(A/N: Since multiple people have asked about the "No Charge" on some Death Eaters, here's a behind the scene explanation. It's not too hard to imagine some people (e.g. Malfoy) carrying a bulging purse on him and "the Odd Job crew" has decided to "give the kid a break". Far more likely though is that during interrogation the Death Eater has given up information that is worth far more than 5000G that they plan to take advantage of; info that does not appear on the transcripts given to the Aurors.

Did no one notice the "Columbo" TV series reference with Amelia in the last chapter? Ah, sheltered you are. I loved that show as a kid. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the last chapter.)

Chapter 3

Harry had asked Sirius for an alarm clock and received one, but it hadn't been needed yet.

The party for Ginny's birthday had gone well since it was only for those who lived at #12. Hermione didn't come, but he was fairly sure that was because she and her family were away on a holiday trip.

Harry was able to spend a lot of time with Sirius, getting to know him better and most importantly to him to hear stories about his parents. Sirius also took him to a place called Godric's Hollow to show him where the graves of his parents were. Sirius even took him by the little cottage where his parents had died and was now a monument. Walking through it did not provoke any new memories nor did they find anything special or hidden in there.

Sirius also took Harry shopping for school. The Weasleys came along too and Harry spent time with Ron when waiting for someone else, but he didn't have to worry about what Molly Weasley wanted and that was nice. It was nice because they spent a little extra time in the Quidditch store and just walking around. Sirius even bought him ice cream.

He'd also gone to Gringotts to get some money for school, or so was the excuse. It was also a time to hide some incriminating pictures in his vault that he had to smuggle in so that even Sirius wouldn't know about them.

It was easy to notice how well things were going in Diagon Alley and he mentioned it. "Sirius, is this how Diagon Alley is supposed to be? You know, without people having to worry about Death Eaters attacking?"

Sirius nodded easily as he looked around. "Yes, that's about right. This sort of reminds me of when I was a young lad. By the time I was in Hogwarts, the war was starting to heat up and it was getting downright nasty by the time I finished school. That was a large part of why the group of us joined the Order. Then after that war, it was probably a lot like this with everyone relieved it was over, but you'd have to ask Remus about that."

The last part was said a bit woodenly and Harry understood and decided it best not to comment on that. "What's your thoughts on all of the Death Eaters that have been turning up with a severe case of death?" He grinned at his joke and Sirius gave a short bark of laughter.

"I'm quite happy they've received what they wanted, and what they liked to give innocent people. I'm sure you've seen the letters in the newspaper," the man said, implying his question.

"I've been a bit surprised at what's been printed," Harry answered. "I guess the change at the Ministry has allowed people to express what they really feel?"

"Sure. Fudge would have told the Daily Prophet they couldn't print all of the letters about people expressing their happiness at this and their anger at what had been done by those idiots in the name of Pureblood Supremacy. Most people just want to live their life and enjoy it, not living in fear and not knowing when said idiots would show up throwing around Killing Curses and hiding behind their masks." Sirius sighed. "All we really need is for You-Know-Who to be added to the pile of bodies."

"That would be nice," Harry agreed hoping that would be true soon, even if he couldn't tell anyone.

Hermione showed up three days before they were to go to school. Harry thought that was three days too early since she still acted like she was in the right, just like when she'd gone to McGonagall about his Firebolt. He'd forgiven her for that eventually because he could see she had a point, even if it was a small one. For this, however, he'd wait until she apologized; the bar now raised after what Ron did at the beginning of fourth year. That meant he mostly avoided her, seeing her almost only at meals.

Harry wasn't surprised to find his rabbit's foot had heated up this evening as this morning's Daily Prophet had mention a new dead Death Eater being dumped in the Ministry's atrium the night before, after that phenomena had stopped for over a week. He did his best to be neutral about it around everyone, even Sirius.

During a little free time over the past couple of weeks, he'd scouted out the house and thought he knew what he needed to do if the time came. If Odd Job didn't end this until he had already returned to school, he'd have to sneak out into the Forbidden Forest to travel.

Setting the alarm before going to bed, and putting it under his sheet so it wouldn't be so loud when it went off, Harry tried to sleep. However, it was a restless night so he didn't sleep well because he feared missing the alarm. It gave a single ring when his hand came down on the clock hard, hurting himself when it slammed into his leg. That was going to leave a small bruise he was sure.

Still, Ron didn't wake up and that was the most important thing; well, after he himself waking up. As quietly as he could, Harry got up, grabbed his clothes, broom (with wand, rabbit's foot, draft, key, and self-inking quill already in a pocket), and Invisibility Cloak from his trunk, and left the bedroom. Going down two rooms, Harry entered that bedroom before closing and locking the door. He dressed, putting his loose clothes over his pajamas. Slowly, he opened the window that he'd worked on earlier in the week to unstick it and so it would open quietly.

Harry got on his broom and, because it was a tight fit, flew ever so slowly out the window and put his Invisibility Cloak on. It wouldn't cover him from below, but hopefully it would help enough anyway. He rose slowly then flew up to the roof of #12. Looking around, he saw a rooftop garden to his left, so he flew to his right; two houses should be enough he thought, and landed on that houses' flat roof.

Checking his watch, Harry saw he had another five minutes, so he dismounted and just looked around, enjoying the sky as the sun rose over the house tops.

When his watch showed him it was time, he pulled out his wand and touched it to the rabbit's foot, pushing a little magic into it. He felt the hook behind his navel and he was whisked away, landing in a clearing in a forest. He had no idea where he was and hoped he could still trust the man he'd hired.

As before, when he pulled off his special cloak, Odd Job appeared suddenly too. "Good morning, what do you have for me, Mr Job."

The Asian man handed over an envelope as usual. There were pictures of three Death Eaters, the first looking a bit abused with agony on his dead face - probably deserved, he thought. The next two looked like they'd been hit with a Killing Curse, or at least they looked like the fake Moody had described in class last year.

The fourth and last picture wasn't a still like all of the others, for it was a moving Wizarding photo. It showed the back of a short stocky man with a black bowler on, just like the man in front of him, levitating a disfigured Voldemort for a moment, then banishing the body forward through what looked like a rock arch with a tattered covering that seemed to blow on its own. Voldemort's body flew through the split in the cover and disappeared as it crossed the plane of the arch.

Harry looked up in surprise. "I'll count that method for certain since it looked like he disappeared, but why?"

"Do you know what that arch is?" the man asked softly.


"It is called the Veil of Death and is said to be a portal to death. No one who has gone through it has ever been seen again," the man explained.

"Err, all right, but why?" Harry quickly checked the invoice and saw it was for 30,000 Galleons. He started pulling what he needed to create this check out of his pocket.

"Much like there was something very strange about his snake, there was something very strange about him magically. Then there was the question of how he was able to be killed yet come back to life years later. I deemed it best to get rid of him this way. He was technically alive, although we'd fed him Draught of Living Death when we subdued him."

Harry had wondered before how the wraith he'd seen in his first year at school had stayed around to be resurrected a few months ago. While he didn't know, he hoped a repeat of that time in the graveyard never repeated itself, and it shouldn't as Sirius had removed all of the Riddle ancestor bones. Oh well, hopefully this time the Dark Idiot was truly done for.

After writing and certifying the check with his vault key he handed it over. "Can I assume this all will remain private?"


"Should another Dark Wizard come back for me before I'm able to fully defend myself, will you be available for hire?" Harry asked, hoping that never happened.

"Perhaps, we move around over time. You can try at the address you have for me. The Portkey?" the man asked.

Harry held it out and the man used his short wand to do something to it and it glowed bluish briefly.

The man for hire gave him a small smile. "When you touch your wand to it then it will return you from where you came. Thank you for your business." He tipped his bowler slightly at Harry and disappeared.

Harry put his cloak on before touching his wand to the rabbit's foot and disappearing, landing on the rooftop of #16, or so he guessed. He mounted his broom and slowly flew while thinking of the secret for the Fidelius. Number 12 appeared and he flew over the back wall and very slowly into the window he'd left not more than fifteen or twenty minutes earlier.

He took his clothes off so he was back to his pajamas before holding his things close to him and getting back under his cloak. He was about to open the door when he heard a noise on the other side. To be safe, he stood there for a long moment. When he thought it was safe again, he opened the door slowly and peered out. Seeing no one he hurried back to his room.

Putting his things back in his trunk very quietly, he slipped back into bed to hopefully sleep late like he knew Ron had planned to do.

— — —

Harry was wakened all too soon. He was groggy for the first hour, but managed to keeping moving enough to fully wake himself. It wasn't too hard to hide his feelings because he was sure he hadn't fully come to terms with them, but he was done with a certain Dark Wizard coming after him and he had revenge for his parents' death. It would hit him eventually he was sure, but for now, he sort of just went with life.

The morning of September 1st, for the first time Harry finally got to experience what almost every other student normally did. He was taken to the Hogwarts express by someone who acted like a parent. Perhaps it was silly but he secretly enjoyed it.

When their group arrived on Platform 9¾ Sirius pulled Harry to the side for a last conversation. "Harry, I'm sure your Mum would tell you to do your best with your schoolwork. You don't have to get all Outstandings, just do your best. Your father and I agree.

"Your father and I would tell you not to forget to have some fun and playing the occasional prank is perfectly normal and to be enjoyed." He grinned and Harry returned the look.

"Now," Sirius tries to look like he was being wise and passing on very important information, "I'm probably the only one who would tell you, although I suspect you father would agree as long as your mother wasn't nearby, that part of the fun you should be having is spending some time in the company of some lovely ladies. You know, expand your knowledge on the feminine form."

Harry smiled and had to hold back a laugh. "What would my mum say about that?"

Sirius shrugged. "We never talked enough about this topic for me to answer that. However, I'm very sure she would tell you that if you treat the young ladies well you'll find some good friendships that might go somewhere one day.

"Back to me," Sirius grinned, "I'll tell you that you need to experience at least one blonde, brunette, and redhead to round out your education."

"Uh huh, like hair color matters that much," Harry questioned.

"Don't knock it until you've tried it," Sirius returned. "You father loved redheads enough he married one. Me, I only dated one once for a short time and then never again." He shuddered slightly. "Maybe her hair color didn't matter but I decided not to take the chance after her."

Harry had to work to hold in his laughter. The train blowing its whistle ended the conversation so he stepped forward and gave his godfather a hug. "I'll see you at Christmas."

"Yes you will. Owl me if you need anything, or if it's urgent use the mirror I gave you," Sirius told him as they released each other. Looking over he smiled. "I think a blonde is first up, at least if you want it. Go on."

Harry shook his head and grabbed his trunk; Hedwig was already flying to school. As he approached the train, he saw the blonde who'd given him the Quibbler newspaper on the way from school last June. "Hi."

"Hello, Harry Potter. Did you enjoy the newspaper?" she asked, quirking her head a little as if to see him better.

"I did, it was enjoyable and helpful. I hope you don't mind but after I finished with it my owl made use of it too," he explained.

She shrugged. "You're not the only one who does that. Would you like to come read the current Quibbler with me?"

"Only if I know your name," he said with a smile.

"I'm Luna Lovegood." The train whistle blew more aggressively. "Come find a seat with me." She turned and entered the train.

Harry helped her get her trunk up the steps before he entered the train after her. One last look back showed Sirius beaming at him and giving him a thumbs up. He's such a goof, Harry thought and walked after Luna. It didn't take too long to find an empty cabin; he helped her put her trunk up before he lifted his trunk up to the rack above their heads. Luna let him sit first then she sat next to him and pulled out a newspaper from seemingly nowhere.

They'd only just started looking at the front page which talked about some tiger Harry had never heard of when the door opened and Ron walked in. "There you are." He put his trunk up and then sat on the opposite bench. "Luna," he said evenly.

"Ronald," she returned with barely a glance up at him.

"I guess you know each other?" Harry asked.

"She doesn't live too far from us and Ginny played with her since they're the same age," Ron explained.

Neville opened the door. "Mind if I join you?" He was welcomed in so he put his trunk up too before sitting beside Ron. "Hello Harry, Ron, Luna."

"Hello, Neville Longbottom," she said, giving him a much longer look than Ron got.

"Err, if I can ask, when did you meet her before? I didn't really until today," Harry said with curiosity.

"I know most of those from the older families," Neville said quietly. "Gran throws a party every few years or I have to go to a party elsewhere; either way, you meet the others over time."

"Oh, something I missed out on," Harry said morosely.

"Uh, yeah, I guess so," Neville agree. "Honestly, they were all pretty boring. About the only positive is that I knew who everyone was before I went to Hogwarts; well, everyone from the older families."

"Ron-" Harry started and stopped when Ron shook his head.

"Dad and Mum went to a few because of his job but we never went as a family. I don't feel I missed out on much." Ron shrugged.

A slightly awkward silence started, but Neville didn't let it last. "Uh, where's Hermione? She normally sits with you two."

"Don't know, Harry said uncaringly.

When Harry didn't continue, Ron added, "I saw her talking to some Ravenclaws, those she works with in the library sometimes, so she's probably sitting with them."

"Uh…" Neville started but seemed really hesitant.

Ron showed his Gryffindor spirit. "Hermione had a case of stupid this summer and she's off trying to pull her head out of her arse."

"Ouch!" Harry said in surprise. "That's harsh mate."

"It's still true," Ron said evenly.

"Well, sure, but … never mind." Harry let it drop, not really wanting to talk about it.

"If she's talking to some of my housemates about it, give her a week," Luna said suddenly. "If not, then I'd say three weeks. She's not very knowledgeable about how to deal with friends, but she'll figure it out with some help - especially if she gets rid of her Wracksports. They give her fuzzy thinking."

Harry had no idea what a Wracksport was. "Her thinking is very fuzzy."

Ron yipped. "The train is moving and I didn't feel it start. Sorry, but I gotta run to the Prefect meeting." The redhead left at a jog, making the others laugh.

Harry looked back down at the paper. He pointed and asked, "What is a Snorkack? I've never heard of one."

"They're a creature thought to be extinct, like the Dodo. However, Daddy and I are sure they're still around but are in hiding," Luna told him.

"That must make them hard to find," Harry said after a moment's thought.

"They've been devilishly tricky and we'd hoped we'd find one this summer, but perhaps we'll find one next summer," she said.

"What if they hibernate in the summer and are only out in the winter?" Neville asked thoughtfully. "I think there's a tortoise that does that and I suppose it's possible others do too."

Luna's eyes widened. "I'll have to write my father about that idea. Thank you, Neville." He smiled bashfully at her.

The three continued to talk about what was in the Quibbler for the next hour.

Ron returned and dropped into his seat. "Hermione is sitting with some Ravenclaws. You know what's really wrong though? I guess before he went, Snape must have made Malfoy a Prefect, well, him and Parkinson. Gah!"

Harry saw movement with extra blond hair. He pulled out his wand quickly and shot a locking spell at the door. While Malfoy was tugging on the door trying to get it open, Harry sent another spell at the door, an advanced locking spell Sirius had happily taught him when Harry had explained his train rides. The four inside watched in amusement as Malfoy struggled with the door, shouted something they couldn't quite make out, then the Slytherin and his two usual chums left.

"Nice," Ron said with a big smile. Harry didn't take the spells down until they arrived at their destination.

— — —

The Welcoming was going about like usual, other than Hermione sat a few seats down rather than next to or across from Harry. And Snape wasn't at the head table. They also seemed to be missing a professor and it wasn't obvious what the new one they didn't recognize taught. So maybe the Feast wasn't so usual. They did still have a lot of good food though.

Dumbledore introduced himself when most of the eating was finished. "Again, welcome and welcome back. I hope everyone has a good year this year and works hard. As usual, no magic in the corridors please and you should stay out of the nearby forest; it's called The Forbidden Forest for a reason." He chuckled at his own joke.

"I'd like to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Alan Trimble from Australia. He has been on a world tour and has graciously decided to stay with us for a year. Also, as Professor Snape is no long with us-"

"Permanently," Ron interjected in a whisper causing Harry to have to work to hide his amusement.

"-I've had to search for a replacement Potions Master. I have found one, but he shall not be able to join us until next week; I'll introduce him then. In addition, Professor Vector shall assume the Head of House duties for Slytherin for this year."

"What?! She wasn't a Slytherin!" someone shouted, someone who sounded a lot like Malfoy.

"Calm down, please," Dumbledore said in a normal voice. "I have every confidence in Professor Vector to hold this position. However, if it helps you to feel better, know that there are no Slytherins teachers on staff at the moment. Do not worry, it will work out.

"With the news out of the way, I bid you all a good evening. Get lots of rest for breakfast begins at eight, since it is a Saturday. Prefects please be sure to explain the eating schedule to the first years." Dumbledore sat down and the students started to stand.

"Time for it then," Ron said a little grudgingly as he stood. "First year Gryffindors, over here!" he called out as he took a few steps back towards the wall behind him.

Harry smiled and turned to leave. He saw Luna looking at him so he walked over. "Let's compare schedules tomorrow," he told her. "I'm sure we can find some time to talk and be together."

She smiled at him and grabbed his hand. "That's sounds lovely. Good night, Harry." Luna squeezed his hand and left him standing there for a moment.

While he was looking and trying to figure things out, he heard, "So you and Lovegood?"

He turned and saw Padma Patil walk up to him and she had a Prefect's badge on her robes. "We're friends now and I think we're trying to figure out what comes next."

Padma smirked. "What's next is an easy question to answer."

Harry blushed slightly. "You're right, 'what' is the easy part; it's the 'how' that that's harder, or it is for me."

With a nod, Padma said, "Good luck with that," before leaving.

Having been slowed down, Harry hurried forward to walk with Ron as he led the Gryffindor first years; Hermione came at the end to make sure none were lost along the way. He made jokes as Ron explained things they passed on the way to Gryffindor Tower.

It was two days later and near curfew. Harry and Ron were in the common room playing a game of chess, their homework for tomorrow done.

"How's it going with Luna?" Ron asked as he moved a knight.

"Well," Harry replied as he studied the board. "I decided to make it official and asked her to be my girlfriend; she accepted." He moved a bishop and hoped for the best as Ron didn't immediately move a piece. "She doesn't mention you. Did you do something to her once?"

Ron looked at him for a moment before he moved a pawn to open a lane for his bishop. "I might have called her a name or two when she came over to play with Ginny. I wouldn't do it now, but I was younger then."

"Hmm, perhaps you should apologize to her," Harry told him while he moved a knight. Ron's look of glee told him that had been a wrong move and indeed, Ron moved his bishop such that it was now threatening to do major damage next turn.

"You're right, I probably should," Ron admitted as he waited on Harry. "Have you noticed that other than on the train, Malfoy has left us alone so far this year?"

"Probably lack of his father not able to support him, or so I'd guess," Harry said as he reached for a pawn.

"Harry, can I talk to you … please? Alone?"

He looked up and saw Hermione standing there and looking nervous. Looking back, he saw Ron smile and say, "I'll wait."

Feeling a little forced but hopeful, Harry stood and walked over to an empty area and leaned against the wall. He could see that Ron wasn't the only one watching the two; Hermione's split with the other two was well known by now.

He watched Hermione look at him and down at her shoes then back at him. He continued to wait.

"You were right and I'm sorry," burst out of her in a rush so fast the words almost merged into one sound. "I'm so sorry I didn't put you first. You were my first friend here and you deserved more from me."

"Why?" He watched her struggle with that question for a moment.

"Because I look up to him and I thought he had the best in mind for all of us, for you. He's our Headmaster and the head of the Wizengamot. He's so knowledgeable too," she explained.

"You have good parents who do good things for you, like letting you go to a school they've never heard of and can't even see because they want the best for you, don't you?" He saw her nod.

"I suppose I can sort of understand, a little," he told her. "You've never had to worry about if you could trust an adult, not really." He considered that. "Well, maybe you should have worried about it, but you never had the experience to know that, I suppose."

"What are you talking about?" She looked very puzzled.

"Hermione, I've almost never had adults I can trust until it came to Sirius, since I can't remember my parents. I certainly couldn't trust my relatives and the teachers at my Muggle school generally ignored me, based on what my relatives told them. Probably the closest has been Hagrid and he can be a bit spotty at times..."

"But there are a lot of adults you can trust here at school," she insisted.

"Who?" he snorted in disbelief. "Don't say McGonagall. Remember the problems we brought to her starting in first year and were ignored? Also, have you ever seen her here in the common room trying to help us? The rest of the teachers do their job teaching and that's about it; laudable, but not helpful. Snape probably wouldn't have spit on me if I was on fire, and Dumbledore has been the reason I've been in danger so many times, though it took me a while to figure that out.

"Hell, Hermione-"

"Language!" she interrupted him.

He ignored her and went on, "I told you he's affected you too but I bet you never thought about it. How did a troll get into the school? Sure, Quirrell may have let it in, but how come the school protections allowed that?

"How did none of the teachers miss you and you skived off classes for the entire afternoon before the feast? I can't tell you how many times a day my Muggle teachers did a head count to make sure they hadn't lost one of us, but I'm sure it was at least four and probably more. Maybe the teachers here expected the Prefects to do that, but none did so you almost were spread all over the bathroom the Troll found you in. Dumbledore should have prevented creatures like that from even getting into the school … what am I saying, of course he doesn't care, he let another Troll and a Cerberus in too.

"Instead, Dumbledore brought the Philosopher's Stone into the school, a trouble magnet if there ever was one. So he put the entire school in danger that way too.

"Then there's our second year. Back to our Muggle schools again. If they'd had a gas leak, do you think they would have continued classes and assume it'd get fixed later? Hell no!" He held up his hand to stop her interruption this time. "No, they would have evacuated the school immediately until professionals came in and fixed the problem and verified it was safe to let us back in. That's what should have happened after Colin Creevey was petrified, or maybe even after Filch's cat was. Did they? No! So you were petrified along with the others. Again, Dumbledore's fault.

"Third year, you and everyone else were in mortal peril again because of Dementors at the school. Sure, Fudge ordered it, but how did Dumbledore not prevent that? Surely he has enough political power to have stopped it, and prevented the train from being boarded too. Nope, Dumbledore didn't do anything helpful then either.

"You were generally fine last year, but I was forced into a deadly tournament and was forced to give Voldemort a new body because Dumbledore let a Death Eater impersonate a friend of his for an entire school year, making me wonder if he's only blind or is he senile too. Oh, and I almost forgot Voldemort on the back of Quirrell's head for a year.

"So while I looked up to him when I started here, as I learned what he did and usually didn't do, I found that I don't look up to Dumbledore nor do I trust him all that much anymore. If Dumbledore were to ask me to do something I know you wouldn't like, I'd ignore him; or maybe tell him yes then do what was best for you – like Ron did." That last bit may have been a bit cruel he realized after he'd said it, but he did feel a little better now that all of that was off his chest. His rant done, he waited.

It was a long moment, but Hermione finally nodded a couple of times. "I've never thought of it that way. I suppose I was always just caught up in the moment. I really am sorry though and I won't put the Headmaster's requests before you again; I promise."

She seemed sincere and looked very contrite. One thing that Luna had been teaching him was that friendly touches were all right, so Harry reached out with one hand and put it on her shoulder. Hermione lunged forward and wrapped him in a tight hug, which he returned and patted her on the back while she got her emotions under control.

"We're friends again. It may take a little time before it's back like it was, or at least close to what it was, but it's something we can work on, all right?" He felt her nod on his shoulder.

"Thank you," she breathed into his shoulder and neck.

He patted her on the back again before he let go. "Come sit with us in the morning. I think I'm going to bed now. Like Ron, talking about feelings is a lot of work." He smiled and she laughed quietly.

"Prat," she told him teasingly.

"Good night and sleep well." He left her smiling and walked back towards Ron, who'd obviously been watching the whole time.

"Is it all good again?" Ron asked.

"It is and I'm going up. You'd just win again," Harry said pointing at the board.

"Well, sure, but that's not the point," Ron said and boxed the game to join his friend. "It'll be good to be normal again."

Harry wasn't surprised the next morning to find Hermione waiting on them to go to breakfast. In the Great Hall, there were a number of people gawking to see Hermione sitting across from Harry and next to Ron. On the other hand, it also might have been because Luna was sitting next to Harry at the Gryffindor table. In the end, Harry suspected it was both.

After a look at Ron by Harry, the redhead waited until a lull in the conversation. "Luna?"

"Yes, Ronald?"

"I know I haven't done it in a long time, but I want you to know that I'm sorry for calling you a name when you'd come over to our house. I was younger and not, well, I wasn't as aware as I am now." Ron was very sincere.

Luna nibbled on her toast as she looked at him. "I accept. Thank you." She leaned over and kissed Harry on the cheek. "Thank you, Harry."

"I'm not sure what I did," Harry said as he put an arm around her back for a moment for a side hug, "but sure. Little kisses are always welcome."

Luna looked at him mischievously for a moment. "I shall remember that."

"Err, why do you call him Ronald and not Ron?" Harry had to ask.

"Because it's his name, silly," Luna answered as if it was obvious.

Harry decided this was one of those things it was best not to question.

After they'd finished their first Potions class with the new teacher, Harry looked at his two friends. "What did you think of Professor Hamilton?"

"I like him," Hermione said first. "He obviously knows what he's doing. Some of the potions he showed us are very hard to brew. I like his accent," she said about the teacher from America.

Ron made a bit of a face. "I don't know about his accent, but at least I can understand him and he doesn't act like he hates everyone like Snape did."

"I like that he didn't let the Slytherins get away with anything when they tried to sabotage our work," Harry commented.

"Yeah, that too," Ron said with a smile while Hermione shook her head slightly at the two.

"Wow, Dumbledore did something good this year," Harry snarked. "Professor Trimble is decent too, so that's two good hires."

Padma Patil was walking back from the library with her friend Lisa Turpin. Near the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower, the two saw Harry Potter give a simple kiss to Luna Lovegood before he left, walking towards them as the fourth year Ravenclaw entered the Ravenclaw tower.

Looking over, Padma saw a smirk on her friend's face, but before she could stop her, Turpin said, "So Potter, you and Loony Lovegood, huh? Is she…"

Turpin never finished her statement because a stormy looking Harry Potter had his wand out suddenly and pointing at her which caused her to freeze.

"Don't call her that," Harry said in a threatening tone.

While Turpin hadn't been aware of the trouble she'd been walking into, as a Ravenclaw, she was well aware that Harry Potter had the best Defense grade in their year and he was also quite good at Charms too. "I'm, I'm sorry," she managed to get out.


"And I won't do it again," Turpin added. She saw him glance at Patil before his wand was put away and he walked off.

"I told you not to do that," Patil told Turpin, soon enough Potter would have heard her, although he didn't stop walking or turn around.

Turpin tried to shush her but Patil just smiled and continued on. Padma knew her sister wasn't pleased at how Harry had treated her at the Yule Ball last year, just as Padma had been put out with Ron Weasley; but Padma had taken the time to consider it. Harry had been under a lot of pressure and a few conversations among the other fourth year girls at the time had allowed her to find out their dates hadn't been much better. Honestly, most fourteen year-old boys just weren't as ready for dating as fourteen year-old girls.

However, now he was fifteen and she could see him starting to grow up in regards to girls based on how he was treating Luna. If Potter could cross the aisle once for a Ravenclaw, perhaps he'd be willing to do it again one day for he was turning into a tasty young man and she didn't think he'd stay with Lovegood long term.

It was early December when it finally happened. "Class dismissed. Mr Potter, I need a word with you please," McGonagall said as class ended.

Harry packed up his things before going forward. "Yes, Professor?"

"Professor Dumbledore would like you to come see him after dinner," she told him. "His password is licorice."

He'd been happy Dumbledore was leaving him alone for the year, but apparently the time he dreaded had come. He wondered what problem Dumbledore was going to pull him into this time. Fortunately, he had a new defense if he had to use it. "Am I in trouble?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Should you be?" she asked, with that stern look that had most younger years confessing their smallest misdeed.

"No, Professor. It's just that if you're unaware of any problem, then there's no real reason to go see him," he argued.

"That's normally true, but the Headmaster can talk to students who aren't in trouble. Perhaps he just wants your opinion on something, but be at his office at seven. Hurry on, Mr Potter, or you shall be late for your next class," she told him in a dismissive tone.

Harry left, knowing he'd have to use his new defense. Going to his room at lunch, besides changing his books for his afternoon class, Harry pulled the mirror out of his trunk and called, "Sirius Black."

It took a moment, but his guardian answered. "Harry, what a surprise. What's going on?"

"It's happened," Harry told him. "Dumbledore wants to talk to me tonight at seven and it's not because I've done something wrong. I think it's time for this year's adventure and I'd prefer to skip that."

"Hmm, seems kind of early for that. Don't they usually come in May or June?" Sirius asked teasingly.

"That's the big ending, but it always starts sooner," Harry told him.

"Seven o'clock, huh? Right, meet me at the front door at fifteen before. I'll see you later." Sirius's face disappeared and Harry was pleased.

When his friends asked what McGonagall had wanted, he said only, "Dumbledore's up to something."

— — —

Harry watched his godfather approach the front door and then fell into step with the man as they walked to their meeting. "Thanks for coming."

Sirius smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. "I wouldn't miss it and I'm curious too."

They talked about a few things that Sirius reminisced about, but soon they were at the Headmaster's office, where Harry gave the password. When he knocked, Harry was bid to enter.

Harry walked in first so he was in the best position to see Dumbledore's shock at seeing Sirius.

"Sirius, what are you doing here?" Dumbledore asked with a hint tension beyond his normal expression.

"Albus. Harry wanted me to come since you wanted to talk to him and he wasn't in trouble. It sounds like you want to spring something on him and I thought I should be here for that," Sirius explained as he plopped down into a seat and Harry sat carefully in the chair next to him. "So, what is there to talk about?"

After a long pause, Dumbledore said, "I'm afraid that my news concerns only Harry."

"Go ahead," Sirius encouraged the older man before looking over. "You'd tell me anyway, wouldn't you, Harry?"

"Of course," Harry agreed easily and meant it.

"See, no reason to be shy," Sirius said with a smile and waited. When Dumbledore didn't say anything, Sirius added, "Albus, just to be clear, I forbid you from talking to Harry without me unless it's an immediate life and death situation, like the school is under attack. That means, I'll be here for any future time you want to talk to him to ask him to do something for you, so you might as well say whatever you have to say now."

"Why the animosity?" Dumbledore asked, sounding genuinely curious.

"Because you're almost never truly helpful and you bring more bad news than good," Sirius answered easily. "I could give my time in Hotel Azkaban or Harry's time in the Pit of Dursley Despair as examples, or the Triwizard Tournament, or trolls, or basilisks, or Death Eaters in the school, or … I'm sure you get the idea." His smile was still forced on his face.

"Those are all not my fault," Dumbledore protested.

"Maybe they are, maybe they're not," Sirius said flippantly, "but you are in each of those stories and you haven't been all that helpful. So if you're going to tell Harry something, you do it in my presence or you don't tell him. I won't have you trying to push him in some direction that's not good for him."

Dumbledore considered that for a moment before he said, "Very well." He stood and walked to the side of his office and brought back a Pensieve that he sat in the middle of his desk. With his wand to his temple, he pulled out a memory and placed it in the bowl.

"In the spring of 1980 I was interviewing a person for the position of Divination teacher when she gave a real prophecy." He tapped the bowl and the shadowy form of Sybil Trelawney rose up and gave a prophecy before disappearing.

"I'm quite certain that it is speaking of Harry. I had wanted to wait before telling him to give him time to grow up and enjoy a childhood, but with the Death Eaters disappearing and Voldemort on his own, I thought now might be a good time to tell Harry so we can start to work on defeating Voldemort."

The two visitors looked at each other for a moment before Harry shook his head slightly.

Sirius said, "First, that didn't look like your office in the background. Where did that happen?"

"I was borrowing a room at the Hogs Head. My brother owns it and I thought it would be easier for her to get to," the Headmaster explained.

"And the noise I heard in the background?" Sirius asked lightly.

Dumbledore didn't look happy to say it, but he said, "That was my brother chasing someone away; it doesn't matter much. The point is that Harry and I will need to start discussing how this can be done."

Sirius wasn't done though. "And that someone who was chased away, I bet he heard at least part of the prophecy, which was taken to You-Know-Who, sorry Voldemort, and that's why this 'Dark Lord' went after the Potters. Am I right?"

Again Dumbledore didn't look happy, but he said, "Yes, but it doesn't matter."

"Oh, but it does," Sirius said. "For you see, that's another failing of yours. If you'd had that interview in your office as you should have, the leak wouldn't have happened. She could have used the Floo like so many others do and then James and Lily would still be alive and I wouldn't have spent twelve years in prison while innocent, not to mention the abuse Harry lived through. So it does matter," the man finished a little hotly.

In the silence that followed, Harry asked, "I'll assume you think it's me because my scar is the mark, but how do you know that it wasn't fulfilled already?"

"Because he's still alive," Dumbledore said easily. "I'm sorry you were forced to help in his rebirth, but he is alive again."

"Sirius, I'm of the opinion it was fulfilled already back when my parents died. I'm sorry to do this to you, but can I leave this to you? This sounds like another dangerous adventure he's trying to pull me into and I really don't want to do it." Harry gave him a pleading look.

His godfather patted him on the shoulder. "Sure, kiddo. Go spend some time with your girlfriend or hang out with your friends. I'll take care of this. It's what I'm here for."

"Thanks!" Harry said happily and bounded out of his chair for the door.

"Wait!" Dumbledore called out.

"Nope, no more Dark Lords for me!" Harry cried out as he ran out the door.

"Sirius…" Dumbledore tried.

"No, Albus, you listen to me for once. You will leave Harry out of this. You will not force it into his life, like you did in his first year where you set those little tests for him and his friends."

"I did not create tests for him," Dumbledore protested.

Sirius waved it way with a hand gesture and sarcasm. "Sure you didn't. But you will not pull Harry into this in any way or I'll be forced to make this whole thing very, and I do mean very, public since I can tell you're trying to keep it private. If this is so important, you go take care of it but leave us out of it. I really mean it too. Leave us out of this or you will find you have a lot explaining to do and I don't believe you'll have explanations for it all."

Standing, Sirius glared at the Headmaster. "Oh, also take this as my resignation from your Order and you're not welcome in my home any longer. Don't worry about the Fidelius, I'll have it pulled down myself." His part said, he left.

Albus leaned back in his chair. "That didn't go so well," he murmured to himself as he rose and walked over to his shelf of trinkets. There was no real reason to do this as he couldn't imagine how anything might have changed recently, but he checked each little device. The wards on Privet Drive were almost non-existent and were probably too low to be revived, he thought with a sigh. He checked the one on Harry himself and stood there in shock at the result as it had actually changed. This one no longer put out two indicators of magical essence, but only one.

He wandered back to his desk and dropped into his chair as he considered the possibilities. It was generally a fact within the MLE department, according to those he had talked to, that all known Death Eaters were not only accounted for but dead. That meant Tom Riddle had no followers unless he'd recruited some in the last four months or so.

As for Tom himself, if he was still alive, then he was in hiding and trying to figure something out. Whether he was still in Britain or not was a hard call. But if this were true, he would be having to start his organization completely over.

Second, perhaps something had gone wrong with the resurrection ritual. Harry had said that it was Peter Pettigrew who'd done it and there was a potion component, and Peter didn't have the best grades with potions. So maybe something had failed and Tom was a wraith again, and with no followers to go to, there was plenty of time for Harry to grow into an adult and get ready to fulfill the prophecy one day.

Lastly and probably least likely, Tom was truly gone. Albus was certain that Tom wouldn't have gone down without a fight and he'd heard of no such thing. Sure, anyone could be taken by surprise, but this scenario was so uncertain Albus discounted it immediately. No, Tom couldn't be dead yet.

Albus poured himself a drink far stronger than tea and contemplated the situation. When he was done, he had two tasks. He was fairly certain that Tom had created Horcruxes to keep himself alive, or at least those were the best fit to explain the diary Ginny Weasley had battled. So task number one was to find another to check; if he could then Tom was probably a wraith somewhere, perhaps back in Albania. Task number two was going to be tricky given the conversion he'd had earlier this evening. Hmm, what to do…

Harry held Luna's hand as he walked off the Hogwarts express, carrying a bag with what he needed for the holidays. "I'll send your present to you in a couple of days," he told her, kissing her on the cheek.

"I shall do the same." She kissed him on the lips quickly. "I'm sorry we can't see more of each other, but Daddy does so want us to go to Sweden during the winter to look for Snorkacks in case they are active only in the winter."

"I understand, have fun," he told her as he let go. He watched her wonder off for a minute until she found a tall man with hair that was the same color. He smiled and waved at Luna as she waved back; the family of two disappeared a few seconds later.

Harry looked around and found his godfather smiling at him in amusement; he walked over and gave the man a hug. "I'm ready."

Sirius grabbed his arm firmly and Apparated them both to the foyer by the front door. "Put your bag up then come down to the kitchen. I've got something interesting there."

Harry did as he was told. When he entered the kitchen he found one of the things he would have least expected: a snake in a glass box. The green and yellow striped snake looked like it was well taken care of with water, a multi-branch stick which it was wrapped around, and some grass probably for a bed. "What's that for?" the boy asked.

"Before we discuss that, I have a question," Sirius said, well seriously. "You seemed a lot happier on the train platform. While I can guess your girlfriend not being around for the holidays could cause the quick drop, my eyes see a little more than that. So what up?"

Harry shrugged. "Nothing special. What the snake for?"

Sirius shook his head. "Good try at changing the subject, but not good enough. What's wrong between you and Luna? You've talked about her enough when we talk on the mirrors and you don't seem as happy now as you were even a couple of weeks ago."

After a moment Harry slumped in his chair. "I don't know, Sirius. Something is different and I don't know what it is. I think we're doing all right, but nothing's happening. We hang out together, but it's not special anymore. I might as well be hanging out with Ron."

"Ah," Sirius said and nodded. "Your mother introduced us to a little Muggle music and I think there was a song that went something like 'You've lost that loving feeling'. Does that describe the problem?"

Harry shrugged. "Maybe."

"Well, part of growing up is figuring out your life, which includes your dating life. I'm going to suggest you give this some thought over the holidays and if you decide it's not working out, wait at least a week after you get back to be sure, then find some place private and discuss it with her. As a Ravenclaw, she'll appreciate that. Try to do it so you remain friends. If you're going to stay with her, then really try to make it work. Don't be a prat about it."

"Sure," Harry said, "that makes sense." After another moments thought, he asked, "So what's the snake for?"

Sirius smiled at him before looking at the glass cage. "I understand that you had the possibly fun ability to talk to snakes. The question is, can you still do so?"

"Why?" Harry asked with a frown, trying to puzzle it out.

"Idle curiosity. If you'll try, I'll try to answer when you're done," Sirius said.

"I sense a joke here," Harry said, sounding like he didn't care for the idea.

"Possibly, but I'm not quite sure who it's on. Please try," the man urged.

Shrugging, Harry moved closer and stared at the snake and said, "Hello."

"Hello to you too," Sirius said with a grin. "I thought you were supposed to be hissing, or that's the way you explained it to me when you told me about your second year."

"I did," Harry said with a frown. He stared at the snake again, trying to think in snake. "Can you understand me?"

"Perfectly," Sirius answered. At Harry's glare, Sirius said, "I'm going to guess that you can't do that anymore, which is very interesting."

"I'm not sure I can if I have lost that ability, but why is it interesting and why did you even think to do this to begin with?" Harry asked.

"To be honest, it wasn't my idea it was Albus Dumbledore's, which is why I didn't tell you beforehand-"

"Probably best you didn't, but why this?" Harry asked.

"I had the foresight to make Albus explain a few things to me last week before I agreed to this, and I agreed only because it was a fairly simple test that wouldn't hurt you. As for why, the old man was really put out when we disagreed with him on the importance of the prophecy, which made him actually question a few things he'd always taken as the truth, only to find out that at least one of them wasn't true any longer.

"Apparently, he has a device that tracks your magic in some way he didn't really want to explain; but he said that it had changed since the last time he'd checked it, which was last June after your last run-in with Voldemort. He was shocked at that because he didn't think a change should have been possible. Then when you add that to all of the dead Death Eaters that have been showing up and no Voldemort appearances, it made him start to question if the Dark Idiot was really still around.

"The long and short of it is that he thinks the monster is still alive because the prophecy hasn't been fulfilled - again, his belief. However, when I started asking questions, I found he could not really give me any proof. It'd be nice if the prophecy disappeared, changed colors, or something happened to show it was complete, but it doesn't work that way. He's going to try to find some proof, but one other test he came up with is to check your magic to see if your magical connection to the Dark One still existed and having you see if you can still talk to a snake was the only thing he could think of."

"I'm not going to fight Voldemort again," Harry said firmly.

"Hold on, don't get upset," Sirius continued, "I'm not bothered about this either way. As far as I'm concerned, you don't have to do anything just like you want and Old Albus can go do whatever he wants on his own time. I'm just explaining why he wanted you to try to talk to the snake. All right?"

Harry thought about it for a moment before he relaxed. "Right, thanks for sticking up for me."

"Of course, it's what family does," Sirius said caringly.

Harry smiled at that.


Harry tried, really he did, but during the second week of January he broke up with Luna. They remained good friends over the years.

Albus Dumbledore did find the Resurrection Stone of the Death Hallows in a ring the next summer. It did not show positive for his test as a Horcrux, but in examining it, he excitedly realized what the stone really was and so missed finding the fatal curse on the ring. He did manage to make it back to Hogwarts with the help of his phoenix. The curse took its normal course over the next two days as Madam Pomfrey was unable to save him and he refused to go to St Mungo's. His funeral was well attended.

The soul shards had dissipated after Voldemort had been tossed through the Veil of Death since there was nothing tying them together any more. The shards had left quietly smallest to largest, starting with the smallest piece that had been in Harry. In fact, the one in him was gone by Halloween after Voldemort disappeared even if Harry didn't know it.

Minerva McGonagall took over as Headmaster the following Dumbledore's demise.

Over the next five years, Scrimgeour and Bones cleared out the worst of the corruption within the Ministry, but they never were able to clean it all out. Their efforts helped a lot though as the remaining problems were all minor.

The concern over Voldemort and the prophecy died with Albus Dumbledore. Harry never had to deal with any version of Voldemort ever again.

However, Harry did have to deal with a brunette, two redheads, and another blonde who all wanted private time with him, to Sirius's amusement. Harry found choosing was sometimes hard.

(the end)

(A/N: I hope you enjoyed the story of "What if Harry hired the work out?" Once Odd Job tossed Tommy Boy through the Veil, the Horcruxes really didn't matter. Anyway, that's it for this one. I have 3 other stories I'm sort of bouncing around between; we'll see which one comes out first.

If you live in the US, happy Independence Day for this coming Monday. Please take a special gold star if you've served in US military; independence only comes with those who are willing stand up for their country, like our founding fathers did 246 years go. - Kevin)