Later, on the same night that Hermione and Ron were
to meet Harry and Ginny to taste-test caterers for the wedding,
decided it was time to take Ginny's advice, to talk with Ron about
she'd been avoiding and trying to forget for months. She got her
when he arrived home to the flat they'd been sharing for the past
months or so, off of Diagon Alley. It was Ron's, and though Hermione
had her old flat in muggle London, she rarely used it for anything
than storage anymore. Ron looked a bit troubled when he came in, but
wasn't unusual. Hermione knew that being an enforcer came with
emotional strains most other jobs didn't have- they had to see
most other people didn't. Harry had this at his job as an auror, as
but while Harry usually couldn't talk about things from his work for
purposes, Ron usually simply didn't want to, so Hermione knew better
to ask what was troubling him, and he didn't volunteer the
Instead she kissed him in greeting and said, "Ron,
need to talk."
He raised his eyebrows, but nodded and plopped down
the couch, patting the seat next to him, "Okay. What's
"Well, you know I met Ginny to look for bridesmaid
this afternoon, right?"
" he said slowly, clearly not seeing
she was going.
"Well, to make a long story short, the owner of the
shop was a perfect idiot, and a big fan of Ginny's." Ron smiled, "
before we left, she was babbling about how busy an important person
Ginny must be, and how many appointments she must have to get to,
blah blah." His smile widened at Hermione's use of the muggle idiom,
Ginny said, with a perfectly straight face, something like, 'Oh yes,
have to go take my owl to have her talons trimmed, they're getting
long.' And pulled me out of the shop before the poor woman could
out what she'd said." Ron laughed, "Once we were outside I scolded
for toying with someone who obviously couldn't afford to lose many
cells, and what must she think of us. She replied that I had never
to care what other people thought of me if I didn't respect them."
stopped for breath and Ron got the feeling that they'd finally
the point of this 'talk'. "It got me thinking, when had I started
so much? And then the answer hit me. It was when we broke up for the
time (ever, I hope). Specifically when you said,
'I don't know what I ever saw in you- can't imagine
I ever liked you!'" Ron started to say something, but Hermione
on, like a train in danger of being derailed if it paused, "I guess
I'm saying is that I need to know that you don't feel that way
Can you honestly tell me that?"
Ron looked down at her downcast eyes; sad, in a way,
she had to ask. Her took hold of her chin and tilted her head up to
"Hermione, I can do one better than that- I
felt that way. I was angry with you and words just came out of my
Words to hurt you, not the truth. I didn't feel that way then, and I
don't feel that way now." He said firmly. She looked up at him,
doubtful, but then she started to smile.
"So I can make fun of all the idiot shop owners I
"Absolutely. To your heart's content." He said with
grin, "Now what time do we have to meet Harry and Gin?"
"Oh my gosh! I almost forgot! We're supposed to meet
at Le Magician at 7:00, and it's already 6:20!"
Thirty-five hectic minutes later, Ron and Hermione
into Le Magician looking very breathless but none the worse
wear. He, after much prodding by Hermione, wearing slate gray dress
and she in robes of her favorite shade of periwinkle, designed by
to replace the ones she'd worn to their first Yule Ball, long since
As the maitre-d was asking Ron if they had a reservation, Hermione
Harry and Ginny at a table in the candle-lit corner, waving to them.
She pointed them out to the maitre-d, saying, "We're
with friends tonight. They've already arrived."
He nodded, picked up two menus, and led them to
Harry and Ginny were seated. Harry stood and kissed Hermione on the
saying, "Hi, 'Mione. It's been almost two weeks. How are you?" and
before she could reply, "I'd kiss you too, Ron, but it hasn't been
"Lucky for me." Ron shot back with a grin. They all
The maitre-d frowned slightly, as though he didn't approve of such
about in his restaurant, but didn't comment as he handed Hermione
Ron their menus. Harry and Ginny already had closed menus in front
their places, indicating that they'd already selected a dish and
ready to order.
"You two are unusually late." Harry observed as they
the entrees, "What's up?"
"What else is new?" Hermione answered, brushing off
question, "I was late for lunch with Ginny today as well, and I
to start a new trend: being fashionably late for dining with fashion
She gave Ginny a look however that clearly said, 'I'll tell you
"Seriously, though." She continued, "With all these wedding plans
preparations I don't know if I'm coming or going, half the time!"
waiter, a plump, balding, Italian man, arrived then to take their
"Make I take-a your order?" Ginny smiled at his
accent. He obviously wasn't as comfortable with English as he was
his native tongue.
"May I have the rosetti pasta with pesto sauce,
she replied, in fluent Italian. (I don't speak Italian, just French
English, so pretend that was in Italian.) The look of joy that
his round face was almost comical, and she stifled a laugh, saying,
get your hopes up. They don't spend a third of their time in Milan."
man's face fell slightly, but he hid his disappointment well as the
three delivered their orders in perfect, fluent, boring English.
the waiter walked away, they began to chat about the wedding plans,
guest list, the bridesmaid dresses that Hermione and Ginny had
that afternoon and life in general. After about twenty minutes, the
returned, carrying a large tray, laden with four plates. He set one
each of them, Ginny first, them Hermione, and then both of the guys.
he'd gone for the second time that evening, Ron looked over at his
with a glint in his eye.
"Well, we know who he likes best, now, don't we?" He
grinning, and making Ginny blush. Harry and Hermione laughed as
"Oh be quiet. It's just because I can speak Italian,
you know it."
"Oh I don't know, Gin." Harry jumped in, "I think he
have a crush on you
"You know, if we weren't in a fancy restaurant, I'd
this roll at you!" she said, picking one up out of the breadbasket.
fact, I think I will, as soon as we get out of here." She stuck it
her purse for safekeeping.
At this moment, the maitre-d walked over to them,
Ginny hastily stuck her now pudgy handbag under her chair.
"Mr. H. Potter?" He asked.
"Yes?" Harry answered.
"We just received a letter for you, by owl. It
rather urgent from the owl's behavior." He held out a folded piece
parchment and walked off. Harry unfolded the message and read it
quickly, reread it, and folded it back up, sticking it in an inside
of his robes.
"Bad news?" Hermione asked, looking at his now
"It's for work." He replied, "Unfortunately, I've
"I think you're just trying to escape the roll. How
Ginny asked, knowing the routine by now.
"Few days at the most. Don't worry, I won't miss the
or anything." He said with a smile. Hermione laughed.
"You'd better not! Well, good luck."
"Yes, Harry, have fun." Ron put in.
"No doubt." Harry replied.
"Be careful and have a safe trip." Ginny finished,
"I will, and I'll see you all in a few days." He
Ron on the back, hugged Hermione, and kissed Ginny again, before
out of the restaurant. Once he got out into the cool night's air he
out the message and read it again:
For: Auror H. Potter
From: the Academy
Message: We've received two more
to D. You must go visit him and investigate, immediately. Report to
Academy for further instructions.
Still clutching the paper, Harry aparated to the
Academy, showed his I.D to the guards and entered, heading to his
He knocked lightly on the door, and upon hearing the
"Come in, Potter." He shoved it open, and saw Aurelia Quackenbush
at her desk, looking at two pieces of parchment.
"I was summoned?" He said.
"Yes, here they are, she held out one of the sheets
him. It looked something like this:
Harry looked up at Aurelia. "And the other?" She
it to him and it was pieced together in much the same way, the
saying: "Hogwarts can't keep me out. It's only a matter of time.
"Weird." Harry said. "I don't understand two things
this. First- why are they sending threats about Dumbledore to
She looked up at him; "Your guess is as good as
"And second, why Dumbledore? Most of Voldemort's old
come after me. It's like a hobby."
"Well, even though you did defeat Voldemort six
ago, Dumbledore had been leading quite a crusade against him since
first rise, over thirty years ago.
"You've got to go to Dumbledore and see what he
whether he's been receiving threats, and make sure there's no one
"You mean, besides Snape?" Harry asked with a
"Ha ha, very funny. Get going, and send me reports
"Okay." Harry said and disaparated. He materialized
the towering gates of Hogwarts. Just in at the castle, caused him to
hit with a wave of nostalgia. He pushed open one of the gates and
up the drive, past the forbidden forest. As he drew level with
hut, something large and black began to bark at him and the door was
"Who's there?" Hagrid boomed loudly. Harry laughed,
felt as if he'd been a student, caught out of bed.
"Hi, Hagrid! Hey Fang. It's just me, so put that
away." He replied as the light from Hagrid's lantern fell across his
"'Arry!" Hagrid sounded overjoyed to see him. "What
yeh here? How's London? How's being an Auror? How're Ron and
how's Ginny?" He asked the questions in rapid succession, winking at
last one, making Harry laugh again.
"They're all fine. I actually had to leave the last
at a restaurant to come here. It's for work. I've got to see
"Well, what're yeh waiting for? Come on up to the
How're the plans for Ron and 'Ermione's wedding going?"
"Quite well, I think." Harry answered and told
all about the wedding plans as they walked up to the front doors.
pulled open one of the massive doors and ushered Harry
"It's just toward the end of dinner, so Dumbledore's
in the Great Hall." He said as Harry looked around at the familiar
Hall. A few students looked at him curiously as they trudged off to
common rooms. Harry followed Hagrid into the Great Hall, and looked
at the inky blue ceiling, dotted with the night sky's stars. He
the brightest one there, the dog star, Sirius, and smiled at the
that he'd be seeing his godfather soon. As he looked at the house
he didn't recognize many of the students. A few of the oldest seemed
as they would have been first years when Harry'd graduated, but he
recognized one of the younger ones. Apparently she spotted him, too,
a small, red blur shot across the Hall at him, from the direction of
Gryffindor table. Charlie Weasley's only child, Andrea, was a first
this year and for once, the only Weasley at Hogwarts.
"Uncle Harry!" She called as she ran into him and
him a hug that knocked the wind out of him.
"Hi, Andy!" Harry laughed. "I'm here to see
Dumbledore. How's your first year going?"
"Oh it's great! I love all my classes, except
She wrinkled her nose and Harry laughed, "But my favorite so far is
I love the stars," She pointed at the ceiling, "and Professor
is really nice."
"That's great, Andy. I'd better go now, but I'll be
town for a couple of days, so I'll come see you again before I
"Okay, Uncle Harry. We could go visit Uncle Fred and
George at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (WWW)!"
"Great! It's a date." Harry grinned and waved as
scurried back to her food and her friends, who still looked
at the arrival of Harry Potter. Hagrid chuckled and lead Harry up to
staff table, where Harry saw many familiar faces and a few that he
recognize. He immediately saw Snape, who obviously recognized him as
judging by the look of distaste that twisted his sallow face even
than usual. Harry's eyes traveled further down the table, spotting
Flitwick, a tall, black woman who must be the latest Defense Against
Dark Arts Professor, and finally resting on McGonagall and
who were having such an engaging conversation, they hadn't yet
his arrival. Hagrid walked around the table and tapped Dumbledore on
shoulder. He looked up and Hagrid pointed to Harry. Dumbledore's
"Harry! Welcome! What brings you here?"
"Well sir, it's about work, actually. I need to
with you privately when you have a free moment. Hello, Professor
He finished, smiling at his former teacher.
"Hello, Mr. Potter. How are you?"
"Just fine thanks. And you?"
"I'm doing quite well, thank you."
"If you'll excuse me Minerva- Harry, if you'd like
come up to my office?" Dumbledore invited, standing up.
"Thank you, sir." Harry answered, following him out
the Great Hall and through the twisting corridors until they were in
of the familiar gargoyle.
"Canary Cream." Dumbledore said, and it opened.
stifled a laugh. Once they were seated inside the office, Harry
why he was there.
"So," He finished telling Dumbledore about the
"Have you been getting any threatening messages?"
"Well, Harry. As you of all people know, people in
spot light get all kinds of mail, from all kinds of people." Harry
"I usually get some sort of threat about twice a week, "Do this or
but I rarely take them too seriously. However, if they are
the Aurors, that could mean a number of things. It sounds like, from
you've told me, that there is only one person involved. I'll
the wards on Hogwarts and add a few new protection spells. Hopefully
will do the trick. Have you done a tracking spell on the notes
"They're doing it now. I should find out the results
"Very good. Now, on to happier topics, how are the
plans for Mr. Ron Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger
"Quite well. I think Hermione's starting to go out
her mind, what with everything she has to do, but as far as I know,
is falling into place. She and Ginny picked out bridesmaid's dresses
she picked up the invitations, so you should be getting one soon
with the entire staff; Celestina Warbeck has agreed to sing at the
and they're trying to decide on a caterer. It's chaotic, but they're
have the time of their lives."
"That's wonderful." Dumbledore said, with that
twinkle in his eye. "Will you be staying at Hogwarts tonight, or
you made other arrangements?"
"No, thank you, but I'll stay with Sirius, I haven't
him in a while. I'll come back tomorrow to help with the spells. I
have a date to go to Fred and George's joke shop with Andy." He
Dumbledore returned the smile.
"Ah, yes. Young Miss Weasley. It's so quiet only
one of them here." They both laughed.
* * *
Harry walked along one of the residential roads in
a half an hour later, enjoying the quiet and calm of the village.
he'd gotten out of hearing distance of The Three Broomsticks all he
hear was the soft rustle of the wind through the trees. It was so
almost serene, even. He turned onto a small path that led through a
fence and up to a nice sized cottage. There were lights shining
the windows and Harry could hear grumbling as someone inside got up
headed to open the door. As the knob turned, he could make out what
"Mathilde, I'm telling you Remus won't be back for
week! You can see him then, but in the meantime, stop bothering
Sirius Black yanked the door open and his jaw
"Well, I'm not Mathilde, whoever she is, and I must
after hearing the way you must treat her, I'm rather glad of the
Hey Sirius." Sirius Black was still, at forty-five, a very handsome
and it showed even more so when he laughed, which he did
"Come on in Harry. Mathilde's my annoying next-door
neighbor who happens to be madly in love with Remus.
guy. She's been by four times today looking for him. For some reason
refuses to believe he's out of town and that that's why he's not at
own house. She seems to think he's in here, hiding from her. Not
it'd be a bad idea. What brings you to Hogsmeade, o' godson of
"Work." Harry said simply, "I had to go visit
at Hogwarts, and won't be going home till tomorrow or the next day.
you mind if I crash here?"
"Crash away." Sirius said, "My home is your home,
all that codswallop. Besides, you can answer the door the next time
comes by. Maybe she'll believe you." They both laughed and after
for a little while, Harry decided to turn in. It had been a long
and he knew tomorrow would be, too. His only thought before his head
the pillow was: 'It's been a very weird day.'