Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Chapter 4: A Guest at Headquarters

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  ________________________________________________________________________________

Harry lay on his bed. His head was still buzzing with the evening’s happenings. Sirius was falling through the veil. Dumbledore was falling from the North Tower. The images flashed in his mind yet again and Harry shivered. The Burrow was attacked because of him. He was responsible for it and this time no one could deny it. He was sure that the death eaters wanted to get to him and they knew where to find him because of his friendship with the Weasleys. Uncle Vernon was right – he put everyone around him in danger. Lucky that no one died tonight and add to the list of lives that had ended because of him. Harry’s mind filled with guilt. Everyone was in danger because of him, because he was not up to fulfilling his destiny and here he was… doing nothing.

When the horizon lightened with the first rays of dawn, Harry could no longer pretend to sleep. He got up and went down to the kitchen. He found Kingsley and Lupin in deep conversation. Arthur Weasley was also sitting at the table with his head in his hands. When Harry entered, they all looked up at him. Lupin barely smiled at him. Harry went to the stove and put on the kettle for tea. He could feel all the eyes on him. ‘They must be wondering how I can carry on doing nothing when people are being attacked and dying because of me.’ “Well I should get going. There is a lot to be done at the ministry. Coming Arthur?” Mr. Weasley left for the ministry with Kingsley.
“Good morning Harry. Are you feeling better now?”
“Yes.” Harry lied.
“Now that you all will be staying here, I think you should know something.” Harry brought tea to the table and sat down. He handed one to Lupin and took a sip of his own. “Someone has been staying here. He is here because he turned to the Order for protection and remembering Dumbledore’s last wish, we agreed to take him in.” Harry was wide-awake and alert and it was not because of the hot tea. Dumbledore’s last wish? They have not taken him in. The Order is not hiding… “I know you have some differences with Draco but…” Harry did not give Lupin a chance to finish. He banged his fist on the table, “Moony, don’t tell me that you took in that murdering traitor. How can you? He is responsible for what happened to… to Dumbledore! You cannot protect him after that. And who are you protecting him from anyway? He is a death eater. He is in no danger from his chum, Voldemort. Only the ministry wants him for the role he played in murdering Dumbledore and that’s only justice.”
“I know how you feel about it Harry. But please hear me out.” Harry continued to stare at Lupin. “It is true that Draco has taken the mark and he was involved in the fateful event last term.” Lupin put up his hand to stop Harry from interrupting again and continued, “However, Draco had failed in his task. Draco had failed to kill Dumbledore and it cost Voldemort his spy at Hogwarts. Now, Voldemort is not the most forgiving person we know. He punished Draco for his failure. Voldemort not only tortured him but also killed his mother right in front of his eyes. When he killed Narcissa, Draco came to the order for help and protection. How Draco managed that is a long story in itself and I will tell you about it some other time. We have kept Draco here since then and he has told us everything we’ve asked him so far.” Lupin stopped and took a sip of his tea. Harry seized this chance, “Why did you tell me that you have to ‘look into it’ when I asked you about Draco at Privet Drive? How do you know that this is not Voldemort’s plan? Maybe since he lost his spy at Hogwarts he decided to plant one within the order? How do you know that this isn’t just another trap?”
“We said that we will have to look into it because we have no idea how Lucius knows that Draco is with us. Harry, Draco is no longer a death eater and I can assure you that. When he first came to us for help, we too thought that he was merely taking advantage of Dumbledore’s offer to get near the order. So we gave him Veritaserum. Under it’s influence, Draco admitted that he was forced to take the mark. With his father locked up at Azkaban, Voldemort had threatened to kill him and his parents unless he carried out Voldemort’s plans. He had no other way than to accept it. His father is too loyal to Voldemort and even though Voldemort killed his wife, Lucius remains loyal to him. After his mother’s death, Draco had no reason left to follow Voldemort’s orders or bear his wrath. So, he escaped and came to the only people who might help him.”
“No longer a death eater, huh? Now, where did I hear that before? Oh yes! That’s what Dumbledore always said about Snape and you all believed. It’s not much of an assurance, is it Moony?”
“I have to admit that we were all wrong about Snape. But Harry, no one can lie under the effects of Veritaserum. Dumbledore believed in giving everyone a second chance and he wanted Draco to have a chance. You should respect that. Besides, if he is here to pass on information about the order, he is going to fail again because he is not a member of the order. He knows nothing about the order’s business.” Harry remained quiet, sipping the last of his tea. “Guess its alright when you put it that way. But this sure doesn’t mean I have to like that git. Right?”
“I sure hope so too,” said a drawling voice from the door. Draco entered the kitchen, “Don’t worry Potter, I don’t like you anymore than you like me.”
“Draco, what are you doing here? You were told not to come out of your room.” Lupin said.
“I am tired of being stuck in the room all the time. I needed to stretch my legs and so I thought that I’d fetch my own breakfast for a change. I wouldn’t have come out of my room if I knew that this house is full of mudbloods and blood-traitors now.” Harry was up in an instant, with his wand drawn, “Mind your language Malfoy. Neither your chums nor your death eater pals are here to save your skin. You’ve come to us for protection and unless you want to get back to the streets where Voldemort can find you, you’ll keep you mouth shut and stay away from us.” Draco did not reply but simply walked out of the kitchen. “Moony, when can we go back to the Burrow? I don’t want to stay here, especially with that coward around.”
“Sorry Harry, you can not go back to the Burrow.”
“Why not? I don’t think that the Weasleys will mind. Or do you think that the death eaters will attack again?”
“Weasleys will be staying here too. Burrow was destroyed yesterday night and with all the things on Arthur’s mind, it will be quite sometime before it is re-built.”
“Burrow was destroyed last night?” Harry slid back down to his chair. “They lost  their home because of me…”
“No Harry, not because of you. Don’t blame yourself for everything that happens around you,” said Ron as he and Hermoine  entered the kitchen. “I think I saw Draco going up the stairs. What is that git doing here?”
“Mind your language Ron. He is here because the order is protecting him. Isn’t that so?” Hermoine answered Ron and directed her question to Lupin. Lupin nodded in response. “And Harry, you are not responsible for everything that happens around you. For once Ron is right. There is a war going on and things like this happen during war. Everybody has to pay a price, whether they are involved in the war or not.”
“Yeah mate.”
“But Voldemort wouldn’t have attacked Burrow if it wasn’t for me.”
“You must be kidding Harry. The way Voldemort is going around killing muggles and half-bloods, we would have been high on his priority list even if we had nothing to do with you. Weasleys have always been known as the ‘blood-traitors’ and my dad’s love for muggles is fairly well known too. The death eaters would have tried to get us out of the way anyway. At least we all managed to get away yesterday. What’s a house? It can be re-built anytime.”
“That’s right. You must remember what he just said and what I told you last time. You can not afford to feel guilty about everything because it hampers your abilities. You have a great responsibility on your shoulders and you must do your best.” The three youngsters looked up at Lupin at his last declaration. Lupin closed the kitchen door and performed the silencing charm. “Yes, I know about the prophecy Harry. But no one else in the order or otherwise knows about it. Am I right to assume that you have told your friends about it?” Harry nodded. “How do you know?”
“Dumbledore had told your parents about it. They were reluctant about going into hiding. Dumbledore had to tell them about the prophecy to convince them that they had to go into hiding, for your sake. James had told Sirius since he was your godfather. I only came to know about it after Sirius’s death.” Harry jerked up his head at the last statement. So, do I have to tell you that you can come to me with any problem? You do know that I’ll be right here for you in case you need me, right?”
“Yes, Moony.”
“Now tell me, what are you planning? Can I help you in anyway?”
“I was thinking about going to Godric’s Hollow. For me, it all began there and it only seems fit that I visit it before doing anything else. Besides, I also wanted to visit ‘their’ graves. Do you know where it is? Will you take me there?” Lupin stared thoughtfully at Harry for sometime before saying, “Your parents were buried in the graveyard near their house. I can take you there if you really want to. When do you want to go? We have to plan it with the order first.”
“No Moony, this is personal. I don’t want a whole bunch of order members to go with me. Just you and me. Please.”
“Hey what about us? Aren’t we going with you?” Hermoine asked.
“No Hermoine, I’d rather do this myself.”
“Okay Harry, I’ll take you. But in that case, it has to be after to get your apparition license, okay?”
“Okay. Then we can go right after my birthday. Mr. Weasley has already arranged it for me to take the test on my birthday.” Lupin got up, reversed the charms, and opened the kitchen door just in time for Mrs. Weasley and Ginny. After a round of ‘good mornings’ exchanged, Lupin said, “Molly, Ginny. I want you to sit down. There is something I have to tell you all.” When they both sat down, “I am afraid; Charlie is missing since last night.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me before? Alastor said he went with Kingsley… My son…”
“When he did not return, we assumed he went with Kingsley. But Kingsley returned alone. Alastor and some order members went back to the Burrow to check after Kingsley informed us that Charlie had not left with him. Everyone present there last night, are being questioned. Up to now, he was last seen dueling with Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“Oh no… My son…” Mrs. Weasley started to cry. Ron and Ginny both seemed close to tears themselves. Hermoine got up and made some tea for Mrs. Weasley while Lupin tried to console her. “Now Molly, don’t think the worst. We do not know anything for sure. Charlie is a brave boy, he might turn up fine.”
“Moony, how did you know that it was Bellatrix?”
“One of the ministry aurors heard her saying to Charlie that he should not under estimate her like her cousin had.”

The next few days passed by with the order busy in trying to find Charlie. There was still no news about Charlie. The only positive thing that could be said was that his body had not been discovered. So, it was assumed that he was still alive. Mrs. Weasley was constantly on the verge of tears. Draco hardly ventured out of his room. When he did, he stayed away from the trio. Dudleyhad started to come out of his room at meal times and sometimes to sit with Harry and the others. Ron had taught him to play exploding snap. They were often seen playing together. However, Dudleywas yet to speak freely.
One particular morning, Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Ginny and Dudleywere sitting in the drawing room. Ginny was studying. Ron, tired of going through books, was playing a round of exploding snap with Dudley. Hermoine was going through a particularly huge volume of ‘Darkest of the Dark Arts’. Harry’s eyes had started to hurt and so he put down the book he was reading. “I am so tired of reading. Wish we could actually find out something out of these.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
“I dunno. This seems useless. We have hardly made any progress.” Hermoine gave Harry a long hard look and went back to reading her book. Harry got up and walked around the room to stretch his legs, which were beginning to feel numb. He stopped at the tapestry to look at the black spot where Sirius’s name should have been. Harry noticed the name beside Sirius’s spot. Regulus – Regulus Black. “Ron, Hermoine, I think I’ve found something.” Both of them dropped what they were doing and were by Harry’s side in an instant. “Why didn’t I think of it before? Look here.” He pointed at Regulus’s name.
“What?” Ron frowned but Hermoine said, “Oh! Don’t you see it Ron? Regulus Black. He could be R.A.B. Do you know his middle name Harry?”
“No I don’t.”
“I do,” said Ginny from behind them. They turned towards her. “You know? What is it? How do you know?”
“I’ll tell you the name if you tell me what you all are up to.” Ginny had been trying to get them to tell their plans. But they had all agreed to keep her out of it.
“Don’t tell then. I can ask Lupin anytime,” answered Harry.
“Okay fine. Don’t tell me anything. One day you’ll regret it. It’s Arcturus.”
“Harry, its R.A.B. But how do we know that he is the one we are looking for?”
“When Sirius showed me this tapestry, he told me that his brother was death eater. He said that Regulus got in too far then and chickened out. Sirius said that you just do not hand in your resignation to Voldemort. Its either lifetime service or death. The death eaters killed Regulus. He reckoned that Regulus couldn’t have been important enough to be killed by Voldemort himself.”
“But if Regulus is R.A.B, then he not only found out about the Horcruxes but also removed one. So, Voldemort may have killed him himself. But now the thing is did he manage to destroy the Horcrux? If not then where is it?” asked Hermoine.
“What’s a Horcrux?” They all were so excited about finding the identity of R.A.B that they had completely forgotten that Ginny and Dudleywere in the same room. Dudley was still sitting in his chair at the opposite end of the room. He could not have heard a thing. But Ginny was still standing at Ron’s heels. “Ginny, I remember telling not to try and listen into our conversations,” Ron rounded up at his sister.
“I did not have to try. You simply forgot to tell me to get going and to talk in your usual hushed up tone.”
“Ginny, we are not telling you anything. You are too young for all these. Your life could be in danger for knowing this.”
“If you had taken a look at the family clock at Burrow anytime since Voldemort’s return, you’d know that my hand has been at ‘Mortal Peril’ since then. Now if you don’t tell me everything, I can simply go and ask any of the order members what a ‘horcrux’ is. I am sure they all know.” The trio simply stood there exchanging looks between them. Finally, Harry said, “Turning my move on me, huh? But Ginny, trust us, you are better off without knowing anything. We just want to keep you safe.”
“Don’t you dare give me that ‘keeping me safe’ stuff again, Potter. I have accepted it once and I am not going to take it again.” Turning to face Ron, she continued, “Charlie did not go looking for trouble, Ron. But it found him. So, not knowing anything won’t help me in anyway. At least I will know what to expect when it finds me. And, if you tell me, I can help you in going through those dull books.” Ginny stood with her hands on her hips making Harry wonder how similar she was to Mrs. Weasley. “Give it up you three. You should know when you have lost the case. Still, if you don’t tell me, I’ll make sure that the order knows everything that you people said now in this room.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“Try me Ronald.”
“Guys, I think we should tell her everything. She is right, she can help us research. If Hogwarts reopens, she’ll have the access to the Hogwarts library.”
“Hermoine, she is too young.”
“I know you want to protect your sister Ron, but she can look after herself as well as any of us. Besides, if she knows everything, she can stay more alert. And honestly, do you want the order to know?” Finally, Harry and Ron gave up. They went up to Ron’s room and closed the door. Hermoine cast the ‘muffliato’ spell and began to tell Ginny everything. When she finished telling about the prophecy, Ginny did not react. She simply said, “Oh tell me something I don’t know.”
“What? You knew?” exclaimed Hermoine.
“I am not a complete fool. You’re not the only one around who can work things out Hermoine. I can too, you know. After that night at the ministry, I guessed it had to be something like this. Then last term when Harry broke up with me, I was sure. Besides, a prophecy involving Harry and Voldemort couldn’t possibly say that they’ll be best of pals or that Voldemort will invite Harry to his birthday party.” Ron and Hermoine seemed taken aback but Harry felt nothing but proud of Ginny’s intelligence and of how well she had taken it. Hermoine recovered from her surprise and started to tell Ginny about the things that they had found out since the ministry fiasco. “So, the diary and the ring are already gone. You have to find four more before Harry goes for the seventh part that’s still within Voldemort.”
“Yeah, that’s about it.”
“And you’ll be leaving after Harry’s birthday to search for the remaining Horcruxes!”
“Well, I’ll go with you.”
“There’s no way you are coming with us Ginny. This is why we didn’t want to tell you,” said Ron.
“So you people get to flunk school and go on an adventure and expect me to just stay back and miss all of it?” Before Ron could launch into his big brother role, Hermoine took things into her hands, “Ginny, we three have to look around a bit. God knows where the remaining Horcruxes are and we cannot do that if we go back to Hogwarts. But at the same time, we also need someone at Hogwarts. Mrs. Weasley cannot stop us from going since we are of age. But she will not allow you to come with us. So you have to go back. You can not only keep on researching at the Hogwarts library, but also start up the DA again. Also, you can keep us informed if anything unusual happens at Hogwarts…” Hermoine continued for almost half an hour before Ginny gave in and agreed to go back to school. They spent rest of the days trying to work out where the remaining Horcruxes may be.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chapter 3: The Wedding

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  ________________________________________________________________________________

Miles away from the Burrow, a gathering had taken place in a large dimly lit room. There were people in black cloaks and wearing masks, shifting nervously. “So you are here to tell me that you have failed, yet again, to bring that boy to me?” said a high pitched, anger-filled voice. When none said anything, Voldemort’s voice rose “Answer me.”
“Master, Harry Potter had already left the muggle house. We tortured his relatives but they were unable to tell us anything.” said a woman standing in the middle.
“He had already left, you say? Then it seems that some body over here has failed his duties even more miserably than you Bella. Dolohov, come here!” A man moved forward towards Voldemort. His nervous strides   showed his fear. He stopped a feet before Voldemort and knelt in front of him. “Master, I kept a watch. I saw the werewolf and the auror girl leave that night Crabbe and Goyle were caught. Next morning, the red headed twins had come. But they stayed for a short period of time and left. No one ever came after that and Potter never left the house. The wards would have made it impossible for him to apparate from inside and the house is not connected to the floo network. He couldn’t have left without me knowing about it.”
“But the Potter boy did leave. You have failed me again. Crucio!” Dolohov writhed on the floor with pain. Another figure moved forward, “Master, I think I know how Potter may have left without anyone noticing.” Voldemort lifted the curse from Dolohov and looked at the death eater in front of him, “Yes Severus?”
“Master, we all know that the Potter boy has an invisibility cloak. He may have left with the twins under his cloak. If I may add, none of us would have been able to harm the potter boy there. He has not turned 17 yet and so the blood magic that Dumbledore had placed him under still operates.”
“I know all about the blood magic, fool. Crucio! Lord Voldemort is not ignorant. But my plan would have worked if the boy had not left.” He turned towards Dolohov and asked, “Did you know about the cloak, Dolohov?”
“Yes master.”
“Yet you failed me? Crucio!” Voldemort lifted the curse after quite some time. “Where would he go now? To the headquarters of that nonsense group that Dumbledore founded?” The oily voice of Severus Snape replied, “I think I know where to find him…”

‘Please God… Please.’ Harry silently prayed. Tonks who was frowning at Harry’s words, realized the reason behind his apprehension and said, “No, no, Harry, it’s not what you think. Remus…” Just then, the door opened and Bill entered the kitchen, followed by Lupin. Harry let out the breath that he had not realized he was holding. He jumped up from his seat and hugged Lupin. Lupin was taken aback by Harry’s action for a minute, then however he hugged him back. Finally, Harry let go of Lupin, feeling a bit awkward. He had never expressed his emotions this way before. But he had to express his relief and joy that he had felt when he had seen Lupin. He also realized that though he did not share the same rapport with Lupin that he had with his godfather Sirius, he did like his ex-professor a lot. Harry was brought back to the present from his musings when he saw who had followed Lupin into the kitchen. “Dudley, what are you doing here?” He turned to Lupin and repeated his question. “What is he doing here?”
“It’s quite a story Harry. I think you should sit down for this. Molly, could you make something for Dudley? He is in great shock.”
“Is that Harry’s muggle cousin? How could you bring him here? After all they have put Harry through all these years, you expect me to make something for him? Get him out of my house this instant. I do not care if he is dying, he deserves nothing good. I do not want dirt in here. Get him out. NOW!” Molly Weasely was furious. She moved towards Dudley in a way that made Harry feel that she wanted to haul Dudley out herself. Arthur rose from his seat and went by his wife’s side. “Calm down Molly. He has been through a lot today. Calm down and let us explain.” When Molly did not respond, he added, “Please Molly. Let us explain. Then we will do whatever you say.” Finally, Molly looked at her husband and nodded. Still red in the face, she turned back to the stove. Arthur Weasley turned to Harry and said, “There was an attack on Privet Drive. Even before the ministry had tracked it, Arabella contacted me at the ministry to inform that there were death eaters at your uncle’s house. They were trying to breach the wards. When we reached Privet Drive, the death eaters were torturing your uncle. They realized that you had left and they wanted to know where you are.”
“But I thought that the house was safe. Dumbledore himself had put the wards there. How did the death eaters manage to break it down?” Harry interrupted. Lupin answered his question. “Yes, Dumbledore had put the wards originally. But with his death, the wards were weakened. Bill had put extra wards on top of Dumbledore’s just for security. The death eaters could not have broken into the house anyway because besides the wards, the blood magic still operates. No one with the intention to harm you can enter it till you are seventeen.”
“But then how come they get to Uncle Vernon?”
“I can’t tell you that exactly. Dudley here may be able to tell it to us when he gets over his shock. But my guess is that either the death eaters had lured them out of their house or they were outside for some other reason.” Mr. Weasley picked up when Lupin finished answering Harry and continued. “When we arrived, the death eaters barely put up a fight. Some of them fought to keep us occupied for sometime. Then they all disapparated when we started to gain the upper hand.”
“That doesn’t explain why you brought Dudley here,” said Ginny. There was a brief patch of silence in the kitchen. Then Tonks walked up to Harry and laid a hand on his shoulder. Harry looked at Mr. Weasley and said, “If the house was destroyed then you would have brought Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia too. What is it then?”
This time Moody answered Harry. “Both your uncle and were outside the house and by the time we could get to them, they were already dead. The killing curse was used twice tonight. Sorry lad that we could not save them.” Harry just stared at Moody. He was at a loss of words and he was not sure how he felt. His last living blood relatives were dead, but he did not know what to feel. He was sure that he was not happy to hear it and neither was he feeling sad. He just sat there, staring at nobody in particular. “Oh my, the poor boy. Did he watch the whole thing?”
“Yes. He was standing at the living room window. I noticed that the moment we arrived there and kept an eye on him all along. Either he was told not to come out or he was so much in shock that he was simply unable to move or do anything,” informed Moody.
“Oh! What a dreadful thing to experience as a child.” All the feelings of hostility that Molly had showed earlier, towards the boy, seemed to have evaporated. She put a bowl of hot soup in front of Dudley and patted him gently on the back. Arthur looked at his wife fondly and said, “We just could not leave him alone there to face those awful muggle pleaze-men. So I brought him with me. I hope you will not mind putting him up for a few days until we can find his relatives and hand him over safely. Harry is that okay with you? If it bothers you then we can take him to the headquarters temporarily.”
“It’s perfectly alright, Mr. Weasley. In fact, I have to talk to professor McGonagall about him anyway.”
“Why?” asked Tonks.
“Because I promised my aunt before leaving Privet Drive. I had promised to see if Dudleycan attend Hogwarts now.”
“WHAT?” There was a collective shout from the group. Only Ron and Ginny were not surprised by Harry’s announcement. Harry had intentionally left out the part about Dudley’s accidental magic and his being a wizard. He had not felt like discussing with anybody but his friends. He had let others think that he had performed accidental magic, like Lupin and Tonks had guessed. “Yes,” said Harry, finally looking at the people around him. “Dudleyis a wizard. He was the one to throw off the death eaters the day they had attacked us at Magnolia Road.” Then Harry proceeded to tell them about his initial suspicion, confronting his aunt and Dudley and their conversations. When he finished, everyone remained quiet, taking in the news. Finally, Bill said, “This is an extra-ordinary situation. It has never happened before at Hogwarts. I mean, they have never taken in a student so late. But McGonagall is a fair person. She will hear it out and do what’s right… provided the school re-opens this year.”
“Hogwarts won’t re-open this year? What about the O.W.Ls then? When I got the letter confirming that we’ll have the exams in august, I thought that the school will re-open.” Ginny asked.
“O.W.Ls will be held in august. However, the board of governors does not want to reopen the school for classes this year. It is pointless to say that they were all shocked by Dumbledore’s death. According to them, if the death eaters could enter with Dumbledore’s protection then Hogwarts is no longer safe. If Dumbledore could not stop them then no amount of ministry protection can make it safe enough for the students.”
“But Dumbledore wouldn’t want the school to close down,” said Harry. Something in his voice made everyone look at him. “He would say that if we stop living our lives normally and let Voldemort scare us then Voldemort wins half the battle by dictating our lives.” Once again, Harry’s statement was greeted by silence. Finally, Bill spoke up, “You are right about that Harry. I can almost imagine him saying those exact words. However, the governors do not realize that. But Professor McGonagall has not given up yet. She is trying her best to keep the school open.”
“Harry, Ron, Ginny… it’s quite late. Bed time!” They all got up without complaining. They had too much for an evening already. Harry stopped at the door and turned, “what about Dudley?” he asked.
“Oh! He can stay in Percy’s room. Or do you want to stay with him? Then he can take the other bed in you room.”
“I’ll take him with me,” said Harry. Harry led Dudley to the twins’ room. Dudley had been quiet all along. He had not even touched the bowl of soup that Mrs. Weasley had offered him. He seemed to be in some sort of trance. All of a sudden, Harry pitied him. ‘At least I don’t remember seeing my parents murdered.  But Dudleywitnessed it and it will haunt him all his life,’ Harry thought.

That night sleep did not come to Harry. He lay on his bed thinking about anything and everything. When he finally fell asleep towards the dawn, nightmares returned to him with a force. He twisted and turned in his bed and woke up within an hour.

In the morning, Harry came down to the kitchen very late pretending to have had a good night’s sleep. Mrs. Weasley gave Harry his breakfast and disappeared from the kitchen. The whole house was buzzing with activities. The Delacour’s were expected to arrive that day. Besides preparing for their arrival, there seemed to be a lot of last minute preparations going for the wedding. Some of the order members had also come over, probably to check the security and to lend their helping hands. After breakfast, Harry went to look for Ron. He found him out in the garden with Charlie and their mother. They were putting up a huge tent there.
“Harry, can you please help them? I will take Dudley his breakfast. He did not take his dinner last night. He needs to eat or else he’ll fall sick,” said Molly Weasley.
“Sure Mrs. Weasley.”

Rest of the day passed in pretty quickly. There was so much work to be done around the house that everyone stayed busy throughout the day. The Delacour’s and Hermoine arrived shortly after lunch. Mrs. Weasley explained the new sleeping arrangements. Bill and Charlie were to share Bill’s room. Ginny was to share her room with Hermoine. Harry and Dudley were to remain in the twins’ room. Fleur and Gabrielle were to stay in Percy’s room. Mr. and Mrs. Delacour were put up in Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s room and they in turn would take the drawing room. Ron was to remain in his room.

After dinner, Lupin asked Harry to take a walk with him in the garden. Harry followed him. They walked together quietly for sometime. When they reached the tent, Lupin entered it and sat down at the nearest table. Harry followed him.
“I have talked to professor McGonagall about Dudley. She was surprised by this news. She has agreed to look up the rules and see if it is possible to admit him in Hogwarts. However, she said that she wants to talk to you first. She said that she also has some other things to discuss with you.”
“If she wants to know what I was doing with Professor Dumbledore that day, then tell her that my answer is still the same as last time. I can not tell her because promised Professor Dumbledore.”
“I do not think it’s about that. We all know about your loyalty towards him. However, it does concern Professor Dumbledore. His will was discovered and he has left something for you. I think she merely wants to hand them over to you and she might want to discuss them.”
“Now, tell me, how are you?”
“I’m fine.”
“Are you?”
“Then let me rephrase my question. What are you feeling?”
“I said, I’m fine.”
“I did not ask you ‘how’. I asked you ‘what’.” Harry looked up at Lupin, but did not answer. Lupin did not ask him again, but he too sat silently waiting for his answer. Finally, Harry spoke in a very low voice, “I don’t know what I am feeling. I am certainly not happy. But I just cannot get myself to feel sad for what happened to my aunt and uncle. I mean, it’s nothing like what I felt for Sirius and Dumbledore.” Still Lupin did not say anything, Harry continued, “They were my aunt and uncle, my only relatives. They took me in and provided for me. I should be sad, right? But all I am feeling is a bit ‘down’. This is making me feel guilty. I feel I am being ungrateful for what they have done for me. They were my only family and they died because of me, yet... Last night, I felt really bad for Dudley because I know that this will haunt him for the rest of his life. I even felt ‘pity’, but for my aunt and uncle… I can’t explain exactly what I am feeling.”
“I understand Harry. You do not feel anything as intense as you felt for Sirius or Dumbledore because you felt differently for each person. You loved, cared for and respected Sirius and Dumbledore. There was no such feeling between you and your aunt and uncle. You cannot blame yourself for the relationship that you shared because the quality of a relationship depends on both the parties involved. True, they took you in. True, they provided for you but they never cared for you as a family or loved you as they should have. So, it is normal and perfectly alright that you do not feel what you should feel for a family. So don’t feel guilty or ungrateful for nothing.”
“They died because of me. They died because they were related to me and because they took me in. I should feel terrible.”
“No Harry, listen to me and listen to me good. They did not die because of you. They died because it was their time. Still if you want to blame someone, then blame the death eaters who fired the killing curses or blame Voldemort for his orders. You had nothing to do with it.”
“No buts Harry. You are not responsible for anything that Voldemort does. You can never be.”
“I guess you are right Professor.”
“Of course I am right. Now Harry, I also wanted to talk to you about you calling me ‘professor’. I am no longer your professor, I haven’t been for the last three years. So, you don’t have to call me that. Besides, you know, I have never been only a professor for you. Have I?” Harry looked up, confused. “You and I go long back Harry. In case you have forgotten, I was your parents’ friend too. So call me Remus.”
“I can’t call you that. It feels kind of awkward. But can I call you Moony?”
“Sure. I would love that too. More like a marauder,” Lupin replied with a smile.
“You know, yesterday when you did not return with the others and Mr. Weasley said he had some bad news for me, I was scared. I thought I had lost you too. For the few moments that I thought that, I felt like I felt for Sirius. Actually, it felt even worse because I realized that you are my last connection to my parents. No one else knows them as Sirius did and as you do and that made me felt completely lost and alone.”
“Harry, I am sorry that circumstances led you to that belief. But Dudleywas in no condition to travel by floo. So, I side-along apparated with him. Bill adjusted the wards for a few seconds to let us in. Anyway, you should know that you’ll never be alone. You have great friends who’ll always be there for you. Besides, you can be sure that wherever your parents are, they are watching you all the time. So, are Sirius and Dumbledore.” Tears shimmered in Harry’s eyes. “Thanks Moony. I am so glad that we talked. I feel much better now.”
“Anytime Harry. I know I can never replace you father or even Sirius, but I want you to know that I’ll always be there for you and with you.” Harry did not reply. He got up and simply hugged Lupin.

Next morning the Burrow was under sort of rampage with everyone running around the house. The weather outside was as misty as it was at the beginning of the summer. Harry had come to associate this weather with the dementors. He took a round around the garden and every thing seemed okay and in its place. The tent had been decorated beautifully and comfortably. He was about to head back when he heard Mrs. Weasley, “there you are Harry. Get ready. Its almost time and the guests will start arriving soon.” Harry headed back to his room to get ready. Dudley was still lying in. He had hardly left the room and hadn’t spoken to anyone yet. Though Mrs. Weasley had tried talking to him whenever she could, Ron and Hermoine had avoided him. Harry wanted to talk to him but did not know what to say. Finally, when he was ready he turned to Dudley and said, “My friend’s brother is getting married today. Do you want to come out and watch the ceremony?”  Dudley did not move or respond. Harry sighed, “We are all outside. If you want, you can come too. And if you need anything then just come and ask me or any of the red-heads, okay?” Again, there was no answer. Harry left and went to find Ron. Ron wasn’t in his room but Harry heard some sort of commotion outside. With his heart thumping hard and pulse racing, Harry ran outside. The whole Weasley family was gathered there. Looking around properly he realized that Percy was there too.
“…and you expect us to forgive you just like that?” Bill was saying.
“Yeah. Do you remember all the nasty stuff you said about dad?” said George.
“Not to mention about Dumbledore, Harry and rest of the family.” supplied Fred.
“What about all those times you made mom cry?” continued Ron, whose ears had gone as red as his ear. Hermoine was trying to calm him down but with little result.
“I am sorry. I am really very sorry. I have realized all the mistakes that I have committed in the last two years and I truly repent them. I know it’s too late to simply ask for forgiveness, I just want a chance to make it up to you all. Please.” Molly Weasley was crying on her husband’s shoulder. Arthur himself was close to tears.
“Where were you when we were fighting to prove the truth?” accused Bill.
“Where were you when we were fighting at the ministry?” said George.
“Where were you when we were fighting at Hogwarts and Bill was injured?” said Fred.
“Where were you when dad was lying injured at the hospital?” said Charlie.
“I am sorry for everything. I got blinded by my ambition. But I have quit the job at the ministry.”
“Ambition? Just ambition? You returned mom’s jumpers at Christmas. How could you dare to close the door on her face? You called your family, Harry and Dumbledore liars just for your job… and now you want us to forget them all by saying a ‘sorry’?” Ginny’s accusations made Percy bow his head low. Everyone stood rooted at their spots, each willing the other to speak. Finally, Molly walked towards her son and said, “Welcome home son.” Arthur followed.

Though Arthur and Molly had forgiven and welcomed their son back, the Weasley siblings were less forgiving. They had awkwardly shook hands with Percy but the way they had looked at him clearly said ‘we don’t trust you’. Percy had apologized repeatedly to Harry and Harry could no longer hold a grudge against him. He was happy that the family had re-united and Mrs. Weasley’s joy was quite evident.

Guests started arriving shortly after the family drama. At first, everyone gathered at the tent but moved to the orchard just in time for the ceremony. Harry had never attended a wedding before, neither wizarding nor muggle. So he was quite curious and excited about the whole thing. He sat with Ron and Hermoine and had them explain every aspect of it. According to Hermoine, wizarding weddings were very similar to that of the muggle weddings. They were amused to see many similar expressions when Fleur walked down the aisle. Men around the room were wearing the exact dreamy expression that Harry had seen on Charlie throughout the summer. He too must have had that expression on his face at some point of time. “It seems that Charlie hasn’t got used to having Fleur around yet.”
“Ofcourse he has,” said Ron.
“Then why does he still have that dreamy look on his face? We got used to her and I don’t think we have that look on our faces.”
“It’s not a matter of getting used to that veela charm. It’s just that you two have someone else on your mind and heart now,” said Hermoine.
“Oh! You mean… Hey, who do you have on your mind Ron?”
“Umm! I dunno what you’re talking about. What do you mean?”
“Does this have something to do with a certain ‘bushy-haired’, ‘miss-know-it-all’ we have been friends with since first year?”
“Hey, I am right here, you know!” Hermoine swatted Harry, but blushing at the same time. Ron’s ears had gone pink again and was fidgeting on his seat. However, he was saved from answering as the main ceremony was over and people started moving towards the tent. Luna Lovegood approached them. “Hello, how have you all been? It was so nice of you to invite us.”
“We were mostly busy arranging things for the wedding,” said Ron.
“How has your vacation been so far?” Hermoine asked politely.
“Oh it’s been okay. Father has been quite busy recently. He is researching the eating habits of the Heliopaths.” Hermoine was on the verge of asking how her father could research the eating habits of something that did not exist. They all entered the tent and sat down on the designated tables. Harry was sat down with Ron, Hermoine and the twins. There were several speeches, including one from Charlie. After several toasts, lunch was served.

Lupin, Kingsley, Tonks and Professor McGonagall were sitting at the next table. Harry did not recognize he fifth person at the table. He asked Ron if he knew who the person was and Ron informed him that it was Gawain Robards, the head of auror department. Harry looked back at the table. Ministry had agreed to provide some extra security at the wedding, but Harry did not expect to see the head of the aurors to be at the wedding. The five of them were engaged in some sort of serious discussion.  Harry looked around the tent. He caught Ginny’s eye for a moment and smiled. She was sitting with Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Gabrielle. Farther down from Bill’s table, Mr. & Mrs. Weasley were sitting with Mr. & Mrs. Delacour and Percy. Mrs. Weasley had originally planned to keep that seat empty, to remember Percy. As Harry saw the obvious glow on Molly Weasley’s face, he was glad that Percy had returned to his family. Catching some movement at the corner of his eyes, Harry turned to where the tent opened out to the garden. He was surprised to see Alastor Moody limping around the exit. “Isn’t he going to eat?” Harry asked after drawing Ron and Hermoine’s attention towards Moody.
“No. He felt someone should stay alert all the while and not just be here to indulge in all the festivities. Constant Vigilance and all.” George answered.
“I really pity the aurors he has on duty outside. They did not get to watch the ceremony either.” Fred added.

The food was pretty good. A huge seven-course meal that tasted like Mrs. Weasley’s cooking. Harry knew that Mrs. Weasley had not been responsible for the food, yet it tasted like her cooking. By the time desserts appeared on the table, Hermoine and Ron were into a debate about Ron’s eating habits. The twins fuelled it continuously. Harry had barely touched his treacle tart when the whole ground seemed to vibrate. Harry looked up. Everything seemed normal and no one else seemed to have noticed it. He looked around for Moody and found him just outside the tent. An auror seemed to be talking to him in a hurry. The ground vibrated again and this time with much more force. Everything went quiet within the tent. Moody came limping in, “Someone is trying to breech the wards. We have to start clearing away.” People were on their feet in and instant. Bill was the first to follow Moody out of the door. Charlie and other aurors followed the suit. Harry, Ron and the twins followed Kingsley out.

Professor McGonagall and Molly Weasley were standing at the back door ushering people in to use the floo. They were trying to organize and send the women and children away first. Bill, Charlie, Arthur Weasley were trying to hold the ward. Harry ran forward to help them. Suddenly the air around them chilled. Harry’s head started feeling heavy… ‘No, not Harry. Please not Harry.’- He could hear his mother’s voice. “Dementors,” he said aloud and tried to think of a happy memory. But his mind seemed to have frozen. He couldn’t think or move. Ron and Hermoine who were following Harry closely, noticed the change in Harry and they caught up with him. Harry seemed to be in a sort of a trance. Hermoine shook Harry and then helped Ron to get him back into the house.

Molly was helping the kids to calm down enough to travel through Floo. She turned around sharply as Ron and Hermoine entered the kitchen with Harry. “What’s wrong with him?”
“I dunno mum. Guess the dementors affected him badly.”
“That can’t be it. Harry had learned to control over it. It must be something else,” said Hermoine.
“Hermoine, this is not the time to go looking for a book. We have to get him out of here,” said Ron. Then he turned towards Harry. Harry seemed more focused and some colour had returned to his cheeks. “Harry, are you alright? Can you hear me now? We’ve got to get you out of here.” Harry looked up at Ron and said “Sirius… Dumbledore…”
“Oh! He saw them this time. That explains it,” said Hermoine.
“Come on Hermoine. I told you, this is not the time to solve puzzles. We have to get him out of here and you are not helping.” Ron turned to Harry and said, “Come on mate, we have to get you out of here, now. Can you get up and manage the Floo?”
There was a loud ‘Bang’ outside and curses could be heard. “Oh! The wards are down. May be we should just side apparate him. He is no condition to either floo out of here or apparate. What do you think Hermoine?” Before Hermoine could answer, Mrs. Weasley said, “Don’t just stand here and keep planning. Take harry and go. Go to the headquarters.”
“What about Dudley. He is still in his room. I have to get him.” Harry said in a very faint voice.
“Don’t worry Harry. You go with Ron and Hermoine and I will get Dudley.”
“No. I’ll get him. I’ll take him to the headquarters and then… but first we need to tell him about the place. Who is the new secret keeper?”
“Oh yes. That would be Alastor. I’ll get Alastor. You people get him down and ready to go.” Molly Weasley went out. Hermoine and Ron went up to get Dudley. Harry was feeling too weak to move.

Harry, Dudley, Ron and Hermoine were sitting in the living room at Grimmauld place. They had apparated after Moody had come in to reveal the location of the headquarters to Dudley. Ron had apparated with Harry and Hermoine had brought Dudley with her. On reaching the headquarters, they had decided to wait for the others in the living room. Hermoine had thought of chocolate and found some, for Harry, in the kitchen.

Harry was feeling much better. However, he could not get his recent experience out his head. Being near the dementors was much worse for him now. He had not only heard his parents’ voice, but that of Dumbledore and Sirius too. Now he was back at the house that his godfather ha hated so much. He had not thought that he would have to come back here, ever. Yet here he was…
“Harry, what happened back there?” Hermoine had been trying to get to this topic for quite some time but Ron had been tactfully changing the topic. Harry was grateful to Ron as he was in no mood of talking. “Hermoine, give him a break. We just got back and Harry has had a rough time. Besides, you have already worked it out. So stop bothering him.”
“It’s just that Harry should have been able to tackle it. He has been able to produce a patronus since the third year. Just one patronus would have helped him.”
“I wasn’t prepared to see Dumbledore or Sirius. Images of those to nights came to mind before I could do a patronus charm and when they came, my mind just froze. I could not think or do anything. There you have it. Happy? Now just leave me alone.” Harry’s sudden outburst rendered Hermoine speechless for a few minutes and when she tried to apologize, Ron caught her eye and motioned her to follow him. They left the living room.

It was almost an hour before the order members started returning. Mrs. Weasley and fleur were first to arrive. Mrs. Weasley looked as if she was about to burst into tears. She directly headed towards the kitchen. Moody was the last to arrive. He said “That’s all of us. Kingsley has gone to St. Mungo’s with the injured aurors. Perkins and Amos were the only order members to be injured tonight. Now we need to hold a meeting immediately. I can talk to Kingsley and the others later.”
“Then we can have the meeting right here. Alastor, should we wait for Charlie? Or has he gone with Kingsley?”
“Charlie? Hasn’t he returned with the others?”
“No. he isn’t here.”
“Then he must have gone off with Kingsley. You can tell him everything later and Molly, I think that you should rest. Arthur can fill you in later.” Arthur Weasley took charge and sent the Harry, Ron, Hermoine and Dudley to bed. Then, took hi wife and made sure that she lay down. Then he returned to the living room. As he entered, someone from the back said, “We are sorry for the Burrow Arthur. But don’t worry, we all will help you rebuild it.” Arthur nodded and closed the door and placed charms on it to ensure that there would be no one over hearing the order meet

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chapter 2: Back to the Burrow

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me. 
Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  ________________________________________________________________________________ 

Next morning when Harry woke up, he realized that he had slept through breakfast. He got up and showered. By the time he went downstairs, uncle Vernonhad already left for his office. ‘Good’ Harry thought to himself. He needed to talk to his aunt and Dudley. Harry entered the kitchen, half expecting to find his aunt still there. Aunt Petunia was there, trying to coax a tired looking Dudley to eat something. “Aunt Petunia, I need to talk to you.” Petunia Dursley looked up. “If you want breakfast then you have to make it for yourself.”
“Its about Dudley.” Harry said not looking at his aunt and busying himself preparing his breakfast. “I think he performed magic yesterday. He might be a wizard.”
“Don’t talk rubbish. My Dudders is not a freak like you. He is normal.” Something in her voice did not sound okay. Harry turned to face her. “Yesterday the death eaters had him in a full body bind curse. Its impossible to move unless the curse is lifted and Dudley was moving, trying to get up on his feet before anyone could help him. Something else also happened. Something that threw the death eaters off their feet and it wasn’t me and they certainly did not do it to themselves. There was no one else around.”
“So what? I don’t know what you are getting at, but my Dudders is not a wizard.”
“Then how did it happen?”
“How do I know? You should know what you freaks did yesterday. You hurt Dudley and now you tell me that Dudley is a freak like you? Some nerve you have.”
“But mum, I think Harry is right.” Both Harry and Petunia Dursley looked at Dudley. He continued in a weak voice. “Odd things have been happening to me. Last time I had a fight with my friends and I got angry. Then suddenly things started flying around the place and crashing against the floor and the wall. One almost hit Piers. Before that at school, few guys cornered me at school and they got hurt without me even touching them. My friends have stopped talking to me because they think that I did some sort of black magic or voodoo.” Both Harry and his aunt sat stunned. The smell of eggs burning brought them back to reality. A reality that Petunia was not prepared to accept. “There has to be some other explanation for this. Dudleycan not be…”
“I was pretty sure about it yesterday, aunt Petunia. Now I am totally convinced. Things like this happen. Remember all the odd things that used to happen to me as a kid whenever I was upset or scared or angry? Only now I have learnt to control it at school. By the way Dudley, can I ask you something?” Dudley looked up at Harry and nodded. “What did you see when the dementors got near you?”
Dudley looked back at his plate. After few minutes, he glanced at his mother from the corner of his eyes and said “I thought of all the times things had gone wrong and I heard mum crying out saying that I wasn’t a freak.”
“But it is not possible. Not after all these years…”
“What do you mean by ‘after all these years’?”
“When Dudley was a kid, even before you landed up with us, things used to happen. Once I got a letter from Dumbledore informing me that Dudley… that Dudley had m-magic in him. He said that it is often seen that there can be more than one magical person over generations in any non-magical family. Lily was first in ours and Dudley was next.”
“Then how come Dudley did not get a letter like me? How come he never did magic in front of me before?”
“When I got the letter, I was so terrified of what Vernon would say… what everyone else would say? Besides, I didn’t get a good impression of ‘your world’ when Lily got herself blown up. She died young and abnormally. I did not want that to happen to our Dudders. I thought that Vernonwould blame me for it. So I wrote back to Dumbledore saying that Dudley would never enter that world and I did not tell Vernonanything. After that I always tried to keep Dudders happy since things happened only when he was upset.” So that explained all the pampering and Aunt Petunia’s guilty look last year when Dumbledore had accused them of mistreating Dudley.
“But its not so bad. Not everyone dies like my mum and dad. Dudleywould have learnt a lot by now and these would not happen accidentally anymore. Life could be much easier for you too with Dudley’s help once he turned of age.”
“How come your parents died so early? Even your godfather died last year and Voldemort is after you. You hang around with people like Remus… and you say it’s safe?!”
“What do you mean by ‘people like Remus’? What do you know about Professor Lupin?”
“He was your mother’s friend. He had tried to talk me into going to Lily’s wedding. He tried to tell me what a nice person Lily was, how much Lily wanted me to be at her wedding… and I know that he is a werewolf.”
“You know a lot about us for a person who pretends that our world doesn’t even exist. If you really know so much, then you should have realized that Professor Lupin wouldn’t hurt a fly. He is a very loving and loveable person. And that everyone’s fate is not like mine or my parents. You should have sent Dudley to school with me aunt Petunia. You just can’t keep these things a secret for forever. It had to come out someday. And now, knowing everything, how will Dudley fit in here knowing that he belongs somewhere else? He has already lost his friends and he will keep loosing people, jobs, everything… unless he learns to control the magic. You did not even think that you and uncle wouldn’t always be around and then he’d be left alone. I can see what Dumbledore meant when he said that you mistreated Dudley more than me. You can’t just stamp this out of a person, you know.” With that Harry left the kitchen, giving his aunt something to think about.

Harry was barely aware of how time passed by him that morning. He had had anything since yesterday evening, yet he was hardly hungry. Soon it was almost noon. The order members would be there to get him. He dragged his trunk and Hedwig’s cage downstairs to wait for them. He had the wand and the invisibility cloak in his hand. He had decided to keep the cloak with him at all times, like last year. Harry did not have to wait for long. The doorbell rang exactly at twelve o’clock. Harry went to get the door. He was surprised to find Fred and George standing and grinning.
“Hello Harry.”
“How are you?”
“Heard you kept up with times and stirred up the death eaters.”
“Yeah, blasted off three death eaters all by yourself!!”
“We are so proud of you.”
“Yeah, real proud.”
Harry could not help smiling at the twins. He said, “You are my escort? Where are the others?”
“Fred, do you get the feeling that ‘the-boy-who-lived’ wanted a bunch of aurors to guard him.”
“Yes I do George. Why? Aren’t we sufficient for the ‘chosen-one’?”
“No, no. Actually, I am glad that there aren’t aurors here. Its just that yesterday Professor Lupin said that the members of the order would be here to get me. I did not expect you two.”
“The order felt that Voldemort might be keeping an eye around here. They did not want to attract their attention by sending a bunch of people. They sent us because everyone knows we are pals and this would look like just a friendly visit and nothing else. Besides, we are now full time members of the Order of the Phoenix. Mum wasn’t too happy. But now that we are of age and out of school, they could not come up with any other reason to stop us.”
“Although mum did try by saying that we didn’t complete school. We dropped out. But George here was good enough to point it out that the last time we tried to join, she had said that we had to be ‘out of school’ and not ‘complete’ school.”
“Last year we could not join because of the business. We had just set it up and had to give time to it. But now with it flourishing and Lee as a partner we were unstoppable.”
“Besides, with Dumbledore gone and all, we want to do our bit too.” Harry’s face paled a bit at the mention of Dumbledore. Fred noticed it and carefully changed the topic. “Now Harry, we can’t stand here at the door and chat all day.”
“So ready to go?”
“Ready to face mum, Harry?”
“Yeah. Just hold on a second. I just need to say goodbye to my aunt. Why don’t you come in? By the way, I need to ask you a question first. When did you give me the Marauder’s map?”
“Oh great! Now you come up with the question?”
“After giving us five whole minutes of cursing time?”
“You are such a genius, Harry.”
“Maybe he hurt his head yesterday.”
“If it makes you happy… we gave it to you as an early Christmas gift back in your third year.”
“Right. Come on in. But please no pranks. Specially on Dudley. He was under Cruciatus yesterday. So please.”
“Alright Harry. If you say so.”
Harry went to look for his aunt and found her in the kitchen, sitting in the same position he had left her in the morning. “Aunt Petunia, my friends are here. I am leaving… Err, thank you for keeping me and providing for me. Hopefully, you won’t have to see me again.” With this, Harry turned to leave but stopped when Petunia spoke up. “Harry, can you ask Dumbledore if he can do something for Dudley now? I will handle Vernon. But you are right; we will not be here forever. So will you ask Dumbledore if Dudders can go to your school now?” Harry did not turn to face Petunia. Instead, he stood with his back to her.
“Professor Dumbledore is… he is… he was killed last term. That is why our school closed down early. But I will ask Professor McGonagall. She is in charge now.”
“Dumbledore is dead?” There was fear in Petunia Dursley’s voice for the first time. “But he was the best wizard. Voldemort was scared of him. Wasn’t he?”
“Yes he was. But now Dumbledore is gone.” Harry almost choked on those last words. ‘Dumbledore is gone.’
“But then, without his protection, you are in great danger.” Harry finally faced his aunt. She seemed genuinely concerned. “I know it can never be the same without Dumbledore. He meant a lot to me. But I still have my friends and I have Professor Lupin. I am not afraid. I know what I have to face and I know that I am not alone. Even if I die like my parents, I will get to see them, Sirius, and Dumbledore again. So, do not worry aunt Petunia. Whether I win or whether I loose, either way I will be happy in the end.” Petunia was at a loss of words. She just stared at Harry. “Now I really have to go. They are waiting for me. And don’t worry; I’ll do my best to ensure that everything is right for Dudley.”

Harry found the twins waiting for him at the door. “What’s this about Dudley going to Hogwarts?” So extendable ears had been in use. “I’ll tell you once we get to the Burrow. How are we going?”
 “We’ve already sent your stuff to the Burrow. You have your cloak with you, right? So put it on. We’ll walk to Mrs. Figg’s and then one of us is going to side-along-apparate you from there.” With one last look at his uncle’s house, Harry left with the twins.

As they apparated in front of the Burrow, Harry felt relaxed and happy after a long time. He had hardly entered the kitchen with the twins when Mrs. Weasley came rushing, “Oh thank god you are here Harry. I have been so worried. Death eaters at Little Whinging! I couldn’t believe it and you had to face them all alone. Oh dear! You have grown so thin. Did those awful muggles starve you?” Harry found himself in a bone-crushing hug and saw the twins grinning over Mrs. Weasley’s shoulders. “Now, let me fix you a proper lunch. By the way dear, your things are already up at the twins’ old room.”
“Thanks Mrs. Weasley. I am glad to be back. By the way, where’s everyone?”
“Bill, Fleur and Charlie have gone over to Fleur’s for the day. Ron and Ginny are upstairs, fixing a few things. They’ll be down soon.” Mrs. Weasley replied while busying herself at the stove. Fred and George bade Harry goodbye and left for their shop.

Mrs. Weasley had barely set a loaded plate in front of Harry when Ron and Ginny entered the kitchen. “We are done for today mum… hey mate, when did you get here?” Ron said sitting down beside Harry.
“Hi Harry.”
“Hi. Just a few minutes back.”
“So, how was your vacation back there? I mean besides the attack?”
“It was okay.”
“Did your aunt and uncle trouble you? You never wrote much,” said Ginny, who was now helping her mother.
“No. They simply avoided me and I stayed out of their way.”
“So what exactly happened there? I mean, I know that you were attacked and that you came out of it okay, but no one told us anything else.” So Harry told them everything in details. He even told them that he actually had a decent conversation with Dudley. Mrs. Weasley stopped whatever she was doing and listened to everything that Harry said. Ginny seemed angry when Harry told that he was put under the crutiatus and Ron mumbled ‘wicked’ when Harry got to the part where the death eaters were blown back. They all discussed the attack throughout Harry’s meal.

 Later Harry and Ron were up at Ron’s room, talking about much lighter things when Hermoine apparated in the room and before Harry could even realize it, he was engulfed in brown bushy hair. “Oh thank God Harry. I was so worried that you would do something stupid and leave without us. And that attack at your home…”
“Hermoine, give him a break. He just got away from mum fussing.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Hermoine. So how have you been?” asked Harry when Hermoine finally let go of him frowning at Ron’s comment.
“Been researching mostly. With my apparition license, traveling has been easy. I have been spending some time here. Also, I went over to Sirius’s library for more books.”
“So did you find anything? I still feel that it’s something of Ravenclaw cause Dumbledore was pretty sure that the sword is Gryffindor’s only relic.”
“No I haven’t found anything about either of the founder’s relics. I just wish that I could access the Hogwart’s library. However, I did find a book on horcruxes at the headquarters. Weird thing is that it tells a lot about creating a horcrux but nothing about destroying one.”
“What’s so weird about that?”
“Well, one would think that people would write more about destroying such a dark thing rather than about how to create one.”
“We can get to the destroying part later. First we need to find one in order to be able to destroy it,” said Harry, clearly disappointed. He was so sure that Hermoine would be ready with all the answers when he finally met her.
“Don’t worry Harry, we will find all the answers with time.”
“That’s exactly it. How much time do we have? With Dumbledore out of his way, Voldemort is killing people outright. I have been getting the Daily Prophet Ron. There has been so many murders. He is killing both muggles and wizards ruthlessly. We have to do something soon.”
“We know Harry. We do realize the gravity of the situation. But we are no Dumbledore. We need time,” said Hermoine, patting Harry on the back.
“I wish Dumbledore was here. If it wasn’t for Draco and Snape, he would have been here. If I ever find them, I am going to kill those two traitors. And, Lucius thinks that I know where Draco is… if I knew I would have already killed him.”
“What?” Hermoine practically shouted.
“I said, if I knew where he was I would have killed him already.”
“No not that. Lucius thinks you know where Draco is?”
“Yes,” said Ron and then he told Hermoine all about the attack on Harry. Hermoine sat there thinking and finally said, “I wonder what made him think so? But this means that Draco is on the run. Maybe…”
“Maybe what Hermoine? You can not possibly think that the order has him. Even if they had him, they would have handed him over to the ministry. After all, everyone knows about his… his involvement now. He has the mark.”
“I was thinking that maybe Voldemort wasn’t happy with his failure. He did not… he did not do it even though he got the chance. So, maybe he came to the order for help and protection.”
“But the order would never protect him. He may not have cursed Dumbledore but he was responsible for having him cornered and wandless and also getting all those death eaters into the school.”
“Yes, but you told us all that Dumbledore offered to protect him and his family. The order would certainly respect that.”
“The order doesn’t have him. I have asked Lupin and Tonks. They said they have to look into it. By the way, what’s up with the order? Who’s leading it?”
“The order members originally thought that Professor McGonagall would be taking over. But then somehow that did not happen. Moody is the new head of Order of the Phoenix. We heard that Dumbledore wanted it that way and even Prof. McGonagall did not want that responsibility. She said she had enough on her plate regarding Hogwarts.”
“So do they know anything about Voldemort yet?”
“We have no idea what they are upto. When Fred and George joined the order, we thought they’d tell us. But have been as tight lipped as the others. They only time we get to hear anything is at dinner when everyone discusses deaths or missing people. But we hardly hear anything new. They basically discuss the things that are already on prophet.” Ginny entered the room at that moment to announce that dinner was ready. Hermoine said that she would come over on the day before Bill and Fleur’s wedding and disapparated. Harry and Ron followed Ginny to dinner.

Harry spent the next few days helping the Weasleys to prepare for the wedding. Charlie was back to help the order. He, Bill and the twins were mostly out on order business. So, Harry was left with Ron and Ginny. They chatted and joked while working together. Time seemed to fly by them. The wedding itself was to be a small affairs. Only the Weasleys and the Delacours were to attend. However, high security measures had to be taken. Bill himself had set up the ward and order members were supposed to be present too. Besides there would be some highly trained ministry aurors guarding too. Bill had made Charlie his best man and Ginny and Gabrielle were Fleur’s bridesmaid.

The Weasley life wasn’t dull for a moment. Bill, who was tall, slim and had the looks of a rock star was simply ‘cool’. Ginny had a bond with Bill that Harry admired a lot. It was perfectly clear from their interactions that Ginny simply idolized her eldest brother and she in turn, was the center of Bill’s world. Bill told them about his experiences at the tombs in Egyptand some of the ancient Egyptian magic. He  often taught them new interesting spells and Harry discovered that Ginny had learned her famous ‘bat-bogey hex’ from Bill. Charlie, on the other hand, was quite different from Bill. He had a broad, weather-beaten face with so many freckles that it looked almost tanned. Charlie's build, like that of his twin brothers, Fred and George, is shorter and stockier than that of Percy and Ron, who were long and lanky. He too had lots of stories to tell about the dragons that he worked on at Romania. Harry liked to talk to him about ‘Quidditch’. He found out that Charlie had completed school the year before Harry started at Hogwarts. He was amazed to hear that Charlie had got an offer to play for a national league team, but had turned it down. Whenever Fleur was around, Charlie had that dreamy look on his face. Bill often had to whack him on his head to get him out of it. Harry realized that Fleur did not affect him any longer and even Ron seemed to be out of it. The twins still lived in their apartment over their shop but often dropped by for dinner.

Dinner, when the whole family got together, was mostly a grave affair at Burrow. Arthur, Bill and Charlie tend to discuss matters at dinner. They always got to hear the news of various deaths and disappearances. Harry found out that Florean Fortescue, the owner of the ice cream parlor at Diagon Alley, had been found dead. His body was left in front of his closed down shop with the dark mark hovering above it. There was also an attack on the Smiths’. They all had however, managed to escape. Their house was later found in ruins and the dark mark had appeared again. Harry knew Zacharias Smith, a fellow Hufflepuff at Hogwarts. Though they did not share a particularly ideal relationship, Harry felt bad for him. Even ernie Pang, the Knight Bus driver, had died in an attack in his neighborhood. There were various attacks on muggles. They were all tortured before being killed. These news always left Harry restless, feeling guilty for not doing anything to stop Voldemort. His nightmares had however reduced. He did have them thought most of the days he did not remember having them when he woke up.

Hermoine had paid a brief visit to show Harry a photo of Godric Gryffindor holding his sword. She too had concluded that the sword was the only thing that seemed important enough for Voldemort’s purposes. She had informed them that she was going to start on Ravenclaw next. Also, she hadn’t found anything about the mysterious R.A.B. Her research led her to a few names corresponding to the initials but they were all either before or after Voldemort’s first reign. All they knew was the initial and that the man (or woman as Hermoine had pointed out) was a death eater as only the death eaters were known to call Voldemort as ‘The Dark Lord’.

Two days before the wedding, Lupin and Tonks stopped by for dinner. For a change the topic of discussion around the table was not Voldemort. Fleur was having second thoughts about her wedding dress. The ladies were trying to convince her that the dress she had already bought was perfect. Lupin was telling a particularly interesting story about the ‘Marauders’ which had grabbed the attention of all the Weasley boys and Harry. Only Mr. Weasley was missing from the table as he had to work late. Harry was relieved by the light mood but his relief lasted only so long. Mr. Weasley’s head appeared in the kitchen fire and announced that there was an attack and that the order members were needed to get to the ministry immediately. Bill, Charlie, Lupin and Tonks left in a hurry. “I can not wait for this war to get over. We can not even have a single meal in peace,” sighed Mrs. Weasley as Charlie left. The rest of them ate their dinner in silence.

After dinner they helped in cleaning up and retired in the drawing room. Mrs. Weasley sat listening to the radio and knitting. Ginny was due to take her O.W.Ls in august and so she started revising her transfiguration paper. Ron and Harry started a game of chess. They all continued their activities quietly for almost an hour. But it was evident that no one could concentrate on their work. Mrs. Weaseley had hardly progressed in her knitting, Ginny was staring at the same page that she had opened at the beginning and Harry and Ron were still in their first game. They were all waiting for everyone to return. Harry remembered Mrs. Weasley’s boggart and hoped that everyone would return safely. Finally, they heard the sounds of people arriving through fire in the kitchen. They all rushed back to the kitchen.

Mr. Weasley and Bill were already there. They looked exhausted and was followed by Tonks, Charlie and Moody. Molly Weasley while busied herself in making tea. When no one spoke, she looked around the gathering and asked, “everything alright? What happened? Who was attacked?” Bill went out of the house in a hurry and the rest of them sat down around the table. Arthur Weasley looked at Harry with an odd expression, “Harry, please sit down. There is something that we need to tell you and it might come as a shock to you.” Harry paled and sat down. He had noticed that Lupin had not returned with the rest of them. He nervously asked, “What is it Mr. Weasley? Is professor Lupin hurt? Or…,” he did not dare to finish his question dreading the worst. ‘This can’t be happening. Professor Lupin is the only one left who he could connect with his parents… No, not him. Please not him.’ Harry prayed.