Rays of sunlight scattered across the room, idly caressing the contents of the place with golden fingers. Harry lay awake watching the gentle beams play around this tower room he had grown to love. This was home, like no other place had ever been to him in his life, and he felt contentment surge through his veins as he lay, sunk deeply into the warmth of his bed. His mind drifted carelessly over memories of the past few days.
"Now I want you boys to look after Ginny," Mrs Weasley had said, fixing her three sons and Harry with a beady stare. "You know I'm going to worry about her, and I want you to promise me to send regular owls so I know you're all alive and not in too much trouble." That last comment was clearly directed at Fred and George, who even though they were now almost 18 and in their final year at school, had writhed uncomfortably under their mother's gaze. Harry smiled sleepily at the thought. It was nice to be included as one of the family he reflected, and it was even better that Ginny's nightmares seemed to be fading. Maybe working on the Imperius curse would get rid of them altogether.
He shifted onto his side, looking in the direction of Ron's bed, but the curtains were closed around him. Ron and Hermione seemed to have come to an unspoken decision not to talk about Krum, but there was still a certain tension between them. Harry hoped it would sort itself out soon. The two of them had bickered their way through the last 4 years of school, but it did make things awkward sometimes when he got sandwiched in the middle of one of their rows. Having said that, it was unusual for one of their arguments to last so long. Even when Ron had accused Crookshanks of eating Scabbers they had sorted out their differences faster than this. Harry shrugged to himself. "Best not get involved," he reflected silently.
The Great Hall was alive, ringing with the noise and clatter of hundreds of students catching up with news from across the summer. The enchanted ceiling was a clear blue with wispy cotton-wool clouds drifting idly across it, the perfect day for...
"Quidditch practise," announced George loudly as Harry sat down at the table and helped himself to toast. "Tonight. Need to find a new keeper and sort out who's going to be captain this year. Got to get an early start on training if we're to get up to speed fast enough."
"Yeah," agreed Fred emphatically. "Can't have those Slytherins beating us. Slimy lot!"
There was a murmur of consensus around the Gryffindor table and taking advantage of the lull in conversation, Lee Jordan began telling a joke he'd heard over the summer about a banshee and a vampire, causing much hilarity in those around him.
"You know, Harry," said Ron thoughtfully, sitting down opposite his friend. "I might just try out for the keeper on the team. What do you think?"
"Great idea," said Harry enthusiastically through a mouthful of hot buttered toast. "Which broom have you got here?"
"Comet 360." Ron pulled a disparaging face, "It's Percy's. Still, it's good enough to get round the goal posts at a fair turn of speed and better than my Shooting Star. Most things are though. Wonder what Percy'll say when he discovers I've ‘borrowed' it." Showing complete unconcern about his brother's feelings he poured himself an orange juice and looked around. "Hermione and Ginny are going to be late if they don't get a move on."
It seemed that Ginny and Hermione were going to be late as Ron and Harry had got round to consulting their timetables before they finally arrived.
"Oh no!" Harry groaned.
"That's nice!" teased Hermione. "I'd have thought you'd have been happier to see us than that."
"Double Divination," came Ron's appalled tones. "First lesson back as well."
Hermione snorted scornfully. Her opinions of Professor Trelawney obviously hadn't changed over the holiday.
"Wonder how I'll be dying today," said Harry in mock horror. "Rampaging hinkypunks?"
They were laughing at the ridiculous idea of being trampled to death by such tiny creatures, when Ron suddenly turned to Hermione.
"Where have you two been anyway?"
"Needed to see Professor McGonagall," she replied airily, wearing an enigmatic smile and deliberately refusing to elaborate further. Ron raised an eyebrow.
"And are you going to tell us why?" he enquired.
Hermione didn't answer.
"Going to be late for Arithmancy," she said, grabbing some toast in her hand and grinning at him cheerfully. "See you all later." And with that, she was gone.
"What was all that about?" asked Ron, perplexed.
"Oh Ron! Use your eyes for a change," laughed Ginny. "It's obvious!"
The three of them strolled back into the entrance hall, which was basking in the mellow shafts of light from the fine September morning. They were just about to separate up the fine marble staircase for lessons when Ginny looked at Harry, flushed pink and suddenly blurted out,
"I asked Professor McGonagall about working on deflecting the Imperius curse."
"She said it was fine, and we should use the Transfiguration classroom near her office so she can keep an eye on us. It was easier than I expected. To be honest, I thought she was going to say no."
"Well, there's Quidditch practise tonight, but there shouldn't be a lot of homework…"
"Unless we're late for Divination," warned Ron, heading rapidly up the stairs towards North Tower.
"After Quidditch then," said Ginny, in a more determined voice than Harry had ever heard her use before. "I want to do this."
The day passed quickly, the sickly sweet heady fumes of Divination gave way to the slumber of History of Magic, which in turn became the study of Transfiguration. Professor McGonagall had been demonstrating changing mice into toadstools, and as the class filed out at the end of her lesson, she said crisply,
"Potter, a word please."
Harry exchanged glances with Ron and Hermione. He was certain he knew what this was going to be about and his heart sank. He saw them both looking at him sympathetically as they left the room. Harry slowly approached Professor McGonagall's desk and waited.
"Potter, Miss Weasley came to me this morning, with a rather unusual request regarding the Imperius curse. I've spoken with the headmaster about it, and given the circumstances and events last term, we agree it is wise for her, and for her peace of mind, to learn to throw off the curse if she can." She looked at him sternly through her glasses. "What I was wondering was, have you considered the implications of putting such an unforgivable curse on someone? After all, you will have complete control over her, for a time."
Harry squirmed uncomfortably inside.
"I don't want to control Ginny," he said awkwardly. "I want to do something help her. If you'd heard those nightmares of hers in the summer…" He fidgeted with his bag. "Really Professor, I promised Mrs Weasley I'd look out for her. You know I'd not hurt her."
He lifted his head and looked straight at Professor McGonagall as he said this and was relieved to see her stern face relaxing into a small smile.
"Very well Potter. Just be careful."
The Gryffindor Quidditch team had gathered together in the changing rooms after practise. The sun was sinking low over the horizon, and stars were beginning to blink themselves awake and twinkle gently through the spectrum of violet hues that made the evening sky. Even without Wood, and a whole year of no matches, their play had been good, and Harry felt the exhilaration of the wind swooping past him, doing the thing he loved most in the world. The team had made two unanimous decisions that had both surprised and delighted Harry; the first was that Ron was to be their new keeper. Harry suspected it was a combination of long arms, and uncannily accurate guesswork of where the quaffle was going that had made his friend so good in the position. The second decision had made him go bright red, to the very roots of his hair.
"Oh there's no question," said Angelina. "Harry should captain the team. He's a fantastic seeker, and the rest of us have all got our NEWTs coming up this year. We just won't have the time. It makes sense for him to take over now anyway, because he's going to lose most of us in the summer and it'll give him experience to get the new Gryffindor team off the ground next year."
There was absolute agreement, and consequently Harry was walking back to the castle with Ron, Firebolt over his shoulder, feeling the happiest he had in a long time.
Ron shot him a furtive glance as they climbed the steps into the entrance hall.
"Harry, are you seriously going to use the Imperius curse on Ginny?"
"I'm going to have to," he replied hesitantly. Seeing the concern on Ron's face he swiftly added, "Better me than Voldemort."
Ron flinched at the sound of the name.
"I suppose. Just… don't ask her to do anything she'd hate. I know I tease her and stuff but…she's still my little sister." Suddenly Ron's furrowed brow cleared and he nudged Harry. "Hey you be careful. Spending time alone with her might cause the Harry Potter fan club to start up again."
Harry groaned, and trudged up the stairs towards the Transfiguration classroom and a waiting Ginny.