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, Harry and friends go t...
Wednesday, August 7, 1996
Petunia Dursley looked up at the clock. The Boy would soon be back from whatever he did during the day. To her great surprise, the summer had not been as intolerable as she had thought it would be. It bothered her to wait on the Boy and his Freak friends, but she had to admit she was being paid fairly for it. And, of course, Vernon was making an even better name for himself in the business world and Dudley was away from those undesirables he had outgrown.
The Freaks themselves hadn't been as bad as she had feared. James Potter and his friend Black had been nasty, even cruel, to her and Vernon. The girls who had visited had been even nastier. The only polite visitor had been Lupin.
This group wasn't nearly as bad. She still had her suspicions about the red-heads, especially the boy. The ditzy blonde was an out-and-out flake. Petunia had rather hoped that the Boy, if he HAD to date someone, would be dating the dentists' daughter. No, he had to take up with the flake instead. The other boy was at least quiet and polite.
The Boy, the Ditz, the Dentists' Daughter, and the Nice Boy were coming over for dinner, while the two Red Heads were having dinner with that father of theirs, who had blown up their fireplace. The fact that the two head-heads were missing pleased Petunia a bit. She could put up with the Ditz with those three keeping the girl's attention distracted from the Dursley possessions. She had a tendency to Touch Precious Things.
She was surprised to hear the door chimes. Going to the door, she found Remus Lupin. "Remus," she said as politely as she could manage.
"Petunia. May I speak with you?"
"Very well. Come into the kitchen."
"I have some good news for you," Remus said as he sat down.
"Really What might that be?"
"You know that Hermione Granger is leaving Friday to spend time with her parents?"
"And the two Red Heads are going too, correct?"
"One at a time, and Miss Lovegood is scheduled to go for the following weekend. We've decided that the wards here are as recharged as they are likely to get. We'd like to take Harry and the others to a safe house for August."
"Starting Friday?" Petunia asked eagerly.
"Yes," Remus answered, a bit disgusted with her, "starting Friday. Would you have any objection to Harry, and maybe a friend, coming to stay over-night one night over the Yule break?"
"Not the Red Head. That Nice Boy, Neville, can come. And keep that Di . . . blonde away from Vernon if you ever want the Boy allowed back!"
"All right. I'll tell them when they come over. Harry will be home early tomorrow to pack. I'll tell Neville to make certain he brings anything of his or Ron's tomorrow morning."
"That's fine." She hesitated. "Would you like to stay for dinner?"
"Thank you," Remus answered, "I would."
Friday, August 9, 1996
The six students gathered in Mrs. Figg's front room at 8:30. Hermione, Neville, and Luna had thanked Petunia Dursley on Wednesday night, and now all six thanked Mrs. Figg. Remus took their luggage, while the students and Jones were portkeyed to a room in Gringotts. "The rest of the bank has anti-apparation wards and some rare anti-portkey wards as well," Jones explained. "Stick totally together. If one uses the toilet, the other two of the same gender go, too. Otherwise, all six should stick together once you leave the bank." He turned to Ginny. "Your parents have authorized up to fifty Galleons for a broomstick for you. Pick one out. Also, you should all check out your robes and uniforms. Please be at the Leaky Cauldron by Noon." He paused. "You should be safe, there are aurors all about today. Go on! Shoo!"
Harry first went to pick up some cash, Luna going with him. Then they planned their shopping spree. Since Luna knew the Alley best, they followed her lead. Leaving the bank, they visited The Quibbler, then hit the other stores in a looping arc.
Despite Hermione's hesitations, they made a longish stop at the twin's store. Hermione did manage to keep the boys from buying too many of the 'snackboxes' (pointing out that all the teachers would have them figured out by now), but they did buy a nice assortment of gags. They had their final fitting for their new school clothes, which would be picked up for them later that month. They picked up Ginny's new broom, and everything else they needed, although Hermione would have wished for more time in the new and used book stores. They made it to the Leaky Cauldron without incident right before noon.
After lunch, the group split. The Order had provided two cars, one to take Hermione and Ginny to the Grangers, the other to take the three boys and Luna to Headquarters. Harry was NOT looking forward to arriving.
Remus explained Headquarters to Neville and Luna on the way. Both felt surprised and honored at being allowed to stay with Harry. Harry had two questions, "Is the portrait still up and is that . . . elf there?"
"When Kreacher was told his activities had caused Sirius' death, he committed ritual suicide, although he seemed to think it was worth the price," Remus said, holding in his emotions. "As for the painting, Sirius and I managed to destroy it and that tapestry a few weeks . . . that is in late May."
"Dumbledore had two of the Hogwarts house elves come in. They've really cleaned it up."
"Let me guess, Dobby and Winky."
"You know them?" Lupin asked, surprised.
"Dobby was Lucius Malfoy's; I helped free him. Winky was Barty Crouch's."
"Oh, Sirius mentioned both, just not by name," Lupin said.
"Where are we going?" Ron asked. "Didn't we just go past Grimmauld Place?"
"We did. There's an alley behind the back of the square. The Blacks owned this whole area back when this was part of southern Essex instead of Greater London. Sirius' grandfather didn't marry until he was over a hundred, and he was a pretty far-seeing, if nasty, individual. He developed this area as one of the early Muggle railway suburbs, and the family still owns all the land, on long-term leases. When he built the current house, he made certain his mews had good access. Sirius and I worked on the mews all spring, so now we can go in and out that way, and don't have to worry about Muggles at all, at least not honest ones."
The alley behind Grimmauld Place was shadowy, although wide. The windowless back of a long high warehouse took up the entire block opposite, and there were no stables, mews, or garages on the alley, other than the Black's, which was now obscured by the Fidelius Charm. The rest of the residential side of the alley was walled.
Remus handed each student a piece of paper, allowing them to see the back entrance. The driver let them out, and then sped off.
"This is where you'll be staying," Remus said, letting them in. "Except for dinner, there's no reason to even come into the main house." The mews took up three sides of a rectangle. The short side on the alley once held the Black carriages and stable. That, and one side which had once stored equipment, with a hayloft, was now cleared out and cleaned. That was where their training would continue. The far end of the longer side even had the gym equipment from Mrs. Figg's. The other side, once where the coachmen, stable hands, and gardeners had slept, now had an upstairs with two large bedrooms and two small baths. The downstairs had a small kitchen, a dining room, and a study area. Dobby and Winky lived in the small basement. Dobby would take care of the students, Winky the main house.
Remus sat the four teens down in the study and explained the next two weeks to them. They all had school work to do, especially Luna. They would also be practicing what they had learned and starting to catch up with the theory. Now that they had the basics of advanced defense and Occlumency, they needed to work on making it all second nature. Master J would still show up on Mondays, and Remus would spend each afternoon with them.
Current information still kept Voldemort in the Urals, now working on recruiting from some of the magical villages that had managed to remain hidden under the long Soviet oppression. If he succeeded, the war would likely begin in Russia, not Britain.
Asked about the giants, it appeared as if Hagrid and Madam Maxime, with Grawp as translator, had managed to urge the giants to neutrality. The execution of Lucius Malfoy and the others had discredited Voldemort's power with many, including the giants.
With that, the quartet settled into their new location.
It was a bit strange not to have Ginny or Hermione with them that week. They exercised early every morning, then Harry drilled them in Defense for the rest of the morning. After showers and lunch, Luna and Harry led Ron and Neville in Occlumency, and then they devoted the rest of their time to school work. Neville worked hard with Luna on her Herbology, and the three boys worked together to help her with Charms, Transfiguration, and Potions. Luna knew more about Astronomy, Divination, and History than the boys, so there was little they could do to help her there, other than tell her what questions they recalled from the O.W.L.s. Harry helped her with Muggle Studies as best he could, and only Hermione could coach her in Runes.
The boys had Charms and Creatures to study in common, and Harry and Neville also worked on their Anatomy lessons. Other than that, they worked separately, since neither Harry nor Ron wanted to bother with the Laws and Regulations class.
Each evening, they would go to the main house for dinner. Remus and Mr. Weasley were there most nights, but not everyone. Twice over the month, it was just the teens and Mrs. Weasley. Tonks, Moody, and Fletcher made frequent appearances. The only non-Order member allowed in early August was Master J, who had sworn to keep the location secret.
The area between the house and the mews wasn't much of a lawn, and even less a garden, except for the lack of anything else to call it. There were a few stunted yew trees, and some weeds. Dobby, however, had found and moved a stone bench to between two of the trees, making a slightly secluded area. It was here, each evening when it wasn't raining, that Harry and Luna sat.
Sometimes they talked. Harry found himself telling Luna the complete story of his life, although it was done very much out of sequence. Luna hadn't been, and perhaps never would be, certain why she had first been attracted to Harry. Over that August, however, she learned why she loved him. Harry had been through more than any person she knew or had even heard of. Somehow, he was still a kind, caring, considerate, charming young man, despite the horrors and the abuse. He was heroic and shy. He reminded her of a neglected plant, which would bloom under loving care.
She was determined to give Harry what he needed.
Harry also fell in love with Luna's straight-forward, if sometimes awkward, honesty. She saw people clearly, even if she had some rather odd ideas, perhaps drawn from reading The Quibbler most of her life. They had spent their little time alone at Little Whinging talking, holding hands and lightly snogging. By the time she went off to visit Hermione, they spent as much time as possible in hugging, snogging, and light petting.
Every night at 10:30, Ron would slip into the boys' bedroom and call Hermione on the spelled cell phone. That allowed Neville to do the same from the gym area. Both boys ignored what the other was doing, and only spoke to Harry about it when the other was not around.
Ginny Weasley's eyes were growing as wide and unblinking as Luna's as the limo approached Hermione's home. Her world had consisted of Ottery St. Catchpole, which was a small, slightly run-down village, and the magical areas of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and Diagon Alley. Harry's neighborhood had seemed foreign. The posh suburb they were now going through looked alien.
"What's the matter?" Hermione asked.
"Nothing," Ginny answered in a very small voice. She suddenly sniffled.
Enlightenment hit Hermione. She scooted over and wrapped an arm around the younger girl. "Do you know why Harry and I enjoy visiting the Burrow so much, other than because we're seeing you and Ron?"
Ginny shook her head.
"It's because it's so wonderful. My parents love me, but they don't really have much time for me. Harry was unloved. I have more material goods, even if they're all Muggle, but you and Ron have what we, and that probably includes Neville and Luna, wish we had. A loving, if boisterous, complete family. Never think any of us look down at you and your family. The only people who would do so are loveless bastards who only value money and wealth because that's all they have or want."
"It's hard to be poor," Ginny admitted.
"It is," Hermione agreed. "It's worse to be unloved." She turned to the driver. "It's the next drive."
"So it is!"
The house was a large, modern brick one. Ginny might have been tempted to call it a mansion. Hermione and Ginny moved their trunks in through the back door, and waved to the driver as he drove off. "Let me give you the tour," Hermione said.
To the right of the back entrance way were the backstairs leading to a landing and the kitchen. Beyond the kitchen, running half the depth of the house, was the large dining room. In the front of the dining room was a formal parlor. To the left of the entrance way was a library that ran the full depth of the house. In front of the kitchen were the stairs and front entrance hall.
"There's nothing in the cellar except storage, furnace, washer and dryer, and such," Hermione said. Upstairs, there was a master suite over the library and three bedrooms over the parlor and dining room. There was also a front bedroom between the side bedrooms and the master suite set up as a television room.
Hermione's room was the back bedroom. It was light, and a little frillier than Ginny would have expected. 'Probably Hermione has just never bothered to redecorate since she went to Hogwarts," Ginny thought. There was nothing in the room that hinted at the magical that Ginny could see.
"My relatives don't know I'm a witch," Hermione said, guessing at what Ginny was looking for. "However, even though we of course weren't allowed active magic, this is passive." Hermione touched five of the six picture frames on a shelf with her wand. The photos of her parents disappeared, replaced by four that Colin must have taken: Hermione and Krum at the Yule Ball, two of the trio in relaxed poses, and one of the previous year's Quidditch team with the Cup; and one that Percy had taken of Hermione and Ginny at the Burrow.
"Don't let Ron see the one of you and Viktor," Ginny teased.
"Oh, right." Hermione tapped it again, and this time it was the previous Quidditch Cup team, with Harry in the forefront. "I'll have to change the order." She smiled at Ginny. "What shall we do first?"
"What are our choices?"
"It's hot today. Shall we go swimming?"
"You have a pond out back?" 'Nothing about this place would surprise me,' Ginny thought.
"No, a swimming pool. Do you have a swim suit?"
Ginny shook her head. Hermione pondered for a moment, and then went to a drawer in her dresser. "Here. You're a lot bustier than I, but we can adjust it a little, and no one will see us anyway."
Ginny stared. "That's . . . that's indecent!"
"It's just a two piece bathing suit. It's not even a bikini!"
"My undies cover more than that!"
"You're in the Muggle world now, my friend. If you've got it, flaunt it. We've got it. Strip, girl! We'll shave anything that needs to be trimmed, and then we'll swim and then slather on some sun screen and tan."
Ginny blushed, but did as she was told.
While the girls relaxed their first day, Ginny wasn't surprised that it didn't last. The next six days fell into a pattern. The girls got up at their usual time, and went running through the neighborhood for forty-five minutes. Hermione spent half the morning coaching Ginny on her O.W.L.s and the other half doing her own work.
They had been warned to do as little magic as possible. While they were now permitted to do the magic, the Order and International representatives were worried that the girls might attract attention. Therefore, after lunch, the girls took advantage of the warm weather and swam and sunbathed.
Ginny had been very embarrassed the first day, and shy the second. By the third day, she was enjoying the experience. Hermione's bathing suits were indecent by Molly Weasley's standards even on Hermione -- slim and with breasts of the size of medium apples halves. On Ginny, the same height but with more developed hips and breasts the size of large melon halves, Hermione's most conservative suit was stretched into something very skimpy. By Monday afternoon, Ginny was wearing Hermione's thong bikini that even Hermione didn't dare wear.
'I hope Neville has a strong heart,' Hermione thought as she saw her tiny bikini stretched to the point where it emphasized more than it hid.
Hermione's parents were happy to really get to know one of their daughter's friends. They thought Ginny cute, charming, and full of sparkling life. They would have loved to have taken the pair off to dinners, shows, and other amusements, but Hermione quietly discouraged them. She knew Ginny didn't have the wardrobe for the restaurants and venues her parents had in mind.
Once made aware of the situation, the Grangers adjusted easily. They were almost as happy taking Ginny to small informal bistros and the cinema (neither of which she had experienced) as they were going to the 'West End' restaurants and plays they preferred. Ginny's excitement more than made up for any loss they felt.
This experience reenforced the Grangers' determination that their daughter continue her education in a Muggle setting. They (and Hermione) had been shocked to learn there were no wizarding equivalents to Universities. There were a few institutes and associations that taught specific fields of study, but most professional training and 'higher learning' were still done as apprenticeships, especially in Europe.