It was all done… everything was packed for him to move out… even packed for the journey-quest he was going to go on… he had things planned as much as he could… seen that they would have get through this journey-quest with the least of problems of things he could plan of… had things of basic necessities… from food to water to clothes to the things that would be needed for shelter… also he had books and notes that would come in handy throughout the journey… books and notes on things he wished to continue to studying too… potions that he brewed over the last year that could come in handy… potion ingredients that would come in handy… also he had packed the book of 'The Half-Blood Prince' had been very useful and unknown to any he still had the book and all other potion books of 'The Half-Blood Prince'… he knew that moniker belonged to Severus Snape, but that didn't reduce the value of knowledge the book held and its usage…
Everything was ready and he was ready to… as ready as he could be for the Unknown.
The Unknown… it was so frightening and at the same time so alluring… but he had a goal, a destination as he faced the Unknown and failing was not an option.
Now here he waited at 4 Privet Drive waiting for the 'rescue team' to rescue him out of here… something he didn't need as he already had planned out his own escape… but being the stubborn ass that Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody was, the man had decided to go on with the plan they had conjured up… whatever that was… also he had promised both Fleur Delacour and William 'Bill' Weasley to be present at their wedding.
He silently waited as the clock moved on… it had now been more than an hour since the Dursleys had left… an hour since he walked around the house with Hedwig on his shoulder as he reminisced of his time at 4 Private Drive… of his time with the Dursleys.
His reminiscing was cut short by a sudden, deafening roar from somewhere nearby. Harry straightened up with a jerk and his wand quickly slipped in his hand… jinxes, curses, hexes and defensive charms on his lips… it was time to take things seriously… as Moody says 'Constant Vigilance'. Silently making his way into the kitchen… clutching onto his wand and ready at an instance to start throwing curses and jinxes… staring out of the window into the back garden.
Something didn't feel right as he stared at the empty back garden… the darkness seemed to be rippling… the air itself quivering… Then one by one figures began to pop into sight as their Disillusionment Charms lifted… dominating the scene was Rubeus Hagrid wearing a helmet and goggles and sitting astride an enormous motorbike with a black sidecar attached… all around him other people were dismounting from brooms and in two cases skeletal, black winged horses.
Wrenching open the back door, Harry made his way out wand still clutched in his hand ready to throw spells around… there was a general cry of greeting as all eyes turned to Harry, but that stopped when they found his wand pointed at them…
His wand pointed and eyes focused on Moody… he still had everyone in his field of vision…
"The Fool?" he asked.
A grim, but proud smile crossed the lips of Moody as he looked onto the boy, no man that now stood in front of him… others had their eyes widened at the words that left the mouth of the young man and the person those words were directed at… before anyone could say anything Moody spoke…
"Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore."
The entire group was dumbfounded by the response… and was further shocked to see a smile appear on the face of the young man… but the wand in his hand still wasn't lowered… also Moody had his wand pointed at him…
"'Constant Vigilance'… it seems like at least you took my teachings seriously Potter."
"What can I say, even as paranoid as you are, you spout some valuable lessons from time to time", replied Harry with a lopsided grin on his face.
Now all heads except that of Moody and Harry had blown into pieces… especially after seeing the smirks of the faces of the two and them lowering their wands… it was the brave soul of Nymphadora Lupin Tonks that decided to question the situation at hand…
"What in the world was that all about?" she didn't want to shout though…
"That Lupin was the password for us to recognize whether one of us was an imposter… Constant Vigilance Lupin! Constant Vigilance!" Moody answered.
"Oh!" was the only response from all…
Meanwhile Harry didn't miss onto the name Moody used to address Tonks with and thus his eyes travelled from Tonks to Lupin and then onto the ring that glittered on Tonks left hand ring finger… it didn't take long for him to connect the dots… but before he could say another word he was ushered inside by Moody.
Quickly making their way inside where everyone settled into the kitchen where greetings were exchanged with Hermione tackling him into a hug… laughing and chattering they settled on chairs, sat themselves upon Aunt Petunia's gleaming work surfaces or leaned up against her spotless appliances… Ronald 'Ron' Bilius Weasley, long and lanky… Hermione Jean Granger, her bushy hair tied back in a long plait… Fred Weasley and George Weasley, grinning identically… William 'Bill' Arthur Weasley, badly scarred and long-haired… Mr. Weasley, kind-faced, balding, his spectacles a little awry… Mad-Eye, battle-worn, one-legged, his bright blue magical eye whizzing in its socket… Nymphadora Lupin née Tonks, whose short hair was her favorite shade of bright pink… Remus John Lupin, grayer, more lined… Fleur Isabelle Delacour, slender and beautiful, with her long silvery blonde hair… Kingsley Shacklebolt, taller and broad-shouldered… Rubeus Hagrid, with his wild hair and beard, standing hunchbacked to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling… Mundungus Fletcher, small, dirty, and hangdog, with his droopy bloodhound's eyes and matted hair.
Harry's heart seemed to expand and glow at the sight… he felt incredibly fond of all of them… except Mundungus… the thief had a lot explaining to do to him… it was then something clicked in his mind and unnoticed by all but Moody he cast a silent, wand less tracing spell on the thief… a spell he had come across from one of the books he had taken from the secret library of Professor Dumbledore… a spell which was almost undetectable.
"Kingsley, I thought you were looking after the Muggle Prime Minister?" he called across the room.
"He can get along without me for one night. You're more important", replied Kingsley.
"Harry, guess what?" said Tonks from her perch on top of the washing machine, and she wiggled her left hand at him… a ring glittered there.
"You guys got married", said Harry as he pointed at her and Lupin.
"Jeez… and here I wanted to surprise you…" Tonks said in a defeated tone… she really wanted to see the shock looked on his face.
"It didn't remain much of a shock when Moody called you Lupin", answered Harry after which he went onto glare at Remus… meanwhile Tonks sent a glare at Moody.
"I'm sorry you couldn't be there, Harry… it was very quiet", answered Lupin… he and Nymphadora really wanted Harry to be at their wedding, but the times now were really dangerous and for them his safety was first.
"Ok… but when this is all over I am going to see there is a grand wedding for you two… I can't have my niece thinking that I dint care for her…" he said… the last part was directed at Nymphadora as he winked at her… and courtesy to that he had to dodge few of the kitchen utensils aimed at him by Nymphadora.
"Niece!" asked a surprised Fleur… she wasn't the only one that was surprised; most of the others were too… the answer to their question surprisingly came from Remus than the two in question of their relation…
"Harry is the grandson of Dorea Potter née Black, the youngest daughter of Cygnus Black, of whom Pollux Black is the eldest child, of whom Nymphadora is the great-granddaughter… and thus Nymphadora is the niece of Harry… and Harry is the uncle of Nymphadora."
The look of shock pasted on most faces were fun to watch… especially for Remus as it brought back old days where James and Sirius never failed to capitalize on their relation of uncle-niece to confuse people and get out of trouble… but still using this after so long to Remus felt refreshing… though he never came to understand as to how Harry had come across this.
"All right, all right, we'll have time for a cozy catch-up later," roared Moody over the hubbub after the big news and silence fell in the kitchen.
Moody dropped his sacks at his feet and turned to Harry, "As Dedalus probably told you, we had to abandon Plan A. Pius Thicknesse has gone over, which gives us a big problem. He's made it imprison able offense to connect this house to the Floo Network, place a Portkey here or Apparate in or out. All done in the name of your protection to prevent You-Know-Who getting in at you. Absolutely pointless, seeing as your mother's charm does that already. What he's really done is to stop you from getting out of here safely. Second problem. You're underage, which means you've still got the Trace on you…"
"I don't…" he wanted to say something but was stopped as Moody continued speaking…
"The Trace, the Trace! The charm that detects magical activity around under-seventeens! The way the Ministry finds out about underage magic! If you or anyone around you casts a spell to get you out of here, Thicknesse is going to know about it, and so will the Death Eaters. We can't wait for the Trace to break, because the moment you turn seventeen you'll lose all the protection your mother gave you. In short, Pius Thicknesse thinks he's got you cornered good and proper."
Harry could not help but agree with the unknown Thicknesse and his little plan… that was a full proof plan for a trapping a wizard-witch.
"So what are we going to do?" he asked… if Moody was here he had to have a counter plan to that of Thickness.
"We're going to use the only means of transport left to us, the only ones the Trace can't detect, because we don't need to cast spells to use them: brooms, Thestrals, and Hagrid's motorbike", answered Moody.
He could see flaws in this plan… a lot of flaws… however he held his tongue to give Mad-Eye the chance to address them.
"Now, your mother's charm will only break under two conditions: when you come of age, or…" Moody gestured around the pristine kitchen "… you no longer call this place home. You and your aunt and uncle are going your separate ways tonight, in the full understanding that you're never going to live together again, correct?"
"So this time, when you leave, there'll be no going back, and the charm will break the moment you get outside its range. We've chosen to break it early, because the alternative is waiting for You-Know-Who to come and seize you the moment you turn seventeen. The one thing we've got on our side is that You-Know-who doesn't know we're moving you tonight. We've leaked a fake trail to the Ministry… they think you're not leaving until the thirtieth. However this is You-Know-Who we're dealing with, so we can't just rely on him getting the date wrong… he's bound to have a couple Death Eaters patrolling the skies in this general area, just in case. So we've given a dozen different houses every protection we can throw at them. They all look like they could be the place we're going to hide you, they've all got some connection with the Order: my house, Kingsley's place, Molly Auntie Muriel's… you get the idea", said Moody.
"Yeah" he replied, not entirely truthfully, because he could still spot a gaping hole in the plan.
"You'll be going to the house of the Tonks. Once you're within the boundaries of the protective enchantments we've put on their house you'll be able to use a Portkey to the Burrow. Any questions?" said Moody as he finally asked to see whether the green-eyed wizard had followed his instruction.
"Err…yes…" said Harry "… maybe they won't know which of the twelve secure houses I'm heading for at first, but won't it be sort of obvious once…" he performed a quick headcount "… fourteen of us fly off towards Tonks's parents' house?"
"Ah… I forgot to mention the key point. Fourteen of us won't be flying to Tonks's parents. There will be seven Harry Potters moving through the skies tonight, each of them with a companion, each pair heading for a different safe house", answered Moody as from inside his cloak he withdrew a flask of what looked like mud.
There was no need for Moody to say another word as he understood the rest of the plan immediately.
"NO!" he said loudly, his voice ringing through the kitchen.
"NO WAY!" he certainly wasn't going to go with Moody's plan.
"I told them you'd take it like this", said Hermione with a hint of complacency.
Completely ignoring the words of Hermione he directly spoke to Moody, "I already have a better plan out of here Moody… far better than your current one… and far safer… you know it… so why go through this stupidity."
"We already discussed this Potter… keep that a secret… don't let anyone get a wind of that… that will help you in the most dangerous of situations… and our plan is one of the best…" answered Moody.
"If you think I'm going to let six people risk their lives…" he spoke up but was interrupted by Ron.
"… Because it's the first time for all of us", said Ron.
"This is different, pretending to be me…" he again tried to reason, but was interrupted again.
"Well, none of us really fancy it, Harry…" said Fred earnestly.
George continued where his twin had stopped "… Imagine if something went wrong and we were stuck as specky,
the twins said in unison "Forever!"
Harry did not smile.
He knew it was a great, yet a stupid plan… a plan that could risk the life of all fourteen and only the reassurance from Moody had made him go through this plan… and now he felt like a fool… things had gone completely hay-wire to the point where Voldemort himself had joined the fight… it was as if the Death Eaters had anticipated their movements… more than thirty of them were waiting for the Order to take flight… the resulting chaos had separated all… and after an intense battle did Harry and Hagrid finally made it to the Tonks's house… he even had to fight of Voldemort in mid air.
Currently he was being patched up by Andromeda Tonks née Black while Ted Tonks was looking after Hagrid… even while Andromeda worked on his injuries he could clearly see the worry stretched over her face for him, for her daughter and the others… especially after learning that there were about three dozen Death Eaters and even Voldemort… but they knew that they were going to learn nothing until he and Hagrid would make it to the Burrow.
Looking at Andromeda he couldn't help but reminisce of their first meeting… he was about to accuse her of the death of Sirius… she looked so much like Bellatrix Lestrange née Black that it was frightening… but at the same time she was also a complete opposite of Bellatrix… as if they were yin and yang.
Finally fixed up, both Harry and Hagrid made their way towards the Portkey that was to leave to the Burrow in a couple of minutes… into a bedroom did they find their Portkey, a small, silver-backed hairbrush lying on the dressing table.
"There you go, Harry. That's the Portkey", Mr. Tonks said as he pointed at the hairbrush.
"Thanks", he replied reaching out to place a finger on it, ready to leave.
"Wait a moment," said Hagrid stopping them as the big-man looked around the room searching for something.
"Harry, where's Hedwig?" Hagrid asked not finding the snowy-white owl anywhere in sight.
"She… she got hit", he replied.
Tears rushed down his eyes as memories of Hedwig passed through his mind… from the first time they had met till her last minute just a few hours ago… She had been his companion, his one great link with the magical world whenever he had been forced to return to the Dursleys… in his eyes she was more than an owl, she was his best friend… a friend who stayed with him through all thick and thin… and now to think that she would never be a part of his life anymore… he couldn't help the tears that flowed out of his eyes for her… for Hedwig, his best friend, his companion.
Hagrid reached out a great hand and patted him painfully on the shoulder.
"Never mind, never mind. She had a great old life…" Hagrid said in his gruffly tone.
Another soft hand landed on his other shoulder and the voice of Andromeda spoke, "I have seen how much Hedwig meant to you, but don't let her loss take you to the road of despair… cherish the memories you had with her."
He just nodded his head… he knew well that the grief of losing Hedwig was never going to leave him just like that with Sirius… but he learned to cherish the memories of him and Sirius and so he would cherish his memories of Hedwig.
"Hagrid! Harry!" said Ted Tonks warningly, as the hairbrush glowed bright blue, and Hagrid only just got his forefinger to it in time.
"I'll tell Dora to send a word, when she… I'll find a way to contact you guys… Thanks for patching us up, thanks for everything Mr. and Mrs. Tonks…" he replied as he got hold of the hairbrush and Hagrid placed a forefinger on it.
"I know you will Harry… and I know Nymphadora would be alright… she knows her stuff, she's been in plenty of tight spots with the Aurors… and I have mentioned it before… call me Andromeda, Andy or Cousin Andy…" Andromeda replied.
But before he could reply to her the Portkey activated… with a jerk behind the navel as though an invisible hook and line had dragged him forward, he was pulled into nothingness, spinning uncontrollably, his finger glued to the Portkey as he and Hagrid hurtled away from Mr. and Mrs. Tonks. Seconds later his feet slammed into hard ground and he fell onto his hands and knees in the yard of the Burrow. He heard screams. Throwing aside the no longer glowing hairbrush, he stood up, swaying slightly, and saw Mrs. Weasley and Ginny running down the steps by the back door as Hagrid, who had also collapsed on landing, clambered laboriously to his feet.
"Harry? You are the real Harry? What happened? Where are the others?" cried Mrs. Weasley.
"What do you mean? Isn't anyone else back?" he panted… weren't others supposed to have arrived by now.
The answer was clearly etched in Mrs. Weasley's pale face.
"The Death Eaters were waiting for us… we were surrounded the moment we took off… they knew it was tonight… I don't know what happened to anyone else, four of them chased us, it was all we could do to get away, and then Voldemort caught up with us…" he told her… he could hear the self-justifying note in his voice, the pleas for her to understand why he did not know what had happened to her sons, but…
"Thank goodness you're all right," she said, pulling him into a hug he did not feel he deserved.
His scar was burning… he felt angry and frustrated… he should have forced Moody to go with his plan… a plan which was far safer than the plan they had concocted… and it was only Moody arguing with him before about the use of that plan in a far greater threat and it would be good for him to keep that ace up his sleeve… and now he felt like an idiot for even agreeing with Moody even if all what Moody said was true and would be useful in the future… Moody himself was dead… George had lost his left ear… more death and injuries that were weighing on his shoulder… then there was the part where everyone believed of him having the power to match the power of Voldemort… he hated that… he knew it wasn't him, it was his wand that conjured the spell had defeated Voldemort… the spell that his want had casted was a spell that he had only read once recently and had yet to even try to cast, so it was illogical that he had used the spell… it was his wand… he told so to everyone... no one said anything… he knew that they did not believe him… now that he came to think of it, he had never heard of a wand performing magic on its own before.
His scar seared with pain… it took a lot of him to not shout and moan in pain aloud… muttering about fresh air, he set his glass down and left the room… crossing the dark yard, the great skeletal Thestral who looked up, rustled its enormous bat-like wings, then resumed its grazing… he stopped at the gate into the garden, staring out at its overgrown plants, rubbing his pounding forehead and thinking of Dumbledore… Dumbledore would have believed him, he knew it… Dumbledore would have known how and why Harry's wand had acted independently, because Dumbledore always had the answers… Dumbledore had known about wands, had explained to Harry the strange connection that existed between his wand and Voldemort's… but Dumbledore like Mad-Eye, like Sirius, like his parents, like Hedwig, all were gone where Harry could never talk to them again.
He felt a burning in his throat that had nothing to do with firewhisky… and then, out of nowhere, the pain in his scar peaked. As he clutched his forehead and closed his eyes, a voice screamed inside his head.
"You told me the problem would be solved by using another's wand!"
And into his mind burst the vision of an emaciated old man laying in rags upon a stone floor, screaming a horrible, drawn-out scream, a scream of unendurable agony…
"No! No! I beg you, I beg you…"
"You lied to Lord Voldemort, Ollivander!"
"I did not… I swear I did not…"
"You sought to help Potter, to help him escape me!"
"I swear I did not… I believed a different wand would work…"
"Explain, then, what happened. Lucius's wand is destroyed!"
"I cannot understand… the connection… exists only… between your two wands…"
"Please… I beg you…"
And he saw the white hand raise its wand and felt Voldemort's surge of vicious anger, saw the frail old man on the floor writhe in agony…
It was over as quickly as it had come… he stood shaking in the darkness, clutching the gate into the garden, his heart racing, his scar still tingling… it was several moments before he realized that Ron, Hermione and Ginny were at his side.
"Harry, come back in the house… you aren't still thinking of leaving?" Hermione whispered.
"Yeah, you've got to stay, mate", said Ron, thumping Harry on the back.
"Are you all right?" Ginny asked.
"You look awful!" the words left the mouth of Ginny as she was now close enough to look into Harry's face.
"Well… I probably look better than Ollivander…" he replied shakily.
When he had finished telling them what he had seen, Ron looked appalled, Hermione was downright terrified and Ginny stood next to him supporting him and also had a terrified look on her face.
"But it was supposed to have stopped! Your scar… it wasn't supposed to do this anymore! You mustn't let that connection open up again… Dumbledore wanted you to close your mind!" chided Hermione…
When he did not reply, Hermione gripped his arm and continued, "Harry, he's taking over the Ministry and the newspapers and half the Wizarding world! Don't let him inside your head too!"
Finally he replied… a reply that shocked, appalled and terrified the three beyond words…
"That's the thing Hermione…closing my mind or even being a master Occlumens isn't going to stop it. I think Dumbledore knew it and recently I have come to realize… the connection I and Voldemort share goes beyond that of the thoughts of any wizard or witch… it's as if a connection of souls."
The shock of losing Mad-Eye hung over the house in the days that followed… he kept expecting to see Moody stumping in through the back door like the other Order members, who passed in and out to relay news. He felt that nothing but action would assuage his feelings of guilt and grief and that he ought to set out on his mission to find and destroy Horcruxes as soon as possible. The only thing that had him rooted at the Burrow currently was the Trace and the wedding of Fleur and Bill… those two had been great help for him from the time they had been friends.
But all the shock of loosing Mad-Eye didn't stop from a few confronting of his future plans… namely Hermione and Ron… somehow, someway they had learned of his plans of dropping out of Hogwarts and going on a journey of his own… even after knowing that it was something that Dumbledore had asked him to do… the journey that is… he could see others waiting to pounce on him to ask him questions on it.
Currently he along most of the Weasley family was enjoying breakfast created by Mrs. Weasley and Fleur… as always the food made by Mrs. Weasley was top notch, but the food made by Fleur was good too… it had a French flavor to it.
All of the sudden the attention of all present at the table turned to the two owls that swooped in with one landing in front Ginny while the other in front of Harry. Both owls held a letter each… one addressed to Ginevra Molly Weasley and the other to Harry James Potter… both letters carrying the results of O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Level). This surprised most as they certainly expected one for Ginny, but not for Harry.
"What the…? Why is there a letter for you mate?" Ron asked Harry, the question that was present on the minds of most present.
"Oh, that! You see, I didn't want my O.W.L. result to have a fail on it and so I retook the exams that I failed… also two additional courses", answered Harry as he opened his own letter.
"Two additional courses? Which?" asked a confused Hermione.
"Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes", he answered nonchalantly as his eyes were focused on his result.
"But you didn't even take those courses…" said a now completely confused Hermione.
"Self Study Hermione… Self Study", he replied.
Harry didn't see it, but the sheer joy on the face of most was unexplainable… especially that on the face of Hermione and Mrs. Weasley… though Hermione's face also showed confusion… confusion at not knowing Harry taking such a drastic, yet nice step… thinking back (which she had been doing for quite some time since the end of their sixth year and her returning home) she had learned that throughout the last year Harry seemed to keep secrets from her… and for some reason that was hurting her a lot.
Meanwhile Ron thought that Harry had gone barmy… not only was Harry retaking exams for those stupid subjects, but he had gone on an taken the two toughest courses too… his best-friend according to him had gone beyond barmy… beyond help… but he didn't voice his opinion as it would result in others forcing him to retake his tests too.
"So, How did you do Ginny? And you too Harry?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
"I did great Mom", responded Ginny… the joy radiating on her face was speaking highly of her achievements.
With that Ginny's O.W.L. result was passed around and the joy that was radiating of the face of Ginny was seen on the faces of all, especially the Weasley family… she had done exceptionally well.
Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Exceeds Expectations (EE)
[A grade above Outstanding]
[Scored the highest from all schools affiliated to International Confederation of Wizards]
Ginevra Molly Weasley has achieved:
Care of Magical Creatures EE
Defense against the Dark Arts O+
History of Magic A
"This is wonderful Ginny… not only passing all your O.W.L.s, but also achieving 2 Outstanding and a Distinction…" said Molly as her joy knew no bound.
"Truly sis…" said Fred with a bright smile.
"… To think you were such a scholar…" George continued after his brother.
"Truly brilliant!" the twins called in unison.
After praising Ginny and some teasing from the twins which had Ginny a bit red his result was passed around… and if they thought the Ginny's result was awesome, none knew what to say of Harry's O.W.L. result.
Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Exceeds Expectations (EE)
[A grade above Outstanding]
[Scored the highest from all schools affiliated to International Confederation of Wizards]
Harry James Potter has achieved:
Care of Magical Creatures EE
Defense against the Dark Arts H
History of Magic EE
Study of Ancient Runes H
"C'est étonnant, 'Arry. Vous avez fait brillante. Je savais vous étiez exceptionnelle à Arithmancy et Ancient Runes. Magnifique! Vraiment exceptionnel!" Fleur started ranting in French with sheer joy… so sheer was her joy that she went onto hug him and placed a couple of kisses on both his cheeks.
Luckily for him he had a good grasp of French to understand the words of Fleur… she had been a great help in his studies of Ancient Runes after a friendship had formed between the two after the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament and had met him in the library after finding him going through a Runes textbook… so her praise meant a lot to him… but it certainly didn't help when she had hugged and kissed him on his cheeks… even if he was immune to her allure, her kissing and hugging caused his face to turn a bit red.
While Fleur kissed him, the two completely missed the glares directed at them by Ginny, Hermione and Ron… both Ginny and Hermione were glaring holes in the skull of Fleur at her show of affection towards him… Ginny not liking the sight of a beautiful woman as Fleur showing such intimacy with her ex-boyfriend and Hermione for reasons unknown to her… while Ron was sending jealous, hate-filled glare at him for having such an intimate relation with Fleur who he still seemed to have a crush on.
"Indeed! You did great, Harry! Not only did you pass the two courses you had failed, you also achieved a Distinction in Arithmancy and Honors in Study of Ancient Runes. You really are prodigy in those two…" said Bill as he now held the result.
It was how the grading of O.W.L.s ranked students as… achieving an Outstanding in a course marked a student to be truly talent in the form of magic… but achieving Distinction or Honors classified them as prodigies in the subjects. It was very rare to acquire a distinction in a course and only one student out of all schools affiliated to International Confederation of Wizards ever received Honors in a single course… Hermione had achieved Distinctions in Study of Ancient Runes and Transfiguration and Honors in Arithmancy… Ginny achieved a Distinction in Defense against the Dark Arts… and finally Harry achieved Distinctions in Arithmancy and Charms and Honors in Defense against the Dark Arts and Study of Ancient Runes… it was truly magnificent.
"This calls for a celebration!" declared Mrs. Weasley as she rushed to the kitchen after smoldering both Ginny and Harry in bone-crushing, proud hugs.
Hermione didn't know how to feel of this… on one hand she was truly glad for her best-friend for achieving such results on his O.W.L.s and even redoing the O.W.L.s that he had failed, it showed that he had taken her words at heart to be serious towards his educations… on other hand she felt confused and a bit hurt; for some reason he hadn't thought of informing her of him retaking/taking O.W.L.s, she certainly would have loved to help him even if it didn't seem like he needed it according to his results… and there was the small feeling of jealousy that crept through her seeing the Distinction and Honors he achieved in Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes, courses he hadn't taken and it had been all self-study… another thing that Harry seemed to have kept secret from her and by looks of it Ginny, Fleur and Bill certainly seemed to know of… it was like last academic year again, similar to her feelings over the Potions Book written by the Half-Blood Prince (Severus Snape), the book had helped him suddenly becoming a prodigy at Potions with the additional knowledge written alongside the potions information… thinking over of it during this break, she just couldn't understand her reason to be angry at him for using the knowledge for improving his ranking in the Potions class… he was even willing to share the knowledge… and from childhood she had been thought and learned by experience to value knowledge and yet she had disregarded the knowledge the book held… even if written by Snape, it was still knowledge and had no dark and dangerous effect, she herself had checked it.
"Blimey mate! Two Honors! One more than 'mione! Bloody brilliant mate!" Ron congratulated him… but to the couple of those in the room that could read people by the expressions could see the jealous look in Ron's eyes… he certainly saw it.
The last two days since his arrival at the Burrows had been a complete mix for him… on one hand he was really happy to help around the Burrow to get it ready for the upcoming marriage of Fleur and Bill… she had come to become a very important person in his life… and on the other hand there was the constant questions about the task that Dumbledore had set for him which was starting to grate on his nerves… especially the questioning of Mrs. Weasley and Hermione, the two were awfully persistent on knowing about his journey and it was quite a task to keep avoiding their questioning… it was a good thing that the others were more understanding, or rather had stopped their questioning when he mentioned that Dumbledore didn't want the others to know of, not until the right time.
One such questioning later by Mrs. Weasley where she cornered him and started the conversation with the 'concerned parent attack' which then went onto his future and career when the first seemed to fail… from her conversation she learned that both Ron and Hermione made others believe that they too were joining him… something he had already come to know… but he didn't know that the two had also had done their preparations to join him on his journey and at the same time fool the world that they were no part of his journey too.
From that moment on, Mrs. Weasley had kept him so busy with preparations for the wedding thinking that he would hardly have any time to think… which had failed since all the work made it easy for him to think… a trait he gained during his life with the Dursleys. The kindest explanation of this behavior would have been that Mrs. Weasley wanted to distract him and all the others from thoughts of Mad-Eye and the terrors of their recent journey. After two days of nonstop cutlery cleaning, of color-matching favors, ribbons, and flowers, of de-gnoming the garden and helping Mrs. Weasley cook vast batches of canapé's, however, he suspected her of her real motive.
"I think Mum thinks that if she can keep you busy all the time it will stop you from your planning, and thus she'll be able to delay your leaving," Ginny told him in an undertone as they laid the table for dinner on the third night of his stay.
"And then what does she think is going to happen? Someone else might kill off Voldemort while she's holding us here making vol-au-vents?" he muttered… he had spoken without thinking and loud enough for the two girls at the table to hear… he saw Ginny's face whiten.
"So it's true? That's what you're trying to do?" Ginny said… he could feel the fear and worry in her voice directed for him.
"I… no… I was joking", he said evasively… it was completely foolish of him to let this slip and knew that she believed his previous words, it was the logical explanation of his journey… it made so much sense.
"You intend to do it all alone?" asked Ginny… the horror and worry in her tone was clearly evident.
For the next few minutes he didn't say another word as he continued setting the dinner table… he could feel the eyes of Ginny on him waiting for his response as she too continued with her work… finally he spoke up…
"Yes. The task that I am going on will take me on a journey that will take me to the deepest and darkest of magic and the magical world… it is my responsibility and my destiny… something I cannot avoid."
"But why alone?" she asked… she knew that he meant every word he said and so she didn't want to see him go alone on something so dangerous.
"Dumbledore didn't want this of me… he intended to this by himself even after knowing it was my destiny to walk this path… he just shared the secret with me and had only intended to ask help when needed… but with Dumbledore dead, I have to carry on the path… it was my destiny and in a way a legacy he left for me", he answered… he wasn't giving her the full truth, but he knew she deserved at least a small part of it.
Bright green eyes met bright brown ones… they stared at each other, and there was something more than shock, worry and horror in Ginny's expression… making him aware that this was the first time that he had been alone with her since their stolen hours in secluded corners of the Hogwarts grounds… something he remembered with fondness… one of his happiest memories of his seventeen years of life, especially in the dark times… and he was sure that she was remembering them too. Slowly both of them closed the distance between them, leaning closer as the distance between their lips thinned… but sudden movement outside the door made both of them jumped… the door opened and Mr. Weasley, Kingsley, and Bill walked in… as they were often joined by other Order members for dinner now, because the Burrow had replaced number twelve, Grimmauld Place as the headquarters… Mr. Weasley had explained that after the death of Dumbledore, their Secret-Keeper, each of the people to whom Dumbledore had confided Grimmauld Place's location had become a Secret People in turn.
The arrivals of the Delacours had changed the workings around the Burrow… the Delacours as it soon transpired were helpful, pleasant guests… they were pleased with everything and keen to assist with the preparations for the wedding. Monsieur Delacour pronounced everything from the seating plan to the bridesmaids' shows 'Charmant!'… Madame Delacour was most accomplished at household spells and had the oven properly cleaned in a trice… Gabrielle followed her elder sister around, trying to assist in any way she could and jabbering away in rapid French.
On the downside, the Burrow was not built to accommodate so many people. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were now sleeping in the sitting room, having shouted down Monsieur and Madame Delacour's protests and insisted they take their bedroom… Gabrielle was sleeping with Fleur in Percy's old room… and Bill would be sharing with Charlie, his best man, once Charlie arrived from Romania.
He had therefore started volunteering to feed the chickens just to escape the overcrowded house… it also helped that inside the shed was Sirius's motorbike… it was in a way better condition than he had expected it to be after the crash… he had taken onto repairing the motorbike with the help of Mr. Weasley… it was a memento of Sirius and it could come in handy in his travels considering all the magical addition to the motorbike.
Currently Harry was working on repairing the motorbike which was turning out better than it originally was… Mr. Weasley had added a few more enchantments to the motorbike… his repair work was almost finished too… the only thing left out was making changing to the looks of the motorbike so it would not be recognized as Sirius's motorbike. Working on the motorbike since dinner he seemed to have lost track on time…
The familiar voice of Hermione Granger interrupted his work…
"Hermione", he said acknowledging her presence without looking back and continued with the repair work.
A silence fell between the two as he continued with his repair work while Hermione wondered how she was to phrase her thoughts into words… this showed to her that in the recent time their relation had grown shaky as in the past she was never hesitant with her thoughts and words around him and never did he so easily ignore her presence.
"H-Happy Birthday Harry!" she said… that certainly wasn't the foremost thing on her mind, but she needed a start somewhere.
"Happy Birthday?" he asked a bit confused as he looked directly at her.
Brown eyes met bright green eyes… and for the first time in her life she felt nervous to talking with Harry James Potter.
"I-It's past 12… the 31st of July… today is your birthday Harry", she answered… inwardly cursing herself for stuttering.
His wand quickly dropped into his hand from the wand holster on his wrist and pointing it towards the house he called out in a loud and clear voice…
Hermione shook her head at the simplicity of her best-friend as she watched a plate filled with treacle tarts zoom towards him… of all things he could do as his first spell, he used the summoning spell to summon his favorite desert to mark his coming of age… but if she thought that was going to be all, she was in for her ride… she watched as Harry after finishing the treacle tarts and finding that the Trace no longer was present and started doing intricate wand movements on Sirius's motorbike and when he finished she marveled at his wand work… no wonder had he received an Outstanding in Transfiguration and a Distinction in Charms… it now was sized like a Triumph Bonneville T120 should and it no longer looked like it had just had a very devastating crash… and all this was all done non-verbally.
"Well that takes care of everything magic could… and I added a couple of charms and runes too… all remaining will have to be completed the mundane way", he declared to no one in particular… but that proclamation brought Hermione out of her awe and stupor.
"N-Nice wand work", she complimented him… while again cursing herself for stuttering.
"Thanks! Though I hope I didn't make it loose the touch of Sirius… it's his memento after all", he replied.
A silent again regained between the two as no words were spoken as he continued with his repair work. Finally Hermione spoke breaking the silence…
"Yesterday while setting dinner table along with Ginny… the things you spoke of the task set for you by Professor Dumbledore…"
He interrupted her as he spoke up, "So it was you… the one that was hidden in the room."
"Ye… I-I mean n-no… I-I… Yes! B-But how?" she couldn't help but say after her eyes made contact with his bright green eyes… she just couldn't find to lie to him and if she did she thought that those eyes would scan her very soul for the truth.
But after a while he didn't say a thing, she again spoke up, "Yesterday while setting dinner table along with Ginny… the things you spoke of the task set for you by Professor Dumbledore… every word I could feel that you meant it and spoke the truth… and after hearing all that I want to help you Harry… there is a slim, but there is a chance that you might need help."
Turning around and standing face-to-face with Hermione he spoke, "I might… no… I am going to need help; there is no denying it… even Dumbledore believed so… he wanted me to confide in you."
Her eyes widened in shock as she spoke, "Then why…? Why didn't you tell me? Why did you lie to me about Professor Dumbledore refusing you to share the information? We could have helped you from the beginning. All three of us would have worked a way for this together instead of you taking the entire load. A lot could have been achieved by now if the three of us would have worked together on this from the beginning."
Her eyes glowing with fierce intensity, she couldn't believe the boy in front of her… never had she thought that he would so blatantly lie to her… and for that she needed answers, and those answers she needed now… but somehow looking directly in her eyes made her recall a few steps back… his eyes shined like the green color of the Killing Curse.
"That is the thing Hermione… the three of us (he could see her confusion)… Dumbledore wanted me to confide the knowledge he passed onto me with you and only you alone (the light bulb in her mind glowed as understanding dawned on her face)… it was going to be just us two…" he replied in a clam tone which contradicted the anger in his eyes.
Hermione's eyes had widened by now… the things that he just said to her brought a lot of questions to her mind… questions she just couldn't find answers too… and even he seemed to be entirely truthful to her… he had yet not answered as to why he had not told her about all these before… and there was the matter of Ron… Dumbledore didn't wish that the information be confided with the red head, but certainly he could… and so she asked questions, questions she needed answers too…
"If Professor Dumbledore wanted me to know, then why didn't you tell me? Why the secrecy on your part? And of Ron… why would Professor Dumbledore not want him to know? And even if Professor Dumbledore didn't want to… certainly you could tell him… after we can trust Ron… you can trust Ron… he could be really helpful on the task."
He laughed, laughed really loud and with each passing second his laughter increased…he couldn't help it, the humor in her words was humorous that it would be an insult to not laugh at it… though he had to wonder as to where disappeared the Hermione Granger that thought things logically or even the Hermione Granger that believed the words of the professors and hung onto them.
This was not the response that she had expected… she had expected answers but not this… he was laughing so loud that it was starting to irate her… but before she could say any other word, he spoke… she had never seen him this serious and never heard his tone to be so cold…
"Help and Ron… are we talking about Ronald Bilius Weasley? And if we are then do explain to me as to how Ron is going to help me?"
"Well… this is Ron we are talking about… your best friend…" she tried to say, or rather justify that the red head could be useful… but Harry interrupted her and spoke up…
"Yes this is Ron we are talking about… the same Ron that wants an easy way out of everything… the Ron that always wants things to go his way… the Ron that complains about things when it gets uncomfortable for him… the Ron that gets easily jealous of others, especially his best friends…"
Her eyes widened at his words, but he wasn't finished as of yet…
"Ron must have willingly agreed to join me on this task along with you… and he agreed because he believes that there is a set path that Dumbledore has built for me… he knows there might be difficulty, but Dumbledore must have planed ahead for my safety… and by the end of the hard fought journey will be glory, fame and recognition…"
Hermione couldn't believe the words that had left his mouth, it was everything that had Ron had confided in her about the journey except for the last part… the last part she internally knew it to be the truth… that was how Ron was after all…
Ignoring the inner turmoil of Hermione he continued, "All his thoughts are nothing but an illusion. The only thing that Dumbledore passed onto me was knowledge… knowledge that had taken him years to gather… years since the birth of Lord Voldemort… and all that knowledge is nothing but the start of the journey. The journey up ahead for me only has the start and the end… the start being the knowledge and end being me facing Snake-Face… the entire journey from the day I leave the Burrows is going to be an Unknown… even with all the preparations and planning I have done… an Unknown journey that will take me to the deepest, darkest and the evilest of magical world and magic…"
The look of horror in her eyes was enough for him to know that she understood every word he said, but he wasn't finished yet…
"At first Ron would silently follow us… make some comments here and there and let us continue with discussions… he will never have anything to add too… but at some point he will learn that I have no plan forward and there is no path laid by Dumbledore… he will blow up… also throughout the journey I will cut myself for any possible connections to society… I might camp in forests, mountains, snowy peaks, etc. for days or weeks… there would be days and weeks I may go without food… Ron will never be comfortable with all that… I don't even know how long it will take me to complete the task… and all these with the threat of Moldy-shorts and his slimy buddies on my hunt. So throughout these all, I don't wish to have complaining, bickering, hungry and an overall git Ron on my shoulders."
She wanted to deny everything he said about Ron… wanted to convince Harry that this wasn't going to happen, Ron wasn't like this… but no words left her mouth… all that he was speaking was something she had always known deep down.
"And as for trust in Ron… I lost any form of trust I had in him when my name propped out of the Goblet of Fire making me the fourth champion of the Triwizard Tournament…" he said but was interrupted by Hermione.
"B-But you guys sorted out the differences", she said in a look of utter disbelief.
"He never apologized, Hermione… and never did he say that he believed in me and that I didn't put my name in the Goblet…"
"He just said that he thought that someone wanted me dead and that he shouldn't have said what he said… yet he never apologized… and all that after I did a bloody brilliant job against the dragon in the First Task and you dragged him along with you to the tents to meet with me and clear the differences between us… isn't that how it was? And as days, weeks and years passed since that day, any remaining trust I had him was slowly squashed by his own actions. There were times he did some things to earn my trust back, but all those decisions were made because of outside influence."
Another movement of silence stretched between the two as he returned to working on repairing the motorbike while Hermione just stood rooted in her place as her mind worked a thousand mile per second. She never knew that things had been like this for years… how she had missed all these she just couldn't understand. Thinking back she remembered always feeling that the friendship between Ron and Harry was dwindling, but she had thought it to be only an illusion… but now she came face-to-face with reality with Harry's words.
A few minutes later, which seemed like an hour, he stopped his work and made his way out of the shed… stopping at the door of the shed he turned around towards Hermione and spoke…
"Hermione (she turned towards him)… as you said I am going to need help, your help especially… and so I wish you to join on the journey with me… but remember it will be just the two of us and no one else… so make your decision. Also I know you fancy Ron, and if you come with me on the journey you will lose any chance of ever being with him… his jealousy will creep out and think that you chose me instead of him… he will go ballistic… so choose wisely. I will not think badly of you if you choose to not come… you have a future you have to look out for after all. You have till Fleur and Bill's wedding to make a decision as I would be gone by the night of the wedding. Choose wisely Hermione for this will be the last choice you will ever have to make…"
And with that he left the shed to get some good night's sleep leaving behind a dumbfounded Hermione in the shed.
The chapter was mostly from Harry's P.O.V.
As it must be evident from the chapter, Harry never confided the knowledge of Voldemort's life that Dumbledore shared with him to neither Hermione nor Ron… so none of the two know anything more than what the others do.
Everything in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince happens according to the book, apart from a few things as mentioned above.
The Harry in the story is smarter and more skilled than the canon Harry, or rather he has long since cut from the bad influence of Ron Weasley.