The Awakening Power


Story Summary:
Complete! Challenges fill Harry's busy sixth year: growing powers, Snape becomes defense teacher (and Harry's not in the mood for abuse), a new Potions teacher, a girl with a new crush on him, Quidditch, Voldemort, and a certain redheaded girl named Ginny who may help him through all of it. What are the goblins up to? Will Ron win Hermione back? And what exactly is Voldemort's diabolical plan to kill Harry and plunge magical society into anarchy? Lots of romance, drama, action and humor! Voted Phoenix Song's Best Novel-Length Story (along with Best Harry and Best Kiss).

Chapter 16

Chapter Summary:
Harry’s powers are growing very strong, and Dumbledore is worried about his control. Meanwhile, Snape has become the new Defense teacher, and Harry resolves not to take his abuse this year… Will Harry notice Ginny? Will Ron win Hermione back? Who has a new crush on Harry? Who is the new Potions teacher? And what exactly is Voldemort’s diabolical plan to kill Harry and plunge magical society into anarchy? Lots of humor, drama, action and romance as all these questions are answered and much more in Harry’s busy sixth year.
Author's Note:
Harry’s sixth year, after OotP. H/G, R/Hr, PG-13 rating.

Chapter 16: Goblins in the Night

* * *

Harry sat alone in Dumbledore's library, reading through another one of the more obscure books, which had caught his eye because it seemed so harmless. It was a book about making large sculptures; an art book, of all things. What could be so bad about sculptures?

He skimmed through the book, looking at the various stone carving spells. He supposed those might be harmful if cast against people, but still, a lot of spells were like that. It just didn't seem to warrant being in the library.

He continued reading, then came across a chapter, causing him to sit in stunned silence as he realized what he was reading.

The Manipulation Spell

This spell is very powerful, and may be used for creating very large sculptures from pliable materials. Many artists use it for creating clay sculptures, but many powerful wizards find that they can manipulate molten metal, and in a particularly interesting use, a wizard once used it with molten lava.

The spell allows the wizard to imagine pushing the material in various ways, causing it to bend or shape, making it simple to form the medium into the desired form.

Warning: This is a class B restricted spell, to be used only by authorized artists with the proper licensing. It must never be used against living creatures.

Harry closed his eyes, the events at the end of the Triwizard Tournament coming back in vivid detail. He recalled being held by Voldemort, and forced to bow in front of him, like a giant hand bending his back. Looking at the book, he was certain this was the spell Voldemort had used against him.

With a morbid fascination, he read the details of how to make the spell work. It seemed so odd to read such a dry analysis of a spell that was used in one of the most horrific events of his life.

He looked over curiously at an apple he had brought for a snack. Pulling out his wand, he gave the incantation. "Adfectus Anfractum!"

He imagined pushing the apple around the desk, and it did what he commanded, rolling about the surface. He imagined doing a gentle push on the skin of the apple, trying to peel it. A large gouge came out of the apple instead, which he chalked up to his inexperience with the spell.

Reading the book a bit more, he saw that twisting the wand adjusted the grip strength. Apparently one had to get the strength right for subtle manipulations. He twisted the wand to the left, making a gentle force. He tried again to peel the apple, with a bit more success, but he still wasn't very accurate.

Deciding to try a firmer grip, he did a sharp twist to the right, causing the apple to suddenly pulverize into a wet mass, which flopped onto the table. Harry blinked, staring at what looked like a pile of pureed apple on the desk.

A stab of fear went down his spine, as he imagined himself as the apple under Voldemort's control. He decided it might be a good idea to discuss the spell with Hermione and learn how to defend against it.

* * *

"It'll be nice to go home for Christmas this year," Ron said, as he packed a few things into his trunk.

"Yeah," Harry said, also packing as well. "Is Hermione coming at any point?"

"Supposedly she's coming sometime after Christmas Day," Ron replied, then grinned. "Not like her to not have it pinned down to the second. I think her mum and dad might have a trip planned."

They headed downstairs to wait for Hermione and Ginny. The Hogwarts Express wasn't due to leave for another hour, but Hermione had insisted on getting there extra early. As prefects, she and Ron had to be there to help load the first years onto the train. Harry and Ginny had decided they might as well head down early as well.

The train ride back to Kings Cross was uneventful as they chatted or played games during the trip. Soon they pulled into the station and found Mrs. Weasley waiting on the platform.

"Welcome home," she said, smiling, as she went along and hugged everyone. Hermione saw her parents on the platform as well, and gave a cheerful goodbye as she joined them.

They took a Ministry car back to the Burrow, Harry almost falling asleep in the back. It had been such a busy year so far, and he was very much looking forward to a nice, quiet holiday.

They soon arrived, everyone getting unpacked into their rooms; Harry taking Fred and George's room again. He looked around suspiciously, but finally decided he was too tired to worry about whether they had set up another prank. He was so exhausted he figured he would just sleep through it.

Harry played a bit of chess with Ron after dinner, but his soft bed kept calling for him. He felt peaceful and relaxed back in the Burrow, and all the stress of the year seemed far away while he was there. He finally said good night to everyone, changed into his pajamas, and fell quickly asleep.

* * *

Harry shot out of bed as a loud explosion rocked the Burrow. Looking around wildly, he could feel the house swaying from the shock. He felt a thrill of fear as he suspected an attack might be happening.

He grabbed his wand and ran out the door, meeting Ginny as she came out of her room as well. He started running down the stairs and stopped, stunned, as he saw the entire front of the Burrow broken away. Many goblins were running around the debris, causing Ragnok's warning to come back to him. He knew they must be after him.

He ran back up the stairs where he saw Ron and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley on the landing.

"Goblins! They're attacking the Burrow. They want me..." Harry said.

"Don't worry, Harry, the Aurors will be here any second," said Mr. Weasley, holding his wand with a firm expression.

"There's no time! They must have some plan to take me before they get here. I have to get out of here, lead them away!" Harry said.

"Harry, no!" said Mrs. Weasley. "It's too dangerous... Wait for the Aurors!"

He didn't know why, but his gut instinct was that he needed to get out of the house immediately. Undoubtedly the Aurors would get there, but there had to be some plan for that. Goblins weren't stupid.

He ran back into his room and grabbed his Firebolt. Hearing footsteps coming up the stairs, he eyed the window, which was closed. He knew he had only seconds, and sometimes the windows of the Burrow were sticky...

Making a decision, he mounted his broom. He took a deep breath and put his head down with his arms over it and flew straight at the window. He burst through the glass and wood just as he heard a struggle in the corridor and goblins entering the room. A shower of glass and wood rained down on the snow in front of the Burrow as he flew up into the sky.

He flew about fifty yards and then turned to look back. He could see several goblins through his shattered window, as well as a gang of goblins guarding the grounds of the house. He felt a sudden stab of fear for everyone back in the Burrow.

He flew back to the yard. "Hey! You bloody ugly gits! I'm up here... come and get me!"

The goblins all turned and the ones that were inside swarmed out of the house. He could see them running toward some odd-looking vehicles; they had a seat with a sort of table in front. If anything, they resembled a child's desk.

The goblins took to the air, and Harry streaked off, the goblins in hot pursuit. He flew up the snow-covered hill toward the paddock. Suddenly he saw some streaks of light flying past him. He felt a stab of pain as one of the beams caught his arm, and he could feel it growing wet with blood. He started making evasive maneuvers, trying to keep them from hitting him.

He burst through the trees into the open field, trying to think of what to do. He had to lose them. It was very dark; dare he fly into the trees? It was risky - but his only option. He pulled out his wand.

"Fulgeo Lumos!" he shouted. A focused beam of light shot out the end of his wand, illuminating the path in front of him. He flew into the forest, cutting around the trees, trying to lose the goblins. The flying desks looked awkward, but appeared to be quite maneuverable as they followed Harry.

Sailing through the trees, Harry abruptly heard a loud THWACK and felt a grim satisfaction as he realized that he had lost at least one of them. He wasn't certain how many were back there, but he suspected about a dozen were involved in the attack.

He came out into a clearing and put on a burst of speed toward the other edge. He stopped and spun the broom around, waiting for them to come through. He held his wand at the ready.

"Stupefy!" he shouted, aiming at the first goblin that came out. He felt elated as he scored a direct hit, the goblin falling and crashing into the snow. Several other goblins came out, but then flew back to the safety of the trees as they saw their fallen partner. He could see some light within the trees where the goblins were illuminating their path, but it was difficult to get a fix on them. He shot a few more stunners into the trees, but didn't think he hit any of them.

Suddenly a burst of the odd cutting spells came hurling out of the forest; apparently they had waited for all of their cohorts and launched a coordinated attack. Harry tried to dodge, but a spell caught him in the lower leg, causing more blood to flow. He decided he was much too exposed; there were too many of them to fight a pitched battle like this.

Harry realized with chagrin that he hadn't made much of a study of goblin magic. He wasn't certain exactly how to defend against their spells. He resolved to himself to correct that oversight if he made it back to Hogwarts.

He took off into the trees again, sure that they would continue to follow. Having an idea, he slowed a bit, letting them catch up. He could hear several of the goblins whistling through the air. As more cutting spells flew past him, he flew in a random pattern, going left and right, up and down, trying to keep them from hitting him.

Harry spied a relatively open pathway, just the thing he was looking for. He flew in, slowing down a bit, letting them get closer. Just as he heard them getting fairly near and the cutting spells started to fly, he pointed his wand backwards.

"Murus!" he yelled. A stone wall appeared behind him.

TH-TH-TH-THWACK! Harry clenched his fist, as it sounded as if he may have stopped at least four more of them. He sped up and turned back into the safety of the trees. Taking a quick glance back, he saw that the ones left were giving him a much safer distance. Apparently that trick was only going to work once.

Where are the Aurors anyway? he thought, aggravated. They should have come and helped him by now. Something must have happened to them.

Harry beat his fist against his head. Think! he exhorted himself. Deciding that he needed to try something different, he flew straight up in the air, gaining altitude. He flew high above the trees and then whirled the broom around, holding his wand at the ready.

The goblins came up above the trees, hovering close to each other, apparently discussing the situation and trying to decide on a strategy. There appeared to be six of them left.

"Come on," Harry whispered to himself. "Come closer..." If he could just lure them up there, he was certain he could stun them eventually.

Unfortunately, the goblins appeared to think along the same lines and resisted the bait as Harry sighed with frustration. Since time was on Harry's side, he figured he might as well wait and see what they did. He would be perfectly happy with a stalemate.

As Harry watched them curiously, the goblins backed away from each other, and arranged themselves in a circle. He saw them put out their hands, with their long fingers pointing toward the center of the circle. A ball of light grew in the middle as Harry abruptly realized the circle was pointed directly at him. Panicked, he started flying away just as the ball of light erupted from the center of the circle. He didn't know what the light was, but suspected that he didn't want it to touch him.

He looked back and saw the ball of light arching toward him; the goblins in pursuit as well. Apparently the light was guided in some way as he flew back and forth, trying to lose it. He put on a burst of speed, but the light seemed a bit faster than he was. Looking down at the landscape, he was over a fairly flat area, so he didn't think he could make it back to the forest before the light caught him.

The ball was getting very close when he abruptly made a sharp turn, causing the light to fly past him. Apparently he had a maneuverability advantage, which gave him an idea. Harry flew straight up again, the ball angling up. He flew in a long arc, getting the ball directly behind him, and then flew into a dive, straight at the ground.

It's just like a Wronski Feint... Harry thought as he accelerated toward the ground. Waiting until the last possible moment, he pulled out of the dive, actually plowing a groove through the snow. Hearing a loud explosion behind him, he turned his head and noticed a large crater where the ball had hit the ground.

Harry gulped. Apparently the goblins weren't messing about and were planning on taking him in, dead or alive.

Harry skimmed along the ground as he could see them above him heading down at a fast pace. The forest was at least another five hundred yards away; he was at a definite disadvantage where he was. A shower of cutting spells landed around him as he wove back and forth. He felt a hit on his back shoulder, then another on the calf of his leg.

He angled up, trying to get some altitude, but that had the effect of the goblins being able to close in on him faster, and also making it take much longer to get to the safety of the forest. Harry decided his only chance was to attack and prevent them from trying to do another guided ball spell. He worried a bit that they might have some other magic up their sleeve, but he had no choice.

He flew a sharp arc upward, spinning around to bring himself upright again and flew straight at the goblins. He saw them start in shock as they split away from each other. Harry picked the nearest one, coming up behind him.

"Stupefy!" he shouted. The stunned goblin fell toward the ground. He saw the other five grouping together, appearing to try and form the circle. He wasn't certain how many were needed, so trying to stun any one of them might not stop them from launching another guided ball spell.

There was a spell he'd been practicing, he wasn't totally adept at it, but he had no choice. It was very powerful and affected a wide area, which would hit them all at the same time. He had to concentrate; focus his mind... it needed the right mental state... he had to imagine himself holding the air around the goblins in his hands...

"Concussium!" The concussion spell leapt out of his wand, spreading as it went. As it hit the goblins, he saw them violently jerk together, then they all flew apart, vibrating violently in the turbulent air. Four of the goblins fell toward the ground, apparently knocked out.

The last goblin appeared to be shaken up, but still conscious. He shook himself and then looked down at his fallen comrades. Apparently not liking the odds any longer, he streaked off. Harry gave chase, feeling angry and wanting to make certain he didn't get away. Harry launched several stunning spells, finally hitting the goblin and making him crash to the snow.

Harry landed on the ground and collapsed with exhaustion, just lying down in the snow. He shivered, then suddenly realized he was still in his pajamas and probably shouldn't stay too long out in the cold night. He hadn't noticed the frigid air in all the excitement.

Looking up, he saw a large group of people on broomsticks flying rapidly toward his position. He got up and waved toward them. Mr. Weasley and a group of Aurors landed in front of him. He noticed Tonks was among them, looking very angry at the goblins.

"Harry! Are you all right?" asked Mr. Weasley, looking back and forth between Harry and the fallen goblins.

"Yeah... I'm all right now. Is everyone else all right?" he asked anxiously.

"Yes, Harry, everyone is fine," said Mr. Weasley, looking relieved.

"Great Merlin, Harry, look at you..." Tonks said, staring at the cuts all over him. "I see you got some experience with their cutting hexes; they're a goblin specialty."

Harry looked down at himself. His pajamas were covered in blood; apparently he had been hit with more of the cutting spells than he had thought. "Er, yeah," Harry said, not sure what else to say.

"Are you all right to fly back, or do you want to ride with me?" Tonks asked.

"No, I'm all right, though I'm not certain I know how to get back," Harry said.

"Well, follow me; let's get you back to the Burrow before you freeze to death. The Aurors will handle the goblins," she said.

"Some of them are back in the forest..." Harry said.

"Yes, we detected them in there," Tonks said, grinning. "They only sent a dozen after you? I guess they learned their lesson not to send such a small army."

Harry grinned back sheepishly, feeling embarrassed at the praise. "Well, that was more than enough for my taste."

"That's more than enough for anyone's taste, Harry, truthfully. Goblins are tough; they're not overall as magically powerful as we are, but they have a few specialties and they are very, very clever. You don't want to mess with goblins if you can help it," she said.

"What happened to the other Aurors?" Harry asked.

Her face grew dark. "Ambushed. It shouldn't have happened, but somehow they knew exactly where they were hiding. It was a well coordinated attack. We suspect You-Know-Who gave them the information, as well as some magical help to get all the Aurors at once. They were just stunned, fortunately. We suspect these goblins were a rogue bunch; we've already been in contact with Ragnok and he was shocked and angry, to say the least. He's on his way here, actually."

"I'm glad the Aurors are all right," Harry said, feeling a bit guilty for people getting injured on his account.

"They're tough blokes. They'll be all right," Tonks said.

Harry shivered involuntarily, the cold finally getting to him.

"Fervefacio!" Tonks said, waving her wand at Harry.

Harry felt himself instantly get warm, the heat seeming to radiate from his insides. "Ahhh, that felt good. Thanks," he said, smiling.

Tonks chuckled. "That'll hold you until we get back. Shall we go?"

"Yes, definitely," Harry said.

They mounted their brooms; Tonks taking the lead as Harry followed her back to the Burrow. Harry felt himself finally calming down as he followed Tonks, feeling safe now that the Aurors were here. The cold had been numbing his limbs, but as they flew back, he could feel the cuts start to flare with pain.

As they approached the Burrow, Harry felt appalled by the damage. The whole front wall of the ground floor had been torn off, and he could see signs of more minor damage elsewhere. He felt a mixture of anger and guilt as he saw everyone in the front, surveying the damage. The Aurors were setting up some temporary tents for a base camp.

As Harry landed, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny shouted "Harry!" in high-pitched voices and ran over to him, both embracing him simultaneously.

"Harry, mate! Are you all right?" Ron asked, peering at his blood-stained pajamas.

"Look at you!" said Mrs. Weasley, her eyes wide at the blood. "You poor boy... get inside... go sit next to the fireplace and get warm. Ron! Go up and get him a change of clothes."

Ron ran in, heading upstairs as Harry limped through the broken front of the Burrow, his wounds flaring with considerable pain. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny followed closely, looking very worried, and Tonks followed in as well. Harry sat on the hearth of the fireplace, getting warm by the fire. Fortunately, it didn't look as if the fireplace or chimney was damaged from the attack.

"Tonks, could you mix a blood replacement potion? The ingredients are in the pantry; I keep them around just in case," Mrs. Weasley said. "I can heal the wounds."

Tonks nodded. "Right." She headed toward the kitchen.

Mrs. Weasley pulled her wand and began slicing the blood-stained garments off Harry. As the clothes came off, he glanced at Ginny, his face growing hot with embarrassment. He was grateful he didn't seem to have any blood on his underwear.

"Oh, for goodness sakes, Harry," said Mrs. Weasley sternly. "This is no time for modesty."

She peeled the last of the pajamas off Harry, throwing them into the fireplace. Mrs. Weasley frowned as she surveyed the cuts over his body, some starting to bleed again from having the pajamas pulled away. Harry groaned a bit.

"Does it hurt very much, Harry?" Ginny asked, concerned.

Harry smiled at her with a bit of grimace. "I'm all right. I'm just glad it's over."

Mrs. Weasley starting working on his cuts, waving her wand over each one and casting a healing spell. "Nasty business, these goblin cutting spells," she said, looking angry.

Now that he was back safely in the Burrow, Harry started feeling guilty for all the trouble that had followed him there.

"I'm really sorry for this," Harry said to Mrs. Weasley.

She looked shocked and angry. "Great Merlin, Harry, don't you dare blame yourself for this! It's not your fault. In fact, it was a very brave thing you did, leading them away from us. Not that I'm letting you off the hook for that!" she ended sternly.

Ron came back into the room, carrying some fresh trousers, a shirt and some shoes and socks for Harry. He put them down on the hearth next to him.

"Thanks," Harry said.

"No worries, mate," Ron said, grimacing a bit as he looked at the cuts still on Harry's body.

Finally Mrs. Weasley had all the cuts healed, and Harry was able to get dressed again, to his relief. Tonks walked in with a glass of an odd-looking red potion, which Harry looked at dubiously.

Tonks laughed. "It's not blood. It's a blood enhancement potion. It helps your body replace the blood you lost. I've had it before; it's pretty tasty, actually."

Harry took the potion and took a small sip. To his relief, it had a sweet flavor, completely unlike the taste of blood. He downed the whole thing gratefully.

Mr. Weasley and a group of Aurors came into the house. "Looking better, Harry," Mr. Weasley said, smiling at him. "Molly, they're going to help me conjure some temporary walls to close off the place."

Just then, a large group of flying desks landed in the Burrow's front, causing Harry to tense up. He relaxed as he noticed Ragnok among the group, looking quite livid as he surveyed the damage. He carefully walked through the ruined wall.

"Arthur. I wish our meeting was under more pleasant circumstances," Ragnok said gravely, shaking Mr. Weasley's hand.

"Minister Ragnok. Welcome to my home. I wish it was in a bit better shape for your visit," Arthur said, with a smile.

"And Mr. Potter," he said, turning to Harry and shaking his hand as well. "I am pleased that your injuries were relatively minor. Please accept my apologies on behalf of the goblin community, to both of you, for this attack. I assure you that it was not sanctioned, not supported, and will be severely punished."

Turning back to Mr. Weasley, Ragnok said further, "Of course, Arthur, the goblin government will compensate you for the repairs to your house. My staff has brought enough to get you started; please consider that only an initial payment."

Arthur nodded. "Thank you, Minister. That is generous and appreciated. I hope you will visit again once the repairs are completed, so that I may show you proper hospitality."

Ragnok smiled a toothy goblin smile. "You are generous in your forgiveness as well. I will make it a special point to visit in the future."

"Who were they?" Harry asked curiously.

Ragnok's expression grew angry once again. "The initial reports from your Aurors seem to indicate they belong to a cult that we had thought disbanded after Voldemort's last defeat. They believe that the Dark Lord was born to rule over all the races forever, and they worship him on that basis. We had suspected that they reformed after his rise, but this is the first direct evidence of action by them."

One of Ragnok's assistants came up and whispered in his ear.

"Pardon me; Minister Fudge would like to speak to me on the secure floo set up outside," Ragnok said, bowing and walking outside.

Harry got up off the hearth and settled into a chair next to the fire. He felt exhausted, but at the same time felt much too hyped up to even think about sleeping again.

"Ginny, why don't we get everyone some tea," Mrs. Weasley said.

"Would you like some tea, Harry?" Ginny said.

Tea suddenly sounded really good. "Yes, thanks," he said gratefully.

"I'll bring you a cup," Ginny said. She smiled at him, making Harry feel a little better as she walked toward the kitchen with Mrs. Weasley.

"You know, I'd better send an owl to Hermione... she'll for certain want to know what's happened," Ron said. "You all right, mate?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just need to sit for a while," Harry said.

He noticed that Mr. Weasley had wandered off with Tonks and was talking to the Aurors, leaving him alone in the living room. It felt good to have a bit of silence as he closed his eyes for a few seconds, trying to calm himself...

* * *

Harry awoke, slowly realizing that he had dozed off without meaning to. Feeling very warm and comfortable, he noticed he had been covered with a large blanket. He looked about the room, startled, as he realized that he must have slept for some time. A temporary wall had been erected on the front of the house, and he could see daylight outside through the window.

He heard some talking from the kitchen and figured that everyone must be in there. He climbed out of the chair, feeling a bit stiff as he gave a huge stretch and yawn. He was glad he had slept; the rest had taken the edge off the frightening episode.

He walked into the kitchen, where Mr. Weasley, Ginny, Ron and Tonks were seated around the table, with Mrs. Weasley busily cooking. Harry could smell some breakfast sausages cooking, the smell causing a growl to come from his stomach.

"Good morning, dear," Mrs. Weasley said, coming over to embrace him. Harry embraced her back tightly. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine, thanks," Harry said. "Hungry, though."

"I think I can take care of that," Mrs. Weasley said, chuckling. "Go sit down."

Harry took a seat at the table, greeting everyone.

"How long did I sleep? I'm not even certain what time it all happened last night," Harry said.

Ron snickered. "About four hours. I can't believe how much noise you slept through while they were shoring up the house. Of course, you were looking very comfortable..." he said, glancing at Ginny.

"Ron..." Ginny said warningly.

"What? I was just going to say that a bloke can sleep pretty well with a comfortable blanket like that... especially when it's charmed with a nice warming spell... and tucked around him so carefully..." Ron said with a grin.

Harry noticed Ginny looking a little embarrassed and decided to change the subject. "Any news?"

Tonks had been smiling during the exchange, but her face fell grimly. "Unfortunately, not much. We're still not certain how they were able to ambush everyone at once. We had hoped this would be a safe place for you, Harry, but unfortunately they proved us wrong."

Harry felt a chill, as he wondered if that meant what he suspected it meant.

Tonks watched him carefully. "I can see you're way ahead of me, Harry. We need to move everyone to Grimmauld Place for now. It's the safest place for everyone. Believe me, we're all aware that it's a difficult place for you so soon after Sirius's death, but it needs to be done."

Harry nodded. "I understand. I'll be all right; it's better that we don't put more people in danger than we have to, just to protect me."

Tonks waved her hand. "Don't worry about that, Harry. Anyway, we'll probably head over a bit later after everyone is packed."

Just then, Pigwidgeon flew through the window and dropped a note in front of Ron, who opened it up. "It's Hermione," he said, as he quickly read the note.

Ron grinned as he reached the end. "She says, 'they're probably going to send you to Grimmauld Place. Harry is going to need his friends, so I'm heading over to the Burrow on the Knight Bus as soon as possible. Don't you dare leave without me!' "

Tonks chuckled. "I think we can wait," she said.

Harry smiled, glad that they were all going to be together, although feeling a bit guilty for interrupting Hermione's holiday with her parents.

A few hours later, Harry had his things packed back up, although he hadn't really had a chance to unpack. He had also spent some time polishing some scratches out of the Firebolt, which had taken some hits from all the action.

Harry had just set down his Firebolt when he heard a car pull up to the Burrow. He ran downstairs, suspecting that Hermione had arrived.

"Harry!" Hermione said in a high-pitched voice, running out off the bus to embrace him tightly. "Are you all right? Ron wrote about what happened... but I didn't get too many details... Goblins! How did you escape? I'm glad everyone is all right, too..."

Harry grinned through the bushy brown hair. "Hello, Hermione, I'm fine... everything is fine."

"Oh, Ron!" Hermione, running over to embrace him as well. "I'm so glad you're all right, too..."

"Erm, well, everything is great... bit of bad business, there..." Ron said awkwardly, patting her back.

Hermione finally released him and gave Ginny a hug as well. "Hi, Hermione... you missed all the fun," Ginny said, grinning.

"Now, what happened, Harry?" she said, with greetings over with.

Harry gave her a short description of the events of the previous night. "I really want to start brushing up on goblin magic when we get back to Hogwarts," he said fervently.

"Yes, I agree. I've read a bit about goblin magic, but honestly, not too much about the defense. I suppose we should have anticipated this after Ragnok's warning the first time," Hermione said sadly.

That afternoon, they prepared to leave the Burrow for Grimmauld Place. The four teenagers gathered in the living room as Tonks Apparated back in. Hedwig and Pigwidgeon chattered noisily in their cages, apparently excited to be going. Crookshanks was sticking close to Hermione, as if he was afraid to be left behind.

"How are we getting there?" Harry asked Tonks.

"Special Portkey. Dumbledore was able to get one authorized for us, fortunately. That'll make this whole business a lot easier. The Professor sends his regards, by the way. Said to specifically tell you, 'good show,' " she said, grinning.

Harry began to grow apprehensive as the reality of going to Grimmauld Place began to settle in. He wasn't certain he was really ready to go back there yet, but forces beyond his control seem to be pushing him there. He suddenly felt a soft hand on his shoulder.

Ginny whispered in his ear. "It's all right, Harry. Remember, you're not alone," she said.

Her words back at the end of the summer came back to him, as he remembered her comforting him after his nightmare. It did help to have his friends with him; he needed to remember that. He smiled at her and nodded.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley walked into the room carrying trunks with them, as well as a couple of boxes. "I think we're all ready, Tonks," said Mrs. Weasley.

"Right. I have the Portkey right here," she said, pulling out a small wooden box, but dropping it to the floor clumsily. "Oops, sorry," she said sheepishly as she picked it up.

Everyone reached out and touched the Portkey at the same time as Harry felt the hooking sensation behind his navel. The world shifted, and he found himself in the hallway of Grimmauld Place.

His breathing started to grow heavy as he noticed Lupin waiting for him, who looked a bit younger than usual wearing some nicer robes. Very happy for the distraction, he ran over and embraced him. "Hello, Remus," he said.

"Harry! It's great to see you," he said, obviously pleased as he embraced Harry back warmly. "And welcome to everyone else."

They all greeted Lupin as they filed into the main room of the house.

"I've got the bedrooms ready; same sleeping arrangements as last time," he said.

Harry looked around the room. "Er, where's Kreacher?" he asked Lupin.

"He just sits in the attic these days, mumbling to himself. He never comes out. I drop off some food for him, but he hardly eats," Lupin said.

Harry frowned. "Better treatment than he deserves," he said.

Lupin looked at him compassionately. "Kreacher is what he is, Harry. But let's not talk about that now. Let's get you all settled in."

The house appeared to be in even better condition than last year; apparently Lupin had been slowly removing the last remnants of the old house. Harry could see an undecorated tree set up in the living room, giving a festive air to the house.

As the afternoon wore on, Harry felt himself growing more and more agitated being in the house. Everywhere he looked, something seemed to remind him of Sirius. He glumly poked at his food through dinner, noticing that everyone sending him worried looks periodically.

Later that night, Harry was playing chess with Ron in the living room. Ron had just beaten him, but Harry found it difficult to care very much.

Ron gave a huge yawn. "Well, mate, I think I'm heading to bed. It's been a bloody long day," he said.

Hermione looked over and closed her book. "I think I will, too. Pigwidgeon woke me up pretty early," she said, smiling. "How about you, Harry?"

Harry was feeling much too nervous and jumpy to sleep yet. "I might stay up and read or something. I'm not quite ready yet," he said.

"Where's Ginny, by the way?" Hermione asked.

Ron shrugged. "She was looking around, last I saw her."

Ron and Hermione headed up the stairs to bed. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, as well as Lupin had already gone up to bed a while ago, leaving Harry alone in the room. He stared at the fire, memories of Sirius filling his head.

Some time later, he heard footsteps, and Ginny walked in, carrying a book.

"Harry?" she asked tentatively.

"Hi, Ginny," he said quietly.

"How are you doing?" she asked.

Harry looked at her and shrugged. That seemed to be enough of an answer for her as she walked over with the book, looking very hesitant.

"Um, Harry... I found something... in this book. Er, I don't know," she said, looking like she was sorry she had brought it up.

"What?" Harry asked curiously.

"Well, I was just thinking... that since you're here, you might have nightmares... and I found this book... and it has a folk remedy for them," she said, biting her lip.

Harry hadn't thought that far ahead, but the environment did seem right for breeding nightmares. He hadn't had any lately, and he certainly didn't want to start having them again. Why is Ginny so nervous about this? he thought.

He smiled at her. "That's really nice of you to find that, Ginny," he said. "It might not be a bad idea."

"Well... the remedy is a bit unusual..." she said, trailing off.

Harry was getting very curious about why she appeared so reluctant. "What's unusual about it?"

"All right," she said, seeming to make a decision to spill the beans. "The book says that the remedy is really effective and doesn't require any dreamless sleep potions, which can mess up your sleep cycles."

"Sounds good so far," Harry said.

Ginny hesitated once again. "It... needs two people," she said.

"And?" Harry said.

"The way it works is that if you have a nightmare... it triggers the spell, your dream ends, and you get some of the other person's dream to replace it," Ginny said.

"That sounds pretty straightforward," Harry said. "What's the problem?"

"It says there are no side effects or anything. It only says, well, that the two people should be 'very good friends,' as it puts it," Ginny said, looking very bashful. "It didn't really go into details. I guess I didn't know if you thought... if it would work with... you and me."

Harry smiled at her. "Of course we're very good friends. It should work fantastically, if that's all that's required." Ginny looked up and smiled back at him, looking very pleased.

"How do we do it?" Harry said, the whole idea of a protection against nightmares sounding very attractive.

"Well, we hold our left hands, touch our wands with our right hands, and then both say the incantation at the same time," she said. "It might be easier to do this sitting on the floor."

"All right, let's try it," Harry said, glancing at the book to see the right words.

They pulled out their wands and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of each other. They held each other's left hand, and put their wands together, crossing their bodies.

"On three?" Harry said. "One... two... three!"

"Annecto Somnium!" they said together.

Harry felt himself momentarily floating in a fog... Where am I? he thought. Then he heard a strange voice. Harry? It was Ginny's voice... Ginny? Are you here?

Suddenly he was back on the floor with Ginny, who looked like she had been in the same fog as he had.

"Well, that was odd... did you hear that?" Harry asked.

"Did you call out?"

"Yeah... I guess you must have heard it, but I didn't think I spoke out loud," Harry said curiously.

"I don't think you did. It must have been a side effect of the spell," she said. "Maybe our thoughts were connected for a second? Weird," she said.

"I suppose if it connects dreams, it must connect our minds in some way," Harry said. "Does this mean, if it happens, we... share the same dream?"

"I don't know; the book is very vague on the details," Ginny said. "Well, hopefully we won't even need the spell," she said.

"Yeah," Harry replied. "But it's good to know that I have a bit of insurance. Thanks for finding that spell, Ginny. It was very nice of you."

Ginny smiled at him. "Well, shall we go up now? It's getting pretty late."

Harry nodded. "Yeah. See you in the morning, right?"

"Pleasant dreams, Harry," Ginny said, grinning. "And if they aren't, be prepared for a lot of dreams about taking OWL tests."

Author notes: You just know this was a bad idea, don’t you? :)

Even more thanks to my beta readers Allie Kiwi and DM. Please review!

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