Unofficial Portkey Archive

The Pride Of Lions by Perivayne

The Pride Of Lions


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Ensconced on the comfortable settee in front of his flat's fireplace, Harry was startled from his English Literature text by a sudden whooshing sound. He looked up to see the pleasant features of Arthur Weasley flickering amidst the magically green flames now burning in the grate.

"Mr. Weasley! It's great to see you, sir!" Harry tossed the heavy textbook aside and went to crouch down beside the fire.

"Harry, it's splendid to see you as well," Arthur responded with a bright smile. "Molly misses seeing you two at the Burrow on a regular basis, and I'm to tell you not to be such strangers."

Harry laughed. "She misses us? With all those grandkids underfoot everyday?"

The older man's face beamed. "There's no such a thing as a full house in Molly's vocabulary. And since Bill and Fleur relocated to Australia with their brood, Molly's been pining a bit."

Harry smirked a bit at that statement. He heard keys rattling in the front door and glanced over his shoulder. Hermione entered the lounge room, sorting mail posts and juggling a hefty armful of textbooks and notes.

"Hey, love!" Harry called.

Hermione looked up, distracted from her task. She registered Arthur's appearance by breaking into a bright smile and kneeling down beside Harry.

"Hello, Mr. Weasley! How are you?" she asked. Harry kissed her cheek as she flashed a quick grin at her boyfriend before turning her attention back to the Floo call.

"I'm very well, Hermione," Mr. Weasley answered. "I was just telling Harry here that Molly has missed you two from the family gatherings these last months."

Hermione sighed wearily. "We've just been so busy here lately, with classes and such. Our schedules are full-time here at the University, and the time's just flown by! We've missed going to the Burrow as well."

"Think nothing of it, Hermione," Mr. Weasley's hand appeared below his head and motioned calmingly before disappearing back into the green fire. "Molly will forgive you a great number of slights, I'm sure, should you appear for her surprise birthday party in October," He paused for a moment, his face taking on a strange expression of hesitance before he continued, "But, that isn't why I'm calling. We, er…, we were hoping that you might know where Ron has gone off to?"

Harry rocked back on his heels and shared a blank look with Hermione. "He's still living in London near Fred and George, isn't he?" Harry asked, perplexed.

"No, the twins haven't seen or spoken to him for more than a month. I was rather hoping he might have spoken to you two before going off somewhere. Molly and I have been unable to find out where he might have gone." The older man switched his gaze from Harry to Hermione as he spoke. "We noticed that he wasn't responding to our owls a few weeks ago, and became concerned when no one in the family had spoken to him, either, in that length of time. I made some inquiries and found that his flat was let to rent and his clothes and things are gone. And Molly's clock… the picture has faded and it seems stuck on "Away". It's all very troubling…." Mr. Weasley trailed off, blinking hard and his mouth working silently for a moment before he remembered where he was and to whom he was talking.

Harry sat stunned and silent while Hermione asked rapid, probing questions of Mr. Weasley.

When had been the last time they…he had spoken to Ron? Had it really been more than two months? Why didn't we…I…notice? He wondered. It was…

When he surfaced from his thoughts, Harry found Hermione gazing at him in concern, and the last of the green flames dying in the cold hearth.

How long have I been kneeling here, thinking? Harry snorted inwardly, Probably thinks me daft for zoning out that way!

"Ginny's funeral…that's the last time we saw him, Hermione."


Harry spent most of that night and the following day tracking down any and all persons who might know anything about Ron's disappearance. Hermione's class schedule at the University was full on Thursdays, unlike his own and Harry refused outright to allow her skive off to help him.

She had given one of her trademark glares and had frostily stated she would re-arrange her class schedule for Friday and "…Ron is my friend too, thank you very much!"

He still winced when he recalled her sharp tone. Some concerted effort on his part would be needed to mollify Hermione's anger. But not now.

Now, he sat at the kitchen table with what little he had been able to glean from his sources and favors he had called in to address the task. It appeared now that Ron had carefully and quietly tidied his affairs before dropping out of sight. No one in his close circle had suspected anything to be wrong with their friend and brother. A purposeful strategy marked each and every move Ron had made, but as to what his friend's goal had been; Harry was completely at a loss to even hazard a guess.

The familiar rattle of keys woke Harry to the fact that the daylight was fading and he had been sitting here staring blankly at his notes and scattered owl posts for a rather long time. Hermione came directly into the kitchen as he stood and started to gather the papers together self-consciously.

She placed her hand over his, stopping his movement. Her eyes met his for a long moment before she asked, "What did you find, Harry? And don't leave a single thing out."

Harry drew a deep breath and then told her everything he knew.


The next afternoon found the couple in Hogsmeade at the Three Broomsticks. Harry watched the firelight play across Hermione's hair as she bent over a special scrying map that she was altering.

One of Madam Rosmerta's staff bustled out from the kitchen to place their lunch orders in front of them while the mugs of butterbeer floated over from the bar in her wake.

Hermione put the map down beside her and they tucked in. The tavern was bustling with a midday crowd, all laughing and conversing without a care. Hermione and I should be doing that, Harry thought. Ron should be here with us. It wasn't right without him. Hermione looked up from her sandwich, and he knew she felt the same. There was an emptiness within them now, a void - a third of a whole set missing.

Harry picked at his food half-heartedly, his appetite non-existent in the wake of his thoughts. Hermione and he had lost so much to the darker aspects of life; were they now to lose their oldest friend as well?

After she finished a small portion of her meal, Hermione pushed her dish aside and pulled out a silk pouch from her robes.

The snarling lion's-head figurine glittered faintly in the light from the fire and began to move across the map.

A quick inhalation from Hermione was matched by Harry's gasp. The figurine stopped squarely at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, not far from Hagrid's hut.

"Could he have gone to stay with Hagrid?" she asked softly.

"Dunno. I suppose he might've done. But why not tell his family or us for that matter?"

Hermione's face reflected hesitance as she stared down at the charm. "He's at Hogwarts…" she trailed off and then looked back at Harry. He understood her reluctance.

Neither had ever been back to the school once they graduated. The scars were still raw for both; too many lost lives and loved ones. The students who had survived Voldemort's final bloody assault paid with their innocence. Some carried secrets that would haunt them until the day they died.

It was one of the very last places that Ron should have wanted to go. It certainly was the last place that they wished to enter.

Some Gryffindors we are, he thought.


Bright afternoon sun shone through sparse clouds as they walked along the road towards Hogwarts. The late spring air was cool and soft on their faces and the surrounding hills covered with heather ready to bloom. The walk would have been pleasant otherwise, but the rising tension they felt marred any enjoyment.

All too soon, they reached the main gates with their winged boar statues. Hermione pulled on Harry's arm to stop him, and he swung back to her.

"We have to go in, Hermione," he coaxed softly.

"What if it's my fault, Harry?" she asked.

"What are you talking about, Hermione?" Puzzled, Harry caught her hands. They were trembling.

"What if it's the…Bestia Adfingere…" she whispered, a single tear tracing down her cheek.

Harry shook his head. "You gave us all the choice and the consequences, Hermione. You didn't make us…" She stopped his words with a finger across his lips and leaned her forehead against his chin. He obediently stayed silent and held her close.

She pushed away much sooner than Harry would have liked and squared her shoulders as she faced the gate.

"Let's get this over with, then," Hermione muttered.

Harry smiled as he kept hold of one of her hands and walked past the statues beside her.


Hagrid's squat stone hut appeared unchanged as the pair approached. A thin column of smoke drifted lazily from the chimney and the vegetable plot at the rear was freshly turned and harrowed.

The expanse of lawn and shrubbery flowed away and up to the walls of the castle unblemished, but the memory of the torn and bloodstained battlefield it had been still flashed into Harry's mind. It was a surrealistic overlay; one moment it was a serene view, the next moment a scene of carnage.

He shook his head angrily to clear the vision, and felt the trembling in Hermione's hand. Her face reflected no overt distress, but her eyes and hands betrayed her anxiety.

Knocking on the door to the cottage raised no answer or barking. Hagrid's faithful boarhound, Fang, had died defending his master in the final battle. As they turned to leave, a large silhouette emerged from the edge of the forest.

"Hagrid!" Harry called.

The half-giant jerked to attention and then waved cheerily as he located Harry and Hermione standing on his front step.

"Harry! Hermione! Yeh're sight for sore eyes!" Hagrid boomed, "C'mon in for a cuppa', the pair of yeh."

Soon the couple found them sitting in Hagrid's small hut with teacups the size of small soup bowls in front of them. As their friend bustled about preparing the beverage, Harry plucked up his nerve and asked. "Hagrid, have you seen or spoken to Ron lately?"

"Ron? I saw him, och, `bout a month or so ago. He came up to see Professor Dumbledore." Hagrid answered as he poured.

Hermione's eyes widened, "Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid? Did he say why?"

"Dunno why, Hermione. I do know he spent the night talking to the Professor, an' then left the next mornin'." Hagrid's brow creased in puzzlement. "I'da thought yeh would know more than me `bout that."

"It's like this, Hagrid," Harry sighed. "Ron has… intentionally disappeared without a word to anyone."

"Disappeared? Why would Ron do summat like that?"

"We don't know, Hagrid. But we think he's here, somewhere on the grounds or in the Forest." Hermione stated.

A thunderous knock came from the door that caused them to whirl and face the drafty wooden door. A second loud impact rattled the hinges. Hagrid strode to the door and flung it open to reveal a thestral pawing at the top step.

The half-giant stepped outside to stroke the gleaming neck of the creature. Hermione stared aghast at the dark animal as Harry took her hand.

"Harry…I can see them now."

"Yes." He answered softly.

"They're…rather beautiful, in a way." She stared for a moment longer before she squeezed his hand. Hagrid muttered to the thestral, who nudged his shoulder as the pair exited the hut.

"What's the to-do, then, eh? I've fed yeh plenty today." Hagrid said.

The dark equine tossed his head and pawed the ground before nudging Hagrid's shoulder again.

"Alright, alright, I'll get yeh some more then," Hagrid's face reflected frustrated puzzlement. "But you can't be eatin' all of it by yerselves. Yeh'd get too fat to fly, you would." He went out of sight for a few moments and returned with a half-side of beef draped across his shoulders.

Harry seized the opportunity and made their farewells to continue up to the Castle. Glancing back once, Harry saw Hagrid disappear into the Forest closely followed by the thestral stallion.


The castle was more quiet than they remembered being in their time. Hermione lead the way through the corridors towards the staff room. Harry followed a few steps behind, taking in the portraits and statues. When did it become so much smaller than I remember? he wondered.

Just outside the staff room, Professor Flitwick encountered them. "Mr. Potter! Miss Granger! How wonderful to see you!"

After a few moments of pleasantries, Flitwick enquired as to their business, and Hermione requested if a moment of the Headmaster's time could be found for business of a personal nature. The diminutive Deputy Headmaster was happy to provide the password, "Pear Drops" and inform them that the Headmaster was available.

Hermione was taken aback. "He's expecting us?"

"Yes, indeed, Miss Granger," Flitwick chirped and took his leave.

Bloody hell, is there anything that old codger doesn't know about?


The gargoyle at the base of the stairs moved aside with alacrity as Harry said the password. The climb up the spiral staircase seemed impossibly short, or perhaps it was simply their reluctance that shortened the distance unnaturally, but before Harry was ready, the Headmaster's office door lay in front of them.

Hermione moved up close behind him and pressed her cheek between his shoulder blades for a moment of comfort. He sighed heavily and felt her shift to his right side as he raised his hand to knock on the heavy wooden door.

"Please come in, Harry, Hermione."

The door swung open of its own accord and revealed the circular Headmaster's office with its portrait gallery, the strange devices and multitudes of books. All this Harry expected but not the dimness of the room.

The curtains were drawn across the mullioned windows and the fireplace's low light was the only illumination. In a large, squashy chair before the fire Professor Dumbledore sat with his feet propped up on an overstuffed ottoman and his lap covered with a multi-colored afghan quilt. Fawkes was perched on his golden stand, dozing, and barely cracking open an eyelid to see who had arrived.

"To what do I owe the honor of a visit?" Dumbledore asked.

"We're here about Ron," Harry said shortly. From the corner of his eye, he could see Hermione's concerned glance in his direction.

Dumbledore laid his head back against the chair back wearily. Age seemed to weigh heavily upon the venerable Headmaster. For an instant, Harry's deep seated anger wavered at the sight of the old man's frailty, but only for an instant. The memories of the lost rose up in his mind like restless ghosts.

"I see," the Headmaster answered softly. "And what do you desire from me regarding Mr. Weasley?"

"I believe you were the last to see him. Hagrid said he came to Hogwarts a month ago to speak to you."

"To see him? What do you mean, Harry?" Dumbledore appeared perplexed by Harry's statement.

Hermione pushed forward then. "Hagrid said he spent the night talking to you, Professor. He disappeared after that night as far as anyone can tell."

"He was distraught over his sister's death, and wanted advice. As to what I said to him, I cannot, in good conscience, relate to you without his agreement." Dumbledore responded.

"Did he tell you where he was going?" Harry queried angrily.

Dumbledore's eyes reflected a profound sadness as his eyes moved from his visitors to gaze into the fire. "Ron did not inform me of any plans he may have had, Harry. For my part, I recognized the need to talk about his emotional pain only."

Harry felt shame creeping over his anger, and did not wish to feel any sympathy for the old wizard, but he knew it was partially his own fault that he had not seen Ron's struggles and pain, because, deep down, he had not wanted to see them. Now, Dumbledore knew more about Ron than he or Hermione did.

The Headmaster made a small gesture and two squashy chintz chairs appeared opposite his own in front of the hearth. "Please be seated and let's talk about young Mr. Weasley."

Hermione nudged Harry, who stubbornly resisted for a moment, before giving in with a frustrated sigh. She took the chair closest to the fireplace, and waited until Harry sat down before asking softly. "Can you tell us what you thought Ron's intentions were when he left you, Professor?"

"He talked about spending some time "finding himself", but must confess myself perplexed by that comment. If one must find oneself now, who were they before?" Dumbledore asked, one eyebrow raised inquiringly.

Oh, bollocks! This is going to take time, Harry thought.


Their presence in the castle had obviously flown through the Houses faster than a gossiping grapevine. The obvious signs of adulation had always bothered Harry, so he had managed to find a corner just before the door to pull the Invisibility Cloak over their heads before they slipped out the main door.

The spring evening was balmy as they exited the Castle. Glancing up at the turrets and towers, Harry could see the silhouettes of students peering out from several of the windows.

Hermione cast a concealment charm on their path so that the footprints in the soft turf disappeared as they moved across the lawn toward the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

They moved into the Forest until the Castle was hidden from view before Harry removed the cloak and faced Hermione.

"Well?" Harry asked.

"He has to be here, Harry," Hermione stated earnestly.

"How do we know that? The scrying points to the Forest at the same place every time! We should have been able to find or detect him if he was just behind Hagrid's hut." He turned to stare off into the depth of the wood.

"Molly's clock indicates he's alive but that something's changed or is different about him. The scrying map points to the last place Ron was, as a human," Hermione's tone was determined as she ticked off her facts. "Even Hedwig can't find him! It all fits. How else could he so completely disappear if he didn't…"

A deep sound echoed through the forest, rising and falling in regular intervals. Harry felt Hermione stiffen beside him as they both turned to listen to the rumbling calls.

"Moto," Harry whispered as the sounds faded.

"We should go find him." She replied.


The wood rustled as an errant breeze passed. It also ruffled the heavy mane of the large male lion lying at ease beneath the spreading branches of an ancient beech tree.

He shook off the tickling strands of dense reddish-gold hair and yawned widely as he rolled over lazily. His distended stomach indicated his well-fed state.

As the night sounds drifted through the woods, a distant sound changed his relaxed state to tense focus in a split second.


Ears straining, the lion stared off into the distance and stayed quiet. After a few minutes, the sputtering roar came again, stronger this time.


Scrambling to his feet in a sudden rush, his movement temporarily stilled all the sounds of the nearby nocturnal creatures. Once he moved off into the darkness, the sounds returned.

He stalked purposefully through the wood, tracking the sound of the other male. The roar came again, closer and stronger now. The red-maned lion now responded with his own roaring as if in answer.

Soon he found the others in a small glade, the other full-grown male and a single lioness, standing at attention as he approached. He broke into a slow trot towards them, huffing excitedly.

The other male moved forward and huffed back. The red-maned lion brushed up against the head and the side of the dark maned lion and leaned heavily until he fell over against the newcomer.

The dark male, Athari, turned to rub his head against Moto's red mane with a deep humming sound. The lioness, Wepesi, approached the pair and also joined in the greetings.

His pride had found him. Moto, the red-maned lion, was home.


The small pride traversed the breadth of the Forest over the next two days, stopping only to feed on the beef carcasses that the large man brought for the dark winged horses or mark territory. The two males quickly established their hierarchy once more, with Athari, the stronger of the two, being the more dominant.

Wepesi kept herself separate on the walks, trailing several lengths behind the males. She seemed watchful despite her affection towards the males. Athari wanted to lead the small group out of the shelter of the woods onto the open fields below the large stone place, but Moto kept refusing to follow. That open space was to be avoided at all costs.

The fields beyond the human village were acceptable, and they mock-hunted the native red deer. With two mature males however, they never even got close enough to do much more than sprint a few steps before the deer were spooked and out of range. Wepesi was unhappy with that result, but with food available and easier to obtain, success in the hunt was unnecessary.

They returned to the area near the large man's dwelling to rest, but the peace was short-lived.

Wepesi had come into season.


The fight was inevitable.

Only the outcome seemed in question. Moto was not the strongest, but he was very determined, while Athari seemed to hold back from the battle. The red-maned lion scored a powerful blow and stunned his brother lion to win the right to mate with Wepesi.

He turned to find the lioness was gone. A woman stood where Wepesi had been.

"Ron, please…come back to us. Remember who you are," she pleaded.

Confused, Moto paced back and forth, growling. What was happening?

Athari weaved to his feet and shook his head. Then he changed.

Moto backed away from the man who stood where his brother lion had been. And memory rushed through him…

…we don't have time to learn Animagus transformation, Harry," Hermione was writing something furiously on a piece of parchment as she spoke.

"Voldemort's minions will have to be overcome to get to him," Harry replied. "30 or more versus 6 are lousy numbers. We need an edge. Something they won't expect."

Hermione looked up from her notes, "I think there's something else that could help. The Bestia Adfingere potion."

Luna oohed at that that, while Ron, Ginny and Neville looked as perplexed as Harry did. "What exactly does it do?" Harry asked.

"The potion's a very old magic, from before the Animagus transfiguration was discovered," Luna chirped. "But it's a permanent potion and there are…side effects."

Hermione's expression was grim. "Luna's right. The side effects are not insignificant. Since the potion is permanent, there are miscibility issues with certain other potions as well as very strong animal instincts and alter egos."

"And we'll loose our intelligence over time, until we become the animal in question permanently," Luna added brightly.

The discussion, argument really, had raged for several days amongst them while Hermione made preparations for the potion. Harry was outraged that Hermione would even consider such an option, but she pulled him aside one evening and had a long private talk with him.

Whatever was said Ron never found out, but Harry did not bring up the subject again verbally, though his eyes burned holes into Hermione each time they talked about the potion.

That she and Harry had already decided to accept the risks and the final outcome was clear. In the end, all six agreed to it. Voldemort and his forces had to be stopped and sacrifices to achieve that goal were a necessity.

Luna had suggested Crumple-Horned Snorkack as the form, but with the balance of the group being Gryffindors, it was almost a moot point.

They became lions.

Hermione cautioned them to ration the shifting, as it accelerated the degradation of their human intelligence, and so they had changed only three times before Voldemort's bloody assault on Hogwarts.

Luna, Uoni, had fallen in that fight, defending Ron, Moto, from the Killing Curse of Rodolphus Lestrange. Neville, Kaimba, had died victoriously, taking Bellatrix Lestrange down with him.

Ginny, Pensi, had been enraged by Kaimba's loss. In lioness form, she had racked up the most Death Eater kills that day. Hermione, Wepesi, had been referred to by observers as a demon-possessed creature that had methodically savaged and destroyed Lucius Malfoy.

Harry, Athari, had focused on one opponent only. Voldemort. The lion form got him across the battle field and had given him a single, crucial moment of surprise to close and kill the dark wizard. Not with magic, but with the means of fangs and of a special charm Hermione and he had discovered; a spell that would recover his stolen blood that Voldemort had taken.

In the ensuing chaos following the battle, no one had noticed when the lions had disappeared. Luna and Neville's bodies had been found with their grieving friends around them…

With the memories came the loss and the despair. Ron rejected it all and retreated back into his lion persona, Moto. He snarled and lunged at Harry, who stood still as his friend came at him.

Suddenly, ribbons of physical agony ripped along Moto's back and hindquarters. Roaring, he turned to find Wepesi had returned, her claws and fangs sunk into his back. He knocked her off and would have pursued her, but Athari returned as well and challenged.

Moto, distressed and confused, hunkered down. Athari stopped his aggression and stood quietly. Wepesi backed around to stand beside her mate. Their body language invited him to rejoin them.

For a moment, it seemed that he would take that step forward, but instead he bolted off into the undergrowth away from them. Both Harry and Hermione shifted form and called, "Ron!"

The sounds of his retreat died away as the pair stood in the small meadow and realized their friend would not be coming back to them.

Harry fell to his knees and bowed his head. He had failed to save his friend. Hermione let out a suppressed sob, and Harry looked up to see her expression of loss and despair. He pulled her down to hold her on his lap and stroked her hair as she buried her face against his neck.

"Harry," she gasped out hoarsely. "I don't know…what to do…"

Harry closed his eyes at her anguished tone. It added his sense of pathetic failure. Why could he, the Boy-Who-Lived-And-Defeated-Voldemort not save his oldest friend?

A reflexive shiver raced through Hermione's frame, waking Harry to the fact that the morning air was rather chilly and both he and Hermione were stark naked.

"We should head back to the glade and get our clothes and wands, Hermione." She nodded against his neck and then pulled away with her face turned away to hide her tears. He caught her hand and brought it to his lips to kiss the knuckles. The gesture caught her by surprise and she gave him a sad small smile.

"We shouldn't change again, Harry," she whispered, sniffing as she wiped the tears from her cheeks.

"Alright," he answered.

The place where they had concealed their clothes and wands was only a short distance, and after fetching their things, they dressed in silence and wearily trudged from the woods.

The early morning sun was bright, making them squint against the glare as their eyes adjusted from the dimness of the Forest. They had reached the winged boars at the gate when they spotted the most unusual sight.

Professor Dumbledore sat in a wooden deck chair a short distance from the road with the multi-colored quilt across his knees with a low wide table at his right side. A large silver coffee urn steamed invitingly beside the plate of cinnamon buns and croissants.

As they got closer, a flash of fire marked Fawkes' arrival to perch on the back of the Professor's chair and chirp happily.

"Ah, Harry, Hermione," Dumbledore's expression was kind and warm as he turned in his chair slightly to watch their approach. When they reached his side, they saw the table contained a setting for three. A wave of the Headmaster's wand produced two additional chairs along with lap rugs.

"Please, sit and have something to eat. I would imagine you are rather exhausted from your travels." The old wizard sipped from his own cup as the couple tentatively took the opposite seats and reached for their cups.

"Just instruct the urn as to what beverage you might want," Dumbledore instructed. "I find myself rather addicted nowadays to a Muggle chocolate hazelnut beverage from Ghirardelli."

Harry took a strong coffee with sugar and Hermione took Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar along with a plain croissant. They sipped their beverages and warily watched the Headmaster, knowing that there was more to come.

"I see you were unsuccessful in persuading Mr. Weasley to return to his human form?" the old wizard asked nonchalantly.

Hermione gasped and Harry singed his tongue on a too-large gulp of hot coffee. "H-how did you know?" Harry sputtered.

"Ron told me of the potion that night he came to see me. I was quite horrified to learn the lengths to which the six of you had gone to defeat Voldemort." Dumbledore's normally bright eyes were shadowed and murky as he watched them. "Like your father, you managed to do something quite reckless and keep it from me, Harry."

Harry opened his mouth, but thought better of it. His decisions were his own, and I don't require anyone's permission or approval! Hermione was busily twisting the edge of her cloak between nervous fingers while she held her head high in the face of Dumbledore's disappointment.

The old wizard sighed as he glanced away toward the dark shadow of the Forest crouching at the edge of the school's lawn. "Regret for decisions is one of the hardest things in life. I regret that my actions caused you to lose trust in me, and that in that loss; you made your decision to sacrifice your futures to defeat Voldemort." He turned back to the younger couple as he continued. "I cannot undo the potion, no spell or incantation can remove it, but I can at least give you time…"

He withdrew a small matchbook-sized book from his robes and cast the Engorgement charm upon it. The book grew into a very thick tome bound in brown leather. Dumbledore handed to Hermione without a word.

She opened the book to read the address page. "T-this is…no, it can't be…is it really…?" she stammered as Harry tried to glance over her shoulder to see the cause of her incoherence.

"It is, Miss Granger. This is Nicholas Flamel's research journal for the Philosopher's Stone. Several potions and their constituent ingredients needed to be understood and experimented with to reach the necessary components needed to create the Stone."

Dumbledore tapped the open book once and the pages flipped to a velvet bookmark.

"The Bestia Adfingere…" Hermione was awestruck. "He researched it?"

"Oh yes, two of the most critical components of the final admixture for the Stone came from that potion. Read down to the miscibility notes, Miss Granger." Dumbledore instructed.

"Potions with detrimental or opposite reactions include the Draught of Living Death, Calming Draught, The Mental Clarity potion and the common potions used to prevent pregnancy," Hermione read aloud. "I've already found that warning, Professor."

"Next page please," the old wizard said.

"Potions that can be used to great effect are the healing and sensory enhancement potions, as these potions are magnified…" She looked up from the page, confused. "What am I looking for, sir?"

Dumbledore fixed a stern look on the young woman. "What I'm about to give you must be kept safe, Miss Granger. Do you understand?"

Hermione nodded solemnly. Dumbledore paused a moment, then quietly uttered, "Occultum manifesto."

Harry watched amazed as the existing page faded from view and another page appeared, consisting of handwritten notes and calculations. Hermione, her eyes almost blurred as she read at top speed, gasped.

"The potion of Mental Clarity can have a beneficial effect in stopping the creeping loss of intelligence from the Bestia Adfingere potion if Indian Pennywort (Gotu Kola) leaves are steeped in essence of Murtlap tentacles for a week and the complete admixture is used for the Clarity potion. The Murtlap seems to bridge the miscibility conflict and enhances the Gotu Kola's effect," she recited breathlessly. "I am unsure of what value this observation might be of at this point, since the Bestia Adfingere potion has quite fallen into disfavor." They looked up together into the smiling eyes of the older wizard.

"I must confess that I had quite forgotten about the potion until Ron told me of it. Madam Pince has removed that particular book from the library to my office now," The happy twinkle faded as he continued. "But the potion is only part of Mr. Weasley's problem, I fear."

Fawkes chirped a few silvery notes and flapped his wings. Just exiting the front gate of the castle were four black robed students, straining to carry something between them and heading in the general direction of Hagrid's hut.

"Ah, Miss Connolly, Mr. Derwent, Mr. Fawcett, and Mr. Corwin. You might be proud to note that your tradition of always ending up in the Forbidden Forest at least once during the school term has been taken up by these four Gryffindors, Harry," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled madly as he caught Harry's eyes. "Indeed, just two weeks ago, they were nearly caught by an Acromantula."

Hermione looked shocked, while Harry smirked a bit, remembering his and Ron's encounters with Aragog's brood. "Really?" Harry asked.

"The four insist that they were saved from the creature by a great Lion, who fought the spider off. Naturally, the legend of this lion has grown among the students. The Gryffindors have taken to calling him Godric, I've been told."

Even Hermione had to smile at that interesting tale before she asked, "What about Ron, sir? Why did he choose this?"

Dumbledore sighed, "Mr. Weasley's resolve would not let him let you see the pain he was in. While Ginny still lived, they balanced each other and were adequate substitutes for what they both could not have, but with her death, he lost his anchor. His pride would not let him ask for you for aid, and perhaps he wanted to punish you both for having something he could not."

A breeze rustled across the wood and lawn, and a cloud dimmed the sun for a moment. The phoenix cocked his head slightly as he watched the group of young student, now joined by Hagrid, carrying heavy bundles towards the Forest.

"Ron must make the choice whether or not he will finally face his fears and pain to overcome them, or if he will stay as he is. He is welcome to stay here as long as he needs."

A moment of silence fell before Dumbledore asked suddenly, "I understand you both are attending University now. Might I ask what you are studying there?"

"I'm in Pre-Med studies, Harry's in Electrical Engineering," she grinned as Harry's self-conscious expression.

"Electrical Engineering?" the old wizard murmured with one eyebrow quirked sportively. "And here I thought you could go no higher in Arthur's estimation, Harry."

Hermione then asked detailed questions about the altered potion as Harry listened quietly. Dumbledore impressed the need to take the potion regularly and not to shift unless absolutely necessary as the loss from the changing could not be reduced or stopped by the Clarity potion.

"But, the potion, Ron will need it as well." Hermione fretted.

"Hagrid is dosing all the carcasses he is feeding with the altered potion and will continue to do that for as long it is needed. We'll be placing a shelter in the wood for his usage for the winter if need be. His physical needs will be addressed. As to his emotional ones, he must be the one to make that decision…" Dumbledore trailed off sadly.

Fawkes squawked when he observed the four students returning to the school. The Headmaster made his farewells at that time and vanished the chairs and tea service before starting back to the Castle.

Harry and Hermione watched him return to the school before turning to head down the long road to Hogsmeade.

They had barely cleared the gates when the low roaring reached their ears. Turning back to listen for a moment, Harry felt Hermione press against his side and lean her head on his shoulder.

Moto was calling for his pride, but they could not go to him.

As the sound died away, Harry and Hermione sadly turned to continue down the road.