Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 3 264 2002-12-23T16:17:00Z 2003-06-30T19:17:00Z 19 10069 57395 478 114 70485 9.2720
Harry was sitting on the floor of his bedroom at No. 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, covered in a bath of sweat. He had just finished his hour-long stint of circuit training, and was now trying to relax, breathing deeply, trying to bring peace to his aching mind and body.
After a while, he got up and sat on the edge of his bed and smiled to himself. He thought back to his godfather's visit a week ago.
Harry was curled up in a ball on his bed when Sirius entered his room. His Uncle Vernon stood behind him looking frightened, but then quickly went back downstairs. Sirius had taken one look at Harry, and his worse fears were confirmed - Hermione had been right - his godson was in one hell of a state.
Sirius touched Harry on his shoulder, and then lifted him up into a sitting position. Harry's eyes were dull - gone was the mischievous spark that normally lived there.
"Harry …" Sirius muttered quietly.
Harry then seemed to focus his eyes and when he recognised his godfather, let out a soul-tearing gasp of anguish and clung to Sirius as if his life depended on it. The tears that he had held back after Cedric's death then flowed freely as he sought to purge himself of all his worries.
Sirius had a tear of his own in his eye as he held Harry, and then whispered, "Tell me all about it, Harry. Perhaps I can help."
Harry sat back against the headboard of his bed and poured out all his experiences with Voldemort after the Triwizard Tournament, and his fears for the safety of himself and his friends.
"Yes, I knew most of this after Hermione wrote to me yesterday. You really upset her when you sent her that owl, and you're upsetting me now. Listen, Harry, none of what happened is your fault. You didn't kill Cedric - Wormtail did. And to even think of ditching your best friends is just plain silly.
"Look, when I was with your father, mother and Remus at Hogwarts, it was the best time of my life. I felt privileged to have their friendship. It was the rock that kept me going through the bad times."
"But Sirius," Harry tearfully shouted. "Voldemort killed my mother and father. How did that make you feel? I don't want the same thing to happen to Hermione and Ron."
"Listen, Harry, I felt absolutely gutted when your parents were killed and think how I felt when you were left alone and I was stitched up in Azkaban. But even with hindsight I wouldn't have changed my relationship with them. In the long run I would have been the poorer for not knowing them as I did.
"You must never underestimate the power of friendship, Harry. You can't shut out Ron and Hermione. Think how they'll feel if you suddenly dumped them - I know how Hermione feels about it - she's beside herself with worry. In those two, you have the most loyal friends I know and Hermione - well, she's one in a million. You must let them help you. Ok, they know the risks, but they can accept them, so why can't you? Let them be a source of strength to you - this is one of your greatest weapons in the fight against the Dark Side. The power of the friendship you have is pretty rare, so don't deny it to yourself."
At those words, Harry felt an uplifting of his spirits. Put that way, he could see the sense in what Sirius was saying to him and he silently resolved to move on and think more positively about things.
"Thanks, Sirius. I needed that, I really did. You do wonders for a guy's morale. Can't I stay with you this summer? It would be so much better than having to put up with the Dursleys."
"I'm sorry, Harry," said Sirius, "but I haven't got anywhere permanent yet and I'm doing a few things for Dumbledore that'll keep me moving about for the next few months. But I've had a few words with your uncle and I don't think he'll be so nasty to you from now on. If he is, just send me a note with Hedwig and I'll come and put him straight."
"Thanks Sirius, you don't know how much you've helped me. I can't thank you enough. I only wish I could help you by clearing your name with the ministry."
"You've already done that, Harry. You have to keep this quiet, but Cornelius Fudge has accepted your account of things and has privately given me a full pardon. He's afraid to broadcast it, though, because he doesn't want it known that 'You Know Who' is back."
Harry jumped up at this news. "That's great Sirius, that's marvellous news. Can I tell Ron and Hermione?"
"Yes, but only Ron and Hermione. Look, I have to go now, but always remember that I'm there for you any time you need me and I'll help you as much as I can. Just send a note with Hedwig."
And with that, Sirius went back down the stairs, fixed Vernon with one of his deadly stares and went out of the house.
'That was a week ago,' thought Harry. 'What a change in 7 days.'
After Sirius had left, Harry had sent Hedwig to Hermione with a note of apology, saying Sirius had visited and made him realise he was being a prat to want to end their friendship. He asked her to forgive him and that he would see her in Diagon Alley just before school started back.
Harry had resolved to do a number of positive things after Sirius' talk to him. He had decided that if Voldemort were going to come after him and his friends, then he would be as prepared as possible to meet him. That meant that he had to get his mental attitude right and he also needed to be prepared physically - hence the circuit training. And he'd also thought of another way to get fit and strong.
After showering, Harry went down stairs for dinner, which he, of course, had to prepare. It seemed that getting the food ready for them all took forever, especially with the huge amounts that Dudley tucked away these days. The bigger and fatter he got, the greater his appetite became.
When they were eating their meal, Harry tentatively asked his uncle, "Eh, Uncle Vernon, I was thinking. You and Aunt Petunia are always on about me being a lazy git. What would you say if I came to your factory and did some manual work - you know, shifting boxes and things? I wouldn't want any pay for it, I'd just be happy knowing that I was helping."
After he said this, Harry had a job to get his tongue unstuck from the inside of his cheek.
Aunt Petunia and Dudley had their mouths wide open at this but Harry knew that the 'no pay' bit would get his uncle's attention.
"No pay, you say. Ok, if it'll teach you not to be a lazy good-for-nothing then you can start in the morning. I'll put you with Jake - if you can keep up with him then you might be of some use."
Uncle Vernon looked pleased with himself - as if it were his idea in the first place.
Harry just grinned.
On 28th July, Hermione was strolling down Diagon Alley. She was at a complete loss, for once in her young life, as to what to get Harry for his birthday. It was only 3 days away and she was going on holiday with her parents in two days time on a tour of Eastern Europe. She'd arranged to visit Viktor Krum when they got to Bulgaria, and looked forward to seeing him again.
She'd thought of all the usual things to get Harry - something for Quidditch and a book, but she wanted to get something special after the trauma he'd suffered earlier in the month.
A few shops up from 'Flourish and Blotts', she noticed a small, insignificant little shop which she was sure hadn't been there the last time she visited. She seemed to remember that this particular shop had always been empty and boarded up before.
There was now a sign over the front window, which said 'El Hamri - Unusual Gifts'. Intrigued, Hermione wandered over and browsed in the window. Something drew her attention to a small amulet tucked away in the corner - it was an unusual piece in the form of a Knight with an upraised sword, astride a large golden eagle. The Knight had a cross on the front of his tunic that reminded her of paintings she had seen about the Crusades back in King Richard the Lionheart's time.
She opened the door to the shop and heard a chime coming from the rear. An old and wizened man appeared and asked her, in perfect English but with an unfamiliar accent, "Hello, young lady. Is there anything that you fancy? A present for your boyfriend, perhaps?" Hermione blushed at this, but asked the man if she could see the amulet from the front window.
"Ah, yes," said the man as he stretched over and picked up the amulet. "I think that you must be a very discerning young lady. This is a very rare piece that was recovered from Palestine after the last crusade. One of my ancestors fought there, you know, but on Saladin's side. The Priory sent it to me only yesterday. Would you like to hold it?"
"Yes please," said Hermione taking the object from the old man. She wondered to which priory he was referring.
As soon as she held it, Hermione experienced a warm and secure feeling emanating from the amulet. She had the distinct feeling that this was the perfect gift she had been looking for and she simply had to get it for Harry.
"That is a very rare piece, don't forget. But to you, it is only 6 galleons," said the old man with a gentle smile.
Hermione pulled a face. She hadn't intended to spend so much. But she just had to get it for Harry - after all he had been through, he deserved something special.
"Right, I'll take it," said Hermione and fumbled in her purse for the 6 galleons, which she handed over to the man. "Tell me, I haven't seen your shop here before. Have you just opened it?"
"Yes, it has only been open for a week," replied the old man.
"I was thinking - which priory sent you the amulet and where is it?"
"Ah," said the man with an enigmatic smile on his face, "it is a very old priory, as old as time itself. It is not for me to reveal it's true name and as for its location, well - it is everywhere."
Hermione looked quizzically at the old man and pondered his answer for a moment. She was puzzled and made a mental note to do some research on 'the priory' when she got back to Hogwarts - the library was sure to have a book on it.
"Well thank you very much - goodbye." Hermione walked out of the shop, pleased with her purchase, and she went to find a suitable birthday card for Harry.
Meanwhile, at The Burrow, Ron, Fred, George and Ginny were sitting around the kitchen table talking about the 2-a-side Quidditch game they had just finished. There was a fair amount of taunting from Ron and Ginny after beating the other two 270 - 190.
Fred and George soon retired upstairs to work on their plans for 'Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes', the shop they were hoping to open when they finished school next year. The shop had now become a distinct probability after Harry had given them the prize money from the Triwizard Tournament.
"Ron, I'm so glad that Harry seems to be ok now," said Ginny.
Ron had received a note from Hermione a week ago about Harry's problems. And he'd told Ginny, but leaving out any mention of Sirius Black.
"Yes, Ginny, thank goodness. But why do you think Harry didn't contact me about his problems? He must have known that I'd support him."
"I'm sure he knows that Ron, but let's face it, who would you turn to in a crisis like that? If it were me I know I'd want to talk to Hermione - she is the smartest witch at Hogwarts after all."
"I guess you're right Ginny. It's a pity that Dumbledore won't allow Harry to come and stay with us like last year," said Ron ruefully.
"Yes, but you know how he is about protecting Harry, especially now that 'You Know Who' is back on the scene. Oh well, I think I'll go and start packing Harry's birthday present."
Ginny trotted upstairs to her room and started packing Harry's present and birthday card, feeling just a little sad. She had, of course, had a crush on Harry since her first year at Hogwarts and she didn't think that she had completely got over it yet.
'Oh come on Ginny,' she thought. 'I'm fourteen now and getting a little too old to harbour such feelings for a boy who would never notice me THAT way. At least I've got Harry as a friend. Next school year, I'm going to forget that old crush and start getting a life - a boyfriend perhaps? … Hmmmm'
But she couldn't get it out of her head that any boyfriend she managed to get would only be second best.
Harry had many good qualities to his character. One of the strongest of those qualities was determination in the face of adversity. Harry certainly needed that quality now.
Uncle Vernon's factory had just received a large delivery of raw materials, and Jake had set a furious pace at unloading them from the lorry and stacking them onto shelves ready for dispatch to the various assembly lines. Uncle Vernon was too mean to invest in forklift trucks.
Harry had been working for two weeks now, and he and Jake had built up a friendly rivalry on who could shift the most stuff in the allotted time. After all, Jake had his weekly bonus to spur him on, but Harry only had his determination and competitive edge, honed from four years of Quidditch.
"Come on 'Arry," laughed Jake. "You'll never get fit and strong working in slow motion."
Harry gritted his teeth and lifted another heavy box from the lorry and ran with it over to the shelves. With a loud grunt, he lifted it onto the top-most shelf and sighed with relief before running back to get another box.
"Bugger off, Jake. If you were as fast as me you wouldn't be able to lift your pay packet at the end of the week."
When all the boxes were stacked, Harry and Jake collapsed onto the floor with exhausted grins on their faces and started chatting about the people working at the factory.
"Oooh that Melanie," sighed Jake. "She's a right little cracker. I wouldn't mind a night out wiv 'er, I can tell yuh"
"Well why don't you ask her, Jake? You won't know if she likes you until you do."
Jake ignored that remark and, with a smirk on his face said, "What about that girl of yours 'Arry? What's her name - 'erm-ee-nee, 'erm-ii-oo-n. Have you shagged her yet?"
Harry went bright red and shouted, "Sod off Jake! It's HERMIONE, and she's not my girlfriend - she's just one of my best friends. And no - I haven't, for God's sake, and anyway, she's not that sort of girl!"
"Well, the way you always go on about her, you could have fooled me! Right, five more minutes rest and then we've got that load of coal to shovel down at the boiler room site."
Jake grinned, delighted that he'd struck a raw nerve with Harry, and laid his head back on the floor and started daydreaming about Melanie.
Harry woke early on the morning of July 31st, his birthday. The incessant tapping at his window by a flock of owls was the cause of his early return to the conscious world. He jumped out of bed and let them in, removing the parcels from their legs. He then gave them some biscuits to eat before they flew back out of the window.
Harry excitedly started opening his presents. He smiled when he opened Ron's present - a book entitled 'Quidditch Tactics and Innovative Moves for Seekers.'
Ginny's present was a wizarding photograph, which had the heading, in Ginny's handwriting, 'The Fab Four'. It showed Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny at the lake at Hogwarts - the four were smiling and waving. Harry remembered Colin Creevey taking that picture just before the end of the Triwizard Tournament.
Harry laughed when he opened the birthday card from Ginny. There was a picture of a parrot on the front, and when the card was opened, he'd chant 'Who's a pretty boy then' over and over.
'Just like Ginny.' Harry thought back to the time when Ginny had embarrassed him at school with her singing valentine.
The next present he opened was a parchment from Professor Dumbledore. It read…
'Happy birthday Harry
I hope that you are feeling better after your chat with your godfather.
Professor McGonagall and I wanted to give you something for your birthday - but it will have to wait until you return for the new school year. I won't tell you what it is, but I will say that you will be following in your father's footsteps when you get it.
Be happy Harry and look after yourself.
"What the devil is that?" Harry muttered to himself. But he knew one thing - if it allowed him to follow in his father's footsteps then it must be ok. He couldn't wait.
Sirius' present was next - it was a small round glass object about the size of a squash-ball and shimmered like crystal. The note that accompanied the present said
'Happy birthday Harry
I hope you are keeping well. This little present is called a 'find-me-stone'. If you hold it in your hand and whisper the incantation 'expiscor ego' then the holder of the matching stone will be able to find you immediately. Of course, I have the matching stone, and don't worry - only I can operate it. It has to be magically set for the holder, and only I know the password.
You should set up the stone straight away. Hold it in both hands and say
Erigo Harry James Potter
The stone should then glow with a light shade of red. Then say your password like so
Signum <say your password>
And if the stone accepts it, the glow will change to a light blue colour. Once you set your password, only you will be able to use it.
I thought that this little device might come in handy one day.
With love from your godfather
Harry smiled. "Just like Sirius - always practical and looking out for me. Right, lets try to set it up."
Harry held the stone in both hands and said, "ERIGO Harry James Potter."
Surely enough, the stone's colour changed to a light red.
Harry thought for a moment and then said, "SIGNUM Seeker." The stone changed to a light blue colour.
'Great,' thought Harry, and put the stone into his pocket.
The last present was from Hermione. Harry grinned when he read her note saying that she just had to get this present and she hoped he liked it.
'A book of some sort I bet,' thought Harry
He was suitably surprised when he opened the parcel to reveal the Knight amulet. When he picked it up he had the same feeling of warmth and security that Hermione had when she held it. He made a mental note to ask her where she had found it when he saw her next, and whether it had any more magical properties.
A picture of Hermione's smiling face came to Harry and he knew that Sirius was spot-on when he said that Hermione was one-in-a-million. He was lucky to be able to call her his best friend.
He put the amulet around his neck, where he intended to always keep it. Harry jumped when he heard the sound of something being pushed under his bedroom door. He picked up an envelope and opened it.
'Our birthday present to you
An extra shift at the factory next Saturday
Don't be late!
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia'
Harry laughed. He didn't mind the extra work at all - especially since he wouldn't have to put up with Dudley all day Saturday. Harry thought that was probably the best birthday present they had ever given him.
Harry continued to work at the factory throughout the summer, and had got into the routine of jogging around the factory site whenever there was a slack period. Jake, however, thought he was crazy and didn't waste any time in telling him. By this time, Harry had a well-defined muscle structure to his upper body, his stomach was flat and muscled, he felt very fit and he had become quite tanned. It seemed that all the work he was doing was starting to pay off.
He also enjoyed his running, even when he knew he had to pass by the office block and had to endure the whistles and calls (some of them quite rude and embarrassing) of the office girls. He thought it strange that they always seemed to know exactly when he would pass by their window. Some of the girls were very pretty and a lot older than Harry, and he wondered what the devil they saw in him. After all, they wouldn't know that he was Harry Potter, 'The boy who lived'.
Jake had told him that he should take advantage of some of the offers shouted at him by a few of the girls and that he didn't realise how lucky he was. Harry had blushed but didn't take the bait.
All in all, Harry was becoming very contented with life and for once didn't get the feeling that time was passing too slowly when he was on his summer break.
This all changed the following day.
Harry was jogging around the back of the factory, close to some waste ground, when he heard a soft chuckle, which seemed to come from behind a nearby tree. He was later to thank his lucky stars for his keen hearing.
Harry turned towards the tree and saw a figure dressed in black robes and wearing a black hood. The figure lifted his hand, which, Harry saw, held a wand and shouted
Before the figure - obviously a Death Eater - had finished saying the spell, Harry had dodged to one side, and saw the red beam of light pass by his left shoulder. Harry didn't hang about after that. He turned and started running and stepping from side to side over towards a group of empty metal drums, thankful for his newly acquired fitness and his years of practice on the Quidditch field. The Death Eater continued to throw spells, but they all missed their mark, with Harry making himself as difficult a target as possible.
Harry reached the waste drums and flung himself onto the ground behind them. By this time the Death Eater was roaring in frustration, and started to walk over towards the drums.
'If only I had my wand,' Harry thought. His wand was in his trunk back at the Dursleys. Since he wasn't allowed to do magic away from school, the wand stayed in the trunk all through the summer.
Harry thought furiously for a few moments as the Death Eater got nearer and nearer. Then he reached into his pocket, removed the 'find-me-stone', and whispered, 'EXPISCOR EGO'.
The figure of Sirius Black appeared out of thin air alongside Harry and quickly took in the scene before him. Raising his wand towards the Death Eater, who had frozen in surprised shock at Sirius' unexpected appearance, he yelled 'STUPEFY."
The Death Eater wasn't as quick as Harry, and the spell caught him squarely in the chest. He collapsed to the ground immediately.
"Are you ok, Harry?" asked a concerned-looking Sirius, checking for any signs of damage.
"Thanks, Sirius, yes I'm ok - he didn't touch me. But look, how did he know I was here?"
"Well, I don't know, but the factory isn't protected like the Dursley house. I'll speak to Dumbledore and get him to set up full protection spells on this site. But in the meantime you'd better get back to the Dursleys and stay there until I give you the all clear to go back to work. Right, I'll take this git back to Hogwarts and see if we can get him to talk - Snape will have some Veritaserum on hand, I'm sure."
"Thanks, Sirius. You saved my life, you know." Harry grinned. "That birthday present certainly turned out to be pretty useful."
"Don't mention it, Harry. And keep your guard up from now on."
Sirius then went over and grabbed the Death Eater by the arm. There was a slight 'pop' as both figures disappeared.
After Sirius arrived with the Death Eater at Hogsmeade, he had taken him, still under the Stunning spell, to Hogwarts using 'WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA' to lighten the load.
The Death Eater now sat bound in a chair in the centre of Dumbledore's office, with Dumbledore, Sirius and Snape standing over him.
"What is your name?" asked Dumbledore
"Ballocks." was the only reply he could get out of the sour-faced captive.
"Well if that's going to be your attitude, we'd better move things along. Severus, have you got any Veritaserum prepared?"
"Yes, Headmaster, I'll go down to my office and fetch it," said Snape, walking quickly out of the room.
"Sirius, I'll set up the protection on the factory site as soon as we're finished here. The Aurors from the ministry should be arriving shortly to take our friend, here, for further questioning."
Dumbledore then turned to the Death Eater and said, "Well, Mr. Ballocks, how does a little stretch in Azkaban sound to you? You might as well tell us what we want to know now, and save yourself the discomfort of the truth serum."
The Death Eater looked nervous but remained sullenly silent.
Snape then came into the room carrying a small phial containing a dark brown liquid. Sirius held the struggling Death Eaters' head while Snape poured the Veritaserum down his throat.
"Give it a minute or two, Headmaster," said Snape, wiping away a small amount of the liquid, which had spilled onto his hand.
The three remained silent, watching the Death Eater for any sign that the serum had taken effect. Then Dumbledore walked up to him and started his questioning.
"What is your name?"
"Darius Lork," was the reply, given in a dull-sounding voice.
"When did you last see Lord Voldemort?"
"Two weeks ago when I was recruited."
"Where were you recruited and how many of you were there?"
"At Croyden, and there were fifty three of us."
Snape let out a surprised gasp, "Good God, I new that there were recruiting meetings going on, but I never suspected the number of people involved. The Croyden meeting was just one of about twenty back two weeks ago"
Dumbledore looked worried. "This is worse than I thought. At this rate, Voldemort will have a sizable army very soon. Sirius, I think you'd better do some snooping and try to get a feel for the size of this problem. Tell me, Lork, who ordered you to attack Harry Potter?"
"How did you know where Potter was and why did you do it then?"
"I live close to Privet Drive, and I'd seen him going out every morning. I wanted to make a good impression on my senior commander so I followed Potter to the factory and hid until he was close by."
Sirius heard footsteps outside the office and walked into a small room at the side of Dumbledore's office. He didn't want there to be any misunderstanding when the Aurors came in. He still had to be careful to whom he showed himself.
The door then opened, and Dobby the house elf showed in two tough-looking men.
"We've come to collect the prisoner," said one of them and flashed his Ministry of Magic ID.
Dumbledore nodded and said, "We've finished so you're welcome to him. Tell the minister that Voldemort is recruiting Death Eaters at a fair old rate. That's probably why we haven't seen much of him and his minions over the summer. No doubt you'll be able to get more details out of this one."
The Aurors then grabbed hold of Lork, easily lifting him up, and bade their farewells as the three left.
It was a week after Dumbledore had set up the protection spells at the factory site, and Harry was now back working as normal. Uncle Vernon hadn't been very impressed with the one-day lay-off. Harry had to feign an upset stomach, which didn't get too much sympathy from the Dursleys.
Harry was reading the Quidditch book that Ron had sent him, when an owl flew in through the window. Harry took the parchment from the out-stretched leg and the owl flew back out. He was pleased to see that the letter was from Hermione.
He settled back onto his bed and began to read.
I hope you are well and that you are not over-doing it at that factory.
I'm having a wonderful time in Eastern Europe. The cities and the countryside are absolutely beautiful. We started off in Austria. Vienna was positively marvellous, and we went to a Mozart music concert. The experience was absolutely wonderful - honestly.
We then went to Hungary and the capital Budapest. We had a lovely cruise down the Danube. The food there was pretty spicy, though; they seem to put tons of paprika into everything - my tongue still hasn't recovered!
Then we travelled into Romania and toured around the wonderful alpine meadows and dense forests of Transylvania. There was plenty of wildlife there - bears, mountain goats and wild boars - but I didn't see any vampires, thank goodness!
We have just arrived in Bulgaria, and I am writing this in our hotel room in Sofia. It's a beautiful city, nestling in the lovely Balkan Mountains.
Well I have to go now but I'll write to you again soon. (I've also written to Ron and Ginny). I've got to get ready for tonight - Viktor has asked me out to dinner at a posh restaurant, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him again.
Harry grinned as he read - he was really glad that Hermione was having a good time. But he felt a bit uneasy when he read about Viktor Krum. He thought that Viktor was ok, but he had an odd sort of feeling about Hermione's date with him. He instinctively reached up and closed his hand around the amulet, which still felt warm and gave off that same feeling of security. He hoped she would be ok.
Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were warily treading their way through some dense undergrowth in the New Forest near Southampton. They had received a tip-off from Snape that there would be a Death Eater initiation ceremony somewhere on the northern side of the forest tonight, near a monument known as 'The Rufus Stone'.
Remus whispered, "This place is certainly well chosen for a Death Eater meeting. Muggles have reported spooky feelings whenever they pass by the stone. Did you know that King William the 2nd - William the Conqueror's son - was killed at this very spot? He was also known as Rufus because of his shock of Red hair. To this day, no-one knows whether the arrow that pierced his heart was the result of an accident or murder."
"Where the hell do you get these bits of information from, Remus? Next to Hermione Granger you must be the most bookish person I know," whispered Sirius. "Hold on, I think there's something in that clearing just up ahead"
They both squinted in the almost pitch dark and saw a faint light. It seemed to be a magically produced bluish light. They edged closer and baulked at the sight that confronted them - about fifty people dressed in black cloaks and hoods stood in a circle facing in towards the middle.
At the centre of the circle was a tall thin shape, also dressed completely in black. But as he slowly lifted his head, a chill spread down the spines of the two watchers. That face was exactly as Harry had described - a thin slash of a mouth, just two slits for a nose and slitty eyes that gleamed red in the darkness. Voldemort!
"You stay here, Remus. I'll try to get a bit closer and see if I can hear what's going on." Sirius changed into his animagus form, and the large black dog padded silently towards the unholy group.
"Welcome my new Death Eaters. I have summoned you all here tonight to be initiated into the Dark Side. We are growing stronger by the day and I already have over 2000 loyal servants. Soon I will be able to take action against the abomination of Mudbloods and Muggles that pollute the land. When I call your name, step forward and receive the mark that will be your treasured badge for the rest of your lives…. Mark Leeming"
One of the Death Eaters stepped forward, knelt on the ground before the Dark Lord and rolled up his right sleeve. Voldemort placed his wand on his forearm and shouted "MORSMODRE." Leeming arched his back and let out a scream of pure agony as smoke rose from his arm. After about a minute the man relaxed slightly, whimpering, and then held up his arm for the rest of the group to see. Burned into his arm was the dark mark - a skull with a serpent in its mouth. The group of Death Eaters roared with approval, bringing a sneering smile to the ugly face of Voldemort.
This continued until all fifty people had been given the mark, and the air was full of the smell of burning flesh. Voldemort then raised his arms into the air, his wand pointed upwards, and yelled "CRUCIO."
All fifty Death Eaters fell to the ground writhing in agony. This lasted only for a few seconds before the curse was lifted.
Voldemort laughed and shouted, "The pain you have just witnessed is nothing to the pain you will feel if you ever disobey me. Be warned. You will be contacted in a few weeks by your group commander, who will give you your instructions."
There was a 'pop' and Voldemort was gone.
Sirius felt sickened and padded his way back to Remus. Both men then made their way a little further out of the forest and Apparated back to Hogsmeade. They then walked towards Hogwarts to report to Dumbledore.
Charlie Weasley was leaning against a tree at the edge of a forest clearing in a remote part of Romania. He was watching a group of Romanian Longhorn dragons sleeping in the warm summer sunshine. It was a crucial time for Charlie. The female dragons were nearing the time when they would lay a new batch of eggs.
As the world's foremost expert on Romanian Longhorns, Charlie needed to document the birthing cycle of the beasts in great detail. He was due to give a lecture at the Ministry of Magic next year, where dragon experts from all over the world would be holding their annual convention.
He was deep in thought about the reports he'd heard from his father that 'You Know Who' was building up his forces, when he was shaken from his ruminations by an owl that swooped down and landed on a branch just above his head. Charlie looked up and saw a parchment attached to its leg. He reached up, removed the parchment, and the owl flew off.
Charlie unrolled the note, and the first thing he saw was the official seal of the British Ministry of Magic. He sat down and read the note and muttered, "Well I'll be …"
'Dear Mr. Weasley,
The French Ministry of Magic has approached me on a rather delicate matter.
It appears that the Magical Creatures in the forbidden forest in the south of France have started to exhibit some rather peculiar habits. Among the most disturbing aspects of the affair is the strange behaviour of the group of Romanian Longhorns that have taken up residence there.
A number of Muggles have spotted them wandering close to the edge of the forest. The Muggles have, of course, had their memories of the dragons removed. The French authorities have the matter contained, but have been unable to come up with an explanation for the outbreak.
While the matter has not yet reached a critical state, the French have requested that you give them your expert assistance as soon as you can. I know, of course, that your work is approaching a delicate stage and you cannot be released this year, but I would ask you to keep your diary clear for the early part of next year. You will have several months free before you give your lecture at the convention.
I will contact you at a later date with the name of your contact in France, together with an update of the current situation.
Head of Dept. of Magical Creatures
Ministry of Magic'
Charlie wondered what the devil had caused those Longhorns to stray to the edge of their forest. By habit, they tended to keep to the central parts of the forests they inhabited. He made a note in his diary and then settled down to watch the sleeping dragons.
Harry was happily jogging around the factory when he stopped for a break just outside the main office. He sat on the lawn with his head back, soaking up the sunshine.
A voice suddenly whispered in his ear, "Hello, handsome, what are you doing here?"
Harry opened his eyes to see Jake's fantasy, Melanie, smiling down at him. She sat down very close to Harry and drew her nails down the side of his well-muscled left arm. "My, you've certainly grown up since you started working here. You've got muscles growing on muscles," she said as she squeezed his biceps.
Harry was mortified. "Eh, hello Melanie. Shouldn't you be working?"
"I'm running an errand for your uncle, so I stopped by to say hello," she said, starting to stroke his shoulder. "I was thinking, how would you like to go to the pictures tonight? There's a good film showing - Spiderman I think"
"Th..Thanks for the offer M..Melanie," stuttered Harry, "but I don't think my uncle will let me go out in the evenings. Why don't you ask Jake? I'm sure he'd go with you."
"Humph. Why don't you want to go out with me Harry? What's the matter with me? Have I got two heads or something?"
"Oh no, Melanie, there's nothing wrong with you at all. I..I'm sorry. I have to go now." Harry jumped up and started sprinting towards the back of the factory. When he was out of sight, he stopped and let out a big sigh and thought, 'Jake would kill me if he found out his crush had come onto me like that. And what the devil does she see in me anyway? I'm only 15 for goodness sake - surely she can't fancy me! Perhaps it's because I'm the boss' nephew. Yep, that must be it.'
Harry reached up to hold his amulet - he tended to do this now when he got into awkward situations - and felt the familiar feelings it generated. This time, however, there was a new sensation - a sort of tingly, urgent type of feeling. He couldn't really pinpoint what it was but it was certainly there. He again made a mental note to ask Hermione if she knew any more about the amulet.
That evening, Aunt Petunia ordered Harry to go into the garden to cut the grass. It had been neglected since Harry had started working and, since the lawnmower was broken, the grass had reached almost jungle proportions. That meant that he had to use the short-handle shears. 'Great,' he thought ruefully. 'This is going to take me all night.'
After about an hour, his arms were nearly dropping off. Although he was strong now, his strength was built up by lifting heavy boxes and circuit training. The action of using the shears was new, and he was using different muscles than he normally did.
He sat down for a rest, when a voice called over the fence, "Well hello there. Where have you been all summer?"
He looked up to see a pretty girl about his own age leaning on the fence post. She had shiny blond hair curved down around her shoulders, light blue eyes, full sensuous lips and a cute nose, which turned slightly upwards at the end. She was smiling at him with a teasing look in her eyes. 'Oh no, not again,' thought Harry.
"I'm Lara and I live over the road in number twelve. Why haven't I seen you here before then? What's your name?"
"Eh, I'm Harry. I work at my uncle's factory all day and I don't normally come out here in the evenings."
"Do you want to come over to my house and play some CDs or something? We'd have great fun," she asked.
"Thanks, Lara. Another time, perhaps. I've got to finish cutting this lawn and I think it's going to take me all night."
"Well ok, Harry, but I'll hold you to that. I'll speak to you again. 'Bye." Lara smiled prettily and walked back over the road and into her house.
'Phew!' thought Harry. 'What the bloody hell is wrong with the female population in this town? Aren't there enough blokes to go around or something? …She is cute, though, and she does seem nice. Maybe I'll take her up on that offer - Hmm.' And he carried on with the backbreaking job of cutting the lawn.
When Harry got home from work the following day, he quickly cleaned the vegetables and put them on the stove to cook. He then prepared the lamb chops and placed them in the oven.
'Right!' he thought. 'I'll have a shower while they cook. I wonder what I can wear tonight?'
After showering and putting on some light casual clothes, Harry went down stairs to see his uncle and aunt sitting at the dining table with their arms folded and wearing matching scowls. "Where's this dinner then! You know we're going out tonight!" his uncle growled.
"We've always got to wait and poor Duddykins is nearly feinting from hunger," his aunt whined. Dudley was holding his knife and fork in his hands and glaring at Harry in a threatening way.
Harry ignored their complaints and went to dish up the food.
After dinner, Harry finished the washing-up and then sighed with relief. "Right, the rest of the evening is mine."
"We'll be home at about 10.30 tonight, and make sure the supper is on the table," shouted his aunt as all three Dursleys went out the front door to the car.
Harry glanced at the clock and saw that it was 6.30 pm. He went out the back door and locked it, putting the key under a stone by the back window. He always did this when he went out and the Dursleys were not at home. He sauntered into the garden and leaned on the fence running along the side of the house, wondering if Lara would come by. He hoped that she would - he missed the companionship of his Hogwarts friends, and really felt that he could do with an evening with a friendly face of his own age. He glanced towards the front of the house and saw Lara. She was walking on the opposite side of the street, and looking towards the front of No. 4.
"Hi, Lara," Harry shouted.
Lara turned her head and smiled before trotting over to where Harry was standing.
She glanced at the lawn. "Hi, Harry. I see you've finished cutting the grass. Does that mean you're free tonight?"
"Eh … yes I am," croaked Harry, his mouth suddenly going quite dry.
Lara beamed at him. "Well come on then. Lets go to my house and listen to some music. My mum won't mind and my dad's working away all week."
Harry climbed awkwardly over the fence and walked along beside Lara. "I have to be back by half past ten tonight to make supper for my aunt and uncle."
"Oh don't worry, we've got plenty of time." Lara caught hold of Harry's hand and dragged him towards the back door of her house.
"Hello mum, this is Harry." Lara spoke to her mother as they entered the kitchen. "Is it ok if we go into the study and play some music?"
Harry looked at the woman, and was startled to see a replica of Lara - only older
"Hello Harry, I'm Mrs. Smythe, and yes, it is ok, but keep the noise down - we don't want to give those Dursleys anything more to complain about do we!" said Lara's mother.
"Er, mum, Harry lives at No. 4 - he's the Dursley's nephew." Lara had a look of horror on her face.
"Oh my, I ..I'm sorry Harry, I meant …."
Harry smiled. "Don't think anything of it, Mrs Smythe. I know what the Dursleys are like. I've had to put up with them for long enough to know that. I don't live with them from choice, you know."
Mrs Smythe smiled sympathetically at Harry, although she still looked a bit flustered, and walked through to the lounge to watch television.
"Sorry about that, Harry," said Lara. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Um.. have you got any pumpkin juice?"
"What's that? Is it something new they've brought out?"
Harry mentally kicked himself. "Eh.. No, that was a joke - coke will be fine if you've got it"
Lara led Harry into her dad's study, carrying their glasses of coke. The study was quite dark, with a very large bookshelf along one side of the room. A large desk stood near the window, which overlooked the side garden. There was a large computer sitting on the side of the desk, and a laser printer and scanner on a smaller table to the side.
"What does your father do?" asked Harry, looking at the computer equipment.
Lara smiled. "Oh, dad's a computer systems consultant and usually works from home. He used to work for a large corporation, but he decided to branch out on his own. So we moved to Privet Drive last year because the study was an ideal size to set up an office. He designs and writes small business systems to run on PCs. He's up in Manchester this week installing a system for an insurance company. But come on," she said as she turned on the computer, "lets play some CDs on dad's computer - I've got some of the latest ones and dad's got some as well. They're old, but the music is great. The more you listen the more you like it. You know, The Beatles, Stones, Queen .."
She pulled two chairs in front of the 21" screen. "Come on, Harry, sit down here and watch." She took one of the CDs from her father's collection and placed it into the drive.
As 'Bohemian Rhapsody' thundered out of the impressive-looking speakers at either end of the room, Harry took his eyes off the screen and glanced at Lara who was looking at him while she sipped her coke. She had an enigmatic smile on her face and Harry coloured up a bit.
'She's a very pretty girl, and nice with it,' he thought. 'She'd fit in well at Gryffindor. Pity she's a Muggle.' The two teens continued looking at each other, both caught up in their own thoughts.
Lara couldn't stop looking at Harry's eyes - they were the most beautiful emerald green and were so warm. They sent tingles all along her spine as she was becoming lost in their depths.
They both jumped when the door to the study flew open to reveal an angry-looking Mrs. Smythe. "Will you turn that music down!" she shouted above 'The Beatles' 'I am a Walrus'. "I can't hear myself think."
"Sorry, mum," said Lara as she reached across Harry and turned down the speaker volume.
"Now that's fine - why do you kids need to listen to music so loud? You'll be deaf by the time you're twenty you know!" Mrs. Smythe went back out and closed the door smiling to herself. 'They do look cute together,' she thought.
Lara put a Britney Spears CD in the drive and then turned to Harry. "So, Harry, how come you're staying with your aunt and uncle. Where are your parents?"
"They died when I was a year old - killed in a car crash. I've been staying here ever since."
"Oh I'm so sorry, Harry, that's terrible. But why haven't I seen you before now?"
"Well I only stay here now for two months of the year. I'm in boarding school in Scotland for the rest of the time."
"I go to Smeltings now. That's a boarding school too, but since it's close by I don't stay there."
"So you must know my cousin Dudley then. He goes there."
"Oh yes," said Lara ominously. "Fatty Dursley - ugh. He used to give me hell when I started last year. He and his cronies were always picking on me. They were also picking on three other girls in year 4 so we started to go around together everywhere in school. That stopped their antics - they only pick on people if they're on their own. I supposed he helped me, in a way. Carol, Beth, Josie and I are inseparable now - we're great friends, but they live in all four corners of the country so we don't see much of each other during the holidays. I can't wait for school to start next week to see them again."
"That's exactly as it is with me, Lara. I've got great friends at Hogwarts but four of us are best friends and we do lots of things together. There were three of us to start, but Ginny - that's Ron's sister who's a year younger than us - joined up with us towards the end of last year. Ron's great. We hit it off right from day one and he's a mine of information on Quidditch. My other best friend is Hermione Granger. She's the smartest witc .. I mean girl in the school. Everybody says she'll be head girl when we get to year 7. She really looks after us, and if we pass our OWL … I mean GCSEs next year it will be down to her. She's always helping us."
"So what is this school - Hogwarts - it's a funny name isn't it? I've never heard of it. And what's Quidditch?"
"Oh, it's a .. an old sort of game we play at the school - it's a tradition, a bit like the Eton wall game. Hogwarts is a school for ..err .. special kids, I suppose."
"So how are you special, Harry … apart from the obvious, that is?"
"Obvious? Well, I don't know - I don't think I'm special at all. I guess I was lucky to be picked to go there."
'I'm sure that's not the case,' Lara thought to herself. 'He really doesn't know how gorgeous he is does he? Wow!'
"So, Harry, have you got a girlfriend at Hogwarts? It sounds as if Hermione's your girlfriend."
"No, no I haven't got a girlfriend. Hermione and I are just best friends. Last year I liked a girl a year older than me, but she didn't like me though, and nothing came of it. Have you got a boyfriend?"
Lara pulled a face. "No, not yet. There are a few nice boys at school, but nobody's asked me to go out yet."
Lara looked at Harry's mess of unruly black hair, and reached over and parted his fringe, revealing the lightening bolt scar. "How did you get that?"
"Uh .. Quidditch accident - it's a pretty tough game, you know."
The two teens continued to chat and Harry warmed to the friendly Lara. She reminded him of Hermione - their personalities were very similar. He hadn't had such a good time in a long while.
Harry was so wrapped up in their conversation that he didn't notice how dark it had become outside. When he did, finally, glance at the clock on the wall he saw that it was 10.35.
"Oh look at the time! I'm late. Lara I'm sorry but I have to go now."
"Will I see you tomorrow, Harry? We can go out somewhere if you like."
"Oh I'm sorry, Lara, but tomorrow is my last day at work, and my uncle is driving me to Diag .. I mean London straight after to meet my godfather. He's taking me to buy books and things for school. I'll be staying with him for a few days in a hotel before catching the train to Scotland. I only wish we'd met earlier this summer."
Harry was crestfallen as he saw the look of sadness on Lara's face.
"Me too, Harry, … me too. Will I see you again - perhaps next summer?"
"I don't know, Lara. I may be staying with my godfather next year. I won't know for a while. But I'll owl you and let you know"
"Owl me? What's that?"
'Oh bugger,' thought Harry, 'how do I get out of this one?'
"Well, Hogwarts is in a very remote part of Scotland, and there are no towns or villages nearby. So there's no postal service to speak of. We get around it by specially training the more intelligent types of owl to carry our mail - a bit like the pigeons they used in the First World War. I've got an owl called Hedwig - she's in my bedroom now. I'll call her so that she'll know where to bring the letter when I write."
Harry stuck his head out of the window and shouted, 'HEDWIG. Here girl.'
Lara's chin dropped to her chest when a beautiful snowy owl flew in through the window and perched on Harry's shoulder, and nibbled his ear.
"Hedwig, meet Lara. Lara meet Hedwig."
"Oh Harry, she's beautiful," said Lara as she ruffled Hedwig's feathers behind her ear and gave her a piece of biscuit to eat. Hedwig hooted contentedly.
"Oh she likes you, Lara. When you want to send a letter, you tie it to her leg and say the name of the person you want her to find. She knows where you live now, so there won't be a problem. I'll tell her to wait with you so you can write back to me."
Hedwig then flew out of the window back to her perch in Harry's bedroom.
Harry went towards the door, but was stopped from opening it by Lara. She leaned up and placed her lips against Harry's. His eyes opened wide when she broke the kiss, and he looked directly into her sparkling blue eyes. He felt embarrassed and elated at the same time - he didn't know how he felt, really, since this was the first time a girl had kissed him like that.
"I … I …" stumbled Harry, lost for words.
Lara had a sad look when she said, "I hope I'll see you soon, Harry. I really do."
"So do I Lara - I'll send Hedwig and let you know how I'm getting on."
Harry then opened the door and ran across to the back of No. 4, his mind in turmoil.
Lara had tears in her eyes when her mother walked into the study.
"Lara, are you ok, love?"
"Yes mum," she said, "but I don't know if I'll see him again. Why couldn't I have met him sooner? And why does he have to go away?" She turned and buried her head in her mothers shoulder, the tears flowing freely now.
"Oh, Lara," whispered her mother holding her close and stroking her hair. She had a tear of her own in her eye as she looked at her daughter going through the first heartache of her young life.
Harry bent to get the key from under the stone but found it wasn't there. He tried the door but it was locked. "Uncle Vernon," he shouted.
"You useless good-for-nothing," yelled his uncle through the door. "We've had to make our own supper. You can damn well stay out there tonight! I'll let you in to make our breakfast in the morning."
Harry went over to the garden shed and opened the door. The shed was just big enough for him to lie down full length. He covered himself with an old dustsheet and settled down for the night. His hand went to his lips and felt where Lara had kissed him. "If only …" he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
There was a sombre mood in the headmaster's office at Hogwarts as Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Sirius and Remus looked at each other with a feeling of impending doom. Sirius and Remus had just finished giving their report of what they had seen and heard in the New Forest.
"This is as bad as I feared," said Dumbledore. "In a few weeks - a month at the most at this rate - Voldemort will be able to start his evil campaign in this country. And I'm sure that he'll be recruiting in other countries then, if he isn't already. Have you heard anything about this Severus?"
Snape nodded and said, "At the last meeting, he mentioned something about 'his foreign friends'. I didn't know what he was talking about then, but it seems pretty obvious now."
"The students start back in 3 days time," said Dumbledore, "and I think we are going to have to tighten our security for their safety. Visits to Hogsmeade will have to stop for the time being - it won't be safe outside the protection spells at the school. And we are going to have to impose a curfew - we can't allow students to wander around the grounds after dark - it's just too risky."
The others nodded in agreement with glum looks on their faces. They knew how hard it would be for the kids and also for them in imposing the restrictions.
Dumbledore looked to lift the mood of the meeting and said, "Right, let's move on to a different matter - the 'Anima Summa' issue. Now I've done a bit of digging over at my old University and also at our library here. This is what I've found …"
Dumbledore glanced at his colleagues and saw that he had their full attention.
"Anima Summa can be translated from the Latin as Anima meaning 'the breath of life', 'vital principle', or more commonly - 'soul'. Summa means 'the highest part or whole'. In the ancient magical text that I've read, Anima Summa identifies what is known as a 'Highest Soul'. This is a very rare and powerful bond shared between a wizard and a witch, and when the bond is fully achieved, it gives them both immense magical powers. No one knows exactly what those powers are, or how they are achieved, or indeed, how the bond comes to be shared in the first place. In short, we know very little about it. It is common for a witch and wizard to become 'soul-mates' but this form of 'soul-mate' is almost unheard of. When compared to soul-mates, the power of the Anima Summa is right off the scale!"
Everyone in the room looked puzzled. McGonagall pushed her glasses further back against her nose and asked, "Albus, you say the Anima Summa is very rare. How rare and is there any record of such an occurrence in the past?"
"It's extremely rare, Minerva, and I could find only one recorded instance of the bond happening. That was back in the time of the great Merlin, when he bonded with the witch Morgana."
"But Headmaster," said Lupin, "Morgana, or Morgan Le Fay as she is sometimes known, was recorded as an evil witch - a mistress of the Dark Arts. How is it possible that she could have bonded with Merlin?"
"Ah, Remus. You can't always trust what you read in the history books. Don't forget that this happened before the Christian Church came to the fore in the country, and suppressed the old religions - and the victors always write the history books. The Church leaders depicted Morgana as evil to suit their own ends but they couldn't soil the memory of Merlin as well. It was a sexist thing as well, I suspect," Dumbledore chuckled.
"Anyway, back at that time, the Christians were intent on suppressing any form of witchcraft, and so not a lot has been documented about Merlin and Morgana. What we do know, however, is this .." Dumbledore itemised what he knew.
"One - they must be completely in love with each other and be pure in mind and body.
Two - the bond is only shared between two very powerful magical people.
Three - the two must have similar qualities to a varying degree - bravery, intellect, willingness to risk all for others and also compassion.
Four - the conception dates of the two is critical. The male must be conceived first, and the female exactly 3 months later. No one knows why, but it is thought that the pairing is pre-ordained magically, and the 3-month period is needed for the spirits, or whatever, to establish the exact traits of the male so that the female can be matched to him exactly.
Five - the immense powers of the two are only realised when they are together. They are still very powerful when they are apart, but together they are almost invincible. There seems to be a number of stages or aspects to that power, but there are no details documented - except for one.
Six - the strength of the bonding depends on spontaneous realisation. They must both realise at the same time that they are each other's Anima Summa. That means that if either of them knows they are an Anima Summa, and finds out who the other Anima Summa is, before the bonding takes place, then their power will be diminished. This is why we are going to have to be very careful if we find out the identity of the female before hand." He paused briefly. "This may be a fairly complex thing to grasp. The easiest way to understand it is they must both realise at the same time that the other is their Anima Summa - even if one of them knows that he or she is an Anima Summa beforehand. As long as this happens, they will then be capable of maximum powers."
Dumbledore paused to let the information sink in, and then continued, "When Merlin and Morgana bonded, they were fully adult. They were worldly-wise and were well equipped to handle the bond. Harry has just turned fifteen!"
Sirius gasped and shouted, "But, Headmaster, how the hell is Harry and his mate, whoever she is, going to be able to handle this? Good grief, they can't be expected to cope at such a tender age. They've hardly lived. And how can they be compared to the great Merlin and Morgana?" he trailed off at a loss for words.
"Sirius," said Dumbledore gently. "I don't know the answer to that. And I don't know when this bonding is going to happen, but what I do know is that the prophecy is accurate and it is urgent. It seems that the Anima Summa has been seeded with just this time in mind - the rise of Voldemort. What is absolutely essential is that we all have to support Harry in this. We mustn't tell him about Anima Summa; he must find out for himself. If he did know, then he will obviously try to find the female, and that might not be the best thing for him. We are going to have to let nature take its course here. Do you all fully understand?"
Everyone in the room nodded. They were deep in their own thoughts about the revelations that Dumbledore had made.
Lupin looked up when a sudden thought came to him. "Headmaster, we know that Harry's birthday is 31st July 1980. Now I know that we don't know when actual conception took place, but it's reasonable to assume that the female Anima Summa will be born on 31st October 1980, give or take a few days either side. Now is this any help to us? Let's face it - under normal circumstances the girl could be anywhere in the wizarding world so it'd be impossible for us to even start looking for her. But, given the nature of the prophecy, and the urgency, it may well be that the girl is already within easy reach - maybe she's already here at Hogwarts!"
"You could well be right, Remus. But I wouldn't bank on it. I know, for instance, that we are going to get a number of exchange students from Europe and America later in the school year and some of them will be in Harry's year. But I don't know yet who they'll be. In the meantime, though, I'll check the records of all the fifth year girls at the school to see if I can find a match. But even if I do find a match, it won't be certain that the girl will be the one - let's be honest, even if I find a match, how can we tell if she's Harry's Anima Summa? She won't be wearing a sign on her head or anything, and there must be many witches with a birth date of 31st October 1980 in the wizarding world. All we would be able to do, I think, is to make sure that no harm comes to any of the girls we find with the right birthday, just in case one of them might be the one."
Remus looked dejected. "When you put it like that, Headmaster, I have to agree with you. There's no way we'd be able to tell who the right girl is."
"Right, onto the next matter. Sirius, the U.S Congress of Magic has been in touch with me. The special Auror they have appointed to work with you is..." He looked at a parchment on his desk. "Ceri Jones - there's a note here that says it's pronounced 'K-e-r-r-y'. He will be arriving next week, just before school starts. Now, I've told the U.S. ministry that you will be outside the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade in your Animagus form - you can't be too careful - on the 31st August at 10.00 pm. He will make contact with you then - the ministry seems reluctant to give any details of their agent so I don't know anything about him apart from his name."
"That's fine, Headmaster," said Sirius. "Sounds as if he has a Welsh ancestry with a name like that. By the way, I'm meeting Harry at the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow evening. I though it would be a good idea to spend a day or two with him before he comes back here, and don't worry - I won't say anything about the prophecy to him."
"That sounds fine, Sirius. But be careful. We don't want anyone to recognise you." Dumbledore sighed and ended the meeting. "Right, I know you want to get back to sort out your classes and schedules for the year. I'll let you know if I find any witches with the right birthday. Thank you all for coming."
They then left the headmaster's office pondering the events of the meeting.
Dumbledore drew his thoughts away from the prophecy to more mundane things, and muttered to himself, "I must remember to set up the password on the gargoyle at the bottom of the stairs before school starts …"
Harry heaved his trunk into the boot of his uncle's car in the carport of No. 4 Privet Drive. He smiled as he remembered that he could hardly lift the trunk to drag it at the start of the summer. All his hard work and exercising had paid off, and he felt strong and ready for just about anything that may be thrown at him in the coming year. He was also excited that he would soon spend some time with his godfather and meet up with his friends.
He placed Hedwig, sitting drowsily on her perch in the cage, onto the back seat of the car and sat down next to her. As his uncle drove slowly down Privet Drive towards the junction at the end of the street, Harry glanced over at No. 12 and saw Lara standing at the upstairs window looking down at him. His heart ached as he saw the look of sadness in her red-rimmed eyes. She lifted a hand to her lips and blew Harry a kiss, before slowly raising it to wave a silent goodbye. Harry had a sinking feeling as he slowly waved back. They didn't take their eyes off each other until the car turned onto the main road towards London.
Harry sighed as he tried to take his mind off Lara by thinking back to the events of the day …
"Come on 'Arry. We've got to go up to the main office to shift some filing cabinets," said Jake with a twinkle in his eye. It was 4.30pm on his last day at the factory.
The two walked up to the office building and Jake held open the door and pushed Harry into the large open-plan office, which appeared to be empty. Harry was startled when about twenty office girls jumped up from behind their desks and shouted
They walked up to Harry and stood in a semi-circle in front of him. Jake stepped up alongside Harry and took a battered piece of paper out of his pocket and began to read.
"Well, girls, this is 'Arry's last day at the factory, and he's going back to his posh school. It's been great 'aveing you 'ere Harry, and you've made a lot of friends. Now we've clubbed together and got you a little somethin' to remember us by." Jake took a small parcel from Melanie and gave it to Harry.
"It's not a lot, just somethin' that you can use at school. We all 'ope that you come back next year - we've loved working wiv 'im 'aven't we girls?"
"YES," was the strident shout from the girls, some of whom had handkerchiefs held up to their eyes.
"Go on then - open it," said Jake.
Throughout all this Harry had stood with his mouth slightly agape and a pink tinge covering his face. He looked down and ripped open the package to see a small crystal paperweight, engraved with the words, 'TO HARRY FROM ALL HIS FRIENDS AT THE FACTORY'.
"Th .. thanks everybody," stammered Harry. "I d .. don't know what to say." Harry was clearly overwhelmed and hadn't expected anything like this.
"Well shuddup then," said Jake as he caught hold of Harry's hand and shook it vigorously. The girls then stepped up and each placed a kiss on his cheek - except for Melanie who kissed him full on the lips.
Harry had tears in his eyes as uncle Vernon walked in and shouted, "Come on, I haven't got all day to wait around for you - let's go. And you lot, get back to work. There's still 15 minutes left before finishing time!"
Harry walked towards the door with his uncle, and before going out turned and waved to all his friends.
Harry was shaken from his thoughts when his uncle shouted, "Where's this Leaky Cauldron then. How do I get there?"
"It's in Charing Cross Road, Uncle Vernon."
"Are they here yet?"
"No, my Lord," answered Peter Pettigrew as he cringed on the floor. They were inside Voldemort's cave in northern Scotland. It was illuminated with flaming torches that showed the damp seeping down the craggy walls. The ceiling, about 12 feet above, was hung with varying sizes of stalactites, and dripped small drops of percolated rainwater into milky-coloured puddles that formed on the uneven floor. In a dank and gloomy corner of the cave lay a huge coiled snake, it's head protruding above the thick coils of it's body and it's forked tongue flicking out at regular intervals. At the centre of the cave was a stone throne, raised about 3 feet from the ground by a stone pedestal. On it sat the sinister figure of Lord Voldemort, impatiently tapping his fingers on the head of a stone snake, which adorned the arm of the throne.
"Go outside and activate the summons again. I will not be kept waiting like this," hissed Voldemort. Wormtail scurried to the cave entrance to obey his master's command.
A few minutes later, two figures dressed in black entered the cave with Wormtail. One was quite tall and held his head up high. The other was smaller and kept glancing around the cave nervously. The nervous one stood stock still when he saw who was sitting on the throne, but was pulled towards the centre by the taller man. They both bowed reverently to Voldemort, the taller one saying, "My apologies, my Lord, I did not intend to keep you waiting. I was giving last minute instructions to my son on the correct way to behave in your esteemed presence."
Voldemort seemed appeased by this and hissed, "Don't ever keep me waiting again, Lucius. Let me see his face."
Lucius Malfoy pulled the hood down from his son's head. Draco's eyes were as large as saucers as he stared mesmerised at the legendary Dark Lord.
"So. Draco Malfoy. You look a lot like your father. Do you know why you have been brought before me today?"
"N ..no, my Lord," stuttered Draco. "But I will do whatever you ask"
"Hmm that's good Draco. Your father has no doubt told you what happens to my servants if they disobey me." He turned to Lucius and asked, "Are you sure that he can be fully trusted and that he's up to the job I want him to do?"
"Yes, my Lord," he replied. "I have no doubt at all. Potter is Draco's worst enemy and he wants to do anything he can to get at him."
Voldemort turned back to Draco and pointed a bony finger towards him. "You have been chosen to carry out a very important task for me. If you fail me, you will feel the pain of my wrath, do you understand?"
"Y .. Yes, my Lord. I will not fail you."
Voldemort nodded. "You may be wondering why I have not yet initiated you into my army of Death Eaters, Draco. Be assured that you will as soon as you have finished your schooling. Look on this as a sort of apprenticeship into the Dark Arts. I have sensed, over the last few weeks, an emanation. It is very feint and I cannot pinpoint the source, but I can feel that it involves the Light Side, and it seems to be some sort of summons. I don't know the one who is being called, but I have a feeling that it involves Potter. Now when you go back to Hogwarts in a few days I want you, Draco, to find out everything you can about the things that Potter and his friends do. Anything at all that seems a bit unusual. Send an owl to your father when you have any information for me."
Voldemort reached into his robe and pulled out a silvery, shimmering piece of material, and held it out towards Draco. "This will help you to get close to Potter without being seen. It's an invisibility cloak."
Draco's eyes were wide with excitement as he took the cloak.
Voldemort had a grim expression on his face as he pierced Draco with an icy stare and hissed, "That was very difficult to get hold of; it is very rare and valuable. If you lose it or damage it in any way, your life will not be worth living. Do I make myself clear?"
"Y .. yes, my Lord"
"Do well in the task I have set you and you will be rewarded. Now go!"
The Malfoys were led out of the cave by Wormtail as Voldemort turned his head to the snake in the corner of the cave. "Interesting times, Nagini - interesting times."