Well here it is, my second completed Fic. Thanks to Jelsemium for challenging me to write it.
I really tried to come up with a title that was appropriate and this is it. There are a couple of Star Wars Books by Timothy Zahn with similar titles Spectre of the Past and Vision of the Future, it was not my intention to borrow those titles or any other titles of fics or books. The title just came to me and once I realized it was taken I tried to think of another that would work, but this is the most appropriate I could think of. When you read the fic you'll see why. So as always to give credit where credit is do, thanks to George Lucas and Timothy Zahn I also want to thank DADAGinny and Gwyn for their help on the makeup and clothing parts. (It's definitely not one of my strong suits). I also want to thank DADAGinny for allowing me to bounce ideas off her and her patience with me during the writing of this.
Thanks to my wonderful Pre-Beta Kelleypen and to my wonderful Beta Bring and Fly for their help.
This is a one shot story written as a result of Jelsemium's Halloween Challenge, it turned out longer than planned, but the plot bunny was persistent. This story is a H/G, R/H, N/L fluff/adventure with a G rating. I hope you enjoy it.
Hermione glanced through the Hogsmeade Herald Halloween Edition. The story of the day was about how the old Worthington Estate over the last two years had been experiencing an increase in other worldly activity. The History of the Manor told how it was built over an old platinum mine. Earl Samuel Lawrence Worthington used it to found his business in the mid 1500s, Worthington Wizarding Commonwealth an import/export business. The mining was done primarily by lower classed humans, goblins, dwarves, and house elves.
Hermione crunched the paper angrily. She was furious, but it piqued her interest a bit more.
"Lord Worthington was a powerful, dark wizard who enslaved others into doing the labor so that his business could operate. He had a dedicated group of sorcerer vassals he called the Black Tempest. They in turn employed a group of warrior mages called the Shadow Walkers. None at the time could stand against his empire. Over the next 50 years the wealth and power of Lord Worthington the Wicked grew. He was even rumored to have invested vast sums of money into a line of Quidditch gear, which included a cutting edge design of a broom called the Wind Lance that would revolutionize the industry. The design was "pure genius" as the stories go, and the plans were locked away in a heavily warded vault at his estate house.
"Hmm," Hermione thought to herself. "I wonder what's so special about it?"
"Then, at the turn of the century things began to change. A handful of members of the Black Tempest began to covet his power, and they set things in motion to bring him down from the inside. They embezzled what they could safely manage, and they formed their own alliance which they named the Crimson Talon. They planted the seeds of rebellion amongst the workers and began to funnel company funds into their own investments. The lynchpin would be to steal the secret design of the Wind Lance."
Hermione chewed on a loose strand of her hair absently.
"Lord Worthington was informed of the coup by a member of the Talons who turned against his own in hopes of being escalated by his former Lord. The informant was summarily executed for his treachery. Lord Worthington began to create numerous magical traps at the estate to counter any intruders that might seek to attack him. His paranoia began to slowly drive him mad and his empire began to crumble. More and more Tempest members began to join the Talon and Lord Worthington seeing his demise approaching began to set retributive traps of magic all around. These powerful acts of ingenuity were structured to take out multitudes of traitors, and some within his inner sanctum were designed to take he and his attackers out. The final straw which led to his demise occurred around 1612 when his goblin slaves revolted against him. The Talon used the rebellion as a cover to deliver the final blow and steal the Wind Lance. This onslaught resulted in the destruction of the Black Tempest, The Crimson Talon, The Shadow Walkers, and Earl Worthington. The intense force of the magical battle and the powerful traps was enough to cause the destruction of half of the sprawling manor and to cause a collapse of the mines.
Hermione twirled another loose strand of hair around her finger and leaned into the paper a bit.
"The intact portion of the manor still stands today and over the centuries multiple hauntings were reported. The hauntings still continue presently, though at the turn of the 19th century the activity died down markedly only to increase again in the 1940s then die off again in the 1950s. Then in the 1960s the activity once again increased but died off yet again in the 1980s. Only within the last couple of years has the activity increased yet again. No one has had the courage to investigate Worthington Manor, so it to this day remains active and is now referred to as the most haunted place in Hogsmeade."
Hermione sighed after reading the article, thinking that it was an interesting bit of history, though one quite blood-stained. She laid the Herald down on the table in the great hall.
"Ooo, you read it too!" a voice said from behind her, startling her. Hermione turned to see Luna grinning broadly.
"Luna! You scared me," she exclaimed.
"Sorry Hermione, I just read that and I remembered my father writing about it in the Quibbler. The old estate mines are rumored to be one of the few places in the world that Gelsemium grows. It's a night blooming form of jasmine…"
"That is an ingredient which, when mixed with a small amount of holy water and garlic and simmered for three hours, can be placed in an oak flask, cooled for ten hours and suspended by a leather strap to make a talisman called the Vizier's Amulet. This, when placed around the neck of a vampire, will permanently sate its hunger for blood," Hermione finished for Luna. "I read that in potions during my third year."
"What are you reading now, 'Mione?" Ron's voice said from nearby.
Hermione turned to see Ron and Harry approaching with Ginny close behind. The three were red-faced and sweating, carrying Quidditch gear.
"It's an article about the most haunted place in Hogsmeade," Luna answered.
Hermione winced inwardly as she saw grief reflected on Harry's face. She knew the idea of the most haunted place in Hogsmeade brought back memories of Sirius. The most haunted place used to be considered the Shrieking Shack. This was the place where Harry first found out that Sirius was his Godfather. Sirius had been dead a little over a year now, but they all still grieved at the loss. Hermione saw that Ginny too knew what was happening; she crept up behind Harry and laid her hand on his shoulder. Her touch seemed to comfort Harry, and the painful memory was chased away with Ginny's affectionate gesture.
"Can I see that?" asked Harry.
Hermione handed the paper to Harry, and he sat down at the table. A plate laden with fresh fruit appeared in front of Harry which he nibbled while reading. As he read the article, a thought filled his head; the dates were niggling at his mind--then it occurred to him many of the years of increased haunting he could associate with Dark Wizard activity. Dumbledore's battle with Grindelwald, the predecessor to Voldemort, was in the 40's and Voldemort's original rise to power was in the 60's and his fall was in the 80's. Now he was back again, and the activity increased once again. Could the old manor be his base of operations? Harry asked himself. It was at this point Harry decided that he would go and investigate the manor, but he couldn't lead his friends into danger again. He nearly lost them at the Ministry, and he would not take that chance again.
Now he just had to figure out how to elude his friends and the staff. That's it! he said to himself. Next Friday would be Halloween, and there was another ball planned. He would go to the ball, feign illness during it, and then he would say he was going to go back to his room to lie down. Then he would get his supplies and sneak out while everyone was at the ball. Harry hoped he could keep it from them, but his friends always seemed to know what he was thinking, so he had to endeavor to hide his thoughts more than usual.
He put the paper down and said to his friends. "Interesting story, another haunted place in Hogsmeade. I wonder how much of it is true?"
"The Herald has been in business for over a hundred years, and they have a pretty good reputation for truth," Hermione responded.
"People said that the shack was haunted too, and we all know how that turned out," said Ron.
"Well with all the atrocities Worthington the wicked committed it wouldn't surprise me if there were ghosts there. Many lives were lost from his reign, most of them, non-human," Hermione huffed.
"Calm down Hermione; it's ancient history, and there is nothing you can do to rescue them; they all died nearly 400 years ago," Ginny answered.
"I suppose you're right Ginny, but I don't have to be happy about it," Hermione responded.
"Harry will you hand me that story? I'd like to have a look too," Ron asked.
Ginny ran over and placed her hand across Ron's forehead. "Harry help me get him to Madame Pomfrey; he's very sick. He needs help," she teased.
"Ha ha, very funny Gin. I'm only curious about it, and I'm sure it's much more interesting than Hogwarts a History," Ron said, glancing towards Hermione with a lopsided grin.
Hermione rolled her eyes at his comment and started to respond in kind, but her thought was interrupted as Neville walked towards them. "Hello Neville," she grinned fondly.
"Hello everyone." Neville's eyes fell on Luna and a blush crept across his face. "Erm…L-Luna, can I t-talk with you a m-moment?" He stammered. "O-over there?" He gestured towards a corner, his hand shaking.
"Sure Neville," she said.
The two walked over to the corner, and Hermione and Ginny exchanged a knowing grin.
"What? What's so funny?" asked Ron.
"You are thick; aren't you dear brother? He's going to ask Luna to the ball." Ginny smacked him on the arm. An evil grin crossed her face, and she looked at Ron. "So Ron, who are you taking?" She smiled as she watched both he and Hermione turn a bit pink at the question.
Ron hadn't given it much thought, but after fourth year he knew who he was going to ask; he just hadn't done it yet, but being put on the spot like this, he had little choice.
"Actually…erm… I thought I'd ask… you Hermione. I-I mean, if you don't have a date yet," he finally said.
Ginny stood near Ron, and she could feel the heat from his cheeks as the blush sprang into being. Then she felt another dose of heat as Hermione too blushed.
"Erm…ok," she spat out, quickly looking at Ron's shoes, which were somehow quite interesting just now.
"Well, ok I understand, I should've known I waited too long again," he mumbled, he turned to walk away. Then he suddenly felt a soft hand beneath his arm.
"Ron, I said yes," he heard Hermione say.
"You said what?" he responded.
"Yes, Ron; I said yes; I'll go to the ball with you," she repeated.
"Y-you will?" he questioned.
"Yes, I'll go. I'd love to go with you," she assured him.
Ron didn't know what came over him, but all of a sudden he turned around and pulled her into a hug. Suddenly realizing what he was doing; he felt his cheeks flush once again. He stepped back held her at arm's length, then he looked into her dark eyes and simply said, "Thanks 'Mione."
Ron then got a twinkle in his eye. He winked at Hermione, grinned and then turned to Harry. "So Harry, who are you going with?"
Harry winced as he realized that he hadn't asked anyone either. He thought to himself, I need to ask someone, but who would go with me? She would have to be someone who won't be terribly upset when he became ill on the night of the ball. Then inspiration struck, "I would have asked 'Mione, but you beat me to it." He winked at them and grinned. "As friends of course...actually I can only think of one girl who would put up with me and my horrid dancing."
He turned quickly and confidently towards Ginny Weasley, but when his eyes met hers his nerve faltered. What's wrong with me?This seemed so easy a moment ago.
Then summoning all the courage he could muster, he said, "Ginny, will you go with me to the ball?" Harry wished Colin had been around to capture that moment, because the sight of Ginny's brown eyes alight with happiness was one he wanted to remember. He grinned as the question sunk in, and he could feel her blush on his cheeks, or was that his own blush? He couldn't tell, but he knew the choice was the right one.
"Yes!" she said, and she jumped at him excitedly giving him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather go with more." Though, she thought to herself, whatdoes it mean? Arewe going as friends or something more? Whatever the case, she would enjoy the time with him, more than anyone she could think of.
"That's great Gin, I look forward to it." Harry thought to himself, at least if Voldemort isthere,I'll have a couple of hours of fun in case he wins.
"Isn't that touching?" sneered a voice from behind them. "A mudblood-weasel pairing and a Potter-weasel pairing."
They turned to see Draco Malfoy flanked by Crabbe and Goyle.
"Oh and look!" He pointed to the paper still in Ron's hand. "It looks like Granger is going to teach the weasel to read."
Ron tensed up, wrinkling the paper. "Back off, Malfoy! You're just jealous because I have a date and you don't."
"In your dreams Weasley, I happen to have a date with Pansy," Draco responded.
"Wow, big surprise there, how much are you paying her this year? By now I would imagine she would need a raise-- after the last date you had with her, she must have realized what a slimy git you are!" Ron said proudly.
By this time Ron, Hermione, Harry, Ginny, Neville, and Luna all stood as a united front facing Malfoy and his goons.
"Another time, Weasley!" Malfoy laughed and then turned away with Crabbe and Goyle still flanking him.
Harry woke up the next morning, and began his week as usual. However, in order to prepare to fight Voldemort, he paid a little more attention in class, and between classes he went to the library to study. In the evenings, he spent time with his friends. They had, of course, noticed his study habits had changed, but when asked about it, he merely said he wanted to bring his marks up. After all at some point he would need to face Voldemort, and he wanted to be ready. This was much closer than any of them had realized.
That Thursday evening, Harry told his friends that he needed to do some reading in the library and that he would see them later. Tonight he needed to read about Earl Worthington the Wicked and to learn what kind of traps he may have placed in his manor. The history book he chose was called The History of Hogsmeade, and it was indexed by century. He turned to the 1500's and skimmed until he found the first record of Earl Worthington. He began to read and to jot down some notes. He was quite attentive until his extra studies got the best of him, and he fell asleep.
Harry had been gone for several hours, so Ginny decided to check on him. She made her way to the library and walked in to find him with his head lying on a large book. A parchment lay next to it with several notes scrawled out on it, as well as the Herald's Halloween article. She went to wake him, but decided to look first to see what he had been studying. He had written down a few notes about Worthington, and he had also scribbled down some dates and written "Voldy" near them.
As she thought about this and reflected on why he would have written these things down, it suddenly dawned on her why he was studying so hard. He planned on visiting the Worthington estate sometime soon. Fear gripped her when she thought about him doing this, and worse yet, by himself! This was soon replaced by anger; why in the world would he plan on doing this without letting anyone know!
"That was a silly question, Ginevra," she said to herself. "Harry wouldn't say anything because he knew we would stop him! Oooo!" she growled. "He will not get away with this, but how am I going to stop him?" she asked herself.
Harry began to stir so she backed away, to pretend she had just walked in. She wouldn't say anything, at least not yet, not until she knew when he was planning his move. No, she needed to decide whom she was going to let in on the secret.
"I'll think about it tonight, but Harry, you won't be long out of my sight until I figure all this out," she mumbled to herself. With that vow still in her mind she coughed loudly to alert Harry that he was not alone.
"Huh...what?" he murmured, as consciousness returned. He looked around to see Ginny standing at the door. Lamplight shone behind her, and its flickering glow seemed to make her molten tresses come alive. Why hadn't he ever noticed how pretty her hair was before tonight? "Erm...hi Gin, what are you doing up here?" Harry suddenly realized that the book, article, and notes lay before him. So he casually began gathering them as he waited for her response; he prayed that she wouldn't notice what was afoot.
"I just came up to check on you. It's getting late and the library will be closing soon, so I thought I'd walk with you back to the common room."
"Really?" he asked, genuinely surprised.
"I wanted to talk to you about this weekend. It's a Hogsmeade weekend, and the ball is next week so I thought we could go and pick out our dress robes. Fred and George sent me some money to buy a set. I guess Weasley Wizarding Wheezes is going over very well; they said that their investor should be very happy," Ginny said.
Harry grinned. "I'm happy for them, and I'm sure their investor is too." And he was.
The two walked back to the common room talking quietly about what colors they should wear. Ginny thought green or blue, and Harry suggested red or purple, making Ginny cringe at the thought of her hair with those colors. Then Ginny noticed his grin and batted him on the arm.
The walk was over way too soon, thought Ginny and for the brief time they were walking she forgot what Harry was up to.
Harry it seemed noticed because he asked, "Everything okay, Gin?"
"Yes it's fine, I guess I'm a bit tired," she lied.
"Yeah, me too, g'night Ginny," Harry said.
"Night Harry." Then she reached out and grabbed his hand, giving it an affectionate squeeze. She flashed him a warm grin and turned to go to the girls' dorm.
Harry turned to go to his own dorm, and as he walked away, he noticed a warmth spreading from his hand throughout his body. He climbed the staircase and dressed for bed, letting her smile carry him into a restful slumber.
Ginny lay awake in bed tossing and turning; part of it was that she and Harry connected tonight in a way they hadn't before. However, the larger part was the fear that she would lose him soon. She could tell him that she knew what he was going to do, but she was afraid he'd push away from her. She could tell Ron and Hermione, but then Harry would feel betrayed by her. Telling any of the staff would be even more devastating. If only he would tell her, Ron, and Hermione, things would be much easier. Even if they could figure it out on their own that would help. This thought took root in her mind, and she knew what needed to be done. She had to help Ron and Hermione figure it out, but she had to do it in such a way that Harry would not realize she knew his plans. This simple comfort helped her finally relax enough to get some rest.
The next morning Ginny awoke, and while dressing for class, she thought of ways to clue Ron and Hermione in about what Harry was up to. She would get a copy of the Herald and read it whenever they were around, and she would underline the dates. If anyone asked she would say it was for extra credit for History of Magic. If they would notice the dates, it might ring a bell with them. She would also tell them that she and Harry were going to pick out dress robes for Halloween this weekend in Hogsmeade, and she would throw in a question about security measures this year now that Voldemort was out in the open. She hoped that would be enough because she had to be subtle about what she knew. When she had dressed she saw a copy of the Herald on Jill's bed, and she asked if she could borrow it, because she was working on an extra credit assignment. Her dorm mate gave her leave to take it, so she quickly underlined the dates and placed it in her bag. She ran down stairs to find Harry waiting for her.
"I thought we could go to breakfast together, is that okay? Ron and Hermione said they would save us a seat," he said.
"Sure Harry, let's go," she said with a grin.
They walked down to the Great Hall and found their seats across the table from each other. Then their plates filled with scrambled eggs and bacon. Ginny pulled her paper out and laid it on the table next to Hermione. Ginny read it as she ate.
"That's a popular article," Hermione commented. "What are the dates marked for?"
"I'm trying to get an extra credit assignment for History of Magic done before tonight. That way I won't have to worry about it this weekend when Harry and I go into Hogsmeade to pick out dress robes. Fred and George sent me some money to buy new ones. Did you get your money, Ron? They said they sent you some as well."
Ron blushed brightly, he never did like handouts, but it was the only way he'd be able to afford new ones. "Yeah, I got it," he said tersely.
In an effort to throw the focus off Ron, Harry spoke up. "We should all go together, then we can go by the Three Broomsticks and have a Butterbeer- my treat." he offered.
"That sounds good, Harry," Hermione said, willing to help divert more attention from Ron.
"What kind of security arrangements do you think the Headmaster made?" Ginny asked. "With Voldemort out in the open now, don't you think he would have increased them?"
"I heard Professor McGonagal say that a company of Aurors has a garrison there now. Professor Moody is the garrison commander. Professor Lupin is his second in command evidently. It seems the Ministry has decided they need every good wizard possible to join the war effort," Hermione said.
Ginny saw a perfect opening at Hermione's comment so she took it. "Do you think they are going to investigate Worthington Manor? It seems to me with a whole company there that would provide a perfect opportunity to check it out," she queried innocently. She glanced up to see Harry's face grimace at the thought.
"I don't imagine they will. A place as haunted as that wouldn't be a high priority for Aurors, unless they had good reason." Realization dawned on Hermione as her own words put the final piece in place. She snatched up the Herald and read the dates. "Great Merlin! Look at these dates! The activity dates all coincide with the rise and fall of Grindewald and with Voldemort. They may suspect that he's holed up there!" she said excitedly.
Harry thought to himself that if this was the case, he had hoped they would wait until he had a chance to check it out next week, because if they went in before that he would still have to wait to confront him, and all he wanted was to get it over with so that he could have a normal life. Harry glanced at all of his friends and he decided they would definitely be in it. His gaze lingered on Ginny, but especially her...where did that thought come from? She's Ron's sister. . . No, that didn't matter, she would be in it, and the thought amazed and terrified him all at once. As his mind drifted back, he realized that she was looking at him and he flinched when he realized that there was a beautiful grin on that wonderful mouth. Seeing where his thoughts now ventured, he turned to look at Ron as he felt his face heat up. Ron however didn't notice the exchange, much to Harry's relief. Ron was more interested in toast than anything else. So he then looked at Hermione who was also grinning, well...she was until she looked at Ron.
As Hermione looked at her friends a knowing grin forced itself on her face as she realized Harry was deep in thought as he stared at Ginny. Ginny too had a smile on her face, because she saw that Harry's thoughts were mirroring her own. Hermione then looked at Ron and her thoughts of him floated to the forefront of her mind. He however was devouring a piece of toast and was oblivious to the electricity surrounding him at that moment.
Ginny felt relief overcome her, as she realized that Hermione, as usual, had been right. The Aurors probably came to the same conclusion as Harry had, but she ventured to guess that they knew about the possible hideout months ago. Her heart soared at the thought that they may have even investigated it already. She hoped that was the case because then their presence in Hogsmeade would be as cleanup and security. She looked at Harry whose mind seemed to be so many miles away that he didn't realize that she had seen him staring at her, and she grinned broadly. Then he snapped back to reality, blushed, and turned to Ron, who was attacking his toast. Hermione was looking at him and getting quite angry. Why did he have to be so thick?
"Ron! Did you hear what I said? Voldemort may be in Hogsmeade right now, and the Aurors are going to go after him if they haven't already." Hermione suddenly realized that her voice was far too loud. Everyone near them had gone pale as her words reached their ears. Several of them seemed to have lost their appetite and were now getting up to go to their classes. She looked around; Neville and Luna were standing nearby staring with interest in their direction; and not far away she saw the retreating back of Draco Malfoy. At the head table, Headmaster Dumbledore was looking a bit somber, but yet seemed to have a grin behind his eyes at Hermione's astute oration. Professor McGonagal was horrified, Professor Snape was incensed, Professor Flitwick was amused, and Hagrid was blushing.
Hermione reddened and lowered her eyes. "Now see what you've done Ron; you made me humiliate myself!" she hissed.
"Me? What'd I do?" Ron asked.
"Honestly Ron!" She huffed as she slid her chair back, stamped her foot and turned to go to class.
Ginny squeaked with glee and Harry stifled his own laugh.
"Come on Ron, we had better go too. I'll see you later Ginny," Harry said as he and Ron left the hall, followed shortly by Neville.
"Harry fancies you Ginny, did you notice the way he stared at you?" said Luna in her usual dreamy fashion.
Ginny grinned widely. "Yes Luna, I did! Come on let's go to class."
The next day Harry awoke and threw a pillow at Ron. "Ron get up! Hogsmeade today, we've got to pick out our robes with the girls."
Harry groaned. Did I really just say that? Next thing you know we'll be picking out wedding robes. What is with me these days? " I'm going to the shower. Don't go back to sleep or Hermione will really be mad."
Harry laughed as he watched that register. Ron sprang from his bed to pick out his clothes.
Ron heard his laugh and chucked a pillow at his friend's fleeing form. "Shut it you!" but Harry was already out of range.
When Harry was through in the shower, he selected black Dockers, and a black turtleneck with a green cardigan. He put on a black leather belt with a silver buckle and as an afterthought he sprayed on a bit of Drakkar Noir, and pulled on a pair of brown loafers.
He looked in the mirror, which said. "That's a new look for you; isn't it dear? Very nice, but you may want to fix your hair."
Harry sighed. "Well there's no hope for that. I never could get it to act right. He ran fingers through his unruly raven hair in a feeble attempt to tame it; ah well, it'll have to do." Harry was pleased, he looked good; maybe a bit over-dressed, but not bad.
Ron came in and stopped as his jaw fell to the floor. "H-Harry, is that you?"
"Shut it Ron! I just thought I'd try something a little different then usual. I-is it too much?" Harry asked, unsure of his choices now.
"Yes, I-I mean it's a bit dressy, but it suits you. Wait a minute? Do you fancy my sister?" Ron questioned.
"Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later," Harry muttered. "Well Ron, I guess, I do... erm...is that OK?" Harry felt his whole body redden, he closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat as he waited to feel Ron's fist on his nose. The jab never came, and he bravely opened his eyes to look at his ex-best friend who had fallen on Harry's bed and was biting back rails of laughter as he pounded his fists on the mattress.
Ron collected himself and sat up on Harry's bed chuckling as tears misted his eyes. "Yeah mate, it's fine. In fact Fred, George, and I had bets as to when this was going to happen. Wait just a minute...I won! I said it would be a week before the Halloween Dance, and I was spot on!"
Ron ran over to his bedside table, and pulled out an old rusty pen knife and opened the blade. Seconds later Fred appeared draped in a towel, and George appeared, his mouth was open and a fork full of eggs was clutched in his hand. Then, as he had been sitting, he suddenly tumbled backwards sending the eggs over his head. Then with a SPLAT! they hit the wall.
"It happened didn't it?" Fred asked.
"Yep, just now; Harry told me he fancied Ginny. Look at how he's dressed and he and Ginny are going to pick out dress robes for the Ball today. I asked him if he fancied Gin and he said; and I quote, 'Well Ron I guess, I do... erm...is that OK?'
Harry suddenly felt George's arms encircle his shoulders, pinning his arms to his side, and then Fred raced over, nearly losing his towel in the process, and kissed him on both cheeks. Then, in chorus, the three Weasley boys cried out: "Welcome to the family, Harry!"
Harry was quite afraid that his clothing would spontaneously combust at the amount of heat that seemed to radiate from him at that moment. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and then trickled down his brow. He received another bone-crushing hug from Fred and Ron. Then the three of them backed away from him and the room was filled with their hearty laughter. When they finally gained composure and were able to speak, George said,
"Harry, as far as we're concerned, you are the only one for our little Ginevra; we knew it was only a matter of time before you realized it too. We all knew it would be you when you rescued her from the Chamber of Secrets. We just didn't know when, so we each had one of those knives that were charmed so that when it happened we could all be there. Then we placed our bets. Ron said it would be your sixth year, a week before the dance. Fred said it would be next summer, and I thought it would be when you finished Hogwarts. Now then, don't disappoint us Harry." Then George gave Ron two sickles. "Fred will have to owe you Ron, as he seems to have lost his trousers."
"Well we'll be going now so you won't be late meeting Ginny," Fred said, as he walked over to George. "They act as regular port keys as well. See you soon Harry." He touched the knife in George's hand, and they were both gone.
"What just happened here?" Harry asked.
Ron responded, "Don't worry about it Harry, just accept it. Besides I need to finish dressing, or we'll both be in trouble." With that he pulled on a pair of blue jeans and a brown sweater, combed his hair, sprayed on some of Harry's cologne, and he was ready.
They grabbed their wands and wallets, stowed them away deep in their pockets, and left their dormitory.
Hermione awoke and climbed out of bed. She was still in a foul mood from yesterday's breakfast. It was bad enough that Ron hadn't been paying attention to her, but she was rather embarrassed at her outburst that resulted. Ron had better make it up to her today or she would never speak to him again. She grabbed her dressing gown and a towel and headed off to the shower. When she was done, she decided to dress up a bit and she looked through her wardrobe. She selected a pair of black jeans and a blue, button-down, flannel shirt. She conditioned her hair with Fannie's Friz-Free gel. It subdued her wild, chestnut curls and repaired the split ends, leaving her hair wavy and silky. She even put on some cinnamon twist lipstick and brown eye-liner. She looked at herself and decided it was just the look she wanted. Now she needed to be a bit daring so she undid the top two buttons exposing cleavage she had always tried to hide before now. She dabbed on some vanilla perfume, and she was ready.
Ginny had trouble sleeping, but this morning she didn't feel tired at all. Harry fancied her and that was all that mattered just now. They would be picking out their dress robes together, and next Friday on Halloween she would be going to the ball with Harry. She spun around laughing with elation. Then she fell into a chair at her dressing table; she stared at herself in the mirror and a mischievous thought came to her. It took form and shape, and she grinned evilly at the pixie facing her in the mirror. She ran to her trunk and pulled out a pair of tight blue jeans and a snug fitting, black sweater, cut low in the front. She showered using strawberry body wash and shampoo. She decided to wear her hair down, so she goaded her fiery locks by wand point into gentle waves and applied Madame Corrine's Coiffure Cure; it held her hair in place, but allowed it to shimmer beautifully even as it allowed it to move freely. Ginny pulled out her makeup. She never used makeup much, and when she did it was always conservative. Today she was going to add a bit more to accent her face just right so she could see if she could make Harry come a bit unglued. She applied a little mascara which she never used and some eye liner and a light dusting of brown shadow. Then she applied a hint of blush and a sparkling, strawberry lip gloss. She thought she had just the right touches. She dressed, struggling a little to wriggle into her one-size-too small jeans. She was thankful that the material was a bit elastic, or she didn't think she'd be able to breathe properly. The sweater fit a bit snugly too, which was what she wanted. The things she chose hugged every curve and angle perfectly. She had always thought that her chest was a bit small, but these clothes proved that she was more developed than she remembered herself being. Though she wasn't too large, and that was fine with her. She examined herself one final time and was very pleasantly surprised with her metamorphosis. She reached into a drawer and dabbed some Strawberry perfume over her pulse points. Then she smiled, shoved her wand into her back pocket, grabbed her coin purse, and ran to check with Hermione.
Hermione was on her way out of the door, when it opened to reveal a beautiful young lady with flaming red hair. She didn't recognize her at first glance, and it seemed the feeling was mutual, judging by the shocked look on Ginny's face. "You look great Ginny, Harry will love it!"
"Ron will be just as impressed by you, Hermione. You look wonderful!"
The girls laughed, and then walked out to meet Harry and Ron.
Ron and Harry were waiting in the common room when the girls walked down the stairs. As they crossed the threshold, both their chins hit the floor at the stunning women before them. The boys said their names in chorus which came out sounding much like "Germininee!?"
The girls being more cool about how the boys looked, merely smiled. Had they tried to speak however, it was likely that they would have been incapable of the act.
Harry recovered first, and he walked up to Ginny fully planning on complimenting her, but as the scent of strawberries reached his nostrils, and her eyes met his, the response was "Gin...you...l-l...great." Then conceding to his clumsy tongue, he just reached out his hand and smiled as she reached out in turn and took it. They turned to see Ron standing where he was just staring at Hermione rigid and paralyzed.
Hermione had to make the first move as Ron's motor functions and senses had fled. "Ron? Are you ok?" she asked smiling.
"Hmm?" it seemed, was all he could manage.
Hermione reached out and took his hand; he trembled slightly, but then some sense and movement came back, and he was able to let her lead him from the common room.
They arrived in Hogsmeade about ten o'clock. It had taken the smell of breakfast to snap Ron from his stupor, but once he recovered he was able to move on his own and even speak. Now that they had arrived, he finally seemed to be more-or-less back to normal, though his perceptions of Hermione would never be the same.
The girls wanted to get their robes done first so they headed off to Gladrags. Walking in to the bustling shop they found their wait was surprisingly short. A clerk introduced herself as Claire as she came to Harry and Ginny. Another Clerk named Brianne met Ron and Hermione. The couples separated and were off to peruse the materials. After about an hour they had found the colors they wanted. Ron and Hermione had decided to go in blue: he with a nice navy robe, and she with a lovely ice blue. Harry and Ginny chose green: Harry with a rain forest green and Ginny with a sea green shade. They were measured, and they paid their bills. Brianne and Claire both said they would hand deliver them Wednesday and make the final adjustments at Hogwarts.
Having completed their task with the robes, they decided to unwind a bit at the Three Broomsticks. They found a corner booth and ordered a light lunch. They talked as they ate and had a splendid time.
As fun as this was Harry's thoughts turned towards the task he still planned to do. He felt it was his only chance to have a life with Ginny. He knew he might not survive the battle, but if he didn't pursue this course of action, he feared for Ginny's safety and the safety of his friends if he didn't stop Voldemort first.
Ginny sensed the change in Harry's mood, and she knew what he was thinking about. He still wanted to go to Worthington Manor. She decided that she needed to confront him about it, and she may as well do it now while his friends were there with him. Maybe they could talk him out of it if the three of them worked on him.
"Harry, I know what you are thinking about, and you can't do it," she said. "I saw what you were working on in the library the other night. I'm sorry but they need to know too." She canted her head towards Ron and Hermione. "Will you tell them, or shall I?"
"What is she talking about Harry?" asked Ron.
Harry thought for a moment, and then conceded that Ginny would indeed tell them if she had worked it out as she implied. "Alright, I'll tell them," he began. "I was going to go to Worthington Manor, to see if Voldemort was there, so that I could face him."
"You, what!" exclaimed Ron.
"Keep it down, Ron," said Harry in a hushed voice. "Look, last year in the Department of Mysteries, I saw part of my prophecy. Then later Professor Dumbledore let me see the rest in his Pensieve. It said that he and I must face one another and that only one of us would live. I thought if I go there that I could end this and have a normal life. I was going act like I was sick and go to my room after a couple of hours at the ball."
"Are you insane? Harry! If he was there he would be surrounded by Death Eaters! How did you think you'd be able to stand up to them?" Hermione demanded.
"I didn't think I would need to. Voldemort would want me, and the Death Eaters would give me to him so we could end this one way or the other," Harry responded.
"What about us Harry; didn't you think about how we would feel if you died?" Ron asked.
"Yes I did, but I didn't want any of you to get hurt; that's why I was going alone. Anyway I'm sure he's gone already if the Aurors are here, but I need to be sure. I can face him now or later, but the longer I wait the more people he will hurt," Harry said.
"Harry, if you insist on doing this, then we're going with you," said Ron.
"You can't! If there are Death Eaters there, then they will kill you. The only one allowed to kill me is Voldemort, and his Death Eaters would be foolish to try, because he would kill them too," Harry explained.
"Harry either we go with you, or...or we'll tell the Headmaster," Ginny challenged.
"What if something happens to you, Gin, or to either of you? If I go alone that risk is not there," Harry responded.
"Harry, if you go and you lose, so do the rest of us. I'd rather take my chances with you than without you if he wins," Ginny countered.
"Ginny's right Harry; the prophecy said as much. You are the only chance we have, and even if we can't kill Voldemort, we can watch your back," Ron said. "Remember we're a team."
Harry thought about it and then conceded they were right. They could help, if not directly, then indirectly. "All right you win, but how are the four of us going to sneak out? My cloak can hide two of us, but the other two would have to find another way. We will need to get out of the castle and go through the tunnel beneath the willow. Then we can make our way from the shack and sneak off to the manor," Harry said.
"We can go to the dance for a couple of hours, then we'll just come back and change. You can take Ginny under your cloak since she's smaller than either Ron or I, and since we're prefects, we shouldn't have a problem getting around," Hermione suggested.
"Well we can work out the details later. Right now I'd like to go for a walk. Coming Ginny?" asked Harry as he stood reaching out his hand.
Ginny smiled and took the proffered hand.
Harry paid the bill for all of them and then he and Ginny walked out for a stroll, glancing back to see Ron and Hermione stand as well. "We'll see you back at Hogwarts," Harry said and they were out the door.
They walked for about an hour and found themselves in a part of Hogsmeade they had not been to before. They found a beautiful sunken garden with several fountains. Walking along the cobblestone walk they soon came to a lovely alcove with a waterfall and a cozy bench. They sat down together and looked around, off in the distance atop a hill stood a very old building half in ruin half intact, which could only be Worthington Manor. "That's got to be the manor. Rather foreboding, isn't it?" said Harry.
Ginny shivered a little, and Harry took advantage of the reflex to put an arm around her and pull her close. "This feels so right," he told himself. Ginny put her head on his shoulder, and he laid his head against hers. Her hair was soft against his cheek, and he kissed her on top of her head letting the aroma of strawberries fill his nostrils. She turned her face towards him and he pressed his lips to hers; they were soft and warm, and they tasted of strawberry. Voltage coursed from her lips to his, and he welcomed the tingle. This too felt right to Harry. He pulled slightly away and just looked into her soft brown eyes; there he saw his unborn children in them. This was right, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he would win against Voldemort and his beloved would be with him. "Beloved? When did this all happen?" he thought. "And why didn't it happen before now?"
They stayed that way for a few more minutes, and finally Ginny said, "Harry, as much as I hate to, we'd better get back."
Harry nodded, and reluctantly agreed.
"Harry?" Ginny asked. "Are we ... a couple now?"
"Yes Ginny...we are...er... I mean if that's okay with you... that is?" Harry asked.
Ginny just smiled and looked up at him, then she stood on her toes, placed her arms on his shoulders and pressed her lips to his. "It's all I ever really wanted."
Harry walked beside her and grasped her hand, and the two of them made their way back to Hogwarts.
The next several days seemed to go by in hours, and soon Halloween arrived. True to their word Brianne and Claire delivered the robes on Wednesday as promised, and they had taken special care to get every detail just right.
By Friday Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were more nervous than they had ever been in their lives. Not only was it almost time for the dance, but so was nearly time for their journey to Worthington Manor. They had worked out all the details. The four of them would leave the dance early as couples in search of empty closets. They would sneak back to the dorms to grab their gear. They would avoid any confrontations, but if confrontations did occur they had stories ready to convince whomever they met. They would take the tunnel beneath the willow to the Shrieking Shack, and from there they would work their way to the manor.
As fast as the week had gone, Halloween day seemed to make up for it, as it seemed mercilessly long, but hour after grueling hour did eventually pass. Soon Harry and Ron found themselves primping for the ball. They had each taken lengthy showers and had fretted over their hair for half and hour each.
In spite of the work, however, Harry's wild pate still seemed to have a mind of its own, and he wondered if it were proper to wear a hat at a ball. Dismissing the thought he sighed and gave up.
Ron had much better luck and his blazing fronds looked very good.
After Harry and Ron had added the final touches to their attire they dabbed on Harry's cologne and re-inspected themselves a final time. Satisfied, they converged on Neville to help him look presentable for Luna. Neville was wearing a deep purple robe with a thin white stripe around each cuff and around the hem. It seemed to suit him well enough, but it had fallen from its hanger while in his wardrobe and had become wrinkled. Seamus had the solution to the wrinkles, using an ironing charm to smooth them out. Ron showed him how to comb his hair properly and Harry offered some of his cologne. Between the three of them, he cleaned up pretty well, and he seemed a bit more confident after the help. Soon they were all ready, and they went to the common area to wait for their young ladies.
Ginny was distraught from nerves by midday that day, and she had tearfully flooed Mrs. Weasley for moral support. Her mum had arrived by Floo within hours to physically help her only daughter prepare for her big night with Harry.
Molly used the ironing charm to smooth the wrinkle on Ginny's dress robe. Then she transfigured a hair tie into a rhinestone studded tiara. She fixed Ginny's hair up, weaving her molten tresses around the tiara, then dangled a lock on either side of her head, placing a forward curve on each, so that they paralleled the angle of her jaw line. The effect framed her face beautifully. Mrs. Weasley showed Ginny some makeup techniques that she didn't know; to pale her complexion a bit more and to hide all but the right amount of freckles. Brown eye shadow was lightly dusted on, and some eyeliner finished the eyes to bring them out just right. Finally Ginny applied her strawberry lip gloss and dabbed on strawberry field perfume. When the job was done, Ginny was the perfect picture of a faerie princess. Mrs. Weasley then turned her formidable skills towards Hermione's transformation.
Hermione had fixed her hair the same as she had a week before. She liked how it looked on her, but Mrs. Weasley convinced her to put it up into an elegant bun. Once done Mrs. Weasley pulled out her wand to bring out some beautiful auburn highlights. Then she sprayed Hermione's hair with Helena Hugo's High Hair-Shine. This ignited Hermione's hair into a dazzling silky shine that not only would be noticed, but envied as well. Next Mrs. Weasley set to work on her make-up. She dusted her cheeks with a lightly shimmering facial powder that in the right light produced a tasteful glimmer. Then she applied a tan eye shadow, chestnut eye liner and some mascara. A little cinnamon lip stick finished her makeover.
"You two look lovely, but you're missing something," Mrs. Weasley said with a mischievous grin.
Then she reached into her handbag and produced a wooden box. She opened it and pulled out a beautiful jade pendant shaped like a flying dragon with amber eyes and a matching pair of earrings. She handed these to Ginny. Reaching in again, Mrs. Weasley removed an obsidian panther pendant with aquamarine eyes and a set of matching earrings. These she gave to Hermione.
"Charlie and Bill sent these for each of you. They called them gifts for their sisters."
She smiled warmly and embraced each of them in turn, placing a kiss on their cheek.
"I'm going to go down to the common room. I want to get pictures of Ron and Harry before the two of you come down; give me about fifteen minutes. I also want to get pictures of their reactions when you come down and get some pictures of the four of you before you go to the dance. Don't worry; I'll try to be quick about it. Remember girls, when you have your own children -my grandchildren- it is a mother's prerogative to gush over them on special occasions." She smiled, dropped them a wink and then she left.
"It seems your family has plans for all of us Ginny, let's hope we'll be alive to see them fulfilled," said Hermione.
"I know Hermione; I'm scared too. I hope the Aurors have been to Worthington Estate already, but if we don't go with him, Harry'll go alone. Have you got your stuff ready for tonight?" Ginny asked.
"It's all in my trunk, and you?" Hermione responded.
"I'm all set too, but let's try to forget about it for a couple of hours, and let's go enjoy ourselves," Ginny said.
Ron and Harry were in the common room waiting rather impatiently; they took turns pacing the floor and had almost given up when Mrs. Weasley walked in.
"Mum? How long have you been here?" Ron yelped.
"Oh, a few hours; I came to help Ginny and Hermione get ready." Mrs. Weasley responded.
"You-you've seen the girls? Are they okay; I mean are they coming?" Ron said.
"Yes Ron, they're coming; and they look stunning. They'll be down soon," she said. "Now then, let's have a look at you two." Mrs. Weasley moved back a bit and scanned them with a discerning eye. "You both look wonderful."
"Thanks Mrs. Weasley," said Harry grinning widely. He loved it whenever Mrs. Weasley complemented him.
"Yeah, thanks Mum," Ron said with a lopsided grin.
"Now then, stand over there." She pointed to the fireplace. "I want to get pictures," she said producing a camera.
"Mum? You can't take pictures of us," he said reddening.
"Nonsense, this is a mother's privilege; besides, you both will treasure these when you are older. Trust me." She smiled and winked at them.
Conceding defeat, Ron walked towards the fireplace, followed by Harry.
Mrs. Weasley took several pictures and then told the boys to take a seat. She walked off to the side with her camera poised. A few minutes later the girls came down, and when the boys looked at them Mrs. Weasley flashed her camera madly, first at the boys and then at the girls.
Harry and Ron glanced at Ginny and Hermione, and they were transfixed by the two young women before them. Harry's heart leapt into his throat, and he gulped down the huge lump rather loudly. He realized the breach in his manners and stood only to find his knees give way as Ginny smiled at him, and he fell back into his chair.
Ron stared at Hermione with a nearly vacant expression, and if the chair hadn't been quivering slightly with each beat of his heart, one would have thought he was dead. Harry felt his loss of strength fade, and he was able to bat Ron on the shoulder, snapping him from his trance.
"'Mione?" was all he managed to mutter.
Mrs. Weasley walked over and lightly smacked him on the back of his head. "Ronald Weasley! A gentleman stands when a Lady walks into a room," she said with amusement.
This reaction prompted him to stand, and, unlike Harry, he didn't fall back into his chair. Instead, perhaps bolstered by his mother's presence, he walked towards Hermione, bowed, and took her hand in his as he lightly kissed her knuckles.
"Hermione, you look fabulous!" he complimented.
Harry, seeing Ron's approach, found a new strength, and he followed his lead.
"You do too, Gin," he said. He offered his arm and Ginny took it. He looked at his two best friends and grinned, seeing that Hermione now also had Ron's arm. "Shall we go?" he suggested.
"Not just yet, I want pictures of the four of you together. Now go on! Over to the fireplace," she ordered.
The four of them did as they were bid, and Mrs. Weasley took several more pictures. "Okay childre- er ladies and gentlemen," she said with a tear in her eye. "Off you go, have a wonderful time."
They smiled at her and walked to the dance hand in hand.
Once at the doors to the Great Hall they composed themselves, and Ron and Harry opened the doors for their ladies, then when they had passed the threshold they once again offered their arms and the four walked in.
The Great Hall smelled of spiced cider and sumptuous hors d'oeuvres. Jack O' lanterns alight with bright candles hovered above small round tables decorated with white linens. Glass orbs in the center of each table were illuminated by multicolored motes of light that danced in random patterns throughout the spheres. All the students were brilliantly clad in fancy robes. On the stage, a sixteen-piece orchestra of unattended ghostly instruments played soft music to create ambiance. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagal, Snape, Sprout, and Flitwick milled about the students, with McGonagall and Snape wandering to and fro, breaking up couples that were a bit too close.
The quartet of friends scanned the Hall for some tables, and found, near the stage, Neville and Luna. They had pulled three tables together and were waving their friends over. They joined them at the tables.
"Ginny, would you like cider or punch?" Harry asked.
"Cider please," she answered.
"Anyone else?" Harry asked of the others.
"I'll go with you," offered Ron. "Mione, would you like something?"
"I'll have cider too," she said.
Neville stood, "Luna, what about you?"
"I think I'll have punch, please," she answered.
The three boys walked over to the refreshment table.
"Well, well," drawled the voice of Draco Malfoy. "How could you afford those, Weasley? Or are they stolen?"
"Shut it, Malfoy!" Ron retorted.
From nearby they heard, "Ten points from Gryffindor for your impertinence, Mr. Weasley," Professor Snape said.
Ron bit back another remark, and ignoring Malfoy he dipped cider for him and Hermione and strode away.
Harry and Neville got their drinks and shortly followed after him. By the time they got back to their tables Hermione had already calmed Ron.
A waltz began playing and Harry turned to Ginny. "Ginny, would you like to dance? I'm not very good but I'll do my best to spare your toes," he said with a hopeful chuckle.
Ginny smiled back, and accepted, taking his hand. "It's all right Harry, I happen to be a good dancer, and I'll teach you as we go along."
Soon Ron and Hermione were dancing, as well as Neville and Luna. After a few dances, the six friends sat back down and had a bite to eat, talking quietly about nothing in particular for about quarter of an hour. Then they were back on the dance floor; the professors loosened their hold over the couples just a bit and soon the dances became closer and a bit slower. After a few more dances and another bite to eat, Harry decided it was time to withdraw with Ginny, and to hint to Ron and Hermione that they needed to go as well.
"Ginny, would you like to go for a walk?" Harry asked.
Ginny stiffened a little at the suggestion but she agreed. "All right," she said and the two walked into the courtyard.
The night was a bit chilly so Harry draped an arm over Ginny's shoulders as they walked towards another door away from the dance. They could hear the soft voices of Ron and Hermione a little way behind them. They heard other couples starting to take in the night air as well, but Harry and Ginny kept walking towards the door. They wandered the Halls a bit and then went to the Gryffindor common area, once there they sat side by side on a loveseat. Ginny snuggled into Harry a bit as they watched the fireplace. There were other couples secluded away in dim corners as well. Whispers, the crackle of the fire, and an occasional giggle or chuckle were the only sounds to be heard. All too soon, Harry and Ginny decided to say their goodbyes to one another so that they could go change and gather their stuff. As they parted each other's company they could hear Hermione and Ron walk in performing a similar act and they knew that their time was fast approaching.
A little while later, Harry and Ron were dressed in their school robes which hid jeans and sweatshirts. They each had a small concealed bag filled with a few essential potions, some food, water, and their wands. They put their pillows beneath the covers and drew their bed curtains around their beds.
Harry grabbed the marauder's map and his Cloak, saying to Ron, "I'll meet you at the willow," and then he disappeared beneath his dad's old Cloak.
Ron put on his prefect's badge and left the dorm to play prefect in the common room and in the corridors. Down in the common room, he broke up Seamus and Parvati, as well as Dean and Padma when he found them snogging in dim corners. Then he went out to patrol the corridors. He opened a cupboard door to check it out only to find Neville and Luna mid-snog, so he broke them up as well. He made his way to the willow whispering, "Harry...Harry are you here?"
He bit back a yelp when he felt a hand cover his mouth.
"It's me Ron," Harry whispered.
"Bloody hell, Harry!" Ron hissed.
"Sorry! I was afraid I'd scare you more, if I just appeared, by you," Harry said.
"You're both loud enough to wake the dead!" said Ginny from behind some bushes.
"Ginny! When did you get here?" asked Ron.
"About ten minutes ago," she answered smugly.
"Where's Hermione?" asked Harry.
"I'm over here," said a new voice.
"We are too," said another girl's voice.
They all turned to see Luna and Neville walking towards them.
"What are you doing here?" asked Harry.
"Well, after Mrs. Weasley left I was walking up to Ginny's dorm to have them look me over and I overheard Hermione and Ginny talking about Worthington Manor. It didn't take me long to work out why. So I told Neville and we decided to help you," Luna said simply.
"You can't! It's too dangerous!" said Harry.
"You're going, why shouldn't we go with you?" responded Neville. "Besides, a couple more wands would be helpful, wouldn't they?"
Harry sighed heavily. "All right, all right, let's just go," he said. "I don't want to go through this again.
"Immobilus!" cried Hermione, and the willow stopped moving.
Harry pressed a knot on the tree, and the passage opened. They went into the passage and made their way to the Shrieking Shack. There they rested briefly, having a bite to eat and a drink. Then they were off again sneaking through the streets of Hogsmeade toward whatever fate awaited them. They walked for about half an hour and rested again. Then they walked on another half an hour and they found themselves at the gates to the ancient building. The walls were quite weathered in places from the centuries they had sat guarding the mansion. They walked around till the six friends found a breech that they could walk through. Before long they stood before the foreboding doors of the ruined manor. They took a brief rest once more and had a drink.
Harry stood to address his friends. " I wish you didn't have to come, this was my responsibility, and I didn't want to endanger any of you, so I ask again, please go back to Hogwarts."
"Nothing doing mate," said Ron, firmly. "We're in this together, all of us. We just have to watch out for each other, and if it gets too bad. We will all leave, including you Harry."
"Harry, he's right, we need to stick together and if it's more than we can handle we will ALL leave," said Ginny.
Harry smiled at them. "All right then, all of us will leave, if it's more than we can handle."
The group went to the great door. It was old and worn and dangling from its hinges. Harry opened it, and the hinges groaned loudly, just before it fell towards them.
Hermione and Ginny drew their wands and simultaneously said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and the huge door now hovered above them. They moved their wands and floated the door to the ground behind them.
"Bloody brilliant!" exclaimed Ron.
"Ron! Shush!" chided Harry. "We want to keep the element of surprise as long as we can!"
"Right, sorry," said Ron, sheepishly.
They walked in to the dark musty manor. Only the moon and stars gave any light and that was scant at best.
"Lumos!" whispered Hermione, and the tip of her wand gave a pale light. "We'd better just use one for now.
They walked cautiously along checking doors, alert for any trouble. They heard noises from several places, but Ron and Ginny identified it as being a ghoul, much like theirs at the Burrow. The sounds were too purposeful to be anything else. They consisted mostly of rattling chains and thrown items.
They explored deeper into the manor, but after about an hour they began to believe that there was nothing to this place, or else the Aurors had cleared it already. And that was when they heard footsteps behind a door.
"I'll go, turn out your wand, Hermione," said Harry. "I can get in easiest, stay here." Harry pulled his cloak over him and opened the door just a bit to peer in. Then he slipped through the door. He quietly walked into the room. Looking around he saw nothing, no one around, but this room was an anti-chamber to another and that door was ajar and he could see light. He crept in and there he saw three four foot tall dwarves, they had grey beards and their eyes were red. They wore short tunics and greaves and atop their head they wore red caps. Harry left to tell the others, what he had seen.
"Red Caps," said Hermione. "They kill Muggles and use their blood to dye their caps. They are afraid of wizards and witches, charms and hexes would easily drive them away if they came near us. I wouldn't worry about them. We can send an anonymous owl to the Ministry to report them, when we get back."
They walked on finding a long hallway. The dust on the floor showed many footprints that were human sized. In the distance they could hear faint voices.
"Well, this could be it, are you ready?" Harry asked.
They nodded and they all drew their wands.
"I'll scout ahead," said Harry. Ginny looked about to protest, but Harry winked at her and said. "Don't worry, I'll be careful." He pulled his cloak around him and disappeared. A moment later his head appeared from beneath the cloak, and he kissed Ginny on the lips. "I love you, Gin." Then he was gone once more.
Ginny was in shock, "He actually said he loves me," she thought to herself.
The other four showed a similar degree of shock, but then the faces of Hermione, Luna and Neville all broke into a warm grin. Ron's however still registered shock, then it melted into fear.
"Come on, he means to face whoever is down there." Ron said, and then he walked quickly down the hall. "Let's watch his back like we said."
It took a moment for his comment to sink in before the others followed him.
Deeper in the manor, Harry listened to the voices carefully, and he followed the sounds to an open door. He sneaked in and saw two men in dark robes sitting at a table.
"What is the Master doing anyway?"
"He's in the study. He said that his enemies will be here soon, and we were to run to the study when they arrive."
Just then Harry heard footsteps behind him in the hall, and he backed out to take a look. He saw his friends coming so he went to meet them.
He pulled the cloak off and said in a hushed voice, "There are two Death Eaters in there talking and evidently they expected us. They are supposed to run to the study when we get here so let's see where they take us. They said Voldemort is here and I want to end this. Follow behind me and be ready." Harry folded his cloak and tucked it away then he ran into the room.
"Were you waiting for me?" he said and the men just sat talking. Frowning, Harry said, "Hello, I'm ready to see the Dark Lord," louder this time and they kept talking. He went to the table and leaned on it between the two men. They seemed to look through him.
The others looked in and saw the spectacle before them. They were both shocked and amazed at the sight.
Between the men at the table, Harry looked into their faces, only to see that their robes were not dark but translucent, as were their heads. He yelled back to his friends, "They're ghosts, and they can't see us or hear us! Look!" Harry passed his hand through them and still the conversation continued unbroken.
The others came over to the table. Moments later, many voices sounded in the hallway and in through the door came at least a hundred armed wizards, all translucent. The two men stood and ran with the swarm of wizards behind them.
Hermione said, "They must be the spirits of the Worthington incident! Let's follow them." The friends put their wands away and followed.
They ran after them deep into the manor. They followed them to a point where the solid walls ended and ethereal ones began. They kept going to the study, and there they witnessed the battle that ended these people's lives. Green light soared to and fro weaving about them and even through them, but no one felt anything.
"It's like being in a film. We're seeing everything that happened," Hermione said.
"A film?" asked Ron puzzled.
"I'll explain later, for now let's watch," Hermione answered.
The spells and curses continued in a grim display of fireworks. Flashes of green, blue, and yellow bounced off walls and some lesser magics met crackling fields of energy where they were stopped instantly. Goblins, humans, dwarves, and elves entered the fray, wielding picks and shovels, and some using clubs, rocks, or even bare hands. They killed every wizard they encountered. Then warriors with swords stormed in and began killing anything in black robes. Another warrior group came in and began killing red robed wizards and slaves.
The friends watched in horror as the macabre scene unfolded before their eyes, then a wall fell in exposing a huge steel vault; some red-robes saw the prize and ran for it, firing spells at the massive door. The door blew from its hinges and knocked down another wall. A massive field of red energy sprang from the open vault, disintegrating everything it touched; inanimate as well as animate. Then the floor collapsed, and the vault fell into the ground. Moments later, a firestorm erupted from the earth, and everyone remaining perished in the flames. Then all at once the battle ended, and the six friends found themselves standing in an open field at the edge of a huge crater as far across as the length of three Quidditch pitches end to end. It was at least a hundred feet deep, but the edges had been seared into volcanic glass.
Neville leaned forward to look into the crater, and the edge gave way. The crater floor and walls were too smooth for him to be able to stop himself, and he slid all the way to the deepest point of the crater.
"Neville!" Luna yelled.
"If there's water down there he'll drown!" cried Hermione.
The remaining five all at once sat at the edge and without a thought to their own peril they slid into the depths of the crater.
They slid for what seemed like hours to them, though with the speed they were traveling it was only a few minutes. The wild ride would have been fun had concern for their lives not overpowered them. Finally they came to the middle of the crater and there they fell into a deep hole; seconds later they splashed into a pool of water, but instead of the icy embrace they had been expecting, they fell into one of warmth. They came to the surface and swam, and it wasn't long before they could touch bottom. So they stood and walked out. There at the edge they saw a blue light held by Neville.
"Is everyone okay?" he asked.
The consensus was that everyone was fine, and they all collapsed near him, and suddenly everyone began laughing as the fear finally wore off.
"What a rush!" said Ron.
"Wow! I thought we were dead for sure, said Ginny.
Harry chuckled again and said. "You could charge admission for that."
"It was fun wasn't it?" said Luna.
"I agree, but how are we going to get out of here?" said Hermione.
Fear began to creep over them again.
"Well let's have a look around? Erm... I've lost my wand," said Harry.
"Mine too," said Ginny.
"Me too," said Ron.
"No problem," Hermione drew hers. "Accio! Harry's wand,"and it flew to her hand.
"Accio! Ginny's wand," said Luna flicking hers as she spoke.
"Accio! Ron's wand," said Neville.
Now that they were once again armed, they all lit their wands and looked around.
They were in a large chamber where steam was coming out from various natural vents in the cavern. The pool they had fallen into was bubbling, and a stream ran from the pool down a corridor-like tunnel, obviously carved from natural water flow and old volcanic activity. The cavern floor was relatively flat and was probably a hundred feet wide. The cavern had a high roof and many stalactites sprouted from it. The cavern narrowed to about thirty feet where the corridor began. Skeletal remains that had probably been there since the revolt centuries ago littered the cave floor, but nothing looked remotely like an exit.
Hermione said, "The manor was built over a volcanic cavern. This is a natural hot spring. That's why the water was so warm."
Harry was up as well. He was scraping at something yellowish on the walls, he raised it to his nose, "Sulphur," he said.
"Harry!" Ron yelled excitedly. "Look here!"
Near the back of the pool stood a corroded steel vault; Harry walked over and looked inside.
A strong box leaned against the inside wall of the vault, its lid barely open. Harry opened it the rest of the way and inside he pulled out a heavy silvery rock and dropped it with a metallic, THUNK! Then he reached in again and pulled out two silver scroll cases which had slight cracks in them.
Ron picked up the rock and splashed water over it in the pool. "It's raw, unrefined silver!"
"No Ron not silver, platinum!" squealed Ginny. "Remember, this is a platinum mine!"
"You mean..." began Ron.
"Yeah! If we can keep this we'll never be poor again!" screamed Ginny.
"Harry, let's have a look at those cases," said Ron eagerly.
Harry handed him one and he took the other, Harry opened his and pulled out blueprints headed with the name "Wind Lance". "It's the plans!" said Harry.
Ron opened his and inside was a small broom, a bit longer than his hand. "Ow! There are a couple of barbs on the end, but this looks like the model." He examined it to see that the barbs had spots on them. He tried to rub them off on one side and suddenly the broom expanded to seven feet in length and five inches in diameter. On the front end was hard triangular plates "Bloody hell!" It's not a model it's the actual broom!"
Harry pored over the plans and found that the front end had triangular plates at the side like small wings made of dragon bone, and each plate had three buttons with magical functions.
The left side had a black, red, and yellow button: black to shrink it for easy storage, red for a warming aura, yellow for a burst of speed. The right side had green purple and blue buttons: green for water repelling aura, purple for an alarm function, and blue for a cooling aura. The seat had a cushioning charm, the shaft was oak with an unbreakable charm, and near the bristles was a wand storage compartment. The bristles themselves housed a hidden compartment for a survival kit. It had a preservation charm on the inside, and it contained thirty vita-meal tablets, Skellegro potion, a bar of chocolate, an ever-full water cup, a knife, and a first aid kit with disinfectants, bandages, Pepper-up potion, and Cut Closure potion. The center of the broom had an additional storage compartment and a hand grip. It also was flayed out a little to allow a footplate near the seat and another near the front. The center had a maintenance compartment that housed a magical core of phoenix feather, ground dragon scales, and faerie dust. The bristles were made from the bark of a lightening-struck Whomping willow.
"Ron, this broom is amazing; if it works, I think you are going to love it. If you press the black button, it will shrink down again." Harry said.
Ron pressed it, and it shrunk to about seven inches. Then he tucked it away. Harry did the same with the plans.
"That's all well and good, but we still need to get out of here somehow," said Neville.
"You're right, but the way I see it, I can fly this broom out of here and get help," said Ron.
"Ron, you don't even know if the broom will fly, and if it did what would you tell Professor Dumbledore?" Ginny countered.
"Okay, then we can levitate each other," said Ron.
"No good, the crater walls are too smooth to climb once we got there," said Luna.
"We haven't been down the corridor yet," said Harry. "There may be a way out down there."
"Well let's go for a walk then," suggested Hermione.
The six young wizards and witches set out down the corridor. It was easy enough to navigate, and high enough that they could walk. They stayed along the stream, assuming that it had an outlet somewhere, but it terminated at a massive pile of boulders and rocks where it had caved in. A white mineral covered the rocks and a few piles of it were at the base of the rockfall. Harry went to check out the mineral, and he recognized it as salt petre.
Near the rock pile Luna saw something else, and she went to take a look. Near the water's edge she found at least fifty Gelsemium plants. "Look what I found, Gelsemium! See it was true." She gathered about ten plants and tucked them away.
The water flowed beneath the rocks and boulders, but it was too shallow to swim through, and they didn't know how far they would have to swim even if they could. At the rockslide another smaller corridor veered to the right; it was about ten feet high and about six wide. They ventured down the branch only to have it come to a dead end.
Luna leaned against a wall at the end for a breather and found the wall to have granules and chunks of a black powdery rock where the floor met the wall. Harry felt a cool breeze in the other side of the hallway and found a limestone tunnel about a foot in diameter. He felt around the wall and found that much of the wall in one area was sandstone. A solution hit him just then, if he only had the ingredients to work with.
Ron had noticed Harry's expression and he asked, "What is it mate?"
"This part of the wall is sandstone. We could dig through it, but it would take a long time, and we don't have enough food or water to do it. In primary school, I read a lot of books on rocks and minerals. Geology was a favourite subject of mine. Anyway, there was sulphur back by the pool and salt petre by the rockslide. If we only had some coal we could make something to get us out. The problem is, even if we did have all the ingredients we might bring the whole cavern down on our heads." Harry explained.
"Gun powder! You want to make gunpowder?" asked Hermione faintly.
"Well if we had all the ingredients we could use small amounts to weaken the sandstone. Behind this wall is a way out, I could feel a breeze coming from that small tunnel." Harry pointed out what he found.
"Harry," said Neville. "Did you say coal? Luna grab some of that black stuff there."
Luna reached down and grabbed a handful of the black rocks. She handed them to Neville.
"Harry, isn't this coal?" Neville asked, handing the rocks to Harry.
Harry accepted them and examined the rocks. "It is. Brilliant! Now we'll need salt petre, and sulphur. If someone will run back and get those, I'll start grinding these to powder. Harry picked up a loose stone and holding his lighted wand in his mouth he began grinding the coal. Luna went back to where she had found the coal and began scraping up coal powder. Ginny came back with salt peter and ground it. Ron came back with the platinum chunk they had found and the sulfur. Once all the ingredients were assembled Harry began blending the powders together. He emptied out a Pepper up potion and dried it with a drying charm, and then he packed it with powder. He emptied a Cut Closure potion, and a Disinfecting potion. These he dried as well and packed them. Ginny had done the same to four of her bottles, and soon they had seven powder filled bottles
"Okay, we will need to move right back so I can make a powder trail with one of these bottles and place one by the wall. Then Hermione can use a bluebell flame to set it off," explained Harry. "Be ready to run back to the pool if we blast more then we want. The roof of the chamber is very strong and hopefully it won't cave in on us if this doesn't work as I expect."
Harry set up his charge and they all backed up. Hermione lit the trail and they ran back to the pool chamber to find some safety.
Moments later there was a loud explosion that echoed thunderously through the cave. They could hear loose stone falling, and then a cloud of smoke and dust drifted into the chamber. They waited about five more minutes so that they wouldn't be pelted by falling stone. Then they went to look at their handiwork. Some more stones had fallen over the rock slide, but otherwise the corridor was still stable. The explosion had indeed blasted a hole in the wall and the smell of cool air was coming through it, but they needed to blast again to widen the small opening that had formed.
They repeated their previous procedure once more, and the chamber held. They went back to the hole, and they could now see moonlight. One more bottle should punch through. Once again they blasted at the hole, and the chamber still held. Now they could leave; they had blasted through about twenty feet of sandstone and made an opening five feet high by three feet wide in their escape, and the opening came out at the base of the hill right near Harry and Ginny's garden.
They were not prepared for what they found there though. Before them stood Professors Sprout, McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape, and Dumbledore. Behind the Professors stood Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Mad-Eye Moody, and thirty Aurors. None of them looked happy to see them. They returned to Hogwarts and retold everything that had happened that night. When they were finished they were sent back to the dorms to sleep as the Professors decided their fate. The friends didn't utter another word. They returned to clean up and get ready for bed. They were fast asleep before their heads hit their pillows.
The next morning at Hogwarts they stood in the Great Hall before the Professors to face their punishment. Each student had one hundred points taken from them and they were each given a two hour detention a night during the week. Snape on Monday, Sprout on Tuesday, Flitwick on Wednesday, McGonagall on Thursday, and Dumbledore on Friday. They would have to do these until Christmas Holiday, but at least they were not expelled. After their sentencing the Headmaster summoned Harry to his office.
"Harry, why would you do that! You endangered yourself and your friends! If you had been there one week earlier you would have been surrounded by twenty Death Eaters and Voldemort! You would have all been killed!" he berated.
"I'm sorry sir; I wanted to go by myself to protect them; I knew the Death Eaters would take me to Voldemort, and I was going to face him to get this cursed prophesy over. I only wanted to end it, so I could have a normal life. It was foolish, I know, but you can't know what it's like knowing that Voldemort was hunting you, knowing that anyone you cared about could be killed because they know you. I worked out why the haunting had started again, and I studied the history of Worthington Manor, studied defensive spells, and I was ready to face my fate. I only wanted all of this to end! That's why I went. The others found out about what I was planning, and they wouldn't let me go alone. I never wanted them there, I never want them hurt, and I never want them killed. I thought I could end it tonight, and I was wrong," Harry said. Tears ran down his face, and he choked out a faint, "I'm sorry."
Professor Dumbledore walked up to Harry and placed his hands on his shoulders. "Harry, promise me you'll never do anything like this again. If I lost you, I don't know what I'd do. I know you'll have to face him one day, but don't seek him out. Fate will settle the time for you to face him; let that be enough for now."
"I promise," Harry said.
"Now then I have some good news for you. Under wizarding law, anything you salvaged from the ruins is yours to keep, so that means Ron can keep the Wind Lance and the platinum he found, and you can keep the plans for the Wind Lance. You and your friends as the finders have earned the right to name the mine, and are also entitled to a stipend that will go into a trust fund for you till you turn seventeen. From then, the account will be opened and placed under your control. You will continue to receive this stipend for ten years from the date of discovery.
The Ministry has declared the old manor an historic site, and they will keep it preserved using funds from the mine when they re-open it. The Red Caps and other harmful things will be removed, of course, prior to the opening.
So, once again you are to be congratulated for your courage and your cleverness. I award each of you one hundred points for a job well done." The old professor smiled and winked at Harry, the familiar twinkle gleaming brightly in his blue eyes.
"Professor, why has no one been in there before now? And what about the Aurors and Death Eaters? " Harry asked.
"Well, because of the hauntings and the fear of the Manor, no one ever explored it. That's why Voldemort had a base there. The first people to go into the manor, besides Dark Wizards and Death Eaters over the centuries, were the Aurors. They, however, were only there to capture the Death Eaters, and they were on Ministry business, so that's why the Manor itself belongs to the Ministry. They only went as far as the standing structure; you and your friends found the crater, the hot spring, and the mine. The Death Eaters, as criminals under wizarding law, cannot be rewarded for the find," Professor Dumbledore explained.
"Professor, why did the ghosts there not see us or hear us when we were there?" Harry asked.
"The release of all that magic locked their spirits into what could be described as a time loop; they are doomed to relive the horrors of that night forever. That's why you were the only ones to see them because they only appear once a year at Halloween. The Ministry has ruled that it will be open every Halloween for the general public to see and enjoy." Professor Dumbledore answered.
"What happened to Voldemort?" Harry asked.
"Unfortunately he escaped, and is still at large somewhere, but I'm sure he'll turn up soon enough," the Headmaster answered. "Don't worry about it now Harry; go on back to your friends. I'm sure they'll want to know what we discussed." The Professor paused and said, "I'm glad you're all right Harry, now go on." He smiled warmly.
"Professor...thanks," Harry said, then he turned and left.
After his conference, Harry went to talk to his friends. He found them all waiting for him in the Gryffindor Common area. He explained what was discussed, and his friends were happy no further punishment had been given to Harry, and they were thrilled that they had come out of their adventure not only alive, but wealthy as well. Suddenly the future looked much brighter.