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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note:

Chapter 23: Foreseen and Unforeseen
Ginny called the training dummies to a halt, turning to watch as Harry blindly stalked forward, his head turning this way and that as he clearly had no idea where his own opponents were. Just then, one of the dummies threw a curse at Harry. He reacted in a fraction of a second, rolling to the side and throwing several of his own curses in the general direction of the offending dummy. None of the curses hit their mark, and she could faintly hear a muttered curse.

She had warned him that it would take some time to grow accustomed to the lack of sight, but he had just waved her concerns aside, asserting that he would meet the challenge. Granted, he had improved a lot over the past couple weeks. She could recall the first session she had witnessed where Harry literally stumbled about getting hexed left and right. She could vividly recall his skin reddened by countless stinging hexes and the look of both fatigue and frustration on his face as he ambled limply into the shower room.

After two weeks of constant hard work, he was now able to avoid hexes fairly well, though the dummies were not very aggressive. He would work up to more rigorous assaults. He was unable, however, to do anything to counter their attacks. By the time he managed to dodge the hexes – which he insisted on doing since with a Death Eater you never knew what they were going to throw at you – he regularly failed to find his target with his return fire.

As she watched him return to his feet and resume his slow stalking, she decided to have a little fun. She pulled out her wand and crept towards him, being careful not to make a sound. As she drew within about twenty paces of him, Harry turned towards her, his brow furrowing in confusion. Ginny stopped dead in her tracks wondering if he had somehow heard her, even though she thought she had been silent. Harry’s blind gaze never left hers, and his confusion suddenly bloomed into understanding as he whipped off his blindfold and said, “Thought you could sneak up on me, huh?”

Just then, one of the dummies behind him threw a hex. Harry spun away at the last second but was too late to avoid the spell. The Stinger hit him in the shoulder, and he winced in pain. Without a word uttered, the dummies froze and then promptly disappeared.

Ginny took that moment to ask, “How did you know?”

Harry seemed to gather his thoughts for a moment before stating, “I could feel you.”

“What?” she asked reflexively.

“The way I can feel magic,” Harry explained with a slight shrug. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I could feel you coming closer. I didn’t know what it was at first, but then I realised it could only be you.”

“Oh,” she said. After a moment of silence she added, “Well it’s about time to call it quits. That’s why I came over.”

Harry shot her a wry smirk as he responded, “I think you were looking to do a little more than just tell me it was time to call it quits.”

Ginny chose to ignore that comment as she remarked, “You’re getting a lot better. You nearly hit it that last time.”

He shook his head. “You were right,” he admitted. “It’s been much more difficult to adjust than I had anticipated.”

“You’ll get there, Harry,” she stated. “You just need to give it some time.”

“Besides,” she added, “it’s not as if you really are blind. You only need to be able to avoid hexes coming from your back.”

“True,” Harry conceded. “But I want to get to a point where I don’t even need to think about it. If I’m too focused on feeling for any spells coming from behind, I’m liable to just get hurt from the front.”

Ginny shrugged, having no response. “I’m going to wash up.” As she ambled over into the shower room, she could not stop her mind from wandering back to the day that had led to Harry’s new training regimen. It had been quite a harrowing day. The stress of the Quidditch match ended up being the least of her concerns. She had been troubled when she first saw Harry chatting with Cho up in the sky but had put it out of mind in order to concentrate on the game. When she saw Harry turn back to Cho right before catching the Snitch, however, she could not help but wonder exactly what that was about.

She had been tempted to just hex the girl when she had noticed Cho hanging around the Gryffindor boys’ changing room after the match, but she managed to rein in her temper and let it go. Harry had chosen her, after all, even when Cho had given him the opportunity to resume their relationship last term. Ginny had planned on just hanging out in her room until she had regained control of her emotions and put it all behind her. After all, she trusted Harry, and she knew he was no longer interested in Cho, even if she did feel he was being a bit naïve about her motives. Her insecurities were nothing new; Cho had just been the catalyst to bring them out, and when Harry showed up in her room, she had lost control and spilled her heart out to him.

Thinking back on it now, she was rather amazed with Harry for how he handled that conversation. She knew most guys would have lost their cool and become defensive, but he had taken her concerns seriously and actually answered them to the best of his ability. Much as she hated to admit it, she had felt so much better after that night. No matter how wonderful her relationship with Harry was, Ginny had never quite managed to shake off her doubts and fears. As much as Harry had changed over the year, he was still rather reserved. Their relationship was going so well, and she knew she should not be worried, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not help but wonder if his feelings were anywhere near as intense as hers.

Back when she had first met Harry at King’s Cross at the tender age of ten, she had fancied herself in love with the boy. She was obviously a bit misguided in her youth, but who could blame a girl who had just met the hero of her dreams – literally. For not only did Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, feature in the bedtime stories her father and, on occasion, Bill used to tell her, he also featured in more than one of her dreams.

But now – now that she was older and more mature – she could not help wondering if her younger self had some seer blood in her. She was not quite ready to call it love; it felt odd to even be thinking about it at this stage of her life. She only knew that she had never felt so intensely for anyone in all her life. They had never really talked about the extent of their feelings or their relationship. In the beginning, it had never entered her mind. Everything was just so wonderful between them that it was like the words were not even needed.

But then the doubt crept into her mind. What if she was reading more into their relationship than was there? Yes, things were great with them, but what of the future? Where was it going? She was not looking for a proposal – she would have hexed him good for outright stupidity if he tried anything like that – but she needed to know how he felt about their relationship. She needed to know before she lost herself even further in it – in him – but she did not know how to broach the subject. In truth, a part of her had been terrified to do so.

Harry had not made any grand statements or promises that day, but he had said enough to allay her worries. Just the tone of his voice was enough to see that he felt as overwhelmed by his feelings for her as she did for him. His words had been a balm to her soul. His revelation immediately afterwards had put it right back in turmoil. The prophecy had initially left her stunned. She could not fathom how he dealt with it, the knowledge that he would have to face down Voldemort and win – that he was their only hope.

Once she had recovered from the initial shock, things began to click in place in her mind. Suddenly, everything made so much more sense. It explained why Voldemort was so obsessed with Harry. It was not simply a matter of pride or of demoralizing the Wizarding World by taking away their saviour and hope. Voldemort feared the prophecy. As long as Harry lived, Voldemort would always fear the day Harry and the prophecy caught back up to him.

The prophecy also went so far in explaining Harry’s drive and dedication to his training this year. It had seemed odd to her at first that he had done so much in such a short span of time and that he was so singularly focused and determined to train and to fight. Now it all made sense. He was unwilling to wait for Dumbledore to deem him ready. The longer he waited, the more people would die and the less time he would have to prepare. Harry’s sense of responsibility would not allow him to just sit back and do nothing, not when he knew what his role would be.

Though she was terrified for him and his future, she had faith in Harry. Every day she saw first hand what he had been able to accomplish in less than a year. She knew that if anyone could pull it off, save Dumbledore himself, it was Harry. After hours of contemplation in her bed that afternoon, she had made a vow to herself not to allow Voldemort or this prophecy to intimidate her. She had then marched down the stairs into the common room, dropped herself onto Harry’s lap, and snogged him senseless right in front of everyone – much to Ron’s consternation and sputtering.

It was not until late that evening that Harry mentioned the sensation he had felt with the Snitch. It was a couple days later when they managed to put it together and realise what it actually meant. Hours later, Harry was already beginning his blindfolded training in the Room of Requirement. His dedication never ceased to amaze her. Even with the prophecy, she knew most people in his shoes would not have applied themselves the way Harry did.

As silly and clichéd as it sounded, he was her inspiration. Without his example to follow, she knew that she would never have begun training. The same could be said for all the members of the HA. It was his example they all followed, but, given her private training with Harry, it was truer of her than anyone else. She only wished she could learn as quickly as Harry seemed to. Though she was making some progress on the wandless magic front, it was slow going.

She had finally mastered the initial simple spells, like Wingardium Leviosa and Accio. Now, she was trying to cast minor hexes and curses wandlessly and was meeting with limited success. Her control was sporadic. Some spells came out significantly weaker than others, and she tended to tire out much more quickly than she would have if casting with a wand. Harry assured her that he had experienced the same thing early in his training and that she just needed to push through it to build up her endurance.

Her training with the dummies and, occasionally, with Harry was going much better, but, as Harry frequently reminded her, until she was seventeen, she could only use wandless magic outside of Hogwarts. So while that branch of training was certainly necessary, until she became proficient wandlessly, she would be unable to accompany and aid Harry when he left the safety of the castle. She tried not to think about that fact more than necessary.

There was also the matter of learning to Apparate so that she could actually travel with Harry without needing to use Side-Along-Apparation every time, but arranging for Apparation lessons would not be easy. Apparation inside Hogwarts was impossible, so even if she wanted to try it, she would have to leave the castle grounds. But even then, she would need to be proficient using wandless magic before she could even attempt it because using her wand outside of Hogwarts would alert the Ministry to the fact that she was not only using magic outside of school but also Apparating while underage. She had no idea how they were going to get around that particular roadblock.

She still had a long way to go in her training, and, to make matters worse, her professors were really beginning to bear down on her as the O.W.L.s were rapidly approaching. She had decided that her training with Harry was more important than O.W.L.s, but she could not just ignore her classes. She needed to complete all the work that was assigned to her, and, as the year progressed, that was taking up more and more of her time.

After she finished washing up, Ginny dressed and walked back out into the main room and almost immediately found herself face to face with Harry. He leaned down and gave her a quick peck on the lips. She smirked right back at him as she teasingly asked, “Were you using your new ability to spy on me while I was in there?” She jerked her head back in the direction of the shower room she had just left.

“I guess you could say that,” Harry admitted. “Not like it’s all that exciting. I can’t see anything, but after I felt you earlier, I wanted to see if I could do it again.”

“A likely story,” she retorted. Feeling rather mischievous she added, “If you wanted a peek, Potter, all you had to do was ask.”

Her smirk widened as she saw Harry’s eyes flick down her body, and his face coloured. While the school robes were bulky and hid a lot, hers were getting a bit snug in certain areas, and she knew where Harry’s eyes and mind were going. As his eyes lingered, Ginny felt a shiver travel down her spine; she had never felt as sexy as she did then, seeing the unconcealed desire in his eyes. Winking at him, she grabbed his hand. “Come on, Perve, or we’ll be late to supper.”

******

Harry allowed himself to be dragged towards the door leading out of the Room of Requirement, his mind and his eyes still a bit preoccupied. After all, with Ginny, the view from behind was every bit as sweet as from in front. It was only after they had left the room that he stopped staring and started walking alongside her rather than trailing behind. He held onto her hand even though she was no longer using it to lead him.

They made their way into the Great Hall and took their seats at the Gryffindor table opposite Ron and Hermione with Harry sitting beside Neville. As Harry was loading his plate, Hermione put down her fork as she asked, “So what did you two get up to this afternoon?”

Harry did not bat an eye at the question, though he knew it was not as innocuous as it seemed. For the past two weeks, Hermione had not failed to ask him that question pretty much any time he spent more than an hour in either his office or the Room of Requirement. “A little bit of studying and worked on some lesson plans for the HA,” he replied easily and then took a bite of his potatoes.

“Oh?” Hermione responded in what seemed to be somewhat of a forced surprise. “I stopped by your office after Herbology, and nobody responded when I knocked.”

Harry had to resist the urge to groan. She was getting more and more persistent in tracking him. It was rather annoying. “I spent some time in the Room of Requirement before supper practicing a new spell I’m thinking of covering soon.”

“Really?” Her excitement was not entirely feigned as she asked, “What spell?”

Before Harry could respond, however, Ron interjected, “Blimey, Hermione. Let the man eat.”

Harry smiled gratefully at Ron before tucking into his meal. Neville took advantage of the break in conversation to bring up something they covered in their Herbology class that afternoon, diverting Hermione’s attention. Harry tuned out the conversation at that point as he pondered what to do about Hermione’s inquisitiveness. The fact that she was taking a few extra classes helped him to disappear at times, but he knew Hermione would not be deterred. There was little chance of her discovering how he was using his time, but the fact that she was posing questions and actively trying to track him made his life all the more difficult. The real test, however, would come the next time he needed to leave the castle. He would need to be extra careful lest Hermione discover his absence.

Following the meal, Harry ascended the spiral staircase leading to Dumbledore’s office for their weekly Occlumency meeting. Though they talked for the entire session, they never hit on anything of consequence; in fact, they had not touched on anything important since Dumbledore had once again shut Harry out following the ordeal with Snape. Without a topic to catch his interest and distract him, Harry was able to remain focused for the duration of the lesson and blocked every attempt by Dumbledore to break into his mind. Following the lesson, Harry retired to the common room where he spent the remainder of the evening in the company of his friends and house mates.

After breakfast the next morning, Harry intended to make his way to the Room of Requirement for another training session. He would be starting off solo, but Ginny was supposed to join him after her morning class. While walking up a stairway leading to the sixth floor, he heard a muffled exclamation behind him. He turned around but could not see anything or anyone. He spun back around when something occurred to him. He concentrated on his new sense and tried to find any magic nearby. The walls gave a steady buzz of magic that was so faint that he hardly even noticed, but he could sense a more concentrated bit of magic further down the stairs and tucked away in an alcove.

He puzzled over the source of the magic for just a moment before noticing the similarity to what he had felt the previous day when Ginny had attempted to sneak up on him. He was being followed. Harry furrowed his brow as he resumed walking, trying to guess why he was being followed and by whom. Well, he had a pretty good guess to both questions. The real question was what to do about it. Given the path he had taken, it would already be clear to his follower where he was heading – there was nothing of interest on the sixth floor, and this would be a rather circuitous route to get to Gryffindor Tower –so changing course at this point would only alert the person that he was aware of her presence as well as give her reason to suspect he was trying to hide what he was doing. Harry decided to just continue on as if nothing was amiss.

There was still the matter of what to do when he actually arrived at his destination. Should he ward the room as he usually did? It was possible that she may have followed him in the past, so not warding the room might seem suspicious. But if she had not yet followed him to the Room of Requirement, he could avoid the question of why he was warding the room when he was supposedly only practicing spells to be taught in his HA classes.

As he turned the corner into the corridor housing the portrait of Barnabus the Barmy, Harry realised his time was running out. As he paced back and forth in front of the portrait three times, he came to a decision. Throwing open the door, Harry stepped inside and shut it behind him. He threw up his standard wards, but he also included a spell to allow him to both see and hear through the door as if it was not even there. As he cast that final spell, he could not help the smirk that spread across his lips as he thought of the last time he had used it. The memory of Snape’s reaction to Malfoy disrobing in his office never failed to bring a smirk to Harry’s lips.

Harry just stood there, staring out the opening at the portrait of Barnabus the Barmy, waiting for his follower to reveal herself. A minute passed by, and nobody came. Harry furrowed his brow but remained still. After another minute, he spun on his heel. There was no sense just standing around all day wasting time. He had originally intended to begin with his blindfolded training, but he wanted to be able to keep an eye on the door, so he chose to push that particular drill back.

Just as he was beginning some more conventional work with the training dummies, he noticed a figure walk in front of the door. With hardly a thought, the dummies disappeared, and Harry moved back over to the door. Standing there silhouetted in the archway was Hermione. Though he had been certain it was her, he could not help the feeling of irritation and betrayal at seeing her trying to spy on him. Sadly, he had expected no less from her, but even that foreknowledge was not enough to help the sting. He did his best to shove those feelings aside. It was his choice to keep her in the dark. She might not be in the right, but he knew she was acting the only way she knew how. Hermione reached a hand out, and Harry watched with some amusement as her hand seemed to close around absolutely nothing, though he knew she had gripped the door handle. Almost imperceptibly, she turned her wrist to find that the door was locked.

It appeared that she expected this as she did not seem the least bit surprised or perturbed. She withdrew her hand and pulled out her wand. She whispered the incantation, “Alohamora.”

Nothing happened. She again gripped the doorknob and found it still locked. She released a muffled harrumph and then furrowed her brow as she cast another spell which surprised Harry slightly. “Aperiobex.”

That particular spell was used to reveal any wards cast upon the target. Apparently she had come prepared, but Harry wondered if she would recognise what the spell showed her. Hermione’s brow furrowed as she seemingly studied Harry, but he knew she was actually viewing the wards he had placed on the door. She reached into her robes and pulled out a quill and a roll of parchment and stepped to the side of the door, using the wall to write against as she scribbled some notes. Harry had little doubt of where Hermione was heading after she finished jotting down her observations.

Deciding that he was unlikely to learn anything else from spying on his bushy-haired friend, Harry resumed his training. He ran through his different drills with determination until he heard the door opening. Turning, he watched as Ginny strolled inside. Since Ginny began training with him, Harry had modified his wards slightly to allow entrance to Ginny if she tapped her wand in a specific pattern over the door, his inspiration coming from the entranceway into Diagon Alley.

Harry gave her a short wave in greeting, to which she called, “Hey Harry.” She walked over and gave him a brief kiss.

Deciding he had better warn her about Hermione, he said, “We may have a problem.” He proceeded to explain to her how Hermione had followed him and her discovery of the wards he placed on the door.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Ginny responded. “In fact, I thought she would have followed long before now.”

“Me too,” Harry agreed. “But now that she is on my case, I’m going to need you to be extra careful from now on, particularly when you’re tapping out the sequence to let you into the room.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not stupid, Harry. Of course I’ll be careful. I’m always careful.”

“I know,” Harry admitted. “I just can’t let her catch on. We just need to make it to summer, and then the secret will be out anyway. But I can’t risk Dumbledore catching on before then.”

“I know, Harry,” Ginny stated softly, lifting her hand to his cheek. “You’ve made it this far. I’m not going to blow it for you, and neither will you. All Hermione knows is that you’re using this room and that you don’t want to be disturbed. For all she knows, the Room could have provided the wards based on what you asked it for.”

Harry cocked his head to the side as he considered her words. “You know, I hadn’t thought of that. But with everything else the Room can do, I wouldn’t be surprised if it could do that.”

“And if Dumbledore himself couldn’t connect any spells to you when you were casting wandlessly, I don’t imagine Hermione will either,” Ginny added.

Harry smiled at her as he leaned down to capture her lips in his. “You’re right. You know, I think I like having you around.” Harry teased as he pulled back a long moment later. “I might just have to keep you.”

She smacked him on the arm. “Someone needs to keep you in check. You can’t do everything, you know.”

“Close enough,” Harry retorted. “But you’re not here to see what I can do. So let’s see what you can do.”

******

Hermione missed lunch that day. Harry did not know if he should be glad for her absence or not. On the one hand, it saved him from further inquiry. On the other hand, it meant Hermione was no doubt in full research mode in the library, which could not bode well for him. He did not use any wards so advanced that she would not be able to find them in the Hogwarts Library. They would not be simple to track down, but it was only a matter of time before she began putting all the pieces together. Even after she did, though, she would still need to find a way past those wards, which would not prove easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Ron seemed confused and just the slightest bit put out by his girlfriend’s nonappearance, but he was doing his best to hide it as he inhaled enough food to feed a full-grown dragon. The real surprise, for both Ron and Harry, came as they sat in the Defence classroom with the seconds ticking down to when class was set to begin. Just as Professor Caldwell was rising, the door burst open and a harried Hermione scrambled inside, uttering a distracted apology as she made her way to her seat, casting a sidelong glance in Harry’s direction.

“Wonder what’s gotten into her,” Neville whispered at his side.

Harry turned his head slightly to look at Neville to find the boy watching him rather than Hermione. His expression was nearly unreadable as Harry replied, “No idea.”

Any further conversation was halted as Professor Caldwell called the class to attention, but Harry could not help his mind wandering. Something about the look Neville had given him told him he knew more than he was letting on, but how much more? He could not peg Neville as the type to spy on him the way Hermione was doing, but Harry suspected that Neville noticed far more than he ever let on.

As he was packing up at the end of class, Harry was surprised when Neville leaned over and whispered, “I was wondering if I could talk to you – alone.”

Harry straightened up and turned to look at Neville who seemed the slightest bit nervous. It was an emotion becoming more and more foreign as Neville continued to grow more confident in himself and his abilities, and Harry wondered what it was that would evoke that emotion in him. His mind immediately made the connection to the beginning of class and the look Neville had given him. Harry sincerely hoped that he was not about to gain another friend on his case.

“Sure, Neville,” he replied. “We can talk in my office.”

Neville nodded his agreement and grabbed his bag. Harry slung his own pack over his shoulder and led Neville out of the classroom. As they walked through the halls, they were both quiet. It was not exactly an uncomfortable silence, but Harry’s curiosity grew with every step. By the time they entered his office, he was quite eager to learn what it was that Neville wanted. Unfortunately, Neville looked far from comfortable and did not actually seem in any hurry to talk despite the fact that he had been the one to initiate this little meeting.

Harry suggested he have a seat, but Neville distractedly waved away the offer. Harry leaned against his desk, half-sitting on the desktop, as he surveyed his friend. After giving Neville a moment to begin, Harry prodded, “So, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?”

Neville seemed to draw himself up as he began, “Well, there’s a Hogsmeade weekend a week from tomorrow, and Hannah’s birthday is coming up. I hadn’t exactly planned on having a girlfriend, and, well, Gran’s always been a bit funny about sending me money. Plus, I haven’t exactly told her about Hannah. Well, I told her about the Yule Ball but haven’t told her that we’re dating yet.”

“Neville,” Harry interrupted, chuckling lightly. “You’re rambling.”

“Right, I guess I am,” he agreed with a sigh. After a moment, he straightened up and seemed to steel himself for whatever it was he was driving at. “What I’m trying to ask is if you have some extra money that I could borrow to buy Hannah’s gift.”

It took a moment to recover from his surprise at the request, but when he did he responded, “Sure, it’s no problem.” He was just happy that this conversation had absolutely nothing to do with why Hermione was digging into his life.

“I promise I’ll pay you back,” Neville stated quickly. “I just don’t know when I’ll get a chance.”

“It’s okay, Neville,” Harry assured him. “I’m not at all concerned about that. How much do you need?”

“I dunno,” he replied. “I don’t know what to get her. I was just going to look into a few shops, see what I could find.” He paused a moment before asking, “How much do you reckon I should spend on a birthday gift?”

Harry shook his head. “I have no idea, mate. I’m as new to this stuff as you are. Ginny’s birthday isn’t until August.”

“But didn’t you buy her Emerald?” Neville questioned.

“Yes, I suppose I did,” Harry stated. “But we weren’t dating at the time, so it was different.”

Neville scoffed. “She loves that cat.”

Harry shrugged. Not knowing how else to respond, he changed the topic back to the matter at hand. “So what do you think then?”

“I don’t want to leave you Knut-less,” Neville started.

Harry shook his head as he interjected, “That won’t be a problem.”

“Well, I still have a bit of money left. If I could borrow maybe five galleons, I think that should be enough,” Neville stated.

“That’s fine,” Harry agreed. His money pouch was in his trunk, and he briefly considered just pulling it out and retrieving the coins right then and there but then thought better of it. No matter how much he thought he could trust Neville, it was just simpler to keep as much to himself as possible. “I don’t have the money on me, so I’ll have to give it to you later. Just remind me in case I forget.”

“Yeah, sounds good,” Neville said. “And thanks, Harry.”

“Any time, Neville,” Harry returned.

Smiling, Neville stretched out a moment as he said, “I guess I’ll get out of your hair. I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do.”

Something about the way he said that gave Harry pause. “Now why would you say that?” Harry asked curiously.

Neville shrugged his shoulders. “You’re always busy these days.” With that, he strode over to the door. Looking back over his shoulder, he called, “See ya, Harry.”

“Later, Neville,” Harry responded as the door swung shut behind his friend. For a moment, Harry just stood where he was, shaking his head. Hermione might view him as a mystery, but right now Harry was having a difficult time pegging Neville. He was almost certain Neville knew something, but apart from offering an occasional knowing look, he never even acknowledged that anything odd was going on. Neville had often intervened, throughout the year, whenever Hermione would get a bit too pushy in her inquiries of Harry. At first, Harry had just taken it at face value, but now he was beginning to suspect that Neville knew there was more going on underneath the surface.

Perhaps Harry was just looking too far into things, or maybe Neville just chose not to pry. Either way, Harry knew he just had to continue as normal. If Neville planned to do anything with the knowledge he may have, there was little he could do about it except do everything he could to prevent him from learning more. If Neville ever decided to confront him, Harry would cross that bridge when they came to it. After all, he needed only hold out until the end of the term before his secret would be out anyway, and Neville did not appear to pose any sort of threat to that goal. He had always been one to respect a person’s privacy.

As long as he had the time alone in his office, Harry decided to dive back into his study on wards. That was one area he felt he could not learn enough. There appeared to be many intricacies to ward casting. He had only dabbled with some of the simpler wards, but the ones he planned to put around his new home, particularly when combined, would seriously put his skills to the test, and he intended to be fully prepared for the challenge.

There was still over a week before the next full moon, but Harry was already looking forward to the chance to meet with Remus again. He was anxious to hear if Remus had made any headway on what was to be his new home. The sooner they could get started on everything, the better. Harry did not know much about the whole process, but he imagined it would take some time to negotiate and complete the sale. Only after they had finished all that could he actually begin casting the wards over the property, and he wanted to have plenty of time to concentrate on the wards in case any problems arose.

That night Harry’s sleep began peacefully but grew more and more fitful as the hours passed. As the morning drew near, he found himself being drawn across the bond he shared with Voldemort. Preparing himself for the discomfort, Harry used his Occlumency skills to drown out all his feelings and emotions as the dim light of Voldemort’s lair entered his vision. Already kneeling down in front of him was a group of about five Death Eaters.

“I have a special job for you this morning,” Voldemort hissed at the cloaked figures. “While the others will be attacking out in the open, killing and destroying all that stands in their way, you five will use them as a distraction to accomplish my true goal. It is no coincidence that Harry Potter holds a wand whose core is a brother to my own. Your incompetence cost me the contents of the prophecy. Now, I give you the opportunity to redeem yourselves.”

“Bring me the wandmaker,” he continued. Harry had to suppress his momentary surprise at learning Voldemort’s target: Ollivander, the creepy, old wandmaker. “I want answers, and who better to give them than the one who crafted both wands.” He could sense there was something more that Voldemort was not saying, and he wondered if he even truly believed Ollivander could offer him anything. Perhaps this was just another one of his attempts to root out a potential spy. Unfortunately, Voldemort kept his thoughts closely guarded, so Harry was unable to decipher more than the vague emotion.

“Yes, my Lord,” the group chorused. As they did so, Harry got his first look at a couple of their faces. He would recognise the faces of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange anywhere.

“Do not fail me,” Voldemort hissed at the group, his eyes lingering on Lucius’ face. He was pleased to see the fear in the man’s eyes just before Lucius ducked his head down. Harry was not sure if he should also celebrate the man’s fear or be revolted at the emotion Voldemort was feeling. There was certainly no love lost between the elder Malfoy and Harry, but he was not sure he would wish Voldemort’s particular brand of punishment on anybody. But if anyone deserved it, Malfoy was near the top of the list.

As the vision faded and Harry felt himself returning to his own body, he considered what to do. He got out of bed and began dressing. His first course of action was to inform Dumbledore, of course, so the Order could be put on the alert. But then, what would he do about the situation? He knew the attack would occur some time this morning, but it would be risky to spend the entire morning outside the castle. Luckily it was a Saturday, so he need not worry about missing lessons. Unfortunately, someone, most notably Hermione, was liable to notice his absence if he was missing for too long. When news of the attack came out, there was a decent chance she would make the connection. It was a risk he could not afford.

He was not willing, however, to just sit back and leave things to the Order. As long as he was healthy and able to fight, he wanted to be out there doing his part. He arrived at Dumbledore’s office without coming to any conclusions. Speaking the password, Harry rode the spiral staircase up to the door of the headmaster’s office and knocked soundly.

“Come in,” Dumbledore’s voice welcomed.

Harry pushed the door open and, given the early hour, was surprised to find that the headmaster was not alone. Sitting before his desk were Professors McGonagall and Snape.

“Good morning, Harry,” Dumbledore greeted. “To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?”

Harry caught a twinge in Snape’s shoulders at the word pleasure but ignored the man’s reaction. “Good morning Headmaster, Professors,” Harry briskly greeted in reply. “I had another vision last night.”

Harry noticed Snape’s eyes narrow as McGonagall managed to sit up straighter in her chair – a feat Harry would not have thought possible. Dumbledore merely nodded as if he had expected as much. Why else would Harry be in his office so early in the morning?

“And what did you see?” Dumbledore queried in a neutral tone.

“He’s planning an attack on Diagon Alley this morning,” Harry responded. “I’m not sure the details of the main attack, but it’s only a diversion anyway. He met with a group of five Death Eaters – the only two I could see and recognise were Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. He tasked them with kidnapping Ollivander while the others drew away the attention of the Aurors.”

“Ollivander?” Dumbledore repeated questioningly.

Harry shrugged. “He said he wants to know about the connection between our wands. He might think that our brother wands are somehow connected to the prophecy.”

“You are not certain?” McGonagall inquired.

“No,” Harry shook his head. “All he said is that it was no coincidence that we shared a common core in our wands.”

“I see,” Dumbledore commented. Then, turning to Snape, he asked, “Severus, have you heard anything about this?”

Snape’s gaze left Harry for a moment as he almost imperceptibly shook his head at the headmaster. “No,” he responded. Turning back to glare at Harry he continued, “The Dark Lord has mentioned nothing.”

“I think there might be more to it,” Harry stated uncertainly. “I think he might still be trying to root out a possible spy.”

“You think?” Dumbledore asked as Snape scoffed. A quelling look from the headmaster stopped Snape from saying anything. The headmaster’s eyes then turned back to Harry as he waited for an answer.

“Well, I’m not sure,” Harry stated. “He was kind of hard to read. I got the feeling that there was a lot more that he wasn’t telling them, but he didn’t quite feel as anxious or anything as the last time.” If anything, Snape’s glare became even more malevolent at his last statement.

“Very well,” Dumbledore said. “Is there anything else that you can remember? A time? Or any other details that might aid us?”

“No,” Harry shook his head. “He only mentioned that it would be happening in the morning – nothing else.”

“Thank you, Harry,” Dumbledore replied. “You have been most helpful.”

Harry had to stifle the flare of irritation he felt at the implied dismissal. Carefully keeping his voice neutral, he said, “You’re welcome.” With that, he nodded once more to McGonagall and briefly met Fawkes’ gaze before turning on his heel and exiting the room. He took a deep breath on the landing outside the office door and briefly considered sticking around to eavesdrop, but he felt the proposition was too risky and proceeded down the stairs. Dumbledore likely had some way to monitor who was outside his door – if he could not just see right through walls like Moody. Harry would not put it past him.

That triggered a frightening thought. What if Dumbledore could see through walls? If he ever wanted to find out what Harry was up to in his training sessions in the Room of Requirement or even in the privacy of his office, Dumbledore might not even need to enter the room or touch Harry’s wards. He might just be able to peek through the walls. Harry was unsure, given the nature of the Room of Requirement, whether or not it was possible, but it should definitely be possible inside his office. He vowed to be much more careful from then on. The fact that Dumbledore had not yet caught him suggested that the man either lacked that specific ability or that he just was not keeping tabs on Harry inside the castle. Either way, he could not take anything for granted and decided he had best look into ways to block out such an ability. He vaguely recalled reading about some sort of ward that might do the trick, but he would have to look it up to be certain.

As Harry approached Gryffindor Tower, his thoughts finally returned to the impending attack on Diagon Alley. Harry sighed, seeing nothing for it. Even if he somehow found a way to be notified when the attack began, by the time he managed to exit the castle and Apparate in, the battle could already be over. He would just have to hope his absence did not raise any eyebrows. He still had time yet, though, as the sun was only now rising. The Death Eaters would not attack until the Alley was sure to be busy.

He retrieved one of his books on wards and read in the common room until Ginny came down the stairs for their morning workout. Setting up a quick privacy ward, he explained to her everything that was going on. After brief consideration, he decided he had time for their usual morning jog before heading over to Diagon Alley – he did not want anyone to notice his absence from his normal routine. Not wanting to tire himself out prior to the battle, he just ran alongside Ginny at her regular pace. She had improved a lot since starting up with him a few months earlier, but for every step she took forward, Harry took one himself – and his stride was a bit longer than hers. The jog was more invigorating than tiring for Harry.

After doing some stretches, he walked Ginny to the Room of Requirement. Rather than join her, he decided to head over to the Alley now. After a brief but intense goodbye, Harry made his transformation into Jim, threw his Invisibility Cloak around his shoulders, and made his way up to the Owlery. After transforming into his owl form, he greeted Hedwig but declined her offer to fly with him. He planned to Apparate as soon as he left the school grounds.

As soon as Harry reverted back to human form outside the castle grounds, he Apparated into Diagon Alley while still under his Invisibility Cloak. He quickly ducked into an alley and transformed back into owl form. He hoped someone from the Order would notice him flying around prior to the battle to reinforce their belief that he was actually two people. While hoping they would spot him, Harry was scoping the grounds for Order members he had run into as Jim. He had learned his lesson at St Mungo’s that it was better to work with the Order than on his own. There was too much risk of something going wrong.

He noticed Kingsley first but decided against approaching the Auror. He did not know Kingsley well and had no idea how he would react to Jim attempting to work with him. After sweeping the entire Alley up in the skies, Harry was unable to spot any other Order members, so he decided to swoop down lower to get a closer look.

Harry migrated from perch to perch across the Alley, staying no more than a minute in each spot as he scouted the area. He thought he spied Tonks near Gringotts, but he was not certain. Given her abilities, she was difficult to spot – except when she chose to wear her hair in pink, purple, blue, or some other exotic colour. As he was trying to decide whether or not it was her, he realised that Jim would not know about her Metamorphmagus ability, so there was no way he could approach Tonks as Jim unless she looked just like she did when at St Mungo’s or Madame Bones’ house, which she did not.

In any case, if that was Tonks, there was a pretty decent chance that Remus would be nearby. Both times he had run into them previously, one never strayed far from the other. Sure enough, it only took a minute of scanning before he noticed Remus peeking out the window of a nearby store.

Harry took off from his perch and flew into a deserted alleyway before transforming back into human form. He was still wearing his Invisibility Cloak, so he whipped off the garment and quickly tucked it into his trunk. After making sure he was properly disguised, he strode out into Diagon Alley and made his way over to the store where he had noticed Remus. As he walked by the woman he had thought might be Tonks, he noticed her eyes tracking him. He concentrated on trying to feel her magic but felt bombarded by the multitude of wizards and witches around him. He was unable to focus on Tonks specifically and trying to do so nearly resulted in him tripping over his own feet. He gave it up and resumed his trek to meet up with Remus.

As he walked in front of the shop, he met eyes with Remus for a fraction of a second before continuing on to the door. As he opened it, he glanced back and noticed that Tonks was, in fact, following him a short distance away. He strode into the shop and made his way over to Remus. “Fancy meeting you here,” Harry casually greeted.

Harry smirked as Remus rolled his eyes. “Funny. One might think you were following us.”

“Hardly,” Harry replied. “If you’ll recall, I beat you to St Mungo’s.”

“And if you’ll recall,” Tonks voiced harshly behind him, “you’d’ve gotten yourself killed if we hadn’t come to your rescue.”

Harry turned slowly to face the witch. “I guess we’ll call it even then.”

“Easy, Tonks,” Remus soothed. “We’re all on the same side here.”

“I know what side we’re on,” Tonks stated. “His side has yet to be determined.”

Harry smirked as he realised Remus had just given him a perfect opportunity. “Tonks? You don’t look anything like…” He paused as he adopted a look of sudden realisation. “Metamorphmagus?” he questioned to Tonks.

She sneered and turned her head to Remus. “Way to go, Wolfie.”

“Wolfie?” Harry repeated. Then his eyes lit up.

“Tonks!” Remus exclaimed.

She seemed to realise her mistake then as she immediately looked contrite and mouthed the word, “Sorry.”

Harry turned back to Remus and quietly asked, “Werewolf?”

Remus just nodded with his eyes downcast. He was doing a smashing job of playing his part. Harry nodded his head once curtly. “I knew a werewolf once, back when I was younger. He was a good bloke.”

“So, anyway,” Remus stated, pointedly changing the conversation. “What brings you here?”

“Well, I imagine the same thing that brings you here,” Harry replied evenly.

“And just how do you know why we’re here?” Tonks inquired suspiciously.

“Why else would you be here?” Harry retorted. “You might be able to explain your presence at Diagon Alley, except for the fact that neither of you – nor the rest of your team – are doing anything but standing around surveying the crowds.” He shook his head at them. “You’re not exactly being subtle about it.”

“Yes, well, not all of us are as good at hiding our true forms as others,” Tonks replied giving him a hard look. It sounded funny coming from a Metamorphmagus, but Harry was now relatively certain at least one Order member had noticed him flying around.

He just raised an eyebrow in response. “So, did your source give you any details on what’s going down?” Harry asked, trying to both change the subject and come up with ways to legitimise his cover.

“Our source?” Remus asked.

“Well, unless you just randomly guess where the next Death Eater attack will occur, I’m guessing you have some sort of source in Voldemort’s circle,” Harry remarked.

Tonks looked sharply at him at his use of Voldemort’s name. Her eyes were calculating as they studied him. “We don’t know much,” she replied evenly.

“But we do know a little,” Remus interjected. “We’re expecting a major attack in the Alley, but that is only a diversion.”

“A diversion?” Harry asked, feigning surprise.

Tonks cleared her throat rather pointedly, and Remus met her eye as he said, “If we’re going to work together, it might be best to share our intel.”

Tonks’ glare said as clearly as words, I don’t trust him.

“So what’s the real goal?” Harry asked, turning back to Remus.

“Ollivander.”

“The wandmaker?” Harry asked. “What does Voldemort want with him?”

“We don’t know,” Tonks quickly supplied as if worried Remus would tell him everything if given half a chance.

Harry studied Tonks for a long moment before asking the obvious question. “If Ollivander is the target, why aren’t you guarding his shop?”

“We have people guarding him,” Remus inserted. “But we also need people to help control the rest of the Death Eaters.”

Harry nodded. “Makes sense.”

“So what about you?” Tonks questioned. “Your source tell you anything else?”

Harry shook his head. “All I know is that there’s supposed to be an attack here sometime this morning. I didn’t know there were any ulterior motives until you just said so.” Harry cocked his head slightly at Tonks as an idea came to him. He considered it a moment before deciding to go for it. “Can I ask you something?” Harry directed at Tonks. He hesitated a brief moment before continuing, “Why is it that you don’t trust me at all?”

“You haven’t given us a lot to trust,” Tonks replied briskly.

“So helping you out – possibly even saving your life – and fighting Death Eaters at your side on multiple occasions, that does nothing to garner your trust?” he asked. He really was curious. He wanted to know what it was that set Tonks on edge around him.

“Why don’t you ever stick around after the fight?” Tonks retorted. “We don’t know anything about you. We don’t know what your goals are. Sure, you’re fighting on our side now, but we don’t know what you’re fighting for. Is it against the Death Eaters in general, or are you looking for one in particular? And what happens when there are no more Death Eaters around? Will you still be an ally then?”

Harry nodded mostly to himself. “Fair questions. I can’t give you all the answers you want, but I think, since we seem to be working together frequently, a little trust is warranted. I’m in this thing for the long haul and don’t plan on quitting until the job is done. That’s no more Death Eaters and no more Voldemort. I haven’t given too much thought as to what I’ll do after that, but I don’t think you need to worry about me stepping on your toes. All I want is to put an end to the war.”

“And how do we know you’re telling the truth?” Tonks asked.

Harry shrugged. “I have no reason to lie. Look, after what happened at the hospital, I realised a few things. If it wasn’t for you two and your partner, I would’ve died that night. If I want to see this thing through to the end, I’m going to need a little help. So, as long as we have the same goal, I was hoping you might be willing to work together.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Remus interjected. “Perhaps you might consider working a little more closely with us in the future.”

Harry furrowed his eyebrows wondering what Remus was playing at. “Why don’t we save that conversation for another time? We are supposed to be keeping a look out for Death Eaters, right?”

Tonks grumbled a bit and muttered what sounded like a goodbye as she excused herself from the store. Once the door shut, Harry turned back to Remus and gave the man a wink. His smile died on his lips, though, as he felt a cold feeling creep into his chest.

Remus must have noticed the change in his face as he asked, “What’s wrong?”

As the feeling increased, the chill spread through his body, and Harry could hear a distant screaming. Though he could not tell if the sound was real or in his head, he knew the source. Only one thing could invoke that feeling. He turned to Remus who was still staring at him in concern. How could he not feel that?

“Dementors,” Harry whispered. As Remus’ eyes widened, something occurred to Harry. “Remus, I can’t…” Dropping his voice to a whisper, he continued, “Everyone knows my Patronus is a stag. If anyone sees it, my cover is blown.”

Remus studied him for a moment before responding, “Stay near me. My Patronus has never been that strong, but it should hold enough for the two of us.”

Harry nodded, but the feeling only intensified as the seconds dragged on.

“I can feel it too,” Remus stated. “Come on, we’ll be useless inside the shop.”

Harry followed Remus out into the Alley and his eyes immediately scanned first to his left then to his right. He could not see the dark figures, but it was clear they were drawing near. He noticed Tonks just one shop down on his right on the opposite side of the street. He was surprised to find Remus facing the opposite direction, but then he realised that the man must trust her to be able to take care of herself. He wondered if he would be able to do the same if Ginny were there.

His thoughts were interrupted as he heard the first scream – the first real scream. Spinning around, he saw the dark cloaked figures drifting down from the rooftops. Looking up, he saw there were a few dropping down nearby. “Remus,” he warned. “You got that Patronus ready?”

Rather than a reply, he heard the incantation, “Expecto Patronum.”

Harry glanced over to see a silver form taking shape. It was low to the ground and rather small, but Harry did not get a good enough look at it to determine what animal it was, nor did he think now was the best time to ask. Witches and wizards were running down the street without direction, each running from a single threat, unaware that the threat was coming from all directions. He could spot the scattered Order members remarkably easily down the street as they were the only ones exhibiting a modicum of composure in the relative chaos. They held their ground as they cast their Patronuses to quell the threat.

Harry, for his part, felt helpless and rather worthless as he just stood by, fake wand at the ready, watching the Patronus forms as the Order tried to contain the Dementors. That feeling left a moment later as he noticed a group of Death Eaters surge out from a small alley in-between two nearby shops. Harry wasted no time as he began firing curses at the black robed figures.

They came out near Tonks, and Harry glanced over at her to find that she was still busy directing her Patronus and had not noticed the approaching Death Eaters. Even as he cast a shield in front of her, Harry yelled out, “Tonks!”

She froze mid-turn as she noticed the beam of light deflected inches from her face. Harry worked his way towards her as she began duelling with the Death Eaters. It was true chaos as Harry manoeuvred around stray shoppers, trying to draw the curses away from them as he continued his attack. Of the group of five that had emerged, only two were left standing, but more groups were pouring out into the streets, and, with most of the Order occupied, the Dementors were pushing past the fading Patronuses.

Harry pushed his way further down the Alley, continuing the firefight with a new wave of Death Eaters. As he saw a group of Dementors escape their containment and converge on a mother and her two children, Harry did not hesitate a second. Consequences be damned; he would not do nothing while others were in danger. While in the past, he had encountered difficulty finding a strong enough memory to conjure a corporeal Patronus, now there was no question. With an image of Ginny in his mind, he bellowed, “Expecto Patronum!”

Not sparing a second, he immediately resumed spell-fire against the Death Eaters. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the shiny, silver mist taking form. He paused in shock as the form that sprinted down the Alley was not the one he expected. The majestic stag that had for years protected him from the Dementors was gone. As the animal pounced at the foul creatures – just in the nick of time – Harry’s jaw dropped as he realised what form it had taken.

His moment of distraction cost him as Harry felt something barrel into him from the side. As he flew towards the ground, he noticed a flash of green light pass by and erupt into the building beside him, spraying bits of rock everywhere. He slammed into the ground and skidded across the pavement with a heavy weight falling on him. He began pushing the weight off until everything came into focus and he realised that the weight was actually Tonks. “What’s the matter, never produced a Patronus before?” she asked as she helped him up in the cover of an alcove.

Harry shook his head as it took a moment for the situation and her words to catch up to him. “No,” he finally responded.

“Well, you can admire it later,” she stated.

“Right,” Harry replied, stamping down the irritation he felt at her words. After all, she had just saved his life. “Thanks,” he whispered.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Couldn’t let you go knowing I still owed you one,” she teased. “Now, how about we get back to it?”

Without waiting for his reply, she jumped back into the fray. Harry barely hesitated before following. He soon realised where she was heading, as he saw Remus engaged with a few Death Eaters just two shops down. Harry tried to ignore the bodies on the ground as they pressed forward. Some of them wore the telltale robes of the Death Eaters, but far more of them were dressed in normal, everyday robes. There was no time to think of that now.

They quickly caught up with Remus and immediately jumped into the skirmish with another group of Death Eaters. They fought from behind the cover of a short, stone wall, and Harry found it a bit frustrating working side by side with Remus and Tonks as it largely eliminated his ability to move around a lot. He was basically trapped behind the wall at their sides as they tried to systematically take down the small group of Death Eaters before them.

It was difficult to make any headway from behind their cover. Harry was distinctly reminded of his mock-duel in his BHA class where he had taken on his seven advanced members. They had relied heavily on their cover, and it had been their downfall. It was too easy to spot when a spell was coming. There was just too much time to either throw up a shield or step out of the way. Harry ducked behind the wall as a sickeningly green curse flew towards him. It impacted the top of the wall, sending bits of stone flying over his crouched form.

This was useless. Turning to Remus he asked, “Do you have any more of those magic grenades?”

Remus’ eyes widened momentarily, and he nodded his head as he reached into his pocket, pulling out two of the devices. Harry smirked, taking the two balls and pressing the buttons. He counted in his mind. One. Two. He popped up and threw the two balls yelling, “Cover me,” to his two comrades. Three. Harry leapt over the wall and sprinted towards the Death Eaters’ cover, wandlessly conjuring a shield in front of himself. Four.

The balls exploded right behind the group of Death Eaters interrupting their curses and giving Harry the moment he needed. He was already hurling a powerful Blasting Curse at the group, knocking down two of the six. Harry flanked to the side of the Death Eaters as he continued to throw curses, allowing Tonks and Remus to add their own spells to the mix. Within moments, the entire group was out for the count.

The danger was far from over, however, as there were battles still being waged all down Diagon Alley. Not wasting any time, Harry Summoned the six wands and quickly destroyed them as Remus and Tonks approached. Remus was frowning slightly at Harry but thankfully said nothing. For good measure, Harry attempted to Summon any Portkeys on the six bodies but was unsurprised when nothing happened.

Turning to Remus he asked, “Can you set up another anti-Portkey ward?”

“Sure,” Remus nodded his agreement and turned around to do just that.

Harry turned his attention back to the unconscious robed figures and immediately set to work binding them. Tonks joined him after a moment. As Harry moved onto the next body, he felt Tonks’ eyes on him and turned to her, raising an eyebrow.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” she asked. The open distrust and dislike she had shown him prior to the battle had vanished, much to Harry’s pleasure, and he could see the curiosity shining in her eyes.

“What do you mean?” he asked, glancing over at Remus to see that he was still working on the wards. He moved onto another Death Eater as Tonks did the same.

“We cover a lot of different fighting styles in Auror training,” Tonks replied. “But I’ve never seen anyone fight like you do. I was just wondering where you had learned.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “I’m mostly self-taught,” he admitted with a grin. He turned away from her and bound the last Death Eater.

“Mostly?” she queried.

Before he could even consider his response, Remus interrupted. “Done.”

They quickly moved all the bodies – totalling about a dozen – into the warded area and pressed further down the Alley, joining up with another pair of Aurors – or maybe Order members, Harry was not sure. As they came upon another group of Dementors, Harry was the first to conjure his Patronus, earning him a surprised glare from Remus. He did his best to ignore the look as he watched the silver lioness corral the fetid creatures. He did not have time to let his eyes linger on his Patronus, however, as spell-fire came flying in their direction from another group of Death Eaters using a small alley in-between buildings as cover.

As Harry manoeuvred his way closer to the group, he could see past them into the alley where two Death Eaters had their wands trained on a young woman and her child. He could just make out the scream tearing out of the mother’s throat as she writhed in agony on the ground. Harry saw red.

He jumped out from behind his cover, casting several powerful Blasting Curses over the Death Eaters’ heads. The spells connected with the building, sending chunks of stone falling on the heads of his enemies. Harry wasted no time sprinting towards them, hardly giving it a second thought as he quickly Stunned and Blasted the lot of them out of the way. He tore into the alley catching the tormenters by surprise as he quickly knocked the both of them unconscious, not even consciously paying attention to what spells he hit them with.

He knelt down to check on their victims. The mother was clutching her child, who Harry could now see was quite young, probably no more than a year old. The baby was crying, the sound heartbreaking as the mother just lay there on the ground, holding her close. “Are you okay?” he asked the mother, reaching out his hand but wary of touching her, not knowing what injuries she may have incurred.

She gave no response; she did not appear to even notice his presence. Not seeing anything for it, Harry gripped her shoulder and shook her lightly. “Can you hear me?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

Her eyes seemed to slowly move towards him as if she was having difficulty focusing. Finally, her gaze settled, and the terror on her face seemed to abate as she saw him there. “M-my baby,” she gasped through her shaky breaths.

Harry took a closer look at the child, wondering if perhaps she had been injured, but he could not see anything wrong with her. He held a hand to the child’s cheek, lightly brushing against the skin, causing her eyes to pop open in the midst of her continual cries. Unlike her mother, she had no trouble focusing on Harry, though she did not seem as capable of determining friend from foe as his presence seemed to do nothing to calm her down.

Turning his attention back to the mother he asked, “Are you going to be all right?”

She seemed finally to be regaining her senses as she nodded her head shakily. She struggled as she attempted to sit up, and Harry carefully slipped his arm around her back to help her. He helped position her to lean up against the wall as the mother met his eyes once again. “Thank you,” she said. Her eyes lingered for just a moment before shifting down to her child.

Harry mumbled, “You’re welcome,” in reply as he quickly stood and turned around. He Summoned the wands of the nearby Death Eaters and quickly snapped them. He had to climb over the pile of stone and bodies at the front of the alley before making his way back into the streets proper. It seemed a stretch of the word, but things were a bit calmer as he noticed the fighting now appeared to be isolated to his left side. He spotted Remus and Tonks a couple stores down and quickly ran over to regroup with them.

As he came up beside Remus, the man turned to him and asked, “Were they all right?”

Harry frowned momentarily, realising that Remus must have looked in on him in the alley before moving down the street. “Yeah. The mother was a little banged up, but she should be okay. I don’t think they managed to touch her daughter yet.”

Remus nodded. “Good,” he said, turning back to the battle.

It was only a couple minutes before the Death Eaters seemed to comprehend that their numbers were beginning to dwindle. That was when, predictably, one of them pulled out a Portkey, causing all of them to disappear. Harry cursed as he realised that, though they had taken the time to set up wards around one small group of Death Eaters, he had neglected to do the same for the rest.

Remus turned to Harry, “Well, I guess that means you’ll be leaving us.”

“Pity,” Tonks interjected as she stepped beside Remus. “I was just starting to enjoy your company.”

Harry had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. “Likewise,” he replied. As he allowed his gaze to sweep from side to side, Harry was horrified to see the amount of destruction wreaked upon the Alley. If this is what the Death Eaters could accomplish when he and the Order were prepared for the attack, Harry feared what the scene would have been like had they not known it was coming. Bodies were strewn everywhere, and none of the buildings seemed to have been spared, though some were definitely worse off than others.

Part of Harry resisted the urge to leave, knowing that his help was still needed here, but he knew that he could not. It was too much to risk. Without the battle raging around him, the Order members would no doubt want to talk with him, and he did not want to even give them the chance to learn anything about him. He was also pushing his luck staying away from Hogwarts this long. The longer he delayed, the more likely someone was to discover he was missing. “I’m sorry I can’t help you clean up,” he said to the two of them, hoping they would both, especially Tonks, hear the sincerity in his words.

Meeting each of their eyes momentarily, Harry Disapparated, popping back into his usual spot in the outskirts of Hogsmeade. He quickly discarded his disguise and flew back into Hogwarts in his owl form. Using his Invisibility Cloak, Harry worked his way through the halls, being extra careful not to bump into any of the wandering students or make any noise. When he finally made it to his office, he let himself inside and immediately pulled out his trunk. He showered in the bathroom in his trunk and quickly healed the minor scrapes and bruises he had accumulated in the battle. Afterwards, Harry dressed back in regular school robes and, glancing at the time, realised that lunch would be starting shortly.

Walking over to the portrait of the Gryffindor common room, he stated, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” As his eyes scanned the map for Ginny’s name, he wished he had included some feature to quickly locate a person. He made a mental note to look into it when he had more time. He finally found her name amongst the numerous students in the Gryffindor common room, so he set the map back to normal and exited his office for Gryffindor Tower.

As he approached it, the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open and a stream of students poured out. He could not help the smile tugging on his lips as he noticed Ginny among them. At her side was Neville, with Ron and Hermione behind them.

His eyes locked with Ginny’s a moment later, and she called out, “Harry!” She quickened her pace and flung her arms around him, and he happily returned her embrace.

The other three separated from the crowd as well, and Harry spoke loud enough for them to hear. “Sorry I’m late. I dozed off while studying in my office.”

As they separated, Harry kept one arm around Ginny’s back as he turned to address the others. “Hey guys, how’s it going?”

“Dreadful,” Ron immediately replied. “They’ve done nothing but revisions all morning. It’s enough to drive a bloke barmy.”

Harry smirked as Hermione scoffed. “Honestly, Ron. You can’t leave everything to the last minute, especially with exams coming up.”

“We have almost two months before exams,” Ron whined.

“I know,” Hermione stated. “It’s hardly enough time.”

Harry shook his head as they began trailing the crowd of Gryffindors to the Great Hall. “Can’t we at least take a break after lunch?” Ron pleaded.

“You can take a break,” Hermione acquiesced. “I’ll be doing research in the library.”

That statement caught Harry’s attention. It was unlike Hermione to concede so quickly, and it was practically unheard of for her not to encourage others to join her. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that her research had nothing to do with her studies.

“But Hermione,” Ron grumbled. “Don’t you think it might be more fun if we both took a break…together?” The last was said in barely more than a whisper, but the word carried to Harry’s ears nonetheless. He had to suppress a shudder down his spine at the thought of exactly what Ron was suggesting. He was glad that they had finally come to their senses and gotten together, but the thought of them actually being together like that was more than a little disturbing.

“Maybe you should concentrate on finishing all your studies before Sunday evening then,” Hermione briskly remarked as they finally made their way into the Great Hall.

As they approached the Gryffindor table, Ginny squeezed his hand causing him to pause. “I promised my friends I’d sit with them at lunch today,” she told him.

Harry nodded his head. “Do you want me to come?”

She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth and held it between her teeth for a moment before looking up into his eyes and shaking her head. “Nah, that’s all right. You go sit with your friends.”

With that, she stood on her toes and leaned in to give him a lingering kiss. He could practically feel her relief at having him back safely inside the castle. As she began to pull back, Harry began to lean forward, trailing after her lips, before catching himself, grasping that the Great Hall was not the best place to snog your girlfriend. Harry smiled warmly as she squeezed his hand one last time and left to sit with her friends. He watched her progress for a moment before turning and following after his friends who were already seated further down the table. As Harry approached, he found that Ron was already halfway finished with his first plate of food while Hermione and Neville both appeared to be just starting on theirs.

Hermione looked up at him as he sat down across from her, and she placed her fork back on the table as she asked, “So, Harry, what was it you were studying when you fell asleep in your office.”

“Potions,” Harry responded as he began filling up his plate.

“Oh?” Hermione responded, curiosity evident in her tone. “Have you selected a potion yet?”

“S’lect’d a posh’n f’r whuh?” Ron attempted around a mouth full of food.

“Honestly, Ron!” Hermione rebuked, none too gently. “That’s disgusting!”

“I think what he was trying to ask was, what are you selecting a potion for?” Neville input.

Ron nodded and, after swallowing his mouth full of food, exclaimed, “That’s what I said.”

Wanting to head off Hermione’s retort, Harry answered, “Snape is having us pick out a potion for an independent study project. We’re not actually going to brew them, I don’t think - just do a report on them.”

“I think I’m going to do Skelegrow,” Hermione inserted. “But I can’t decide. There are just so many interesting potions to choose from.”

“I was thinking about doing Wolfsbane,” Harry stated, answering her earlier question.

Hermione’s eyes locked onto his at that. “For Professor Lupin?” she asked softly.

He nodded his head.

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Harry,” Hermione stated.

“But you said you weren’t actually brewing the potions,” Ron interjected. “So how will that help?”

Harry shook his head at his friend, but before he could respond, Hermione jumped in, “How can you be so insensitive? It’s the thought that counts.”

“Or maybe,” Neville piped up, “he plans to learn how to brew it on his own, regardless of whether or not they cover it in class.”

Hermione’s eyes widened considerably at his insight, and Harry just shrugged his shoulders. “I have considered it, but I want to see just what I’d be getting myself into before I make any decisions.”

“I’ve read that it’s an extremely difficult potion to brew,” Hermione explained.

“Mental,” Ron whispered. “Why would you want to learn it if you don’t have to?”

The question seemed to be addressed more to himself than to anyone else, but that did not stop Hermione from pouncing. “Just because you can’t imagine why anyone would do more than the bare minimum required to get through life, doesn’t mean everyone else is the same. Did you ever think that maybe Harry wants to be able to help Professor Lupin in case he can’t get the potion from somewhere else?”

That was exactly why Harry had chosen that potion, of course. He knew how difficult it was supposed to be to brew, and he knew that not many in the world would bother going through the trouble to help what they considered to be half-breeds. Should Snape ever become unwilling or unable to continue to brew the potion, Harry wanted to make sure Remus had other options. Harry would always be willing to help in his Animagus form, but he hoped to be able to provide Remus with a source of Wolfsbane as well.

Ron appeared to be sufficiently cowed by Hermione’s outburst and apologised sheepishly.

“Don’t worry about it, mate,” Harry replied. “To be honest, I’m not all that excited at the prospect of attempting it; I just want to make sure Remus always has a source available to him in case something should happen to Snape.”

“You mean in case Snape decides to stop making it for him?” Ron asked darkly.

“That too, mate,” Harry replied. “That too.”

The next day, the morning delivery of the Daily Prophet brought with it news of the attack in Diagon Alley. Harry had spent the previous afternoon and evening wondering at the fate of Ollivander. The situation was so hectic and he had been in such a hurry to get back to Hogwarts that Harry forgot to check on the old wandmaker prior to returning to the castle. He did not have his own subscription to the rag of a newspaper, so he had to listen to Hermione’s comments with the rest of them and wait until she finished reading the article before digging into it himself.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the article did not contain a list of victims and mentioned nothing about Ollivander. Harry silently cursed himself for his forgetfulness. He knew he would get nothing out of the headmaster, regardless of the fact that it was Harry’s information that warned them of the attack in the first place. Instead, he found himself wishing the full moon would get here quicker so that he could ask Remus. He abruptly felt guilty at that, realising that Remus would not appreciate suffering the effects of a full moon any sooner than he had to. His curiosity was unabated, but he resigned himself to the wait – just over a week now.

Luckily, he had other things to occupy his mind in the meantime, most notably the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend. Early in the week he made sure to give Neville the money he had promised him. Harry made sure to wish him luck in his shopping excursion. He did not envy Neville his position searching for a suitable gift. Harry was glad he had several months before he had to do the same.

The down side to the weekend trip was that it made the week seem to drag on at an excruciatingly slow pace. To make matters worse, Harry’s sleep was interrupted three times by visions that week as Voldemort appeared to have retaken an interest in participating in the Death Eaters’ seemingly random attacks. By Friday he was definitely feeling the effects from the lack of sleep, and he was greatly looking forward to the break that the Hogsmeade trip provided.

Luck was not with him, for his sleep was yet again disrupted that night. Tired as he was, he tried to block out the images and go back to sleep, but there was no use. The vision was too fresh, and even his Occlumency was not enough to keep the images from flashing in his mind whenever his eyes closed. Giving it up as a bad job, Harry forced himself up and out of bed. Throwing on his workout clothes and grabbing one of his books on wards, Harry headed down to the common room to wait for Ginny.

The wait was excruciating. As he read, he could not help his eyes drooping. However, every time he seemed to nod off, an image from his vision would flash in his mind, and he would jerk back into awareness. After what must have been a dozen times, Harry jumped to his feet and threw the book down at the armchair in frustration. After pacing for a minute, Harry sighed. There was nothing for it. He picked the book back up and took it over to one of the tables. He settled himself on one of the straight-backed wooden chairs and opened the book. He decided it was best to reread what he had already done that morning as he could hardly remember any of it.

His eyes were still threatening to droop, but he was able to keep himself awake in the uncomfortable chair. Finally, as the sun began creeping up in the horizon, Ginny entered the common room. She quietly padded over to where he was sitting and plopped down into a chair beside him.

“Again?” she asked.

He did not need any clarification. He just nodded. She reached her hand out and squeezed his thigh just above his knee. “Well, we should get going,” Harry stated abruptly, closing his book and standing.

Ginny grabbed his hand and tugged him back before he could walk away. “Are you sure, Harry?” He could hear the worry in her voice quite clearly. “You should try to get some more rest.”

Harry just shook his head. “I already tried that, and besides, we’ve got our training to do. Can’t give it up every time I have a bad dream, can I?” Before Ginny could reply, and he was sure she wanted to, Harry tugged her hand to get her standing. Planting a kiss on her cheek, he continued, “Let’s go.”

She allowed herself to be led out of the common room, though Harry was well aware of her reluctance. Once they had completed their stretches, Harry set into his jog. The exercise served to wake him up a bit, but even with his blood pumping through his body, he could feel the fatigue lingering. He knew that if the visions kept up, he could not continue on at this pace. He resolved to look into some possible solutions to his problem, but he shoved the matter out of his mind for the moment. After their workout, they had a nice weekend to spend in Hogsmeade, and he was determined not to let the visions or his lack of sleep spoil the mood.

Though they were as early as usual for breakfast, Harry and Ginny arrived in the Great Hall to find that they were not among the first students there. There were scattered students at each of the tables, not much more than a handful of students at each table, but they were accustomed to being the first in the hall over the weekends. Apparently, the students were eager to get to the village.

Not long after they had sat down, Neville came into the hall alone and sat opposite them. “Good morning, Neville,” Ginny greeted while Harry simply nodded at the boy.

“Morning,” Neville responded hurriedly as he tucked a couple pieces of toast in a napkin. “See you guys in town?”

“Yeah,” Harry responded as Ginny nodded. “Later, Neville.”

He just raised his wand in a wave as he hurried back out of the hall, already beginning on his first slice of toast.

“Wonder what that was all about,” Ginny whispered at his side, her eyes following his retreating form.

“Hannah’s got a birthday coming up,” Harry explained. “He’s planning on shopping for her present.”

“He told you that?” she asked in surprise.

“Well, he needed to borrow some money,” Harry answered.

“Oh,” she said, then turned and tucked back into her breakfast.

Harry did likewise. When there were only eggs left on his plate, Harry switched the fork to his left hand and, with his right, reached under the table to rest his hand on her leg just above her knee. She looked over at him and smirked, but Harry just kept on eating. Swallowing the last bite, Harry washed it down with a drag of pumpkin juice. Ginny had finished a few minutes prior. Her attention had wandered to the other occupants of the room, so he squeezed her leg to get her to turn back around and asked, “Do you want to head into town now or wait?”

She shrugged. “Might as well head out now.”

The sun was much higher in the sky now than it had been during their morning run, and the air was noticeably warmer. With hardly a cloud in the sky, it was a beautiful day for a trip to Hogsmeade. They walked mostly in comfortable silence. Neither one of them had much planned for the trek. Harry wanted to stock up on some essentials like quills, ink, and parchment, and Ginny needed to look for a school robe to replace one of her more worn robes, but beyond that, neither of them really had an agenda for the day. They finished those tasks quickly, so they were content to just enjoy the time together outdoors in the nice weather.

That is until they noticed Neville looking rather harried as he rushed from shop to shop in search of the elusive perfect gift. Looking at each other, Ginny asked the question they were both thinking, “Should we see if he wants help?”

“Doesn’t hurt to ask,” Harry replied thoughtfully. “He may want to do it on his own, but if so, he’ll just say no. And at least we’ll have offered.”

Ginny nodded her agreement, and the two followed Neville into Chaundry’s Charmed Charms. As they entered the store, they found display cases showing off various pieces of jewellery and other trinkets. Neville was walking by each display case much too quickly to really take stock of the contents. He seemed to be in such a hurry to find the right gift that he was likely to completely pass it by if he ever came across it.

“Hey Neville,” Harry called, drawing the boy out of his focus.

He looked confusedly at them, and Ginny asked, “How’s the shopping going?”

“Oh, all right I guess,” he responded distractedly, as he glanced back at the cases. “I need to hurry though. I promised Hannah I’d meet her for lunch at the Three Broomsticks and that I’d spend the rest of the day with her.”

“You want some help?” Ginny offered.

Harry could see the conflict written plainly on Neville’s face. Neville opened his mouth to respond, then shut it abruptly and shook his head. After another moment, he smiled slightly, almost embarrassedly, and said, “Yes, actually, some help would be great. I’m in way over my head here.”

Harry could only smile as Ginny immediately started firing questions and walking with him along the displays. Harry trailed behind, only half paying attention to the conversation as he glanced at the various items on display. He was actually surprised when only a half hour later they were walking out of the store with a very relieved Neville holding a bag with his purchase. They had found a nice bracelet that Ginny assured him Hannah would love.

“Do you want to walk around with us until lunch?” Ginny asked as they stood outside the shop.

“No, you two go ahead,” Neville insisted. “I feel bad enough for tying you up already.”

“It’s no trouble mate,” Harry replied.

Ginny gave him a nudge with her elbow as she scoffed, “You didn’t even do anything. But really Neville, I was happy to help.”

“Thanks,” Neville said, looking from Ginny to Harry then back again. “Maybe I’ll see you in the Three Broomsticks for lunch?”

“Sure thing,” Harry responded after Ginny had nodded. “We’ll see you then.”

They just window shopped for the hour to pass the time to noon. Along the way they had run into Ron and Hermione and informed the couple of their plans for lunch. Something seemed a bit off with the two of them, but they agreed to meet them for lunch as well. While working their way towards the pub, they saw Luna and asked her to join them as well, but she politely declined. She was on the hunt, it would seem, for the elusive Round-Tailed Lorvens infesting the town. Deciding it best not to ask questions, they wished her luck and continued on their way. When they entered the pub, they noticed Neville right away and walked over to him. When he informed Neville that Ron and Hermione would be joining them as well, they took one of the larger round tables. Apparently Hannah had told Neville that Susan and Justin would be eating with them as well.

It was not long before the table was full. By that time the entire pub was filled to the brim, and they had to practically yell to be heard across the table. Harry was grateful when the food arrived. The weariness had been creeping up on him as the morning dragged on, and the food gave him a boost in energy. They ended up staying at the pub for over two hours, just talking and laughing and enjoying themselves and the company. When they did leave, rather than split up, the group decided to wander the town together.

Harry was glad for the company. The boisterous atmosphere helped him forget about the visions, the war, and all the pressures he felt squarely on his shoulders. For just an afternoon, he was a normal sixteen year old boy with a good group of friends and an even better girlfriend. They entered a few shops but mostly just walked around joking and laughing with each other until the time finally came to head back to the castle for supper.

Harry went to bed even earlier than usual that night. Ginny practically insisted on it, but he did not disagree with her. He knew he needed the extra rest now that Voldemort was becoming more active. As a result, he was able to get an extra hour or so of sleep before he was awoken by another vision that night. It was not much, but he was thankful for every minute of restful sleep that he got these days.

His morning and afternoon were consumed in his two double HA classes. Following the IHA class, he found himself disappointed. They had been doing the life-like duels for about a month now, and there was little improvement to be seen. They knew their spell-work well enough, but more often than not things rapidly deteriorated into an open firefight. Seeing as it was just a friendly duel, nobody seemed to be keeping self-preservation in mind. He would have to do something about that; he just was not yet sure what.

Harry suffered another vision that night, but his restlessness the next day masked any fatigue. That night was a full moon, and he was quite desperate for the chance to talk with Remus. Not only did he want to know what happened with Ollivander, he was also dying to find out if Remus was having any luck searching for his new house.

When the evening arrived, and they snuck out of the castle, Harry could barely keep himself from running through the tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack. It was only Ginny’s presence behind him that kept him from quickening his pace. Finally, they arrived at the trap door, and Harry quickly climbed out, turning back to give Ginny a hand up as well. He immediately spotted Remus, who was already seated in an armchair. Across him was a loveseat, and in-between the two pieces of furniture was a table. On the table was a folder.

After a quick greeting, Harry wasted little time taking a seat beside Ginny and lifting up the folder. “What’s this?” he asked, though he had a pretty good idea already.

“Just some information and pictures,” Remus replied with a small smile.

“Of houses?” Harry asked even as he opened the folder and answered his own question.

“Yes,” Remus answered unnecessarily.

Harry was already leafing through the pages, and he noticed Ginny leaning over his shoulder to get a look. He sat back and held the folder in-between their bodies to give her a better view.

“I ordered them by what I thought you’d like,” Remus remarked after a minute. “The two on the bottom are in London; the first three are all in suburbs. I tried to pick places with parks nearby since I know you still run every morning. I thought it might be a little more enjoyable than running on the streets.”

“Thanks, Remus,” Harry replied, looking up from the folder. “It really means a lot to me that you found all this for me and that you’re okay with all of this.”

Remus grimaced slightly at that. “Well, to be honest I’m still not entirely comfortable with the idea. I’m going to have a lot of people to answer to when they learn I was not only aware of your plans but helped you, but I do understand where you’re coming from. And honestly, someone should have stepped in and taken you away from the Dursleys a long time ago regardless of the protection their home provides.”

Harry just smiled as he turned back to the folder.

“Go back to the first one,” Ginny said quietly.

Harry flipped back, and, as Ginny took the folder from his hands to look at something, Harry looked up at Remus. “I meant to ask you, what happened with Ollivander during the attack? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, and he hasn’t been in the news from what I’ve seen.”

“He’s safe,” Remus told him. “He was injured in the fight and taken to St Mungo’s, but he’s already recovered.”

“Hmm.” Harry mused over that news. Now that he thought about it, he was surprised that Voldemort had not alerted him to that particular failure. Normally Harry was pulled into a vision any time his Death Eaters botched a mission.

“What are you thinking?” Remus queried.

“Well, it’s just that, when I had the vision, I felt like Voldemort was hiding something as he gave the orders to kidnap Ollivander,” Harry explained. “Normally when the Death Eaters fail at something, I’m given a front row view of their punishment. I’m just wondering if the whole thing was just a setup.”

“I suppose it’s possible,” Remus stated. “You haven’t had any visions since then?”

It was Harry’s turn to grimace. “I’ve had a few,” he admitted. “But they didn’t have anything to do with Diagon Alley.” When Remus furrowed his brow, Harry reluctantly added, “He’s been participating in attacks again. It hasn’t exactly been pleasant.” Ginny reached over and squeezed his hand in sympathy.

“I’m sorry,” Remus said.

Harry shrugged. “Some things can’t be avoided.” Turning to Ginny, he asked, “So what do you think?”

At her questioning look, he nodded to the folder still in her hand. “Oh,” she said. “Well, I don’t know. They’re all nice, but I think I like the first one best.”

Holding his hand out to her, he scanned through all the options again. Truth be told, he did not really care all that much and had no real preferences. He just wanted to get away from the Dursleys and out from Dumbledore’s thumb. And he wanted a place he could call his own – his home. He had never given any thought to any details.

“Me too,” he stated after a few minutes. “I like the first one.” He placed the folder back on the table and turned to Remus. “So what do we need to do from here?”

Remus looked like he was about to answer when his body seemed to tense up. “We’ll have to finish this later,” he ground out. “You guys better transform.”

They both quickly scrambled to their feet and transformed into a pair of felines. They wrestled around for a little bit, but after he yawned one too many times, Ginny stopped and turned to him, gesturing to him to lie down. He thought about ignoring her but decided against it. Truth be told, he was exhausted, and his sleep was due to be interrupted anyway. Ginny stood over him as he began to curl up to go to sleep. Only after his eyes closed did he feel her curl up beside him, laying a paw over his. He tried to open his eyes to get one last look at her, but sleep was already beginning to claim him. His eyes barely opened before fluttering closed again. The last thing he saw was Ginny’s feline eyes watching over him before sleep claimed him.

******

Remus paced around the shack silently. He was having difficulty settling down. He always had trouble settling while in his werewolf form. It was better with the Wolfsbane since he was able to retain his mental faculties, and he was grateful he had taken the potion that evening. Still, there was always a sense of unease and anxiousness that prevented him from getting any rest. So while Harry and Ginny slept, he had little to occupy his time but his thoughts and his pacing.

He spied the sleeping felines out of the corner of his eye. Not for the first time, he wondered how he ever found himself in this situation. It was odd enough that James, Sirius, and Peter had gone through the trouble back in their Hogwarts days, but to have Harry and Ginny both do the same for him now made his heart swell – yet at the same time constrict. For the past fifteen years, the full moon had been a monthly reminder of all that he once had and all that he had lost. Harry and Ginny helped him more than he could ever explain to them, but at the same time, their presence reinforced the lost feeling he suffered whenever he thought of his friends. Of course, the feeling was much worse when he spent this time alone.

Turning to face the sleeping couple slowly, he could hardly help but smile. At least, he thought he was smiling. It was hard to tell how the gesture was reflected on the werewolf’s face. He would never tell them – unless the opportunity for payback arose – but they were just so cute together in their animal forms. As mature as they normally acted, he was struck by just how young they were when they interacted as felines. They were playful when wrestling around and affectionate when settling down for the night. He felt almost privileged to get to see them interact like that. It showed a certain degree of trust and also displayed just how comfortable they were around him.

As he surveyed the couple, he could hear a faint growl coming from one of the sleeping felines. At first he paid it no mind, figuring one of them was having a dream or something, but, as the sound grew louder, he noticed Harry start to twitch and jerk in his sleep. Carefully padding his way towards the panther, he grew concerned. Something was not right, that was for sure. He had never seen Harry get like this. Perhaps he was having a nightmare – or a vision.

Taking care to be cautious, he leaned forward and nudged the back of Harry’s neck with his snout. Harry jerked in his sleep but did not wake. His movement caused Ginny to shift. Remus watched as her eyes blearily opened and her mouth stretched open in a wide yawn. Her eyes darted around for a moment before she seemed to realise where she was. She caught his eyes and held them for a moment before Harry growled and shifted again.

Her focus shifted to the panther at her side. She rubbed her face against his, but he still would not wake. From what he knew of Harry’s visions there was not anything that could wake Harry until it was over, so he resigned himself to the wait. Ginny seemed to be of a similar mind. She gave him a lick across what would have been his cheek and settled down in front of Harry, her eyes never leaving his face.

As time went by, Harry’s growls grew more pronounced, and he jerked around a little more forcefully. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he jerked fully upright and was awake. Ginny did not hesitate to jump up with him. His black furred head whipped towards the movement, and Remus could swear he heard someone shout, Ginny!

Remus turned his head left and right, but they were alone in the room. Ginny moved forward, though she gave no indication that she had heard anything. Harry just stood still, but as Ginny rubbed her face against his, he leaned into the contact. As she comforted Harry, Remus was left to ponder his thoughts. Had he perhaps imagined it? He averted his eyes, not wanting to intrude on a private moment between the two. After a moment, he heard a sigh, followed by, Sodding Voldemort.

Well, he did not imagine that. There was something strange about it though. He was hearing it, in a sense, but at the same time, the room was quiet. He was fairly certain the words had not been spoken aloud. Was he somehow reading Harry’s thoughts? But no, that did not make sense. He was certain he would have heard more than three words by now if he was hearing Harry’s thoughts. He wished he could talk to Harry right now and ask him if he had any idea what was going on – not that he expected him too, but Harry did have a lot of surprises up his sleeve. The ability to speak with his mind would not have been too farfetched.

Figuring it could not hurt to try – no one would even have to know – he tried to talk to Harry. His first few attempts did not appear to have any effect. He focused all his concentration and gave it one last shot. Hello? Harry? Remus jumped back when Harry immediately spun around to stare at him. Harry’s eyes bore into his, and Remus tentatively asked, Can you hear me?

Yes, the replay came to him. You can hear me?

Uh, yes, Remus responded. You called out to Ginny earlier and then said ‘Sodding Voldemort.’

Huh, I hadn’t meant to mindspeak. I guess it’s just a natural reaction when I can’t use my mouth, Harry mused.

Mindspeak? Remus questioned.

That’s what I’ve taken to calling it. Apparently all magical animals can do it to some extent, Harry explained. I suppose werewolves count in that respect. As Remus took a moment to process this information, Harry added, As do magical owls.

Owls? Remus queried. You mean you can talk in your owl form? To other owls?

That’s when I discovered the ability, Harry began, but he was interrupted when Ginny nudged his side. Damn, I don’t know how to explain to her that I can talk to you.

Take her into another room and transform, Remus suggested. I’ll wait here for you.

Okay.

******

Harry turned to Ginny and with his head motioned her to follow as he led her into another room. He nudged the door shut behind him and, after hearing it bang shut, transformed back into human form. Ginny immediately did likewise.

“What’s going on? Are you okay?” Ginny asked, her concern evident.

“I’m fine,” Harry stated. “Or as fine as can be given the circumstances,” he amended.

“Vision?”

Harry nodded. “As for what’s going on, it turns out that werewolves are capable of mindspeak.”

“Mindspeak?” she asked. “Oh, you mean like how you can talk to owls?”

“And other magical animals, yes,” Harry answered. “I mind-spoke, I guess, without realising it, and Remus heard me and managed to answer.”

“So you and Remus can talk to each other when he’s stuck as a werewolf,” she stated. Harry thought she was stating it more for her own benefit than his.

“Yeah, it appears that way,” Harry replied. “I think maybe I’ll stay up a little while and hopefully work out some more details for the house.”

“Are you sure?” Ginny asked. “You haven’t been sleeping well lately; you should try to get back to sleep.”

“I don’t think that will be an option,” Harry stated. “I can never sleep just after a vision, and I have tried.”

Ginny held up her hands. “Okay, okay. I just worry about you.”

“I know,” he said softly. He reached out and pulled her into his embrace, pressing his lips briefly to the top of her head.

“Do you want me to stay up with you and keep you company?” she asked, her words muffled by his chest.

Harry shook his head. “You should go to sleep,” he said. “Just because I can’t sleep doesn’t mean you should suffer.” He stepped back and could see her conflict written on her face. “I’ll lie down with you, but you won’t be able to hear us, so just let yourself fall to sleep. I promise I’ll follow as soon as I’m able.” He doubted he would get any more sleep that night, but he thought it best to withhold that fact. Ginny’s doubtful face told him that she saw through his words, but she nodded anyway.

“Okay, Harry.”

He smiled warmly and reached out to cup her cheek. Leaning down, he captured her lips in his for a brief kiss. “Good night, Gin.”

“Night, Harry,” she replied softly.

They both transformed back into their feline forms, only for Harry to discover that the door was shut and that manipulating the doorknob with paws was a rather tricky prospect. He reverted back to human form and, sending a sheepish grin at the still-feline Ginny, opened the door a crack. He immediately transformed back into a panther and nudged the door open the rest of the way with his paw. As he ambled into the room, he noticed Remus pacing back and forth across the wood floor.

I let her know about my vision and how we can talk, Harry explained. She’s going back to sleep now.

Remus did not reply, just watched as they settled back down. As promised, he lay down beside Ginny, but rather than closing his eyes in an attempt to sleep, he faced Remus. He glanced back to make sure that Ginny had closed her eyes, which she had not. They stared into each others’ eyes for a moment when Ginny yawned. Afterwards, her eyes drifted shut, and Harry turned back to the werewolf. So where were we? Harry asked.

I believe you were just about to tell me about your ability to speak to owls, Remus answered.

Oh, right. Well, I found out about that over the summer, Harry explained. I thought it might be fun to show Hedwig my owl Animagus form. When I changed into an owl, I heard a voice inside my head. I think she was asking if it was me. I learned quickly enough after that, and I was eventually able to manage it even outside of my owl form.

That’s a handy ability, Remus remarked.

Even more so than I thought it’d be, Harry inserted. You might be surprised how much owls pick up on. You remember that night I crashed your party at Amelia Bones’ house? Without waiting for a reply, Harry continued. I found out about the attack from an owl. It showed up in the Great Hall to deliver a letter to Dumbledore, so I knew something was up, and I managed to convince it to tell me.

That’s incredible, Remus responded.

Yeah, but enough about owls, Harry stated. I was hoping we could talk more about the house. I want to move forward as quickly as possible.

They spent the rest of the evening talking. Remus informed him that the couple who currently owned the house had already moved out, so hopefully there would not be any problems trying to speed up the process a little bit. If all went well, he may be able to close on the house by the next full moon, which would give Harry more than enough time to get all his wards in place. After that topic was exhausted, they talked some more about the battle at Diagon Alley and the war in general. Remus informed him that several Order members had in fact noticed a black owl flying around the alley prior to the battle. While none of them could confirm that the owl was an Animagus, it was pretty much assumed that it was either Jim or his twin scoping out the Alley.

Remus asked him how school was going, so Harry briefly touched on his classes before delving into what he was doing with the HA. That led into his private lessons with Ginny. Harry confessed to Remus his worry about her participating in the war. While in his head he knew it was her choice and that he could only prepare her and make sure she was able to handle it, another part of him wanted to keep her locked up in the castle safe from harm. Remus could certainly commiserate with Tonks being such an active member of the Order on top of being an Auror. In the end, he just had to trust that she could take care of herself.

Harry was almost surprised when morning came and Remus reverted back into human form. He was panting rather heavily as the transformation passed, and Harry could not suppress the sympathy he felt for the man. It was not fair that he had to go through the painful transformation every month. He wished there was something he could do about it, but he knew there was not. Shaking his head, he turned to Ginny. She was purring lightly in sleep, making Harry smile – or as much of a smile as a panther can manage. He licked her cheek a couple times before she woke up. They changed back into human form moments later, and Ginny immediately commented, “You didn’t sleep at all, did you?”

Harry could only shrug his shoulders. She did not press him on it; she simply reached forward and pulled him into a hug, which he gladly returned. He inhaled deeply with his nose in her hair, savouring the scent. As he withdrew, he turned back to Remus to find the man watching them with a weary but fond smile. “You should get back to the castle,” he said, his voice gruff.

Harry nodded. “See you soon, Remus.”

“Hopefully not too soon,” Remus replied. “Goodbye Harry, Ginny.”

Ginny echoed his goodbye, and Harry led her down into the tunnel that would lead them back to Hogwarts. They snuck back into the castle and into Harry’s office together. Harry had been planning on showering and getting ready for the day, but Ginny would hear nothing of it.

“No, Harry,” she insisted. “You barely slept a wink last night, and I don’t think you got a full night’s sleep all last week.”

“I did too,” Harry interrupted, feeling slightly indignant. It was not as if he did not want to sleep; he just could not manage it after a vision. Ginny just glared at him, arching one of her eyebrows at his response. After a long moment spent under her scrutiny he rather meekly added, “Once.”

“That’s what I thought. Bed. Now!”

“This is pointless,” Harry refused. “I can’t sleep. I’ve tried it, but I just end up lying there thinking about what happened. I wish I could just sleep; I honestly do.”

Ginny’s glare softened, and she stepped up to him, grasping one of his hands in both of hers. “What if I lie down with you?” she asked softly.

Harry shrugged. He honestly did not see how that would help, but at least he would not just be lying in bed staring at the ceiling. “Okay,” he agreed. Under different circumstances, he would be thrilled at sharing a bed with Ginny, and a part of him still was, even knowing that nothing would be happening. But still, even if all they did was just lie together for a couple hours, it would be time well spent in his opinion.

They took turns changing in the loo. Ginny had taken to storing a few outfits, including a nightdress, in Harry’s trunk. They normally ended up crashing inside his trunk after a full moon and skipping their normal morning routine, so it made sense to have the clothes handy. Dressed in only his boxers and a t-shirt, Harry crawled into the bed beside Ginny. They were lying face to face under the covers, and Harry was unsure what to do. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey.”

He leaned forward and kissed her. Her lips were soft and inviting. After a moment, he moved his hand to her elbow and up her arm. As he moved his arm to her back, he tried to close the distance between them, but Ginny ended the kiss abruptly, pulling back and breathing just a little harshly. “Don’t think you can fool me,” she reprimanded. “You’re supposed to be sleeping, Potter.”

“Right,” he stated under his breath, but given their proximity he knew she heard it.

“Turn around,” she commanded.

Harry met her eyes for a moment and considered resisting but thought better of it. When she was this determined about something there was no point. So he turned around and faced away from her. He was slightly surprised when he felt her slide up against his back. She reached her right arm over his side, and he grabbed her hand in his, hugging it to his chest. He turned his head slightly to look over his shoulder to find her looking down on him with a fond smile. She was leaning on her other elbow. “Close your eyes,” she whispered. “I’ll watch over you.”

He felt a little silly to hear her say that, but at the same time, he could not help the rush of warmth he felt at the statement. He had never had someone to watch over him. For as long as he could remember he was taking care of himself. If it was anyone else, he knew he would be angry that they felt the need to hover over him as if he could not take care of himself, but he knew that was not the case with Ginny. The image of his new Patronus form popped into his head, the silvery lioness modelled after Ginny’s Animagus form. He smiled up at her, then raised her hand up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. He opened his mouth to tell her about his Patronus, but before he could even utter a sound, her finger pressed asleep his lips.

“Shh,” she softly shushed. “Go to sleep, Harry.”

He gave up and turned his head back to the wall, hugging her hand back to his chest and allowing his eyes to close. He felt her begin to lightly play with his hair with her other hand, and he found it so soothing. He took a deep breath, relishing in the treatment. Before he knew it, he was drifting off into a deep, relaxing sleep.

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