Kinsfire Sorcerors Apprentice By Kinsfire Harry finds out by dominic.cecilia

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									Kinsfire - Sorcerors Apprentice
By Kinsfire
Harry finds out a particularly disturbing thing over the summer after
Sirius' death, and with it comes other problems. He begins to come out of
his shell with the help of some ladies, but no one ever said that life
was easy for the Boy Who Lived...Home | About | Email Alerts | Other
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 1
By Kinsfire
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Chapter I

It was another lousy summer at Number four Privet Drive for the young man
with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead. He was still working like
a dog for the Dursleys, doing work that would cost them a large sum of
money to get someone else to do. They still fed him barely enough to
survive on.

That wasn't the worst of it, however. This year,    he'd been told that he
was staying at Number four until the beginning of   the next school year.
His supplies would be purchased for him, since it   was far too dangerous
to permit him to leave the confines of the Little   Whinging household that
had been his prison these past fifteen years.

He was sitting behind some of the bushes in front of the house, hiding
from his aunt, fuming. Quietly he grumbled, "I'd love to see the records
they're making of my time at this house. 'Sat in yard. Mowed lawn.
Weeded lawn. Weeded flower garden. Hit with frying pan by aunt.
Contemplated inventive ways to tell Snape to go fuck himself.'" He heard
a very quiet snort off to his left, behind the bushes in the neighbouring
yard.

He waited a few minutes before rising to his feet and muttering, "Well, I
suppose I ought to get out the pruning shears and trim these bushes. Of
course, she'll hit me with a frying pan for being pre-emptive about it.
Let me see which ones need it worst." He looked at the ones he had been
sitting behind first, and then aimlessly walked to the others. When he
was by the one where he'd heard the snort, he whispered, "I see I'm not
the only one who found that last one amusing. I'm surprised they're
allowing neophyte members of the Order to guard me." He continued his
checking of the bushes before getting the shears and trimming the bushes.
With luck I've just pissed off one of my guards by calling him a rookie.
I'll also know if I hear someone make a reference to neophytes in my
hearing.

#####

He snarled at his school books as he quietly closed the door to his room.
It was July seventeenth, exactly two weeks before he turned sixteen. His
summer homework had been finished for a while, and he'd even gone so far
as to finally begin reading Hogwarts, A History.

I need other books, he thought. Y'know, I think that my current attitude
on my minders is that they have to keep me safe. I'm going to the damned
library tomorrow. Screw them if they don't like that. He threw himself
into his bed and surprised himself by falling asleep quickly.

The next morning, after breakfast and the morning chores, he waited until
'Dudders' and his aunt had left on different missions before he stepped
out to go to the library. He'd gotten halfway there before he felt
someone approaching him from behind. "I'm going to the library," he said
quietly. "End of statement."

"Turn around and go home, boy," growled Moody.   "You're not safe out
here."

"I assume that you're ready to Stupefy me and Mobilicorpus me back to
Privet Drive?" Harry asked, continuing his progress toward the library.
"I'm going to the library, because I need things to read, and I'll be
damned if I'm going to let everyone else decide what I should read,
because I'll start getting books on how to defend against the Dark Arts,
and other such books, and a 'request' from Dumbledore or someone for a
thirty foot scroll on the exact uses of various curses in defence and
attack." He picked up his speed very slightly, and prepared himself for
what he was sure was coming. In fact, he took a route that most people
didn't, through some somewhat thick weeds, almost neck high. He suddenly
leapt to the left, having noticed a tendency in fights to leap right. As
he did, a red beam shot by him. Nice! Moody just taught me something
that I'll bet he's going to be unhappy about. Nice Stupefy, though. He
rolled to his feet and looked for the new beam to shoot out at him. It
took a few moments, but he finally saw the red glow begin at the start of
the spell, and he leapt under it. Rather than trying to tackle Moody, he
grabbed for the Invisibility Cloak, and felt it come with him. He rolled
carefully in the tall weeds, and held it such as to be able to use it as
a weapon. I'd wear it, but Moody can look right through them. He stood.
"Well, I've learned something, obviously. Now that you're visible, I
expect that I'll be zapped by the others that I haven't noticed."

"Excellent thinking, Potter," sneered a familiar voice before he lost
consciousness.

#####

He awoke in his bedroom and found a scroll sitting on his desk.

Potter,

It has been left to me to inform you that you shall not be permitted to
leave the Dursley household again until it is time for you to catch the
Hogwarts Express. Do not force us to take stronger methods to ensure
your safety.

Professor Severus Snape
He snarled at the letter, but very carefully folded it.   You will learn
to regret this, Snivellus, he thought darkly.

He walked to   the front door and opened it. "Better tell Snivellus to get
the stronger   methods ready," he said conversationally to the air. "I'm
going to the   damned library, or I'll die trying." As he turned to walk
back inside,   he added, "By the way, I meant that last."

#####

He slid over the fence and headed through the back neighbour's lawn,
getting to the street in short order. He began to take a somewhat zig-
zag path to the library. He was surprised to actually succeed in making
it to the building without being stopped by anyone. He walked in and
looked around for a bit. It was actually the first time he'd been in a
Muggle library, and it certainly looked cleaner than the Hogwarts one.

In one section, along a wall, there were a number of machines sitting on
a table. He recognized them as computers, although he'd never used one
before. He sat down in front of one of them and looked at the sheets
next to him. It seemed that if he moved the odd oval thing next to the
keyboard (it looked enough like a typewriter keyboard that he was at
least comfortable there), the screen came up with something called a
search engine. He began to play around, and rather quickly got the hang
of how to do a proper search. Gods, I wish I was an adult right now. I
wonder how many years I have to wait until England considers me one?
After a few abortive searches, his jaw dropped. Sixteen, if I have
access to proper monetary assets? Given what's in those vaults, I think
I could live for a while…but how do I keep the money up while I work on
…hmm, I have a lot to think about, but I have some ammunition for the
next time they get pushy. He noticed that there was a printer connected,
so he sent the information he found to the printer and headed out after
grabbing it.

He laughed softly to himself as he left the library, and waved to Remus
Lupin as he walked past him. The gaunt man caught up to Harry as he
walked. "Harry, do you have any idea how dangerous the game you're
playing is?"

"Let's see, I could be grabbed in broad daylight by someone. Yesterday I
discovered that this means that my attacker could be either an Auror or a
Death Eater, considering Snivellus and Mad-Eye ganged up on me and
Stupefied me home. I then was informed that I was forbidden to leave the
Privet Drive home."

"It's for your safety."

"Who cares!" he shouted back at Remus. "I am a prisoner in the household
of a family that abuses me. I don't think that anyone has ever really
grasped that. I spent the first ten years with them sleeping in a
cupboard under the stairs. Someday you'll have to come visit me, and
I'll show you how large that space was. Now, they let me sleep in a room
where they can lock me in, six ways from Sunday. I can't choose to lock
them out, but they can lock me in. The only reason that my stuff stays
untouched is because they know nothing about what I do, and think that my
'freak' heritage is contagious." He stopped to take a breath and calm
down. "I don't care if you got Tonks to come over to the house looking
like Herm … her sexiest form and got her to dance naked in front of me
for several hours. The sexiest prison guard is still a prison guard."

"Now, I'm returning home. I never did get the books I was looking for,
because I found other interesting information. I expect that I may
actually find the doors bound with Coloportus tomorrow, if I try to
leave." He spun on Remus. "I know you think you're doing it for the
best, sir, but I will tell you now – if I continue to get scenarios like
yesterday and today, I guarantee you that the Order will not like the
results."

"Really, Mister Potter," drawled Severus Snape, who had just come from
his hiding place.

"Yes, Snivellus. That's a guarantee you can take to Gringott's."   He
stalked off down the street.

"POTTER!" Snape yelled. "Get back here!" Harry's only answer was to
lift his right hand in a fist, with his index and middle finger extended.

#####

"That went well," snorted Remus.

"Really, Lupin?   Has your disease driven you even more insane?"

"Snape, perhaps you ought to learn the meaning of a few words. Sarcasm
comes to mind. Has it ever occurred to you why you haven't been able to
break him?"

"Who says I'm trying to break him?"

"Anyone watching you. That boy has his father's looks, mischievousness,
and talent. But he has his mother's eyes, brains, and stubbornness.
Trust me on that one. I knew them far better than you ever did. In a
battle between you and Lily, I guarantee you that she could out-stubborn
you. Think about that for a while." Remus ran off to catch up with
Harry.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 2
By Kinsfire
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Chapter II

Harry was already on Privet Drive by the time that Remus caught up with
him. "Harry!" he panted slightly.

Harry actually stopped. "Ought to be interesting this next year.
Assuming I actually did well enough to get into Potions, these last two
days have guaranteed a failing grade. Well, actually, breathing
guarantees me a failing grade. At least he can look forward to the fact
that he will someday get the last of his wishes."

"What do you mean?" Remus asked.

"How long was Voldemort a wizard before he went Poof! trying to kill me?
Thirty-something years? Mind you, I'm counting only his post-school
years. How many years have I been a wizard? By the same reasoning I
used for him, negative two years." He looked Remus solidly in the eyes.
"There is not a logical outcome, no matter what damned power that
Dumbledore thinks I've got, that will give us any result better than a
mutual take-out, sir. There is no way in hell that I am going to be able
to take out a wizard with more than thirty years on me and survive. It's
that simple."

Remus simply blinked at him for a long moment. He opened his mouth to
speak, but found that they were back at the Dursley home. "Sorry, sir,
but I need to prepare for my next six weeks of imprisonment. I'll see
you sometime." With that, Harry opened the door and stepped inside,
leaving a stunned Remus Lupin standing outside.

Harry stalked upstairs and thought for a moment.   Pulling out a sheet of
parchment, he wrote to Hermione.

Hermione,

I need a journal to start writing my thoughts down. I don't need one
that copies what I write elsewhere, just something for my own private
thoughts. What can you suggest? Since I am forbidden to leave Number
four Privet Drive without permission (and don't think I'm joking,
either), I'll probably have to ask you to pick it up for me.

Of course, this will probably be intercepted on its way to you, so if you
do buy one for me, give it to me when we see each other in six weeks,
since I expect that I would be given a journal that wrote my thoughts to
a different journal elsewhere, if I let them deliver it to me. (Know
where something keeps its brain, and the Order is not about to give me
access to the second journal that they chose for me.)

This, of course, assumes I haven't ended up in Azkaban for using my wand
for lighting my way downstairs or something.
Harry

He sealed the envelope and gave it to Hedwig. "Go on, girl. Enjoy
yourself. At least one of us can be free to fly. Take your time coming
back." She nipped him affectionately on his finger, and he closed his
eyes to fight back tears. She hopped onto his arm and hooted quietly at
him. He opened his eyes to see her large ones staring back at him. He
laughed quietly. "Go on, you silly girl!" he chuckled softly. He gently
petted her feathers a few strokes before she was satisfied, hooted softly
again, and was airborne.

Harry lay down on his bed and his dark mood came back. Why bother? They
don't care. They can't possibly. The one who comes closest to
understanding is Professor Lupin, and even he's more worried about me
being locked in this damned house than anything else. I'd be tempted to
offer old Moldie a deal.

I mean, what's the difference? Supposedly, Voldemort wants all non-
purebloods killed. Who told us that, though? Dumbledore. Who's willing
to lock someone away with no contact with anyone he cares for?
Dumbledore. After this last year, can I even trust that what he tells me
is true? He seems more than willing to keep me locked away for good,
until I can be aimed at Voldemort and fired like a God damned crossbow or
something.

He snarled and rolled over onto his side, dark thoughts following him
down into his dreams.

He woke up on the morning of the twentieth in no better a mood than he
had gone to sleep in. He took a quick shower and started in on his
chores as soon as he had swallowed some eggs and toast. Outdoors, he set
about his chores quite methodically, almost robotically.

#####

“At least now the ‘conquering hero’ has realized that he’s going to be
prevented from leaving,” said a familiar sneer nine days later. “No more
attempts to escape. Perhaps he’ll be a worthwhile student for once, but
I won’t count on that spot of luck.” He picked up his cup of tea and
took a sip. They were sitting at the table in 12 Grimmauld Place.

“Severus, must you open your mouth and prove yourself an ass?” growled
Alastor Moody.

“Now see here …” Snape began, but was cut off.

“No, Severus, you see here. Potter’s not the only one who doesn’t trust
your ‘conversion’ to the side of light. And personally, I don’t like the
way he’s been doing his chores recently. Not even the slightest sign of
rebellion. He turns sixteen in two days, and he’s even letting the
Dursleys get away with everything they can.”

“He’s only got one more month there, Alastor.    He survived this long
there, he can make it another four weeks.”
“You really are an ass, Severus,” Moody growled. Turning away, he almost
walked into Dumbledore. “Wondering if you were ever going to announce
yourself.” He stomped past Albus.

Dumbledore walked over to   Snape, who was still sipping his tea. “As much
as you would like to keep   him at the Dursley home, Severus, where it is
much easier to watch him,   we are bringing him here tomorrow. Giving the
boy a birthday party will   perhaps lift his spirits.”

“Headmaster, you continually coddle that boy …”

“I do not believe that celebrating his birthday is coddling him,” Albus
said coolly. “While keeping him at the Durlsey household is an
unfortunate necessity, I do not believe that treating him as a prisoner,
which has been your attitude toward him these past weeks, serves any
good. I agree with Alastor; the boy should be rebelling more. Instead,
he is an automaton.”

The front door opened, and a very attractive woman stepped through the
door. As soon as the door was closed, she grinned and shook her head
violently. When she was done, her hair was shorter and a brilliant
green. “Ah, Nymphadora, you are here. Excellent. I need for you to
make a pick up for us.”

“Wotcher, Dumbledore!   Please, it’s Tonks; you know that.   What am I
picking up?”

“A very important package. Harry Potter.” He smiled suddenly. “Forgive
me for using your full name, dear, but I happen to find it to be a
beautiful name; fitting for such a young lady as yourself.”

“Why Headmaster,” she replied, blushing, “are you flirting with me?”

“If it improves your mood to believe so, then by all means, yes,” he
replied, eyes twinkling.

“Excuse me,” Severus said.   “I feel a need to be sick.”   He swept from
the room.

“Lighten up, Sevvie!” Tonks yelled after him. “You need to get laid!”
She started to laugh, and even Dumbledore appeared to chuckle.

#####

Tonks had been told some disturbing things about Harry, so she had
decided to show up at Number four Privet Drive in clothes guaranteed to
get a reaction from him. Her hair was red, although not Weasley red, and
her clothes were both tight and small; the fantasy version of a girls’
school uniform.

When she got there, Harry was just finishing up mowing the lawn. He was
sweating, and his shirt was off. Damn! she thought, when did Harry get
built like that? Just what kinds of chores has he been doing?     If I were
one of his classmates, I’d shag him.

Stop that!   He’s your charge!

Cute one, though.    “Wotcher, Harry!” she said as the mower stopped
chugging.

He turned to face her. “Hey Tonks,” he greeted her. Not smiling. Not
good. Damn, not even eyes bugging out, whether or not he finds me
pretty. Definitely not good. Time to make use of my famed clumsiness.

She walked up to him and as she got closer to him, ‘accidentally’
tripped. His reflexes being what they were, he caught her waist and
helped her back to her feet. “My hero,” she laughed and kissed his
cheek. He smiled, but she could see that it was devoid of any real
humour.

“So, you’re my jailer today?” he asked.

“Escort, actually.    You’re leaving for the summer,” she grinned.

“Ah. Prisoner transfer time. Mind if I get a shower first? I’d hate to
make the air at my destination any Blacker,” he replied, stressing the
final word only a little.

“Shower, huh? Need someone to scrub your back?”    she wiggled her
eyebrows at him.

As he finished putting the mower away, he answered, “I somehow think that
would be frowned upon, Tonks. Fraternizing, that sort of thing.” His
mood was serious; almost utterly devoid of emotion.

“Only if we tell them,” she purred.

He turned to look at her directly. “This is Dumbledore and company we’re
talking about, Tonks. If you’re not recording this in some way to get it
back to him, then there are about fifteen other members out there in the
bushes, probably including that rookie who let me hear him snort one day
when he overheard me.”

“I’ll have you know that I’m not a neophyte, Harry,” she whispered with a
grin.

“That explains why my invisible listener found it funny, at least.”
Harry had not yet cracked a real smile yet. “Snivellus is only getting
worse.”

“I told him he needed to lighten up and get himself laid,” she laughed.

“I don’t even hate Voldemort enough to wish him that punishment,” Harry
said. “I can’t see anyone sane loving that Dementor-in-training.” He
turned and walked to the house. “I’ll be just a minute, and then you can
help me pack.” He stepped into the house.
“I’m killing that …relative of mine when I get back to the house,” she
said darkly. “He should have laughed at least once, and the only part of
him that I raised was his eyebrows when he saw me.” While she waited for
him she stepped into the shed and transfigured her clothes into something
more acceptable to the public by lengthening the skirt and Transfiguring
the blouse into something less form-fitting, since her act for Harry had
done nothing but proven that he was in serious trouble.

What would you have done if he’d taken you up on the back scrubbing
comment? she asked herself.

Chuckling, she answered, Probably tried to shag him senseless in the
shower. It’s not like he’s not attractive, you know. She scowled next.
From what I’ve heard, he’s not a poof, so he should have at least reacted
to me dressing like that, and throwing myself at him.

She stepped out of the shed and saw Harry walking to the back door. She
met him there, and saw his expression disappear when he saw her. He
still didn’t have his shirt on, and she finally noticed some scars,
including what looked to be an old one in the middle of his chest, where
he appeared to have taken a knife, from the shape of the wound. “Come on
in. I’ll get a shirt on, and we’ll head out to my new jail cell.”

Upstairs, she quickly loaded his trunk with her wand while he pulled a
handed down T-shirt over his head. She bit her lower lip for a moment
before saying, “Harry? I have a question that I swear to you is for my
own enlightenment. I’ll even swear an oath with a particularly ugly
curse attached to it to prove I’m not lying.” When he nodded at her, she
quickly Apparated her clothes onto his bed. “Do I do anything for you at
all, Harry?”

He looked at her for a long moment. “You would have a few months ago.
I’d have been stammering and trying to get you covered back up again, and
I’d have fainted if you’d offered to scrub my back in the shower.” He
reached over and picked up her blouse and held it out to her. “Now?
It’s unimportant.” He looked at her face. “If it helps you any, I do
think you’re very pretty, and I’ll admit to wishing I was a few years
older once.” With a worried crack, her clothes were back on her body.

She looked at him. “I will not tell anyone what I did, but please, Harry
– promise me that you’ll talk to someone about the way you’re feeling. I
like you, and my offer earlier wasn’t just a test – if you’d agreed, I
like to think that you would have enjoyed yourself,” she said, blushing.

With my luck, it’ll be a one-time offer, if I ever find myself
interested, he thought. “Let’s get going,” he said as he grabbed
Hedwig’s cage. She hooted at him. When Tonks held out the length of
rope that was the portkey, he opened the door to Hedwig’s cage and said,
“Just for safety, girl, grab it with your beak, okay? I don’t think
you’d be splinched, but why risk it?” She hooted once again, and then
grabbed a piece of the rope in her beak.

#####
They appeared in Grimmauld Place, in front of Albus Dumbledore.    “Harry!
Good to see you again.”

“Likewise, sir,” he replied, his voice betraying no emotion.   “At least
my cell is larger for now.”

“Your cell?” Dumbledore asked in alarm.

“I’m not to leave where I am for the duration of the summer. That was
the order I was given. To be more precise, I was informed that I was not
to leave the Dursley house until it was time to catch the Hogwarts
Express, but since I’m here now, I assume that the only difference is
that I’m not to leave Number twelve Grimmauld. Do I have the same room
as last year, sir? If so, I’d like to drop my stuff up there.”

“Yes, Harry.” Without a word, Harry grabbed his trunk and headed up the
stairs. Albus looked to Tonks with puzzlement. “What happened?”

“I promised him I wouldn’t say, sir. I know you trust him, sir, but my …
relative’s ham-fisted, hate-filled treatment of Harry this summer may
very well have destroyed a fine young man.”

“Hoping to bed another one, Nymphadora?” came the sneer from the doorway
into the kitchen. “Isn’t he a bit young for you?”

Before anyone could react, she had her wand out and had fired off a spell
at Severus. He slammed up against the wall, tightly bound. “I will let
you slam me all you want, you greasy little bastard, but I am sick and
tired of you abusing students.” She turned to Dumbledore. “I recommend
that you make a check of his grading. Don’t be surprised to discover
that the test results from the O.W.L.s don’t match up with the grades
that Sevvie here gives, at least as far as one specific House is
concerned. I have verifiable reports of him destroying certain students
results in order to be able to fail them for a given section.
Interestingly enough, four of them were involved in a certain incident in
May. I don’t know about Virgina Weasley’s results or Luna Lovegood’s,
though.”

“Nymphadora, release him,” Dumbledore said. “I cannot permit such
fracturing within the Order to take place. Infighting serves only Tom’s
purposes. I must remind you that I trust Severus, for reasons that I
cannot make public.”

She locked eyes with Dumbledore. “How do you intend to explain to Harry
that he can kiss any hopes of being an Auror goodbye, then?” she asked,
letting Snape go by vanishing her ropes. “With him teaching, and looking
for the slightest excuse to grade him poorly, Sevvie will end up
destroying any chance Harry has at being an Auror.”

“I’ve given up on that anyways,” Harry said from the stairway.    “I’m not
going to survive long enough to be one.”
“Ah, now comes the Potter ‘pity me’ speech,” Severus snarled.   Dumbledore
turned to give him a stern look.

“Just shut up, Snivellus,” Harry snarled. “You should be happy. The
last remnant of your childhood enemy is going up against the Dark Lord
someday, and you get to enjoy the fruits from whichever side wins. If I
kill Voldemort, you can be happy because it will have been a mutual
takeout. If he wins, you can simply revert to being the Death Eater
you’re trying to pretend that you aren’t. You win either way.” He
snarled and turned away, starting to walk upstairs, but came falling back
down the stairs when “Petrificus Totalis!” was cast on him.

#####

He awoke in his room, with Tonks sitting next to him. He had a blinding
pain in his head, only this one was at the back of his skull. “Ow,” he
whispered, tears of pain leaking from his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said, her eyes a bit red. “I tried to protect
you, but this time my aim was off. I managed to shield the chandelier
from being petrified.” She laughed weakly.

“It’s okay. I supposed that Dumbledore is giving him a stern talking to
right now for potentially damaging the weapon?”

“What are you on about?   You keep saying that you have to face You-Know-
Who. Why?”

“It’s that prophecy that I almost helped him get last year; the incident
where I killed your … what was he, first cousin once removed? Ask
Dumbledore for the entirety of it, but it started off by narrowing it
down to Neville or me, but Voldemort narrowed it to me by trying to kill
me. Let’s see if I can remember the wording – ah, yes: ‘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...’ That’s what Voldemort
was after.” He closed his eyes again. “So, I’m hoping to kill Voldemort
before whatever he has planned takes me out, because there’s no way I can
survive that battle.”

“Why not?” Tonks asked, honestly puzzled.

“In a battle to the death between a first year Hogwarts student and Mad-
Eye Moody, who’s going to win?” he asked, never opening his eyes.

She was silent for a long time. “That’s why you’ve completely shut
yourself off, then? No contact, and try to drive everyone away?”

“Exactly. It’s my job to die versus Voldemort, hopefully taking him out
at the same time. I see no reason to leave people behind to mourn me.
Honestly, I hope Snape enjoys the party he’s going to throw when I’m
dead. He’s certainly looked forward to it for enough years.”

“Are you sure he wants you dead?” she asked.

“Ask Dumbledore or Hermione about that rant of his the year Sirius
escaped Azkaban, after we saved Buckbeak’s and Sirius’ lives.” He
laughed mirthlessly. “Ow. Funny thing was, as insane and hateful as his
rant was, he was absolutely right. I did have something to do with
Sirius’ escape.” He sighed. “Be that as it may be, Tonks, it’s best if
I just learn what I need, die killing Voldemort, and let people get on
with their lives. I can’t die until then. The prophecy says so.”

“Why do you want to die so much?”

He snorted. “Maybe I’ll find out if love really exists after I’m dead.
It certainly doesn’t exist here. Or if it does, it’s not allowed to the
likes of me.” He sighed again. “I’m very tired. May I please sleep
again?”

“Before you do, I need to ask you – where did you get that idea about
love?” She sounded as if she were ready to cry, but he simply could not
bring himself to open his eyes and care.

“Ten years in a cupboard under the stairs at the Dursley home, followed
by the last few in a room where I can be locked in, but can’t lock anyone
out. Dumbledore pretending to be a grandfatherly type, but showing his
true colours last year by ignoring me at times when I could most have
used his advice. Let’s not go into Cho Chang and that debacle – all I
was was a conduit to her dead boyfriend. Ah, not last, and certainly
least – me. Someone that I profess to care for; to love, after a
fashion, gives me a gift so that I can talk to him. When do I actually
open this gift? After he’s dead. How’s that for love? I loved him so
much that I couldn’t be bothered to talk to him for five fucking months.
Love, my dear Tonks, is a crock. I’m just glad I learned it early,
before I had a chance to really get hurt. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m
going to sleep again.” He returned to the slow breathing of sleep very
quickly.

Tonks simply sat and shivered for a long while.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 3
By Kinsfire
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Chapter III

Harry awoke to a dull ache in the back of his skull, and a vial beside
his bed that simply said, Drink Me. It tasted foul, but the pain in his
head went away immediately. He looked at his watch, which told him that
it was almost 11 AM, which meant that he had apparently slept the entire
night through.

Climbing from bed, he dressed haphazardly. He wasn't about to start
wearing wizarding clothes yet, and since he had no clothes other than the
Dudley hand-me-downs, he wasn't terribly worried about his looks. He
looked back to see if he'd forgotten anything, and then headed
downstairs. At the bottom, he was surprised to see a small dark spot, as
well as a dent, about where he thought his head might have impacted with
the floor. Kneeling, he reached out and touched the dark spot, and
pulled away his hand to find that it was dried blood. "Huh. I guess I
am as hard-headed as Snape and Hermione say I am."

"Right again, am I?" asked a bright female voice. He looked up to see
Hermione wearing an outfit that looked nothing like what Tonks had worn
yesterday, but covered just as little skin. A tiny part of him enjoyed
the sight, but he quickly squelched that. "Hi, Harry. I'm glad they got
you out of that awful house."

"Exchanged one prison for a bigger one, that's all," he said.

"What do you mean?" she asked. She caught sight of his fingers where he
had touched the dent in the floor, and gasped. "Why is there blood on
the floor?" she asked, loudly enough that Tonks came running out.

"I'm assuming it's from where my head hit the floorboards," he replied.
"I suppose if I'd read my textbooks more closely, I'd have realized that
Petrificus Totalis still leaves you able to bleed. Explains the headache
yesterday." He walked toward the kitchen, but Hermione stopped him.

"Why were you falling downstairs petrified?"

"Because the relative of mine whom I will gladly kill if I see him again
got angry at Harry storming off after telling him off," Tonks answered
for Harry. "I originally thought that calling him an unrepentant Death
Eater was uncalled for, but now I'm not so sure."

"No, Tonks," Harry said. "He taught me a valuable lesson I need to
remember. Never turn your back on an enemy." Of course, I won't tell
her that it's best if I consider everyone a potential enemy. He motioned
toward the kitchen. "Ladies first." Hermione smiled, but Tonks didn't;
she merely nodded after a moment. Her scowl said that she completely
understood his unspoken thought.

Harry found that some things that didn’t need heating had been left
around for him, since it had become obvious that he had been allowed to
sleep until he needed to wake up. As he sat down with a somewhat fuller
plate than Hermione was used to seeing him with, he looked at her again.
She was still standing, and he finally paid attention to the outfit. It
was very unusual for her, or at least what he was used to with her. It
was a form-fitting sleeveless minidress, starting at a turtleneck collar.
There was a circular hole at breast level, such that any brassiere
Hermione might have been wearing had to be rather low cut. The hem of
the skirt was about six inches below where Harry suspected her legs met,
and he suddenly found himself wondering if she was wearing hose, because
he would have expected to see a few lines telling where her knickers
were. Why couldn’t she have worn that around me a few months ago, when I
would have given a damn? Then again, she’s Ron’s girl. He paused for a
moment, and shook his head. “Sorry, wool-gathering.” She’s known me
long enough – I’d better try to convince her I’m basically okay. “Um,
Hermione? Can I ask you something that’s likely to get you angry? I
don’t mean to, but you know how I am with words.”

She laughed. “In other words, you’re afraid you’ll offend me, but you
can’t think of any other way to ask it, right?”

He smiled and nodded.   “Um, I assume that Ron and anyone else aren’t here
yet?”

“Correct,” she smiled back.

“Well, you might want to change into something more like what you wear at
Hogwarts before they get here, unless you feel like helping pick Ron’s
eyes up off the floor, first when he sees you, and then every time you
need to bend over or kneel to pick something up.” He grinned a lop-sided
grin.

Her eyes sparkled.   “You like how I look in this dress, Harry?”

“I can honestly say that you’ve gotten my attention with it.”      He popped
a small roll into his mouth and chewed.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to change my image this year. I’m thought
of as this bookish thing at school, but I got whistled at on the beach
this summer. Actually had to punch one person when his hand
‘accidentally’ came to rest on my rear end. I ‘accidentally’ caught him
… oh, what’s that American phrase I heard once? Oh yes! ‘Between the
uprights.’ Hit him perhaps a little harder than I intended, but he
stopped.” She was grinning. “At least one boy called me a knock-out,
and he hadn’t even seen me deal with my attacker.”

“I would not argue with anyone calling you a knock-out,” Harry replied.
Grinning, he added, “Especially after that story you just told me.” He
looked down to realize that he had emptied his plate. “Man, I’m starting
to feel like Ron. I need more food.”

“Well, it has been almost twenty-four hours,” Tonks said. “You get a new
plate of food, and I’ll grab Hermione for a moment. I need some help
with something, and most guys get a little squicked dealing with ‘girl
stuff’.”
“Works for me,” Harry said, and watched the two leave the room. Once
they were gone, the animation disappeared from his face once again.

#####

As Tonks led her into her own bedroom, Hermione looked very puzzled.
“What’s wrong, Tonks?”

“Don’t be fooled by that act Harry was putting on down there.”

“What do you mean?”

“What did he say?”

“He liked the way I looked in my dress.”

“No, Hermione – think. What did he say?” Tonks watched as the younger
girl thought, and her eyes opened. As the penny dropped, she pulled out
her wand and tapped the mirror, which swirled and showed the table they’d
just left. Harry was sitting expressionless as he ate slowly.

“What’s wrong with him?” Hermione asked in alarm.

“A very deep depression. He hasn’t been able to grieve for Sirius,
unlike the rest of us, and Dumbledore, for some god-awfully stupid
reason, put Severus in charge of Harry’s security arrangements this
summer. His choice? Forbidding Harry to leave Privet Drive, except
maybe to go to Arabella’s house.”

“So how many times did he slip out?” Hermione laughed.

“Twice. First one led to Severus stunning him and sending him back to
Privet. The second time, Harry actually made it to the library.
Something that night broke him, though. He’s been … nothing … since that
day. He referred to me as his jailer yesterday.” Tonks stopped and
looked Hermione in the eyes. “You fancy him, right?”

She blushed in response. “I wasn’t going to tell him this down there,
but if that had been Harry at the beach, I certainly wouldn’t have moved
his hand.”

“I thought so,” Tonks smiled back. “Don’t take what I’m about to do
wrong – I’m doing it to make a point.” Tonks was suddenly nude again,
and shifted into the form she’d worn yesterday. “What should his
reaction be to what you’re seeing right now?”

Hermione’s jaw dropped. She thought for a moment in that position before
finally closing her mouth and saying, “He didn’t react, right?”

“Right,” Tonks responded. “Nothing except to tell me I’m pretty, and
that he wished I’d done it back when he cared.” She grimaced. “When he
went for his shower, I offered to scrub his back. I think you know what
I mean. I would have, too, and if he comes out of this and asks me to
follow through, I intend to.   I basically promised him, whether or not he
sees it that way.”

“And if he comes back to us, then he’ll pretend you never said it.
You’ll have to remind him.” She grimaced. “You’d better hope that I
succeed in landing him, because I’ll understand, and remind him.” She
blushed deeply enough that she knew it was colouring her breasts. “I’d
probably offer to help. Could you get dressed again, please? Guys
aren’t the only ones who can be affected by female nudity, you know.”

“Oh,” Tonks said, blushing. “You and I should have a talk later on.”
Her eyes sparkled. “Enough flirting, though,” she said suddenly, getting
serious. She looked at the mirror, which showed Harry robotically
cleaning up the kitchen. “There’s more. Not only is he depressed, or
actually, it’s part of it … damn. You know that the prophecy existed,
right?” She popped her clothes back on.

“Uh, yeah,” Hermione laughed. Getting suddenly serious, she said,
“Something tells me that Harry knows it, somehow.” She pulled her dress
over her head, and started to pull more demure clothes out of her
armiore. A happier Harry would have had to pick his own eyes up if he’d
known I was wearing nothing but this dress, she half-chuckled to herself.
She was interested to note the look in Tonks’ eyes, and realized she had
just reversed the situation between them.

“Yes, he does know.   And he’s suicidal over it.   Except that he can’t
die.”

“What?!”

“I’ll get him to quote it to you, but it basically points out that it was
him or Neville, but Voldemort chose him. Neither of them … hell, I
remember the important part because it sent a chill up my spine. ‘…and
either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the
other survives…’ He is rather certain that the best possibility is a
mutual kill. As he phrased it to me, Hermione – in a fight between Moody
and a first year, who wins? Voldemort’s got more than forty years on
him, I think.”

Hermione, who had just gotten her jeans zipped, fell to her knees in
shock. “No!” she gasped in horror. “No! Not Harry!” she sobbed. “Not
my Harry!” She noticed absently as she sobbed that Tonks came over and
held her as she cried.

#####

They had been gone quite some time when the emotion of curiosity came to
Harry. He walked up the stairs until he reached Hermione’s room. They
hadn’t completely closed the door, so Harry took a slight peek through
the crack, and would have smiled under other circumstances. The two were
standing, hugging each other, and it also appeared that their mouths were
busy too. Hermione was in jeans and a brassiere. Good. At least I know
love can exist. I wish it was for me, but I’m glad my friends can find
it. Ron might be devastated, though …
He carefully headed back downstairs toward the study. He knew that the
Weasleys would be along sometime later, and knew that Molly would
immediately take to cleaning the place. He figured he’d get a head start
on her, considering he was a prisoner here, just like the previous year.
He grabbed a feather duster and headed up to the library, being extra
quiet as he passed by Hermione’s room.

About an hour later, he heard footsteps coming toward the library, but
kept dusting. “Wotcher, Harry! Why you doin’ that?”

“You really think Molly won’t get us cleaning when she shows up?   I might
as well just get going in advance. Picked a room, and started.”    He
looked for a moment. “Where’s Hermione?”

“Downstairs for the moment, reading in the drawing room.” Upon hearing
that, he motioned her closer. When she was almost close enough to kiss,
he whispered, “I’m glad you and Hermione are starting something. You
both deserve to be happy.”

“You … saw?” she squeaked.

“Yeah.   So?   The snog looked pretty intense.”

“It was,” she whispered.   “I didn’t know she liked girls.”

“Neither did I until about an hour ago. One thing though, Tonks. I
don’t expect that you would, ‘cause I think I know you well enough, but
it’s sort of a requirement in this sort of situation. If you ever hurt
her intentionally, Tonks, I will make you wish I’d used the Crucio on
you.”

“You love her, don’t you?” Tonks asked with a smile.

He paused just a little too long, and his eyes dropped. “No. I don’t
even know what love is. I have nothing with which to reference against.”
He snorted with some small amount of real humour. “I sound like
Hermione.”

“There are worse things,” Tonks said with a smirk.

“Well, yeah, you would say that,” he smiled, but the smile disappeared.
“We had this talk already, and I’ve been doing further thinking. I’ve
got no more than three years before I have to face that maniac down and
die with him. He’s new enough to his body that he’s still learning about
it. If I give him more than another three years, he’ll be too solid in
his understandings, and I won’t stand a chance against him. So it has to
be fast and hard. So I have to start training hard, which may require
dropping out of Hogwarts and finding someone who can teach me the really
serious combat magics.” He sighed. “I’m a dead man walking, Tonks. I
know that saddens you, but I have no choice but to accept it. That’s why
I won’t get involved with anyone, Tonks. I’m happy for you; I really am,
but don’t try to convince me to find someone, when I’m just going to
break their heart before I reach full Muggle adulthood.”
They heard a gasp in the doorway, and turned to see Molly Weasley. “Hey,
Mrs. Weasley!” Harry said. Her response was to bustle into the room and
sweep him into a hug.

“Harry, you mustn’t say that!” the woman was almost sobbing. “You’re
going to live and have lots of fat babies for Arthur and I to spoil when
you and your wife come to visit.”

He smiled.   “Yes, Mrs. Weasley.”

“I’m serious, Harry Potter!   You put that thought out of your head right
now! Now come downstairs!”

Harry looked to Tonks for a moment and saw the look that spoke volumes
about Molly Weasley's timing and mothering skills. It almost made him
want to smile. Almost.

He was led downstairs to meet with the rest of the Weasley clan. Ron was
trying to get to Harry, but Molly had apparently decided that he would be
at her side until his mood improved.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 4
By Kinsfire
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Chapter IV

An hour later, Harry was certainly showing emotion, but it was not one
that anyone wanted to see. Molly was eternally the mother, and
unfortunately the type that smothers their children when they worry about
them. Everyone was watching him, treading carefully, waiting for the
inevitable explosion.

Tonks was impressed to note that Harry had kept his temper this long.
I’d have blown by now. Let’s see if I can get him freed from her – maybe
take some of her wrath, and give him the chance to be with his friends.
“Hey, Molly, can I talk with you for a minute? Privately?”

The red-haired woman fussed for a moment, and finally headed over to
Tonks, leaving Harry to finally escape. Tonks watched as Ron, Ginny,
Fred, and George quickly snuck him into the drawing room where Hermione
was, apparently hiding now.
She walked over to the Weasley matriarch and said, "Please don't take
this wrong, Molly, but you really need to give Harry some space."

“Really!   I have raised several children,” she huffed at Tonks.

"I'm not trying to interfere too much, Molly, but the guy's fighting a
major depression, brought on by Sirius and then the treatment Snape gave
him this summer." She frowned. "I was playing with him when I went to
collect him, so I showed up in the Hogwarts skirt and blouse, only the
blouse was too tight, and the skirt was too short. You know I can look
like any sixteen year old's fantasy, right?" Molly nodded with a
disapproving look. "Well, he didn't react. At all. Not to get too
crude about it, but I should have made his pants tighten. Nothing. And
I've seen what he thinks is attractive, so I patterned myself that way.
Nothing at all. He's been like that since somewhere around the
twentieth, I understand."

"But what does that have to do with …"

"It's one of those odd things. He needs his space, but    we need to keep
an eye out for him to try to catch the worst of it when   he breaks. He
feels trapped, what with Dumbledore and Snape informing   him exactly where
he can and can't go. Snape was forbidding him to leave    the Dursley
property, even to go to the local library."

Molly winced.   “And I was making him feel trapped again, wasn’t I?”

“Probably.” She apologized with her eyes, but suddenly stopped,
realizing that it had gotten quiet. “Are you as curious as I am about
why it’s quiet, especially when those twins of yours are here?”

“Yes. I think we should find them.”   The two women headed in the
direction of the drawing room.

#####

Harry held up his hands to the group when they’d dragged him into the
room. He needed to get the anger under control, so he carefully shoved
it away. Finally, he looked up at the group. “Sorry. I love your mom,
but she misunderstood something I was saying to Tonks, and decided that I
needed to be kept in arm's reach.”

“Ooo, Tonks and ickle Harry-kins?” Fred said.   “Setting his sights high,
isn’t he?”

“Not that way, you prat,” Harry said. “I was continuing a conversation
from yesterday, and she walked in at just the wrong moment.” He looked
at Hermione, sitting in a chair with a book in her lap, but looking at
the group with a smile. There was an odd look to her eyes, though.
“Hermione, get over here. When I saw you earlier, I was too interested
in food to greet you properly.” She carefully bookmarked her place and
stood.
Harry pulled her into a hug and whispered in her ear, “Careful letting
Ron down. I know about you and Tonks. I saw it. Congrats, by the way.”
Pulling away, he grinned, although there still did not seem to be any
real emotion there. “Now that’s how I should have greeted my friend,
rather than letting my stomach do it.”

“Yeah, we’ve already got one Ron!” Ginny giggled.

“Shush, you!” Ron laughed in response.

Hermione was blinking at Harry in shock. "What did you say to her?"
Ginny asked. "Ask her to marry you or something?"

That broke Hermione out of her reverie. "What? No!" she said, blushing.
"He just told me something I didn't know he knew."

"Okay, good," Ginny said, and pulled Harry into a hug.   "It's me he's
supposed to ask!" she laughed.

"What about Dean?" Harry asked.

"Oh, it's first come, first served," she said.   She got an evil twinkle
in her eyes, and Hermione squeaked, "Ginny!"

"What?   I didn't say a thing," she replied just a little too innocently.

Ron was looking puzzled, while Fred and George were staring at their
sister, trying to decide whether or not to laugh or kill Harry. "I don't
get it," Ron complained.

Harry looked and said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, Ginny, but after saying
that it was first come, first serve, she was thinking of asking me if I'd
come yet." Ginny just grinned in response. He shook his head.

"Right," said Fred.

"We kill him later," said George.

"Get in line," Harry grumbled.

He looked up to see the shocked looks on everyone's faces.   "What?"

"What do you mean, 'Get in line'?" Ron asked.

"Think about it, Ron. He's been after me since me first year at school.
Hell, the fact that he's already been across the wards probably makes it
easier for him to get at me. Name starts with a V and makes you feel
squicky every time I say it? If there's anything left of me after
Voldemort is done with me, then the twins can have what's left." Ron
shivered on cue at the mention of the name.

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked.
"It involves the prophecy that Voldemort's so damned interested in; the
one that he managed to fool me into going after, where I killed my
godfather?" He sighed. "Okay, I need to tell you guys about this just
so I'm not constantly repeating myself to everyone. What I tell you here
is not to go out of this room. I mean, your mum is the next best thing
to having my own mum still alive, but you saw how she was a while ago.
I'd never have a moment's peace if she knew what I'm about to tell you.
The wording of the prophecy is …"

"Potter!   I forbid you to continue this conversation!   Molly, out of my
way."

Mrs. Weasley was about to respond when Harry surprised everyone by
saying, "I'm going to tell them, Snivellus, unless you kill me to stop
me. Oh, that's right – you can't. Unless it's Moldiemort doing the
killing, I'm a fucking immortal!" he screamed at the end.

The room was silent.   "You can't be serious," Ginny breathed.

In answer he opened his shirt and pointed to the scar that Tonks had
noticed the previous day. "See this one? Butcher's knife. One week
ago, on the twenty-third. I can't take a mortal wound. Heals right up
as soon as it happens. I could slice my wrists, but someone would either
come along, or before I hit the danger point, the cuts would seal."

"Who tried to kill you, Potter?" Snape was asking in shock.    "How did
they get past our defences?"

"This summer's defences weren't the greatest to begin with, Snivellus.
After all, a fifteen year old boy got through them twice. Once you had
to stun him and Apparate him back to his house."

"Who was it, Harry?" Ron asked.

"It was Harry," Hermione answered quietly. "That's the answer to both
questions, isn't it, Harry? That's who slipped through the defences,
because he was already within them as the one being guarded. And given
the fact that you said you were forbidden to leave the house under any
circumstances, you were the one who got through them twice, leaving."
She walked over to Harry and hugged him tightly. "You tried to kill
yourself, didn't you?"

"Yes," was his only response. He was answered by Hermione breaking into
sobs against his chest. He blankly put his arms around her. "I wonder
if anyone has thought of the fact that telling the prophecy to Voldemort
is likely to drive him away for many years. He's looking to be immortal.
As long as the two of us never meet, he is. Might actually give me time
to train to a point where I stand a better chance of taking him out when
he kills me."

The room was silent.   "Let me explain.   The prophecy says that …"

"Petrificus Totalis!" Snape shouted, and Harry fell to the floor,
petrified again, this time landing on his face.
"Finite Incantatum!" he heard Molly say, and he was able to move again.
He got to his knees and noted that he was bleeding from the nose.

"Broke by doze, I tink," he slurred as he examined his nose. "Yup," he
winced. Molly came over to him and murmured a few words, and his nose
began to feel better. He swallowed a few times, swallowing a small
quantity of blood, and then said, "Thanks, Mu … Mrs. Weasley."

He walked over to Snape, who was being held at wand-point by Tonks.
Before anyone could react, Harry had cocked his fist back and then
impacted his fist with Severus's nose. He could feel it break, and the
copious blood flow echoed that suspicion. "That's twice in two days that
you've managed to attack me and cause injury, you lousy excuse for a
human being. Wave your wand in my direction again and I'll break more
than your nose."

"That will be enough, Harry," Dumbledore said as he walked into the
drawing room. "Severus was merely attempting to keep you from divulging
information that should be carefully disseminated, if indeed it is
released at all."

"So what was his excuse for cracking my head open yesterday? You trust
him, sir, but I do not. He has hated me from the moment that he heard
that I would be attending Hogwarts, and has made me quite well aware that
I am useless. He takes great pride in informing me of this at every
chance. I am the Golden Boy who has the fame that he feels that he so
richly deserves. This summer has finally given him the opportunity to
act with impunity on all those sadistic little impulses he's had toward
me. Every time he has raised his wand toward me this summer it has led
to either unconsciousness or bleeding. I feel safe in believing that if
he raises his wand toward me again that I can expect further pain.
Therefore, I am telling him simply to be careful in where he points the
wand, since logic says that it pointing in my direction implies bad
things for me."

"Still, I cannot condone threats from students toward professors. I will
not permit the disrespect. And I am more than capable of backing up my
statements, Mister Potter." Albus Dumbledore looked at Harry with a calm
but implacable look on his face.

Harry met his eyes and did not back down in the slightest. Finally,
Harry said simply, "You're right, professor. A student should not
threaten a teacher, no matter how many times the very same teacher has
threatened or belittled said student. Since fairness in such dealings is
not to be found at your school, it is only proper to arrange things such
that we need not worry about me threatening Snivellus ever again.
Effective immediately, I will not be returning to Hogwarts. I quit."
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 5
By Kinsfire
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Chapter V

Harry managed to get out of the room while everyone was standing around
shocked at his actions. He had gotten partway up the stairs when he
heard Snape bellow, "POTTER!"

Without turning around, he said, "Wait 'til I get to the top. You'll
have a better chance at breaking my skull this time. If you're really
trying, you won't petrify me this time. Accio Harry’s skull should work
better."

"Severus," came the quiet but extremely firm voice of Albus Dumbledore.
Harry continued along to his room, refusing to listen to the susurrus
below.

Damn, he thought. I'm    going to have to share a room with Ron, and I
really don't want that   right now. He's either going to try to make jokes
to cheer me up, or say   something really dumb. He's like a brother, I
guess, as if I'd know,   but …

He stood and left the room, heading down to the library again. On his
way there, he passed what he knew to have been Sirius' old room. In
there. With the rest of the old memories and useless thoughts. He
stepped inside.

He would have been surprised a few months earlier. Rather than the dark
house, living up to the family name of Black, this room was obviously
used by someone from Gryffindor, with it's bright red and gold
highlights. The room glowed in comparison to the rest of the house.

Walking around the room, Harry was drawn to a large thick envelope on the
small table next to a beautiful mahogany roll-top desk. He was surprised
to discover that it was addressed to him, in Sirius' handwriting. As
soon as he ran his finger over the beautiful wax seal, it flared
momentarily and unsealed the envelope. As he reached in to pull out the
papers inside, a small wand, no longer than six inches in length, fell
out. At the top of the sheaf of papers was a letter.

Harry,

If you're reading this, then it means that I probably died fighting
Voldemort. Maybe even saving your life. Know this one thing – no matter
how it happened, my death was not your fault. I chose to be there,
because you mean that much to me. If I know you, you're blaming the
whole thing on yourself. "If only I'd done this, if only I'd done that."
Harry, I've spent a few years blaming myself for not seeing Wormtail's
betrayal. In retrospect, it's so damned obvious.

Note those first two words, Harry. "In retrospect". We all have 20/20
hindsight. It's easy to blame yourself. Most importantly, I know that
you did the right thing.

You couldn't do anything else, Harry, because you're the son of James and
Lily, and you're Gryffindor, through and through. I can never tell you
in person now just how much you mean to me, and what it means to me that
you risked your life to save mine. (Think Buckbeak - you risked yourself
against a hundred Dementors for me - and possibly whatever happened that
led to you getting this package.) We haven't talked anywhere as much as
I'd have liked, but if I'd had my way, I'd have been back at Hogwarts
with you, in your dorm, talking with you even more than Ron does. Don't
think that I don't know how much you love me. You've put your life on
the line for me. That one sentence says everything we never had the
chance to say to each other, and know that I love you that much as well;
that's most likely why I died.

You'll cry for me, that I know. Know that I'm happy, though. I'm with
Lily and James again. I'll see you there someday, too, but it had damned
well better be a long time.

Cry for me, and get on with the business of living. Find a girl (I think
that Hermione might be sweet on you, but I can't be sure), get married,
and have a few fat babies for Molly and Arthur to spoil. But live,
Harry. Live for me. Maybe name one of those fat babies after me.

Love,

Sirius

P.S. – the wand is a hold-out wand for you. I've heard of that little
problem with Voldemort's wand, and it hurts you more than it helps. Yes
it can stop his A-K, but it also can stop anything you send his way.
This thing packs a punch, I warn you.

Harry's howl of pain echoed throughout the house.

#####

"I'm glad the boy is not returning!" Snape had been saying a few minutes
earlier, through gritted teeth. "He becomes more and more like his
father every year."

"Perhaps that is because you seem to be shepherding him in that
direction," Albus said quietly. "I am not unaware of the incidents
during the past five years. There is a reason that there are suits of
armor and talking paintings about the castle, Severus." He stopped and
sighed. "I expect that I will be able to convince the boy to return to
the school, but I doubt that he will ever trust you, and given that I was
the one who assumed that you could set aside your hatred long enough to
properly keep the boy safe, rather than use it as a further chance to
abuse him, he may never trust me again either." He looked at Snape.
"You need not worry about assignments involving Harry again, Severus.   I
shall not make the same mistake a third time." Severus blanched
slightly.

"So what do we do now?" Ron asked. "Other than set Hermione on him?"
She glared at Ron. "Hey, don't blame me if you're the only one who can
talk him into things that the rest of us think he should pay attention
to! We can talk to him until we're blue, and all he'll do is get mad.
You tell him, he gets mad for a minute, and then does it your way."

She had to shrug at that. "True. I guess you're right.     But you could
learn how to say it better, you know."

"What, and ruin my perfect record?" he asked impudently.

The scream rent the air of the house, and Hermione was in motion before
anyone else, shouldering Snape out of the way without realizing it and
taking the stairs three at a time. She spun around the corner and found
Harry on the floor in fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably. Her eyes
fell on the table, and saw the sheaf of papers and the wand. Something
made her pick the small wand up and decide to hide it. After a seconds
thought, she tucked it into her brassiere, between her breasts. She
looked at the letter, and nodded her understanding of Harry's situation.
It's good that he's crying about it now, at least. It's the beginning of
healing. And I'll …we'll be here for him. She knelt next to him and
started stroking his hair. "I'm here, Harry. I'm here for you if you
need me." He uncurled somewhat and lunged for her waist, knocking her
backwards onto the floor. Holding her waist tightly as she lay flat on
the floor, he continued to sob against her. She stroked his hair and
repeatedly cooed, "We love you, Harry, and we're here for you."

Laying on the floor as she was, she looked back toward the door (a much
easier thing to do in this position), and motioned everyone in. All but
Severus stepped into the room, and took positions near him where they
could at least be in sight when he finally stopped crying. Ron, Ginny,
and Tonks, lay hands on him and spoke soothingly. Eventually, the
sobbing turned to simple crying, and he let go of her waist and tried to
sit up, but she gently told him, ""No, stay there. Just rest, Harry.
You've needed that cry."

"It hurts so much, Hermione.   I never told him I loved him."

"But he knew, Harry," murmured Albus. "Do not dwell on regrets. There
are too many things in life to regret, and he died the way he wished –
fighting Voldemort, and helping the godson he loved to survive." He
motioned to the letter. "Do as he says, Harry. Live. Do not merely
exist, but live and enjoy life for him.” A sad laugh. “Even, as he
said, name a child after him.”

He turned his head to say something, and suddenly realized exactly where
his face was resting. His entire body stiffened, and he thought he hear
Tonks whisper “Yes!” into the silence of the room.    Why she would do
this, he had no idea.

“Um, Hermione?    I’m sorry, I didn’t …”

She helped him sit up. “Shush, Harry. I gather you didn’t ever have a
chance to really mourn for him, did you?” He shook his head. “Then you
needed this.”

“Well, it’s just that …” His eyes quickly motioned downward, and she
noticed that her jeans were damp where his tears had flowed, and his face
had been resting on her pelvic area.

She laughed. “Just be glad I hadn’t been taking a shower when you broke.
Imagine how embarrassed you’d be in that circumstance!”

#####

His eyes bugged for a moment, and he tried to ignore the threatening
feeling of tightness in his jeans. No! Now is not the time! He smiled,
though, and carefully got to his feet, and offered his hands to Hermione
to help her to her feet. “Why thank you, good sir,” she said brightly
once she had regained her footing. “You are a gentleman, but not much of
a scholar,” she finished impishly.

“Well, when you go to school with the most brilliant student in over 350
years, it does tend to make you feel a bit dumb,” he said with a smile.

“350 years?    Where did you get that figure from?”

The mischievous grin on his face both surprised and heartened everyone in
the room. “Really, Hermione! If you’d only read Hogwarts, A History,
you’d know that in Chapter 47, there is a reference to the best students
prior to 1975, which is when my copy was printed.” The sputter from
Hermione made everyone in the room laugh.

“I hate to ask everyone this, but could I take a few moments to get
myself together? Take a shower or something?”

“Excellent idea, Harry,” Dumbledore said, attempting to shepherd everyone
from the room. Tonks and Hermione were the last ones out, after Hermione
gave him a warm hug.

“Welcome back, Harry,” she said quietly.

“Thanks, Hermione. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, and I’ll probably
be a bloody arsehole at least once more before the worst is over. Thanks
for being here.”

“Harry, you’re my best friend. I am here for you, even when you are
being an … arsehole.” She blushed furiously at the crudity and shot from
the room, leaving Tonks.

She grinned.    “You’re feeling better now.   Need your back scrubbed?”
He looked at her, and truly paid attention to her this time. She wasn’t
dressed provocatively this time, instead wearing sedate clothes – at
least for her. She wore a spaghetti strap summer dress that came to her
knees, decorated in a floral pattern. Of course, it was form-fitting
enough to show Harry that he’d never really noticed that she had some
rather pleasant curves, and he became aware again of an uncomfortable
tightness in his trousers. “I’ll take that as a yes,” she chuckled.

He shook his head, violently. “No!” He looked around the room, as if
there might be something that could protect him – or at least something
to hide behind. He could see that she had noticed the reaction he’d had.
His eyes fell on the sheaf of papers. “Yes! Um, Tonks?”

“Yes, Harry?” she purred.   He could hear laughter just below the surface.

“Would you take these papers and keep them safe for me? No, wait …” He
scowled. I don’t want to think this about her, but she is a member of
the Order, which is run by Dumbledore. I don’t think I can trust him
anymore, and I have a sneaking suspicion that those papers might just
‘accidentally’ disappear if I let him at them.

“Harry?   What’s wrong?”

His scowl deepened. “I want to tell you, Tonks, but you’re going to get
right angry over it. And you should, too.”

She walked over to the envelope and slid the papers back inside, and then
closed the flap. There was another flare. “This was spelled for you.
Only you can open this now. Do you want me to keep this safe for you?”

He walked over to her. “I don’t dare. Dumbledore runs the Order, and
you’re a member. I can’t trust the man anymore. He’s lied to me over
the past five years, and just this summer put a man who wants me utterly
humiliated, if not dead, in charge of my security; a man who he has to
know can’t stand me. It means that Dumbledore was either intending what
happened this summer, or is trusting of certain people potentially to the
point of stupidity!” His voice was rising. “He lies to me by carefully
telling me certain snippets of information, knowing that I’ll make
certain assumptions. For God’s sake – he put me into Occulmency lessons
with a teacher I’m quite sure would like to burn my brain out, whether or
not he actually is an unrepentant Death Eater.”

“Let’s not forget that Dumbledore is also a master of making you feel
guilty when need be." Harry was shouting now, although he didn't seem to
realise it. "‘Any time you needed information, you could have come to
me.’ When you cultivate such an air of omniscience? ‘Any time this last
year, you could have spoken with me – you made no effort.’ When you’ve
actively been avoiding me all year? I think it’s safe to say, based on
the reaction I got from him all fifth year, that the assumption that he
wouldn’t have given me the time of day if I’d asked was a correct one!”

Harry stopped, having suddenly realized that he’d been pacing. “All this
comes down to why I have to basically insult you by not giving you these
papers for safekeeping. I have the feeling that they contain something
that Dumbledore is quite seriously not going to want me to see, and I
would not put it past him, after this summer so far, to either hide them
until after Voldemort’s defeat, or to flat out destroy them.” He started
pacing again. “Moody would both applaud me for not trusting anyone and
berate me for caring so little for the wizarding community as to even
think of suicide, when the fate of the fucking universe is on my
shoulders! ‘Stop whining and suck it up, Potter! Want more people to
die because of you?’” He clenched his fists and suddenly spun and
punched the wall. There was a sickening crack, and pain shot up his arm.
The wall was completely unhurt.

He snorted. “More proof of my stupidity. Take the papers, Tonks. Let
Dumbledore destroy them, or whatever he’s going to do with them. He’s
certainly a good enough wizard to break past any charms on them to keep
them for my eyes only.” He sighed. “Time to go downstairs and show them
my broken hand, and be berated for wasting the Order’s precious resources
again, either in our stores of Skele-Gro, or by forcing someone to take
me to St. Mungo’s, which they’ll probably want to do once they know where
the knife wound came from.”

“That the one right here?” Tonks asked quietly, touching his shirt where
it covered the wound she’d seen yesterday. He realized that she hadn’t
been there when he’d opened his shirt and explained to people.

“Yup. Plunged it through. Hurt like a right royal bastard; didn’t half
hurt, let me tell you – almost passed out from pain. I didn’t though,
and felt it hit my heart. Figured, ‘Good, be over soon.’ Wrong. I
could feel my heart beating against the blade. Hell, I could see the
blade moving. Pulled the thing out, and nothing. Only result was this
damned scar.” He growled. “Then they’ll want to study me, to see how
I’m effectively immortal.” He stopped for a moment and then screamed at
the ceiling at the top of his lungs, “I just want my life to be my own,
to do with, or do away with as I want! Not some fucking Order’s
decision, and not some God damned prophecy’s!” He spun and struck the
wall again in the same spot, with the same fist, breaking it far worse.
Blood began to drip slowly from his hand, unnoticed by him. “I forgot –
I have a responsibility to the world. Defeat Voldemort first, then I can
do what I want. Oh, I forgot again – I’ll be dead!” He stalked past
her. “Well, here’s hoping Fred and George have at least pulled the
Extendable Ears out of the way, so that I don’t break any when I leave
the room.”

Stopping at the door, he turned, deflated. “I’m sorry, Tonks. I don’t
mean to explode at you all the time. You must think I hate you, or
something.”

She walked over to him and carefully hugged him, then kissed his cheek.
“No, I think that it means that you trust me enough to treat me as a
friend.” She pulled away from him slightly. “I want you to know
something, Harry. I’m not just teasing you when I offer to scrub your
back. I really mean what you think I do. Not for one night, either.”
She leaned forward to kiss him again, but this time on the lips.
The experience with Cho Chang had been … nice, and that was being
charitable about it, to be honest. He couldn’t think for a moment,
because he’d never actually been kissed by anyone before who really meant
it – not like this. When the kiss broke, he said the first thing that
came to his mind. “Wow, I never knew there was a good reason for your
heart to pound against your ribcage.” He blinked. “Glad that knife
attempt failed now.” He shook his head, and saw the smile on her face,
and the fact that her eyes were just a little shinier than they had been
before. “Um, did I just say what I was thinking out loud?”

“Yes you did, Harry,” she said, sniffing slightly.   “That’s what made it
so sweet.”

Thinking of something suddenly, he said, “Um, how’s Hermione going to
react to that kiss?”

“She’ll just have to deal with it, won’t she?” Tonks chuckled.   “Might be
jealous.”

“I couldn’t be that lucky,” Harry said as he turned and left the room,
dripping blood on the floor as he walked.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he could see a large group down
there, including Alastor Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt, all looking in
worry up the stairs at him. “Don’t worry, Moody. I’ll learn how to
punch a wall better next time. Can’t have the Order’s weapon getting
distracted by pain or bleeding.” He reached the bottom of the stairs,
gritted his teeth, and suddenly unclenched his hand, straightening it out
using pure force of will. The scream was manageable this time, not a
lung-ripping one. “Can I assume that we have Skele-Gro around, or have I
just wasted resources by making someone take me to St. Mungo’s?”

Molly murmured something as she waved her wand over Harry’s hand, and
everyone saw an angry red glow radiate not only from his knuckles, but
from his entire hand, and up past his wrist. “How hard did you hit that
wall, son?” Moody asked, surprisingly gently.

“Full force, sir, from roughly the distance from my wrist to elbow.
Proof that my Potions professor was right about my level of intelligence.
That looks like a St. Mungo’s visit.”

“You’re right, unfortunately,” Molly said.   “Let me get my cloak …”

Tonks was at the bottom step, still holding the envelope. “Let me,
Molly. I still need to talk to Harry about a couple fairly important
things.” She frowned. “Actually, I think I need to borrow Hermione too
for something, while they’re looking at Harry. Mind if I steal her as
well?”
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 6
By Kinsfire
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Chapter VI

At Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, Moody was looking at Albus Dumbledore.
“You mind telling me what that whole thing he barked at me was about? I
know how I come across, but I didn’t think I sounded as heartless as he
just made it sound.”

Ron gulped audibly and responded, much to everyone’s surprise. “You
don’t, sir. The comments about constant vigilance get to us after a
while, but you’ve got to understand …”

“Take your time, son,” Moody growled.   Ron gulped, but realized that this
was his normal voice.

“He’s depressed,” Ron finally said. “Not the usual thing, either.      If I
understood him right, he tried to kill himself a week ago.”

“Exactly a week ago,” Ginny said in a small voice.   “Butcher’s knife, he
said.”

“Somehow, he didn’t die from it, and it healed up like an old wound.”
Ron spun on Albus Dumbledore. “He said something about the prophecy, as
if the reason the knife didn’t kill him has something to do with it.
He’s my best chum, and if knowing this prophecy can help me keep him
alive, then I want to know it.” He stared the headmaster in the eyes for
a long moment.

Albus met the gaze unflinchingly for several moments before nodding at
the surprised young man. "If Harry wishes it, when he returns, we will
ward a room and either I or he will tell you the Prophecy's exact
phrasing. I must stress to you that this is very important to Voldemort
- Sirius passed through the Veil because of this Prophecy, one could say.
People have died and may yet die again for this information." He
frowned. "I will not tell you at this time, because I believe that Harry
should be here for it, and will have the final say as to who hears it."
He looked to Severus Snape, who had re-entered the room after repairing
his broken nose.

"Personally, I think the information should be Obliviated from the brat's
mind," the Potions Master sneered.

"Maybe we should get Lockhart to do it," Ron snarled at him.   "That
should make you happy - a drooling and stupid Harry Potter."
Severus opened his mouth to retort, but Albus interjected quickly.
"Enough, both of you. Severus, they see you as attacking their friend,
so they defend him. Do not antagonise them please. Harry will keep his
memory of the Prophecy."

#####

Harry lay back on a bed at St. Mungo's. Tonks had told an interesting
story about a cursed section of wall, with Harry ending up victorious in
the end, but at the cost of a broken hand. "Wrist and forearm too,"
replied the doctor. "Well, it'll actually be easier to remove the bones
and regrow them with a dose of Skele-Gro," he finally said. "I won't lie
to you, it's going to hurt."

"I know.   An incompetent teacher removed my right forearm once."

"Good lord!   What did they do with the moron?" asked the doctor,
horrified.

"He's up in the same ward as Frank and Alice Longbottom.   It was Gilderoy
Lockhart," Harry replied.

"Why am I not surprised?" the doctor chuckled. "Well, this will be of
shorter duration, but might feel more painful, since the hand is a more
sensitive area. We'll leave the radius and ulna, since those are only
cracked, and not actually broken." He grinned. "If you'd like, I can
ask your old teacher down here on a consultation."

"No!" Harry laughed. "I appreciate the thought, but I'll trust you." A
few minuted later, Harry was laying on the bed with no bones in his right
hand or wrist, and a dose of Skele-Gro in his system. The doctor left.
"Interesting story, Tonks. Kind of wish I'd been there for that one.
I'd earn the Order of Merlin, First Class for sure."

"Well …" she said, blushing, "I wanted to make it sound heroic."

"Rather than admitting that it was a simple Muggle bit of stupidity?"

"What happened?" Hermione asked him, tears threatening.

"I got stupid by getting angry. Needed to hit something, and if you
think it was going to be a woman, you're crazy. So I spun and hit the
wall. Twice." He looked at her. "Why do you keep me around?"

Tonks chuckled. "I think now is a good time to tell him, girl. Get a
few things out of the way. I've already told him how I feel about him."

Harry interrupted.   "She says that she cares for me …"

"Loves you," Tonks interjected.

He blinked. "… loves me, but I also saw that kiss you two shared. If
I'm going to cause a problem with your relationship, then I'm going to
step back. I really shouldn't get involved with anyone, anyway."
Hermione crossed her arms under her breasts, which moved pleasantly
upward as she did so. "Harry James Potter, if a woman as beautiful as
Tonks says that she would like a relationship with you, I expect that you
will listen to her, and give her a chance. She mentioned the reaction
you had to her kiss. Do you regret her kissing you?"

"No," he answered quietly. "I rather liked being kissed like that. Am I
not going to cause a problem with you two?" His question was almost
painfully pitiful in tone, and both ladies knew that he wasn't aware of
it.

Hermione answered by leaning over him on the bed. "Harry, I think I'm
even more scared right now than I was during the Ministry battle." He
opened his mouth to ask why, but she shushed him. "Harry, I need to tell
you something, even though you probably …"

"Hermione, I already know about you and Tonks, and I'm not going to stop
being …:

"Will you just shut up and let me tell you already?" Hermione barked at
him, and then blushed.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry said quietly.

"So am I, Harry. I'm very nervous right now, so please, let me say it in
my own time. Yes, I am very attracted to Tonks, and I certainly am not
going to complain if it becomes something stronger. I am also not going
to complain when she starts something with a certain hard-headed black-
haired Gryffindor." She smiled at Harry and then grimaced slightly.
"The interesting wrinkle in this scenario, however, is whether this
becomes a true triangle, or remains more of an A-frame."

"I don't understand," Harry said, and then winced.   "Sorry, didn't mean
to interrupt."

"It's okay. Harry, the thing that scares me the most is that you don't
love me back."

He started to respond to her, to tell her that he treasured her
friendship, but never made it past opening his mouth as the final word of
that sentence struck home. "Back?" he asked. "You … love me?" he asked
in a voice so small that neither woman heard him easily.

"Yes, Harry, I do. I didn't really realize it until we were at the
Ministry, and fighting for our lives. I … I know I'm only sixteen right
now; I'm not seventeen until September, but part of me dreams of someday
…" She blushed furiously and stopped speaking.

Harry felt his mouth dry out as he realized that he still needed to say
something, and ask her something else. "Hermione? Uh, I … I wasn't sure
how to say it … you really love me?" he asked, stronger this time,
wonder creeping into his voice. She nodded demurely. "Even knowing what
you do about me? That no matter what he said, that I killed my
godfather? That someday I have to … wait, you don't know the … well,
it's not good to talk about it here. Tonks, take her somewhere safe and
explain … you know what to her."

"I know about the most important part of … it," Hermione replied, "and I
love you, even knowing it. I know you think the best you can expect is
to go with him, but I'm betting my heart that you're better than that,
Harry James Potter. After all, you're the son of a Marauder," she
grinned.

"What about Ron?" he asked.   "You know that he's at least sweet on you."

Hermione frowned. "Yeah, and I'm not sure how I feel about him. I've
always liked him, and even … well, I just don't know. I'd feel as bad
about him … dying," she gasped the word out, "as I would about you …
dying, Harry. But I know I love you. I don't know about him."

"Then I think you need to talk to him, Hermione," Harry said.
"Especially if you and I start seeing each other, it could break his
heart."

"But what do I do?" Hermione asked.

"You're asking me?" he laughed bitterly. "Considering my first and only
girlfriend so far has been Miss Hosepipe?" He looked at the snorting
Tonks. "Everytime we were together, she ended up crying. Not good for a
guy's ego, you know?" He noticed that she was still carrying the
envelope and his face fell. "I'm sorry about earlier, Tonks. Feel free
to slap me as hard as you want for saying what I did to you."

"Okay," Tonks said, and leaned over to kiss him again. The blood roared
in his ears and his heart felt like it was trying to find a way through
his ribcage again. He saw her lips move when the kiss was over, but she
had to repeat herself before he heard, "I prefer that method. The
effects linger a bit longer."

"Yeah,"   he breathed. "And that way is more likely to give me trouble
getting   to sleep." He looked to the envelope again. "Should we take a
look at   what's in the envelope? I think the more people who know about
it, the   less likely it is that it can be disappeared."

"Do you really think that the headmaster would do that?" Hermione asked,
worried.

"I don't know, honestly," Harry answered her. "But I do know that the
end of last year, and this summer so far … well, I'm less likely to
consider his motives pure than I would have at the end of fourth year.
I'll never know if he's really told me everything, as he said he was
doing in May, or if he told me enough to make me content. So I'm
learning to make my own plans." He paused for a moment before adding,
almost under his breath, "I don't know if I'm going to survive this
battle with Voldemort, but I certainly have reason to want to now." He
looked at both of them.
Both ladies faces took on looks of wonder, puzzling Harry for a moment,
and then he blushed furiously. "I said that last out loud, didn't I?"
Tonks eyes were shining as she nodded, and Hermione impulsively leaned
over and kissed Harry on the mouth, catching him with his mouth slightly
open. He was surprised enough at the kiss, but even more surprised when
she melted against him slightly and slid her tongue into his mouth.

The kiss lasted for a long moment before they finally broke for air.
"Did you know that you can keep kissing if you breathe through your
nose?" Tonks asked conversationally. "Although Harry appears to have
raised a reed to breathe through, I think it's safe to safe that you
can't breathe through that thing, Harry."

They looked down the bed and realised that Harry was non-verbally stating
just how the kiss had affected him. Harry proceeded to turn a brilliant
red colour, and Hermione attempted to match the shade. "I'm sorry,
Hermione," he started to say.

"For what?" she asked. "For telling me that my kisses made you want to
pull me into the bed and make love to me?  For telling me that you think
I'm sexy?" She smiled brightly at him and stood, straightening her
clothing. “I’m not kissing you again, however, until you’re sixteen
years old. I think that gives me a chance to calm down a bit more.”

“Agreed,” Harry breathed. He reached out for the envelope with his left
hand, and when Tonks held it toward him, he brushed his fingers across
the seal, which flared again. As it did, the air turned ultra-violet
purple for just a moment. “Well, that was interesting,” he murmured.
“That didn’t happen before.”

“That wasn’t your seal, Harry,” Tonks said. “I’m going to let others
deal with this unless I get a call otherwise.” She got an evil twinkle
in her eyes. “Protect my future husband.”

Harry tried very hard to keep his face neutral. Luckily, the twinkle had
given him warning. “So what do the papers say?” he asked, intentionally
ignoring Tonks’ last comment.

She pulled the sheaf from the envelope and thumbed through them quickly.
It became obvious that there were two distinct groupings of papers.
Harry looked at the letter at top, but only shed a tear this time, rather
than falling apart. The topmost sheaf of papers had a simple note
reading, “Both sets of papers are important to you, for similar reasons.
If you receive the bottom set at the same time as the top set, please
forgive me for not telling you before. It was to be one of my birthday
presents to you. I hope you’ll find the surprise enjoyable.”

Tonks handed him the bottom sheaf of papers, and his eye bugged out
almost immediately.

Dear Harry,

If you receive this letter, it means that your mother and I did not
survive to see you become the stunning and honourable man we know you’ve
become. We’re sorry for that, son; we never meant to make you an orphan.
(The stunning comment came from your mother. Considering she thinks
you’ll look like me when you grow up, I can’t say as I’d disagree with
her. Ah, she just slapped me to make sure I tell you that I was laughing
as I write that. I’m looking at you in your high chair as I write this
letter to you, hoping that you never have the chance to read it. You’re
mashing carrots in your hair, and you’re being thorough enough about it
that I’m wondering if they’ll still be there when you’re sixteen. Gods,
Harry, do we love you!)

Enclosed with this, though, is a series of documents that should help you
if you are, in fact reading this letter. You are the sole remaining heir
to the Potter name, Harry, and with that comes all the property – the
ancestral home, and all the contents of the vaults. These documents
grant you title and the legal emancipation necessary to claim the same.
Effective 12:01 AM on July 31, 1996 - your sixteenth birthday - you
legally become the last scion of the Potter name, not only in name
anymore. You will also find that, per the signed documents involved with
taking over the Potter lands and property, your underage restriction
concerning magic use has been lifted. (After all, son, you need to be
able to furnish the home in the manner befitting a Marauder!)

Enough of that. Know that we love you, Harry, and will even into the
next world. Know also that we died to try to help you grow up in a world
without the taint of such an evil wizard as Voldemort. I only pray that
we succeeded.

Your loving father,

James Potter

Harry’s eyes filled again for a moment, before he ruthlessly squashed it.
I need to read this first, and let these ladies go home. I’ll cry later,
when they aren’t around. “Oh no you don’t,” he heard Hermione say.
“You’re going to try to be stoic again, and not cry, and hold it in until
you explode. I’m not going to let that happen, and I doubt Tonks will
either.”

“No macho crap around us, Harry,” Tonks whispered. “We love you, and
we’ll help you through this, if you’ll let us. It won’t be easy, but
learn to rely on your friends and loved ones.”

He sniffed. “I’ll try. It just hit me – this is a message to me
directly from my dad. They knew they might die fighting Voldemort, and
wanted me to know that they loved me. No, love me. He talked as if he
was certain that there was something beyond. So did Sirius.” He thought
for a moment, and then smiled. “Well, if they both were sure, then I
suppose I ought to as well. So I’ll see them again some day.” He
thumbed through the papers and began to grin. “This looks interesting.
I’m supposed to claim things at Gringott's before I can go to Potter’s
Field.” He thought for a moment. “My dad was a smart-ass, but I knew
that,” he laughed. “Apparently its proper name is something long and
convoluted, but the name of the village it’s in is named for the ancient
Potter family – Ynys Crochenyddion. Roughly translated? Potter’s Field.
Apparently having that sense of humour runs in the family.”

He looked up at Hermione and Tonks. “Well, I apparently become the next
best thing to an adult one minute after midnight. The stuff that most of
our classmates seem to look forward to is unimportant.”

“Oh?” Hermione asked, interested in what he meant.

"Basically the smoking and drinking bits. I like my lungs just fine,
thank you very much, and I see no reason to find out whether I'm a
friendly drunk or an angry one. More likely that I'm an angry one, and I
have too much power available to make that a safe thing. Keeping an eye
on my own affairs, though? That I think I can do.” He snorted. “I’m
just sorry that thing worked the way they did, though. I just find love
with a classmate, and suddenly, she’s not a classmate anymore.” He
snorted. “I was serious about that comment, though. He has abused me
for the last time. I will hex him within an inch of his life if he looks
cross-eyed at me. That alone will get me expelled. So I don’t return to
Hogwarts.”

“You’ll forgive me if I try to help with a workable solution?” Hermione
asked in a small voice. “I’d like to see you a little more often than
holidays and summers, now that I’ve admitted my feelings to you.”

“I’ll make a deal with you. If you can make a workable deal, then I will
gladly come back. Hell, I’ll scream out my feelings for you from the top
of the castle, if you want.”

“Only if you want, Harry,” she blushed.

“Let’s put it this way, Hermione – if they decide to hold a dance of any
sort at the school this year, then I am asking you now to be my date.”

“And I’m accepting!” she squealed, throwing her arms around him as best
she could. A moment later, she looked up and asked, “Did I just squeal
like a little girl?”

“I took it as a sign of enthusiasm,” Tonks chuckled.

“It’s so undignified,” Hermione said, straightening up and blushing.

“I thought it was cute,” Harry murmured.   “Nice to know I can make a girl
squeal happily.”

Tonks’ and Hermione’s faces lost all expression for a moment, except for
their eyes, which were twinkling madly. “We’ll just have to put that to
the test someday, Mister Potter,” Tonks said in a voice that made it
obvious she was stifling a laugh, which she let loose when Hermione could
no longer hold her laugh in and let loose with a stifled snort. Tonks
let loose with a braying laugh that got worse when she looked at Harry,
who was looking extremely confused at the moment.
He finally shook his head and said, "I supposed I'll understand later.
What was the other sheaf of papers about, Tonks?"

"As for the first thing, it does involve screaming and squealing, but it
tends to involve someone's name in the process. As for the other sheaf
of papers? You'll have to be there for the reading to make it official,
but you, me, Mom, and Remus get the majority of the Black family fortune.
To be precise, you end up with one third. Remus gets one sixth, as do
Mom and I. Each, that is. The final sixth goes to Narcissa Malfoy, on
the condition that she renounce Lucius Malfoy and all his associates,
divorce him, and take back the name of Black. If she, at any time in her
life, returns to Lucius Malfoy, she will be cursed with a rather ugly
curse. Sirius didn't say what it was, but the language hints that
Narcissa will have a good idea what it is. If she dies before your
twenty-first birthday, what is left of her Black family inheritance goes
to you, Harry, rather than to Draco."

"Is that legal?" Hermione asked.   "I didn't think inheritance worked that
way."

"You can set up a will that way in the wizarding world. I wasn't
finished, though. Except for three very specific properties, the
entirety of the Black family property, between real estate and goods,
goes to Harry." She paused. "However, this entire scenario takes place
under one and only one condition, Harry." She looked up at him. "Sirius
wanted to adopt you. If he had, you would have become a member of the
Black family, and in the line of succession." She pulled out a sheet of
paper. "As much of a smartass as he was, he worked very hard to get
things he wanted done right. I'm betting we'll find this same sheet
around … you know where, too." She handed it to Harry.

It was surprisingly easy to read. It basically stated that, if Harry
agreed to be adopted by Sirius Black, all he need do was place his thumb
against the seal and state, "I accept". He would feel a moment's pain,
no more than a pinprick, as a drop of his blood would be taken to seal
the contract. He would then be Harry Black, as far as the Black family
was concerned.

"Am I still a Potter if I accept?" he asked, more than a little worried.

"Oh yes, definitely," Tonks said. "You'll still be Harry Potter, you'll
just be, depending on which family you're dealing with, Harry Black-
Potter, or Harry Potter-Black. It doesn't kick in until you're able to
handle your own affairs, however." Her eyes shot open wider. "Merlin's
left testicle! That means…"

He grinned. "That means that as of 12:01 tonight, if I accept this
adoption, I not only control the Potter family properties, but the bulk
of the Black Family properties as well." He looked at her. "Answer me a
question, Tonks. I don't mean it to sound like an insult to Sirius, but
the answer I have may just be wishful thinking."

She smiled and interrupted him. "He would have adopted you as his own
when you were a baby, if he'd been able to. This wasn't an attempt to
stick it to anyone at your expense.   It's an added bonus, admittedly …"
she laughed.

"Does it bother you if I do this?" he asked.

"Nope. This way Mom and I are assured of getting some of the money.
Otherwise it would have gone to cousin Draco."

He grinned and carefully moved his right hand to the parchment, set his
thumb on the seal, and said, "I accept." The pinprick was nothing
compared to what his right hand was feeling anyway, due to the Skele-Gro.
"Oh my goodness, my hand stings," he finished through tightly gritted
teeth.

"Something tells me you would have liked to say something a bit
stronger," Tonks chuckled.

"Just a few words I learned from Dudley, which are wonderful for when you
mash your hand in a door or something where strong language would be
useful. However, none of the words should be used in front of ladies,
and you are ladies, as well as a great deal else." He stopped for a
moment before saying, "When I go to the Potter vaults to claim my
inheritance tomorrow, will you two ladies accompany me to the vault?
That way, I'll have an Order member with me, which should please the
other Order members like Moody and Dumbledore, and I'll also have the two
women I want beside me most at such a time."

"Harry," breathed Hermione, "That's quite an honour, you know.    Are you
sure you want me along?"

"Yes, Hermione. I want the two people I trust most in this world to
accompany me there. You can keep your mouths shut. Ron runs off at the
mouth sometimes. He's usually good about it, but he sometimes pulls a
Hagrid." He paused and looked at Tonks. "'Merlin's left testicle'?"

Before she could answer, the doctor came back in. "So, Mister Potter,
how's the hand doing?" To answer his own question, he waved his wand
over Harry's hand and rather than glowing red over most of it, it now
glowed yellow and chartreuse over most of his hand. "Good, another
couple hours, and I should be able to send you home! Most people can't
handle this kind of pain, and need to be stunned, but you're sitting here
carrying on a conversation with two lovely ladies. Either you're tougher
than I thought, or we're going to need to hire them to be a soothing balm
for our other patients."

"They're my balm, doctor," he said with a smile, and reached out with his
left hand toward them. His face darkened then. "Besides, this is
nothing compared to a Crucio."

The doctor blanched.   "I forgot, to be honest, who you were.   Who did it
to you?"
"First two times were Voldemort, and the third time was Barty Crouch,
Junior." The doctor was surprised by how matter of fact Harry was about
it.

The doctor gulped.   "You've actually faced the … the Dark One?"

"Four times now. Once he was a spectre, once he was a very powerful
memory trying to take physical form, once was the time of the Tri-Wizard
Tournament, when he returned to a body, and the last a month ago. Don't
worry, Doctor. He won't reappear for a few months, probably. He has to
regroup and come up with another plan."

"I don't care what anyone says, but anyone who can face the Dark Lord and
be as calm as you are about it, well, I know we're going to win. Thank
you, Mister Potter! Thank you!" He nodded and hurried from the room.

"He mistook depression for calm. Whoops. You know that I'm going to
have visitors like crazy now, and that both of you are going to be linked
to me, possibly romantically? Expect that the Daily Prophet will somehow
get a picture of us here."

"Do you want one?" asked a voice with an almost ethereal quality to it.
He looked to see Luna Lovegood in the doorway. "Hello, Harry. How are
you?"

"Not bad, Luna.   Are you all right?"

"I am now. I was with my father at the Quibbler offices. We had some
people there recasting the temperature moderation charms, and they left
some things around the floor. We had the windows open, I tripped over a
box, and I fell out the window. At least I kept the box of photographs
from opening. I sent it back up into the office and told Daddy I was
coming here to St. Mungo's. Drank some Skele-Gro, and I'm just fine
now." Harry noticed that her eyes never really seemed to focus on anyone
in the room as she spoke, but now they focused on him. "Please don't try
again, Harry. It won't work, and I have too few friends as it is."

He blinked at her.   "What are you talking about?"

She walked over to him and ran the index finger of her right hand over
the exact spot where his knife scar from the previous week was. "I think
you know, Harry. Please don't. You are my friend and I love you."

He blinked for a moment.   "Umm…"

"No, not that way, yet, although the future may hold interesting things
for us." She turned and looked at Tonks and Hermione. "Congratulations
all around, I'd imagine. Don't listen to people, if you're happy. Well,
I must return to father. See you on the train," she finished, and
breezed from the room.

Hermione had a look of mild disgust on her face.     "That girl is not quite
all there," she murmured.
"Her name is Luna," Harry said sternly.

"I know that, Harry," Hermione replied sharply.

"Yes, but I know what you were thinking. You're too nice to ever
verbalize it, but you fairly obviously are thinking 'Loony' Lovegood."

"Where's the harm in thinking something?" she asked, still with some
asperity in her voice.

Quietly, Harry simply said, "Mudblood." His answer was a sharp slap
across the face from Hermione. He looked to Tonks. "Please take her
back, and maybe explain what I was saying. I think you understand,
Tonks. Come back for me in a couple hours, okay?" Tonks simply nodded,
left the papers with Harry, and ushered a stunned and still angry
Hermione from the room.

Well, I may have the record for not only the most disastrous romantic
relationship on campus, but now the record for the shortest.

#####

Finally back at Grimmauld Place, Hermione finally exploded.   "How could
he say that? He knows how offensive the term is!"

"Exactly, Hermione. I'd head somewhere and think about it for a bit, and
see if you can make the connection." Tonks turned and headed for the
drawing room, where she could hear other voices. Ron's was the most
obvious.

"All I'm saying is that he needs to watch his step. I'm not threatening
him in the slightest. I don't like him, but then again, he'd say
something like, 'I'm not teaching to be liked.' He's never given us a
reason to think kindly about him, and Harry and Neville have been his
special whipping boys since our first day in classes! From what I know,
it's because Harry made the mistake of being the son of one of his
Hogwarts tormentors. I don't know all of it, and I don't want to. But
Harry being Harry is the only thing that can save 'Professor' Snape's
life right now. Harry can't be killed until Voldemort is dead. Harry's
gotten so angry at Snape that he's threatened to kill him. How do you
stop him?" He got a dark look to his eyes. "If he really decides that
killing 'Professor' Snape is what he wants to, there's not going to be
anything that will permanently stop him."

"Utterly brilliant, Mr. Weasley," came a droll voice.   "Would you care to
enthrall us with your further grasp of the obvious?"

“Actually, it’s not that obvious,” Tonks said, joining the conversation
at this point, “until you consider everything we’ve learned in the last
few days. None of us knew before today that Harry is immortal, for all
intents and purposes. However, knowing this, also take into account the
state that the individual in question is experiencing.” She
metaphorically had her Auror hat on at the moment, and it showed. She
began to stroll as if she were teaching a class. “We have a subject who
is in a depressed state, and wishes to die. We also know that he knows
that he can’t die until a very specific individual is dead. Now, that
individual is in far greater danger than he realizes, because Harry is in
the position of what the Muggles call a suicide bomber. He doesn’t
expect to survive this last battle, so he’s making no plans to; he’s
simply planning on making sure that Voldemort is dead, and he’s willing
to do this at the cost of his own life. Voldemort, on the other hand,
wants to remain alive, at all costs.” She stopped. “Then, of course, we
have Voldemort’s inside agents to worry about,” she said, looking darkly
at Severus for a moment before continuing. “Now, ignoring that, let’s
look at the other problem that Ron here has brought to our attention.
Harry has such a hatred of a specific individual that he has promised to
kill him if he looks at him threateningly. Remember that Harry can not
be killed at this time. So, assuming that the future corpse is
determined not to be that future corpse, what needs to be done to prevent
this course of action?” She looked at Severus. “Mister Snape, your
suggestions?”

“This is even less amusing than your usual sophomoric humour,
Nymphadora,” he snarled, trying to hide the fact that the concept was
obviously bothering him.

She dropped the Auror demeanour. "If you have so little worry for your
safety, then feel free to leave. I, on the other hand, feel like keeping
a rather close friend of mine out of Azkaban, where he will be a sitting
duck for Voldemort." She stared at him for a long moment. "Go on,
leave! Unless you happen to admit that Ron might actually have an idea
what he's talking about, and feel like learning how to stay alive a bit
longer." She walked over to him. "Just a bit of information for you,
Sevvie – he means a great deal to me, and I have no bones about taking
you down if it will keep him out of prison. And quite honestly, speaking
from the Auror's point of view, your actions toward him this summer have
been suspicious.”

Ginny, surprisingly enough, was the voice of reason. "As impressive as
all this is, with everyone waving their manhood around," – she flashed an
impudent grin at Tonks, who returned it – "it's not solving any of the
questions. First, and most important, how do we get him out of this
depression of his; make him want to live? If I thought it would solve
anything, I'd sleep with him, and you know what I mean." Molly looked
startled. "Mum, I won't lie – I'd enjoy the idea. But I'm talking about
keeping Harry from even thinking about offing himself. I will not do it
just as an excuse."

Ron piped up. "Mum, if I thought it would help him, I'd shag Harry." He
glared around the room for a moment, daring anyone to make a joke, but
the only responses he got were a sniff from Tonks, and a hug from Ginny.
"Right. Glad everyone understood." He slumped in his chair, blushing
madly.

Ginny grinned at him for a second before continuing. "Next, how do we
get Harry back to school? He really needs those last two years of
schooling, especially if he's the only one who can face Voldemort.
Certainly last, at least from the point of view of those of us around his
age who love Harry, how do we keep Professor Snape alive, since we want
to keep Harry out of prison?" Severus opened his mouth, but Ginny bulled
forward. "Sir, you have spent this summer effectively torturing him.
You drove him so far as to actually try to kill himself, and you should
thank whatever deities exist that he can't die right now, especially
after hearing that prophecy. If he weren't protected like that, your
vindictive attitude would have doomed us all to living under a Dark
Wizard, possibly forever. It's not all about you, sir. Either back down
on Harry, or step aside until this is over." She stared at him, blushing
furiously at speaking thus to a teacher.

Molly came over to her daughter and hugged her. "I'm proud of you,
Ginny, and you too, Ron." She looked sternly at her daughter and opened
her mouth to speak, but Ginny interrupted.

"Mum, I have no intention   of making you a grandmum before I've left
Hogwarts." She grinned.     "Even though you are a grand Mum." Molly had
the good grace to blush.    Ron nodded his agreement, motioning to let
Molly know that he agreed   with Ginny’s entire statement.

Albus turned to Tonks. "I note that you are no longer carrying the
envelope. I take it that it is with Harry?"

"Yes, it is. Hermione and I helped him look through the paperwork
enclosed." She grinned evilly. "I think Draco and Narcissa are in for
an ugly surprise come the reading of the will, considering it was one of
the things included in that package." She paused for a moment. "I think
that a lot of people will be surprised in the next month or so."

Albus cleared his throat. "When he has returned from St. Mungo's with
Miss Granger, I shall need to talk to him, to see if I can convince him
to return to school."

"Hermione's upstairs – they had a little bit of a fight, and I brought
her home to think about it."

"What did they fight over?" Ron asked.

"Luna Lovegood showed up, and Hermione's not entirely pleased with her, I
guess."

"You have to admit that Luna comes across as a little … off. Not quite
completely there, if you know what I mean," Ginny said. "I like her -
she's one of my best friends - but she can act a little strange."

"Not surprised," Tonks said. "She seems to give off all the signs of
someone who's a genuine seer, even if at a very low level. She tends to
see the person within, and caught a few things that I know no one knows
about yet. The reason she may seem so odd is that she literally doesn't
see the world the same way we do. She sees it the way Sybil Trelawney
wants people to think that she sees it."

"An extra word of caution to you," Tonks added. "Don't call her Loony
around him, or he's going to tear you a new one. He's decided that she's
his friend, and you two know what that means," she said to Ron and Ginny.
I'm learning just how loyal he is to his friends. "I'm heading back to
St. Mungo's to pick him up shortly."
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 7
By Kinsfire
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Chapter VII

Why did I do that? Hermione asked herself. She was lying on her bed,
face down, and hovering on the edge of tears. I could have just
complained, but no; I had to slap him. I'm not a violent person by
nature; why did I do that?

Because he's right. She was startled by her own response. You sit there
so smug and superior, and that shows. It showed in the hospital room.
'She's obviously crazy' you were thinking. How do you know she's not a
Seer?

But divination …

… is a valid science. You just had a fraud for a teacher. Severus Snape
is a Potions master who hates to teach Gryffindor students. Does that
make Potions an invalid class?

But …

I think what you need to admit is that you see Luna as competition.     And
is that so bad? How do you really see Harry?

I love him.

Do you love him enough to let him go, if need be?

She gasped as she thought the question.   Is that the solution?   Do I need
to give him up?

Only if it becomes obvious that he'd be better off without you. The
relationship's just a little too new to be making that kind of a
decision. Really, Hermione, what are you thinking?
Her inner voice was tiny.   I don't think I am thinking anymore.   I don't
know what to do.

Do something unusual, girl. Stop thinking, and just feel. Enjoy feeling
what you feel for Harry. Her internal voice 'grinned'. Enjoy feeling
Harry.

She blushed to herself, and continued to let her mind wander for a time,
until she heard someone enter the room. "Hi," she said, not looking.

The someone sat on the bed and spoke, revealing herself to be Tonks.
"Feeling better, kiddo?"

"Well, it's not exactly fun realizing that you're a bigot, you know?
Gives you an odd sense of power when you're the oppressed, if only
because you can adopt the 'poor-put-upon' attitude when they call you
something like Mudblood, but when you find yourself calling someone else
something … well, it's not exactly something to cheer about."

"Question is, what do you do about it?" Tonks asked her.

"What else is there to do? I work at getting rid of that reaction. I
give Luna a chance, based on Luna, and not on the fact that she comes
across a bit strange. What if she's Seer material? That would be an
explanation for her odd reactions, if she's literally not seeing the
world the way that we so-called normal people do." She laughed sadly.
"Besides, she's someone that Harry calls friend, and he doesn't abandon
his friends. I know that better than anyone. So even if we don't become
friends, I should at least learn to tolerate the girl. Who knows – we
might do the unthinkable and become friends."

"That's the spirit, Hermione," Tonks said with a laugh. She leaned down
and kissed Hermione's cheek. "I'm going to get Harry at St. Mungo's.
Want to come along again?"

"Will he forgive me?"

"You know him better than I do, and I know the answer.   You tell me."

Hermione's mind slid back to times when Harry had been wronged, and came
to rest on their second year; the year the Chamber of Secrets had been
opened. Stories of all sorts came to light about Harry, including a
rather odd one by Hannah Abbot that proved she was never Ravenclaw
material. Ernie MacMillan had been one of the more vocal people against
Harry, until it was proven that Harry was not the perpetrator. Ernie had
apologized and Harry had forgiven him. It had taken Ron a good deal
longer to forgive Ernie.

"Let's go, Tonks," she said with a smile.

A short time later, after releasing Harry from durance vile at St.
Mungo's, Hermione suddenly turned to Tonks and Harry and said, "Can we go
to the Quibbler offices? I need to apologize to someone." She was
mildly amused to see the look of intense pride in Harry's eyes, although
he was fighting to not let it show.

#####

They Floo'd to The Leaky Cauldron, and from there went down Diagon Alley
to the offices of the Quibbler. Harry could see that Hermione was
scared; one of her worst problems was admitting that she was wrong. They
opened the door to find Luna behind the desk, reading one of her school
books for the upcoming year. She looked up, surprise on her face,
followed with a smile. "Hermione! I had hoped you would come here."
She turned. "Harry. It's good to see you again, too, although it has
only been two hours." She turned to Tonks. "You were … there, weren't
you?" At Tonks' nod, she turned back to Hermione. "Thank you Hermione."

"You are a Seer, aren't you?" Hermione asked. "You knew that I was
coming here to apologize to you for what I've thought about you these
past years."

"I See things, yes, but I see things that don't happen, as well. That's
why I was pleased to see you. A number of things won't happen now
because of that, and I'm very glad of that. They were quite …
unpleasant. Oddly enough, one of them involved me tripping and falling
out the window, but landing on my neck this time. I don’t know why you
showing up would prevent that from happening, and quite likely I will
never discover why your arrival prevents my death. It simply is."

"Well, I'm here to apologize to you for   what I've thought, and I'm going
to. Luna, I am sorry that I've thought    what I have about you. It was
unfair to you, since I didn't even know   you. I do not ask for your
forgiveness since that sort of thing is   unforgivable; I just want you to
know that I am sorry."

"They were just thoughts, Hermione," Luna said with a smile that told
Harry that there was more behind it.

"Yes, but thoughts lead to actions. If I start thinking of you as Loony
Lovegood, then I start acting that way. And that way leads to your
possessions being stolen. Not by me, but that's the mind-set that leads
to it." She blushed. "Harry has decided that you're a friend, and that
means quite a lot. If he thinks you’re worthwhile, then I’m going to
work to see what he sees. No promises, but maybe we can become friends.”

“Even if I talk about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?” Luna asked with a grin.

“Yes, even then.” It was obvious that Hermione was trying not to roll
her eyes at the concept of the Snorkack.

Luna put her hand on Hermione's arm. "Thank you for trying, Hermione.
It won't happen all at once, but it means a lot to me that you would try.
And since you are trying, I forgive you." She looked up. "Ah, Daddy's
coming." A few moments later, the door from the offices opened, and out
stepped a man who barely looked older than twenty.
"Luna, dear! Why didn't you tell me you had friends coming? You don't
need to stay here if you would like to be with them." He turned to the
three. "My name is Lawrence Lovegood." He held out his hand.

Tonks blushed as he shook her hand and then kissed the back of it, and
Hermione blushed as well when he repeated the action. "Don't worry, Mr.
Potter, I'm not going to kiss the back of your hand." Harry chuckled in
response.

Luna looked to Harry for a moment, and smiled. "Congratulations again,
by the way. I've heard nothing but good about your family name. You'll
do the name proud, Harry."

"Uh, thank you," he said, confused. Changing the subject, he said,
"Don't ask me why I was carrying my money with me, but the fact that I am
means that I can offer everyone a visit to Fortescue's, if you're
interested?"

"You go ahead if you want to, Luna," her father said. "I have to finish
up some business here." He looked unhappy for a moment. "Go, Luna.
Have fun with your friends."

"Thank you, Daddy.   I won't be gone long," she said, kissing him on the
cheek.

"If I haven't seen you by noon tomorrow, I'm sending out a search party,"
he laughed, joined by Harry, Hermione, and Tonks.

"Muahahaha!" Harry chortled   "Three beautiful women to have my way
with!" He laughed again in a particularly over-the-top manner. When he
stopped, all three were looking at him in surprise. "What, you didn't
think I was serious, did you? Saying something like that in front of her
father? I may be crazy, but I'm not that crazy!"

Lawrence smiled and said, "I was simply going to ask if your will was
prepared, in case you tried anything my daughter didn't want you to do.
There wouldn't be enough left for me to do anything with," he finished
with a laugh.

"Of that I have no doubt, sir. She is Ravenclaw, after all. And if
there was anything left, I think Hermione would deal with what was left.
I dread thinking what my other lady friend here might devise."

"They might have to charm the grin off your face," she purred at him, and
Harry concentrated hard on not reacting.

"Son, if you've got three ladies interested in you, then sit back and
relax. You have no say in the matter," Lawrence said.

"If you say so, sir. I'm just trying to figure out who the Oriental was
who cursed me, so I could apologize to them." Lawrence smiled and nodded
sagely, but the three ladies looked puzzled. "Chinese curse: May you
live in interesting times. Maybe it was Cho's father, for breaking her
heart, or something."
"That bitch?" Luna barked. "Probably would have been her, from what I
know about her." She paused and obviously pulled herself back under
control. "I'm sorry. Let's go to Fortescue's."

They got as private a table as possible for the place. He recognized a
few of his classmates, such as Justin and Seamus, who looked at him with
admiration, but didn't come over to talk to him. Harry turned to Luna
after they'd ordered their ice cream (and Harry had been a little firm
with Luna, making sure she ordered what she wanted, not what went gently
on his purse). "From what I know of you, Luna, that outburst was out of
place for you, so …"

"I'm sorry. We don't get along.   I shouldn't air problems within my own
House," Luna blushed.

"… so what has Chang done to earn your righteous anger?" Luna's jaw
dropped slightly, and she stared at Harry for a moment before sitting
straighter in her chair.

#####

Hermione caught the fact that Harry hadn't used his old 'girlfriend's'
Christian name this time. And he wonders why I'm sweet on him. I'll bet
that if I asked Tonks, she'd say that's part of it, too. She also
noticed that Luna was actually a fairly attractive girl, and winced
internally. Please don't let that happen right now – I'm having enough
of a problem thinking of a threesome with Tonks.

"How can you tell that I'm not just going to use you for my own purposes,
and maybe get back at someone I don't get along with?" Luna was asking.

"Because I've never heard any stories about you being vindictive. Odd
and withdrawn, yes. I don't think you could have hidden a vindictive
streak that effectively during your four years at Hogwarts, so that's a
check mark in your favour." He smiled a nasty smile as he finished,
"Besides, remember that I was sort of romantically linked to Miss
Hosepipe. She used me as a connection back to Cedric, and certainly
stood up for Edgecombe when Miss Edgecombe betrayed us all to Umbridge.
Again, from some knowledge of her, I choose to believe you."

Hermione was not entirely surprised to see tears come to Luna's eyes.
The look of panic in Harry's eyes was not all that surprising, either.
"Thank you, Harry," Luna said thickly. "I may be able to See things, but
it's not really 'on' all the time. I can be very surprised. You
surprised me." She took a deep breath. "I've overheard some of the
people actually planning things, not caring if I overheard it. It gets
worse if I make an effort to stop it, or hide the things I really want to
keep. That's part of the reason I wear mismatched things so often. They
either hide the matching items, or if they haven't, it keeps them from
destroying more. "

Hermione looked to Harry, and was shocked to see fury in his eyes. She
was also proud of him, and she turned to Luna. "We'll calm him down, all
of us, but you're one of us, Luna.   He's not furious at you, but furious
for you."

"This is going to stop!" he barked. "I don't care if I have to come
grovelling back to Dumbledore, but I am going to be at the school this
year, and I am going to put a stop to this harassment!" He gritted his
teeth, and Hermione winced as she actually heard them grinding. "No one,
and I mean no one performs that kind of harassment on my friends!" he
finally said again, dangerously quiet this time.

"Careful, love," Hermione said quietly.   "That temper of yours is a
dangerous weapon."

Harry shook his head, and the sense of raw angry power subsided.   "I'm
sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to scare anyone."

"I wasn't talking about that, Harry," Hermione said. She motioned with
her eyes at Luna, and then whispered in his ear, "Can we at least talk
about your building a harem?"

#####

He opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, his look of
shock and surprise was such that it made both Hermione and Tonks burst
out laughing. He looked at Luna, though, and developed a sick feeling in
his stomach. She'd found a hero, and he knew what that was like to deal
with, since Ginny never quite seemed to have gotten over him. "In an
attempt to get back on track, is it safe to say that 'Hosepipe' Chang was
one of those you overheard plotting the theft or demise of your
property?" Luna nodded.

He grinned evilly. "Well, I'd say that's another bit of ammunition I
have to use. I want Chang removed as prefect, and Head Girl, since I'll
bet she's been angling for that."

"Why do you need ammunition against our headmaster?" Luna asked, puzzled.

"That's something I'll explain in a more secure area." He looked at
Tonks. "I will explain it to both her and Neville. They were with us,
and deserve to know what they've gotten involved with."

"I know it has left a terrible burden on such a gentle soul," Luna said,
reaching a finger toward his chest again, but pulling back. She turned
to Hermione. "I'm sorry. I was just realizing how romantic that
movement can be, and he is your beloved."

They finished their ice cream over small talk, and headed back to the
Quibbler offices. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, Harry
grinned. "If things work out properly, Luna, I may be throwing a party
before school starts. If it comes to pass, would you complain about an
invitation for both you and your father?" He had his answer before she
spoke, and his heart went out to the poor girl. Not pity, because she
neither needed nor desired it. It was sorrow at the fact that such an
offer made her so happy.
When she spoke, it gave no hint of the excitement and joy that her face
had shown a moment earlier. "I would be honoured to be considered,
Harry, and hope that it can come to pass, and that we can attend." She
pulled his head down and kissed his cheek, which he returned. They
returned via portkey to Number twelve Grimmauld Place.

"Hermione, Tonks, I want you to know that I'm not trying to lead her on.
How do I make her see that?"

"I'd say just be yourself," Hermione said, "but that's what got you into
this position. I think honesty works best with that girl."

"I don't love her though.   What do I do if … I don't want to hurt her."

Tonks smiled and said, "Don't borrow trouble; it finds us all easily
enough as it is."

"Who's in trouble?" Ron said from a doorway.   "Harry!   Feeling better?"

"Harry's in trouble," Tonks said with a grin. "I'm afraid he's having my
baby." She tried to look innocent for a moment, but the looks, ranging
from flabbergasted (Ron) to amused outrage (Harry), were too much for
her, and she started laughing. "I'm sorry, but that was worth it, just
for the looks on your faces!"

#####

As the group sat later, decompressing, Albus Dumbledore came to the door.
"Harry? Might I speak with you for a while?"

"Yes, sir," Harry said, standing. Probably going to try to convince me
to come back to the school. I'm willing, but I want some things. He
followed the headmaster to the kitchen.

"Harry, I'm going to be honest with you – I'm hoping to convince you to
come back to Hogwarts for your final two years. Are you agreeable to at
least thinking about it?"

I was right! "Yes sir, I am. I will admit that I want a few concessions
before the agreement is finalized, but I think we can come to some middle
ground." He paused. "Two conditions are non-negotiable on my part, sir.
First is that if I must learn Potions, then I need to learn it from
someone other than Professor Snape. Note that I give him the respect you
feel he's due because of you, not because I think he actually deserves
it."

"Second is that if Cho Chang has any special duties this year, such as
prefect or Head Girl, I want them revoked. She has been one of the
plotters behind the disappearance and destruction of Luna Lovegood's
possessions, and I really don't think that sets a good example for the
other Ravenclaw students, or anyone else, for that matter."
"Are you sure that this isn't revenge for the break-up of your romance
last year? I understand that things did not end well."

Harry laughed. "Please! Just being with Hermione will be revenge enough
there. I gave up the girl that sits on the ten most beautiful Hogwarts
students list, to be with Hermione? Never mind the fact that I think
Hermione belongs in the number one spot. Besides, romance shouldn't be
based on a revenge factor."

"Forgive me, Harry; I needed to be sure." He scowled. "The problem with
having someone teach you Potions is the fact that Professor Snape is, in
fact, a Potions Master. That is not a title granted him by Hogwarts, it
is a title granted by peers in the Wizard community."

"He may be, sir, but there is no other head of house that is as blatant
in their favouritism in classes as he is. I've never heard complaints
from anyone concerning Professors Flitwick, MacGonagall, or Sprout
blatantly favouring Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, or Hufflepuff respectively.
Only Sn … Professor Snape makes his House affiliation obvious. He has
hated me because of my father for years. He started in on me my first
day at Hogwarts for not paying attention. I can remember exactly what I
had been doing that day – taking notes on what he was saying! I still
have those notes! And he accused me of not paying attention! I have
watched him sabotage various Gryffindor students potion efforts, but who
would believe a complaint by a student against a known disliked teacher?"

"And I still don't trust that he's completely on our side. He still has
access to Voldemort. How do we know that he's not feeding important
information the other direction as well? You tell me to trust him, sir.
Why? You can't tell me, because you're betraying a trust of his."

Harry stood and slammed his palms flat on the table. "This is my life
we're talking about here!" he screamed. "You are entrusting my
existence to a man in whom I have no confidence! I'm supposed to be the
last best hope for the Wizarding world, and I have to trust in a known
Death Eater, on your say so!"

He sat down again and said, "For that matter, given your actions last
year, what reason do I have to trust you?"

"How do you mean, Harry?" Dumbledore finally managed to say after several
moments of shocked silence.

"I know that you explained some of it to me immediately after Sirius
died. Even there, that shows some cunning planning. Catch me when I'm
at my most vulnerable, and tell me things guaranteed to calm me down and
make me feel both guilty and even a little bit better. That prefect
comment, for example, was below the belt."

He stood again and began to walk around the room. "This is turning into
a monologue on my part. Oh, well." He shrugged. "First I discover the
existence of a group called the Order of the Phoenix, whose existence is
supposed to be secret. I find out its purpose is the destruction of
Voldemort. Okay, that makes sense. I'm still a not an adult, so I'm not
really to be trusted with big secrets of the Order, because everyone
knows that as soon as you reach adulthood, you develop the ability to
keep your mouth shut about secrets, something no child in the history of
the universe is capable of, apparently. Remember all the teasing I've
taken over living in a cupboard for ten years?" he asked sarcastically.
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak, but Harry bulled on. "Ignoring
that, I discover at the end of the year about a prophecy regarding
Voldemort, and that he was after it. The person who had that prophecy
placed in the Ministry tells me of the prophecy; in fact, he shows me the
memory of it. All well and good, I suppose, except that the person who
knows this prophecy, and has since before Voldemort was defeated the
first time, also happens to be the head of the Order of the Phoenix. In
other words, the man who knew full well that I am the only means of
killing Voldemort, and has since the day I received this scar, has chosen
not to bring me fully into an organization whose stated aim is, for all
purposes that mean anything, helping me achieve my goal! Rather, it's
deemed that I should be fed information carefully, but for what purpose I
have no idea."

He sat back down. "Now, tell me again why I should trust that you have
my best interests at heart. Tell me why I should trust that you've told
me everything, as you said you were doing at the end of the last school
year, just a month ago. I can grant one reason for why I should continue
my schooling, in one way or another. I need to be able to learn
everything I can, just to get that bastard out of my life for good. No
one I care about is safe while Voldemort lives." He paused for a second.
"Well, to be honest, anyone having anything important to do with me,
because even the Dursleys aren't safe. Snape should be happy, though.
As long as Snake-Lips is alive, he's safe, because there's no way I can
see that I'll ever give a damn about him."

He looked at Dumbledore again. "I wasn't joking about those conditions,
or what I said earlier. Chang loses all special privileges, because I
got this information from Luna herself, and I've learned that she's not
the type to act on vindictiveness. She apparently decided that I'm her
champion, if Hermione read her right, when I decided that this was going
to stop and that I'd see to it! Professor Snape will not teach me
Potions, or anything else for that matter. And he keeps his distance
from me, because I am willing to risk Azkaban if I think that he's
threatening me." He stopped and stared at the headmaster. "So, what
deal can you put on the table?"

The headmaster looked at him for a long moment before speaking, starting
slowly. "I am uncertain as to whether it is a better idea to simply have
you return to school for your sixth year and find an alternate tutor for
Potions, or whether to work out an entire tutoring schedule within the
month we have left. I admit to a preference for the prior; we have
enough on our plates at the moment. Does this possibility meet with your
approval, Harry? If I locate a separate Potions teacher for you, will
you be willing to return?" He looked at Harry, who could see the old
familiar twinkle in his eyes.

Harry's eyes narrowed, and he began thinking about the past month at the
Dursley household, and was rewarded with a surprised blink from the
headmaster. "Hmm, I begin to understand something, sir, and I'm not sure
that I like it. Before I answer your question, may I ask you who will
teach me Occlumency, since I assume that it's still a concern?"

"You are learning, Harry," Dumbledore said with a smile.    "An Occlumency
teacher shall be found for you as well."

"As long as it's not my least favourite one, I'll probably be happy with
them. As for your plan, I see no real problems with coming back to
school. I will tell you, however, that if I discover Snape as my teacher
for anything, without a good reason beforehand, I will simply get up and
leave the classroom, even if it means my expulsion from Hogwarts."

"Isn't that a bit drastic, Harry?" Dumbledore admonished.

"Is it? He was screaming at the top of his lungs at the end of my third
year about how I must have been involved with Sirius' escape, when logic
said otherwise, as you pointed out to him. He has made no bones about
the fact, from my very first day in class, that he dislikes me. I said
it before – I have watched him destroy my Potions results. The feeling I
got from him during the Occlumency lessons was that he was seriously
trying to tear my brain apart. Unless I am given a good reason for him
being a temporary teacher, I will refuse to sit in a classroom with him."
He paused to calm down. "By the way, I didn't particularly appreciate
the ridicule he subjected me to with his Remedial Potions comment during
our last Occlumency lesson. Therefore, I think the option should be left
open for other students to take Potions from whomever you find to teach
me. I think you may find the response from that intriguing. If there
are more people in it than me, then I think I'm less likely to get
ridicule. They'll find something else to ridicule me for, I'm sure, but
I'll have stopped that angle, at least."

"Very well, I shall find a new Potions teacher for you, and whomever else
chooses to take classes with that teacher," came the headmaster's
response, laced with some asperity. "Are there further conditions?"

Harry snorted. "I'm sure I could come up with things, but that would be
abusing the privilege. Part of me wishes I could have been prefect, but
that would mean removing it from Ron, and I won't do that." He scowled.
"He's jealous enough of me for things I have no control over, I'll be
damned if I'm going to take away something he earned on his own."

"Laudable, Harry," Dumbledore smiled. "Given the trouble that seems to
follow you three, perhaps I should permit Gryffindor to have three
prefects this year?"

Harry laughed for the first time since they started. "Wouldn't that get
some people's knickers in a twist? I trust that you will do what you
think is best, but I do not want to be given something because you want
to make me feel better; I want whatever I get to be given because I
deserve the honour. Or the punishment, as the case may be." He stood.
"I agree to come back to school, under the conditions we set down." He
held his hand across the table, and Dumbledore shook it. "So, should we
give them a few moments to get away from the door as if they weren't
using the Extendable Ears to listen in?" Harry asked, and laughed as he
heard a sputter from outside the door.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 8
By Kinsfire
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Chapter VIII

Harry sat in the library, waiting for the clock to tick over to one
minute past midnight. He was quite certain that it would cause some
interesting conversation in the morning, when he informed them about the
contents of the packet that his parents had left for him.

The clock rang Westminster chimes as the midnight hour struck, and he
heard breathing in his ear, but couldn’t think for a moment since the
breathing was followed immediately by a gentle nibble to his earlobe.
“Wotcher, Harry,” whispered Tonks in his ear. He turned to look at her
and was greeted by a pair of soft lips. “Happy birthday,” she whispered
after kissing him thoroughly.

“Wow,” he responded quietly. “I can honestly say that’s the best present
I’ve ever received.” He watched her eyes move to the clock momentarily,
and wondered at the grin on her face.

“It gets better, Harry,” she said, pulling him to his feet. He noticed
that she was wearing a pretty wrap-around dress that was rather
pleasantly following her curves. She led him by the hand down to the
bedroom he’d found the papers in; the one that had so obviously been
Sirius’ room. “This will be your room when the will is read, since you
will be master of House Black. You might as well start using it
tonight.” She actually blushed at him. “I was thinking to finish giving
you my gift. Many boys consider that they’ve become a man the day they
first make love. Might I be permitted to make you a man?”

He gulped audibly. When he could finally find his voice, he said, “I
have to ask you a question, Tonks, and you’ll probably hate me for it.”

“Yes, Harry, I love you; that’s why I’m offering myself to you. You’re
young, but you’re man enough to ask a question too many others wouldn’t.
Besides - as soon as that clock was done chiming, you legally became an
adult.” She walked to him and put her arms around him, and kissed him
again. His reaction to it was rather embarrassingly obvious, and was
only made worse by her throaty chuckle. “I am not offended by your
question, because you show respect for both of us with it.” She backed
away from him. “I’m making something of an assumption here, but I feel
safe making it; if you wish to wait to give your virginity to Hermione, I
will understand it completely.” She blushed and looked to the floor. “I
would be honoured if you considered me, however.”

He stood in the room, looking at Tonks, not believing what he had just
been offered. Finally, in a somewhat incredulous voice, he asked, “You
really fancy me? You’re … turned on by the thought of being my lover?”
She looked up at him, and something in his face made her eyes light up in
wonder.

“Yes, Harry. I want to climb into that bed with you and make love to
you; feel you making me a woman." She paused and looked at him before
speaking again. "Let me phrase it differently, in hopes that you
understand me better. I desire you, Harry. I desire to be in that bed
with you, skin to skin, learning how it feels to be loved by a beautiful
man.”

He could feel his eyes shining. “I’m impressed with your willpower,
Tonks. A woman as beautiful as you could have her pick of men, and you
chose me to give your virginity to?”

“I’m not beautiful, Harry.”

“You are to my eyes, Nymphadora Tonks.”

Her hand shot to her chest, and she breathed out an “Oh my!” She looked
at him. “I’ve always hated my name. How is it you just said it and it
sent a thrill through me?”

He bit his lower lip before answering.    “Have you ever had someone who
loves you call you Nymphadora?”

Her eyes widened. “I think that’s it.”    Her eyes dropped a little sadly.
“I’m not a virgin, though.”

Harry looked at her, and studied how sad she seemed to be at that
pronouncement. Does it really matter? he thought. Is it really
important that she be as inexperienced as I am? He pondered for several
moments before making a decision that proved that he truly was a man.
“Nymph? Have you ever made love to me before?”

“No, of course not,” she replied, obviously puzzled.

“Then as far as I’m concerned, you’re a virgin. I don’t know about it;
it didn’t happen.” He laughed. “Even if it did, it’s not important. At
least this way, one of us knows what goes in whose ear.”

He found himself being roughly hugged. “Harry, every time you say
something like that, you just make me love you more.” She released him
and stood back, grinning. “Now, would the birthday boy care to unwrap
his present?” She held her arms out slightly, to make it easier to get
at the belt that wrapped around the dress.

He untied it and gently opened the dress to expose her nude body. “Oh
my,” he said, voice quavering slightly. “I think I understand the
concept of heaven now.”

“Harry,” she growled seductively, “you may not survive the night if you
keep saying things like that.”

#####

Harry opened his eyes to the feeling of weight on his right shoulder. He
looked to see Tonks resting there, eyes open, but still snoring gently.

She was currently dark haired, with skin so pale she almost seemed an
albino, but with startling eyes – one a shockingly bright violet, and the
other as brilliant an emerald colour as his own eyes were. Her face
could only be described as face shaped, rather than the usual heart shape
she showed the world, but he found her far more attractive, looking the
way she did asleep, than she did when awake.

He could see her body outlined under the sheet, and felt his heart leap
in his chest. Last night really happened! Someone loved me enough to
trust me with that gift. He brushed his lips against hers, pressing a
bit harder as she awakened. “Good morning, Nymph.”

“If I could wake up to that every morning, I could be happy with nothing
else,” she smiled sweetly at him. He watched her change before his eyes,
and his face must have fallen slightly, because she asked, “What’s wrong,
Harry?”

“You revert to your base form at night, don’t you?”

“I guess so.   For obvious reasons, I’ve never watched myself sleep.”

“I wish you could.   I’ll bet you’d fall in love with your own face, just
like I have.”

She smiled at him and visibly relaxed, and the face he awakened to
returned. “You really like the way I look? Even with my weird eyes?”

“You like the way I look? Even with my scar and wild hair that never
grows unless someone cuts it and can’t be controlled?”

Her eyes took on a calculating look, but she shook her head. “I have
some tests I’d like to run, but I think that we should get out of bed,
and perhaps get cleaned up.” She smiled demurely, which somehow made the
look remarkably erotic to Harry. “Third time’s the charm, lover. Need
someone to scrub your back?”

He climbed from the bed, his interest in what she had planned already
evident. “I think that would be an excellent idea.”
They stepped from the shower a time later, to find Hermione sitting on
the bed, and Harry wished he’d been standing behind Tonks at the time,
because he immediately reacted to the nightgown that Hermione was wearing
under her bathrobe – what there was of it. Hermione’s eyes widened at
the sight of his erection. “I was wondering if you were in here,” she
said in a quavering voice, seemingly unable to raise her eyes to his
face.

He moved behind Tonks.   “Umm, yes,” he said with a very embarrassed
laugh.

Her eyes shot to Tonks’ body, and she took in the hair, skin and eyes.
“Is that what you look like normally, Tonks?”

“Yeah. This maniac thinks it’s sexy, not that I’m complaining,” Tonks
replied, pressing herself backwards against Harry.

“Jeez, Tonks, we need to get to Gringott's sometime today,” he moaned.

“You’re the one with the incredible recovery time, lover,” she laughed.

“Well, I might not have recovered quite so fast if Hermione hadn’t come
in wearing a nightgown that should be illegal to wear, but isn’t, thank
God.” He looked to his still blushing friend. “What did Ginny say when
she saw you in that thing?”

“It’s what she didn’t say,” Hermione answered. “The conversation was
normal, but I think she was, um, interested in what she saw.” She stood.
“I should leave. I’m just intruding.” She started to leave, but Tonks
grabbed her arm and pulled her into an embrace.

Harry crossed his fingers and walked out from behind Tonks and moved
behind Hermione to hug her from the other side. His reaction to her had
not subsided yet, and she gasped when she felt it against her, but
unconsciously pressed back against him. He moaned in her ear and pressed
forward.

"Yessss …" she hissed.   "I need you both.   Please?"

"We'll need to get moving," Harry groaned in her ear. "I don't want our
first time together to be a quick one. You deserve more. I'll go get
changed, and let Tonks bring you down, okay?" He kissed her ear. "Not
for lack of wanting, Hermione. Please believe that."

She pressed back again. "I do, Harry.    Later, then."   She turned around
and kissed Harry thoroughly.

I’m going to wake up some time soon and discover that last night was
actually an incredibly vivid dream, and that nothing since midnight has
really happened. He quietly made it to the room he was supposed to be
sharing with Ron and slid through the door to find him still snoring. He
rapidly changed his clothing and then began to move around the room at a
normal noise level. Ron’s response was to put a pillow over his head and
groan. Harry chuckled and put his watch on, noting that the time was
about seven AM. Hmm, slept late this birthday.    Well, I had reason to,
he grinned to himself.

He left the room to almost run into a rather dishevelled Hermione, who
was glowing. “You go get dressed; I need to talk to you and Tonks in a
bit.”

“Why? she finally asked.

“How open is our relationship going to be? Think about it while you’re
getting dressed.” She nodded and rushed off to the room she shared with
Ginny.

Tonks stepped out of Sirius’ room with a smile, which widened when she
saw Harry. “Willing to kiss me where we might get caught?” she asked.

“I’d be willing to kiss both you and Hermione publicly, if it wouldn’t
lead to nasty stories about you in the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly.
That's why I need to talk to the both of you, together. How open are we
going to be? Are we going to try to keep it quiet; are we going to let
the Order members know; are we going to be open enough that pictures do
show up in the Daily Prophet? I'd have no problem with the latter,
except for the fact that I will not have the two of you exposed to
ridicule. Again, in Hermione's case."

Tonks looked at him and broke into an open grin. "I'll bet you don't
even realize how attractive you are to us, purely because you think
things like that." She leaned forward and kissed him briefly.

Hermione finally stepped   from her room, somehow looking even more
dishevelled, wearing the   dress she'd worn when Harry arrived. His jaw
dropped, now that he was   in a mood to appreciate it. "Jesus, girl," he
croaked. "I'm not going    to be able to hide what you do to me if you wear
that all day!"

"That's my decision," she smiled. "I want to be kissed by you at the
breakfast table. And I won't complain if you kiss Tonks as well,
although that's her decision."

Tonks laughed, then mock-pouted.   "I'll be hurt if you don't kiss me at
the table."

He looked at them both very carefully. "So you don't mind the people in
this house knowing that the three of us are in a relationship?" He
looked directly at Hermione. "What about Ron? I'm pretty sure he
fancies you, you know."

"He's my friend, and I'll admit that he can certain do things to make my
heart race, especially when he's got his shirt off, but sexual attraction
is not enough to start a relationship. I love you, Harry. I'm just
attracted to him." She was blushing furiously by the end of her comment.
"I don't believe I just said that," she smiled under her breath.
He pulled her to him and kissed her. "Now I'm definitely glad I failed a
week ago. I'd never have gotten to be this happy." I'm just worried
that something's going to bring it to an end. I'll enjoy it while it's
here, though. "You know that this becoming public puts you both in
extreme danger." He turned to Tonks. "You can get some serious problems
from the Ministry. Please think carefully about making the relationship
public; I don't want you getting problems on your job. Especially while
Fudge is still in charge."

"You're not ashamed of us, are you?" Hermione asked in a small voice.

He smiled. "Hermione, if you both don't mind the world knowing, then
I'll give an exclusive interview to the Quibbler about it. I will never
be ashamed of the two of you. I'm worried about your reputations. Do
you want more Howlers at the breakfast table at Hogwarts?"

"If I know you love me, I can deal with them."   She looked at him, eyes
shining.

"Good.   I'll scream it from the rooftops, if you'd like," he laughed.

"Only if we're making love at the time," she quipped.   "I'll settle for
escorting me to breakfast right now."

"Done, my lady. How about you, Tonks?" Her answer was to crook her arm,
which he took, and the three of them walked downstairs to the dining
area.

Eyebrows raised as he escorted the two girls through the door, and then
seated them, kissing them deeply once they were seated. He then took the
seat between them.

"Where's Ron?" Molly asked finally, giving both Tonks and Hermione
disapproving looks.

"Last I saw him," Harry laughed, "he had a pillow over his head,
grumbling about being awakened by morning people. I assume he was going
to make an effort to go back to sleep."

"Well, he needs to get up. This is going to be a busy day." She looked
back to Hermione. "Given what needs doing around here, I think that
dress is somewhat inappropriate."

Harry interrupted. "Well, since cleaning needs to be done, once my
girlfriends and I get back from Gringott's and other points we need to
visit today, we'll change and help clean."

The silence in the room was deafening, and Harry worked extremely hard to
keep from laughing uproariously at the looks on everyone's faces.
Finally, Remus said in a voice unusually timid for him, "Correct me if
I'm wrong, Harry, but did you just use the word 'girlfriend' in plural?"

Harry finally laughed. "Yes, professor, I did. Calling them my lovers
would have been inaccurate, and as true as it might be, beloveds just
sounds a little odd." He completely lost it then, leaning forward into
his hands as he laughed until his sides hurt.

"What's up?" Ron said in a bleary voice.   "Care to share the joke, chum?"
he asked with a smile.

Harry's demeanour changed immediately. I've been dreading this. As Ron
headed for an empty spot at the table, his eyes took in what Hermione was
wearing and widened. "You're not planning on going out dressed like
that, are you?" he asked, although it was fairly obvious that he wasn't
really asking her a question.

Before Hermione could respond, Harry said, "Ron, that's her decision,
isn't it? She wants to dress up in a very attractive dress and make us
drool, well, I know I'm not going to complain."

"Besides," Hermione said in a somewhat snippy voice, "shouldn't that be
my boyfriend's decision as to whether or not he wants me to wear it?"
She reached out and took Harry's hand. "What do you think, Harry?
Should I wear it?"

"I don't think when you're wearing that dress, which I'd imagine is its
purpose. If you don't mind being looked at, then I don't mind doing the
looking." He smiled at her and received a bright smile back.

Ron was turning various shades between red and purple as he watched the
display. Finally he exploded. "How long have you been hiding this from
me?" he bellowed finally.

Harry took a deep breath through his nose, and his response   was chill.
"If you're referring to our romantic relationship, I didn't   find out her
feelings for me until yesterday at St. Mungo's, which means   that I don't
believe that you have all that much of a right to get angry   at me. And
I'll thank you to keep your temper around her as well."

"As will I, Ronald," Tonks said quietly. "Neither of us will take very
kindly to you yelling at our girlfriend." Harry looked at Tonks in
surprise. Tonks replied by saying, "I had her permission, if it came
up."

He smiled. "Well, then, I guess it's time to lower everyone's opinion of
me a little more than it already is. I am making it official – these two
ladies that have informed me they love me, and wish to be my girlfriends.
I am both surprised and happy about this. They apparently have no
problems with sharing me, and I'm certainly not going to argue with them.
I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts." He turned and kissed both ladies
gently on the lips. As his lips touched Hermione's, Ron stood and
stormed from the room. "Well, he took it better than I expected," Harry
said. "I can expect that I'm not going to be on speaking terms with him
for a while, though. I think he took it as a given that Hermione was
his."

"Perhaps if he'd ever done more than argue with me, I might have
considered him. The one time he asked me out, I was a last resort."    She
sounded more than a little angry herself.   "I am not property for him to
decide who has me!"

The door opened, and Ginny walked through. Harry winced, remembering the
crush that Ginny had admitted to. He was fairly certain she was still
sweet on him, given her comments from the previous day, and he hated the
idea of breaking her heart. She took a look at the three of them, and
snorted. "Now I understand why ickle Ronnie is in a snit. I'm jealous
of you two, but I'm not going to get so angry that I run the risk of
ruining a five year friendship."

She walked over to Hermione and said extremely quietly in her ear, but
loud enough for Harry to hear, "However, if you ever decide to add
another girl to the mix, I wouldn't mind be considered. Please laugh as
if I told you a really bad joke." Hermione thought for a split second,
and then laughed.

Harry snorted his own laughter. He actually was amused, and it got the
better of him, His head went forward into his hands again, and he shook
with silent laughter, punctuated with the occasional quiet snort. When
he looked up, Ginny was sitting where Ron had sat, and was looking at him
with raised eyebrows. "Sorry, Ginny. I don't know if I was supposed to
overhear. I don't think I was supposed to get the joke, but it struck me
funny."

"You sure you're okay, Harry, if you're getting girl humour?" she grinned
at him.

"Why do you think we love him?" Tonks laughed. She whispered extremely
quietly in his ear, "You'll have to tell me what she said that was so
funny."

The meal began in earnest at that point. Molly looked over at the three
and said, "I thought better of you, Nymphadora, than to get involved in
such immoral silliness. It's bad enough that children are wearing such
outlandish and revealing clothing, but to get involved in a relationship
with them both before they have any real idea of what love is?"

Harry inhaled deeply and bit down the explosive insult he wanted to level
at the woman. Instead, he turned to Hermione and said conversationally,
"Isn't it amazing when people like Petunia Dursley and others of her ilk
know what's bet for the world and everyone in it, and have no problem
with telling the world how to fix it? And how they seem to think that if
the conversation isn't aimed at them, that the people it's about can't
hear what's being said?"

Hermione was alternating between turning red in anger and white in horror
at the bridge that was being demolished before her very eyes. Harry
turned and looked at Molly directly. "Remember, Mrs. Weasley, at least
this time, the scarlet one in the group is me. I'm at the centre of
this, and I choose to be. Any complaints you have about this
relationship will come to me before you take it out on these ladies. Do
I make myself clear?"
Molly drew herself to full height in her chair and responded in high
dudgeon. "I have given you a great deal of leeway given your upbringing,
but I will not sit here and be lectured to by a child, especially about
matters he knows nothing about!"

"Yet you'll sit there and lecture adults about a subject you know nothing
about!" he barked back at her. "I saw how you treated the owner of this
house last year at this time, and it bothered me then. Are you going to
give me or Remus that attitude? If I know Sirius, it'll end up with one
of us. A werewolf and someone you obviously consider a pervert. Think
about that for a while, Mrs. Weasley." He stood quickly. "Well, I have
an appointment or two at Gringott's. Ladies? Care to accompany me?"

Molly's mouth set in a thin line, and Harry stood, followed by Tonks and
Hermione. "We're off to Gringott's." He left the kitchen and headed
upstairs into the shared room. "Let me get my backpack, and we'll head
out. I can put our robes in them." He opened the door to find Ron
scowling at the door as it opened. His scowl deepened as he got a good
look at the hemline of Hermione's dress.

"Going out to find a hotel for the day?" he snarled at Harry.

Harry grabbed his bookbag and shoved his robe in it. "I know what you're
hinting at, Ron, and I'd advise you to stop that line of thought."

"Or else what?"

"What do you think 'or else' means, you jerk? You're pissed at me for
getting something you wanted. Did you ever actually tell Hermione you
felt that way, or was she simply supposed to sit around and wait for your
declaration of love? And did you ever actually think about her feelings
in the midst of all this? She's not an object to do with as you will,
Ron. She's a living breathing woman with decisions of her own to make,
and assuming that she'd sit around waiting for you is possiblyt one of
the most insulting things you've done to either her or me. I mean, that
Tri-Wizard thing was pretty damned insulting to me, but this is beyond
the pale. Try thinking for once in your damned life, you prat."

He stepped back into the hall to the wide eyes of Hermione, who was
carrying her robe rolled neatly under her arm. "I was letting him know
that it is possible to push me too far, and that I'm starting push back.
If he's going to start insulting you because you're with me, he'd best
make sure he's got enough teeth to spare." He looked down at his white-
knuckled hands. "Let's go get your robes, and get out of here." He
unclenched his fists slowly.

They quickly grabbed their robes and approached the door, where they
found Remus and Molly waiting. "Remus is coming with you. You need two
adults with you."

Harry looked to Tonks, who grinned and nodded. Harry returned the grin.
"Don't worry, Hermione will have two adults with her." He motioned to
the package of papers that he carried with him. "According to papers
done up by my parents back when they were uncertain of their fate, they
granted me legal emancipation. In all but very specific things that I
currently have no interest in, I am able to run my affairs as an adult.
I'm tempted to do a Lumos spell just for the hell of it, because I can."

Hermione cleared her throat. "By the way, Harry - I have that wand that
Sirius left you. I'll give it to you later."

"I was just thinking about that, and where it had gotten to." He was
bemused by the blush on her face. He looked back to Molly and Remus.
"Under normal circumstances, sir, I'd ask you along, but this is a point
where I think I need to begin to assert my independence. If one of the
things in my parents' vault is what I think it is, I'll invite you out to
Potter's Field soon."

Remus snorted. "I'd forgotten that your family called it that. If I
know James, you've got that waiting for you. I look forward to visiting
you, Lord Potter." He turned to Molly and carefully but firmly took her
arm and led her away, listening to her sputter.

"I feel sorry for Remus," Tonks said.   "He's going to get an earful
soon."
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 9
By Kinsfire
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Chapter IX

At Gringott's, once the paperwork was verified against the copies that
they had (and a key had materialised from the paperwork in Harry's
possession), a goblin named Sojak led them to the carts, and took them
down to the Potter family vaults. The ride took some time, because Harry
was surprised to find how deep in the bowels of the earth his family's
vault was. "What does the numbering mean, Sojak?" he asked their goblin
guide. It had become warm enough, this deep within the world, that all
three of them opened their robes to cool off as best they could.

"There is no real importance to the numbering. As far as the first one
hundred, they are for the oldest of the pure blooded families. The first
four wait for the heirs to the Hogwarts founders to arrive and claim the
contents." The goblin's eyes sparkled for a moment, as if a secret joke
was in his mind.
The cart continued to roll along, surprising them a few times with sight
of dragons in the distance. When they reached 100, he started
recognizing family names: Nott, Parkinson, Goyle. "Oh how the mighty
have fallen," Harry laughed at the last name. "A little too much
inbreeding, apparently." He was interested in the fact that he did not
see the Malfoy name before reaching his families vaults at number 37.
"Damn, I didn't realize how old the Malfoys must be, if they're between
five and thirty-six," he murmured.

Sojak made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. "I do not
break a confidence to tell you that the Malfoy vaults are placed above
vault one hundred. They are not as ancient as some would have others
wizards believe."

Sojak climbed from the car and smiled, which was more than a little
frightening, given the number of sharp teeth contained within a goblin
mouth. "Lamp, please." Harry handed the lantern to Sojak and then
helped Hermione and Tonks from the car, his eyebrows rising when he saw a
bit more thigh than perhaps Hermione had intended. "Key, please," Sojak
intoned to the flustered Harry.

Once the key was in Sojak's hand, he performed the ritual Harry had seen
before at his own personal vault, but added one thing. "Please place
your right palm flat within that circle,"" Sojak said, pointing at a
large ornate circle carved into the door. As Harry did this, he felt his
hand stick to the surface, and the circle lit up. "State your full name,
please," Sojak intoned again.

"Harry James Potter." At the last syllable, the inner workings of the
door clicked, and the vault opened. Harry nearly fainted at the vision
before him. The room was lit from within, not by torches, but by some of
the items stored within. The size of the vault surprised him as well,
and he laughed. "The space in here is easily two or three times that of
the entirety of the Dursley square meterage! And it's my family's bank
vault! If they had only known," he laughed, a not entirely nice sounding
laugh. He walked inside to a piece of statuary; a familiar looking nude
woman, quite beautiful (and very sexy, he had to admit), in the classical
style. It was holding an envelope, and as he got closer, she winked and
handed him the envelope, and then returned to her classical pose,
although the eyes continued to look at him.

Harry,

Rather than your father this time, this letter is from me. I hope you'll
put the statue that handed you this letter in a place where you can see
it regularly. Then I can feel that I'm always watching over you. Yes, I
was the model for the sculptor. I hope this doesn't embarrass you too
much. I was never terribly ashamed of my body, and if you've grown up
looking anything like your father, then you definitely have nothing to be
ashamed of either. (Unless you still have those carrots in your hair.)

If you're reading this, then we were not around to watch you grow up.
For that I can never apologize enough. As your father has said, know
that we love you, even from beyond.
I don't know how old you were when we died, or whether or not you'd been
told of your emancipation in the event of our deaths. The fact that
you're here now tells me that you know now, however. We both hope that
Sirius did a good job raising you. I do know that we had conversations
about him legally adopting you if what we feared came to pass, so I'm
hoping that this letter is being read by not only a Potter, but a Black.
Yes, that means that your father and I will not hate you if he adopted
you. He might be silly at times, but there is no one I would trust at my
back more than him, at least as far as you're concerned.

What you see in this vault is the entirety of the belongings of all the
generations of the family Potter, plus a few things of my own. There are
magical weapons of many sorts in here, furniture, and at least twenty
chests of various jewelry. I have word from your father that if there is
anyone special in your life, you may feel free to give them what you wish
from any but the seven silver chests. Those must stay within the Potter
family. (All that jewelry is magical, so you can imagine the curses if
someone who is not your wife wears something from that selection.)

Enough with the things that might scare. The contents of this    room also
contain the entirety of the family records insofar as business   concerns
and other monetary information. At the time we placed them in    this
vault, there were seven crates of records. If the economy has    been kind,
both here and around the world, you may find considerably more   than
seven.

He looked around, and noted that the number of crates that seemed to hold
records now numbered twenty. He also noted that the statue had changed
position and was now holding out its other hand. When he reached up,
'she' handed him a ring.

If I know human nature, Harry, you looked around and saw the crates. You
may have also noted that the statue has moved again, to give you the
Potter family signet ring. While most rings of this sort aren't usually
worn at all times, this one is designed to be worn with everyday
clothing. It also happens to be a personal portkey to the Potter family
manor, which James and his family before him had taken to calling
Potter's Field. You are now the sole owner of this home, and lord of the
surrounding area. Yes, Harry, you are now Baron Harry James Potter.
Please don't lord it over too many people. (Pun intended.)

Surprised to discover that your Mum had as bad a sense of humour as your
father? I was the unknown Marauder, and the reason some of their schemes
blew up in their faces. You have quite the legacy to live up to. Or
down to, as the case may be.

One more thing. Please touch this note with the ring when you're done
reading it, and state your name. A further bit of information will come
to you that even your father has no access to. Let's just say that you
have a distinguished heritage. I'll leave the rest for you to learn.

There is so much that I would love to say to you, but I can't in a
letter. Perhaps when you take possession of Potter's Field, you can hang
the painting that is in this vault – a wizard portrait of your father and
me. Yes, it talks, but it is currently spelled inactive. You will find
the spells necessary to deactivate a portrait and reactivate it attached
to it, in case you need to move our portrait again. Remember one thing,
Harry – it will be us, but not us. If you have not seen us for years, do
not forget to live. We will be proud of you, but we are gone.

One thing never to forget, my darling son. Your father and I love you
very much, and will even into the next world. We are watching you in
whatever way we can.

With deepest love,

Lily

Tears came to his eyes, and he cried for a time; a mixture of sorrow and
joy at parents lost once again, yet found for the first time. He felt
Tonks and Hermione come in and rest their heads on his shoulders.

When he was able to look around without crying again, he found himself
wondering where to start. "How in hell am I going to get all this stuff
out to the Potter home? For that matter, how much of it should actually
go out there? I think I should look at the place first." He looked up
at Sojak. "What happens if I remove everything from the vault? Does it
stop being the Potter vaults?"

"Oh no, Lord Potter," Sojak replied. "The vault fees are taken from the
money in the center of the room. I do not believe you would find it
comfortable removing that much money to your home." He looked in the
direction that Sojak pointed, and nearly lost control of certain bodily
functions when he saw the money involved.

"Holy … how much money is that?"

"There should be a precise listing on the podium next to the coins, which
will be replaced automatically should you remove that copy. I would
recommend you keep that, by the way – it will update regularly when the
amount changes, even if it is no longer in the vault. As for your other
question – well, a specialized portkey system was created for Gringott's
– you can regularly place items in the vault via a process you will find
in those boxes over there, which are the inventory of items in this room.
If you know precisely what you are requesting, you may also remove
objects directly from the vault via the same process." He walked over to
the many boxes and took a thin envelope from the top of the nearest box.
"These are instructions from your parents. They include the instructions
for removing and placing items back within the vault. I would recommend,
Lord Potter, that if something is truly valuable and unique, and small
enough to be carried, that you make the effort to come to Gringott's with
the item, rather than trusting a portkey. It has not happened yet, but
it is theoretically possible to lose something in transit."

"Thank you, Sojak. I appreciate it." He looked at the letter from his
mother, looked at the ring, and placed the ring on his right index finger
before pressing it to the letter and saying "Harry James Potter." A new
set of lines from his mother appeared, and the statue handed him another
ring.

You will undoubtedly recognise the insignia on the ring. Slide it onto
the same finger as the Potter ring. They will, for lack of a better
term, time-share the space on your finger. When you need to have the
Ravenclaw ring be prominent, simple think of it, and it will come to the
fore.

You receive this ring through my family, Harry. I was not as Muggle-born
as people thought. I was the first since my great-great-grandparents
time to have magic, however. This passes down through the men in the
line, so I never knew what was in the vault. Greeat-great-grandpa
Wilberforce was too old and feeble to claim it when he found out. Thus
it falls to you.

If it was important enough for Rowena Ravenclaw to leave behind in the
vault, then I should think that you'd want to know about it yourself,
since you'll need all the help you can get.

That reminds me - there is a Prophecy out there about you. If you have
to, sit on Dumbledore's chest and find a way to force him to tell it to
you. You need to know it.

"Interesting. Sojak, could you take me to Vault Number Two?"     Both Tonks
and Hermione blinked at him. "That's what Mum told me."

Harry placed some small items that he felt would be important soon into
the book bag, along with the paperwork. He had nearly fainted when he
saw the amount listed in pure cash, and knew that he'd need to talk to
the goblins at the front desk when he got back topside. He handed the
sheet to Hermione, and heard a gasp, followed by Tonks' whistle when she
looked over Hermione's shoulder. "I think I need the same kind of
accounting from my upper vault; the one that's purely mine."

"Easily done, Lord Potter.   Shall we visit your other vault?"

"Not yet.   We need to see Vault Two first."

"That was the one I was speaking of, Lord Potter."

"Please, Sojak, call me Harry, if you're going to call me anything. I
haven't grasped what I read there, and I don't exactly want it going to
my head."

"Yes, Harry," came Sojak's repsonse. They climbed back into the rail car
and rolled down the tracks until they ended in front of what seemed to be
a single vault. As he looked, Harry realized that it was actually four
vaults, cleverly designed to look like a single vault. "None of the
Founders left large amounts of items in the vaults. Each left something
that they felt a later generation might need."

Harry stepped from the car again, and once again enjoyed the view as he
helped Hermione from the car. I'll have to admit to ogling her later,
but I think she'll forgive me. I hope she will, at least. As he stepped
closer, he knew whose vault belonged to whom, with the emblems each had
emblazoned on them.

He had been expecting to discover that Vault Two was Godric Gryffindor's,
especially after the sword incident during the year of the Chamber of
Secrets. That vault was Number One. Two had the image of a raven upon
it, Three had a badger, and Four the symbol of a serpent. On a whim, he
said "Open," to the fourth vault in Parseltongue, and all were surprised
to hear clicking coming from the door.

"Place your hand upon the door, Harry," Sojak said, an interested look on
his face. He found a similar circle to the one on his family vault, and
placed his hand there.

Who are you? came a voice in Parseltongue.

Harry James Potter, he responded in kind.

How come you to this Vault?

I was sent here for another Vault, and spoke Parseltongue to this door on
a whim. No disrespect was intended, nor was theft.

You both are and are not the Heir to Salazar Slytherin.   Explain.

I was touched by the last Heir to Slytherin fifteen years ago.   He passed
things along to me he never intended, such as my Parseltongue.

That gift is yours, not a transference.   Does the last Heir still exist?

Not in the form he once was.   He has returned to a body through vile dark
magics.

He worships the Dark?

I suppose that you could say that. He had been all but killed and
performed a ritual to bring himself back into a physical body.

Do you know it?

Vaguely. I was forced to be part of it, unfortunately. Something about
'bone of the father', I remember 'flesh of the servant, willingly given'
and 'blood of the enemy, forcibly taken'. I was the enemy.

That is truly Dark magic. He no longer qualifies for the title. You are
now truly the last heir to Slytherin, then. Enter freely. With that
exchange, the door opened to show a small room, containing a simple
podium with five large books upon it, and a parchment. A ring with the
Slytherin crest materialised on the parchment, and Harry picked it up and
slid it to time-share with the other two rings.
May these serve you well. They are enchanted to shrink at my Heir's
command. They will return to this vault when the Heir's male issue
fails.

Salazar Slytherin

"Holy shit," he breathed. "Workbooks and his journal." He touched the
emblem on each book and shrank them, placing the far more manageable
books in his backpack, and then turning back to the door with a stunned
look on his face.

"It rejected Tom, and declared me the rightful Heir, because of what was
passed to me. It rejected him because he is dark. I need to do some
serious rethinking about Slytherins now." He almost staggered to the
second vault. Placing his hand upon the circle, he stated his name. No
conversation this time, merely a glow that preceded his entry into that
vault. Again was a podium with books and a note.

Greetings, my descendent!

I hope that you find my books intriguing. My journal is merely a history
of the school that we four founded. The others are my spell research and
Potions research notebooks. I am particularly proud of my research
notes. I hope they will serve you well in your efforts.

The dagger is my personal one. It is balanced for throwing and charmed
to return when thrown, either by calling it, or (less likely) when
missing your target. I have also charmed it to aid in my Potions making.
You will find more precise information on that function in the spell
research notebook.

Rowena Ravenclaw

He touched the raven emblem on each of them, almost caressing it, and
each book shrank to manageable size. "Wow," was all he could say for a
while.

"What are they?" Hermione asked him. "Are you going to need help with
them?" He could see her eyes light up at the possibility of reading
works written by two of the founders of Hogwarts.

"I get to check them out first," he laughed. "After all, I'm the one
that Rowena Ravenclaw left her research notes for."

Her eyes grew wide. "She left you her notes on spell research? That
means you have a course in spell design in there as well, if you know
what you're looking at."

He looked to Sojak. "What happens if someone not the heir of the
original owner presses their palm to the circle and isn’t the one
intended?"

"Nothing.   It simply will not open."
"May I try on the other two, then?   Given the way my life has been
recently …"

Sojak laughed. "Feel free. I already have a surprise to tell them about
above. We knew of Vault Two, but not Four. If you open all of them?
Who knows what you shall find?"

Neither vault opened at Harry's touch, but he was surprised in both cases
to have a name come to his mind after the glow faded. Vault Three made
him think of Susan Bones, and Godric Gryffindor's vault caused him to
think of Charlie Weasley.

"Interesting," he murmured. "If that means what    I think it does, then I
am in school with the Heir of Hufflepuff. Well,    I'm the heir of two
houses." He shook his head. "Let's go check on     my other vault. Gah.
If Ron was jealous before, what's he going to be   like now that I'm a
frigging Baron?"

Tonks just whistled tunelessly. "It gets worse Harry. It gets worse.
You find that out at Sirius' will reading in a week or so."

A few minutes later, they were at Harry's vault, which he now realized
was more of a trust fund for him. As he expected, the money contained
inside didn't look as if it had diminished; in fact, it appeared that it
had actually increased. He took the sheet of paper that gave an
accounting of the contents and added it to the other paperwork. "Now we
go back topside and I work out a method of getting at this money without
having to come down here all the time."

Back topside, he was led by Sojak toward an office. As he approached, it
he thought he recognized the goblin outside the door. "Excuse me, sir?"
he asked. "I was wondering, since you look familiar – is your name
Griphook?"

The goblin looked quite surprised, as did all within earshot. "Why yes,
Lord Potter. I will admit to surprise that you remember my name."

"True, since the last time I remember seeing you was five years ago, when
I was eleven years old."

"No. The fact that you considered it worthwhile to remember a goblin's
name. Most wizard's do not bother."

"That's our Harry for you," Tonks said. "Smart as a whip, and caring as
all get out." Her eyes twinkled with an unspoken comment, and the goblin
smiled as Harry blushed.

"How may we be of service?" Griphook asked.

"I'm hoping to make it a little easier to get access to my money, both
here and in the Muggle side."

"Ah, yes, they will be able to help you.   Please, go before me."
"No sir. You were waiting to speak with whomever is in that office when
I came up. I wait my turn, as I should." He heard the murmur of
surprised goblin voices, and someone exited the office.

"Griphook? Lord Potter? Come inside." All four of them entered the
office, and Griphook delivered his paperwork, bowing before Harry on his
way out.

"It was good to see you again, Griphook," Harry said as the goblin exited
the room.

The goblin who had invited them into his office looked at him for a long
moment. "My name is Kazar," he finally said. "I will admit to some
surprise, Lord Potter, for many things. First, you manage to open two of
the Hogwarts Founders vaults, when we knew of only one of them being
yours."

"Well, I actually had a whim to speak Parseltongue to the door, and it
responded. It declared me the rightful heir to Salazar Slytherin,
although I do not actually share his blood."

"Intriguing.   Might I assume that it has something to do with that scar?"
Kazar asked.

"You'd be right.   What was your other surprise, if I might ask?"

"That you bothered to remember any of our names.   That is not a common
thing for wizards to do."

"Harry is anything but a normal wizard," Hermione said proudly, hugging
his arm for just a moment.

"I am gathering that," Kazar said with a many-toothed smile. "Now, what
services may this bank perform for you?" Harry explained his desire to
be able to more easily get at his money in both wizarding and Muggle
circles, and Kazar smiled. "That is easy, and shall be prepared for you
before you leave for the day. There is a usually a nominal fee for the
conversion to Muggle money, but given the degree of wealth that you have
come into, I believe that we can waive that. Is there anything else we
can do for you, Lord Potter?"

"Other than calling me Harry?" he laughed. He thought for a moment.
"Actually, yes. I need a good accounting firm, and potentially an
investment advisor. Do you perhaps have any recommendations?"

A pin dropping in that office might well have deafened everyone. "What?
If I said something offensive, Kazar, please forgive me. I haven't been
…"

"Are you stating that you trust us with your money as more than merely a
holding agency, Lord … Harry?" Kazar asked significantly.

"It would only make sense.   A bank has to make money somehow, or else
it's a losing proposition.   Loans only do so much, so investments make up
whatever difference, right?" Kazar nodded. "If I can't trust the
accountants and investment people that the goblins use, then who can I
trust?"

"You are aware that we could steal you blind, if you gave us that degree
of control over your money?"

"Why would you? Word would get out eventually, and you'd be no longer
trusted as the bankers for the wizarding world in Europe. It's actually
in your best interest, pun intended, to leave my money mine, and make
money hand over fist by investing right, and taking the fees from that,
which I understand can get quite impressive." He smiled.

Kazar smiled again. "Harry, I believe that we can come to an agreement
on this. We will give you some information on our investment services,
and you can contact us again once you have made a decision. As for
access to your money in the Muggle world, do you understand the Muggle
concept of what they refer to as a debit card?" He laughed and nodded.
"We can set one up for each of your vaults, or we can combine the two
vaults, if you so desire."

Harry thought for a moment before saying, "Let me keep the vaults
separate. I may someday have children, and I can use the vault I've
known about for the past five years as a fund for them."

"Very well. We can set up cards and pouches for each separate vault.
All you need to do with the pouches is state what amount you wish to
remove, and then reach in. The pouch will always seem empty, and will
stop dispensing coins at the specified amount."

"Are they set up for anyone to use them, or only me?"

"Default is the vault owner only."

"Can you set them both up to allow these two ladies to access them as
well?" Tonks gasped loudly.

"Are you sure, Harry? That was … well, that was a lot of money down
there. You're trusting us with a lot."

"I'm trusting you with the most important thing I have, Nymph. If I can
trust you with my heart, then I think I can trust you with my money." He
smiled at her.

She shook her head in disbelief.   "Still …"

"Seriously, if it bothers both of you, I can drop that request."

Hermione spoke up quietly. "I think that if you want to do this, then
give us access only to your personal vault, not the Potter family one.
That one should only be opened to us if we get married." He thought for
a moment, and when Tonks nodded her agreement, made the change with
Kazar.
As they left, Kazar grinned again. "It will be a pleasure doing business
with you, Lord Potter." He bowed before Harry.

"And I'm certain I shall enjoy my business dealings with you, sir," he
replied, bowing in return. An excited murmur ran through the goblins in
view.

As they left the bank, Hermione said excitedly, "You just advanced
wizard/goblin relations about a hundred years, Harry! More! You treated
them as equals, rather than servants, as most wizards seem to." She
grinned and hugged his arm. "Status is very important to goblins, and
wizards seem to instinctively know this, and treat them as servants. By
treating them as an equal, especially since you are Heir to three very
important lines …"

"Four," Tonks corrected simply.

"… four," Hermione accepted, "since you're heir to those lines, and at
least two of them have noble titles, well, you're treating them as equal
to you, Harry. Not just equal to a wizard, but equal to a powerful
wizard."

"Makes sense, though, doesn't it? They're thinking beings, why not give
them respect? They handle our money, and could rob the entire wizarding
world blind if not for their sense of honour." He shrugged. "Let's head
off to Ollivander's for a new wand or two for me. That reminds me –
where did the one Sirius left for me go to?"

She blushed again. "I'll want to have you go after it later," she said
quietly. She undid her robe slightly to show her cleavage. "Look
closely."

He did as she asked, trying not to be obvious about it, since they were
in public. He noticed the handle end of a wand nestled between her
breasts. "Damn, what a lucky wand," he murmured with a smile.

Tonks chuckled. "You seem to have that sort of luck with your wands,
Harry," she said with a purr. He blushed furiously, followed soon by
Hermione, once she realized what Tonks had meant.

He resolutely ignored the flaming of his ears and face as he walked
toward Ollivander's, although he was laughing to himself. By the time he
had reached the door, he had been joined by the girls, and they had each
wrapped an arm around his waist. "I just hope you two don't end up with
problems from the public for being seen with me. With luck, they'll
ridicule me and leave you alone."

"Why are you so worried about us being ridiculed, Harry?" Hermione asked
him.

"Because I can't stand the idea of you being subjected to hate mail
again. I'm used to people hating me, but seeing you in our fourth year,
when all those Howlers came berating you for leading me on – I was too
stupid about things at the time to say much about it, but it was killing
me, Hermione." He turned to Tonks. "And just because you're an Auror
doesn't mean you don't have feelings. Fudge actively hates me – if he
knows you're seeing me romantically, he might try to put you somewhere
else, like the Centaur Liaison Office. I don't want you wonderful women
being hurt by proximity to me." He paused in the street. "I said it
before – I may not like it, but I'm used to being hated for my very
existence, so my intentional flaunting of the 'rules of society' should
just give them all the further reason to dislike me."

Tonks released his waist and turned him to face her. "Harry James
Potter, here's my response to that line of thought," she said, and then
proceeded to kiss him in such manner that his thought processes ceased to
make sense. The blood roared in his ears, and his heart rate climbed
amazingly. When she released the kiss, he was mildly amused to discover
that he was holding her as tightly as she held him.

"I'm glad these robes are loose enough to hide my reaction to that kiss,"
he breathed. He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to face Hermione.

"I told you before. If you love me, then I can deal with the Howlers,
since they'll just be founded in a jealous reaction. Now, get your lips
down here and kiss me like you mean it." He leaned down toward her and
gently brushed his lips across hers before deepening the kiss. He held
her tightly; tight enough that he could actually feel her heart beating
against his chest. The kiss broke and he continued to hold her, burying
his face in her hair.

"Oh my God, Hermione, I love you. I love you both. I don't know what
I'd do if I lost either of you." He felt himself starting to lose
control, and fought to hold back the sobs that wanted to burst free from
his chest. "I am not going to cry like that in public, where the Prophet
can plaster it all across their headlines." He got himself under control
and continued the journey to Ollivander's.

They entered the wand shop, and almost immediately the man appeared.
"Ah, Mister Potter! I wondered when I would see you again. I heard of
the unfortunate incident with your wand a year ago, and knew I would see
you soon."

"So, how was the headmaster doing when you spoke to him?" Harry asked, in
a friendly tone that actually made Hermione wince.

"He seemed well. I think I know just the wand for you, Mister Potter.
The materials for it were delivered very recently, and it was a challenge
to make them work together, but do it I did." He reached under the desk
and pulled out a box, and opened it to show a simple white wand. Harry
took it from the case and held it in his hand. A breeze grew around him,
and a white glow surrounded him. "I was right," Ollivander said. "The
materials are the bone of a basilisk, and the feather from the same
phoenix that supplied your previous wand's core. It is a fourteen inch
wand, quite fitting for a man such as yourself." He smiled. "It will
also be harder for certain individuals within the Ministry to break,
should they take a mind to."
Harry smiled. "I'll bet I know where the basilisk bone came from," he
laughed, looking at Hermione.

"Only enough for one wand was brought. Do you know if you can procure
any more of it, Mister Potter?" Ollivander asked hopefully.

"I can't promise. I didn't think the thing had left anything behind. I
promise to at least ask about it. You may well have received the only
existing pieces. Just curious, were they delivered by the headmaster, or
by a phoenix?"

"Headmaster Dumbledore delivered them, but he had the phoenix with him at
the time."

Harry laughed. "More like the headmaster was with the phoenix, if I know
Fawkes." He paused. "Do all wands have to choose an owner, so to speak,
or can one purchase a general purpose wand?" At the mildly offended look
on Ollivander's face, he explained quickly. "You know who I'm facing.
In fact, this wand may well still be considered a brother to his. If so,
I'd like to be able to actually affect him. Get one wand out while our
brother wands are fighting it out, and perhaps hit him with an unexpected
spell."

"Ah, yes, I understand. Yes, this basilisk wand would be considered a
brother to You-Know-Who's wand, since they both contain feathers from the
same phoenix. The core is the most important part, of course. Let me
see …" he murmured to himself as he walked into the back of his shop.
"Ah, yes, here are a few possibilities." He walked forward with about
thirty wands. Let us look through these. These will be excellent for
fighting purposes." He began sorting them out, and then looked at one in
confusion. "How did this one get in that group? Ah well, I shall return
it shortly."

As Harry picked up the first of the wands, they heard the door open. As
soon as Harry repaired the glass that broke as he handled the first wand,
he turned to face Neville and his grandmother. "Neville! How have you
been?"

"Quite good, Harry.   Happy birthday, if my memory serves me correctly,"
Neville smiled.

"It does, and the same to you.   Yours was yesterday, wasn't it?"   Neville
nodded.

Harry chewed his lower lip for a moment. "Neville? I have a question to
ask you, and I don't know the wizarding etiquette, so if what I ask you
is remarkably offensive, please know that I would never intentionally do
that to one of my friends."

Neville smiled. "You're going to ask if you can replace my wand, right?"
Harry nodded. "It's not offensive. I do want to know why, though."

All those in the room looked at Neville with interest, because this was a
far more forceful young man than they were used to. I like the change,
Harry thought absently. "Honestly, Neville, I feel like I owe it to you.
Your wand wouldn't have gotten broken if not for following me. You could
have been killed. And all because you trusted me. That's a very
powerful gift, and I don't think I can ever tell you what it means to me.
But I can repay you in a very small way by paying to replace your broken
wand." He grinned. "And if that doesn't work, how about letting me
purchase it as your birthday present?" He finished with a laugh.

Neville looked at him for a long time. "I understand your reasoning, and
I accept. We all have to fight in one way or another in this war, Harry,
and I know I'm on the right side. We either fight with him, against him,
or fight to stay neutral. I'll be with you again, if you'll let me."

He stuck out his hand, and Harry took it, shaking it solemnly. "I can't
think of too many people I'd trust more, Neville." He let go of
Neville's hand, and let him go to the counter.

Ollivander looked at Neville, and then looked to the wand that he had
considered the oddball. "Try this one, Mister Longbottom. It is twelve
inches long, and has the only core of any that I have made that does not
use dragon, unicorn, or phoenix."

Neville   took the wand and was surrounded by a gentle misty breeze, which
swirled   and coalesced into the head of a beautiful woman with a butterfly
resting   in her hair. She looked at him for a long moment and then flowed
forward   and kissed his third eye before disappearing back into the wand.

"You are quite the herbalist, aren't you, Mister Longbottom?" Ollivander
asked. At Neville's nod, he said, "This is the only wand I have ever
made with dryad hair, Mister Longbottom, and I had despaired of ever
finding a proper owner for this wand. Eleven and a half inches, oak,
and dryad hair. May it serve you well." Neville nodded and stepped away
from the counter.

Harry spent some more time looking at wands, and eventually was ready to
purchase three for himself, including the basilisk bone wand. He paid
for all the wands in question, including Neville's and they stepped from
Ollivander's. His grandmother was looking at the girls with some
disapproval. "Hermione told us about the relationships," Neville
explained.

"If she can't handle the idea, that's her problem," Harry said quietly to
Neville, "but you might want to make her aware that I protect my own – my
friends and my family. If things eventually work out, they will be my
family."

"I understand. I'm jealous as hell," Neville laughed quietly, "because I
happen to fancy Hermione a bit, to be honest. I'm partial to smart
women. Congratulations, by the way." His grandmother cleared her
throat. "Ah, time to leave and get an earful. See you at school."

Harry watched the two of them head toward The Leaky Cauldron, and smiled.
"I definitely approve of the changes in Neville," he said.
"Me too," Hermione answered. "He's so much more self-assured now.     Some
girl is going to find that very attractive."

"Present company included?" he laughed, and she blushed in response.

"You know, I think I'd best go to the Quibbler offices and speak with
Luna's father again. I know those kisses are going to be on the front
page, if only in headlines. I'd prefer that a trustworthy paper print
the interview that they'll all be clamouring for." He laughed again.
"Make himself some more money selling rights to other papers to print the
interview."
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 10
By Kinsfire
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Chapter X

As they walked to the Quibbler, Harry turned to Tonks. "Is there any
time we absolutely have to be back at the house, or do we have the entire
day to ourselves? Basically, are they going to send out search parties
if I don't come back in time for dinner?"

"Probably," she responded, eyes twinkling.

Hermione spoke up. "I'm curious about something you said in there to
Ollivander, about the basilisk. You know you were probably lying to him
about the basilisk bone, don't you?"

"Yes. I don't want anyone getting more of that until I've talked to
Dumbledore and Fawkes about it. I think Fawkes retrieved it and
basically informed Dumbledore what they were doing." She nodded her
understanding, and they quickly reached the Quibbler offices.

Upstairs in the offices, Harry wasn't terribly surprised to find Luna
behind the desk, and her father waiting for them. "Congratulations, Lord
Potter," said Luna.

"Second sight, or news travelling fast?" he laughed.

Her father pointed at his hand. "The ring is a dead giveaway, Lord
Potter. Wearing one without permission of the family is punishable with
some rather stiff fines, assuming the ring hasn't already exacted a
punishment."

He raised his eyebrows. "That's good to know. By the way, I want it
known that as far as my friends are concerned, I'm still just Harry,
whether or not I ended up a Baron by accident of birth. I only just
learned about it, anyway." He grinned suddenly. "That means I'll
understand it if you insist on calling me Lord Potter, but I'd much
prefer the both of you calling me Harry."

Luna flushed momentarily before saying, "Thank you, Harry.   You do me a
great honour."

"Far less honour than you do me by being my friend, Miss Lovegood," he
said with a smile. "Oh, by the way, Luna, I have some good news for
you," he said, returning to his normal way of speaking. "Off the record,
of course, but I think Chang is going to find herself just a little
bothered by this year. Losing her prefect status? And if they were
going to make her Head Girl, discovering that it's going to someone
else?"

Luna's eyes widened.   "How did you learn this?"

"It was a condition of returning to Hogwarts this year. Which reminds
me, since why my return to Hogwarts wasn't certain ties in with our
Ministry visit, I'll be explaining to you and Neville about something –
the reason Voldemort was there."

"Harry, um, a certain individual doesn't want too many …" Hermione
started to say.

"I know that he doesn't, but I feel that the people who risked their
lives with me deserve to know. I'll listen to him, but make my own
decisions." He grinned. "I assume that you were told about my
negotiations by the wielders of those Ears?"

She blushed furiously. "Didn't have to be – I was one of them. Bit of
hyperbole there, though, when you were talking about Cho Chang. I don't
think that I belong at the top of the ten most beautiful students at
Hogwarts."

"I do," he said, looking in her eyes. "Hell, you deserve all ten slots,
in my opinion." He kissed her gently. "But I'm biased."

He kept the pain only to his eyes as he heard Luna murmur quietly, “I
wish he were biased that way toward me.”

He turned to Luna. “Luna, I am sorry. I wish that I could make you
happy, but right now …” he said to her, letting her see the pain he felt
at hurting her, even by accident.

“Harry, we can’t control who we care for. If our souls are designed by
Universe to be together, then we shall be. If not, then I shall glow in
the knowledge that a fine man such as yourself calls me friend.    That is
quite the accomplishment in itself.”

He blushed furiously and took her hand. “I thank you for your
friendship, Luna. It helped me a lot a couple months ago.” He kissed
the back of her hand. “Hope I did that right,” he said with his
trademark lopsided grin.

“If the intent was to make a girl’s heart beat faster, then you did it
right,” Luna smiled. Pain shot into his eyes again. “Harry, I believe
that one of the things you treasure about my friendship is my honesty. I
will not complain if you kiss my hand again, but I will be honest about
the effect you have upon me. I have no intention of trying to force
romantic feelings between either of us, because such attempts always
fail.” She grinned widely, an unusual look for her, but not unpleasant.
“I reserve the right to fantasize about you, however.”

He looked stunned for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “Thank you,
Luna. I needed that.” After a few moments of laughter, he finally
became more serious. “The real reason I’m here is because, well, the
relationships became known a little while ago. We kissed in public, in
Diagon Alley. You know that Witch Weekly and the Daily Prophet are going
to make up some stories, so I thought I’d give an interview to a
trustworthy paper.”

Lawrence’s eyes widened. “You are aware of the attitude that some people
have about this paper? We publish articles that are either considered
crazy, or that no one else will touch. This won’t necessarily help your
reputation, Lord Potter.”

Harry grasped immediately what Lawrence was saying. “Mr. Lovegood, you
treated me well before. You printed an interview with me that was
proper, not the … thing that the Prophet chose to print, knowing that it
was a pack of lies. You treated me properly.” He snorted. “If I have
to drop into some sort of noble thing, then …” he grinned. He stood
straighter and said in a put-on pompous voice. “Let it be said that
Baron Harry Potter does not forget who his friends are.” He laughed
again, and his voice was normal when he spoke again. “I’m serious,
though. Ask them. When I said that I was going to have to do an
interview with a paper, ask them how many papers I went through before I
settled on yours, sir.”

Lawrence stood straighter with pride.   “I don’t need to.   I thank you for
your trust, milord.”

“I’m actually going to tell the both of you about the Ministry scenario
as well, but for reasons that will become obvious, I think, I’d rather
that information never ever reach the public. I will not talk about
other things that I have no permission to mention. All I ask is a
private place where we can’t be overheard.”

A while later, Tonks, Hermione, and Harry left the offices of the
Quibbler, having left behind two somewhat stunned Lovegoods. As they
reached the bottom of the stairs, he smiled. “Let’s go get something to
eat, and then I need to run out and buy some Muggle clothes, and maybe
some better wizard clothes.”

They reached the Leaky Cauldron and stripped off their robes. Tonks
frowned and Transfigured some other clothes for Harry, and they stepped
out into Muggle London for a pleasant lunch. Hermione was definitely
getting some appreciative looks, and Harry had no problems with the way
she leaned on his arm, effectively telling everyone, “I’m his.”

While they ate, Harry quickly scanned the paperwork he'd taken from the
Potter vault. Without looking, he chided with a smile, "Hermione, I get
to read the books from those vaults first. They were left for me." He
frowned and looked up. "Besides, they might be spelled to prevent anyone
but an heir, or someone the heir designates, from opening them."

"I hadn't thought of that," she said unhappily.   "I'm willing to risk it,
though," she said, brightening.

He took her hands in his. "I, on the other hand, am not. You mean a
great deal to me, and I will not see you hurt." He kissed both her
hands, and then turned to Tonks and took her hands. "I love you too,
Tonks. I may have paid more attention to her today, but that's because
I'm looking forward to later today."

"Harry, I understand. You can't pay attention to everyone all the time.
There will be days that I get all your attention, and days she will.
It's the way things will be." She grinned impishly. "Don't worry your
pretty head about it," she said, floofing his hair.

He laughed and returned to the paperwork, finally finding the information
about the ring. "When we're done with buying me some Muggle clothes,
we'll head back to the Cauldron and go to Potter's Field from there." He
chuckled quietly to himself to note that Hermione was showing a pointed
interest in that. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "I rather
like the knickers you're wearing today, love." When her eyes went wide,
he said, "Helping you out of the Gringott's car. That's where I saw."

She whispered back. "I think this entire day has been foreplay, Harry.
I think if you kissed me right now I might well … uh, react. Gods,
Harry, I'm so damn … sorry, darn worked up right now that part of me
wants to move over onto your lap and take you inside me here in the
restaurant."

He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining that, and trying in vain to
ignore the reaction the image caused in him. Finally he forced himself
to say, "So, what clothing shops should we visit?"

Tonks eyes gleamed as she said, "Is it safe to assume that now is not a
good time to suggest a certain Diagon Alley leather shop for some skin-
tight pants for you?" she asked quietly. Hermione answered by gripping
Harry's arm tightly and biting her lower lip. She looked like she was
fighting a battle for a few moments, and then obviously lost it as she
leaned against Harry and shivered for a short time.
"Tonks, you're evil," she whispered across the table.   "You knew what
that image would do to me."

"Of course, considering that's one of the things we talked about while he
was changing clothes this morning." She grinned at Hermione, who shook a
fist at her, but did not let go of Harry.

He was looking stunned. "Just thinking about me in tight pants did that
to you?" he asked in wonder. "You really think I'm that good looking?"

Tonks looked at him. "I'll bet you fifty Galleons that you are in the
top five most eligible bachelors in the next Witch Weekly poll, now that
you're officially an adult. Another fifty says it's because of your
appearance, and not your money."

His eyebrows rose. "Can you handle that much pay-out to me?     You can
afford to give me one hundred Galleons?"

Hermione let go of him and said, "Ten Galleons says you have the number
one position." She shrugged. "I don't have fifty to spend."

"I can't take your money, Hermione!" he exclaimed quietly.

The look she gave him smouldered with unspoken feelings, the most obvious
being lust. "Harry, you'll be paying out one hundred and ten Galleons to
us when the next Witch Weekly comes out. I guarantee it. If I could
afford to bet on that, I would."

"I'll tell you what," Harry said in disbelief. "I'll even give you ten-
to-one odds on your bet. If you win, you get the same hundred that Tonks
will."

"Ooh, shopping trip after the next Witch Weekly!" she said.    Harry shook
his head knowingly.

They left the restaurant after Harry cast a quick drying and cleaning
charm on Hermione's dress, considering the spot she'd been sitting on had
become somewhat damp. A significant number of pounds and shillings
later, they headed back to The Leaky Cauldron. Grinning, he said,
"Ladies, I know that the concept bothers you, but you'll need to hold on
to me." His answer was the two girls tightly gripping his arms. He
touched the ring and concentrated on activating the portkey, and the
familiar tug behind his navel struck him.

#####

They came to the world again in   a meadow of chest high grass. “Hmm,
looks like I’m going to have to   mow,” he murmured as he put his packages
down. He heard a rustle behind    him, and turned to find Tonks helping
Hermione out of her dress. His    jaw dropped.

Once she was nude except for her sandals, Hermione said, “Harry? I’ve
always fantasized about giving my virginity to my lover out in the open,
under the sky. Would my lord care to make my dream come true?”
He gulped loudly, and carefully removed his own clothes, then revelled in
the feeling her bare skin against his. The height difference was such
that her head easily rested on his shoulder, and she murmured, “Your
heart is beating so hard and fast, Harry.”

“I’m not surprised,” he responded. “I have the two most beautiful women
in the world here at my ancestral home. One has already graced me with
the utterly priceless gift of her love, both emotional and physical. The
second has gifted me with one, and asks if I’m willing to accept the gift
of the other. And in doing so, I get to fulfil her dream as well.” He
looked up at Tonks, who was also now utterly without clothing. “Dante
may have talked of circles of Hell, but I’ve discovered that there are
circles of Heaven as well.” He could feel the tears flowing from his
eyes , and made no effort to stop them.

“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked in alarm as she heard him sniff.

“Absolutely nothing, my beautiful Hermione.” He pulled back for a moment
to look at her, and looked at Tonks as well. “I can tell you that the
next time I try to cast a Patronus, I’ll be using this moment in time as
the thought to call it forth.” He bent slightly to brush his lips across
hers, and she quickly responded in kind. He spent some time kissing her,
not always on the lips, and proceeded to torture her sensually before
giving her what she so wanted.

As they lay in the tall grass, enjoying the afterglow of their
lovemaking, Harry looked up at the sky and said, “I finally understand
the phrase ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’ I don’t think I could
get any happier than I feel right now.”

He felt Tonks lay down beside him. “That won’t stop us from trying,” she
said, kissing him rather thoroughly, and he heard Hermione chuckle as she
absently ran her fingers along the length of his ‘wand’.

“Hmm, ten inches, thicker than in normal, delightfully inflexible. The
core is of an ineffable material especially designed for unlocking
spells, at least those involving ladies thighs.” She nuzzled his ear.
“Two ladies, at least.”

Harry blushed as he groaned, and then laughed as he remembered breakfast
that morning. “Ginny’s hoping to make it three, I think. I get the
sneaking suspicion it’s to have access to you two, more than me.”

"We'll burn that bridge when we get to it, Harry," Hermione said.
"Personally, I'd like to just spend the rest of the day with you,
enjoying being with you and Tonks."

He saw the ladies eyes meet for a second, and then Tonks said, “Good
idea, Hermione. I have a much better idea of what Harry can do with his
tongue than use it for speech.” She proceeded to make her intentions
quite obvious, while Hermione proceeded to find something to do that
would leave her hands free to caress Tonks.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 11
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XI

They eventually stood, dressed, and headed for the Potter Manor. They
could see a roof over a hill, but when they reached the top of that hill,
Harry was rendered speechless at the sheer size of it. There were
several large trees out in front that gave him a sense of scale, and he
thought for a moment that might just rival Hogwarts for size. A closer
look told him that it didn’t, although he wasn’t sure that it wasn’t half
the size of the Hogwarts castle. “Big,” was all he managed to say.

“I agree,” breathed Hermione. He looked over at her and smiled, and then
reached to the hem of her dress and pulled it down to more completely
cover her shapely rear end. “What did you do that for?” she smiled.

“If we want to get down there before they have to send out search
parties, then you’d better cover that up.” He blushed as a thought came
to him.

“What?” she asked, intrigued.

“Nothing,” he said, his blush deepening. After both ladies badgered him
for a short time, he finally relented. “Don’t think I’m a pervert, but I
was contemplating the thought of pressing you up against a wall in that
dress, and … well, doing it standing up.” Hermione simply lit up and
nodded her vigorous approval. “Really?” he asked, grinning suddenly.

“You granted my fantasy; I have no problems with yours. I’m looking
forward to it.” She lowered her face, but then looked at him as if over
non-existent glasses. “Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get to try that at
Hogwarts.”

He snorted. "Yeah right. I can dream, though." They walked down the
hill toward the house, and noticed a second, much smaller house a
distance away. "Looks like a guest house or something."

"I definitely am going to need to hire someone to help me around this
place," Harry said. "Think Dobby and Winky would hire on to help me?
There's no way I can handle a huge household like this all by myself."
"Dobby would work for free for you; you know that," Hermione said with a
scowl.

"Doesn't mean I'll let him," he said. "He gets paid. I just wish he'd
accept what I think he's worth. Damn. I'm going to need elves around
this place. I'm finally understanding. Ah, the joys of being a home-
owner." He sighed. "I'll see if Dumbledore has connections with any
freed house-elves looking for work. I'd much rather be paying them than
enslaving them."

They found a wall in front of them finally, and chose to walk left in
order to find a gate. When they found it, they also found a disused
walkway leading to the house. Try as they might, Tonks and Hermione
simply could not open the gate, but Harry's hand on it made it open as if
it had never been shut. "Hmm, it seems to recognize a Potter is here."

As they passed through the gate, an utter non-sequitur thought came to
Harry. "Where did that wand go, Hermione? I haven't reclaimed it from
you yet, and I think I'd have noticed it out there in the meadow, given
where you had it stored all day." He shook his head. "I still say that
was one damned lucky wand."

She didn't respond for a moment as they continued to walk toward the
manor. Finally, close enough to one of the walls to touch it, she said,
"Harry, you say we need to be here for a little while and get back before
they send out a search party, and then you say things guaranteed to make
me want to make you late." Her eyes went wide for a moment, and he spun
to look toward the house. "Sorry," she said, sounding as if she were
smiling. "I thought I saw something."

"And in answer to your question, I built a wand holster. I made another
one, but I very rarely use that one," she said, blushing furiously, much
to Harry's bewilderment. "I promise to show you later. The one I'm
talking about, though, is sort of a necklace, but rather than hanging
between my breasts, it wraps around outside them; not terribly tightly,
or else the thing would hurt. The handle sticks up far enough to be able
to get at it easily, and when there's no wand in the holster, you can't
really tell I'm wearing it." She laughed. "Moody is always telling us
to be prepared, so I designed this one." Her voice dropped an octave,
and Harry felt his brain shutting down as the blood left it. "Care to go
in after your wand?"

"Are you sure you can trust my hands to go only where they're supposed
to?" he asked with a shaky laugh.

"Oh, I hope not!" she purred in response. He leaned down and kissed her
neck, and began to fondle her gently through the fabric of her dress, and
quite shortly she was fulfilling Harry's fantasy.

#####

Tonks watched the two of them, smiling. She was quite enjoying herself
today. She had never realized just how insatiable a sixteen year old boy
… no, man … could be. He's loved her for how long? He's at least known
her since he was eleven. He's only known me since last year. He's
probably fantasized about her for some time. I love him, and I am quite
certain that he loves me, or feels something so close to love that
there's no real difference. She smiled. He's getting used to being
loved; to knowing that someone really does care for him.

She had to admit that watching two people making love was also somewhat …
invigorating. She'd have to see about sharing his bed tonight, just to
bring her down from her rolling boil. He'd already proven, even when at
his most passionate with both girls, that while he was certainly
inexperienced, he made up for that with being a remarkably caring, even
adoring lover. He was far more interested in his partner enjoying
herself.

They were finally able to get to the door of the Potter Manor house (it
was large enough to be a castle, but certainly not shaped like one), and
Harry opened the door. Curious, he closed it again, and asked Tonks to
try opening it. She found herself completely unable to get the door to
budge. "My lady Nymphadora Tonks is granted access to my home," he said
while she touched the door, and as soon as he touched his ring to the
door, it suddenly moved as easily for her as it had for him. "Hermione,
touch the door," he said. "My lady Hermione Granger is also permitted
access to my home." They closed the door, and Hermione successfully
opened his ancestral home's entry portal. "Right now," he smiled, "we
three are the only ones who can come and go as we please when on Potter
property. Me, I assume, because I wear the ring, or maybe it recognizes
the aura, and now you because you are specifically granted full access to
this house." He surreptitiously touched the wall with his ring as he
said it.

They stepped inside and immediately soft light began to spill from the
walls. The hallways were wide enough for him to walk with an arm around
the waist of his ladies, so he did so with a smile on his face. Gods, it
is so good to see him happy after the way he was just a few days ago!
I'd better make sure Hermione thinks about that, too – he may crash
sometime soon, and we're really going to need to be there for him. But
for now, let's enjoy his happiness.

About an hour later, he laughed as they stood in this home's great hall.
"I guess I'm already starting to think as if I really am the owner of
this place. I was going through here with you two beautiful women, and
deciding where various furniture needed to go. I already know where the
statue needs to go – in the room I told you I'd be using as the informal
gathering room. In other words, where most of my friends will meet, and
where the painting of my parents will go."

His face fell, and he bit his lower lip for a minute. "I have some
questions to ask you ladies, and I hope you'll still care for me after I
ask them." He had a very worried look on his face.

"What's wrong, Harry?" Tonks asked in unison with Hermione.

"Well, two of my questions have to do with statues, and they all sort of
have a common thread to them, I guess. First one is this: that statue
was of my mother. Would you ladies be willing to pose for statues – for
my private study?"

"Erotic statues?" Tonks asked with a grin.

"Only if you want it that way, although if I got nudes of both of you, I
can't help but think they'd automatically be erotic." He smiled at them
both.

“I agree to it,” said Tonks. “I’ve never posed for something like that
before.” She blushed. “I feel honoured that you admire me enough to
want me in statue form.”

“Gladly, Harry,” agreed Hermione. She got a sly look. “If you get a
good sculptor; one that can be trusted, perhaps you could get an erotic
statue of the two of us,” she said, motioning at Tonks. “Oh my
goodness!” she breathed. “I can’t believe I just suggested that!”

“You don’t have to do that,” Harry said.

“That’s the thing, Harry. I want to. Both because it’s for you, and the
thought of … well, giving you my virginity in front of another person was
part of the reason my response was so … umm …”

“Loud? Vigorous?” Harry laughed.   “I will tell you, that did wonders for
my ego!”

“You’re welcome,” she giggled, and playfully slapped his arm.     “What was
your second question?”

He stopped laughing. “The second and third questions deal with the same
subject in extremely different ways.” He took a deep breath. “If I
hadn’t been so shocked at the contents of the vault, I could easily have
reacted to the figure of that statue the same way I’ve been dealing with
you two – an erection. That was my mother’s body, though. Doesn’t that
make me a pervert?”

They looked at him for a long moment before Tonks spoke.   “When was the
last time you saw your mother?”

“Other than in wizard photos?   When I was fifteen months old.”

“Okay, so you have a vague memory of her, and you’ve seen photos of her,
and had an idea of her figure whether you knew it or not. Now, stand
back and look at Hermione and I, and compare that with your mother’s
figure. Neither of us is a big-titted, big-arsed girl; we’re decently
toned, not terribly thin but neither are we overweight. No one would
ever mistake any of our figures for Lily’s, but …”

“… but there are a lot of similarities,” Harry finished. “But what does
that mean for me?” he asked, now even more worried, as far as Tonks could
see.
“It means that you’re normal,” Hermione said. “I’m betting that every
one of the Weasley boys that gets married is going to marry a girl
that’ll look like Mrs. Weasley in a few years. That would count me right
out,” she laughed. “Mum is a bit over 160 centimeters tall … sorry
Tonks, about five-foot-four, and built like I am right now.” She bit her
lower lip. “And to answer the question you asked, if fancying your Mum’s
figure is being a pervert, then I’m something of a pervert too. I’d
never sleep with her – that idea just squicks me beyond belief – but my
Mum is sexy, and that’s that. I enjoy looking at her, and that’s as far
as it’ll ever go.” Tonks saw Hermione relax as Harry sighed with relief,
and Tonks knew that she was also relaxing.

“My last one deals with possible perversion, and you two are the best to
ask.” He closed his eyes tightly and winced as he said, “Is it wrong of
me to … I like … what I’m wondering is …
isitwrongformetofancyRonorNeville?”

Hermione said with some asperity, “What? You’re already thinking of
running off with another man?” As Harry opened his mouth to respond, she
added, “Can I come too?”

“What?” was all Harry could manage after several moments.

“Well, if you’re thinking of adding a guy to our little group, can we at
least help you choose him?” Her eyes took on a particularly … naughty
was the only word that managed to make it into his brain … particularly
naughty look to them. “He’s got some serious standards to measure up
to,” she purred at him.

Tonks walked over, grinning. “To stand a chance of filling your … shoes,
he’s going to have to be as good at getting as deep into a subject as you
are, sexy,” she growled seductively at him.

“Yeah, but…”

“In all seriousness,” Hermione said, still smiling, “I have no problems
with it if you find a man who can help you fulfil that side of your life.
We’re already flouting custom by being a threesome. It would be nice if
it could be a foursome, but that’s not a requirement as far as I’m
concerned.” She kissed him.

"If it's all right for Hermione and I to share a love,” Tonks said, “then
why would it be wrong for you and Ron, if you're lucky enough to have him
return the feeling?"

"It just seems that it's more accepted between girls," Harry said
quietly. "Thank you." He drew both of them into a heartfelt hug. He
knew he was shaking slightly. “If you two support me in this, then I
have no problems with the Prophet raking me across the coals as a pouf.”

Hermione growled. “Trust us, if necessary, we’ll go into extreme detail
to prove you’re not.” She waggled her eyebrows at him.
Finally, regretfully, Tonks pulled from the hug. We need to be getting
back to Number twelve. If we're not careful, they will send out parties
to find us."

"Spiffing," Hermione grumbled. "We get to listen to Molly Weasley take
shots at us for our unnatural lifestyle choice. Just what I want to
listen to."

"I'll say it to her again if I have to," Harry said. "I will not put up
with that from her, or anyone else. They can skewer me all that they
want, but I'll not have them dragging your names through the mud."

"Well, we'll see," Tonks said. "Is there some way of getting back to HQ,
or am I gonna have to Apparate?"

"Apparate, and get someone to make a portkey, and then the three of us
can go back together," Harry said.

"Uh-huh," Tonks laughed.   "You'll just use it as an excuse to snog while
I'm gone."

"And this is bad – how?" Hermione laughed.

Harry said, obviously speaking to someone or something, "I'm giving you
the Potter family ring, since we know it has a permanently reusable
portkey for this place built into it. You have full access to the
property, so you should be able to get a little closer than we did when
we landed here the first time." Only then did he remove the ring from
his right index finger and hand it to Tonks. "Safety. I wanted the ring
to know that you were supposed to be holding it."

"Ooo, he's given me his ring!" Tonks said in a sing-song voice.   "Should
I call the caterers?"

"Let's wait until August fifteenth at least," Hermione laughed.   "Gives
him a chance to get the house furnished."

Harry was blushing furiously, but laughing uproariously. "You ladies are
exactly what I need," he finally said. "I've never …" He closed his
eyes, and Tonks could see tears starting to leak from them, and he began
to cry softly, obviously fighting it, but losing.

Tonks was pleased that Hermione didn't need to be told to move forward;
the two women moved in unison to hold him. "Well, we're going to get you
used to being loved, my darling Harry. We want you to get used to the
feeling."

She carefully pulled away from them both and kissed their cheeks before
stepping out of the house and cracking to Number twelve Grimmauld Place.
"Tonks! Where are they?" Molly asked frantically.

"Home, Molly," she answered quickly.   "Is Albus still here?"

"Yes, but what do you mean about them being 'home'?   Whose home?"
"Don't mean to be rude, Molly," Tonks said politely and walked away
purposefully toward the kitchen. Sure enough, Dumbledore was in the
kitchen with Severus, drinking tea and talking. "Wotcher, you two!"

"Nymphadora, how good to see you again," Albus said pleasantly.      "I
assume that Mister Potter and Miss Granger are well?"

"They were a few seconds ago," she replied. "She was holding him as he …
dealt with a problem," she said, changing her phrasing at the last minute
to avoid giving Severus more ammunition.

"I do not need to hear about the children's sex lives," drawled the
Potions Master.

"And I wasn't talking about them, you pervert," she snapped. Before he
could respond, she turned to Dumbledore. "I need a portkey to get them
here from where they currently are. Neither of them can Apparate yet, or
else they'd have come that way."

"Where are they?" Albus asked.

"I think that's for Harry to say, sir," she said. "Let's just say that
he's had quite a few birthday surprises today," she laughed. "I wouldn't
dream of taking the chance of surprising everyone else away from him."
Albus nodded and poured the last of the tea from the pot, cooled it down,
and then handed it to Tonks. "You know how to activate it. We shall see
you shortly?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, and touched the emblem on the ring, which they
both saw for the first time as she touched it, but she knew they couldn't
see the crest. She was smiling as she reappeared next to Harry and
Hermione, who were simply standing looking into each other's eyes as they
held hands. "So kiss already!" she laughed.

The both of them jumped in surprise.   "Tonks!" Hermione squeaked.    "How
long have you been there?"

"Not long, but the way you guys were, I could have returned the second I
left and you wouldn't have noticed," she said with a smile.

"Sorry, Tonks," Harry said, suddenly frowning.   "I've been ignoring you
all day. Here I am supposedly …"

"Stop right there, sexy," she commanded, although her eyes were twinkling
madly. "I know where this one is going, and you need to know a couple
things. First, I wouldn't consider the rather maddeningly sensual
lovemaking we did after midnight to be ignoring me. Multiple times, mind
you. You've got stamina like none I've ever seen before, Harry, and I am
personally happy to discover that."

"Me too!" Hermione blushed.   "Three times with me so far."
"Same here," Tonks grinned. "The third was in the shower, just before we
walked out and saw you." She looked back to Harry. "Six times making
love today, and one of the times pleasuring Hermione, you were pleasuring
me too. Plus, ignoring the sexual aspects of the day, we have
experienced kisses and cuddles from you all day, and you stood up to the
group at breakfast, including us both. You have not ignored me, Harry."

She sighed. "It doesn't help that this is probably your first experience
with real love. Cho Chang, as I understand what I've heard, wanted you
as a connection back to her dead boyfriend. Don't talk to me about the
Dursleys. Can't say you've ever really gotten any from the teachers
either, even if Dumbledore professes to care for you. So now the girl
you've known since you started school, and the girl you met last year are
officially your lovers." She snorted. "Nice one this morning, by the
way. Lie without lying. You couldn't call us both lovers at that point.
You know how they took it, though."

He laughed. "Well, I wasn't really in the mood to listen to that
conversation first thing in the morning, after such a wonderful night
before. I can listen to the fight that it'll start tonight, after we get
back. Who accosted you about where we were, and how dare you leave the
last best hope for the wizarding world alone?"

Tonks snorted again. "Molly first. She was getting a little frantic, so
I told her I didn't mean to be rude but … and was rude by walking away to
find Dumbledore. Sevvie-poo made his usual snide comment, and Albus made
the house teapot into a portkey. Let's go back so more people can have
tea."

"Works for me," Harry said. Before they left, he said a little shyly,
"Diagon Alley again tomorrow? To that leather shop you talked about?"

Hermione looked smoulderingly at him. "Why do you say these things when
you know what it does to me?" She kissed him roughly. "You will pay for
hitting me with that concept just before we head back, you know."

He blinked. "Wow. I thought you just liked the idea of me in better
looking clothes, Hermione. I really didn't …" Tonks couldn't help but
laugh at the look of stunned wonder on Harry's face.

"That'll teach you, sexy," she said as she activated the teapot portkey.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 12
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XII

They reappeared in the main hallway, and Hermione kissed Harry on the
cheek before running upstairs. "Harry, you're back!" Molly said, hugging
him, but not before shooting a rapid disapproving look at Hermione.

He decided to stop this before it could go further. "Mrs. Weasley, we
need to get something out in the open. This is the second time today
that you have looked at Hermione that way, and it bothers me. You don't
approve of the relationship that the three of us have, either." He took
a deep breath. "It's my life, though. Right now, these two ladies are
crazy enough to think that I'm worthy of being loved as more than merely
a friend, or as a son in all but blood."

"Harry, I just don't want you being attacked in the papers."

"True," he replied. "Some people believe anything that they read in the
Daily Prophet." He looked knowingly at her. She had the good grace to
blush. "I said it before and I'll say it again. It's my life. I choose
to be with these ladies, and they choose to be with me. Our choice.
We're not going to let anyone else harass us and try to break us up. I
will state right now that I will defend them and their reputations."

Dumbledore walked into the room. "Admirable sentiment, Mr. Potter. I
whole heartedly agree with it. My brother is looked down on by most of
society, but he is happy, and that is by far the most important thing to
remember. If your happiness comes from them, and not from how others
look at you, then you are fine."

"Thank you, sir."

"How was your day, if I might be permitted to ask?"

"I need to get a meeting with Madame Bones," Harry replied with a grin.
"And Charlie as well."

Dumbledore's eyebrows rose.   "Indeed?   May I be permitted to ask the
purpose of this meeting?"

Harry grinned, and in answer, pulled the bookbag to the fore. Reaching
in carefully, he pulled out two of the books and 'asked' them to grow to
normal size. The look of shock on everyone's faces as they saw the
crests of Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin was a gift beyond price
to him. "It appears that I am the last Heir of Rowena Ravenclaw, and
since Tommy chose to gift me with a portion of himself, I was told by
Slytherin's vault that it denies Riddle, and that it chooses me as the
Heir of Slytherin." As he spoke, the two other rings came to the fore
long enough for everyone to catch sight of them. "So, in a way, everyone
was right in my second year, but it means something far different than
most people think." He paused as everyone looked at him in shock. “Okay
- long story short. I had paperwork from my parents, to be given to me
today. I found it yesterday; it was part of what sent me barking. Well,
eventually I came out of it, and decided to take my ladies with me to
Gringott’s to see what was in the Potter vault. A statue of my mother
handed me an envelope with some information, and also handed me this.”
He scowled deeply as he held up his right hand to show his index finger.
“As if I didn’t have enough effing problems, now I have this crap to
worry about as well.” He shook his head. “Anyway, the letter from my
mother, which was in that envelope, told me to press the ring to the
letter for further information. I was told to go to Vault Two and press
the Ravenclaw ring to the door.” That ring took precedence again.

Everyone there gasped. “Yeah. Oh, by the way, I learned an amusing fact
about the Malfoy family. The first hundred vaults are for the oldest
families. One through Four are for the Hogwarts Founders. The Malfoys
vault is not in the remaining ninety-six vaults. They are not as old as
they would have some believe.”

“What number was yours, Harry?” Fred asked.

“Twelve-hundred and something, I think.     I never checked.”

Remus laughed. “I think they were asking about the Potter family vault,
Harry, not your trust fund.”

“Oh! Sorry, Gred,” he laughed. “The Potter vault is number thirty-
seven. Well, anyway, I went to the Founder’s vaults. It’s four vaults
shaped to look like one. On a whim, I spoke Parseltongue to the fourth
vault, and it started to open. I placed my hand in the circle, and we
talked. If that’s Salazar Slytherin’s mind guiding the locks in that
vault, then Slytherin would have fought as hard against Voldemort as the
Order did last time. The vault declared that since Riddle had gone dark,
he had forfeited his rights as Heir. Since he had passed some of himself
to me, I was declared rightful Heir and given the ring that goes with
it." That ring came forward. "Oh, Professor?” he said suddenly, turning
to Dumbledore. “Turns out that the Parseltongue is mine, not a ‘gift’
from Tom. Anyway, I took the contents of the vault, and then opened Two,
as I had intended to, and took those books. On a whim, I tried to open
the other two. Susan Bones face came to my mind when I tried to open the
Hufflepuff vault, and when I touched the Gryffindor vault, I had the
image of Charlie come to mind.” He looked up at Ginny and Ron. “I think
your brither might be the one to open the Gryffindor vault.”

“Cor!” Ron exclaimed.   “Seriously, chum?    You’re not making this up?”

“Why would I? All it would do is open you to ridicule if I made it up
and he tried to open that vault.” He grinned suddenly. “Besides, in
Gryffindor Tower, I get to brag that I’m going to school with the heirs
of Godric Gryffindor. I might be the heir to a founder, but it’s not my
House. See what I’m saying?”

“I’m looking forward to getting into these books, however. I don’t know
how protected they are. It might take the headmaster several days to get
through whatever charms may be on them for anyone other than me to look
at them.” He turned to see Albus Dumbledore looking with interest at the
first page or two of Rowena Ravenclaw’s History of Hogwarts founding.
Laughing, Harry added, “Or not.”

“I apologize, Harry,” Dumbledore said, looking at Harry. “These are
quite the treasure, my boy, and I would ask that I be permitted to be in
the queue to peruse them when you and Miss Granger have finished with
them.” He looked up the stairs at Hermione. “I assume, of course, that
you have already requested access to the journals?” She nodded with a
smile, and quickly stuck her tongue out at Harry, who laughed.

Molly cleared her throat. “Well, it’s late afternoon. I think we’ve
done enough for the day. There’s other things to do today yet. You two
go get cleaned up,” she said, pointing at Ron and Ginny. “Hermione, will
you help me in the kitchen?”

“Yes ma’am,” she said, coming down the stairs. She paused for a moment
before Harry and kissed him. “For all the fact that it’s your birthday,
you gave me a wonderful gift today, my lord.”

“But that was in response to the most precious gift you could have given
me, my love,” he said, kissing her again, then gently swatted her on the
rear as she moved to join Molly Weasley. He was amused to see Ginny’s
reaction, her jaw dropped at Harry’s openly affectionate action. She
then smiled and blew him a kiss before disappearing into her room. Ron
looked confused as he headed into his room.

Tonks walked over and chuckled in Harry’s ear.   “Ginny does things to you
too, doesn’t she?”

“Built like that? I think you’d have to be either dead or a complete
pouf to not react to her if you’re a guy.” He paused. “Or her
brothers,” he added with a laugh. “I was thinking of going into the
drawing room to read,” he said next. “I want to read these journals left
to me, and since I insisted on reading them before Hermione, I ought to
get to them sooner, rather than later.” He looked at her for a long
moment. “Or we could go in there and snog for a while, and I could read
later.” He pulled her into an embrace and whispered, “Maybe see what I
can do to bring you down from the boil you said you were dealing with.”
They walked into the drawing room and sat down on the love seat in there,
her on his lap, while they passed time kissing.

#####

In the kitchen, Molly was bustling around for a few moments while
Hermione moved things to where Molly needed them. Finally, the older
woman turned to Hermione. Oh boy; here it comes.

“Hermione, please forgive me. I’m an older woman, with older
sensibilities. I’m going to try not to roll my eyes at you, or say nasty
things. You and Nymphadora make Harry the happiest I’ve ever seen him,
and that’s the most important thing. If I do start to treat you badly,
please tell me. Please forgive an old woman her foibles.” She sat down
in a chair, her eyes beginning to water. "It's so hard to see them grow
up. He's not mine, but I love him as if he were, and … I just … it hurts
to see them grow up. And to know that there's some prophecy hanging over
his head … I just want to be there for him, and I'm chasing him away."
She looked up to Hermione. "I really is something, not just chasing The
Boy Who Lived?"

Hermione impulsively hugged Molly. Huh, I was wrong, she thought to
herself. “I love him so much, Mrs. Weasley. I care for Ron, and I’m
sorry if my relationship with Harry ends up hurting him, but Harry means
so much to me.” She sighed. “I’ve also fallen for Tonks, too. I’m just
glad Harry can handle that his lovers love each other as well.” She
paused. “Did that make sense?” She paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't even
really realize it myself until the summer hit. I never thought of myself
as this great beauty, and then on the beach this summer I had to drive
the boys away by telling them I had a boyfriend. Harry was in the back
of my mind every time I said that. I kept wishing he could have seen me
in my bikini." She blushed. "If I start getting a little … umm, 'out
there', I guess, Mrs. Weasley, I'd appreciate you letting me know."

"It's a deal, Hermione." She hugged the girl tighter before letting her
go. "And I know that you'll do right by my boys," she said with a laugh.
"Harry included. Now, we have a lot of work to do for his party," she
whispered conspiratorially.

"Sorry I couldn't be here, but he'd asked Tonks and me to be with him
when he went to his family vault, and I couldn't think of a way to back
out that wouldn't have hurt him." Hermione snorted. "If I know Tonks,
she's figured out a way to keep Harry occupied and away from our party
work. Expect her to walk in for dinner, holding his hand, and with her
hair noticeably mussed." She grinned. "Just wish it was me getting my
hair mussed. He's a good kisser."

"When did he have time to learn?" Molly asked absently.

"He's either a quick study, or a real natural," Hermione blushed. "Cho
doesn't know what she gave up." She huffed. "And that's the last I
mention her name today."

#####

A while later, Molly couldn't help but laugh as she called everyone to
dinner, and Harry escorted Tonks to the table. Somewhere along the line,
Tonks had managed to put on some lipstick, and it was no longer quite as
perfect as when she had put it on. Harry had lipstick marks all over his
face, and his normally unruly hair was noticeably messier. Tonks was
none the better in that department, and the both of them were glowing.
Fred and George were looking at them in undisguised amazement, and more
than a little jealousy and awe. "I think we need to call the girls after
watching that kind of snogging," Fred finally said. "Put me in a mood to
do some of my own, and Harry's just not my type."

Fighting to keep from laughing, Harry pushed out his lower lip in a pout.
"I'm hurt, Fred. You don't love me anymore?" As George simply blinked
for a moment, Harry laughed.
Fred rose to the occasion, though, and quickly came over. "I didn't want
them to know yet, so close on the heels of you and them," Fred said with
a grin.

Harry grabbed him and dipped him. "Come here, you!" and made as if he
was going to kiss him, but neither of them could hold back the laughs
anymore.

It was only made worse by Arthur Weasley walking into the room and saying
with a grin, "You know Fred, I had always wondered about you. Welcome to
the family, Harry." The twinkle in the man's eyes made it quite obvious
where the twins had gotten their joking side from. Harry couldn't help
it; Fred dropped to the floor with a thud, with Harry on his knees next
to him, laughing so hard he was about to fall flat.

Gasping for breath, Harry got to his feet finally and bowed to Arthur
Weasley. "I am humbled before a true Master, sir. I see where the twins
got their meagre skills from."

"Meagre?   Meagre?!" Fred and George asked in mock horror and disgust.

"Yes, meagre," replied their mother. "Who do you    think the Marauders
were trying to outdo when they were at Hogwarts?    It took four of them.
At least Fred and George were good enough to only   need themselves." She
smiled at the stunned looks on everyone's faces.    "Who do you think his
cheering section was?"

#####

They all carefully sat down to dinner, with Harry between Hermione and
Tonks, both of whom took his hands. "Um, ladies?" he said with a smile.
"I love holding you in any way I can, but it may make it a little
difficult to eat if I don't have the use of my hands."

Tonks' eyes twinkled for a moment, but she released his hand, as did
Hermione. The dinner went nicely, and Harry stood when it was done,
ready to help clean up, but found himself being held down by Hermione and
Tonks. He discovered why a moment later when Molly and Arthur walked out
carrying a large cake. "Happy birthday, Harry!" the group cried at him,
and he was stunned to see sixteen candles and a happy birthday message
written on the cake. He blinked at his cake for a moment, and then
blinked back tears. He got himself under control very quickly, and
looked up at the assembled group. “Sorry. It’s been an emotional day
for me, and this was the icing on the cake, so to speak,” he said with a
chuckle.

“Considering it’s the first birthday party you’ve ever had in your life,
I think crying is acceptable,” Tonks said to him quietly. “So blow out
the candles, make your wish, and cut the cake.”

“I’ll blow the candles out, but I’ve already gotten my wish,” he said
with a smile, looking at her and then Hermione. “And I’m shaky enough
right now that I think it’s a bad idea for me to cut the cake. Maybe you
could, Tonks?”
She laughed. “Only if you want to clean icing off the third floor
ceilings. Don’t ask how; you know me. I’m clumsy enough I’d manage it.”

He laughed. “I think I’d pay money to see that. “What do you guys say?”
he asked, looking at the group. Molly was trying to look stern, but
Harry could see the laugh in her eyes. Tonks was blushing furiously. He
hugged her. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't be ridiculing you. I don't like it
when it's done to me, either."

She kissed his cheek. "It wasn't ridicule, it was teasing. There's a
difference, lover-boy. Besides, it's tradition for the birthday boy to
cut his cake. So blow out the candles already!"

He blew out the candles and took the knife. Shakily, he slid the knife
through the cake, and cut a small piece for himself. "Oh no you don't!"
Molly said, and gently took the piece from him. With quick strokes she
had sliced a noticeably larger piece and added it to his plate. "This is
your party, and the cake is large enough for everyone to have a good
sized piece of cake." She made quick work of the cake, and Harry melted
into the experience – he'd never had a birthday cake made just for him.
Well, that's not true, I've had several, but I've never had a party
wrapped around them.

He smiled at everyone when they'd finished eating cake and said, "Thank
you. Given how I felt just a few days ago, I never expected so many
moments that would easily help me make a Patronus in just one day. I
know that's not a normal thank you, but then again, I'm not a normal
sixteen year old." He snorted. "How many sixteen year old barons do you
know?" he asked Arthur Weasley with a chuckle.

"Well, one now," Arthur laughed in response. "You do know that it's not
really over, don't you? It's time for gifts."

"What about the dishes?" Harry asked. He grinned suddenly. “Besides the
two sitting next to me, that is.” He received a kiss on the cheek for
each girl. He noticed that Ron was laughing as well, absently scratching
his arm. The welts from the brains were mostly healed, but a faint
residue of welts could be seen still. At least his laughter seems
sincere.

"We will deal with the food dishes, birthday boy," Molly responded. "You
go back into the drawing room." He started to protest, but she shooed
him from the room. Hermione and Tonks started to drag him from the room,
and Ron got behind him and pushed just hard enough to let him know that
he was not going to be allowed to work.

Reluctantly moved in the direction of the drawing room, he stepped
through the door ad was surprised by the pile of presents on the floor
before him. "But why … it's not Christmas," he said, quite honestly
confused. There shouldn't be so much there!"

"Wrong, Harry," Remus said quietly. "This is what life should have been
like for you, rather than having to deal with the Dursleys attempts to
break your spirit. Perhaps you won't find thirty-nine boxes there," he
said, getting a grin from Harry, who recalled Dudley's tantrum a few
years back, "but what you will find there is a lot of love."

"Cut the speeches, Remus," grumbled Alastor Moody with a grin, "and let
the boy open his gifts!"

"Oh Harry?" Tonks interjected before he could sit down. "In regards to
the gift your parents left you, and the one Sirius left you? The reading
is on the third."

"What are you talking about?" Ron said. "I heard something about Harry
being a baron, but didn't quite get that."

"Honestly, Ron," Hermione started to say, but Harry interrupted.

"Remember, Hermione, that we have been rather busy these last few days,
and I haven't had the time once we got back today to tell him. It's not
his fault he doesn't know." He turned to Ron. "My parents were afraid
that they might not live to see me become an adult. For that purpose,
they emancipated me as of one minute past midnight today. For all
intents and purposes, I am an adult, except that I can't buy alcohol or
tobacco. I now own a small barony out in an area called Ynys
Crochenyddion, which is somewhere in Wales. Once I have things set up,
I'll throw a party for everyone." He looked to Dumbledore. "When my
parents were killed, the house went into shock or something, didn't it?
Why weren't they there? The protections felt strong."

"It was known where the house was. The worry was that they would work
hard enough to break through the protections there. That worry still
exists."

Harry stopped Dumbledore before he could go further. "I'm not going back
to the Dursley home ever again; I'll tell you that much. It may sound
heartless of me, but I really don't give a damn if Voldemort finds them.
I can move into this place permanently on the third. After all, it will
be mine, I believe." He looked to Tonks, who nodded. "This place is
already covered under the Fidelius, if my memory serves."

"Yes," Dumbledore said. "Are you sure you cannot be convinced to move
back in with your aunt?"

"I'm not getting into it on my birthday, especially since I started this,
but the short answer is 'yes, I'm sure.' I think I should get to my
other presents, now that the most shocking ones are out of the way." His
eyes sparkled as he looked at Tonks and Hermione, and they had the grace
to blush.

He was handed presents one by one, and the first one was from Hermione.
She winced. “Whoops, that one was supposed be just handed to you. The
thing I intended to give you hasn’t been wrapped yet. That’s …”

“Shh, let me open it. I don’t have a problem with it.” He tore the
wrapping open to find a journal. “Is this what I’d asked you to pick up
for me?” She nodded with a blush. He opened it and a sheet of parchment
fell out, and she blushed more furiously. She tried to grab for it, but
he got to it first and opened it.

Harry,

I'm hoping by the time you receive this that I've shown the famed
Gryffindor courage and taken the plunge in telling you something very
important. If you don't feel the same way, then just throw this sheet
away, and we can pretend that it never happened.

Even in writing it's hard to say it, because I'm so scared that it's a
one-sided connection. Let me build to it, and maybe that will grant me
the courage to admit it. (You're smart enough that I'll bet you suspect
by now, though.)

Over this summer, Harry, I was on the beach, and finally started to feel
pretty. Well, there was one boy at the beach who kept ignoring my
refusal of his advances. He finally pushed it too far by deciding to
rest his hand on my rear end. Not my hip, which would have been bad
enough, but on the cloth. Considering the bottoms of the bikini were
somewhat limited in coverage, you can guess how familiar he was getting.
He was having a little trouble after I punched his testicles, but that's
not the important part. I realized afterward that if it had been you
being that forward (I know, you wouldn't have been, but work with me
here), I never would have moved your hand. You can't see me right now,
but I'm blushing unbelievably as I write this, knowing that you'll read
this at some point.

Harry, somewhere along the line, I fell in love with you. There, I've
admitted it. Harry James Potter, I love you, and I hope you feel the
same. I doubt I'll have the courage to say anything to you before you
get a chance to read this note. I stated it earlier in this letter,
though – if you don't feel the same way, then I'd rather we pretend this
never happened. I think pity would hurt more.

Meaning it as more than a simple ending to a letter,

Love,

Hermione

P.S. – I have pictures of me in the swimsuit. Mom took them. Maybe
someday I'll show you the photos of the suit I wore on the beach at Sandy
Hook, New Jersey, in the United States. We went there as soon as we got
home from school this year.

Harry was grinning widely by the end of the letter. He looked to
everyone and said, “Excuse me, but I need to answer a letter before we go
any further.” He leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. “I’m
framing this letter and finding a spell to keep it permanently. This
letter alone is gift enough.”
He continued opening presents, getting quite the chuckle from one of
Moody’s gifts. The first was a book on dirty tricks a wizard can pull,
but the second was the one that made him laugh. To all appearances, it
was a Sneak-o-Scope, but he was informed by Moody, “Actually, Harry, this
thing will tell you whenever Severus is nearby. In other words, I turned
it into a Snape-o-Scope.”

“Brilliant!” Ron said, still absently rubbing his arm, but finally he
stopped. “Mind if I borrow that when we’re back at Hogwarts?”

“You realize the first time he had a chance to, it would be confiscated?”
Harry laughed.

“If you children would like, I could leave the room so that you might
continue your mirth unimpeded by my presence,” came the Potions
professor’s comment from behind them.

“You never make that offer during the school year,” Harry said with a
grin. “Why offer now?”

“Consider it my present to you,” came the droll response. Harry spun in
time to see what he thought was a twinkle in the man’s eye. Harry
snorted to himself and nodded his thanks with a real smile on his face.
Snape’s look of surprise was definitely a plus to Harry.

There were many gifts of various books, almost all of them involved with
various magics he could learn to defend or attack with. The ones that
weren't were from Ron and Ginny, respectively. Ron's was a new book on
Quidditch plays, while Ginny's was a book on captaining strategies.
"Thinking a little ahead, hmm, Ginny?" Harry asked with a grin. "That
assumes that my lifetime ban on ever even thinking about the existence of
brooms has been lifted." At the amused look from Ginny, he said, "You
have to admit, if Umbridge could have phrased an edict that way, she
would have. As a Ministry official who is probably back in her old job,
she was capable of saying that I can never play Quidditch again in this
life. I think she outranks whoever runs the Magical Games department. I
think the only one who can overturn her edicts is Cornelius Fudge."

"Getting maudlin again?" drawled Snape.

"Well, you enjoy potions, don't you? Not necessarily teaching, but the
research and development of new ones?" Harry asked quite seriously.

"And the occasional teaching job, when my students aren't too hopeless,"
came the grudging reply. He shot a look at Hermione.

"Imagine that the Ministry told you that you had a lifetime ban on
working with potions in any way. No teaching how to make them, and
certainly no making them yourself. How would you feel?"

Snape looked at him for a long moment. "I believe I see your point.
Quidditch, however, is not necessarily a career choice."
"It might have been for me. Part of my wanting to be an Auror was for
the same reason that Professor MacGonagall was willing to do everything
to get me into the program. To spit in Umbridge's eye. But I hear some
of what's involved, and I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my life
doing the exact same thing I'm already supposed to be training for. I
was born to fight dark wizards. Well, a specific one, to be precise.
Assuming I survive that, Quidditch just might be the right choice for a
career." He stopped speaking for a moment. "Actually, no. I've even
had that choice taken from me, even if I ignore the edict's existence."

"How so?" Ron asked him.   "I'll bet they could get the thing overturned."

Harry held up the ring he wore on his right index finger. The Potter
crest glinted in the light. "I'm a ruddy Baron, now. I was just
realizing the number of other duties I'll have to deal with. I've got a
barony to run, and there's the House of Lords now that I need to be
prepared for. How in hell do you learn to be a frigging baron when
you've been a commoner all your life?!" he nearly screamed.

"That's not all of it," Tonks said quietly. "In three days, you become
the Head of House Black, Lord Potter. Or should I say Baron Potter-
Black?" She hung her head.

"Two baronies?" he asked incredulously. He looked up at Snape, who
nodded. Harry sighed. "Okay. Who here has the greatest knowledge on
how a nobleman is supposed to act in situations?"

"It actually gets worse, Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. "The two other
titles you have carry ancient lands and duties with them. The are
wizarding titles only, but no less important than the Muggle titles."

"So I need to hire someone to teach me how to be a nobleman.   Wonderful,"
he grumbled.

"I could suggest someone," Snape said, "but I think you would reject him
out of hand."

"Given our history, I will not accept Draco Malfoy as a teacher," Harry
said. "I assume that's who you were thinking?"

Snape nodded. "He has been trained to move in those circles, Potter, and
does in fact have the knowledge that you need."

"Yes, and would take great pleasure in training me to do everything wrong
and most offensively to other lords and ladies. He has quite a backlog
of dislike built up, sir," Harry said. As Snape opened his mouth, Harry
said, "Yes, I am willing to admit a part in causing that dislike, but he
has not made any efforts to improve relations either."

Snape nodded.   "I am certain a tutor can be found for you."

He snorted suddenly. "Can you imagine the Dursleys when they discover
that they raised a baron in their household? One who knows any number of
really dirty secrets about them?" He laughed, a not-altogether nice
sound. "Proper clothing, I think. Get proper outfits and visit them
before the summer is out, letting them know that I shan't be returning to
Number four Privet Drive again next summer." He shook his head. "Watch
Vernon trying to fall all over himself making up for fifteen years of
abuse, and trying to figure out how to cover himself when he realizes
I'll have the power to have my allegations checked out."

Harry scowled. "Sorry. That way leads to ugly things, even if they
deserve them. Sorry, folks, thoughts taking another downturn. I'm
trying to avoid getting depressed again."

George laughed. "Hey, Ron! You could always offer to cheer him up the
way you promised to yesterday." The room erupted in laughter while Ron
turned a colour to rival his hair.

"What's this about?" Hermione asked, which caused the group to laugh even
harder.

Fred was trying to catch his breath. "Well … Ronniekins here … offered
to … hoo …" He lost it again, rolling on the floor.

Ginny was giggling furiously. "We both offered to … we said we'd shag
Harry if we thought it would cheer him up from a really bad funk." She
fell off her chair at Ron's look. His face was purple, and he looked as
if he were trying to Apparate by main force.

Harry was smiling. "As a pair, or separately?" he laughed. He fell off
his own chair as Ron stood, let loose with a strangled "Gkk!", and tore
from the room.

Finally, as the room got under control, Harry stood. "I ought to go find
him and tell him I understand, and I appreciate it. Let him know that he
can show his face in public again." He walked from the room and headed
up to the room he was supposed to share with Ron.

Opening the door, he found Ron laying on the bed, scowling.   "Hey, Ron?"

"Here to laugh some more?" Ron barked. His arm had started itching
again, obviously, because he was rubbing his hand along the welts.

"No, I'm actually here to apologize for laughing, and to let you know
that I understand about what you said. You don't swing that way, do
you?"

Ron stared him in the eyes and blushed furiously. "How could you think
that? Would you even be able to sleep in the same room as me if I was a
pouftah?"

"Well, if you were, or are, or whatever the tense should be, you have
been already, and I've not awakened with you fondling my bits in the
night, so why would you suddenly start now? Ron, you're my friend, and
whether or not you feel that way, I understand that you offered it out of
friendship, and that means more to me than I can begin to say." Ron
nodded, still rubbing furiously along his arm. Harry said, "I'll let you
be, now. You're going to have enough problems with the twins; you don't
need me adding to them." He turned and left the room.

Outside the door, he ran into Ginny.    "Did you hear anything of what I
said to him?"

"What? Do I look like someone who would stand outside my brother's
bedroom with an Extendable Ear trying to hear every word said inside?"

Harry grinned.   "Are you a Weasley?"

"I have to admit that I am, and proudly so," she said, sticking her chest
out to show that pride.

Harry blinked – while he was with the other two ladies, he wasn't exactly
immune to pretty girls. Ginny's chest wasn't big, but it was just right
for her frame, and he wasn't complaining about the view, especially since
she didn't seem to be wearing a brassiere. "Well, then," he said slowly
at first, "then I would have to say that the answer to your question is
'Yes, you do look like the type.'" He laughed. "The same holds for you.
I appreciate the offer, although I'd imagine you're probably a little
more willing to follow through than him."

Her eyes twinkled. "You look like you wouldn't complain too much
yourself." Grinning, she asked, "See something you like?"

His eyes slid past her shoulder for a moment to see Tonks and Hermione
looking at him and smiling. "As a matter of fact, Ginny – yes I do. And
I'm not talking about the beautiful women behind you." Knowing they were
close enough to hear, he said, "Honestly, Ginny, I'd have to say that I
am attracted to you, but right now I have my hands full trying to get
used to Tonks and Hermione. Besides, I already put the ball in their
court. I will make no effort to add anyone to the relationship. Tonks
and Hermione get the decision. If someone is added, then that person is
added to the decision process. I have nothing to do with the process."

"Other than enjoying the decision process when they add someone," Ginny
said with a smile.

"No arguments there." He stopped and looked her in the eyes. He was
amused to see her flush at the serious stare. "Ginny, you are a
beautiful woman, and I don't want you hurt by waiting for me. If you
find someone who makes your heart pound, then go after him; I won't be
hurt." He pulled her into a hug.

"Right now, Harry, you're the only guy who makes my heart pound," she
murmured into his chest. "No matter what I said at the end of the school
year."

A look of ineffable pain crossed his face. As his eyes fell on the other
two ladies, he saw them look at each other, nod, and then Hermione
mouthed "Kiss her." His face asked the question without having to mouth
it, and they both nodded with a smile.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Ginny said, letting go of him.   He on the other hand,
did not let go of her shoulders.

With a smile, he said quietly, "It has been recommended by my girlfriends
that I do something. I find that I have no problem with the advice, but
you should probably talk to them afterwards." That said, he pulled her
closer and gently kissed her on the lips. He was finding it amusing that
he was becoming enough of a connoisseur of kissing that he could classify
the difference. So far, he had discovered that he had yet to experience
a bad one, thankfully. Well, there was Chang, he thought for a moment.
The kiss with Ginny never went past closed lips, but was sweet and a
little sad.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 13
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XIII

The next day, he excused himself from Grimmauld Place and headed out to
Potter's Field. He asked Ron, Ginny, and Hermione to come along with him
while Tonks headed off to her job, but not before Harry could kiss her
good morning. He was curious about the long conversation that she
appeared to have with Hermione under a silence spell of some sort.

Once at Potter's Field, he went into the house, where he laid out the
inventory on a long countertop that he had noticed, while Hermione showed
the other two around the grounds. Once he had found the most necessary
pieces, he followed the procedure for using the Gringott's specialized
portkey mechanism, and began moving furniture into the house. He went to
the master bedroom first, and ported the entire bedroom set in as a unit,
and carefully Leviosa'd items into better positions.

“Want to give it a quick try out?” he heard a voice say from behind him.

Without turning, he grinned.   “Sure, Ginny, bounce on the bed all you
want.”

“It’s more fun when there’s more than one doing the bouncing,” she
replied.

He laughed. “Okay. Hermione, you can bounce on it too.” The next thing
he heard was two high pitched “Whee!” and then the two girls landed on
the large four-poster bed. Hermione rolled over and caught Harry’s eyes
and motioned with them toward Ron, and then at the door. He nodded
imperceptibly and grabbed Ron’s shoulder. “You know them, they’re going
to be silly for a while.” He leaned over conspiratorially and said,
“Probably want to talk about us as well.    Let’s make them happy, and I’ll
show you the rest of the place.”

By the time the girls got downstairs, Harry and Ron were both shirtless,
having stripped them off to move some of the heavier things. The last
two things he brought in for that day were the painting of his parents,
and the statue. "Bloody hell!" Ron breathed when he took a look at the
sculpted marble. "I'd love to meet the model for this! I'll bet she's
still as impressive."

Hermione winced, but Harry   laughed. "Give me a bit, and I'll introduce
you to her." He aimed his    wand at the painting, which was still covered,
and carefully levitated it   onto the hook above. Upon uncovering it, he
cast the spell to activate   it.

"Hello, Harry," said a beautiful contralto voice. "You've grown into a
fine young man, I see. No carrots in your hair, either," she finished
with a laugh.

"I have to agree with your mother, but then again, she's always been the
intelligent one. She married me, didn't she?" The man who almost could
have been Harry's twin said with a laugh.

"Hello, Mum, Dad," he said thickly. "I'd like you to meet some of the
most important people in the world to me." He introduced the three
others, and with a twinkle in his eyes, said, "Ron wanted me to introduce
him to the model for that statue over there. He thought she was quite
impressive. I think he was avoiding trying to refer to her as dead
sexy."

"Why, thank you, Mr. Weasley!" Lilly Potter beamed from the portrait.
"That was sculpted by a man trained in the Pygmalion school of sculpture.
Finest sculptor they'd produced in almost five hundred years." Her eyes
moved along the group. "I see Miss Granger understands the ramifications
of the school. I can also see that she won't tell anyone who doesn't
know what it means."

Eventually they had to leave to return to Grimmauld Place, but Harry
promised to return soon, since he was going to be moving in permanently.
"Should I deactivate you, or should I allow you to hang around for a
time?"

"We aren't really here, Harry," his father said from the painting. "Get
used to deactivating us when you know you'll be gone for long periods.
Gets boring just hanging around with nothing to do, and nothing to talk
to but the dust."

Harry smiled sadly. "It just seems wrong to have the power to make your
parents shut up at your command."

"Remember, we're just an echo of them, the same way the Phineas, in
Dumbledore's office, isn't really there. He can just jump from picture
to picture because there are more than one painted for him."
"I wish there were other frames for you to go to. I'd bet you'd love to
talk to Professor Dumbledore or someone." His look darkened. "Maybe you
could talk some sense into the old fart."

"Harry!" he heard Hermione gasp behind him.   He could hear her suppressed
laughter.

"Seriously, though," it would be nice if you had other places to visit.
I'll check into it, okay?"

"Thank you, Harry," Lily said sweetly to him.   He looked up at the
painting and cast the spell to deactivate it.

"I'll talk to you later," he said with a sad smile as he left.

#####

August 3rd came. The Weasleys were degnoming the gardens at the Burrows,
as Molly had ‘predicted’, and Harry was preparing for the reading of the
will. He was getting nervous as noon approached. He'd seen the will,
but he hadn't really seen it all, so he was wondering what surprises the
document held for everyone. Tonks stepped into the bedroom where he was
pacing nervously. "Wotcher, Harry! Ready to go?"

"Yeah, I guess so. I dread it for so many reasons. If I go to this,
it's sort of the final proof, isn't it? I have to accept once and for
all that Sirius is dead. He is, though, so we need to do this. As
someone one said, 'T'were best done quickly.'"

They appeared in the solicitor's office two minutes early.   "What are you
doing here, Potter?" snarled a familiar voice.

"I hate to tell you this, Malfoy, but I was mentioned in the will, as I
understand it, and thus have a reason to be here."

"Well, you're not getting any of the Black property, I can promise you.
I'm the closest male heir, so that means everything is mine, and that
should do quite nicely for me." As an afterthought, he added, "And Mum,
of course."

"Of course," Harry said with a smile devoid of warmth or humour. "For
all we know, he left as much as he legally could to Hermione's Society
for the Protection of Elf Welfare." He looked at the woman who did not
yet realize that she was his relative. Narcissa was an astonishingly
beautiful woman, still with the look as if something particularly vile
smelling were in the room. Harry looked to her son 's sharp features.
It's almost as if she weren't even his mother. Too damned much influence
from his father; more than merely genetics. He noted her softer
features, and was reminded suddenly of Daphne Greengrass. He nodded to
her respectfully. "Mrs. Malfoy," he said warmly.

"I see that you have learned lessons in courtesy that Draco has yet to
learn." She smiled. "I also believe that we can get this reading
underway, since I would like to see what pranks my cousin placed in the
document." Her eyes twinkled, and he had a sudden feeling that she knew
exactly why he was there.

He looked around to see Nymphadora and her parents, and Remus. The
solicitor stepped from the office exactly on time and led them to a
conference room. "We are gathered here for the reading of the last will
and testament of Sirius Black. If you each would speak your name, we can
verify that all are here that should be here." The solicitor looked up
at Harry. "He requested that you speak your full name, and that you be
the last to speak." Harry nodded, and one by one, everyone stated their
names.

"Draco Ananias Malfoy."

"Narcissa Black Malfoy."

"Theodore Nicholas Tonks."

"Andromeda Black Tonks."

"Nymphadora Cassiopeia Tonks."

"Remus John Lupin."

"Harry James Potter-Black."

Draco erupted.   "That's not funny, Potter!"

"If you insist on using my last name, Mal … Draco, then I suggest you at
least precede it with either my title or the honorific."

"What are you on about?"

"Son," Narcissa interrupted, "you address a Baron. Actually, if I
understand Sirius's strategy … no, I leave that for the reading. But
Draco, you address him as either Baron Potter or Lord Potter. He holds
the ancient Potter baronial title again." She looked at Harry for a long
moment, and he couldn't help but blush. "Speak with me afterwards, Lord
Potter. I understand that you need proper training, and I have some
suggestions for you, as a relative."

Harry nodded and turned back to the solicitor. "Yes, as I thought.
Several more bits of information have become available to me now that Mr.
Potter has publicly acknowledged the adoption. This will has none of the
practical jokes that I would have expected of Mr. Black. I guess his
mere references in here are considered enough. Well, let us get on with
it. You can look at the exact text if you so choose, but I will get to
his bequests."

He pulled out a Pensieve. "He wanted to say something to each of you, in
a way, so I'll let each of you hear it from him." The solicitor tapped
the edge of the Pensieve and a small image of Sirius appeared. Harry was
not surprised to hear voices other than his own suppressing a small sob.
He was surprised to note that one of them was Narcissa.
"Well, you're all here, so I'm all dead," came the voice. "This is going
to be short and to the point. The split of the moneys is simple. If Ted
had let me, It would have been more difficult, but I guess it's easier to
split something into sixths than sevenths." Draco looked smug at this
statement, and Harry hid his own smirk. "First off, two of you in the
group I requested here get no shares of the Black family fortunes at all.
Ted, because you specifically told me you'd give it to your wife and
child anyway, and Draco, because you are by far one of the most annoying
and spoiled children I have ever met, and I lay the blame for that
squarely on your father's shoulders. The rest is as follows: Remus,
Nymphadora and Andromeda each get one sixth of the Black family wealth.
Harry, my son, you get one third, and one hell of a large headache that I
apologize for. This, of course, assumes that this is after your
sixteenth birthday that you hear this. If not, then it remains in trust
for you, with Remus as executor, until the Potter will kicks into
effect." The image grinned. "If you're under sixteen when you hear
this, then you have quite the shock coming at one minute past midnight on
your sixteenth birthday." He lost the smile. "The final sixth goes to
you, Narcissa, under a condition that I hope you'll agree to. If you
agree to divorce Lucius, renounce all his associates, and take back the
family name, then that last sum of money goes to you." Draco started to
speak, but Sirius kept going. "A condition that goes on top of this is
that if you predecease Harry before Harry's twenty-first birthday, then
the money remaining becomes Harry's, not Draco's. An aside, Narcissa –
don't even think about divorcing him and remarrying him after the cash is
yours. Remember that little curse we talked about when you turned
sixteen? I learned how to make it permanent. If you divorce him and
remarry him, you get that for the rest of your life."

Harry looked over at Narcissa and noticed that she had blanched, although
one of her eyebrows was raised quirkily. "If you agree, Narcissa, simply
tell the solicitor, and everything will be ready for you."

"On to property. Number 12 Grimmauld Place goes to my son, on the
condition that Remus always be welcome there." A grin came across the
face in the Pensieve. "I Siriusly doubt you'll have a problem with that
condition." This was followed by groans from everyone else save Draco.
“Ted and Rom, you get that little place in Scotland you went for that
vacation. Might want to take Nymphadora there too, since she might want
to see the place where she was conceived. Cissy, the last place falls
under the same decision as above. You know the property I’m thinking of
to give you. But you only get it if your last name is Black. I think
you all can guess my opinion of Lucius Malfoy. Remus, you get that bothy
in Scotland that you love so very much.”

“Harry, my son. You’ve been hit with a lot. Hang onto your hat. When
you hit sixteen, you become Baron Black. All the remaining properties in
the Black holdings will be yours to do with what you will. If Cissy –
sorry, Narcissa. If Narcissa divorces her husband, I’d talk to her about
getting lessons in being lordly. She knows how to train you well.”

"I'm sorry this message can't be longer, but you know how these things
are. A year wouldn’t be enough time. Harry, again, I'm sorry that I
wasn't there for you when you needed me, and I'm sorry you're left with
the headache that I'm dropping on you.” The image disappeared, and
several sniffs were heard. Narcissa had tears coming from her eyes.

“Mrs. Malfoy?” the solicitor asked. “I apologize for the possible
crassness of this question, but do you intend to fulfil the conditions
that Sirius set down in the will for you?”

“Of course she doesn’t, you fool!” Draco barked.   “She’d never leave my
father.”

Narcissa turned to her son and aimed a very cold eye at him, causing him
to blanch. “I do not recall signing any documents granting you power of
attorney for my decisions, Draco.” She turned to the solicitor. “Can I
assume that my cousin ‘just happened’ to have prepared divorce paperwork
for just such an occurrence?” she asked with a smile.

The solicitor merely smiled and pushed a small sheaf of papers toward
her. It had small tabs sticking out at various points. “I updated them
upon Lucius’ capture and subsequent sentencing to Azkaban. That makes
the process so simple that the moment your signature goes on these papers
in the final line, you are a free woman.” She took the offered quill,
and a few moments later, she was handing it back, no longer Narcissa
Malfoy.

“You’ll regret that, mother!” Draco shouted. “You betrayed father!
There will be a reckoning!” He stormed to the door.

Before he could exit, Harry quipped, “You forgot to say, ‘You will rue
the day!’ Draco. You’re slipping.” He heard a few chuckles, and was
surprised to note that Narcissa was one of them. Draco stared daggers at
Harry, who merely smiled sweetly at him.

“Don’t think you’re going to walk away free, Potter,” Draco snarled.
“You’ll be dealt with in good time.” He stormed from the office.

“Well, that went well,” Tonks said with a laugh.

“When we’re free of here,” Narcissa said with a smile, “I need to talk to
you about the disposition of a certain house elf, and information that he
carried. Right now, however, I would like a moment to mourn the loss of
my favourite cousin.” Tears began to flow from her eyes. Without
thinking, Harry stood and took the woman into his arms and let her cry on
his shoulder.

"I miss him too, Mrs. … sorry, Miss Black." He could feel tears
threatening to flow from his own eyes, but he ruthlessly quashed them.

She sniffed, and a handkerchief appeared from nowhere.   "You're the son
of my cousin. Call me Narcissa, or if you can't bring yourself to do
that, call me Aunt.” Harry looked at her, and noted that she no longer
appeared so haughty. She turned to the Tonks. “I don’t expect you to
believe me, Mr. Tonks, but now that I’m free of my parasitic husband, I
can welcome you to the family.   Andromeda, can you ever forgive me for
abandoning you?”

“It’ll take time, Cissy.   But I think we’ll be a family again.   I’m sorry
about your son, though.”

“I have no son,” came the response.

Harry started at that. “Isn’t that a bit harsh? I mean, I know he’s a
real prick, and gives lessons in being a jerk to some of the other
Slytherin, but ….”

“I was quite serious, actually. I have no blood relation to that boy.
Perhaps his true mother will accept him and give me my daughter back.”

“Daphne!” Harry said.   “You’re Daphne Greengrass’s mother!”

“I won’t go into the situation that led to such a scenario, but suffice
it to say that it is one that I would not willingly put myself in again.
If you get the chance this upcoming year, could you contact Miss
Greengrass and let her know that I wish to speak with her?”

“I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try,” Harry responded. “I’ll admit
that I’d like to get to know you and your sister better, for something of
an ulterior motive. I don’t really know Sirius, and I’d like to. Remus
and you two are the only ones around who can really tell me. Sni …
Professor Snape is out of the question, and everyone else who really knew
him is dead. Well, Pettigrew isn’t yet, but I intend to change that
someday.” He shook his head. “Looking at who is here, is it possible
for us to go somewhere and perhaps have a drink and get to know each
other a little better?”

The solicitor spoke up. “There need to be a few signatures in various
places on the paperwork, but we are essentially finished. I can give you
all copies of the will, which says what he did in the Pensieve, but in
legal language, detailing exactly which properties and monies go where
they do. There were no jokes hidden in the language, so there need be
nothing to warn you of.”

Tonks spoke up. “He’s right. I’m not a solicitor, and I got it. Sirius
treated this one thing in his life, if you will, with the solemnity that
it deserved.” Remus snorted quietly off to one side, which drew a smile
to Narcissa’s face.

“Agreed, Mr. Lupin,” she smiled.   “We are in full agreement there.”

A short time later, they were in a pleasant little establishment in
Diagon Alley. Narcissa broached the subject that none of them really
felt comfortable mentioning. “I do not expect you to trust me when I say
this, but I support what Sirius was and the rest of you are doing. I was
almost put into Ravenclaw when I was at Hogwarts, so I like to think that
I know how to use my brain. You-Know-Who is back – that I unfortunately
know to be a fact, and he wishes Har … my apologies. He wishes Lord
Potter-Black here dead.”
“Call me Harry. I know I need to get used to being a Baron, but until
recently, I was simply a boy living with particularly slimy Muggles,
definitely not representative of the breed.”

“You will need to learn to be a Baron soon, Harry,” she admonished.

"I know.   I should start soon, but I don't know who can teach me."

"I believe that I can help you there. I moved in those circles, and
there is really no difference at that level between Muggle and wizarding
society."

"First we need to get you moved out of Malfoy Manor," Harry said.

“The sooner the better, to be honest. May I draft a few people to help
me?” She laughed. "Draco is going to find a slight problem getting
home. He can't apparate yet, and the wards recognize me still. He can’t
get home until I let him home.” She looked around and cast a quick
charm. “No one will pay attention to us now. I need to speak to Albus
Dumbledore, soonest. Kreacher came to me. Luckily, he did not talk to
anyone but me. He was directly involved with the reason we met today, so
I gave him the fate that he deserved. He is dead, and can give no more
secrets. Unfortunately for you, what he did tell me was quite dangerous
to those of too Orderly a mindset.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. “Understood. I’m sure that Remus might know how
to contact the Headmaster." He turned to Remus. "After all, you did
teach at the school for a while; I’m sure he gave you some method of
talking to him in an emergency. And he doesn’t change those too often, I
gather.”

Remus nodded. “Let me see if I can contact him, and I’ll be back in a
while, all right?” He nodded his parting to the table.

He returned a surprisingly short time later.   "He authorized a meeting as
soon as Miss Black is available."

"Well, then, shall we leave my husband's child to fend for himself for a
while? I'd have trouble locating the little bastard anyway." Even
knowing what they did, it was still something of a surprise to hear. The
group stood and headed out into the alley, where they activated the
portkey to take them to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.

#####

They appeared in the hallway, near the portrait. The curtain flipped
slightly, and the woman in the portrait caught sight of Harry. "FILTHY
HALF-BLOOD! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO …"

"Shut up you old harridan!" came a voice that managed to surprise them.
"You are dead, your son is dead, and the only one of your nieces who
could still love you is a worthless sycophant to a ridiculous mockery of
a wizard. I deny you, and Andromeda denies you. You will never see
Bellatrix alive again, you foul spawn of a meaningless lesser demon."

The woman in the painting gasped.   "Narcissa!   How could you!   YOU
TRAITOR!"

"Bloody hell!" Ron grumbled as he stumbled into the room.    "Who set the
old … what are you doing here?"

Harry turned. "Ron, please keep a civil tongue until you've heard
everything, okay? It's important." He turned back to the painting and
pulled out his wand. "As the head of the Black family, I deny you,
grandmother. I cast both you and Bellatrix from the family, and that is
said with three members of the Black family present. You have no rights
in this household anymore, and I deny your very existence." He pointed
the wand directly at the painting. "If you have another one to move to,
I suggest that you do."

She stood her ground in the painting. "You can't. None of you can, and
when the Dark Lord returns to power, you and your filthy Mudblood whore
will …" No one would ever know what she meant to say, because Harry
shouted "REDUCTO!", and the painting went away. So did the wall behind
it.

"Whoops?" he said as the dust cleared. "Umm, Reparo?" he asked, more
than a little embarrassed, and the wall reappeared, minus the screaming
painting.

"Important safety tip," Narcissa quipped with a small smile. "Never
insult anyone important to Harry. If only the old biddy were still
around to hear that."

"Okay," Harry chuckled. "We're here for a reason. Can I assume that
he's in the kitchen, as usual? Oh, Ron? By the way, I'd like to
introduce you to my first cousin, once removed, by adoption – Narcissa
Black. As of a little while ago, she is no longer married to Lucius
Malfoy."

Ron blinked a couple times. Narcissa held out her hand to shake his, and
old training obviously kicked in. Ron gently took her hand, bent over
it, and pretended to kiss the back of her hand. Narcissa's eyebrows
rose, and she bowed to Ron. She then looked up at Molly. "My
compliments, Mrs. Weasley. Your son has been given proper training. It
is excellent to see him greeting someone he would rather throw bodily
from the house." She smiled to Ron. "I understand your feelings, Mr.
Weasley, and do not hold them against you. Perhaps Lord Potter-Black can
explain certain things to you a little better." She looked to Harry.
"You have my permission to tell whom you wish, Harry."

"I promise to update you later, Ron, but this is important." They walked
to the kitchen, getting interested looks from Alastor Moody and Eliphas
Doge. Harry stepped through first to see Severus Snape and Albus
Dumbledore in conversation
As Narcissa stepped through the door, Severus looked to Harry. “Of all
the incompetent, idiotic things for you to have done, Mister Potter, I
believe that this takes the cake. May we assume that Draco Malfoy is out
in the study? Have you perchance invited Goyle and Crabbe here as well?”
He paused for breath. “You demand to be treated with respect, and then
you do something like this. Even your godfather wouldn’t have done
something this thunderingly stupid!” He stopped and glared at Harry.
“Well, boy? What’s your half-brained excuse going to be this time?
Brains addled from all the fame and fortune heaped upon you now, Baron?”

Harry simple stared at Severus and cracked his knuckles. He turned to
Dumbledore. “Professor? I believe that you had requested to meet with
Miss Black? I’ll be waiting out with Ron and the others while you talk
to her.” He spun on his heel and stalked from the room. He was
seething, but he was also pleased that he had kept his temper in there,
and he somehow thought that Dumbledore was pleased with him too.

As the door closed behind him, he heard a loud slap. Chuckling, he met
with Ron, who had now been joined by Ginny and Hermione, both of whom
seemed mildly rumpled for some reason. He told them of the meeting, and
the fact that he was now hideously wealthy, as well as the owner of this
household they were in. He also told them the secret about Draco and
Daphne, and requested that neither say anything until Harry had a chance
to speak with Daphne.

A few minutes later, Snape exited the room, looking a bit like he had
been sucking on a lemon the size of Hogsmeade, and with a bruise forming
on his left cheek. “Potter,” he said, and motioned Harry over. When
Harry arrived, he sneered slightly and said, “It appears that I spoke
without knowing the facts, and for that I apologize. Things were said
that were uncalled for.”

Harry stared at his Potions teacher for a long moment. “I can only
assume that the Headmaster informed you that your job was forfeit unless
you apologized. Well, your job is safe. However, since it wasn’t
sincere, and only said to save yourself and your job, I don’t accept your
apology. Good day.” Harry turned and headed up the stairs before
Severus could even respond.

#####

Albus walked out to stand by Severus. “Do you begin to see the results
of your five years of treatment of the boy, Severus? You have done many
things to him that you should rightfully have apologized for, and only
now do you apologize for something?” He turned to look at his Potions
teacher. “I have let you get away with it for too long. Unless
something is done soon, I am going to have to tell the boy that I must
break our bargain. Hogwarts is becoming too dangerous for many people,
and I can simply not find another teacher willing to teach him Potions.”
He caught Severus eyes and held them. “When will you realize that Harry
is not his father?”

“I would make plans for after the defeat of Voldemort as well, Severus,”
Narcissa said as well. “If that boy chooses to become Minister of Magic
afterward, your safety is not guaranteed.” She smiled. “Are you aware
that he now commands family Black? That you have earned the hatred of a
young man who is now a Baron twice over? And to whom you now owe some
small duties, as the head of your household? Let us not forget that he
is the heir of two of Hogwarts founders.” She turned to Albus. “He
holds his temper magnificently, by the way. He will do well.”

“That is a new development, I will admit,” the headmaster replied.   “I am
uncertain as to whether it is a good development.”

#####

The others came up the stairs behind Harry.   “What was that about?” Ron
asked.

“He called me about fifteen different types of idiot for bringing
Narcissa here. I figure that Dumbledore actually called him on it, and
that led to the apology. The stupid git actually thought I’d accept it?
After all this time? Too damned little, too damned late.”

“I still don’t trust her,” Ron grumbled.

“Based upon Snape’s reaction, and the fact that Dumbledore wanted to talk
to her, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.” They raised
their eyebrows at him, and he smiled. “No, I haven’t entirely forgiven
him for what happened these past few years, but he does have the Order in
mind, and if she isn’t on the up and up, I have no doubts that something
will be done about it.”   He blushed. "It doesn't hurt, either, that
she's … well, she is in a league with Hermione and Tonks. She's Daphne's
real mum, remember?"

He thought for a moment and the shuddered. “I don’t think anyone gets
it, really. I’m destined to fight Voldemort, and if the fates smile on
me, walk away the winner.” He smiled at Hermione, and reached out for
her hand. “Problem is, guys – how many people have I killed in my
lifetime? Me directly, that is, wielding the weapon that caused so-and-
so to die. How many?”

Ron thought for a moment, absently rubbing his arm. Ginny looked at Ron
for a moment, and said, “Talk to Mum about something for that, Ron. I
don’t think you want to rip your arm open again.” She looked back to
Harry. “To be honest, Harry, I don’t think you’ve killed any people.
The only deaths you’ve caused that I’m aware of were the basilisk and the
personality of the diary Tom Riddle. I don’t think that really qualifies
as killing a person.”

“Neither do I,” replied Harry. “That’s where the problem lies. No
matter what anyone says, I have to become a murderer. Fine, it’s self
defence. Okay, if he doesn’t die, Europe, if not the world, would be in
grave danger from him. I understand that the world needs him gone.” He
growled. “Name me another sixteen year old who has this much to worry
about right now. Two frigging baronies that I have no idea how to
handle; heir to two of the Hogwarts houses, again with no knowledge of
how to handle that; knowing that I’m destined to at least attempt murder
someday; and trying to figure out what this power I have that
Moldieshorts ‘knows not’. Dumbledore has hinted at love, but what am I
going to do – go up and screw him to death?” He thought for a moment,
and then shuddered, laughing afterwards. “Okay, go get Remus or someone
– that image needs to leave my brain right now.”

Remus poked his head in the door.   “Someone call my name?”

Ron laughed. “Yeah. Harry needs to be Obliviated – actually, I think we
all do now. Gah, what an image!” He shuddered theatrically.

At Remus’s bemused look, Hermione told him with a laugh what the
conversation had been. He awarded the thought a shudder as well, and
then looked at Harry. “Unfortunately, Harry, as for your other problem,
you’ll have to deal with it. It has to be done, and it appears to be
that you are the only one who can manage it. I understand your problem,
and like it even less than you do, if that’s possible. After all, not
only do I know that my best friends’ son has to kill someone someday, but
I have to help him learn to do it.” He shrugged. “These are ugly
times.” He suddenly turned to Ron and Ginny. “Weren’t you supposed to
be de-gnoming today?”

“It may be clear here, but it’s raining in Ottery-St. Catchpole,” Ginny
shrugged. Harry took a moment to enjoy it, the way he would if Tonks or
Hermione did it. “So, we came back here to help out.”

"I think I'll let Remus work on that, since he'll likely be staying here
most of the time until I graduate. As long as the whole place isn't
Chudley Cannons orange, I shouldn't have a problem with it."

"Oi!   What's wrong with the Cannons?" Ron asked.

"Nothing, and I even like their colour scheme. But not for an entire
house! Tell you what - I'll see to it that the room that we share is
redone in orange, since it'll likely stay your room." Ron nodded at
that.

"What to do with myself," Remus mused.

"Well, make the master bedroom comfortable for yourself as well, Remus,
and pick out a good room to use when I am in the house. This house just
as likely could have been yours, so I think you should have the pick of
the rooms."

"You remind me of Lily at times like this, Harry. Heart as big as the
whole outdoors, and never willing to let me settle for second best."

"Well, you deserve better than second best. Did you know that you're the
best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had? We started
with someone hosting Voldemort, followed by the fraud who was a walking
advertisement for himself. After you came a Death Muncher disguised and
Mad-Eye Moody, and then the Um-bitch." He paused. "What does it say
when the best teacher for the subject was removed from it simply because
of something that he has no control over?"
"Second best," Remus said with an impudent grin. "I'm led to understand
that a certain student of mine took it upon himself to teach his fellow
students Defense Against the Dark Arts, including those in classes above
him? The Patronus is not an easy spell, yet my best student was able to
teach others how to cast it. Have you considered teaching as an option,
Harry?"

“Teaching?   I’m not ….”

“Before you finish that statement, Harry,” Hermione interrupted, “I think
you ought to be aware of how well Dumbledore’s Army was doing. It was
unofficial, but I got word from Professor McGonagall that all the members
except Marietta Edgecombe did better on their O.W.L.s than should have
been the case.” She paused. “That reminds me. Where are our O.W.L.
results? They should have been here by now.”

At that moment, Minerva McGonagall called up the stairs.   “Remus?   Are
Potter, Weasley, and Granger up there with you?”

“Yes, they are.   Are they needed downstairs?” he asked as he reached the
doorway.

“Only if they happen to be interested in finding out how well they
performed on their Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations,” she replied
with a smile in her voice.

Hermione let loose with something that sounded suspiciously like “Squee!”
and took off for the stairs. She started down them skipping every other
stair, but roughly halfway down tripped, and her momentum shot her out
and downward at an alarming rate in what was most likely going to be a
fatal collision with the floor.

Harry moved as if he could actually catch her, wishing with all his heart
to stop her fatal plunge, moving as if he could somehow leap and catch
her himself. He found himself beside her in midair, and instinctively
grabbed her and spun to take the blow himself, cushioning her from the
worst of the blow. There was a loud crunching noise as they hit the
floor, and Harry felt pain explode in his spine from the back of his
skull clear to his tailbone. As they slid to a stop, he felt his legs go
limp. Pain blinded him.

“Harry, are you all right?” Hermione asked, crying.   “Harry?”

“Ow?” he shuddered, the pain so great in his back that tears were simply
forced out of him. “My back – it hurts.” He took in a breath, and new
pain rippled through him. “I don’t know where, but I think I broke
something.” That took everything out of him, and he greyed out, in too
much pain to actually think.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 14
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XIV

He awoke in St. Mungo’s to find Narcissa standing next to him. He was
quite glad not to be in pain anymore. Outside the room, he could hear
what sounded like the beginnings of a rousing fight between what sounded
like Cornelius Fudge and Professor McGonagall, who was being backed by
Remus.

“… without a license!   The law is clear on this, McGonagall!”

“Agreed. It was accidental, with the intention of saving someone’s life.
The only reason you are after him right now is because of who he is!”

“Not even Harry Potter can flout the rules!   Surely you can see that!”

There was silence for a moment, and Harry knew that Professor McGonagall
was preparing another blast, when Remus said in a neutral tone, “So Miss
Granger’s death was the preferable outcome, Minister Fudge? Two adults
were present in the room at the time, sir, and the angle that Miss
Granger was plummeting at was such that it would have broken her neck,
and most likely her skull. As it is, we are waiting to see how Harry is
doing, since the impact broke his back and left him paralyzed, hopefully
only temporarily. The impact would have killed her.”

“I have the word of a werewolf and one teacher from Hogwarts, both of
whom are known to be fond of the boy. Give me a reason to believe that
you’re telling me the truth, and I’ll drop the charges.”

‘Tell me, Fudge. Is it wand-snapping, or ‘only’ Azkaban for this
offence?” McGonagall asked dangerously.

“That is for the Wizengamot to decide, Professor,” he huffed.    “Now I
demand to see the boy to deliver this to him!”

Narcissa looked at Harry. “May I, Baron?” He started slightly, but
nodded. She walked to the door and opened it. “Minister Fudge! How
nice to see you! We couldn’t help but hear you out here, and the head of
House Black sees no reason for there to be any delay in your proceedings.
If you would?” Minister Fudge followed her into the room, where his eyes
lit upon Harry. He opened his mouth to speak, but she interrupted him
first. “I know you’ve seen each other before, sir, but might I formally
introduce Baron Harry James Potter-Black, head of both the Potter and
Black houses?”
Fudge looked startled at that.   “That can’t be!” he complained.   “He’s
not even of age yet!”

“Actually, Minister,” she corrected, “the paperwork has been properly
signed and delivered to the necessary parties. I can’t speak for the
Potter side of things, but as for the Black family, Sirius’s will was
read today, and since he had never officially been charged with a crime,
and rather was summarily thrown into Azkaban without a trial, his will
was legally capable of being probated without undue problems. He had
never claimed it, but Sirius was rightfully Baron Black, and that title
goes to his adopted son, Harry Potter. Harry is legally an adult, and as
such is legally permitted to do all magic except for Apparating, which he
did today, for what I understand is the first time, in my presence in
order to save the life of his friend, Miss Hermione Granger.” She
smiled. “Now, may the Baron and I help you?”

Fudge seemed to crumple in upon himself. “No, Mrs. Malfoy. It appears
that there has been a grave error made. I apologize to you both for any
undue distress in this matter.” He sketched a bow toward Harry. “By
your leave, Baron, I should be returning to work.” Harry nodded, and
Cornelius Fudge slinked from the room.

He waited for roughly a minute before finally letting loose with a snort.
“Aunt Narcissa, that was ruddy brilliant! Thank you! I'd kiss you if I
could stand up.” He smiled and took her hand and squeezed it in thanks,
and then a thought struck him, driving the smile away. “Hermione! How
is she? I know she’s alive, but …”

“I’m fine, Harry,” came a small voice from the door.    “You saved my life.
And I broke your back in thanks.”

“No, my back broke because I was trying to keep a woman I love from
dying. It’s a price I’m willing to pay, even if it happens to be
permanent. Come here and kiss me, okay?” He smiled at her, and she
smiled a weak smile back at him. When she had reached his side and
leaned over him, he put his hands to either side of her face and kissed
her deeply, letting her know wordlessly that he truly felt that his
condition was worth it. When the kiss finally broke, her smile was
wider.

“To blatantly change the subject now,” he said, “does anyone happen to
have my O.W.L. results? I’m kinda curious about them.”

Hermione laughed. “I must be rubbing off on you, Harry,” she said. As
he began to get a humorously lecherous look in his eyes, she playfully
swatted his arm and said, “Not that way, you perv!”   A moment later,
much more quietly, she added, "At least not in public." Her eyes
twinkled mischievously

He laughed.   “Well, what are they?   Actually, how did you guys do?”

She smiled and handed him her letter.
#####

Ordinary Wizarding Levels for Hermione J. Granger

                                                                     Written
Practical          Overall

Ancient Runes                                   E
N/A                 E

Arithmancy                                          O
O                       O

Astronomy                                           A*
A*                      A*

Care of Magical Creatures                 O                              O
O

Charms                                                  O
O                       O

Defense Against the Dark Arts         O                              O
O

Divination                                               N/A
N/A                 N/A

Herbology                                            O
O                       O

History of Magic                                O
N/A                 O

Muggle Studies                                  O                               O
O

Potions                                                     O
O                       O

Transfigurations                                O                               O
O

                                     Total                      11

    * Due to an incident during the examination, all results were set to
Acceptable. A retest will be available to all who wish to attempt to
better this result.

#####

“I’m definitely retaking the Astronomy O.W.L.,” she said.        “Acceptable!
Hmmph!”
He laughed. “Understood. I’ll probably retake it as well. I know I can
do better than an Acceptable. I think I was going to, honestly.” He
turned to Ron, whose head was now poking in the door. How’d you do,
chum? Got your letter with you?”

“Yeah! I was showing it to Mum. She’s bouncing off the walls for joy
right now.” He handed the letter over to Harry.

#####

Ordinary Wizarding Levels for Ronald B. Weasley

                                                                    Written
Practical          Overall

Ancient Runes                                     N/A                         N/A
N/A

Arithmancy                                            N/A
N/A                 N/A

Astronomy                                             A*
A*                      A*

Care of Magical Creatures                  A                            A
A

Charms                                                  A
A                       A

Defense Against the Dark Arts         O                             O
O

Divination                                              A
A                       A

Herbology                                              A
A                       A

History of Magic                                  A
N/A                 A

Muggle Studies                                    N/A                         N/A
N/A

Potions                                                     E
E                         E

Transfigurations                                  A                             A
A

                                   Total                        9
    * Due to an incident during the examination, all results were set to
Acceptable. A retest will be available to all who wish to attempt to
better this result.

#####

“Imagine!    Me getting nine O.W.L.s!   Is that a surprise or what?”

“You still could have done better, Ron,” Hermione huffed at him. “You
need excellent grades to get the good jobs out there. Not just anyone
can be an Auror, you know.”

“I know. Actually, that one’s blown out of the water as it is. Snape …
sorry, Professor McGonagall … Professor Snape won’t accept anyone into
N.E.W.T. Potions without an O on their O.W.L.. That’s me gone right
there.” He frowned. “Have to see what else I can do.”

“Well, I’ve had an idea, thanks to Remus,” Harry said. “But I ought to
look at my O.W.L.s first, to see if it’s feasible.” He took the envelope
and ripped it, pulling out the sheet of paper.

#####

Ordinary Wizarding Levels for Harry J. Potter

                                                               Written
Practical           Overall

Ancient Runes                                      N/A                   N/A
N/A

Arithmancy                                               N/A
N/A                   N/A

Astronomy                                            A*
A*                     A*

Care of Magical Creatures                    E                      E
E

Charms                                                    E
O                       E

Defense Against the Dark Arts            O                      O***
O

Divination                                                A
A                       A

Herbology                                                E
E                        E

History of Magic                                   D**                    N/A
D**
Muggle Studies                                   N/A                   N/A
N/A

Potions                                                O
O                     O

Transfigurations                                E                        O
E

                                     Total                 8

    * Due to an incident during the examination, all results were set to
Acceptable. A retest will be available to all who wish to attempt to
better this result.

    ** A retest will be offered, since there has never before been a
student attacked during an exam.

    *** The proctor stated that if there were a grade above Outstanding,
this student would have been granted such a grade.

#####

“Well, I’ve already said I’m retaking the Astronomy one, and if they’re
offering on History, then I’m going to see if I can at least raise it to
a Poor. Yeesh! At least I didn’t earn a T on the thing!”

“One troll in our lifetimes is more than enough, thank you very much,”
Hermione said. “Although I finally got some real friends in my life
because of one.” She leaned over and kissed Ron on the cheek, and then
kissed Harry’s cheek as well.

Hating to change the subject, Harry said, “Professor McGonagall? Remus
suggested to me, since I’m not as eager to be an Auror anymore, that I
should consider teaching. What’s your opinion on that?”

“First I should ask you why you wish to abandon your Auror career
thoughts, Harry,” she responded. She turned to shoo everyone else from
the room.

“No, let them stay. Honestly, Professor, that debacle that I caused at
the Ministry in June shows that I don’t have what it takes to be an
Auror. I was utterly useless when Hermione was downed by Doholov. If
she’d been my partner in an Auror mission? That likely would get us both
killed. Plus, honestly, I’ve already seen too much death. I don’t want
to see more, but I’m going to anyway before this war is over. I know for
a fact that friends of mine are going to end up dead, fighting. I don’t
want that. If I didn’t have something to live for now,” he said,
squeezing Hermione’s hand, “I’d want to walk right out and do a mutual
takedown. But since I have something to live for now, I thought maybe a
hopefully less deadly profession. Can’t play Quidditch, though, so I’ll
take the middle road, and go for teaching.” He laughed at the end.
She was smiling. “I see you have paid attention to some of the mishaps
of your fellow classmates. Remind me to tell you of some of the more
interesting ones over the years someday, Harry, including the charm gone
awry that turned Hogwarts into a nudist haven for a day.” Her eyes
momentarily shot to Narcissa with amusement.

“Yes, as I recall, I received seventeen proposals of marriage from that
one. I also recall everyone looking to Professor Flitwick with new
respect after that incident.” She looked to Harry. “Your mother
received quite a few proposals as well. Some of them were for marriage.”
She smiled. “She said yes to one of them.”

“That was when Dad proposed to her? When she was stark naked?”   He
frowned. “The more I learn about him …”

“Ah, before you jump to conclusions, Harry …” Narcissa interrupted.

####

Narcissa heard the slapping of feet coming down the corridor. She spun
to find the lovely Lily Evans hurrying toward her. “Cissy! Do you have
any idea what happened? I mean, I was in Charms when everyone’s clothes
disappeared, and – by the way, did you know that Flitwick is – I mean,
wow! – but he cancelled classes and sent everyone back to their rooms. I
headed this way because there are roving gangs of photographers around,
and I really don’t want my picture all over everyone’s walls.”

“Just James’s wall, right?” Narcissa Black asked with a smirk.

“Well, if he ever gets the courage to ask, he’ll get more than just a
photograph,” came the demure smile. “It’s amazing how someone can go
from being such a thick-headed, thundering prat to the sweet and loving
man he is now. Am I just ignoring his faults, or did he really change?”

“I think when he discovered that you weren’t interested in the Quidditch
Star persona, he went back to being who he really is. Think about it,
Lily – would Remus really hang around someone as annoying as what James
was just because he needed a friend that badly? After all, he has you as
a friend, and you certainly don’t act like that.”

Lily was about to answer her when they heard footsteps approaching at a
run. Lily jumped into the nearby broom closet and closed the door most
of the way. Narcissa stepped such that Lily would be behind whomever the
runner was.

“Narcissa!” The voice belonged to James Potter. “Narcissa, have you
seen Lily anywhere?” The poor man was out of breath, even for someone as
fit as he was.

“Why are you looking for her?” Narcissa asked with a smile.

“To protect her. There have been a few incidents of more than mere
photography taking place, and I’ve already sent a few people to the
hospital wing. Sirius is escorting Gina Diggers to the wing, because a
couple Slytherin tried to … well, I don’t think I have to say.”   He
blushed furiously.

“And you jumped in to protect her?”

He snorted. “Actually, I didn’t want her expelled for murdering the two
snakes. Her right shoulder seems dislocated, at least it looks that way,
but she did it so that she – well, let’s say that a certain part of their
anatomies will need to descend from their bodily cavities before being
useful again. I actually had to protect the Slytherins!”

He shuddered slightly. “I’m pretty sure she could defend herself like
Gina did, but the thought of Lily, with some other guy forcing her to …
well, I’d kill the bastard. You’ve seen how gorgeous she is! She’s a
target …”

Narcissa laughed to herself as she saw the realization that he was
talking to the other girl who topped the ‘Prettiest Girl at Hogwarts’
list (she and Lily traded places quite often) finally hit him. “Umm,
that s to say, uh, I mean that … well, you’re not exactly … umm …”

“Thank you James. I know you’d much rather look at Lily naked than me.”
She was surprised to watch his face fall. “What’s wrong, James?”

“This has scotched everything. We’ve got a Hogsmeade weekend, as you
know, and I was going to … well, there’s this ring she really likes, and
it’s just the style that would make an engagement ring, you know?” He
looked at her earnestly, and she nodded. “I was going to ask her to
marry me once we get out of Hogwarts. Now I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“You know what a jerk I was all those years, trying to impress her. Part
of it was trying to get her naked, so that I could score again, you
understand. Then I found out what kind of a girl she really is, but I
didn’t know any other way to impress a girl. Then I just started being
me, and she started getting interested. How do I know I’m not going to
go back to being the royal jerk when I see her without her clothes?”

Narcissa smiled as she watched Lily walk up behind his and put her arms
around his waist. “Because you’ve been talking to the prettiest girl in
Hogwarts without trying to shag her up against the wall?”

His grin made Narcissa’s day. “I like my bits right where they are,
thank you very much,” he said. Lily actions made her actually laugh,
however.

She reached down and quickly fondled his genitalia and said with a smirk,
“Oh, I like them as well, but I can think of somewhere else for them to
be.”

His face went white, and she spun to look Lily in the face. “Lily,
please don’t. I don’t want to be that idiot I was once. I love you, and
I was going to ask you to marry me before this happened.”
“Why not now?” He opened his mouth to respond, and she said, “I was in
that broom closet. I heard the whole thing, James. When you ask me, the
answer will be yes.”

He dropped to one knee so hard that Narcissa winced to hear the impact,
but James didn’t seem to notice. “Lily Evans, I don’t deserve a woman
like you, but I’m asking anyway – will you agree to marry me when we’re
done here at Hogwarts?”

“I’d marry you today, if I could,” she smiled.   “My answer is yes, James
Potter. I will marry you.”

He leapt to his feet and spun her around in a huge hug, and then let go
and repeated the performance with Narcissa. “She said yes! She said
yes!” He suddenly realized that he was holding a naked woman that was
not his fiancée, and gently set her back down. “Umm ….”

Both women laughed. “I still want that proposal in Hogsmeade, when you
give me that ring, but you already know my answer,” Lily laughed. Her
eyes sparkled, and she looked to Narcissa, who nodded. “You know, James,
we’re right near a perfectly empty broom closet, and we even have a
guard. Care to celebrate our engagement?”

####

She smiled sadly. “I wish I’d been able to find a man like that. Never
let anyone tell you that your father was worthless, or good for nothing.
Once he got past his need to prove himself, to play the clown, trying to
impress Lily – that was actually when he impressed her, and then they
fell in love.” Her eyes twinkled as she asked him, “Did you mean to
squeeze my hand when you said you had something to live for now?”

“Well, you are family, and Sirius loved you even when you were married to
the man who tried to kill Ginny Weasley in my second year, whereas he
hated Trixie, from what I can tell.”

“Well, there’s a difference,” Narcissa murmured. “Belle – she hates
being called Trixie, mind you – she went over willingly to V … He Who
Must Not Be Named.”

“Moldieshorts. You, on the other hand, only married a Death Eater, and
Sirius hoped for your redemption.”

“I do as well. I wish he could have lived to … with Lucius in prison, I
was going to divorce him, but I must admit that Sirius made it easier –
paperwork already prepared and paid for? Much easier.” She looked to
the group, and realized that, for the moment, it was only people who had
a knowledge of the Order. “I don’t expect you to trust me, but I hope
someday to earn that trust.”

She was going to speak further, but a St. Mungo’s Healer entered the
room. “Mister Potter? We’ve looked over the results of the tests, and
we have something to tell you ….”
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 15
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XV

Harry sat in the chair in the ballroom of Potter's Field. He was
throwing a party, but no one would let him do anything. Every time he
tried, he'd suddenly find Hermione or Tonks in his lap, which tended to
distract him for a while. Ginny embarrassed him greatly when she sat on
his lap right after a particularly enjoyable snog session with Tonks,
when his interest in the beautiful Auror was particularly noticeable.
"Oh, Harry, for me?" she asked coquettishly.

He smiled at her and hugged her. "Ginny, Please don't do that to me. I
haven't gotten permission from Tonks and Hermione yet, and I won't deny
that you're an enticing little morsel."

"Was that a short joke?" she asked, eyes narrowing.

"Actually, no. I happen to think that you're particularly sexy at that
height, and I'll admit that I'd like to have my hands a little lower than
your mid-back, Miss Weasley." He hugged her tightly and whispered, "That
kiss from my birthday was incredible, Ginny."

"Thank you," she whispered back.

In the ear that Ginny wasn't whispering in, he suddenly heard Tonks
murmur, "You have my approval, sexy. Remember, I run the risk of being
gone for long periods of time as a part of my job. And I trust Ginny.
If Hermione okays it, then you're good to go." She nibbled his ear, and
chuckled when Ginny moaned quietly at the twitch she had caused.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and gently disengaged her from
his lap. “If I don’t, I may not wait for Hermione. And the three of you
mean too much to me.” He kissed her forehead.

She smiled lovingly at him. “Thank you, Harry. Your reason why you
won’t means everything to me.” She kissed his cheek and flounced off,
Harry watching with some enjoyment.
Straightening his clothes, he stood. He heard several people gasp, and
he looked down, to see if perhaps his zipper was undone. “Harry, dear,
don’t exert yourself!” Molly said, bustling up to him. He’d been the one
throwing the party, but she had insisted on helping out with things once
she was there. Dobby, who Harry had hired to help him out, had been
slightly put out, but Harry had explained that it was simply the way she
was, and that she meant no insult by it.

“Mum,” he said, “standing is not going to exert me. The healers were
talking about me trying to run a marathon, or any number of other
strenuous activities. Walking is good.” He hugged her. “Thank you for
your concern, and I promise not to strain myself. I’m going mad just
sitting, though. I’m supposed to be throwing this party, and everyone
else is doing my work!”

Grinning, he turned to start working the party. He hadn’t invited a
large number of people, but there were surprises all around. More than a
few of the guests were surprised to discover Narcissa there, but when he
introduced her as Narcissa Black, the conversations took an interesting
turn. He found her alone for a moment, and murmured to her with a smile,
"If it weren't bad form, I'd be tempted to write up a checklist of
questions and the answers to them about this whole thing. 'Yes, she
really divorced him. No, I don't think it's some ploy of Voldemort's.
Yes, I know there's some bad blood going back.'" He looked at her, and
apologized to her with his eyes as he finished, "'No, I haven't entrusted
her with my secrets.' I have gotten that one more than I care to think
about."

He chuckled for a moment. "Feel free to tell me to mind my own business
on this, but you had an interesting reaction to Sirius' curse that was
mentioned."

She actually blushed very slightly in response. "In case you hadn't
gathered from his voice, he was rather fond of me. Well, had the
marriage to Lucius not been arranged since I was six years old, and the
newer laws not been in effect, we likely would have been married." She
quirked an eyebrow at him when he didn't react. "Either that does not
surprise you, or you are far better at hiding your shock than I thought."

"I've practice hiding my emotions," he murmured flatly.

"I'm sorry," she replied honestly. "Well, to answer your question, there
are charms that can be used when your lover isn't around. We used to
enjoy embarrassing each other by casting them on each other at
inopportune moments. Now, he may have trained me to be able to, shall we
say 'not be obvious,' but from his statement, he learned how to turn it
into a permanent curse. That I am quite certain that I would not enjoy."

Harry stopped and thought for a moment, then suddenly realized what she
was referring to. His mind went unbidden to an image of what she might
look like with a bit less clothing, and he blushed and scowled at the
same time. She merely smiled slightly and said, "From what I know of
you, Baron, I will take that as a compliment."
He laughed.   "Am I that transparent?"

"Only to women," she laughed in response. "Seriously, Harry, I am
flattered that I can affect someone almost half my age."

"A guy's got to be a complete pouf or dead not to react to you," he
muttered under his breath.   "You're the mother of the Slytherin
Centrefold, for goodness sake."

"Thank you," she replied and kissed his cheek. "Now, before we
accidentally discover whether or not it is possible for you to blush to
death, may I ask you how you are feeling?"

"Well, I'm a bit weak still, and I have to avoid anything overly
strenuous, but I'm largely healed. My back starts to hurt if I overdo it
walking, and my legs get weak occasionally, but for the most part I'm
good." He stopped and looked at her. "Back to what was embarrassing me
before, however. Doing what I was doing at that moment was terribly bad
form, and I would like to apologize to you. While I might not be able to
stop myself from thinking such things, I should make every effort
possible to ensure that you are not discomfited by such." He stepped
back and bowed carefully to her.

She smiled and curtsied. "Baron Potter-Black, while no apology was
necessary, I appreciate both your honesty and your caring. Thank you."
She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "You've been practicing your
lordly manners, I see," she said in a more conversational manner.

"I need to practice them, and when better than during an apology that I
felt had been needed, although correcting a lady is also bad form, I
understand," he finished with a grin.

Hermione walked up to him and kissed his cheek. "Trying to add to your
harem, my lord?" she asked with a laugh. "I mean, you've already got me,
Tonks, and Ginny. Trying to add your Aunt Narcissa?"

He snorted. "Oh, wouldn't that frost Draco's shorts!" He shook his head
for a moment, and then noticed the amused look on Hermione's face.
"What? What's got you so amused, love?"

"Just wondering how long it's going to take you," she smiled in return.

"Take me to what?" She merely grinned and walked away to mingle. He
looked to Narcissa. "Okay, I know I missed something there. Willing to
help out someone hampered by being male?"

He was liking the fact that the Narcissa he'd gotten to know since the
third was a much nicer person than the one he'd met once or twice before.
She smiled again. "As much as the admission tempts me to help you, I
think that I shall wait to see your reaction once it does strike you."

He continued to mingle, finally approaching Albus Dumbledore with a
smile.
"How do you fare, Harry?"

"Not too badly, sir." He motioned to a couple squashy chairs. "Care to
sit, sir? I know that I need to, at least for a moment." They both sat
and smiled at each other. "I'd like to apologize for … well, I'm sorry
for the language, but it's a good description of my attitudes – I want to
apologize for being an arse this summer. The points I made to you I
still feel are valid, but I could have found a better way to express
them."

"And probably not gotten as much action on them, Harry," Albus smiled.
"I have thought of you as somewhere between the fifteen month old boy I
held in my arms that evil October night and the wide-eyed eleven year old
that walked through the doors to Hogwarts, even after seeing the physical
growth you have undergone. Those outbursts reminded me that you are, in
fact, a young man now, with a man's responsibilities." He looked quickly
and then said in a low voice, "The next meeting is Friday. It would be a
good idea to be there, if you can." Back in a normal voice, he
continued. "After the party, we shall need to talk. I am having extreme
trouble fulfilling part of our bargain."

"The Potions part, right?" Harry asked with a laugh.

"Precisely. I have sent out roughly one hundred letters requesting of
various Potions Masters and have received one positive response, from an
American Grand Master. Unfortunately, obligations prevent him from
accepting until early December. All others have rejected the position."
He looked sadly to Harry. "I promised you a new teacher for your
Potions, but I am unable to fulfil that promise. I would likely teach
you myself." He looked Harry in the eye. "May I at least be involved in
helping you decide how to continue your schooling, since you had stated
that those two conditions were non-negotiable?"

"Can you show me the rejection letters?" Harry asked.

"Yes. I thought you might ask such a thing.   Come to Hogwarts tomorrow
and I shall show them to you."

"No need. You've made a good effort to fulfil the bargain, and through
no fault of your own, were unable to complete it. It would be as petty
of me as a certain professor at school thinks that I am to not take your
efforts into account. I will return to school, and take Potions with
Professor Snape until the Grand Master from America can be hired on." He
paused and met Dumbledore's eyes. "He needs to be made aware, however,
that I am no longer going to take his abuse. Someday, perhaps, I will
show you the past five years of the treatment he has given the Gryffindor
students." He paused. "I won't automatically kill him, but if there is
uncalled for treatment, I will respond in kind. And I will not decide on
my own that it is uncalled for. Hermione is trustworthy, as are people
such as Susan Bones, who I expect will be taking Advanced Potions as
well. I will run any situation that strikes me as debatable past them.
If I don't get a consensus from them both, then I leave it alone. If
both of them agree, then I respond. Don't take this wrong, sir, but you
would do well to make him aware of that."
Dumbledore nodded. "Would it surprise you to discover that the apology
he tendered on the third was actually from him, and not ordered by me?"

"Actually, sir, I would be surprised. It explains the look on his face,
however. I suppose if you had ordered it, the underlying emotion would
have been anger."

Albus Dumbledore nodded. "Let me know when is an agreeable time for you,
Harry. I would like to see those memories you speak of."

Harry nodded.   "Other than that, sir, how do you like the party?"

"It has been quite enjoyable. I will admit that I have spent some time
in your study, with your parents' portrait. It has been good to speak
with them again, after all this time."

"I understand. Ron keeps trying to come up with excuses to be near the
statue of my Mum. I think he's kind of smitten, in an odd way."

"Lily had that effect on people, Harry. I'm certain you've discovered
how charming she was, in talking with her."

"I thought that was just me, since I never knew her."

"Oh no, Lily was such a pleasant lady that everyone loved her in some way
or another. The fact that she was also 'easy on the eyes', as I believe
the saying goes, also helped a great deal," was the smiling response.

"That she was, sir – that sculpture she posed for proves that." He
smiled. "I suppose that I should continue mingling, before we sit down
for a full meal. I'll see you in a bit, then?" The headmaster nodded,
and Harry continued to walk around.

He finally came across Luna and her father. She was resplendent in a sky
blue off shoulder gown that he knew must have cost a tremendous amount.
Smiling, he greeted her with a kiss to the hand, and then to each cheek.
“Please, Luna, tell me you didn’t buy that purely for this party? It
must have been terribly expensive.”

“When one is invited to the home of a Baron for a party,” she replied
with a shy smile, “one dresses properly.”

“Well, then, I think I shall be forced to talk to the headmaster and see
if it is possible to set up a formal dance again this year.” He grinned.
“I admit that I like the idea of watching Chang’s reaction at such a
ball, since I guarantee that gown will draw everyone’s attention.” He
frowned. “Please know that I don’t intend to lead you on, Luna, when I
tell you that you are absolutely beautiful, and will truly be the belle
of the ball.”

“Harry, I know that you don’t love me. You don’t have to preface your
compliments with statements intended to … Baron, I know that you don’t
love me, and can’t, if only because of my station in life. My father is
a merchant and you are a nobleman.   We can be friends, but nothing more,
even if my heart desires it.”

His heart plummeted in his chest, although he kept it from his face as
best he could. He turned to her father and said, “What would it take to
make you outsell the Daily Prophet?”

Lawrence started. “Well, most importantly would be better circulation.
We have a limited budget, and that truly hampers us the worst. We could
use better equipment to print with – honestly, I have a wish list of
various things I’d like to do with the paper.”

“Need a silent partner? Someone to bankroll you, but not try to force
you into a certain direction?”

“Are you offering, Lord Potter-Black?” Lawrence asked carefully.

“Yes. I will sign a contract specifying that I am to have zero control
over business decisions, leaving that purely in the hands of those
currently running the business.”

“Why?” asked Luna, a little shocked.

“Two reasons. Perhaps neither of them is good enough for the purpose,
but they’re what I have. First off, the Prophet has made a large sum
from all the negative reporting about me. I’d like to put them out of
business, honestly, but we need a paper to get the news to people. The
Quibbler has been good at getting the truth out there.” He blushed
before continuing. “The second is because of you, Luna, to be honest.
She is someone I’m proud to call friend. If I can help a friend by
helping her father, who I also happen to like,” he added with a smile,
“then it’s worth it. And plus,” he said, wincing, “that dress must have
truly gobbled up a significant portion of your cash. I never stated in
the invites that it wasn’t formal, so we have mixtures of formal, such as
you and Aunt Narcissa, and informal, such as the Weasleys and some of the
Aurors I invited. If I had been more careful, you wouldn’t have laid out
that much money, so …” He shrugged.

“Thank you,” Lawrence said, “but she assured me, once the invitation
came, that she needed this dress. She apparently Saw that this dress was
important in some way.”

Harry looked to her, eyebrows quirked in question. “My Visions never
lie. Sometimes they don’t come true because something prevents them, but
all the possibilities that I See are valid, Harry. The money spent on
this dress is worth it, because there are several excellent things that
will come about because you saw me in it. One has just happened, because
I seriously doubt that Daddy will turn down your offer to be a silent
partner.”

“You don’t have to be silent, you know,” Lawrence said.
“What do I know about publishing?” Harry laughed. “Besides, this way I
can make an attempt to do some of what my parents did. They invested and
tried to make money. My turn, now that I’m the last scion of the House.”

“For now,” Luna said with surety.

#####

The party wound down after quite some time, and the only ones left were
Ron,, Ginny, Tonks, and Hermione. “Wasn’t Luna astonishing in that
dress?” Ginny asked. “I think we ought to ask the headmaster to throw
another ball this year, just to give her a chance to show off that
thing.”

“I think we should hint around a little,” Hermione said.   “Get her a date
for this non-existent ball.”

“Yule,” Harry said. “I talked to the headmaster and he liked the idea.
There’s going to be a Yule Ball. Now we just have to find her a date.”
He looked with a grin at Ron.

Ron stared at him for a long moment. “Y’know, chum, it almost feels like
you’re giving me your cast-offs. I know you’re not,” he added quickly,
holding up his hands.

“Show her some gentleness and true compassion, Ron. I think that’s why
she thinks she’s in love with me right now. I’m one of the first people
ever to really stick up for her. Don’t laugh at her, and try to be her
friend. I’ll bet you’ll be happy. And to be honest, Ron, if you ask her
to the Ball, everyone will be looking at you. You saw the way everyone
was staring at her. Hell, Aunt Cissy was treating her as an equal,
because she saw how hard Luna was trying.”

“Actually,” Tonks said, “it was because she was drop dead gorgeous in
that gown. Whoever takes her to the Yule Ball will definitely be the
talk of the school, in a very good way.”

“You could ask her,” Hermione said to Harry.

“Well, first of all, that might seem like I was leading her on. Second,
I happen to already have asked a very beautiful and alluring woman to
whatever official dances there may be this year.”

Hermione grinned and said, “Tonks! You didn’t tell me you were going to
be going to any dances with Harry!”

Ron snorted. “Even I know who he’s talking about, Hermione.” He turned
to Harry, rubbing his arm again. “I am stating it in front of witnesses,
Harry – you are one lucky bastard to have Hermione on your arm like that.
I only wish she looked at me that way.” The rubbing got more vigorous.
“I fancy someone, but there’s no way that they return the feeling.”

“Never know until you tell them,” Ginny said.   Ron nodded absently and
then yawned widely.
“Sorry,” he said. “With Mum not letting Harry host his own party, we got
run a little ragged.”

“I understand,” Harry said. He led them upstairs toward the master
bedroom, but turned into a large suite area. “The Master bedroom is next
door. There are three bedrooms here, and each has its own W.C., at least
while you’re here.” He laughed. “This whole house is sort of like a
Room of Requirement. Every time I’ve needed a certain type of room, I
eventually find one. These bedrooms weren’t here before you guys
arrived.”

“Nice!” murmured Tonks. Ron staggered into one of the rooms and almost
immediately fell to sleep. Harry grinned and closed the door.

“I’m heading over to my room. If any of you want to get dressed for bed
and come over to keep talking, I have no problems.”

“Or – more than talk?” Tonks said with a grin.

“Not fair to Ginny,” Harry said.   The three girls looked at each other,
and then burst out laughing.

“Pity – I was hoping he’d get it himself,” Hermione said. She looked to
Harry. “Remember what I said while you were talking to Narcissa? A
comment about harems?”

He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking back to the numerous
conversations he'd had. His eyes suddenly shot open as he remembered
Hermione's quiet comment. "You listed Ginny as well!"

"Yup," Tonks said. "Now, since we haven't been worrying too much age-
wise, since you and Hermione seem to have been rather cuddly recently.
Since we don't want any baronial scandals …" She pulled out her wand and
murmured a few words as she pointed it at Ginny's stomach.

Biting her lip lightly, Ginny said, "When you cast that on yourself, do
you find that tingling sensation … umm … sexy?"

"Very much so," Tonks replied with a grin. "Tell you what Harry," she
started to say, and then carefully opened the door to Ron's room again
and cast a quick sleep spell on him. "Just to be sure," she laughed.
"Anyway, how about you go into your room, and we'll get Ginny ready for
you?"

"Works for me," Harry said with a smile. Just as he closed the door, he
added, "Don't tire her out too much!" He chuckled as he heard a pillow
slap the back of the door.

He took a few steps down the hallway when his legs gave out on him, and
he fell against the wall. He gripped tightly, and by sheer force of will
kept from slamming to the floor. He did, however, fall somewhat heavily,
causing the three ladies to exit the room at high speed. "You okay,
Harry?" asked Ginny as she skidded into the hallway.
She was wearing a calf-length white silk nightgown that clung to her body
and was just translucent enough to make him aware that the only thing
under it was her. "I'm speechless," he finally said. He shook his head.
"My legs gave out on me, and I kept myself from going face-first into the
floor. One of you sexy ladies willing to help me back to my feet, and
into my room? I seriously doubt I'm going to be doing much of anything
tonight, unfortunately."

The three of them helped him to his feet and carefully got him to his
bed. "Harry?" Ginny asked shyly. "May I stay with you tonight?
Please?"

"Hmm, Would I want to spend a whole night sleeping peacefully against a
beautiful and cuddly woman, or spend it alone?" He reached out and
touched her face gently. "I'm just sorry that events are going to keep
me from doing what you'd like me to." He leaned forward and brushed his
lips across hers.

"Harry, you're letting me sleep next to you in sexy nightwear – well, I
feel sexy in it, at least …"

"You look it, too," he interrupted.

"Thank you. But I'm getting to sleep next to you for the first time
knowing that you see me as more than merely a sister. You're worth
waiting for."

"Well, if you're my sister, then I'm having some very strong thoughts
about incest," he laughed. "And you're worth waiting for as well." He
stood long enough to slide the comforter and sheet out from beneath
himself, and then sat back down on the bed. He laid down, and Hermione
covered him up before kissing him sweetly. Tonks followed with an
equally sweet kiss. They then performed the same with Ginny, and her
reaction told him beyond a shadow of any doubting that Ginny's interests
did include other girls. Hmm, maybe she should contemplate asking Luna
to the Yule Ball.

When Tonks and Hermione left the room, they moved under the covers to be
cuddled together, with her spooning with him, her back against his chest.
His arm slid around her waist, and he murmured in her ear, "Thank you,
Ginny. Thank you for waiting for me to realize." He slid down into
sleep, satisfied by the warm, beautiful girl in his arms.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 16
By Kinsfire
Previous Next

Chapter XVI

Harry awoke to find his arms still around Ginny. He lifted the blankets
gently and saw the nightgown again, and felt himself stiffen against her.
She murmured out a happy moan and pressed backwards. "I don't know when,
Harry, but that wand of yours is going to get properly sheathed." She
carefully rolled over. "If you were on your back, do you think that
maybe we could …?"

"Are you sure, Ginny?" he asked.   "This is a big step."

She pressed forward against his erection. "I can tell," she said with a
throaty chuckle. "Feels like a very big step."

"If you're stepping on it, then there's a problem," he responded with a
smile.

She pushed his shoulder gently, and he allowed himself to be rolled onto
his back, and she rolled atop him, her warm body easily felt through the
thin silk. She pulled on the fabric of the nightgown to raise the hem
and he helped her. Finally it was at her waist, and she sat up
straddling him. "You know Harry, those boxer shorts are in the way."
She tugged down on the waist, and he raised his hips slightly, grinding
into her for a moment and causing her to gasp. "Oh yes, Harry!" She
climbed off him to make sure that his boxers were off, and then slid back
atop him, pinning his erection against his stomach.

"Mmm, you feel so wonderfully wet, Ginny," he murmured. He grabbed the
material bunched at her waist and moved his hands upward, sliding the
silk off her body, leaving them both nude and against each other.

"You feel so marvellously hard, Harry.   Please – let me give myself to
you completely."

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"I woke up about fifteen minutes before you, Harry.   I was … teasing
myself through the nightgown."

"Well then," he said with a smile. "Slide up my body and we'll do this
right." In short order, he was deeply within her, and she was crying on
his shoulder. "What's wrong? Did it hurt?"

"Nothing's wrong. It hurt for a second, but … Harry, it's perfect." She
squeezed him with the muscles surrounding him. "I'm a woman now, Harry.
Thank you."

"Thank you," he whispered in her ear. "For letting me be the one." He
pressed upward, and she moaned again and closed her eyes. They began to
gently rock back and forth together, and soon she was bucking atop him
and panting out her joy-filled cries. The door opened to allow Hermione
and Tonks access just as Harry was fulfilling his part of their contract
of bodies.

"Hell of a way to wake up, isn't it?" Tonks asked with a grin.

Ginny simply smiled at her, eyes half-closed, as she continued to quiver,
mini-orgasms still shuddering through her. Finally they stopped, and she
reluctantly climbed off him. "I suppose I ought to go and shower." She
looked down and saw that there was a little blood on Harry. "Are you
okay?" she asked, alarmed.

"That's your blood, I think," Harry said.   "Remember how it was painful
for a moment?"

"Oh. Well, at least there's not that much of it, but I definitely need a
shower now."

"Take a bath instead," Harry said with an evil leer.   "Imagine me in
there with you."

"Ooo, I like that idea," she murmured. "I think I will." She slid the
nightgown over her head and walked to the door, but turned to say
something before she left. A look of shock crossed her face, "What?
Why are you all staring at me?"

"You have no idea just how sexy you are in that, do you?" Hermione asked.
"Silk is a wonderful fabric, and right now it's adorning a wonderful
body."

Ginny blushed demurely.   "Thank you," she finally said, and escaped from
the room.

Harry looked at them. "Let me get a quick shower, and I'll meet you in
the suite outside your rooms?"

"No," Hermione said.   "Given last night, we're waiting right here for
you."

He thought for a moment, and then nodded. "Actually, would one of you be
willing to be in there with me, just in case?" Before they could say
anything, he added, "I'm only doing a shower. Anything else while
standing would be too strenuous."

Tonks snapped her fingers, but was grinning. "Let me do it. I've had to
do time doing some nursing before, so I've got an idea or two of what
support you'll need." They headed into the shower together.

A few minutes later, they exited, laughing. "I'm glad you caught the
soap finally," he said. "I was about to A-K it, after the way it kept
trying to get away from me!"

"Umm, Harry …" Hermione said with a grin.
"I know – but trust me, it would have found a way! That soap was evil, I
tell you! Evil!" Tonks had been chuckling, but that was too much for
her, she started to laugh her braying laugh at Harry's antics.

Ron poked his head in the door right then.    “What happened?”

“Harry fought a bar of soap in the shower,” Tonks laughed.     “And lost!”

“Hey, I said it before, and I’ll say it again – that bar of soap was
possessed! It had a mind of its own! I’ll bet there’s a black tattoo on
it somewhere! Make sure it’s not trying to skulk out of the shower,
okay?” He saw something out of the corner of his eye, and watched
something drop to the floor as if to hide. He looked at it, and it was
the bar of soap from the shower.

He then looked to the girls, but neither of them seemed to be acting
terribly oddly at the moment. As he knelt to pick it up, just before his
hands touched it, it shot forward and under the bed, then out the other
side. Ron burst out laughing as he saw it, and watched as it shot out
the door and down the hall. A moment later, he nearly fell to the floor
as they heard, “Hey, what the …” from Ginny, followed by a small splash.

That was too much for Hermione. “You … you should see … see the look on
your face!” she gasped. “Oh gods, that was worth it! I am so glad that
we can cast spells here!” She produced her wand which she had palmed.
She fell forward on the bed, laughing.

This was the scene that Ginny walked into a few moments later. “Can I
assume that this bar of soap in my bath is due to Miss Hysterical over
there?” She was wrapped in a towel that covered her, but barely, and was
grinning. “Anyone care to explain what led to it leaping into my
bathtub?” A few moments later she was laughing as hard as everyone else
was.

#####

During the day, Luna dropped in, dressed to hang out, as Harry had
requested. Harry and Hermione taught the other four an enjoyable day of
various Muggle games, but they seemed to enjoy throwing a Frisbee™
around. It was fairly hot, so they’d all shed their T-shirts. They
didn’t think anything of it until Ron took a shot to the head while
staring at Luna. It turned out that Luna was the only girl not wearing a
brassiere. “Is something wrong?” She asked when she noted that the game
had stopped.

“No, Luna,” Hermione said, reaching behind her back and undoing her
brassiere. “Nothing is wrong.”

Harry laughed.   “Would it help it I took my shorts off too?     Naked co-ed
Frisbee™?”

Everyone laughed, even Ron.   “Sorry.   I’ve just never … uh … well,”
“You can get used to it quickly, Ronald.    It’s surprising how fast it
stops being important, or even noticed.”

“Even when the girl is as pretty as ….” He suddenly stopped, and it
became difficult to tell where his hair ended and where his face started.

“Yes, even when they’re as pretty as Hermione,” Luna said. Ron mumbled
something very quietly and very fast in response. “I’m sorry?” she
asked, honestly puzzled.

“Iwasn’ttalking’boutHermione,” he said louder, but equally as fast.

She looked at him puzzled for a moment, and then gasped. “Ronald?     Were
you talk about … no, it must have been Miss Tonks, then.”

He looked at her for a moment, annoyed, and then his face changed.    “You
really don’t think I could be talking about you, do you?”

“Why would you? I know I’m not all that pretty, and I am seen as
somewhat eccentric at school. What is there to notice about me?”

“That you’re a friend of Harry’s, first off. That means a lot. As for
…” He blushed furiously. “I’ve never seen anyone but family naked
before, and you’re not supposed to find family attractive, so seeing a
girl who isn’t your sister with her shirt off … and … well, suddenly
realizing that she’s pretty, and I actually mean above the neckline too,
Hermione …” He faded off, embarrassed to be this forward with her.

“You think my breasts are pretty?” she asked incredulously.

“I think that you’re pretty,” he said.     “And I’ll fight anyone who says
otherwise.”

“Well, you won’t be fighting anyone here,” Ginny said. Ron turned to
smile at her, and his eyes bugged for a moment as he realized that all
the girls were now dressed like Luna. He opened his mouth to say
something, and then thought better of it. Ginny applauded, which got the
highly mature response from him of sticking his tongue out at her, making
everyone laugh.

The game continued for a time, with Ron discovering that Luna was, in
fact, correct concerning nudity. He didn’t even react when she rewarded
him with a quick kiss on the cheek for a particularly spectacular catch,
other than to blush at the kiss. Most of the day was spent just having
fun, with Harry bowing out occasionally as his back would act up.

Around five o’clock, Luna reluctantly got dressed again. “I’m sorry, but
I must be getting home. I had quite a nice day, Harry.” Before she
Floo’d home, however, she turned to Hermione and said, “Think twice,
Hermione. That’s all I can say about it. Think twice.”

“About what?” came the response.
“If I knew, I’d give you greater warning. I’m sorry.”   She tossed the
powder in the fireplace and was gone a moment later.

"Yet another reason to hate Divination," Hermione murmured.   "I just hope
I figure out what she's talking about before it happens."

The others nodded, and they headed quickly to clean up. A short while
later, they were sitting around the table, eating a meal, fabulously
prepared by Dobby. Harry mused, "Y'know, before September hits, I need
to get to the Dursleys and get the very last of my stuff. Finally get
away from those bastards for good." He snorted. "I think I'll have some
fun with them, and go dressed up in 'comfortable' baronial gear.
Basically, dressed down for a baron, but dressed up as far as they're
concerned. Get 'em a little worried about me trying to bring the law
down on them for their treatment of me."

Hermione looked at him. "Harry, are you willing to talk to us about what
you went through with them? Sometimes talking about something helps."

He scowled. "Hard to even think about some times.   I grew up thinking
that sleeping in a cupboard was a normal thing."

"You slept in a cupboard?" Ginny asked in horror.

"Yeah. Pretty much until I came back from my first year at Hogwarts. I
can cook pretty well because I was often the one ordered to do breakfast.
If there was a chore around the house, I did it. If I was going to be a
Muggle or Squib, I could start any number of various businesses –
landscaping, painter, maid …"

"I don't think you'd look good in one of those skirts, chum," Ron
laughed.

Harry looked at him for a moment and then laughed. "I think I need to
ask Dobby if he slipped some interesting chemicals into our food." He
shook his head. "I thought that the treatment I got from them was
basically normal until I met you guys. I'm just glad that this came
about, because I didn't … I was there because of the blood protections
that my mother gave me when she died for me.”

“I don’t mean this to get maudlin. I just didn’t have a good home life,
and even being here alone in Potter’s Field feels better than at Privet
Drive.” He shrugged. “Only way I’m going back there is to get the last
of my stuff, and I will do it dressed to make sure they’re aware of my
rank.”

“I wish I understood your treatment better,” Hermione said. Her eyes
opened wide, and she stood suddenly, pulling the short wand that Sirius
left Harry from the holder between her breasts. “Harry, I’m making a
wizard’s oath that I will spend a week here being treated the way that
the Dursleys treated you. I want to understand, and I’m not likely to
talk about things I know nothing about then.” Before he could stop her,
she had cast the spell for the oath and said, “It is my intention to
experience a week of the treatment that Harry James Potter underwent at
the hands of the Dursleys, beginning now."    A sparkle filled the air, and
flowed between herself and Harry.

He shook his head. “I really wish you hadn’t done that,” he said, and
gripped the edge of his chair. “How could you be so blindingly stupid!”
he screamed. “I have to treat you like … because of your spell, I have
to … you idiot girl!” He stood and stalked out of the room for a moment.
He came back in carrying some rope and two towels he had obviously
stitched together with magic. “You want to be a house elf for a week,
you dress like one. Strip and put that on instead.” As she stood and
stared numbly at him, he looked at her in disgust. “Now!” he bellowed.

She rapidly undressed to her skin and put the towels over her head
through the convenient neck hole, and then tied the rope around her
waist. “Now get in there and help Dobby with clean-up from dinner.” He
paused. “First, give me your wand. All the wands.” She handed them
over. “Now get in there, you stupid freak of a girl.”

She gasped, but walked into the kitchen area. Harry turned around to be
hit with a Petrificus Totalis, followed immediately by someone pummelling
him and kicking him with extremely rapid blows. Even petrified, he felt
the shock run up to his head and down to his feet as one of the kicks
impacted with his lower back. When he found himself back to normal, he
found Ginny and Ron lying on the floor, quite obviously Stupefied.
“Sorry I didn’t get to them faster,” Tonks said. “You okay?”

He got to his feet extremely shakily. “Ow. Even when you’re petrified,
you can feel the damned blows. Ow.” He looked at the two of them.
“You’d think that a couple of kids raised in the wizard world would
realize what Hermione’s oath is doing to me.” Closing his eyes, he said,
“Get them to Grimmauld, or someplace. Don’t let them come back until the
week is up, okay? Even if they want to apologize when it’s explained to
them. I’m going to try to stay away from her as much as I can, but I
think that oath is going to force me to look her up occasionally.”

Tonks nodded.   “Can I come and check her out?   Make sure she’s okay?”

He started to scowl. “No! Are you stupid … argh! You can hear how it’s
affecting me with others, too. That’s another reason to keep them away.
The Dursleys kept others away from me as best they could, so now I have
to do the same to her, damn it to hell.”

“Try not to hurt her too much,” Tonks said.

He closed his eyes tightly. “I’ll try, but I may not have any choice.
Please, just go now, before I do something stupid to you, Tonks.” She
nodded sadly, grabbed the still numb Weasleys, and Disapparated.

#####

Tonks appeared in the main hallway of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Setting
them on the floor as several people came forward, including their mother,
she pulled her wand and cast Ennervate on both of them.
“We need to get back there!” Ginny yelled.   “He’s …”

“If he’s not crying right now, he will be before the night is through,”
Tonks said.

“What happened?” Molly asked, having beaten Dumbledore to the question by
a matter of seconds.

“At dinner, we got talking about Harry’s treatment at the hands of the
Dursleys, and Hermione stupidly made an oath to experience life the way
Harry did for one week. For a week, her oath is going to force Harry to
be the Dursleys.”

“For the most brilliant witch of her age, she can be really stupid
sometimes,” Remus said.

“You’re blaming this all on her?” Ron bellowed.

“Yes,” Tonks said in a tone of surprising finality. “He adores her.
I’ll lay that hundred Galleons I won from him that when the week is up,
he’s going to be trying like crazy to withdraw from everyone – especially
her. Her oath is the absolute worst thing for his psyche that she could
possibly have done to him.”

“I fear that may be our fault – the wizarding world, that is,” Dumbledore
said. “Wizarding children are raised knowing that you don’t lightly make
an oath, but it is never truly explained why. Muggle-borns are never
truly taught the truth behind them, since the oaths are so seldom used
anymore. She was unaware, even with all her studying, that to make an
oath such as that would force him to become that which he hates most.
Quite likely, even if she was taken from Harry, whomever she ended up
with would treat her the same way.”

#####

Hermione's Internal Diary – Day One

I do this in hopes of remembering enough of this to write down at a later
time. That sort of thing seems to work if I think of something in book
form.

I made a wizard's oath today, and already regret it. Not for what it's
doing to me, but for what I've cursed Harry with. I wanted to understand
what it was like for him, so I swore an oath to experience life the way
he did for one week. Well, that's forcing him to be the Dursleys from
what I can tell.

I am such a stupid girl! I should have realized that the magic would
have to force the situation. I heard some fighting in the room after I
left it to help Dobby. Ron and Ginny apparently attacked him, and I’m
wondering if one of them got him in the back. Before Harry put me in a
cupboard for the night, I was watching him walk around. He’s hunched
over, as if he were as old as Dumbledore looks. I offered to help him,
and that earned me a slap.
I hope Harry never forgives me. I heard him crying afterwards. Crying
as if he hadn't a friend in the world. He may not, after that oath I
cursed him with.

Day Two

Dragged out of the cupboard fairly early and forced to make breakfast.
Now, I'm a decent cook, but I'm damned if I can remember a single good
thing he liked about my cooking. The toast was too light, the eggs were
too dry, the bacon was too soft …

He then had me work on the lawn. It's a big lawn. A really big lawn.
And he had me using a reel style push mower to trim it. (If this is ever
read by someone other than me, that’s one of those muscle powered
mowers.) I worked from some time in the early morning until well after
noon, when Dobby snuck out and brought me a pitcher of cold water. I
drank straight form the pitcher, and drank almost half of it. Harry came
out, nearly puce in colour, and took the pitcher away from me, pouring
the rest of it on the ground right in front of me.

I made the mistake later that evening of talking back to him about
something, and the next thing I knew I was running from him, him swinging
a frying pan. He connected with my head. I'm still seeing stars.

I don't like the way he looks. He's badly bruised about one eye, and he
moves like an old man, favouring his ribs. Why won't he cast healing
magic on himself?

Day Three

The mowing continues, and Dobby continues to sneak me water when he can.
He makes sure that Harry is elsewhere in the manor house.

About noon, Harry came out and informed me that he needed to leave for a
while. He dragged me back to the cupboard and made me climb in. I'm
still wondering how he managed it. I'm going stark in here. It's so
hard to get comfortable. I hurt from the blisters on my hands from the
mower, my head still rings from the frying pan, and he keeps looking at
me as if he's trying to figure out exactly what to do to me next. It
scares me. It scares me a lot.

What scares me more is hearing him cry every night as if his soul has
been torn from his body. If he's smart, he'll never forgive me.

Day Four

Well, more lawn, and I can see that I won't get it finished before the
week is done. That in and of itself may send him around the bend.

Uh-oh, maybe I shouldn't have thought that. Here he comes, and I swear
he looks like that fat cousin of his. It's as if I can tell who he's
'being' when I look at him. Right now, he's Dudley. He's got that bully
look about him.
#####

Harry grinned and dragged her back to the house. "Time for some fun,
Mynee," he said in a sing-song voice. Before she could even think to ask
what he meant, his fist came out and struck her in the stomach. That
began the worst thirty minutes she could ever remember. He was very
careful in the blows he rained upon her body. He ended up splitting her
lip, and she knew that she was going to bruise spectacularly about the
face. In fact, she expected to find her left eye swelling shut. She had
watched his face, and the looks were astonishing and frightening. He'd
have an unholy glee as he swung, mixed with horror as he actually struck.
He had finally quit the beating when she had seen lust enter the mixture,
and she watched him fight that one down. When he was under control, he
simply scowled and pointed at the closet, which she climbed into
gingerly. As she shut the door and locked it, she could hear his sobs
beginning.

I have to make this up to him, somehow, she thought to herself   It's
directly my fault that he's going through hell. I wanted to know what he
went through, and instead I torture him worse than they ever tortured
him. There was another purple flash, and she heard Harry suddenly shout,
"What the fuck are those?" The anger in his voice was frightening. She
could hear him run over to her cupboard and undo the lock. "Get out
here. I need you to help me chase something off." He dropped her wand
next to her and tore out of the manor house.

When she had reached the place where Harry was, she saw a woman in a
simple dress running barefoot away from a group of humanoid … things.
They were … well, walking wasn't quite the word for it, but it would
serve. Shambling was perhaps better, but not quite right either. Quit
wool-gathering, girl! She fired off a Stupefy at one of them, and he
seemed to shrug it off. Eyes shining as she looked at the back of
Harry's head, she shouted "Expecto Patronum!" and the largest otter she
had ever seen shot out of the end of her wand and gambolled over to the
creatures. As it struck them, they fell, and Harry turned to her, eyes
wide. She smiled at him, and she could see his return smile. He turned
back to the creatures and fired off his own Patronus, surprising them
both by its golden colour, and its sheer size – it would have made an
Irish Elk look like a midget version of itself. It ran through the
woman, who gasped and fell. It then proceeded to run through all of the
attackers, even those already down. Each one literally exploded as the
stag touched them.

Harry looked back to her, and then his eyes grew haunted. She could see
him fighting himself, and she stepped closer to him. The fight grew
stronger, and suddenly he threw his head back and screamed, "No! I will
die first! Never again!" A burst of white light exploded out from him,
and knocked Hermione off her feet and away from consciousness.

#####

Harry watched Hermione as she flew about fifteen feet from where she’d
been standing. She was obviously unconscious before she even struck the
ground. He ran to her, terrified of what he might find there. As he
reached her, the woman that they had saved reached her as well.

The both of them gasped to see blood coming from Hermione’s mouth, nose,
and ears. The woman spoke, surprising Harry by speaking his language.
“She is in grave danger. She must be seen to immediately.”

Harry agreed, not even really looking at the woman. He grabbed her,
grabbed Hermione, and willed himself to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 17
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XVII

They appeared in the hallway of Harry's home. “Anyone here!” Harry
bellowed, mere seconds away from breakdown. The blood trickling from her
ears had him terrified – there was nothing good that would cause that.

Remus, Molly, and Dumbledore came running into the room. Molly gasped
and ran over to Hermione. “What happened? Why is she so bruised? Why
is there blood coming from her ears?”

“She’s bruised because I beat the hell out of her earlier today. I
assume the blood comes from when I fought off the oath a few minutes
ago.” He stopped. “You all saw the purple flash. Well, I looked out my
window and saw her,” he said, pointing at the dark-skinned woman who had
come with him. “She was being chased by these … things. I handed
Hermione her wand back and told her to come help me. We cast the
Patronus, and destroyed the things chasing her. I trust her, because the
Patronus ran right through her, and she’s still here.” He closed his
eyes. “Hermione started to step closer to me, and I could feel the
hatred coming back, so I fought it. There was an explosion of sorts that
threw her a good distance, and when I got to her, she was bleeding like
that.”

He stood, and the action was more than a little painful. “I’m heading
upstairs before I can kill or maim anyone else who means something to
me.” He started up the stairs, stepping very slowly as he walked.

“Harry, what’s wrong with you?” Remus asked.
“Strained the back today, with all the work I was doing tried to beat
Hermione to a bloody pulp. Trying to kill the woman you love is hard
work, after all.” He turned and continued up the stairs. He didn’t stop
until he had reached the room where Buckbeak had been kept until very
recently. They hadn’t had a chance to clean it yet, and it was still
littered with broken bones and rat droppings. He quietly closed the
door, cast a Colloportus and a Silencio on it, and lay down on the bones
and rat feces.

#####

“What is wrong with her, Molly?” Albus asked.

“Not sure. We need to get Poppy here immediately.” She looked up. “I
want to be angry at him for doing this to her. I want to hurt him badly,
Albus, but I know it was the curse that she cast on him, not knowing she
was cursing him.” She shook her head. “I love that boy as if he were my
own. Why does everything have to happen to him?”

“Molly, please move,” said Madame Pomfrey as she bustled into the room
ahead of Remus Lupin. She knelt next to Hermione and passed the wand
across her a few times, murmuring, and then smiled. There were spots
that were glowing yellow about the girl’s body, but nothing was obviously
life threatening. “Let’s get her into a bed, and I’ll start working on
the worst of her injuries. How did she get all these bruises, anyway?”

“Long story,” Remus said. “Suffice it to say that it was an oath gone
bad, and that you should take anything Harry says with a rather large
Siberian salt mine, rather than merely a grain of salt.”

Albus lifted her and carried her to the bedroom that she shared with
Ginny when she was at 12 Grimmauld. "Remus, I think that you should
locate Mister Potter as well. I do not like the way he was moving, and I
fear that he may have done permanent damage to himself by not treating
his wounds. I shall help you to find him." The two men left the room,
and Albus paused for a moment, making Remus stop as well. "I believe we
can find him almost immediately. If you were in the mood that Harry
undoubtedly is in, where would you go to settle in? Where would you feel
you belong?"

Remus stared at him for just a moment, and then strode purposefully to
the third floor, stopping in front of Buckbeak's room. He listened at
the door. "Too quiet, Albus. He's got to be in there." He tried the
lock, and found it locked. "To hell with lockpicking. Evanesco!" The
door simply vanished, to display Harry curled on the floor in the fetal
position. Broken bones lay around him, and some were poking into him.
"I hate to do it, Albus," he murmured. "Stupefy!" He quickly picked up
Harry's now limp form and carried him downstairs. "Do we put him in with
Hermione, or in his own room?"

"Neither is truly a good solution," Dumbledore responded, "but I feel
that rooming him with her for the time being may serve best." Remus
nodded and carried him into the bedroom, where Poppy gasped to look at
him. His face was still slightly swollen where he'd been struck, and she
ran the wand down his body. His back glowed an angry red. Vanishing his
clothing, she gasped again to see his back – a mass of dark purple.

"This is beyond my immediate capabilities," she said. "I need to … he
needs St. Mungo's healers. Can we take him there, or should we find a
way to bring one here?"

Albus thought for a moment. "Give me about ten minutes. If I cannot
find someone trustworthy within that time, then we shall take him to the
hospital. I have misgivings about taking him there this time, although I
cannot say why." He headed down the stairs and Disapparated away. A few
minutes later, he returned with a beautiful woman in a healer's cloak.
"He is this way, Healer Astarte." She was led to Harry's bed, barely
nodding at Madame Pomfrey as she passed by her. She opened her bag and
pulled out several things, surrounding Harry with various crystals. She
gently rolled him onto his stomach, tapped the crystals in a peculiar
manner, and a fine web spread across Harry for a moment, before fading.

"Excellent. Now I can awaken him. Ennervate!" Harry jerked slightly as
the beam struck him, and made a motion to move. Upon finding himself
unable to, he sighed, in a manner that disturbed the listeners – he
seemed happy to be immobile.

"Now I can work on your back, Mister Potter," the healer said. "I need
you to tell me when something hurts, or else I could permanently cripple
you."

"No."

"Excuse me?" she asked.

"If I'm crippled for   life, then it's no more than I deserve for what I've
done these last four   days. I state that I love her, and then beat her
nearly unconscious.    I treat her like garbage. I am what the Dursleys
made me – an abusive   bastard who shouldn't breed."

"Harry, that was the oath forcing you to do that," Remus said.

"Oh really? The oath she made forced me to beat on her with my fists for
half an hour, until I started to become aroused by it? The oath made me
dress her like a house elf? I was humiliating her! She’s still wearing
it! Look at her! I made her strip to her skin in front of her friends!
And I laughably said that I love her some time before. These last few
days show me that I don't even know the meaning of the word." He sighed
again. "Work away, doctor. I'm not saying a word."

"Harry?" a soft voice from the other bed said.   "I'm fine, and I forgive
you. It was my fault you did those things."

"Don't you dare take the blame for my being scum, Hermione," he replied.
"I was getting sexually aroused beating on you! If I'd continued, I
would have raped you, Hermione, because I guarantee that you wouldn't
have been in any mood for sex."
"Harry, you've never been like that before. Why now? Because I forced
it on you with that vile oath I swore. That's what Luna was talking
about. I should have thought twice about swearing an oath like that."
She took in a shuddering breath. "You're not like that, Harry. It was
forced on you."

"Came to me awfully easily, though, didn't it? Hitting you with frying
pans, forcing you to blister those beautiful hands, beating on you until
bones broke … just what you need in a boyfriend. Ask Professor
Dumbledore how calm I can be. Ask him just how reasonable and polite I
was after the Department of Mysteries. Ask him how non-violent an
individual I am. Ask Bellatrix Lestrange, for that matter. Ever hear
which spell I cast at her? Hint – it's one of three big ones, and it
starts with the letter 'C'." He snorted. "Don't tell me I don't have
the temper to do what I did to you without a curse behind it. I know
better." His left leg spasmed suddenly as the healer worked on him, and
he blinked for a moment. "Wow," he finally said. "That was …
interesting. Safe to assume you won’t do it again?”

“That would be a safe bet,” the healer said. She continued to work on
him, occasionally causing another twitch, and finally moved five of the
crystals onto his back and tapped them in a star pattern, clockwise. His
back glowed, and suddenly a dome arose over the area of his back
surrounded by crystal. She pulled out a vial of some crystalline powder
and measured out a very precise amount, which she then poured onto the
dome.

“Whoa, that’s cold!” Harry squeaked.   “What’s it for?”

“Strengthening the bones in your back,” Astarte responded. “I’d love to
meet the jerk who did this to your back. I’d give him the same injury,
just to let him know what it feels like.”

“Should’ve asked first, then,” Harry said. “I broke it doing one of the
few worthwhile things I’ve done in my life. Saved her from a fatal fall,
but I landed on my back to do it.”

“That much I knew. I was one of the ones working on you at St. Mungo’s.
I’m talking about the fresh injury.”

“Me again.   Just getting what I deserved.”

“Bullshit!” Hermione exploded, and then blushed at the profanity. “I
went off half-cocked and made a wizard’s oath that was basically a curse,
and you had reacted to that over the last few days. My curse forced you
to become what you hate more than anything else, and if I’d studied more,
I’d have known that would be the result.”

He shook his head. “You just don’t get it. My entire life has been
aimed at one thing. The fucking prophecy about me was said before I was
born. I need to aim my life at studying in order to kill Voldemort.
Taking time to the side for unimportant things like family and friends –
well, this once again proves what happens when I take my mind from the
task. I let myself fall in love, and I’ve been reminded by the universe
that I let my concentration slip. Nothing extraneous belongs in my life.
I need training, and I need it in things that Voldemort has no knowledge
of.”

“Harry, you’ve forgotten our conversation of two months ago,” Dumbledore
said. “‘The power that he knows not’?”

“Mind explaining to me how the Ministry has a room full of love? Is it
the honeymoon suite or something? What am I supposed to do, invite him
to the Department again and seduce him? Screw him to death?” He snorted
viciously. “Love won’t do a damn thing for me in this fight, except make
me weak.”

“Then you have already lost,” Dumbledore replied.

“Oh really? How can you be sure? Love has already made me weak. Rather
than teaching me what I needed to know from the beginning, you kept
information from me until two months ago, out of love for me, and a
desire not to shove too much on my shoulders. Remember back in my first
year, when you sent Hagrid for me? He mentioned a letter you wrote for
me. I assume that the Dursleys burned it. Did it explain the truth
about my parents, or was it further information that I should have known,
but you decided to keep from me in worry for the concerns I already had?"
Dumbledore winced. "So love has proven to be an excellent weapon – for
Voldemort. All he has to do is rely on the fact that our side is
susceptible to mistakes based on feelings like that, and then he wins.
No, I need to become tough. I need to be willing to sacrifice anything
to win.”

The room was silent for a long moment before Harry broke it with a quiet
addition. “By the way, when I do fight Riddle, someone will need to be
there to kill me immediately after I destroy Voldemort. These past few
days have proven that I’ll be just as bad a Dark Lord as Riddle is. I
just won’t come up with a silly name is all.”

“Is this a real fear, sir?” asked a new voice. Everyone spun to see who
it was, and suddenly remembered that Harry had brought someone else when
he’d portkeyed to 12 Grimmauld.

The woman was dark skinned – not the dark brown of Kinsgley Shacklebolt,
but the dark colour of charcoal. She was short, about the height of a
first or second year girl, but her figure proved that she was certainly
older than that, as did the sword she wore at her side and the way she
carried that body. Her silver-white hair was swept haphazardly over her
left eye. The eyes in question were a brilliant gold in colour, as if
the irises of her eyes had been beaten from the metal. She was inhumanly
beautiful – literally so, as they noticed the graceful points to her ears
sticking up through her hair.

“Is this a true fear, Sir Harry? Are you likely to become a dark lord?
I sense no evil in you at this time.” Her voice made the men in the room
contemplate adjusting their robes. It was obvious that she had no idea
she was having this effect.
“You can sense things like that?” he asked in shock.

“Yes. I ask because I owe you a life debt, as I do your beloved on the
other bed. If this is a true fear, that you will merely replace your
dark lord here, then I shall follow you, help you defeat him, and when
necessary, dispatch you with speed and gentleness.”

He blinked at her.   “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” was the simple answer.

He looked at her for a moment. Even in his mood, he wasn’t immune to her
effect. Something other than his hormones, however, told him that she
was safe. “I accept. Perhaps you can teach me a few things while you’re
here, like how to use that sharp pointy thing you carry.” He tried to
move, but the web held him down. “I’d shake your hand, but I’m kinda
immobilized right now.”

“I understand. I shall need to talk with your elders here, to work out
certain things, but I shall return shortly.” She looked to Remus and
Dumbledore, and the three of them left the room.

#####

She looked to Dumbledore first. “From your speech, I assume that you are
in a position of authority over them?”

“I am the headmaster at the school he will attend for the next two
years.”

“Excellent. With them saving my life, I now owe them a debt, both of
gratitude, and … I do not know how to phrase it …”

“We understand wizard debts here.   You owe them the chance to repay in
kind if necessary.”

“Precisely!” she said with a smile. “My problem is simple, however.
When they are at this school, I need to be able to be near them as much
as possible. Is your school segregated into male and female, as many
such schools are?”

“Yes,” came the simple answer.

“What may be done to remedy this? I am no good as someone to guard their
bodies if I am unable to be near them. Perhaps I could be in the same
room as her, but that does me no good for protecting him, and I somehow
think that my sleeping in the same room as him would cause more problems
with his roommates than are truly worthwhile, and that simply ignores
that I would be unable to be near her for her protection. How may I be
placed near them both?”

“I am loathe to put young people of opposite genders in proximity such as
that which you request,” Albus murmured.
“What are their ages?” she asked.

“He is sixteen years of age, and she will be seventeen in a month.    You
appear to be of a similar age.”

She laughed. “At my last birthday, I turned one hundred and six, sir.       I
could likely chaperone them.”

Before he could stop himself, Remus had said, “Looking damned good for
passing your century mark.” He shook his head. “My apologies. That was
unbelievably rude.” After bowing to her in apology, he turned to Albus.
“That could be a solution. Give them an empty teacher’s quarters, and
she can be their guardian. Fulfils her part that she needs, and puts
them together to work out their problems, since you know them both well
enough to know that they’ll hide from each other, if possible.”

"And I can ensure that they stay together to talk." She grinned for the
first time, and it seemed slightly feral. "I am a bit more dangerous
than I at first appear."

"Of that I have little doubt," Remus replied with a slight smile.

#####

Back in the room, Hermione lay on her bed, tears in her eyes.   "Harry,
can you ever forgive me?"

"For what? For making me finally show you the real me?   No apology
necessary." He closed his eyes.

"For taking the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most caring man I know, and
making him believe that he's just as bad as those creatures that he grew
up with. For making the man who risked his life when he was eleven years
old to save a nightmare girl from a troll; who fought a basilisk to save
the school, and more importantly his best friend's little sister; for
making him feel like he was worthless." She paused. "My heart is still
yours, if you'll have it, Harry. I still love you. I know that I don't
deserve you after these last few days."

He opened his eyes and looked at her in shock. He couldn't speak for
several minutes. When he did, he said, "Please tell me you aren't
serious, Hermione. You can not be that earth-shatteringly stupid as to
want to stay in a relationship with an abuser. Are you really hoping to
have your parents looking down at your headstone saying, 'We miss you,
Hermione'? Do you want to have to force Ron or the rest of your friends
from Hogwarts to hunt me down and slaughter me like the mad dog I am?
For what I did to you this week, I deserve to die, like any abuser does.
But I have to stay alive until I can get rid of that psychotic bastard,
Riddle. So the world relies on me to get rid of him. Maybe then my
death sentence can be carried out."

"Harry, you don't deserve to …"
"Hermione, I abused one of the most beautiful women I know. I struck her
repeatedly. Today alone I pounded on her for thirty minutes. A man who
beats a woman deserves death. Plain and simple, black and white. I beat
you. You're the logical one – work it out." He closed his eyes again.
"Healer Astarte, how much longer do I need to be held down?"

"I'm not sure. You sound like you're likely to do something stupid and
fatal if I release you."

"Suicide? Tried that already. Damned uncomfortable. Won't make that
mistake again. You needn't worry about me hurling myself off a building,
either. I don't like the feeling of Skele-Gro regrowing my bones, and
that's all that would end up happening. I literally can't die yet."
Astarte’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Set me loose, and I’ll show you a
scar. Inflicted it myself less than a month ago.” She carefully undid
the wards holding him down and he sat up slowly. “Back feels better.
Thank you. I don’t mean to take my anger out on you two ladies. You’re
doing your life’s calling and doing it quite well, I might add.” He
looked down and pointed to the scar beneath his left pectoral muscle.
“Butcher’s knife. Near the end of July. Felt it enter my heart. I’m
sitting here talking to you. You tell me about it.”

“Unfortunately, Healer Astarte, the young man tells the truth,”
Dumbledore said as he, Remus and the girl entered the room once again.
“You are a member of the same organization as I am. He is the one we are
here to support.”

Her eyebrows rose. “Then we need to get him talked to by someone who can
properly explain curses. What exactly did you curse him with, and why?”
she asked Hermione.

Hermione explained the intended purpose of her oath, and the healer
blanched, as did Madame Pomfrey. Dumbledore lost the twinkle from his
eyes. Remus, on the other hand, went white for a moment, before turning
a colour Harry had only ever seen Vernon turn. “Albus,” he finally said
when Hermione was done explaining what had happened, “we are not letting
them get away with what they did to him over the years. Despite what he
did to her because of her curse, what he experienced had to have been far
beyond that, if only because hers would only have been a week. His was
never-ending. I will not allow his abusers to get away with this, Albus.
They had a duty to treat him like a human being, not a punching bag for
their little pig of a child. I will not let them get away with treating
James and Lily’s only child as worthless!” Harry started to respond, but
wisely stopped as Remus glared at him. “I will not hear you refer to
yourself as worthless, Harry. No child that James and Lily could produce
could ever be worthless. Who was it who created the only Patronus I’ve
ever heard of that chased away a hundred Dementors?” Remus took a deep
breath, visibly calming himself. “You’re in so much pain right now,
Harry, because you care so much. You love so deeply. Don’t lock that
away because the Dursleys are trash. Don’t let them win. Come back and
be the caring, loving man you’ve always been.”

Harry looked shocked at him for a moment, and then a large tear appeared
in his left eye, followed by another in his right. They had obviously
brought friends with them, because soon Harry stood to cry on Remus’s
shoulder. “I tried to kill her, Remus!” he sobbed into the man’s
shoulder. “I don’t care if it was a curse or not – it was me doing it!
I was trying to kill her!”

“Harry,” Hermione said from behind him, “prior to this curse I inflicted
on you, how many times have you beaten me in the last five years?”

He sniffed, a sort of “snork”of a sound, and turned to face her.   “I
don’t think I ever have.”

“Exactly, Harry,” she murmured. “It took me being a remarkably stupid
girl to magically force you to do that. And something else, Harry. I
said a week, didn’t I? You broke the curse. How? Why did it break when
you forced it? Did it have anything to do with the golden Patronus you
cast?”

“Golden?” Remus asked in shock.   “I’ve never heard of a golden Patronus
before.”

“Precisely,” Hermione said. “Whatever he was feeling made a Patronus
that passed through her without harming her, and yet made whatever was
chasing her explode. I mean literally, Professor. They exploded.” She
looked back to Harry. “I was serious about that question, Harry. What
were you thinking?”

“Well, I was …” He blushed furiously. “For the Patronus, I was thinking
about the situation that led to my circles of heaven comment to you and
Tonks.” He was answered with a demure blush from Hermione, and an amused
look from Remus. “The breaking of your oath was when I decided that if
someone was going to die because of the treatment I was giving you, then
it was damned well going to be me. So of course there was backlash and I
made you bleed from the ears.”

“Harry, I cursed you!   Of course there’d be backlash on me if you broke
it! I deserved it!”

“What if … what if it had killed you?” he asked in the smallest voice
she’d ever heard him use.

“Well, I’m standing here right now, aren’t I? So don’t borrow trouble.”
She pulled him into a hug, and pulled his face down to her. The kiss she
gave him made him start to cry all over again. “It’s all right, Harry.
We’ve both got a long road ahead of us to get over this, and I’ll be
apologizing to you for years to come.” She patted his back in a motherly
style.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you, Hermione. I don’t feel I
deserve you, or Tonks, or even Ginny caring for me.” He’d had the
presence of mind not to mention what had happened nearly a week ago,
especially with Molly hovering around the periphery. “But if I lost any
of you, or Ron, or even Luna – what would there be to live for anymore?”
She blinked at him, and tears filled her eyes again. "The rest would
help you make it through, Harry. That's what friends and loved ones are
for."

Almost too quiet for her to hear, he said, "But what if it's you?   I
wouldn't want … I couldn't …"

"Shh, Harry," she crooned to him. "I'm here. I love you. With those
two things, we can manage anything else." She kissed his neck in a
comforting manner, and he cried quietly into her hair.

Finally, he got himself together. "Some man I am," he said.   "Crying
over things that haven't happened."

Remus cleared his throat. "A real man is willing to show weakness around
those he cares for, Harry. Never let anyone else tell you differently."
He put his hand on the tortured wizard's shoulder. "I'm proud to know
the man you've become, Harry."

"As am I Harry," Dumbledore said. "You have dealt with things already
that would have killed a lesser individual. And those were as a child,
so how much better a man will you be?"

"And I'm proud to call him my lover," Hermione said.   "I always will be,
too."

The new woman spoke. "One who evokes such feelings in others is always
worth knowing, Sir Harry. I have no doubt that I too shall consider
myself proud to know you." She walked over to him. "I am called
Delphine. I am pleased to meet those who saved my life."

“Wait until you get to know me,” Harry grumbled.
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Sorceror's Apprentice
Chapter 18
By Kinsfire
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Chapter XVIII

Vignettes preceding Hogwarts
"Ronald Bilius Weasley, what do you think you are doing?" she had yelled
at him when Albus Dumbledore confirmed with Ron that his request would be
honoured.

Turning white, Ron said, "Mum …"

"Don't you 'Mum' me, young man!"

"I'm just …"

"You're trying to avoid the extra work is all! I will not stand laziness
in my sons!" She took a deep breath. "Well, that choice is too late to
change. I want you to degnome the garden, young man. You may be able to
get away with it at school, but you'll work extra hard for it here."

Ron stalked from the house, barely keeping himself from stomping, since
he knew that would bring more punishment down on his head. Harry watched
and then turned back to Molly. Very quietly he said, "I begin to
understand Percy."

Arthur inhaled deeply in shock while Dumbledore's eyebrows rose.   "What
do you mean by that, Harry?" Molly asked, eyes narrowing.

"He learned at your knee. He enjoys lording over people that he's always
right, whether he is or not, just like you."

*SLAP!*

"At least it wasn't your favourite humiliation weapon, the Howler," he
said. "I'm used to physical abuse." He bulled forward as her eyes went
wide and she opened her mouth to speak. "Percy humiliates by his
imperious attitude. You do it by berating people publicly. You've made
it an art form. You spent my fourth year treating Hermione like garbage
because you believed Rita Skeeter, of all people. I honestly don't know
how Hermoine forgave you for it. I remember that Howler of yours to her.
I remember the Howler from second year, after Dobby tried to prevent Ron
and me from getting to Hogwarts, although we didn't know it at the time."

His eyes narrowed and his voice got colder. "I remember that delightful
screaming match with Sirius last year when I first got to headquarters.
You got into a screaming match with him because he was trying to steal
your son, as you saw it, and you got vicious about it. Never mind that
my parents wanted him to raise me - you’d adopted me, and you had to take
care of any rivals, so you belittled him publicly." He paused. "I
wonder how much of that was going through his head when he went running
for the Ministry in June?"

"I want you to think about how much you hurt people in your attempts to
help them, Molly," he said quietly. "I love your family, but you are
beginning to worry me. I'm worried about Ron and Ginny because of you.
You won't let go because we're children." He stopped and looked in her
eyes. "We haven't been children since we started school. Ginny was
mind-raped by Voldemort her very first year, and I faced Voldemort down
in my first year. Also my second, fourth, and fifth. Think about that.
Ron and Hermione were with me most of the time. We aren't children
anymore." He sighed. "I lived with the Dursleys. I've never been a
child, and I never will be."

"Ron gave up his badge because he learned from somewhere that I had been
the first choice for Gryffindor prefect, and he was chosen when this man
decided I had too much on my plate already," he said, jabbing his thumb
in Dumbledore's direction. "Ron decided, with more maturity than you're
giving him credit for, to fix what he saw as an error. I never asked him
for this, and I never would."

He walked to the door. "Since I'm part of the cause for this, I'm going
to help Ron degnome." He closed the door behind him.

#####

Harry, Hermione, Delphine and Remus were sitting outside at Potter's
Field simply enjoying the day after a training session with Delphine, who
was teaching the three both magic and some swordplay. Dobby and Winky,
Harry's new employees, were enjoying keeping the quartet's glasses full.

With a gentle pop, Dobby appeared again.   "Master Harry, sir, Master
Dumbledore wishes to speak to you."

"Would he rather I come to him, or would he like to come here? We can
offer him some excellent lemonade." Winky blushed with the praise.

A few moments later, Harry heard the response, "I believe that Winky's
lemonade would be just the thing on a day such as this." A moment later
there was a glass and a chair waiting for the elderly headmaster.

Settling in, he said, "It appears that my original fears for you were
wrong, Harry, and I am both most heartily sorry and exceedingly glad, if
you understand my meanings."

"Sorry that you mistrusted what might happen, and glad to see you were
wrong?" came the smiling response, which received a nod.

"I am even pleased in the manner in which you brought your displeasure to
the attention of Vernon and Petunia Dursley."

*****

Madeline Fitzgerald saw the limousine driving slowly down Privet Drive,
and found herself curious. It seemed to have a crest on the side,
meaning that it was the vehicle of someone highly placed; a Lord. What’s
nobility doing on this street? And why isn’t Petunia Dursley out trying
to get it to stop, so that she can brag about talking to them? She
thought that last with a ladylike snort – the Dursleys were not terribly
well liked in this neighbourhood. Given the way they put on airs? And I
don’t care what school you say the boy goes to, you don’t scream at him
the way Vernon does. Love to report the man, but there’s nothing we can
use for proof.
She watched as it turned the corner toward Magnolia Crescent, and
curiosity got the better of her. She chose to walk closer, if only to
see where the limousine stopped. When she got there, she was surprised
to see that it had come to a stop in front of Arabella Figg’s home.
Madeline was stunned when she watched the Lord in question climbed from
the vehicle, however, and then let loose with a short laugh.

The man looked up, smiled and walked over to her.   “Mrs. Fitzgerald,
isn’t it?” Harry Potter asked her.

“Yes, my Lord,” she said in a quavering voice.

“Don’t worry, ma’am, I’m still the same boy who did all that yard work
for the Dursleys. I’m not going to get angry if you talk to me as if I
weren’t stuck with this title.” He grinned at her; a very disarming
grin, and she blushed. “In other words, you can call me Harry.”

“What brings you here, if I’m not being too forward?” she asked.

“You’re not. I wanted to talk to Mrs. Figg and make her an offer. I
hope she’ll take it. She’s always been there for me, and I’d like to
return the favour.”

“Petunia Dursley will fall over dead when she realizes that you’re here,”
Madeline blurted out, and then immediately blushed.

“Wouldn’t that just be horrible, if she found out that the boy they were
forced to take care of was now a baron?” He smiled an evil smile, and
Madeline couldn’t help but laugh.

“Would it please my Lord if I told her that there was a baron visiting
Arabella, but not who it is?” she asked with a twinkle in her eyes.

“If you would, please,” he laughed. “Well, time for me to go bother Mrs.
Figg.” He walked toward the house, and Madeline’s eyes fell on the
blonde woman waiting near the door. Quite beautiful, and the only proper
descriptor for her was statuesque.

Even more to hit Dursley with, she chuckled to herself. She walked
briskly away, and headed back for her block. She headed quickly for the
Dursley home.

When Petunia finally answered her insistent knock, Madeline ignored the
annoyed look on the woman’s face. “Petunia! I just saw a car pull up in
front of Arabella Figg’s!” she said in the most breathless and brainless
way she could manage. “It’s a baron! He’s got his crest on the side of
the car and everything!”

*****

“What would a baron be doing visiting Mrs. Figg?” Petunia wondered out
loud. “I think I’d like to see this for myself.” She untied the apron
she was wearing and set it carefully over a chair, and then exited the
house. “Arabella Figg’s, you say?”
The two women shared meaningless chatter until they reached Magnolia
Crescent. Petunia’s jaw actually dropped slightly when she saw the long
vehicle parked along the kerb, complete with the black and silver family
crest on the vehicle’s door. It was when her eyes fell on the chauffeur
that her line set into a thin line, and she stalked over to the vehicle.

“What do you … you people think you’re doing?” she hissed at Remus Lupin.

“Mrs. Dursley,” he said calmly, with a small smile gracing his lips.   “I
assume you refer to Baron Potter visiting with Mrs. Figg?”

“If he’s a baron, then I’m Queen Elizabeth,” she snorted.

“Be careful, Petunia,” he hissed in return. “You’re drawing attention to
yourself, and things are not as you think they are. Harry is in fact a
baron, and he will be proving it to you soon.” The front door opened,
and Harry came out with the blonde woman.

“It was good seeing you again, Mrs. Figg, and I’ll start the paperwork to
help you with that. Let me know when you wish to move, and I’ll have my
men come by to help.”

“Thank you again, Baron …” Arabella began, her eyes twinkling.

“You’ve known me as Harry for all this long, Mrs. Figg – there’s no
reason to stop using the name now simply because of an accident of
birth.” He smiled. “And it’s no problem. I have no real use for that
second house on the property, and I know you like to be able to keep an
eye on me. This makes it easier.” She laughed and curtsied to him, and
he hugged her when she was done. “I need to be going – I still have
things to do today, unfortunately, or else I’d visit longer.” He turned
and started back for the car, his face going blank when his eyes fell on
Petunia Dursley.

“Harry Potter,” she said with more than a little asperity, “what do you
think you’re doing?”

“Visiting a friend,” he said calmly. “Mrs. Dursley, may I introduce my
aide, Narcissa Black? She’s helping to ease me into the world I’ve just
discovered that I’m part of.”

“Are you going to insist upon this charade?” Petunia asked.   “I think we
would have been told if you were the heir to some title.”

Harry smiled a humorless smile and turned to Narcissa, who was already
removing a sheaf of papers from the case she was carrying. “This is
proof of the claims that Mister Potter has upon both the Potter family
baronial title and the Black family title, properly notarised.” Petunia
took the papers and very quickly turned white.

“We will await you at your household, Mrs. Dursley,” Harry said quietly.
“I have some items that need to be removed in order to be permanently
shut of your presence in my life.” He climbed into the car, followed by
Narcissa. Remus closed the door and then climbed into the driver’s seat
and began the drive to Number four Privet Drive.

*****

“It is truly a far worse revenge upon them than if you had merely injured
or killed them,” Delphine said quietly. “Now they will spend their lives
knowing that they would be likely treated as nobles themselves, were it
not for their treatment of you.”

“That’s not all,” Harry said, nodding. “I discovered, thanks to
Hermione, that I have a considerable fortune due to many Muggle
businesses. It turns out that one of them is a drill company called
Grunnings. I’ve had my business manager hint that it might be an idea to
remove Vernon from his position. Considering that I own greater than
fifty percent of the stock through various channels, this is likely to
get listened to. I won’t stop him from working, but I will shake him up
a little bit. Make him actually work for once in his life.”

“Given his age, he might have trouble finding a new job,” Hermione said
with a frown. “Are you sure you want to do that to him?”

Harry looked at her with a particularly significant gaze, and then at
Delphine. Her face fell, and then she scowled. “Right. Now that you
mention it, you’re being kind to the man.” She fell to murmuring to
herself, and Harry thought he caught the words “flouric acid enema”.

"Um, Hermione?" he asked.   "I overheard something – what does flouric
acid do?"

"Eats through flesh," she said simply, and with a cheerful lilt to her
voice.

Harry shuddered for a moment before adding, "I'm also going to be taking
advantage of the tabloids. I've given the hint of the 'local boy makes
good' to them, and since those sharks now smell blood in the water …"

Hermione grinned. "The Dursleys will be in the papers all the time, but
not the way that they want to be. Some overzealous reporter is going to
break in and get pictures from under the stairs, get shots of those locks
outside the room you slept in - you know, I don't think I ever heard you
call it yours? It was always Dudley's second bedroom."

"That's because it was. That was never my home. Home is where you and
Tonks are. Home is where my friends are." He looked at the assembled
group, who all had the good graces to blush, even the headmaster.

"I am honoured that you still wish to call me friend, after what has
happened between us."

"Mistakes happen, sir. I can either dwell on them all, or worry about
the real worrisome ones. You have done things with the best of
intentions - please, no comments about paving roads - and I can't truly
fault that. We're both trying to find a happy medium."
"Indeed."

"Sir?" Delphine spoke up. "Has you managed to figure out how I will be
able to protect both Sir Harry and Lady Hermione while we are at your
school?"

"I am uncertain how your class situation may go, but as for sleeping
arrangements, there is a suite just off Gryffindor Tower that dates back
to the day when we had many married students studying at the school.
This suite in question is large enough for a reasonably large family,
which should suit the four of you just fine."

"Four?" Harry asked, and then noticed the slight reddish tinge at the
tips of Remus's ears. He grinned for a moment before he said, "I can't
resist. You dog, you!" He quickly rose from his chair and began to run
as Remus leapt from his own to chase him.

A few minutes later a thoroughly tickled and laughing Harry returned to
his seat, followed by Remus, who was still chuckling. "Quite seriously,
though, both Delphine and I will be coming to the school as your
bodyguards."

"May I be permitted to inquire about the deal you worked out with Cissy
concerning your pay?" Harry asked.

"Helping to keep you alive is payment enough, Harry," Remus said.

"So you're doing this for free."

"Of course."

Harry smiled. "Dobby," he said quietly, calling to the house elf he had
hired. The large eyed creature appeared with a pop.

"How may Dobby help Master Harry?"

"If you could find Miss Black and tell her that I'll be needing two
bodyguard contracts at standard pay plus twenty percent for hazardous
duty, I'd greatly appreciate it."

"Dobby will find her immediately!" Before popping out, he looked to
Remus and said with a grin, "Dobby told Master Remus."

As the elf disappeared, Remus shook his head.   "Hazardous duty?" he
finally asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm hunted by a dark wizard, Remus, and I'm the only one on the planet
who can kill him. I think that qualifies as hazardous." He looked to
Delphine, who had a predatory glint to her eyes. "I take it that you
like the challenge?" She answered with a simple nod. "You'll want to
watch out for someone called Draco Malfoy when we return to school. He's
been fairly ineffective, but he's good at getting under your skin and
getting you angry."
She looked to Hermione.   "Is this Draco Malfoy a real threat to Harry, or
merely an annoyance?"

"He's never been more than annoying, but I won't discount the possibility
that he could become dangerous. He has stated support for Voldemort
where adults can't hear him. Yes, he could be dangerous." She thought
for a moment. "His own guards are Crabbe and Goyle - Vincent Crabbe and
Gregory Goyle. They don't tend to think fast on their feet. If you can
bring Draco down quickly and make them aware that they're next, then
you're golden. They'll never bother you again. They recognise force."
Harry simply nodded his agreement.

"What martial training has he shown?"

"Not much, from what I can tell.   If anything, his tendency is toward
darker spells."

"Then a physical attack is most likely to be successful against him.     I
shall remember this."

"It'll be easy to point him out," Hermione said with a grin. "You'll be
the most beautiful woman at the school, so he'll be on you faster than
Trelawney can predict Harry's death."

"One of the most beautiful," Harry said, correcting Hermione. "And     to
answer the question I'm sure you were going to ask, Trelawney is no
danger that I've ever seen. She hovers in her tower and makes
predictions that are either so vague as to be useful when something   like
it happens, or she predicts my death several times a year. She's a    fraud
who has a talent for making real predictions that really mess up my   life.
Twice so far."

Delphine nodded. Hermione said, "One of the most beautiful, Harry?     She
is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

Harry turned to Delphine and said, "No offence to you, dear lady, but I
don't know you well enough to declare you the most beautiful woman I
know." He turned back to Hermione. "She is stunningly attractive, I
admit, and a lot of us at school will likely be finding reasons to sit
down suddenly when she walks into a room. True beauty, though, is
within. She may prove to be as beautiful inside at out, but until that
point, my choice for the most beautiful at the school is going to be a
certain bushy haired brunette."

Hermione stared at him for a moment before jumping to her feet and
running off. Harry frowned and stood to follow her, but Remus and
Delphine held him back. "I shall go," Delphine said, and walked away.

#####

Things were still tense by the time that September first rolled around.
Hermione didn't seem to know how to react around Harry, and it hadn't
helped when Delphine told him that Hermione thought he'd said what he had
for pure flattery purposes.   He had no idea how to convince her
otherwise.

He'd talked to Narcissa and got her to bring the headmaster in on the
attempt to talk to Daphne Greengrass. Narcissa, Daphne, and Harry would
all be invited to the Headmaster's office before the first week was
complete, and it would be Narcissa and Harry's job to tell her.

The only other thing of note before reaching the school was Draco Malfoy
on the Hogwarts Express. He and his ever-present goon squad opened the
door to the cabin that Harry, Hermione, Ron, Luna, Ginny, Remus and
Delphine were in. "Well, Potter, I see you still have your worthless
hangers-on. Doesn't it bother you to know that they only hang around you
for the money? I understand you have to pay for her to hang around," he
finished, pointing at Delphine.

Harry snorted and looked at Ginny. "Isn't it interesting that I could
change the name and say the exact same thing back to him?" He looked
back to Malfoy. "Run along, little boy. Your threats to your mother and
myself are meaningless. I came into the Black title through completely
legally proper means, which is probably why you can't understand it,
since your father has never done anything legally if he could avoid it."
He stood. "Be careful that you don't anger me too much, or else I might
officially eject you from the family. Could your reputation survive the
humiliation?"

"What are you on about?" he sneered.

"Narcissa is a Black. I am the head of the family now. I will be
officially accepting Andromeda Tonks back into the family, if she was
disowned. I will be disowning Bellatrix officially. If I feel that you
will dishonour the family through your antics, I will disown you. Can
your reputation handle that?"

"I'm getting your improper control of the Black family overturned,
Potter, so don't get too familiar with it."

"Tell you what, ferret boy. You know what the Blacks were like, and you
know how they protect their things. I'll toss you the Family Crest ring,
and you will put it on in front of me. If you survive the experience,
I'll promise not to eject you from the family. I'll even promise an
allowance until you hit eighteen. But you have to survive putting the
Family ring on."

"A likely story. You've already trapped it, I'm quite certain,
especially with all these witnesses around to cover for you. I'll get
the ring via the law." He turned and began to walk away.

"Feel free to burn through the Malfoy fortune to do it!" Harry called
after him.

"What would happen if he'd taken you up on it?" Delphine asked.
"This ring is part and parcel of a family famed for their Dark
tendencies. They were … exuberant … in their protections. It is
actually quite likely that the ring would have killed him, especially
since his mother is not Narcissa. That was why I warned him." He
shrugged. "My job is done. He's been warned, and if he chooses to
ignore the warning, then on his own head be it." He turned to Hermione
and wiggled his eyebrows. "Up for a little snogging?"

She blinked at him for a moment, and for that moment, Harry could see the
war inside her - If he's going so far as to flatter me, does he really
love me? - seemed to be the thought in there. He sighed and stood.
"Never mind. I'll be back later." He was out the door before anyone
could stop him. Delphine followed.

They walked silently to the very end of the train. Finally she spoke up.
"Give her time. She is insecure and sees me as a rival."

"I understand that, but you didn't see that look she was giving me. It
was almost an actual set of words I was getting. Ever since I said what
I did about you, she's absolutely sure that I lied to her just to get
into her knickers. She thinks I was flattering her, so now she thinks I
don't really love her. I can see that in her eyes."

"She will come around, Lord Harry.   I can see that you and she are meant
to be together."

"No she won't. She's more stubborn than I am, and that's saying
something. She's gotten it into her head that I'm flattering her.
She'll stay with me for a while, but it'll be over before October. I'll
bet money on that. She'll find a reason to break things off." He
snorted. "After what I did this summer, who can blame her? No one
forgets a beating like the one that she took at my hands, no matter the
reason it happened. She'll always remember my anger and my hands
striking her. She'll flinch someday when I reach for her, I'm sure of
it. And can you blame her?"

Delphine sat quietly with him for a time, watching his back carefully,
until he finally decided to return to the cabin with the others. "We
should talk later," Hermione said quietly to him. He simply nodded.
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