Harry Potter Hermione Granger Parvati Patil Ron Weasley
Romance Drama
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 05/29/2003
Updated: 06/11/2003
Words: 119,713
Chapters: 25
Hits: 162,459

Dance With Me Harry


Story Summary:
COMPLETED. During the summer after his fourth year, after Uncle Vernon beats Harry, the only thing that keeps him going is thinking about Hermione's kiss at the train station. But once the authorities intervene, he is sent to live among the Muggles, where he learns about life and love. But will this help him win Hermione's heart? Or will Voldemort strike first?

Chapter 11

Chapter Summary:
During the summer after his fourth year, the only thing that keeps Harry going amid the Dursleys’ neglect and abuse is thinking about Hermione’s kiss at the train station. But when the authorities intervene, he is sent to live among the Muggles, where he learns about life and love. But will this help him win Hermione’s heart? Or will Voldemort strike first?


By Aerie22


The Gray Ghost

Ron was in his pajamas and sitting on the side of his bed when Harry came in. "Done prefecting?"

Harry gave a soft chuckle. "They're going to be a handful, I'll wager."

Ron gave a mirthful snort. "Shouldn't be too much trouble after tonight. Now that you and Hermione set them straight. Hey! You up for some Quidditch practice tomorrow? I really think I can make the team this year. I've been working all summer."

Harry, who was dressing for bed, shook his head. "No, I'm going to give the firsties the grand tour tomorrow. Show them around."

Ron looked up. "Why?"

Harry gave Ron a wan smile. "So they don't end up getting lost like we did in our first year. Maybe give them a few pointers about life here."

Ron gave Harry a puzzled look. "Oh, come on. They'll find their own way. We did. This is Quidditch we're talking about."

Harry sighed. "Look, Ron. When I came here, I had no idea what was going on. I was so lucky that we became friends right off. You had Fred and George, and Percy was a lot more patient with you than with some of the other first years. And I had you."

"But some of these firsties don't have that," Harry continued. "Maura has Moira, and Violet has Lavender. Some of the others look like they should have no problem adjusting. They seem ready. But I worry about Willie, and Mike and Steve--those two are cuckoo for Midwitch, by the way."

Ron made a rude noise.

Harry chuckled. "I knew you'd have that reaction. No, but I was saying about Willie. He's liable to get himself into all sorts or trouble unless someone takes him in hand. He seems like a good kid, but I have a feeling that he doesn't know his limits yet."

Ron hrmphed. "Turning into Hermione?" he muttered.

"No. I don't mind if he gets in a little mischief now and again. We should be the last ones to talk about that. But I can just see him running into something like Fluffy, like we did, and deciding to try to make friends with it."

Ron guffawed. "More likely, that one would jump on Fluffy's back and try riding it around the corridors," he said, laughing at the notion.

"And Mike and Steve...well, I don't know where they're coming from. They're Quidditch crazy, and I can see them not paying attention to anything else...like some other people I know," Harry said with a smirk.

Ron didn't respond.

Harry chuckled. "The Toad..."

"The Toad?" Ron interrupted.

Harry chuckled again. "Tom Richardson. The tall skinny one."

Ron nodded.

"Well, I think he could be a handful, too. I saw him teasing a few of the others right off. I would never have dared do something like that when I came here."

Ron nodded again, with a puzzled frown.

"But I'm especially worried about your girlfriend, Cassandra, and even more so about Samantha."

Ron looked at Harry. "Why?"

Harry looked down. "Well, I get the feeling that Cassandra has been...I don't know...isolated? Her parents are famous, but were never around. So she probably was always catered to by house elves or nannies. Maybe she doesn't know how to cope on her own. Maybe she grew up trying to copy her mum and dad. You saw the way she walks. That's not the walk of an eleven year old. I'll bet her mum walks like that."

Ron's face had been showing fierce concentration. Suddenly, he chuckled. "Yeah. When she came up to our table after the sorting, I thought she was some sort of dark-haired Veela sent to tempt and torment me. Then, when I saw her sitting in Siberia down in the common room, I realized she was just a scared little girl. Very pretty, but very young."

Harry nodded. "And Samantha is going to have real problems unless someone helps her. I bet she's been sheltered by her family all her life. Especially her big brother. She says she always had him to run to whenever something went wrong. And now that she's on her own, she's terrified. She's going to need all the support she can get."

Ron sighed. "I guess...but what about Quidditch?"

Harry shrugged. "Maybe Sunday."

Ron got into bed. He was quiet for a few minutes. Then he turned to Harry. "You know, you seem different from last year. Not bad different. It's just that...well...I didn't notice any of that stuff about the first years. I guess you spent all that time talking with them and all."

Harry, who had his fingers interlaced behind his head and was staring up at the ceiling, thought deeply. "I don't know. I spent a lot of time talking with Tony and Mae this summer. They say that most people just want to be noticed and appreciated. To be a part of something. To be friends. And the worst thing you can do is ignore them, like they weren't worth noticing. And being a first year is the worst. You know the least and nobody pays attention to you. Like nobody cares."

Harry paused, gathering his thoughts. "And Tony says you have to listen not just to what they say, but what they don't say. And you have to be able to notice stuff about people."

Ron screwed up his face in concentration. "I notice stuff."

Harry laughed. "Yeah, you noticed Parvati all right."

Ron made a rude noise.

Harry smiled. "Look, Ron. I had a weird conversation with Sara right at the beginning of the summer. She was asking me all about girlfriends and dating and stuff. And I told her I liked this girl--I was talking about Hermione," and Harry suddenly blushed.

Ron made a noncommittal grunt.

Harry paused and then sighed. "Well, I told her about you, too, and how you liked her and all and that I would be a little put out if Hermione was your girlfriend but that you would always be my best mate..." he said in a sudden rush.

Ron sighed. "I know, Harry," he said softly.

Harry paused again, lost in thought.

"And Sara?" Ron prompted.

"Oh, yeah," Harry continued. "Well, I told her how we went out with Parvati and Padma to the Yule Ball and all, and I guess she got Hermione and Parvati confused and she thought I was crushing on Parvati."

"Whaaa?" Ron responded.

Harry sighed. "Well, I explained about how we just sort of asked Parvati and Padma out at the last minute and all and were prats at the Ball, and she got mad at me."

Ron snorted. "It didn't seem to hurt you later on, with all the snogging lessons she gave you."

Harry turned on his side to look at Ron. "Look, she only was trying to tell me that I was an prat for not trying to talk to Parvati. To find out what she was like and interested in and all."

"Clothes. Makeup. Boys. Trelawney. Did I leave anything out?"

Harry shook his head. "You never know what someone is like unless you take the time to listen to them. Here, I'll give you an example. What did you think of Beth?"

Ron blinked at Harry. "Who's Beth?"

"You know those two girls who I said hi to when we were on our way to Diagon Alley? At the traffic light?"

Ron smiled at Harry. "Pam was the pretty one, right? So Beth must have been the fat one."

Harry leaned back and closed his eyes, his mind working again. Finally, he turned again and gave Ron a sad smile. "No. Beth was the smart one. The shy one. The one who is sensitive. The one who is soft and warm when you slow dance with her. The one who likes giraffes and plays the piano. And the one you wouldn't notice unless you made the effort, unless you took the time to get to know her."

Ron gave Harry an astonished look. "You like her?"

Harry sighed. "Yes, I like her. She's very nice and very sweet. But a lot of people only notice that she's the fat girl. No, she's not my girlfriend. But she's a nice person. An interesting person. A nice person to be friends with. And this summer, I discovered there's a lot of people who I never would have paid much attention to who are really nice."

Ron was quiet for a moment. "Well, I guess..."

Harry rose to lean forward on his elbow. "No, Ron. You don't get it. I started thinking about that. Beth is the fat girl. Well, I'm the boy with the scar. I'm 'The Boy Who Lived.' That's all that most people think of me. That I'm some sort of hero, or a stuck-up prat, or just weird, or something like that."

Ron chuckled. "Well, you are a prat."

Harry made a rude noise. "Okay. But my point is how many people take the time to find out that little tidbit about me," he said sarcastically.

Ron laughed.

"You want to know something I found out today?"

"That you really are a prat?"

Harry grabbed his pillow and threw it at Ron, who tossed it back, still chuckling.

Harry leaned back on his reclaimed pillow. "No, you git. I found out that Millicent Bulstrode is pretty cool."

Ron's head jerked up. "But she's a Slytherin!"

Harry nodded. "I know. But we talked for about 15 minutes after the prefect orientation meeting and she's got a neat sense of humor. Sarcastic, but pretty funny. I don't know if I'd trust her entirely, but I enjoyed talking to her."

Ron hrmphed.

"And Ernie Macmillan is really cool. You and he would get on great."

Ron seemed to shrug in the dim light. "He's on their Quidditch Team. He's not that good, though," he said sullenly.

Harry smiled to himself. Then, he got an evil grin. "Oh, and it's a good thing you ran into Parvati before you saw Hannah Abbott. She's really hot. I'd hate to see what you would have done if you met her on the train with your 'unexpected compliments' and subtle romantic style. They'd probably still be picking up the pieces after Ernie got through with you," Harry said, bursting out in laughter.

Ron sat up. "She's hot?" Then Ron tilted his head and gave Harry a sly look. "You like her?" he asked with a knowing smile.

Harry chuckled. "Well, if she came by the dorm needing a place to stay, I suppose I could make room," he said, patting the side of his bed.

The two boys chuckled.

Finally, Harry turned to Ron. "Well, she's going out with Ernie. It's just that it was so nice how they always seemed to be holding hands, even when they were talking to other people. It was really nice," Harry said dreamily as he leaned back against him pillows.

Ron murmured agreement. "I guess I know what you mean," he said quietly. After a few moments, he turned again to Harry. "Who else was there?"

Harry blinked. "Well, McGonagall...and Malfoy."

Ron chuckled. "Oooo, what did the house elf have to say?"

Harry shook his head. "Nothing. He just sat there, saying nothing. He just seemed to be watching. A little nervous, like. But he didn't say or do anything."

Harry let his cloudy thoughts about Malfoy pass. Then he turned to Ron. "Oh, and Mandy Brocklehurst and Terry Boot are the prefects from Ravenclaw."

"Boot?" Ron exclaimed. "But he's so weird."

Harry shrugged. "I don't know. He's supposed to be real smart. But his class rank isn't all that much better than ours. And he'll start talking about the weirdest things. When McGonagall left, he started talking about the history of prefects at Hogwarts. Not even Hermione paid attention."

Ron snorted again in mirth. "He must be pretty bad for that to happen."

Harry shook his head. "No, but Hermione and Mandy seemed to hit it off pretty well. Mandy's okay, I guess. But I get the impression that she's real intense. Like...I don't know."

"She's not bad," Ron said absently. "Not really pretty, but not bad."

Harry made a face in concentration. "I don't know. She was really into being a prefect, but seemed all worried that she wanted to do the right thing. So Hermione pulled out her list of things to tell the Gryffindor first years and the two of them started talking like anything. Too bad Mandy isn't in Gryffindor. I'll bet she and Hermione could be best girlfriends or something. They seem to have a lot in common. Although Hermione seems a lot more sure of herself."

Ron made a face. "She's already got us as best friends."

Harry shook his head. "Yeah, but I don't know if she ever talks to anyone about, you know, girl stuff. I mean, she doesn't say much about talking with Lavender and Parvati."

Ron looked thoughtful. "What can't she talk about with us? I mean, she isn't the type to talk about girl stuff."

Harry gave Ron a look. "Well, I'm sure there's lots of girl stuff she'd like to talk about. Like the way we talk about girls and Quidditch and stuff. I mean, you wouldn't want to talk to her about Hannah's knockers, would you?"

Ron blushed. "Hermione isn't like that," he muttered.

Harry shrugged. "I didn't think so. I mean, I didn't know what girls talked about or thought about. Then I started talking to Sara and she told me stuff..." and he paused, blushing furiously.

Ron sat up again. "Like what?" he asked urgently.

Harry turned away. "Well, it was mostly the stuff in all these girls' magazines she gave me. Some of the stuff was...embarrassing."

Ron looked at him sharply. "What?" he asked urgently and a little apprehensively.

Harry blushed. "Well, there were lots of stories on guys who have tight bums. Like the Top 5 tight bums in movies and stuff. And I read one article where this woman said girls should never date nice guys because it makes them feel so guilty when they cheat on nice guys."

Ron snorted. "That's stupid. And disgusting. I don't think Hermione would ever talk about crap like that," he said with a frown. "Tight bums!" he said with contempt.

Harry gave a wan smile. "Not like us. And nice knockers."

Ron pursed his lips and tried to stifle a giggle. "That's different."

Harry started giggling. "Sara says girls talk about that a lot. They're curious, just like us. I just thought it was weird, but those magazines had a lot of stuff like that. Especially the women's magazines."

Ron lowered his head. "Well...I don't know...I mean, I'd be interested in knowing that stuff, I guess. But don't bring those magazines around here. I don't want anyone to think I'm a poof or anything."

Harry sighed. "I suppose. But there was some real interesting stuff in those magazines. Like what girls think about boys. And how they should treat boys they like and the things they should do when boys mess up or are nice. I learned a lot. You could probably learn a lot, too."

"Maybe," Ron said warily. Then he lay back and pondered Harry's comments. "Okay," he said finally. "I'm just worried that you're going to spending all your time with the first years."

Harry sighed again. "And I'm just worried that you're going to spend all your time snogging with Parvati."

Ron blushed in the darkness. "Oh, shut up and go to sleep.

* * *

Saturday seemed to be a blur and, by the end of the day, Harry was worn out. He had done his best to show his children, the first years, around Hogwarts. He had remembered how he and Ron and gotten a stern lecture from Professor McGonagall after getting lost on their way to their transfiguration class--their first class at Hogwarts--and ended up ten minutes late. Harry vowed he wouldn't let something like that happen to his kids.

So Harry had played tour guide, attempting to show all ten Gryffindor first years where each of the classrooms, bathrooms and other important places were so they would feel comfortable navigating the large, confusing and often changing layout of the castle.

Unfortunately, the first years had other ideas. It started early when he brought them to the entrance of the castle after breakfast to get them oriented. He wasn't halfway down the corridor to the library when he noticed the group was smaller by two. A quick survey showed that Mike Burwasher and Steve Shaunessy were the missing duo. After about twenty minutes, Harry realized there was just one place that they might be. So he brought the group out to the Quidditch pitch and, sure enough, Steve was making motions with his hand to illustrate a play as Mike looked in awe at the size of the pitch and at the elevated grandstand.

Not a half hour later, it was Genie 'the Beaver' Beauvoir and Tom 'the Toad' Richardson who had wandered off. After several minutes of calling out, bringing Professor Flitwick out of his office to shush them, they found the Beaver and the Toad just outside Moaning Myrtle's off-limits girls' bathroom. The Toad, a self-proclaimed expert on Potter lore, had been explaining to the Beaver about Harry's adventures with the Troll in Harry's first year and with the Basilisk in the Harry's second year, when Moaning Myrtle showed up to lament her fate. It was only their decision to flee the tearful ghost that allowed Harry and the rest to find them at all.

The next to wander off was Willie Peters and Maura Duffy. Harry made the mistake of showing the first years the stairs to the Astronomy Tower and the two smallest of the first years were off to explore, perhaps hoping to catch daylight snoggers. At least Harry was prepared this time, after Maura's playful suggestion to him the night before.

To top it off, Violet Brown and Pat McGrady decided to take to arguing about their respective positions in the world. Violet took pains announcing in no uncertain terms about her father's lofty position on the Brown estate. McGrady retorted, announcing loudly that at least his family owned their own farm outright and were nobody's 'estate caretaker.'

The only two who didn't cause problems were Samantha Bauman and Cassandra Young. Samantha was no longer tearful, but observed everything goggle-eyed. And Cassandra appeared to be happy to have someone her own age who treated her as a friend, rather than some little princess because of her parents.

By lunchtime, Harry was already worn out chasing around or trying to calm down the firsties, as he had taken to calling them. He offered Hermione the chance to take over, but she declined, pointing out sensibly that only Harry knew what he had shown the firsties in the morning and only Harry knew what needed to be covered in the afternoon.

The afternoon was no less tiring or frantic. First, he had to calm Samantha's fears that the dungeon wasn't where they imprisoned disobedient students. And he had to confiscate potions ingredients from Willie and Maura that they'd appropriated from the general potions supply cabinet--the alohamora spell at work again. Harry was thoroughly beat. He managed to stay up with the firsties to answer any questions they could come up with, and they had plenty, including some not so appropriate, before dragging himself to bed.

* * *

He awoke on Sunday morning surprisingly refreshed. He had been so preoccupied with his 'children' that he hadn't worried at all about the nightmares, and none came. He'd only had three or four nightmares since moving in with the Strowbridges, but they had left him with an uneasy feeling when he went to bed. After showering and washing up, he dressed casually and walked down to the common room with a vague feeling that he'd forgotten something. He was startled to be greeted by all ten of the firsties, all freshly scrubbed and dressed up, waiting to greet him.

"What do we have here?" he asked with a nervous smile.

Genie stepped forward. "Harry. It's Sunday. We were all wondering about...well...church."

Harry was taken aback. That's what he'd forgotten. He gave himself an inward kick. After all that Tony and Mae had meant to him during the summer, after all they had taught him, and after all the solace he gained from Sunday services and all the satisfaction he felt from doing little things for the church, here he was on the first Sunday back at Hogwarts and he had promptly forgotten all he had learned to rely on during the summer.

Harry shook his head. He rarely attended services here at Hogwarts. But he did on occasion, when things felt like they were closing in on him. It was time to return to regular services now, he vowed.

"Well, we have a chapel on the first floor, behind the library. It's presided over by the Rev. Micah Meacham," he said, and noticed frowns on the faces of Duffy, McGrady and Shaunessy. "Uh...it's a nondenominational Christian service and has the unofficial blessing of the Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic Churches, and others, I believe, but I don't remember which," he said nervously. "If any of you are not Christian, there are other arrangements. If you're Jewish, you can see Rachel Weiss. You met her last night when I introduced you around. She's a fourth year. She's always looking for Jewish students to make up...to make up..." Harry paused, not remembering the word.

"A minyan?" Cassandra offered.

Harry looked at her. "I guess. Are you Jewish?"

She smiled shyly. "No. But a some of my parents friends are. I like to listen to what my parents' friends talk about, and I guess I picked that up."

Harry smiled. "Anyone have problems going to services this morning? It's not required, you know."

The firsties all looked at each other. "No problem, I guess," said Pat.

Harry nodded. "Okay, them. Give me a chance to change. Then we can go down to breakfast together. Services are generally immediately after breakfast. I think you'll like Rev. Meacham. Oh...by the way. He's a ghost."

Harry left the firsties to look at each other in shock as he returned to the dorm to change.

* * *

The Castle chapel was small, with two rows of twelve pews, each capable of holding six students across--seven in a pinch. There were additional benches on the side and assorted chairs in the back. But Harry had never seen the chapel full. He shrugged internally. He figured that this was to be expected, with students no longer under the supervision of their families preferring to lie in on Sundays.

Harry brought the firsties in. He noticed Neville, Lavender and Parvati, the only regulars among the Gryffindor fifth years, as well as Seamus and Dean, who made occasional pilgrimages to services. He shook his head at Parvati. She may be of Indian ancestry, but her family had been in England since the days of Robert Clive and the East India Company and, in many ways, she was as British as John Bull. Even Hermione was there, sitting next to Ginny Weasley, although she was as irregular at services as Harry was. Ron, on the other hand, was missing as usual, preferring to take breakfast and then return to bed to worship his pillow on Sunday mornings.

* * *

"Good morning, my young friends at Hogwarts," said Rev. Micah Meacham from the pulpit. While his body was semitranslucent, his voice was strong. He was tall and thin, and appeared to be in early middle age at the time of his death. He was wearing an old-fashioned surplice and collar that dated from the mid-17th Century. He smiled a benign smile at his congregation, which numbered about 100 students. Professors attending the service had their own balcony seats out of sight of most of the students.

Meacham continued to smile at the congregation. "I am going to start services, as I do at the beginning of each year, by trying to explain who I am and why I am here. First off, my name is Micah Meacham. I was ordained under the Anglican rite in 1628. I was appointed vicar in Hogshead, just beyond Hogsmeade, in 1634. It was a pleasant, happy life."

"Unfortunately, there came the troubles of the Civil War. During the hostilities, I tried to keep my people safe. I was arrogant enough to believe I was succeeding when the clan uprising occurred. It was 1645. There was an attack on Hogshead. I remember the pain. Then the light. Then I was here."

"It is not my place to understand the divine plan. Only that it is a work in progress. And that I am a very small part of that larger work. And my part is to provide whatever spiritual help I can to you. Thus, I am before you now. I hope to see you here often. And remember, I am always here if you need counseling or someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, even if you can't actually feel that shoulder," he said with a smile.

Several of the older students smiled and rolled their eyes, understanding that jokes from ghostly adults here at Hogwarts were no better than those from their living counterparts.

"Given the perilous nature of your time, I have taken today's first reading from 8 Romans: 35 to 39..."

* * *

Harry looked at his own flock as services ended. While several were startled by Meacham as a ghost, none seemed dissatisfied with the nature or tone of the services. "I wish Rev. Graham back home were as nice and understandable as Rev. Meacham seems," Harry heard Genie whisper to Tom.

He nodded to Hermione as she joined the group. "I should have thought to bring the first years here," she said with a slight blush. "I've been so caught up in homework and planning what I should be doing as a prefect, that I haven't been acting like a real prefect. Thanks, Harry."

Harry smiled at her and squeezed her shoulder. "Don't worry. But you get to head the next guided tour they get, because they ran me ragged yesterday," he said with a smirk.

Then Seamus and Dean came up to Harry. "Hey, Harry. Looks like old Meacham wasn't the only ghost here today," said Seamus, nodding toward the back.

Harry turned in time to see a figure dressed in a gray monk's habit with the hood pulled far over his face to make him, or her, unrecognizable, quickly turn and exit before everyone else. Harry turned back to Seamus and Dean. "I wonder who that was, and what that was all about."

Harry turned back, but the figure was already gone. "You think it's one of the professors?" he asked Seamus, Dean and Hermione.

By this time, Lavender and Parvati had joined the group. "What's up?" Lavender asked.

"Did you see that person in the gray monk's robe?" Hermione asked them.

"I guess," Lavender said. "But I didn't really pay attention."

"He was about my height," said Parvati, who was now about 5-foot-7.

"He?" Harry asked.

Parvati nodded. "Definitely a man's stride. Women don't walk that way, or haven't you noticed the differences between the sexes yet, Harry," Parvati replied with a chuckle.

Harry made a face at her. But he was troubled. Except for the color and the coarser fabric, the robe was almost like that of a Death Eater. Finally, he simply shrugged it off.

He turned to the first years. "All right, everybody back to the Tower. I want everybody to change into casual clothes. It's almost time to play 'Pin the Tail on the Firstie'," he said with a grin, drawing laughs from several of his charges, although Mike and Steve scowled and Samantha looked shocked.

Hermione stepped forward. "Oh, stop it, Harry," she said with a smile as the fifth years chuckled. "First years. Follow me," she commanded, and the group left the chapel.

* * *

"Harry. Might I see you for a minute in my office?"

Harry turned from walking with his procession of firsties, and gave the beaming Professor Dumbledore a quizzical smile. "Yes, sir." Harry turned to Hermione, who had paused in her duties shepherding the young students to look expectantly. Harry shrugged. "Go ahead. I'll see you later."

Harry followed Dumbledore down the corridor until they came to the gargoyle protecting the entrance to the stairs to the headmaster's office. "Raspberry sorbet," Dumbledore announced and the door opened.

As Harry stepped off the revolving staircase behind Dumbledore, he smiled at the Headmaster's office. It was, as always, filled with all manner of magic implements and gadgets, along with books, scrolls and papers. Fawkes, the phoenix, was looking resplendent, doubtless having suffered, or enjoyed, a recent immolation and rebirth.

"Sit down, Harry. Sit down," Dumbledore said with his characteristic twinkle.

Harry sat down across from Dumbledore

Dumbledore pushed forward a crystal candy dish. "Lemon drop?"

Harry smiled. "No, thank you. I just had breakfast."

Dumbledore's expression became more serious. "Harry, the reason I called you up here is that there are things going on in our world that I thought you should know about. We understand from our spies that Voldemort is out there, building up his strength. As far as we can tell, he is not planning any overt move against us in the immediate future. That is why I allowed...well, allowed outside forces to prevail upon me to allow Hogsmeade visits and to go ahead with plans for the Yule Ball."

Harry nodded, curious.

Dumbledore pursed his lips. "However, there have been some disturbing reports from our spies. Have you been having any of your dreams?"

Harry's eyes widened. He frowned. "I have been having...nightmares. About the TriWizard Tournament and...Cedric."

Dumbledore tilted his head. "But none that affected your scar? No signals from Voldemort himself, or his activities?"

Harry shivered. "No, Professor. Whenever I wake from my...Cedric dreams, I sort of check first thing. But no pain in the scar. No visions of Voldemort, beyond seeing him order Cedric's death," he said in a barely audible voice.

Dumbledore nodded. "It's just that it has come to our attention that Voldemort may be taking his less useful followers and...well, absorbing their magic, their power."

Harry blinked, uneasily. "I don't understand."

Dumbledore leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. "It appears that Voldemort has uncovered some very ancient magic. Some very dark magic. He has learned to steal the power of other wizards."

Harry blinked again. "What happens to those other wizards?" he asked in a whisper.

"They die," the Headmaster said softly. "He takes their life essence. Our spy spent the summer in fear that he would be next. He reports that those who should know about such things say that Voldemort has absorbed the magic from and disposed of at least six of his followers."

Harry's blood ran cold.

The Headmaster nodded. "He is growing in power. But he is not ready. His forces are not strong enough and he is not satisfied with his own strength. So we have time to prepare, as well."

Harry was about to speak, when Dumbledore began again. "We have to prepare in earnest. A small group of us have joined forces to work toward this end. And we hope you will be prepared to join us. That is why I have asked Professor Moody to help you with additional training beyond what you will learn in your Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. We will need your aid. And the aid of everyone on the side of Light."

Harry lowered his head in thought. "Why don't we strike at him now? Or at least his main followers? Lucius Malfoy. Macnair from the Ministry. They are walking as if they didn't have a care in the world. There was a Crabbe and a Goyle. Peter Pettigrew, if we can find him. They were there. They are waiting to kill you. To kill me. To kill hundreds or even thousands of innocent people."

Dumbledore closed his eyes and lowered his head. "Alas, Harry. It is not so simple."

Harry blinked. "Why?"

Dumbledore raised his head and looked at Harry sadly. "The world is a complicated place. And the answers are not as clear cut as we all might wish. Let us just say that we are working hard and intend to meet Voldemort prepared."

Harry sighed and looked down again in sorrow and frustration.

It was Dumbledore's turn to sigh. "Harry. There is something I must say to you. I am sorry. I am sorry for the Dursleys. I am sorry for the years of difficulties you suffered through. I am sorry for your pain and I am sorry for your sadness. Had I known what you went through, I would never have left you there. We did have people from our world watching out for you. But they had assumed your bruises and your scars were all part of childhood injuries suffered by all Muggle children growing up without the benefit of wizarding healing charms. They were more concerned with the threats from our world and ignored the threats from your own. For that, there is no excuse on our part. And for that, I am truly sorry."

Harry, his head down, sighed sadly, nodding acknowledgement.

Dumbledore paused. "I want you to know that arrangements are in progress to find you a good, safe wizarding family to stay with in the future."

Harry's head jerked up, a stricken look on his face. "Mae and Tony don't want me any more?" he asked in a panic.

Dumbledore shook his head. "They will be informed once we decide where you should go."

Harry blinked rapidly. "What do you mean? Who decides?"

Dumbledore gave Harry a fatherly smile. "I think you would be better off in the wizarding world. There are places where you will be safe. I am sure the Strowbridges will understand."

Harry was now breathing heavily. He stared at Dumbledore's smiling face. Finally, he spoke: "No," he said softly.

Dumbledore's smile faded. "Harry?"

"No," Harry repeated. "If they want me, I will be spending Christmas...at home...with my family."

The Headmaster's face took on a look of concern. "Harry. We have your best interests in mind. And we believe you should be raised in the wizarding world."

Harry's eyes narrowed. "No, Professor," was all he said.

Then Dumbledore felt it. The quick flash of cold. It was coming from Harry.

Dumbledore lowered his head. "Very well, Harry. If that is how you feel, I will respect your wishes. I only thought it would be in your best interests."

Harry nodded and waited. Finally, the old Headmaster, looking older and more sorrowful that Harry had ever remembered, looked up. "Thank you, Harry, for seeing me."

Harry slowly rose and nodded. And he turned and left without a word.

Dumbledore looked up at Fawkes. "You felt it, old friend?" he said quietly.

Fawkes seemed to nod in assent.

Dumbledore closed his eyes. He had only felt it in two other people. Grindelwald and Voldemort. Only they had the power to translate their anger into a physical presence.

Oh, and there was one more that the old Headmaster had heard of who had that power. It was someone who had long ago learned to control and focus his anger.

His name was Albus Dumbledore.