Harry spun faster and faster, elbows tucked tightly to his sides, blurred fireplaces flashing past him, until he started to feel sick and closed his eyes. Then, when at last he felt himself slowing down, he threw out his hands and came to a halt in time to prevent himself from falling face forward out of the Weasley's kitchen fire.
Harry glanced around and saw that everyone was looking at him, most the Weasley's were standing around the room. Harry also noticed that Hermione was there already with her parents and a girl he didn't know but guessed was Hermione's older sister, Cassandra.
"Uh, Hello everyone."
"Oh Harry, it's so good to see you!" Harry heard through her mass of brown hair as she pulled him into a suffocating hug. "Did you finish all your home work? I'll have to look it over for you. How was your summer? You grew! When did you get new clothes? What happened? Oh, I had such a great time. You really should see the Mediterranean!"
She stopped her questions as Harry began laughing. He couldn't help himself, after everything that had happened this summer, after all the memories, and all the changes, he felt incredible relieved that Hermione was still the same he remembered.
"Come on, Hermione," said Ron, "Let him breath!"
"Mate!" Harry exclaimed, surprised once again at how happy he was to see him. They exchanged a short, and slightly awkward, one-armed hug.
"Glad you're back!" Ron said, grinning slightly. "Can you believe it? We're going to the World Cup!"
"I know! You should see the field mate. It's huge! And it's packed with foreigners from around the world, everywhere you look there's nothing put people! Diagon Alley is packed too, it's amazing really. Did you hear both teams will be using Firebolts! Oh, and Wood got reserve for Puddlemere!" Harry said, his interest in Quidditch overcoming him.
"Move aside Ronald, you can talk Quidditch later." Mrs. Weasley said as she engulfed Harry in one of her infamous hugs, nearly crushing the life out of him.
"Harry dear, now don't you look great." Mrs. Weasley said affectionately.
"Thank you ma'am. Not having glasses make such a difference." Harry said blushing; Mrs. Weasley always made him feel self- conscious and he wasn't used to the affection.
"You're not wearing glasses! I didn't even notice, what happened to them? Can you see all right? I'm sure we can get you another set, Diagon Alley has a store and so does the village market down the road." Harry tried to tell her that he didn't need them anymore but Mrs. Weasley was in her mothering mode now and he couldn't get a word in.
Finally Mrs. Weasley needed to stop to get a breath and Harry cried out,"Wait!" hoping to stop her before she could continue. "Thank you Mrs. Weasley, but I actually don't need glasses anymore. When I was in St. Mungo's the healer went ahead and fixed them as well."
"Oh, that's great dear. Without your glasses your eyes look so much..." She stopped for a moment when she realized what he had said."St. Mungo's? Healers? Are you alright dear? What happened? You need to get off your feet dear. Ronald, bring over an extra seat and make room for Harry!" The questions turned into an unintelligible stream of sounds as Hermione's frantic voice combined with Mrs. Weasley's shrill one.
"Mum!" One of the two Weasley brother's Harry didn't know shouted out, gaining everyone's attention. "Any particular order you want him to answer those? You're going so fast that no-one could follow. Besides he looks well enough at the moment and St. Mungo's wouldn't have released him if he was still sick."
"He's right Mrs. Weasley," Harry said. "It was in the beginning of summer, I'm fine now."
"Are you sure dear? Still best to take a seat dear and tell us what happened."
Harry let himself be led to a seat at the table by the Weasley Matriarch where he was bombarded by questions from Hermione about what happened to him, and Ron about Wood becoming a reserve for Puddlemere.
"They'll be plenty of time for catching up later you too. Now Harry dear, what happened?" Mrs. Weasley asked her voiced tinged with concern.
"Well, I started having these headaches towards the end of school."
"You were sick during school and you didn't say anything!" Hermione cried out, interrupting him.
Harry just shrugged, "It was only a few days before school ended and Ithought it was me just not wanting to go back to the Dursley's."
"During the first week at the Dursley's it became worse though. Icouldn't sleep and began blanking out and losing consciousness during chores. The Dursley's even noticed and, not wanting to catch a freak's disease, locked me in my room for a few days. I was able to convince my Uncle to bring me to London so I could go to St. Mungo's. Unfortunately it was raining and I blanked out and slipped on the sidewalks, breaking my glasses."
Harry continued to tell them the rest of what had happened this summer, though he conveniently left out any parts to do with his visions, Sirius, and his new relationship with Katie. Afterward Hermione continued to question and badger him for not telling her about the headaches after it happened. From the look in her eye Harry realized that she already knew, or at least suspected, that they were caused by the Time Turner.
"I'm Charlie," said the one of the two red-head's Harry didn't know, thankfully interrupting Hermione's rant, "and this long-haired pillock is Bill."
Harry chuckled at the description and shook both there hands. "It's nice to finally to meet you both, and I like the long hair, Bill. The earring too, they make you look cool."
Bill grinned and patted his shoulder, "You and I are going to get along just fine!"
Mrs. Weasley must have heard his comment to Bill because she came over and began berating Bill about his hair and Harry took the opportunity to get up and walked over to the Grangers. "It's nice to see you again Mr. Granger, Mrs. Granger. And you must be Cassandra? Hermione's told me a lot about you." Harry said as he offered her his hand, taking the opportunity to look at her.
Shorter than Harry, he guessed Cassandra was nearly the same height of her younger sister and wondered if Hermione would grow anymore. The thick brown hair was the same he noticed, though Cassandra's was shorter, ending just above her shoulders, and only the slightly wavy. She was wearing a rather expensive looking outfit, a silky light black blouse and a black skirt that nicely accented her quite tan legs.
Taking another look at her Harry realized that while each of her features were quite similar to Hermione's, he wouldn't have guessed that they were sisters if he hadn't known already. He wasn't sure what it was but there was just something about her that made her so completely different from Hermione while still looking the same.
Thankfully she didn't say anything about his lengthy look, though Harry noticed her smile became a bit larger. "Yes, and it's great to finally meet you Harry. So many of Hermione's letters mention you that I feel like Iknow you already." She replied, ignoring his outstretched hand completely and giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek instead.
Whistles and laughter from the twins interrupting them.
"Way to go Harry!"
"Women throwing themselves,"
"at you! What a,"
"problem to have!"
Harry blushed when he noticed they were now the center of attention, but Cassandra mealy rolled her eyes and pulled Harry into another hug before pulling back a little and looking him in the eye. "It really is nice to meet you Harry. You mean a lot to Hermione and your friendship has made her happier than I've ever seen her. I know you all had problems last year, but remember that even when you two are out of sorts, she values your friendship more than anything else."
"I've changed a lot since then," Harry told her. "Last year was amistake that will not happen again."
Cassandra laughed a bit at that. "I'm sure you'll have other fights, just work through them better next time." Harry nodded as she let him go, stepping back next to her parents.
He was aware of Hermione's quizzical look, and that the rest of the room was still looking at him and wasn't exactly sure what to say. Seeing Ron nearby provided Harry with the perfect way out though. With a quick comment he was able to pull Ron into a conversation about Oliver Wood, leaving the rest of the room to go back to what they were doing before.
After learning that the Granger's had never seen someone on a broomstick before Harry decided to give him a demonstration with his Firebolt.
As Harry took off into the air the worries of the world were left on the ground. Laughing he banked sharply and accelerated down to the ground, pushing his broom for more and more speed. Merely a meter above the ground Harry gripped his broomstick as tightly as he could and slammed the brakes, not even waiting to fully stop before taking the broom nearly vertical as quickly as he could.
Higher and higher he climbed, spiraling and zigzagging his way up until he was high enough to see the edges of the town. He bent his knees, locked his ankles, and leaned back, letting gravity reach out and take a hold of him. The adrenaline pumped through his body as he twisted and flipped through the air, free-falling back to ground. Finally, when he was about three quarters of the way back to the ground Harry forced himself back into position, regaining control and easing the Firebolt into a hover.
Ever since playing Quidditch at Hogwarts he'd been severely tempted to fly through the trees in the Forbidden Forest. Only the memories of being attacked by a half-dead Voldemort and nearly being eaten by Acromantula stopped him so far. Here though, in the safety of the Weasley's yard, and high on adrenaline, Harry had no second thoughts. He quickly sped off for the tree's surrounding the Weasley's backyard, a huge smile on his face.
He raced into the trees using every bit of his skill to make his way through at such speeds. The thrill was amazing; his body reacted quicker than he thought possible, spotting branches and twisting the broom away from the oncoming danger before he ever realized it was a branch. He zoomed right and left, flying above or ducking below the branches, rolling hard to the left and right to avoid crashing. Nearly running into a large tree he spiraled his was up it, ducking the branches as he circled within arms reach of the trunk, breaking into the daylight for a moment just to dive back into the canopy of the forest. The feeling was amazing, this is what he loved!
Pulling out of his dive so close to the ground that he lightly skimmed the dirt he rocketed back through the forest and into the daylight. After a few more sharp dives, barrel rolls, and corkscrews Harry gained a bit of altitude before diving directly at the group of spectators. Less than a meter from the group he pulled up hard, pushing the Firebolt's braking charms to their limit, touching down hard directly in front of the Granger's.
There was a great deal of cheering and congratulations, or in Mrs. Weasley's case, berating. It was Hermione's reaction though that surprised him the most. She didn't scold or lecture him at all but instead praised his flying skills to her family, informing them of how much of a natural he was and telling the story of their first flying lesson, where stood-up for Neville and saved his Rememberall on his first time with a broom.
Harry knew he was blushing bright red but he couldn't help it, he'd learned a lot this summer but accepting praise was not one of them. He found it interesting to see how much Hermione changed over the last three years. She still called him an idiot for disobeying a teacher in order to save Neville's Rememberall, but at the same time he could hear the pride in her voice and Harry knew she didn't really meant it, not anymore.
Turning to pick up his Firebolt Harry froze in shock at what he saw. There, in the air above him was the ghostly image of a larger-than-life sized Harry looking back at himself.
"It's a scrying spell." He managed to pull his eyes away from the image to see Charlie speaking to him.
"We use it a lot on the Dragon preserve. Only works over a small range, bit over half a kilometer, but it helps us check up on the Dragons without having to disturb them by getting to close, they have truly amazing senses. The spells takes some of the fun out of it, but its easier on the Dragons."
"We couldn't really keep track of you so thought I'd make it a bit easier to watch. That was some impressive flying by the way, especially dodging all those trees. I used to do it during the summers and know just how much skill what you did requires."
Harry just nodded. He understood why Charlie would cast the spell but didn't like the idea that someone could spy on him anytime they wanted. It reminded far too much of how the Dursley's always spied on their neighbors.
After a bit of talking Charlie and Harry took Mr. and Mrs. Granger for aquick broomstick ride. Neither wanted to go very fast or perform any extreme moves, but they seemed to enjoy being up in the air.
"I'm wearing a skirt today," Cassandra said as Harry helped Mrs. Granger dismount his broomstick, "or I'd have you take me for a ride as well. When we come to pick up Hermione I'll be dressed for it and you're going to push every limit you can. I love going fast! An ex-boyfriend of mine used to take me for rides on his motorcycle; the rush was incredible when he'd really punch it. There are only a few things that make me feel more alive than that did." She then added with a laugh, "It's probably one of the main reasons why Idated him for as long as I did."
"I think you'll have a new favorite after next week then." Harry said with a grin, confident in his abilities with the Firebolt. While he knew afast motorcycle could easily beat his Firebolt in a straight race, they couldn't begin to compare when it came to maneuverability.
"You're going to be picking up Hermione?" Harry asked. He figured Hermione would just stay with them till school started in two weeks.
"The day after the World Cup," Cassandra answered. "Mom and Dad want to spend more time with her. I'm starting Uni this year and think that really got to them, made them realize that we were growing up and aren't their little girls anymore and all that. They even talked about opening a second office near my school so they could visit more often."
"Harry, you ripped your new shirt!" Mrs. Weasley said, interrupting them by grabbing his shirt and looking at the rip. "Come along dear, Merlin knows I've fixed up enough clothes in my time." Then, in an exasperated voice, she added, "What would you boys do if you couldn't get yourselves hurt!"
Mrs. Weasley led him to the laundry room and grabbed a box full of potion bottles from a shelf. "Now take off your shirt dear, we'll see if you've managed to scratch yourself up as well."
The cold liquid Mrs. Weasley put on his side burned violently for a few moments before subsiding, leaving Harry with an odd numb sensation. "The scratches will be fine in a few moments dear. You may have a little bruise but that'll help remind you to be more careful next time. I've heard about all your injuries during Quidditch, you really must look after yourself better!"
Harry walked upstairs towards Ron's room planning to change into another shirt before remembering that his trunk was still downstairs near the fireplace. Things had been so hectic hear, which all the questions about his summer and meeting the Granger's, he hadn't even had a chance to bring it upstairs.
He wasn't paying much attention as he searched through his trunk for another shirt and was caught by surprise when all of a sudden there were several bright flashes behind him. Instinct took over and he turned quickly, his wand appearing in his hand from his magical holster. Apparently everyone must have followed Mrs. Weasley and him inside because they were all there, in the Kitchen, with him now. Fred or George, Harry wasn't sure which, held a camera and he realized, with a bit of embarrassment that the flashes were from it.
"Since it seems little Ginny"
"couldn't stop staring"
"at your bare chest,"
After another set of flashes they added,
"We thought we'd"
"get her a few pictures,"
Harry looked over towards Ginny and blushed even further. Looking around the room he was surprised to notice that Hermione too was blushing, and seemed to be looking anywhere but towards him.
"Replacing her current pictures of you with these."
"You know the ones on her bedside,"
"Inside every one of her books."
"This way she can ogle you"
"anytime she wants."
The comments seemed to break Ginny out of her trance. She let out a high pitched 'eeep' and blushed so deeply Harry wondered if even her toes were flushed.
To make matters even worse the twins began singing in a squeaky voice.
"His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,"
"His hair is as dark as a blackboard,"
"I wish he was mine,"
"He's really divine,"
"The hero who conquered the Dark Lord."
The twins busted out laughing and, even though Harry was embarrassed, he actually felt a great deal of sadness for Ginny. He couldn't imagine how she must feel.
"Sorry to break it to you dear little sister, but it seems you'll have to give up all your dreams."
"What is this oh brother of mine?" The second twin asked the first with a grin.
"Haven't you heard? It seems ickle Harrikins isn't so ickle anymore and got himself a girlfriend."
"A girlfriend you say, who might this be?" Asked the second red-head with a clearly faked interest.
"The illustrious Gryffindor Quidditch star, Katie Bell!"
"An older woman too? He must not be as ickle as we thought."
"Indeed, that is true brother of mine! Rumor has it they've been caught snogging in restaurants, private tents at the World Cup, and during late night walks under the moon. Several witnesses even commented they were jealous. It seems our Boy-Who-Lived is quite the kisser indeed! Made all the girls swoon just from watching."
"Our Harry? The sweet innocent boy who can do no wrong? The rumors must be wrong!"
"Innocent you say? I'm not too sure of that. Just between you and I, dear brother, there is one more rumor I haven't mentioned."
"Oh, and what is this rumor dear brother?"
"It seems our innocent Harry here spent the night with the beautiful Miss Bell in her bed!"
"It was the sofa, not her bed!" Harry snapped, only afterward that he realized how that made things sound.
"So it's true!" One of the twins gasped. "We thought that last one was just a rumor!"
The other twin turned towards Ginny and laughingly told her, "Sorry ickle Gin Gin, but it seems someone beat you to him!"
Harry looked over and Ginny and his heart stopped. She looked horrible!
So many emotions were playing through her body, though the two major ones were heart broken and embarrassment. It was her face that really hit Harry, though it wasn't the freely flowing tears that caught his attention. Contrary to just a minute ago, her face was no longer red and flushed, it was deathly pale.
Images sprang to his mind again; images of Ginny lying on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets, the Basilisk, The diary, Tom Riddle, Ginny's cold skin and deathly pale complexion as Tom explained how he was stealing her life.
He was barely aware of the twin's laughter and Ginny fleeing the room as more images flooded into his mind. These were of an older Ginny, laughing, smiling, snogging, then of her being hit by a curse and crying out in pain. Ginny's soul-wrenching cries over the death of her parents, Ginny with blood flowing on her robes. It was the last image that really shook Harry though; Ginny once again with the deathly pale complexion, but now she was lying still in a casket as Harry looked down at her, tears falling from his eyes.
His emotions were all over the place; anger, fear, happiness, sadness, and confusion were all warring for dominance inside of him. Anger won. Anger at the universe for his Ginny having to go through so much, anger at the twins for causing his Ginny pain, and anger at the twins for laughing at his Ginny's pain!
Without even realizing it Harry acted. He grabbed both Fred and George and slammed them into the nearest wall, not realizing that, while he'd begun his growth spurt, he was still quite a bit smaller than the twins.
"Did you think that was funny?" Harry asked them, anger clearly evident in his quiet voice.
"Answer me!" Harry roared at the startled red-heads. "Did you think it was funny to hurt her? Was watching her cry and taking pictures to tease her with later amusing to you? Did you learn nothing two years ago! She nearly died because of shite like that!"
"Harry..." one of the twins gasped out, but Harry was not in the mood to hear them talk.
"Maybe you didn't... You weren't the one who was possessed, who had to deal with an evil lunatic taking over your body and ordering you to kill innocent people! You weren't the one who held her cold, pale, body as she lay near death on the stone floor. You weren't the one who had to kill a 20 meter Basilisk, then face, and murder, the wraith of the man who murdered your parents! You weren't the one who felt death claim you as the Basilisk fang tore into your skin! And you aren't the one who has to live with the pain of the bloody venom destroying your body every second of every day for the rest of your life!"
The anger had slowly been burning itself out of his body during his rant and when finished he began to realize just what he had done. Harry was so shocked to see that he was nearly strangling Fred and George holding them up against the wall that his grip faltered allowing them to slide down the wall gasping for breath.
Looking around Harry saw everyone just staring at him, his eyes widen as he noticed Ginny was there too, she must have come back after she heard the yelling. He backed away slowly, trying to come to terms with what he had just done.
"I'm sorry," Harry stuttered as Mrs. Weasley rushed over to the twins. "I... Idon't know what came over me."
"You're shivering. Why don't you sit down a minute?" Harry was still lost in his thoughts but let Mrs. Granger lead him to a chair in the family room.
A few minutes later he was shaking out his thoughts. "Mrs. Weasley!" Harry gasped out when he noticed she was kneeling in front of him. "I'm sorry, I... Ishould leave."
"The boys are fine dear," Mrs. Weasley said in a calm voice as she put ahand on his arm to prevent him from leaving, "but I need to know what happened."
"I don't know!" Harry said as he ran his hand through his hair. "I was just embarrassed at first, but when I saw the look on her face, so pale... All I cold see was her lying on the dirty stone floor of the Chamber of Secrets... Then the Basilisk, the diary, Tom, the feeling of her skin... It was cold that it felt like her body was pulling the warmth from mine."
Harry shook his head a little, trying to clear out the memories and continued,"When I saw her run away crying I... I couldn't think. I just flipped. I was barely myself, I mean I know I did it, it was just... I was so angry at them for hurting Ginny that I didn't even realize what I was doing until the end."
"What about the magic then?" Charlie asked, sounding more than a little frustrated.
Harry's mind was still swarming, but he hadn't thought he had cast any spells, had he?
Hermione, who was standing next to his chair, answered his unasked question in a concerned voice. "Harry, you picked up and held Fred /and /George to the wall like it was nothing. You've grown this summer but they still outweigh you by at least 30 Kilograms, each."
"And I could feel the magic you were producing from across the room."Charlie added.
Harry had done magic several times without meaning to, mostly when Ollivander, or Sirius, would test his reactions and ability to sense an incoming attack, but he remembered each of those times perfectly. "I don't know. My head was swarming and I... I don't remember any magic." Harry told Hermione, looking her in the eyes hoping to show her he really didn't know.
Harry put his head in his hands, trying to fight off the headache that had arrived since this had all begun. It had been such a fun afternoon! Why did something always happen to me?
"Molly dear, why don't you make a few cups of tea for the children. I'm sure this must be difficult on them." Mr. Weasley said. Harry hadn't even noticed that Mr. Weasley had returned and almost smiled at the thought of Sirius and Ollivander nagging him for missing such a potential threat.
While Mrs. Weasley was making tea Mr. Weasley pulled Bill and Charlie away from the group to ask them about what happened.
It was her tone that gained Harry's attention as Hermione was rarely anything but direct. "What did you mean when you said that you'd feel the pain from Basilisk for the rest of your life?"
Harry mentally groaned, he hadn't meant to tell anyone about that. He was about to make up an excuse but stopped once he saw look on her face, she wouldn't accept anything but the truth.
"There's no cure for Basilisk Venom."
"You said Fawkes healed you though and Phoenix Tears have powerful healing properties."
Harry sighed slightly and closed his eyes, even more than a year later he still didn't like to think back to that night.
"Fawkes did save me. The Phoenix tears and Basilisk venom will always remain in me though, the venom constantly destroying my body as the tears continuously heal it."
"But McKael's tome, Extraordinary Magical Feats, and Larson's codex on Magical Miracles both state that Phoenix tears are one of the most magical substances known and can heal any malady, no matter how serious, as long as the person is still alive." Hermione said, frustrated that her best friend would always hurt and even more frustrated because she hadn't known about it!
"Actually," Bill said, having walked over to hear about how Fawkes had healed Harry. "They probably say that they suspect Phoenix tears could heal any malady. Phoenixes are incredible rare. Currently, there are only two domesticated Phoenixes alive, and only seven have been confirmed in the last millennium. There was one other rumored to have been domesticated by a Chinese wizard a couple hundred years ago, but there are several conflicting reports about it."
"Even counting that one," he continued. "There's only been ten known cases where a Phoenix shed tears to heal someone. But like Hermione, everything I've ever read has stated that the tears are believed to be one of the most potent magical substances known."
"I don't think they heal at all really," Harry told them. "I try not to think of it much, but I'm pretty sure it's Fawkes himself who's actually healing me, not the tears. I can tell when Fawkes is close to his burning day because I start feeling a lot worse but once he grows a little, I start to feel normal again."
"Merlin!" Bill said with a laugh, "You realize that that little fact right there is enough to completely alter the way academics see Phoenixes. It makes sense though, and explains why there have been so few cases of people being healed by Phoenix tears. It's not too difficult to keep one spell active all the time, but to keep a dozen spells active all day, every day, for the next couple hundred years..."
"You may want to talk to Professor Dumbledore before you say much more about it though," Bill said in a serious tone. "No-one who has ever tamed a Phoenix has really spoken about them. It's why so little is known. If the academic community ever found out about this, you'll have dozens of witches and wizards wanting to run all sorts of tests on you."
Harry didn't have to think about it much longer as Mrs. Weasley arrived with a pitcher of tea and cups for them. Sipping the hot tea was exactly what he needed as the warmth seemed to flow through him, soaking into the furthest reaches of his body and calming his over-stressed mind.
Thankfully the rest of the evening passed without much notice by Harry. He was fairly certain Mrs. Weasley mixed some sort of potion in with the tea but couldn't find the energy to argue about it, if anything was thankful as the warmth flowed through his body, calming his over-stressed mind.
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