examiner Summoned them. Everyone left the Great Hall and Ron complained of being hungry again. Suddenly Harry grabbed Ron and pulled him aside. “Be careful Ron, you were about to walk into Dumbledore, and he's not in a good mood,” Harry warned him. “How do you always know someone's mood so accurately?” Ron asked. “Because I watch them. It's not hard to tell how they're feeling simply by looking at their faces,” Harry lied glibly. He wasn't ready to tell Ron that he was an Empath, but he did notice Dumbledore staring at him, as though he knew... Harry suddenly had a vision, once again of Dumbledore being held prisoner at the Ministry.

“Hey, Harry, are you alright?” Ron asked as he steadied Harry. “Yeah, just dizzy,” Harry answered in code, as he didn't want Dumbledore to know he was a Seer. Ron nodded and took him to a nearby classroom. He sat Harry down and ducked out to grab Hermione. “Harry's had another vision,” he reported. She sat down next to Harry and asked, “What was it about?” “The usual. Dumbledore diving head first into mortal peril again,” Harry said casually. “What does he do this time?” Ron asked with a grin. He was sadistic enough to enjoy Dumbledore's pain. “He picks a fight with Voldemort, and he's going to come out badly,” Harry said. Hermione nodded and said, “Let's go get lunch.” Ron never noticed the obvious change of subject and enthusiastically expressed his delight with that idea. They trooped out of the unused classroom, and Harry noticed Dumbledore lurking behind them. ** After lunch, they were called back into the Great Hall in alphabetical order to take the practical portion of their Charms OWL. Harry was one of the middle names, so Hermione had already come out and wished Ron good luck. Before Harry was called in, Dumbledore called him out of line to speak to him. He had known the second Dumbledore had come within range. “I'm just going to come right out and say it. Are you plotting to kill me?” Dumbledore asked. “If I was, you'd be dead already,” Harry answered coldly. The coldness in his tone covered up the anguish in his heart. “How many times are you going to lie to my face?!” Dumbledore exploded, causing several other students to look over. Ron ambled over, fingering his wand. He took one look at Harry's pain and ragefilled face and drew his wand.

“Are you looking for another lesson, Headmaster?” the red-head asked genially. Harry's already overtaxed mental shields broke and he felt waves of hatred and pure sadistic pleasure coming from Ron and Dumbledore. The two emotions intermingled so that Harry had a hard time distinguishing who was feeling what. Harry collapsed to his knees and Ron aimed his wand. “Give me one reason, and I swear I will,” he warned. Dumbledore reacted more swiftly, and disarmed Ron with one wave of his hand. Harry cried out in pain at Dumbledore's anger and fell forward. Hermione shrieked in anguish and ran forward. She threw her arms around Harry to attempt to shield him from Dumbledore's rage. “Harry, Harry, it's okay. Everything is going to be okay,” she whispered into his ear. She looked down and saw his fangs starting to peek past his lower lip. “Go now and we won't press charges,” she warned Dumbledore. He just smirked and Ron stepped in front of his girlfriend. “She's mine! Don't you touch her!” the red-head cried. “I am no one's property!” Hermione shrieked disgustedly. Ron ignored her. “Potter!” a voice called. “Potter!” It was the examiner calling Harry to the Great Hall. Draco Malfoy finished his exam and came out. He took one look at the scene and ducked back in. “He's getting attacked, Madame. He'll be in later.” The examiner rushed out and shrieked. It was Griselda Marchbanks and she faced Dumbledore down bravely. “Are you trying to prevent this boy from taking his OWL, Albus?” she asked in a thin voice. “Griselda, I'm the victim here. These two students tried to attack me, and their friend is plotting to kill me,” Dumbledore lied easily. She raised her eyebrow and said, “I see you've been practicing that, but you still haven't mastered it. I've heard better lies.” Dumbledore

winced and she continued, “It looks as though you've been trying to kill him and his friends are just protecting him.” She helped Harry up and supported him into the Great Hall while Dumbledore opened and closed his mouth like a beached fish. “Are you going to be alright, Mr. Potter?” she asked. “Yes, I'll be fine. Thank you for helping me get away from him,” Harry answered, as he regained control over his emotions. He followed her orders and performed the various spells flawlessly, and to much praise from old Griselda Marchbanks. “Oh, you do have a certain flair. You're not an exhibitionist, but you do make sure everyone sees how well you're doing,” she said. “Ummm, thanks,” Harry replied, taken a little by surprise. When he was dismissed, he left to tell Hermione what Marchbanks had said. ** Over the next few days, the Fifth Years took their OWLs. The Transfiguration and Herbology OWLs went well, especially for Harry and Hermione, but of course Ron failed. He couldn't even transfigure a teacup into a rat, whereas Harry easily outstripped him by turning the pile of sawdust on his desk into a flock of songbirds. He was later dismissed with high praise from the examiner, which Hermione emulated. Hermione had walked right past McGonagall without seeing her, but Harry noticed her right off. He turned to salute her with a grin. “I think you'll be proud, Professor. I've just aced another OWL,” he said. McGonagall smiled and congratulated him and Hermione noticed the book she was holding, The Power of the Vampire, by Heinrich Weisen. “Excuse me Professor, may I borrow that book? I'd like to read more about vampires,” Hermione asked. McGonagall agreed and handed it over. Hermione opened the book experimentally, and it immediately fell open to the chapter on Black Forest vampires. She guessed that was Harry's breed. “Come on, Hermione, you at least need to eat,” Harry said.

“What about you, when did you last eat?” Hermione asked. “Last night,” he replied. “I'll be fine for another week at most.” “It's Defense Against the Dark Arts tomorrow. Are you going to be fine with Umbridge?” McGonagall asked. “Oh yeah, she doesn't bother me. It's Dumbledore butting in that I'm worried about,” Harry said confidently. “Then allow me to drug his pumpkin juice tonight. A nice dose of Dreamless Sleep Potion should go a long way to ensuring you have a stress-free exam tomorrow,” the Transfiguration teacher grinned mischievously. Harry thanked her and moved on, with Hermione reading about Black Forest vampires. Suddenly a hand reached out to grab the book, but it didn't reach it. Harry had seen it coming and grabbed the wrinkly wrist with an iron grip. “I would thank you to leave my friend in peace while she's reading, Headmaster,” Harry said coolly. Hermione looked up with round brown eyes slowly filling with tears. Harry's first instinct was to comfort her, and Dumbledore took that opportunity to snatch the book. He read the same page Hermione had been reading and didn't even notice when Harry and Hermione walked on. Once they were around the corner, Harry Summoned the book back and handed it to Hermione, who smiled beautifully. ** The Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL started well enough, with the written portion. Harry grinned at one of the last questions; Give the characteristics of the Romanian vampires, and the weapon most likely to scare them away. Harry wrote down a detailed answer, which he had found in the book Hermione had borrowed from McGonagall the day before. When the papers were collected, Harry left, still reading his. He bumped into Hermione, who had been staring wideeyed at Ron, who was busy chatting up Luna Lovegood. Harry covered up his pain at Hermione's perceived distress, and whistled. Ron looked over to them, glared at Harry, and went back to talking to

Luna. “Alright, if he's going to ignore us, we'll ignore him,” Harry said. He took Hermione's arm gently and led her away. “So what did you think about that question about Romanian vampires? I think I got all the characteristics. I mean, I got the greasy black hair, the pale skin, and the above-average aggression.” Hermione took her cue and chuckled. “I think you might have missed something. I also got the name anomaly and the shampoo brand most likely to send them scurrying, as well as the place they scurry to.” “You also got the shampoo? I wasn't sure which brand, so I didn't put any,” Harry continued, smiling. “I also did notice that their names most often start with 'S', but I didn't think that was important enough to put down.” They heard Colin and Dennis Creevey start howling with laughter. “Glad you're entertained, guys, but I don't think he is,” Harry called out. For at that moment, Severus Snape was stalking towards the two boys. They squeaked and ran, while Harry and Hermione interposed themselves between the furious teacher and the fleeing boys. “Remember my warning, Snivellous? Keep away,” Harry said calmly. Snape abruptly stopped. “That's better.” Once Colin and Dennis were safely out of the way, Harry and Hermione moved. Later that day, they had their practical Defense OWL. When Harry was called in, the examiner said nothing, though he did glance suspiciously at him. Harry guessed Dumbledore might have gotten to him, probably before McGonagall had put him to bed. The OWL went well enough, though the examiner, Professor Tofty tried to stump him. Finally, at the end, Tofty said desperately, “I'll bet you can't do this! Produce a Patronus, if you can!” Harry rolled his eyes and thought of the way Hermione's smile made him feel. The feeling of warmth filled him to bursting, and he raised his wand. “Expecto Patronum!” he incanted. Instead of a gigantic silver stag galloping majestically out of his wand, something else altogether happened. A figure that looked suspiciously like Heinrich

Weisen stepped out and raised a bugle to his silvery lips. He blew a short burst and stepped aside. Harry watched in wonder as several more forms marched out. He saw his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents, and so on through the generations until finally Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw. The figure of Weisen blew another burst on his bugle and led the shades marching out of the room. Harry felt he had no choice but to follow, so that's what he did. He followed them all the way to Dumbledore's office, where he saw the bleary-eyed Headmaster doing some paperwork. The door opened as he shades approached. “I thought I left orders-” Dumbledore started to say, but stopped at the sight that greeted him. His face paled and he started sweating. “Oh crap...” he muttered. The shades entered two-by-two, first with James and Lily Potter. They started haranguing him for his abominable treatment of their only son, and then they faded away, only to be replaced by James' parents. Charlus and Dorea Potter seemed to be under the impression that Dumbledore had some problem with the continued existence of the Potter family. All the rest of the shades had the same suspicion it seemed, and Harry, who was rather enjoying the show, noticed how much Dumbledore seemed to sweat. Finally, the shades of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw came in, and Dumbledore nearly died right there. The shades looked around the office contemptuously and then deigned to look at Dumbledore. “Our family seems to have been particularly targeted by you. Are you sure you're not a follower of the Dark?” Gryffindor asked. “I would have surmised that you secretly admire the Prince of Darkness,” Ravenclaw said coldly, and then they too vanished. “T-t-this i-is i-impossible!” the examiner stammered, very white. Dumbledore looked like he was going to have a stroke and a heart attack at the same time. Harry pocketed his wand and said innocently, “So, how did I do?” Tofty looked searchingly at Dumbledore, as though unsure of something the old man had told him in the past. “Full marks, and a few bonus points,” Tofty finally said confidently to Harry. Harry grinned and left, whistling. Before he was too far away,

he heard Tofty question Dumbledore. “You told me that boy was a Dark Wizard in training. Why did you lie to me?” “I have seen him with Lord Voldemort, doing his bidding,” Dumbledore said carefully. “He is among the darkest of Dark Creatures, a vampire. He strikes by night, but by day wears the form of an innocent schoolboy. He has enchanted several people to his service, and possibly to his Dark Master's service.” “You think he's a vampire?” Tofty asked incredulously. At that moment Griselda Marchbanks and Dolores Umbridge walked past Harry and into Dumbledore's office. Tofty turned to address the two women. “Dumbledore seems to think Harry Potter is a vampire in the service of He Who Must Not Be Named!” “Now I've heard it all,” Griselda said, shaking her head. “I was already aware of the Headmaster's suspicions,” Umbridge simpered. Tofty and Griselda rolled their eyes. “I have seen nothing to indicate that Harry Potter is dead. He seems healthy and is active in the day,” Griselda said. “I have seen him standing in direct sunlight with no pain, and I have seen him eat real food. I think you should stop slandering the boy, Albus.” Dumbledore sighed. “Also, vampires have no heart and can't love. Potter loves deeply, or he would never have been able to produce a Patronus of that caliber, or any kind of Patronus,” Tofty finished, looking loftily at Dumbledore. The two examiners left, not knowing Harry was following them. ** Over the next several days, Harry watched Ron not prepare for the next week of their exams. Hermione, of course, after she had taken her Ancient Runes OWL, hunkered down to study for her remaining exams just as devotedly as she had the rest. Harry was right there to support her the only way he knew how. He helped her study when she needed help, and he made her stop when she was going too far. With the next week came Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Astronomy, and Divination. Of course, Hermione wasn't taking the latter, but Harry saw her looking longingly at his notes from that class.

And to top it all off, other students had started to whisper that even though Ron was her boyfriend, it was Harry who was so devoted to her, while she seemed devoted to Ron. They whispered that Harry was getting a very raw deal. He had all the looks, talent, and brains, as well as a monster crush on the girl, but he had none of the benefits. Harry, of course, knew all about the whispers because of his super-sensitive hearing. ** Chapter 21: The Showdown of the Minds OWLs had just finished, and Harry wanted a break. Of course, it was in his nature to keep active. Once he had time to focus on something other than school, his mind drifted to the problem of a certain Severus Snape. Through reading the greasy teacher's emotions he had gleaned enough information to determine Snape had always been Voldemort's man, through and through. However, he wanted more proof, and he wanted a motive. The only way to get those pieces of the puzzle was to delve into the Death Eater's psyche. An easy job for a vampire with no qualms about causing permanent harm to this sorry excuse for a human being. Harry was walking towards Snape's quarters in the middle of the night, and on the way he got an idea. The smile spread across his handsome face as he considered it. All it would take were a few illusion spells and a dark hooded cloak, both of which he had. He poofed into Snape's room while the teacher's back was turned and quickly drew his disguise over himself. “Snape...” he hissed evilly. “Look at me.” Snape turned around quickly, but didn't draw his wand because he recognized the voice. It appeared to be his Master, Lord Voldemort. “Yes, my Lord?” he asked while bowing low. “What service do you require of me?” “I am testing the loyalty of all those who bear my Mark,” Harry hissed. “If I find that you pass the test, I will spare your life, though you should never mention this to me in future.”

“I am your most loyal servant, my Lord,” Snape breathed, eager for a chance to prove himself to his master beyond any shadow of a doubt. Harry read his eagerness with great ease, and it sickened him to know that this man was in a position of power over countless children. “Let me be the judge of that,” Harry snapped, letting Snape think his anger was at his own presumptuousness. The greasy Death Eater was thoroughly cowed, and offered no resistance to his mental probe. Harry felt shields that could come up at a moment's notice, but those shields stayed down. Dumbledore, you fool. You never thought to check this, Harry thought disgustedly. He sifted through Snape's mind, looking for any memories of value. He finally found something interesting. “Name the people in this memory, Snape,” Harry hissed. “James Potter and his friends, just after our Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL, my Lord,” Snape answered at once, because he could also see the memory Harry had prodded forward. “The girl, however, was Lily Evans, the mudblood who later married Potter.” Harry was thoroughly disgusted and enraged to feel this cretin's obsessive “love” for his mother. “You dared to love a mudblood, Snape?” Harry hissed angrily. “The hormones of a teenage boy, my Lord. I rather quickly realized she could never be anything more than a slut to take my pleasure with,” Snape said, almost gleefully. “When did you realize this, Snape?” Harry hissed, pretending to sound slightly mollified. “In the beginning of my fourth year, nearly two years before that memory. She always thought I was her friend,” Snape answered. Harry could easily detect that Snape was telling the truth. In disgust, he pulled out of Snape's filthy mind. He had found enough for a jury to have convicted him of high treason nearly two decades ago.

“You have passed my test, Snape. Remember, never mention this to me again, on pain of death,” he hissed, before leaving the room. He stalked away in a rage and suddenly got a vision. Hagrid and McGonagall were fighting off several wizards, who were trying to arrest Hagrid. He knew they needed help, and that he was the only one who could or would help. He pulled his cloak tighter around himself and poofed out of the corridor, and the castle, and reappeared about sixty feet in the air, where he promptly grew wings. He swooped down and grabbed the wands of the wizards, and one witch, who were threatening his friends. “Take these!” he called out as he tossed the wands to McGonagall and Hagrid, then he rose up higher and prepared for a dive. He decided that Umbridge, the single witch, would be the most likely to be scared. He dived down to her and swiped his two-inch-long claws just inches from her face, missing her deliberately. She shrieked as though he had torn her face off, causing the three men to turn to her in alarm. Their inattention gave McGonagall the opportunity to incapacitate them. She left only Kingsley awake, much to the Auror's gratitude. Harry landed in front of them and retracted his wings. “Let me guess, Umbridge decided that having Dumbledore wrapped around her little finger wasn't enough, right?” Harry asked sarcastically. “Absolutely correct, Harry,” Kingsley said in his deep voice. He held his hand up and caught the wand McGonagall tossed back to him. “We've got to get rid of her,” Hagrid said, brandishing his umbrella like a weapon. Harry noticed, in the moonlight shining on them, that Hagrid had a rather large bruise stretching from his eye to his chin, and it looked suspiciously like a giant-sized fist had caused it. “Hagrid, are you perhaps hiding something between 15 and 20 feet tall in the forest?” Harry asked shrewdly. Hagrid hung his head and grunted an affirmative. “My half-brother, Grawp,” he sighed. “I couldn't leave him behind, they were hurting him!” he cried plaintively. Harry rolled his eyes and muttered, “And I was wondering why the centaurs were angry. I should have known.” He looked up, his eyes seeming to glow. “Professor McGonagall, if Dumbledore runs past

you out here while I'm in the forest, send me and Hermione a Patronus.” The teacher nodded, not knowing what was going on. “I'll keep watch, too, Harry,” Hagrid offered. “The centaurs won't let me in the forest anymore.” Harry nodded and said, “I suspected they wouldn't. Just tell me how deep in your brother is.” “Pretty deep, near where...” he trailed off, a red tinge coming to his cheeks. “Oh goody...” Harry muttered in response, easily reading the truth in Hagrid's eyes. “Kingsley, you might want to alert Fudge that Voldemort is going to make a mockery of the Ministry's defenses tonight, and that he'll have several of his best Death Eaters with him. I will be going there later to bring one out, dead or alive.” Kingsley saw the determination in Harry's eyes, and nodded. Harry headed into the forest and kept to the path, and eventually came to a gigantic mound. He approached it cautiously and saw that it was heaving. He deduced that this must be Hagrid's half-brother, Grawp. He was about to raise his wand and cast a sleeping spell on the stirring giant, but thought better of it. He was about to leave, when he was shot by a centaur with a bow and arrow. The arrow whizzed through his sleeve, not hurting Harry himself. “Now that wasn't very nice,” he said sarcastically as he examined the hole in his sleeve. “Now I'm going to have to get this fixed.” “Leave this forest now. Your kind is not welcome among us,” Magorian said coldly. Several other centaurs came up on either side of Magorian. Harry recognized one of them as Bane. “I just came to see what had you so riled up, and what had been using my friend as a punching bag,” Harry said calmly. He kept his emotions in complete control, never letting anything slip. “I was on my way out of your forest when you ambushed me.” Magorian raised his bow again and prepared to fire. Harry saw him taking careful aim on his chest, and raised an eyebrow. He simply sprouted his wings, but

kept them furled at his sides, as though he was expecting the summons at any moment. Magorian drew back on his bowstring, and Bane raised his bow, followed by all the other centaurs. A silver cat bounded into the clearing and spoke in McGonagall's voice. “Harry, he's gone. I've summoned Hermione like you asked.” The Patronus faded away, but by the time the centaurs had taken their eyes off the spot it had occupied, Harry had already ascended up above the treetops. “Damn, it got away,” Magorian muttered. Bane echoed him. Harry flew to the castle doors and saw Hermione running out. He landed and put his wings away. Hermione felt her retrovirus activating as Harry grabbed her around the waist and poofed them both away from Hogwarts. They reappeared outside the door to the Department of Mysteries, which was ajar. Harry used his vampire senses to scan the rooms ahead. “All have the Mark,” he whispered to his companion, who he'd wanted to kiss for years. She put her arm around his waist and nearly purred, “Then what are we waiting for? A fool fell in over his head and needs a ticket out of there.” Harry's blood started boiling when her breath tickled his ear. They pushed the door open soundlessly and walked in. When they entered, the door they used slid closed by itself, plunging the circular chamber into darkness. The darkness would have been nearly absolute, if only Harry wasn't a vampire, and Hermione the next-best-thing. They were easily able to see the other doors, though they were spinning. When the doors stopped spinning, Harry stepped forward confidently. He tried the first door in front of him, but it wouldn't open. He extended his senses outward, and sensed nothing evil in that room. Hermione marked it with a fiery cross and they tried another door, neither one speaking. They didn't need to speak to each other; they understood each other perfectly without words. The next door slid open at Harry's touch, revealing a room with tall shelves covered with various timepieces. He passed a shelf with time turners on it, and a bell jar with a tiny bird in it, passing from birth to death all in the space of a few moments. They continued to the door at the other end of this room, which led to an office. They searched the office and continued on to the Planet Room. They both heard voices murmuring beyond this room, so they continued. The voices unwittingly led them right to the Brain Room. “Ugh, human brains,”

Harry and Hermione whispered at the same time. They passed through the door and quickly ducked into a shadow, so they could watch the proceedings. The Death Chamber was occupied by Lord Voldemort and thirteen of his Death Eaters, many of whom were patrolling the tiered benches. Harry recognized the blue eyes of the Death Eater nearest them as Dumbledore, who looked like he wanted out of there. Voldemort was talking about one of the Death Eaters to the rest near him, and he looked angry. Harry nodded to Hermione and gestured to Dumbledore and Voldemort. She nodded back and crept closer to Dumbledore. During his patrol, he turned around and saw Hermione lounging on the bench. “If you're not careful, you're going to wear a hole in the stone,” she said matter-of-factly, pitching her voice to carry. Voldemort looked over in their direction and demanded, “Who is there?” Dumbledore looked between Voldemort and Hermione, but he took too long to decide what to do and Voldemort sent four others up to take both of them into custody. “So, you sought to betray me, but your little companion spoke too loud and got you both caught,” Voldemort hissed gleefully. He reached forward and swiped the mask off Dumbledore's face. “You?!” he shrieked, rage twisting his face grotesquely. “Yes, it's him. Now let him go or I'll hurt you,” Harry stepped calmly out of the shadows, his hood down to reveal his face. He was wearing his ring so none of the Death Eaters or their Dark Master knew what he was. “Potter, you walk so calmly into my midst,” Voldemort breathed. Harry raised an eyebrow then threw his cloak back, revealing that he was ready for combat. “Malfoy, Crabbe, keep holding the girl. Bella, torture Dumbledore. I want to hear him scream as I kill Harry Potter,” Voldemort ordered. “The rest of you, stay out of the way.” Harry merely stepped in front of Dumbledore and said, “I wouldn't do that if I were you.” He drew his wand and waved it, casting several Stunners on various Death Eaters. Bellatrix, as well as Lucius Malfoy and

Crabbe Sr. and others, fell down. Hermione leaped up and took out the rest of the Death Eaters, leaving her and Harry to deal with Voldemort while they protected Dumbledore. “It seems you and your mudblood have more skill than I thought, Potter. No matter, I will kill the old fool and then take my pleasure with the slut while you beg for mercy,” Voldemort said triumphantly. “Didn't your mother ever teach you it's not polite to say things like that?” Harry asked sarcastically. Voldemort's face twisted in rage again and Harry said, “It seems I've struck a nerve. Lucky me.” Hermione dragged Dumbledore to his feet and found his wand for him, but quickly started to regret that when his wand wavered between Harry and Voldemort. She smacked him lightly and snapped, “Not at Harry!” “Ha ha! Your beloved Headmaster doesn't seem to care one whit for you, Potter! He can't decide who he hates more, you or me!” Voldemort taunted Harry. Harry felt Dumbledore's indecision like a knife in his gut. Hermione saw the way Harry was wavering, and took matters into her own hands. She pointed her wand at Dumbledore's back and whispered, “Petrificus Totalus!” Dumbledore's arms and legs sprang together, but he was still aware of what was going on. He watched as the duel began, as Voldemort exclusively used the Dark Arts, and how Harry always used Light magic. Harry ducked aside as Voldemort sent a sickly yellow curse at him, and then screamed in rage as the curse missed. He cast it again, but once again the Cruciatus Curse missed. “Lumos!” Harry shouted, but his spell was stronger than the normal light spell. He aimed his wand in Voldemort's eyes, and then whispered “Nox!”, causing all the lights to shut off. Voldemort was effectively blinded for a few moments as his eyes adjusted to the dark. Harry, however, had no need to recover his vision, as he could see very well in the dark. Hermione, who was standing guard over Dumbledore, cast a night-vision spell on him so he could see the battle. Harry crept behind Voldemort silently, then cast the Lumos spell again, ruining the night-vision the Dark Lord had gained. The Dark Lord screamed in pain as his eyes watered, then Harry silently

incanted “Levicorpus!” causing Voldemort to be suspended by his ankles. Harry then levitated Voldemort over the stone benches, and dropped him intentionally. There was a sickening thud and a groan. Harry then grabbed Hermione and Dumbledore, who Hermione had released from the Body-Bind, and they left the Death Chamber. Harry stormed ahead of the small procession, causing Dumbledore to ask Hermione, “What's eating him this time?” “You fool!” she shouted, causing Harry to look back once. “He just saved your miserable little life, and this is all the thanks he gets!” She grabbed Dumbledore's left arm and pulled the sleeve back roughly. “Oh my god,” she whispered. The Dark Mark had started to fade before her very eyes. “Harry, he's decided,” she called ahead. Harry came back to look, and Dumbledore's heart had nearly shattered when he saw the tears in Harry's emerald eyes. They were tears of joy and relief that dripped down his cheeks and landed on his hand, which was still clutching Dumbledore's forearm. “Thank you...” Harry whispered. Harry could feel Dumbledore's curious gaze on him the whole time he and Hermione were leading him out. He didn't look back at him, as he didn't want the tears to come again. He now had to decide how much of the truth he'd have to tell Dumbledore. I guess the whole truth is better than part of it, he thought. They Flooed back to Hogwarts, where McGonagall met them. Harry could immediately tell she had been worried, and he set to work calming her down. “I've spoken to Fudge, and he said Voldemort had been seen in the Ministry. He said he escaped with Bellatrix Lestrange,” McGonagall reported. “You didn't run into him, did you, Harry?” “I walked up to him and demanded that he release Dumbledore,” Harry said. “When he said 'no', we dueled.” “Ha! That'll be something to tell Molly Weasley! You've defied Voldemort five times now!” McGonagall said triumphantly. The Deputy Headmistress and the redheaded matriarch had been feuding ever since Harry had been openly accepted into the Order of the Phoenix. She walked off chortling.

Dumbledore turned to Harry and asked, “Now can you tell me what the deal with the Dark Mark was?” “Simple, it's tied into a gift I have. If I so choose, I can read the thoughts of someone and plant the physical manifestation of their feelings towards me on them. You hate me, so the physical manifestation of that hate was the Dark Mark. However, to do that, I needed to be in physical contact with someone who felt the opposite,” Harry said calmly. Hermione blushed a brilliant scarlet. “I didn't know vampires could do that,” Dumbledore said, confused. “Normally, we can't. I think I was given special permission from the Powers That Be or something, to give you the heads up that you were being thicker than Ron could ever be,” Harry answered. “I think it's a hidden gift given to those of us unfortunate enough to meet you.” “Yes, I have it on good authority that third year especially was very rough,” Hermione said, slightly sarcastically. Dumbledore winced as he remembered how volatile Harry was that year. “Just as a warning, Snape's playing you like a fiddle,” Harry said to Dumbledore as he kissed Hermione on the hand and faded into a nearby shadow. “But I trust Severus Snape,” Dumbledore retorted, not really knowing Harry wasn't there anymore. “Polly want a cracker?” Hermione asked nastily. Dumbledore turned to her in shock. “You also believe Severus is evil?” he asked her. “I believe Harry's right about him. I learned a long time ago that Harry can see things no one else can,” Hermione retorted. “And it'll be a while before I forgive you for the pain and suffering you forced on Harry.” She walked away after that, knowing that Harry had deactivated her retrovirus when he had kissed her hand, and the thought of his soft lips lingering on her skin caused her to blush and

feel something stir deep inside her belly. “But, but...” Dumbledore muttered. “I trust Severus Snape...” “Of course you do, you old fool. But so does my Master...” a hidden voice silkily whispered after Dumbledore had gone on. Severus Snape had been hiding behind that tapestry just long enough to hear Harry warn Dumbledore against him. ** Chapter 22: The Chair Animagus Harry Potter had been sitting in his bedroom at Number Four Privet Drive for several hours. It was the middle of the night and Harry had been seeing visions of Dumbledore dying again and again, all while he himself had done nothing. He was determined that he would not let Dumbledore die, no matter what. It was nearing dawn and Harry knew Dumbledore would be arriving soon. He also knew that Dumbledore had been watching him for quite some time; he had been watching for so long, in fact, that Harry was considering contacting him. He grinned when the idea came to him. He stood up and moved away from the window, then concentrated on changing his body. The shape he assumed was one not normally associated with a vampire, that of a Phoenix. In a burst of flames Harry vanished from his bedroom, clutching a note he had written in advance. Albus Dumbledore, very sorry about his behavior over the last five years, had decided to watch Harry's house himself, instead of assigning someone from the Order. And besides, he's a senior member of the Order himself. He's survived a year with us with no discernible injuries, he thought with a wry grin. A noise behind him had him wishing quite devoutly that Harry wasn't asleep, but when he turned around, clutching his wand, he saw it was only Fawkes. The Phoenix alighted on his head with a short burst of song as he removed a letter from the bird's talons. Curious, he thought, the last time a Phoenix landed on my head, it was Harry... Oh crap. He craned his neck upward and saw the Phoenix looking down at him, brilliant green eyes sparkling mischievously.

Harry took off from his perch and transformed in midair, landing on his feet with nary a sound. “You didn't even read my note,” he whined, though he was still smiling. Dumbledore huffed and opened the note. It simply said Boo. “How did you know I was out here?” Dumbledore asked. “I see all and know all,” Harry intoned in a deep voice. “Basically, you sensed my presence,” Dumbledore said, and Harry nodded in confirmation. “Hogwarts is in need of a new teacher. Will you consider accompanying me to talk to him?” “Of course,” Harry said, a little hurt that Dumbledore felt the need to ask. Dumbledore never noticed, instead he held out his hand for Harry to hold onto and Apparate with him. Harry raised an eyebrow when he saw Dumbledore's blackened hand. “Not been having a good summer so far, have you?” he asked. “I made a foolish mistake, that's all it is,” Dumbledore said, not answering Harry's question directly. “You do know that can be fixed, right?” Harry asked, pointing at Dumbledore's hand. “It can't be fixed. Severus was barely able to save my arm,” Dumbledore disagreed. Harry shrugged and said, “Suit yourself, but once I get access to some Potion ingredients, I can teach Snape a few things.” “Anyway, do you know how to Apparate?” Dumbledore asked, ignoring Harry's statement. Harry just raised an eyebrow and said, “Yes, I can, but I don't need to.” “Then, let's go,” Dumbledore said. Harry grabbed his uninjured arm and let the Headmaster guide him. Seconds later, they arrived in Budleigh Blabberton, the temporary home of Horace Slughorn. They walked up the street, with Harry continuously scanning ahead of them. When they reached the house and saw that the door had been blown in, Harry stopped, his every nerve screaming that something was wrong. “Stay here, I'll go check it out,” Harry commanded

Dumbledore, who attempted to protest. He stopped at the withering look Harry shot him. “If there's danger, they'll only see me, and attack me. They won't know that I cannot be killed the usual way.” Harry silently crept toward the house, and squeezed in without making the door squeal. Once inside the entryway, Harry concentrated and assumed the form of a spider. In his spider form, he scuttled around the house unseen, and was able to see that it was apparently empty except for an over-stuffed armchair. He scuttled into a shadow and resumed his usual form, before creeping back out into the open. He went to the door and called out quietly, “It's a mess, but it appears to be empty.” Dumbledore came in and gasped at the mess. There was blood all over the walls, all the furniture except for the huge chair was in pieces, and dust covered everything. “What happened here?” Dumbledore asked. “I'm not sure, but I'd guess Death Eaters, if I didn't know better,” Harry answered, examining the walls. “What do you mean you don't think it's Death Eaters?” Dumbledore asked. “It's elementary, the Death Eaters always leave behind the Dark Mark when they kill or kidnap someone, but the Mark is not there. The house may be a mess, but it looks hurried and random, not like a struggle or a search. All the furniture is destroyed, except for that one chair which doesn't look damaged at all. And the blood on the walls is not human, it's dragon blood,” Harry answered, ticking the points off on his fingers. “Oh, you might want to check that chair. It's alive.” Dumbledore poked the chair, and leaped back when it stretched and stood up. “Horace, what happened here, old friend?” he asked. “The Intruder charms alerted me to you and your friend, so I tried to make it look like Death Eaters had been here. You see, I don't want them to find me,” Horace Slughorn explained. “If you come to Hogwarts, they'll never find you,” Dumbledore promised, sounding a little like a used-car salesman. “I object,” Harry,

who was leaning against a clear patch of wall casually, said. “You can't promise that because there's a Death Eater at Hogwarts.” “Whose side are you on, anyway?” Dumbledore demanded. Harry stepped away from the wall and said, “I proved that to you last month. I'm on your side, though I object to your lying to your friends. Snape has the Dark Mark, and you very well know it.” Harry then turned to Slughorn and said, “I have absolutely no problem with you coming to Hogwarts to teach, and I think Dumbledore can promise he'll do his damnedest to keep the Death Eaters away from you. I will deal with Snape myself.” “And who are you to make promises like that?” Slughorn asked suspiciously. “I'm the Death Eaters' worst nightmare,” Harry answered cryptically. He stalked out of the room with the grace of a born warrior or professional Quidditch player. Dumbledore watched him go, a very slight smile on his face. “That was Harry Potter, a vampire I picked up. He's skilled, but not a bloodthirsty maniac to my knowledge,” Dumbledore said. “Are you coming?” “Ooohh, yes, I'm coming. He's convinced me,” Slughorn replied, looking like Christmas had come early. “Just, keep it a secret what he is, he's touchy about it,” Dumbledore cautioned conspiratorially. Slughorn nodded emphatically, still looking like a child on Christmas morning. “Harry, come on, I'll take you to the Burrow. I can send Sirius along later, if you want,” Dumbledore grinned mischievously. Harry knew it would be futile to protest, so he agreed. When they arrived at the Burrow, Dumbledore said, “I've already taken the liberty of moving your belongings here. Do you need anything?” “I have enough,” Harry answered, vaguely insulted by Dumbledore's remark. Dumbledore, however, didn't notice anything was amiss. Once Dumbledore had answered Molly's security question, Harry was

admitted. “Oh, Harry dear, you're thin as a rail!” she wailed. Harry rolled his eyes and answered, “I'm fine.” “Nonsense, you need some meat on those bones,” Molly started, but Ginny interrupted. “Oh, Mum, I like him just fine the way he is,” the redhead said, leering at Harry. “Yummy,” she murmured. Molly beamed at the two of them, and ignored Harry's eye-roll. “Am I in the same room as last time?” Harry asked. “No dear, since Fred and George are gone, you can sleep in their room,” Molly answered. “Ginny, why don't you show him?” Ginny grinned and led Harry upstairs. Every few steps she would stop and glance back, grinning all the time. “You know Harry, I don't mind if you look at my butt,” she said sweetly. “Ginny, how many times do I have to say this? I. Am. Not. Interested. In. You.” Harry swept past her and into Fred and George's old room, where he was quickly accosted by Hermione. He swept her into his arms and asked her, “Did you have a good summer?” “Oh, yes, my parents said 'hello', by the way,” she answered. “Your parents? They don't even know me,” Harry replied, while inwardly he had started cheering. “Um, Harry? Get your hands off my girl,” Ron said bravely. Harry let go of her and turned around, not surprised to see him there. He had known Ginny would fetch Ron. “It's nice to see you, too, mate,” Harry said, slightly sarcastically. He looked at Ron closely, and even tried probing him. There was definitely something there... “Hey, Hermione, Percy just stopped by and said he could give us some pointers to help us become Head Boy and Girl in Seventh

Year,” Ron said. Hermione, ever eager to learn new things, left with him. Ginny slipped in behind her and said, “And now we're finally alone.” Harry, who had thrown himself on his bed, sat up straighter and said, “Ginny, no! I keep saying that I'm not interested in you, but you never listen. I must ask you to leave, or I will.” Ginny ignored him, and just stared sultrily at him as she approached. Harry recognized something in her movements that made him pause. And was her hair slightly darker than Weasley-red? He got up and said coldly, “I can't stay here.” He went downstairs and gave his regrets to Molly, while Sirius knocked on the door. “Sirius, is Grimmauld ready for another occupant?” Harry asked. “Of course it is, pup,” Sirius replied, a little confused. “Good, then I'll spend the summer there with you. I can't stay here.” Sirius waved his wand and Harry's belongings sped to them. With another wave of his wand, they had disappeared for Headquarters. He held out his arm for Harry to Apparate, and they set off as Ginny stormed downstairs, her eyes blazing. Once they arrived, Sirius said, “Okay, what's the problem?” “It's Ginny, she won't leave me alone, and Molly keeps trying to alternate playing mother hen or matchmaker. And besides, with Ron and Hermione apparently reconciled again, they're going to be revolting,” Harry answered. “You mean, revolting while they're together, and depressing while she's wishing they were together,” Sirius theorized. “Yeah, I can see what you mean,” he shuddered. They walked in, much to Kreacher's delight. When they reached the Drawing Room, Sirius poured butterbeer and said, “So, tell me about your latest rescue mission.” “I had a vision of Dumbledore being there, and Hermione and I went after him. We caught him with Voldemort, I dueled the creature, and got Dumbledore out. Now he seems to trust me, and the Dark Mark has vanished from his arm,” Harry answered as he walked over to look at the Family Tree on the wall.

“Hey, Sirius, Tonks is a Metamorphmagus, right?” “Yeah, why?” “Do you happen to know which side of the family passed that on?” Harry asked. “Yeah, her mother, my favorite cousin. Why?” “Does Andromeda have that talent, too?” Harry asked as he sipped. “No,” Sirius said, looking closer at the tapestry, trying to see why Harry was so interested. “If she's a carrier, and her mother was, too, then Bellatrix and Narcissa could both be carriers,” Harry went on. Sirius then proved that he was no dummy. “You think either Draco Malfoy is a Metamorph, or Bellatrix is,” he theorized. “Oh, I know dear old Draco isn't, but I suspect Bellatrix's daughter might be,” Harry announced. “Bellatrix doesn't have any kids...unless...Oh, sick! I did not want to think about that!” Sirius moaned. “I just need proof, or not even Dumbledore would trust me ever again. Sirius, as an Auror you could check hospital records and see if there's a chance a switch might have been pulled, while I try to force an obvious change out of her,” Harry said. ** “Sirius, where do you keep the Murtlap tentacles?” Harry called from the pantry later that day. “Second drawer on the left,” Sirius called back. “Got it.”

“What are you making?” Sirius asked. “A point,” Harry answered. “I'm proving that Snape never meant to heal Dumbledore, while it can be done easily.” Sirius grinned. Several minutes later, Harry carried a bowl into the kitchen. He had already made the potion, and was ready to add the final ingredient. He transformed into a Phoenix and cried into the potion, causing it to turn a bright golden color. “Done. Kreacher!” he called. Kreacher the house-elf appeared obviously delighted to serve Harry. “Kreacher, I have two jobs for you. First, take this note to Severus Snape, and then fetch Albus Dumbledore here,” Harry said. Kreacher bowed and departed. “You really know how to deal with him,” Sirius said admiringly. “He saw me drinking last summer, so I swore him to secrecy. I guess that's why he loves me now, because I'm a Dark creature,” Harry replied. Sirius nodded. ** “Master Potter asked Kreacher to deliver this note to you, sir,” Kreacher said to Snape. Snape scowled and grabbed it. Kreacher disappeared with a pop and Snape opened the note. It said simply, You have failed. He crumpled it up and threw it across the room in anger. ** Dumbledore had been doing paperwork when Kreacher arrived. “Master Potter bids you to come,” the elf said. “I'm busy,” Dumbledore replied, not even looking up. If he had looked up, he would have known that Kreacher was too loyal to Harry to take that answer. The tiny, stooped elf grabbed Dumbledore's wrist and transported them both to the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. “Thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said as the elf bowed again and departed. “Dumbledore, as promised I made a potion that will cure your hand.”

“Severus said there was no cure. He was barely able to save my arm,” Dumbledore retorted. “How about you just trust Harry,” Sirius said. “It's not that hard, and he's never led anyone wrong.” Dumbledore looked like he was wavering, then he finally offered Harry his wilted hand. “Stick it in the potion,” Harry said. Dumbledore looked once again at the swirling golden potion, swallowed, and immersed his hand in the liquid. He felt a tingling sensation all over his hand and thought he could hear the distant cry of a Phoenix. He looked up into Harry's eyes, and noticed a certain depth to them. The sparkling emerald eyes looked wise far beyond his years. When the tingling stopped, he slowly withdrew his hand. His hand was fine; it looked like it had never been cursed. He picked up the goblet Sirius had been drinking out of, and his hand was able to close around it. “How...?” he asked, his voice trailing off. There were tears in his blue eyes as he thought of the miracle this sixteen-year-old vampire had wrought. “Essence of Murtlap mixed with Phoenix tears,” Harry answered simply. “I would guess Snape never suggested that?” “He said my hand was dead, and that I would follow before the year was out,” Dumbledore replied, mystified. “He either lied through his sharp teeth or he has plans to make sure you die,” Harry said. “Why would he kill me?” Dumbledore asked, seeming to listen to Harry's argument now that he had proved himself. “Because you're in his Master's way. Does 'Leader of the Light' mean anything to you? I have seen inside Snape's filthy mind. He has always been loyal to Voldemort,” Harry said calmly, his emerald eyes still sparkling with wisdom, but now there was an added urgency to that sparkle. “I will keep an eye on him,” Dumbledore promised. Harry nodded and

said, “And I will watch your back.” ** Chapter 23 Amortentia On September first, Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express and went to the Prefects compartment. He saw that Hermione hadn't arrived yet, but he wasn't unduly concerned because the Weasleys always arrived late. Other Prefects trickled in, along with the Head Boy and Girl. Hermione was among the last to arrive, her hair windblown and her cheeks rosy. She sat down next to Harry and glanced at him admiringly. During the meeting, they were given the schedules for patrolling, and Harry and Hermione left to begin. “Why did you leave the Burrow?” Hermione asked. “I couldn't stand it there anymore. Ginny's not listening, you and Ron all over the place was revolting, and Molly's incessant whining is enough to drive a guy mad. I'll bet that's why Bill and Charlie left the country,” Harry answered, slightly coolly. Hermione looked at him sharply at his tone. “You said me and Ron all over the place was revolting. How would you know that? You left the first day,” Hermione asked suspiciously. “Hermione, I'm an Empath and Seer, and the Burrow is like an emotional hub,” Harry replied, covering up his deep pain, but Hermione could see a hint of it in Harry's eyes. She discovered then that the eyes are really the windows to the soul, but she still believed that Harry had no soul... When they reached the compartment Ron was sitting in with Ginny, Ron asked loudly, “Hey, Harry, do you know who the team Captain is? Angelina left last year.” “I'm the Captain, Ron. I'll be putting the Tryouts notice on the bulletin board in a week or two,” Harry said as he glanced suspiciously at Ginny, and then walked away. While he was looking for a compartment to sit in, he overheard Draco Malfoy talking. His interest piqued, he decided to listen at the door. He put on his Invisibility Cloak and hunkered down just close enough to hear without any

problem. He heard a great deal about Draco's job for Voldemort and a hint of Snape's involvement. He decided to confront Draco about this as soon as possible. Finally, the train stopped and the students disembarked. Draco slid open his compartment door and let his cronies leave first, but he left it open long enough for Harry to sidle in. “Explain about your new job, Malfoy,” Harry commanded threateningly. Draco looked around and whispered, “He's plotting against Dumbledore. I-i don't want to kill him.” Harry looked long and hard into the blonde boy's eyes, then nodded. Draco scurried out and Harry followed a few moments later. On his way off the train, he met Tonks. She was inspecting the compartments, her pink hair bouncing as she moved quickly from compartment to compartment. “Hey, Tonks, any problems?” he asked. She looked up and smiled. “Wotcher, Harry. Just checking for students or stowaways. What are you doing still here?” she asked in response. He stepped closer to her and said, “Draco Malfoy has been given a mission by Voldemort, but he doesn't want to complete it.” “Well, it sounds like you have it under control,” she said with a wink. They left the train together after Harry informed her that no one was hiding on it. During the walk to the castle, they saw the gates close with a loud clang, and the chains locked it firmly. “Well, good luck getting in. I need to go now,” Tonks said mournfully. Harry, who was in tune with the flows of magic, could tell that while he could poof onto the grounds, there were wards up preventing even that mode of transportation into the castle itself. He poofed to the doors, and then raised his wand high above his head and incanted, “Expecto Patronum!” The gigantic silver stag galloped out of his wand and Harry said simply, “Knock, knock.” The stag bowed its antlered head to Harry and shot through the wall into the Great Hall. Albus Dumbledore had been enjoying the Welcoming Feast, right up until a silver hoof planted itself in his mashed potatoes. He heard the voice issuing from it and looked startled. He had thought that since Harry hadn't come in with the other students, he had suddenly

decided to skip school. He got up to answer the door himself. “Harry, I thought you weren't coming,” Dumbledore said bemusedly to Harry after he had opened the great double doors. “Of course I came. Did you really think I'd pass up a chance to ruin Snape?” Harry answered mischievously. “Why didn't you come in with the other students?” Dumbledore asked instead of answering Harry's rhetorical question. “Because I discovered a plot to kill you,” the young vampire said calmly. “I already know about Draco Malfoy. Severus told me,” Dumbledore said triumphantly. Harry simply shook his head, a chuckle on his lips. “It's Snape who's going to do it,” he said. “I trust Severus Snape,” Dumbledore retorted. Harry rolled his eyes and muttered, “What was that line Hermione used? Oh yes, 'Polly want a cracker?'” Dumbledore winced. “Just get in the Great Hall,” the Headmaster said, mock scolding Harry. “Oh, Harry, I've taken the liberty of arranging private lessons for you with me. Come to my office on Wednesday nights unless I tell you otherwise.” Harry nodded and walked into the Great Hall. ** Wednesday arrived soon enough, though it was Sunday. On Monday, Harry had NEWT level Defense Against the Dark Arts, during which Snape attempted to jinx him. He was still chortling inside over how easy it had been to jinx Snape right back and let the rest of the class think it was simply self-defense. Snape had even had to go to the Hospital Wing to get the jinx removed, and he had heard from Madam Pomfrey that she had never seen such a powerful Confundus Charm. On Wednesday, people were still whispering about Snape wobbling up to McGonagall and telling her in a loud voice how he'd always been in love with Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry grinned when he remembered, but then he had to give the gargoyle the password.

Unfortunately, Dumbledore seemed to have forgotten to tell him what it was. The glowing silver stag careened into Dumbledore's office and asked in a voice eerily reminiscent of the Fat Lady, “Password?” Dumbledore looked up, startled, and then went to let Harry in. “Sorry about that, Harry. The password is Acid Pops.” They both entered and Harry sat down in the chintz armchair in front of the desk. “What are these lessons going to be about?” Harry asked curiously. “I will be teaching you about Voldemort,” Dumbledore said. Harry sat up straighter. “First, I must begin with a prophecy made about you before you were born.” He pulled a silver strand of thoughts out of his temple and deposited them in his Pensieve. An echo of Trelawney appeared, revolving in the basin, and she spoke. “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...” (OP 37) “Interesting,” Harry commented after a lengthy silence. “I'll assume you didn't tell me before because you either thought my death would be permanent, or you were convinced I was serving Voldemort.” Dumbledore cheeks developed a red tinge when Harry said the second choice. “I thought so.” “Harry, you must understand, I had no reason to think you were anything but a Death Eater,” Dumbledore said plaintively. “I understand,” Harry said kindly. “It just hurt, not being trusted.” Dumbledore understood that was his cue to drop the subject. He pulled a vial out of his desk drawer and poured it into his Pensieve after he had removed the memory of the prophecy. “Now, this memory is from a man named Bob Ogden, who was

investigating a muggle attack...” Dumbledore said as they both fell into the basin. About an hour later, Dumbledore pulled them both out and explained to Harry the aftermath of that visit. ** The next day Harry walked down to the Potions dungeon alone. His mind was still processing the startling information he had received the night before. He had not known that Voldemort's witch mother had used a love potion to seduce his father, or that Tom Riddle had walked out on his wife and unborn child. I get the nasty suspicion the use of love potions might run in that family, Harry thought to himself. He walked in the door and immediately detected a pleasing aroma. He smelled parchment, ink, and cherry-scented shampoo. Now where have I smelled that before? he thought sarcastically. Of course he knew where he had smelled it: he smelled it every time he went near a certain beautiful young witch. He took his seat next to Hermione, as Ron had been unable to score high enough on his OWL. The required score was an E or above, and Ron had gotten a D. Harry and Hermione had both gotten good grades. Slughorn welcomed them to their first Advanced Potions lesson, and proceeded to ask the class about the potions left simmering on the desks. Harry and Hermione both raised their hands. Slughorn nodded at Harry, who pointed at the mother-of-pearl potion. “That's Amortentia, there. The most powerful love potion ever created. You can tell by the color, and the steam rising in spirals.” “Very good Harry! Take ten points for Gryffindor!” Slughorn said enthusiastically. “What about this gold potion?” Hermione's hand shot up, but Harry was already answering. “Felix Felicis; basically liquid luck, but a real chore to brew.” Slughorn was nearly hopping at Harry's answer and gave Gryffindor another ten points. “Now what do you all think this mucky potion might be?” Hermione's hand shot up again, Harry's came up just as fast, but he had smiled at her. When Slughorn looked ready to call on Harry again, he gestured to Hermione, and Slughorn picked her, much to her surprise.

“That's Polyjuice Potion, it turns the drinker into an exact copy of whoever they took hair from,” Hermione rattled off, sounding like a textbook. After Harry let Hermione answer the next potion (Veritaserum), they started brewing potions for a competition. Harry successfully brewed the Draught of Living Death and won the tiny bottle of lucky potion. As they walked out of the classroom, Hermione sighed. “Ron never showed up. Where do you think he might be?” Harry looked askance at her and said, “He never told you?” “Told me what?” Hermione asked sharply. “How many OWLs he received,” Harry clarified. “No, it must have slipped his mind,” Hermione said with a forced look of fondness in her brown eyes. Harry noticed this and couldn't stop his mental cheering. “I got a peek at his score sheet. He got five OWLs. An E in Astronomy because he was copying our star charts, an E in Care of Magical Creatures, an E in Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts, and an A in Herbology,” Harry ticked off on his fingers. “What about you?” she asked. “I got a total of ten. All were O except for History of Magic, which I got an E in,” Harry replied proudly. Hermione beamed in pride and pleasure, her brown eyes lighting up her face. Harry quickly quashed the desire to kiss her right there. “Wait, what was your tenth?” she asked after some mental math. “Ancient Runes,” he replied. “I did an independent study because I wanted to surprise you.” Hermione stopped short, her eyes shining in happiness as she looked at Harry. “Ron I don't care enough to do something like that,” she whispered. “Oh Harry!” She threw her arms around his neck and he spun her around. There was flash from a camera and Colin Creevey said excitedly, “Are you two finally official now? Did I win the pool?” “Pool, what pool?” Harry asked, slightly loosening his grip on

Hermione's waist. “The bets on when you two are finally going to get your acts together,” Colin explained patiently. “I think McGonagall has fifty galleons on within six months of your graduation; Dumbledore has forty-eight on 'never in a million years'; Ron and Ginny have a total five sickles behind Dumbledore; and I have eight galleons on the beginning of this year.” Hermione started giggling and Harry shook his head. “Sorry Colin, Hermione's dating Ron.” Colin looked like he was going to be sick. “I'll let you know if our dreams come true,” Harry finished, not looking much happier about it than Colin. The three of them continued on to lunch and sat down. Hermione immediately started berating Ron for failing all his OWLs and then not telling her. Ginny sat down next to Harry at the same time Hedwig dropped a letter on his lap. Colin started talking seriously to his brother, Dennis, and Harry saw them looking almost hatefully at Hermione and Ron. While Harry was reading the note from Sirius, he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Ginny quickly pouring something into his pumpkin juice. She withdrew her hand quickly and looked triumphantly at Hermione, who was still arguing heatedly with Ron. To make a point, Harry looked directly at Ginny as he drank a big gulp of his juice. She had no idea that he hadn't actually consumed anything, because his ring vanished it on the way to his mouth. She simply looked in his goblet and smiled winningly at him. He looked once more at the missive from Sirius, which read: Dear Harry About our earlier conversation, I have found an entry in the birth registry for August 10, 1981: a girl, parents unknown, and died the on the 11th. It would have been easy for the two girls to be switched, and one killed. I think you might be right, much as I hate to say it this time. Sirius

** Chapter 24 Weasley vs. Potter Harry posted the notice for tryouts early the next week, as he had need of a new Chaser, and maybe a new Keeper if he could find anyone better than Ron Weasley. He knew there was definitely something wrong with Ron; he had sensed it during the summer in those few minutes he had spent at the Burrow. Ron was up to something, and it involved Hermione. And speaking of Hermione... He thought for a second then changed the date of the tryouts. He had a feeling they'd work very well together. Now to find Hermione, he thought. Hermione had been in the library for about an hour when Harry walked in. She was working on homework that wasn't actually due for another week. While she nibbled on her quill in concentration, Harry slipped up behind her and started massaging the back of her neck. “Ohhh, Harry...” she murmured in ecstasy as she leaned into his fingers. “Let me guess, that's not due until next week, is it?” Harry whispered, leaning closer to her ear as he continued working his magic on her neck and shoulders. “No it's not,” she admitted, relishing in the feel of his fingers on her skin and his breath tickling her ear. “How about you do something that could produce results sooner?” Harry asked her. “Like what?” she murmured. “The Gryffindor team needs two new Chasers since Angelina and Alicia left. I was thinking you'd fit the bill perfectly,” Harry said. Hermione turned around to stare at him, incredulous. “You think I can play Quidditch? Harry, I can't even fly very well.” “That is easily remedied. Who better to give you private tutoring than the team Captain?” Harry pointed out. “Come on, we can start now.” And he grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the library. He

grabbed a school broom and started telling Hermione the basics on how to hold on and kick off. When she got on the broom, Harry positioned her hands and said, “Now, watch me kick off, then follow me.” Harry kicked off from the ground, soared around, and then came back to coach Hermione off the ground. After a few fumbles, she was in the air. “Great, Hermione! Now just watch me turn, and you'll have it no time!” Harry called out to her. His praise made her heart sing, and she tried futilely to quash her body's response to Harry's pleasure. He turned and flew toward the goal hoops, Hermione following more slowly. Soon, she became more confident in her own abilities and in Harry's proven teaching abilities. She went faster, to much cheering from Harry. When a powerful gust of wind tried to unseat her, Harry flew over to steady her. “It's okay, everything's okay,” he whispered in her ear. “Just stay calm.” She nodded and steadied herself, much to her surprise. When she saw Harry heading for the ground, she followed. After a slightly shaky landing she asked him, “Why are we going in now? I was just starting to have fun.” “There's a storm blowing in. We can always practice more tomorrow,” Harry said with a smile that lit up his eyes. He threw his arm around her shoulders as they walked to the castle. “Tryouts aren't scheduled until late next week.” “Are you sure I'll be ready by then?” Hermione asked worriedly. “No problem whatsoever. Tomorrow I think I'll start you on Quidditch maneuvers and throwing the Quaffle in the goal hoops,” Harry said confidently. The rain started coming down just as they reached the double doors, and they ducked in laughing. “Oh, Harry, I had so much fun out there!” Hermione exclaimed as they dodged the raindrops. “Harry, my boy! I've been looking all over for you! How do you do, Miss Granger?” Horace Slughorn said as he came up to them.

“I'm fine, Professor,” Hermione said. He smiled and turned to Harry. “Harry, how would you like to have dinner with me and a few other students I've taken a liking to? Miss Granger is welcome to come along as well, of course.” Harry had already had a vision about an assignment Dumbledore would give him later and thought it best to cultivate Slughorn early. “Sure, we'll come,” he promised the rotund teacher. Slughorn beamed at them both and walked away. Hermione turned to Harry in confusion and anger. “Harry, why did you answer for both of us without consulting me?” He put an arm around her waist and whispered into her ear, “I'll need his help later, and I'll need your help to get his help.” She thought for a second then nodded. “Alright.” He impulsively kissed her cheek. “Thanks. I owe you one.” “Oh, I think we're even. You're teaching me to fly like you, and I never used to like flying,” Hermione said, blushing after his kiss. She turned to go back to the library when Harry called her back. “Just, be careful around Ron, please. There's something not right there,” he said. Hermione looked confused, but as she had told Dumbledore the previous year, she had learned to trust Harry's instincts early on. There was no way she was going to ignore such a warning, even if it was against their friend and her boyfriend. ** The next Slug Club dinner was on Tuesday, the night before Harry's next lesson with Dumbledore. Harry and Hermione walked down to the dungeons, narrowly avoiding a lurking Snape, and arrived at Slughorn's sumptuously decorated apartments. He opened the door and welcomed the two Sixth Years graciously. “Welcome Harry, Hermione,” Slughorn said happily. “I may call you both that, right?” Harry and Hermione nodded, smiling. Slughorn beamed. He preceded them into the room and said, “Everyone, we have two new friends. Meet Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, Sixth Years in Gryffindor.” Everyone else nodded welcome, though

the Slytherins in the group sneered at them. All during that dinner, Slughorn asked questions of Harry and Hermione, though it was obvious he was more interested in Harry. However, Harry wanted Hermione to have some recognition. He stared directly at Slughorn, and penetrated his mind. Ask Hermione about herself, he silently commanded the rotund teacher. Slughorn had no choice but to obey the command. “So Hermione, what are you planning to do after you graduate?” he asked her. “I'm planning on becoming an Auror, though my parents want me to follow them into dentistry,” Hermione responded. “Dentistry? You're parents are dentists? That means you're muggleborn!” Slughorn exclaimed. “Oh this is wonderful! I haven't seen such a brilliant muggleborn in twenty years!” “What muggleborn would that be, sir?” Blaise Zabini, a Sixth Year Slytherin boy, asked with a smirk for Hermione. “Oh that would be Lily Evans, Blaise. A really bright girl, very talented. For a while I thought she might fall for Severus Snape, but he bungled that. But I can't complain, she did go for James Potter, and the result is sitting right here,” Slughorn answered. “Do you remember anything from the night they were killed, Harry?” he then asked. “No, not much. Just Voldemort's laugh, a flash of green light, and a sharp pain in my forehead,” Harry answered softly, his voice tinged with the pain of loss. Hermione rubbed his arm comfortingly, earning a speculative look from Slughorn. “I heard you were dating Ronald Weasley, Hermione. How's that going?” “Okay, when we're not arguing,” Hermione said, still looking concernedly at Harry.

“Harry, I heard from Albus that you were with Ginny Weasley,” Slughorn began. Harry nearly exploded. “I have never dated that little bitch, and I never will!” Harry declared hotly. “Zabini, if you or anyone else in this room wants her, then please, for the love of God and Merlin, take her!” “I might just go for a ride on that firebrand,” Zabini said suggestively. “Tell me when you'll try, and I'll knock Ron out for you,” Harry offered. “It's a deal, Potter,” Zabini said gleefully. The dinner ended soon after, and Harry and Hermione left. ** Over the next week and a half, Harry taught Hermione more Quidditch moves, and she steadily improved under Harry's tutelage. She could score against the most determined Keeper, and Harry did make a good practice Keeper. Finally, on the day of the tryouts, Hermione arrived on the Pitch clutching a broom and looking determined. There were only a few others there, including a big boy named Cormac McLaggen, who announced he was trying out for Keeper. “I already have a Keeper,” Harry said. “Ron, someone's here to challenge you.” The redheaded boy shrugged and waved good-by at McLaggen, who just scowled threateningly. “Alright, McLaggen, if you think you're a match for Ron, we'll try you. Ron, you're up first. The one who saves the most gets the spot,” Harry announced. Ron flew up to the goal hoops and Katie Bell, the only veteran Chaser left, tossed the Quaffle five times, and Ron missed none. McLaggen went up, saved the first four, but on the fifth he flew way off to the opposite side. “Alright, it's obvious. Ron's in,” Harry announced. Ron thumbed his nose at McLaggen and grinned at Ginny, who was looking oddly triumphant...

“Now for the Chaser hopefuls to try out. Hermione, you and Dean join Katie up there. Kirke and I will see how many Bludgers you can dodge.” Harry mounted his Firebolt and flew up, with Andrew Kirke tailing him. They both hit Bludgers toward the two hopefuls. After dodging twice, Dean's broom was hit. Hermione, however, had dodged those two, and twice more after that before Harry blew his whistle. “Hermione, you're a runner up for the first spot. Dean, I think I'll put you in reserve.” Dean grinned and smiled at Ginny, who smiled back. After Hermione flew back down, Harry sent up a Fourth Year and a Third Year. The Fourth Year, Demelza Robins, proved particularly elusive. Not a single Bludger hit her. Harry blew his whistle, and sent the Third Year hobbling back to the castle where she could be healed by Madame Pomfrey. “The two new Chasers are Hermione Granger and Demelza Robins, with Dean Thomas in reserve,” Harry announced. “Now I have to go find McLaggen, wherever he may have wandered off to.” He swooped off to find the missing boy, while the team trooped back up to the castle. He later found McLaggen wandering around the lake serenading the Giant Squid. ** Two weeks had passed, and Harry thought his promise to Zabini had gone unnoticed by Ginny, but that was not to be. She cornered him in the Common Room one night, her blue eyes darkening with anger. “You dare try to sell me to Blaise Zabini!” she shouted, her eyes narrowed. Harry, who was still trying to get an obvious change out of her, just raised one eyebrow slowly. That lack of reaction just infuriated Ginny even more. “You don't even show regret, Potter!” she stormed at him, drawing curious looks from other students. Several boys were ranging themselves behind Harry, cheering him on. At one look from Ginny, however, they took several steps back in fear. Something had happened to her eyes. They were no longer blue, but instead looked

like dark pits. Her voice also lowered several octaves, and could curdle milk. “I will make sure you live to regret this, Harry Potter...” She turned and walked away, swaying sinuously. “I used to fancy her,” Dean Thomas muttered fearfully as soon as she was out of earshot. “Used to?” Seamus Finnegan muttered in response. “What happened?” “This,” Dean said. “I'm afraid if I date her, she'll sacrifice me to some dark demon.” Also, the news of Ginny's new personality had reached Blaise Zabini. He no longer desired a liaison with Ginny, as he'd rather have a girl who wouldn't dismember him if he said something wrong. ** Harry had told Sirius of Ginny's change and manner, which concerned the Auror greatly. Another piece of evidence was Snape, who kept hanging around the Gryffindor Fifth Year, as though he were her bodyguard. Of course, anything involving Snape was irrefutable proof of wrongdoing in Sirius' mind, and Harry agreed completely. However, Dumbledore was a different story altogether. He still trusted Snape, which annoyed Harry. He arrived a little early for the next lesson, which earned a smile from Dumbledore. “Harry, you're a little early tonight,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “I had a feeling we'd be discussing something important tonight,” Harry lied glibly. Dumbledore picked up on the lie, and stood up straighter. The twinkle left his blue eyes. “Harry,” he said warningly, “you just lied to me. Why?” Harry kept his mouth shut; the only sign of reaction to the accusation was a gleam coming to his green eyes. Dumbledore fingered his wand, obviously figuring out he was on thin ice. Harry stood stock still, refusing to relax. He was ready for a fight, but one never came.

“Harry, if you want my trust, you need to earn it,” Dumbledore said coolly. “You cannot do that by lying to me.” “Do you really want to know?” Harry asked stiffly. Dumbledore relaxed. “Yes,” he said. “Fine. When I say I 'get a feeling' about something, I'm actually saying I know exactly what's going to happen,” Harry reported, his voice still stiff. “In short, I am a Seer.” “A Seer?!” Dumbledore exclaimed. He sat down heavily. “When you said Severus was going to kill me, you didn't just mean you didn't trust him.” “That's right. I saw it happen,” Harry said. He leaned forward, placing his hands on Dumbledore's desk and allowing his claws to extend slightly in a show of strength. “And you know what? Snape will die by my hand before I let him lay a finger on you.” He pulled back, turned around, and walked out of Dumbledore's office. He could hear the portraits muttering as he shut the door with a snap. On his way back to the Common Room, he heard sounds like a plunger coming free from a toilet. He peeked behind a tapestry, and found Ron and Hermione making out. Harry quickly raised his shields before he lost control of his already taxed emotions. He didn't want to dismember Ron right there and take Hermione against the wall, or she might never love him back. “Hermione, you're a Hogwarts Prefect. You should know you shouldn't be doing this right now,” Harry said. Ron started whining at Harry. “Oh, Harry, you wouldn't be so uptight about this if you had actually kissed a girl,” Ron whined. Harry grinned at his “best mate”, and nodded in agreement. “You're right Ron. I haven't kissed a girl...yet,” Harry muttered. He suddenly lunged forward, grabbed Hermione around her upper arms, and kissed her hard. His tongue forced its way into her mouth, and she felt his fangs. The sensation of his fangs grazing her tongue

caused Hermione to almost purr deep in her throat. After a moment of passionate kissing, Harry pulled away. “Now I have kissed a girl, mate,” Harry said, grinning lazily. He walked away as Ron stared dumbfounded at his retreating back. “You kissed him back!” he rounded on Hermione. “I didn't know he was going to do that!” Hermione snapped. “Remember, Harry's the Seer, not me!” “You could have pushed him away once the spark reached your brain, if you have one!” Ron screamed. Hermione's face contorted. “It takes one to know one!” she screamed back. “Harry's a scrawny little thing, and Demelza Robins could have pushed him away if she was asleep!” “Well if I'm obviously too stupid to know who's tongue is in my mouth, you could have hexed him off me!” Hermione screamed back. “Oh wait! To do that, you can't be a squib!” Ron's face contorted. Hermione stormed away, leaving Ron gaping after her like a fish. As Hermione left, Argus Filch sidled up to Ron. “Here, laddie. Kwikspell helped me out. Maybe they can help you learn magic, too.” Filch walked away, with his horrible cat following after him, purring at his heels. Colin Creevey turned away, with his fist stuffed in his mouth and tears in his eyes. He had witnessed everything, from Harry catching Ron and Hermione, to Filch handing Ron a Kwikspell letter. This was shaping up to be the end of Ron and Hermione. And that, of course, meant that Harry would have a chance at true love. Oh, I can't wait to tell Dennis, Colin thought gleefully. ** Chapter 25: The Poisons Master “Harry, you didn't just walk out on Dumbledore, did you?” Hermione

asked the next day in Herbology. She grabbed the tongs to extract the pods from the Snargaluff stumps they were working on, but her mind wasn't on the plant. It was on Harry, and how good he was at kissing. Harry grabbed the tongs from her and set to work while he answered her. “Yes, I did,” he said. “He pumped me, and I was forced to tell him I'm a Seer. I left after I swore to him that I would kill Snape before he could complete his mission.” Hermione looked at him with pride in her eyes. The, man...who had kissed her so passionately the night before also had the added bonus of being loyal to someone like Dumbledore. “Do you know when it will happen?” she asked, her chocolate eyes shining. “At the end of this year,” Harry said shortly as the pod bounced away from him. “Damn!” he swore softly. He went to go fetch it, and that's when Ron decided to come in. He saw Hermione, apparently working alone, and joined her with a grin. He tried to kiss her, but she turned her head. “Hey, Hermione, I heard a rumor that Slughorn is having a Christmas Party for his favorites. I'm assuming you and I are going together,” he said, winking suggestively at her. “Ron, after what you called me last night, we're through!” Hermione whispered angrily. Harry tapped Ron on the shoulder and added, “And besides, only his favorites are allowed, and I already said I'd escort her.” Ron's face suddenly turned an alarming shade of red, while Hermione hid her look of happiness at Harry's “admission”. “Hermione, are you ready for the match tomorrow?” Harry asked, turning to her. “I'll be there bright and early,” she promised. ** The next morning dawned bright and clear. It seemed a perfect day for a Quidditch match, and the Captain of the Gryffindor team was

confident that they would win. Hermione forced down the last few bites of her breakfast then joined Harry. “It's going to be alright, Hermione,” he said. He had known that she was going to be nervous. “You'll do fine, and I won't let the Bludgers near you.” The game started, this time with Zacharias Smith, a Hufflepuff Fourth Year, commentating. Smith started out by announcing the teams and making snide comments about the Gryffindor team and its captain. “It's Captain Potter playing Beater along with Andrew Kirke, followed by his posse. Ronald Weasley at Keeper, Potter's girlfriend, Ginny Weasley at Seeker, and Hermione Granger, Katie Bell, and Demelza Robins as Chasers.” The Gryffindor stands erupted when Hermione flew out to join Harry, while the Slytherin stands booed the two Weasleys. Harry circled the three Chasers protectively, while Kirke kept an eye on Ginny. As Harry flew close to the Gryffindor stands, he winked at Neville, who winked back. He saw out of the corner of his eye Draco Malfoy nod to his girlfriend, Pansy Parkinson. “Captains, shake hands!” Madame Hooch called out. Harry and Draco landed to shake hands. “Now. I want a nice clean game, all of you!” Draco nodded to Harry imperceptibly as they shook hands quickly. Harry knew that Pansy was going to join Neville in the song during this game, too. It didn't seem to matter that Hermione had broken up with Ron the day before, as they all knew that Ginny wouldn't let that situation last too long. “It's Bell with the Quaffle, heading for goal,” Smith announced, bored. McGonagall glared at the back of his head as he said that. “She scores, making the score ten-nil to Gryffindor.” The Slytherin Keeper growled as he tossed the Quaffle back into the game, and he growled even more when Hermione soared by and caught it one-handed. “Granger with the Quaffle now, and here's where we see just how much being close friends with the captain can get you,” Smith yawned. McGonagall glared again and considered taking the megaphone from him to commentate on the match herself. However, contrary to popular belief, Harry Potter was a good captain and a good player, and he had trained Hermione well in a week. Hermione tossed the Quaffle back to Katie with a grin, but when

Goyle lobbed a Bludger at Katie, she tossed it backhanded to Demelza. Demelza tossed it back to Hermione when she was targeted by Crabbe, and Hermione tossed the Quaffle right through the center hoop, making the score twenty-zero to Gryffindor. “I don't believe it! Granger actually scored on someone besides Potter and Weasley!” Smith howled, his boredom forgotten. “Smith! Ten points from Hufflepuff!” McGonagall shouted, earning cheering from all four Houses. On the heels of the cheers rose a single voice: Neville Longbottom of Gryffindor beginning the chorus. It seemed he and Pansy had been rehearsing the song, and had even changed it a little. Some of the more outrageous charges leveled against Ron and Ginny were punctuated by loud clapping from Slytherin (conducted by Pansy), and fists thrust in the air on the Gryffindor side. “Slytherin in possession of the Quaffle now, Chaser Vaisey heading for goal,” Smith announced. Ron glared at the students insulting him and his sister, and saved the shot out of retaliation. Both sides groaned as he saved it, though Gryffindor's groan was purely mental. Fifteen minutes and seven scores later, Gryffindor was leading Slytherin fifty to forty. Draco Malfoy looked like had seen the Snitch, and Ginny Weasley looked like she had seen Harry in the shower. Malfoy streaked off towards the Gryffindor goal posts as Kirke deflected Ginny from going after Harry. Harry, in a desperate attempt to salvage the match, streaked after Malfoy, which led Ginny after him. The Snitch changed direction as the Gryffindor Chasers scored three more times in quick succession, bringing the score up to 80-40. Malfoy lost sight of the Snitch and Ginny had never seen it, and Harry turned angrily to Ginny. “Are you trying to lose us the match? Get that damn Snitch before Malfoy does!” Ginny seemed to shake off her obsession with Harry momentarily, and followed Malfoy over to the Slytherin hoops. Hermione was waiting for him near the middle of the Pitch, flying in concentric circles and waiting for Katie to pass the Quaffle to her. “It'll be okay, Harry,” she said bracingly. The whistle of a Bludger could be heard as Hermione ascended rapidly to try to lose it. Harry's arm shot

up of its own accord and he smacked the iron ball away. The Bludger shot off toward the Slytherin Chaser who had grabbed the Quaffle right out of Demelza's hands. He dropped the Quaffle, which Demelza caught, and then she threw it to Hermione. Hermione streaked for the Slytherin hoops and scored, right before Malfoy, already on the trail of the Snitch a second time, reeled away almost drunkenly. Ginny caught the Snitch and held it up triumphantly. As the teams landed, Harry surreptitiously removed a Confundus Charm from Malfoy. He rolled his eyes, as though asking for divine guidance, as Draco informed him in a quiet voice that Ginny was the only one near enough to him to cast any spell on him. ** The next day was a Saturday, and a Hogsmeade weekend. Harry had high hopes about this weekend, and his chances of asking Hermione to be his girlfriend. He went downstairs for breakfast, and saw his hopes had been dashed. Hermione and Ron were making out at the table. His heart sunk somewhere below his large intestine. As he sat down heavily, he noticed Snape looking hatefully at Ron and Hermione's sickening display. Harry went off to Hogsmeade alone again, like he did just about every time he visited the village. During his wanderings, he saw a large black dog. The dog wagged his tail when Harry approached, then ran off into an alley. Harry followed, knowing it was Sirius. When he reached the dog, it turned into a man. Harry grinned in relief at the sight of his godfather's face. “Sirius!” he exclaimed. “How are you doing?” “I'm fine, but I'm worried about you. Has there been anything more about the problem we discussed over the summer?” Sirius asked. “I've gotten a relatively public change out of her,” Harry reported. “Her eyes changed from blue to deep red in the Common Room. It scared the stuffing out of several people, including Dean Thomas, who wanted to date her up until that moment. Blaise Zabini also decided that he didn't want her anymore either. I think he said he didn't want

anyone who might use him a human sacrifice.” Sirius whistled. “You've definitely got something there,” the Auror agreed. “What about Dumbledore, though?” “He's telling everyone he meets that I'm dating Ginny, and he also knows now that I'm a Seer, and that I've Seen Snape killing him at the end of this year,” Harry reported next. “It sounds like you've got your hands full with him,” Sirius said. “Tell him next time you see him that I'm watching carefully. Maybe he'll stop lying long enough to do something useful.” ** Harry went to the Three Broomsticks after his meeting with Sirius, and saw out of the corner of his eye, Ginny go into the bathroom. Before Ginny came back out, Harry saw Katie Bell go in. When Ginny came out looking triumphant, Harry got worried. However, Katie soon left the bathroom, but Harry's worry didn't decrease. He watched carefully, and used his hidden vampire powers to detect the presence of a heavily cursed object in Katie's possession. He acted immediately, and tried to get Katie to give it to him. She refused to hand it over, though she looked like she wanted to. She transferred it to her other hand, but unfortunately, there was a hole in the paper wrapping and in her glove. Her skin came in contact with whatever it was, and she was cursed. Harry used as much power as he dared to try to remove the curse, and with his Empathy managed to transfer some of the curse onto himself. His last thought before everything went blank was an urgent summons for Hermione. She came with Ron and they both saw Harry and Katie lying on the ground with Leanne crying over both of them. “He tried to help Katie and got cursed himself!” she cried pitifully. “I don't know how he knew there was something wrong, but he came out of nowhere and demanded that she give him whatever it was she had!” “He was probably just playing the hero like he always does,” Ron said

nastily, unaware that Harry wasn't as unconscious as they all thought. He had been knocked for a loop, but was already waking up, and Ron's words struck a chord in him. He now knew what the problem with his old friend was: Ron Weasley was jealous of the kid with no parents. He waited a moment, and then pretended to slowly stir. He stood up and pretended to be in pain from his ordeal. Ron fell for it easily, though Hermione's more than suspected the opposite. Katie Bell was transferred to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries from the Hogwarts Infirmary. Madame Pomfrey examined Harry, and found absolutely nothing wrong with him, except for being over four and a half years dead. McGonagall questioned Harry in place of Dumbledore, who, she had told him, was absent. “I will tell him of your suspicions,” she promised. “Wait,” Harry said. “Wait please. I will tell him in my own time. I need more proof.” She looked at him over her square spectacles, and then smiled warmly. “That's not a problem,” she said. ** Slughorn's Christmas Party was set for Christmas night in a large classroom he had commandeered for just that purpose. Harry led a rather preoccupied Hermione Granger to the party, and stayed with her throughout the whole thing. Slughorn noticed Harry's demeanor, and the look on Hermione's face, and guessed that something was wrong. He decided to ask his student about it after the party, and instead introduced him to some friends of his. Worple the writer was absolutely fascinated to meet the Harry Potter, and his fascination caused him to forget about his companion, the vampire Sanguini. Sanguini noticed his inattention and sidled closer to some giggling girls, including Hermione Granger. He was hungry and Hermione looked awfully tasty. Harry, however, noticed immediately what Sanguini was up to. He moved to intercept the Italian vampire and said calmly and coolly, “Stop. Take one more step and I'll stake you.” Sanguini stopped short, not knowing why he instinctively obeyed this seemingly mortal man. Harry dilated his eyes and opened his mouth to show his fangs,

and Sanguini took a step backward in fear. He was face to face with a legend among vampires: the Black Forest. He knew there were only a few of these powerful vampires in the world, and this one looked like he might be the most powerful of all of his brethren. He bowed his head in respect and resumed his position next to Worple. After the party ended, Hermione went to spend Christmas at the Burrow. In fact, she left that very night. Harry watched her Floo away, and covered up his pain. He heard the footsteps behind him and turned to see Slughorn. “Good evening sir, that was a good party.” Slughorn beamed, and then came up next to Harry. “Harry, m'boy, I noticed how much you seem to care about a certain muggleborn that's dating a certain redheaded idiot,” Slughorn began, his beady eyes looking back over recent events. “If there's anything you want to get off your chest, I'm always here. Remember, I knew both your parents, and they were both friends of mine. In fact, they were both in my little club.” Harry smiled, and then said, “I know Dumbledore told you what I am. I don't mind, as long as you don't tell anyone else. The truth is that I've been desperately in love with Hermione since I first saw her. It kills me inside to watch her with Ron.” Slughorn looked thoughtful, then nodded. “You're just like your father. He also liked the bookish ones, though your mother was always number one for him,” Slughorn said. He clapped Harry on the shoulder and left. ** Over the Christmas break, Draco Malfoy came up to Harry secretly. Harry had known he was coming, and made sure he was alone when the blonde came up behind him. “Potter, I have some information that will interest you. Professor Snape told me that he had made an Unbreakable Vow to my mother that he would complete the task the Dark Lord gave me. He will kill Dumbledore or he will die for his failure.” “He will die, but not for his failure. He will die for even daring to

attempt such a thing,” Harry said softly, yet Draco had never heard anything uttered with so much venom. As Draco walked away, contemplating the firmness of Harry's tone, Dumbledore walked up to the young vampire. “Harry, I need to speak to you in my office,” the Headmaster said, then walked away. That night, Harry went to Dumbledore's office and gave the password, but it didn't work. The Headmaster had changed it and forgotten to tell him. Harry decided to play a little game with Dumbledore, instead of sending his Patronus to let him know he was there. He looked around carefully, extended his Empathy, and determined that there was no one around, either watching him, or in Dumbledore's office. He poofed into a shadow in the Headmaster's office, and walked forward casually. “You wished to see me, Headmaster,” Harry said as he walked forward. Dumbledore jumped so high he hit his legs on the bottom of his desk, hard. “Harry, don't do that!” Dumbledore complained as he clutched his chest. Harry chuckled and grinned. “Don't worry; I won't do exactly that again...” Harry promised, smiling wide enough to show his fangs. Dumbledore gulped audibly and Harry licked his lips. He enjoyed frightening people, and that nearly frightened him. Of course, his scare tactics almost never hurt anyone, and he never made threats unless he intended to follow through on them. He didn't take sadistic pleasure out of fear, like Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange, or Voldemort. “So, what did you wish to speak to me about?” Harry asked calmly. “I have reason to believe Voldemort has created Dark objects known as 'Horcruxes'. You may have noticed I was absent recently. I was actually on the trail of one of them,” Dumbledore admitted. “More than one?” Harry asked, noticing that Dumbledore spoke of the objects in the plural. “Yes, and I don't know how they are made. I just know that it's among

the Darkest of Dark Magic,” Dumbledore said, as though he didn't want Harry getting any ideas. Harry decided to call him on it. “Really, sir, think about it. What use would I have for whatever these things are? I'm already dead, as Madame Pomfrey so kindly reminded me just last week,” Harry said. Dumbledore winced at the memory of Harry's untimely death and subsequent return to a semblance of life in the late spring of 1992. “I need for you to find out from Horace how Voldemort found out about these vile things in the first place. I need his memory, and he's being uncooperative,” Dumbledore said, nearly angrily. “No problem,” Harry promised, before he left. Dumbledore sighed in relief when he saw Harry's retreating back. ** Harry went to Slughorn's office a little before the regular meeting time of the Slug Club. “Professor, I need your help,” Harry said when he entered. Slughorn looked up, beaming all over his face. “Harry, m'boy, whatever help you need I will be glad to give you,” Slughorn said happily. “Dumbledore told me that Voldemort has made something called Horcruxes, and that you are connected with how he found out about them in the first place. I need your memory of that,” Harry said. Slughorn visibly wilted. “I'm so sorry Harry, but I can't tell you what I don't know.” “Please sir, help me avenge my parents. Help me stop Voldemort so I can spend my time winning Hermione's love,” Harry pleaded, knowing that Slughorn was lying. The rotund teacher looked undecided, and Harry waited. He knew Slughorn would crack if he kept silent. He just schooled his expression into one of loss and hope, which wasn't hard. Slughorn cracked. He extracted the memory of that fateful day and put it into a vial.

“Here,” he croaked. “Stop that murdering bastard and find true love. After all you've been through, you more than deserve it.” “Thank you sir. I need to get this to Dumbledore now, so I won't be at the meeting,” Harry said as he left. “Good luck, Harry,” Slughorn whispered after his favorite student had left. “Good luck.” ** Harry poofed into Dumbledore's office, but he skipped the shadow. He appeared right in front of his desk, which scared the living daylights out of Severus Snape. Snape paled even more than he usually was as he scrambled over Dumbledore's desk in fear. Dumbledore was also clutching his chest as he wailed something nearly incomprehensible about Harry “doing it again”. Harry just grinned and said, “As I recall, I said I wouldn't step out of a shadow and scare you again. This time, I didn't step out of a shadow.” He turned to Snape, who was peering over the top of Dumbledore's desk at him, his eyes wide and frightened. “Snivellous, I would stop that if I were you,” Harry said coldly. “You might get grease stains all over Dumbledore's robes. Unless you're in the process of some other activity, in which case I beg your forgiveness and I'll leave,” he continued with a grin. That put both mens' backs up, as Snape leaped over Dumbledore's desk and shrieked a challenge. Dumbledore wasn't far behind, but Harry just grinned even wider, showing his fangs off to perfection. “Relax, I was just kidding,” Harry laughed, which brought Dumbledore up short, but Snape seemed to have not heard Harry. “I'll kill you, Potter!” the Potions Master shrieked, then he found himself hanging upside down by an ankle. “You keep forgetting, Snivellous. I'm already dead. Someone beat you and your master to it, going on five years now.” Harry let Snape go, and the grease bag fled as though someone was brandishing shampoo. “Anyway, I have that memory you wanted,” Harry told Dumbledore,

and held up the vial of thoughts. Dumbledore beamed and got out his pensieve. They both descended into the swirling silver mass of thoughts, and watched as Slughorn told Voldemort what Horcruxes were, and the basics of how they were made. Harry got the seed for an idea when he discovered the Horcruxes were made by splitting the soul through the act of murder. When they left the memories behind, they discussed their discoveries. “I thought it must be something like that,” Dumbledore nodded in satisfaction, tinged with a hint of triumph. Harry nodded, his mind already sifting through the possibilities for his new plan. “Harry, are you listening?” Dumbledore asked. Harry looked up, “Oh, yeah.” Dumbledore looked suspicious for a second, and then shrugged. He dismissed Harry, who went to his dorm. Once he was sure he was alone, he poofed to Grimmauld Place. “Sirius, I need your help. I need you to find the records for an old orphanage in London, and where the kids were taken for vacation,” Harry said. “Which orphanage?” Sirius asked. “I'm not sure of the name, but it was operated during the twenties through the forties at least, and it was close by Vauxhall Road,” Harry answered. Sirius wrote down the information and then asked, “Why is this important?” “Because it's the orphanage Voldemort grew up at,” Harry answered. Sirius whistled and set off. Harry returned to Hogwarts before Kreacher could grovel to him some more. As Harry waited for Sirius to get back to him, and for the students to return after Christmas, he decided to catch up on his homework and research more about Tom Riddle. During his research, he discovered that McGonagall had actually been a contemporary of Tom Riddle. He had never actually thought about asking her about the Slytherin. He swept into her office while she was just finishing grading papers.

“Harry, what a pleasant surprise,” she said, obviously pleased to see him. “Hello, Professor,” Harry smiled as he walked in. She put her quill down and stretched her fingers. “Is there something wrong, Harry?” she asked. He shrugged and asked, “You were a year above Voldemort in school, right?” She sighed and said, “I was wondering when someone would think to ask me.” “Yes, I knew him,” she went on. “I didn't know him well, but we were Prefects together. I was in Gryffindor and he was in Slytherin. Oh, I knew even then that there was something wrong with him. He liked to pick on the younger years, I was positive of it, though no one ever caught him. I also suspected he liked trophies. No one ever reported that he robbed them, though I was sure he took a prized possession from every kid he tormented. Of course, it's possible he returned the objects after a period of time.” “What kind of trophies did he like to collect?” Harry asked her. “Well, let's see. I know for a fact he had an interest in the Four Founders and their belongings. I also suspected even then that he might be descended from Slytherin.” Harry nodded to confirm that this was, indeed, true. She smiled and went on, “He was particularly interested in things that used to belong to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff, and that were lost to time. In fact, I think that's why he went to work at Borgin & Burke's in Knockturn Alley after he graduated. I stumbled in there once and saw him.” “You stumbled into Knocturn Alley, saw Tom Riddle working at Borgin & Burke's, and no one attacked you?” Harry asked incredulously. “That's because it was obvious someone had already done a number on me,” she admitted. “Two masked men accosted me in the middle of Diagon Alley, and nearly killed me. Luckily, I stumbled into Borgin & Burke's, and since I was there and seriously injured, they all assumed I had escaped from Dumbledore. Who knows,” she said

with an abashed grin, “I might have.” “Maybe I should ask him just when he stopped feeding Grindelwald information and ideas,” Harry muttered. “He probably won't tell you,” she cautioned him. “Does that really matter to me? If I can get the truth out of Snape, I can get the truth out of Dumbledore,” Harry declared. “Just be careful, if you do,” McGonagall said. Harry grinned and replied, “Aren't I always careful?” ** Sirius finally got back to Harry the day before everyone came back. The letter had all the information Harry had asked for, in code, of course. Late one night, Harry lay in bed, preparing for his mission. He concentrated, building up his magic, and called on his vampire abilities. First, Harry sent his mind to touch Snape's Dark Mark, so he could track Voldemort through the magic the Dark Lord used to bind his Death Eaters to him. He then sent his mind winging out to track Voldemort himself, and found a trail leading to a seaside cave. The trail was old, but not too old. It had been renewed only sixteen years ago. Once in the cave, Harry used his Seer abilities to get a picture of what was in the cave, so he could check it out himself. His mind focused on the bowl across the small lake. Once Harry came back to himself, he gathered his powers again, and poofed to the cliff overlooking the cave. Once on the cliff, Harry used another vampire power: he turned into misty fog, and floated down to the cave. He turned back when he was inside the outer chamber of the cave, and poofed into the inner chamber. The black lake seemed as smooth as glass, but Harry could see the dead bodies in the water. He knew them for Inferi, the damnable corpses Dark wizards animated for their own use. He hated Inferi, for they had no purpose, and weren't supposed to be animated. He grew his wings and flew across the lake, sneering down at the Inferi as he passed. The corpses never noticed him, and they wouldn't unless he touched the water.

When he reached the rock in the middle of the lake, he looked into the bowl. In the bowl he saw green liquid, which he took a sample of, and a shining golden locket. He reached in, expecting to be stopped by the shield he had detected over the bowl, but nothing happened. He probed the shield further, and the answer was so obvious he would have laughed. It figures. Voldemort never thought to shield against vampires, so of course I could just stick my hand in, Harry thought with a grin. He opened the locket right there in the cave, and took out the folded letter. He read it and noticed the initials on it. Who is this 'R. A. B.'? he asked himself. I know I've read those initials before, but where? He took the locket with him back to Hogwarts, as well as the sample of the potion from the bowl. He would look into both of them later. ** The next day, everyone returned to Hogwarts. He saw Hermione walk in holding Ron's hand, but her smile looked a little forced. He also noticed that when her eyes met his, her smile was genuine. Ron looked triumphant, and Ginny just glared at him. She still hadn't given up, and she never would, Harry could see. But he could also see that she was very dangerous, and might kill to get her way. Upon everyone's return, Harry made a decision. He approached Hermione and Ron first, though he wanted to only approach Hermione. “Hey, you guys. I'm thinking of restarting the DA. I'll need your help, though,” Harry said when he was alone with the two of them. “Harry, did something happen while we were gone?” Hermione asked worriedly. Harry made sure Ginny was nowhere nearby, and then said, “A vision. I saw a battle coming at the end of the year. Snape is going to try to kill Dumbledore, and he's going to have help from students who are already Death Eaters.” Hermione gasped, then remembered being in the woods with Harry after the Quidditch World Cup. 'I could give you the name of every single person to take the Dark Mark, but for half of them you wouldn't believe me. I can name everyone who will take the Mark within the next three years, but you would hate me forever if I told you. I can tell

you with reasonable certainty every witch and wizard born of Salazar Slytherin's line, but you would hate me for that, too.' “You knew about this even before now, didn't you? You even knew which students would be involved, before our Fourth Year,” Hermione said, suddenly realizing just what Harry was truly capable of. “What are you talking about, Hermione?” Ron asked. She explained by repeating Harry's speech to her verbatim. Ron nodded and said, “So, who's it going to be?” “Blaise Zabini, Crabbe and Goyle, Nott, McLaggen, and another Gryffindor,” Harry answered. “Two Gryffindors are going to betray us?” Ron asked. “Do you know who the second one is? We might be able to stop them.” “I'm already trying, but it's hard getting through to her. Until I know for sure it's a lost cause with her, I won't tell anyone who she is,” Harry replied, only covering up a tiny fraction of the information. “That's good enough for us,” Ron said, deferring to his leader's judgment, no matter how much he hated him. “Are you speaking for both of us, Ronald?” Hermione asked, angrily. “Of course I am, darling. You know mum said we'd have to trust each other before we got married, and that it's traditional for the man to include the woman in his decision-making,” Ron said, as though he were speaking to a two-year-old. “Come on love, trust me.” Hermione seethed in silence, and Harry got ready to deactivate her retrovirus once she got mad enough for it to kick in. ** The DA started training again, and Harry gave Ron and Hermione regular reports on his “progress” with the unknown girl who was about to betray them all. He was surprised when not only did all of the regulars from last year (except the Weasley twins) come, but they had a new member as well. Harry worked personally with a hooded Draco Malfoy, who didn't know just how dangerous it was to openly

join the DA. The months started to pass, and Draco gave Harry regular reports about Voldemort's movements, usually after apparition lessons. January faded into February, which faded into March. Ron and Hermione had broken up, and then somehow gotten back together five times during those two months. Finally, on Ron's birthday, Harry decided to give him a joke photograph of what any kids he and Hermione had would look like. For some reason, all twelve had black or brown hair, as well as green or brown eyes... Ron howled with laughter at the perceived prank, and slapped Harry on the back. “Just don't touch my girl again, Potter,” Ron mock growled. “Anyway, how did you get something like this?” “Sirius and Remus,” Harry admitted, sheepishly. Ron howled again, and then Dobby the house-elf popped in. He was holding a goblet of pumpkin juice in his long-fingered hands and he stammered, “Dobby was asked to give you this Mr. Wheezy.” Ron gratefully accepted the drink and drained it in a few swallows. Harry, suspicious of the gesture, watched for any ill effects, but there were none. They went downstairs for breakfast, and as they were leaving the Great Hall, Ron keeled over before they reached the double doors. “Ron!” Hermione shrieked. Harry rushed forward to check his “friend”, and discovered that it had been a slow-acting poison. He called for help, though teachers were already on the way. He saw Snape in the crowd of teachers, and guessed just what had happened. Harry also saw Dobby come up to Dumbledore, holding a goblet of pumpkin juice, and heard the house-elf say, “Headmaster Dumbledore sir did not drink his juice.” Dumbledore looked surprised and was about to take it, when Harry summoned the goblet out of reach. It spilled, and he saw Snape start boiling with rage. Ron was taken to the Infirmary, where Harry gave Madam Pomfrey a sample of the poison taken from the puddle that had been Dumbledore's drink. With that the nurse was able to save Ron. While the redhead was recovering, Harry followed Snape around. When he finally got him alone, Harry stepped out of the shadows and just stared at him.

“I never thought you actually cared,” he said sarcastically to the greasy Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. “You must be mistaken, Potter. I don't care, not about you, or anyone,” Snape sneered. “Yes you do. I know you poisoned Ron, so you must care about me at least some. And I heard you admit to Professor McGonagall that you were in love with Bellatrix Lestrange,” Harry taunted him. “You little-!” Snape burst out, but Harry already had his wand in hand. “Are you really going to finish that little outburst?” the young vampire asked calmly. “Because I wouldn't if I were you. Wait, scratch that, I would, because I know I can follow through.” Snape stood there, mouth opening and closing soundlessly as he watched the vampire saunter away. He got the uneasy suspicion he'd be seeing a lot more of an angry Harry Potter, and that he might not live to tell the tale. ** Chapter 26: The Battle of the Tower Harry continued going to Dumbledore's lessons, though Dumbledore had been getting increasingly more secretive. He knew Dumbledore was onto something, and he had a shrewd idea of what it was. The Horcruxes of the Dark Lord Voldemort were a very sensitive matter, and Harry knew Dumbledore still didn't fully trust him. He even suspected Dumbledore didn't entirely believe Harry was a Seer. So, he gradually stopped showing up to the lessons, and Dumbledore never realized he had driven Harry away. Instead, Harry spent his time researching the potion sample he had taken from the bowl in the cave. One thing was for sure, the potion was not a vitamin supplement. Harry dropped another pile of books on the table in the library, and Hermione looked up in astonishment. “Harry, what are you studying

so thoroughly? Even I haven't started studying for NEWTs yet!” “I have a feeling I'll need to know this very soon,” Harry said cryptically. He opened the top book, and Hermione grabbed the second one. “Little Known Poisons and Their Antidotes,” she read off the cover. She glanced at the next one. “Common Poisons during the Reign of Grindelwald, and An In-Depth Study of Poisons and Similar Substances. Harry, what is the problem? Tell me, maybe I can help you,” she pleaded. “Alright, meet me in the dungeons tonight at eight. I'll find you at the entrance, and I'll show you what I mean,” Harry said, and went back to reading. Hermione, realizing that dangerous things were afoot, didn't interrupt him. That night, Hermione made her way to the dungeons after begging off from another snogging session with Ron. Truth be told, she was beginning to wonder why she kept going back to him. It's not like he was even remotely close to being a good person. She met Harry at the entrance to the dungeons, and he led her to an unused classroom. She saw, in the light from a few hovering jars of bluebell flames, a table with a small cauldron on top of it, and a larger one standing beside it. She also saw a vial of an unknown sickly green potion. “What potion is that, and where did you get it?” Hermione asked softly. “I don't know what it is, but I strongly believe it's a poison. I got in a cave Voldemort used to hide something,” Harry answered. “If Voldemort made it, then it most likely is a poison, and it probably kills very slowly and with excruciating pain,” Hermione agreed. Together, they analyzed the potion. After a few hours' work, they had managed to separate the poison into its component parts. “Alright, this is bad,” Harry said three hours later. “I've found Alihotsy. According to Fantastic Beasts, eating the leaves causes hysteria.”

(A/N: I found Alihotsy on the Lexicon and that says it's in Fantastic Beasts.) “And I've found Acromantula venom,” Hermione said. “Combined with the Alihotsy, it's bound to be one of the most dangerous substances on the planet.” “I don't know about Alihotsy, but I do know that Phoenix tears will cure poisoning by Acromantula,” Harry said. “The only other substance I know of that'll cure poisoning, besides a complicated cure we probably don't have the time to create, is a bezoar.” “What if we crushed a bezoar and mixed it in with Phoenix tears?” Hermione suddenly asked. Harry stopped, and looked thoughtful. “That just might work...” he muttered. “Hermione, you're a genius!” He transformed into a Phoenix, which surprised Hermione, and cried into a bowl she promptly conjured. He turned back, and they crushed the bezoar and mixed it with the tears. When the bezoar was dissolved, they used the solution to try to neutralize a sample of the combined poison. “It worked!” Harry exclaimed happily. “It really worked!” He grabbed Hermione in his strong arms and swung her around in jubilation, while she giggled at his enthusiasm and pride. While they were caught up in the moment, Harry crushed his lips to hers in another fiery kiss. Their tongues battled for dominance, and Hermione once again purred deep in her throat when his fangs grazed her tongue. Eventually, they pulled away, out of breath. “Wow. We've got to stop doing that,” Hermione breathed once she was able. “If you say so,” Harry said noncommittally. He'd rather they just stopped talking and used their breath and tongues for more pleasurable pursuits, like the one they had just stopped, but he wasn't going to say that. He really wasn't supposed to be kissing her, but by now, he didn't give a damn about anyone named Weasley, especially her boyfriend.

They made more of the antidote and stored it in vials Harry charmed to be unbreakable, then they cleaned the evidence of their work, and finally left. While they were on their way, Harry said, “I'll recall the DA tomorrow, and there I will make my final announcement about what's going to happen.” Hermione nodded, and then asked, “Were you able to prevent this mysterious girl from turning traitor?” “She's lost beyond any hope of redemption,” Harry told her quietly. “In fact, there never was any hope.” “What do you mean?” Hermione asked. “I mean, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree,” Harry said, slightly cryptically, but Hermione understood. “Her parents must be Death Eaters, too, then,” she said. Harry replied, “You could say that.” ** The next evening Harry stood in the middle of the Room of Requirement. There were a few faces missing, like Fred, George, and Ginny Weasley, along with Lee Jordan. Ron Weasley looked around and said quietly to Harry, “Harry, I don't see Ginny anywhere.” “There's a reason for that,” Harry said. He cleared his throat for show and said loudly, “Everyone, may I have your attention, please! Tonight, you will be doing battle with Death Eaters. As you can see, some of your fellows are missing. They include: Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, and Alicia Spinnet. Now, I have the sad duty to report to you all that one of our number has betrayed us.” Whispering started up at that announcement. “Cho's not here!” Marietta Edgecombe wailed. Harry held up the DA medallion that he'd had Hermione charm the previous year. “Cho Chang is not the traitor! The traitor is Ginny Weasley, and this is her medallion! See the serpent and skull on it! This appeared the day it was presented to her, though even I didn't see it.” At that moment, someone at the door shrieked, and pounding

footsteps could be heard. “Oh no! I thought you were just trying to keep her out! I didn't know she was a spy!” Cho Chang wailed. “My sister is no traitor!” Ron Weasley yelled. “I have had an Auror checking into it. Ron, you have no sister. Your baby sister was killed the day she was born and switched with another baby girl. This girl is a Metamorphmagus, and the daughter of Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange!” Harry called out. There were several different reactions to this bit of news. Several people retched in bins in the corner, and there were shouts asking for confirmation from the Auror, and a few shouts calling for Ginny's head. “Harry, shouldn't we stop her before she can report to anyone that her cover has been blown?” Hermione whispered harshly. “Don't worry about a thing. I thought something like this might happen, so I took the necessary precautions,” Harry said. “What we have to worry about now are the Death Eaters coming here to kill Dumbledore.” “We'll fight them off!” Ernie Macmillan yelled, thrusting his fist in the air. He was echoed by several others. “I myself will be guarding Dumbledore. No one will get past me,” Harry thundered. “The rest of you will be watching various entrances, and spies already within Hogwarts. Draco, I will need a complete list of Slytherins you know are spies for Voldemort.” Draco Malfoy lowered his hood and said, “I have it right here.” Harry glanced at it and said, “The only name not on here is your own.” “That's because they're all spies, whether or not they know it,” Draco answered grimly. Suddenly, Hermione shrieked. “Harry, he's going somewhere! Dumbledore's leaving!” Harry looked over at the window that had appeared. “I'll have to go get him.

Everyone, go to your posts! It's starting!” Everyone ran for the doors, and as soon as the room cleared, Harry poofed outside the castle. Once outside, he tracked Dumbledore's Apparition from Hogsmeade to the cliff overlooking the cave. Swearing softly, Harry poofed to the cliff. He saw that Dumbledore had already gone down and transformed into a Phoenix to follow him. Harry flamed into the chamber with the lake, and saw Dumbledore already crossing the lake in the rickety old rowboat. He transformed back, and immediately grew his wings. “Dumbledore, you fool! I could have told you about this!” Harry called out. Dumbledore looked up and winced. “Harry, go back! It's not safe!” “No kidding it's not safe! I could have told you that, too! Just stay put and I'll get you out of here!” Dumbledore shook his head, then his eyes widened in “realization”. He looked up at Harry in anger and repulsion, and the combined feelings nearly sent Harry tumbling out of the air. He quickly landed on the small island. Dumbledore drew his wand and prepared to curse Harry, but Harry deflected his spell. “What the hell are you doing?” Harry screamed “I'm fighting you, Death Eater!” Dumbledore suddenly retorted, his eyes wild. “I thought I proved to you I am no Death Eater!” Harry retorted. His wings swept up in his anger and his claws lengthened. Dumbledore noticed in apprehension that Harry had removed his ring. “When I died, I dedicated my death to making sure you don't join me. I once had you convinced of my loyalty, but something changed that. Now I tell you that this is a trap designed to kill whoever falls into it unaware of the true danger, and you don't believe me,” Harry said softly, his emerald eyes glinting in the glow from the potion in the bowl. Dumbledore's boat landed and he scrambled out to look into the bowl.

“It's gone! You must have moved it! Tell me!” Dumbledore snapped with his eyes still wild. “The locket that was here is a fake. I removed it, yes, about a month ago. It is at Hogwarts now, until I find the real one,” Harry admitted. “You have not informed your Master of this? He will not be pleased that you have betrayed him,” Dumbledore mocked. Harry's face contorted then his eyes widened in astonishment as Dumbledore suddenly started drinking the potion. “No, stop! That's poison!” Harry screamed. He used his super reflexes to knock the goblet out of Dumbledore's hand before he could take the second sip. However, the first was enough. He started wailing hysterically and begging for water, but Harry knew it wouldn't work. He picked him up and poofed out of the cave and back to Hogsmeade. He knew he had to take Dumbledore to the Tower for the battle, and he knew that whatever mind control Dumbledore was under would be cured by the truth being presented to him. When they arrived in Hogsmeade, Madam Rosmerta ran up to them screaming about the Dark Mark over Hogwarts. Dumbledore had enough wits to look to Hogwarts and request a broom, and Harry quickly Summoned a pair of brooms from behind the Three Broomsticks. They mounted and flew off, and Harry covered himself with his Invisibility Cloak. As soon as they arrived on top of the Astronomy Tower, Dumbledore attempted to incapacitate Harry, but Harry just pretended to be under Dumbledore's Full-Body Bind. Instead, he was sitting there quietly and watching for his chance to attack. The first Death Eater through the door was Severus Snape, and Harry's hackles rose. Dumbledore greeted him like a friend and Snape promptly disarmed the nearlyraving Headmaster. Other Death Eaters burst through the door and reported that the Order and several students were putting up a good fight. “Snape, is there a vampire up here?” Fenrir Greyback asked in his hoarse, harsh voice. Snape looked around quickly and spotted the second broom, but saw no sign of the only vampire he knew. His

eyes widened. “It's not possible! P-!” His words were immediately cut off by claws coming out of nowhere and slashing for his throat. Harry didn't stick around to gloat over the damage he'd done to Snape. All he noticed was the smell of a large quantity of freshlyspilled human blood, mixed in with an equally large quantity of grease. He went for Greyback next, and gave him the same treatment he had given Snape. There were still two Death Eaters left standing, and those two were trying to run away. Harry snapped off to quick curses, ending their flight permanently. He turned back to Dumbledore, and helped him to his feet. “I won't say 'I told you so',” Harry said as he went to take down the shield preventing anyone other than Death Eaters coming up. As soon as the shield went down three students rushed onto the Tower and looked around in horror. “They deserved it,” Draco Malfoy said coldly as he looked at the bodies. Hermione Granger rushed to Harry, fussing over him. “Harry, I have the antidote. Does he need it?” “He was under some sort of mind control, and drank some of that poison before I could stop him,” Harry reported. “Poison? Mind control?” Draco and Neville Longbottom asked incredulously as Harry forced the antidote down Dumbledore's throat. “Are the rest of the Death Eaters down?” Harry asked while Dumbledore gagged on the last bit of the antidote. “Ginny ran with an enormous blonde guy, and another heavy-faced guy already ran for it,” Hermione reported. Harry nodded. “First of all, the guy who ran with Weasley was Thorfinn Rowle, though I don't know who the other one was. Second of all, the first guy to run had pissed off Lupin, so he was chased away,” Draco said. Hermione pointed at the two Death Eaters who had tried to flee from Harry. “That one tried to kill Remus,” she said. Draco looked closer, grimaced, and said, “That...was...Amycus Carrow. He accidentally

killed Gibbon when Lupin dodged.” “This other one tried to kill Luna, and dodged Ron's Stunner,” Hermione pointed at the second one, a woman. “That was Alecto Carrow. She...was...the sister of Amycus Carrow,” Draco supplied. “Why are you talking about Miss Weasley as though she ran with the Death Eaters who fled?” Dumbledore asked. He had stopped gagging and had been unable to follow the conversation after the surprising news of Ginny Weasley's defection. “That's because the girl we all knew as Ginny Weasley isn't really Ginny Weasley. She isn't even a Weasley. She's the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange, and now she's gone to officially join her parents,” Harry reported. “Did you not know Voldemort wasn't sterile?” “Ummmm... No comment,” Dumbledore said, his cheeks turning red. Harry rolled his eyes. “Of course you have no comment! You've been trying to set me up with her since she started at Hogwarts!” he retorted. “Maybe we should get him to the Hospital Wing,” Neville said helpfully. “Yes, lets,” Harry agreed without hesitation. Draco and Hermione laughed, and Dumbledore looked at Draco as though he had never seen him before. As they left the Tower, Harry kicked Snape one last time. “Very medieval, Potter,” Draco said as he looked once again upon the bodies of the Death Eaters. “How did you know I did that?” Harry asked innocently. “Because you're the only person I know who hated Snape enough to do that to him,” Draco replied.

** After the battleground was cleaned up, Dumbledore announced that school would be dismissed a little early. He said that everyone who had participated in the battle had done exceptionally well, and called several students forward for recognition. When Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood stood in front of Dumbledore, they were given a Special Award for Services to the School. “Alright, why am I not surprised that you five are all getting this?” Dumbledore asked them suspiciously. “Maybe because we had a good teacher,” Hermione supplied helpfully. Dumbledore started to preen at the apparent praise to him. McGonagall, however, hid a snicker. Remus barely held in a bellylaugh, and Hagrid winked at Harry. ** The next day, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Luna, and Neville shared a compartment. Harry and Hermione patrolled periodically, and Neville tried to explain to Ron the reason why the redhead had not been recognized. “I fought just as well as everyone else!” Ron shouted, his face turning red. “Ron, you only ever fired one spell, and that one missed!” Neville shot back. “Ronald was very brave for protecting me,” Luna said dreamily. Ron smiled at her fondly. “Ron, are you or are you not currently dating Hermione?” Neville asked curiously. “I am, and we're going to get married,” Ron said proudly. “My mum said so.”

“Then don't you think you should be nicer to her?” Neville said patiently. “Did you know there's a pool for when Hermione will come to her senses and start dating Harry?” “If she dates Potter, I'll kill him, and he knows that,” Ron promised, his voice turning cool. “Somehow, I think it'll be the other way around,” Neville mumbled. “What was that, Neville?” Ron asked. “Nothing, nothing,” Neville replied hurriedly. The train finally reached the station and they all disembarked. When next they met here, all of them but Luna would be starting Seventh Year. ** Chapter 27: The Age of Love Nearly-seventeen-year-old Harry James Potter had started packing his trunk early, as his birthday was fast approaching. He had already arranged with Sirius to poof into a secure room in Grimmauld Place on his birthday. He looked up from his packing when he heard the flutter of wings coming to his window, but Hedwig had no burden. He sighed. He had sent Albus Dumbledore another letter just yesterday, to talk to him about what had happened on top of the Tower in June, but none of his letters had garnered a response. “BOY! GET DOWN HERE!” Petunia Dursley screeched up the stairs. Harry sighed again, and quashed the hope that Dumbledore would come to see him personally rather than write to him. Dumbledore hadn't wanted to see him or speak to him since he'd finally seen Snape's betrayal for himself. And, of course, it didn't help that Harry had, in his rage, brutally killed Dumbledore's former friend. He went downstairs listlessly. “There you are, boy! Some of your freaky friends are at the door!” Petunia sneered disdainfully as she walked back to the kitchen. Harry opened the door and got a surprise. McGonagall, Remus, Sirius, and

Hermione were standing there with a slightly wobbly Dumbledore supported between them. “We knew he hadn't responded to the fifteen letters you sent him, so we brought him to you so you could see that he was alright,” Hermione announced brightly. Harry stepped aside to allow them entry, and they lowered Dumbledore onto the Dursley's couch. “He's just asleep. Someone put a rather large dose of Dreamless Sleep Potion into his morning pumpkin juice,” Hermione continued, a mischievous smile brightening up her shining eyes. Harry grinned, and Dumbledore started to stir. “Wha...Where am I?” he asked drowsily. “How did I get here?” Harry decided to wake him up thoroughly. “You are in one of my safe-houses,” he hissed, deepening his voice. Dumbledore was up like a shot, and reaching for his wand. The Headmaster of Hogwarts braced himself for a Cruciatus Curse, but none came. It was obvious that he was confused, and his confusion deepened when Sirius and Remus broke out into loud laughter, followed by a good belly-laugh from McGonagall, and a giggle from Hermione. “Just kidding,” Harry said. “Voldemort's not welcome here, and he knows it. He's still pissed that he had you in his clutches and he didn't even know it, and that I came along and pulled you out.” “Why did you have me kidnapped?” Dumbledore demanded. He glared up at McGonagall and the Marauders. “I sent you fifteen letters this past month and a half, and you didn't respond to any of them,” Harry said quietly. It was clear to his friends that he had indeed been worried sick that something had befallen Dumbledore and that something might happen without warning. Ginny was still out there, presumably with her real parents, and they would want revenge. “I killed four of his Death Eaters that night, and caused his daughter to flee for her life. I have a feeling they will seek revenge,” Harry

continued, in the same quiet tone. “Voldemort also now knows that objects he holds dear are in danger. He will increase the protection on those objects, and they will be harder to locate and destroy. He knows if he killed you, the Order would most likely fall apart if we weren't able to find a suitable substitute.” “That substitute won't be you, so you can tell Voldemort that,” Dumbledore said nastily. Everyone gasped, but Harry only looked down. Dumbledore took that opportunity to Apparate away. “Just out of curiosity, has Lucius Malfoy had close contact with Dumbledore?” Harry asked his friends. “Dumbledore's been a loose cannon since Snape was killed,” Remus said. “There's no telling what he might say when. I think he's bitter that you killed his friend, even if his friend was about to kill him.” Harry nodded; his Empathy had told him the same thing. ** The next day, Harry said good-by to the Dursleys for the last time. He was now seventeen years old, and a full-grown wizard in the eyes of the Ministry. He poofed to the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, into the predetermined room Sirius had arranged for just that purpose. Upon his arrival, he looked down when he felt the presence of a groveling house-elf. “Hello, Kreacher. Please don't grovel like that, my friend wouldn't like it,” Harry said kindly. Kreacher immediately stopped groveling, and Harry got an idea. “Kreacher, two years ago we were cleaning the house when we came across a heavy gold locket we couldn't open. Do you know where that locket is?” The house-elf stammered a reply, inordinately pleased Harry was asking him for something he could easily get. “Kreacher got the locket from the bag of trash in the study, and saved it.” The elf popped away, and then returned a moment later with the locket in hand. “Master Black entrusted this to me, and Kreacher has kept it ever since,” the elf said. He handed the locket to Harry, who remembered

that Sirius had told him that his brother had been a Death Eater. Regulus Arcturus Black is the R. A. B. who signed the note! I knew it! Harry thought excitedly. “Kreacher, I'll need to destroy this locket so I can complete the work Regulus Black started, and defeat Voldemort,” Harry said. He walked out of the room and went to find Sirius. He found his godfather sitting with Remus and Tonks, who were holding hands. “You sly dog!” Sirius had barked just before Harry entered the room. “Why didn't you tell us you were getting hitched?” “Getting hitched?” Harry asked as he entered. He turned to Remus and Tonks and saluted them. “Congratulations, you two. I would have brought the wife to your wedding, but she's dating Ron Weasley, of all people,” he joked. “I assume one day I can bring the wife to your wedding,” Remus added, playing along. Harry grinned. “I came because I just remembered the importance of this locket,” he said, holding up the locket. It started to grow heavier, but the increased weight didn't bother Harry. “Do you three want to watch as I destroy it?” “Destroy it?” Remus and Tonks asked. “Yeah, it's a Horcrux that Voldemort made. I need to destroy all of them before I can defeat him,” Harry answered. They all nodded, too stunned to speak after the startling information. Harry placed the locket on the table and spoke to it in Parseltongue. It snapped open, and disgorged two shadowy shapes, as though it knew it would have to begin the mental torture immediately. Harry, Sirius, Remus, and Tonks watched in horror as the figures took on the shapes on Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. “You think I could ever choose a nobody who has no parents?!” the shadowy Hermione asked incredulously. “I want a man who has a family who loves him! That way I know who's fathering my children. See? We have three now,” she continued snootily.

“Hahaha! I knew I was better than you, Potter! Now I've proved it! Oh, by the way, we were never your friends. We just wanted to get close enough to you so we could the look of betrayal on your face!” the figure of Ron announced. He wrapped his arms around Hermione, and Harry sagged to the floor. Sirius just rushed to Harry's side and turned pleading eyes on Remus and Tonks. Remus approached just as quickly while Tonks said, “I'll go get help!” and rushed out of the room. A moment later, she reappeared with Hermione in tow. The beautiful brunette was frantic with worry, and she screamed when she saw the figures of herself and Ron passionately kissing. She rushed to Harry's side and he clutched her close to him, as though afraid she might leave and go back to Ron if he didn't express how he felt about her. She just poured all the love she had for him into her movements, and Harry picked up on it with his Empathy. It gave him the strength to fight the Horcrux, which he destroyed by bringing the Gryffindor Sword to his hands. “Harry, what was that?!” Hermione asked, still stunned. “That,” Harry said slowly as he climbed to his feet, “was a Horcrux. Voldemort made seven, Dumbledore and I believe. There are three left, now.” “Wait, if that god-awful diary back in Second Year was a Horcrux, and this locket was one, then that leaves five, not four,” Hermione said, doing some quick mental math. “Ah, there you have it. The entire reason Dumbledore's been pretending to care about me, even after we saved him at the end of Fifth Year. Yeah, I knew all along he was pretending. You see, when Voldemort killed my mother, that sent a fragment of his soul spinning to latch onto the only other living thing in the room,” Harry said. “You,” Hermione finished. “Right,” Harry confirmed. “I don't think even Trelawney could have predicted what happened to that soul fragment. You see, when I died,

I had two souls: my own, and the fragment from Voldemort. Which one do you think would pass on when I died?” “Ummm, the fragment,” Hermione decided. “That was the one that didn't belong, so it wasn't closely attached to your soul, or your magical core. It was loose.” “Correct again!” Harry said. “So, when I came back as a vampire, I still had my original soul, and it's attached too firmly to my magical core. Nothing will separate it from my body, maybe not even death.” “Oh my god,” Hermione muttered, stunned beyond belief. The news was still sinking in for her, but Sirius, and by extension, Remus, already knew. “It makes sense,” Tonks supplied. She looked at Harry with renewed respect. “It's not every day you meet a vampire with his own soul still intact,” she joked. Harry smiled. “But why does Dumbledore mistrust you still? Doesn't he know you were a Horcrux?” Hermione asked. “Therein lies the problem. You see, he does know. He's always known. When I died, he knew I had lost one of the souls. That's just what happens. What he doesn't know is that the Horcruxed soul was destroyed. I'm sure he believes my own soul was lost; meaning the only one in me is the Horcrux from Voldemort. Add that to his misunderstanding from First Year, when he thought I was helping Voldemort get the Stone, and we've got a major problem,” Harry said grimly. “Just give me time to get in position and I'll give him something else to think about,” Remus offered with a feral grin. “Tempting offer, but could you guarantee that you wouldn't eat him?” Harry asked. Remus' grin disappeared. “I thought the point was to make sure he got the point...of my teeth,” Remus came back with. Sirius and Hermione started laughing, and Tonks said sweetly, “Hubby dear, do I have to get your leash?”

“No! No! Anything but that!” Remus mock-screamed. Harry was having trouble staying on his feet, he was laughing so hard. Hermione looked ready to fall over, and Harry steadied her, and she smiled at him. “Oh, Hermione. Since you're staying at the Burrow again, do you know how the Weasleys are taking it?” Harry asked when he had stopped laughing. “Molly and Arthur were devastated to learn that their daughter had been killed as a newborn. The boys were shocked to learn they had never had a sister, that the girl they had believed to be their baby sister had in fact been no relation to them, unless you count distantly,” Hermione answered. “Right now, I'm trying to comfort Ron. He was the closest to her, and he feels the most betrayed.” “Hermione, I've already told you. Watch out for Ron, there's something wrong there,” Harry said. “The only thing that's wrong there is that the baby sister he loved was never his sister,” Hermione snapped, her eyes glazing over for a splitsecond. That's when Harry knew. Ginny Weasley wasn't the only one playing around with love potions, and Hermione had enough in her system to drown Crookshanks in. Hermione left, and Harry told his friends about it. “And you let her go?” Tonks asked incredulously. “She's already started to become used to it. Her body's been building a resistance to the potion since the beginning of Sixth Year. Soon, no matter how much she's forced to drink, she will never love Ron,” Harry said calmly. “And I'll be there when her romance with Weasley ends...” The gleam in Harry's eye sent chills down Tonks' spine, but it caused Sirius and Remus to grin. ** A week later, Harry's letter arrived. It was a little heavier than normal, and when he opened it, something metal dropped out. Remus, who

would transform in two days, heard the sound from upstairs. He came running, bringing Sirius and Tonks with him. “I know that sound! I know that sound!” Remus shouted as he skidded into the kitchen. Harry looked up. They could see that he held the Head Boy badge in his hand. Sirius and Remus started dancing around and cheering, while Tonks showered Harry with congratulations. Sirius ran to the fire, saying he was going to give the Weasleys the good news, while ostensibly he was going to brag about having another Head Boy in the family. A moment later, Sirius leaped back with a shout, and another second later a brunette blur latched itself around Harry's neck. The owl that had delivered his letter was so startled it started flapping around both their heads, and Harry's Hedwig followed suit. “I must have done something right, because this is the second time I've gotten such a big hug from you, Hermione,” Harry smiled. While the two teens were in their own little world, Sirius crept upstairs and found an old camera. He came back down and snapped a picture before they broke apart. Remus grinned and held up an old picture of James and Lily, and compared the old photo to the new one. “Love like that doesn't happen all the time, except in this family.” “Hey, you guys, since you have a camera, why don't you take a picture of us wearing our badges,” Harry suggested. They beamed, and Tonks said, “Why don't you put on your Hogwarts robes, too. It makes it look more official.” Harry waved his wand and conjured their robes. Sirius snapped the picture as Harry messed up his hair. After Harry and Hermione walked out of the room to continue talking, Remus fumbled in his wallet for another old photo. He held it up next to the one Sirius had just snapped. The old photo was of James and Lily standing side-by-side in their Hogwarts robes and wearing their badges. James had just ruffled his hair and Lily was smiling fondly. “If I showed this to Molly, she'd have a heart attack,” Remus said. Sirius grinned mischievously. “Let's do it!” Tonks slapped his arm

playfully. ** Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Nymphadora (Tonks) Lupin stood in the living room of the Burrow. Molly had just come in from the kitchen wearing an apron and drying her hands. Her red hair was frazzled and the fresh lines in her face showed the stress she was under. “Is there something wrong?” she asked, her voice harried. “We just wanted to show you a pair of photographs we took, so that you can share in our pride at having another Head Boy and Girl in the family,” Sirius said mischievously. “Another Head Boy and Girl?” Molly asked. “But neither of you has a son or a daughter.” “Time for a little history lesson then,” Remus said, grinning. “Please, sit down.” Molly sat down and Tonks, playing along, offered Molly a drink. The confused Weasley matriarch declined graciously. “Now, once upon a time, a teenage runaway begged his best friend for temporary food and lodging. That friend not only offered help, his parents took in the runaway as though he were their own son,” Sirius began, relishing the story. “That summer, before they returned to school for their Seventh Year, the best friend received the Head Boy badge in the mail. His father was proud of having his son continue the tradition. The Head Girl for the year was a beautiful girl who loved to read, and after they finished school, the former Head Boy and Girl married. They one day had a son. This son has now been named Head Boy, and the Head Girl is another beauty who loves to read.” “But that doesn't explain who it is,” Molly explained patiently, as though Sirius were obtuse. “That's because it wasn't supposed to,” Remus countered in the same tone. “These photos we've come across show very well who they are.” He took the two photographs out of his pocket and held them out to her. The one on the top was of James and Lily right

before their Seventh Year. The one on the bottom was the new one of Harry and Hermione. “See? We have another Head Boy and Girl in the family,” Sirius said proudly. “B-b-but t-this c-can't b-be!” Molly stammered. She brought her hand up to her chest in shock. “Oh dear, Molly, it seems the clock is malfunctioning! I'll fix it for you,” Tonks said, right on cue. She waved her wand at the clock and a new hand appeared, but this one said 'Molly's insidious plans', and it was pointing to 'Mortal Peril'. “It seems you had some plans that are now in grave danger,” Tonks remarked. “Were you planning on making the roast lamb again? I thought the last time you did that Hermione had an allergic reaction to the seasoning you put in it.” Molly looked at the clock then fainted. “Oh well, we'd better warn Hermione about the lamb. She'll want to stock up on her medicine, just in case,” Tonks said. “Oh, I'm sure Harry's taking care of that as we speak,” Remus grinned. “They'd better have locked the door,” Sirius said. Tonks slapped him playfully on the arm. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Sirius! You remember what Harry said,” she said, laughing. ** Two weeks later, Harry and Hermione boarded the Hogwarts Express for the beginning of their Seventh and final year at school. They went to the Prefects compartment first to give the new Prefects their schedules. Draco Malfoy pretended to sneer as they entered, but when everyone else left, he promptly congratulated them. “I knew it'd be you two,” Draco said. “It couldn't have been anyone else.”

“We have to warn you that Dumbledore's a loose cannon, and the reason he hates me is because he thinks I'm being possessed by Voldemort constantly,” Harry said, only concealing part of the truth. Draco nodded, though he was slightly suspicious. He had seen the remains of the Death Eaters on the Tower. Nothing entirely human did that. When they got off the train, Harry and Hermione heard an excited voice calling out to them. They looked and saw Cedric Diggory running towards them. “Harry! Hermione!” Cedric shouted. “Cedric! We haven't seen you in over a year!” Harry exclaimed. “Sorry, but it wasn't my fault. Somehow Dumbledore got it into his head that I was a threat to the Order's security, and he sent me off to recruit in Iceland,” Cedric explained sheepishly. “Anyway, I came back as soon as I heard that the reason I had been sent away had been killed.” “I couldn't let Snape kill Dumbledore,” Harry said. “That's because you care more than most people. I probably would have saved the idiot, too, but I wouldn't have let him get clean away. I may be a Hufflepuff alumnus, but I'm no saint,” Cedric explained. “Anyway, I see you're both Head Boy and Girl, so I guess congratulations are in order!” They thanked him for his kind words, and before they went up to the castle, he whispered to Harry, “Just so you know, I found out about a certain betting pool, and I put twenty-five galleons behind McGonagall. I figure she has the best chance of winning. We've decided that when we win, we'll split our winnings fifty-fifty.” Harry grinned. ** Chapter 28: Scavenger Hunt The day after the students returned to Hogwarts, the Great Hall was

packed with kids discussing the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Most didn't know where Dumbledore had found this new guy, but he looked like a decent person. Only a few people present knew who he was, as he hadn't been at the feast the previous night. However, one thing everyone noticed was how close Dumbledore stuck to the new guy. “I'm telling you, there's something wrong here,” one boy said. “That guy was here a couple of years ago, at the same time Van Helsing was here, and the same time it came out that Snape was a vampire.” Harry walked past the whispering boy and grinned. Of course, he already knew that the new Defense teacher was Heinrich Weisen, and he knew the reason he was there. It was because Dumbledore was terrified of having a full-grown vampire in the castle, and one who allegedly was Voldemort's creature. Harry also knew that this was the year in which he would present Dumbledore with his nearlycomplete portfolio. He sat down and pretended to eat breakfast, relieved that he wouldn't have to deal with Ginny anymore. She had been starting to get on his last few nerves, and Harry didn't want to commit mass-murder. That was Voldemort's job, and he did it well enough on his own. After breakfast, Harry headed for Defense Against the Dark Arts. When he walked in, he greeted Heinrich with a grin. “Alright, everyone, my name is Heinrich Weisen and I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year. Before you ask, I'm only here for the one year, as Dumbledore desires to only need my services for this time. As you are now in your final year, you will have homework, and it will be difficult. Younger years have less of a load. Anyone who wishes less homework may go back a couple of years, though I do not recommend that,” Heinrich said. “This lesson will focus on recognizing and disposing of the walking dead.” The class shuddered excitedly. Heinrich grinned. “First question, what are some of the varieties of the walking dead?” Hermione's hand shot up. “Yes, Miss Granger,” Heinrich smiled.

“There are vampires, Inferi, and ghosts,” Hermione answered, carefully not looking at Harry when she mentioned vampires. “Correct! Now how do we recognize vampires?” “By their fangs,” Draco said confidently. “That is one of the ways. They also have an above-average aggression, significantly higher mental prowess, and increased reflexes and speed,” Heinrich said. “How do we recognize Inferi?” Harry raised his hand, and Heinrich nodded to him. “By their appearance. They walk stiffly, look vacant, and can't pass through solid objects like a ghost can,” Harry answered. “Absolutely correct, Harry! That's ten points to Gryffindor and five for Slytherin.” Heinrich spent the rest of the class teaching them how to dispose of dead creatures. Later, as the class filed out, Heinrich called out, “Don't forget vampires are too strong for conventional attacks! Only another vampire or a werewolf can use brute strength against them!” “Harry, we have to patrol tonight, remember?” Hermione asked before she went off with Ron. Harry didn't even have a chance to nod before she was gone. He didn't even need to turn around to know Draco was there. “Hey, Harry, is there anything you're not telling me? I know how you killed those Death Eaters on the Tower,” the blonde boy asked. Harry sighed. “I didn't want to do this, but if you've figured it out... Alright, I am a vampire,” Harry whispered. “I was bitten back in First Year, during our detention in the Forbidden Forest. I died that night, in the Hospital Wing, and I had come back by morning.” “How come I've seen you outside in broad daylight?” Draco asked. “Because, no matter how much Dumbledore believes me to be devoid of a soul, I still have mine,” Harry answered. Draco looked

surprised. “How did that happen?” “That, you're not ready to find out yet,” Harry said. “But please don't tell anyone about this.” “You can count on me,” Draco said firmly. Harry walked away, but not before he said, “It wasn't your fault I'm dead. If you hadn't run away when you did, you'd probably be one, too.” Draco was astonished that Harry had read his feelings so accurately. ** Lord Voldemort sat in his throne room, considering the news his newly-discovered daughter had brought him. She had informed him that Harry Potter had discovered the truth about her, and had set other students to protecting the castle during the attack he had somehow known was coming. She had also told him that Dumbledore had been alone on the Tower with the four Death Eaters, and that Dumbledore had lived. Combined with the information he had gathered the night of his rebirth, Dumbledore had once again used some kind of arcane magic, of which he himself knew nothing, against him. The only answer to such a situation was to attack the castle in force and kill Dumbledore before he could bring his magic to bear. “I will attack on Halloween,” the Dark Lord hissed. ** “Ron! I told you! I am not having an affair with Harry, or anyone!” Hermione shrieked. It didn't really matter to her that technically, she was cheating, because she knew for a fact that he had started cheating first. She had known since the OWLs back in Fifth Year that Ron was seeing Luna Lovegood behind her back, and she didn't care until she drank pumpkin juice that tasted funny... “If I say you are, then you are!” Ron roared back.

“That's it! We're through!” Hermione shouted, and she stormed away to do her rounds with Harry. As soon as she stepped through the portrait hole she ran into the raven-haired dead man, however. He grabbed her around the waist to stop her falling in surprise, and promptly deactivated her retrovirus. “Another fight with Ron?” Harry asked. Hermione had no need to comment on his astuteness, as she knew the reason for it. He was an Empath, and he had supersensitive hearing. She simply nodded and melted into his embrace. “Come on, let's go patrol,” Harry said as he lead her away from the Fat Lady's portrait. Once they were far enough away, Harry said, “Hermione, I'm going to need your help.” “Of course, whatever you need,” Hermione promised. “I'll need you to cover for me during patrols. I've had a vision that says Voldemort's going to attack in force on Halloween, but he needs to be mortal then. I can track the pieces of his soul, but I'll need you to keep Dumbledore off me,” Harry said. Hermione's eyes had widened at the news of the attack, and she nodded to Harry's request. She knew he was the only one who could stop Voldemort. He grinned, kissed her on the cheek, and melted into a shadow. After he had gone, she felt parchment in her hand. She looked and saw the Marauder's Map. “Oh, Harry...” she whispered, a slight smile coming to her lips. ** Harry left the shadows near a building in Hogsmeade. From there, he concentrated on tracking Voldemort. He picked up Voldemort's magical signature in London, but it was on the move. He poofed to that location, and saw Bellatrix Lestrange and Ginny Riddle. Ginny was holding a bag, from which was emanating Voldemort's essence. Two easy kills, Harry thought wickedly. He stalked the two women

until he was able to ambush them. In a wide-open space, he suddenly attacked. Bellatrix went down without a fight, but Ginny tried to send the bag ahead to her father. Harry quickly dispatched her, and confiscated the bag. “Fifty points from Slytherin, Slytherin,” Harry muttered to her dead body. He traveled back to Hogwarts, where he startled Hermione. “Harry! Don't do that!” she quietly shrieked. “Sorry, but I got the Horcrux, and left two dead Death Eaters behind me,” Harry reported, grinning. “Which ones did you get?” Hermione asked. “Ginny and Bellatrix,” Harry replied proudly. Hermione threw her arms around his neck and congratulated him with a passionate kiss. “I wish we could be together,” Hermione said mournfully after the kiss. “But I don't know if I can give you the family you deserve.” “We could give it a try,” Harry said suggestively. “You behave! I'm not seventeen yet!” Hermione protested, her cheeks glowing pink. They continued on their patrol and returned to the Common Room. The next day, Harry and Hermione took the bag to the same unused dungeon classroom they had made the antidote in the previous year. “Well, well, look what we have here...” Harry murmured when he saw the cup. “Hufflepuff's cup. The one he stole from Hepzibah Smith fifty years ago.” He called the Gryffindor Sword to his hand, and drove its point deep into the cup. There was a small explosion of dark smoke, a high-pitched scream, and then the destroyed cup lay motionless. “That was easy,” Hermione remarked. “Yeah, we're another step closer to bringing him down,” Harry agreed.

** A week later, Harry and Hermione were patrolling again. They had started on the seventh floor, and gone down to the dungeons, and were going to come back up to the seventh floor and their dormitories. During their patrol, Hermione said, “Do you have any idea where the next one is?” “I asked Nearly Headless Nick if he knew of any Founders' artifacts that had gone missing mysteriously. He directed me to the Ravenclaw ghost. It turned out she was Helena Ravenclaw, Rowena's daughter. She apparently stole her mother's diadem and hid it in Albania, where she later accidentally directed Tom Riddle. I'll be heading there tonight to check for any leads,” Harry reported. “I suppose you'll need me to cover for you again,” Hermione stated. “Actually, since my search may take a while, I'll go after we patrol,” Harry said. “Just don't stay out too long. I don't know if I can cover for you past daybreak,” Hermione cautioned him. Harry turned to her with a smile. “I promise I'll be back before breakfast tomorrow, with or without the diadem.” He kissed her on the cheek, and she blushed. An hour later, Harry had poofed out of Hogsmeade and to the Black Forest of Bavaria. Hermione had given him a bottle of fresh human blood. “Just in case,” she had said as she looked up into his eyes. He knew from the scent of the blood that it was hers. As the trees closed in around him, he removed his ring. He knew that anyone or anything he met in this forest was most likely one of his own kind. He was hoping to run into another vampire so he could ask for directions. Finally, two and a half hours later, midnight was fast approaching. This was the witching hour, and the hour creatures of the night were most active. He circled a huge tree and came face to face with a man. Except this man was no man, nor had he been one for close on a thousand years. The elder vampire looked over the younger, a faintly proud glint in his blue eyes.

“I feel like I should know you, though I do not,” the elder said. “I was the one who turned the one who turned you, youngster. My name is Günter. Why do you seek these lands, after so long?” “I do not seek these lands, instead I seek the ones who roam these lands by night,” Harry replied in the same tone of voice. “I seek directions to Albania, so that I might recover a stolen artifact, and destroy the evil it contains.” “What kind of artifact do you seek?” Günter asked. “A diadem with the initial 'R' on it, or a bronze eagle. It is helping to hold evil in this world,” Harry explained. “Forty years ago, I saw a young man looking for the same artifact. He came to this forest seeking Albania, and returned through here. He did not look like a normal human man,” Günter reported. “He already found it, and took it out?” Harry asked. “Yes, I saw him carrying the object you described. He said, quietly of course, as I don't think he knew we creatures of the night can hear better than mere mortals, 'I will hide this right under the old fool's nose, in the secret room only I know about',” Günter confirmed. “Oh shit! I think I know where that is!” Harry exclaimed. “Thanks for the tip!” He poofed away, drawing an admiring glance from Günter. He poofed back to Hogsmeade, and melted into a shadow to get back into the castle. He decided to tell Hermione in the morning, and proceeded to bed after drinking the blood she had so kindly given him. ** “Hermione! I need your help!” Harry rushed up to her as soon as she left the girls' dormitory. “Harry, of course I'll help with whatever you need,” Hermione said. “I know where the diadem is! I got a lead in the Black Forest! The

diadem is in the Room of Requirement, hidden right under Dumbledore's nose for forty years!” Harry said quickly. Hermione's eyes widened. “Then we've got to get it, quickly! Breakfast can wait!” Hermione announced. “For you, no. For me, yes. I ate last night, so I'm set for about a week. Kreacher!” Kreacher appeared, and Harry sent him to the kitchen for a plate of toast for Hermione. The elderly elf quickly complied, and Harry and Hermione took her breakfast to the Room of Requirement. The mode they wanted was the 'hidden objects mode', and the packed closetlike room appeared. They searched for the diadem, and it was finally Hermione who found it. “Harry! I think I found it!” she shouted. Harry homed in on her position as the diadem emitted black vapor. Hermione dropped the ancient artifact with a cry of horror. The vapor formed into a tall, menacing figure. “Oh shit,” Harry muttered. “Hermione, back away slowly...” The ghostly image of Voldemort turned to face Harry, an evil smile on his face. “Dumbledore sends you to destroy me, doesn't he?” the figure hissed. “We'll see about that.” He turned into a shadowy Ron. “I'm going to get Hermione, you see. It's what's meant to be. I'm going to win, just like I deserve.” The voice the shadow spoke in was eerily similar to Ron's voice. Harry knew then that the shadow could see into his heart, and it nearly broke him. At that point, Harry heard a fierce shriek. Hermione came charging between him and the shadow and smashed the blade of Gryffindor's Sword down onto the diadem, destroying it utterly. The shadow screamed and was torn apart by the release of the evil magic from the diadem, and Hermione threw the Sword down as though it had burned her hand. Harry collapsed and Hermione cried out to him. She cradled him in her arms and spoke soothingly to him.

After a while Harry got up and said, “You were brilliant, you know, Hermione.” She just smiled and kissed him lovingly. ** Three weeks after the destruction of the diadem, Harry and Hermione patrolled once again. Harry had been trying to figure out where Riddle Manor might be, but hadn't had much luck. He had asked Hermione, and she had delightedly offered to help him solve the puzzle. They had been working on it for three weeks, and were still short of clues. “You said the town it was in was Little Hangleton, some fifteen miles or so from Greater Hangleton,” Hermione said. “I've looked on maps, but I haven't seen it. I was thinking it might be a local name, and not shown on any map.” “I was thinking that, too. I also asked Sirius for help, to see if he could track any known Death Eaters, but he couldn't. I've asked Draco if he's ever been there, and he said that when Voldemort ordered him to try to kill Dumbledore, he had come to Malfoy Manor,” Harry said. “I'm sorry, Harry, but I think you're just going to have to track his magical signature the way you found the Cup,” Hermione said mournfully. “Then I'll go now. Cross your fingers,” and Harry melted into a nearby shadow. A moment later, Dumbledore stepped around the corner. “Oh, look who's decided to eavesdrop,” Hermione said sarcastically. “You routinely let Harry leave the castle in the middle of your patrols. Perhaps he isn't the right Head Boy. I could replace him with Mr. Weasley, though I suppose if I did that neither of you would be patrolling anything bigger than your bodies,” Dumbledore said. Hermione's face contorted in anger. “You take that back!” she shouted. “Harry is a fine Head Boy, like his father was before him, I'm sure.” “Did you know James and Lily frequently used their patrols to get to

know each other better? You and young Ron are so much like them. It's fate, don't you see?” Dumbledore said. “And I suppose if Ron and I ever had kids, Harry would be the godfather you send to Azkaban without a trial, huh?” Hermione said sarcastically. Dumbledore winced. “I'm nothing like you, Dumbledore. I'm no traitor,” she sneered. She swept past him, thinking that maybe she was too harsh on him, but she overruled that decision. He would need to learn it was best not to piss off witches at certain times. ** Meanwhile, Harry had tracked Voldemort's magical signature to a large house overlooking a small town. He grinned, and poofed there. Once there, he started watching for Nagini. Finally, he saw the snake slither into the house, and followed it. He called the Gryffindor Sword to his hand, and with one powerful swipe, the snake was no more. However, Harry had been seen while he was dispatching the snake. Voldemort hit him with a powerful curse, and he was knocked unconscious. The Dark Lord grinned, and then wrote a note, which he then placed in Harry's pocket. The boy did not stir, and Voldemort sent him back to Hogwarts with a wave of his wand. Harry woke up soon after his arrival in Dumbledore's office, looked around, and muttered, “Damn.” “I found this in your pocket, Potter,” Dumbledore said coldly. He held up the note, which said, HarryYour orders are to disrupt Dumbledore's efforts as much as you can. Do your best, then report back to me in three weeks. I will require your services again then. V “What the-?” Harry asked incredulously. “Where did that come from?”

“I said it came from your pocket. You made a mistake in appearing on my floor, Potter. If you hadn't, I might never have known about your orders until it was too late to stop you,” Dumbledore snapped in an icy voice. Harry pulled himself to his feet. “I don't know what you're talking about,” Harry said again. “Don't play dumb with me!” Dumbledore shouted, and then the door opened. Heinrich Weisen came in, stared at the note clutched in Dumbledore's right hand, then turned to look at Harry. “Now, Dumbledore, don't you think you're jumping to conclusions?” Heinrich said. “He is a Death Eater and this is the proof. Orders written in Voldemort's own hand.” “You are such a gullible fool. When he arrived here, was he unconscious or conscious?” Heinrich asked. “Unconscious,” Dumbledore replied. “Then it would have been easy for Voldemort to plant them on him after knocking him out,” Heinrich theorized. Dumbledore looked taken aback. “I never thought of that,” he admitted. “But I already had proof before this that Harry was a traitor.” “James and Lily Potter's only son, a Death Eater. Not bloody likely!” Heinrich snapped. “You never know, someone from a good family might still turn evil,” Dumbledore protested. “Yeah, and the most well-known case of that happening is sitting in this room. I think you should look in a damn mirror!” Heinrich retorted. “How's Grindelwald this day in age? Or rather, how close were you two?” To make his point, Heinrich conjured a mirror and angled it so

that both Harry and Dumbledore were in it. “See?” In the mirror, Harry looked like a normal seventeen-year-old boy. A nice young man, and an almost carbon copy of another young man who had once sat in this very office. Dumbledore looked into the mirror and snorted triumphantly. “I knew it! His soul is Voldemort's soul!” he crowed. Heinrich stared at him incredulously and smacked him. “You goddamn fool! Look into his eyes!” Dumbledore flatly refused, citing his fear of being possessed by this alleged Heir of Lord Voldemort as the reason. Harry got up and stalked out, his normally emotionless face twisted in anger and pain. He found Hermione, who had been looking for him, and swept her into his arms. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in deeply, letting her scent calm him. She held him tightly for several minutes, not saying a word, until he stopped shaking with suppressed rage. “I killed Nagini, but my plan didn't go off without a hitch. Voldemort caught me and Stunned me, and then he planted fake 'orders' for me in my pocket and sent me to Dumbledore's office. Dumbledore found those 'orders', and is even more firmly convinced I'm a Death Eater,” Harry reported, his voice shaking with emotion. “Sshh, Harry, everything's going to be fine. We'll convince him, together,” Hermione promised. He believed her, because she hadn't broken a promise to him yet. With her assurance, he knew that one day Dumbledore would understand. ** Chapter 29: Arcane Magic Lord Voldemort was busily preparing his forces for what is likely to be the Final Battle. He wants to take out Dumbledore quickly; that is his main purpose, so as to keep the aging Headmaster from employing “arcane magic” against him. He doesn't know what this strange power

might be, but it has already destroyed several of his Death Eaters, including his daughter. What Voldemort didn't know was the secret of Harry Potter. Harry was at Hogwarts, also preparing for the battle on Halloween. He's determined that nothing should happen to Dumbledore, no matter what the old man thinks of him. He didn't have much time left until the battle started, because Halloween was only two days away. He stopped outside McGonagall's office and knocked. “Come in,” she called. Harry entered, and saw Dumbledore there. “If you're busy Professor McGonagall, I can come back later,” Harry said stiffly, not meeting Dumbledore's eyes. “Nonsense, Harry, now is fine,” she said. “I actually asked you both to be here, so you can talk about your problems. If Voldemort's going to attack in two days, then we can't have any dissension in our ranks.” She raised her wand and sealed the room. “I'm going to remain neutral in this as long as I can.” “He's a Death Eater. I found his orders from Voldemort in his pocket, in Voldemort's handwriting,” Dumbledore said. “I was unconscious at the time. I had just killed his snake when he cursed me from behind,” Harry said. “Where were you, Potter?” Dumbledore asked with a wicked glint in his blue eyes. “I was at Riddle Manor, killing his snake,” Harry admitted. “But I already told you this. You profess to give people second, and even third, chances, but you never gave me one. I died at the age of eleven, and came back as a vampire, a half-breed, and ever after you pretended to care about me. Do I have to call in one of those life debts you have to me?” “How do you figure that?” Dumbledore asked, now thoroughly discomfited.

“Let's see, I saved your life in the battle before my fifth year, I saved your life in the Death Chamber at the Ministry, I saved your life when I healed your dead hand, and I saved your life in that damn cave when you drank the damn poison, and I saved your life on top of the Tower, twice. I believe the total comes to six,” Harry said, counting in his fingers. McGonagall listened to him, and her face had started to turn a very biased shade of red. “Now Minerva, you said you'd be neutral,” Dumbledore mock-scolded her. “Neutral my ass! You are a freaking bastard! How do you get up in the morning?!” McGonagall shrieked. Dumbledore looked taken aback, and then his face turned red. “You have some nerve saying that, Minerva McGonagall! You're the one who's been helping him from day one!” Dumbledore shouted back. Harry, in an attempt to put Dumbledore's back up, sat down and conjured some popcorn. “Oh come on! Someone had to help the poor kid, since you oh-sokindly betrayed him!” McGonagall shouted. In her anger, her bun seemed to coming undone and there was raw magic crackling all around her. Harry felt his hair standing on end. He decided to get involved, instead of sitting it out, when a blast of raw power emanating from Dumbledore caused his popcorn to explode. “Hey! I was pretending to eat that!” Harry yelled. Neither one noticed him. “He's the one who turned traitor first! I saw him planning with Voldemort at the end of that year! He was helping the Dark Lord get the Sorcerer's Stone!” Dumbledore yelled, causing a chair to catch fire. “Aguamenti!” Harry incanted, putting the chair out and then turning his wand on Dumbledore. McGonagall's sputters of rage almost immediately turned into laughter. “Y-you...l-look...l-like...a...d-drowned...r-rat!” she wheezed out in

between laughs. She was holding her stomach and already struggling for breath. Harry looked extremely satisfied with his work. “Well, I feel better. How about you?” Harry said to Dumbledore, who was still dripping in seething silence. He turned to McGonagall. “This was a good idea you had,” he said, then he walked out of the room chortling. ** Two days later, Harry was still in a good mood. Dumbledore hadn't spoken to him once since that fiasco of a “counseling session” in McGonagall's office, and that suited him just fine. He was putting the finishing touches on his portfolio, and would hand it in to Dumbledore at the end of the year. The seventeenth anniversary of James and Lily Potter's murders arrived overcast and chilly, but the weather did nothing to impact Harry's mood. The thought of killing more Death Eaters kept him in line. “Harry, Hagrid said he saw them creeping out of the forest a few minutes ago,” Hermione reported softly. The light wind was blowing a few loose tendrils of her chestnut hair, and Harry wanted to smooth them down. He reached out his hand and she instinctively hugged him. “It's going to be okay, Hermione. I will keep our friends, and Dumbledore, alive. The Death Eaters will lose, and Voldemort is going to die by my hand,” Harry said softly as he caressed her hair. “Harry, please be careful!” she pleaded, tears coming to her eyes. “Aren't I always careful?” Harry asked with a grin. It was approaching midnight when the battle really started. As Head Boy and Girl, Harry and Hermione first ensured that the younger students were safe. Anyone below fifth year was sent home, while those fifth year and above stayed to fight. When Dumbledore saw scores of kids departing by portkey around ten at night, he was stunned. “What is going on here?” the Headmaster demanded. It was the first

time in days he had spoken directly to Harry, though he never met his eyes; he just looked over Harry's shoulder, even though that was getting more difficult. “Voldemort's coming, and the battle will start momentarily,” Harry reported. “Then you've brought him here,” Dumbledore stated matter-of-factly. Hermione got a sudden urge to give Dumbledore something else to think about. Though, if he was made eligible for the boys' choir minutes before battle was joined, it might prove a detriment to their defense. Though conversely, it might prove a detriment to their offense, Hermione thought with a wicked grin. No, love, Harry thought to her. He implanted that thought in her mind the same way he had done it in second year. Knee him after the battle, not before. Party pooper, Hermione complained mentally. She saw Harry smile, and knew he had gotten the message. The castle rumbled alarmingly, and Harry said out loud, “They're bringing the outer wards down. We've got about an hour until they reach the inner wards, which are too strong for anyone but Voldemort himself to bring down. Those will last about twenty minutes under a full onslaught.” “How much have you told him about our wards?” Dumbledore demanded. “He knows only what he has discovered himself. Remember, he was a student here for seven years, came back ten years later after you became Headmaster, and returned again to teach just a few years ago,” Harry said. “I have taken the liberty of adding more wards, but those won't hold out forever. They just added fifteen minutes to our clock.” Harry, can I hit him now? Hermione begged him. Harry grinned and pulled her closer to him. He whispered in her ear, “Alright, but only a low-power Stinging Hex. We don't wan't him breaking out into a bad case of opera when he needs to curse Death Eaters.” Hermione grinned and used Harry to cover her movements. One hex later,

Dumbledore's eyes were bugging out and he was moaning. The Head students walked away, smiling, and met Ron. “What are two grinning about?” the redhead asked. “Harry just shielded me while I hexed Dumbledore,” Hermione said. “You hexed the Headmaster right before a major battle,” Ron repeated, astonished at her audacity. “What hex did you use?” “A Stinging Hex,” Hermione smiled beautifully. “Never piss her off, Ron,” Harry warned his old friend. “She begged me so she could use it.” They saw Dumbledore stumbling past, clutching a certain part of his anatomy. Ron looked at Hermione in horror. “You didn't...” he trailed off, reflexively clutching his own jewels. Hermione grinned like the Cheshire cat. “I did,” she confirmed. The castle rumbled again, this time more violently. “What kinds of shitty wards does Dumbledore have up, anyway?” Harry exploded. “Either Voldemort came early, or the wards are no match for the dregs of wizard-kind.” “How much time do we have now?” Hermione asked. Harry went to the window and looked out. “Fifteen minutes,” he replied. “Voldemort got impatient, it seems.” “We're screwed,” Ron declared. “Some Gryffindor you are, mate,” Harry retorted. “What's your motto, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'?” Ron's ears turned red, and Harry stood up straighter. Fifteen minutes passed slowly, each minute seeming to tick closer to a fight between Harry and Ron. The rumbling of the castle as the last wards went down jerked them out of it. “Here he comes,” Harry said as he ran off to the Great Hall. Upon his arrival, he took his place beside Dumbledore, on his right hand.

Dumbledore didn't tell him to go away. On the contrary, he wanted Harry close-by so he could keep an eye on him. Harry stayed in Dumbledore's shadow, ready to leap forward at any moment. When Voldemort marched into the Great Hall at the head of his Death Eater troops, his snake-like eyes widened when he saw the look on Dumbledore's face. “Trouble in paradise?” he hissed, his mouth stretching into a smile. The Dark Lord raised his wand and lazily fired off a Killing Curse, which was deflected by another spell coming at it. A Death Eater leaped out of the way to avoid the wild curse. “I didn't really expect that spell to hit you, old fool,” the Dark Lord hissed. He raised his arms out to the sides and called out, “Attack, my faithful servants! Attack!” The Death Eaters swarmed over the students, who fought back valiantly. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Ron fighting Lucius Malfoy, and losing. He snapped out a quick Impediment Jinx, which gave Ron time to Stun the Death Eater. Dumbledore just stood still, still clutching himself, and Harry knew the Headmaster would be an easy target for just about any Death Eater. He raised his wand and silently incanted, “Imperio!” and told Dumbledore to fight for all he was worth. While under Harry's control, Dumbledore ripped into the Death Eaters with a vengeance. Harry stuck close to him, always keeping him in sight. “Relashio!” Harry yelled while sending gold sparks into the eye-holes of a Death Eater mask. The scream of pain came while Harry was already taking aim on another white mask. “Levicorpus!” he thought, then with a quick Hover Charm, caused the Death Eater to float over towards Hagrid. “Hey Hagrid, watch out!” Harry called. The half-giant looked up in time to see the swinging Death Eater, and then instinctively batted him away from his face. “Stupefy!” Hermione yelled, taking one Death Eater who had thought to curse Harry from behind out of the fight. “Thanks Hermione!” Harry called without even turning around. He already had his eye on Voldemort, who was trying to inch up behind Dumbledore. The flash of green light came and Harry yelled “Duck!”,

and Dumbledore obeyed, ducking low and sweeping his arm out to curse a Death Eater behind Voldemort. The Dark Lord spun around to see his servant fall, and then spun back around to see a black shadow speeding towards him. “Oh no you don't, Dumbledore! You won't win so easily!” the Dark Lord screamed as he ducked. The black shadow detoured to take out a group of four Death Eaters that had backed McGonagall into a corner. As the Death Eaters fell to the ground screaming, blood pooling around them, McGonagall looked at the shadow and could have sworn it winked at her. Merlin bless you, Harry Potter, she thought to herself, smiling. A pack of six of them backed Hermione and Ron up until they were back-to-back. Harry sped for them, and six more Death Eaters fell to his claws. Voldemort's scarlet eyes widened in horror at this exhibition of “arcane magic” that was destroying his forces. “Avada Kedavra! Avada Kedavra! Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort screamed while tracking Dumbledore with his wand as he fired. Harry sped to intercept the curses, his smoky form obscuring Voldemort's line of sight. Harry silently ordered Dumbledore to speak, and direct his wand towards Voldemort. “You're through, Riddle!” Dumbledore yelled, his eyes still quite glazed, as he turned his wand to point right at the Dark Lord's chest. Harry sped for that spot, and stabbed Voldemort with the Gryffindor Sword, which he had Summoned silently to his hand. Lord Voldemort, the darkest wizard in the past hundred years, fell slowly to the floor with a ruby-handled sword sticking out of his chest. His body vaporized as he screamed one last time. Harry removed the Imperius Curse from Dumbledore, who promptly started clutching his wounded manhood again. Hermione stalked over to Dumbledore, smiling sweetly at Harry as she approached. Ron edged away from her and Harry just grinned.

“Ooomph...” Dumbledore moaned as her knee made contact. “That was for Harry, you bastard,” she murmured. ** Chapter 30: The Portfolio The seventh years had graduated, many of them with high honors. It was now the night before they left school forever, never to return, unless it was for their own children. A generation that had not yet been born, for their future parents may not have found each other. Only time would tell. Harry Potter knew he had found “the one”. He knew exactly who she was, and she was starting to figure out who she was. But that was not what Harry was doing this dark night. He was on his way to Dumbledore's office, as the aging Headmaster slept, to drop off his portfolio. He had compiled this portfolio over the last six years, and it was full of the proof of Harry's continued loyalty. He slipped into Dumbledore's office, and hid the portfolio under some papers. By the time Dumbledore found it and read it, Harry Potter would be long gone. ** The seventh years, a rowdy bunch, had climbed into the carriages that would carry them away. Dumbledore sat down heavily at his desk and prepared to look through his papers, to see if there was anything he needed to sign but had missed. As he was leafing through the thin stack, his hand brushed what felt like a book. He took it out and read the outside cover. It said simply My Life, in thin script. He recognized that handwriting. He would know it anywhere. It belonged to Harry James Potter, a boy he was convinced had chosen to serve the Dark. He opened the notebook and began to read. By the time you read this, I will have gone, either to the “next great

adventure” after so long of being stuck between life and actual death, or graduated from Hogwarts. This was last updated on: June 10, 1998. We begin with my death. I was a scared little boy, and I had gotten detention in the Forbidden Forest. My best friend and I had decided to help smuggle a dragon out of Hogwarts, before Hagrid was caught with it. He couldn't hide it forever, especially after it learned to breathe fire. Draco Malfoy and I had just found the dead unicorn when something came out of the woods across the clearing from us. Draco ran, taking Fang with him. I was nearly paralyzed with fear, but I turned and tried to run. I was grabbed from behind and felt the creature bite me. I didn't know what was happening. I saw its hand around my chest, so I took my only option and bit it back. I thought it would release me long enough for me to run away. I was just an eleven year old boy, you know. That night, I died, and so too did any hope I had of a normal life. Barely a week after my death, I was sitting in the Great Hall, pretending to eat real food. I knew there was something wrong, so I followed Professor Quirrell down the trapdoor on the third floor. I knew it was just as forbidden as the forest had been, but I was too curious. I found Quirrell in that last chamber, trying to get the Stone from the Mirror of Erised. He tried to convince me to join him, saying that together we would rule the world. He promised me my parents, returned from the dead. I did not want my parents to suffer as I had suffered, as I will doubtless continue to suffer. I turned him down. I knew you had followed me. I knew you were listening. The thought brought me comfort. I thought that, as long as I knew you were behind me, Voldemort could never hurt me. You left soon after, though. I was horrified, and terrified. I was eleven and alone in death. I fought him as best as I could, and I did manage to keep the Stone from him. It was destroyed, before he could use it. I thought you would understand your mistake, and be proud of me. You hated me from that moment. My first year ended with me dreading the return to my relatives, and yet hoping you might still care enough to at least check on me once. I was a little puppy that had been kicked, wasn't I? I just kept coming back for more.

Dumbledore read the account of Harry's last week of his first year, and was surprised to feel tears trickling down his face and into his beard. Harry was right: he had left after only part of the conversation. He had come in, jumped to conclusions, and left without trying to verify them. He hadn't even asked his old friend, Nicholas Flamel if he had received the Stone. If Harry had joined Voldemort then, the Dark Lord would have risen long ago. He had been stupid. He went on to read Harry's account of his second year. My second year began just as my first had. I still had hopes of a bright future, with a loving family. I learned early on that I could still have those hopes, when you called Heinrich Weisen for advice. He told you I was good, and you basically threw him out. I was scared then, you and Snape were like two peas in a pod, and I knew I was no match for the both of you. Not yet. It will be different when I have matured, I assure you! By Halloween, I knew there was something seriously wrong. There was something loose in the castle, I could feel it. You know, vampires can sense living things. I sensed it moving around, and tracked it to the second floor, to Moaning Myrtle's out-of-order bathroom. On Halloween, I offered to attend Nearly Headless Nick's Death-day Party, and to bring Hermione. He prepared the dungeon for the living, and as we left I sensed the monster moving around. Hermione and I tracked it, and together we found the cat on the bracket. We saw spiders fleeing, and Hermione went into the bathroom to ask Myrtle if she saw anything. When you arrived, I lied and said that I had sent her off to find help, and when you left, I went into the bathroom to fetch Hermione. You see, I can talk to people in their minds, and implant thoughts, among many other things. We vampires are very strong mentally, as well as physically. During the Christmas break, I went down to the Chamber, not to set the monster loose, but to stop it. I saw Ginny Weasley down there, in the process of summoning it, and distracted her. The spirit of Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, informed me with much mirth that he had taken you prisoner, and then he proceeded to taunt me with that knowledge. You were, and still are, convinced of my treachery. I can't tell you how much that hurt. That was the biggest event of that year, and I'm sure you noticed how I avoided you the rest of that year. I

focused on my studies, to take my mind off my pain. With so much time, it's easy to dwell on things like that. The summer before third year, I still had some hope. You hadn't destroyed it completely, not yet. Though I knew that the next year was going to be eventful, when I still hadn't received the permission form for Hogsmeade. I thought you had forgotten I was in third year, but I quickly realized that you didn't want me going to a buffet. That year, I nearly went mad. I looked up to you; I had since I started at Hogwarts. I thought you to be all-powerful, and a kind man. When you set werewolves and my old half-giant friend on me that was painful. You see, I was beginning to mature, and maturation brings my full powers. That included gifts, like traveling by smoke and mist, and the ability to grow wings and turn into various other creatures. My favorite is something you would never expect: the Phoenix. That year, Professor McGonagall (bless her!), came to my defense. She saved my sanity, though it was nearly lost. She discovered my greatest secret, besides being a Seer. No, I won't tell you what that is yet. You'll have to guess. I've already left hints for you. At the end of the year, I managed to win Professor Lupin's trust, though it was against his nature to trust my kind. Dumbledore read through it again. This was the first he had heard of a secret even greater than being a Seer. He remembered what Ollivander had said during the Wand Weighing Ceremony during the Triwizard Tournament, more than three years ago. Phoenixes are excellent judges of character, he had said. It proved that a wizard was truly noble if he could become one. And if Harry knew even then that he could be a Phoenix, a full year before he first turned into one, then that shot the theory that he and Ollivander had planned it between them full of holes. My fourth year started. Nice trick, by the way, putting me under house arrest! That was clever, but not very well thought out. You knew I had friends. My friends helped me escape, and I attended the Quiditch World Cup. When the Dark Mark appeared in the sky, did you believe I had set it off? I think you did, and that hurt. Still does, as a matter of fact. Oh yes, around this time I had already started getting visions of your death atop the Astronomy Tower. I knew it would happen, and I

swore to prevent it. You thought I had somehow gotten around your age line and submitted my own name. I had not done so, though I could have. You didn't design it to prevent my kind from crossing, and I'll bet you didn't know you could. I laid in wait and watched as two wizards submitted my name: Severus Snape and Igor Karkaroff. Yes, I knew since the Durmstrang delegation arrived that their Headmaster was evil. This was because of the power I have but will not name... Have you figured it out yet? Voldemort returned at the end of this year, though you know that already. Remember, I sent you a message from within the maze that told you the Cup was a portkey. That was a mistake on my part, I know that now. All it did was anger you enough to make you take it yourself. After he tied you up and used your blood to return, I snuck up behind him and slashed him. Yes, that mad creature on his back was me. He had hurt you, so I hurt him. Dumbledore thought back to the graveyard that he had accidentally portkeyed himself to. He had been embarrassed to learn that Harry was right, then he remembered the creature that had pounced on the Dark Lord from behind, and slashed him until he fled, shrieking. He put the notebook down and put his head in his hands. He was barely through reading Harry's account of his fourth year, and already he hated himself. He kept on reading. In my fifth year, I was surprised you had named me Prefect. I thought for one glorious moment that you had changed your mind since I placed the Imperius Curse on you last year, and made you tell me the truth, that you hated me. I knew early on that your earlier statement was correct: you couldn't stand to look me in the eye. I knew how you felt, that you believed I was so close with my so-called “Master” that he would look through my eyes at you. He tried to look through my eyes, but I threw him out. I was so “loyal” to him that I dragged you out of his clutches then watched as your Dark Mark faded. I thought I had won you over. But once again, that was for one glorious moment. No, Hermione never really hated you. She just hated what you were doing to me. I have fed on her a few times, but only if I was injured. I swear on my honor that I have never turned anyone. But, you don't

believe that, do you? Did you know you can ask the castle if I was a danger to those within? Ask it. “How do I ask the castle something?” Dumbledore asked, confused. The portraits on the wall stirred. Portraits that hadn't awoken for as long as he could remember woke up. In fact, four spots above the line of previous Heads gained portraits before his very eyes. One in particular woke up and spoke. “I was wondering when you would realize we were here, too, Albus Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,” the portrait of Godric Gryffindor said slowly. “What aid do you require?” “Ummm... ummm...” Dumbledore mumbled with his eyes wide. His half-moon glasses slid off his nose and fell onto his desk. “You have a question about a young Gryffindor. Ask it,” Gryffindor said, his tone commanding. “Was Harry Potter a danger to other students during his time here?” Dumbledore blurted out. “Harry James Potter is my last Heir. He arrived with no friends, and gained few true allies. He has defended this castle, and all those who dwell within, with little thanks, and much betrayal,” Godric pronounced. “You tried to throw him out, on All Hallow's Eve five years ago. If he was a danger, then he would have been ejected from the castle.” At that, Gryffindor went back to sleep. “I'm the biggest bastard to ever walk the earth, aren't I?” Dumbledore asked himself. “Yes, you are,” a voice replied, with barely restrained amusement. Dumbledore wasn't entirely surprised to see Salazar Slytherin speaking to him. The four Founders' portraits disappeared until they were called upon once again. Dumbledore picked up his glasses and continued reading. I returned once again, this time for my sixth year. You thought I had skipped. I was late because I needed to get information. I told you

this, though. My visions of your death on the Tower kept coming more frequently. There was a time when I would lay down and see you falling off the Tower, dead by Snape's curse, every single night. When you told me of the Horcruxes that year, I tracked Voldemort's magical signature, and I found the cave. I saw the locket sitting in the bowl of poison, and took a sample of it. Just in case you're curious, it was a mixture of Alihotsy and Acromantula venom. Hermione and I synthesized the cure, by mixing my Phoenix tears with a crushed bezoar. It was her idea, and it worked to perfection. I told you true that night in the cave. I had removed the locket from the bowl and kept it until I found the real one. You see, inside there was a note signed by R. A. B. That was actually Regulus Arcturus Black, which I figured out that summer. The real locket had been at Grimmauld all the time. I had actually seen it, and held it, and didn't recognize it for what it was. And yes, before you ask, I knew all along that your kindness at the beginning of that year was all made-up. You pretended to care, and that hurt me even more than open hatred does. Have you figured out my secret yet? I've been leaving hints... Dumbledore read those last lines with a heavy heart. He hadn't known Harry had known the truth all along. He had thought he was pulling the wool over the young vampire's eyes. But he should have known that it's nearly impossible to fool them, at least for very long. My seventh year has arrived. I never thought I would survive this long, especially after my death. Since I am writing this, I know I succeeded last year in keeping you from joining me in death. However, I fear my continued loyalty to you has enraged Voldemort to no end. He now fears this form of “arcane magic” that lets you butcher Death Eaters and can even bring to bear against him. When you told me the prophecy in sixth year, during our first lesson together, you were right when you said that “the power the Dark Lord knows not” is love. You just didn't know whose love would stop him. I knew the battle would be on Halloween, and I made sure to destroy all of his Horcruxes by then. The Cup I took from Bellatrix and Ginny while they were on their way back to him. It was lucky they didn't Apparate. I destroyed it with Hermione's help, just as I destroyed the locket I mentioned earlier. Ravenclaw's diadem was hidden in Hogwarts, and Hermione and I found it and destroyed it. Nagini was a Horcrux and she was the last of them. I went to Riddle Manor and

killed her, and Riddle himself did not take kindly to that at all. He cursed me from behind. I had actually missed his presence. I didn't know he was there, and you know he loves to strike from behind. Yes, you will be wondering by now when I will mention the last one. He accidentally made a seventh the night he killed my parents. The last bit of his filthy soul attached itself to my own. You were right about that, though you were wrong about everything else. You see, that was the first to be destroyed, even before the diary in the Chamber and that damn ring you foolishly put on. It was destroyed years before. Remember when Heinrich Weisen told you I had a soul, and that I was the first one he'd ever seen with an intact soul. Yes, you remember. It didn't help my case one bit, for you thought that the soul I had was that bit of Voldemort's. When I died, that bit was loose. It was sent on, leaving my own intact. I'll give you another hint, though this will be one of the last I'll leave... That anomaly led directly to my having a very rare gift, this secret I've been leaving hints for. Dumbledore read through the last paragraph several times, but still couldn't figure it out. Now that it was written down, he didn't know how he could have missed it all these years. He had been dead wrong, and he knew it now. And he might never get a chance to apologize to Harry for his abominable treatment of him. We are nearing the end of this dissertation. The battle came and went, taking Voldemort to his “next great adventure”. It was the “arcane magic” he so feared that did it. You probably only remember the end, when Hermione kneed you. She had begged me for permission, and I gave it. You had hurt me for so long; I needed for you to feel some pain. I apologize for that. It was childish of me, but I never really had a chance to be childish. That night, since you were in no condition to actually fight, I placed you under the Imperius Curse, like you taught me back in fourth year. Voldemort never knew what had hit him, and neither did Cormac McLaggen, or the dozen or so other Death Eaters I killed that night. McLaggen I never really liked, so I decided to be creative. I flipped him upside down and sent him careening into Hagrid, who batted him away. After the battle, I kept my distance from you, just as I had done in second year. I couldn't bear to see you look on me with more distrust.

I knew every time you thought ill of me, and I knew you were just waiting for me to take up Voldemort's banner. I also had to deal with pain from another source. Did you know that I had been in love since my first year? I had to crush my love for her, and watch as she dated someone else. No, it was never Ginny. It was someone who knew me better than I knew myself. She has been the victim of countless love potions; so many, in fact, that she has begun to break free of their hold. One day, maybe I will finally be able to tell her how I feel. But not yet. I struggled with my feelings for the rest of the year, and I buried myself in preparations for my NEWTs. I studied so hard, in an attempt to distract myself from the pain. She got together with her old boyfriend seven, maybe eight, times in the next seven months. At this moment, they are not together, though they probably soon will be. I'll bet you can guess easily who she is. Well, I'm done trying to convince you. You can do with this what you like. You can even burn it and curse my name to high heaven for all I care. Who knows, maybe I won't need to care what happens anymore. Only time will tell. With all my respect and admiration, Harry Potter Albus Dumbledore read the last few lines with growing dread. In his fifty-three years of teaching, he had come across his share of notes like this one. Sometimes, he had found them too late to make a difference. He knew he needed to find Harry Potter before something terrible happened. Hey, it worked once, he thought. He cleared his throat and said, “Godric, can you track your Heirs?” The portrait appeared. “Twice in one night you've called on me,” the ancient Founder of Hogwarts said. “You must really have bungled something. Yes, I can track their welfare enough to know when they are in immediate danger of their lives. However, when Harry Potter died six years ago, I lost the ability to track him.” Before Godric could disappear, Dumbledore had another question to ask him. “When you say you can track their welfare, why did you not alert me

that Lord Voldemort was attacking James and Lily Potter?” “I did; I just chose to do it differently than coming out and saying that my Heirs were in mortal peril. Our spirits still inhabit the castle, though we very rarely come out in the open. In times of crisis, we can interact with the current Head through those little silver instruments,” Godric replied. Dumbledore's memory showed him the little silver object on his desk suddenly starting to whir and give off red smoke, then green. A little map had appeared above it that pinpointed Godric's Hollow as the scene of the impending attack. However, his shock at the news probably cost James and Lily their lives that night seventeen years before. He had sent Hagrid, though he was a little too late. Godric's portrait had disappeared once again back to his rest. “I need to find him...” Dumbledore muttered to himself. “Fawkes, can you find Harry Potter, and maybe bring him here?” Fawkes trilled in acceptance of the task and vanished in a flash of flames. Dumbledore sighed. ** Fawkes returned several hours later and trilled a failure to complete his mission. Dumbledore wasn't angry, he knew enough to know that people contemplating suicide tended to hide so as to better complete their task, and vampires are especially difficult to track. He decided to go out himself and try to find Harry, but first he needed to know exactly what he was dealing with. He went to bed, hoping his mind would provide an answer during the night. The next morning, he had an answer. Minerva McGonagall had been close to Harry, so he would ask her. He went to her office, and found her packing for her summer vacation. “Minerva, I need to find Harry. I've just realized I've been the world's biggest bastard in regards to him,” he admitted. “I don't know where he is, he didn't tell me. He also asked me not to reveal the truth directly to you, but to give you this book,” she said, and handed him The Power of the Vampire. “I believe you tried to take this from Miss Granger a few years ago, but Harry got it back for

her. He told me he wasn't ready for you to know.” “Then the answer is in here,” he stated, seeking confirmation. She nodded. He left, and flipped it open. It opened easily to the chapter on the Black Forest vampires. He read it as he walked, and his eyes opened wider and wider with each step. He ran back to his office and tossed Floo powder in his fireplace. “Heinrich!” he called. Heinrich Weisen, who had left Hogwarts after his one year teaching the night before, stumbled over to the fireplace rubbing sleep out of his eyes. “Yeah?” he yawned. “Listen, are you sure Harry Potter has a soul?” Dumbledore asked, his tone becoming almost frantic. “One hundred percent positive,” Heinrich confirmed with another yawn. “You're quite sure it is his own?” Dumbledore asked, now worrying about the fate of the boy he used to hate quite fiercely. “I've said it before and I'll say it again. Harry Potter is the kindest, most noble vampire you'll ever meet. And after what you've done to him, and I'm taking the summoning of someone like Abraham Van Helsing to terminate him as a case in point, I'd be surprised if he let you see him anytime soon,” Heinrich said severely. Dumbledore closed the connection after that, and wept. It had finally sunk in that if Harry Potter terminated himself, it would be completely his, Dumbledore's, fault. So, he searched high and low for the young man he had wronged so thoroughly. He never gave up, not even when the new school year was about to start and he had to continue the search from his office. Eight months passed in this fashion, and Dumbledore began to despair that he would never find Harry by the time March rolled around. **

Meanwhile, Harry Potter had been spying on the Weasley family for the past eight months. He sat on a rafter in their home in spider form, or sat outside the window in the evenings in mist form. He was watching Molly and Ron, and waiting for the right time to come out. One day in early March, Molly turned to her youngest son and said, “Ron, when will you and Hermione get married?” “You said she'd be all over me by now, but she's broken up with me a whopping twenty-four times since we started dating back in fifth year,” Ron complained. Molly sighed and said, “Then I'll need to take drastic action to keep her in line.” Soon afterwards, she had made an extra-strength dose of Amortentia, and she handed it to Ron with instructions to give Hermione the entire dose the day he planned to propose. She also said, “I'll place her under the Imperius Curse on your wedding day. You'll be married by week's end.” Ron grinned wickedly and left to go propose to his ex-girlfriend. Harry sighed from his hiding place and determined that the best thing to do would be to screw Ron over once and then leave him to it. ** Dumbledore got the message three days later. Ron Weasley had informed him that he and Hermione were to be married without delay, and they wanted him to officiate. He sighed and muttered, “I wanted this, but now the thought fills me with disgust.” “You made your bed, now you must lie in it,” Phineas Nigellus Black cackled. He had been finding Dumbledore's recent change of heart highly amusing, especially since at odd times Salazar Slytherin would appear with his portrait and offer an insult or two. “That's not helping, Phineas,” Dumbledore grumbled sourly. Phineas just laughed some more. Ron and Hermione arrived for their wedding, and Dumbledore was revolted to see the way she hung onto Ron, and he noticed her glazed eyes and serene face.

“Do you, Ronald Weasley, take this witch, to have and to hold, from this day forward, until death parts you?” Dumbledore asked. “I do,” Ron pronounced with a glint in his blue eye that Dumbledore didn't like. “Do you, Hermione Granger, take this wizard, to have and to hold, from this day forward, until death parts you?” Dumbledore asked, silently begging her to say 'no'. “I do,” she slurred, though no one noticed. “Is there anyone here who objects to this union?” Dumbledore asked, while thinking, besides me, that is. He expected Harry to come forward and stop the wedding, but no one came forward. Arthur looked distinctly ill, but Molly looked proud. “I declare you bonded for life. You may kiss the bride,” Dumbledore said quietly. He felt just as bad as Arthur did. Hermione pounced on Ron, kissing him passionately. Ron reacted accordingly, and stood there proudly, with her at his side. Dumbledore wanted to drop dead right there. ** Chapter 31: One Last Hurrah “Come visit us anytime!” Ron Weasley had said as he and his new bride set off on their honeymoon. Harry felt the love radiating between them, and it made him physically ill. He had lost her. Ron had won. Or so the redhead thought... Four long months passed, and still Harry waited. He was watching for his opportunity to strike. Four months of watching Ron dote on his wife, and watching Hermione suffer fits of love for her husband, Harry was there to see the love potions wear off. Her body had finally built up immunity to the potions, and their marriage soured within days. Harry watched as Ron sought pleasure elsewhere. The young

Hogwarts graduate and Ravenclaw alumnus, Luna Lovegood, had long held Ron's eye. Since the end of his fifth year, in fact. Harry knew the time had come. He watched the Weasley's house, and saw that they kept their bedroom window open most nights. He had found his point of entry, and the invitation was standing. Now all that he needed was for someone to hear him take Hermione, because her husband would be too drunk to notice a hippogriff stampede. Yes, he had seen Ron visit the local bar and then pick up Luna for their nightly activities. Hermione never seemed to notice that he arrived home hours late. One day, the Weasleys had visitors in the form of Molly and Arthur. Harry grinned from the tree he was using across the street. Night fell and Ron staggered up the steps to his front door. Hermione helped him in, muttering about his drunkenness, and Molly helped get him to bed. “He'll sober up in the morning,” the Weasley matriarch said. “He's drunk too much for a sobriety potion to do anything but make him sick.” Harry watched as Ron was lowered onto his bed and then covered up. Hermione came across, opened the window to let the breeze in, and then went to bed herself. She hadn't seen Harry in the tree across the street, but he would make sure she'd feel him. He climbed down from the tree and turned into mist. In mist form he could enter the house through the window. Once he was inside, he went around to Hermione's side of the bed. A hand over her mouth prevented her from crying out, and then he kissed her, just like he had back in sixth year. Her moans as his fangs grazed her tongue nearly made him lose control, and he climbed on top of her. “Hermione,” he whispered. “I need you. I need to have you, even if it's once. After this, I'll go, and you'll never see me again.” Her eyes widened at what he said he was going to do to her, and at what he'd do afterwards. She could feel him on top of her, below the sheet, and she was aroused. “Take me,” she moaned quietly. “I want you.” He lowered himself fully, until they were united. Her eyes shot open, and she screamed in pleasure. Ron stirred but did not wake. Harry

moved rhythmically, and Hermione started panting. “Oh yes! Yes!” she called out. Harry murmured words of love into her ear as they simultaneously reached their peaks. “Maybe Ron would like to raise some little Potters,” Harry whispered, so that his voice wouldn't carry through the walls. He knew her screams had, and he could feel the reactions of Molly and Arthur in the room next door. Harry climbed out of the bed, and Hermione looked him over appreciatively. Her eyes darkened and she licked her lips. “Where are you going so fast? I never said stop,” she said. Harry looked astonished, and within moments their moans were reverberating through the room once again. Harry left soon after, with Hermione's pleading still resounding in his head. She most definitely did not want him, her one true love, to kill himself. ** The next morning, Hermione was having some trouble walking. Molly winked at her knowingly, and then nodded at her son proudly. She had heard the moans the previous night, and had assumed that Ron was causing them. She never thought about Harry, since he hadn't been seen since March, and before that he had disappeared immediately after graduation a year before the wedding. He hadn't even shown up to be best man for her precious Ronnikins. Some friend he was, she thought. Arthur walked into the kitchen looking a little green. Molly immediately began trying to nurse him, but he shooed her off. “I'll be fine, Molly,” he said. He looked over at Ron and Hermione, and lowered his eyes. He shook his head in sadness as he left the room. ** “Dumbledore!” Heinrich Weisen called through the Floo that same day. Dumbledore looked at the sound of the voice. “Yes?” he asked wearily. He had been searching for Harry Potter for a year and a half, but had heard nothing. None of his friends were talking to their old Headmaster, and the trail had long since grown

cold. “Just thought you'd like to know, I've heard from Harry,” Heinrich began. Dumbledore's eyes widened and he looked ready to start dancing. “I don't know where he is, but he sent me an owl saying that he had thought it over and had decided to give it another chance. He promised he won't terminate himself,” Heinrich finished. “Then I have time to find him,” Dumbledore said. He redoubled his search efforts after that, but still could find nothing. ** Ron and Hermione Weasley had been married for over a year when it happened. Ron had been so proud when she told him she was pregnant, and now the time had come for the birth of their first child. She had said she wanted to be surprised by the sex of the baby, and she was certainly surprised when the Healer at St. Mungo's announced to her and her husband the good news. “Congratulations, Mrs. Weasley! They’re quadruplets! You have two sons and two daughters!” Hermione looked shell-shocked. “Wha...? How...?” she whispered as she gazed at her babies. “They're so beautiful...” she murmured. Ron was too proud that they had quads to notice that the two boys had black hair and green eyes, and the girls had brown hair and hazel eyes. “What are we going to name them, Hermione?” Ron asked. “I've always liked the name James,” she answered. “It was my father's name.” Ron nodded. He had never actually met her parents, as they had died in the war, so he didn't know that wasn't true. “How about for the first boy James Sirius Weasley, as I could see the Dog Star shining in our window the night we made them.” “That's fine by me,” Ron said. “How about Albus Percival Weasley after Dumbledore? He was the one who married us on such short notice.” Hermione nodded, smiling. “He'll be so pleased,” she said.

“And Lily June, since I've always thought that sounded sweet,” Hermione continued. Ron smiled. “That is sweet, you're right,” he agreed. “Maybe Luna Harriet after their godparents for the second girl,” Ron suggested. Hermione nodded, quickly tiring after the difficult labor. “That's settled then,” Ron finished. “Sleep well, Hermione.” She nodded in her sleep, already a soft smile playing about her lips. Ron didn't know it, but she was dreaming about Harry again. ** Dumbledore had been sitting in his office at Hogwarts all day, rubbing his temples to try to soothe the headache that had been building all day, when the letter came. The snowy owl that delivered it seemed familiar, but he couldn't place it. He took the note and read, Dumbledore, Congratulate me, I have kids now. There are four of them, listed in the school register under the name Weasley. Cross out that name and replace it with Potter*. If you don't keep this secret, I know where you live. H. P. Dumbledore grinned as he grabbed a quill. Moments later, James, Albus, Lily, and Luna Weasley were all renamed Potter. He looked closer at the names, especially little Albus Potter, and smiled happily. Harry and Hermione named their younger son after him. And he was quite sure Harry had a hand in naming them, but was letting Ron think otherwise. Yes, his Harry was awfully brilliant, no doubt about that. ** Hermione and Ron took their kids home from the hospital a few days later, and Ron helped her settle in. As soon as she was settled in,

Ron said, “Hermione, I have to go to a meeting. I'll be back as soon as I can.” “Take your time, Ron. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble at work,” Hermione said calmly as she prepared to feed the children. She heard the door close and heard the slight pop of Ron's Apparition. Another pop sounded a moment later and she looked up, smiling beautifully. “Harry, come meet your children,” she said. Harry Potter stood next to her, his strong hand resting on her shoulder as he gazed down at their children. “Hello, little ones,” she cooed to the babies. “This is your real daddy. Ignore that infernal redhead who claims he helped make you.” “Teaching them the fundamentals a little early, aren't you?” Harry asked Hermione, his emerald eyes shining with happiness. He finally had his family. All he had to do was officially marry his wife. He stayed with her all afternoon, until he heard the pop of Ron's return. “Yo ho and a bottle of rum!” Ron sang loudly and off-key. He collapsed on the floor snoring and Hermione rolled her eyes. A Floo later, Molly was there to help her. “Dear, you shouldn't be working so much! You just had children! Rest up, you'll need the energy to make more,” Molly said to Hermione. “How about I when these four onto the bottle first before I let Ron paw me some more,” Hermione suggested. “If you wish, dear. But remember, I had Ginny a year after Ron was born,” Molly said, slightly disappointed. “I'm sure we'll have more kids. I just don't want to get pregnant again so soon,” Hermione soothed the Weasley matriarch. Molly nodded. ** When Hermione felt she was ready to go through it all again, she told

Harry to watch for a green scarf in an open window. It was now seven months since the quads had been born, and they were now weaned off of their mother's milk. Hermione found that a relief because her little damphirs had started teething. As she climbed into bed beside Ron, who was once again sleeping off a hefty dose of whiskey, she hung a green scarf in front of the window. Molly's going to be so pleased once I conceive again. She just won't be happy I'm not having her precious little Ronnie's kids. My kids are stronger than any Weasley, Hermione thought as she climbed into bed. A mist floated into the window and Hermione smiled. She undressed and waited. Moments later, their moans were reverberating throughout the house, and Ron slept on. He had absolutely no idea that his “loving wife” was entertaining their best friend in their bed right next to him, and neither Harry nor Hermione cared about that, or him. Two months later, Hermione was visiting the Burrow with her four kids. Ron was at work, or so he claimed, and Harry was actually at work. He had started Auror training soon after graduation and had been in training that first year Dumbledore was looking for him. Now, he was a full-fledged Auror and the Ministry's best. Not even MadEye Moody could top him, and the aged Auror had gladly relinquished the top spot. While Hermione was there, there was a knock on the door. She answered as Molly looked after the children. “Excuse me, Mrs. Weasley, is this your son?” the Auror asked. Hermione would recognize his green eyes anywhere, as they were the stuff of her wildest fantasies. “No sir,” she said, playing it to the hilt. “My sons are both babies.” The redheaded man being supported by the Auror started whining and crying like a baby, he was so drunk. “I think this one might be, too. Is there anyone else in the house that has a son fitting this guy's description?” Harry asked, businesslike. “Molly!” Hermione called. “An Auror just brought Ron home, and I

think he needs his bottle!” Molly came into the living room, carrying the children, which Hermione took. “Ronnie!” the redheaded matriarch exclaimed. “Stop this crying this instant!” Ron immediately stopped crying, though only because he had collapsed on the floor, snoring, again. Hermione and Molly rolled their eyes. “Are these your kids, ma'am?” Harry asked. Molly hadn't figured out it was him yet, so he didn't tell her. “Yes they are, aren't they adorable?” she replied, beaming. “Yes, they are,” he agreed, hiding his pride in his children. He also knew that Hermione was pregnant again by his mental link with her, and he was delighted. ** Dumbledore received another note the next August. He glanced at it and barely concealed his excitement. He hadn't actually gone to see Harry yet, as he didn't know what he could say to him that would repair their broken relationship, but he was pleased to hear from him just the same. Dumbledore, You remember the muggle rhyme, right? ...five, six, pickup sticks... Their names are Minerva Arianna and Remus William. H. P. He took the hint and grabbed his quill. A few minutes later, two new Weasleys were crossed out to be replaced by Potters. ** Over the next seven years, Harry and Hermione spent every moment they could together. Also during those seven years, Hermione

discovered that Ron had been having an affair with Luna Lovegood. It was kind of easy to figure it out when she gave birth to a little girl with strawberry-blonde hair and blue eyes that looked just like Ron's. Hermione didn't care, as she had her own love and her own kids. During those seven years, Harry and Hermione had four more kids together, which brought the current total up to ten. James, the eldest at eight ran up to Harry when he arrived. “Real Daddy, real Daddy!” he screamed happily. Harry reached down to swing James up in his strong arms. “Real Daddy, huh? What do you call Ron?” Harry asked, grinning. “We call him Daddy, Daddy,” James said sweetly. His scream had, of course, brought the rest of the brood. Albus, Lily, and Luna all crowded around Harry, and he showered his eight-year-olds with affection. Minerva Potter, who had black hair and hazel eyes and looked remarkably like the elder James Potter, walked sedately into the room. At seven, she was very lady-like, and her parents called her their little lady. She was closely followed by her twin brother, Remus, who had brown hair and eyes, like their mother. “Mummy, why aren't you and real Daddy married?” Minerva asked. “Probably because Daddy wouldn't like it,” Remus offered sagely, his brown eyes twinkling like his namesake's were known to do. At that moment a little messy raven-haired boy of four walked in. He was rubbing sleep out of his emerald eyes and dragging a blanket behind him. “Orion, I thought I put you down for your nap!” Hermione said kindly as she picked up the four-year-old. “I wanted to see real Daddy,” the tired little boy mumbled. A chorus of “me too's” were heard and Hermione looked around at her threeyear-old daughter, Annabelle. Her eyes softened as they fixed on the little auburn-haired beauty. Out of all their ten kids, only this one had any red in her hair. Annabelle's green eyes were bright and intelligent, and she had a very sweet nature. Remus Lupin had said she was most like Lily Evans Potter.

The two-year-old twins begged their real Daddy to pick them up, and he gladly obliged after he put the others down. He kissed them both on the forehead and said, “Alright, Augustus and Charlotte, let's get you back in bed.” They giggled as he kissed them, and squirmed, their dark brown hair covering his shoulders. They closed their hazel eyes in contentment as he laid them in their cribs. Hermione's eyes shown with pride and happiness as she watched her husband in all but name put the little ones back in bed. As the door closed on the large nursery, Hermione put her hand on Harry's shoulder. “Harry, love, I have news. I'm pregnant again,” she said. Harry was so happy, he took her to bed. ** Ron came back early that day, as Luna was feeling too ill to dally with him. She had been feeling ill for a while, and Ron suspected that she was pregnant again. After Molly, their eldest at five, they'd had Gideon and Fabian, who were three, and the baby was Virginia. He was proud to have so many kids. He had four with Luna and a whopping ten and a half with Hermione, as she had recently informed him that she had conceived again, bringing the total up to fourteen and a half (fifteen, counting the little one he was sure Luna was carrying). When he walked in the door, he heard moans emanating from the bedroom he shared with Hermione. He knew that sound: it was the sound of a woman getting some action. But his loving wife wouldn't do that, would she? His mother gave him a dose of Amortentia to give Hermione every two weeks, to keep her in line... He stormed down the hall and burst into the bedroom. Hermione was lying on the bed, looking like she had recently stopped playing. “Hermione, I thought I heard...” he trailed off. He looked around the room suspiciously, but didn't notice the spider on the roof. “If you were feeling all hot and bothered, you could have told me,” he leered at her. “I would have rushed home to relieve you.”

“Oh, really, Ron. There was no need to bother you at work,” Hermione said, brushing sweaty hair out of her eyes. The spider on the roof wanted to fall on Ron and choke him for the way he was looking at Hermione. She stood up, straightening her clothes, and said, “I wouldn't want to bother you at Luna's house. I know it must be hectic for you there, what with the four kids you already have, and the new one on the way.” Ron gaped at her, looking like fish. Hermione laughed; he had mastered that dopey look at Hogwarts. It was one of the few things he had actually learned there. “Yes, Ron. I know all about that. I know how you cheated on Luna with me,” Hermione said. “And yes, you did cheat on her with me, as I was never yours from the beginning. You may have asked me out first, but even then I was never yours. It was always someone else.” “Who?” he asked, too stunned to realize what she was saying. “Harry, you might as well come out now,” Hermione called. He never stepped out of wherever he was hiding, as she expected him to do. “Harry James Potter, you didn't bug out did you?” Harry slipped off the roof, and stood behind Ron, his ring safely in his pocket. “It seems you did bug out,” Hermione said. “I hate it when you do that.” Ron turned around, finally noticing that his hair was standing on end. It was like there was someone big and mean-looking behind him... He screeched like a girl as he saw the obvious vampire standing there, then he noticed the black hair, green eyes, and lightning-bolt-shaped scar. “Harry! What did they do to you?!” Ron screamed, backing away in horror. “Oh, you mean this? This is normal now,” Harry answered. “You remember third year, when Dumbledore started spreading that I had joined the undead, right? He was right. I just wasn't evil and out for his blood. Or anyone else's.” “B-b-but, you stood in front of the window, in direct sunlight to prove

you weren't!” Ron protested. “Yeah, I did that. I wasn't hurt because I never lost my soul. Dumbledore ate those words, too,” Harry replied. “Now, I'm taking Hermione and the kids. If you 'let slip' that I'm a vampire, I'll have no choice but to kill you.” Harry waved his wand, and transported the ten kids to the Burrow. They arrived at the same time as Harry and Hermione, and surprised Molly. “Hello, Molly. Hermione and Ron have had a fight and they're breaking up, so I've brought her and the kids here for a bit,” Harry lied through his teeth. The kids started running around and playing, and Molly welcomed then with open arms. “We actually have another visitor at the moment. You may remember Heinrich Weisen. He taught at Hogwarts for your seventh year,” Molly said. “Of course we remember him,” Harry said with a smile. He had replaced his ring, so he didn't scare Molly. They stepped into the kitchen to see Heinrich Weisen put down Annabelle quickly. He looked up and she scurried off, following her older brothers and sisters. There was a loud crash upstairs and Molly ran off to check on the children, just like any grandmother would. “Lucky, aren't you, Harry,” Heinrich said. “They all take after you, I see.” “And I'm sure the next two will, too,” Harry said. Heinrich looked shocked and muttered, “Well, I'll be! Twelve kids. Twelve little damphirs, all growing up to take Hogwarts by storm.” “Just don't warn Dumbledore before the quads arrive. I want him to sweat,” Hermione said sweetly, though her tone also had an edge to it. “He did treat Harry like crap,” Heinrich agreed. “My lips are sealed. No really, try an Alohomora on them.” “I don't think that's necessary,” Harry said. “I know you can keep a

secret.” “Hermione, how are you and Ron going to deal with the children after this?” Molly asked when she returned. “I'm going to keep my kids, of course,” Hermione replied, as though surprised the older woman would even need to ask. “Will Ronnie get visitation?” Molly pursued the matter. “Why would he need it? He has his own kids,” Hermione said firmly, her tone brooking no argument. Molly let it drop. **** Epilogue: Seven Years Later “You're prefects now. Remember to follow the rules and protect the younger students,” Harry Potter told his four eldest children. James and Lily were Gryffindor fifth years, while Albus and Luna were in Ravenclaw. They were followed by the twins, Minerva and Remus, who were in fourth year. Finally, Orion Potter was eleven and in first year. Annabelle would be starting the next year, followed by Augustus and Charlotte the year after, and then Brian and Melissa Potter two years after them. “We know, dad,” James, Lily, Albus and Luna chorused. Harry grinned, his fangs barely showing, and Hermione smiled sweetly. A little second year ran onto the train, her strawberry-blonde hair swinging out behind her, as she giggled. This was Molly Weasley, the eldest child of Ron and Luna Weasley. “Oh, you're here, too,” Ron mumbled when saw his ex-wife and her new husband. Harry and Hermione had been officially married for seven years, and the two were beyond happy. “Of course we're here! We need to see off our children. Look, we have four prefects to put on the train,” Harry said. The kids boarded the train, which steamed off.

** James, Lily, Albus, and Luna Potter were sitting in Defense Against the Dark Arts, preparing for the arrival of the new teacher. The last one had died suddenly at the end of last year, at the age of ninety-six. The new teacher walked in and James called to Luna, who had been very interested in their father's stories of his school life. “Hey, Luna! Isn't that Umbridge?” “I think so, James,” Luna replied, her hazel eyes narrowed. “You will address me as 'Professor Umbridge', class,” Dolores Umbridge said, her tone high and girlish. “Yeah, that's her,” Albus said, his green eyes twinkling. The four prefects chorused, “Heil Hitler!” with their faces perfectly straight. Umbridge's face contorted. “You four! What are your names?” she asked coolly. “James Potter, Albus Potter, Lily Potter, and Luna Potter, at your service!” the four responded at once. “Oh no...not again...” she mumbled. “Detention to all of you!” ** After class, James, the unofficial leader of their group, told his brothers and sisters, “Alright. We need to tell dad about this. Since he's the Minister of Magic, he can recall her.” The other five nodded. “We'll send him a letter tonight,” Minerva said. “You'll send who a letter?” Dumbledore asked, his eyes shining down on Albus Potter. “Our dad, of course,” Remus said, as though Dumbledore were being obtuse. As a Ravenclaw, he can pull that off admirably. “Ah. I haven't seen your father in eighteen years,” Dumbledore said, looking back into the past and reminiscing. “I still need to apologize to

him for the way I treated him.” “Yeah, I think you should do that,” James agreed. The other five nodded. ** Harry Potter received the letter that night, and showed it to his wife. She scowled and said, “He seriously brought that bitch back to teach again?” “I guess so. I'll take care of this. It shouldn't take long to scare the shit out of her,” Harry said. He poofed to Hogwarts and walked right in the gate, and then saw that the doors were barred. “Expecto Patronum!” Harry incanted, just like he had done way back in his sixth year. The glowing silver stag galloped out of his wand, shot straight up the side of the castle, and into Dumbledore's office window. Dumbledore was sitting at his desk when the stag stopped and said in Harry's voice, “Barring the doors against me won't work. I'll give you ten minutes to open them yourself, or I will.” Dumbledore looked up, and then hurried down the stairs. Harry stood there in all his glory, his black robes billowing in the twilight. His hair hadn't grown any, so he looked the same, except older, wiser, and more powerful. “H-harry...?” Dumbledore asked, his voice trailing off. It was the first time he had seen him in nearly twenty years. “Yes,” Harry answered, moonlight glinting in his emerald eyes. Dumbledore stepped aside to let him pass, and then said, “Harry, for what it's worth, I'm sorry. I read your portfolio after you left, and I tried to find you.” “I know,” Harry said simply. “I didn't want to be found yet. I was still watching the Weasleys until Hermione and I got together.”

“Why would Molly do that?” Dumbledore asked. Harry shrugged. “Maybe she wanted to make sure her precious son married the best girl she could find.” “And now you're here to talk to Dolores Umbridge, right?” Dumbledore asked. “Yes. I found out from my kids that you hired her again. What the hell were you thinking?” Harry burst out. “Not much,” Dumbledore tried to lie. Harry just raised his eyebrow. “Alright, I hired her so that she'd piss off your kids enough so that they would call you and I would get a chance to apologize to you,” Dumbledore admitted in a rush. “You would go that far just to see me again, Albus? I'm touched,” Harry said. Dumbledore could detect little or no sarcasm. “Let's go see dear old Dolores, then,” Harry continued with a grin. As they walked, Dumbledore asked, “Was it true?” Harry glanced in his direction, the moonlight shining off his raven hair through the window. “Was what true?” “What you said in your portfolio, that you looked up to me, even after I betrayed you time and again,” Dumbledore went on. “Yes. I saw you as the kind grandfather I never had,” Harry admitted. “Now, however, I don't need a grandfather. All I need is for you to take care of my children while they're here.” “I-i never knew,” Dumbledore stammered. “Because you weren't supposed to know. I hid it all, because I had a plan. I would wait, and watch. I would get Hermione and together with her, start a family. By that time, I would have been out of your hair for a while, and then the kids would come here. My plan worked like a charm.”

“You knew this would happen, didn't you?” Dumbledore asked. “Yes. I told you before that I was a Seer. I'm also an Empath, as you most likely already know,” Harry said. “Now, wait here, and I'll go in.” Harry took off his ring and entered the office. Umbridge had been working late when she heard the door click shut. She turned around and screamed, “A half-breed!” “Yes, I'm what you call a 'half-breed', Dolores Jane Umbridge,” Harry said coldly. “But I'm also a father. I have seven kids here, and they've told me what a monster you are. Although, they didn't have to tell me. I already knew.” “I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it,” she mumbled, her knees turning to water. “You're fired,” Harry said sternly. Her eyes regained their life. “You can't do that!” she shrieked. “I can recall you. I am the Minister of Magic, you know,” Harry said coldly. Dumbledore entered at that moment, as per his mental instructions. “He is,” Dumbledore confirmed. “And you are fired.” “No!” she shouted. Six columns of smoke with seven damphirs appeared, as Orion couldn't do it yet. “Dad!” the kids shouted. They ran to their father's arms, and he hugged them. “You're going to need a new teacher again, Albus. I do seem to go through them,” he said over the kids' heads. “Who do you suggest, then?” “I can ask Sirius in the morning. He'd be a good teacher, now that he's retired from the Aurors,” Harry offered. “Tell him to come by whenever he has time,” Dumbledore said. He

placed his hand on James' shoulder and smiled down at the boy. “Have I ever told you, you look remarkably like your grandfather, but you have your grandmother's eyes,” he said to the fifteen-year-old boy. “Harry, you are a very lucky man, and I'm proud to know you,” Dumbledore continued to the boy's father. He shook his hand before he left. “Alright kids, remember, wait until he's asleep before you plant the dungbombs,” Harry said before he, too, left. He still had a loving wife and five kids to get home to. And Hermione was more than delighted to see him. In fact, she was so delighted that Harry had to stop four times to replace the Silencing Charm. However, no matter how much they did it, they never stopped using the spell. They didn't want the total to go up to the unlucky number thirteen, which it never did. All in all, Harry was a very happy vampire, with an entire host of halfvampire children. Marauders, eat your hearts out. Twelve trumps four, Harry thought that night as Hermione's hand brushed his old scar. It hadn't pained him in twenty-three years. All was well, though Dumbledore would disagree when he woke up. **** THE END

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