Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 14 1871 2003-01-06T13:03:00Z 2003-07-17T11:25:00Z 23 11719 66802 556 133 82037 9.2720 Chapter 11 The Anima Summa
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.
Author's Notes :
Don't forget to review - I need to know what you think about the story so that I can include/exclude the sort of things you like/dislike in future works. Many thanks to those of you who've reviewed up to now. A couple of points on the review board :
Third-person point of view - You're absolutely right, Munkii. When I wrote the plot to this fic (and to the two that follow) I saw that the story would benefit from several parallel and related sub-plots in support of the main Harry-centric plot (eg Charlie and Nadine, Sirius and Ceri, Dumbledore's group, Voldy and his minions). The only way to get this over with any sort of clarity was by using third-person perspective.
Jesus - Apologies if this has offended any of you, but there is a reason for his inclusion - I give a full explanation in the extended author's notes at the end of the epilogue (that's after the next chapter). Oh and Remus is one of my favourite characters too - I couldn't do anything really bad to him - just portray him as the heroic figure he undoubtedly is.
The next chapter - The Attack - will be up very soon.
Lord Voldemort was not in the best of moods as he sat in his cave in a very remote part of Northern Scotland. His mood was so foul that Wormtail and Nagini cringed at the back of the cave, in the darkest corner they could find, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Voldemort had spent the best part of two days trying to work out how to get Harry out of Hogwarts and into his clutches, but had not yet come up with a foolproof plan. He had sent some of his Death Eaters to test out the magical defences surrounding the grounds at Hogwarts, and their report had not been encouraging. No weaknesses could be found, and there were even some additional protective spells in place compared to the last time they had done their checks.
"WORMTAIL!" he roared.
Wormtail jumped and scrambled over to the Dark Lord's throne, where he grovelled at its base.
"Go and signal the inner circle - they're late. I will not be kept waiting."
"Yes, my lord," said Wormtail as he rushed out of the cave to activate the signalling device. The inner circle was not late - they weren't due to meet for another half hour, but it would have taken a braver man than Wormtail to point this out to his master.
Within three minutes, all inner circle members had gathered outside the cave. "Why have we been summoned early, Wormtail?" asked Lucius Malfoy.
"Don't ask," Wormtail shuddered. "I haven't seen him in this bad a mood for a very long time. Come on, we'd better get in there quick."
Everyone had gone pale at Wormtail's words and wondered who would have to take the brunt of Voldemort's wrath if the meeting didn't go well. They all trouped cautiously into the cave, and approached the dark figure at the centre with trepidation. The dancing light from the flaming torches on the wall reflected off Voldemort's smouldering, slitty red eyes as he watched them approach the throne.
"I have thought hard and long, these past two days," he said, "but I have not yet found a way to get Potter into my clutches. What have you done? I want some answers, and I want them now. Nott, what do you advise?"
Nott visibly paled as he felt that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"I … I … I've spent the last two days wracking my brains, my Lord. But I haven't been able to come up with anything acceptable yet."
"Brains? What brains?" roared Voldemort, pointing his wand at the unfortunate Nott. "CRUCIO."
Nott fell to the floor and writhed about in agony, until Voldemort mercifully lifted the curse.
"I hope the rest of you have done better than Nott. Lucius - what about you?"
"My Lord," Lucius bowed his head. "Our friend at the school has told me that there has been increased activity by the teachers around the perimeter of the school grounds. They have been strengthening their defences, and Potter and his friends are being very closely watched. Whenever they go outside the school building, someone keeps a close watch on them - they've even started patrolling the edge of the Forbidden Forest whenever they go outside."
"Hmm - that doesn't help, Lucius. I know about the increased defences. Tell me something positive."
"Uh - there are two possibilities I can think of, my Lord." Lucius paused, thinking quickly for the second one - the first he'd already had up his sleeve when he found out about Voldemort's evil mood.
"Well. Don't keep me waiting. Speak!"
"First, we can keep two Death Eaters permanently stationed in the Forbidden Forest. They can keep a close eye on what goes on, and they can also be alert to Potter and his friends when they come out into the grounds. A lot will depend on luck, but one of them may get close enough to be snatched and brought here to you. It doesn't matter who we snatch - Potter will come running if he knows that one of his friends is in danger."
"Hmm good, Lucius. Not brilliant, but at least it's something. Arrange for our two best followers to set up camp in the Forbidden Forest as soon as the meeting's over. Now, what's your second plan?"
"Uh, it's not so much a plan as a possibility for you to consider, my Lord. The Dementors - you could use your influence to get them on our side. I'm sure they wouldn't need much persuading if you dangled the carrot of a few souls in front of them."
"The Dementors - Hmm, I wonder," Voldemort reflected. "I didn't want to use them just yet, but yes, I think you may have something there, Lucius. But we need to be very clever. I can't afford to take all of them from Azkaban - that would force the ministry to publicly admit my presence. But I can take some of them. They might well be very useful as a diversionary tactic if we need to attack the school directly. Yes, thank you Lucius. Good."
"I only wish to serve you, my Lord." Lucius grinned to himself. His quick thinking had once again got him out of an awkward situation and gained points with the Dark Lord.
"What news from our friend at Hogwarts, Lucius? Any news on Potter's Anima Summa?"
"I'm afraid not, my Lord. But I'm certain he hasn't found her yet. Potter is still moping around the school, looking despondent."
"Right. I want you all to think about how we can attack Hogwarts. It may not come to it, but if all else fails I want a plan in place. We will meet here in one week's time. Now go."
After the inner circle had left, Voldemort appeared in a slightly better mood. At least he now had something to work at. "Wormtail - I'm going to Azkaban, and I want you with me. Come on."
Wormtail cringed at the prospect of being anywhere near a Dementor, but he followed his master out of the cave, ready to Apparate to a spot where Voldemort knew he'd be able to speak to one of the evil creatures.
"What can I do, Ron? There has to be some way I can find my Anima Summa. I mean, it's even more urgent now that Voldemort knows about everything."
"I know, Harry," said Ron sympathetically, "but there's nothing you can do - you heard what Dumbledore said. You've just got to let things take their course. Knight to King 6."
Harry and Ron were sitting in the Gryffindor common room playing wizarding chess, although their minds were not really on the game.
"Do you think it's Kristen?"
"I don't know, Harry. There's no way of telling. Only the rings can help."
"But the rings are just dormant all the time. If she's the one, surely they'd react in some way?"
Ron could only look at his friend with sympathy. He, above all others, knew how mysterious girls appeared to be.
"Well what about that strange girl I saw in the school grounds the other morning? What was she doing there, and why was she looking up at our window? Perhaps she's the one."
"She may well be, Harry. But didn't you say the rings didn't react?"
"Yes, but that was after she'd gone. Maybe I have to be very close to her before they'll react."
"What'll react?" asked Ginny. She and Hermione had walked over to the two boys and just caught the last bit of their conversation.
"Harry was wondering if he needs to be very close to his Anima Summa before he gets a reaction from the rings. He thinks it may be that strange girl he told us about the other day."
"Are you sure you've never seen her before, Harry?" asked Hermione.
"No - I'm sure. She's so beautiful that once seen, never forgotten."
Hermione felt the familiar pang of disappointment at Harry's words. It seems that he'd been smitten by that girl before he'd even spoken to her.
"I must say it's strange that she just turns up in the school grounds, looks up at your window and then disappears. Are you sure it wasn't a dream?" asked Hermione.
"No, I'm sure. I just wish I knew how to get in contact with her. That's the only way I'll find out if she's the one."
"Well, I'm at a complete loss on this," said Ron. "All we can do is wait."
"I think I'll go and find Kristen," said Harry suddenly. "I've just realised I don't know when her birthday is."
"Oh lord," whispered Ginny as Harry went through the portrait hole. She looked at the other two with a glum expression on her face.
"Hey, Kristen, hang on," Harry shouted as he spotted Kristen just about to go into the library.
She turned and smiled as Harry approached. "Hi Harry, what's up?"
"Kristen, I've only just realised something. I don't know when your birthday is, and I wouldn't want to miss out on getting you a present."
"Well that's more than six months away. 31st October."
Harry's mouth dropped open. "Uh, you mean you were born on 31st October 1980?"
"Yes that's right, Harry. But why are you acting so strange? There's nothing special about 31st October is there - apart from Halloween that is?"
"Uh, no ... no. Uh, Kristen, would you like to come for a walk down by the lake?"
"I've got to get this Potions essay done by tomorrow … well ok, but just for a little while."
As they walked around the lake, Harry pulled Kristen over to a seat under one of the oak trees that grew just back from the water's edge. As they sat down, Harry turned towards her and put his left hand behind her head, playing with her hair, while he put his right into his cloak pocket and held the rings. Then he slowly pulled Kristen towards him and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
When they broke apart, Kristen's eyes narrowed at the look of deep disappointment on Harry's face. The rings had not reacted in the slightest, and Harry couldn't conceal how he felt.
"Well that's great, Harry. You've just ruined a lovely moment. If that's how you feel when you kiss me, I don't know why we're still going out together."
Kristen shot to her feet and run back up towards the school, tears running down her pretty face.
"Kristen ... Kristen, I'm sorry. It's not what you think," shouted Harry. But Kristen continued up to the school and rushed up to Gryffindor common room and straight into her dorm.
'I've done it now,' Harry thought to himself. 'Why didn't the rings do something? She was born at exactly the right time to be the Anima Summa. I wonder if there's something wrong with these rings?'
Deep down, however, Harry knew that there was nothing wrong with the rings. He forced himself to think about the way he felt about Kristen. He liked her, sure - he liked her a lot. But did he love her? Is this the girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with?
'Perhaps not,' he thought. 'Oh why does everything have to be so complicated?'
As she ran up the spiral staircase to her dormitory, Ron, Hermione and Ginny couldn't help but see her.
"I was afraid of this," said Ginny. "She looks very upset. I'll go and talk to her." Ginny slowly made her way up to Kristen's dorm trying to think what she could say to her.
She opened the door and saw Kristen sprawled on her bed, her head buried in her pillow. "Kristen? What's the matter?"
Kristen slowly turned around and sat on the edge of her bed. Tears were still running down her face. "It's Harry," she said. "After he kissed me down by the lake, I couldn't believe the look on his face. He seemed so disappointed at me, just like he wondered why he'd bothered to kiss me in the first place. I felt so hurt, Ginny. What have I done to deserve that?"
"Believe me, Kristen, it's not your fault. I know dozens of boys who'd give their right arms to go out with you."
"Remember when we had that talk back at your birthday party? I've thought for some time that Harry's in love with somebody else - I've tried to ignore it, but after today I don't think I can. I think it's best if we split up, Ginny - for both our sakes. I can't take much more of this torture, wondering when he'll realise he loves somebody else."
"Oh Kristen, I'm so sorry"
"I think it's Hermione, Ginny. It's the way he looks at her sometimes. I think it'll be best if I go and tell him now."
"Wait Kristen. You can't tell Harry you think he loves Hermione." Ginny closed her eyes and thought furiously for a few moments. Then she took a deep breath and told Kristen about the Anima Summa and the coming conflict with the Dark Side. She felt she had no choice, and it was only fair that she be told.
"So that's why he was so interested in my birthday? It's the right day for his Anima Summa. But why do you think he was so disappointed?"
"Probably because he didn't get a reaction from the rings, Kristen. I knew when he stormed out of the common room to find you that he'd try to force things along."
"So I can't be the Anima Summa, then. When is Hermione's birthday?"
"It's in September, Kristen - too early for her to be the Anima Summa."
"But I was so sure it was she he's in love with."
"He may well love her Kristen. I'm sure he loves you as well. And I know he loves me - even though it's only like a little sister. But being in love with someone and being the Anima Summa don't necessarily go hand in hand. Oh - when he finds the right one, he will love her - love her above all others. Make no mistake about it. Look Kristen, it doesn't mean that you're not the Anima Summa - it may just mean that the rings feel that Harry isn't ready for her to be revealed yet."
"I don't think so, Ginny. There'd be a lot more to his feelings for me if I were the one. I've got no illusions about it. But at least I can understand why Harry reacted like he did this afternoon. I still think it's best if we split - I'm only in the way, anyway, and it'll free up his feelings and emotions for his search for the right girl."
"Don't say anything to him about who you think he's in love with, Kristen. It'll just confuse him even more."
"I won't, Ginny. And don't worry - I won't say anything to a living soul about what we've just spoken about."
Ginny squeezed her friend's hand, smiled at her, and went back down to the common room to tell Ron and Hermione what had happened.
"I'll give her a few minutes, and then I'll go out and make sure Harry's all right," said Ron. "I know how he's going to feel."
Harry was still sitting on the bench under the oak tree when Kristen slowly walked up to him. He didn't notice her approach - he was miles away in a world of his own, trying to make sense of things.
"Harry?" she whispered.
Harry looked up, shaken from his reverie, and stood up. "Kristen. Look I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to upset you."
Kristen took his hand and pulled him back to the seat. "I know, Harry. Ginny told me everything - about the Anima Summa. I know you were trying to get a reaction from those rings. There was nothing was there?"
Harry looked surprised, wondering why Ginny had told Kristen about the Anima Summa. "No. I'm sorry Kristen. When you told me your birthday, I was sure it was you."
"It's not me, Harry. I think we'd be a lot different together if I were the one. I ... I think you love someone else, Harry. I've known for a while now, but I didn't want to believe it. It's just a feeling I've had for some time."
"But you're wrong, Kristen. There isn't anybody else. Why do you think that?"
"Just call it intuition, Harry."
"But who do you think I'm in love with?"
"I ... I can't tell you that Harry. And after what Ginny told me I'm not even sure myself anymore. Look - I think it'd be best if we split up. Our relationship isn't going anywhere and I'll only be in the way of you finding your Anima Summa. I like you a lot, Harry, but I've got to face up to the fact that I'm going to lose you sooner or later."
Harry though for a minute before he replied. "I'm so sorry Kristen. I never meant to hurt you in any way. I've been so confused about things and I know I must have seemed distracted when we're together. I'm sorry."
Kristen lifted her hand and held the side of Harry's face for a moment as she looked wistfully into his eyes - eyes that were full of remorse, mingled with hurt.
"We can still be friends, can't we Harry?"
Harry squeezed her hand. "Of course we can, Kristen. You're one of the nicest girls I know."
"'Bye Harry. See you later." Kristen got up, her eyes watery, and walked back up to the school.
Ron passed Kristen as she ran up the staircase towards Gryffindor common room. He could see that she was upset, and didn't stop to talk to her. He walked out of the main doorway and saw Harry, who was still sitting on the seat down by the lake.
"Kristen and I have split up, Ron," he said as Ron approached him.
"I know, Harry. Ginny spoke to her earlier and told us what she was going to do. She's quite a girl, Harry. You know that she's put you before her own feelings, don't you?"
"Yes, Ron - I know. But she was right. We weren't really going anywhere, and it would have been cruel to keep stringing her along. I always seem to make a mess of things when it comes to girls, Ron."
"You're not the only one, Harry. I only hope it gets easier as we get older."
"But I haven't got time to get older, Ron. I have to find my Anima Summa now! The fate of the wizarding world depends on it."
"Come on, Harry. Let's go back up to the common room. You're not going to solve anything moping around out here."
"Ron, why do you think Ginny told Kristen about the Anima Summa?"
"I don't know, Harry. But she must have had a good reason. She knows how important it is to keep it quiet."
"Hmm. I think I'll go and speak to Dumbledore, Ron. Come on, let's get back."
"I'd better go and make sure she's all right, Hermione," said Ginny as they saw Kristen walk listlessly back up to her dorm.
"Ok, Ginny. I'll wait here for you."
Left on her own, Hermione's thoughts inevitably turned to Harry. 'He must be feeling terrible. He's unattached now,' she thought, 'but there's no use raising my hopes. So I might as well try to make the best of being his friend. Oh - it's just not fair!'
"What's happened with Harry and Kristen, Hermione?" Hermione was jerked from her thoughts by Parvati, who had noticed Kristen's comings and goings, and how upset she was.
"Oh. I think they've split up, Parvati."
"How? Why?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"I don't know any details, Parvati, but I think they're best left alone for a while."
"Right," she replied as she left hurriedly in search of Lavender.
"Sit down, Harry," said Dumbledore. "I can see that there's something bothering you. Do you want to tell me about it?"
"It's the Anima Summa, Professor," replied Harry. "I'm just so confused. I found out that Kristen's birthday is 31st October 1980, but when I was with her, the rings didn't do anything. We ... we've split up now."
"I'm sorry, Harry. Kristen's a very nice girl."
"Yes, she is. Look, there's something else I want to tell you, Professor. Early the other morning, I saw a girl about my age looking up at me in my dormitory window. But when I went down, she'd vanished. I haven't seen her before, and she doesn't belong at the school. So why was she there? Do you think she might be my Anima Summa?"
"She may well be, Harry, but I really don't know. Look, you really must try to relax about this. I know it must be very difficult for you, but it's always been my experience that such things will work themselves out in their own way and in their own time. Believe me, when it happens, it will be spontaneous - it won't happen because you try to force it. The best advice I can give is that you try to concentrate on studying for your OWLS - the Anima Summa situation will take care of itself."
"Thanks, Professor, I promise I'll try."
The news of Harry and Kristen splitting up spread like wildfire throughout the school. The female population was now on full alert, and many a devious plan was in the making for attracting his attentions. Harry, however, despite Dumbledore's advice, was approaching despair. Wherever he went in the school, he'd try to walk close to any girl that appeared to be the right age, all the time holding the rings in his cloak pocket, but he couldn't get any reaction from them.
"She just can't be one of the students at the school," he told Ron, Ginny and Hermione one evening as they sat in the common room. "I've been close to just about every girl in the school - even Millicent Bulstrode - ugh - but there's just nothing from the rings at all. I think it just has to be that girl I saw in the grounds - it's got to be - there isn't anybody else."
"You've got to stop beating yourself up with this Harry," said Ron. "Listen to what Dumbledore told you. Don't forget that we've got the match against Slytherin in a few weeks, and you'll need to be fully alert if we're going to beat them."
"That's easy for you to say Ron," replied Harry with more force than he'd really intended, "but how can I put this out of my mind? It's starting to drive me crazy."
Hermione reached out and squeezed Harry's arm, concern etched on her features. "None of us thinks it's easy for you Harry. But you must see that if you keep worrying like this you'll make yourself ill."
Harry didn't reply and got up and walked out through the portrait hole, quickly followed by Ron.
"This is getting bad, Ginny," said Hermione. "He will make himself ill if he doesn't calm down soon."
"How about you?" asked Ginny. "How are you coping with all this?"
"I ... I'm trying my best, Ginny. I keep telling myself that it's stupid to have these feelings for Harry, but I just can't help myself." She looked sadly down at her hands and twiddled her fingers.
Ginny reached over and took Hermione's hands in her own and looked into her eyes. "Things will work out - I just know they will."
The weather was idyllic in the little mountain valley in the Langedoc. Charlie, Nadine and Demont sat lazily on padded chairs outside the cabin, listening to the tinkling sounds of the stream as it made its way past them. They had just finished an al fresco lunch, and were in the process of polishing off their second bottle of wine.
Their investigations in the Forbidden Forest had confirmed that everything was now back to normal, and they were taking a bit of time out to relax before starting on their full report to their respective ministries.
"Have you heard from Professor Dumbledore yet Charlie?" asked Demont.
"Yes, I had an owl from him this morning. He advises that we don't say anything about Harry and the Anima Summa in our report. He thinks that it would attract too much attention from the ministry and the wizarding press at a time when he's tightening security. It may give 'You Know Who' an opportunity to sneak some of his followers into the school."
"That makes sense, Charlie," said Nadine. "Any news on Harry's Anima Summa?"
"Nothing yet, Nadine. Dumbledore says that Harry's getting a bit anxious about it, though."
"Yes, I suppose he must be - the poor kid. It's a lot of responsibility for young shoulders to bear."
"Well I only met him for a few minutes, but I think he'll be able to cope if anyone can," said Demont.
Charlie and Nadine had told Demont about Harry's quest just after they'd arrived back at the cabin a few weeks ago, and had sworn him to secrecy.
"So what are we going to tell them?" asked Charlie.
"We could tell them that the magical creatures had picked up on the cries of a telepathic Banshee - they have been known to exist," suggested Demont.
"Or a rogue Augury - sending out telepathic predictions of forthcoming doom," said Nadine.
"I suppose either of them would be plausible," said Charlie. "But we'll need to do a bit of research on these creatures first."
"I've got just the book in the cabin," said Demont. "I'll go and do a bit of reading. You two stay there for a while - I'll call you when I've found something."
"Do you have the feeling that your brother takes every opportunity to leave us on our own?" said Charlie, smiling as he watched Demont disappear into the cabin.
"Yes, I do Charlie," Nadine replied laughing. "I've tackled him about it, but he just shrugs it off."
"Not that I'm complaining, of course. I do like your company, Nadine."
"The feeling's mutual, Charlie."
They both smiled at each other, and then lay back in their chairs, deep in their own thoughts. The last few weeks had brought them closer together, but they were both afraid of taking things a stage further. Both their thoughts dwelt around how they could achieve this without leaving themselves vulnerable to rejection.
"Come on you two, I've found it," Demont shouted from the cabin doorway. "We'd better make a start."
Charlie got up from his chair and held out his hand to help Nadine to her feet. Nadine was pleasantly surprised when Charlie held onto her hand and led her slowly back to the cabin.
"We're starting to get worried about Harry, Professor Dumbledore. He seems to be getting worse," said Ginny as she, Ron and Hermione walked down to the Quidditch pitch to watch the Gryffindor team's practice session. They had run to catch up to the headmaster as he made a rare visit to see the team's progress. In reality, he was more interested in how Harry would cope with Quidditch given his disturbed state, but he didn't show his worries as he talked to the three friends.
"I'm confident that things will sort themselves out soon," he replied. "We have to be patient as well as Harry. The best thing you three can do is to be with him as much as possible and show your support."
High above the Quidditch field, Harry was flying his broomstick in wide, slow, sweeping arcs, scanning the space below for the Golden Snitch. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of gold and steered towards it. He didn't chase the Snitch, however - he'd seen something else. A flash of white some distance away down at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. He peered more closely and saw that it was a figure with white hair - could it be that girl?
Harry increased his speed and flashed towards the girl, who looked up at him, smiled, waved - and then walked back into the forest. Harry landed where he'd seen the girl and started to run into the forest after her, but he was stopped by a pair of strong arms that encircled his waist.
"Hold on there Harry," said Sirius. He and Ceri had been patrolling just inside the edge of the forest, knowing that Harry was out on the Quidditch field.
"But Sirius, I saw that strange girl I told you about. She was right here a few moments ago. I've got to go after her."
"You stay with me, Harry," said Ceri. "Sirius, see if you can find her."
Sirius turned and dashed into the Forbidden Forest. "Make sure he doesn't follow, Ceri," he shouted just before he transformed into Padfoot.
"It was her, Ceri. I know it was," said Harry breathlessly.
"Did the rings do anything?"
Harry looked dismayed as he thrust his hand into his Quidditch cloak. "Oh it's too late now. I was too intent on getting to her to try them earlier."
"What happened?" shouted Ron as he and the two girls, quickly followed by Dumbledore, ran up to them.
"Harry saw that strange girl again," said Ceri. "Sirius has gone to try to find her."
"Did you see her, Ceri?" asked Dumbledore.
"No, Professor. We were about fifty yards away just inside the forest when we saw Harry hurtling towards this spot. There were too many trees in the way for us to spot anybody."
"I'm sorry," said Sirius as he walked out of the forest. "I didn't see anything. Couldn't even pick up a scent. Sorry, Harry."
Dumbledore put his hand on Harry's sagging shoulder. "There'll be other times, Harry. She just seems to be waiting for the right time to meet you face to face. You four had better get back up to the school. Dinner'll be ready shortly."
Dumbledore held up his hand to prevent Sirius and Ceri following the four friends as they slowly walked back up to the school. "I wanted to speak to you both. Severus came to see me a short while ago - there have been some developments. He's heard from reliable sources that the Dementors are about to join forces with Voldemort."
"What?" breathed Sirius. He shuddered at his terrible memories of them during his stay at Azkaban. "Do you think they'll leave Azkaban?"
"I don't know, Sirius. I think it's doubtful that they'll all leave. Voldemort wouldn't want to raise too many suspicions with the ministry at this stage. But it's something else we'll have to watch out for. I don't want those evil creatures getting anywhere near the school."
"And so say all of us," said Sirius.
"Honestly, Ron," said Hermione, "you really must do some work. The OWLS are only four weeks away!"
The four friends were sitting around a small table in the common room. Ginny was writing an essay for Hagrid on the qualities of Unicorns, Hermione was revising Potions, and Ron was reading 'Quidditch Through the Ages.' Harry was looking at his 'History of Magic' textbook, although he wasn't taking much of it in.
"There's plenty of time, Hermione," said Ron. "Don't worry."
"Ohh. I might as well talk to the wall!" she replied. She turned to Harry, her expression softening. "How are you doing, Harry? Are you managing to get any work done?"
"Some. But it's not easy trying to concentrate on this dry stuff. I think I'll go down to the library."
"I'll come with you, Harry," said Ron.
Hermione looked forlornly after Harry as he went out through the portrait hole. She wasn't doing a very good job of suppressing her feelings for him, and Ginny looked sympathetically at her friend, knowing what she was going through.
Suddenly, Ginny erupted. "What's the matter with him? Can't he see you? Can't he see that you exist?" she blurted, but regretted her outburst immediately.
Hermione looked with surprise at her friend. "You know he can't feel anything for me, Ginny. He's got to save that for his Anima Summa."
"I know, Hermione," she replied quietly. "I'm sorry. But it hurts to see you suffering like this."
Later that day, their double Potions class with Snape did nothing to ease the mood of the four.
"Are you with us today, Potter?" asked Snape as he spotted Harry daydreaming when he should have been mixing his potion.
"Yes, sorry Professor," Harry said as he commenced chopping the billywig stings.
"We'll see, Potter. You can be the first to test if your potion manages to do what it's supposed to do."
Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle sniggered at the other end of the room, relishing Snape making a fool of Harry again. Hermione gave them a withering stare and then watched Harry to make sure he chopped the stings in the correct manner.
A little while later, after the potions were brewed, Snape stood up from his desk at the front of the room. "Right. Let's see if you've done this properly. Longbottom, go over to Potter's desk and take a spoonful of his potion."
Neville jumped, and then slowly got up and walked over to Harry. As he passed Hermione, she whispered, "Don't worry, Neville. I think he's done it correctly."
"Get a move on, Longbottom. We haven't got all day," said Snape disgustedly.
Harry scooped up a spoonful of his potion and held it out for Neville to drink. He tentatively sniffed the liquid and then put the spoon in his mouth and swallowed the contents.
"Come out to the front of the class, Longbottom. This should only take a few minutes to work - assuming Potter's brewed it properly, of course. Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you that there can be some nasty side effects if the potion is not done in exactly the right way - instead of it levitating you, you may have to endure pink hair for the rest of the day."
The Slytherins erupted with laughter as they heard Snape's pronouncement and watched eagerly as Neville walked to the front of the room. He felt very self-conscious as the whole class looked at him and waited with baited breath. Harry looked very uncomfortable as he willed the potion to work properly. He didn't want to be the cause of any further embarrassment to Neville.
Then, Neville started to float gently upwards. He stopped just before his head touched the ceiling. No side effects could be seen. The Slytherins groaned with disappointment, but the Gryffindors clapped loudly, a few of them slapping Harry on the back.
"That will be quite enough," said Snape, not disguising the disappointment in his voice. "It seems that you are able to do the odd thing properly, Potter. More by luck than judgement, no doubt. Longbottom, the effects will last for ten minutes, after which you will slowly drift back to the floor. You may then join your classmates in their next lesson. Class dismissed."
"We can't leave poor old Neville hanging about like that," whispered Hermione as everyone filed out into the corridor.
"But Snape's still in there, Hermione," said Ron. "He'll put us on detention and deduct points if we try to get him."
"He's right, I'm afraid," said Harry. "The best we can do for Neville is to tell McGonagall why he'll be late for our Transfigurations class."
That evening, Harry was sitting alone in his favourite seat by the window in the common room. He had a sad look on his face as he stared, unseeing, at his History of Magic textbook.
He was brought back to awareness by a light touch on his arm. He looked up to see Clare Bryant, the precocious little first year student, staring at him with a serious look on her pretty face.
"Harry? I ... I was wondering. Can I be your girlfriend?"
Harry sat stunned for a moment, then a slight grin spread over his face. "Why would you want to be my girlfriend, Clare?"
"Because ever since you split up with Kristen, you've been looking so sad. And I don't like to see you sad. I just know I can cheer you up."
Harry stifled a laugh and thought furiously, not wanting to upset her. "Clare. That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But don't you think I'm a little bit too old for you?"
"Well yes. But I'm growing up very fast."
"Oh I can see that, Clare. Give you a couple of years and the boys won't know what's hit them." Clare grinned and waited expectantly. "But right now, I don't think I could have another girlfriend. I need to get some thinking done before I commit myself again. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Well yes, I guess so Harry. But if you change your mind any time soon, will you think of me?"
"How could I ever forget you, Clare? And thanks for the offer. You've done my ego the world of good."
"Ok. 'Bye Harry." And she walked back to her friends at the other end of the room.
"What was that all about?" asked Ron as he flung himself down in the seat next to Harry.
"Oh, that was Clare trying to cheer me up, Ron. And do you know, I think it's worked - for the moment at least."
One week later, in the middle of the night, there was an incident at a cottage at the edge of Hogsmeade. The cottage stood alone, some distance away from the centre of the town.
An elderly wizarding couple slept soundly in their bed upstairs, and didn't hear the sound of breaking glass at their front door. Even if they had, it is unlikely that they could have done anything to prevent the tragedy that followed - they were too old to generate the power needed to defend themselves.
The first they knew that anything was amiss was the crash of the bedroom door as it exploded inwards off it's hinges.
"What ..?" said the elderly wizard as he slowly lifted himself from his pillow.
"What is it, Daniel?" said his wife as she pulled the bedclothes up to her throat.
"Oh my god," was all the wizard was able to say as he saw the two ghoulish forms approach the bed, one to each side. They moved as if floating just above the floor.
The screams of the unfortunate couple were abruptly cut off as their mouths were covered by the hideous open gashes, and their souls were ever so slowly sucked out of them.
That night, the Dark Mark appeared over the village of Hogsmeade.
Later the next morning, Dumbledore held a meeting in his office, with his usual close aides in attendance.
"It must have been horrible for those poor people," said McGonagall with a shudder. "To think that such a thing could happen in Hogsmeade."
"It's as I feared," said Snape. "The Dementors have joined 'You Know Who.'"
"I'm afraid you're right, Severus," said Dumbledore. "Voldemort has done two things here. First, he needed to give the Dementors something to keep them sweet. Second, he's sending us a warning, telling us he can strike close to home."
"But have the Dementors left Azkaban?" asked Remus, now fully recovered from his ordeal at Callanish.
"No. I checked with the ministry this morning. Most of them are still on guard duty, although a few seem to be missing."
"Is the ministry going to put out a general warning on this?" asked Ceri.
"I'm afraid not," said Dumbledore. "They still don't want the wizarding world to know that Voldemort is back, and the magical community knows that only Voldemort could influence the Dementors to carry out such attacks on them."
"So what are we going to do, Headmaster?" asked Sirius.
"Increase our defences to detect the presence of Dementors," he replied. "We can't prevent them coming into the school grounds, but at least we can make sure we're warned when they come close so that we can go and repel them."
"Should we tell Harry and the others, Headmaster?" asked McGonagall.
"Not yet, Minerva. They've got enough on their plates already, without giving them any more to worry about. Let's try to keep a lid on this as long as we can. Come on, let's get down to the grounds and re-set the defences. Will you get Professor Flitwick on your way down please, Severus?"
The morning of the first day of June saw the school grounds bathed in warm sunshine. The students had finished breakfast and were trooping excitedly down to the Quidditch field to see the final game of the season - Gryffindor verses Slytherin.
Tensions were high among both the teams and spectators. Whoever won the game would be school champions for the year. The teams walked onto the field, the Gryffindors looking nervous but determined, the Slytherins looking their usual confident, cocky selves.
Madam Hooch released the balls, and blew her whistle to start the match. Harry took up his usual position flying lazily above the main action, with Malfoy in close attendance.
"You're going to lose, Potter," he sneered as he flew straight in front of Harry, trying to dislodge him from his broom.
Harry deftly swerved around him, and ignored the remark, keeping his eyes peeled for the Golden Snitch.
After half an hour, the score stood at Slytherin 60 Gryffindor 40, and there had been no sign of the Snitch. Bletchley, the Slytherin Keeper, was having a stormer - Gryffindor would have been way out in front if it weren't for his acrobatic saves.
Then Harry spotted a flash of gold down at the base of the Slytherin goal posts. He angled his broom downwards and started his dive, but was surprised to find that instead of streaking towards the ground, he was only just making any headway. He turned to see Malfoy right behind him, a malevolent sneer on his face, and both hands grasping the back of Harry's broom.
"Get off, Malfoy," he shouted. "That's a foul."
The Slytherins cheered wildly as they saw what was going on, but the rest of the students shouted indignantly. When Harry looked back, the Snitch had disappeared.
"Oh look at that," shouted Lee Jordan who was commenting on the game. "That's dirty, Malfoy. Come on Madam Hooch - penalty!"
Madam Hooch had spotted the infringement and blew her whistle for a penalty to Gryffindor, which Katie Bell dispatched with style, sending Bletchley the wrong way.
The game continued for another hour, and Slytherin began to gain the upper hand. The score stood at Slytherin 150 Gryffindor 100. Harry was kept fully occupied, not only with looking for the Snitch, but trying to keep Malfoy at bay. The Slytherin was trying every dirty trick in the book to keep Harry's attention away from his search for the Snitch.
"I know what your tactics are, Malfoy," Harry yelled as their broomsticks once again came close. "You're trying to keep me occupied until you build a lead over 150. But it's not going to work."
"Why not, Potter? Just you try to stop me." Malfoy's eyes went wide as Harry looped up and over his head at great speed, and stormed off in the opposite direction. Malfoy did his best to keep up with Harry, but the surprise tactic had opened a gap between them, which Harry found easy to maintain. For the next 15 minutes, he zoomed around the perimeter of the field, with Malfoy vainly trying to keep up with him.
"Just look at Harry go," yelled Lee Jordan. "Give it up, Malfoy. You'll never catch him."
Apart from the Slytherins, the students were doubled up with laughter at Malfoy's attempts to get close to Harry. This did nothing for Malfoy's temper and he started flying wildly, trying anything to get to Harry.
Harry suddenly changed his flight path, and stated flying straight down the field to one set of goal posts, and then turning back to storm up to the other set of posts. Malfoy followed at great speed, but he was trying to weave between the goal posts at a speed beyond his capabilities to control.
After five lengths of the field, the inevitable happened. While trying to steer his way around Slytherin's right-hand goal post he lost control, and collided with it. Malfoy avoided hitting his head, but he had to let go of his broom as his hands encircled the post. As the broom dropped to the floor, Malfoy was left suspended high in the air, his body wrapped around the post.
To the uncontrollable mirth of the students, even some of the Slytherins, he slowly started to slip down the post, and finished up with a thud as his backside hit the floor.
While this was happening, the score had reached 190 - 120 to Slytherin.
Now free of his tormentor, Harry could concentrate his efforts on looking for the Snitch - and he saw it low down at the base of the Gryffindor goal posts. He swooped down and caught it easily.
"Harry's got the Snitch," yelled Lee Jordan. "Gryffindor win 270 - 190. Gryffindor are the champions."
The Gryffindor students streamed down from the stands and rushed to congratulate their team. Hermione, Ginny and Ron were among the last, since they had been watching from the very top tier. As Ron and Ginny ran down the stairs, Hermione paused. She'd spotted something over by the edge of the Forbidden Forest. She squinted her eyes and saw a figure in the distance. What she had spotted was a flash of white hair.
"Ron, Ginny," she shouted, but her two friends had disappeared into the crowd, and the cheering drowned out her shout.
Hermione quickly left the stand and started running around the left-hand edge of the pitch, in the direction of the forest. She didn't run directly to the figure, but aimed over to one side, hoping that she wouldn't scare her away.
As she got close, she saw that it was a young girl, about her own age, with white hair. She was dressed in a dark blue cloak, and if it hadn't been for her hair, she would never have been spotted. 'It must be that girl that Harry's been seeing,' she thought as she gained the cover of the trees about two hundred yards from where the girl was still standing.
She quietly walked along the edge of the forest and got within twenty yards before the girl suddenly turned and spotted her approach. She looked startled, but didn't try to run away. Hermione walked slowly up to her. She could see the vivid green eyes set in a beautiful face, which was surrounded by startling white hair.
"Hello, I'm Hermione. Who are you?"
The girl's eyes grew wide, and she stammered, "My name ees Margot. You are 'Arry's friend, no?"
"You're French?" said Hermione. "Yes I'm one of Harry's best friends. Why are you here? Why have you been watching Harry?"
"I ... I cannot tell you. I must go. I should not be 'ere."
"No wait. Why don't you speak to Harry? He's desperate to meet you."
"No ... no. I cannot. Ze time ees not yet right. I must go now."
"What do you mean, the time is not yet right? You're Harry's Anima Summa, aren't you? When will the time be right for you to meet him?"
"Ze time is very soon, now. But ... no ... no. I 'ave said too much already. I 'ave to go now. Tell 'Arry I will speak to 'eem soon. Au revoir."
Margot smiled at Hermione and then turned and walked back into the forest.
Hermione stood rooted to the spot, deep in thought. 'I've met Harry's Anima Summa. She's the one he'll spend the rest of his life with. She seems very nice, though. I'd better get back and tell Harry what she said.'
Hermione slowly turned, looking forlorn, and started to slowly walk back up towards the Quidditch pitch. She hadn't gone five yards before she heard the loud 'crack' of a foot breaking a twig behind her. She turned and saw two figures dressed all in black, with hoods pulled down over their faces, walking quickly out of the forest towards her.
Hermione turned and started to run, but one of the men grabbed the back of her flowing cloak and pulled her to a stop.
"Let me go," she shouted, struggling to free her cloak.
"No you don't, my pretty," said one of the men. "There's someone who'd like to meet you, and we wouldn't want to disappoint him now, would we?"
The Death Eater raised his wand and pointed it at her. Quick as a flash, Hermione pulled her own wand from her cloak and yelled, "EXPELIARMUS."
The Death Eater's wand went flying from his hand, and, his eyes wide with surprise, he fell onto his back. The other Death Eater, in the mean time, raised his wand and also yelled "EXPELIARMUS" and Hermione saw her own wand fly from her hand.
"Stop messing about and get up," he said. "Let's grab her and get out of here. The Dark Lord will be very grateful when we deliver Granger to him."
The two Death Eaters' attention was distracted when they heard a yell in the distance, "Hang on Hermione, we're coming!"
Hermione took advantage of the distraction and started to run towards Ceri, Sirius and Remus who were about a hundred yards away, and closing fast.
"Quick, get her," hissed the first Death Eater.
"No - it's too late, now. Let's get out of here." As he said this, a look of pure venom contorted his features and he raised his wand and aimed it at the fleeing Hermione.
"FLIPENDO," he roared loudly.
A brilliant ball of energy sprung from his wand and hit Hermione in the middle of her back with great force. She was flung forward and hit the ground awkwardly, where she lay unmoving.
"NO!" an agonised cry escaped from Sirius' lips as he saw the girl fall. He doubled his speed as he chased after the two Death Eaters, who had just entered the edge of the forest.
"Remus," gasped Ceri. "Get Hermione up to the hospital, I'll help Sirius get those two devils." And she ran after Sirius into the forest.
Remus knelt down beside the still form of Hermione, lifted her hand and felt for a pulse. His eyes held a grim look as he felt only a very weak beat. He looked up at the sound of running feet and saw Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick approaching.
"What's happened, Remus?" Dumbledore said breathlessly.
"Two Death Eaters attacked her Professor. She's in a bad way. We've got to get her up to Madam Pomfrey straight away."
Dumbledore levitated Hermione and they all rushed back up to the school. The sounds of jubilation were quickly hushed as the students saw the inert form being taken up towards the main entrance.
"Oh no," gasped Ginny. "Harry, Ron - it's Hermione. Something's happened to her."
The three friends quickly followed behind as Hermione was taken up to the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey directed her towards a bed and started her examination.
Everyone watched anxiously as the nurse completed her examination and poured a few drops of potion between Hermione's pale lips and applied a healing spell to her shoulder.
She then rose and sighed, "All we can do now is wait. Her shoulder was broken - probably from her fall - but she's taken a very powerful Flipendus curse in the middle of her back, right behind her heart. I don't understand it - by rights, it should have killed her. I don't know how she's survived this long."
Harry's eyes were wet, and his voice choked, as he spoke, "I do, Madam Pomfrey. It was the pendant I gave her for her birthday last year. Look - the sapphire is glowing faintly. The wizard I bought it from said it contained magical properties to lessen the spells cast by evil ones."
"It's a good job you gave it to her, Harry," said the nurse. "It saved her life back there. I just hope she comes through this."
"Come on," said Dumbledore, "we can't do anything more here. We'd better see to the students. Remus, you'd better try to find Sirius and Ceri - they may need help. Ron, Ginny, Harry - I think it'll be ok if you stay here with Hermione. She'll want to see her friends if ... when she wakes up. Is that ok, Poppy?"
Madam Pomfrey smiled weakly at the three distraught friends. "Yes, Professor, I think that'll be ok."
Ron and Ginny sat by the bedside, not taking their eyes from Hermione. Harry couldn't bear to sit still, and he slowly walked over to the window and looked out. He let out a gasp as he saw the strange girl with white hair down by the Quidditch pitch. She was looking anxiously up at the hospital window.
"She's down there - that girl - she's down by the Quidditch field," he said.
Ron and Ginny looked up and started over to the window. The three of them looked down at the girl but couldn't quite make out her features - she was too far away - but then turned sharply around as Hermione let out a gasp. The three rushed over to the bed, all thoughts of the white-haired girl driven from their minds.
Harry was the first to Hermione's side, and he reached out and gently caught hold of her hand.
"Harry?" she croaked. "What happened?"
"Shhh, Hermione. You're going to be all right." he looked up at Ginny. "Ginny, get Madam Pomfrey."
"Harry," said Hermione in a very weak voice, "I ... I've got to tell you something. It's urgent."
"That can wait, young lady," said Madam Pomfrey as she quickly brushed Harry and Ron aside. After a minute, she looked up and smiled. "She's going to be all right. Her heart-beat is much stronger now. But she'll be full of aches and pains for a few days. Thank goodness for that pendant."
"Pendant?" said Hermione.
"The one Harry gave you for your birthday," said Ginny. "It saved your life. If it weren't for that, the Death Eaters would have killed you."
Hermione looked up at Harry and squeezed his hand. "Thank you again, Harry."
A tear rolled down Harry's cheek, this time from joy rather than sorrow, as he smiled at his friend and held her hand even tighter. "It'll take more than Death Eaters to take you away from me, Hermione."
Hermione smiled and looked with longing at her friend. Then she remembered that she had something urgent to tell Harry.
"Harry, I saw her - the strange girl - I spoke to her."
"What?" Ron, Ginny and Harry spoke the word in unison.
Hermione thought for a moment. She knew she had to be careful not to tell Harry that Margot was his Anima Summa. "I saw her down by the forest, watching the game. Her name's Margot and she's French. I spoke to her for a few minutes before she ran back into the forest. I asked her to come and speak to you, Harry, but she said the time wasn't right yet. She said that she'd speak to you soon though. She seems very nice."
Hermione looked away at the last few words, and Ginny squeezed her other hand in understanding and support.
"She's down on the Quidditch pitch now," said Harry. "She's looking up at the hospital window. She seems anxious. Perhaps she saw what happened to you and wants to make sure that you're ok."
"You must go down to her, Harry," said Hermione. "Perhaps now's the right time for you to meet her."
Harry didn't move. He was torn between leaving his sick friend, and going down to see his future. He couldn't decide what was best to do - it would seem so selfish to rush out and leave Hermione now. He had an almost overwhelming feeling of love and protection towards his friend, and it confused the hell out of him.
'What is this I'm feeling for Hermione? It's not like the brotherly love I feel for Ginny - it's different somehow. So what is it? It can't be love - she's not my Anima Summa, and she's not meant for me. So what is it?'
"It's too late now," said Ron as he looked out of the window at Margot's receding back. "She's just gone back into the forest."
"Don't worry, Harry," said Hermione. "You'll see her soon. She told me."
Then the hospital door flew open and Padfoot, Ceri and Remus rushed in. "Thank goodness," breathed Ceri as she saw that Hermione was conscious.
"She's going to be ok," said Ron, smiling. "The pendant Harry gave her for her birthday saved her."
Padfoot looked around and saw that the nurse wasn't in the room, so he transformed. "How are you feeling, Hermione?" Sirius asked gently
"A bit weak, Sirius. And I'm aching all over. But other than that I feel all right. Did you find those horrible men?"
"Yes, we got them," said Sirius grimly. "They're on their way to the ministry for questioning. And I dare say they'll be feeling some aches and pains for a few days as well."
Sirius then transformed back to his Animagus form as he heard the nurse's door open. "What's all this noise," said Madam Pomfrey as she came out from her office. "Out, out - all of you. This girl needs to get some rest. You can come back and see her tomorrow. And what's this dog doing in my hospital?"
The school returned to normal the next day, and the students resumed their classes. Ron, Harry and Ginny were run off their feet taking books up to Hermione. She refused to take things easy - there were only a few weeks left before they sat their OWLS.
Ginny was sitting by her bedside, stacking some books that Hermione had finished with to take back to the library, when she felt her friend's hand touch her own.
"Ginny - I feel so stupid. I just can't get these feelings I've got for Harry out of my head. And I've just met his future wife, for goodness sake."
"I saw the way Harry looked at you yesterday," said Ginny, "and didn't you notice that he wouldn't leave your side to go and see that girl when he had the chance?"
"I know, Ginny. But that was just concern for a friend. I can't pretend it's anything more than that. I know, Ginny. I've spoken to Margot."
"Oh, Hermione," Ginny breathed with compassion.
Towards the end of the next day, Hermione was allowed to leave the hospital, given a clean bill of health by Madam Pomfrey. She walked into the Great Hall for dinner, and all her friends rushed up and made a big fuss. Hermione was overwhelmed before Ginny caught her hand and led her to the table to sit next to her, and opposite Ron and Harry.
"Feeling better now?" asked Ron.
"Much better thanks, Ron," she replied. She turned her gaze to Harry, who sat grinning at her. She once again felt that lurch deep inside as their eyes met. She quickly looked away and stared down at her plate.
After dinner, the four friends trouped up to the common room to do some badly needed revision. Harry and Ron went to sit at a free table over by the window, while Hermione and Ginny joined Parvati, Lavender and Kristen at the other end of the room.
"When do you think she'll turn up next, Ron?" asked Harry suddenly.
"Who - Margot?"
"Who knows, Harry? She did tell Hermione that it'll happen pretty soon, though." Ron got up and looked out of the window down towards the lake and the edge of the forest. "No sign of her yet," he said.
Harry sighed and looked back down at his Transfigurations book.
Ginny looked at Hermione sitting next to her and saw that her head was buried in her Potions textbook. She knew that Hermione's thought were far away from Potions, because she'd not turned a page for the last five minutes, and her eyes stared blankly, unmoving, at the same spot on the page.
Ginny reached over and gently squeezed her hand.
Hermione looked up with moist eyes. "It's ok, Ginny. I'll get over it… honestly."
Hermione didn't really feel that she'd get over it any time soon. She looked up and across the room at Harry as he sat reading his book. She had a sudden urge to get up and go to him, but she curbed the impulse.
'Why couldn't things have been different,' she thought to herself as she looked longingly at Harry.
Harry's head suddenly jerked up as he felt something. There was a feeling of warmth on the outside of his thigh. He put his hand into his cloak pocket and was astonished as he felt the heat coming from the rings. He also felt that they were vibrating slightly.
He got up and looked out of the window, looking for Margot. But the grounds were deserted.
'This is stupid,' he thought to himself. 'She's got to be somewhere near.'
He went back to his seat and looked slowly around the room. He saw some first and second year students on the next table, Fred, George and Lee the next table over, and Seamus and Neville a little further over. At the far end of the room he saw Parvati, Lavender, Kristen, Ginny and Hermione.
Only Hermione was looking in his direction. He saw that she was looking sadly at him, her eyes full of hurt and longing. She looked lost. She quickly looked back down at her book when she registered that Harry was staring at her.
There was a sickening lurch deep within him as Harry saw what was in Hermione's eyes, and that overwhelming urge to protect her filled his mind.
The rings, now held firmly in Harry's hand, felt warmer and the vibrations increased.
He again looked all around the room, and up to the top of the spiral staircase, but there was no sign of Margot. His eyes were dragged back to Hermione. All he could think of was making the hurt he'd seen in her eyes go away.
Harry felt a strange vibration rising from the rings, moving up his body. He looked down and saw a faint silvery glow rising to envelope his head and shoulders.
He looked through the slight silvery haze at Hermione. And then it struck him. He thought back to when she was lying on the hospital bed and the feelings he'd had.
'I don't want Margot,' he thought to himself. 'I want Hermione. I ... I love her. I think I always have loved her. How could I be so stupid to ignore it before?'
He looked at her bushy brown hair, the cute nose, soft full lips, her beautiful big hazel-brown eyes. Her whole being was beautiful. Harry savoured the wondrous feeling that came over him - but then came up against the prophecy.
'But I can't love her,' he thought. 'She was born the wrong time. She can't be my Anima Summa - can she?'
Unseen by Harry, Ginny was staring at him intently. Of all the people in the room, it was her alone that had seen the faint silvery glow rise to cover Harry's head and shoulders. She also saw the direction in which he was looking - and she felt the excitement thrill throughout her whole being as she saw the beautiful event unfold in front of her.
She'd been waiting for months for this to happen. She thought back to the time she'd spoken with Hermione's mother back before the Easter holidays.
"Hello again Mrs. Granger," said Ginny as she saw Hermione's mother waiting at the Main entrance to the school. "Hermione seems a lot better. I think you've done her the world of good."
"And it's thanks to you, Ginny. I'm so glad she's got a friend like you. I know that her father will want me to thank you properly for what you've done."
"It's the least I could have done, Mrs. Granger. You said earlier that you hadn't seen her this ill since she was a little baby. I was wondering - what was wrong with her?"
"She was very ill for the first few months of her life. There were times when we thought she wouldn't survive. But thank god she did. You see, she was born prematurely, and she wasn't very strong at first."
Ginny's ears almost flapped when she heard this, but she forced herself to remain calm. "Uh, prematurely Mrs. Granger? How much premature was she?"
"About six weeks, Ginny, perhaps a bit less."
"Oh," was all Ginny could say then. Her mind worked overtime as she calculated that if she had been born normally, Hermione's birthday would have been on or around 31st October 1980!
"But Hermione never told us about this, Mrs. Granger."
"She doesn't know, Ginny. Oh you know how it is. By the time she was able to understand things, and she turned out to be a strong, healthy girl, it just didn't seem that important any more. We didn't see any reason to tell her."
She quickly said her goodbyes to Mrs. Granger and then rushed up to Professor Dumbledore's office. Luckily he was outside his office, just about to go up the staircase, when Ginny called out to him, "Professor, Professor - I need to speak to you. It's urgent."
"Calm down, Ginny," he said. "Come on up and you can tell me all about it."
Dumbledore had a twinkle in his eye as he absorbed the information given by Ginny. "I did wonder if something like this might happen. Ginny - I want you to swear to me that you won't breath a word of this to anyone - no one at all. Not Ron, not Hermione, and especially not Harry. This has to remain between us two alone."
"Yes Professor. I promise."
"I'll give you the password to my office, Ginny - and every time I change it. If you see any developments between them, I want you to come here and tell me immediately. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir. I promise."
Ginny now sat transfixed, waiting to see what would happen next. She couldn't stop a little tear running down her face as she waited. She glanced at Hermione and saw that she wasn't aware of anything yet. She still wore the sad expression on her face.
'If she's not the one,' thought Harry, 'why am I feeling like this?'
The power given off by the rings was increasing all the time, and the silvery light surrounding Harry started to get a bit more distinct. The light also did something else. It slowly extended across the room and alighted on Hermione.
Again, only Harry and Ginny saw this.
Harry gazed longingly at his friend with growing realisation. 'I love you Hermione' he thought. 'She must be the one. How can she not be?'
Suddenly, Hermione's head snapped up. She thought she'd heard something - Harry faintly calling to her - telling her he loved her. She looked over at Harry, her vision blurred by the tears that she strove to hold back, and saw that he was still staring at her. But she didn't notice the silvery light. She looked back down at her book, sadly.
'I'm getting delusional now,' she thought. 'I really must get a grip.'
Harry had seen Hermione look up suddenly just after his thoughts of love for her, and he wondered if the rings were sending his thoughts across the room. He could now clearly see the silvery light covering her.
As the rings grew more active in his hand, he again thought, 'I love you Hermione,' and this time tried to will those thoughts in her direction.
Suddenly, Hermione's eyes went wide, and her mouth dropped open. She'd heard it again. She looked back up and across to Harry. His emerald green eyes were sparkling, and he was smiling at her. Her eyes were full of wonder as she finally saw the narrow band of light that joined them both. And she realised that she hadn't imagined anything. She couldn't prevent the tears that ran down her cheeks then - she knew at last that Harry loved her.
She formed her own thoughts now, 'I love you too, Harry. I always have.'
Harry heard it in his mind. There was no longer any doubt.
He suddenly rose to his feet, knocking his chair backwards, and strode purposefully over to the girls' table. Everyone looked on in amazement as Harry gently took Hermione's hand and drew her to her feet. When they touched, the silvery light disappeared, although the rings were still warm and vibrating. Nothing was said as they looked deeply into each other's eyes. He then pulled her gently towards the portrait hole, and they went outside.
Ginny's face was now awash with tears, but the wide grin she wore revealed her true feelings. She saw Ron, his face set in a grim expression, go to follow them through the portrait hole, and dashed over to stop him.
"He's hurt her before, Ginny. I won't let him do it again," he said.
Her voice was choked as she stretched up and whispered in his ear, "No Ron. He won't hurt her. How could he? Hermione's his Anima Summa."
"What!" said Ron staring at his sister as if she had two heads.
"There's something I've got to tell you, Ron. Something that I was sworn to keep secret until it happened. But it has just happened and it doesn't matter any more. Come on - I'll tell you on the way to see Dumbledore."
Harry and Hermione sat on the bench beneath the tall oak tree down by the lake and gazed into each-others' eyes. They were both still in deep shock, and had not spoken a word to each other.
Harry lifted his hand and gently laid it on Hermione's cheek, his thumb wiping away the tears that still flowed freely from her beautiful eyes. She leaned into his hand and covered it with her own. She closed her eyes, unable to comprehend fully what was happening.
"I love you, Hermione," whispered Harry.
"I love you too, Harry," she replied.
He pulled her head towards him and gently kissed her. They were soon lost in the wondrous feelings of love that followed, their kisses becoming deeper and more urgent.
Breathlessly, Harry pulled back and put his hand into his cloak pocket. "I need to do something," he said as he pulled his hand back out, now holding the rings.
Harry lifted Hermione's left hand and placed one of the rings on her middle finger. Then he placed the other ring on the middle finger of his own right hand. Harry didn't know why he did it this way - it just felt right, somehow.
They both saw the silvery light return and envelope them both. They looked on wide-eyed with wonder as they began to sense each-others' innermost thoughts and emotions. Any remaining doubt was completely dispelled as they saw what each felt for the other.
But Harry's face contorted with remorse as he saw the pain that Hermione had gone through these past few months. He hadn't realised before that all her ills were caused by him - his inability to see what he could clearly see now. He couldn't believe how insensitive he'd been. How could he have caused this beautiful girl so much hurt?
Then he heard Hermione's thought push past the remorse, 'Hush, Harry. That's all in the past. Feel how I feel now - not then. It more than makes up for those months before we really knew each other.'
And he felt those emotions and his face regained its serene look.
He reached down with his right hand, and held her left hand gently. As he did so, the rings touched.
There was a sudden shimmer, and the silvery light that surrounded them changed to a sparkling blue. Then they heard a powerful, but gentle voice in their minds, speaking to them as if they were one. It was the voice they'd heard back in the secret chamber. It was the voice of Jesus.
'THIS IS THE POWER OF THE RINGS. HEAR ME.'
Dumbledore was in the middle of a meeting with his close aides when Ginny and Ron burst into the room. Snape tutted in annoyance, while Sirius, Ceri, Remus, McGonagall and Flitwick, who had now been included in the circle for the first time, looked up expectantly.
Ginny and Ron hesitated as they saw their professors staring at them, then Dumbledore got up and walked around his desk. "By the expression on your face, Ginny, it seems that something has happened at last, am I right?"
"Yes, Professor. It happened a few minutes ago in the common room."
"What's happened?" the professors shouted as one.
"Oh, I think you're all going to like this. Come and sit down you two. Ginny - tell us exactly what happened please."
"It's Harry. He's found his Anima Summa. It's Hermione."
There were gasps all around the room, and then Ginny related the sequence of events leading up to Harry and Hermione going out of the common room together. She also told them, at Dumbledore's nod, about Hermione's premature birth.
"Where are they now?" said Ceri, unable to keep the excitement from her voice.
"I think they went outside, Ceri," said Ron.
"Yes, they're down by the lake under the oak tree," said Remus who had gone over to look out of the window.
There was a mad rush as everyone in the room crowded around the window, looking at the couple down by the lake. There were gasps as they saw Harry put the rings on their fingers, and the silvery light covered them. There were even louder gasps as they saw the silver change to sparkling blue.
Ceri suddenly staggered back from the window and would have fallen if Sirius hadn't reached out to steady her. "The emotions," she gasped. "They're so strong. Even at this distance."
She went back to the window, with Sirius' help, and they all continued to look.
'WELCOME ANIMA SUMMAS. YOU HAVE A GREAT AND AWESOME TASK AHEAD OF YOU, BUT YOU ARE NOT YET FULLY MATURE - BOTH PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY - I WILL HELP YOU WITH THAT.
DO NOT FORGET THAT THE RINGS YOU NOW WEAR MUST BE RETURNED FROM WHENCE THEY CAME. FUTURE GENERATIONS MAY BE NEEDFUL OF THEM.
I MUST WARN YOU THAT THERE IS GREAT DANGER AHEAD. DO NOT BE APART - YOU MUST REMAIN AS ONE. ONLY THEN WILL YOU BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THE ORDEALS THAT AWAIT YOU.
THERE ARE TWO MORE QUESTS FOR YOU TO COMPLETE BEFORE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO FACE THE DARK FORCES WITH IMPUNITY. THE FIRST OF THESE TASKS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU SHORTLY, BUT BEFORE YOU CAN EMBARK ON IT, YOU MUST LEARN TO GROW AND DEVELOP YOUR NEW POWERS - SEEK OUT THIS KNOWLEDGE WISELY AND PRACTICE IT.
THE ANCIENT WISDOM AND SPELLS I GAVE YOU IN MY SECRET CHAMBER ARE NOW AVAILABLE TO YOU. USE THEM WITH DIGNITY AND SELFLESSLY.
I WILL NOW LEAVE YOU FOR THERE IS MUCH FOR YOU TO DISCOVER.
REMEMBER, DO NOT BE APART AND ALWAYS WEAR THE RINGS.
BE ASSURED THAT I WILL REMAIN WITH YOU ALWAYS.
The voice of Jesus trailed off to a whisper as he spoke the last few words. The blue light disappeared and the two seemed normal once more. They quickly found, however, that they could still sense each-other's emotions whenever they touched, and could still hear each-other's thoughts if they tried hard, even if they weren't touching.
"I think I must be dreaming," said Hermione. "I can't believe this is happening. If you only knew how much I've longed for this, Harry."
"But I do know, Hermione - don't I?"
"Yes - of course you do," she replied as she pulled him towards her and held him close.
They stayed like this for the next five minutes, immersed in their love - a love of such quality and intensity not experienced by anyone since Merlin and Morgana over a millennium ago. They were, simply, ecstatic as they felt the full force of their love for the first time.
At the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Margot watched with increasing excitement. Her vivid green eyes shone and her face lit up with a sunny smile.
'It's happened at last,' she thought to herself. 'I must now return to Rennes-le-Chateau and prepare.'
Hermione passionately kissed Harry before they broke apart, gasping. After a little while, they put their foreheads together and whispered to each other.
"This sensing of emotions, Harry. I wonder if it only works between us, or if we can make it work with other people?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"Because there are a couple of people with whom I'd like to share what we have. And I want them to feel how I feel about them too."
"Yes," Harry replied, smiling, "I'd like to try it on Ron and Ginny, too."
"Are you scared at all, Harry? With what's just happened, I mean."
"Not really scared. There was nothing frightening about it, was there? But I am a bit awed by it all. How about you?"
"I feel the same. Jesus told us we've got to learn to develop our powers, and he told us to seek out the knowledge wisely. What do you think he meant by that?"
"I don't know. Perhaps we have to go back to the secret chamber to get more instruction? I don't know. I think we'd better ask Professor Dumbledore. After all, Jesus did tell us to listen to his advice."
Back in Dumbledore's office, everyone had returned to their seats after the silvery blue light disappeared. They were all reluctant to intrude on the couple's privacy longer than was necessary.
When he spoke, Dumbledore's voice was stronger and more vibrant than it had been for many a long year. The sparkle was aglow in his eyes once more.
"Right, everyone. We now need to plan our next actions. We've got a lot to do now that Harry and Hermione have bonded and we have to make plans to help them. Ron, Ginny - go down to the grounds and wait for your friends. Don't interrupt them, but when they come back up to the school, will you ask them to come to see us please?"
"Yes, Professor," said Ron, and he and Ginny then made their way down to the Entrance Hall.
Harry and Hermione ambled back up to the school, holding hands, when they heard a rustle from one of the bushes alongside the path. They looked and saw Draco Malfoy emerge and walk towards them.
"Well, well," said the sneering Malfoy. "What do we have here then? Found yourself a new girlfriend, Potter? I'm surprised at you, Granger - I thought you had better taste."
The two looked at each other; distaste clearly showing on their faces. Then Harry lifted his right hand, Hermione her left, and they pointed them, palms outwards, at Malfoy.
"PA HENKYT MALFOY," they both said together.
A silvery-blue light shot from their palms, the streams of light joining a few yards in front of the pair, and then shot straight at Malfoy.
Malfoy's eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open as he shimmered, floated up above the ground, and then vanished with a loud 'pop.'
"Bloody hell!" gasped Ron as he and Ginny ran down to their two friends. "That was incredible. What did you do to Malfoy?"
"Oh nothing much," said Hermione. "We thought he'd be better off back in bed."
Down in the Slytherin dungeon, Draco Malfoy blinked several times and looked down at himself. He patted himself all over, but could feel nothing out of place. In fact, he felt as good as he'd ever felt - physically that is. He looked around and saw that he was sitting on his bed in the Slytherin dormitory. He gave a shudder and whispered to himself, "What the hell was that? Wand-less magic! Granger must be Potter's Anima Summa, and it looks like they've joined together. I've got to tell father about this straight away."
Crabbe and Goyle, who were sitting in the Slytherin common room munching on two very large cakes, looked up in surprise as their friend shot down the staircase, quill and parchment in hand, and rushed out of the room.
"I'll be back later," Draco shouted over his shoulder. "I've got to go to the Owlery."
Back at the steps outside the school, Ginny rushed to Hermione and caught around her in a tight hug.
"I'm so glad, Hermione. I thought you two would never get together. I've been waiting for ages for this to happen."
"What do you mean, Ginny? You knew all along that Hermione was my Anima Summa?" asked Harry incredulously.
"Yes, Harry. Well, I was pretty sure it was her, but I couldn't be one hundred percent sure."
"But how, Ginny?" asked Hermione as she gently eased her friend away from her. "I mean, my birthday's 19th September. Jesus told us that the Anima Summa was born exactly three months after Harry. How is it possible? Jesus can't be wrong, can he?"
"No, Hermione, he wasn't wrong. But think carefully - he said you had to be conceived three months after Harry, not necessarily born three months after him. When your mother told me you were born six weeks prematurely, I just knew it had to be you."
"I ... I was born prematurely?" said Hermione quietly. "They never told me."
"They didn't think it was important. You were very ill back then, and I don't think they wanted to be reminded of the pain they went through, not knowing if you'd survive."
"I wish I'd known," said Hermione quietly.
"Me too," said Harry. "It would have made things so much easier."
"I was sworn to secrecy by Dumbledore. I couldn't tell you. But it would have been easier for me too if I could have," said Ginny. "You don't know the agonies I've been through keeping this to myself. Watching you being so hurt and sad, Hermione, and you, Harry, wracked with worry about finding the right one. You don't know the number of times I wanted to go up to you and beat some sense into your head."
"I wish you had, Ginny," he replied softly.
"Kristen knew too, even before she was aware of the Anima Summa prophecy. She knew you were in love with someone else, Harry, and she confided in me that she thought it was Hermione. Like me, she saw the way you looked at her. But I had to make her swear she wouldn't tell you. That's why she split up with you, Harry."
"Uh," said Ron, "Professor Dumbledore wants you to go up to his office. He wants to speak to you both. But tell me, what was that spell you did on Malfoy? You didn't use your wands. What language was that? I haven't heard anything like it before."
"It was just there - in our heads," said Harry shrugging helplessly. "It must have been one of those ancient spells Jesus told us about. I don't know why we didn't use our wands - what we did just felt like the right thing to do."
"Well it looked pretty awesome from where I was standing," said Ron.
"Come on then," said Harry, "let's all go up."
"Uh, I think he wants to speak to just you two," said Ginny.
Harry looked at Hermione and they smiled and nodded to each other. "Where we go, you go too - for as long as you want, that is," said Harry.
"Before we go up, there's something we want to try," said Hermione.
"Ginny," whispered Harry, "come and hold my hand."
"And you come and hold mine, Ron," said Hermione.
The red-haired pair looked puzzled, but did as they were asked. Harry and Hermione closed their eyes and concentrated. As they connected, they once again felt their innermost emotions, their love for each other and for their two friends. As one, they slowly pushed their thoughts and feelings out through themselves and into Ron and Ginny.
"Oh it's so beautiful and wonderful," cried Ginny as the tears ran down her face.
Ron just stood, glassy-eyed, unable to voice what he was feeling - there just didn't seem to be the words that would do it justice.
Harry and Hermione were surprised when they were able to feel the thoughts and emotions of their two friends. They had only intended to show Ron and Ginny what they felt - they hadn't expected a three-way interaction. Ron - Ginny - Harry/Hermione as one.
They stood like that for only about five minutes, but the bond between all four was strengthened immeasurably within that short time.
As they broke contact at last, the four just stood and looked at each other. There was nothing to be said. They now knew far more than all the words in the world were capable of expressing.
As they walked up to Dumbledore's office, Ron suddenly stopped and turned around, causing the others, who were behind, to bump into him.
"Uh, Hermione?" he asked tentatively. "This thought transference thing - telepathy - do you think it'll work if we're not physically in contact? I mean, like across a classroom - say, for instance, when we're taking our OWLS and the classroom's very quiet."
"Ron!" said Ginny as she slapped his arm.
"Honestly, Ron!" said Hermione.
Harry just laughed.
"Well, it was worth a try, wasn't it?" said Ron.
Ron and Ginny smiled at each other as they approached the headmaster's office. They were both pleased to see that their two friends had not changed in the slightest - at least not when they weren't mentally linked together - but even that was not really a change. It was just something new, and very, very special.