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
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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.
Read Story On:

Chapter 06 - Signs

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 quote is from page 13 of

Harry Potter and the Triangle Prophecy

Chapter Six


Finally the journey leads to the city of Tamara. You
penetrate it along streets thick with sign-
boards jutting from the walls. The
eye does not see things but
images of things that mean
other things: pincers point
out the tooth-drawer's
house; a tankard, the
tavern; halberds, the barracks; scales, the grocer's. Statues and
shields depict lions, dolphins, towers, stars....From the doors
of the temples the gods' statues are seen, each portrayed
with his attributes--the cornucopia, the hourglass,
the medusa....If a building has no signboard or
figure, its very form and the position it
occupies in the city's order suffice
to indicate its function: the pal-
ace, the prison, the mint,
the Pythagorean
school, the

--Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Harry stared at Katie with his mouth open. "Katie!" he finally said in shock. Realizing that everyone was staring at her, she reddened and looked up.

"Oh, um--did I say that out loud?" she replied, her voice suddenly taking on a much meeker tone as she looked around, more than a little embarrassed.

Harry moved quickly to put his arm around her shoulder. "What's wrong?" he wanted to know. By now the twins and Angelina had emerged from the house, waving their envelopes in agitation.

"Can you believe her?" Angelina was saying to Katie, her voice squeaking. Angelina never squeaked.

"I am not standing up with that bugger," said Fred.

"No way," George agreed.

Harry was still holding his envelope. He took his arm from around Katie and quickly tore the envelope open, finding a slightly smaller interior envelope with a stiff card inside. He couldn't believe what was printed on the card:

Mr. and Mrs. Robert N. Spinnet
request the honor of your presence
at the wedding of their daughter

Alicia Louise


Roger Edwin Davies

Saturday, the thirtieth of August, nineteen-hundred and ninety-seven

Four o'clock in the afternoon

Old St. Martin's Church
Kettering, Northamptonshire

Reception to follow at Spinnet Farm, Sywell, Northamptonshire

The favor of a reply is requested

Then he saw that, like Katie, he had another smaller envelope. In this one there was a hand-written note from Alicia.

Dear Harry,

I know this is dreadfully short notice, but as you can see from the invitation, I'm getting married. I wanted to have my old classmates and Quidditch teammates stand up with me, and Roger wanted his mates. That started to seem like quite a lot of attendants, so we agreed I would ask the women and he would ask the men. Well, none of the Ravenclaw men he asked would do it. They all made excuses of one sort or another. His dad's standing up with him as his best man, in place of his brother, so that would leave him with no other groomsmen and me with a passel of bridesmaids and no one to escort them.

So I convinced Roger to let me get the groomsmen too, and he asked some of his female teammates to be bridesmaids as a compromise. One of them actually said she would do it. Also, I had to agree to a female relative of his being my maid-of-honor, even though I won't be meeting her until the day before the ceremony! I've been pulling my hair out over this--I can't believe how difficult it's been. That's why I'm so late in sending this to you. It was about time to send the invitations, so I thought I'd send this request along too.

Please, please, PLEASE say you'll be a groomsman, Harry. I know Roger probably isn't your favorite person, but I always thought you and I were friends. (It was so good of you to come to read to my class last term.) I do hope you will respond by saying 'yes.'



P.S. The party after will be at my parents' estate in Sywell, which isn't far off Kettering. You--along with the rest of the wedding party--are invited to stay for the week before the ceremony. It's the least I can do since I've asked you to help me and Roger so late in the game. Do say you'll come?


Harry looked up at the others in shock. "She wants me to be a groomsman," he said, knowing that the others would know what he meant, as they were all reading the invitations too. Katie waved hers around some more.

"Not one word," Katie said now, sounding very irritated again. "I was just in Hogsmeade, and I saw her! We had dinner together, and for two hours she never said a thing. I thought they hated each other. He was seeing that French girl! Now she wants me to be a bridesmaid and watch her marry that--that--"

"And me," Angelina added. "Plus she wants Fred and George to be groomsmen as well. And she wants me to run around and do all of the things the maid-of-honor would do, since Roger's aunt or cousin or whoever she is can't do it, but I'm still not going to actually be the maid-of-honor!" Angelina was livid; Harry had never seen her so angry.

Ginny frowned; she had a personal note from Alicia, too. "Did you see the list of attendants?" she asked no one in particular. Harry turned his letter over; it was written on the back.

Best man: Ambrose Davies
Maid-of-honor: Bronwen Davies

Bridesmaid #1: Angelina Johnson
Groomsman #1: Fred Weasley

Bridesmaid #2: Katie Bell
Groomsman #2: Lee Jordan

Bridesmaid #3: Ginny Weasley
Groomsman #3: Oliver Wood

Bridesmaid #4: Cho Chang
Groomsman #4: Harry Potter

Bridesmaid #5: Yarrow Swartz
Groomsman #5: George Weasley

Harry's jaw dropped. No. He could not walk down the aisle of a church with Cho Chang on his arm, not after being responsible for two of her boyfriends being dead. Well, that solved the mystery of the identity of the female Ravenclaw player who'd agreed to be in the wedding party. And then there was the not-so-small matter of his part in the death of Roger's brother Evan.... "I--I can't be paired with Cho--" he said slowly, incredulous.

"Well, she's paired me with Lee!" Katie exclaimed.

"And she's put my girlfriend with my brother!" George cried indignantly. "No offense, Fred, but--"

Fred looked at his copy of the list, his mouth twisting. "Perhaps she thought it would be funny to pair up former boyfriends and girlfriends?" he guessed; he actually did sound a bit amused to Harry. "I'm glad she put me with you, though," he said lightly to Angelina. "We've always got on well, before and after dating. It could have been really bad for me; Yarrow and I broke up after a dreadful row."

George rolled his eyes. "Brilliant. And as your double, I'll be right next to her, reminding her that she's still hacked off at you. C'mon, Fred, no one will know if we swap. Angelina's the only one who can ever tell us apart. You take your lumps from Yarrow and let me be with my girl..." Somewhere along the line, the twins seemed to have changed their minds and were now planning to be in the wedding party. Harry wondered who had turned Roger down. How do you turn away a friend who asks you to stand up with him at his wedding? Evidently, a number of Ravenclaws had found a way.

Katie looked up at Harry hopefully. "Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we could convince her to redo the pairings. I don't see how I could possibly do this otherwise..." Harry didn't say so, but he heartily agreed. Except--he looked down at the list and saw that Ginny was a bridesmaid too. If there was a particular bridesmaid I'd like to be paired with...

"Ow!" Hermione cried suddenly, staggering as a rather large package struck her on the head. Ron caught her arm to steady her and check to see that she was all right. Another owl had unexpectedly flown into the courtyard with the package that had fallen on her. It lay at her feet now, and Harry could see that her name was written on the brown paper covering the flat rectangular box. He looked up; as it flew off, the owl appeared to be very relieved to be rid of its burden. It resembled the other owls that had delivered the invitations. If it also came from Alicia, he reasoned, the heavy load must have caused the delay.

Rubbing her head, Hermione knelt on the ground to rip the paper off the box and open it. Lying on top of a stack of papers in the box was another wedding invitation. Under that was a smaller envelope with Hermione's name in Alicia's flowing handwriting. Hermione withdrew the letter from this envelope and read, her jaw dropping as Katie's had done.

"She--she wants me to play the cello at the wedding. Listen to this, 'I know it's dreadfully short notice, but I've heard from Katie how wonderfully you play and hope you will do this favor for a fellow Gryffindor, one Head Girl to another.'"

Hermione bent over the box again. "I don't believe it. She's sent music. She just assumed..."

"What?" Ron exclaimed, indignant on her behalf.

"The nerve," Angelina breathed incredulously.

They were all positively reeling; Alicia couldn't have jolted them all more if she'd sent wedding invitations that were also howlers. Katie looked at Harry now.

"So--are you going to do it?"

He looked at her seriously, aware of Ginny out of the corner of his eye. "I--I suppose. I'm still a bit shocked, of course. I never thought when I saw her and Roger in her classroom last spring that--"

He froze. Everyone was dead silent, staring at him. Damn, he thought. Know when to keep your mouth shut, Potter.

"Saw them?" Angelina said suspiciously.

"Saw them how?" Katie wanted to know. Harry felt cornered.

"Erm--they were kissing and then they Disapparated," he said in a rush, half-hoping no one would be able to understand him.

"You knew?" Katie cried, her voice going up.

"I thought Fleur was your friend, too," Ginny said quietly now. Harry looked at her, feeling very, very small. Right, he thought, remembering Fleur asking him in the corridor of the school whether he'd seen Roger.

Not a person around him didn't look shocked except for Severus Snape, who actually looked slightly amused.

"Harry," Hermione said, shaking her head. "I'm surprised at you...."

"Well--well--" he sputtered. "It was Alicia! I feel like she's more my friend than Fleur is, frankly. I was rather surprised they were together, but it didn't seem like it was any of my business...."

Hermione seemed to be thinking along another track now. "They never got on when they were Head Girl and Head Boy. Who could have seen this coming?"

Upon this everyone agreed. The party had come to a logical conclusion, and they all moved indoors to sit around the kitchen table. Mrs. Weasley, as it turned out, was rather excited about the wedding.

"Oh," Hermione said brightly, "were you invited too, Mrs. Weasley?"

"Oh, no dear, but do you know how rarely I've seen my boys in formal dress robes? I want to take a picture when you get them, Fred and George, and don't try to squirm out of it. I never did get a photograph of the pair of you at the Yule Ball in your sixth year."

Hermione poured herself some cold water from a pitcher on the table before sitting. "Oh, I doubt they'll be wearing dress robes, Mrs. Weasley. Alicia's Muggle-born, and the wedding's at a church in Kettering. They'll probably be in Muggle formalwear."

Fred and George looked at each other in horror. Harry fought the urge to laugh. Katie sat next to him and gave him a look.

"Hmm. Now, that doesn't sound so bad. You'll look nice all dressed up, Harry...." she said, a glimmer in her eye that made him swallow.

"Meanwhile," Angelina intoned ominously, "we will be wearing the bridesmaid dresses from hell, no doubt. Can't have anyone in the wedding party outshining the bride on her 'special day.'"

Ginny's face fell. "Oh. Do you think they'll be very bad?" she asked Angelina.

"Bad?" Angelina said, sounding like she was just getting started. "Last summer I was in the wedding of my cousin Charlotte, who married a Muggle. And she had us wearing these things that made us look like giant walking bowls of trifle!"

"But you were such a charming giant walking bowl of trifle," George said, starting to laugh and just barely managing to stifle it. "Which, face it, is better than a giant walking blancmange, which is what the bride looked like. And then there was that thing on your head--"

"--like the cherry on top of the whipped cream!" Angelina told Ginny, who looked even more horrified. George couldn't take it anymore and began laughing in earnest, and Fred as well. Angelina whirled on them both. "And you!" she said testily to George. "Leave all merchandise at home. Honestly! It's a good thing Charlotte's best friend is an Obliviator--"

Mrs. Weasley looked sternly at George. "What did you do?"

George smiled feebly at her and shrugged. "I just took a few Canary Creams. I only meant them for the witches and wizards. I knew there were Muggles there. I didn't mean for them to have any, honestly. I was just hoping to drum up more business. A social event like that is good for making contacts. It's not my fault, is it, that the groom's aunt was wearing a kind of caftan that looked like robes? I thought she was a witch." He smiled ingratiatingly at his mother, who was not looking at all amused.

"Well," Hermione said darkly, "there's bound to be loads of important Muggles at Alicia's wedding. Her mother does a lot of charity work, and I think I heard her father might actually try for parliament. They don't much like their MP." She sniffed. "He's Tory, of course, more's the pity..."

Hermione's political rant fell on deaf ears as far as Ron was concerned. "Well, what do plain old guests wear? I'm invited too--can I just wear standard-issue Muggle things?"

Hermione smirked. "No. You'll have to be dressed up as well. You just won't be parading around on display, like the groomsmen." Harry thought she looked like she want a private display from him of some sort (Ron looked alarmed, as though he thought this, too) ; he managed to keep a straight face, looking at the pair of them, and suppressing a smirk of his own.

"Are you going to play?" Harry asked her. She shrugged, and started leafing through some of the music.

"A lot of these look like pieces I know. This could actually be manageable...."

Katie looked around in disbelief. "So--we're actually doing this?"

The twins looked far less upset now about 'standing up with that bugger.' George raised his eyebrows. "Looks like we're being put up for a week by rich people in a country house, then standing around for a few minutes while a git says 'I do,' then going to a party," George said, looking at Fred. Fred raised his glass of pumpkin juice.

"Nice work, if you can get it."

"And Oliver'll be there, too!" George remembered.

"Right. He'll know the best things to do for the stag night, places to go--"

"A pity Roger has to be included, but as he's the groom--"

"Stag night!" Angelina looked outraged. George raised his eyebrows and looked at her with an expression of utter innocence.

"It's a tradition, you know. You'll have to do a hen party for Alicia, if you're the acting maid-of-honor."

Angelina looked very grumpy again at the idea of doing all of the maid-of-honor work and getting none of the glory for it. Harry reflected on how odd it was that Roger had approved his being named as a groomsman, after both Roger and his father accused him of practically murdering Evan in cold blood. They must have gotten past that, or decided he wasn't to blame, he thought.

Perhaps Alicia asking him to be a groomsman was meant to be their way of extending an olive branch. He didn't much like the idea of formalwear on the last Saturday in August, let alone being paired with Cho (of all people!). But if the Davies family was trying to make peace with him, it wouldn't be very good form to throw it in their faces and refuse to participate in the wedding.

"You're really doing it?" Katie said quietly to him, sitting at his side, looking utterly shocked. He shrugged.

"How can I not? If it's Roger's way of making peace...."

She nodded. "I suppose I'm stuck as well. I can't believe she wants me to walk with Lee. I'll bet she's just laughing and laughing about this..."

He patted her hand. "It will all work out, I'm sure." He sounded surer than he felt. He'd rather face Roger than Cho any day. He didn't really feel all that guilty about Evan, frankly, given that the Ravenclaw had attacked him and others in the forest. Cedric was quite another story, and Viktor....

As it was getting late, Snape and Lupin made their farewells. Snape was very formal, nodding at Harry before stepping into the fireplace. Lupin grinned at him, eyes crinkling up, as he too disappeared into the flames, going back to his flat in Manchester. He would be returning tomorrow, however, to do some training with Ron.

The Weasleys were going by Floo as well, taking Maggie with them. They would return with her in a few days to retrieve her car. The boys were going with them to the Burrow, all but Ron, for a continuation of the family reunion. Ginny was also staying; Hermione would be sharing a room with her instead of Maggie now. McGonagall had already Apparated back to the Granger house in Greenwich, to which Hermione would return in a few days, after enjoying a brief holiday at Ascog.

With the Weasleys gone, Ron and Draco were able to move up to the guestroom. After seeing off the Weasley family through the fireplace in the sitting room (Angelina went by herself to Hog's End, still fuming about the wedding), they all moved off to bed in a daze. Harry felt as though he was under a bit of a cloud, remembering how shocked everyone had looked when they realized he'd known about Roger and Alicia....

* * * * *

"Harry! Call for you!" Sirius' voice came through the thick bathroom door, just a bit muffled. "And it's my turn in the bloody bath!'

Harry finished drying himself after his shower; as he scrambled into his clothes he called, "Just a minute!" trying not to fall over while putting on his khaki shorts.

"Why are you rushing, Harry Potter?" Sandy asked him placidly from her comfortable position on a fluffy white towel by the side of the sink. She watched him stumble about. "Did I not tell you--"

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered. Sometimes people with the Sight--human or snake--could be very trying. He left her in the bathroom; she liked being in there with the steam and humidity, and he would collect her later. He was still pulling down his T-shirt, his hair dripping, as he walked to the small fireplace in his bedroom, stopping at the desk to pick up his glasses first. Sirius went into the bath and closed the door. The moment Harry put his glasses on and looked at the fireplace he almost fell over in shock. Sitting in the firebox was a head, and it was the last head he ever expected to see in a fireplace anywhere.

"Hello, Harry."

"H--hullo, Aunt Petunia." He was at a loss for words, just staring. Then his aunt's head disappeared and Mrs. Figg's took her place.

She had opened her mouth to speak, but oddly enough it was Sirius' voice that came out. "Harry!" his godfather bellowed from the bath. "You left your sodding snake in here!"

He turned toward the closed door. "She likes the damp!" he called. "Just ignore her! I'll get her later!" He turned back to the fireplace. Mrs. Figg was looking distinctly miffed.

"Good morning, Harry. I didn't really get a chance to speak with you at the party yesterday, but then you are rather easily distracted at times." She pursed her lips and looked so much like Professor McGonagall he had to stifle a laugh. "I wanted to contact you to tell you how everything is here." Judging from the pinched expression on her face, Harry had a suspicious feeling that things were not going dreadfully well.

"Is--is Aunt Petunia doing a great deal of magic?" he asked softly. Suddenly, his aunt's head was in the firebox again.

"I can't believe how rigid Arabella is being, Harry! I mean, she modified the vicar's memory, he'll never realize--"

Harry stood up, his eyes widening. "What did you do?"

Mrs. Figg's head reappeared, frowning deeply. Her face had been heavily lined before; now its fissures vied with her brother's for cragginess, and she didn't look as though she'd had a good night's sleep recently. "This isn't the time, Harry. This is meant to be good news. Earlier this week, Petunia and I went to that specialist in London, and she's been doing visualization exercises designed to affect her cells....We're going to go back later this month to see whether there's been any change. The doctor thought she was some kind of New Age nutter. Told her to go to California if she's so convinced crystals will cure her of cancer instead of the most advanced modern medicine." She sniffed disdainfully. "I almost told him, 'Yes, we might very well go to California.' I happen to know a shaman who lives in the desert on the way from Los Angeles to Vegas....he's dealt with this sort of thing before...."

Harry's eyes were practically falling out of his head. "Er, well. That's good news, then, right?" The idea of his aunt doing magic in front of Mr. Babcock was still rather alarming to him. He didn't dare ask again what she'd done. "Any news about that phony milkman, by the way? Any sign of Rodney Jeffries?"

"Funny you should ask. Sirius will tell you more about it, but it seems the milkman was going to provide a base of operations--unbeknownst to him--for that Daisy Furuncle person. She wanted a close place from which to observe you, and because of Albus' protective charms on your house, that was the nearest she could get."

He furrowed his brow. "You know, I never did understand the way the protective charms worked..."

"Well, you may have noticed that someone who doesn't intend to harm you and who is magical can come to your aunt and uncle's house with no problem." That was true. Fred, George and Ron were able to rescue him with their father's flying car during the summer before his second year. And Dobby, who had actually meant well, had no problem penetrating the charms either. Sirius and Snape had also just walked up to number four, Privet Drive and gained admittance when they were bringing Hermione and her parents there. "Someone with less than friendly impulses, however...."

"Right. And Jeffries?"

"We don't actually have him in our sights, but there have been reports of people being healed of injuries by a stranger who mysteriously disappears again. His entourage is still missing as well. The families of the Muggles who were working with him are starting to raise a stink with the government, especially the American families. Some of them are evidently threatening Whitehall with an international incident if their people don't turn up soon. Something about Britain being a haven for charlatan cult-leaders; an American embassy employee who was working in Paris going missing...her father is in the President's cabinet or some such thing....I can't keep track of it all...."

That was Grace. Harry's breath caught. All because his aunt threw Jeffries against the dais!

Sirius opened the bathroom door and emerged, his hair still damp from his shower, although he was busily rubbing his head with a towel. "Coming to breakfast, Harry?"

Harry turned for a moment, then looked uncertainly at Mrs. Figg.

"Go on, don't let me keep you. I just thought you might like to know about Petunia. There's nothing you can do about Jeffries..."

He drew his lips into a line. "Right. Well, goodbye, Aunt Petunia," he called. Her head appeared beside Mrs. Figg's. "Be good," he added sternly. She grimaced.

"I'll try. But sometimes I just--"

He laughed at the expression on her face. "I know just what you mean." But then he realized, No, I don't. I'm of age now. I can do magic any time I want.

"Goodbye, Harry," Mrs. Figg said briskly. "Go have your breakfast now." And with a pop! her head and his aunt's head disappeared from the fireplace and the fire went with them. Which was just as well; on the top floor of the castle, on the first day of August, it was already starting to feel quite warm.

Harry collected Sandy from the bath and wrapped her around his left arm. He and Sirius were the last ones downstairs to eat; Ron and Draco Malfoy were still sitting at the table, but their breakfast dishes had been pushed to the side. A chessboard was between them now and they were deeply involved in a game while Hermione and Ginny watched. Katie was rolling her eyes at this, even as she read the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.

"They're both proving their manhood," she cracked to Harry and Sirius, turning the page of the paper. "Grunt a little more, you two," she instructed them. "Scratch something you shouldn't scratch in public."

Malfoy scowled at her. "We're not Neanderthals. Or at least I'm not," he added, looking pointedly at Ron, who grinned back at him.

"Is a Neanderthal likely to say 'checkmate?'" He moved his queen into position; Malfoy's king was in her sights. If he moved the king out of danger from the queen, Ron would get him with either his knight or bishop. Malfoy stared at the board for a while before he threw up his hands in frustration. Ron wasn't trying very hard at all not to look smug.

"Good game, Malfoy," he said, his eyes twinkling at Hermione, who had a small smile. She actually seemed to notice Harry now.

"Oh, good morning, Harry. There are still some eggs warming in the oven. Want some?"

He accepted her offer and sat down, while the others rearranged themselves. He and Sirius ate quickly, and when they were done, Sirius looked very gravely at them and said, "We need to discuss Peter and his confession, Harry." Sirius was at the end of the kitchen table, the tapestry with the silver lion on the blue field behind him. Ron was now opposite Harry, to Sirius' left, Ginny and Hermione on either side of him. Katie was on one side of Harry and Draco Malfoy on the other.

"Should we all stay?" Katie asked, putting down her newspaper. Harry could tell she felt a little like she was intruding. Sirius nodded at her.

"There's no reason you can't stay. In fact, your history is involved as well, so you might as well stay and hear everything." He leaned close to her and Harry heard him say quietly, "I hear you're going to begin Auror training in September?" She nodded. "Well, you'll be hearing a number of top-secret things that aren't general knowledge. You understand you're to keep this information to yourself?" She nodded again, already looking a little numb.

Your history. Harry assumed that meant Sam killing her mum. Because of him. Katie looked very pale and stared down at her empty plate, looking like she wished she had more eggs or sausages or something to push around with her fork, to have something to do.

There was silence. "Well?" Harry said. "What are we waiting for?"

"Actually, it's not what but who. I asked Bill and Charlie to come and bring your sister," he said, nodding at Ginny and Ron.

"But she was going to be coming back in a few days anyway, to get her car. And why do you need her, or Charlie or Bill?" Ginny asked, perplexed. But Harry had a growing suspicion that he now felt was completely supported by what Sirius had said....

"It was him, wasn't it?" he said abruptly to Sirius. "Wormtail. Pettigrew. He kidnapped their sisters, didn't he?"

Sirius nodded slowly and Ginny put her hand over her mouth in horror, tears in her eyes. Ron put his arm around her and pulled her to him, his face grim and angry.

"How could he do that and then live with our family for twelve years?" she said through her tears. Ron was shaking his head.

"There's not much I would put beyond him at this point. When I think of what I did for him when he was my pet...."

"What?" Katie said suddenly. Harry turned to her.

"Er--that's what happened to Ron's rat, Scabbers. The one that used to be Percy's. It turns out he wasn't a rat at all, but Peter Pettigrew. Wormtail. He was an illegal Animagus." Her jaw hung open in disbelief, but she snapped it shut again when Sirius drummed the table impatiently. Sirius looked like he wished he hadn't said anything yet.

"We're also waiting for Severus and Remus. This concerns quite a lot. It all goes back to--a Prophecy." He looked uneasily at Harry.

Harry turned his head and looked at Draco Malfoy; they knew which Prophecy. The one they were in. Malfoy's eyes were very opaque, revealing no emotion. He looked away from Harry.

Suddenly, they heard someone moving about in the sitting room, evidently emerging from the fireplace. A moment later, Remus Lupin walked in the kitchen door.

"Ah! Here you all are." He sat beside Hermione. "Still waiting for the others, eh?" Before Sirius could answer, they heard someone else in the sitting room, then several someone elses. Charlie came bouncing into the kitchen next, followed by Bill with his long stride.

"Hullo again, everyone," Charlie said, grinning. "Ripping to see you all. It's been absolutely ages." He sat next to Draco Malfoy, while Ginny rolled her eyes at him.

"Ha ha," she intoned unenthusiastically. Her brother, being a mature thirty-one years old, stuck his tongue out at her.

Bill sat next to Charlie and propped his elbows on the table. Harry leaned forward to see him better; he'd never seen Bill look more serious. He'd been grinning a great deal when he'd been thumping Harry's back the day before, after his role in finding Maggie had been revealed. He seemed very subdued now, in contrast.

Harry looked around. "Well--where's Maggie?"

Charlie looked toward the doorway. "She's coming. She stopped to talk--"

Harry frowned. Talk? But then he realized that he'd heard a number of people in the sitting room; now Maggie walked in, arm-in-arm with Severus Snape, making Rons's jaw drop. Hermione looked at Harry, raising her eyebrows. He thought he knew why; even at the party, the day before, he'd never seen Snape look so much like his younger self, the boy they'd originally seen in the Pensive, working in the potions dungeon with Harry's mother. He wore simple black robes, as when he was teaching, over black trousers and a simple crisp white shirt.

And he was smiling, which seemed to shock Draco Malfoy so much Harry wondered if he could at this moment get him to say, "All Gryffindors are gods," without batting an eye. Maggie and Severus Snape sat opposite her older brothers and next to Remus Lupin, whose face was utterly placid, as though he wasn't the least bit surprised about this development. Harry looked at Sirius, who frowned.

"Right," Sirius said briskly. He took a sip from a glass of pumpkin juice, then put it down and laid his hands on the table before him. "At the risk of going backwards, the first thing I'd like to address is Severus' abduction," he said, nodding at Snape. Maggie was now looking at him in alarm.

"You were abducted?" she said in shock.

He grimaced. "I don't know how he was doing it. The first time, I was supposed to be meeting another operative in Diagon Alley--that's in London--" he added for Maggie's benefit, "--and then suddenly I was in a cottage far out in the country...." Harry wondered whether Pettigrew had again used the Tempus fugit spell. Snape told about the details of his imprisonment, which Harry had already heard from Dumbledore. The others, however, were listening with varying degrees of disbelief on their faces. Harry swallowed, thinking again of what Severus Snape had been enduring while they'd all been safely ensconced in the castle, learning potions from his uncle....

"Yes, well, Peter has finally explained why he imprisoned you," Sirius told him. "You see, during the first year after the Tournament, as Voldemort was gathering his old followers around him, Peter was carefully positioning himself so that no one would raise doubts about him and his loyalty, as he knew Voldemort doubting him would lead to his instant disposal. He reckoned that his assisting Voldemort in getting his body back would be very helpful to his being in the inner circle, but it wasn't a guarantee.

"Your dad was a major problem, for instance," he said to Draco Malfoy. "Competition. Turns out Peter was helping you to put him in prison, and you had no idea. There were evidently a number of times when your dad wondered whether he should trust you, and Peter talked him into continuing the plan you'd lain out. He said he came to Hogwarts in his Animagus form and overheard you having conversations with Ginny at the edge of the forest, where you thought no one was paying attention to you. So he'd figured out from the start what you were up to, and the only thing that worried him was whether you were trying to get rid of your father to take his place yourself. But he also reckoned he could dispose of you when the time came, if that was the case.

"Naturally, he couldn't be in all places at once, and while he was busying himself helping you get your dad out of the way, others began to plant seeds of doubt in Voldemort's mind concerning Peter. It was especially easy after that debacle on Christmas night, when we were trying to rescue poor stupid Karkaroff and prevent you," a nod at Draco, "from having to get the Dark Mark. If anyone in the organization was going to be suspected, we had hoped it would be Lucius Malfoy, but he evidently had an airtight alibi. Peter was watched very, very carefully after that, even though we're fairly certain he knew nothing about our botched operation. In addition to these new suspicions, the rumor-mongers were able to bring up all of the old ones: about how he had managed to get himself appointed Secret Keeper on purpose, knowing that if he revealed the whereabouts of your parents," now he nodded at Harry, "Voldemort would be defeated. Now, it is true that he managed to get me to doubt myself and the next thing I knew, I was urging James and Lily to make him the Secret Keeper. Not knowing his involvement in the Death Eaters, it really did seem like the safest thing."

Sirius paused and rubbed his hand over his face for a moment, his facade of businesslike behavior threatening to crumble. He was still clearly very torn-up about this; Harry reckoned he always would be, just as he would never forgive himself for Cedric. Sirius cleared his throat and continued.

"However, I don't believe for a moment that Peter really knew what would happen when Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow that night. I believe he expected the entire family to be dead the next day. Well, James and Harry, anyway.

"He said he begged his Master to spare Lily. He told Voldemort that James was the 'first lion' and Harry the second, and once they were both destroyed, there was no need to bother with any of the other people in the Prophecy...."

Charlie's eyes widened. "Prophecy?" And yet, to Harry, it looked like he knew about this and was merely surprised that others knew, too.

Sirius sighed. "We'll get to that." Harry thought he saw him sending significant looks to Bill and Maggie. Why? Harry wondered. What do they have to do with it?

"Anyway, Peter's position in the organization had been growing more tenuous during the year after the Triwizard Tournament. He decided he needed to do something to sort of 'look busy' and loyal at the same time, while simultaneously protecting himself from Ministry reprisals, if he was caught by our side. Playing both sides against the middle has been Peter's modus operandi for years," Sirius added bitterly.

"He pretended to try to extract information from you," he said to Snape now, "but he said he didn't try very hard." Snape nodded.

"The most incompetent idiot I have ever seen," he growled; Harry would have laughed if it wasn't such a serious situation. The abductee criticizing his abductor's prowess. It was rather ridiculous. "Which," Snape went on, "was why it was so excruciating to continue to be held by him..."

"Right. He managed to seem useful by holding you for months on end, until finally Voldemort grew impatient and assigned his heir to help Peter get some truly useful information from Severus.

"The heir was, of course, Viktor Krum." Harry saw the stricken look on Hermione's face, perhaps remembering being in Bulgaria, kissing him, letting him get close to her; she was right to have been afraid of him, he thought. But they were certainly not right to have foisted him off on Cho Chang. She looked up at Ron now, who appeared to be feeling somewhat guilty--perhaps because of his own Krum hero-worship. "Krum had been initiated by his grandfather and was being trained by him and some of the most ruthless Death Eaters before arriving on Peter's doorstep. He wasn't interested in wasting time. He began torturing Severus in earnest."

He looked up at his old nemesis now, meeting his eyes. "But he didn't give up any information willingly. He'd developed an immunity against even the strongest Veritaserum by dosing himself with it over the years, so that he was able to convince them that the misinformation he was giving them while evidently under the potion's influence was true. We actually started racking up some successes in catching Death Eaters, since they believed his tales. That was short-lived. Unfortunately, it only took a few routs before they realized what he was doing.

"Finally, Krum resorted to torture that Muggles have long found successful...." He didn't finish, but looked down. Snape held up his hands.

"No lasting harm done," he reported, his deep voice smooth and calm. "I'll have full feeling again in the new fingers before long." Maggie went very white upon hearing this; whether it was because of the torture or the cure, Harry couldn't tell.

He still couldn't bear to think of what Snape had gone through when they'd been cut off. He shuddered and looked at his Potions Master, his erstwhile stepfather, unable to fully conceive of what he'd endured during his imprisonment.

"And, of course, the time Severus escaped, Peter engineered that, unbeknownst to both Severus and Krum. Then he had to put on a great show of trying to catch Severus again, as he felt that Krum was getting far too close to figuring out what he was really up to, so he captured Snape as he had before." Harry wondered if this meant he used Tempus fugit again. Pettigrew seemed far too fond of the spell; did he know the downside? Harry wondered. "He really hadn't been keen on letting Krum torture Severus, but he'd felt he had no choice, or he'd be reported to his Master.

"At last, when Harry contacted him and asked for a trade, offering himself in Severus' place, Peter saw a chance for himself. He would make it possible for Harry to capture him while making it look like he was trying to ambush Harry. The reason it may have seemed just a little too easy for you to get Peter--" he started saying to his godson.

"Easy!" Harry spat, remembering the giant spiders, and the fire.

"--was because he fully intended you to capture him the entire time. He was feeling increasingly unsafe, with Voldemort's heir hanging over his shoulder all the time watching his every move, and the information he'd extracted from Snape resulting in a number of Death Eaters being hauled in. Peter knew that the whispers that he intentionally sent Voldemort to Godric's Hollow so he'd lose his powers were growing louder and louder. Finally, he reckoned that the only safe place for him was in the Ministry's custody. But if he just turned himself in, he'd still be in a great deal of danger. Voldemort's reach is not inconsiderable. Peter had to make it look like he'd been loyal to Voldemort all along, like his capture had occurred simply because he'd been out-maneuvered."

Harry felt deflated. All that effort in the forest, and it had been to capture someone who wanted to be taken in. He felt irrationally angry, thinking about the injuries the members of the Dueling Club had sustained, how many of them could have died....

"He should have done the right thing and just turned himself in," he said between his teeth. "If we hadn't been in the forest--" Suddenly, his eyes met Ron's across the table. Damn! If they hadn't been in the forest, if Pettigrew hadn't been trying to make his capture look so good, Ron never would have been bitten by Lupin. Any of them could have been killed by Lupin in his werewolf form, as well. Unless...Harry remembered that Pettigrew knew about his golden griffin Animagus form. No--Pettigrew probably thought Harry's form was a lion. Perhaps he thought a lion would be an adequate match for a werewolf? That turned out to be right, but Harry still felt incredibly manipulated.

"And I played right into his hands," Draco Malfoy said now, his voice morose, "When I went into the forest by myself...."

Sirius shrugged. "When we were in school, James and I were the ones who did well in most of our purely magical studies, except Charms. That was Lily's forte, in addition to Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Remus," he nodded at his friend, sitting between Hermione and Maggie, "had his strengths as well. Professor McGonagall was often rather hard on Peter, and even Flitwick became exasperated with him from time to time. But he came up with some schemes that were frankly quite ingenious. He always received very good marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and he concocted a number of plans for sneaking around the castle and Hogsmeade which made our school years far more interesting than they would have been otherwise, exploiting information James had found in the Restricted Section of the Library. I admit I didn't give him credit at the time; none of us did..."

Sirius looked like he might have been wondering whether being better friends with Peter, instead of merely taking advantage of his craftiness, might have saved Harry's parents. Harry eyed Draco Malfoy, whom he was both afraid to trust and afraid not to.

"He wasn't a wizard to set the world on fire, was Peter, but he was clever in his way," Sirius went on. "Scheming. And let's not forget that he also mastered the Animagus Transfiguration, although it took him rather longer than James and I...."

Katie frowned. "What do you mean also?"

Sirius raised his eyebrows at her, then looked at Harry. "Well, thank you for keeping my secret, Harry, but everyone might as well know now that I am an Animagus."

"You too!" Maggie exclaimed from the far end of the table. Katie was frowning. He turned to her again.

"Don't worry, my dear, I'm quite legal. Just after my name was cleared I registered properly with the Ministry and I can transfigure myself without breaking the law now. I had to pay a minor fine for doing it without supervision or permission, but now it's all squared away."

Harry looked at Katie uncomfortably; sometimes she almost seemed like she already was an Auror. "Just so you know--my dad was an illegal Animagus, too. His form was a stag. The three of them learned it when they were in school, so they could be with Professor Lupin during the full moon," he said, nodding at Lupin, who looked somewhat uncomfortable.

"I've told you Harry," he said now. "I'm not your professor any more. You should call me Remus."

Harry acknowledged this with a small bob of his head, but inside he felt that it should accompany the title Uncle, which was what he'd called Lupin in his other life, before he'd been hauled away by the Longbottoms....

Katie was starting to remind him uncomfortably of Gemma Longbottom, Neville's mother, whom he had seen more than once in his other life. He remembered the grim determination on her face on the train platform in Huntly, before he had sent her and her husband off on a wild goose chase in Inverness, and earlier, in Banff, when she and her husband had told the football team with whom he was traveling that they were Detective Chief Inspector and Detective Inspector Longbottom, Muggle titles that usually commanded a certain respect.

D.C.I. Katie Bell, he thought. He could see it in his mind's eye, he really could. She looked at him uncertainly, as if wondering whether his entire family and all of his parents' friends were hopeless lawbreakers. Her father had gone to prison, but what he did certainly wasn't premeditated or an illegal activity he'd been covering up for years.

"At any rate, he was able to clear up something else for us. We'd suspected it for some time, especially since Severus' abduction occurred when he was supposed to be meeting her in Diagon Alley....but Rita Skeeter was acting as a double agent during the entire year before that. Dumbledore asked her to work for him as an operative, but there's no love lost between him and Rita, and after he asked her, she lost no time in finding someone to put her in touch with Voldemort. Actually, she usually gave her information to Peter. He evidently filtered out some of it. For instance, he already knew what Draco was up to in trapping his father, so when she informed him of Draco's plan--"

"Hey!" Draco Malfoy said now, bristling with indignation that Rita Skeeter had been evidently been buzzing around him, spoiling his careful trap, in addition to Peter Pettigrew having figured it out. Harry remembered that Malfoy had been one of the first to know that Rita was an illegal Animagus; he'd been giving her information about Harry. Serves you right, Harry thought, even though he was lucky Pettigrew had been intercepting the information about the Lucius Malfoy plan. It was a miracle that the plan had worked at all.

"--Peter sat on the information, as he wanted Lucius out of the way as well. You know how it is: no honor among thieves. He pretended to work with Lucius, of course, and he never told Rita he hadn't passed on her information. Everything she learned with her snooping went right to Peter. That was why so many operations were going south that year; we had a mole. I think Rita had realized that all of the suspicion was starting to fall on her when she decided to disappear. Then Peter had her contact Severus, concocting a story about having been abducted, and the next thing we knew he had been abducted. We think she continued to do her spying in her Animagus form--"

"A beetle," Harry whispered to Katie, who widened her eyes and shook her head again. He saw that Hermione was looking very tight-lipped, probably regretting that she'd ever let the reporter out of that glass jar.

"But with more strenuous security precautions we managed to thwart her; and with some well-planted false information, we also managed to send Death Eaters on a number of wild goose chases."

Hermione sat up now. "So--is she Daisy Furuncle?"

Sirius' eyes narrowed. "I believe she is one of the Daisy Furuncles."

Harry's jaw dropped. "One of?"

"You think we haven't been looking into this? The Prophet claims they have no knowledge of how it happened, but we managed to speak to a couple of Prophet employees using some, er, persuasive techniques, and they said that someone acting on behalf of Daisy Furuncle has been to their offices three times. Each time it was a woman wearing a cloak with a hood pulled up, making it difficult to see her face. The first person we talked to said it was a very tall woman with pale, freckly skin and a husky voice, and the next person said that they spoke to a very short woman with olive skin. The third person we spoke to said they talked to a medium-height woman with a high voice and pale, clear skin--no freckles--and he reckons he saw some long blond hair escaping from her hood. Given that the writing style is alarmingly familiar, I think our Daisy Furuncle is possibly an amalgam of more than one person. Or else 'Daisy' has some assistants. She was also planning to have an observation post a mere two houses away from Harry in Surrey, but Harry stopped it."

Now Ginny frowned. "That third woman sounds a bit like Fleur Delacour. Why would she go out of her way to smear Harry? After all, in the first article, Harry was accused of killing Roger Davies' brother, and now he's jilted Fleur for Alicia. Why would she go on the offensive for someone who'd been cheating on her like that?"

"Perhaps she didn't know yet. She may have thought she was supporting her boyfriend and his family in their time of grief, pointing a finger at Evan's murderer. If, that is, the woman was Fleur. I'm not ruling her out. We haven't a clue who the other women might be, unless it was actually Rita each time, and she'd taken potion to make herself to look like someone else. And, for that matter, we don't actually have any proof that Rita is involved with the articles--just a very, very strong suspicion." Harry tried to think of three women besides Rita who had it in for him, and came up dry.

"Well," Hermione reasoned, "even if Fleur was involved, she probably couldn't have written the articles herself. The last time I ran into her during a Hogsmeade weekend, her English was only a little better than when she first arrived here for the Tournament."

Sirius nodded. "Right. However, as much as I'd like to go on speculating about this, we have to move on. Needless to say, we all need to be very, very careful of what we say at all times. Do as much communication as possible in writing, with the parchment charmed so that only you and the person who is to receive it can read it. I went round the entire castle last night and early this morning casting revealing spells, looking for any beetles or magical listening devices. I turned up these."

He put his hand in his pocket and then withdrew it, his fist closed. When he opened it, they could all see three innocuous-looking black marbles. Then Harry remembered the marble that Pettigrew sent in the letter about Malfoy being in the forest; he was able to hold it and see what was going on in the depths of the Forbidden Forest, where there was another marble, its mate. "I took all of the magicks off them and painted them black for good measure," Sirius said gravely, "but I want to make another sweep through the castle today, to catch any others. There were a lot of people here yesterday; it was inevitable, I suppose, that someone would try to use the party to infiltrate the castle. What infuriates me," and Harry had only seen him angrier on rare occasions, "is that one of these was in my niece's bedroom. When these people--and I use the term loosely--start invading the privacy of a seven-year-old I just can't--" He sputtered into silence, furious.

Harry looked at Katie, next to him. She swallowed.

"I'm staying in Mercy's room," she said quietly. "It was probably planted there to spy on me."

Sirius put the marbles away again. "Nevertheless. I took the precaution of thoroughly combing through this room before breakfast this morning, and while I am fairly certain it is safe in here, I advise all of you to watch what you say in the rest of the castle." He nodded at Lupin and Snape. "Remus, Severus--can you help me make another sweep after we're done here?" They both agreed, and Sirius moved on.

"Now--Peter didn't just discuss his recent activities. He talked about why he became a Death Eater in the first place. He wanted me to understand, he said. He also begged us not to give him Veritaserum." He sighed, looked conflicted about this. "He said there were still some things that he didn't want to reveal, in case of Death Eaters infiltrating the Ministry. He said that everything he was planning to tell us was the truth, but there were some bits of the truth he didn't feel comfortable telling yet. If he was under the potion's influence, he wouldn't be able to help himself; if we asked him a question, he would be compelled to answer truthfully. So help me, I agreed to it and he told us this of his own free will. I do hope it is the truth.

"He said that he went to Hogwarts for a Quidditch match in November, after our seventh year. Remus was going as well; they were going to meet in Hogsmeade and then walk to the castle together for the match. Do you remember this, Remus?"

Remus Lupin looked more uncomfortable than Harry had ever seen him. "Yes. Yes I do," he said quietly, and for some reason he glanced at Maggie, with a distinctly guilty look on his face. When he looked at Charlie, he brightened. "We'd heard that Gryffindor had a brilliant new Seeker who would make up for the fact that James wasn't playing Chaser any more," he said slyly. While Charlie turned pink under his freckles, Sirius continued.

"Peter said that Arthur Weasley was there as well, that he'd brought his daughters to see their brother Charlie play. Is that right?" he asked, nodding now at Bill and Charlie. Oddly, Bill and Charlie responded as Remus had, with guilt clearly written on both of their faces. They looked at each other briefly, then at Sirius.

"Yeah, that's right," Bill said, answering for both of them. "I was a fourth year and Charlie was a second year. He had just made the team. Mum and Dad--Dad especially--were both over the moon that he was the new Seeker. Mum didn't come, though. She was rather busy with Percy and the twins and couldn't get a baby-sitter. Perce was two and the twins were six months old."

"Yes. So your father traveled by Floo to Hogsmeade with the girls and went up to the castle with them, right?" Bill and Charlie both nodded. Harry frowned, wondering where this was going. They weren't kidnapped until the following spring. Did Pettigrew start planning the kidnapping the previous November?

"Can you tell us what happened that day, after the match?" Sirius said to the oldest Weasley brothers. Charlie looked at Bill and nodded; Bill looked round at them all--except, it seemed, for Maggie--and launched into the story.

"Dad and Peggy and Annie were going to stay for lunch. The match had started soon after breakfast, but Charlie caught the Snitch so quickly it didn't last long." He elbowed his brother; Charlie gave them all a lop-sided smile. "We showed the girls around the grounds a bit, then went back up to the castle for lunch. When we were in the entrance hall--" He paused, and finally looked at his long-lost sister. Nobody said a word, not even What? They waited for Bill to continue.

"Trelawney was there," he choked out at last. "When Peggy came in the doors she crouched down to talk to her. We couldn't hear what she was saying too well...."

"She said," Maggie spoke up suddenly, staring into space, as though that was helping her remember, "I could feel that you were here."

Harry shivered and felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He could feel something coming, something important.

"And then--" Charlie started to say, but Bill jumped in.

"Trelawney, um started talking in this strange, deep voice," he said, with a nervous glance at Charlie, Maggie and Remus. They were all frowning at Bill.

Sirius nodded. "She gave the Prophecy."

Bill looked at him, the shock clear on his face. Maggie, Charlie and Remus looked suprised as well, and Charlie started to say, "No, it was--" but his brother had put an elbow in his ribs--and not in a friendly way, as before.

"Is that what Pettigrew told you?" Bill asked Sirius, looking very white.

"Yes," Sirius said; it seemed to Harry that he was trying his best to look calm and unruffled, while he was actually waiting very tensely.

"Yes," Bill echoed him, his voice shaking. "Trelawney gave the Prophecy."

What was wrong with them? Harry wondered. All of them. In the back of his mind, he had always assumed that it was Trelawney. Dumbledore had said she'd given one correct prophecy before predicting that Peter would return to Voldemort, at the end of Harry's third year.

"I tried to remember it and write it down later," Bill went on, his voice more stable now. "I didn't get it all, though, and I had to use some memory-enhancing potion to remember the rest."

"Who else was present when she did this?" Sirius wanted to know.

"Let's see--Annie was there. And Peggy--I mean, Maggie. Then Charlie, Lupin and Pettigrew."

"That's all?" Sirius said, his eyebrows raised.

"It--it was early for lunch; there weren't a lot of people around yet. I was surprised to see Trelawney out of her tower at all. It seemed she'd come down just to look for Peggy." Large drops of sweat stood out on Bill's forehead, and he wiped them off with a handkerchief.

Sirius had put the tips of his fingers together and was staring over them. "What did you do later, Bill? With the words of the Prophecy you'd written down?"

He looked guilty again. "I--I tried to figure out what they might mean, but I couldn't make head or tail of it. So I--I decided to go into the forest, to ask a Centaur I'd heard about who wasn't as bad as the others about hating humans. I hoped he might help me."

"Did you tell anyone you were going to do this?"

Bill frowned. "I--I don't think so--"

Charlie sat up. "Yeah, you did. You said to me, 'I'll bet one of the Centaurs could tell me what all this means.'"

Bill squinted, as though that would help him to better see the past. It was almost twenty years earlier. "I said that out loud?" he said wonderingly.

"Where were you?" Sirius asked him.

"We were in the entrance hall; it was just after--after we all heard the Prophecy," Charlie said, with a conspiratorial glance at his older brother.

"Was Peter still there, or had he already left?"

Bill opened his eyes wide. "Yeah, I think he might have been there still--"

Sirius nodded. "That's what he told us." He looked at Remus Lupin. "Did he return to Hogsmeade with you?"

Lupin looked thoughtful; he was surveying the Weasley brothers and their sister Maggie as though trying to decide something. "No--he said he wanted to stay and visit with McGonagall. I found that unlikely, as she'd been pretty hard on him in school, but I had to go, as the moon would be rising full that night just as the sun set, and I didn't want to risk being stuck in the midst of traveling when that happened..."

"Peter said that he stayed at the castle in his rat form. He managed to infiltrate Gryffindor Tower, finding a way into the dorms that only a small rodent could. He hung about the fourth-year dorm that entire winter, listening for any sign from Bill that he would be going into the forest to consult the Centaur."

Lupin's eyes lit up. "That's when Peter disappeared for months! We thought something terrible had happened to him!"

"No, nothing terrible. He was just hanging about Bill here, waiting. He also managed to get a copy of the Prophecy for himself; he copied it out of the notebook where Bill had written it. He said he didn't fancy being the one to ask the Centaurs to interpret it, but if the summer term ended without Bill going into the forest, he would take it upon himself."

Bill looked thoughtful again. "I remember now...Booth had noticed the rat. One of the other lads in my year. Peregrin Booth. It was hiding in his wardrobe. He made a sort of pet out of it, bringing it scraps of food from the Great Hall and letting it sleep on an old pair of corduroy trousers. Did Pettigrew say why he was so interested in the Prophecy in the first place?" This jolted Harry. Another question was, why was Bill so interested in the Prophecy?

"That," Sirius said, "is one of the things he said he wasn't ready to reveal." He sighed deeply and went on. "Peter said you finally went to the forest in the spring."

Bill nodded, looking around guiltily. "Yeah. The Centaur wasn't really all that helpful. I don't even remember much of the Prophecy now. I lost the notebook where I wrote it down. Then when Peggy and Annie disappeared--nothing else seemed particularly important." His voice had gone very soft.

"I couldn't figure out the first part of the Prophecy at all, and when I finally found Firenze, what he had to say didn't make it any clearer. He said he'd seen things in the stars, and in the scry. All I remember is that the Dark Lord was going to fall twice, and both times he'd be defeated by a triangle made up of a Lion, a Moonchild and a Daughter of War. And the Lion and the Moonchild both loved the Daughter of War. Oh, and she was called 'flame-haired,' too. Then he was throwing numbers around, something about what he'd seen in the stars. He said the Lion's number was eleven. The Moonchild's number was five. And one of the Lions wasn't born yet. One of the Moonchildren wasn't born yet either. I asked him what the number of the Daughter of War was, and he said the two have different numbers. The first triangle makes only half of a whole, but the second triangle makes one. And he said the number of the six people together is six. That seemed kind of obvious to me--six people make six. It was like he was just repeating himself.

"I didn't know what to think, and I'd just about given up, when he looked right at me and told me that there would be a lot of people from my family who would fight the Dark Lord. He said my youngest brother would march by the side of the Lion, and that his number was also eleven. At the time I thought he meant Fred." He looked at Ron now, and Ron met his eyes for a second before looking at Harry. March at the side of the Lion....

"Then," Bill went on, "he told me that a Daughter of War would come from my family. I asked him to tell me who it was, but he became distracted, staring at the stars again, and then he left. I didn't understand whether he was saying it was Peggy or Annie or one of each of them--" He took a deep breath, and now he put one large hand up to his face, and Harry could see tears seeping through his fingers. "I didn't tell anyone about what he'd said," his voice came through his hand, "and then, a few weeks later--"

Harry saw Hermione cover her mouth with her hand; a few weeks later the girls were abducted and disappeared, seemingly forever. Then he looked at Ginny; she was weeping silently, her head on Ron's shoulder while he had his arm around her; Harry saw that Ron's eyes were wet now too. Suddenly, Maggie rose and walked around the table and sat down next to Bill. She put her arms around him and pulled him close and he wept into his sister's neck. Harry felt more than a little uncomfortable at seeing a man in his thirties crying openly, a man almost as old as his parents would have been, had they lived. Watching Snape in the Pensieve weeping over his mother (and doing the same thing when Harry had traveled through time) was different. Snape hadn't known he had an audience, and Harry had felt both experiences were a little unreal. This was all too real.

"I'm so sorry--" he sobbed as he held his sister. "I didn't know--"

"Bill," Sirius said quietly, but he managed to get his attention. "What you didn't know was--Peter was in the forest, listening to your meeting with Firenze. He heard everything. After that, your friend found that his pet rat had gone missing, didn't he?"

Bill dried his tears and turned to face Sirius again. "Right. Booth just reckoned someone's cat had gotten it. Actually, he got into a great row with one of my best friends about it. Alex--he had a large grey cat."

Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance, both looking guilty, and Harry remembered the Scabbers Controversy. Pettigrew had done this before.

"Right," Sirius said, echoing Bill. "Pettigrew had his information--or, at least as much as you--and he ran off. Now, I'm not entirely sure the next part is strictly true, but what he told us is that he was in a wizarding pub in Norfolk when it was attacked by Death Eaters, who just started putting Cruciatus on people for sport." They were all focused on Sirius again, giving Bill and Maggie a modicum of privacy.

"Peter was always the most squeamish one about the pain that comes with the Animagus Transfiguration--even though he eventually became used to it--and he wasn't really interested in finding out what Cruciatus was like. He couldn't just transform into a rat and run off--someone would see him. So he told one of the Death Eaters that he had some information about a Prophecy predicting the Dark Lord's fall, but he would only give the information to Voldemort directly. He was just interested in saving himself from a bit of pain, and the next thing he knew he was being initiated as a Death Eater." Harry winced and he saw that Draco Malfoy did too; they both knew that being initiated involved a great deal of pain (although Malfoy didn't know that Harry knew from first-hand experience).

"He didn't realize what would happen once he started trying to negotiate with Voldemort or his underlings. You don't just offer up information to Voldemort or a Death Eater to save your skin and then walk away. He was stuck. He gave what information he had. He had heard the Centaur tell Bill that a Daughter of War would come from his family. It was the most concrete thing he had. They asked him what he knew about the Weasleys, whether they had any daughters, and he confirmed that they had two. But he said he didn't know which one was the Daughter of War. It turned out Voldemort didn't care. He gave him his first assignment as a Death Eater: dispose of the Weasley sisters."

Harry was horrified, then remembered that Voldemort himself had tried to kill him when he was a baby, far younger than seven and nine. He knew he should stop being surprised by anything he or his Death Eaters would do.

"Peter wasn't really hardened yet by the life of a dark wizard. He was scared. The idea of killing two little girls sickened him. Some of Voldemort's top people taught him the spell he used to abduct them; the Tempus fugit spell. It was meant to be a way for him to kill them and then disappear quickly. Peter didn't have his Apparition test yet. Instead, he took the girls away to the nearest city, turned them over to Muggles, erased their memories, and he made them owl-proof."

Harry thought he must have let his mind wander until he heard the last two words. "Owl-proof?"

"Yes. He put a spell on them so that they would be undetectable to owls. Sort of like making a building unplottable. But in this case, it means the person can't be sent post-owls. They tried finding the girls using owls, but they always kept coming back. That's what usually happens when you try to send owl post to someone who's dead."

They were all silent now. Bill and Maggie leaned on one another silently, and Harry saw how Snape's eyes followed her, looking haunted.

"His story of having disposed of the girls wasn't trusted by his new Master until they tried sending owl post and it came back. Then they believed him. But just in case disposing of the Weasley girls had only removed one Daughter of War and not two, Voldemort set Peter to work trying to figure out the rest of the Prophecy."

Harry sat up, hopeful. Did Pettigrew actually understand the Prophecy? "However--Peter was afraid that if he identified any more people in the Prophecy, he'd be sent on more assignments to kill those involved. He dawdled for months, pretending to be traveling around doing research. Months stretched into a year, and Peter still hadn't produced anything. Voldemort was getting impatient. Peter went into hiding; the only place he could think of to go, he said, was the Burrow. He said he remembered how cozy and homely it was when he'd been hanging about there, trying to work out what to do about the girls. Also, he said he felt terrible about what he'd done to the Weasleys and wanted to make sure they were all right." Harry saw Ron's mouth twisting unpleasantly, clearly doubting this.

"He started living in their garden in his rat form, using the tunnels that the gnomes had built. In the spring of 1980, Percy found him. How old was he then?"

"He would have been about three-and-a-half," Charlie said. "I was fourteen."

"Well, Percy made a pet of him, in a way. Rather like your old dorm mate, Bill. In his rat form, Peter seemed to have a talent for making friends with little boys who were a bit on the fringes. But then he noticed that your mum was expecting another baby soon and panicked. What if it was a girl? That would mean he might have taken the wrong Daughter of War. But then Ron was born, and he breathed easy again.

"Peter felt the Weasleys were safe, since they hadn't had another daughter, and he'd grown tired of living as a rat, so he left the Burrow. He turned up at Lily's and James' place in Cardiff and found that Lily was also expecting a baby. He hadn't realized she was pregnant. He stayed with them for over two months and he was there when she went into labor. He helped James get her to a Muggle hospital--Lily was never completely comfortable with wizarding medicine--and Harry was born. She later told me how helpful Peter had been during her labor, how he'd held her hand when James had gone to get her ice chips, how he'd talked to her to keep her mind off the pain. She refused to take anything to be more comfortable, of course. That was Lily.

"We all turned up the next day to see the baby, of course." Sirius smiled at Harry. "He was the spitting image of James. His eyes still looked blue, though, so we couldn't see yet that he had some of Lily in him, too. We had a good time visiting, and got a bit raucous. I think the matron was about to kick us out, when Lily said something that made Peter turn white as a sheet.

"When Peter told me--I remembered. But at the time, it didn't seem significant at all." He paused, glancing again at Harry. "She'd taken Arithmancy in school and she said she'd worked out your Arithmancy numbers. Said they were good ones. She said your birth number was eleven--and when she did, Peter clutched at the bed. He said that then he realized that you'd been born under the sign of Leo," he nodded at Harry, "and that made you a Lion whose number was eleven. And you hadn't been born when the Prophecy was given.

"After he left the hospital, he went back to James' and Lily's flat. He said he hadn't taken Arithmancy and didn't understand what Lily had done to get the number eleven, but at the flat he found her old Arithmancy text and quickly worked it out. It's just about the first thing you learn in Arithmancy: add up the numbers in the person's birthday to get their birth number. The numbers in Harry's birthday are three, one, seven, another one, nine and eight. That totals twenty-nine. After that you're supposed to add the digits of the total, and adding two and nine gets you eleven. Simple, really.

"He worried now that someone would find out that Harry fit the description in the Prophecy. But on the other hand, he decided that he had some information he could offer Voldemort if he was run to ground again by Death Eaters. He had his Apparition test by now and his Dark Mark had hurt him more than once, but he hadn't gone when summoned. He was afraid it was just a matter of time before he was found and chastised for not being a faithful servant. He'd never intended to be a servant to begin with, he said. And now he had to keep running in place just to keep Voldemort from deciding to kill him.

"He worked out the other dates in 1979 and 1980 that would give a birth number of eleven to someone born under the sign of Leo. In 1979 the dates included--" Sirius took a piece of parchment out of his robe pocket and consulted it. "July 23, and August 4 and 13. He checked old copies of the Daily Prophet for birth announcements, and only one of those days had a wizarding birth--August 4, a girl. She didn't quality--it was clear from the Prophecy that the Lions were boys. He did the work for 1980 then. In addition to July 31--Harry's birthdate--other dates that worked out were August 3 and 12. But no wizards were born on those days. At least not in the wizarding world; if the Lion was going to be a Muggle-born wizard, Peter had no way of knowing. That information was kept under lock and key at Hogwarts, waiting for the day when those students needed to receive their school acceptance letters.

"Then it occurred to him to try to work out the Moonchild--if that meant someone born under the sign of Cancer, as he thought it did. It would give him more to hand over if the Death Eaters caught up with him. It could be, of course, that the Moonchild still hadn't been born, but he worked out that if the Moonchild was born in 1979, and his number was five, possible birthdates were--" he looked at the parchment again, "--June 27 and July 8 and 17. If the Moonchild's birthyear was 1980, the dates were June 26 and July 7 and 16. He also worked out possible dates for 1981 and the next ten years." Harry turned and looked at Draco, who swallowed. "Of the dates that had already passed, only July 7, 1980 coincided with the date of a wizard's birth," Sirius said, looking hard at Draco. "Peter didn't know your parents at all. He had no compunctions about selling you to Voldemort to save his skin, if he found himself in a tight spot. In fact, you were his back-up plan. Should any Death Eaters corner him, his strategy was going to be to send them to Lucius Malfoy's house."

Harry looked to see what Draco Malfoy's reaction to this was; oddly enough, he was glaring at Ron. "I always knew I didn't like that damn rat of yours," he said through his teeth.

"And I always knew he had some good points," Ron said back testily. "Turns out his biting Goyle that time wasn't the only good taste he showed. He was willing to give up you."

"Ron!" Ginny said now, sitting up and pulling away from her brother. "Draco was just a baby! And Pettigrew was willing to have him killed just to save his own skin!"

"And mine," Harry said quietly. He looked up at her. She bit her lip and looked back at him uncertainly, her eyes wide. Draco was sitting to his right and she looked across at the two of them, her eyes going back and forth; he'd never seen anyone who looked so conflicted.

"Right," Sirius said yet again, clearly intent on moving on. "Anyway, soon after Harry was born, James started playing Quidditch again. He was away a lot, and Peter stayed with Lily to keep her company while he was gone.

"Peter actually lived a pretty peaceful life for a while; he found a flat in Cardiff near Lily and James and Harry, and he continued to help Lily with the shopping and sometimes baby-sitting Harry--until the following summer, when some Death Eaters found him doing the shopping in Cardiff Market. They hauled him off and did some--things--to punish him for not paying attention to his duties. That's when he gave up Draco's name. Said he was the Moonchild in the Prophecy. Voldemort didn't trust Peter completely, though, so he had a reading done on the child, and sure enough--everything pointed to his contributing to Voldemort's fall. It seemed clear that that was his destiny. Presumably, that's when Lucius Malfoy made the deal to protect his son.

"Even though he'd been right about the Moonchild, Peter was kept under close watch after that, however, and when it seemed he wasn't making an effort to continue to interpret the Prophecy, he was 'persuaded' to again give up some information. He found out what Malfoy had done, and thought that maybe it wouldn't be so bad if James and Lily did the same, to save Harry. When he told Voldemort that Harry was the Lion, he also claimed that he was close to Lily and James and could convince them to raise Harry as Voldemort's servant.

"Of course, it didn't work out that way."

"Lily and James would never agree to such a thing!" Remus Lupin exclaimed indignantly, breaking his silence. Harry swallowed, shrinking inside, remembering how he'd induced his mother to do something so against her nature....

Severus Snape nodded in agreement. "When he was holding me prisoner, he told me some of this. He said that the Dark Lord didn't want them knowing that he was a Death Eater. He didn't want anyone knowing--he was more useful that way. I certainly didn't know. I always thought you--" he nodded at Sirius "--had betrayed Lily and James." He had a small, rueful smile, and Harry realized that he and Sirius had buried the hatchet for good; they were inarguably fighting on the same side now, comrades. He remembered the way Sirius had been joking about Harry ruining his broom saving Snape; it had been entirely good-natured, and Snape hadn't really seemed to mind.

"I received instructions to go speak to her," Snape continued, "because of a--prior relationship we'd had--" His voice had grown soft, and Harry saw that both Katie and Ginny looked shocked. "But that's when--when I knew I could no longer do his bidding. I hadn't been asked to do much since Lucius Malfoy recruited me..." he nodded at Draco, who went whiter than usual. "All I'd really done was to cultivate Barty Crouch, Jr., who was just one year out of school. I didn't think much of that; he was young and rebellious, hated his father with a passion. I thought he was simply trying to find a way to get under his father's skin. But now--now I was supposed to convince Lily--of all people--to raise her son to be a loyal Death Eater. I--" He paused, looking very grim. "I went to Albus Dumbledore and threw myself on his mercy. I didn't tell him about Crouch. Now I wish I had, of course." He met Harry's eyes for a moment; Harry tried to show that he forgave him this, but he wasn't certain whether Snape understood. Snape's voice grew stronger again.

"I went to the place in the country where they had moved--James' parents had owned it. I tried to talk to Lily, I went through the motions of asking her to agree to raise Harry as the Dark Lord's servant, save his life, as well as her life and James' life. She refused, of course. I was half-relieved and half frustrated as hell that she was so stubbornly brave. We had a bit of a row and she kicked me out."

"Right," Sirius said, going on, "And sometime before that, Lucius Malfoy had already approached your dad," he said to Katie, "since he worked with her as an Auror. He refused to try to convince her to raise Harry as Voldemort's servant. Malfoy started to get desperate; he felt that it was important to save all of the children in the Prophecy, or Voldemort might think they were all expendable. Lucius put Sam under Imperius. He resisted it. So he put your mum under Imperius," he said to Katie; "tried to get her to convince your dad to talk to Lily--"

He stopped. Harry looked at Katie, who broke down now, tears streaming down her face. Harry gathered her to him as she cried into his shoulder; she clutched at him and his heart ached. So many lives cut short or ruined....

While he held her, Harry saw that Ron, Ginny and Hermione looked somewhat embarrassed. Sirius waited until the noise from Katie's sobs subsided somewhat. Draco Malfoy was looking rather uncomfortable, hearing what his father had done to safeguard his son. Sam had told him, but it was possible he'd only thought about this in terms of how it had affected Sam, who'd gone to prison, rather than how it had affected Katie, who'd grown up without her parents.

"While she was under the Imperius Curse," Sirius went on, "Katie's mother tried to convince Katie's father to speak to Lily, but he still refused. So she put Cruciatus on Katie to try to coerce him--"

Hermione gasped. "How old were you?"

Katie lifted her head from Harry's shoulder; her eyes were red and swollen. "I was two-and-a-half," she said softly.

Sirius drew his lips into a line. "So Sam disarmed his wife, but the Disarming Charm made her fly out a window and down four or five flights onto a solid brick terrace. Sam didn't contest the charges--he went to prison for ten years for casting a spell that resulted in another person's death."

Katie took the handkerchief that Harry offered her and wiped her face. When she had collected herself again she leaned on his shoulder once more and he wrapped his arms around her protectively. He rocked her slightly, kissing her brow, not caring that they were in a room full of people.

Sirius cleared his throat. "Erm. Well. There's really not much more to add. Once Voldemort realized that nothing was going to change James and Lily's minds, he decided the safest thing to do would be to eliminate Harry."

"I told Albus that Harry was marked for death," Snape said. Harry looked at him, no longer seeing his Potions Master, who rarely used his first name, but his stepfather, who had rarely called him by his last name (only in Dark Arts). "Albus met with them and convinced them to use the Fidelius Charm to hide."

"Voldemort learned that Dumbledore knew he was targeting Harry," Sirius said quietly. "He had a number of people watching his movements. As you all know, Dumbledore was the only wizard he really feared. Needless to say, Voldemort wasn't completely convinced that Peter was a sincere servant. He knew Peter had once been Lily's and James' close friend. So Voldemort had Lucius Malfoy spread the rumor that the Potters had a friend who was a traitor, to sow dissent in the ranks. Malfoy was evidently the only one who knew Peter was that traitor.

"James and Lily called me and Peter to Godric's Hollow to discuss the plan. They didn't contact Remus..." He paused, looking at his friend uncomfortably.

"Because they assumed I was the traitor," Remus Lupin said quietly. "As a werewolf, I was highly suspect already. A large number of werewolves were throwing in their lot with Voldemort. That was well known. To throw suspicion off him--not that I think it was ever on him--Peter suggested I was the traitor, and Sirius believed I was the traitor as well."

Sirius' mouth was a straight line again. "Remus was in contact with the four of us only sporadically, and when he was, he behaved in a rather dodgy way; he seemed to be hiding something..."

At that point, Remus Lupin blushed deeply. "Yes. Well, I was hiding something." He took a deep breath; he had a now-or-never look on his face. "I hadn't told anyone yet that I--I was seeing a young man from Dublin....I didn't know how anyone would respond to that. So I hedged about who I'd been spending time with and I'm sure it just wound up sounding like I was covering up my Death Eater activities."

Harry noticed that Snape, while he looked surprised, did not look very surprised. Harry also remembered that Lupin had said he only started coming to terms with being bisexual after he was out of school. Of course, his friends--knowing there was a traitor in their midst--would all distrust him if he seemed to be lying every time he was asked who he'd been with....And so many other werewolves were followers of Voldemort....

Sirius went on: "Peter claimed that he really did think Lily and James would be safest if he was the Secret Keeper. He maintains that he didn't do it to give them up to Voldemort; he assumed that everyone would think it was me and that they'd come after me. If I really had been the Secret Keeper, I might have cracked under the pressure of torture. Or so Peter claimed. However, he hadn't thought it out very well; he hadn't figured out that the reason for there being a rumor that one of James and Lily's friends was a traitor was that Lucius Malfoy had started it, on orders from Voldemort himself, since he didn't fully trust Peter. On a hunch, he had some Death Eaters haul in Peter and started torturing him. Peter very soon gave up the information about where Lily and James were. That's when he begged Voldemort to spare Lily.

"Yes," Harry said softly, "Voldemort told her to step aside when he was trying to kill me. I--I heard it when I was in third year, when the dementors were too close to me...." He was still holding Katie, but suddenly, it seemed more like she was holding him. She had her head on his shoulder and she lifted it for a second and kissed him gently on the cheek.

Sirius looked like he was remembering living with the dementors, his eyes wide and dark. Then he shook himself, coming back to the present. "Interesting. He must have thought there was some use to which she could be put. She was an Auror, after all. I doubt he would have spared her merely to please Peter." Harry thought there was still a haunted look about him, despite his matter-of-fact words.

They were all silent. Harry looked up and saw Hermione staring into space, frowning. He could practically see the wheels spinning in her head. "What are you thinking about, Hermione?" he asked her quietly.

Her frown deepened. "I was trying to work out the numbers for the Triangles. I don't understand it at all, and I got 170% on my last Arithmancy examination at the end of the term!" She sounded very frustrated. "One thing I do understand--if the second triangle makes a whole, that means its number totals nine. That's the number of wholeness and completion in Arithmancy. If you take eleven and five, which are your numbers," she said to Harry and Draco, "that makes sixteen. Adding the one and six gets you seven. So that means the Daughter of War has to have a number of two or eleven for the total to be nine."

Harry frowned. "I know I'll regret asking this, but why is my number eleven instead of two if you're supposed to reduce everything to one-digit numbers?"

"Oh, you never reduce eleven or twenty-two. They're very special numbers. You see--"

Sirius cleared his throat. "Perhaps you can continue this at another time, Harry and Hermione. I think that's all that needs to be discussed right now. Remus and Severus were going to help me comb the house for more Third Eyes," he said, referring to the black-painted marbles he'd shown them earlier.

"I'll help," Katie said shakily, still calming down after her cry. "Good practice."

They all looked baffled, so Harry nudged her and whispered, "Tell them."

Blushing prettily, she confessed, "I've passed the screening tests and I'm going to start Auror training in September."

"That explains it," Draco Malfoy said, visibly moving away from her.

"What?" she wanted to know, bristling.

"It explains why you already sound like a cop."

Sirius laughed; Harry forgot how handsome he looked when he laughed. It seemed that Katie was noticing, too. "Don't try to change," he said to Katie. "If you're anything like your dad, I know you'll be good at it. Congratulations."

"I can help with the sweep, too," Ron said. "And then we need to do our training," he added, to Lupin.

"We can help as well," Bill said, including Charlie in this.

"Can I try?" Maggie asked uncertainly. "Or--can I at least watch?"

Snape looked at Sirius. "It would be educational, Sirius," he said evenly. Somehow Harry thought that wasn't the only reason he wanted to include Maggie. Sirius nodded.

"My parents have gone out visiting friends for the day and Cass, Floyd and Alan are at their jobs; Ursula has taken the children to Diagon Alley to get the things Orion will need for Hogwarts in September. I'll handle Cass and Floyd's room; they're very particular about their personal things not being disturbed. Whoever takes Orion's and Leo's room--watch out for traps."

"We can take that," Bill said, referring to him and Charlie. "We're used to that, from the twins."

Harry looked at Draco. "What do you reckon--a good time to catch up on some running?" He turned to Ginny and Hermione. "The four of us could use the track around the loch."

Malfoy and the girls agreed, and after they all changed clothes, they went down to the dungeons and walked through the tunnel to reach the cottage where the cars were parked. Sirius had given him the password for the door (which had to be used coming and going) and soon they were all running by the shores of Loch Ascog, the mid-day sun overhead. They'd brought small bottles of water, and when they paused at the half-way point around the loch to drink, Harry looked back at the 'castle.' He hoped the others were making it safe; he hated to think of the Blacks' home being less private because of him.

As they relaxed on the shore, Sandy hissed to Harry, "The Daughter is three."

"Hmm?" he answered her sleepily. She repeated herself. He sat bolt upright.

"What did you say?"

"Must I repeat it again?"

"No, no. Sorry, Sandy. How do you--is something going to happen that--?" He stopped, unsure whether he even wanted to know. He tensed up though, his time of relaxation evidently at an end.

He stared with trepidation at the loch. Some fishermen had driven a Range Rover up to the shore and were wearing tall boots like the ones in the castle's entrance hall, standing in the water, fly-fishing, speaking laconically to one another. Harry heard one of them talking about the castle ruins. He tried not to smile too much; if only they knew that it was a rather tall tower house with ten people living in it. Wait, he thought: eleven. I'm the eleventh.

He was about to point out to Hermione that this was another eleven and tell her what Sandy had said about the Daughter, but Hermione said suddenly to Ginny, "Ginny, do you remember your oldest sister's birthday?"

Ginny immediately answered, "The first of September, nineteen-sev--"

"Right, right," Hermione said impatiently, staring into space again.

Harry watched her face as she thought about this. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she sprang to her feet. Harry pulled himself up next to her.

"What's wrong, Hermione?"

She whirled on him, grabbing his arms. "Harry!" she said, her eyes very bright. "Would you say you love the Weasleys?"

Harry looked back at her awkwardly, then saw Ginny looking at him. "What--what do you mean?"

"I mean--would you say you love the Weasley family? The whole thing. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ron, Maggie--"

He pulled his eyes away from Ginny again and frowned at Hermione. "Well--sure. I guess you could say that. Fine. I love the Weasleys. They're great."

"Right!" she said excitedly, then turned to Draco. "Draco--you love Ginny, right?"

He looked at his girlfriend. "Right. Granger, what are you--"

"And by extension, would you say that you love her family? You know, for her sake?"

He frowned now. "Some of her brothers I could do without--"

"But what about Maggie? Would you say you love her? You know, like a sister, as she's Ginny's sister and all?"

He looked completely baffled by her manic questions. "Sure. I reckon." He backed up from her a little. "Perhaps we should get you inside, Granger. I think you've been out in the sun too long."

Secretly, Harry agreed, although he didn't dare say anything. "So--if we manage to find Ginny's oldest sister, you'll love her too? As another one of Ginny's sisters?"

He shrugged. "Why not?"

She turned to Harry, who said, "Of course. But first we have to--"

"We have to find Annie Weasley!" Hermione declared, interrupting him. He and Draco and Ginny all stared at each other, fearing for Hermione's sanity.

"Yeah, only I don't think you can actually make a living stating the obvious, Granger, so maybe during your seventh year you might want to focus on something a little more useful..."

"No, no, no!" she practically crowed with delight now. "You don't understand. Annie is the Daughter of War! She's flame-haired. She comes from the Weasley family. You're both supposed to love her. And she was born at the beginning of Voldemort's reign of terror, making her a Daughter of War! Plus--" She paused for effect, watching their faces.

"Well?" Harry finally said. He couldn't take waiting anymore.

"Her number is eleven. Adding that to your eleven makes twenty-two, and adding Draco's five makes twenty-seven. That reduces to nine. Nine! To defeat Voldemort, you need Annie Weasley!"

She was practically dancing with glee. She started running along the shore again, calling over her shoulder, "Let's tell the others!" Since she had a head start, Harry, Ginny and Draco had to work to catch her up. As Malfoy ran next Harry, he muttered out of the corner of his mouth, "No wonder you broke up with her, Potter. She's mental." Harry turned his head briefly and glared at him.

"Sod off, Malfoy," he said between gritted teeth, mentally saying something far worse. Then he put on a burst of speed and caught up with Hermione, running by her side the rest of the way back to the cottage. Was Hermione right? Was the Daughter's number eleven, like his? Why had Sandy said three? Then, as they reached the cottage, Mercy came out to greet them, grinning.

Oh, Harry thought. I should have known. Trust Sandy. That's what she was talking about. Mercy's the daughter in her family, and the third child. And here she is....

So. That meant--

Annie Weasley was the Daughter of War.

He greeted Mercy and they listened to her chatter for a few minutes about what she and her mother and brothers had done in Diagon Alley that morning, but her words didn't really register in Harry's head. Instead, he found himself surreptitiously eyeing Draco Malfoy, who was laughing with the rest of them over Mercy's exaggerations and convoluted stories.

Now if only I can stand one more minute of being in Draco Malfoy's company, he thought. If he's necessary for Voldmort to be defeated--I just need to make sure I don't kill him first.

* * * * *

When they were back in the castle proper, Hermione raced into the sitting room ahead of the other three and breathlessly told Sirius what she'd already told Harry, Ginny and Draco. He sat up, looking very interested; he'd been lounging by the cold fireplace in the sitting room, reading the Daily Prophet. Harry assumed that the search for Third Eyes was over. Snape, Maggie, Bill and Charlie seemed to have left. Ron and Lupin were nowhere in sight; probably doing werewolf things, Harry assumed. Mercy had gone into the kitchen to have lunch with her mother and brothers.

"That does sound like she's the one....I suppose Bill's instincts were right on. We don't have to discuss all of this now. I understand that when Maggie's adoptive parents return, she's going to talk to them about whatever agency they used to adopt her, and hopefully we can start tracing what happened to her sister. A pity Peter made them owl-proof...."

Harry started to leave, then stopped. "Wait--Pigwidgeon came to the house in Appleby Magna. Maybe she's not owl-proof any more."

"The owl didn't come to her, Harry," Hermione reminded him. "Pig came to Ron."

His face fell. "Oh. Right."

Sirius waved them off. "Don't worry about it now. We have plenty of other things to worry about. As it is, we found fourteen Third Eyes in various hiding places around the house. I've destroyed them all, but it's damned frustrating. I wish I could feel confident that we've gotten them all..."

Harry nodded to him, having no response for this. At this point, he was simply bracing himself for another frontal assault from Daisy Furuncle. This was the pleasant thought going through his brain as he started going up the four flights to his room.

"You take your shower first, Hermione," Ginny was saying magnanimously as they trudged up the stairs. Draco was sharing with Ron (they were getting along surprisingly well, aside from Ron beating Draco at chess and telling him he thought highly of Wormtail for selling Draco out as a baby) and Harry with Sirius, so neither of them had to wait while someone else used the shower. Draco stopped in front of Ginny and moved his face very close to hers.

"If you'd like to join me, you won't have to wait to shower..." he said softly, as he put his arms on either side of her and started licking her earlobe. Harry and Hermione looked at each other; he saw that Hermione was rolling her eyes.

"Subtle, Malfoy. Very subtle."

He looked up at her; he had removed his shirt upon returning to the castle, and the run had given his work-hardened muscles a sheen of perspiration. His grey eyes narrowed. "Is that how Potter got you into bed, Granger? By being subtle?"

Harry started to move toward him, and Hermione put out her arm to stop him, although she needn't have; Harry had frozen, staring at Malfoy's sternum, where the basilisk amulet was resting. "Don't bother Harry," Hermione said, not noticing the amulet or Harry's reaction to it. "He's not worth it." However, he wondered whether she was thinking about the Prophecy, and how they couldn't afford for anything to happen to Malfoy. He also wondered when Malfoy had started wearing the basilisk. "You take the shower in our room, Ginny," Hermione went on, climbing the stairs wearily, oblivious to the fact that Harry's attention had been caught by the bright silver snake Malfoy was wearing. "I can ask Katie if she minds my using the one in Mercy's room."

Ginny wormed her way past Malfoy, looking a little alarmed by him. Harry watched him watch her go, his eyes still narrowed. When she was out of earshot, Harry felt he just couldn't help what he said next.

"Well, she's still managing to resist your charms, I see."

Malfoy turned, murder in his gaze. "It's all your fault," he spat, his fists clenched.

Harry's eyebrows flew up. "Oh really? How do you reckon that?"

Draco Malfoy opened his mouth to answer, then closed it again and went striding past Harry up the stairs to the third floor. "None of your business."

What? Harry thought. He's going to say it's my fault and then not tell me? He watched the other boy go, then, shaking his head, he continued up the stairs to the top floor. Ginny had disappeared into the room she was now sharing with Hermione. Harry was soon under the warm spray of his own shower, pondering Draco Malfoy's accusation.

When he was dressed again, he started going down the spiral stairs to the ground floor, but he was sidetracked by finding both Katie and Hermione on the second floor landing, looking out of the window into the courtyard. He walked over to them.

"What's going on?" he asked casually. Hermione and Katie both turned to him with slightly glazed expressions, then Hermione turned back to the window. Katie smirked.

"Just Ron," Katie said. "And Prof--I mean, Remus. Training."

She let Harry move close enough to the window to see. Ron and Lupin were in the courtyard, wearing only loose-fitting black trousers, rather like pajamas. They were moving slowly in unison, as though fighting unseen opponents. They moved forward, their fists punching the air, then to the side; swinging around, they kicked and yelled simultaneously. Ron's freckles had become dense enough that they almost resembled a tan, like Charlie's, and his muscles rippled as he moved. He was definitely hairier than before he was bitten, but he was taking pains to trim his beard and mustache very closely every morning, so that they were like dark red lines on his skin rather than adding any discernible size to his thin face. Harry could see Lupin's muscles more clearly as well, and the scars he carried from years of transformation. Those marks, evidently, did not heal as quickly as other wounds sustained by a werewolf. Ron was relatively unmarked except for a pale line of skin on his left shoulder that was the legacy of his life-changing bite from Lupin. He'd had the advantage of only having transformed once without the Wolfsbane Potion; he hadn't been doing himself damage every month for over thirty years.

Now Harry noticed that Hermione was wearing a different running bra than she'd worn for their trek around Loch Ascog, and matching loose blue trousers. He frowned. "What are you up to, then?" She smiled at him mischievously.

"I'm going to go down and join them. This isn't my gi obviously," she said, gesturing to her clothes. Her ghee? Harry thought, mystified. "But it's a bit hot for that. I think Ron and Remus have the right idea. I've been training since the beginning of the holiday. I found a dojo only about half an hour from home. My dad's been taking me. I was saving it as a surprise for Ron."

"You found a--a what?" Harry said, no less mystified, but she didn't bother to answer him, instead skipping cheerfully down the spiral stairs to the ground floor and out the door into the courtyard. Ron stopped cold when he saw her. She walked to Lupin, bowed deeply, then took her place at Ron's side. Lupin nodded at them both, and they began again, Hermione moving in perfect unison with the other two, every gesture and kick done with complete precision and forethought.

"She knows it," Harry said, softly marvelling. Katie nodded.

"Right. She says she just learned that kata. That's what she called it. Actually, she gave it another Japanese name I can't remember just now. A title, rather. It is a kata. She learned it at that dojo. That's a kind of karate studio. She looks good, doesn't she?"

He watched the three of them continue their odd dance, intense concentration etched on each face. "They all do. I hope this helps Ron. I hope he'll be all right."

Katie nodded, lacing her fingers through his. "I think he will be. He has her--she wants to be right by his side, every step of the way. And with Remus for a mentor, I don't see how he can go wrong. Plus, isn't Professor Snape--I mean--oh, hell, I don't think I can ever call him anything other than Professor Snape. Anyway--isn't he making that potion for both of them? That should help too."

Harry looked into the courtyard again. "Yes. Without the potion, the full moon is really rough on them. I was with Ron when he transformed the first time. In my golden griffin form I was safe. I can't believe he's like this all because of Pettigrew...."

She shook her head. "He's in custody now, he's confessed, and your godfather is a free man. Think about that."

He looked down at her; her eyes were very bright and she seemed a bit flushed. Was it from watching Ron and Lupin? he wondered. He cupped her cheek in his hand. His voice was barely a whisper. "If you insist. But I think, just maybe, right now--I'd rather think about you."

She looked up at him, an expression of both hope and surrender lurking behind her eyes; when he leaned over and brushed his lips against hers she didn't pull back. She slid her arm up behind his neck slowly, to hold him in place, before gently parting her lips. Harry had quickly grown to like kissing Katie very much, and he moved his right arm around her waist, pulling her to him, closing the gap between them.

After a minute, he moved his lips down to her neck, gratified to hear a startled little gasp from her at the sensations he was sending through her. But he was perplexed when, a few moments later, she pushed him gently away and said, "We need to talk, Harry."

That doesn't sound good, he thought. She turned and went into Mercy's room, sitting on the window seat, identical to the one in Harry's room. She looked at him very earnestly.

"I wanted to talk to you about this first, because I wanted you to know I plan to do it now no matter what you think, so you might as well be all right with it instead of fighting me."

He furrowed his brow. "Fighting you about what?"

She sighed. "I've been thinking about this for a while, but I've really been unable to get it out of my head since those damn invitations showed up last night. I mean--Alicia is my friend, and I never particularly like Fleur Delacour, but--oh, Harry, I just can't not tell Ginny about what that bastard did in the hedge maze! I couldn't live with myself. I've felt awful. I feel guilty every time I see Ginny, and she's been so cold toward me I could almost believe that she knew I was keeping it from her if it weren't for the fact that she's still very cozy with Draco Malfoy....I have to do this. It's the right thing to do, and nothing you can say will change my mind."

Harry looked at her. "I see." He swallowed. He tried to remember whether this would violate a promise he'd made to Malfoy; after thinking about their talk in the scullery, he realized it didn't. "Well, I only told Malfoy she wouldn't hear it from me. I even warned him I couldn't control you, that if you wanted to tell Ginny, you would. It isn't as though he hasn't been warned. I just--well--if you could, just keep me out of it. Don't say anything about me if you can help it." She nodded and he put his finger under her chin, lifting it up. "You're not worried, then?"

Her voice shook as she said, "About what?"

"About me running off to her when she dumps Malfoy."

Katie turned her head away from him, and her eyes looked wet. "I can't let that rule me. I can't let that keep me from doing what's right."

Harry turned her face back toward him, his hand gentle on her cheek. "Have I told you lately how amazing you are?" he said softly, leaning toward her to kiss her gently again, still cupping her cheek in his hand. It was a small, brief kiss, but he saw that it made her smile.

Then they heard a step on the stone stairs; the door to Mercy's room was still ajar. "In here!" Katie said abruptly, yanking on Harry's arm and thrusting him into the en suite bathroom. She slammed the door on him, fortunately not amputating any fingers in the process, and he heard her open the door to the room wider (the hinges squeaked) and call, "Ginny! Can you come in here? I need to talk to you."

As he heard both girls' footsteps pass the bathroom, Sandy hissed to him, "She will not believe." His heart thudding, he very gently turned the doorknob and pulled the door back a fraction of an inch, so he could put his eye to the crack and see the two girls. Damn! Was there any way for him to tell Katie not to do it? How would it look for him to come rushing out of the bath? He was stuck now, and he felt like watching and listening to this would be like witnessing a train wreck he hadn't been able to prevent. It was worse than watching events unfolding in a Pensieve; you knew you truly had no way to change those. This was more like the time he and Hermione had used the Time Turner, and she had to prevent him from trying to get at the Invisibility Cloak....

Katie dove right in. "Ginny, there's something that's been on my mind about you and Draco...I wouldn't feel right if I didn't say something..."

They were both sitting on the window seat. Rather than seeming merely curious, Ginny looked downright hostile now. Harry frowned. Is she still going to be jealous of Katie, even through she's basically told me to sod off? he thought. This sentiment was fighting a war inside him to leap for joy that she evidently still cared, that she had been displaying classic symptoms of being jealous of Katie Bell since she got in the car at the Burrow....

If she left Draco Malfoy, would I still pursue her? he wondered. I don't want to be using Katie just to make Ginny jealous. He remembered his kiss with Katie mere moments before.

"What is it?" Ginny said testily, her arms crossed.

Katie looked both grim and nervous. "Well, it's about something Draco did when we were on the job..."

Ginny widened her eyes. "Oh, is that how it is? It's just Draco, now? You had nothing to do with it?"

Katie stopped cold. "Me? What on earth are you talking about?"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Draco's told me."

Harry had never seen Katie look more shocked. "He told you? And--and you're all right with it?"

Ginny shrugged. "It was a joke. I'm not going to get hacked off at him for that. Evidently you have no sense of humor. You have to face facts; he's my boyfriend."

Katie looked flabbergasted. "A--a joke? You can't be serious. How can you call that a joke? And I know he's your boyfriend. My condolences."

"Nice try. Yes, it was a joke. What? Did you think Draco really wanted to kiss you?" Harry's eyes widened; so did Katie's, but she was speechless. "He wrote to me and told me everything that happened. I can go get it." She disappeared and was heard going up the stairs again; in a minute she had returned with a folded parchment. Katie's eyes narrowed.

"Would you mind if I read that?" she asked, her voice suspicious. Ginny shrugged again and handed it to her. Harry hoped she would read it aloud, which she did.

"Dear Ginny, I hope you won't be cross at me and take something I did the wrong way. It was all in fun, to teach Harry and Katie a lesson, but in case they twisted it when they told you about it, I wanted to make sure you knew the truth." The truth! Harry fought the urge to hit something as Katie continued. "The two of them have been snogging so much when they're supposed to be working it's put me off my lunches. I think it's very unprofessional. At any rate, yesterday I wasn't two feet away from them when they started in again, and when they finally came up for air, I pulled Katie to me and said, 'Well, as long as this seems to be one of the perks of the job now, don't forget me,' and I kissed her.

"Harry was pretty hacked off. Katie pretended to be, but I had a hell of a time getting her off my face for someone who supposedly didn't want to be kissing me. They both said they'd tell you about it. They also said they'd tell you I'd done worse, just to get me back. So be forewarned; anything they say, take it with a grain of salt. They're not very happy with me right now, to put it lightly. Those two have NO sense of humor.

"I miss you so much, and they know that, and yet they have the nerve to throw their randy new relationship in my face. They even did it in the hedge maze on the property, and we could all hear them yelling and moaning. Unbelievable. I was bloody embarrassed to admit we went to the same school (even if the Muggles think it's some ruddy public school).

"Anyway, even though I thought what I did was damn funny at the time, I was afraid they would find a way to use it against me. Knowing how sweet and trusting you are, I was afraid you'd assume the worst and so I wanted to write to you as soon as possible to confess my little prank. Please forgive me. It was all in fun (and because they were REALLY getting on my nerves). Did I mention that I miss you dreadfully? I'm glad I'll be seeing you soon, even if it is to celebrate Harry's birthday. All my love, Draco."

Harry had no words to describe what he was feeling. Outrage didn't do it. Betrayal wasn't terrible enough. He was almost willing to think that if Draco Malfoy could write a letter like that, he could possibly be using the pen name 'Daisy Furuncle' to drag his name through the mud. After all, he knew how to Apparate, he could do magic whenever he wanted, and he could easily have gone down to the park to see Jeffries' show when his aunt went for healing. Maybe Mrs. Figg had the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion in her house, or he'd managed to coerce a number of different witches to go to the Prophet offices for him....

Harry had been momentarily distracted by these thoughts, but now he focused his attention again on the two girls. Katie was as bowled over as Harry, it seemed.

"I don't believe this!" Katie's voice rose in pitch. "He never kissed me! And Harry and I certainly have done no snogging on the job or shagging in a hedge maze! It was your precious boyfriend who was doing the shagging. We heard him, clear as day, with our employer's daughter."

Ginny's arms were still crossed and she looked at Katie with one eyebrow raised. "Mmm. He said you or Harry would say something like that...."

"I'm not just saying it!" Katie was very near hysteria now. "It's true!" Her color had risen and Harry could see she was very frustrated at not being believed.

"Oh, and I'm supposed to believe that after finding the two of you in bed together at the pub?" Harry knew he shouldn't have felt hopeful at the slightly jealous tone in her voice, but he couldn't help it.

"That--that was the first time! That has nothing to do with anything. I'm telling you the truth, Ginny. And you should have heard his rationalizations about why he slept with her! He'd been pressuring you because he was going mad, and he reckoned now he had an outlet, he could let you wait as long as you needed to. Harry and I both heard them! Ask him if you like!"

Ginny shook her head. "I wouldn't have believed it of you Katie, but now--"

Katie smiled. "You believe me?"

"--I believe Draco when he told me you were trying to break up the two of us so you could go after him and so Harry could go after me. He hadn't figured that out yet when he wrote me the letter. He told me in Leicestershire that that's what he suspected. But it's not going to work. You're not going to get my boyfriend, Katie Bell. And I can't believe you're using Harry this way. He deserves far better."

Now Katie had the appearance of someone about to do some long-distance spewing. "Me! And Draco Malfoy! I told you--he didn't kiss me. Trust me, he wouldn't be alive if he'd tried that on me." Harry believed this. "I wouldn't take him if he was the last male mammal on the planet! I'd sooner go in for bestiality and take my chances with cross-species breeding before I'd go for him. Although actually, as he's not human, that would also qualify for cross-species breeding. You must be mad if you think I want to be with Draco Malfoy!"

"Well--Harry was rather carrying a torch for me for a while. Don't get me wrong--I was crushing on him when I was younger, and he had every right to think--"

"--I think he still is--" Katie said quietly, looking down; then she looked like she wanted to bite her tongue, as this partially supported Ginny's accusation.

"Then why would you tell me something that--if I believed it--would be the sort of thing designed to break up me and Draco if you really wanted to be with Harry? And if you think Harry still has feelings for me? If I didn't have a boyfriend, and if--as you yourself say--Harry's still carrying a torch for me, don't you think he'd come after me? If you really wanted to be with him you wouldn't want to break us up."

Katie lifted her chin. "I don't know where--if anywhere--my relationship with Harry is going, but I do know that when I see a cheating bastard I feel it my duty to point it out! If that means you two break up and Harry decides to pursue you, so be it, but at least I know I've done the right thing!" Her color had risen, and suddenly Harry felt even more conflicted about his feelings for both of them.

Ginny looked at the date on the letter. "Draco wrote this weeks ago. In the letter he says it happened 'yesterday.' Is that correct?"

"The things that happened 'yesterday' when that letter was written are the things I said happened, not what he said happened. But otherwise, the date is correct, yes."

"Hmmm," Ginny said in a musing sort of voice. She started fingering a silver chain around her neck. "So--you feel so obliged to point out a cheating boyfriend to his unsuspecting girlfriend, yet you waited all this time? Why didn't you tell me sooner, if he really did what you said? Wouldn't that be more like covering up for a cheating boyfriend? Of course, what you're saying happened never did, so it's really neither here nor there..."


She shook her head. "I feel sorry for poor Harry. He likely has no idea you were using him to try to make Draco want you. I'm assuming you knew we weren't sleeping together. Harry overheard us having a little row about that on Draco's birthday, and I suppose he told you. Oh, don't get your hopes up--we made up. But I imagine you thought your little performance in the hedge maze would tempt Draco into your arms...."

Katie looked like she really wanted to retch now. "Is that what he told you? And for the last time, the first and only time was in the pub and we did nothing on the job! The maze was Draco and that other girl!"

Ginny rolled her eyes, ignoring Katie. "And then you tried it again, knowing the three of us would be walking into the room at the pub--"

"We did not! If we'd thought anything of the sort we'd have been wearing some clothes, for one thing. What do you take me for?"

"You're the one who was in a bed naked with someone you'd been seeing for less than a month. What do you think?" Then Harry noticed that, as she was talking, she had pulled the thing that was on the silver chain out of her blouse. He saw it for only a split second before she clutched it tightly in her hand.

The other basilisk amulet.

"I--I--" Katie floundered, speechless. She looked at Ginny, helpless in the face of so much misinformation.

Ginny's expression changed suddenly as she clutched the amulet. She looked startled; woken up. Then she looked angrier than Harry had ever seen her. She strode over to the bathroom and abruptly pushed open the door, banging him on the knee with it.

"Ow!" he yelled, even though he'd half-anticipated it. She threw herself at him, pounding his chest with her fists.

"I can't believe you had her--had her force herself on him just so--just so--" She weakened and stopped her assault, looking up at him, tears running down her face now. He didn't try to defend himself or stop her attacking him; her eyes were wild. Did she really believe Draco Malfoy? he wondered. Or did she feel that she had to?

He looked down at the basilisk amulet hanging against her blouse, then up at her flushed face. "What do you see when you touch it, Ginny?" he whispered. She looked at him for an agonizing half-minute, standing tantalizingly close to him, her eyes wide with fright. Then she turned and fled the room.

"Stay away from my boyfriend!" she threw back at Katie before running up the stairs. Harry wondered whether she was truly referring to Draco Malfoy.

He sheepishly emerged from the bathroom. Katie sagged against the window, still trying to get her breath. Harry shook his head and sat next to her. "I'm sorry. I should never--I had no idea the depths to which he could sink...."

Katie sighed, her breathing finally normalizing. "That's all right, Harry. I just need you to promise me one thing--"


She looked at him with a steely glint in her eye. "Get. Her. Away. From. Draco. Malfoy. Save her, Harry. He's gotten into her head. She's no longer sane! Whether you convince her to be with you or just not to be with him, do whatever you have to do to break them up!"

Harry smiled. "Yeah, only--anything I say is immediately suspect, isn't it? Even more so now than before." Then he clamped his mouth shut abruptly; he didn't want to make it sound like he was accusing her of making things worse. He remembered now the Draco from his other life and the many schemes they'd hatched with their Slytherin cunning. He looked at her with a sly smile.

"Did I ever tell you that the Sorting Hat wanted to put me into Slytherin?"

She looked shocked. "No!"

"Well, obviously it didn't, but--I can be as crafty as a Slytherin when I want to be..."

A grin pulled at the corner of her mouth. "Care to tell me what you have in mind? I can keep a secret."

"Nothing in particular yet. But after school starts, I'm going to stay on my toes. I reckon with a school full of girls, Malfoy's bound to slip up sooner or later. I'm going to make sure I know about it when he does--and that Ginny knows soon after that. And I mean, the truth. The real truth. Not Draco Malfoy's version of the truth."

Katie looked outraged again. "I can't believe he had the nerve to claim that I--I--"

"Believe it. Nothing's beyond him. I've learned that the hard way. He has a way of convincing Ginny to do things that common sense should tell her she shouldn't do--like when the two of them pretended he was assaulting her in the potions dungeon...."


"It was an act, and the end result was that his dad was sent to Azkaban, but still--I thought Ron would kill him and wind up in Azkaban himself. And when I carried Ginny up to the hospital wing, all I could think was that it was a trauma that would haunt her for the rest of her life...."

Katie shook her head. "I can't believe they did that..." she whispered incredulously.

"I don't blame Ginny--like I said, he gets inside her head. The same thing happened when she was in first year--" he started to say, then stopped himself.


"Er, um--nothing. Never mind." He forced a yawn and stretched. "I'm exhausted after my run. Care to join me in the kitchen?"

"Sounds good. Arguing with a brainwashed person has me done in. I need some good strong tea. And then maybe a nap."

They walked down to the kitchen together, holding hands. He marvelled at her nerve; he didn't think there were many girls in her position who would have confronted Ginny with that information.

He thought again about the elaborate story Draco Malfoy had woven, and the fact that they were both now wearing the basilisk amulets. Had she seen him or Malfoy? he wondered again. He had no idea how he was ever going to break through the spell her boyfriend seemed to have cast on Ginny Weasley. He wasn't sure where his relationship with Katie was going, but he felt very strongly that--Prophecy or no Prophecy--what he really needed to do was to find whatever evil diary Draco Malfoy had crawled out of and stab it very hard with a basilisk's tooth.

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