Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
Harry Potter
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 04/17/2002
Updated: 01/04/2004
Words: 584,432
Chapters: 31
Hits: 808,247

Harry Potter and the Triangle Prophecy


Story Summary:
Harry's 7th and final year of school. In a time of uncertainty, the Muggle world has found a source of comfort and stability. Only Harry suspects that it isn't safe. Wizards are more concerned about themselves than Muggles since Voldemort's return, but are only Muggles at risk? Will anyone listen to Harry? He must decide whether to make a sacrifice that will change him--and the wizarding world-- forever.
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Chapter 03 - Walls

Chapter Summary:
Harry's seventh and final year of school. In a time of uncertainty, the Muggle world has found a source of comfort and stability. Only Harry suspects that it isn't safe. Wizards are more concerned about themselves than Muggles since Voldemort's return, but are only Muggles at risk? Will anyone listen to Harry? He must decide whether Draco Malfoy is ultimately friend or foe and discover the identity of the Daughter of War and get her help in defeating Voldemort; and finally, Harry must decide whether to make a sacrifice that will change him--and the wizarding world-- forever.
Author's Note:
The quotes are from

Harry Potter and the Triangle Prophecy

Chapter Three


The Greek temple was not conceived as a house of worship,
but as the impenetrable sanctuary of the gods. Religious rites took place
in the open,
around the temple....Greek civilization was centered in
out-of-doors activities, not within four walls and a roof...but in sacred
precincts, on acropolises, in open-air theaters.

Modern architecture...has attained the spatial dream of the Gothic
by....using vast windows, by now entire walls of glass, it has established
complete continuity between interior and exterior space.

Bruno Zevi, Architecture as Space

To Harry's shock, Draco Malfoy dropped his new broom and leapt across the room when he saw Harry's aunt go down. Vernon Dursley shielded his wife from Draco, saying, "Get away from her! You--you--"

He was sputtering incoherently at the blond boy. Draco sank back on his haunches, his mouth very thin.

"I--I might be able to help--" he said feebly.

"You've helped enough!" Harry's uncle bellowed at him. Harry stepped forward and put his hand on Draco's shoulder; suddenly he seemed very much like his best friend in his other life, and he was glad he'd bought him the new broom. Harry mouthed the words "Thanks anyway," to him and gestured with his head to the chair where Draco had previously been sitting. He moved there obediently, looking a little put-out.

"Let's move her to the couch, Uncle Vernon," he said quietly; his uncle nodded, his mouth clamped shut as he looked desperately down at his wife. What he imagined would happen to them in a house full of witches and wizards Harry didn't know, but at least his uncle was letting him help.

Together they moved her limp body and out of the corner of his eye he noticed Mrs. Figg leaving the room. Vernon Dursley perched precariously on a small sliver of couch next to his wife, patting her hand and brushing her hair from her brow. "Petunia, my sweet....wake up dearie....wake up now, please...."

Mrs. Figg was back with a small vial which she unstoppered; she started to move the vial near Petunia Dursley's face when Vernon Dursley covered his wife's mouth and bellowed, "You get away from her with your vile concoctions, woman! I don't want you near my wife!"

Mrs. Figg looked down at the vial in her hand and then at Vernon, one eyebrow raised.

"It's common smelling salts, Vernon."

He looked back at her, clearly embarrassed now. She held out the vial to him and he took it, then waved it back and forth under his wife's nose. Her eyes popped open and she coughed suddenly, her hand on her chest. Mrs. Figg took the vial back and stoppered it, then placed it on a nearby table.

Petunia Dursley's eyes were wild, taking in the roomful of people, including the gruesome visage of Mad-Eye Moody. Then she saw Arabella Figg again, and this time she looked like this was a good thing, someone familiar and reliable. "Oh, Arabella," she said weakly, "what's going on? Did I imagine it? I thought you--"

"You thought I was a Muggle. Of course you did, dear," she said, surprisingly warmly. "I meant for you to. As well as the entire village. I've been here to protect Harry for a very long time. I used to divide my time between Little Whinging and Malfoy Manor, where I worked as Draco's nanny--" she nodded at the blond Slytherin "--but when I was sacked by the Malfoys because they thought Draco was too old for a nanny I moved here full time."

Petunia raised herself up tentatively. "Do--do you all live here?" she asked shakily. I see, Harry thought. She wants to know how bad the local infestation is.

"No, Petunia, only Draco is living with me. The others have come from all over the country--"

"--and Scotland," Sirius cut in.

"--all over the island of Great Britain," she went on, glaring at Sirius, as though daring him to argue that the Isle of Bute was not part of the island of Great Britain, "to celebrate Draco's birthday. We didn't exactly expect you to walk in, you understand."

Harry saw his aunt swallow. She looked at Draco now, a look of great disappointment clearly showing on her face. Then she seemed to be really looking at Draco.

"I've seen you before," she said softly. "I mean before this summer...."

Draco nodded. "Yes. I was one of the pall-bearers for your son's funeral. Harry brought me," he said quietly.

She nodded, as though she understood now; Harry had wondered why she hadn't realized this earlier, but had put it down to her being so grief-stricken during the funeral that she hadn't been paying very close attention to what was occurring around her. She looked up at her husband now and whispered, "Help me to stand. I want to go home."

Vernon Dursley was unable to help her to rise unassisted, so Harry stepped forward and took her other arm. To his surprise, she let him. They moved toward the doorway to the living room, and Harry called over his shoulder, "I'll be back. Save me some cake."

It took longer than Harry would have thought to slowly walk his aunt the two blocks to Privet Drive and up to her bed. Harry stood by awkwardly while Vernon Dursley took off his wife's shoes.

"Um, I'm going back to the party now. She looks like she'll be all right now."

His uncle turned a gimlet eye on him. "You've been keeping things from us, boy. We'll talk about this tomorrow."

Harry drew his mouth into a line, not looking forward to this talk. "Yes, sir," he said softly before turning to leave. He wasn't feeling inclined to argue; it was amazing, really, that his aunt and uncle had gone this long without finding out about Mrs. Figg and Draco Malfoy. He couldn't recall whether they'd taken notice of Sam and Katie. Thank goodness Aberforth wasn't there yet, he thought.

He walked back to Mrs. Figg's house with his shoulders hunched, not feeling like he was in a party mood. His spirits lifted when he saw Katie waiting by the gate for him. When he was close enough she stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.

"You look like someone's died," she said, her voice very matter-of-fact.

"Not someone, something. It's the end of an era. And I have to have a talk with my uncle tomorrow because of it." He sighed and she laced her fingers through his.

"Come inside and try to cheer up. We've saved some cake for you and you've been spared hearing my father throw everyone off-key during For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

He smiled at her, but then he saw that there was a shadow behind her eyes. "What's wrong, Katie? Why were you waiting out here? I could have changed my mind and decided not to come back tonight."

She shrugged. "I just wanted to get away from the party. I've had--something on my mind." He waited, and after a minute's pause, it all came tumbling out--Lee had sent her an owl when she'd gone home from work that evening.

"And it was just innocuous, really, just a friendly note to say that the business is going really well and I should come up to Hogsmeade to visit some time this summer and that Angelina misses me--" She sniffled and Harry saw now that her eyes were red-rimmed. "Not that he misses me, not that I should go up to visit him. I should come up to visit the lot of them, I should know that Angelina misses me." She swiped at an errant tear. Harry hesitated only for a moment before he gathered her to him; her head rested comfortably just below his chin and she put her arms around him, making him feel a slight jolt from the contact.

They didn't speak but just stood in silent communion. Harry felt a light breeze lifting his hair and her warm breath through his shirt. He knew just how she felt; this was how he'd been earlier, when Ginny had hugged him, and Katie had been so understanding....

He felt tempted to kiss her for a moment, but he decided not to, as he didn't know whether her father might be looking out of one of the windows of the house. Instead he pulled back from her and handed her a handkerchief to dry her eyes. As she did so, he smiled at her with understanding, saying, "We're quite a pair, yeah?"

She nodded, smiling ruefully at him before blowing her nose. She pocketed his handkerchief and they walked toward the house hand-in-hand; they didn't need to say anything else. The walking wounded easily recognized each other.

Inside, the party was surprisingly noisy; Harry wondered whether Mrs. Figg had put a silencing charm on the walls of the house so the neighbors wouldn't hear and come investigating, or send the police investigating. All they needed was a Muggle police officer walking in and seeing someone doing magic. Perhaps after the episode with his Aunt Petunia, Mrs. Figg decided there'd been enough revelations for the night.

Aberforth had arrived since he'd left and was in the living room now; the conversation between him, Sam, Remus and Sirius was so loud it was making Harry's head hurt. They kept overlapping each other with their loud comments and laughing even louder, and Harry began to doubt that they had the same harmless punch in their paper cups that he had in the one Katie had handed him when they'd returned to the fray.

Mrs. Figg was speaking to her brother, Draco and Ginny in a corner of the dining room; evidently, Draco was regaling them with the story of the bouncing ferret himself. (That was fair, Harry thought. He owns the story, he should tell it.) He seemed to have gotten over his fear of giving his old nanny "ideas." Moody was laughing uproariously, his cracked face contorted beyond recognition as human. Ginny met Harry's eye for a heartbreaking moment; he looked away first, feeling annoyed with himself. He decided to find Ron and Hermione.

They were in the kitchen; Hermione was cutting some more slices of cake. Ron was sitting on the opposite side of the table from her, shoveling cake into his mouth and looking as though he was using the table as a shield, to separate the two of them. She looked up at Harry stonily when he entered with Katie. Ron didn't notice Hermione's reaction but came bounding over to him, grinning. "Harry! You'll never guess what! Later in the summer the Holyhead Harpies are playing the Chudley Cannons on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, and Percy and the twins said if we want to come up for the match, they'll put us up. Isn't that brilliant?"

Harry remembered going to Quidditch games with his stepfather in his other life, and he grinned. "The Holyhead Harpies are my favorite team!" he responded enthusiastically. Ron frowned.

"Since when? I thought you were a Cannons fan, like me?"

"Well, when I became your friend, I had to take your word for it when it came to Quidditch teams, didn't I? Maybe I've changed my mind about my favorite." Then he grinned mischievously, to show he was joking. He found that his other life crept in at the most unpredictable times. What's my favorite Quidditch team? The Holyhead Harpies. It was just reflex. It was also easy to forget that no one else knew about his other life--except for Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore.

Ron grinned, showing that he got the joke (and showing, by his discolored teeth, that this wasn't the first serving of chocolate cake he'd had). He'd just opened his mouth to say something else, looking very excited, when Hermione came up to him and put her hand on his arm. He flinched so drastically that the cake on the plate in his hand went flying and then he was desperately rushing to clean it up, shaking off Hermione impatiently. Harry saw her look of hostility turn to hurt, and he looked at Katie and motioned to Hermione with his head; Katie immediately understood. She helped Ron clean up the mess, then said, "Have you talked to my dad yet, Ron? Come on out and say hello..."

Harry stood in Hermione's path when she attempted to follow them out of the kitchen. She glared up at him. "We have to talk, Hermione," he said simply. Her glare did not waver. He took her upper arm in his hand and steered her toward the back door and out into the garden. She sat on a bench, her hands grasping her upper arms as though she were cold, looking obstinately away from him.

He stood looking at her, arms crossed, waiting. Finally, he grew tired of this and said to her, "Out with it." She looked up at him, a little less hostile, but no more talkative than she had been. He grew exasperated. "Oh, come on, Hermione, you know how so-called journalists warp things. Remember that Witch Weekly article Snape read in Potions class? Was any of that true?" Silence. "Cut it out, Hermione. Enough with the silent treatment. I know it's the article. What exactly are you most upset about?"

She looked up at him. "Yes, I'm upset. Do you want to know why? Do you? Do you?" Her voice rose in pitch with each repetition. Harry frowned and backed off a little.


"All right. Let's just go back to the Yule Ball in fourth year, shall we? Does that prat ask me, even though I know he likes me? No, he does not. And does Viktor ask me because he likes me? No, it turns out Crouch engineered that, too. And just when I decide to let go of the whole idea of Ron because he was just too immature for words, you seem like you might be interested in me, and I'm scared to do anything about it, but then I'm under the influence of a potion that acts like Imperius. And even then, I had to use the excuse of teaching you to kiss Cho Chang to get you to kiss me the first time. Then you blame me for Dudley's dying--"


"--and Ron has to convince you to make up with me. And then he finally admits how he feels about me, and it turns out he's told you to break up with me. And then you do, giving me to him like a neatly-wrapped birthday present. And what does he do? Walks away. Then he goes and--" her voice caught for a moment. "--offers himself to the spiders in my place, the great brave git, and we have a few minutes of real happiness. Then he gets bitten by a werewolf, and the next day he wants nothing to do with me. And then today we go to a film in London, almost like a real date, except that we're really babysitting his sister--who needs no babysitting--and I can't even get him to put his arm around me while we're in the theatre. He's been friendly, oh yes; he's been conversational and polite. But he hasn't been a boyfriend by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm starting to think it's the last thing he wants!"

Her voice had risen again. Harry stared at her helplessly; her chest was heaving with emotion. She wasn't done yet. "So forgive me if I'm feeling rejected in general when, on top of Ron's persistent refusal to even try for us to have a relationship, I open the Evening Prophet on Friday night and discover a picture of you snogging Katie Bell as though you hadn't a care in the world. And then there's an article describing me as a 'cast-off' girlfriend of yours. I'm a cast-off, all right. I've been rejected by Harry Potter and his best friend, and a world-famous Quidditch player--"

"--who you were actually rejecting--" he reminded her.

"Whom I was rejecting," she corrected him. "And the one nice bloke who asked me to the Yule Ball now has a thing for Ginny--"

Harry furrowed his brow. "Who?"

She looked up at him. "Oh, you'll be glad to know that you have company in the Pining-for-Ginny-Weasley club."

"Wh-what? P-pining for G-ginny--?"

"Nice Quirrell impression, Harry. Yes. Pining for Ginny. What, do you think I'm stupid? Ron, on the other hand....Yes, I love him, but I also just want to throttle him sometimes. If he hadn't told you to break up with me, you probably would have done it much sooner. And yes, I still would have been hacked off at you, because that's still a blow to a girl's self-esteem. But it would have passed, and at least I wouldn't have felt like I was having to kidnap you to go up to Fluffy's old lair. That didn't exactly do wonders for my self-esteem either. But, of course, you're as stubborn as he is, so you didn't do exactly what you wanted to do just because he wanted you to do it as well; you decided to be contrary. Gah! Sometimes I don't know why I've bothered with the pair of you...."

He drew his lips together. "I'm sorry, Hermione. You're right; it wasn't fair for me to stay with you when I felt the way I did about her, and I was just being contrary. I should have ended it a lot sooner, and then you and Ron would have had a chance to really be a couple, and maybe he never would have been bitten--"

She grimaced and crossed her leg, jiggling it impatiently. "Yes, well, it's rather late for that now, isn't it?"

"And anyway--who are you talking about? Who else is in this Pining-for-Ginny-Weasley club? Other than Jules Quinn, and she's known he has a crush on her since he was a first year."

"Are you blind? Oh, I forget--you are blind. I'm amazed that you didn't fail everything this year--you were in another world constantly. I mean Neville, of course. He asked her to the Ball after I turned him down, remember? I think I should have lied to Viktor and told him I'd already accepted Neville's invitation. Then maybe I'd have a perfectly nice, normal boyfriend right now who wouldn't be so interested in rejecting me..."

Harry sighed and sat down next to her. "Hey. Come here." He opened his arms wide and she hesitated a moment before climbing into them. I seem to be in the business of comforting girls pining after other blokes tonight, he thought. "You know I didn't reject you; I simply recognized our relationship for what it was: something that grew out of an unnatural situation--you know, that Imperius Potion--and just a bit of curiosity. I mean, we're only human, and being such good friends and otherwise thinking of people of the opposite sex as fair game for dating, probably sooner or later we'd have wondered whether we should try to make a go of it. If you and Ron weren't dating, that is. So it's just as well we've gotten all that out of our systems. I really want us to be good friends again. I miss you dreadfully," he said, tightening his grip on her and putting his cheek on the top of her head.

She put her arms around his waist. "Oh, Harry, so do I. I suppose you must think I'm a vain idiot, but--but I have been feeling so rejected--it's hard. I look in the mirror and I say, "I'm Head Girl of Hogwarts. I have marks most of the teachers probably didn't get when they were in school. I've helped you in first, third, fifth and sixth years when you were fighting evil, and I helped you a bit during the Tournament, too."

"And don't forget that even when you were Petrified in second year, if I hadn't found that torn page about the basilisk in your hand, we never would have understood what we were up against."

She blushed and looked pleased now. "You don't know how glad I was to see you and Ron when I woke up. Especially--well, I could especially tell that he was glad I was all right--" She ducked her head bashfully again. "But I--I didn't want to acknowledge any feelings I might have had for him yet. We were so young...."

"...and you were still crushing on Lockhart..."

She pulled back and hit him on the chest, but it didn't hurt and she was grinning. "I was twelve years old! You're never going to let me forget what an idiot I was over him, are you?"

He grinned back at her. "It will haunt you for the rest of your life. Just accept it. You can needle me about Cho and Ron about Fleur Delacour, if that's any comfort."

She looked at him earnestly. "Promise me something, Harry."

He calmed down and looked soberly back at her. "Anything." And the moment he said it, he realized that he meant it.

"Promise me that no matter what happens, the three of us will always stay friends. If Ron and I don't--well, you know. I want the three of us to always be friends, to be there for each other."

He nodded, then rested his brow against hers. "Absolutely." She looked back at him, her brown eyes very close to his.

"Harry?" she whispered.

"What?" he whispered back, unable to look away from her.

"When school starts, the first time you accompany Ron during the full moon--I want to come, too."

Now he pulled back from her in horror. "Hermione--no! I know you want the three of us to be friends always, but--even in my griffin form--I can't guarantee that I could keep Ron from tearing you apart! I mean, if he's taken the potion and it works, there shouldn't be a problem--but you can never be too careful. I think that even if he's had the potion, if he's in his wolf form and bites you, even a small nip, you could become a werewolf." He stopped suddenly, a horrible thought coming to him. "Is that it? You want to become a werewolf too? No, Hermione, you don't know what you're suggesting--"

She hit him again, a little less playfully than before. "Neither do you, you great prat. I don't want to become a werewolf! Let's see--what would you say if I told you that Professor McGonagall is staying with us this summer and giving me private tuition in something she'd been teaching me all last year--" She paused, watching his face, waiting for the realization to dawn on him. When it finally did, she laughed out loud.

"Hermione! That's wonderful! But--what form will you take?"

She sat back and folded her arms across her chest. "That's a secret. You'll see at the first full moon after the term starts. Minerva reckons I'll be ready by then. I'm afraid I'm not quite as quick about this as you. Good as I am at Transfiguration, the challenge is to also be very aware of one's body, and I'm afraid you've got me beat there, Harry. It's probably one reason why you're a natural flyer and I hate to get any higher than six feet off the ground."


She smiled. "I'll be going back to 'Professor McGonagall' in September, but during the summer she suggested that we could be a little more informal. After all, she's a guest in my home. She and Mum get along famously. Oh, and do you know this summer is only the second time I've ever seen her in her Muggle clothes?"

He furrowed his brow. "What's that like? And what was the first time?"

"Oh, you know. When she came to our house just after I got my Hogwarts letter. They have to make sure Muggle-borns know it's not some elaborate practical joke, you know. I mean, did you credit it the first time you read your letter?"

"Well--they didn't do it quite the same with me. I think it was assumed that my aunt and uncle had told me about my parents being a witch and a wizard and all that. The letters just kept coming, the address changing each time because Uncle Vernon packed us up and tried to outrun them, until finally Hagrid showed up and started doing magic and handed me the letter and explained to me about my mum and dad--"

"Hagrid? Doing magic? It's one thing at Hogwarts, like when he was getting his pumpkins to grow really large...and I didn't really approve of it then, but Ron had just been coughing up slugs, and I really didn't want to get into an argument with Hagrid...."

Harry drew his lips together. "I shouldn't have said that--"

"Now you sound like him. He's not allowed to do magic, Harry. You and Ron and I know that he shouldn't have been expelled, but technically he hasn't received a full magical education and he isn't a credentialed wizard--"

"Hermione, I know you're Head Girl now, but this is ancient history. He doesn't do much magic, okay? And actually, he was given permission to use magic until he found me. We were talking about you and McGonagall."

So she explained to him that seconds after her Hogwarts letter was dropped in her lap while she was playing in the courtyard at the center of her house, Professor McGonagall had rung the doorbell dressed in a severe plaid skirted suit with a very high-collared blouse. Hermione noticed right away that the brooch she wore at her throat had the same seal as on the envelope she'd just received. McGonagall had introduced herself briskly to Hermione's parents, took a seat without being asked and proceeded to explain to the shocked dentists that their daughter was a witch and had been accepted to Hogwarts.

"How did they take it?"

"About the way most parents of Muggle-borns do, I suppose. They sort of slapped their heads and said, 'That explains so much!' You know; my accidental magic from when I was young. She did a little magic to actually convince them, of course, because there was still the chance that they might think she was putting one over on them."

"What did she do?"

Hermione smiled. "Her favorite trick, of course. The Animagus Transfiguration. I knew then and there that I wanted to be able to do that some day."

He pulled her to him in a hug. "Oh, Hermione--it would be perfect for you to be with us during the full moon. That's how it should be--all three of us together again."

"Here, here, now. What's this? Should I go to get Katie?"

Harry looked up into Ron's face; although he had a light tone to his voice, Harry saw the look behind his eyes. He'd seen him and Hermione embracing and he wondered whether they might be considering getting back together. Even though he was avoiding Hermione, it was still clear how he felt about her.

Harry looked at both of them. "You both do realize that it was Katie's dad that fixed us up? It didn't even occur to me to ask her out myself. And I think it took him all of three seconds after that to say, 'My daughter is going out with Harry Potter!' I mean--it's not that I don't like Katie. But we're just trying to date a little--it's not a big deal. Don't make it one, okay? In a few weeks I won't even be living in England, for pete's sake." His voice shook and he wasn't sure whether he was trying to convince them or himself.

Ron laughed. "Take it easy, Harry. Can't you take a joke?"

Harry grimaced. "If one more person asks me that--"

"Anyway," Ron said, interrupting, "I'm out here because Malfoy told me the two of you had been using Dudley's old computer to try to find someone named Margaret Dougherty. Is--" His voice caught. "Is that who I think it is?"

Harry nodded. "I don't know anything yet, though, Ron, so don't get your hopes up. You didn't tell Malfoy who you thought it was, did you?"

"No. Why?"

"Because I didn't tell him either, so unless Ginny's told him, he doesn't know. Not that he can't know, I guess; in fact, there's no reason why he can't, really. He could even help us get to her if, we find her; he knows how to drive. Maybe Mrs. Figg would let us use her car...."

Hermione frowned. "What?" Harry explained to her that he'd told Ron about his missing sisters.

"You knew?" Ron said to her. "Why didn't you tell me?" He sounded as upset now as he had been when Harry had first told him.

"You knew that she knew, Ron. I told you. Or did you forget when you decided to attack the wall in the infirmary?"

"What?" Hermione said again, frowning.

"Oh, that was his extremely mature reaction to finding out about his sisters; punch the wall really hard."

"Okay, okay, we've established that I have a temper. This is news?" Ron said, running his hand through his hair, making it stand wildly on end. The white lock of hair over his brow that appeared the morning after Remus Lupin bit him stood out amid the red even more when he did this. "I still think you could have told me, Hermione," he said, calming down a bit and instead sounding rather hurt. "Why didn't you?" he added, a slightly belligerent edge to his voice again.

"Because--because I thought you would behave exactly the way you are now!" she shot back hotly. "What good would it have done? I didn't know anything useful I could tell you and I knew it would just upset you." She turned to Harry. "How do you know she's going by Margaret Dougherty, by the way?"

He swallowed. "I--I found out last year. Listen--I know I was being very weird all last year--there's a good reason for it and I plan to tell you what that is. But tonight isn't the best time. I'll explain when the term starts. I'll bring my Pensieve with me to school and then I can show both of you."

"Your Pensieve? Why a Pensieve?"

He sighed and looked at her sadly. "Because if I couldn't prove it to you with something very concrete, the pair of you would probably have me locked up in St. Mungo's, that's why."

Ron laughed and pulled Harry and Hermione back toward the house; he was so strong it was impossible to resist. "And what makes you think we won't put you in St. Mungo's anyway?"

The three of them entered the house again, laughing, and soon after, Harry disentangled himself, going to the downstairs toilet, but finding the door locked. He shrugged to himself and bounded up the stairs to use the hall bathroom, but that was also locked. He was about to cut through Mrs. Figg's room to use her en suite bath when he heard voices coming from Draco's room; the door was slightly ajar.

"We can't, Draco! The house is full of people!"

"Come on, Ginny, I can do magic whenever I want now. I can put a silencing charm on--"

"It's not that! I--I just don't feel comfortable--"

"Bloody hell. You NEVER feel comfortable." He sounded bitter.

"That's not fair. If Sprout hadn't interrupted us in the greenhouse--"

"Then you wouldn't still be a virgin and maybe you'd be a little less uptight."

"--then I could be pregnant, since I hadn't had the potion yet. We're lucky she interrupted us before we did something really stupid. And I also don't know how I can ever look her in the face again. She once implied that I'm too good a girl to ever need Prophylaxis Potion, you know that? When she walked in I was mortified. I was in my bra and knickers! And we're lucky it was the end of term and she decided not to give us both enough detentions to last us until we're out of school. As it is, she gave us both more summer Herbology homework than I think I've had in the last five years combined...."

"I don't care about that. Frankly, when she walked in I was tempted to ask her whether she's a voyeur, since stopping that was the closest thing to torture I've experienced since my dad went to Azkaban."

"Stop saying that! I wasn't trying to torture you. I'm not trying to torture you. But we can't do anything right now beyond a little kissing. It's a good thing that we didn't finish what we started in the greenhouse. And frankly, right now I'm not exactly feeling like kissing you."

"Ginny," he said in a wheedling voice. "It's my birthday--"

Before Harry knew what was happening, she had flung open the door, but she stopped short when she saw him standing right outside. She pulled the door shut behind her immediately, turning bright red. Harry thought it might be so that Draco Malfoy wouldn't see him.

"We were just--I mean we weren't--I mean--"

Harry wasn't any less embarrassed. "I'm--I'm just waiting to use th-the loo--" he stammered. She looked like she was still casting about for something to say.

"Erm--why don't you wear your basilisk amulet any more, Harry?" she asked in a brighter voice, trying to pretend that she didn't know perfectly well that he'd heard the conversation between her and Draco Malfoy. She nodded at the space on his chest where the amulet normally would have rested. Harry frowned.

"You don't know?"

"Know what?"

"I gave both of them to Malf--er, Draco. He was supposed to give one to you." He couldn't prevent the blush that came over him then. "You know--you said it was a kind of 'couple' thing to do, two people wearing them--"

She looked down and away. "Oh," was the only response he received before she turned and walked down the stairs without looking at him. Should he have said that? he wondered, then he looked at the closed bedroom door. Serves him right.

Then another thought occurred to him and it made him smile; suddenly his heart felt much lighter.

Ginny hadn't slept with Draco Malfoy.

The bathroom door opened abruptly and Katie stepped out. She looked like she'd been crying again and trying to hide it by throwing cold water on her face.

"Oh--Harry. Sorry. I didn't mean to make you wait." She stopped when she saw the expression on his face. "What are you so happy about?"

He couldn't contain himself; he spoke in a hurried whisper. "I just heard--Ginny and Draco didn't--didn't--" Suddenly he stopped and reddened again. "Sorry. You don't want to hear this."

"You mean there's been no shagging?" she said in a hushed voice. "Harry, if I expected you to not be happy about that, knowing how you feel about her--well you're not made of stone, are you?" Listening to her soft voice, he suddenly felt like a dreadful cad.

"I'm sorry, Katie. You must hate me now."

She put her finger over his mouth; she was standing very close to him. "We both know each other. Stop apologizing. If you keep that up it just means I'll have to apologize every time Lee crosses my mind in any way. It's all right, Harry. So--it's very important to you that they haven't--you know--is it?"

He swallowed. All this time he'd thought they had. Knowing now that they hadn't was very strange. "I--I don't know. I honestly don't know."

* * * * *

The rest of the party was more enjoyable than Harry thought it would be. He talked to Ron and Hermione about Rodney Jeffries and the milkman, and Hermione got that look on her face that said she was going to start researching something (it was a pity, he thought, that she didn't have access to the Hogwarts library during the summer). She also said she'd find out what she could about anyone in Britain with the name Margaret Dougherty. It felt so right to be able to talk to Ron and Hermione this way again, even if they weren't behaving quite naturally with each other. That would take time.

When he returned home from work the next evening, bringing Aberforth and the rest of them back to continue working on the roof, his uncle pulled him aside while the others started putting up ladders. Nigel and Trevor went to the shed to get the new shingles that Harry's uncle had purchased.

"I told you we need to talk, boy," he growled out of the corner of his mouth; now that he knew that Sam and Draco were wizards and Katie a witch, he seemed very nervous about having them working on his house. Harry sighed.

"What do you want to know?"

Vernon jerked his head at the lot of them. "Are they all--all--"

"--like me?" His uncle nodded. "No. You know about Katie and her dad, and about Draco. Nigel and Trevor aren't, and they don't know about the rest of us. And Dick--" Harry hesitated. "Well, he's not Muggle either. He's Aberforth Dumbledore, my headmaster's brother. And before you lose it, he likes living in the Muggle world, and so does Sam. They may be--like me--but they work hard for a living like any non-magical person. Aberforth and Sam, well--there's a lot of people in the wizarding world who don't like them, and whom they don't like. It's rather mutual. They do this by choice."

Vernon Dursley surveyed the work with a suspicious expression, uncertain whether to trust Harry's words. "And Figg?"

"What about her?"

"Who else knows about her?"

"No Muggles know about her but you and Aunt Petunia. She goes to church, does her shopping, takes her daily constitutional down to the park in the afternoon, she has a bunch of cats, watches the telly in the evening....Perfectly normal old woman."

Uncle Vernon looked like he wanted to argue about this, but suddenly his wife came striding out the front door, dressed in a smart skirted suit and looking very determined. Her husband sputtered, "P-petunia! Where are you going, my sweet?"

"Down to the village. Poor Agnes Bringhurst has twisted her ankle and I'm going to help her with her tea and pick up her house for her a little. I shall be back by ten. The pair of you can manage your own tea, I presume? I bought sausages today." She didn't wait for an answer, but strode off down Privet Lane.

Harry frowned. Since when did Aunt Petunia like Agnes Bringhurst? Or go out in the evening? Had someone taken Polyjuice Potion to look like his aunt? he wondered. He saw that his uncle was as puzzled as he was. Vernon Dursley seemed to have forgotten that he was speaking to Harry about something important and instead wandered into his house in a daze, closing the door quietly behind him.

Harry felt he was on edge all of the time now; at home, his aunt and uncle were doing a cautious kind of dance around each other, and every evening, his aunt went out, claiming that she was visiting Agnes Bringhurst. His uncle did his best to avoid any of them when they came to work on the roof in the early evening. Thank goodness we're almost done, Harry thought.

At work, he was on edge for a different reason. He found himself being more and more sensitive to the times when it seemed Draco Malfoy and Felice Harrington-Smyth might be alone together, although he had no idea what he would do if he caught them in flagrante. Finally, on Friday, when most of them were lounging on the grass after lunch, soaking up the anemic mid-day sun, Harry happened to sit up to slap a bug on his leg and saw the two of them enter the hedge maze, looking around surreptitiously.

Katie was lying back on the grass to his left. He tapped her shoulder and pointed at the maze. He mouthed the names Draco and Felice. Harry rose and crept toward the maze, Katie right behind him. When they were in the maze, the tall hedges seemed to shut out the noise of the outside world. They moved further and further toward the interior, and eventually they heard an unmistakable noise: a human being moaning in passion. Katie's eyes opened wide.

"Why, that bastard," she breathed.

"That's my line," Harry said grimly. They heard the girl's cries keening higher and higher; he remembered hearing Niamh Quirke and Draco Malfoy in the Hogwarts library in his other life and wished Malfoy could have at least found a quiet girl to shag, like Niamh--No, wait, he thought. He's not supposed to be shagging anyone.. He put his hand on Katie's arm and started pulling her back the way they'd come. She actually looked a little glazed-over.

"Wow," she said; it seemed to pop out of her mouth against her will. "She really--um--seems to be enjoying herself--"

He raised one eyebrow. "Thinking of going after him yourself now? I thought he was a bastard."

"Oh, he's still that," she said musingly, looking over her shoulder for a moment. Then she looked irritated with herself. "He's definitely that. Poor Ginny! What will she say when she finds out? What will she do?"

Harry stood looking at the maze grimly. Thankfully, now that they were outside its enveloping walls they could no longer hear the amorous couple. "Who says she's going to find out?" he heard himself saying.


"I said--"

"I heard what you said. I just thought--I thought you'd enjoy telling her about this. This could be your chance, after all."

"You thought I'd enjoy hurting her like this? And why should she credit anything I have to say about him anyway? It's not like I have any ulterior motives--Oh, wait. That's right--I do. If Ginny knew about this--well, I just hate to think how she'd feel--"

Katie's mouth was very thin. "I don't know Harry. This could really come back to haunt you. What if she finds out eventually and also finds out that you knew? You won't exactly be her favorite person. If you tell her yourself, you might stand a chance with her."

He swallowed. "Listen, I told him if he hurts her he'll have me to answer to. I meant that. I'll talk to him about this. Maybe--maybe they weren't really--"

"Oh, come on, Harry. You know as well as I do what those sounds meant. Don't try to delude yourself."

He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes; he felt very tired suddenly. "I have to think. I can't decide this very second."

But suddenly, Draco and Felice came out of the maze and plowed right into Harry and Katie. Harry whirled, unable to stop himself from glaring at Draco Malfoy, who had a very silly grin on his face and a shirt that was wrong-side-out. When he saw Harry's face, his grin slowly faded.

"We need to talk," Harry said simply. He saw the blond boy swallow. Felice ignored Harry and Katie, walking up toward the house as though she hadn't a care in the world; Harry noticed that there were numerous twigs and leaves attached to the back of her skirt and cardigan, and she was walking with that swaying-hip movement that Katie had had when she walked away from Rodney Jeffries' tent after they were discovered. He dragged Draco Malfoy into the maze again, trying to control his temper.

"What do you think you're doing?" Harry hissed at him.

Draco Malfoy didn't wipe the self-satisfied smile off his face. "What do you think I think I'm doing?" he said cockily.

"I thought you loved Ginny!" he said, tightening his grip on Draco's arm. He struggled to get loose, unsuccessfully, and stopped, going limp. His mouth was clamped shut obstinately. "Just because she said she's glad Sprout interrupted you in the greenhouse--"

Draco Malfoy jerked his head up. "You were eavesdropping on us! You sneaky--"

"Oh, it's not as though it was difficult! I was just waiting for the loo. Sometimes you are so incredibly, colossally stupid it's painfully obvious why you wound up in Slytherin. You don't have the brains for Ravenclaw, you're certainly not brave enough for Gryffindor, the way you sneak around, and you don't work nearly hard enough for Hufflepuff--let alone having enough loyalty not to be shagging some other girl just because you can't respect that Ginny's not ready--"

"My relationship with Ginny is none of your damn business," he said through clenched teeth, his arm still firmly in Harry's grip, which was tightening. Harry saw him wince. He was glad.

"I've made it my business, Malfoy. I told you that if you hurt her, you'll have me to answer to. I mean, I didn't know for sure about you and Mariah Kirkner, but this--"

Draco looked shaken. "What about me and Mariah?"

"Don't you remember when Ginny came looking for you in the Trophy Room because she found that note you gave Mariah? Why were you meeting her, really?"

"None of your business. Did--did Ginny know about that?" His voice shook.

"No. Like I said, I didn't want her to be hurt." Suddenly Harry realized that he'd kept this from Ginny for months, and there'd been no repercussions.

Draco seemed to have forgotten the hand gripping his arm now. He suddenly looked more smug than Harry had ever seen him. "And who will you answer to for hurting her, eh? That dog that passes for your best friend? That howling thing that you evidently want to be shagging Granger?"

"What are you talking about? You're the one hurting her--"

"Only if she finds out."

Harry stopped cold. "What?" It was eerie. Had Malfoy heard what he'd been saying to Katie?

"I said only if she finds out. If you don't tell her, she doesn't get hurt."

Harry stepped back from him, his face contorted in disgust; now that Draco Malfoy was suggesting it, he heard how vile it sounded. "You expect me to keep this a secret?"

There was that smirk again, the one Harry wanted to hex right off his face. "You kept Mariah a secret."

"I didn't really know anything about Mariah. Is there something you'd like to tell me?"

He snorted. "Not bloody likely. But tell me, Harry, what do you think she would do if you told her? About Felice, I mean."

"Dump you like a load of dung."

"Wrong. She'd think you were making it up to try to break us up, that's what." He paused, his lips drawn very thin. "You think I don't see how you look at her? You think I haven't been able to figure out that you want her? I'll bet she knows, too. She would just think it's a Draco smear campaign. She's heard enough bad things about me--true and false--to last a lifetime. You tell her this and she either believes you and is hurt--which you say you don't want--or she doesn't believe you and you look bad. Take your pick. It's lose-lose for you and win-win for me."

Harry clenched and unclenched his fists by his sides. "So you think you can just get away with this?"

Draco looked exasperated. "It's not--listen, I'm going to tell you the unvarnished truth, and this goes no further, understand? This will help my relationship with Ginny. I've been going mad! And I don't like pressuring her, but--well, you know how it is. Men have needs."

"So are you saying Mariah was'nt seeing to your needs? And we can discuss whether you're a man or a child some other time."

"Shut up. I'm talking now. Mariah--yeah, she offered to, um, help." He ran his hand through his hair. "Saying no to her was--incredibly difficult. So, here I've been for almost a year, tempted and saying no, and then....I didn't plan this whole thing with Felice. I don't even like her. She's a Muggle, she yaps too much and she thinks far too much of herself. Reminds me of Pansy without the magical powers, except Pansy was a cold fish."

"Yeah, well, if Pansy Parkinson had the good taste not to shag you, I have a whole new respect for her."

"Shut up. I probably should have just gone ahead with Mariah, then Ginny and I would have avoided a slew of rows this year. This will take the pressure off me and Ginny. I can be the model boyfriend when I'm around her, let her take her time, do--things--when she's ready. Isn't that better than pressuring her?"

Harry shook his head. "The model boyfriend. Yeah, I'm sure all model boyfriends are shagging girls who aren't their girlfriends. Are you listening to yourself? I'll say one thing for you, Malfoy, you're a master of rationalization. You've managed to convince yourself that Ginny will be glad you're cheating on her. Bravo. Sounds like you shouldn't have nipped that little Death Eater career in the bud; you're obviously perfect for the job."

Harry turned and strode out of the maze, unable to see straight. It was time to get back to work; he followed Aberforth to the van and started to help him move sacks of fertilizer. As he worked, he thought with satisfaction that once he told Ginny about Malfoy and the Harrington-Smyth girl, that would be the end of them. No more Ginny-and-Draco. Then he stopped. What if--what if she saw it the same way Draco did? As something that was welcome because she wasn't ready yet and was tired of him pressuring her? What if she became angry with him, Harry, for meddling?

He paused for a moment in his work before continuing. I won't let that happen, he thought. I'll convince her she should break up with him...

Then he thought of Ron telling him to break up with Hermione and also telling Hermione to break up with him. That had gotten her pretty hacked off at Ron. What if Ginny became hacked off at him? And now Ron and Hermione weren't exactly together anyway. What if I do all this and she becomes--he shuddered for a moment--Neville Longbottom's girlfriend?

Then there was the matter of still being a targeted by Voldemort. Should he be asking any girl to be his girlfriend right now? he thought. He glanced at Katie, who was pruning a rose bush. Am I putting poor Katie at risk every time we go out?

He threw himself into his work that afternoon, irked with himself for ever trusting Draco Malfoy. He thought of the boy who'd been his best friend in his other life. Now that Harry thought about it, Draco Malfoy had done very nearly the same thing in that life. He was technically the same person. He'd been involved with loads of girls before he admitted to Jamie how he felt about her, and according to him, he'd felt that way about her even while he was shagging those other girls. The problem was--he'd fallen for a girl who was two years younger than he was. So he found a way to "occupy" himself while he waited for her to reach her fifteenth birthday. Now Harry remembered furiously that on Jamie's fifteenth birthday they were going to sleep together, and probably would have, if she hadn't been so upset about her brother killing her mother. He couldn't wait, he grumbled to himself. Just like on Ginny's fifteenth birthday....

He shoveled manure onto the flower beds, frowning angrily. Why hadn't this behavior seemed so reprehensible when he'd been friends with Draco Malfoy for years? Had he simply grown inured to Malfoy's unique brand of rationalization? For once he didn't need to convince himself that the two boys were one and the same--it was very clear to him that they were. He simply had a much lower opinion now of his best friend from his other life. He'd learned in recent years to trust Severus Snape's opinion of people, and he recalled his stepfather's venomous reaction to finding out that Draco Malfoy was Jamie's boyfriend....

Later in the day, they were washing up in the scullery in the big house, using two deep adjacent sinks, when Draco Malfoy tried to talk to him again. "Listen, Harry--if I don't do anything with Felice again--does Ginny have to know? I mean--haven't you ever done something like that out of weakness?"

He looked uncharacteristically scared and vulnerable. Harry suddenly had a very vivid picture of a very pretty Alicia Spinnett kissing him, and him kissing her back....He turned off the water and dried his hands on an old linen towel. "The main thing is I don't want her to get hurt, Malfoy. If you keep this up, she's liable to find out sooner or later, whether I tell her or not. You'll slip up and do something stupid, like call her the wrong name--"

"I'm not Weasley."

"Call him Ron, you prat. He's Ginny's brother."

"Well you seem to have stopped calling me Draco, Potter."

Harry sighed. "As I was saying, the main thing is for her not to be hurt. If you stop seeing Felice, it's possible Ginny won't find out. Can you guarantee me that you'll definitely stop?"

He held up his hand. "I promise." Harry grimaced, wondering how reliable a Draco Malfoy promise was.

"If I think I see you slipping, I'll step in. Understand? I'm not going to let you hurt Ginny." Harry suddenly wondered whether his poor sister would have had her heart broken by Draco Malfoy if their world hadn't started to self-destruct.

"Right. You'll step in. What, you looking for a little rich-girl action yourself? Mind, you'll have to turn your hearing off to tolerate her for more than a few minutes...."

"No, I do not want her myself. If she's really that interested in taking up with a gardener maybe Trevor or Nigel can fight over her. I just want to make sure you behave yourself."

"At least until you move to Scotland."

Harry stopped suddenly. Oh, right--he wasn't going to be working with the lads after his birthday. "Well then--Katie will keep an eye on you. She doesn't want Ginny to be hurt either."

"No, she doesn't want me and Ginny to break up because she knows that if we do you'll try to swoop in and claim Ginny for yourself."

"Shut up. Katie and I are friends. She's not a jealous harpy."

"Unlike Granger--"

"I said shut up," Harry repeated, pushing Draco into the wall. "You do not talk about Hermione, understand?"

"Well, Weasley--I mean Ron doesn't seem to be interested in shagging her, and you've stopped because evidently shagging her interferes with you letting my girlfriend know you're available. I've become so desperate I've already stooped to being with a Muggle, so a Mudblood would actually be a move up for me. Until Ginny's ready, maybe Granger and I could--oof!"

Harry hadn't been able to control himself any longer; he had punched Draco Malfoy in the stomach as hard as he could. The blond boy sank to his knees, his arms around his middle, biting his lip. Harry would have liked for him to cry out, but he knew Malfoy had too much pride for that. Still on his knees, he looked up at Harry, speaking in a low hiss.

"Wondered how long it would take you to do something like that," he managed to say, panting. "Feel better now? Got it out of your system? Because I could tell Ginny you punched me if you threaten to tell her about Felice."

"You can't blackmail me, Malfoy. I'm not hiding anything from Ginny. You're the one doing that. Mariah and Felice."

"Oh, yeah, you're not hiding anything about you and little Miss Katie, eh? You two haven't snogged once? You haven't had any naughty thoughts about her at all? Everything strictly platonic? You're all over me for getting some relief while Ginny decides whether to be a lifelong virgin, but you're not above getting some relief yourself."

"She isn't my girlfriend--she's yours. And that's not what I'm doing!" he sputtered.

"Still--if you don't think Ginny would be upset about you hitting me, just try her. Tell her you hit me, see how popular it makes you with her. I'm betting you won't get shagged any more than I have."

"Stop talking about her that way!" Harry shouted at him. Draco Malfoy grimaced.

"I didn't mean--that came out badly. I meant--"

"I know, I know. Shut up. Let me think." He paced the small room, running his fingers through his hair. At last he turned to Draco Malfoy. "All right. Here's how it is. You stop seeing Felice. I make sure there's no danger of you backsliding. Ginny doesn't find out from me that this happened. That's all I can say. If she finds out some other way, you're on your own."

"How else would she--" Draco started to say before the answer dawned on him. "Katie."

Harry shrugged. "I'm not her keeper. You never know, Katie could tell her. It's possible. Women stick together. On the other hand, maybe she's the last person who would want Ginny to be available." As soon as he said it, he had the urge to bite back the words.

Draco Malfoy smirked. "So, it's platonic, is it?"

"Shut up. We're not talking about my personal life, we're talking about yours. You're going to be a good boy from now on, understand?"

"Yes, nanny," he simpered. He sauntered out of the scullery looking carefree and content. Harry, on the other hand, couldn't fight the feeling that he'd been had.

Why do I get the feeling that Felice Harrington-Smyth wasn't the only one in this house who was screwed today? he thought.

* * * * *

The work on the roof was completed on Thursday night. When Harry awoke on Friday morning to go running, he stood across the street first, contentedly taking in the sight of the new shingles. Something about finishing the roof felt even more satisfying than the landscaping he was doing for Aberforth. Maybe if I weren't a wizard, I would have been a carpenter. He'd once thought that outdoor work seemed very satisfying, and frequently, housebuilding or carpentry meant working out-of-doors. He sighed. That didn't exactly help him to decide what he was going to do when he was out of school--an event which was now only one year away. Are there wizard carpenters? he wondered.

He and Draco Malfoy had been running together in utter silence since he'd discovered him in the hedge maze with Felice Harrington-Smyth. (He kept up running with him because he didn't want to deal with Dunkirk by himself in the mornings.) Harry tried to avoid even looking at him. At work, he spoke to him only when it was absolutely necessary, mostly engaging in conversation with Sam, Katie and Aberforth; Draco mostly socialized with Nigel and Trevor (whom Harry was avoiding because of their constant lascivious comments about him and Katie).

When the day was almost over and they were cleaning up, Harry said to Katie, "What are you doing tonight?" He'd found it very difficult to get Ginny out of his mind after the Draco-Felice incident, but whereas he previously had found his mind wandering into romantic fantasy territory, these days it was almost always nightmares--imagining her horrible reaction to Draco's cheating. He thought perhaps it would help to spend the evening with Katie.

Katie hemmed and hawed for a moment before saying, "Actually--I'm going up to Hogsmeade. I'm spending the weekend at Hog's End." She blushed furiously.


"I'm sorry, Harry. I feel like--like I need to do this. To face this. I need to try to be around all of them and still feel normal." She paused before going on. "Angelina says Lee has a new girlfriend," she said softly.

"Oh, Katie--are you sure you want to go? It doesn't sound like it'll be easy--"

She smiled at him. "You're very sweet, Harry. You're actually making me think you might miss me."

He suddenly thought he might like to kiss her, but decided that Trevor and Nigel (who were nearby) would have far too much fun with that. "I will miss you."

She looked at him for a long minute, then shook herself. "I'll--I'll be back Sunday night. Maybe we can do something then?"

"All right. It's a date."

"A date," she confirmed, still looking at him. He watched her walk toward her father's car, a dreadful feeling clutching at him; he just hoped that she wouldn't be a basket-case when she returned from Hogsmeade. He wasn't sure how he felt about her, but he did know that he didn't want her to be hurt any more than Ginny.

* * * * *

When he was walking Dunkirk after work, he took him down to the park, wondering what he would do with himself that evening, now that the roof was done. He almost felt tempted to go find out whether Draco Malfoy wanted to do something, but he quickly eliminated that as a possibility.

The large tent still loomed over the park landscape like a white whale. Suddenly, Harry had an idea; he would go to hear Jeffries, find out exactly what he was up to. But then he frowned; going alone didn't appeal to him. He looked up at the evening sky and his eyes lit immediately on the spire of St. Bede's in the Meadow. He walked purposefully toward the church, Dunkirk fighting him the whole way because he knew this was not the way home.

"Stupid dog," Harry muttered as he dragged him to the vicarage, digging in his heels and resisting the urge to growl back at him. (He definitely could not change into a golden griffin in the middle of the village just to frighten the terrier.) Struggling to keep the dog under control, he knocked on the door.

After a few moments, Mr. Babcock opened the door. He looks like a normal person, Harry thought; then he was annoyed with himself for thinking it. Of course he's a normal person. He was wearing a simple white button-down shirt and jeans. Harry tried not to stare. He also seemed to have the same sort of running shoes as Harry.

"Um--hello. I hope I'm not disturbing you," he said to the obviously-surprised vicar.

"No, not at all," Mr. Babcock smiled. "Do come in."

"Well--" Harry started to say, looking down at Dunkirk. "Let me tie up the dog. Trust me; you do not want him in your house."

Mr. Babcock waited while Harry tied Dunkirk's lead to the rail for his front steps. In the sitting room, he discovered Dr. Forbes sitting at a chessboard, staring intently at it, frowning. He glanced up, then down again; then he did a double take.

"Harry! What brings you here?"

"Well--I wanted to see if Mr. Babcock would like to come check out Rodney Jeffries tonight. I still haven't had a chance to find out what he does; and you," he nodded at the vicar, "said you were curious as well. I can pay for you. Think of it as a contribution to the church."

Mr. Babcock's eyebrows flew up in surprise. "A teenager who doesn't have anything better to do on a Friday night but treat his vicar to a show by the local charlatan?"

"Well--I'd go with my girlfriend, but she's up in Scotland this weekend visiting some old friends from school. And I didn't want to go alone."

"What about that boy who was at mass with you last week--Drake-something-or-other--"

Harry shrugged. "We're not terribly good friends, really. And I don't think he cares about this or is curious. You are, and I am too, so I thought--"

Dr. Forbes stood. "Well, actually that makes three of us curious about this Jeffries, so why don't I join you?" He put his hand on Harry's shoulder and smiled. "I can pay my own way, though, Harry."

He smiled at the doctor. "All right, then. I have to take my aunt's dog home and change my clothes. I'll meet you in the park in an hour."

When Harry was passing the park again, Dunkirk started acting strangely. He raised his nose and sniffed the air and wouldn't come when Harry pulled on the lead. "Come on you infuriating animal," he grunted at it, then suddenly found himself being jerked across the green to a stand of trees with benches scattered in their shade and some kind of creeper for a groundcover around the roots. Draco Malfoy had been dragged over to these trees during the morning run, Harry remembered, and he'd had a hell of a time getting the dog to come away again (which was odd, because Dunkirk generally obeyed Malfoy). Dunkirk stopped and sat down suddenly, then barked three times, looking (Harry thought) at the trees. Harry frowned. What on earth was Dunkirk doing?

Then Harry heard the voice.

"Harry Potter."

He froze. His heart was thumping painfully. When he finally spoke, his voice came out in a soft hiss.


As the small green snake slithered out from under the vines, Harry fought the urge to shout and leap for joy. "Is it really you, Sandy?" he asked breathlessly.

"I have been looking for you, Harry Potter. You have need of me."

"How do you know?"

"I was captured and living in the London zoo for a time. I met a friend of yours, a python whom you once freed."

"Oh--they got him back?"

"Evidently. He is a very large snake, and he has great Sight. The things of which he spoke....They concerned you. He is able to see farther into the future than I, and his Sight reaches farther afield as well. I knew I had to find you. So I escaped and made my way down here to see you."

"What--what are these things that he told you?"

"He saw you fighting spiders of a monstrous size, and flames, and humans riding tree branches with bundles of twigs on the ends...."

"Brooms. Wait--when did he predict these things, exactly? How long have you been traveling?"

"He predicted them on the day when the light and dark are equal."

"You mean the equinox? In March?"

"Is that what humans call it? I have been trying to find you ever since then. I was unsure how soon these events would be occurring, but I knew that you would be arriving in this part of the country soon after the longest day."

"Midsummer. That's in June. That was three weeks ago. I think--I think what you're describing was what happened about three weeks into May. That was about two months after the prediction. There was a battle in the forest at Hogwarts, and we were fighting giant spiders, and there was a huge fire in the forest, too. But almost everyone came out of it all right. So you've been traveling since March?"


Sandy was silent, and oddly, so was Dunkirk. Harry was very interested to see that the small dog, usually very agitated and disobedient around him, was sitting quite still, watching the snake with his head cocked to one side, as though he could also understand Sandy.

"Sandy?" Harry said again.

"Yes, Harry Potter?"

"Do you--do you want to be my companion again? I have a feeling--I just have a feeling that a lot of things are going to be happening soon..."

"I think that would be wise," she answered. Harry couldn't remember when he'd felt so glad about anything as he knelt down and picked her up; he let her slither into the collar of his shirt and felt her wrap herself around his upper arm. The familiar weight there was comforting.

When he called to Dunkirk and pulled gently at his lead, suddenly the dog started trotting after him docilely, as though he always obeyed Harry and was the model pet. Harry frowned as he walked back to Privet Drive, unsure what to make of this.

* * * * *

When he returned to the park to meet the vicar and the doctor, there was already a long queue for tickets. Harry bought two, handing one to the vicar, while Dr. Forbes bought one for himself. They found seats about half-way back and sat, waiting for the show to begin. There were footlights in front of the dais, throwing crazy shadows onto the canvas ceiling of the tent. The choir was already assembled on the platform, a good two dozen people or so. Harry could feel Sandy under his shirt, as much a part of him as though she'd never left.

"That's our star tenor!" Babcock hissed at Harry, pointing, but Harry wasn't sure who he meant. The singers all looked freshly-scrubbed and gleaming, wearing immaculate white robes like a host of angels. Harry was starting to feel very uneasy. What if Jeffries was just an old-fashioned hellfire-and-brimstone preacher? He wasn't interested in that sort of thing himself, but he didn't necessarily think other people were suspicious or up to no good just because they were.

Mr. Babcock sighed. "If only I could use Bingo to raise money, like Father Garrison, over at St. Ignatius. It's something of a gentleman's agreement, though, you understand, that we don't poach on their territory, so to speak. Some of our parish members go over to St. Ignatius for Bingo, and when we have our Spring Jumble Sale, the St. Ignatius parishioners come to St. Bede's. Hardly seems fair, though," he mused, craning his neck to see the front. "Ours is only once a year, not once a week..."

Harry wasn't sure when it started, but he was suddenly aware of there being a low rhythmic rumble, and he realized it was coming from the choir. BUM (ba-da-da bum bum bum bum.) BUM (ba-da-da bum bum bum...)

"To dream the impossible dream," began a young man with a smooth tenor voice--must be Mr. Babcock's tenor, Harry thought. "To fight the unbeatable foe..."

The choir started aahing and oohing to accompany him, and then a baritone joined the tenor.

"To bear with unbearable sorrow," they sang together. "To run where the brave dare not go..."

"To right," the entire choir sang now, harmonizing in a medium volume; "the unrightable wrong; to love, pure and chaste, from afar; to try, when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star!"

Harry could see the audience getting caught up in the music as the voices swelled and broadened. "This is my quest," the choir sang more loudly now; "to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far..."

Just the men sang, "To fight for the right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!"

"And I know," the full choir sang again, more softly, "if I'll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm, when I'm laid to my rest..." They softened further on this phrase, and Harry shivered involuntarily, both because of how effective this was, and because of the meaning of the words they were singing.

"And the world," they continued, growing in volume again, "will be better for this; that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage..." They swelled still more. "To reach the unreachable stars, that one man scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage..." The crescendo was constant now, each note louder than the previous one, the tent filled with the sound, the faces of the audience glowing with rapture as they listened--No, Harry thought; as they absorbed the music, as they made it part of themselves....

"To reach the unreachable stars!" most of the choir finished, holding the final note with a triumphant crescendo, while some of the women with very high voices repeated, "The unreachable stars!" going up the scale, the notes' vibrations making the hairs stand up on the back of Harry's neck. He looked around the room, seeing the effect the music was having on everyone present (even Babcock and Forbes), and he suddenly wished he had a wand with him to cast the Revelatio spell, to learn whether he would again see pink magical signatures that had the appearance of each and every audience member.

He remembered the Hermione in his other life describing the phenomenon when she and the rest of the student orchestra in Philadelphia that had been playing Barber's Adagio for Strings had spontaneously floated up into the air. Hermione being a witch and feeling very, very emotionally moved by the incident had obviously had an effect, but Harry now had to wonder whether anyone, magical or Muggle, could experience something similar when listening to or making music in a crowd, the collective emotions somehow producing a kind of primitive wandless magic. He remembered Dumbledore saying, "Ah, music; a magic beyond all we do here," after the students had sung the school song, each to their own favorite tune. Harry wouldn't exactly have described that cacophony as "music," but he was starting to wonder at music's potential magical properties. Were there any spells that needed to be sung? he wondered.

The choir held the final chord, it seemed to him, for a very long time, and suddenly a slit appeared in the tent behind the singers and they parted into two groups (still holding the note) while Rodney Jeffries himself entered down the aisle they had created, wearing a simple button-down shirt and dark trousers, his face tanned and smiling as he waved to the audience, which went wild now, clapping and stamping, many of them standing up, some people whistling. The choir finally finished, and then they too were clapping--but not for themselves. It was all for Rodney Jeffries. The ovation was deafening. Harry thought ruefully, Mr. Babcock was right; he does put on a good show. And he'd just arrived.

He jumped nimbly down from the dais and started walking down the passage between the chairs, shaking hands with the members of his enthusiastic audience that he could reach from the aisle. Some women threw their arms around his neck and tried to kiss him; Harry noticed that he managed to turn his cheek each time. After a few minutes, he retreated to the dais and stepped up onto the raised surface again, so that they could see him more easily. Rodney Jeffries beamed around at the cheering crowd and finally spoke.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!" he said, and Harry could hear that there was an amplification system carrying his voice to the far corners of the tent, although he didn't appear to be using a microphone; he could be heard even over the loud applause and cheering. "Good evening!" he said again, as the ruckus began slowly to abate. Little by little, people sat again. (Harry, Babcock and Forbes had remained seated.)

"Good evening, one and all!" Jeffries said, showing a lot of gleaming teeth when he grinned. "It is gratifying to see so many people returning! I hope you have found my techniques for self-empowerment helpful in changing your lives for the better!"

"We love you, Rodney!" cried a woman shrilly on the far side of the tent from Harry, and the cheering and clapping started up again. This time, Jeffries held his hands out, as though pushing down the sound, and it finally quieted. While he did this, he never left off grinning.

"And I love all of you! That is precisely why I could not keep my good fortune to myself, why I had to share this with the world! How could I be so selfish not to teach other people how to empower themselves, how to truly change their lives? Rod, I said to myself, you cannot be so selfish. It just would not be right!"

There was silence, as the crowd took in his words. Then a man's voice from the back cried, "Tell the story!"

"Yes, yes, tell it, tell it," several more voices joined in the chorus. Harry realized that not only did people pay twenty pounds per person to come hear him, some had clearly been multiple times--some perhaps even every time. As the requests for Jeffries to "tell the story" grew more loud and numerous, he nodded good-naturedly and put his hands up, nodding.

"Yes, yes, of course I'll tell the story. Those of you who have already heard it, please be patient and let those who have not heard it do so." Harry thought it was unnecessary for him to say this, since it was clearly the people who'd heard it already who were clamoring to hear it again.

"As many of you know, I had a life like many people in this country. It was boring and stale and lonely. I had a job clerking in a law office--" Harry remembered the man named Adam Justice, who had found him and Katie; perhaps they were former co-workers. "I had a girlfriend for a while, and then we parted ways. I had a cat. A comfortable flat. I paid my bills, I did my laundry and cleaned my flat. I had a good life, but it was hardly a special one. If I no longer worked at the law practice, some other clerk would be hired to replace me. If I no longer leased my flat, the landlord would surely be able to find someone else to do it. I avoided the truth of my existence, day in and day out. The truth being--that if I disappeared off the face of the planet, no one would notice or care."

His voice had grown softer, yet not a muscle moved, and every breath seemed suspended as the crowd waited for him to continue.

"And then," he said suddenly, urgently. "Then it happened." Harry saw that several people near him were shivering in anticipation, clearly knowing what was coming next. "I was waiting to take the tube home one evening, standing on the platform, reading my newspaper, when suddenly I looked up--and I saw him."

A collective gasp from the audience. Harry looked around, frowning. Who had Jeffries seen?

"He appeared to be the devil incarnate. His face--I'd never seen a face like it. Squashed nose, slit for a mouth, deathly pale skin. Perhaps he was Death himself, I thought when I saw him. And then he looked right at me, and I saw his eyes. Red as blood, more evil-looking than any depiction of Satan I had ever seen.

"And then--" he said again, pausing for effect. "He raised his hand and pointed at me, and a crackling green light shot from his fingers like lightening bolts and struck me in the chest. I experienced greater pain than I ever imagined was possible, like knives piercing every part of my body--"

Harry winced. Voldemort! Jeffries had seen Voldemort, and had experienced Cruciatus! He was starting to think all of this almost made sense now. Jeffries had a near-death experience, and now that he's recovered from it, he's turned over a new leaf. It doesn't happen for everyone, but it does happen to some people who go through that.

Now Harry actually felt eager to hear the rest of the story. He felt sorry that Jeffries had had to experience the pain of Cruciatus, but clearly his life had greatly improved after that. He wondered whether Voldemort realized that he'd inadvertently done this for a mere Muggle, and how upset he would be if he knew.

"--and then, even in the midst of my pain, I felt something strange start to flow through me. A change. He raised his hand again, and I was no longer in pain, but I felt--I felt as though I was using all of my brain. Now, hear me out! Many of you may have heard that there are actually large parts of the brain that humans do not use, yes? Many of you have heard this?"

Scores of people in the audience nodded in agreement and murmured in a low rumble that took a minute to die out; when a respectful silence was restored, Jeffries continued. Well, after that I felt like I was using all of it. Every last cell and neuron! I felt as though I could see more, hear more! I felt more alive than ever before in my existence!

"And then--" he said yet again, and now Harry and even Babcock and Forbes, along with the rest of the crowd, were hanging on his every word. "And then," he repeated, "another crackling beam of light emerged from that demon's hand, and the Westminster tube station exploded into a million pieces!"

Westminster! Harry gasped involuntarily, then felt himself color when Babcock looked sideways at him in surprise. So Voldemort hadn't simply been lurking in some other tube station and putting Cruciatus on unsuspecting law clerks; Rodney Jeffries had been caught in the explosion, the now-infamous Westminster Bombing. Harry was floored. The explosion had been to get his attention. He, Harry, was in a way as responsible as Voldemort for the Rodney Jeffries Phenomenon.

"I, like many other people waiting on that platform, was covered in rubble falling from the ceiling of the station. I was unconscious for a time; when I awoke, I was aware of voices in the distance. Rescue workers. I tried to open my eyes and couldn't. I am not ashamed to say that I felt like crying. I had felt more alive than ever before for mere seconds before the explosion, and I did not know whether I would be saved or whether I would perish under the rubble while waiting. I felt an anger well up in me, then, and as it grew, I suddenly became aware of the load above me lightening, until suddenly the beam and concrete that had been pressing me to the platform flew up into the air. I was able to rise! I felt all of my limbs; I was evidently unharmed, if more than a bit dusty. I could hear the sounds of suffering people all around me, and I began to move more of the rubble out of the way to remove these poor people from danger. Heavy beams I should never have been able to lift under normal circumstances virtually flew off men and women and children at a thought from me, and although I was so glad to help them that I was moved to tears, I was also very, very frightened of what this new ability might mean.

"When the rescue workers were cataloguing the names of those who'd been in the station at the time of the attack, I hid my wallet and gave a false name, claiming that I had lost my identification in the explosion. When I had been given a clean bill of health, I bolted for home, unsure whether I should trust my memory of what had occurred. Had I imagined everything but the explosion? Had the demon been a figment of my imagination? I hadn't dared to tell anyone what I'd seen--they probably would have thought I was mad. I wasn't entirely sure about that myself. What had really occurred? I wondered.

"I hid in my flat and did not go out for a week. I was fired from my job. A friend from work came to see me and said that he had convinced our bosses to take me back if I went to the office on Monday morning. I did, and I was immediately employed again. I returned to my job, but I was just going through the motions. At home, every night, I began to experiment with my newfound power. I could burn myself on the stove and heal myself almost instantly, with a thought. I could cut myself, and the cuts disappeared if I just believed they would be. Over time, I discovered that if I did not truly believe that something I was attempting would work, it in fact did not work."

He paused, staring out into the crowd. "Belief. Many of us believe in many different types of things. Gods. Philosophies. Scientific phenomena and theories. Diets. Exercise regimes. Some of us still believe in heroes, and in the likelihood that the person who receives the Nobel Peace Prize will actually be a person who deserves it. We believe in superstitions; we carry umbrellas to ward off rain, we read our horoscopes in the papers, we avoid walking under ladders and we throw salt over our shoulders when we spill it. We believe in many, many things. But how many of us can truly claim to believe in ourselves?"

He looked out at the crowd, now so silent that it was as though everyone present had been stunned. Harry too was waiting to hear more. Had Jeffries been made a wizard by Voldemort? he wondered. Was that even possible? He knew that Cruciatus affected the brain, which believes that the body is experiencing great physical pain, and that Neville Longbottom's parents had been under Cruciatus for so long that they had gone insane from it. They had lived for years in the mental ward of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies, not recognizing their son when he came to visit them. Jeffries had not had the curse on him for as long as the Longbottoms, it seemed to Harry, yet it must have been longer than Harry had experienced it to have this effect. When Ron had placed the curse on him he had used the pain-blocking technique he'd perfected to avoid actually feeling the pain. I believed I could do it, and I was able to, he thought. I believed in myself.

He stared at Jeffries with a new respect. He's figured it out, Harry thought. He's gotten mind-over-matter down pat. But does that make him a wizard now?

Jeffries gazed out at the crowd now with a sympathetic smile. "I know you're frightened; of course you are. Believing in yourself isn't easy. You know all of your flaws. You know all of your failings. You are the one person who has no illusions about you." He held out his hands. "But I have learned that I have enough belief now, enough strength of mind to help others believe in themselves. I first discovered this last Bonfire Night, when I went to Blackpool Pier for the fireworks show, and some burning ash landed on a man's hand. He was screaming in agony; I don't know what made me do it, but I pushed my way through the crowd and took his burnt hand in mine and convinced myself that his burn was healed. Perhaps I couldn't stand the thought of another person suffering like that, I don't know. Nothing happened at first. Then I put my hand on his head, instead of his burn, and I said to him, "You have to do it! You have to believe your burn is healed!

"Believe!" Rodney Jeffries cried out now, his voice carrying to the far corners of the tent and beyond.

"BELIEVE!" he repeated even more vehemently.

"And then--" he said again, for suspense. Harry waited. "We both looked down at his hand. He was healed, completely healed. He looked up at me in shock, then started telling anyone around us who would listen what had occurred. And from that moment on, now knowing that I could communicate that ability to believe in myself completely to other people, knowing that I could change others' lives, I knew I could not keep this to myself any longer. It would be irresponsible for me not to share it with the world."

Harry wasn't sure when it started; he was aware of a low rumble in the crowd, then after half a minute, he was able to hear the people gathered chanting in unison:

"Believe! Believe! Believe! Believe!" It wasn't being pronounced in the usual way, with the emphasis on the second syllable. They were actually saying, "BEE-leeve, BEE-leeve, BEE-leeve..."

Harry looked around; there were people from all walks of life. He glanced at Babcock and Forbes. They looked distinctly uncomfortable, as though they wanted to join in, but found it to be an awkward thing to do after their previous grousing about Jeffries. After a little while, Rodney Jeffries said, "Who here needs to believe in themselves? Needs to get that promotion? Make that sale? Propose to that beautiful girl? Conquer that supposedly unconquerable disease?"

"You will be known."

"I do!" a man cried, standing.

Harry was jolted. Sandy had spoken to him, the sibilant sound of Parseltongue blending into the babble around him; Babcock and Forbes were oblivious to the hissing, he saw immediately. You will be known. Harry didn't like the way that sounded. And judging from his past experience, she was referring to something that would happen in a matter of minutes.

The crowd continued chanting, becoming a blur of white noise. The man who had cried "I do!" was no more than forty, but he walked with a stooped posture and used a cane for support. He hobbled forward, down the aisle. Jeffries walked down the aisle toward him until now the pair of them were standing in the center of the tent.

"What do you need to believe?" Jeffries asked him.

"I--I know that I'm always going to have arthritis, but--but I would like to believe that it doesn't hurt as badly as it does..."

"NO!" Jeffries cried. "Don't stifle your belief. Believe that you will be rid of arthritis, not merely the pain." He put his hand on the man's head and cried, "Believe!"

The man looked like an electric shock had gone through him. His legs buckled beneath him, and a man--whom Harry immediately recognized as Adam Justice--sprang from his seat on the aisle and caught him under the arms. The arthritic man looked like he was unconscious. Then Adam Justice helped him to stand and the man blinked and opened his eyes wide. To Harry, he seemed to be growing, and then he realized that the man simply hadn't been standing up straight before; now he drew himself up, and threw down his cane. He spun in a circle, dancing with delight.

"It's gone! It's gone! My arthritis is gone!"

The crowd went wild, clapping and cheering. The chanting stopped and now the choir started singing again.

"To dream the impossible dream...."

"If you need help believing in yourself, come forward and let my belief help yours! Just decide on a goal and together we can realize that goal!"

While the choir sang on, the aisle filled with people making their way toward Rodney Jeffries, who would bend his ear to the person's mouth, then close his eyes and touch each person's head, crying, "Believe! very loudly. Every time, the person collapsed, was helped up, and stood thanking Jeffries with a radiant face. Several women kissed him, and most of the men were pumping his hand up and down. (although a few also kissed him). The line seemed to grow longer rather than shorter as more and more people plucked up the courage to go forward.

The line in the aisle was two-across now, and suddenly, Harry thought he saw someone familiar walking there, but it was hard to see because there was a rather large man in the way. When she was finally standing before Rodney Jeffries, swallowing nervously, Harry gasped. He didn't know what she was whispering into Jeffries' ear, but a moment later, he was putting his hand on her head and ordering her to believe. A red crackling light connected the two of them briefly (which hadn't happened before), and then she collapsed, not getting up quickly like the others. Instead she opened her eyes and looked up from the ground. Finally, she started to stand, shaking.

"What--" she gasped "--what did you do to me?" Her voice carried to the far corners. Harry saw that even Jeffries looked concerned.

"I--I don't know--" Jeffries said softly, which Harry was not expecting.

"Did you get rid of the cancer or not?" she demanded, putting her hand to her breastbone, and then to her mouth, clearly not having intended announcing her problem to the world at large. Harry dropped his jaw. Cancer?

"I--" Jeffries stammered. "I'm not sure--did you truly believe that it would be gone?"

She looked livid and desperate and sad all at once. When he tried to move toward her, she held out her hand to stop him, and suddenly he flew backward, striking the front of the dais. The choir stopped singing abruptly and there was utter silence. She dropped her jaw, horror-struck, then stared at her hand, at the hand that had made Rodney Jeffries fly backwards. Then her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted.

Harry's first instinct was to groan and think, Not again, but a more urgent instinct then overwhelmed him and he leapt from his chair.

"Aunt Petunia!" he cried, arriving at her side in a split second. He lifted her limp body and tried to call her name again. The tent had been silent as the grave before Harry had spoken; now it was in an uproar.

Harry was aware that someone was standing next to him; the feet belonged to Rodney Jeffries. Jeffries stooped down, asking Harry, "She's your aunt?" But then he stopped cold on seeing Harry's face. He gasped, and it seemed to Harry that time was standing still as he and Jeffries looked at each other. He didn't move while the other man reached out and lightly traced his scar with his finger.

"You're Harry Potter," Jeffries breathed, almost reverently. Harry swallowed.

"How do you know that?" he choked out. Sandy had said, You will be known. This was what she meant. But how? Jeffries didn't answer, but just stared at Harry and his scar. Harry shook himself and stood with his aunt's limp body in his arms. "Let me through!" he cried to the encroaching crowd. Then Adam Justice spotted him; Grace was with him.

"You!" Grace cried.

"You're that kid who was in here snogging your girlfriend!" Adam Justice cried. Harry saw a shocked look on Mr. Babcock's face and an amused one on Dr. Forbes'.

"Mr. Babcock! Dr. Forbes! Help me!" he called to them. They both made their way through the crowd, Dr. Forbes leading the way, and soon they were outside on the grass.

"This way," Mr. Babcock said. "The vicarage is close--we can use my car."

Harry was carrying just the upper half of his aunt now; Dr. Forbes was helping with the other half. When they reached Babcock's car, which turned out to be a Ford that was about thirty years old (with a huge back seat), they put Petunia Dursley inside and Dr. Forbes examined her quickly.

He emerged from the car, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. "She's in shock. You get her home and throw cold water on her face and then give her a nice cuppa. She'll come round."

"Dr. Forbes--when--how--I didn't know. Cancer--"

"Ah. She didn't tell you."

"No. Was she seeing you about it? Does my uncle know?"

"I'm just the village doctor, Harry. And I don't know whether she's told her husband. All I can say is that I referred her to an oncologist in London some months ago. There's no harm in telling you that now, as you already know that she has cancer. But I can't say anything more."

Harry looked into the back seat. "We should get her home. Uncle Vernon's been wondering where she's going in the evenings..."

Harry sat in the back seat with his aunt's head pillowed on his leg; he felt oddly protective of her suddenly, and noticed again the family resemblance to his mother that he was only able to spot in certain lights, or when she held her head just so. It was easier to see in repose, when she wasn't contorting her features into a sneer.

As he drove, Mr. Babcock hummed The Impossible Dream. Harry was about to comment on this, but he thought it was possible that the vicar didn't even realize he was doing it. Dr. Forbes didn't seem to notice; he rode half-turned toward the back seat, keeping an eye on his patient.

When they pulled up outside the Dursley house, Harry said, "Dr. Forbes--could you ring the bell and talk to my uncle first, so he doesn't panic?"

Forbes nodded and walked toward the front door while Harry and Mr. Babcock carefully removed Petunia Dursley from the back seat of the car and carried her toward the door. Dr. Forbes never had a chance to offer Vernon Dursley any reassurance, for he started going mad as soon as he saw Harry and the vicar carrying his wife. Harry motioned to the stairs with his head, and he and Babcock started carrying her upstairs while Forbes yelled at his uncle, "Calm down, man! She's all right. Had a bit of a shock, though...." Harry grimaced; he was a nice man, was Dr. Forbes, but his bedside manner needed some work.

They placed Petunia Dursley carefully on her bed and Harry removed her shoes. He asked Babcock to bring a glass of cold water from the bath, and he left. Harry frowned, brushing her hair from her brow. How had she thrown Jeffries back against the dais like that? It looked for all the world as though she'd performed either a banishing charm or the Disarming Charm. Was his Aunt Petunia a witch and never knew it? Did Dumbledore know it? Harry was very confused; he'd thought the lost Weasley sisters were the only adult-witches-living-as-Muggles he was going to have to deal with in this life.

Babcock made to throw the water in the glass at her face, but Harry took it from him and dipped his hand into the icy water, patting her face with his cold hand. His aunt finally blinked and then widened her eyes when she saw the vicar.

"Oh!" she cried, distraught. "I--please--please can I talk to my nephew, Mr. Babcock?"

The vicar nodded and put his hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezed it for a moment. "Shall I call on you tomorrow, Mrs. Dursley?" he asked.

"No!" she said, very suddenly. Harry frowned. "I mean--don't bother yourself, vicar, really. I'll be fine." Her voice shook, not making her sound very convincing. Harry had never remembered seeing her vulnerable like this.

"I'll let myself out, then," he said, looking more than a little rejected. When he was gone. Harry turned to her. He wasn't certain how to start.

"Does--does Uncle Vernon know about--about the cancer?" He waited, surprised that he'd had the courage to say the word. He remembered Snape's Pensieve, his aunt visiting his mother, talking about their mother dying.

"Yes," she said tersely. "But he--he doesn't know--"

"--that you've been going to hear Jeffries," he finished, and she tightened her lips, neither nodding nor shaking her head. She swallowed and looked at him, and he realized suddenly how frightened she was.

"I never went forward before. On the other nights. I had always stayed in my seat. Tonight I finally stood and--I--I didn't know he would turn me into--into one of you. He must--he must be like you." She shuddered, then covered her face with the pillow.

"Aunt Petunia, stop! What makes you think--"

"Oh, don't pretend!" she said uncovering her face again. "You saw it! And so did everyone there! I'm ruined! I can never show my face in the village again--possibly in all of Surrey--"

"Aunt Petunia," he said as slowly and evenly as he could. "I don't mean to frighten you--but there seems to be a--a pattern of people lately doing what seems to be magic even though they seem to be Muggles--"

"Do you think you could say 'seem' a few more times?" she snapped irritably. "How does that help me?"

"Well," he hesitated, "Mrs. Figg has some people looking into it--" he said slowly, wincing, waiting for the negative response. Having only recently discovered Mrs. Figg was a witch, he was uncertain how she would take this.

Surprisingly, she actually looked interested in what he had to say. "Perhaps," she said, her voice still shaking, "we can go to see Arabella tomorrow about my, er, little problem."

Harry almost fell off the edge of the bed when she said this. "Oh. Um, all right. If--if you don't mind--don't mind going over there."

She returned to being her usual irritable self. "Yes, I do mind. I mind very much that I am now an unnatural freak of nature--"

"We don't know that, Aunt Petunia. Let's wait and see what Mrs. Figg has to say. Maybe--maybe it's temporary. You don't know."

Vernon Dursley entered the room and Harry stood up as his uncle rushed to his wife's side. "Petunia, my darling! Forbes couldn't tell me anything. Are you all right?"

"I'll be all right if Harry ever stops gawping like a beached fish and gets me my tea!" she snapped at him, but for some reason, Harry suddenly felt like this was an act, as though she was trying to convince her husband she was Petunia-Dursley-As-Usual, that everything was normal and she was not in danger of actually having a civil conversation with her annoying nephew.

As he walked down to the kitchen, Sandy spoke again: "Bells shall ring." Harry frowned. What might that mean? But he knew it would do no good to ask her. He went to the kitchen and made his aunt's tea; when he returned to the bedroom and handed her the piping hot mug, his uncle was rubbing her feet and talking in low, soothing tones to her. Harry felt he should leave quickly; clearly, she didn't want her husband to know anything about where she was and what had occurred earlier in the evening. He had a feeling that Dr. Forbes probably hadn't told his uncle about his aunt making Rodney Jeffries fly backward, or even that she'd gone to see Jeffries at all. Forbes seemed to be very circumspect.

Harry was feeling that a cup of tea might not be a bad idea for him, either, and he went back down to the kitchen, bustling about and taking out a packet of biscuits to eat as well. When the phone rang shrilly, it jolted him at first, but then he realized that that must have been what Sandy meant, and he ran to pick it up, wondering if it was the vicar or the doctor, checking up on his aunt.

He was utterly unprepared for the voice he heard.

"Harry! Is that you?"

"Hermione? Is something wrong?"

"No!" she said, and now he could hear the undercurrent of delight in her voice. "Not at all! I've found her! Margaret Dougherty! The right one, I'm almost positive! She has a web site. Do you have something to write with, so I can give you the address?"

He found a pencil and scrap of paper and quickly wrote down what she told him. "That's wonderful, Hermione!"

"I know!" she said, unabashed. "Wait until we tell Ron. And Ginny," she added, sounding just a little mischievous.

"Oh, you--" he started to say, but then he added, "and Ron's and Ginny's brothers. Especially Bill and Charlie. Remember how Mrs. Weasley said they've always blamed themselves?"

"Oh! And Mr. and Mrs. Weasley! They'll be thrilled! Oh, Harry, this will be wonderful!"

"Hold on, hold on. We still have to make sure it's really her. How do you know this is her website?"

"She talks about being adopted at the age of seven and not remembering anything before that. Who else could it be? Of course, she and I probably won't get on, unfortunately--"

"Why not?"

"Well--you know how I am about Divination--"


"So? That's what her web site's all about. It's her hobby. Tarot, horoscopes, star charts, you name it."

Harry swallowed. "Does she--does she say she can see auras?"

"Yes--how did you know? Oh, wait. That's probably another one of those things you can't explain until you show me your Pensieve...."

"Well--it would just be kind of hard for you to understand until you have. I don't want to start telling at the wrong end. And I wouldn't assume right away that you won't get on with her. You get on with all of the other Weasleys."

"I suppose. I'll just have to keep my opinions about Divination to myself."

Harry smiled, glad Hermione couldn't see him. He tried not to laugh outright. "And that shouldn't be at all difficult...."

"There's no call for sarcasm. Oh, all right--I suppose there is. Let's just wait and see. You take a look at the web site and tell me what you think, whether we should try to find out how to contact her in the real world."

"All right. But first--" he lowered his voice and peered into the front hall to see whether his uncle might be coming downstairs; he carefully closed the kitchen door and leaned against it. "I have some good news and some--well, some confusing news..."

He told her first about finding Sandy. However, instead of being glad for him, she sounded more worried than ever.

"Harry--that's not a very good sign. If she's worried about you, that other snake may have Seen something Sandy hasn't told you about yet. Or some other larger snake at the zoo may have Seen something. Sandy probably went through quite a lot to get out of the zoo and come all the way down to Surrey from London. That's not a huge thing for a human, but for a snake? Although, I suppose the good thing is that she is with you again...."

Harry sighed; he should have know Hermione would have something to say about everything. Next he described his visit to the Rodney Jeffries show that evening, and having to bring his aunt home, and the cancer.

"Oh, the poor thing!" Hermione said, as though he hadn't described his aunt as the worst parent on the planet for the past six years. "She must have been going looking for a miracle or something...."

"I reckon. In all your reading, Hermione, have you ever heard of someone magical not finding out they're magical until they're all grown up? Even middle aged?"

"How old is your aunt?"

"She turned forty-three at the end of May."

"Hmm. I can look through Hogwarts, A History. And writing to Dumbledore would probably also be a good idea. Do you really think she's magical now, Harry?"

"I don't know. But my mum was. Some families have more than one Muggle-born magical person. Look at the Creevey brothers."

"That's true. And I can't believe what Jeffries said about the Westminster explosion! What did Voldemort do to him?"

"I dunno. You should hear his choir, though. Really good. He puts on quite a show. I think the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that he knew who I was. Some bloke who used to be a law clerk just looked at me and said, 'You're Harry Potter.' Why? How?"

"I don't know. But didn't you say Mrs. Figg and the operatives are already looking into Jeffries and that milkman?"

"Yeah. I'm going over there tomorrow; maybe I can find out more."

"Drop me an owl when you do; you can ring me up too, if you like, but I like having things on paper. I've had a terrible time taking notes while we've been talking...."

"You're taking notes? Hermione, we're not in school now..."

"That's no reason not to be organized. Now--do you think you can get into Dudley's room to check that web site?"

"I'll try. Thanks for finding it. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Good. Love you. Have a good night." She hung up and Harry found himself listening to nothingness. Odd, he thought, how we can say that now that we're no longer a couple.

"Love you," he said into the phone, although he knew she was no longer there.

He crept up the stairs and put his ear to his aunt's and uncle's bedroom door, hearing only snoring. He entered Dudley's room cautiously and closed the door securely. The noise of the computer coming on made him wince, but when he was finally able to go to Margaret Dougherty's website, he couldn't have stopped grinning if he'd tried.

"Hermione, I could kiss you," he said softly, marveling as he read the site. At one point, Margaret Dougherty even wrote, Now, oddly enough, I've never actually been able to do a chart for myself; I can only do them for others. Harry smiled, remembering that that was because she didn't know her true birthday. As he continued to read, only one word came into his head, inspired by something Mr. Babcock had said earlier in the evening. He grinned broadly and whispered under his breath:


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