Training and Confrontations


Story Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, R/T, and a paternal Ron.

Chapter 37

Chapter Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities growing, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, Remus/T, and a paternal Ron. Part IV (Chapters 35-44) goes from the start of the New Year through the end of June.
Author's Note:
The aftermath of Voldemort's terror attack, and the funeral of the Finnigan family. Draco reveals a secret to Hermione.

Chapter XXXVII
Saturday, January 11, 1997

Peter Pettigrew's trial had had to wait until the Wednesday, as Amelia Bones was not appointed as the new Minister until Tuesday afternoon. Little of what the trial revealed was really new to those 'in the know' -- Harry had, after all, included much of it in his 'letter' to The Quibbler the previous summer, and Sirius' magical will had been fully registered (and also printed in The Quibbler). Fudge's death allowed everyone in authority to heap the blame on Barty Crouch Senior and Fudge.

Pettigrew told everything he knew, but while the information on who the Death Eaters were, what atrocities had been committed, et cetera were well known to the Order and to the Ministry, they were new to many in the magical British community and it created an uproar. Had Fudge lived, he would have been ousted if not arrested.

Harry had had to appear briefly at the trial. The court had had only one question for him -- did he wish to appeal for Pettigrew's life (as Pettigrew's mother just had), or did he ask for Pettigrew to be put to death? Harry had said, "I spared his life once, in June, 1994. He immediately ran to his Master. He killed Cedric Diggory a year later. He has reneged on the Wizard's Debt he owed me. I cannot therefore ask for his life to be spared. Out of the friendship my father and godfather once had with him, I can only ask that his many crimes against me not be counted too much against him in his sentencing." He had worked hard on that statement, with help from Luna and Hermione.

Pettigrew had been put to death that very night. He had also left a will dated 1980, like all members of the Order. He had had nothing to leave at the time, but had still drawn up a will (like any member of the Order) leaving everything to James Potter. This meant that Harry had inherited 12 Grimmauld Place.

"I don't want it," Harry had said the next afternoon when informed of this. "Voldemort must have booby-trapped it anyway."

"Yes, he probably has," Dumbledore agreed. "It will take some time to assess it. With your permission, I will have a team of curse-breakers go through it to make certain nothing is likely to explode, and then we can take some time over any other traps. Was there anything you wanted from there?"

"No," Harry nearly snapped. He paused, and said, "Two things, though. If you ever want me to step into that house, get that portrait down. As for that elf . . . I don't care what you do with him, just keep him far away from me."

"The headmaster portrait was destroyed. I do not know if Mrs. Black's was as well or not. As for Kreacher . . . if he survived, we will figure out something."

"I would say to mount his head on the wall, but Hermione would never forgive me," Harry said.

"That is not the best reason, but it is acceptable," Dumbledore said.

That Saturday morning, Harry sat reviewing those thoughts as a number of people gathered in Dumbledore's office. Harry's group, most of the Order of Phoenix, and Minister Bones all listened while Harry told of his confrontation with Voldemort.

"And you believe he will be gone until the end of June?" Snape demanded when Harry was finished.

"Not really," Harry admitted. "You tell me; there is no reason to take him at his word, but he does like to appear to be keeping the form of wizarding traditions. What do you think?"

Snape frowned. "There is no way to know for certain, but I think he'll be back long before the end of June."

"I do not," Luna said.

"Who asked you?" Snape almost snarled.

"The headmaster, when he either invited me here or allowed me to come," Luna said simply. "Voldemort cannot be taken at his word, of course, and the Ministry should spend reasonable resources in tracking him. He is obviously somewhere. However, given his usual treatment of Harry on every occasion except for at the Ministry last June, he wants Harry to know that the blow is coming at his, not Harry's, choice."

Luna turned towards the headmaster. "Voldemort became the way he is, physically, through Dark Magic transformations, did he not?"

"In large part. His resurrection concentrated them somewhat."

"Then could he have more transformations in mind?" Dumbledore nodded. "Then I believe that's what will happen. He is planning his next major transformation on the evening of the Thirtieth of June. Harry will be forced to witness it, one way or another. Since he was remade with Harry's blood, that might even be a necessary part of the ritual."

"Most of what you're saying is likely pure nonsense," Snape said, "but I have to admit, that last part is not quite pure nonsense."

"There's still one thing that really puzzles me," Hermione said.

"Just the one?" Snape asked.

Hermione nodded. "Oh, there are things I don't understand. What confuses me is why he told Harry Pettigrew was in the castle. Pettigrew was on what he thought was a near-suicide mission to kill Harry or be left behind. It turns out, either Voldemort was going to leave him behind even if Pettigrew managed to kill Harry, or he planned all along to tell Harry and just pretended to change his mind about it."

"That's what made me think of Harry's blood," Luna said. "Voldemort could still have bits of his father's skeleton, but with Pettigrew -- who contributed flesh to the resurrection -- dead, he might have thought we would not think of Harry's blood."

"Convoluted, but logical," Snape said.

"I had thought that Pettigrew might have been the person who sent the two notes to Harry, revealing the Fidelius location, but he was not," Dumbledore said. "He did write the first note, as we thought, but claimed not to have written the second. All evidence, even from the Muggle handwriting experts, is that it was Julian Malfoy."

"Maybe he just got on Voldemort's nerves," Hestia Jones said from the back. "Look, except for Remus here, I knew Pettigrew best in the old days, and he was always a natural whinger. If Voldemort really was clearing out, what do all those who seem to have left with him have in common?" The estimate was that Voldemort still had taken twenty-three Death Eaters and Julian Malfoy with him, plus his pet snake.

Jones went on. "They are hard men, or they are really devoted men, or, in the case of the Julian Malfoy, he's a very smart man. Pettigrew was not stupid, but he was not all that smart. He was far from a fanatic, and he was in many ways soft as putty. He might not have dared to leave Pettigrew alone in Grimmauld Place or anyplace like that, or take him with him."

"Maybe," Ron said, "but I think he wanted Harry to kill Pettigrew."

"You're right, Ron," Hermione and Luna said together.

"Harry accidentally killed those two Death Eaters, Dolohov and Lestrange, last June," Hermione pointed out, "and he did destroy those dementors, but he has never set off to kill someone. That takes a bit of cold-blooded hate or hot rage, or at least determination. Voldemort probably hoped Harry would kill Pettigrew."

Luna agreed. "To kill in the heat of battle is one thing. It is different to set out to kill. To do so would weaken Harry." All the people thought that she meant that it would have weakened Harry morally. Those in the know also realized she meant that killing Pettigrew might have weakened Harry's powers. They had decided that it would likely be the actual act of killing Voldemort which would bring about the reduction of Harry's powers James had foretold.

"But I wouldn't," Harry said.

"He couldn't know that, my boy," Mr. Diggle said from a far corner. The little wizard turned to Dumbledore and asked, "And what about the young girl? Is she Harry's cousin?"

"A fairly distant one," Dumbledore answered. "Harry's great great grandfather was her great great great grandfather. Alas, her parents were Harry's closest maternal relatives, but not close enough for them to have raised Harry. We had thought all of Harry's family were only children for some generations, and we were right."

Dumbledore sighed and looked at Madam Bones. "Is there anything else, Minister?"

Madam Bones stood. "No, I have everything I need. We will put what pressure we can on the other Ministries and magical groups to be on the look-out for Voldemort and his followers. Beyond that, we hope to have a half-dozen new aurors and thirty new security people trained by the end of June, and we'll have ninety more guest aurors here and in Western Europe and the full backing of the European Ministries by then as well."

As the meeting broke up, Harry, Hermione, and Luna went over to Molly Weasley, who was regaling Ron, Ginny, and Neville with tales of Sirius. "Oh, Harry dear!" she broke off, hugging him. "You'll be happy to know Rosie has settled in quite nicely." Since she had no closer relative than Harry that they could find, Harry had encouraged Mrs. Weasley to take guardianship until he could in a few years. "She's having a lot of fun playing with Sirius, and I'll start her home-schooling in a week or so." Rose was seven, going on eight. She had had an older brother (ten) and a younger one (three), both also marked for Hogwarts.

"No nightmares?" Harry asked.

"Not for the last two nights," Mrs. Weasley said. "She still stops playing every once in a while, of course, when she remembers, but she'll recover. I think she's naturally a very quiet child, but a very observant one."

"What does she think of magic?" Hermione asked,

"She likes it, of course," Molly said. "She does seem to miss telebision."

"There's not quite enough ambient magic around the Burrow to interfere with reception," Remus said, "if Arthur would hook up a magical power source."

"And promise not to take any television apart," Harry agreed. "If you keep good track of what she watched, I'd be happy to send three over."

"Why three, dear?"

"Well, you probably wouldn't want it in your sitting room," Harry said. "That means Rose's room. If she had one, it wouldn't be fair for Sirius not to have one." Everyone realized why Harry would want the two children treated equally. "And let's be honest," Harry said with a nod towards Mister Weasley, talking with Dung over on the other side of the room, "if the kids each have one, Mister Weasley will want one, or else he'll be their rooms all the time."

Molly could hardly argue with that, and admitted so with a rueful laugh. "You lot are coming for the Easter break, aren't you?" she asked afterwards.

"I don't think Luna and I could, Mum," Ginny said ruefully.

"O.W.L.s are very important," Molly agreed.

"I will, of course," Ron said. "I might be bringing a guest."

"Harry's not a guest!" Molly scolded.

"Now, but his new girl friend would be," Ginny teased.

"You'll have to tell her all about Sirius before you ask her," Molly warned. "And that means Professor Dumbledore would have to approve."

"Yes, Mum," Ron said.

"I'll come, unless Dumbledore has real problems about security," Harry said. "Hermione?" Harry asked.

Mrs. Weasley smiled encouragingly at Hermione, who said, "If Tracy comes, I'll come, too. If not, I'll stay here and coach Ginny and Luna."

"That sounds very responsible," Molly said. "Sirius and Rosie would be very happy if you all came." Rose had spent very little time with Harry, but had bonded with him to some degree.

"That reminds me," Harry said, "could you get them hands for the clock?"

"We put Sirius' up before Christmas, and already ordered Rosie's," Molly said, surprised Harry had even had to ask.

"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley."

"I do wish you lot would call me Molly or something else."

"Mother Weasley," Luna said, kissing Molly's cheek. Harry, Hermione, and Neville did the same in turn.

Molly blushed happily. "It will be nice having you with us over Easter," she said. She turned to Hermione. "Couldn't you coach Ginny and Luna at the Burrow?"

The six teens looked at each other, and gave in. They knew when they were beat. "Excellent," Molly said. "I'll get Professor Dumbledore thinking about security." She moved off.

"Well," Ginny muttered, "there'll be lots of affection, but no bouncy-bouncy."

After lunch, the students had to prepare for the funerals, which had been delayed. Since all the families had mixed between the magical and Muggle worlds to various degrees, the various Ministry offices concerned with Magical/Muggle relations had had to work out some protocols with the magical sides of the families.

Harry had hoped that the funerals would have been held at different times, since the families had been spread out too far (north-western Ireland, Surrey, Lancaster, and Glasgow) to have the funerals in a common place. For security reasons, the Ministry had decided to have them all at once. So, not only was all of Gryffindor attending one funeral or another, so were all the other Houses, even Slytherin. More than half was staff was as well.

The sextet was a bit torn on which funeral to attend. Ginny and Luna finally decided to attend for the family of First year Deborah Vane, but Neville was going to Seamus', as was Ron from the beginning of the discussion (it was Tracy who had brought up the idea of the Slytherins in their First, Third, and Sixth years attending). The other four years of Slytherins had joined in once all the remaining Sixth years had agreed to go, even Malfoy. Bonnie had hoped Harry and Hermione would attend the funeral for Deborah Vane's family, but she understood when they decided they really should go support Seamus instead.

Harry did convince all the Second years to go to the Vane funeral. The Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh years split up between the four funerals.

"I'm glad we could all go with our Hogwarts' blazers," Ron said to Harry as he tied his tie. "Those Muggle suits wouldn't have expanded enough."

"If it was just a few of us going, we'd have gotten new suits," Harry stated.

"Seamus is coming," Neville said quietly from near the door.

Seamus came quietly in, guided a bit by Dean's hand on his shoulder. Seamus sat heavily on his bed. "I hate this," he said, not for the first time.

"I'm sorry you were picked out," Harry responded, also not for the first time.

"Yeah, well, I might want to try and blame you, but I can't," Seamus said. "I might as well blame myself. He just waltzed into my head and took over. I couldn't even put up a fight. Thank God I didn't actually hurt anyone while I was under." He looked up at Harry. "How do I get through this, Harry?"

"Keep your handkerchiefs handy and a firm grip on Lavender," Harry advised. "There shouldn't be any magical press there, but if there are, let Tonks or Hermione take care of them."

"I can't put this off any more, can I?"

"I'm afraid not, mate," Dean said. "Let's go."

There were two reporters from The Daily Prophet, but they came late and stayed well out of the way. Harry, Hermione, and Ron also kept well out of the spotlight. Hermione spent the time musing to herself on the viciousness of the human animal, and the strict splitting so many people indulged in, dividing humanity into 'us' and 'them'. It was so easy for too many people to kill 'them' -- always defining 'them' very differently, but treating 'them' so similarly. It was too easy to allow the 'extermination' of 'them'.

In Seamus' case, 'they' were his Muggle father and non-magical younger sister and his magical mother and much younger sister, who would have started at Hogwarts the next year. In Deborah Vane's case, it had been a magical father and Muggle mother, with three younger siblings, including an infant sister. David Bowman had also had a magical father and Muggle mother, while his non-magical older sister had been spared by minutes, as she had returned to University. Julia Carson's father had been magical, but her mother could have been considered a Squib since three of her grandparents had been magical and both her parents had been Squibs. Julia's three younger siblings had all been magical. The youngest had not quite been two.

At the height of the funeral mass (during the eulogies), Hermione glanced around. She saw only two sets of dry eyes amongst the Hogwarts students: Harry's and Malfoy's. Hermione knew by now that it took a great deal to make Harry cry. She had kept an eye on Malfoy throughout their time in the church, not totally willing to trust him.

Malfoy had just looked uncomfortable when they had arrived and during the first portion of the services. Now, as Hermione watched, she saw Malfoy's eyes look and stare at the one place, she realized, he had been avoiding. He looked at Seamus' thirteen year old sister, lying in the open coffin. She was surprised to see a tear running down his cheek.

"What can I do for you, Granger?" Malfoy asked in a cracked voice as they waited for the immediate family and friends to leave before the burial of Seamus' father and youngest sister (the magical bodies had to be cremated, to prevent their being used for Dark Magic) and the other Muggles to leave. The wizards and witches not attending the burials or cremations would either apparate or portkey away.

"I saw you were upset towards the end. I didn't know but what you might want someone . . . nonjudgmental to talk to."

Draco gave her a twisted smile. "You're one of the most judgmental people I have ever known, Granger. But if you must know, and swear to keep it a secret, from anyone other than your two lovers. . . . Oh, don't act surprised. I am not stupid, and I don't care about your or Potter's love-lives anymore. Do you swear?"

"I swear," Hermione said, making a ritual sign to make it a binding oath.

"What would be almost the worst family secret one like mine could have?" Draco asked with a self-hating sneer.

Hermione could think of many possibilities, but put the clues together and made a guess. "Do you have a Squib sister?"

Draco shook his head. "Not any more. Mother and especially Father were certain her magic was just late-developing. That the odds would never catch up with us. To assure himself, Father finally bribed someone and got the list of all the magical children marked for this year's First year class at Hogwarts last Easter. That was probably the list that led the Dark . . . Lord Thingy to those Muggle-born children. Lucretia was not on the list. When I got home last summer, Mother told me Lucretia had died from 'some Muggle disease'. I wanted to believe her, of course, but I knew even then that Father had murdered her, probably on orders. Finnigan's sister looked quite a bit like her."

"I'm very sorry, Draco."

"I fought against believing it, even when the . . . Lord Thingy tortured me last summer. I wanted to believe we were right, but I couldn't tell myself that any more. I still believe families like mine should lead, but. . . ."

"But that's different from wanting me dead."

"It is," Draco agreed. "I don't want you dead, Granger, just in your pl. . . . Well, never mind that. I'd best take the next portkey. Weasley's about to make a scene."

Hermione turned around and saw that Ron was indeed trying to head in their direction, but was being restrained by Harry and Neville. She walked over. "Problem?"

"You tell us?" Ron snarled.

"Draco will never be likable," Hermione said, "But there's really no reason to hate him anymore. He's slowly trying to grow up. We can't trust him, but that doesn't mean we have to go after him."

"You and Luna come at it from different directions, but you are both too optimistic about human nature," Ron told her.

"Perhaps we are," Hermione said. "Somebody has to be."

Author notes: Reminder: while this story will continue on through the Seventh year, the story will be going on hiatus after the end of Year Six for a few weeks (that will be between chapters 44 & 45)