A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, early training through...
Sunday, July 21, 1996 cont.
From 10:00 until noon that first day, Harry coached his friends on some of the advanced training he had received over the previous weeks. He knew all their abilities, especially Hermione, Ron, and Neville's, very well, of course. While Harry was in many ways an insular, almost self-centered person (unsurprising, considering how he had been raised), he did pay attention to all of his friends. Their experiences within the DA had honed Harry's knowledge of all five of them, and exposed him to thinking about the abilities, needs, and accomplishments of others as well. Harry knew all of their weaknesses, and went through them all with Remus and Jones, with Master J looking on.
It could have been ruthless and even belittling. It was neither. Harry had a real knack for teaching. That, and his obvious concern for his friends, made his evaluations acceptable to those friends. Hermione often over-thought situations, which didn't always allow her the time to act as she thought things through in elaborate logic trees. She needed help in her reaction time. Neville, of course, had self-confidence problems ('He just won't accept he's not only not below average, but actually excellent,' Harry had said, to Neville's embarrassment). Ron and Ginny both tended to get over-excited. In addition, Ron usually either plowed straight ahead without thinking or got too caught up in complicated strategies. Ginny also had some self-confidence problems. Luna tended to be easily distracted in practice. Harry then practiced dueling with each, and managed to show off both their strengths and their weaknesses.
After lunch, Master J spent half an hour with each student, evaluating them for Occlumency, while Harry dueled with Jones and Remus supervised the others. From 3:30 until 4:00, the three men conferred with each other, while the students talked about their experiences. Remus came in at 4:00 to talk with them.
"All right, here's the schedule for the next three weeks. Wake up is at Six every morning. Exercise is from Six-thirty until Eight. We'll have four treadmills downstairs. You're expected to jog at least three miles each morning, although running would be better. You're also expected to spend at least fifteen minutes doing the upper body exercises. Harry is in training, and you five claim to want to be with him. Well, this training is the price you pay."
When no one said anything, Remus went on, "Showers, then breakfast. From Nine to Ten, study time. Luna and Ginny have more O.W.L. preparation, Harry, Neville, and Hermione have anatomy to memorize before they start the medical class, and all four of you should familiarize yourselves with your other material. Harry and either Ron or Neville show up between Ten and Ten-fifteen. From Ten-thirty until noon, Harry coaches you on dueling, with me supervising. This week, Master J will be coaching you all on Occlumency, after that Harry and Mister Jones will be. From Two until Three-thirty, Mister Jones will be working with Harry and I will be working with the rest of you. From Four until Five-thirty, back to the books, then showers. Some nights you might stay here after dinner, some nights all or some of you might be going back with Harry for dinner. Lights out by Ten-thirty."
The next nine days passed quickly. By the afternoon of July 30, Ginny and Luna had cleared off most of their summer assignments, so they could start their first serious O.W.L. revisions under Hermione's tutelage. Harry and Neville made real strides memorizing the anatomy that the medical course required -- Hermione had learned it on her own even before her first Hogwarts letter. All four Sixth years had made some progress in their advanced work as well.
Harry made even greater strides in his physical fitness, alternating his work-outs with Ron and Neville. Neville concentrated on strength-training, while Ron worked on his endurance. Harry, alternating each morning, made faster progress with each than he had been working on his own.
All five of the students made fast progress in practical defense under Harry's morning sessions and Remus' afternoon ones. At the rate they were going, they would have all learned the basic practical skills through the Seventh year curriculum by the time Hermione would have to leave in just over a week. The rest of the summer could be spent in honing those skills.
Harry had made even faster progress. He would still have to learn all the theory, but he would make it through the Seventh year Defense, Charms, and Transfiguration practicals, and the fundamentals of auror training, by the end of the summer. Even Jones had felt compelled to tell Harry he was the fastest study of any age he had ever seen.
In part because of all the students were ahead of schedule, Jones had started giving them half an hour of physical combat training, starting their second Monday. This would consist of a week of learning how to fall properly from all positions. "By the time we're through, you'll be able to slip totally by surprise, and land without getting hurt. You'll be able to fall or dive, and be able to spring up, ready to fight. If you can do that, your chances of surviving will be much greater."
Hermione and Luna didn't care much for the exercises in general, and the falling in particular, but they acknowledged the need. Hermione and Neville had the most difficult time getting used to the 'bumps', but by the end of that Thursday's practice, they were dropping without getting hurt.
Luna had been the only student who had picked up the Occlumency easily. Master J was very happy about that, because Luna's unshielded stream of consciousness had nearly given him a headache. Hermione's blazingly fast mind still threatened to do so. Still, Johnson was a master teacher, and had taught more difficult students than these the basics. Even if he could now only come on Mondays, he was certain that by the end of the summer, all six students would be impervious to the Imperius curse and able to deflect most Legilimens. Harry and Luna, he felt, would be very powerful Occlumens by the end of summer.
Wednesday, July 31, 1996
"Happy birthday, Harry."
"Happy birthday, Neville."
Neville looked at Harry. "How . . . how did you know today's really my birthday?"
"What do you mean 'really'?"
"I was born a few minutes past midnight, but my birthday was announced as the Thirtieth."
Harry sighed. Things looked a bit clearer. He wondered whose bright idea that had been. "That prophecy we tried to save? It predicted the person who would have to face down Voldemort -- a wizard born at the end of July, 1980, whose parents had defied Voldemort three times."
"You mean . . . it might be me?"
Harry shook his head. "Might have been, but Voldemort was drawn to the correct answer: me. He must have had us both investigated, which might be one reason his followers went after your parents. They knew a lot about them."
Neville thought deeply as the boys changed into their workout gear, and continued thinking throughout the workout, shower, and breakfast. When they sat down to study, Harry asked, "I can see you're thinking about the prophecy and all this, but may I ask you something?"
"Sure," Neville answered, distracted.
"Why didn't you mention your birthday, yesterday or today?"
"My grandmother told me a long time ago not to reveal it, but that she wouldn't tell me why until I reached seventeen. I guess that makes sense, now."
"I guess." Harry thought. "You know, I know when Ron's birthday is in March, and Hermione's in September, but I don't know when Luna or Ginny's are."
"I don't either," Neville replied. "I think today would be a good day to find out, don't you?"
"We don't want to miss them," Harry agreed.
"Harry. . . ." Neville asked after a few more moments of deep thought.
"If our situations were reversed, what do you think it would be like for us?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted.
"I think I know you well enough to say you wouldn't shy away from being my friend," Neville finally said, "even trying to take some of the burden on yourself. Anything I can do to help, I want to do it."
"How about letting me at least say your birthday was yesterday?" Harry suggested.
"All right," Neville answered. "And with all this working out, I could use some birthday cake and ice cream."
"Let's hope Jones gives us at least part of the day off," Harry grumbled.
Jones greeted Harry and Neville at the door -- usually Luna and Ginny, and sometimes Remus, would greet them when Neville had stayed with Harry. Remus, of course had been transformed the evening before, under the full-moon, and so they hadn't expected him. "Good morning, gentlemen." His arm directed them into the front room, where the other four students were sitting in their robes, rather than their workout clothes.
"Since today is Mister Potter's birthday, and Lupin is indisposed, we thought that would be a good reason to give you a day of rest. No one can train every day without some relaxation. While as far as we know Voldemort and most of his people are in the Urals, trying to recruit the giants again, it is possible Death Eaters are watching Diagon Alley. How would a holiday in Hogsmeade sound?"
The teens all agreed that it sounded like an excellent idea.
"I have been informed that Hogwarts will have four semi-formal dances," Jones went on. "So, while you will be going back to Malkins' at some point, we'll start off at Gladrags. You boys should pick out at least one good outfit; the girls should pick out two. I know you'd probably rather have four," he said, since he didn't know these three particular witches as well as he thought he did, "but Gladrags is having a special on gowns that have two permanent colors -- unlike much spelled cloth, they won't lose or change their colors at inopportune times. Hopefully, you will find one that you like for the Halloween and Yule dances." He hesitated, then handed small leather pouches to Harry, Neville, Luna, and Hermione. "Mister Potter, if you wish you may return for your cheque book. I'm afraid only the robes have been taken care of. You should also bring one of your Hogwarts robes or your blazer."
"Sure," Harry said.
"I'll come with you," Ron said, standing up. He took off his robe, showing he was otherwise in his workout clothes.
"Please hurry," Jones said.
As Harry was going through his desk drawers looking for the cheque book, Ron said, "Harry . . . Harry I hate to ask. . . ."
"Not a problem," Harry said, holding up his cheque book and stuffing it in the inner pocket of his blazer. "How much?"
"Well . . . I don't know, to tell the truth."
"What do you want it for?"
Ron mumbled something.
"To . . treat . . Hermione . . like . . she . . deserves," Ron said distinctly.
"Oh . . . well . . . there's not enough money on earth for that, is there?"
Ron grinned. "I guess not."
Harry fished another leather pouch, this one empty, out of his trunk. "Here, split this and take half," he said, handing the empty one and the one Jones had given him to Ron. He took the cheque book back out and wrote Ron out a cheque.
"Harry, there's twenty Galleons here. Ten is more than enough."
Harry handed Ron the cheque. "Cash this at the Post Office. You might see something for Hermione's birthday or for Christmas."
"I can't take this, Harry!" Ron protested as they left his bedroom.
"Ron, I have more money than I know what to do with. If you want, think of this as an interest-free loan, to be paid in full by the time you're . . . forty. Borrow however much you need to make it through until we're working. All right?"
"You swear I can pay you back?"
"I swear, Ron. Start a current account at the Post Office. Don't they allow small accounts?"
"Up to five hundred Galleons," Ron said as they jogged back to Mrs. Figg's.
"Guess I should have made it out for five instead of one."
"Don't even joke about that, Harry." Ron was still in shock from the cheque.
"Just one thing, when is Ginny's birthday?"
"Halloween, actually. She was very early and almost didn't live. Why?"
"Neville's was yesterday. I don't want to miss Ginny's. Now I just need Luna's."
"The next day, the First of November. Ginny was born just before midnight, Luna a few hours later. Dad and Mister Lovegood have been friends ever since."
"Weird," Harry said. "Neville and I being born a few hours apart, Ginny and Luna the same, and our all going out."
Ron sighed. "Harry, you should know by now wizards don't believe in coincidence. You, Neville, Ginny, and Luna are obviously linked some how."
That gave them both something to think about.
It took Harry, Ron, and Neville all of fifteen minutes to choose their robes. It took the girls well over an hour. Not that the boys minded too much, since they actually liked watching the girls model the different robes.
At one point, Hermione came over to Harry and said, "You know, Harry, maybe we should have more wizarding dress than just Hogwarts and dress robes."
"They have some nice dragon hide suits," Ron offered. His brothers' style had grown on him a bit in early July.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "We would want to blend in, Ron, not stand out."
"Actually, Muggle dress would blend in at the Ministry or in Diagon Alley if you just make some small additions," Ginny said. "Most Muggles dress pretty plainly, like we have been, or like we look in our blazers. You two could probably pick out most of us at the station before we get onto the platform, but most other magical people wouldn't."
"That's true," Hermione said thoughtfully. "Even Mister Crouch, who would have looked perfectly Muggle in the City, looked out of place at the World Cup."
"Similarly, our eyes are drawn to anyone totally in Muggle dress, even what you would think of as inappropriate Muggle dress, in a magical setting," Neville told her.
"So, to fit into the wizarding world, we don't necessarily need a complete outfit, just something that won't draw attention. . . ." Hermione mused.
"Dragon-hide boots?" Ron suggested.
"Not many people look at your feet first," Neville pointed out.
"What about a cape?" Ginny suggested. "Do you think you would look dashing in a cape?"
"I don't think so," Harry responded.
"Then how about a cloak?" Luna suggested in turn. "Those are more practical than a cape, and look closer to a robe. A hooded cloak is also fairly practical."
"That's true," Ginny agreed.
"And we wouldn't look totally stupid wearing one in the Muggle world, at least in bad weather," Hermione mused. "But I don't think I have anything like enough money for a decent cloak."
"I have an idea," Harry said quietly.
"What?" Ron asked, suspiciously.
"What if I buy us all matching cloaks?"
"You don't have to do that," Ginny said firmly.
"No," Harry agreed, "I don't have to. I'd like to, though. None of you had to give up your summer to be with me." Harry raised his hand, "I know, you are all happy to, you're all my friends, and we're all learning skills we'll need. Still, you didn't HAVE to. Let me do this to thank you. And, if we buy them together, we'll match, and I think we should."
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said. "That's very sweet of you. I'll do it."
"Me, too," Neville added.
"I will if you will," Ginny told Ron and Luna. "Luna?"
Luna hung her head. "They'll just steal it," she said softly.
"What? Who will steal it?" Hermione demanded.
"The Ravenclaw girls," Harry told them, putting his arm around Luna to comfort her. "They steal all of Luna's clothes, books, sweets, everything."
"Is that why you started wearing those mis-matched socks and things towards the end of our First year?" Ginny asked.
Luna nodded, a bit embarrassed.
"I'll talk to them," Ginny said fiercely. She and Luna had been childhood friends. They had drifted apart slightly after Luna's mother died, and even more so when they had been sorted into different Houses. As Luna's dress and then manner became more eccentric, Ginny had separated herself more and more. Now, she felt guilty.
"And I'll talk to Padma," Hermione added. "We'll have the cloak spelled as well. Anyone who takes it without your permission will make Marietta look good. You can also keep most of your things locked in the magical trunk this year."
"Thank you," Luna said softly, not quite crying.
"Miss!" Ginny called out.
"Have you ladies decided?" the rather haughty assistant asked.
"No, but we've decided we want six matching cloaks. We'll need heavy security spells on at least one of them," Hermione stated.
"We were only authorized to charge for the robes," the assistant said in a hesitating voice.
"Do you accept Gringotts cheques?" Harry asked.
"Do you have identification?" the assistant asked with a sniff. She had only been told six students were coming in for robes. She hadn't recognized any of them, and they obviously shopped in the Muggle world and Diagon Alley. Gladrags was, for the most part, a more expensive shop than Malkins, and this bunch didn't look very affluent. If they had come in before, they came only on Hogsmeade weekend and browsed in the cheaper section of the store, which she was NOT interested in.
Harry gave her a dirty look and pulled the hair from his forehead. The woman gulped. "Yes, Mister Potter."
After that, no one bought anything extra at Gladrags, just the cloaks and their orders for the gowns. While southern England had been bright and warm, Hogsmeade was cloudy and chilly. The six wore their cloaks (dark Prussian blue with scarlet lining) out.
"Where to next?" Ginny asked.
"I want to open a current account at the Post Office," Harry said. "There should always be two of us together."
"I'll come," Ron said. "Why don't Harry, Neville, and I go to Zonkos and then the Post Office, and meet you three at Honeydukes? Then we can go to lunch."
"Well, I wanted to go to Scrivenshafts," Hermione said doubtfully.
"Me, too," Luna said. "I'm out of their violet and pink ink."
Everyone blinked except Harry, who had received more than one note from Luna in the magically two-toned ink. No one wanted to pursue it.
"Where would we lunch?" Ginny asked with a sly grin. "Madam P . . . ."
"No!" Harry stated. "Three Broomsticks. Neville and I are the birthday boys."
"Today's your birthday, Neville?" Hermione asked, puzzled.
"Yesterday, well, right at midnight," Neville said.
"After lunch, we can go to Dervish and Bangs and the book shops," Harry suggested.
"Sounds like a plan," Ginny said.
"I think the boys are up to something," Ginny said as they walked into the writing supply store.
"Ron and Harry are," Hermione pointed out. "I don't think Neville was in on it."
"Ronald is borrowing money from Harry," Luna said, looking at some embossed parchment.
"Why do you say that?" Ginny asked. Knowing Ron so well, she and Hermione were both surprised by the idea.
"Ronald didn't have a money pouch before he went over to Harry's this morning; now he does. I would imagine he will also borrow enough to set up a current account at the Post Office as well."
"That doesn't sound like Ron," Hermione said, doubtfully. "He's always been very proud about accepting money." Ginny flushed. "I'm sorry, Ginny, but it's true."
"It's hard, being poor," Ginny said.
"And it's harder for boys to accept gifts," Luna stated. "I would imagine Harry will lend Ronald some substantial sum, allowing him to pay it off after we leave Hogwarts."
"That doesn't sound like Ron at all," Ginny protested, echoing Hermione.
"Why would Ron do it?" Hermione challenged.
Luna gave Hermione a sad smile. "Ronald loves you," she said simply. "He's swallowing his pride, so he can have the money to treat you well. I expect he'll try to pay for lunch."
"If he does, then we'll know it's true," Hermione agreed, knowing Ron would try just that if he had the cash.
Ron, of course, paid for lunch.
Yes, I changed Ginny's birthday for the purposes of the story.