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 43

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 end of the school year and the evening of the 30th.

Chapter XLIII

The last weeks of May and the first three weeks of June flew past for Harry and most of the students. Slytherin and Hufflepuff fought through heavy wind and rain to a 180-30 Slytherin victory after six hours. Even Draco had admitted he had been lucky to come across the Snitch in the heavy weather. Gryffindor had crushed Ravenclaw 270-60 in a two hour match, giving Gryffindor their third Cup win in Harry's six years of playing.

Most of the Fourth years and below ignored the examination team as they arrived, and put the Fifth and Seventh years through their paces. The Sixth years watched the Fifth years with amusement, and the Seventh years with a tinge of worry, and in some cases even fear.

The O.W.L.s had been nerve-wracking. Even though the Seventh years were taking two-thirds the number of courses, they made the Fifth years look happy, well-rested, and jolly.

Some Sixth years, like Harry and Ron, looked on at this with more bemused amazement than anything else. Others, like Ernie Macmillan and Lavender Brown, looked nearly as nervous as the Seventh years. A few, like Hermione and Padma, merely looked determined.

The bemused and determined Sixth years approached their own exams with a fair amount of confidence. The nervous ones did not fair as well.

As with the first four years, the Sixth years received their scores just before leaving. The Seventh years would be sent their N.E.W.T. results in early July, while the O.W.L.s would be out in late July.

The day before they were scheduled to leave, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville collected their grades and went out into the bright late June sunshine. Ginny and Luna joined them, both still worn-out from the O.W.L.s, even though those had been over for almost two weeks.

"Who should go first?" Hermione asked.

Harry took the four identical envelopes, turned them so the names were not showing, shuffled them, and held them out to Ginny. Ginny plucked them, and read them out in order.

Apparation . . . . . . . .100
Living with Muggles. . . . 96
N.E.W.T. Care. . . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Charms. . . . . . 92
N.E.W.T. Defence . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Divination. . . . 81
N.E.W.T. Ministry Prep . . 90

Apparation . . . . . . . .100
Magical Traditions . . . . 98
N.E.W.T. Business. . . . . 84
N.E.W.T. Care. . . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Charms. . . . . .111
N.E.W.T. Defence . . . . .120
N.E.W.T. Transfiguration .111

Apparation . . . . . . . .100
Magical Traditions . . . .105
N.E.W.T. Arithmancy. . . .104
N.E.W.T. Charms. . . . . .114
N.E.W.T. Defence . . . . .102
N.E.W.T. Runes . . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Transfiguration .114
N.E.W.T. University Prep .102

Apparation . . . . . . . .100
Living with Muggles. . . . 96
N.E.W.T. Business. . . . . 96
N.E.W.T. Care. . . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Charms. . . . . . 93
N.E.W.T. Defence . . . . . 99
N.E.W.T. Herbology . . . .107

"Good," Hermione said, sitting back. "All we need to do is get through the next few days, and then we can start in on the N.E.W.T.s." Ron rolled his eyes, but wisely said nothing.

Friday, June 27, 1997

The train ride back to London was peaceful. Ron looked a little disappointed.

"What's the problem?" Tracy asked. She, Ron, Neville, and Ginny were in one compartment, Harry, Luna, and Hermione in another. "I could have sat in your lap the whole trip, if you had asked." The compartments really only comfortably sat six, so Harry, Luna, and Hermione were in the next compartment.

"It's not that," Ron said. "I guess it just seems strange . . . growing up, I mean. It seems just yesterday that I was getting on board for the first time."

"How did you end up riding with Harry, anyway?" Ginny asked. "Fred and George were supposed to look out for you."

"Yeah, right," Ron retorted. "They looked after me by strapping me in place and having a contest to see who could transfigure what into the nastiest spider possible. That was one of the few times I was actually glad to see Percy! I couldn't find any empty compartments, and Harry was only the person sitting alone that I could find."

"And aren't you glad you found him," Neville pointed out. "He might have ended up in. . . . Sorry."

Tracy frowned. "What for? Oh, you mean you think Harry could have ended up in Slytherin?"

"The Hat was trying to make up its mind between Gryffindor and Slytherin, when Harry told it he wanted 'anyplace but Slytherin'," Ginny said.

"H'mmm. . . . I wonder what Professor Snape would have done then," Tracy mused. "If he could have stayed out of things, I bet Harry would have transformed us five years ago."

"What do you mean?" Ron asked.

"We're the House of Ambition," Tracy reminded Ron, "but that doesn't mean evil. There were any number of arguments, fights, and even a few duels my first three and half years. We didn't all follow Flint, Montague, and Malfoy, you know, at least not all the way. Harry could have turned the balance of power."

"Harry would have," Neville said. "Harry does not given in."

"There are leaders you follow because they've been put in charge of you, somehow, and there are leaders you just naturally follow," Ginny said. "That's Harry."

Ron frowned. "What?" Ginny demanded.

"Nothing," Ron said with a sigh, "just a pipe dream, up in smoke."

"Well, it can't be you think you'll be Head Boy," Ginny said, in the brutal way of little sisters. "You've been too mediocre a Prefect to expect that. Harry has a shot, although I'd say Ernie is the frontrunner."

"The Fourth year touts have the odds: Eight to Five, Ernie; Nine to Five, Harry; Nine to Two, Anthony; Twelve to One, Blaise; Twenty to One, Ron; Thirty to One, Draco, and some other, longer shots," Neville said.

Ron grimaced, but could not disagree.

"Then you must be thinking about the Quidditch Captaincy," Ginny said. "But you gave up on that."

"I know, and I'm not really having second thoughts," Ron admitted.

"I can see why you might have wanted it," Tracy said, "but why does it matter so much?"

"It's a family thing, isn't it?" Ginny asked. Ron nodded, and Ginny went on, "Do you know much about our older brothers?"

"Well, I know Percy was Head Boy our Third year and of course everyone knows about the twins," Tracy admitted.

"Bill is the oldest, and he was Head Boy and on some winning Quidditch teams," Ginny told Ron's girlfriend, "and even though the Quidditch teams were pretty lousy when Charlie was the captain, he was a brilliant Seeker."

"I guess, in the big picture, it doesn't really matter," Ron grumbled.

"No, the bigger picture is Lord Thingy," Tracy said. The other three looked at her sharply. "What? If you know anything, I don't mind if you can't tell me. One way to keep a secret is not to tell it. Not knowing isn't going to bother me as much as it would most other people. Still, I know Lord Thingy is out there. He's after Harry. He'll be after Harry around his birthday, if not before."

"Probably," Ginny admitted.

"And, if he doesn't come after Harry directly, he could come after anyone, even . . . me," Tracy concluded in a small voice.

"He could," Ginny agreed, while Ron looked stricken.

"It was my choice," Tracy said. "I hope I won't have to pay for that choice, but no matter what, I don't regret making it."

Ron's response was drowned out by Luna's amplified voice, shouting in the corridor, "EVERYONE BRACE YOURSELVES! QUICKLY!"

At that moment, the train was forced off the tracks. As it was taking a curve at the time, all the cars tipped over to the right. The one with Harry and his friends therefore fell on the compartment side.

As soon as the train car stopped moving, Harry climbed out into the corridor, and then blasted open the side of the car. He literally flew out, and landed on the side of the car, erecting his strongest shields.

"No, no, Potter," Voldemort shouted at him from a distance, "not today! Enjoy the cleanup!" The Dark Lord disapparated.

The clean-up took over four hours. Harry sent Hermione and Luna back to Hogwarts for help, and organized the immediate rescue of the students out of the railroad cars. He sent Ron towards the head of the train, and Ernie towards the back.

There were literally dozens of serious injuries amongst the students, although fortunately no fatalities. Neville, for example, had broken his leg, with a double compound fracture, and Tracy had broken her wrist. Ginny took care of them until help arrived.

It took half an hour for the first real help to arrive. By the time Dumbledore led the first rescue team from Hogwarts, Harry had the older uninjured students patrolling the perimeter. The injured students had been given first aid and stabilized, and the younger students were keeping watch over them.

Harry approached Dumbledore about an hour after the teams from the Ministry and St. Mungo's. Harry was only slightly surprised to see how tired the headmaster looked. "Headmaster?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"How could he have done this? I thought the Hogwarts Express was on a magical route."

"I don't know," Dumbledore answered. "He obviously concentrated his power on the rails. Neither you nor I could have done this, not because we lack the power, but because we lack the will to do evil."

"Neville has at least one compound fracture," Harry said, watching the emergency teams moving some of the healthy students off to London by portkey. "He won't be ready Monday night."

"No, he will not," Dumbledore agreed. "Will you allow Miss Weasley to stay with Mister Longbottom?"

"If you knew Ginny better, you would know that I don't 'allow' or command her, or really command any of them," Harry retorted. "I'll let her decide."

"And what do you think she will decide?" Dumbledore asked, curious.

"I don't know," Harry said honestly. "If we knew for certain Voldemort would be at the Riddles', then she would be with me. Since there's only the off-chance, then she might prefer to be with Neville."

"You are fully determined be at the Riddle House?"

"Unless you think we should be somewhere else."

"No, no that seems like the best guess. Nymphadora and Remus will be with you, and will call us in, should it be warranted. Now I see Miss Weasley is coming to see you." Dumbledore quickly moved off.

Ginny eyed the headmaster's retreating form, and then turned her attention to her leader. "Harry. . . ."

"Are you off to be with Neville?" Harry asked.

"Yes," Ginny said nervously. "Do you think . . . do you think Voldemort might attack Neville?"

"It's possible," Harry said, "but not very likely."

"Mum was here for a bit. If it's alright with you, I'll go to St. Mungo's for now, and then follow Neville home in two days."

"That's fine," Harry said. "Keep a close eye on him." In truth, Harry was more worried about Voldemort attacking Ginny, hoping to repossess her, than he was about an attack on Neville. Ginny should be fairly safe at the Longbottoms'.

Despite the late time of sunset, dusk was just starting to come in when Harry, Luna, Hermione, and Alastor Moody apparated to Diagon Alley. The pairs separated, and went to their respected flats.

Harry lugged in his trunk and Hedwig's cage, and went to take a shower. When he came out, Moody had laid out a late dinner of beef stew, bread, and two kinds of cheese. "Dig in, lad," Moody said.

"I didn't think I was hungry, until I smelled this," Harry admitted, taking his seat.

"Aye, some people react to the type of stress you went through today like that. Still, even if you weren't hungry, I would have said you should eat. There's no telling what the next few days will be like. There might be nothing but stress, there might be a few battles. You have to be ready, and eating a good meal and getting a good amount of sleep when you can just makes sense."

"How much sleep are you going to get tonight?" Harry asked.

Moody smiled. "I slept well last night, and I went back to bed at Hogwarts as soon as you lot went off. I'll stay up and keep an eye on things tonight, and sleep tomorrow morning. Bill Weasley will be by, and you lot will show for anything you'll need for the next few days. I want you all well-rested, so sleep in tomorrow, and stay up tomorrow night."

"That sounds reasonable," Harry agreed.

"I left the girls a note about it," Moody said.

"Good idea. This stew is good."

"Thank your house elf friend. He'll be here in the morning, too. You wouldn't want to eat my cooking, assuming there's even anything around here to cook." He grinned his nasty grin. "Tell you the truth, lad, I don't like eating my cooking either!"

Saturday, June 28, 1997

Harry made his way to the door, his eyes not quite open. "Wha?" he mumbled.

"Good morning!" Luna chirped.

"You're in a good mood," Harry grumbled. "What time is it, any way?"

"A little before Ten," Luna answered, breezing in. "Shall I make you breakfast? Dobby won't be here until afternoon. After I feed you, you may escort Hermione and me for the day."

Harry looked out into the hallway, and a bemused Hermione came in. Harry shut the door and asked, "What just happened?"

"Luna seems to be in one of her active moods again," Hermione answered.

"Oh . . . bother," Harry said, as pans were rattled in the kitchen.

"Oh, Harry-Pooh-Bear, you'll survive the day," Hermione teased.

"If I'm Pooh, Luna is definitely in a Tigger mood. Who does that leave for you?"

Hermione's hands went to her mouth. Harry instantly hugged her. "Hermione, you know I didn't mean that!"

"Sorry," Hermione said, her hands still muffling her voice.

Harry escorted her to one of the worn arm chairs and knelt in front of her. "Does it really still bother you that much? I didn't mean you ever looked like a rabbit."

"I guess it does," Hermione admitted. "That, and I always seem to have to be the sensible one."

"The sensible and responsible one," Harry agreed. "Look at the Marauders. Remus was sensible, but he wasn't always very responsible. Look at what happened to them. You keep us on the straight and narrow."

"Oh, like you aren't."

"In some ways, I am, but I am too ready to run off. Look what happened last year. At the seance, Sirius said we should always listen to Remus. We'd be better off if we always listened to you."

"I could have just as easily gotten us killed by the centaurs last year," Hermione pointed out.

"Well, I didn't say we should always do what you say, just that we should always listen to you," Harry teased. When Hermione managed a wavering smile, Harry asked, "So what's the plan for today?"

"Bill should be here around noon," Hermione said. "We can just browse around the Alley today."

"And then we disappear for a few days," Harry said.

"Well, we go back to Hogwarts, so we can exercise a bit before . . . Monday night."

Harry thought a moment, and then said, "I hope letting Tracy come along wasn't a mistake."

"Her parents are allowing her to go to the Burrow, so they shouldn't find out that she's really coming back to Hogwarts. She's not going with us Monday night." Hermione hesitated, then added, "And she is taking the healing courses, so she might be needed back at the castle."

"I know," Harry admitted. "I hope she's not needed for that."

"But . . . Uncle Ron," Rose complained yet again, "why didn't Uncle Harry come with you? Where's Aunt Ginny? And Auntie Luna? And Aunt. . . ."

"I told you, Rosie," Ron repeated for the fifth time since he had arrived at the Burrow the night before. "Tracy and I are just here for today. Neville hurt himself yesterday, and Ginny is with him. Harry, Luna, and Hermione, and Ginny and Neville and Tracy and I, should all be back for the entire month of July in just a few days." 'At least, we hope so,' Ron added to himself.

Monday, June 30, 1997
11:45 pm, Little Hangleton

Six disillusioned figures sat quietly in a copse of trees atop of a small hill. To their left was the decrepit Riddle House, while off to their right was the village. Straight ahead was the cemetery. The small hill was really the only place that overlooked all three areas, as a small tree-lined lane blocked the direct view between the cemetery and the village.

The six had been present since 7:00. Harry and Ron had transformed into their animagi forms, and sniffed around, finding nothing unusual. From then on, all they had to do was wait, with Ron staying in his dog form to catch anything in the air.

Harry forced himself to stay still. He could almost hear a clock ticking away the seconds. If Voldemort was actually going to attempt this ceremony, he would have to do it between 11:00 pm and 2:45 am.

Harry had little doubt Voldemort would do something that night. After his bragging, the Dark Lord would have to do something, even if it was not the ceremony he had originally planned. The questions were, what would he attempt, and where would he attempt it?

Harry's attention started to wander. Luna noticed, despite the disillusionment spell, but decided under the circumstances, that this might be a good thing.

Harry felt himself drift. As he realized what was happening, he decided to follow the feeling. In moments, he was looking at a large stone chamber.

Voldemort and his snake were there, as were twelve bound figures. At first, Harry was worried that Voldemort had found his twelve loyal followers. Their sacrifice could make Voldemort much more powerful and dangerous than he had ever been. While Harry was certain the conduits would insure that he could still out-power Voldemort no matter what, the rest of the world would be in even greater danger than it had been before until Harry (and his power) caught up with the Dark Lord, one way or another.

Then, Voldemort spoke. "Cowards! Fools! If you will not give me your powers, your lives, freely, I shall take them nonetheless! If I cannot be made immortal tonight, I shall be reborn in Darkness!"

Harry retreated quickly. Opening his eyes, he said, "Unless Voldemort was somehow projecting another false vision, he's in the Chamber of Secrets."

"It wasn't false," Luna said.

"Then we had best get back to Hogwarts as soon as we can," Remus said. He pulled out the appropriate portkey. "Let's go."