Harry Potter And The Summer Of Change
Protect Your Friends
By Lord Dwar
Disclaimer: J K Rowling owns the rights and likenesses of all the characters in the Harry Potter series. This story is meant to add to the world she created. Any conflicts are accidental and they yield to her reality (canon).
This is a post-OOTP story during the summer before Harry’s Sixth Year. Very few items of HBP will be used.
Harry Potter And The Summer Of Change
13. Protect Your Friends
Tonks woke up and felt the pressure of Harry on top of her. Normally, she would have loved it, but the pain in her hips told her that she needed to get Harry off of her as soon as possible. With a quick breath, Tonks nudged Harry’s shoulder a few times. "Harry, luv, you need to get off of me before I end up paralyzed."
"Huh," Harry asked still half asleep. "Oof, I am sore."
"Not as sore as I am, Harry. Please get off."
Harry moved quickly and as carefully as he could. Once his weight had been removed, Tonks groaned and rolled onto her side breathing deep breaths. "Ow, that hurts." She moved her legs very slowly together before bringing them up to her chest. "Mental note, never fall asleep like that again. Getting there is a lot of fun, but the waking up part is dreadful."
"Sorry, Nymph, I didn’t mean to hurt you."
"You sure you didn’t?" Tonks asked coyly. "I think you had some ideas like that when you pinched my nipples that one time."
"Well, maybe I got caught up in the moment. Uh, you didn’t complain at the time."
Tonks laughed as she stretched out as far as she could. "No, I didn’t complain. Quite the opposite actually. I told you that I didn’t know what you wanted until you told me. Now that I think about it showing works just as well or better."
"In my own defense, I am still learning what I like. So far, it has been everything, but I think you are a big part of that."
"Glad I could be of service, Harry." Tonks flipped the sheet off and watched Harry respond instantly. "As much fun as that would be Harry, I don’t think I could take the abuse yet. Give me a few more hours and I might be recovered enough to take you up on your offer. Now, I think I need a bath to soak in to get rid of the ache in my bones. I might be flexible, but I can’t hold positions forever."
Tonks placed her feet on the floor and went to stand, but her legs shook and her knees gave out from under her. She fell to the floor with a whimper. Harry hopped out of the bed instantly and was at her side having no idea how to care for her.
"Um, Harry, could you help me up. It seems my muscle control is at an all-time low right now." Harry scooped her up and settled her into the bed gently. "Thanks, Harry. I guess I will have to wait a few minutes before trying again."
Harry nodded before turning and walking gingerly into the bathroom. He Summoned his glasses with his hand before leaving the room. Tonks watched him go and couldn’t help but fantasize about him as he walked away from her wearing nothing at all. â€˜Oh the dirty thoughts rolling around in my head right now, Mr. Potter.’ She started to rub her legs a little trying to get the blood flow back into them. As she was moving her legs around, Tonks heard the sound of running water in the bathroom. She closed her eyes and focused on her sore body returning to her control.
She was startled when she felt two arms slide under her neck and rump. She opened her eyes to find Harry lifting her into the air and holding her close to his nicely defined form. "Harry, what are you doing?"
"You said you needed a bath so I am taking you to your bath. Running a little slow today are we?"
"I try to be." Harry held her tight and carried her into the bathroom where she saw the water filling the bath with light blue bubbles rising from the surface.
"You put soap in it already?"
"No, it comes that way I guess. There was a woman’s shape on the value so I figured that was for women to use. I don’t take baths so I am not up on things like that."
Tonks smelled the flowery scent wafting from the water. "I love the smell. I wonder how it works." Harry shrugged before slowly kneeling down on the rug lying in front of the tub. As carefully as he could, Harry lowered Tonks into the water before leaning back and watching her face.
She sunk into the warm water and felt the restorative properties instantly energize her tender body. She sighed and breathed in the vapor the bubbles were putting off. Lazily, she opened her eyes and found Harry watching her with a slight smile on his face. "Thank you, Harry. This is just what I needed. You are so nice to me."
"You are welcome. I am glad I could help some how considering I did this to you in the first place."
"It took both of us falling asleep like that to make this happen. You just wore me out I guess." Harry blushed a little, but his smile deepened. "So cute when you really smile." Tonks reached out and pulled his face to hers giving him a heartfelt kiss. "Thank you, Harry."
"Anytime, Nymph, you know that."
"Ahh." Tonks stretched out again with her arms reaching up and legs spreading out in the water. She caught Harry’s eyes wandering and could see that she had come out of the water a little. A layer of bubbles coated her breasts, but that didn’t stop Harry from looking at them. With a chuckle, she slid back into the water as Harry followed the moving clumps of bubbles.
"Uh, sorry," Harry apologized as he realized that he had been caught staring. "It just happens sometimes."
"Don’t worry about it. If it didn’t happen, then I would begin to wonder. Right now, I am more than confident that I have your attention."
"Imagine that," Harry said as if it was the most obvious statement ever made. "Sharp one you are."
Tonks smirked before reaching out to give Harry a hug. He accepted and leaned in to receive her wet, bubbly hug. Without warning, Tonks gave a tug and pulled Harry neatly into the oversized bath with her. She managed to keep his head above the water and out of the majority of the bubbles, but his impact with the water caused a small wave that sloshed water and bubbles over all of the edges. With a laugh, Tonks kissed a very surprised Harry on the lips. When she pulled away she giggled at the bubles that had settled on the top of his head.
"I am sharper than you, dear sir." Harry laughed with her as she reveled in her victory.
"That you are, Nymph." Harry allowed Tonks to continue to hold him, but he slid his hand into the water and found her sensitive spot. He gave it a touch causing her to pause in her victorious laughter. "Maybe I planned this whole thing?" Harry quirked his eyebrow at her waiting for her response.
Tonks moved her hips a little testing them out before rolling on top of Harry and holding him against the back of the bath. "Maybe I planned it, ever think of that?"
Harry hesitated before answering. "I am now." His hands moved slowly along her sides as she slid down into a better position.
"Time for thinking has ended; it is time for action." Tonks moved forward and snogged him as hard as she could while she lowered herself onto a very eager Harry.
They arrived in the team room with only a few minutes to spare. They had to sprint from the room to be on time and entered the training room to find a couple groups waiting in a circle with Horace and Marcus in its center. They sat in the empty seats next to Cal and waited for the meeting to begin.
"Teams," Marcus began with a smile. "Teams Five, Six, and One aren’t here today as they are either on a mission or recovering from one. With the expert skill of Team Two, we have learned information from those Death Eaters captured in our very own Ministry. The intel relates to You-Know-Who, his plans, and those who have allied themselves with â€˜Him.’ We are putting together operational plans to carry out assaults on known or supposed locations of You-Know-Who’s strongholds or safe havens.
"These missions will be objective oriented with minimal goals in mind. Search and destroy is not out of the question so I know Thor and Bitton will be pleased regardless of the outcome."
Harry saw two rather large men sit up a little taller and rub their hands together. He knew that this week was starting out quite different from the others, and it seemed that it would be filled with interesting things to accomplish.
Marcus continued. "Team Two will continue to extract intel from the captured Death Eaters under Ministry custody as well as the newly captured one delivered to our holding cells last Friday. My congratulations to Ceps and Chamel on the capture. I will add that next time, please include your other teammate prior to storming off to challenge three Death Eaters. Remember, we always want the numbers in our favour before we start a fight."
Harry felt the stares of seven hooded individuals as the other two teams and Cal looked between him and Tonks. Harry did his best to hold his position in his chair and not waver in the slightest. He wasn’t sure what they were thinking, but he figured that a few of them were making decisions about him as they looked on.
"All of you will be assigned missions as they become available. I will tell you that our new Minister seems willing to utilize our talents where the normal Auror Teams have a lower chance of success. We are the best and she knows it. I see your day jobs suffering for the foreseeable future from this welcome change in our government. I had a meeting with Minister Bones on Saturday and she expressed her desire in testing our abilities more frequently then Fudge. I believe the old days have returned once again."
Horace stepped forward and scowled menacingly. "If anyone feels that they no longer possess the ability to perform their duties on a more constant basis, please notify me at once. That being said, Team Four you will have a mission tonight acting on the intel gained by Team Two. Team Three, you are hereby activated for Level One operations. As you succeed, your level will be raised accordingly. Let’s remind our enemies why we are whispered about in dark corners and under secrecy spells. Team Three, on me for reassessment and skill tuning."
Harry watched as Team Two and Four gathered and followed Marcus out of the room. Horace waited for Team Three to meet him near the corner of the room. Harry stood and followed the others wondering what reassessment meant.
"First off, Ceps don’t you ever pull shite like that again. Three against two is not the odds we work with here. I don’t care if you did take out the tosser we have in lock up right from the start. It was still a very losable situation. You got lucky but as I have said before, we respect results here. That is the only reason you are still here. Fuck up like that again and I will wipe your memory clean. Do you understand me?"
"Good," Horace barked easing his mood quickly. "Well done by the way. Now, we may get intel without notice and have to act on it immediately. I know Cal and Chamel have been through this before, but you haven’t, Ceps. Level One operations means you can carryout minor missions that do not have a must-win objective. Basically, all is not lost if you fuck up. Level Two means the mission is important but not do-or-die. Many of the teams are level twos. Level Three means that failure is not an option or it is a hot mission."
Harry wasn’t sure what a hot mission was and he showed it. "Hot means you kill everything that resists. You are going in and the targets are going to defend to the death. Don’t feel bad, but it will be awhile before you get to that level. The team must work together seamlessly and without fail for some time before they are promoted to Level Three. We only have three teams at that level currently and two of them are occupied right now. Questions?"
Harry didn’t say anything as he thought back to how the incident at the Lovegood’s turned out. He knew second chances were not frequent in this line of work so he would cherish and learn from the few that he received.
"Reassessment means that you show off what you know and where you are with your abilities." Horace smirked as the targets appeared behind him. "Begin, full list."
Harry watched as Tonks and Cal began firing spell after spell at their targets. They would fire the same one three times before moving on to the next. Following their lead, Harry did the same.
He cast the same spell three times at his target with his wand before following up wandlessly if he could. He focused on his magic as much as he could. He felt it inside of him and pushed it out forcefully. He fell back onto his new-found confidence and allowed his anger to rise which assisted his magic. Every spell was fired with a determined thrust. Harry knew he could accomplish anything he had to if the situation required it.
As he warmed up, he fell into a rhythm of casting that seemed to match the ebb and flow of his magic. Without noticing, his magic’s cycle sped up. Horace watched as Harry’s spell casting became faster and more accurate. He was sending spells downrange faster than Cal or Chamel. Each one hit with an accuracy score no lower than the mid 80’s and a power score no lower than the high 70’s.
As he finished with his most practiced spells, he switched to those he had learned in the last few weeks. Horace read the scores being put up as they appeared. "Excellent improvement, Ceps. Keep it up."
Harry finished out his assessment with his favourite or most powerful spells. All the bone spells, Reductor, Stunner, and the Unforgivables were displayed last. Unable to think of any others, Harry stepped back from the line and watched Tonks and Cal continue through their vast knowledge of spells. Harry focused on their movements trying to learn something from them. Tonks and Cal ended about the same time as Tonks knew more, but Cal was slower in casting his spells.
"Fine," Horace said walking up to them. "Cal, Chamel, get Ceps to a point where he can at least resuscitate someone. Right now, he would only be good at watching the person die. I need to look over your scores and determine where to go from here as a team."
Tonks directed Harry over to the classroom area that had appeared. Cal followed them closely but kept an eye on Horace as he cycled through the spells Harry had used during his assessment. A replica of a person appeared on a table that popped into existence amongst the desks.
"Ceps," Tonks began, "you need to learn the most basic medical spells and fast. We are going for a level one here so nothing fancy or neat. Crude but effective is the key for this lesson."
Cal continued, "We all know that you haven’t shown an aptitude for these kinds of spells, but our lives could hang in the balance at some point. I am not going to teach you how to heal or fix injuries. This will be a keep-alive centered lesson so critical care spells are the plan."
Harry took a deep breath and nodded his acceptance of the goal. As the next two hours drug on, Harry killed the replica more times than he could count. Focusing too much caused the spell to break the ribs leading to the patient being impaled by the broken bones. Harry started stressing as he failed time and time again.
"Ceps," Tonks questioned, "how are you trying to use these spells? Statistically, you should have succeeded at least once by now. Are you trying to use a soft touch with the Resuscitation spell?"
"I am trying to keep it as soft as I can, but it just isn’t working for me." Harry couldn’t avoid showing his frustration at the whole situation. "I am trying to picture the result and let my magic do the spell, but it isn’t working here like it usually does."
"Are you pushing your magic into it at all? Using anything other than the words and movements?" Cal asked while he tried to figure out the problem.
"Of course I push my magic into it," Harry replied. "That is how I have been trained since I got here. I just push some of it out, but I let the spell do the work."
"Maybe that is the problem," Cal said to Chamel who nodded her head in a confused way. "Medical spells aren’t about power; they are about consistency and finesse. Magically powerful people do not tend to become healers. Volatility is not a good thing when you hold a life in your hands. Perhaps we should pull back some and let you try this as if you were still in school."
Harry managed to restrain his comment and followed Cal’s instructions precisely. His wand floated lightly over the replica for the examination phase of the spell. When the tip glowed light green, the person was alive and the spell wasn’t needed. When it glowed light red, the person’s heart wasn’t beating and the spell was needed. As expected, Harry’s wand glowed red so he moved it to hover right above the replica’s chest. With a half-circle pattern bringing the holly wand closer to his body, Harry aimed at the replica and in a smooth stabbing motion cast the spell, "Resuscitare!"
The replica convulsed more than it had all day. Harry felt that he had succeeded but Cal quickly got him back on task.
"Ceps," Cal instructed, "reassess and see if it worked."
Harry reassessed and found that it worked for a few seconds, but the patient had died again. Harry repeated the spell four more times in quick succession each better than the last. With his final attempt, Cal motioned for Harry to stop.
"Not bad, Ceps. You were getting the hang of it there at the end. The trick is being able to do this while you are under fire or swimming in adrenaline after the fight. I think you have the basic skill down, but if I am ever in this position please get me back here or to St. Mungo’s as fast as you can. Nothing against you, mind, I just don’t want to be your first patient in a life threatening medical situation." Cal smiled and urged Harry on to another medical spell used frequently, Obturo Cruor, the wound cauterizing spell.
When the replica started bleeding from numerous places, Harry knew he was in for a messy and frustrating lesson. As his clothes became soaked in blood, he worked on the spell time and time again. A soft touch was required and Harry tried to mimic the state of mind he was in when he had conquered Resuscitare. It took over an hour for him to master the techniques required for the spell.
Horace watched from the observation room and laughed to himself. "If he can’t throw his magic at it, he is still a schoolboy learning his magic."
"Funny that he is a schoolboy learning his magic, Horace," Marcus commented. "So, are we agreed on his abilities? Quite a respectable showing today wouldn’t you concur?" Horace merely grumbled. "I will take that as a yes. Don’t be too hard on yourself, old friend. You have taught him some of it. The truly gifted really only need direction and encouragement."
"Bah, quit blowing sunshine up my arse, Marcus," Horace snapped. "Once they finish teaching him how to splint a broken bone we can give him a level one for medical. Still, he would be the last one I would want trying to heal me. Fight with me, no problem, but healing, not a chance."
"What about that shield spell we spoke of?" Marcus asked. "Going to teach that one? We have very few who can do it you know."
"He won’t get to it today. Maybe tomorrow we can work on it. I have other plans for this week. He needs to be proficient with a few others by Friday so he can lead his team. It will be a good start for him. Get some confidence and experience under his belt before the real thing."
"I believe he has quite a bit of experience, Horace," Marcus pointed out. "You haven’t forgotten his history, have you?"
"No, I haven’t but still this is for real."
"And the other times were what?"
Horace paused and watched Harry run through the scenario again. He managed to stop the bleeding faster than any prior attempt earning himself congratulations from his teammates. "Him trying to stay alive. He had no other goal than that really."
"Sometimes yes, sometimes no." Marcus expanded, "He can do it and you know that. Are you not beyond the constant insults and pushing phase of your teaching?"
"I will use what works, Marcus, and I will not change that. He is easy to motivate with insults and criticisms."
"But will he fight for you when it is over? Your methods wouldn’t have taught him the skills he is learning right now. He works well in a team as you can see."
"I train the individual; they train the teammate. I will consider your suggestion, but I will handle it my way, Marcus. If it works I will use it."
"I know you will, Horace but remember that Harry is not committed to us yet. We haven’t proven ourselves to him, and he can be rather fickle when it comes to his allegiance. Do not jeopardize the goodwill and trust we have built to keep up your persona. He has political capital whether he knows it or not. He could become a vital Operative and ally for this department. He got one minister removed and another installed within thirty minutes.
"He got Albus Dumbledore to come down from his pedestal and dirty himself in the politics of the Ministry. I know of three department heads who trust him without question, and I won’t even begin to list how many businesses that young man controls. Continue doing what you do best, but tread lightly when you near his breaking point. He will earn the respect of some of the other teams before the week is out."
Horace paused before answering, "He will gain a few challengers in the process as well, Marcus. A couple Operatives will voice their displeasure as to his standing in such a short time. I have to make sure he is ready for that."
"I believe he is used to friction with others for who or what he is. Leave him be and watch how he handles it. My guess," Marcus offered with a smile, "he will use it and become more determined."
"Care to wager on that?"
"Oh you are a glutton for losing aren’t you? One case, muggle this time. I may never have to buy liqueur again," Marcus announced.
"Agreed then," Horace shook Marcus’s hand before leaving the room to join the blood bath happening in the training room.
Harry stopped the gushing blood from the artificial wound in the replica as another opened up. He settled his mind as he worked the spell again focusing on the movements and words of the spell. Cal had started talking to him in an attempt to distract him from successfully casting the spell. As the blood flow was staunched, he felt someone behind him.
When he turned his head, Harry saw Horace with his wand raised and unleashing a spell in the direction of Tonks. Without thinking, Harry jumped up casting a wandless Imprimis Shield and firing a Bone Breaking spell at Horace in one fluid motion. The Cutting Curse reflected off Harry’s shield and flew off into the ceiling with a sizzle.
Horace reacted with his own shield spell, stopping Harry’s curse, before giving an evil smirk. "Protected your teammate and attacked me without missing a beat. Acceptable, but you didn’t get me."
"I could try again, Horace," Harry replied tonelessly not dropping his guard for a second and holding the shield in place.
Horace seemed eager to take on the challenge, but relented after a few tense seconds. "Maybe later, Ceps. As the day has been frittered away," Horace made a gesture to the blood dripping off of Harry’s cloak, "I just have to adjust your badge to reflect your recent progress, meager that it is."
Harry waited as Horace kept his wand in a low-ready position. The tension held until Tonks moved to Harry’s side and put a hand on his shoulder. "It is okay, Ceps. I got you if anything happens."
Horace quirked his eyebrow at Tonks before moving in front of Harry. He dropped his shield allowing Horace to tap his badge and alter the levels on a few of the bars. Harry held his eyes and never let them stray while Horace did the work. "Some may take this as a challenge to their ego, Ceps. Be prepared for that."
"Noted, sir." Harry watched Horace retreat slowly and leave the room. He sighed and relaxed as Tonks laughed slightly. Cal vanished the replica and checked the time.
"Time for me to get home," Cal announced as he cleaned the blood off his clothes. "It was a good day and you learned some crucial spells that could keep us alive one day. I just hope that you never have to use them, Ceps."
With Harry and Tonks alone in the training room, Harry sighed and looked at his badge for the first time since the change. "Um, is this good or bad, Chamel?"
"Let me take a look, Ceps," Tonks said and moved to look at Harry’s badge. As a small smile formed on her lips, Harry knew it was at least something. "Well, I would suggest you keep an eye on Teams Two and Four. They will not like you matching or beating them in levels."
Harry saw the coloured bars stand out against the grey cloak. The red remained unchanged at six; his defensive level had increased one to six. Green was already at seven, but Harry saw that he had one yellow bar showing that he had a couple medical spells down. His stealth level remained at two, but the full seven bars of black left him feeling rather empty inside. The Roman numeral III stood out in its field and the three pips shined in the dim light before the badge faded away into the grey of the cloak.
"Do they expect me to kill now that I have seven bars for the Unforgivables?"
"They expect you to do your job when it needs done," Tonks explained. "You are no different now than you were when you got here this morning…except for the fact that you look like you took a waded across a stream of blood." Tonks laughed as Harry took notice of his lower half still dripping with fluid. Tonks waved her wand and cleaned the blood away leaving Harry perfectly clean. "Wow, that worked well. I have never been very skilled at cleaning charms."
"I guess I got lucky then."
"You better believe it," Tonks quipped before pulling Harry by the arm towards the exit. "To home we go, dear sir."
As they arrived at home, Harry removed his cloak and laid it over the back of a chair in the living room. Tonks joined him, arm in arm, as they entered the kitchen. Tiki and Dobby were moving about the room quickly preparing dinner. Tonks settled into a seat at the smaller table near the far wall, but Harry tried to assist with the preparations.
Tonks couldn’t help but laugh when Harry was physically "helped" into the neighboring chair. "Offer your help and they toss you out as if you would ruin everything."
"You know better than to "help" them with their work, Harry. You should count yourself lucky they didn’t toss you outside to eat with Jules."
"Nah, I think they are leaving that punishment for you Nymph."
"Oh, you didn’t just suggest that I spend more time with that menace of a pet. We have an agreement, her and I. She stays out there and I stay in here unless you are with me at all times. It works out for well."
"Has Jules agreed to this arrangement?"
"I plan to avoid finding out, Harry. I think it is best for everyone involved that way."
Harry started laughing at how Tonks was acting towards Jules. He found it comical how an auror and Unspeakable could be so scared of a simple griffin. "She is only a griffin, Nymph. I guess I just don’t see how you can be this way."
"Only a griffin you say," Tonks mocked as she shivered. "Leave it to you to say that about a griffin seeing as you own two I guess it makes sense. You were probably around them when you were born so it isn’t a big deal."
"I am not following…" Harry was interrupted by Hedwig flying into the room and settling on his shoulder. The beautiful animal opened her mouth and gave a sound before rubbing her head against Harry’s face a few times. "Hi, girl, everything alright?"
Hedwig ignored the question and finished rubbing her owner before sticking her leg out for Harry to see. A letter was tied to her leg but no name was written on the outside. Tentatively, Harry reached out and removed the letter. He looked over the parchment before untying the rest of the twine. Hedwig received a gentle pet and a one handed hug as Harry read the letter.
Tonks watched him as his eyes moved about the first page and then the second as well. Once he was finished, Harry looked up to Tonks and smiled. "We doing anything on Thursday night?"
"No, but I think you have something in mind."
Harry smiled deepened, "Yes, I do have something. Hermione just invited us over for the evening. Apparently, her parents have been a little nervous about everything going on and wanted to meet some of her friends. I guess her plan to keep most of the information about Voldemort away from then hasn’t worked very well. She is worried they won’t let her go back to Hogwarts next year. So, she is trying to convince them that she is safe and we are normal people too. It seems the few times they have met the Weasleys hasn’t sold them on that idea."
"Imagine that," Tonks quipped. "I know them rather well and the Weasleys are far from normal. Of course, inviting you is a step in the wrong direction since you are as abnormal as you can get even by our standards." Tonks winked at Harry as he scowled good-naturedly.
The next day found Harry and Tonks arriving, as usual, with only a few minutes to spare. Horace handed Tonks a small parcel before diving into the day’s grueling lesson. By lunch time, Harry was sore and worn out.
Horace had spent the morning testing Harry’s shields under a constant barrage of spells. The sheer force of magic left Harry gasping for breath as he had to match the level of attack with an equal or superior defense. At the beginning, Harry thought it was just going to be him and Horace, but Tonks and Cal joined in after an hour.
Harry held his shields for as long as he could until they failed under the assault of opposing magic. A few times as his shield fell he threw up another one to stop the spells that continued on. By the end of the session, Harry was sporting some rather nasty injuries that the medical team was waiting to treat as they stood at the edge of the room.
When Horace pulled up his wand and took a step back, Harry collapsed under his own weight. Tonks and Cal moved to help him up as exhaustion took over Harry’s body. "When medical has cleared you and you have eaten something come find me. I have a few things to show you today, Ceps. Both of you are needed as well."
Harry endured the poking and prodding of the healers and drank what they told him to. As the skin knitted itself back together on his shoulder, Harry concentrated on his mind. He had found that practicing Occlumency for a few minutes when he had the chance seemed to help many things. His focus was sharper and his mind was clearer. He had better control over his spells and he could sense when his shields were going to fail most of the time before they did. A quick look to his battered body proved that it wasn’t foolproof.
Harry could feel his magic running low as Horace had seemed determined to beat it down. The sting and burn of his injuries fought against his efforts to concentrate completely on his mental skills.
"Your injuries are well on their way to being repaired," a healer told him. "How long were they testing your shields, an hour or so?"
Harry opened his mouth as little as necessary to reply. "I am not sure, two or three hours I think."
Tonks checked her watch and did a quick calculation. "It was a little more than three hours actually. Horace worked for the first hour, but he had us in there for the last two."
The healer paused in her work and looked to Tonks. "Surely you are pulling my leg?"
"No, that is how it worked." Tonks looked to Harry and saw him with his eyes closed and his lips tightening and relaxing in a rhythm. The healer shook her head and continued her work. The burns were the last things she healed as they were only superficial. She poured out a small vial of Dreamless Sleep potion and set it on the side table.
"You need at least an hour of good sleep before you can do any more magic today. Your levels are rather low and your magic and healing are closely linked. An hour should be enough time for you to be adequately healed and rested to finish out the day. You have to get a goodnight’s sleep tonight though."
"Thanks," Harry said to the healer as he downed the vial and settled into the bed. His mind told him to do as he was told and cooperate. For the first time he felt the magical exhaustion that had been mentioned when he started with the Unspeakables. His entire body seemed deflated and worn. As he thought about the feelings, he remembered a similar tiredness after the Triwizard Tournament but nowhere near as acute.
He felt Tonks move next to the bed and put her feet up on the mattress. She nudged him with her foot causing Harry to smile as he knew she would be with him the whole time. As the potion began to cloud his mind, Harry caught a glimpse of an image of spells flying in all directions and people screaming. The haze of nothingness rolled over the image leaving relaxing blankness in its wake. Harry drifted off with a slight whimper which unnerved Tonks to a degree.
When he awoke, Harry was hungry and his body was aching. A grunt of displeasure alerted Tonks to his return and she grabbed his hand. He felt the warmth and managed to focus his mind on that sensation leading to the rest of his body catching up.
"Ceps," Tonks called, "are you feeling better?"
"As well as expected, Chamel." Harry moved every appendage grimacing when appropriate. "A little sore though."
"More than a little to get those kinds of reactions from you." Tonks patted his hand and moved off to grab a healer.
Mentally, Harry took account of his entire body. He tested everything he could think of from head to toe and anything in-between. The sound of movement told him that Tonks had returned but he knew another person had come as well.
"Sore are you?" Queried a female voice.
"A little," Harry replied as he opened his eyes slowly. The healer was holding a vial in her hand offering it to Harry leaving little choice in the matter. He took it and downed the clear liquid. He was surprised to find a slight mint taste to it. The healer moved her wand over his body checking for anything that may have been missed.
"You won’t be at the top of your game today but that should help with most of the soreness. I have other potions, but they have side effects that would prevent you from training further today." The healer finished her scan and left Harry to be helped out of bed by Tonks.
"You good to go?" Tonks asked as Harry wavered a little.
"I will be fine," Harry replied. "Can’t keep Horace waiting, can we?"
"You have to eat first."
After a hearty stew loaded with more items than Harry could name, the pair joined Cal and Horace in the training room. Harry saw Cal shrug before turning to them. Horace put his hands together and gave a sinister smile.
"Now that you are done with your lay-about we can get back to work," Horace looked right at Harry. "You are rather skilled in your shield spells, Ceps, but you are missing one, Patrocinor Fidelis. It is a shield spell that you use on others. It was created years ago when kings and princes fought in wars. Wizards who worked with royalty then created this spell to protect the royals while in battle. It will stop both physical and magical attacks on the same level as Fortis Aegis.
"Obviously, Absolvo and Imprimis are stronger shields, but this is a once removed shield so it makes sense. Auror training doesn’t attempt this spell as it is hard to create and maintain. The demands on the caster are steep and for the most part you will never need to use this. I expect your teammates to be able to defend themselves well enough this isn’t needed. If they are down, you have bigger problems than trying to protect them, like yourself. There are other shields, mostly specific use spells like confinement spells for potions or pets, but this is the last shield spell for use in a fight. I will tell you that most people never accomplish this spell so I expect the same from you — failure."
Harry allowed his eyes to bore into Horace’s. He sensed the challenge and accepted it without much thought. "Discounting me already, Horace?"
"If the shoe fits, Ceps," Horace quipped and watched Harry respond as he had planned. "You have the incantation and here is the wand movement." Horace demonstrated the movements with a practiced touch while Harry paid close attention. "Go ahead and give it a try, Ceps. I doubt you will be able to get it by the end of the day."
Harry gritted his teeth and promised himself that he would prove Horace wrong. The time passed as Harry tried to master the spell. At first nothing happened, and then a flicker of a shield began to appear around Tonks. With constant corrections in his movements and effort, Harry finally had the process down.
Horace had stopped adjusting Harry’s mechanics and only continued to comment on his repeated failures. Tonks gave him encouragement while Cal watched and gave intermittent, sideways glances in Horace’s direction.
As the day ended, Harry knew he was running out of time to prove that he could cast the spell. He focused on Tonks’ face and searched for the energy to cast the spell. A few times the shield had almost formed before collapsing on its own or from Horace firing a basic spell at it causing it to fail instantly. Harry willed the spell to work. He forced all the magic he could into the effort.
The first attempt produced a weak shield that wavered before failing. The second time Harry allowed his frustration to get in the way and nothing appeared. The third time, with a calm mind, Harry cast the spell. A dull grey dome appeared around Tonks and tendrils of colour could be seen moving about the outside of the shape.
Tonks congratulated Harry in his accomplishment before Horace fired two Stunners at Tonks ending the celebration. Harry’s forth and fifth attempts were no better than his first. Horace smiled as he ended the day’s efforts and walked up to Harry.
"I see that you aren’t perfect after all, Ceps." Horace watched for the reaction and was granted with a rather determined and spiteful response. "Maybe tomorrow you will put forth more effort. Merlin knows you failed today." Horace left the room with a triumphant expression.
Harry watched him leave and allowed his anger to swell up. The spell had worked to a certain degree but nothing ever seemed good enough for Horace. Harry waited until Cal left the room, after Horace, before allowing his weakness to show. He reached out to Tonks and grabbed her arm to prevent himself from falling to the floor. "I would like to go home right now, Chamel."
"I got you, Ceps." Tonks helped Harry stand upright and make his way to the team room before they portkeyed back home. Tonks prodded Harry to eat the meal Dobby and Tiki had made before putting him to bed. As Harry was fighting the urge to sleep, Tonks showed him the parcel she had received earlier that day.
"Horace gave me the driver’s license you need. It has all the proper endorsements so you can drive and ride. Now you go to sleep. It will be here when you wake up."
Wednesday dawned and Harry awoke feeling renewed and ready for the day. A kiss, a hug, and a little play with Tonks led to Harry feeling better than any other day that week. They arrived in the training room to find Horace speaking with Marcus. When Cal entered, Marcus walked away leaving the team to Horace.
"After yesterday’s rather weak showing with the shield," Horace insulted, "I hope you can perform better today. Using magic to protect you is great when it will do that, but there are some spells which are too powerful for shield spells to stop. All of the Unforgivables are beyond the protective abilities of the shields you know. The most the Imprimis Shield can do is alter the direction of the Cruciatus Curse a little bit. In practice, you will still be hit by it and all of you already know what it feels like.
"The best way to stop these spells and all others is to avoid them or stop them before they get to you. On that train of thought begins today’s lesson. Conjuring something to stop a spell is effective and can be faster than other options. I know Chamel has some trouble with this skill, and Ceps has never attempted it so we have our work cut out for us today.
"Some believe in Conjuring exactly what they need for the current situation while others believe in mastering one object to be used for every situation. Since this is not an academic exercise, we are going to focus on one multipurpose item. Certain people Conjure shields, the metal ones from old, to use for this. I think they are too focused on the symbolism but to each their own. Some use wooden objects, but they can splinter providing your enemy more weapons.
"We need something simple and easy but strong enough to make it worth our time and energy. Any ideas from you, Ceps?" Horace ignored Cal and Chamel awaiting an answer from Harry.
Harry thought about his choices. Every instance of an Unforgivable being used against him swam to his mind. The statues Dumbledore used were the first things to come to mind, but that wasn’t Conjuring since Dumbledore merely animated things already existing. The tombstones from the graveyard were next and they seemed to be a better choice. Stones were everywhere and Harry remembered Hermione saying something about Conjuring and raw materials while she stressed over OWLs.
"How about stone?" Harry offered. "It is strong and can stop spells pretty well."
"For once," Horace began, "you offered a useable suggestion. Stone is the best item to choose from. Not only will it stop most spells, but it is heavy enough that it can be used as a weapon should the blocked spell not destroy it upon contact. Marble is a great stone to Conjure. It can take a beating and when it is struck it will absorb the spell and become a fine powder. Sometimes it will produce shrapnel, but most of the time it will fall apart as safely as one could hope."
Horace showed Harry how to Conjure marble and had him practice it a few times. With some help, the rock was appearing but it disappeared quickly. Cal helped Harry make the marble larger and thicker along with lasting longer. Harry found that forcing his magic into the spell only worked so well. He had to concentrate on the spell and the item Conjured until it became natural to do so.
His Conjured shield would fade away if Harry was distracted too early in the process. Over the course of an hour, Harry felt like he had figured out the spell enough to risk testing it out. Horace moved around the room making Harry move with him. As the first spell was fired, Harry tried to Conjure the stone. He was a little too slow and had to dive out of the way as the spell continued on uninhibited. Harry learned from his mistakes and focused even harder. The shield appeared faster each time and stayed longer.
The simple spells Horace was firing off increased in strength and frequency as he battered Harry’s Conjured defense. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Cal doing the same to Tonks’ shield of rock. It looked like they were playing around more than fighting unlike how Horace continued his vicious assault on Harry.
As the stone was beaten away, Horace gave Harry pointers on when to abandon his shield and form a new one. As hour three passed, Horace called a stop to the work. "At least Chamel has overcome her block with this spell and Ceps seems moderately capable. The problem is that your enemy is not going to sit back and fire spells at your shield so you can feel better. He will move around and attack from all angles. Speed and flexibility are the keys to making this technique work.
"Sometimes standing and fighting is the way to do it. Other times, running and dodging with keep you alive. Knowing when and what is the real skill I have to teach you. The strongest rock up front will not stop the weakest Stunner from behind. A good way to work it is to block the incoming spell, return fire, and then move to a new position. If you can combine the first two steps, then do it. Do not give your enemy a chance to get into a rhythm. Keep them thinking and always moving where you want them to go.
"I have prior obligations for the rest of the day so keep working on this skill amongst yourselves. Teach Ceps a few more concealment spells so he won’t be found out while on a mission." Horace left them alone to teach each other.
Harry learned a lot of useful spells from Cal and Tonks as they worked until around six in the afternoon. As Harry and Tonks returned to Potter Estate, they changed out of their cloaks and into something more comfortable for flying. Chasing the last rays of sunlight, Harry flew around on his broom seeking the snitch as furiously as he could.
Tonks gave a few attempts to compete against Harry, but the fact of Harry being the youngest seeker in a century was made clearly abundant with little effort. On his Firebolt, Harry was an even more daunting opponent. Allowing her mind to wonder, Tonks was startled when something crashed into her as she hovered in the center of the field.
A flash of red told her enough and she flew off as fast as she could in the opposite direction. Jules gave chase and screeched at her heals. Tonks flew flat out as fast as the broom could go in an attempt to elude the massive creature. Knowing that things could end very quickly and badly, Tonks yelled for Harry’s help.
As she curled around the goals, she saw Harry fly up beside Jules and yell at the griffin. Jules looked to be determined to catch Tonks and ignored Harry until he slammed into Jules’ head. As the griffin looked at its attacker, she quickly pulled up and landed with its head down.
Harry joined it on the ground and began scolding her. Tonks flew up behind Harry and dismounted from the broom. She walked up to him keeping Harry between her and Jules at all times.
"…Could have hurt her or worse! Don’t ever do that again! She is supposed to be here, Jules. Now you apologize to Nymph right this instant."
Tonks watched as Harry held his ground in front of the large griffin who looked more like a dog that knew it had been bad. The mournful eyes flitted up to look at Harry and Tonks before dropping to the ground again. As the griffin moved forward, Harry looked to Tonks and smiled in a reserved way. "You okay, Nymph?"
"A little scared from trying to fly for my life, but I will be fine." Tonks watched as Jules stopped in front of her and stared into her eyes while looking apologetic. Tonks had always had a soft spot for animals. A few stray dogs had found their way into the Tonks household while she was growing up. The look in Jules’ eyes told her everything she needed to know. "I accept your apology, Jules, but never do that again."
Tonks looked more sure of herself than she felt inside. She knew that if Harry hadn’t been there to stop Jules, she would have eventually been knocked out of the air by the creature. Jules lowered her head to let Tonks pet her, something that had never happened before.
"That is good, Jules," Harry told her firmly. "Nymph is good and you are to treat her as such." Once Tonks stopped petting her, Jules left the field and returned to the house at a slow walk. "I hope she learned her lesson."
"I hope she doesn’t try to kill me again," Tonks sighed before hugging Harry. "Thank you, Harry." The smirk told him that she was up to no good. "My hero, Harry Potter."
"Cheeky minx," Harry called as he hefted her over his shoulder and jogged back the house. They had walked no further than five feet into the kitchen before Tiki popped in, took their brooms, and popped away. "There has to be something to that. Maybe my dad did something years ago and she won’t let it happen again."
From her position draped over his shoulder, Tonks smacked his bum. "Hey, we were having fun until you got all reflective and such. Either put me down, Harry Potter, or find something else to do with me."
"I will find something else to do with you, Nymphadora Tonks."
As they disappeared up the stairs, Dobby put Warming Charms on the food that had been laid out on the table. It was another hour before the charms were lifted and the food consumed.
After a short day on Thursday at the Ministry, Harry and Tonks left home with a meeting to keep. They Apparated to a location near Hermione’s house that Tonks had picked out which provided some cover from being seen or heard. The small park had a few playthings, but most of the space was open. No fence was present and the grounds were well cared for.
Harry figured that the neighborhood didn’t have any Dudleys or friends of Dudley wondering about causing trouble. Everything was as orderly as Harry expected from where Hermione grew up. He couldn’t see her tolerating anything not being just right.
They left the park and watched the numbers on the large homes increase. The sidewalk was in perfect repair and no weeds could be found in any of the yards. Some might have thought the neighborhood to be dull and boring like Privet Drive, but Harry could see that it was pride in your home and where you lived that drove these people not trying to outdo each other.
He felt a welcoming feeling in the air and could see how Hermione ended up the way she did. She always trusted adults and authority figures. Seeing the surroundings she had been exposed to, he completely understood her motivations and reasons behind it. As a middle-aged woman pruned her rose bushes, she waved at Harry and Tonks as they continued down the street.
Harry returned the greeting and calculated that Hermione’s house was the light blue one on the right side of the quiet street. He smiled as he thought about how she would greet him and the questions that she would ask him. His smile was noticed by Tonks and she asked him as much.
"Well, just wait and see how it goes. She will be happy to see me. Then she will ask some questions. Then she will lose control of her inquisitive nature. Finally, she will demand to know what is going on."
"Have it all planned out, do you?" Tonks asked.
"She has been my friend for five years. You can almost set your watch by her. Ron and I have had a running joke about it for a couple years. First to say what she says, exactly, wins a chocolate frog. I am good at it, but Ron is downright scary sometimes. I think he gets that from his mum."
"Downright scary sounds like an accurate depiction of Molly when she gets going." Tonks looked at the house and could see the care put into it. Not a single board was out of place and the paint was in perfect condition. She laughed at Harry as he shook his head. "What is it?"
"How can everything look so perfect and not feel like Privet Drive? So many things are similar but it doesn’t fell like there at all. Couldn’t Dumbledore have dropped me off here or something? Couldn’t Hagrid have gotten lost and decided this place was good enough?"
"You wouldn’t be who you are if that had happened. As sad as it sounds, I am glad it worked out as it did. You wouldn’t be the Harry I care about if things had been different."
"Well," Harry sighed still wearing a smile. "Ready to meet the Grangers?"
"Sure, Harry. Lead the way dear sir." Tonks bowed and swept her hand towards the door. Harry elbowed her in the shoulder lightly as he passed her and walked up to the door and knocked. As the seconds ticked by, Harry heard footsteps approach the door.
It opened to reveal Hermione dressed as a typical muggle young woman. She had rather fashionable clothes and her hair had calmed even more giving her a more mature look. "Harry!" She squealed and rushed forward to hug him tightly. As Hermione hugged him, she planted a firm kiss on each of his cheeks. She moved back and welcomed him into the entryway.
Tonks watched the interaction with a raised eyebrow and caught movement in the back of the house. A man and a woman were moving towards the door but they seemed to hold back as they followed their daughter’s actions as well. Harry motioned for Tonks to enter first as Hermione hugged her too but didn’t kiss her.
Once the door was closed, Hermione began asking questions as only she could. "How are you doing, Harry? How are you feeling? Have you been studying at all? Have you done anything fun?"
Harry saw Hermione’s parents watching their daughter question him without a pause. Longing smiles grew across their faces as Hermione failed to notice their presence. Tonks eyed him letting him know her question. "Wait for it."
"So what is this I hear about you leaving the Dursley’s? You know it isn’t safe. What did Professor Dumbledore say about it? Where are you living now? Tell me about Fudge and all that. And did you have to do it now?"
The adults were watching the non-stop show and humour could be found on all of their faces. "Wait for it." Harry said as Hermione ran on.
"Have you had any more dreams or visions? I heard you yelled at Professor Dumbledore. What were you thinking? You better have a good excuse, Harry." Hermione finally paused to take a deep breath. "Well? Are you going to say something or not?"
Harry smiled at her in a mischievous way before replying. "It’s good to see you too, Hermione. I didn’t catch your second through twentieth question so could you ask them again. And slower this time if you would. But before that, it is a pleasure to see you again, Mr. and Mrs. Granger."
Hermione swiveled on the spot wearing a surprised expression on her face. She smiled weakly trying to cover up the fact that she had gotten carried away. "Couldn’t you have told me they were there, Harry?"
"That wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun as letting you figure it out for yourself, Hermione. Beside, you hate being told things when you can figure them out for yourself." For his cheeky comment, Hermione smacked him on the shoulder and completely ignored the shocked looks on her parents’ faces.
"If our daughter can remember her manners before the night is through, you can call me David," Mr. Granger told Harry and Tonks. "This is my wife Jane. We have heard a lot about you, Harry."
Jane Granger continued. "At the beginning, we heard about you in much the same way as our daughter spoke a few moments ago. That excited and rambling manner you just witnessed to be specific."
Hermione held her head high but closed her eyes letting the embarrassment wash over her. "Why thank you, mother, father, for being so understanding."
Tonks smirked at Harry. "I told you how it would happen, Tonks."
"How what would happen, Harry," Hermione queried.
"He told me exactly how you would greet him and how your questions would go," Tonks answered.
Hermione hung her head before smacking Harry again. "I know you too well, Hermione. There is no shame in that," Harry told her giving her a nudge in the arm receiving a smile in return. "This is Ny… Tonks. She has been a friend this summer."
Hermione looked to Harry and Tonks before settling back on her heels. Harry knew he was found out as soon as she perked her eyebrow at him and then in Tonks’ direction. Harry let the adults greet each other while he gave Hermione a stare in an attempt to tell her to drop it. Only a knowing smile was returned for his trouble.
"Dinner won’t be ready for awhile," Jane said. "So how about we sit in the living room and talk for a bit."
As they moved deeper into the house, Harry saw the markings of a wonderful childhood. The entryway had slightly worn carpet that showed a family lived there and that was something that Petunia never would have allowed. Pictures adorned the hallway depicting vacations in various places, other family members, and Hermione from when she was first born all the way until the present. In every picture the people were smiling and looking happy. Harry saw a few generational pictures and wondered if there was any of his family around his house. He could feel something in the house and it made him feel at ease.
He was broken from his thoughts as Hermione started talking to him quietly. "Are you doing okay?"
"Yes, I am fine, better than fine actually. It has been a great summer so far."
"How much of that is because of Tonks, oops, I mean your girlfriend?" Hermione smirked at Harry as he looked away.
"I guess I can add you to the list then."
"The list of people who know about us."
Hermione inhaled sharply. "You mean it is true?"
"Like you didn’t know as soon as you gave me the I-know-and-don’t-bother-denying-it look. You always do that you know."
"I can’t help being right all the time," Hermione said in her all-knowing-tone. "I know you too well. Besides, Ginny gave me a few clues in her recent letter. And before you go off about security and all that, they were hand delivered by Professor Lupin on Monday."
"Only things that we would understand," Hermione waved off his concern. "You would have to know you really well and be on the inside of a few things to get it."
"Leave it to the two of you to have a secret code for you to communicate about things."
"What will really get you is that the "code" as you put it only works for you, Harry."
"What!" Harry asked louder than he meant to. The adults stopped the tour to look at Harry. "No problems here, continue please." Harry gave Hermione a glare as she half laughed half snorted at him.
"Can’t tell they have spent the better part of five years together can you?" David asked to no one in particular.
"Ms. Tonks," Jane asked in a low voice. "Are you magical like the kids?"
"Yep," Tonks replied and proved her statement by changing her hair colour right before their eyes. "I can do certain things most people can’t though."
Jane and David stepped back in amazement at the trick only to have Hermione speak up. "She is a metamorphmagus. She has the ability to alter her features in various ways to include shape, colour, and style. A metamorphmagus…"
Hermione continued to regurgitate whatever textbook she had read as they entered the living room. Once they were seated, Harry in the middle with Tonks and Hermione on either side with the remaining Grangers on the opposite couch. At the Granger’s urging, Tonks showed them a few other faces and colours. It was a big hit with them and it allowed Hermione to get some of the answers she wanted from earlier and in a way that her parents couldn’t listen in.
"So, Harry," David prompted, "tell us a little bit about yourself."
"Um," Harry looked to Hermione, "what has Hermione told you about me? No sense in repeating what she has already told you."
"You are a great friend who would stand up for anyone who needed it," Jane answered. "You are handsome and you play a sport on a broom." Harry reddened a little at the handsome comment only to be prodded by Tonks. "You have a habit of getting into trouble and getting out of it."
"Ah," Harry interrupted, "in my own defense trouble finds me. I don’t go looking for it." Hermione did her best not to laugh, but Tonks didn’t hesitate in showing her disbelief. "You two are no help at all. You make me out as a troublemaker with only one mission in life."
"Sorry, Harry," Hermione said as she fought her laughter. "But they know enough of the details that you aren’t going to convince them otherwise at this point. They have read the Daily Prophet you know."
"Yeah, like that is an accurate account of who I am," Harry sat back and pouted a little. "Don’t believe a word of what that paper said about me."
"We understand how the press works, Harry," David said. "I think our dear daughter has sold you out to a certain degree. She was rather chatty about her first few years in school." Hermione hung her head in guilt. "Only recently has she become more selective in her stories. No doubt our wonderfully thorough daughter has alerted you to our concerns about your world. We know there is a war going on and that associates of yours are involved. We have also figured out that you and Hermione are involved in some way."
Hermione took a deep breath as her father revealed the one thing she didn’t want them to know. "What makes you think that, dad?"
Harry watched as both of Hermione’s parents gave her knowing looks quite similar to her own. "Honey," Jane began, "as much as you think you were protecting us from the truth, you are smart for a reason. We can read between the lines and we know that you have been in some situations that we wouldn’t approve of. We were notified of your injuries at the end of the school year. All we want to know is the truth."
Hermione was about to deny it, but Harry stopped her by putting his hand on hers. "’Mione, I can answer this one."
"They want the truth, they deserve the truth." Harry sighed and rubbed his face as Hermione looked away. The Grangers saw the despair on the kid’s faces and saw the same look on Tonks’ face too. "I am not sure how much detail Hermione has gone into, but I will give you the short version."
Harry explained the first war in a very brief sort of way ending with his parents’ murder and him being shipped off to his relatives. The Grangers saw the anger in both of the women’s faces, but Tonks was far more expressive and even unnerving. Harry told them about Voldemort and his goals. He told them about â€˜His’ repeated attempts to get a body and â€˜His’ ultimate success the year before.
The trip into the Ministry led Jane to tears and David to express anger. Hermione held her head high as Harry described everything she had done to help him, and the things she had prevent him from doing at the wrong times. He ended with Sirius’s death, and asked them if they had any questions.
The Grangers looked at each other before looking at how old the Harry before them looked. They had watched him age as he told the story. Many of the bits of information Hermione had told them made better sense. They looked at their own flesh and blood to find her defiantly looking back. "I am Harry’s friend and that will never change. His life is in danger and I will not leave him to be killed."
"Your life is in danger, sweetie," David prompted to see what her response would be. He saw Harry look at her and he saw the same concern he had for his own daughter.
"If Voldemort wins in the magical world," Hermione said in the same determined way she showed, "we will be next in the muggle world. He wants both, and he won’t stop. I would rather fight with Harry than hide here. I will do my part to help. I am friends with Harry for a reason."
"Yeah, to make sure I do my homework." Harry laughed at his own joke before Hermione joined him.
"You would be as bad as Ron if I wasn’t there," Hermione shifted to her McGonagall mode. "You would never study until the night before and everything would be shoddily done at that. Think of your OWLs and now the NEWTs. Oh, you two would be hopeless without me there to motivate you."
"One woman’s motivation is another man’s torture," Harry quipped and was smacked for his troubles. Hermione began listing off every test and grade he had gotten that she helped him study for. As she continued, Harry’ eyes kind of glazed over and he agreed with Hermione when she expected it. She rambled on and on as he agreed with her automatically.
"See," Tonks added, "how could you break up a team like this. Hermione has put so much work into Harry it would be a shame to throw it all away now."
The Grangers laughed at Harry and how quickly he had allowed Hermione her way in the dynamic of the conversation. "One could mistake them for a married couple," David said getting a playful jab for the comment.
Interrupting Hermione’s never-ending diatribe about her scholastic efforts, Harry added, "Nah, she needs someone to argue with at length. I just agree with her. Ron, on the other hand, will argue about anything just to see how worked up she can get."
"What?" Hermione asked in a demanding tone. "He does not argue with me just to see how worked up I can get. How could you say such a thing?"
In as offhanded and minimizing a way as he could, Harry answered her. "Because it is the truth. Just ask anyone." Harry looked at the Grangers and asked if they had any more questions.
"Can we protect Hermione in any way or by doing anything?" They asked as one.
"If Voldemort wants you dead, you get dead," Harry said simply.
"Unless you are Harry," Tonks and Hermione added much his embarrassment.
"Yeah, well, my luck is bound to run out some time," Harry corrected them.
"I would take that bet, Harry," Tonks offered and Hermione agreed.
"Honestly, letting Hermione learn as much as she can would be the best way to protect her. She will learn more than anyone else and that knowledge will be crucial to staying alive. I hate the fact that my friends are in danger but pushing them away wouldn’t work. Then, they are just farther away and easier targets for the Death Eaters. If I am around, I will always be the first target. I can live with that."
The Grangers had trouble seeing this boy or even young man as a target for anything more than a girl’s crush. The unruly hair, defined jaw, solid frame, and adorable smile made it even harder to see him as the target of a murderer.
"I think," Jane started but stopped as she really didn’t know what to say. "Look at the time; I think dinner should be ready soon." She excused herself and hurried into the kitchen. David stood, smiled, and followed his wife. Tonks saw Hermione bursting with questions and she knew that they wouldn’t be asked with her in the room.
"I will see if they need any additional information or entertainment," Tonks said as she shifted her hair colour to a bright red.
"Harry," Hermione faltered. "What is going on? I get a letter saying that you left the Dursleys and you have been confrontational with Dumbledore. What is going on?"
"I am taking control of my life, Hermione. Sirius died because I wasn’t told things I should have known. Everything would have made sense, and I would have known the reasons for certain things. I will not, I can not let that happen again. That is why I stood up to Dumbledore. The Dursleys didn’t change and I had enough of it. Besides, I am living where I should have been the whole time. I have learned so much in the last few weeks even you would be surprised."
At her joking look of doubt, Harry answered the unasked challenge. "Most of it hasn’t been from a book so that should make it more believable for you. I have my own Quidditch pitch and I have Sirius’s bike. It has been the best summer of my life."
"Really?" Hermione asked with a smirk. "And where does Tonks fit in to it?"
"That," Harry looked at his hands as he picked lint off the pair of pants Tonks had picked out for him. "She is kind of at the center of it all. She helped me when I needed it and wouldn’t ask for it. She was there when I couldn’t ask for it. She helped me survive the lost of Sirius, and she helped me take control of my life. Without her, I don’t know where I would be right now. Most likely, Vernon would have killed me that first night."
"Oh, Harry, what happened?"
"He knocked me out as soon as I got inside the house. Tonks stopped him and healed me. She never left after that."
"How close are you?" Hermione assumed a look that Harry had seen on Parvati and Lavender more than once over the years.
"Um, well, let’s just say that we are close and leave it at that, okay. The twins would kill to know who it is and the specifics would be too tempting for them to restrain themselves. I doubt even Molly would be able to stop them if they caught wind of you knowing about her let alone knowing what we get up to."
"Don’t you think she is too old for you, Harry?"
"Don’t you think I am too old for her? It isn’t like I act like I am fifteen or even sixteen, and she sure doesn’t act like her age. I think we are good match all-in-all. She makes me happy and I think I do the same for her." Harry gave Hermione a real, heartfelt smile.
"Do you love her?"
"I have no idea what love feels like, Hermione. It is something foreign to me."
"Harry," Hermione shook her head at him while closing her eyes in disappointment. "I love you. The Weasleys love you. Yes, even Ron. Hagrid and Lupin too. I even think McGonagall loves you in her own way. You may not want to hear it, but Dumbledore loves you. That might be why things happened as they did recently. Can’t you tell when someone loves you?"
"Obviously not, or you wouldn’t have had to tell me."
"When I hugged you today, what did you feel?" Hermione fell into teacher mode again and she looked determined to teach Harry this subject.
Seeing a chance to one-up Hermione at her own game, he pulled a page from Tonks’ book. "I felt that you are no longer a girl but a young woman." Harry laughed as Hermione completely lost her composure.
"I think that is the first time you have ever done that, Harry." Seeing a chance to get back at him, she stepped up to the plate. "Would like a better feel then, Harry?"
Harry sputtered as he heard Hermione’s response. "Uh, no. I think someone might get mad about me doing that."
Harry saw a chance to save face a little and took it. "No. In a rather surprising way I think she might encourage me, but Ron would be completely murderous if I did." Success was shown as Hermione buried her head in her hands.
"I think it is best if we stop discussing this subject," she said. "You aren’t the same Harry you were at the platform."
Taking a rare victory over her, Harry smiled and accepted Hermione’s surrender. "You should have been there for Fudge’s sacking. It was priceless." He told her all about it and after a few minutes, Hermione joined Harry in his happiness.
Jane found the two sitting on the couch at each end. Both were talking as if they were back at school. Hermione had her feet positioned under herself and laughed when it was appropriate. Harry was camped at the other end in the normal teenaged-boy way that put comfort above all else. He chided Hermione when she carried on and pushed her when she didn’t.
Jane could see why her daughter had become friends with Harry. She knew her daughter was far too serious and bookish for her own good, but at an early age Hermione made it clear that she was going to do things her own way with minimal input from her parents. Together, they balanced out certain aspects of their personalities. Tonks had clarified a few points and most of them had related to how much Hermione and Harry needed each other. At first the mother in her thought it was romantically since Hermione had been very closed off about that subject since her forth year. What she saw told her that romantic thoughts weren’t part of their friendship.
"Dinner is almost ready, kids." She watched as Harry was respectful and proper and Hermione thanked her as she always did. Harry stood first and assisted Hermione up without hesitation. Her daughter accepted the help and they walked into the dining room continuing their conversation from earlier leaving Jane to think further about the decision that seemed to hang over her head.
The dining room was formal enough for the occasional dinner party but comfortable enough for everyday use. Harry found the plates and set them out along with the silverware Hermione had directed him to. David watched the young man going above and beyond what a guest should, but Harry carried himself in a way that showed he had a purpose in what he was doing.
Hermione moved to stand next to her father and leaned into him. "He is my friend and I will not abandon him, dad. Please understand that. I need both you and mum to be there incase something happens to my friends. I know I hid things from you, but I hope you know why now that Harry told you the main points."
"You could have told us, honey," David tried to impress upon his only child. "You know we would have listened to you. We would have helped you through it."
"The chance of you pulling me out of Hogwarts was too much to risk. The first month or so might not have been very much fun, but then Ron and Harry saved me and it has been great ever since. Granted, we have had our moments, but I couldn’t ask for better friends. I couldn’t risk losing them like that. I can’t go back to being like you and mum. I love you both dearly, but I am a witch and I belong there. I can’t run away now."
"We just want you to be safe, Hermione." David looked into his daughter’s eyes and saw the stubborn glint waiting to be released. It was the same look she had when it was bedtime, only unlike other children, Hermione refused to put her book down until she fell asleep with the light on and the book leaving a crease in her skin.
"Delaying the inevitable only prolongs the suffering, father. You told me that when I was five and I wouldn’t let you pull out that one tooth."
"Only you could relate that situation to this one. You are far too intelligent for your own good." David hugged his little girl while waiting for the answer he knew was coming.
"You know what being in Gryffindor House means. I will not run from what I know to be the right thing. Please let me make this choice."
David and Hermione watched Harry place the glasses where they belonged. He balanced them in his arms as he set them down. He only had two left when he twitched violently and reached for scar. One of the glasses landed on the table with a clutter while the other missed. As fast as he could, Harry snatched the glass out of the air without much thought and set it on the table before putting his hand to his head and dropped to his knees.
"Harry!" Hermione left her father’s side and was at Harry’s in a second. David moved to join them, but held back as Harry seemed to fight through a tremendous amount of pain. His daughter seemed unfazed by the whole thing and rubbed Harry’s shoulders as he worked through the pain.
The shuddering breaths let them know that the pain was still heavily consuming Harry’s effort. Tonks had heard Hermione’s shout and entered the room at a run. She moved next to Harry and held him to her giving him quiet directions to focus and block the pain. Hermione watched her best friend fight against the scar pain that she had been witness to all too often.
"Harry," Hermione asked tentatively, "has this been happening often?"
Tonks answered for Harry as he wasn’t paying attention. "It has happened a few times but not often. Harry has improved his Occlumency skill recently. He must have been taken by surprise or something."
Jane had followed Tonks and kept her place next to her husband. She too watched Hermione’s anxious mood as she tried to help Harry. As the scene played out, Harry gained control over the pain and managed to open his eyes.
"Always the center of attention," he joked. "I am fine, no worries. I only have two glasses left to place and the table will be set."
"Harry," Hermione shifted into her over-bearing stance. "Does Dumbledore know your scar has been hurting?"
"If he did, there is nothing he can do about it." Harry took a deep breath and forced the pain away. "I am better. I can fight off these things pretty well right now. Give me a few more months and I should be able to stop them completely. Let it go, Hermione. You will only worry yourself if you think on it anymore."
Hermione scowled, but left Harry to handle it his own way. "If you are sure, Harry, then I will trust you. I will help if I can. You only have to ask."
"Thank you for the offer, but I can work through this." Harry stood and finished setting the table. "Table’s ready." He seemed bright and cheery as if nothing had happened moments before.
"I will just go get the food," Jane said and disappeared into the kitchen. David and Hermione followed as Tonks helped Harry into a chair.
"Is it always like that?" Jane asked her daughter as she occupied her hands with the platter of turkey.
"Harry has scar pains from time to time," Hermione explained. "He gets them when Voldemort is happy or mad or torturing someone. They are connected from the Killing Curse that failed. He had a lot of these things last year. Harry has one of the highest thresholds for pain that I know of. For him to drop like that, it must have been really bad. At least the scar didn’t bleed."
"Will he take an aspirin if I offer?" Jane asked not knowing what to do.
"No," Hermione said. "Harry hates looking weak in front of anyone. It comes from being raised by those "people". I doubt it would work since our medicine can’t even stop it."
"He seems okay with that nice Tonks woman," Jane commented.
"Um, well, Harry and Tonks are involved," Hermione admitted with a guilty look. "I am only telling you because I don’t want you asking him embarrassing questions about it. Don’t tell anyone else, please."
"I thought there was something there, but I wasn’t sure," Jane said. "Isn’t she a little old for him?"
"He said he was happy and I am happy for him," Hermione answered with an air of finality. "He is happy and that is enough for me. I asked him the same question, but he looked so happy that it isn’t worth mentioning again."
"I thought you liked Harry as more than just a friend," David said.
"Dad, Harry is more like a brother than anything else."
"Huh, well I guess that leaves that redhead you talk about."
"Dad, now is not the time to talk about this." Hermione grabbed the stuffing and started walking out. Under her breath, both parents heard her murmur, "Never is the time to talk about this, thank you very much."
As dinner neared its end, Harry leaned back in his chair and, again, enjoyed the feeling the home gave him. He watched Hermione and her father fight over the wishbone that Tonks had dried magically. Hermione won and made her wish giving each of her parents a directed look.
Everyone helped clean away the meal and leftovers were stored in the icebox. Everyone settled into their original spots in the living room and chatted about various things that, at first, weren’t connected to magic at all. A few hours of conversation led to deeper discussions involving politics and the magical world reentered the discussion. As Harry ignored most of the conversation, he relaxed and decided to practice his Occlumency in an effort to prevent a reoccurrence of earlier.
As he calmed his mind, a sharp noise was heard outside. Shouts and yells preceded flashes of colour that bathed the living room in eerie lights. A burst of green caused Hermione to shoot to her feet followed closely by her parents. Tonks hopped from her position and drew her wand. In his calmed state of mind, Harry thought through what was going on. The house had yet to shake from the impact of the spells meaning that something was protecting them.
"Hermione, get your wand and be ready to fight," Harry ordered above the frightened chatter. Hermione looked to Harry and watched him stand looking more focused than she could ever remember seeing in him.
"It is upstairs, Harry."
"Nymph, go with her and gather what you can quickly. We have limited time until whatever it is protecting us fails."
"It is a ward that Dumbledore put up last summer," Tonks explained much to the surprise of everyone. "He knew your friends would be targets and he did what he could. He will know that the ward is under attack and he will bring help. We only have to hold out until they show up."
"I have no intention of risking everyone’s lives waiting for Albus to arrive and save the day. Get what you can and make it fast," Harry left no room for debate as he moved to stand in the hallway. "I will guard your parents, Hermione. Trust me."
Hermione had never taken her eyes off of him. "Okay. This way, Tonks." Hermione led Tonks to the back stairwell and disappeared up the stairs.
"Harry, what is going on?" David asked. He saw the look of sheer power growing in Harry’s eyes as the assault continued outside.
"Welcome to the front lines of the war. They are here to kill Hermione to punish me. I swear to you that they will have to kill me before they get to her or you." Harry drew his wand in an instant forcing the Grangers back a step. Harry squared his shoulders and waited for the wards to fall.
The minutes passed as more of the sounds and colours breeched the walls and windows. Tonks and Hermione entered the living room with a trunk hovering behind them. "I got what I could, Harry. I got my wand, I guess I am ready to fight."
Without turning around Harry spoke with a decisive tone and edge to his voice. "Tonks, portkey them home. Stay there and keep them safe incase the house has been found. Call Jules or the elves if you need to. I will stay and fight."
"Harry, I am your guard and I am staying with you. This is not the time to forget everything you have been taught."
"I will not lose more people, Nymphadora. Not to him. I couldn’t take it. I will be fine. You know I will be."
"I am not leaving you Harry," Hermione yelled over the increasing noise from outside. She gasped as Harry turned around and look her in the eyes. She saw power flashing in his bright green eyes.
"You must keep your parents safe, Hermione. Family first, â€˜Mione."
"You are my family, Harry. I am not leaving you."
"I will Stun you and portkey you all away if I have to. Tonks, you know what to do." Harry turned back to watch the door which had begun rattling in its frame as the debate continued.
Tonks sighed and grabbed the nearest pillow. With a bit of thought and a tap, the pillow glowed blue. "Portkey to Potter Estate ready to go. Harry, are you coming with?"
"I am going to meet them at the door, Nymph," Harry announced with force. "I will not run when they threaten my friends, my family. They will pay for this." Harry started to glow lightly.
"You are glowing, again, Harry," Tonks informed him.
"They are almost through, Tonks. Get them out of here, now."
"Everyone, gather around and touch the pillow. Hold on until you land. We will stay right there until Harry shows up. We can’t enter the grounds until Harry permits us access."
"Dammit," Harry said before turning around and joining the group. "I knew I forgot something." Harry leveled his wand and started moving it about Jane chanting something really quietly.
"Harry, you are going to be expelled for doing magic," Hermione warned him.
"This is nothing compared to what I am going to do when they make it through." Harry moved through each of the Grangers giving them access to Potter Estate and locking the information away under the proper spells. "You guys can get inside, but don’t get near the house. Jules will not let you near it without me."
"Understatement if there ever was one," Tonks quipped while looking very serious.
Harry moved back to the door and waited. The door creaked from the impact of a spell. "Get a move on, Nymph."
"I didn’t have time to set it to the number of people," Tonks replied. "It is timed. We only have a minute left."
"They are going to break the door down in about twenty seconds. Promise me you will stay with them."
"Harry now is not the time to make me leave you to these bastards," Tonks yelled at him.
"They are in for one hell of a fight though." Harry cracked his neck before putting up an Absolvo Shield. The bright white light bathed the room before the metallic blue of the Imprimis Shield evened it out a bit. Harry growled deeply as he prepared for the wards to fall completely.
"My God, what are those spells and how can he do both of them at once?" Hermione asked no one in particular.
"Absolvo Ancile and Imprimis Patrocinor Shields,’ Tonks answered. "One is wanded while the other is wandless. I would advise that you never piss Harry off enough that he uses those before the fight."
The door exploded inward and Harry held his ground. The remains of the door and frame impacted Harry shields and disintegrated upon contact. With a shout, Harry raised his wand and the Imprimis Shield fell. Harry cast the Bone Shattering spell followed by a Reductor and the Severing Ribbon as he advanced toward the door.
Hermione gasped as she recognized the first two by sight. She had read up on advanced curses and the Bone Shattering spell was one of the most vicious ones she had read about. The speed and the force of the magic Harry unleashed left her in shock.
As the spells left his wand, a scream could be heard followed by a yell. The last image the Grangers and Tonks saw was a fine mist of red being sprayed into the hallway of the Granger residence and Harry firing spell after spell as he advanced on the intruders outside. The portkey activated and whisked them away from the battle leaving Harry by himself.
Once Harry had begun moving out of what was left of the doorway, he felt himself fall into the same ebb and flow he had used on Monday during his reassessment. Spells flew from his wand as he stepped over three fallen Death Eaters. One was out of the fight since his wand had exploded in his hand leaving no more than a stump where his left hand had been. Another had a gaping wound in his side and the torn flesh revealed a few splintered ribs exposed by the shredded muscles. The third gripped his neck in an attempt to stop the blood from spraying out of the gash that had been sliced into him.
Harry saw four more Death Eaters firing spells at the house and attacked before they saw him clearly. He leveled his wand at one and fired Conligo Totalus at him. The spell scored a hit and another Death Eater fell. The remaining three saw their attacker as the Absolvo Shield was rather hard to hide even with all the magic flying around.
Harry found himself under fire from the three and at least two of them knew what they were doing. Harry moved and tried to keep all three of them in front of him. One of the skilled fighters began using dark curses in an attempt to break his shield, but Harry held it and attacked the unskilled enemy.
Harry remembered what Horace had said. â€˜Even a weak opponent is an opponent. Always keep the numbers in your favour.’ Harry remembered that escape was always an option and since the Grangers had left he should leave too. â€˜They will take the wounded and nothing will have been gained. I am doing okay right now and I will stay and fight until that changes.’
After a series of Stunners and Reductors, Harry scored a successful hit with one of his Stunning spells. The Death Eater collapsed and was subsequently bound as Harry moved passed him. The two remaining Death Eaters had been retreating as Harry advanced. They had begun to use Unforgivables forcing Harry to stop the offensive and Conjure a marble slab to block the Cruciatus Curses that were flying towards him.
The stone held and his shield remained in place as Harry focused all he could on maintaining them both. The flash of red lit the street and the underside of the older trees that adorned the front yard. The green hue cast by the Dark Mark hovering above the Granger’s residence almost gave the battered home a look of Christmastime. As the attack seemed to wane, Harry watched the techniques the Death Eaters used. They fought as individuals with little or no communication between them.
A few pops let Harry know that other people had arrived and he looked to see who had arrived. He caught sight of Dumbledore advancing on the final two followed by Mad Eye and Kingsley. Behind them, Minerva and Bill Weasley could be seen with their wands coming to bear on the Death Eaters.
Knowing that their mission had failed, the two Death Eaters thought one last strike might bring them some level of victory. One cast the Killing Curse and the other launched a fire spell before Disapparating. Harry put most of his effort into the Conjured slab of rock and the little remaining into his Absolvo Shield as he turned away to hide his face in case Moody could see through the spells that were flying at him.
The twisting green light impacted the marble crushing it in a blast of powder and rock against rock sound. The flame spell partially breeched his shield and burnt Harry on the left side. With pain beginning to flood his mind, Harry Summoned the four remaining wands from his defeated foes and forced himself to Apparate away before he could be found out by the Order or passed out from the pain.
As Harry arrived on the grounds of Potter Estate, he looked around for Tonks and the Grangers. He saw them huddled near the front gate with Tonks facing off against an agitated Jules. Harry started to walk towards them while trying to ignore the searing pain racing across his scorched skin. When he neared them, Harry called Jules away. When Jules heard his voice, she ran to him and sniffed anxiously. Only after a loud screech did Jules allow Harry to greet his guests.
The appearance Harry provided must have been rather gruesome judging by the response he received. Jane gasped as David cringed. Hermione screamed and ran to him but was held back by Tonks at the last second.
"You could hurt him worse by touching him," Tonks told the frantic woman.
"What?" Harry asked. "It is just a little burn. No big deal. I didn’t even get hit with the Cruciatus Curse so I am fine. Now, let’s get you inside where it is safe and warm." Harry turned and led them towards the front door and Jules who had taken up a post in front of the entry.
"Jules, these are my friends and you are to treat them as such." As an afterthought, he clarified. "You are to treat them better that you have been treating Tonks. Is that understood?" As Jules moved to the side, Harry petted her appreciatively. "Good girl. I am glad we have an understanding. Be nice to them, okay.
"Friends and family, this is my home." Harry opened the door and ushered them inside while he pocketed the captured wands.
As Albus advanced on the fight, he felt the shield being used by someone to defend themselves against the Death Eaters. He was about to fire a spell at them when they each shot one last spell and Disapparated. Albus watched the spells fly at their intended victim and hoped for a miracle. One was sure to kill if it hit and the other could kill if it hit in the right place.
He watched as the Killing Curse struck the hovering stone and dissipated, but the fire spell hit its target with a flare of heat. The victim turned away from them before he could be seen and Disapparated without a sound.
"Kingsley, Mad Eye, search for others. Bill work on the wards. Minerva, check on the Grangers." Albus scanned the area and tried to sense the magic used. So many spells had been cast that he couldn’t get a good feel for the people involved. A shout from Kingsley and the flash of a few spells caught his attention.
Albus saw five Death Eaters in various states of spell damage and injuries. Kingsley bound each one before he began preparing portkeys to take them into custody. Mad Eye was scanning the house and surrounding area for any stragglers and found none. Minerva returned from the house empty handed and looking rather shocked at the sight of destruction before her.
"What have we found?" Albus asked.
"Five Death Eaters rather beaten up," Kingsley yelled from his spot as he readied to portkey them away. "Who ever was here let them have it but good. Two of them might not make it the night."
"Good for him then," Mad Eye said in his gruff voice. "I am glad to see not everyone is afraid to hit these bastards in the face when they show it. Everything is clear. A few muggles that need fixing, but it’s nothing the Ministry can’t handle when they get here."
"The house is empty," Minerva advised them. "Not a sign of the Grangers or Hermione’s wand and the more advanced books are missing."
"It would seem that they had advanced notice and an escape route," Albus surmised. "Ms. Granger would never leave her books if she could help it and especially not ones she hadn’t memorized. Filius still bemoans not getting her in his house." A cough from Alastor brought the Professor’s attention back to the point at hand.
"Wards are completely destroyed, Professor," Bill told them. "It will take at least a day or two to recast them not to mention repair the damage to the front door and the outside of the house."
"We must find out where they are and how they got there," Albus said. "I will trust all of you to do what you can to fix things. Kingsley, I will leave you to handle the prisoners and intercept the Ministry personnel already on their way. I will try to find out how the Grangers were removed from here and to where."
As everyone broke into their assigned tasks and set about getting to work, a series of cracks of varying volumes announced the arrival of others. Albus looked at the street to see a group of three grey-cloaked and hooded men and one wearing only a cloak. Every Order member took up a defensive position until Albus waved them down.
"Marcus?" Albus queried.
"Albus Dumbledore," Marcus said with a smile while holding his wand in a low ready position. The mysterious Ministry employee waved his left hand at his companions and they swiftly moved toward the house and the bound Death Eaters. "I see we have arrived late to this party. Shame, my people were looking forward to having a little fun."
Albus offered the man a proper smile but stood as tall as he could. "Since when does the Department of Mysteries handle prisoners? I thought you were the research division for the Ministry."
"Oh, Professor," Marcus commented in a soft tone, "We are a research division. We are here to research what these people know. I hope you do not mind us taking them off your hands, Director Shacklebolt."
"If I did," Kingsley prompted, "I would have to object to Minister Bones to stop you and you have scene authority over me as it stands right now anyway."
Marcus stowed his wand and clasped his hands together. "So glad to hear that you see things our way, Director. Again, I am most pleased to offer my congratulations to you on your promotion. Now, my associates will be removing these people so they can be cared for and interviewed." The tallest and largest grey-robed man kicked the Stunned Death Eater. "I do hope we aren’t delayed in getting them medical attention. That would be a shame."
Seeing his chance, Mad Eye kicked the same man before a second robed figure portkeyed him away. Albus frowned at Alastor but received a pleased smirk in response. "I may not have gotten to cross wands with them, but I hope they get what is coming to them."
"I can assure you, Auror Moody," Marcus explained. "We do not hold their hands. You should not find them wandering about in the near future."
"How did you learn of these events, Marcus?" Albus asked.
"I could ask you the same thing, Professor Dumbledore," Marcus replied. "A muggle neighborhood and with such esteemed company too. Wouldn’t you agree that questions are best left unasked this night?"
Albus scanned the Order members and saw that most were unwilling to say anything. They could read between the lines as the robed figures had taken up a crescent formation around them. "I believe that most questions can remain unasked, but I must inquire as to the whereabouts of the Grangers. I am sure even you understand their significance within the current climate."
"I believe I understand your meaning," Marcus answered. "In answer, I have no idea where the Grangers are, but if they are not here then I would think they are safe. Wouldn’t you agree?"
Albus knew that he was dancing on a ledge that could shift at any time. "It would appear that they escaped but I must know to where."
Marcus smiled in a knowing way before gesturing to his people. All of them Disapparated as one leaving a very confused group in their wake. Albus sighed and Moody moved away. Minerva cleared her throat demanding an answer.
"It would seem that what happened at the Lovegood’s was not a chance occurrence," Albus surmised. "It would seem that suspicions are confirmed; there are others working against Voldemort. The fact that they have appeared in places where Death Eaters are attacking Harry’s friends seems even more intentional than accidental. Perhaps Harry is working with Amelia in an effort to protect his friends. Or it could all be a coincidence."
Albus looked over the lawn and the confused faces of his allies. "No matter, we have a job to do here and we shall do it. Harry will not take kindly to the fact that Hermione was threatened and we weren’t able to stop them. The least we can do is fix the damage." Everyone broke off to carry out their previous assignments.
As Albus worked his magic inside the house, he noticed a missing pillow. It wasn’t his acute sense of decorating that made it catch his eye, but it was the shade of blue the lone remaining pillow displayed that left him wondering where the other one was. An investigation revealed that it was missing from the house entirely and with a recently eaten meal in the icebox and the dishes stowed in the washer told him that more than just the Grangers had been in the house on the fateful night.
â€˜I really wonder if you have anything to do with this, dear boy. You have proven yourself to be resourceful your entire life, but this summer you have gone above even your own high standards. How many allies do you have and how are they where they need to be?’