In the summer of 1996, Voldemort launches eleven attacks against the Muggle-born of Hogwarts while he leads an attack against Privet Drive. In the aftermath of the attack on Privet Drive, Harry i...
Monday, August 26
Harry and Hermione stood at the bridge leading onto the island of Potter Place. "Are you nervous?" Hermione asked.
"A little," Harry admitted. "Aren't you?"
"Ron is a good friend, but he means even more to you," Hermione answered. "I really hope he can understand."
"About us, about this place, about, well, everything!"
"We'll see," Harry said. A portkey had already popped Luna into existence, and now Neville followed. Ginny and Ron came together a few seconds later. "Hi," Harry called out. "Come on over. Dobby will pick up you luggage in a few minutes."
"THIS is your house?" Neville asked, his eyes wide.
"Well, this is my family's estate," Harry said a bit dubiously. "It's a pretty daunting inheritance."
"It looks like Hogwarts gave birth," Ron muttered. Hermione and Ginny rolled their eyes.
"Come on in and take the tour," Harry said gamely.
Ginny and Neville came across the bridge hand-in-hand. Ron followed, grumbling. Luna looked around and said simply, "Very pretty."
"Mum's going to ask if you ate healthy," Ginny said with a sniff.
"Tell her yes," Ron suggested. "It will make her happy." Ginny and Hermione again rolled their eyes.
After lunch, Hermione took Luna and Ginny off to look around the manor, while Ron and Neville stayed with Harry.
"Go ahead," Harry told Ron.
"And do what?" Ron asked cautiously.
"I'm sure you have something to say about all this," Harry said, waving his hand in the air. "Please, let it out. It will help clear the air." Neville tried to look invisible.
Ron looked thoughtful, and held that pose for two very long minutes.
Finally, Ron said, "There have been a lot of things I really wanted you to be around to hear me say about you this summer, but right now I'm glad you didn't hear me say any of them. I could complain about you and Hermione, but Ginny threatened to bat-bogie me if I did. And she was right when she told me, several times, that if I had really wanted to date Hermione, I should have actually asked her at some point over the last year and a half."
Harry swore to himself that even if Dumbledore, Snape, and Voldemort all hit him with Legilimency at once, he would never reveal that Hermione had given up on Ron the year before.
"As for all this," Ron said, imitating Harry hand gesture, "well, you didn't have a clue about it before this summer, did you?"
"Not the slightest," Harry agreed.
"Or about the money?"
"Or about the money," Harry agreed. Neville looked a little lost, but decided it would be safer to ask Ginny or Hermione later.
"Do you know when I knew you were something special, Harry?" Ron asked after a plause.
"I'm nothing special," Harry insisted.
"You are," Ron retorted. "Isn't he, Neville?"
"You are, Harry," Neville agreed sincerely.
"I decided you were something special when you told off Malfoy on the train five years ago. Even though Dad despised the Malfoys, they really were held up by 'society' and the people who count at the Ministry as the best wizarding society had to offer."
Neville jumped in, "No, he's right. Every time I was with Grandmother in Diagon Alley, someone would comment that I would be in the same Hogwarts cohort as Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy."
"And nobody knew anything about you after, well, after that Halloween, so we were left with Prince Draco," Ron nearly spat. "And there you sat, all alone in the compartment, dressed in clothes scruffier than most of my own, which was saying something. This manor is the sort of background I associated you with. When you hauled out that fist full of gold and bought so much food, I should have realized that this was in your background somewhere."
Ron shook his head to clear it. "Sorry, I got off the path. Anyway, when that prick and his two clods came barging in, I thought, 'well, it was nice while it lasted. The two princes will be off together.' And you preferred me. That meant a lot to me, Harry."
"You've always stuck up for me, and tried to help me," Neville said. "Not just with classes, I mean Hermione has always helped me more there. I wasn't much of a wizard until last year, but you never looked down on me, never treated me like a joke. You've never just tolerated me, you actually liked me and thought I was worth something."
"Neville," Harry acknowledged, "you weren't a very good wizard until last year. I've always thought you were a very good person."
"I don't want to see you snogging Ginny, if you ever do," Ron said, "but I think you two do make a good couple. I hope it works out for you." That was a very high compliment from Ron.
"Thanks," Neville said.
"To change the subject," Harry said, "this property is all very . . . oppressive in some ways. There are only three reasons why I'm glad we're here instead of the Burrow."
"No one can really tell you not to snog Hermione, for one," Ron teased.
"That's one," Harry agreed. "Second, while we six would fit at the Burrow, the others wouldn't."
"I've always wanted a family," Harry said. "My grandfather's ghost is here, and there must be dozens of portraits. . . ." He turned around, and Neville and Ron realized there was a large portrait over the fireplace. "How many portraits are there who can talk to here, sir?" Harry asked.
The portrait had been still, but now the powerful, almost lion-like man smiled and replied, "A hundred and fifty-nine, of ninety-three different individuals." He lowered his voice, "My grandson, your great-great grandfather, was a very vain man, and has eighteen painting of himself, and nine of his favorite mistress, later his third wife!"
"Is she the one in the master study?" Harry asked curiously.
"The naked blonde with the skinny waist and the big tits? Yes, that's her, the trollop. She doesn't usually talk at all in any of the portraits, thank Merlin! She has a voice that could cut glass. Whistle a tune and any of her paintings will dance. Whistle one she likes, and she'll strip down in the other portraits and give you a show."
"Really?" Ron asked, shocked.
"Really. She was a rather disturbed young witch named Mary McGonagall, and she did the same thing in life. Made her rather popular with the lads while she was alive, and after, well, many of my male descendants liked her, too. Your father and his friends liked to play the penny whistle, looking for tunes she liked." The elderly lion shook his head. "Perhaps it was a good thing they had no children who survived. They might have been . . . odd."
"Shall I ask one of the elves to put one of her in both your rooms?" Harry asked.
"Ginny would murder me," Neville said, perhaps a bit disappointed.
"Sure, but only if you promise not to tell Professor McGonagall," Ron said.
"Good advice!" the painting called out. "I believe your grandfather got a black eye teasing her about it in school, and your father and his friend each served a detention or two over the subject."
The boys thanked the painting, and then Ron asked, "How many elves do you have? How is Hermione on the subject?"
"There were five, and I've hired Dobby and Winky, although Dobby will be going back to Hogwarts during term. Hermione isn't thrilled, obviously. I mean, I know she's right in theory. It's not right to enslave any sentient being. On the other hand, elves seem to want to serve. There must be some way to allow them to serve while preventing abuse."
"At least that's sensible," Ron said. "SPEW would never work, any more than her leaving hats about did."
"True," Harry agreed. "All these elves have accepted pay and days off, and know they can get their freedom any time they ask. Hermione's accepting that for now, and is going to try and learn how they think before causing any blowups."
"We'll see," Ron said, before changing the subject again. "So what are all these people coming here for? Especially three Slytherins?"
"Malfoy's father is dead," Harry said, "Malfoy has been expelled, along with Bulstrode, Goyle, Crabbe, and five Seventh year Slytherins, not to mention two Seventh year Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff. There are still some pro-Death Eaters left. . . ."
"Like Parkinson," Ron put in, to which Harry nodded.
"Exactly. Still, not even all the Slytherins are pro-Death Eater. Of the remaining Sixth years, Dumbledore reckons those three are will to come out against the Death Eaters."
"How many are left?" Ron demanded. "Nott's the only other boy, and he was about as bad as Malfoy last year."
"There are some other girls," Neville pointed out.
"True," Ron admitted.
"Plus Dumbledore believes that even the pro-Death Eaters left in the Seventh year aren't all that 'avid' -- they might still go over to him after they leave, but none is so committed as to be dangerous next year. So with them doing their N.E.W.T.s, he's hoping those three Sixth years will be a stronger influence on the younger students."
"What about Seamus and Lavender?" Neville asked. "Neither was overly sympathetic to us last year, except at the very end."
"And Dean and Parvati didn't exactly reign in their friends," Ron pointed out.
Harry shrugged. "Do you really want to punish them for that? Even more, do either of you think any of those four are pro-Death Eater?"
Neville and especially Ron flushed at that. Ron had obviously thought exactly that at least once. "Oh, come on, Ron," Harry teased, "can you imagine Parvati or Lavender joining any group that made them dress in costumes like the Death Eaters wear?" Ron and Neville snorted in amusement, as they imagined what the stylish pair of pretty girls would have to say about the Death Eater regalia as fashion statements.
"Ron seemed to be in a good mood all evening," Hermione commented as she sat in front of the vanity and brushed her hair.
Harry was laying on Hermione's bed, watching her. He was content, because he had never thought he would be part of such a domestic, homey scenario with a beautiful witch, one that he not only was in love with, but who loved him back. He was also excited, because they were both nude, and Hermione's motions while brushing her hair were extraordinarily arousing. "What makes you say so?" was all he said, however.
"He was whistling dance tunes under his breath all night!" Hermione shook her head. "Odd, even for Ron."
"True," Harry said, holding back a smirk. "How are Ginny and Luna?"
"Ginny seems happy with Neville," Hermione said. "It's difficult to tell with Luna, but she's a bit like you."
"In what way?"
"She's had to put up with more than her share of abuse, you with your relatives, and she with her Housemates. She's happy for the acceptance and affection you, Ginny, and I all feel for her."
"Ron does seem a bit skittish," Harry acknowledged.
"Well, with Ginny dating Neville and you and I dating, he's probably worried you're going to try to set him up with Luna," Hermione said frankly.
"Luna liked him last autumn, but I've never seen a flicker of interest on his part," Harry agreed. "I'm just glad Ron accepts us, and doesn't hold all this against me."
Hermione smiled, stood, and turned around. "I think it's time to stop worrying about our guests, don't you?"
Harry smiled in return. "Absolutely."
The other fifteen guests arrived late Tuesday afternoon. All of them were shocked at the size and luxury of Potter Place. Even Justin, from a moderately old and well-off, if minor, aristocratic Muggle family, had never seen the like.
After the tour, there was a feast to rival one at Hogwarts in the great hall. The chaparones, however, ate in one of the dining rooms. Afterwards, Harry escorted the students into the largest drawing room, which was in the same section of the manor where the new guests were staying.
Harry had talked with his friends that morning, telling them what he planned to do that evening. That also entailed him telling them the exact Prophecy. With Harry revealing so much about himself, they all felt they could not hold back. Harry wanted to tell the other students everything of importance that had happened to them. He wanted to draw them into an alliance, so that they could lead the students into the coming war that Voldemort was sure to start now that all his secret attacks had failed and open terror was about all he had left.
Therefore, that night Harry told them about all his 'adventures', from the troll in his First year through the confrontation at Godric's Hollow that summer, with the other students adding what they knew, and how they felt, where appropriate.
The group had to learn to trust each other to some degree, not an easy task, especially when it came to the three Slytherins. Still, if it worked, they would be able to build the type of inter-House loyalty the Sorting Hat had been asking for the previous year. Hogwarts would stand all the stronger, a beacon against the Dark Lord and his forces.
There was no doubt that Voldemort would be back. He would find allies and servants. There would be battles, and some good people would be lost along the way, but Harry was becoming certain that in the end he and his friends would win.
Hermione and his closest friends, Ron, Luna, Ginny, and Neville, all agreed. Of course, they had all had fewer doubts than Harry all along.
Hermione told Harry those things that night. She had awoken a little after 2:00 am, and saw that Harry was not in their bed. She tracked him down to his bedroom, where he was sitting in front of a magical fire, which was casting light but almost no heat -- unneeded since it was warm even in the thick-walled manor.
She had thought for a moment he had had a dream contact with Voldemort, but he was just thinking. Thinking about the future, on which she reassured him, and on the past.
"You have to know the past so you have some idea of where you're going and why you're going there," Hermione said. "Don't dwell in the past, Harry. You're the future. We're going to face it together with our friends, and we will make it ours."
Harry smiled. "That seems a bit much to plan on, even for magic."
"If Voldemort can make things worse, then we can make things better," Hermione answered.
Harry smiled. "I like the sound of that."
Hermione had been kneeling next to Harry, but now she stood, holding her hand out. "Come to bed, Harry."
Harry smiled and did just that. "I guess the future will be nice after all," he joked.
"As long as we're together, we come out ahead," Hermione assured him.
They went back to bed, confident in the future.