Chapter 11 I know a lot of people have opinions over Umbridge's detentions, and Harry's not telling McGonagall. I know the arguments, and while I understand them, what you have to realize is, having guardians who actually give a crap doesn't change the fact that Harry's still too stubborn for his own good.
He doesn't think anyone can do anything about it, so he doesn't see the point in telling anyone. I promise, it will be addressed, and Umbridge will pay. But a year of having guardians who care doesn't erase all those years of being put down by the Dursleys. Even if he doesn't show it, Harry's still struggling to realize that he can go to McGonagall and Sirius, and that they're there to help him.
Disclaimer: not mine By the end of the week, Harry's hand had stopped healing. Ginny kept pestering him to go to McGonagall, but, as upset as she was, she did understand why Harry didn't want anyone to know.
He was too proud for his own good, sometimes. He didn't want Umbridge to know that she had gotten to him. Hermione, Ron, and Neville had told her exactly what Umbridge had done to get Harry to snap, and she was furious.
Harry hadn't wanted her to know, he didn't want her to worry, but she immediately put those thoughts to bed, informing him in no uncertain terms that they were a team, now, and they tackled things together. Still, the detentions were over, and Harry had no intention of letting himself lose control of his emotions again, so he tried to put it behind him.
Ginny let it drop, for now, but she still kept a close eye on her boyfriend/husband. She didn't even know how to think of him now, but she knew that he was her everything, and she hated to see him hurt. Minerva had a rather heated conversation with Umbridge over her comments, but the foul woman simply told her she had misunderstood, and told her not to believe the lies young children spouted.
Minerva went to Dumbledore next, but he informed her that his hands were tied by the Ministry. He couldn't do anything to reign in Delores, since she was Fudge's employee. It seemed fishy to Minerva, but then, a lot of things were when it came to the Headmaster. Shouldn't Dumbledore have some control over the woman, as she was here as a professor? She grit her teeth and informed Sirius and Amelia of the situation.
Both filed it away to use when it came time to oust Fudge at the right moment, but knew that that moment would have to be timed perfectly. Act too soon, and they might not get another one.
Harry and his friends all felt their hatred of Umbridge step up a notch after the bitch observed Hagrid's lesson on Thestrals a few days later. Harry was fuming at the way she pretended that she couldn't understand him, in order to make him look more incompetent. Quidditch practice stepped up a level in the week after Harry's detentions, as Gryffindor would be playing Slytherin in the first match of the season at the end of the week.
Angelina was almost as fanatic as Oliver Wood, in her own way. Still, Harry knew where she was coming from. As there had been no Quidditch last year, Gryffindor was still the reigning champion of the Quidditch Cup, and they had a reputation to protect.
Not to mention this was Angelina's last year, and she really wanted to win. They all did, especially against Slytherin. With all the practices Angelina had scheduled, they were unable to have a DA meeting during the week, though Harry made sure to schedule one for Sunday afternoon. Angelina made sure that the entire starting and reserve teams were well rested and ready to play on Saturday morning.
Slytherin was notorious for fouling their opposing team, and Angelina wanted to have the alternates ready to play, just in case. It was a good thing, too. Right from the start, the Slytherins seemed to have something to prove, as they immediately went for the Gryffindor chasers. All of the Slytherin team belonged to that faction of the house that remained aligned to Voldemort's cause. Crabbe and Goyle had replaced the previous beaters, while Warrington, the team captain, the other two chasers, and the keeper were seventh years.
It was the older Slytherins that had remained the most resistant to the change Harry and his friends had wrought in Hogwarts over the last year, more set in their ways and unwilling to change. Katie got taken out fifteen minutes into the game, in which Gryffindor managed to gain a lead of 30-0, by a bludger to the back of the head. Fortunately, Alicia had been right next to her, and was able to lower her friend and fellow chaser to the ground without further injury.
After a brief time out, Angelina put Ginny in, in Katie's place. Their long hours of practice showed, as Ginny meshed immediately with the two other chasers, turning them into a machine that widened the lead to 70-0 in the next twenty minutes.
During team practices, Angelina had been relentless in mixing up chaser teams, so that all the reserves were comfortable playing with the starters, for just this very reason. Malfoy, as usual, chose to remain close to Harry, spouting off insults that Harry ignored, having had a lot of practice before.
He kept one eye searching for the snitch while the other remained focused on the game around him. He held his breath every time the Quaffle came near Ron, but his best friend was holding his own. Harry had seen the youngest Weasley male in action multiple times over the last couple of summers, plus at practice this year, and he knew that Ron had potential, his only problem was nerves. If he missed one goal, he would become flustered, and be more likely to miss more.
But Ron seemed to be doing all right. Fred and George were doing a good job of breaking up the Slytherin chasers, but Ron had already stopped four goals. It was as Harry circled the Pitch again roughly forty five minutes into the game that he caught the flash of gold he had been looking for as it streaked over his shoulder in the opposite direction.
Executing a hairpin turn, Harry took off after the snitch. Malfoy tried to follow, but his Nimbus 2001 just couldn't hold up to Harry's Firebolt. Harry caught the snitch, pulling out of a twenty-foot dive, holding the struggling gold ball in his hand.
A moment later, he winced and grabbed hold of his broom, as a bludger slammed into the small of his back, thankfully managing not to be unseated by the ball. The rest of the Gryffindor team crowded around him, as they lowered to the ground.
Harry brushed off their concerns, telling them that he was fine. Ginny looked particularly upset, if her scowl was anything to go by. It was Goyle, she told him through their bond. He aimed the bludger at you the moment he saw you had the snitch. Harry shrugged mentally. Slytherins were sore losers. A short distance away, Malfoy and the rest of the Slytherin team also dismounted, scowls on their faces, though Goyle was looking incredibly pleased with himself, which was something of a strange look on the troll-like fifth year.
"Glad you could save Weasley's skin, aren't you Potter," Malfoy sneered. Harry was standing on the edge of the crowd of Gryffindors that had flocked to the Pitch, celebrating. Ron was caught up in the middle of it, being congratulated from all sides for some of his impressive saves. As it was just Malfoy, Harry ignored him. The Slytherin prince kept going, his sneer even more pronounced. "Good thing, too, we all know how Gryffindor picks their team." "Talent?" Harry asked blandly. Malfoy reddened slightly, recalling their second year, but he plowed on.
"People they feel sorry for. There's you, who has no parents, Weasel's got a double dose though. No money and no talent." "Really?" Harry asked blandly.
"Need I remind you, Malfoy, that you just lost 260-10?" Malfoy almost growled. "You better watch out, Potter, you're bound to end up the same as your parents. My father will " "What will your father do, Mr.
Malfoy?" Malfoy cut off abruptly, turning around to see Professor McGonagall standing behind him. The Professor's expression was nothing but bland interest, though Harry could see the fire hidden in her eyes.
No matter what, he knew she would never forget that Lucius had threatened Harry at the Quidditch World Cup last summer. McGonagall raised an eyebrow, and watched as the Malfoy heir skulked away, muttering under his breath.
Once the Slytherin seeker was gone, McGonagall's expression softened slightly. "Congratulations on the win, Harry, that was a great catch." Harry grinned. "Thanks," he replied, before Fred and George pulled him away for a party in the Common Room. Minerva turned to the Slytherin team and proceeded to give a now glowering Goyle a detention for his unsportsmanlike behavior.
Apparently, the twins had been certain of their victory, and had snuck out sometime in the last week to get butterbeer and Honeydukes chocolate for the party. The house elves were more than willing to provide other snacks for their enjoyment. Harry and Ginny spent most of the evening cuddled in one armchair by the fire, while Ron and Hermione occupied another.
It was the first time Harry had seen his bookish friend willing to show so much affection in public. Ron also seemed to be surprised, but he wasn't complaining. XXX The talk of the school the week after the match was the suspension of Trelawney and Hagrid. Harry was seething over the half-giant's suspension. He wasn't too cut up about Trelawney, considering she had predicted his gruesome death every class for a year, but he knew that Umbridge had had no intention of letting Hagrid continue teaching.
She was prejudiced towards half bloods, as was incredibly obvious by the way she deliberately acted like she couldn't understand him, in order to fluster him and make him act less than intelligent. And as for his choice of material… while Thestrals weren't exactly typical for fifth year material, it could have been much worse. It's not like they were Skrewts.
Harry couldn't see them, but for some reason, he could almost sense them. Like he knew where they were, even without using his eyes. He thought about it for a while, but the only explanation he could come up with was that maybe it had to do something with the phoenix abilities he may inherit as part of his second animagus form.
Phoenixes were known for being able to sense magic, so perhaps that was what he was feeling. Classes continued, as professors piled on the homework in preparation for the OWL exams. Hermione, Harry, and Susan were showing the strain a little more than Neville and Ron, as they also had Prefect duties.
The DA was doing remarkably well, and Harry had discussed with the rest about teaching them the Patronus Charm. It wouldn't be something they could all achieve, especially the younger years, but given what he had learned from Sirius in a letter a few days earlier, it might be a good idea to teach people how to defend against Dementors.
Apparently, in an Order meeting in early November, Dumbledore had voiced the concern that Azkaban's guards may be considering defecting to Voldemort's side soon. Sirius, Remus, and Minvera were doing their best to keep Harry informed, but there really wasn't much he could do, though he did appreciate their efforts. It was more than Dumbledore had ever done. Harry's contact with the Headmaster continued to be stilted. Harry believed that Dumbledore was avoiding him now, though he considered it to be a plus for him, as he had enough to deal with, without adding in the Headmaster's manipulations.
Harry had taught Ginny the basics of the Patronus Charm after their unfortunate encounter with the foul beasts over the summer, and while her mist had yet to take a distinct form, it was quite strong. Harry called a meeting with the leaders on Saturday afternoon, and they spent the rest of the day practicing the charm.
Harry and Cedric were the only two who had already mastered the advanced piece of magic, so they helped the rest. Harry thought that Cedric's elk was very regal. By the time they left for dinner, Ginny was the furthest along, finally mastering the charm, while Hermione and Susan came in a close second, and Neville right behind them.
Ginny's phoenix made them all raise their eyebrows, though Harry and Ginny just smiled secretively at each other, and no one asked any questions.
Though Susan and Hermione's mist wasn't completely corporal, Harry thought he could see an animal forming in the center. At the next DA meeting, they introduced the charm to the students. Harry's friends received a surprise when he demonstrated with his Patronus. Rather than a stag, his animal had changed to a phoenix.
All of the leaders looked between Harry and Ginny, but didn't bring it up in such a public setting. Harry was also surprised. He wondered if the bond had changed his form, but then, he had cast his Patronus several times since their bond had begun to form, and it had still been a stag.
Ginny moved to stand beside him as the students all begun to practice the charm. This is the first time you've cast the charm since we learned our animagus forms, she observed. Maybe that's why it took this long to realize it had changed. Harry nodded mentally. That could be, he agreed. I'm not sure we'll ever actually find out why it's changed. What should we tell the others? Ginny looked over at their friends. If they ask, we'll be honest. We don't know why your form changed.
If they ask why our animals are the same, tell them the truth: it's because we're meant to be together. We don't have to tell them about the bond, but I think we should talk about doing that, at some point. They deserve to know, Harry. Harry winced at the thought of Ron finding out that he was basically married to his sister, but he knew that Ginny was right.
I know, he agreed ruefully. We'll play it by ear, though. Hopefully, they won't ask too many questions. With that, they separated and moved around the room, helping out those who needed it. While the older years definitely took to the charm easier, there was a grim determination in the eyes and voices of the younger students, as they determinedly cast the charm over and over again. The room was filled with silvery mist, as some animals began to form, as the evening wore on.
It was much easier to learn the charm in a warm and pleasant room, Harry thought as he watched several animals romp through the air, than it had been going up against an actual Dementor, even if it was a Boggart. By the end of the lesson, both Hermione and Susan's Patroni had solidified into a cat and an eagle, respectively.
Harry guessed he shouldn't be surprised that their forms reflected their inner animals. He knew that Aunt Minerva's Patronus was a cat, and Sirius' was a dog, and he felt fairly certain that Neville and Ron's would also reflect their animagus forms.
His and Ginny's represented their second animal, not that anyone knew that. Neville was the next to master the charm, right as the meeting came to a close. Harry was happy to see that he was right, when a silvery wolf came bursting out of his friend's wand.
Fred and George mastered the charm at the same time, and Harry wasn't surprised to see that they had the same animal, a coyote. Blaise was the next to make any progress, his bobcat joining the mass of silvery animals running around the room.
Almost immediately after that, Daphne's fox joined her friend. Luna's falcon soon joined Susan's eagle in the air, and the two animals flew around together under the girls' direction. Ron's frustration clearly showed by the end of the evening, but he just grit his teeth and kept trying. He had definitely grown up in the last year, and was more willing to work for his successes than he may have been in his third year.
He was rewarded as the lesson broke up, by a mist much stronger and condensed than he had been seeing. Though it didn't yet have a form, Ron thought he could make out ears and a tail in the center of the mist. His grin could have lit the whole room, and it only widened when Hermione grabbed him in a tight hug, kissing him firmly.
When they pulled back, both were blushing at the knowing grins all around them, though both wore strangely satisfied smiles. When the Gryffindors all got back to the Common Room, Hermione wasted no time in asking about Harry's changed form. Harry looked at Ginny helplessly, before shrugging.
"I'm not really sure why it changed, Hermione," he told her honestly. "I think the fact that Ginny and I have the same Patronus means that we're suitably matched for each other," his voice stumbled over the words in an attempt to sound objective.
"That's not too surprising, though, I already knew that." Ginny blushed a little, and Neville and Hermione smiled. Ron looked like he wanted to be upset, but couldn't quite make it happen. Truthfully, he had warmed to the idea of having Harry as a brother-in-law someday. Actually, he kind of liked the idea. They all accepted Harry's explanation, and turned to various evening activities, finishing up homework they needed to get done, before heading up to bed.
XXX As November began to wane, most of the school received yet another crushing blow, as Educational Decree 25 went up on all the notice boards overnight, informing everyone of the formation of the Inquisitorial Squad. Based on what Harry read, this Squad would have as much power as a professor, only without the teaching, and would report directly to the High Inquisitor. They were able to take points from everyone, including Prefects, and assign detentions.
They had authority even over the Head Boy and Girl, and could repeal points or detentions if they felt like it. Unsurprisingly, the squad was made up solely of Slytherin upper years. Namely, the Quidditch team, and a few others who held firm to their pureblood beliefs.
Malfoy was strutting like a peacock as Harry and his friends headed down to breakfast. His chest was puffed out to show off his new badge, displayed predominantly opposite his Prefect's badge. He then proceeded to dock them about fifty points total, for crimes such as 'being a Mudblood', 'having an untied shoelace', and because he 'didn't like them'.
Harry pulled Ron back as the youngest Weasley male made to go for his wand. He knew that wouldn't be handled with a simple docking of points, and Harry really didn't want Ron to know just what Umbridge did for her detentions.
Still seething, they all headed into the Great Hall, making for the Gryffindor table. Susan also joined them, as they commiserated on the new Decree.
"What's wrong?" Fred asked, as he reached over Hermione to grab some more pancakes. "Malfoy," Ron growled, glancing over at where the arrogant Malfoy scion was now holding court at the Slytherin table. Harry was interested to note that, at that particular table, Malfoy's court really only consisted of the fifteen or so members of the Inquisitorial Squad.
There was a considerable amount of space separating them from the rest of the house, who all seemed to be congregating around Blaise and Daphne. A whispered conversation was going on, but Harry didn't know what it was about. Ginny elaborated as she poured syrup over her own pancakes. "We ran into him in the Entrance Hall, and he docked us about fifty points." George nodded, understanding.
"Montague tried to do the same to us," he informed them. "Tried?" Harry asked, pulling his attention back to the Gryffindor table and raising an eyebrow at the twins.
Fred nodded, grinning impishly. "He couldn't quite get all the words out before we stuffed him into the Vanishing Cabinet on the fifth floor.
You know the one?" They all nodded. "What happened?" Hermione asked, torn between horror at what they had done to a fellow student, and amusement. George shrugged. "Not quite sure," he admitted. "Won't you be in so much trouble when he gets out?" Susan asked, almost succeeding at hiding her grin. Fred and George shared a look. "He'll have to turn up, first. We're not sure where we sent him," Fred said, smirking. Harry shook his head, smiling, and they continued their breakfast in a slightly better mood than before.
Over the next few days, the hourglasses showcasing the house points showed quite clearly what the Inquisitorial Squad was doing with the power afforded to them. Only Slytherin appeared to be in the positive digits, as Hogwarts entered into its last three weeks before the Christmas holidays.
Harry was just trying to get through the remaining three weeks without losing his temper again, a feat he really wasn't quite certain he'd be able to accomplish, with the way Umbridge and Malfoy were acting. It was as they made their way through the Entrance Hall on their way to dinner that Harry's patience was sorely tested yet again. Malfoy and his cronies entered from another staircase, and of course, angled it so that their paths would have to cross. The look on Malfoy's face said quite clearly what he was planning on doing, but Harry focused on his bond with Ginny to keep his temper, as Malfoy threw out several insults and docked them another thirty points "for holding hands in front of me." When Harry still wouldn't rise to the bait, Malfoy grew impatient and drew his wand, firing off a purple jinx that Harry easily sidestepped.
Unfortunately, Umbridge rounded the corner at that moment, and refused to even question the situation, before docking another twenty points from Gryffindor and assigning Harry another week's worth of detentions "for instigating a fight in the Entrance Hall." Harry's friends tried to defend him, but Harry shook his head slightly, telling them not to bother.
Umbridge smiled sweetly. "I shall see you after dinner this evening, Mr. Potter," she said before heading into the Great Hall. Harry grit his teeth, and led his friends to the Gryffindor table. Ron wasted no time in informing his brothers of what had transpired, while Susan, Neville, and Hermione seethed.
Even Hermione had openly expressed her disgust for Umbridge. Some people really just deserved to be hexed. Ginny spent most of dinner trying to plead with Harry to go to McGonagall through their bond. Harry just remained steadfastly against the idea, and bid them all goodbye after he finished his meal. Ginny watched him leave with tears in her eyes. She hated his nobility and pride almost as much as she loved it, at times.
"Ginny?" Ginny turned back around to see her friends watching her with varying degrees of confusion or worry. She looked at Neville, who had voiced her name, seeing her fear. She attempted to smile, but couldn't quite manage it.
"I'm fine, Neville," she assured him. Neville nodded slightly, and then tilted his head to the side. "But Harry's not." It wasn't a question. Ginny shrugged with one shoulder. "Why're you so worried?" Ron asked, holding a slice of bread in one hand, and a drumstick in the other. "Harry said it was just lines, last time." Ginny couldn't quite contain her flinch, causing Hermione's gaze to narrow. "What is it, Ginny?" she asked shrewdly, leaning forward. Her expression told the fiery redhead that she expected an answer, now.
Ginny's gaze fell to her plate. "Umbridge made him use a Blood Quill," she admitted quietly, her voice so soft that they all had to strain to catch the words. "What?" Neville growled, his face turning from worry to anger so fast it was like flipping a switch, something Ginny knew about thanks to her father's obsession, and Harry's teachings over the summer.
When Ginny looked up, Susan, Fred, George, and Ron all shared Neville's fury, though Hermione was confused. "What's a Blood Quill?" she asked hesitantly. Ron was the one to explain. "It's a quill that forces the writer to write in his own blood. When you use it, the words appear on the back of your writing hand." Hermione's expression now changed to horror.
"That can't be " Neville cut her off. "They're illegal," he assured the young witch. "According to the law, each use of the quill against the recipient's will can earn you between one and five years in prison, depending on the case." "Against their will?
Why would anyone actually want to use such a horrid object?" Hermione asked for clarification, abandoning her dinner. All of a sudden, she wasn't so hungry anymore. Neville also set down his fork. "They do have some uses.
The Goblins sometimes require them for the signing of certain contracts. It's extremely regulated, and they're labeled as a Class B dark object. Outside of Gringotts, there really isn't much legal use for them." "Maybe we should continue this in private," Ginny suggested, glancing up at the head table, and, in silent agreement, they all stood up and made their way to the Room of Requirement.
It was nice that they didn't have to collect Susan from the Hufflepuff table, as she had joined them for the meal. She was doing that more and more frequently; it wasn't that she didn't get along with her fellow Hufflepuffs, she had just become such good friends with Harry and his fellow Gryffindors, and she wanted to spend time with them.
She was happy that she and Neville were still able to be friends. Their relationship was so important to her, and she didn't want to give it up, just because they had decided they weren't ready for a romantic relationship yet. Fred and George joined their siblings and friends as well, as they left the Great Hall. Once in the Room of Requirement, which had made a passable representation of the Common Room for them, they all settled down onto sofas and armchairs.
Susan took over explanation here, knowing a little bit about it from her Aunt's profession. "Blood Quills are really serious, Hermione. There are a lot of things that can be done with a person's blood.
Most of it is dark, though I know not all of it is. I think Harry mentioned Blood Wards keeping him safe at his relatives' house. But blood can also be used to harm, or bind a person to something. And forcing someone to use a Blood Quill is basically forcing them to sign a contract.
My Aunt Amelia says it's no better than the Imperius Curse, though it does carry a lesser sentence." Hermione looked like she couldn't decide which direction to go in first. "Why didn't Harry say anything?" she asked, turning to Ginny. "And why didn't he tell all of us?" Ginny snorted. "You've been his friend for four and a half years now, and you still don't know the answer to that?" she asked rhetorically.
Ron shook his head. "Damn pride," he muttered under his breath, though they all heard it. Ginny nodded. "And he doesn't want to give Umbridge the satisfaction of knowing she won." Hermione tried to say something, opening her mouth to speak, but Ginny just kept going. "I know that's not true, but it's the way Harry sees it. I tried to get him to go to Professor McGonagall, but he refused." As much as they hated it, they all could understand where Harry was coming from.
Umbridge was foul, but Harry's pride just couldn't let her win. "Ginny, we have to tell someone," Hermione pleaded.
"I know Harry wants to handle it himself, but this is illegal." Ron nodded. "This could be what we need to bring Fudge down," he mused. "Umbridge was sent here on his orders, right?" They all nodded, and Susan's eyes lit up with the idea. "You're right, Ron," she said, leaning forward. "If Aunt Amelia knew, she could use this to oust Fudge, if played the right way." "That's a great idea," Neville chimed in, looking at Ron with respect.
Sometimes, they all really forgot just how his brain worked, and then they were surprised when he showed it; Ron was a strategist. He tended to think five or six moves ahead, just like in chess.
Ginny bit her lip. "I hope he forgives us," she said quietly, feeling like she was betraying Harry's trust, just by telling their friends what was going on, never mind actually going to McGonagall.
Hermione reached over and hugged her younger friend. "He knows you care about him, Ginny, we all do, but we have to do something. This can't go on." Ginny took a deep breath and pulled back. She looked at her friends, all wearing similar expressions of worry, and nodded. "I'll do it, though," she said firmly. At the signs of protest, she shook her head.
"It should be me. If I'm the one to tell Professor McGonagall, there's a greater chance he'll forgive me, than you." "She's right," Susan commented. When she saw several accusing sets of eyes turn to her, she sighed exasperatedly. "Oh, come on, guys. Harry will be mad no matter what, but he loves Ginny. He'll forgive her a lot quicker than he'll forgive us." When Ginny saw their anger turn to acquiescence, she stood up.
"You should get back to the common room. I'll find you later." One by one, they all filed out. Fred and George gave their sister a hug, uncharacteristically serious. Neither one said anything, but the gesture passed on their support, and Ginny was grateful. She knew what they weren't putting into words. They were telling her to protect their younger brother.
And she would, with all she had. Ginny waited until she was alone, before she took another deep breath to steady herself, and exited the Room, heading towards McGonagall's office.
_ _ _ Chapter 12 Disclaimer: not mine Ginny almost chickened out. She lifted her hand to knock on the door to McGonagall's office, before lowering it again, hesitating as she wavered in her conviction. This happened two more times, before she berated herself. "Be strong, Weasley," she whispered to herself. "Harry needs you." Without giving herself any more time to second-guess her decision, she knocked on the door quickly, and entered, without waiting for McGonagall to invite her in.
Minerva looked up, startled, from the essays she was grading. "Miss Weasley, what can I help you with?" Ginny closed the door behind her, looking at her professor with such trepidation that Minerva set down her work and stood up, circling around her desk. "Miss Weasley, is everything all right?" Ginny felt her eyes burn as she held back the tears.
"Professor, I need to talk to you." Minerva gestured to one of the seats in front of her desk, as she took the other one. The look on Ginny's face had her pulling out her wand, casting several privacy wards, before she gestured for the young woman to speak.
Ginny bit her lip, not sure how to start. She knew that she had to tell the professor, but she didn't know how to start. Minerva saw her hesitation, and leaned forward slightly.
"Ginny, if you want me to help you, I need to know what's wrong." Her voice was so compassionate, that Ginny lost the battle, and the tears started flowing. Alarmed, Minerva reached over and grasped the girl's shoulder gently. "Ginny?" she asked quietly, feeling more and more unsettled as the youngest Weasley cried. Ginny forced herself to get a grip.
She choked in a half breath, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "It's Harry," she admitted, looking up at her professor, pleading. Minerva felt her heart skip a beat. "What's happened?" she all but demanded. Ginny sniffed. "His detentions… Umbridge… she…" "What did she do." Ginny reared back slightly, startled by the amount of venom she heard in McGonagall's voice.
Minerva forced herself to calm down. "Miss Weasley, if that woman has done something, I need to know, so that I can help." Ginny nodded shakily. She forced herself to be strong, for Harry.
He needed her, even if he didn't know it yet. "When he had detention last month, he told everyone it was just lines, but Professor… she made him use a Blood Quill." Minerva hissed angrily.
How dare that woman! She stood up quickly, her mind clouding with fury. She needed to speak with Amelia. And Sirius. And she supposed Dumbledore would need to be informed as well. Ginny looked up at the furious woman.
She knew they had made the right decision in telling her. This was more than a few students could handle on their own. "Professor." Minerva drew herself out of her murderous thoughts. Ginny looked a little worried. "She gave him another week's worth of detentions, starting tonight, because Malfoy fired a hex at him in the Entrance Hall before supper." Minerva's quirked eyebrow made the redhead elaborate on the situation as it had occurred, and why Umbridge had assigned detention to Harry.
Minerva once more felt the rage boil up at that woman's immorality, before she forced herself to calm down. "Thank you for telling me, Ginny. I will take care of it. You should go back to the common room." Ginny nodded, and left the office, hoping that McGonagall would truly take care of everything. If there was one thing she had learned about her stern professor, it was that when McGonagall promised something, she followed through. XXX Harry tried to keep the wince from showing on his face, as he wrote the line again.
Behind her desk, Umbridge just kept smiling as she watched the student carve words into the back of his hand over and over.
Harry really wished he could lose the feeling in his hand, but unfortunately, his luck just didn't swing that way. 'I will respect my betters.' His hand sliced open again. He waited for the words to fade back into the skin, but they didn't. The blood ran down his fingers, staining the page with drops, blurring a few previous lines he had written.
"Is something the matter, Mr. Potter?" Harry looked up to see Umbridge smiling at him sweetly. He realized that he had paused long enough for her to notice, so he shook his head and wrote the next line. Time passed, much slower than normal, as Harry continued to write lines. He felt like it had to be close to midnight by now, but when he glanced at his watch, it was barely passed dinnertime. The sound of the door slamming open startled both of the room's occupants.
Harry looked up, surprised, and wasn't sure if he was relieved or apprehensive, as the intruders made their way into the classroom. Minerva went straight to her charge, pulling him out of his seat as she held onto his injured hand gently, examining it with a disapproving look on her face. Umbridge started stuttering threats and denials, telling them they had no right to intrude and that Harry was using the Quill of his own free will, but Amelia just gestured for her two Aurors, Kingsley and Tonks, to arrest the woman.
"The use of a Blood Quill is highly restricted, Madam Umbridge," the head of the DMLE stated idly, looking for all the world like she was discussing the weather, but those who knew her well would be able to see her anger and disgust. "I highly doubt you have permission to use such an object on a student. I highly doubt you have permission to own such an object." She jerked her head at Kingsley, who understood, and with Tonks' help, dragged the still struggling woman out of the room.
Tonks did not look pleased, and pulled out her wand, silencing the inane shouts as they escorted her out of the castle. Harry looked at the adults left in the room. Dumbledore was still standing by the door, but he looked furious. Minerva drew his attention back to her. "Harry, why didn't you tell me last time?" she asked, trying to understand how he could be so foolish. Harry shrugged, studying his shoes. "I didn't want to let her win," he admitted quietly, ashamed.
Minerva sighed, exasperated, and drew him into a hug. "Harry, how many times have I told you that it's my job to protect you? How can I do that if you won't let me?" Harry didn't reply, he just burrowed deeper into his guardian's comforting embrace. Dumbledore shifted in his spot. "I must contact Cornelius," he said, before disappearing to do just that. Amelia watched the headmaster leave, before she turned back to the remaining two people in the room. Minerva moved slightly so that she was facing the DMLE head.
Their eyes met, and an understanding passed between them. The Transfiguration Professor adjusted her hold on her charge, and led him out of the room, heading straight for the hospital wing. Amelia followed them, trying to come to terms with her own turbulent emotions. How could anyone actually use a Blood Quill on a student? She also had to figure out what to tell Sirius.
By his lack of presence, she guessed that Minerva hadn't done so yet. Her thoughts ate up quite a bit of time, as they reached the hospital wing, and Poppy immediately bustled Harry into a bed and took a few photos on Amelia's request for judicial purposes before she started rubbing a salve on his hand.
When Poppy was finished, she wrapped his hand in bandages, and implored him to get some rest. His protests about staying in the hospital wing for the night fell on deaf ears, as Minerva nodded her approval of the plan.
"Poppy, could you give us a moment?" Amelia asked courteously, though she obviously didn't expect to be denied. Poppy looked at the two women, and sighed. "Five minutes, and then Mr. Potter needs to get some rest." Amelia nodded her understanding, and smiled her thanks, as the mediwitch disappeared into her office. The smile dropped as she turned back to face Harry, who was sitting on the bed looking like he was about to face the executioner.
"Harry, you're not in trouble," Amelia stressed. "I just want to ask you to tell me what happened." Harry looked up at his godfather's girlfriend, and nodded.
He took a deep breath to steady himself, before he told them, starting with the events leading up to his first week of detentions, and then the events surrounding the most recent one. Minerva had to steady herself at hearing about Malfoy's hex. Something needed to be done about that boy, and unfortunately, she doubted Dumbledore ever would. His patented 'second chance' seemed to stretch and cover countless indiscretions and transgressions.
Amelia took notes, and when Harry was finished, she looked back up. "Thank you, Harry. I understand that this must be hard for you." Harry bit his lip. "What's going to happen now?" he asked, looking between Amelia and Minerva. The two women shared a look. "Delores will face trial for her crimes," Amelia stated firmly. "I'm fairly certain I can get her sentenced to Azkaban for the foreseeable future." She once more looked at Minerva, conveying her thoughts for how to use the situation.
"As she was sent here by Cornelius, this may be the very nail in his coffin that we've been looking for." "Are you certain that's wise?" Everyone turned to look at the entrance, where Dumbledore was standing, having just entered. "What do you mean?" Amelia asked, guarded. Dumbledore sighed. "With the current climate as it is, and Voldemort's threat, I'm not sure it would be wise to destabilize the government." Amelia almost glowered.
"So you want to keep a corrupt Minister in office, in order to deal with a corrupt Ministry?" Dumbledore folded his hands together in front of him. "We will deal with Cornelius and the Ministry, Amelia. I just don't believe it is sensible to do so at this time." Amelia's smile was razor sharp. "Well, fortunately for me, I don't need your permission. If we are to have any chance at containing the threat of Voldemort, we need a strong leadership, and Cornelius won't give us that.
He won't even admit Voldemort is back." She turned back to Minerva. "If you'll excuse me, Minerva, Harry, I must get back to the Ministry. I will be in touch about the trial, so that you can testify. And I trust you will look into Delores' decisions here at Hogwarts, Albus, should there be anything you need to overturn." Her stern gaze found Dumbledore, and there was no doubt to anyone in the room that she had heard all about the Inquisitorial Squad, and Delores' suspension of both Hagrid and Trelawney.
She left them, heading outside the wards of the school, so that she could apparate back to the Ministry. Dumbledore sighed again, shaking his head slightly. He knew that Cornelius needed to go, but now was not the best time. Minerva cleared her throat. "Albus, I trust that you will be able to overturn that woman's decisions as High Inquisitor?" Albus looked at his deputy headmistress.
He nodded. "I will certainly reinstate Professor's Hagrid and Trelawney." "And the Inquisitorial Squad?" Minerva queried sharply. Albus nodded again.
"Disbanded," he agreed. Minerva glared. "Not good enough. Those students abused the power they were given. There were three Prefects who belonged to that squad. I want their badges." "Is that really necessary?" Albus asked, eyes twinkling. Minerva's glare intensified. "Yes," she all but growled.
"They have clearly shown that they cannot handle the power afforded to them. I want Malfoy's, Parkinson's, and Warrington's badges." Dumbledore looked like he was about to protest, but upon seeing the look the professor was giving him, decided it wasn't worth it. Defeated, he nodded. "I will speak with Severus," he agreed. Minerva almost allowed herself to smile. Poppy reappeared at that moment, and left no room for argument, as she ordered the headmaster and deputy headmistress to leave.
Dumbledore left first, and Minerva spent another moment saying good night to Harry. He was feeling tired now, as he settled back into the bed. Minerva tucked him in, despite his weak protests. "Get some rest, Harry. We'll speak tomorrow." Harry nodded. "Thanks," he replied quietly. Minerva smiled weakly, before she left him alone for the night. It had been a long evening, and she had no doubt tomorrow would be longer still.
When Harry was alone, he settled back, closing his eyes as the exhaustion hit him. His hand was still throbbing, but not nearly as bad as it had been earlier. Ginny? Across the bond, he felt her snap to attention. He knew she hadn't been asleep, just like he also knew that she was currently lying in bed with the curtains drawn. Harry? Harry sighed mentally, and felt several emotions wash across the bond.
Fear, worry, apprehension, anxiety. He knew that she was afraid of what his response would be to her telling McGonagall, but he could tell that she had no regret. I'm not mad, he assured her. He felt her relief now. Back in her dorm room, Ginny bit her lip. I'm sorry, Harry. I went behind your back, but I would do it again if I had to.
Umbridge had to be stopped. Harry nodded slightly. I know, Gin. I should have told Aunt Minerva before. I was just… I don't know, I guess I'm still struggling to realize that I don't have to do everything myself anymore. Ginny felt her eyes tear up.
Harry, I know you learned early on to only rely on yourself, but you're not alone anymore. I understood your reluctance to tell anyone. And I love your nobility and pride, Harry, but there's a time and a place.
What if Umbridge had done this to someone else? Harry winced guiltily. You're right, he admitted. It would have been my fault. Harry, stop, Ginny implored. It didn't happen, so don't blame yourself for anything. Besides, she's gone now, so it's a moot point. She felt Harry's nod. So what happened?
She asked curiously, wondering how things would change in the morning. Harry grinned mentally. Amelia arrested her, and Dumbledore is going to repeal every decision she made as High Inquisitor. He might need approval from Amelia for that, come to think of it, since all those Decrees were approved by the Ministry, but considering the arrest of the woman who enforced them, I don't think it'll be an issue.
Aunt Minerva got Dumbledore to agree to take Malfoy and Pansy's Prefect badges. I don't fancy being in the same room as Snape when he finds out. Ginny chuckled. How's your hand? She asked, sobering slightly. Harry sighed. I'm fine, Gin. Ginny gave a mental growl. Don't lie to me, Harry. I can feel your pain. Harry bit his lip. I've had worse, Ginny. It's not that bad. Ginny didn't respond, and after a moment, Harry spoke again.
It's late. We should get some rest. Ginny nodded mentally. I'll see you in the morning. She paused for a moment. I love you, Harry. Harry smiled. I love you, too. He waited until he felt her drift off, before he turned on his side, and tried to relax enough to sleep, himself.
XXX Madam Pomfrey released Harry the next morning, in time for breakfast, but not before re-wrapping his hand, telling him to keep the bandages on for the rest of the day, and to check in with her after supper.
Harry agreed readily, happy to get out of the hospital wing. He didn't wait around for Madam Pomfrey to change her mind, and met up with his friends at the Great Hall, just as they sat down at the Gryffindor table. Ginny gave him a hug as he sat next to her. Looking across the table, Harry saw Ron and Hermione watching him with a mix of relief and worry.
On the other side of Ginny, Neville had the same expression on his face. Harry attempted a smile, but knew it probably fell short. "I'm fine, guys," he tried to assure them. Not one of them looked like they believed him, but any attempt to call his bluff was cut short by Dumbledore standing up from his seat at the head table.
"May I have your attention, please?" All talk died out immediately. The rumor mill had been running rampant all morning, noting the absence of Umbridge. Some people had sworn that they saw the woman being dragged out by Aurors the evening before. Those in Slytherin had been quick to tell friends in other houses about how three of their number had lost their Prefect badges for taking part in the now disbanded Inquisitorial Squad.
The entire Squad would be facing detention every night for the remainder of the term. Dumbledore looked out over the eager faces, and sighed internally. "As I am sure many of you have heard, Delores Umbridge was arrested last night, for repeated use of a Class B dark object on a student." Murmurs broke out across the hall, several people glancing towards the Gryffindor table, and Harry, but they quieted again, as the headmaster continued.
"Should any of you need to talk, I urge you to do so; your professors are here for you, should you need it." He turned slightly to look at Severus out of the corner of his eye. The Potions master looked furious, and he felt himself sigh again.
"As we find ourselves without a Defense professor again, those classes will become a study hall, until the end of term. Hopefully, we will have a new professor for you in January." He sat down again, and the hall filled with noise as people begun to talk.
Susan immediately left the Hufflepuff table and went to join Harry, sitting next to Neville in the seat he had grown accustomed to saving for her. "So what happened last night?" Hermione asked Harry, watching him intently as he helped himself to some sausages. Neville cleared his throat pointedly, and Hermione looked guilty at her tactless question. Harry would have felt annoyed, but he knew that his friends cared about him.
He sighed. "Professor McGonagall, Amelia, and Dumbledore came in during my detention last night. Amelia brought Tonks and another Auror with her, and they arrested Umbridge." "Good," Ginny said savagely. She still had yet to let go of Harry's arm.
They were all in agreement with the youngest of their group. Neville leaned around Ginny to look Harry in the eye. "Harry, we're sorry…" Harry shook his head, cutting off the other teen's apology.
"It's all right. I should have told someone after the first night. Thank you." They all looked momentarily startled, before Ron summed it all up perfectly. "We've got your back, Harry. You take care of us, and we take care of you. That's how it works." Hermione beamed and kissed her boyfriend on the cheek. Ginny, Neville, and Susan looked even more shocked at Ron's profound statement, but there really wasn't much more time to speak, as they had to finish up their breakfast before their first class.
XXX It only took one day for Harry to come to the conclusion that having a study hall for Defense class was almost as much a waste of time as Umbridge's classes had been.
He heard several younger Gryffindors complaining about not learning anything, as he passed through the common room after supper, sitting down next to Ginny as she worked on a Transfiguration essay. "We need to do something," he commented idly as he pulled out his own Transfiguration textbook.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, looking up, confused. Harry gestured to the room around them. "Do you have any idea how many students from all different houses are complaining about the lack of Defense classes? Umbridge is gone; we should be able to practice openly again. And yet we're going to spend time just reading in class? Still? How many other professors could take over those classes? Why can't any of them substitute?" Ron shrugged a little helplessly. "Because that would make sense?" he asked, only half joking.
Of course, they were all feeling so far out of their depth that they laughed much harder than the joke really deserved. Others around the room looked over, but when no explanation was forthcoming, they went back to their own tasks. Ginny looked at her boyfriend. "So let's do something," she said. Her eyes sparkled with excitement, the same way they had when the DA had gone to ground. "What's your plan, Harry?" Neville asked, knowing that his friend had one.
Harry smiled. "I'll go talk to Professor McGonagall. Maybe the DA can help out." They all nodded their agreement, and Harry left to go see his guardian. XXX Minerva thought Harry's feelings were sound, and the pair spent the rest of the evening going over schedules, to come up with a team of substitutes to take over the various classes until the end of the term.
Harry was surprised when Minerva pulled mostly from the DA leaders. "You have all shown your willingness and ability to teach, to lead," she explained her actions. "The other professors all have their own classes to teach. It is only a short term solution, but I am confident you will be able to do it." "How?" Harry asked, feeling a knot twist in his stomach at the thought of actually taking over teaching a class.
Minerva smiled. "You've already taught many of them. Your DA lessons have been a good grounding. If you need assistance, I have copies of the lesson plans from the last few years for you to look over." Harry bit his lip, thinking it over. It did sound better than wasting another three weeks worth of classes.
"What about the DA?" he asked. "Can we come out of hiding now?" Minerva's smile widened. "I'm sure that can be arranged. Shall we schedule a meeting for Saturday evening?" Harry grinned, and agreed. As it was getting late, he headed back to Gryffindor Tower, and told his friends what he and Minerva had come up with. XXX The schedule Minerva and Harry was rather complex, to account for every Defense class from first to seventh years. Harry watched his guardian speak with all of the DA leaders over breakfast, and saw their nods, indicating their agreement, and in most cases, excitement.
He smiled. This would be different from the DA, but not overly so, and their experience with the defense club would help them teach in a classroom setting. The seventh years would be handled by professors, but the lower years would be taught by the DA leaders. By the end of the day, Minerva was hard pressed to keep her expression stoic, as she listened to the raving reviews from students actually learning something.
The students teaching went over incredibly well, as many of them were used to the setup already, at the DA meetings. Dumbledore listened to all the excited chatter of his students over supper, beaming. It was always so nice to see their happiness, especially with the dark times that were coming. Snape also paid attention to the students' comments, though he kept his opinions to himself, and portrayed his usual sneer.
He wasn't an idiot, and he could tell that things were changing at Hogwarts, and in the Magical world. While many may have thought that he would be upset over three of his students losing their badges, in truth, he was glad to take their power away. Malfoy, Parkinson, and Warrington were three Slytherins that, unlike Dumbledore, he didn't think could be saved.
Taking away their authority would keep their ability to affect others at a minimum. He wouldn't have given Parkinson and Malfoy the badges at all, if he hadn't had to worry about his position in Voldemort's camp.
In a way, he was grateful to Potter and Umbridge for giving him an excuse to remove those two, and put someone he actually thought could do the job in their place. He was glad that Potter had actually done something to unite the school; in his days as a student, he would never have dreamed of being accepted by the other houses, and yet here he was, listening to first year Gryffindors chattering excitedly about what they had learned from Zabini and Greengrass' lesson that day.
There wasn't a lot he really felt happy about, but he did think that the houses uniting could only be a good thing. XXX The last few weeks of term passed by relatively quickly.
Harry and his friends were incredibly busy teaching both in class and in the DA and handling their own course load. The professors were piling it on for the fifth year students, most of whom, were looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of the Christmas holidays.
Pansy and Malfoy had been effectively cut off at the knees, with the loss of their Prefect badges, and were keeping quiet. The new fifth year Prefects, Blaise and Daphne, told Harry that they spent a lot of time grumbling to themselves, and with the rest of the disgraced Inquisitorial Squad, but so far, hadn't done anything to back up their ugly words. Harry told them to keep an eye on the worrisome Slytherins, and to watch themselves.
He knew that Malfoy was never more dangerous as when he was quiet. Harry knew the Malfoy heir had to be plotting something, but there wasn't much he could do now, except keep his eyes open. When Harry dropped down onto his bed the night before the Christmas holidays began, he thought of nothing but being able to relax, just for a little while.
The strain was starting to get to him, and he welcomed the chance to unwind. His dream that night started out normally. He was playing Quidditch with Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys, having a great time. Suddenly, everything changed. His body was smooth, as he slithered down a long hallway.
His long tongue flicked out and tasted the air around him. Part of him knew who he was, but still, he slithered. There was a fuzzy quality though, that didn't quite fit. It was blurry around the edges, much like the dreams he had had about Voldemort the year before. Suddenly, he stopped. He was outside the door he was looking for, but something was wrong.
There was someone there. He could taste the man's scent on his tongue. A noise came from the shadows by the door, and suddenly someone became visible, as an invisibility cloak dropped to the floor. A man, and he was sleeping. Harry hissed again, and the man woke with a start.
He fumbled around for his wand, and that was when Harry struck. Cliffie! _ _ _ Chapter 13 I'm glad I was thinking ahead and uploaded this a week ago, so I could actually post it on time, since it didn't bring my computer with me when I went to visit family for the holiday.
But actually planning ahead for once means you all don't have to wait another week yo find out what happens next! Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah everyone! Disclaimer: not mine He lashed out once, twice, three times. The man fell with a choked gurgle, and Harry woke with a start, his heart pounding, sweat pouring off of him. Around him, the room was chaos. Ron was sitting next to him, while Seamus and Dean watched, confused. "What's going on?" Harry asked, trying to steady his beating heart.
"I was hoping you could tell us," Ron said, looking out of his depth. "You were screaming and tossing around in your sleep. Neville went to go get McGonagall." And there she was.
Harry grasped onto his guardian's presence. "What's going on?" Minerva asked, trying to hide her fear, as she got a good look at her charge. Harry looked more than shaken up. He looked frightened, as he turned his startlingly green eyes on her. "Mr. Weasley," Harry rushed, pleading with the professor. Here was someone who could actually do something. "He's hurt, you have to get help!" Minerva sat down on the edge of his bed, taking one hand in hers.
"Where?" she asked, trying to soothe him. Harry stumbled a little, unsure as to where exactly he had been when he had attacked… no, he hadn't attacked anyone. Had he? He had been a snake, and the snake had attacked Mr. Weasley.
He shook his head slightly, trying to clear his mind. These thoughts weren't helping right now. "It was a hallway. It was dark, and he was sitting outside a door. There's not much time, you have to hurry!" Minerva reared back slightly. She observed him for a half a second, before nodding briskly. "Come with me. Mr. Weasley, you as well." With that, she led the two teenagers down the stairs.
They all received a bit of a shock in the common room. Ginny was standing there, fear evident on her face, tears in her eyes. Minerva furrowed her brow, confused, but gestured for the girl to join them as they headed up to the headmaster's office.
Ginny, how did you know? Harry asked, taking her hand in his, squeezing reassuringly. Ginny bit her lip. I saw it, she admitted, feeling Harry stiffen next to her. It was a snake. Oh Merlin, dad… Harry squeezed her hand tighter. He'll be fine, he reassured, though he wasn't sure he believed it. They'll find him. The group reached the gargoyle entrance at that moment, and McGonagall said the password ("Toffee Crunch") in a shaky voice. They took the winding staircase up to Dumbledore's office, where Minerva shared a whispered conversation with the headmaster, who then turned to several portraits on the wall, and began issuing orders.
Harry, Ginny, and Ron watched, confused and a little frightened. One of the previous headmasters stepped out of his frame, but instead of reappearing in the next one over, he disappeared. Without turning around, Dumbledore asked Harry questions about what had happened, what he had seen.
Harry answered as best he could. When he was finished, Dumbledore turned back to Minerva. "Professor McGonagall, if you could gather the remaining Weasleys and bring them here." Minerva nodded and headed out of the office. Dumbledore spent the next few minutes ignoring the teenagers, preferring to study the portraits on the wall. Harry and Ginny spoke through their bond, reassuring each other.
When Ginny heard one stray thought in her boyfriend's mind, she almost slapped him. Harry James Potter, it is not your fault! You didn't do this. Harry winced mentally. But I felt myself bite him, Ginny, he protested. Ginny shook her head and sighed mentally. Harry, you told me about the dreams you had last year. This is probably the same thing. You saw what happened because Voldemort did it.
But… He has a snake, right? Ginny asked, rhetorically. His snake was there, and that's who did it. Just be thankful that you saw it, and that they're getting help. Dad'll be fine. She sounded more like she was trying to convince herself in that last statement, so Harry just drew her into a hug, reassuring her the only way he could.
The door opened, and Minerva led the Weasley twins inside. "What's going on?" Fred asked, looking at his siblings. Dumbledore was about to speak, when he was cut off by the portrait, returning to his frame. "You were right, Albus. Arthur was there, and he's in a bad way. I had to shout for a while, before someone came down." Another portrait nearby returned to his frame. "I saw him being brought into St. Mungos, Albus. He really doesn't look good." There was a gasp from Ginny, who burrowed further into Harry's side.
Dumbledore turned to face the teenagers. He picked up a length of rope from his desk, and tapped it with his wand, murmuring "Portus." The rope glowed blue for a moment, before Dumbledore handed it over to Ron, who was closest. "This portkey will take you to a safe location. Minerva, if you could contact Molly and Sirius and inform them of the situation." He gestured for the rest of the students to grasp onto the portkey.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked, not touching the rope; following his lead, Ginny, Fred, and George refrained from grabbing onto the portkey as well. Ron looked like he wanted to drop it, but didn't want to be obvious. Dumbledore smiled genially, but if they looked closely, they could see a spark of ire behind his twinkling eyes. "The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. It is in London, and you will all be safe there." Harry looked at Minerva, and on her nod, reached over and laid a hand on the rope, followed by Ginny, Fred, and George.
The rope glowed blue again, and the five students disappeared from the office. XXX The teenagers reappeared in a dark and depressing entryway. Ron landed down on one knee, while Fred and George stumbled and fell against the wall. Harry felt his knees buckle, but amazingly remained standing.
He was able to keep Ginny upright as she clutched onto his arm. Once they all steadied themselves, they looked around. Harry noted that it was much brighter than it had been the last time he had been there, before his fourth year. "Where exactly are we?" Fred asked, observing the entryway they were standing in, from the umbrella stand shaped like a troll's leg, to a large expanse of the wall that was scorched, as if a fire had been lit in that spot.
Harry grimaced. "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. This is the Black Family Ancestral Home, Sirius' old house. He let Dumbledore use it as the headquarters for the Order." "So what happened there?" Ron asked, pointing to the scorched wall. Harry shrugged. "Sirius said there was a portrait of his mother there, hung with a permanent sticking charm. He was trying to find a way to get rid of it, since all she did was scream about mudbloods and blood traitors." He snorted lightly.
"I guess he found a way." "We have Kreacher to thank for that." They all turned around, startled, to see Sirius enter from a room down the hall. He smiled gently at them. "He used house elf magic to remove it, once I ordered him to do it." He sighed, and changed topics. "I've spoken with Minerva, and Molly. I don't know much, just that I am to keep you all here until we get an update." Do you know anything about dad?" George asked, his voice wavering in fear.
Sirius sighed. "All I know is that it's bad. Molly was heading to St. Mungos. She'll let us know when there's anything to report." None of them looked happy, but Sirius led them down to the kitchen, gesturing for them to take a seat at the table. "Kreacher." The elf appeared in front of Sirius. "Six butterbeers." The elf disappeared and then reappeared a moment later carrying the requested drinks.
"Thank you," Harry said politely, taking the bottle. Kreacher looked startled, and muttered something unintelligible under his breath before disappearing once more.
With that, they all settled in at the table, no one saying anything. The butterbeer disappeared, as did the rest of the night. It wasn't until dawn was threatening to break that any of the group made any sign of movement. Sirius stood up, collecting the empty bottles and setting them on the counter by the sink. "This is stupid," Fred growled. They all looked at him, and he leaned forward, clenching his fists on top of the table.
"We should be at St. Mungos. What are we doing sitting here?" Sirius sighed, going back to his seat. "I know you're upset," he soothed.
"Your dad's hurt, and you want to feel useful. But the best thing you can do right now is be safe, so that your mum doesn't have to worry any more than she already is." That didn't appear to help any of the Weasleys, and Sirius sighed. "As soon as she knows something, Molly will come and tell us." "What was he even doing there?" Ron asked, sounding as helpless as he felt.
"Dad's been making sure not to work overnight shifts since last June. Why was he in a deserted corridor so late?" Sirius and Harry shared a look. When Sirius gave a nod of approval, Harry turned back to his friends. "You remember that conversation we had last summer, about the prophecy?" They all nodded. "One of the things the Order's been doing is protecting the record of that prophecy, so that Voldemort doesn't get his hands on it.
That's where Mr. Weasley was." There was a thread of guilt in his voice, knowing that it was because of him that Mr. Weasley had been hurt. Ginny sighed exasperatedly. "Harry, it's not your fault. When will you believe that?" Harry shrugged helplessly. Ron shook his head.
"Merlin, Harry, your whole guilt trip thing is starting to get old. Dad was there because he wanted to help. It wasn't your fault, and because of you, he actually has a chance.
You saved him." Fred and George nodded their agreement, and the room lapsed back into silence. It was another hour before the uneasy calm was broken by the sound of the front door opening. In a flash, the entire group was up and out of their seats, heading up to meet the newcomer.
Mrs. Weasley took in the anxious faces surrounding her, arriving before she had even closed the door. She smiled, though it was a little strained. "He's alive." There was a beat of silence. "But that sounds like…" Fred trailed off. Molly shook her head, reassuring her children.
"The healers are optimistic. Let's have some breakfast, and then we can transfigure something for you all to wear, and we'll go visit him, all right?" They all nodded, and Molly descended on the kitchen, whipping up a large meal for them to share. Once they were done eating, Sirius and Molly spent a few minutes transfiguring their bedclothes into jeans and shirts that could be worn outside.
They would need to get the children's trunks from Hogwarts today, but that could wait a few hours. Soon enough, the group was heading to St. Mungos.
Kingsley, Tonks, and Remus had Flooed over to provide extra guard. The entrance was rather cleverly concealed behind an empty storefront, though once they went through, they found a bustling scene in what appeared to be a waiting room. "Come, it's this way," Molly led them up a flight of stairs, and down a brightly lit hallway.
Mr. Weasley was propped up on a pile of pillows, looking tired, but beaming at the large crowd that had come to visit him. "Dad!" There were multiple shouts from the Weasley clan, as they rushed forward. There was some incomprehensible dialogue for a few minutes, as everybody tried to talk over each other. Eventually, they all settled down, and spent the morning reassuring themselves that the Weasley patriarch was all right.
"Really, very fortunate, I was. I'll only have to be here for a few days, hopefully," Arthur grinned. "And fortunately my bite is completely curable. That poor chap over there," he nodded to a bed in the corner, lowering his voice, "bitten by a werewolf, poor man. No cure." Remus looked over at the man lying on that bed. He was looking wistfully over at the crowd of people surrounding Arthur's bed. "Yes, things could have been so much worse," Arthur concluded, "if it weren't for Harry, here." Mrs.
Weasley beamed and grabbed Harry in a hug. "Thank you so much, dear. Really does seem like most of our family owes their lives to you." Harry blushed, as Molly pulled back. "I didn't…" he trailed off, seeing the famous Weasley stubbornness reflected in each and every determined face staring back at him.
Ginny sighed, shaking her head amusedly. "Damn Potter inferiority complex." They all chuckled, and the group descended into small talk for a little while. Soon enough, it was time to leave, so that Mr.
Weasley could get some rest. XXX Sirius and Remus waited until they were back at McGonagall Castle with Harry, before berating him for not telling anyone about Umbridge's detentions.
Harry bit his lip, looking at the floor, as he stood in front of his godfather and pseudo uncle. "I'm sorry," he said, ashamed. "I just… I didn't want to let her win." Sirius sighed.
"Harry, I know you want to do things yourself, and I know that's the way you lived for a long time. But you're not alone anymore. We're here, and it's our job to look after you. Understand?" Harry nodded, though he still didn't look up. Remus reached over and gave the teenager a hug. Pulling back, he kept his hands on Harry's shoulders.
"I know it's hard to let go and admit that you need help sometimes. But you can always come to us. Got it?" Harry nodded, and knowing that they wouldn't get any more out of him, Remus and Sirius left the conversation at that, though they both vowed to themselves to keep on reminding Harry that he wasn't alone. XXX Sirius invited the Weasleys to stay at McGonagall Castle for the evening, and for as long as they needed.
Molly looked like she wanted to object, but seeing the pleading looks her children were giving her, caved and agreed. Minerva joined them for dinner, thankfully bringing all of the teenagers' belongings with her. The start of the Christmas holidays was more somber than it should have been, but the teenagers still managed to have some fun.
Susan, Neville, and Hermione Flooed over and Harry and the Weasleys explained what had happened. They all worried about Mr. Weasley, but were glad that he would be all right. The Castle was much busier than Harry was used to, with so many more teenagers in residence. That one evening somehow turned into staying until Mr.
Weasley was released from the hospital, as the teenagers all seemed to want to stay together. Mrs. Weasley put up quite a fight with the house elves over who did the cooking, finally relenting in the face of their eagerness to serve. They were more than happy to have Mrs. Weasley join them in the kitchen, and even showed her a few tricks.
Needless to say, Molly was in heaven. Kingsley joined the other adults for a few Defense lessons, marveling at how advanced the teenagers were for their ages.
He was happy to officially meet Harry, as they hadn't exactly been introduced when the Auror had arrested Umbridge, or when he accompanied the group to St. Mungos several days earlier. They all spent some time working on their animagus transformations. Harry had managed to change both arms and both legs, while Ginny had changed her arms. Neville had gotten his nails to change to claws, but no one else had seen any change, something that frustrated them to no end. A few days before Christmas, the large group went to visit Mr.
Weasley again; Molly had been going every day, but the adults had determined it too risky for such a large crowd to travel together.
Hermione had joined them, staying at McGonagall Castle as well, as her parents had gone on a holiday, skiing in the Alps, but Hermione had confided in them that she wasn't very fond of the sport. Mr. Weasley was propped up on his pillows, beaming joyously, though there was a slightly guilty look in his eyes that had Mrs.
Weasley narrowing her eyes suspiciously. Remus drifted off to speak with the newly turned werewolf, while Tonks and Kingsley, their guards, went outside to give the family some privacy. Harry drifted in thought for a while, until a shouted "Stitches!?" from Mrs. Weasley drew his attention back.
Everyone looked uncomfortable in the wake of Mrs. Weasley's ire. "Erm… anyone fancy a cup of tea?" Ron asked, looking around at the other teenagers. "Sounds good to me," Fred replied, making a beeline towards the door. George, Ron, Ginny, and Harry followed quickly, leaving Mr.
Weasley spluttering excuses at his wife. They waited until they were up one flight of stairs before they relaxed, slowing down and laughing a little. "Where's the café?" George asked, looking around for a sign. "Fifth floor," Ginny said, recalling the information from the welcome sign in the waiting room. "Is this right?" Ron asked, peering through the doorway. "I think so," George replied. "No, this is the fourth floor," Harry said. "One more flight up." "Professor Lockhart?" Hermione distracted them all from their quest to find the café as she stared at the former professor in confusion.
The other teenagers followed her gaze, and couldn't help but stare. Gilderoy Lockhart was standing in the now open doorway to the fourth floor of the hospital, beaming at them.
"Hello all! Come to get an autograph, have you? You're in luck, I've just signed some more." Harry and Ron shared a guilty look. It was their fault, after all, that Lockhart was here. "Gilderoy? There you are!" A nurse came up behind Lockhart, drawing him away from the doorway. "Oh, hello! Have you come to visit Gilderoy?
How nice of you!" "Erm, we haven't…" Hermione trailed off, looking at her companions of help. Harry sighed, coming to the rescue. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we were just heading up to the café. We don't have time to visit." The nurse looked a little disappointed, but was cut off as someone came up behind her.
"Harry?" The nurse led Lockhart back down the hallway, leaving the teenagers alone. "Neville!" Ron and Ginny said in unison, looking surprised. Neville didn't look much better, but he also looked very uncomfortable. "What are you doing here?" Ron asked, displaying his usual tact. Harry shook his head. Why couldn't his friend have learned some restraint by now? Unlike the others, he remembered from the information sign in the waiting room that the long-term Janus Thickney ward was housed on the fourth floor.
It was the ward that terminal patients stayed in. Most likely, Neville had been visiting his parents, and Harry didn't want to make his friend more uncomfortable than he already was. He turned to look at the Weasleys and Hermione. "Why don't we go find that cup of tea?" He looked back at Neville.
"You and your grandmother are still coming for Christmas dinner, right?" Neville nodded, grateful. Harry smiled. "We'll see you tomorrow, for practice, then? And tell Mrs. Longbottom we'll see her on the twenty fifth." Neville smiled. As Harry turned around to follow the rest of the group, Neville stopped him. "Harry?" The Potter heir stopped and turned back.
"Can… can I talk to you for a minute?" Harry looked back at the others. "I'll meet you guys up there, all right?" Ginny nodded. "We'll get you something to drink." When the Weasleys plus Hermione had disappeared up the stairs, Harry followed Neville into the hallway. "What's up, Neville?" Neville looked even more nervous. "I just… I know you wanted to hear more about your godmother, and I know she won't really remember anything, but I thought… I thought maybe you'd want to meet her?" Harry was momentarily startled, before he smiled warmly.
"I'd be honored, Nev." Neville looked relieved now, as he led Harry into the ward. Lockhart was now once more in his bed, but Neville led him passed the former professor, to two beds at the end of the ward. Augusta Longbottom was standing in between the two beds, and looked up as her grandson approached.
"Neville, there you are. And Harry! I wasn't expecting you." Harry smiled at the Longbottom matriarch. "I was with the Weasleys, visiting Mr.
We were headed up to get something to drink, when we saw Neville." Augusta nodded, smiling at her grandson and his friend. Neville led Harry over to his mother's bed. Alice Longbottom was sitting up, staring vacantly at the wall ahead of her. "Hello, mum." There was no response, but Neville just took a deep breath and continued.
"Mum, I wanted to introduce you to Harry Potter, your godson." Alice didn't speak, but on Neville's encouraging nod, Harry stepped forward. "Hello, Mrs. Longbottom. I'm very pleased to meet you." He paused for a moment, looking at Neville, and then back at Alice. "Your son and I are very good friends, and I just wanted to let you know how much having him in my life means to me. You should be very proud of him." Neville looked embarrassed, but Augusta gave an approving nod. Alice still wasn't paying them any attention, so the older Longbottom stepped over and laid a hand on Neville's shoulder.
"I certainly am," she said, causing Neville to look up at her, his head whipping around so fast he could almost hear it crack. "Your parents would be very proud, Neville. Never doubt who you are. Something I have observed in the both of you boys; you truly are the best of your parents." Both teenagers looked down, embarrassed, but pleased nonetheless.
Harry had to go catch up with the Weasleys, so he said his goodbyes, and promised to see them soon, before he left to find the café. XXX Christmas eve was a very happy day for everyone. Mr. Weasley was finally able to come home, still meek after the thorough chastising Molly had given him over his use of 'muggle medicine'. With the Weasley family reunited, the holiday celebrations could finally begin. Harry felt like he was in heaven. Sirius and Minerva had strong-armed Molly into agreeing to spend the rest of the holiday at the Castle, rather than returning home to the Burrow now that Arthur had been released.
Last Christmas had been the Yule Ball, and as much as Harry had enjoyed spending that time with Ginny, he was looking forward to a family Christmas. Tibby and the house elves, with the help of Molly, decorated the whole Castle with sprigs of holly, mistletoe, and garlands. The dining room was filled with snowflakes that hung suspended in midair. A Christmas tree enlarged to stand twenty feet tall was in the corner, decorated with lights and tinsel.
Another tree, this one smaller, was placed in the informal sitting room, decorated with ornaments that the Weasleys brought over from their house. Harry woke early Christmas morning to a Weasley jumping on his bed.
"Urgh," he groaned, burrowing his face in his pillow. Ginny giggled. "Wake up, Harry. It's Christmas!" Harry groaned again. This kind of action he expected from Ron and he had experienced it, several times. Clearly, that over eagerness ran in the family. A hint of mischievousness came over Harry, and he turned suddenly, grabbing Ginny around the waist and pulling her down on top of him.
She shrieked, laughing as she fell. Harry rolled on tope of her, and kissed her. Morning, he said, pulling back and smiling. Ginny grinned. As much as I love being in this position, they both blushed a little, realizing their closeness, but neither made a move to pull away, there are probably a lot of people waiting for us downstairs, if I know my brothers. Mum won't let any of us open presents until we're all there, so they're probably waiting for us. As if to prove her point, a pounding came from the door.
"Harry, wake up! Presents!" Ginny and Harry both laughed, getting out of the bed. Ron looked nonplussed to see his sister in Harry's room, but didn't comment, as the two followed him down to the sitting room. As predicted, the rest of the Weasleys, including Bill, were there. So were Minerva, Remus, Sirius, and Hermione.
"Happy Christmas!" Harry received and returned the greeting all around, before Ginny pulled him down next to her, as Ron started passing out gifts. Harry was more interested in watching the commotion around him, basking in the warmth of family. Ginny, having a direct link to his emotions, couldn't do much more than snuggle into his side, beaming contentedly.
That's right, Harry. This is family. Harry smiled down at his girlfriend. He had decided to just stop thinking of her as his wife, because the whole idea just made his head hurt, as much as he liked to imagine them together for the rest of their lives.
You know, when I was younger, I always hated Christmas. Ginny mentally growled at the reminder of the Dursleys. Harry shrugged with one shoulder. They'd always lock me in my cupboard for most of the day, and then let me out in the evening so that I could clean up all the wrapping paper and ribbons from Dudley's presents. He'd parade around with his new possessions, making fun of me for not getting anything at all.
Ginny gave him a hug. She tried to be mindful of the fact that they were in clear view of the rest of the room, and they wouldn't know about their silent conversation, but she wanted him to know how wrong it was.
Before she could even say anything, Harry spoke again. I know it wasn't right, Gin. I know it was wrong. I can't thank you and your family enough for showing me that I didn't deserve it.
Ginny now had to stop herself from crying. They're your family too, Harry. There's enough to go around. "Hey, you two, why aren't you opening any presents?" Harry and Ginny broke apart at Ron's question, and blushed.
Hermione, watching them closely, noted their reactions. Since the previous June, she had been observing them, cataloguing many different clues that pointed to something going on between those two, more than just a romantic relationship, but she didn't know what. Something was keeping her from asking them, though.
She thought it might be that she had grown up a little, and no longer felt like she had to know absolutely everything about everything. She didn't want to push her friends if they didn't want to say anything.
When they were ready, they would tell her. Harry and Ginny turned to their piles, and began to open the gifts.
The morning disappeared quickly as the room filled with discarded wrapping paper. Harry received quite a haul this year, magnified even more by the fact that he still remembered all to clearly those long Christmases past where he would be shut in his cupboard, wondering what why no one loved him, why he didn't deserve to be happy. His guardians had given him an all new wardrobe, as he had grown several inches since the previous year they had replenished his Hogwarts robes over the summer, but he was still wearing the clothes Minerva and Sirius had gotten for him on their shopping trip after springing him from the Dursley's prison; movies and games for the entertainment suite; and several more books for his personal library.
From Remus and Sirius, he received a black leather book with the title 'The Marauder's Journal' in gold lettering. He looked up at the two, tears in his eyes. Sirius smiled at his godson. "That book is seven years worth of collaboration between us. You'll find all sorts of useful information in there about a little bit of everything." Harry flipped through the book, noting the handwritten pages that detailed everything from potions to pranks.
He set the journal aside reverently, and moved on to other presents. Hermione's gift was also a book; she had gifted all of her friends with homework journals that, when opened, shouted out phrases like 'do it today or later you'll pay' and 'don't leave it 'til later you big second rater'.
Harry, Ron, and Ginny all thanked her, though the looks they shared said quite clearly to everyone except Hermione that they were less than thrilled with the present. Ron had given everyone candy, of course. Neville gave Harry a book on Herbology, while the twins gave him more homemade joke products, much to Mrs. Weasley's consternation. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley gave Harry the traditional sweater, along with a tin of fudge.
Cedric sent some candy and a book on different Quidditch teams, and Susan and Amelia gave him a book on politics. Tonks had sent him a miniature, working model of a firebolt that zoomed around the room, interrupting everyone and making them all smile. Harry saved Ginny's gift for last. He unwrapped a small box, and opened it slowly, revealing three small charms that he knew he could add to the bracelet she had given him for his birthday last year.
He ran a finger over the charms, smiling at the golden lioness, the black panther, and the phoenix, exquisitely crafted to be mostly black, with wings tipped in gold. He looked over at his girlfriend, and gave her a kiss. Thank you, he said, pulling back and smiling. Ginny returned the look, holding her own present from Harry in her hands.
It was a moving model of a phoenix, perfectly crafted to resemble her second animagus form. It was attached to a flat rock, and every few minutes, would stretch its wings and burst into flame. A couple of seconds later, it would rise up out of the stone once more.
"Harry, where did you find that?" Hermione asked curiously, seeing the gift in Ginny's hands. Harry blushed, looking over at his friend. "I made it," he admitted. Hermione gaped, as did most of the younger generation. Minerva smiled genially. "Ten points to Gryffindor, Harry.
That is quite remarkable. May I?" She held her hand out to Ginny, who placed the model in her professor's hand.
Minerva examined it closely, before handing it back to the fourth year. "Really quite impressive work. I am very proud of you, Harry." Harry's blush deepened. They opened the last few presents, and Ron and Hermione both thanked Harry for the wand holsters and necklaces they had received from him. Ginny was surprised to find another present from Harry, and unwrapped a similar necklace.
As they looked them over, they saw that each pendant was different; Hermione's was a cat, Ron's a dog, and Ginny's a lioness. Harry bit his lip. "They're more than just pendants," he told them, glancing at Minerva. She smiled. She had heartily approved of the idea when he had come to her for help, and happily assisted him.
"They're spelled so that no one but you can remove them, they're portkeys that will bring you to the entrance hall here when you say 'sanctuary', and they're all linked. If you're injured or unconscious for more than thirty seconds without being asleep, the others will heat up." "Thank you, Harry," Hermione grinned, putting hers on immediately. All of the adults looked pleased with the gift, knowing that they would help the children stay as safe as possible.
Harry nodded. "The portkey function is a bit limited, I'm afraid. If there are any anti-portkey wards in place, they won't work, but it's better than nothing." "It's brilliant," Ron said, putting his own necklace on and admiring the pendant. It really was a great gift.
Harry smiled. "And I thought we should all have wand holsters, you know, just in case." The unsaid message was clear, and both Ron and Hermione were glad to receive the practical gift as Neville and Ginny had received one for their birthdays, and Susan had gotten one from her aunt the year before, they now all owned a holster. Fred and George thanked Harry for the copies of The Mind Arts Identified that he had given them, knowing it would come in handy for pranks, and beyond that, it would be a good skill to learn.
Molly teared up when she opened the box containing the watch Harry had given her. reading the instructions, she saw that it was a mobile version of her family clock.
She could add up to ten hands, and twelve different locations, so she would be able to make sure her family was all right, no matter where she was. "Thank you so much, Harry dear. I love it." She then gave him a hug that left him gasping for air, but warm inside nonetheless. When they were finished opening gifts, a few waves of the wand from the adults had the room cleaned up, before everyone took their presents back to their rooms and getting ready for the day ahead of them.
_ _ _ Chapter 14 Disclaimer: don't own Shortly before noon, the rest of the guests arrived. Amelia and Susan were the first, the former giving her boyfriend a cheerful kiss, thanking him for the necklace he had given her, while the latter moved over to thank her friends for her own gifts.
Harry had given her a necklace of her own, with an eagle pendant, while Hermione had gifted her with her own homework journal. Ron, of course, had given her candy, and Ginny gave her a book on the Holyhead Harpies, a Quidditch team both of them were fans of. Neville and Augusta arrived right behind them, and Susan thanked her former boyfriend, and one of her best friends, for the book on Transfiguration.
Neville also thanked his friends for his presents, including the wolf pendant necklace Harry had given him. Harry then explained to his other two friends about the gift he had given them, and the properties each necklace had. Both were even more excited than before, and immediately showed him that they were wearing the gift, assuring him that they would never take it off. Fleur was the next to arrive, having been invited by Harry on Bill's request. He was pleased to learn that the two were officially dating, knowing that what they had was real, and had nothing to do with the part Veela's alluring charm.
Bill liked Fleur for Fleur, and Harry could see how much that meant to the woman. The Tonkses came soon after, and Kingsley after them. After a small but filling lunch of sandwiches, the younger generation disappeared up to the entertainment suite, while the adults headed to the informal sitting room.
Once there, Minerva enacted several privacy wards, as they all sat down. These adults were the group that Minerva and Sirius thought would make a good core to surround Harry and his friends. They would fight for justice and freedom, without any hidden agendas, unlike Dumbledore.
While Kingsley and Tonks had been brought into the loop already, Andromeda and Ted were rather confused, and Fleur didn't really know anything at all. Augusta, Molly, Arthur, and Bill had some vague ideas, but hoped to get things cleared up soon. They began by giving those completely out of the loop a summary, much like Kingsley and Tonks had received several months earlier, before they moved on to what they hoped to accomplish.
"I admire Albus for everything he has done, but you cannot deny that he has made many mistakes." "What exactly is it you're suggesting, Minerva?" Molly asked, looking at the Transfiguration professor. Minerva sighed, before she turned to Amelia, indicating for her to take the question.
Amelia cleared her throat. "We're not planning a coup, if that's what you're thinking." They all chuckled a little. "You know, when I went to arrest Umbridge, Albus actually had the gall to suggest that I be lenient, so as not to destabilize the government." Molly gasped.
"After what that woman did to Harry?" Amelia nodded grimly. "I can understand where he is coming from, but to let someone get off for torturing a student, all in the name of a war that really hasn't started yet… honestly, when it does happen, we will need a stronger leader than Cornelius.
If this is what it takes to make that happen, so be it." "What's happening with that?" Andromeda asked curiously. Amelia smiled grimly. "I will need to speak with Harry about the upcoming trial, but we've called a Wizengamot meeting for December thirtieth. If all goes well, we could need a new Minister by the new year." "Here's to hoping," Sirius mumbled, but they all heard him. "Do you have any plans for that?" Ted asked, looking around the group. Sirius and Amelia shared a look.
They had actually discussed it, but hadn't really made any set plans yet. "Amelia's right, we need a strong Minister," Sirius said. "I've told her that she should run, but for some reason, she doesn't think she's got a chance." Augusta shook her head. "Honestly, Amelia, you're the perfect candidate. Especially given the uncertain climate, with war hovering on the horizon.
I think it's a good idea, and we need to go into the trial with a plan." They all nodded. Ousting a Minister before the end of his or her term was not as easy as it sounded. A vote of no confidence would need to be seconded, and then the Minister had to be voted out of office by at least ninety percent of the Wizengamot.
If the vote was successful, an interim Minister would be voted in for a period of sixty days, at which point a general election would take place. The next hour or so, the adults sat and planned, trying to account for everything, from the dark faction of the Wizengamot, to what Dumbledore might do.
After a while, Sirius suggested fetching the younger generation, so that they could be informed. There was some disagreement, but eventually, everyone decided it would be for the best. "Kingsley, you said a while back that Harry would be the one leading this fight.
I have a feeling you're right, and if that's the case, his friends will not abandon him." He looked over at Minerva. "Minerva, we made a decision over the summer not to keep secrets from Harry, so that he could make informed choices. He deserves to know what we've been talking about." "I agree," Fleur commented, speaking up for the first time. "I am honored to be included, and happy to help in any way I can.
Harry proved last year that he is capable of handling whatever life throws at him. I will trust him, and follow him. He should be involved in this discussion, especially if what you say is true and he will lead this fight." Minerva sighed, and sent Tibby to fetch Harry and his friends. To say that they were surprised to be included would be an understatement, but they eagerly listened to what the adults had discussed, and the remainder of the day passed by quickly as more plans were made and firmed up.
Amelia took Harry and Ginny aside later in the afternoon to speak with them about the trial, as both would need to be there. When it was almost time for dinner, the group left off with the serious conversations, and moved on to more lighthearted discussions. Harry and his friends spoke about the Defense lessons they had had over the holidays.
Kingsley was a welcome addition, and they had learned many new things from the Auror. He was also a good and fair man; throwing his lot in with them, rather than Dumbledore, proved that he was more interested in doing the right thing, and that he could actually think for himself. Harry interestedly watched Remus and Tonks for the last hour before supper. Those two had been dancing around each other for months. It was amusing, but Harry was getting tired of it.
Why wouldn't Remus make a move? He knew the werewolf cared for the young metamorphmagus, so what was stopping him? Tibby popped in to tell them that dinner was ready, and they enjoyed a filling meal that left all of them close to a food coma. After they had rested enough at the table to be able to move, they went back to the sitting room, and spent another few hours enjoying each other's company, without worrying about Voldemort, or Umbridge, or anything else.
Right now was for family. Harry found himself sitting next to Sirius as the two watched Remus and Tonks from across the room. Sirius sighed, shaking his head at his friend. He could see how much Remus cared for Tonks, but he also knew why the werewolf wouldn't let himself go for it.
Harry looked over at his godfather. "Why won't he make a move?" he asked quietly. Sirius turned to the teenager and raised an eyebrow. "It's so obvious he cares for her, why won't he do something about it?" Sirius sighed again. "We accept the love we think we deserve," he replied, his voice just as quiet. "Remus hasn't had an easy life, and because of his status as a werewolf, he doesn't think he deserves happiness." "But that's stupid," Harry argued.
Sirius nodded. "It is," he agreed. "But it's the way Remus thinks." Soon enough, it was time for everyone to go home. Once the guests were gone, everyone else headed up to bed, trickling up the stairs in twos and threes. Harry and Remus were the last two downstairs, after Harry shot his godfather a significant look, silently telling him to leave them alone. Remus furrowed his brow, confused. "Harry, what's " Harry leaned in, his eyes almost glowing in intensity.
"Tell her." "What?" Remus asked, confused. Harry sighed. "If there's one thing my parents taught me, it's that life is fragile. You never know what's going to happen, so you have to grab every opportunity, and hold onto it." Remus still looked perplexed.
"You like Tonks. That much is obvious. And it's equally obvious that she likes you. So go for it." Remus shook his head.
"I can't, Harry. I'm a werewolf, it just can't happen." "Why not?" Harry asked. Remus stared. "Because… because… because I'm a monster!" "Have you ever hurt anyone?" "No, but " "Then why do you call yourself a monster? As much of a bone as I have to pick with Dumbledore, he is right when he says that it's a person's choices that make us who we are.
Being a werewolf doesn't make you a monster. You've got a furry problem. If Tonks doesn't care, why should you?" Remus was now gaping. After several minutes of silence, Harry grew uncomfortable. "Remus?" Remus snapped out of it, and chuckled a little.
"I was just remembering your father calling it my furry little problem." Harry laughed too. Remus grew more serious, as he thought about what his pseudo nephew had said. "Harry, I… I know what I want, but it wouldn't be fair." "To whom?" Harry asked reasonably.
"Tonks wants it as well. Just let yourself be happy Remus. You deserve it. I know it might seem impossible, but if you keep looking for reasons not to be with someone, you're always going to find them. Just once, Remus, let yourself accept the happiness you deserve. Take a leap of faith and just trust." With that, he headed upstairs to bed, leaving the werewolf even more confused than before. XXX The days between Christmas and New Years passed by quickly, with Defense lessons, animagus training, and Jason Holding returning to test their Occlumency shields, pronouncing them all competent and most likely able to hold their own against Snape, and probably Dumbledore as well.
He once more told Harry he would be able to do more than hold his own against the two best Legilimens in the country; he would most likely give them a headache that would last for days, if they managed to find their way out of the maze the fifth year had created in his mind.
It truly was impressive, Jason thought, as he had to sit down to wait for the dizziness to pass after an attempt at seeing into the teenager's mind. Harry surprised all of them on December twenty ninth, as they all spent several hours in one of the sitting rooms in the basement practicing their animagus forms. They were sitting around the room when, all of a sudden, everyone was startled out of their practice to see a black panther sitting in front of them.
"Harry?" Ginny asked softly, staring at her boyfriend. Harry looked around the room, marveling at how everything looked through the panther's eyes.
He could feel the animal instincts, but he still knew who he was. Sirius grinned from his spot in the corner, where he had been watching over the practice. "Good job, Harry. Can you change back?" It was strange to see such a look of concentration on an animal's face, but a few moments later, Harry was once more sitting in front of them.
"Wicked," he breathed, grinning from ear to ear. They spent a few minutes talking about Harry's experience. "So how did you manage to do it?" Ron asked. "How come you and Ginny are so far along?" The two teenagers shared a look. What do you think? Harry asked. Ginny bit her lip. We should tell them your theory. Clearly, it works.
This could help them progress. Harry nodded mentally, and they turned back to their friends. Harry looked around and focused on one of the pillows. He pointed at it, and the group all watched in awe as it rose into the air several feet. He waited a few moments, before lowering it back down. "How?" Hermione asked in a hushed voice.
Harry spent a few minutes explaining his theory to all of them. "I figured the animagus transformation is wandless, so in theory, learning wandless magic would help. And I was right." "Can you teach us?" Susan asked eagerly. Harry nodded, smiling. "That's the plan, here. I taught it to Ginny, and I was going to teach all of you, but things have been a little… hectic lately." The rest of the afternoon was then spent with Harry showing them how to feel the magic as they cast the levitation charm over and over again.
Neville was the only one who made any progress that day, feeling something like a tingle in his arm after several hours of work, but he still couldn't get the pillow to levitate without his wand. Hermione was very frustrated. She was used to being at the top of the class, but she couldn't understand why she couldn't get this. Ron was also frustrated, but not nearly so as Hermione, and Susan just kept practicing with a grim determination.
Harry told them all to keep working at it, as the day came to a close and Neville and Susan had to return home, while the rest needed to clean up for dinner. XXX The next day, December thirtieth, saw the inhabitants of McGonagall Castle up bright and early, preparing to go to the Ministry for the trial of Delores Umbridge. Technically, only Minerva, Harry, and Ginny needed to be there, but the rest had no intention of letting them go alone.
As soon as breakfast was finished, the large group congregated in the sitting room that housed the Floo access. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes nice pants and dress shirts for the men, while Mrs. Weasley, Hermione, and Ginny wore skirts and blouses. Harry and Sirius were wearing formal robes, with their respective House Crest over the left breast.
Minerva's robes were just as formal, but without the Crest. They arrived in the entrance to the Ministry and were met by Susan, Augusta, and Neville. Sirius' raised eyebrow towards the Longbottom dowager produced an explanation. "Amelia asked me to meet you here, as she has a few last minute details to take care of. Neville and Susan both insisted on coming as well." Harry smiled at his friends.
They understood his appreciation without him having to say anything, and as a group, all headed down to Courtroom Ten, where the trial would be taking place. They were half an hour early, and most of the Wizengamot had not arrived yet. Most of the Weasleys and Hermione took their seats in the audience section of the room, separated from the front by a barrier. Minerva took Harry and Ginny with her to sit in the witness section; as she had been one of those who went to confront Umbridge, and had taken Harry to Madam Pomfrey to be treated, she would need to tell the court what she had seen.
Ginny, as the one to bring the situation to McGonagall's attention, would also need to testify. Augusta and Neville left with Sirius to take their family seats. This was the first time Neville would be sitting in the Longbottom section, but Augusta felt it would be a good learning experience for him.
He was dressed formally, like his grandmother, Sirius, and Harry, in robes that proudly displayed the Longbottom Crest, and tried not to let his nerves show as he sat down next to Augusta. The stern woman grasped his hand briefly, squeezing firmly before letting go. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and caught her small smile. He felt a few knots in his stomach untie. He felt better. Slowly over the next half hour, people trickled into the courtroom.
Wizengamot members, reporters, and others who wanted to see the vile woman get what she deserved. The younger crowd recognized several classmates and nodded their hellos. The DA leaders had all come to support Harry, though there were a few who had other agendas as well. Blaise and Daphne were able to read between the lines enough to realize that this could very well be the day Fudge's government fell, and wanted to see what Harry and Lord Black would do; Cho had similar goals, but she mostly wanted to see her parents realize just where trusting Fudge and Umbridge would get them, and Cedric just wanted to be there for his friend.
At precisely nine o'clock, Amelia banged her gavel, and called the court to order. Dumbledore began to speak as soon as the murmurs of the crowd died out. "Welcome, Lords and Ladies, on this day, the Thirtieth of December, Nineteen Ninety Five. We are here this morning for the trial of Delores Jane Umbridge." He looked towards the door, and a moment later, two Aurors entered, half dragging the woman in question between them. Harry noted with interest that a prolonged period of time in a holding cell had not been good to the woman.
He felt even more disgust at her disheveled image; she had spent the time between her arrest and this trial in a Ministry holding cell. It wasn't like she had spent the last few weeks in Azkaban. The Aurors deposited Umbridge in the chair for defendants; as soon as she sat down, the chains began to move, effectively strapping her in place. "Madam Umbridge, you have been charged with the possession and utilization of a Class B dark object. How do you plead?" Dumbledore asked, keeping his ire for the woman out of his voice.
"Not guilty," Umbridge replied, attempting to sound haughty, but really only managing sulky. Dumbledore nodded. "Very well. Madam Umbridge. Will you willingly consent to a trial under Veritaserum?" "Absolutely not," the woman said snootily. "I am of noble blood, and I will not allow you to treat me in such a " "Yes or no will do, Madam," Amelia cut in testily. Umbridge paused and glared at the head of the DMLE. "No." Dumbledore nodded again, and turned to Amelia.
As the head of the DMLE, she would be the one to take the lead for this trial. Using Veritaserum from the beginning would have been easier, but it wouldn't make things too much more difficult.
After Amelia presented the evidence, a two-thirds vote by the Wizengamot could overturn Umbridge's refusal to use the truth serum. It would be slightly different from Sirius' trial a year and a half earlier, since he had willingly submitted to a trial by Veritaserum. Amelia shuffled the papers in front of her. "Madam Umbridge, you were caught in the act of using a Blood Quill, a Class B dark object, on a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Said student, one Harry James Potter, has stated that you forced him to write lines with the Blood Quill on six separate occasions; for five detentions in November, and one more in December, which was interrupted when Headmaster Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, myself and two Aurors arrived after being informed of the situation by fourth year student Ginevra Weasley." The trial was pretty straightforward from there. Amelia had Harry go up first and tell the court his experience.
Amelia asked for a few clarifying questions, and then called up Ginny and Minerva in turn. Once they were done presenting evidence, which included the photos that Madam Pomfrey had taken, Amelia turned to the Lords and Ladies surrounding her. "Members of the Wizengamot, you have heard the evidence. Does anyone here second my motion to use Veritaserum to ascertain Madam Umbridge's full culpability?" Augusta stood up.
"I second the motion, Madam Bones." Amelia nodded. "The motion has been made and seconded. All in favor?" Around the courtroom hands went up. The vote was tallied, and passed by a wide margin. Amelia let out a razor thin smile.
"The motion has been passed. Auror Shaklebolt, if you would?" Kingsley nodded austerely, and took out the small vial of clear liquid. He handed it to the aide standing nearby. The aide waved a wand over the vial, before looking up and nodding. "The serum is authenticated, Madam, Chief Warlock." Kingsley then went over and, after forcing Umbridge to open her mouth, placed three drops of the potion on her tongue.
He stepped back, and returned the vial to his robe pocket. As soon as Umbridge's eyes glazed over, Amelia began her questioning. "What is your name?" "Delores Jane Umbridge." "Did you purposefully, and with full knowledge of the consequences, force a student to use a Blood Quill in his detentions?" "Yes." There was some muttering in the crowd, and more than one person glared at Umbridge. Amelia's smiled widened minutely, making her look slightly feral.
"Why?" Fudge tried to protest the question, but it was too late. Umbridge was already answering. He knew he couldn't stop the trial, so he was hoping to distance himself from his Senior Undersecretary; but, showing some of the intelligence that had to have gotten him elected all those years ago, he knew that her answers under Veritaserum would not leave him looking too golden. "Potter needed to be handled. He's a disruptive influence on the students, and his lies about the Dark Lord's return needed to be stopped.
Cornelius had been complaining about him for months; he wanted him handled, so I did something." People now glared at the Minister, while Amelia almost shook her head in exasperation. Harry hadn't even been the most vocal about Voldemort's return. Umbridge had just focused on the person she thought wouldn't be able to do anything about it. If she had tried to take on Amelia or Sirius, perhaps this trial would have come a bit quicker.
"Was anyone aware of your possession or intent to use such a dark object?" "Cornelius knew I owned them, and warned me not to get caught." There were many more glares directed towards the Minister now, and Amelia felt a grim sense of satisfaction. As much as she hated to hear about a leader in their government acting in such a way, this was what they had hoped for.
Fudge was going down. "Have you committed any other crimes?" "Yes," Umbridge replied in a monotone. "What were those crimes?" Amelia pressed. "I spied on department heads, and I sent Dementors after Potter last summer." There were several shouts of anger now, as people were demanding Umbridge be punished.
Amelia nodded to Kingsley, who administered the antidote to the truth serum. Umbridge came out of the potion-induced trance, and her eyes widened as she realized what she had said. Amelia looked over at Dumbledore. "Chief Warlock, given the new evidence uncovered, I move to add the charge of attempted murder of Harry James Potter, and Ginevra Weasley as she was with him at the time, through the use of Dementors." Dumbledore nodded gravely.
"The charge has been added." Amelia wasted no time in calling a vote. "All those in favor of convicting the accused?" Hands went up around the room, and Amelia waited while the count was made.
"All those in favor of acquitting the accused?" There were several people who raised their hands, and Amelia made a mental note of each face, for later.
Unsurprisingly, those opposed belonged to the faction of the Wizengamot that were already on her watch list. "By a three quarters vote, Delores Umbridge, you are convicted of possession and illegal use of a Class B dark object, and the attempted murders of two minors. You will be remanded into custody until sentencing." "No!" Umbridge shrieked as Kingsley and another Auror, Dawlish, moved forward and unchained her from the chair before slapping magic suppressing handcuffs on her, pulling her up and dragging her out of the room.
"I did this for you, Cornelius! You wanted Potter dealt with, so I did it! You can't leave me like this!" When Umbridge was removed from the room, Amelia shared a look with Augusta and Sirius, before banging her gavel and calling the attention of the room to her. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Wizengamot, you have heard from Ms.
Umbridge herself how she was acting, even indirectly, under the wishes of Minister Fudge himself. It is clear to me that Minister Fudge no longer has the best wishes of the wizarding world in his heart. To that end, I would like to call for a vote of no confidence. It is time we had a strong leadership at our head." Dumbledore sighed, knowing that this was where Amelia would go after the trial, but he really did not think it was a good time. However, now that the motion had been made, he had no choice but to go along with it.
"The motion has been made. Will anyone second it?" He was surprised when, not only Sirius, but Augusta, Lady Zabini, Lord Greengrass, and Lord Patil all stood up to second it. Dumbledore nodded. "Very well. The motion has been made and seconded.
We need a ninety percent vote to pass. All those in favor of removing Minister Fudge from office?" Immediately, hands began to raise around the room. When tallied, the only people who voted against removing the Minister were those who had something very real to fear from a competent Minister. People like Malfoy, Parkinson, Nott, Avery, and the like. Not nearly enough to keep Fudge in office. Dumbledore hid his sigh. He only hoped that they weren't dooming the wizarding world by destabilizing the government.
"Minister Fudge, by a ninety percent vote, you have been removed from office. Madam Bones, do you have any further business?" Amelia nodded, and two of her Aurors moved around to Fudge's seat.
"Mister Fudge, you have been implicated in knowledge of a crime, I am remanding you into custody until your full culpability can be ascertained. Please do not resist." Of course he did. Spluttering, the Aurors dragged him out of the room. "You cannot do this to me! I am Minister of Magic, I demand " The door closed behind him, cutting off his cries. Amelia shook her head in disgust. Good riddance. Dumbledore spoke again. "Lords and Ladies, with the removal of former Minister Fudge, we find ourselves in need of new leadership.
Does anyone here nominate an Interim Minster for a period of sixty days, at which point a vote will be held for a permanent Minister?" Several people made their nominations. Avery nominated Malfoy, Doge nominated Dumbledore, Patil nominated Sirius, and Augusta nominated Amelia. It had been decided that Sirius shouldn't be the one to nominate his girlfriend, so that he couldn't be seen as being biased. After the nominations were made, Dumbledore asked if any of those nominated wished to abstain from running.
He, himself, declined the position, and, to the surprise of many, so did Sirius. Truthfully, the Black Lord really had no interest in running the British wizarding world. It was just too much work. He would help all he could, and he wanted to be a leader in the government, but he didn't want to be in charge. "Lord Malfoy, Madam Bones, you have both been nominated as Interim Minister.
Before we cast our votes, do either of you have anything you would like to say?" Malfoy stood up. "Lords and Ladies, it shames me to think of what our former Minister did while in office. I promise you that, when elected, I will see to it that the former glory of our noble society is restored." He sat down, and Amelia stood up. "The only promise I can make to you is that I will be your voice. Everyone deserves to be heard, and I will listen. A Minister cannot be selective.
I promise that I will work to create a better government, for you. I will ascertain former Minister Fudge's full crimes while in office, and I will deal with them. It is time for this Ministry to be cleansed of corruption, to become the just and fair legislative body we once were." Dumbledore then cast the vote.
As there were two candidates, there simply needed to be a majority vote. He let out a sigh of relief when Amelia won by a landslide.
Even those families he believed to be leaning towards the dark voted for the DMLE head. Only Malfoy's cronies supported him. "Madam Bones, congratulations.
You will hold the office for a period of sixty days. If anyone wishes to run in a general election at that time, you have thirty days to submit your candidacy.
If there have been no contesters after thirty days, Madam Bones, you will be sworn into office for a full term." Amelia nodded, and smiled. "Thank you, Lords and Ladies, for your confidence in me. We are dealing with dark times right now, and I promise you that I will not let you down." There was some muttering at the allusion to Voldemort's return, especially since Fudge had done his best to keep that bit of information under wraps. The meeting wrapped up pretty quickly after that, and Amelia made her way down to the floor, catching up with Harry, Hermione, Minerva, and the Weasleys.
Sirius, Augusta, and Neville joined them as well, offering the Interim Minster their congratulations. Amelia smiled. "Thank you all, for your support.
I'm afraid my schedule has suddenly become quite full, so I don't have a whole lot of time to talk right now, but I will see you all tomorrow evening." They nodded, and she walked away, calling for Kingsley and Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour to join her.
The rest of the group headed back up to the lobby, avoiding the reporters as they went home. It had been a long day, and it was barely passed noon. Augusta and Neville returned to Longbottom Manor, while Susan took the Floo to the Bones Estate, and the rest went back to McGonagall Castle.
Arthur was pretty much completely healed by now, but the Weasleys were still staying at the Castle, mostly because Minerva wouldn't let them leave. So it had been decided that they would return to the Burrow after the kids all went back to Hogwarts.
It made things a little easier, especially on Molly as she didn't have to worry about cooking anything, but Harry privately thought that might not be the best thing. Cooking seemed to be how she calmed herself. But he enjoyed having the Weasleys in residence. It was much louder and more exciting. He enjoyed the chaos such a large family brought with them, and, despite what some may think, he knew Minerva enjoyed it as well.
All of them felt much better as they Flooed back to the Castle. Umbridge was dealt with, Fudge was out of office, and it looked like things were finally getting better. _ _ _ Chapter 15 Disclaimer: not mine "Come in, Severus," Dumbledore called pleasantly, in response to the Potions master's knock on his office door.
Severus opened the door and walked inside, taking a seat in front of the headmaster's desk. "You wished to see me, Albus?" Dumbledore nodded, setting down the parchment he had been reviewing. It had been a long day for him; the rest of his afternoon had been eaten up with the change in leadership and Umbridge's arrest.
Apart from Amelia's new duties as Minister, they had to pass a sentence on the former Senior Undersecretary. There were many who voted for the Dementor's Kiss, but Dumbledore had fought against it. No matter how heinous a crime, no one deserved that punishment. In the end, she had been sentenced to life in Azkaban a longer term than she would have received, had she not admitted to the attempted murder of Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley. Forcing his weariness and stray thoughts behind his Occlumency barriers, Dumbledore sat back and folded his hands in his lap.
"Yes, Severus, thank you for coming. I wished to speak with you about something of concern. As you are aware, Harry had a rather disturbing dream at the beginning of the school break." He ignored Snape's scowl at the name of the son of his childhood enemy. "While he did manage to save Arthur, I am concerned that he may have a connection to Voldemort's mind, and I wish to put an end to that.
To that end, I would like you to teach the boy Occlumency next term." Snape hid his flinch at the name of his former master, and raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me you haven't tried to see into the brat's mind lately?" Dumbledore allowed himself a small frown, remembering the last time he had tried, over a year ago.
He hadn't been able to see anything, and Harry had asked to be dismissed shortly after his attempt. "What do you mean?" Snape actually let out a small snort. "The boy already knows Occlumency, Albus. I haven't been able to catch even cursory thoughts or emotions in months." Dumbledore let out a small sigh.
"I still wish for you to test him, Severus. Just to make certain he can protect himself." Severus nodded, agreeing, though he kept himself from thinking about the motives behind Dumbledore's request until he was in his quarters later that night. Why did the headmaster wish for him to teach the boy? Wasn't it obvious by now that nothing good would come of that? Surely there were others who could teach him. Albus himself, for example.
A Ministry Legilimens. Surely the now Minister Bones could arrange something, especially considering her connection to Potter. And why did he want the boy taught something he already knew? Something wasn't right, Snape mused, as he readied himself for bed, settling down with a potions journal. Dumbledore's interest in Potter was getting out of hand. Once more, Snape vowed to speak with Minerva at the first opportunity.
Even if he despised the boy, he had made a promise to Lily to protect him, and he would, even if it was from Dumbledore himself. XXX FORMER SENIOR UNDERSECRETARY DELORES UMBRIDGE BRINGS DOWN FUDGE! That was the headline for the Daily Prophet the next morning. The article below it summarized the trial quite factually, as well as the events surrounding Fudge's dethroning. Amelia was named as the Interim Minister, while Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour was promoted to the Head of the DMLE, and Kingsley Shaklebolt became the Head Auror.
Harry was very pleased with the way things had gone. Even though they had planned, that hadn't meant everything would go according to their wishes, so it was nice to see that someone in this group actually had luck.
The next article also screamed up at the reader from the page. YOU-KNOW-WHO RETURNS was written in bold print, with a summary of the events from the previous June, as well as what Amelia was doing to combat the threat; namely, increasing the budget for the DMLE, and working to protect the wizarding population of Britain, placing Auror patrols in heavily populated areas of the wizarding world, sending out pamphlets to tell households what they could do to be prepared, and the like.
Most of the day was spent pursuing quiet activities. Susan and Neville came over in the early afternoon, and they practiced wandless magic for a few hours. By the time Augusta, Amelia, and Kingsley had joined them, just before dinner, Neville was able to feel the tingle of magic quite easily, and was ready to try levitating the pillow without his wand. He didn't get it to work that day, but the fact that he could feel the magic was cause for him to celebrate.
The rest of the evening was spent just having fun and waiting to bring in the new year. There was good food, music, and lots of conversation. Amelia told them a little about her first day as Minister, but for the most part, they left off all serious talk for later, and just spent the evening having fun.
As midnight drew closer, the crowd went outside, and enjoyed the fireworks display Fred and George had prepared. The various couples shared New Years kisses, marveling at the display lighting up the sky above them. Remus drew Tonks away from the others. Once they were at the corner of the patio, he stopped, biting his lip as he tried to order his thoughts.
"Tonks, I'm too old for you, I'm too worn, too much of a monster. I've been through things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. You deserve someone whole, and young." He held up a hand as she made to interrupt. "That's what I want to tell you.
To find someone else, because it can't be me. But the truth is, I like you. A lot. I want to be with you. I can't help how I feel, as much as I want to, but I'm falling for you, and fast." Tonks beamed, and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him hard. Remus responded by snaking his own arms around her waist. Pulling back after a few moments of bliss, she stared into his eyes, and saw it all. The hesitation, the fear of hurting her, the monster lurking beneath the surface that haunted his every moment.
But she also saw the love, the joy, the happiness she could bring out in him. "I'm yours, Remus. I don't care about anything else. I want you, and you want me. That's all that should matter." "But I'm a monster," Remus argued, though at this point, both of them could tell he was losing the will to fight it. Tonks shook her head. "So you turn into an animal once a month. That doesn't make you a monster. You've got the kindest heart of anyone I've ever met.
When I say I want you, that means I'm in it for the long haul.
Furry little problem and everything." "I don't want you to see it," Remus tried to reason. "It's too dangerous." "Then I suppose I'll just have to ask my cousin for some tips on becoming an animagus," Tonks smiled. Her eyes sparkled, and she looked at him with nothing but love. "Face it, Remus. You're stuck with me. Now stop fighting and kiss me." Remus shook his head slightly, but he was smiling as well. "As you wish, my lady." And then he bent down and kissed her, oblivious to the grins directed their way, or the sickle Ron passed to Ginny and Neville to Harry.
Off to the other side of the patio, Sirius looked over at Amelia, smiling as he watched her joy. He knew she had been burdened with a great deal; getting rid of the corruption in the Ministry would be no small task, especially with a war looming on the horizon. "I love you," he said quietly. Amelia turned to face him. She smiled lightly. "I love you too," she replied, leaning over to kiss him. Sirius took a deep breath to steady himself, before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box.
He fiddled with it in his hand, as he spoke. "Amelia, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. Ever since the first time I saw you, I knew… no, that's a lie," he chuckled nervously, and Amelia laughed a little as well. "When we first met, I was a playboy, and you were married to your job. But even with all that, you were the only woman I'd ever met, besides Lily, who challenged me. And I loved it. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time, but over the last year and a half, I've only confirmed what I think I knew, on some level, all those years ago." "And what's that?" Amelia whispered, unable to tear her gaze away from him.
She had an idea of where he was going with this, and it both terrified, and excited her. "Marry me." Sirius' voice was just as soft. "Marry me, Amelia. I want to spend the rest of my life with you." His voice, his eyes, were so sincere, so loving, that she actually felt herself stop breathing.
The silence pressed on for several minutes, until Sirius grew uncomfortable. "If this is too soon, please, we can just forget " "Yes," she breathed out, cutting him off.
"Yes. A million times, yes." And then she leaned in and kissed him, throwing her arms around his neck. They pulled apart a minute later, and Sirius got down on one knee.
"Amelia Susan Bones, will you be my wife?" He held out the now open box in his hand, displaying the engagement ring. It was gorgeous, Amelia thought, feeling a few tears leak from her eyes. White gold band encrusted with diamonds all the way around, with an emerald cut diamond on top, framed on either side by a sapphire.
She held out her left hand, nodding and laughing through her tears. All around them, the group smiled and clapped, offering up their congratulations. Susan was the first to approach them, hugging first her aunt, and then her soon to be uncle, before stepping aside so Harry could have his own turn.
They stayed outside for a while longer, sipping champagne that the house elves had fetched for the celebration, talking and laughing and just having a good time. Thanks to several warming charms placed on the patio, they were all quite comfortable in the crisp January night.
XXX The day before the students had to head back to school was quite full. The morning was spent with Sirius and Remus in the dueling room Kingsley and Tonks were incredibly busy, and would be for quite some time, so were unable to join them. Though Kingsley was pleased with the promotion, it came with a good deal more work than he was used to. That afternoon, Ginny surprised everyone by almost completing the transformation.
She managed to change everything except for her head into a lioness. She was ecstatic, and everyone congratulated her. Neville successfully managed to levitate a pillow, and Susan and Ron both thought they could feel the tingle of magic in their arms as they practiced. Hermione still couldn't get it, and was getting even more frustrated. As everyone else continued to practice, Harry sat down next to his friend. "Hermione, you need to let go." "What do you mean?" Hermione asked, almost succeeding at keeping the annoyance out of her voice.
"I'm trying, but I don't get why it's not working!" Harry held in his chuckle, knowing it wouldn't help anything. "Hermione, you're a very by-the-rules person. Do you remember how you were when we first met?" Hermione nodded, confused. "You trusted more in books than anything else. You still always search for the answers first in the library. What have you learned about wandless magic in all your studies?" "That it's nearly impossible," Hermione replied promptly.
"Really powerful witches and wizards are capable of it, but it's not something most can do." Harry nodded. "There you have it." Hermione still didn't understand. Harry sighed. "You're inhibiting yourself, because you think that wandless magic shouldn't be possible for you.
You need to learn to let go, to have faith in the unknown, the impossible, the unlikely. You need to stop trusting books as law. Books are written by people, and people are fallible. When you're able to release all your preconceived notions, you'll be able to do this." Hermione looked a little offended, but didn't say anything, and went back to practicing. Before Neville and Susan left for the evening, Sirius gave them all some rather startling, and happy news. "Dumbledore asked me to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts for the rest of the year." They all grinned as they offered him their congratulations.
"That's really great, Sirius," Harry said, hugging his godfather. "You're going to be awesome." Sirius shrugged, looking a little uncertain. "Well, I never really thought of myself as the teacher type, but Remus is lending me his lesson plans, so hopefully I won't screw up too badly." "You'll be fine," Harry reassured him. The rest of the group was quick to agree, before they left the room, heading up to use the Floo, or to get ready for dinner.
XXX As the Weasleys were traveling from McGonagall Castle with Harry, Hermione, Sirius, and Remus to Platform Nine and Three Quarters the next day, they actually managed to arrive early, taking the Floo to the wizarding portion of King's Cross. Their good byes were quick, and they immediately got onto the train, claiming a compartment halfway down the train.
Susan arrived shortly thereafter with a contingent of Aurors; as the charge of the new Interim Minster, her safety was now much more important than it had been as the niece of the head of the DMLE. She joined them in their compartment, flopping down into her seat with an irritated huff. "Everything all right?" Neville asked, concerned. Susan growled. "I am so sick of my protective detail." Harry raised an eyebrow. "The only thing that detail's done is escort you to the station this morning." "Exactly!" Susan replied, throwing her hands up.
"I felt like I couldn't breathe the whole trip here. I don't really know any of them. Therefore, I don't really trust any of them." "If they weren't trustworthy, Amelia wouldn't have put them on your protective detail," Harry reasoned. Susan glared at him. "I don't see why I have to have a contingent of Aurors around me whenever I go out in public. I could have just Flooed over to your place and come with you." Harry shrugged. "Take it up with Amelia." "Just you wait," Susan had a gleam in her eye.
"You're the godson of the Minister's fiancé. You're going to have your own protection detail before you know it." Harry groaned, as he realized that she was right, while the rest of them laughed. Susan nodded knowingly. "We were all so excited for Aunt Amelia to become Minister, and to get Fudge out, we didn't really think about what would happen afterwards, did we?" Harry shook his head, still thinking about how little privacy his life would have, with a protection detail circling around.
Susan sighed. "We've had teams of three Aurors guarding the Estate since the thirtieth. Normally it's more, since it is the Minister, but Aunt Amelia doesn't want to take more away from the DMLE, with everything that's going on now.
And those on her detail had to swear all kinds of oaths, they're all competent in Occlumency, and have been vetted, put through all kinds of loyalty and trust tests. She's not taking any risks in allowing people into her home. It would be all too easy for Voldemort to get an assassin in, so none of the team is allowed inside the house, and she asked Bill to get a Goblin team to add to the wards. They're going to outfit the Estate with some more wards, against people who have the Dark Mark, people with ill will towards the inhabitants of the house, and one on every door that dispels the Imperius Curse." "Impressive," Hermione commented.
"I didn't know you could put up a ward to dispel the Imperius Curse." Susan nodded. "It's a Goblin ward. Not something they'd put up for just anyone, but supposedly, they respect Aunt Amelia, and one of their most respected clients wanted them to make sure that his friends were well protected." She looked pointedly at Harry, telling him quite clearly that she knew he was that client.
The train whistled and began to move at that moment. Harry leaned over and gave Ginny a kiss. "Come on," he said to Hermione and Susan. "We need to get to the meeting up front." The two girls nodded.
It wasn't strictly traditional for the Prefects to have a meeting on the train ride back to school after the Christmas holidays, but with the new Slytherin Prefects, and everything that had happened before the holiday, Cedric and Audrey had thought it would be a good idea.
They were almost the last to arrive, slipping into empty seats between Blaise and Justin. "Saw the Auror parade, Bones," Blaise drawled, looking over at the Hufflepuff with a smirk.
"Nice." Susan growled, as Blaise and Daphne both chuckled. The last few Prefects entered at that moment, and Cedric called the meeting to order. "All right, everyone.
This'll be a short meeting. I just want to say welcome back, and Happy Christmas, Happy New Year." He paused as they all returned the greetings and sentiments. "I'd also like to congratulate and welcome three new Prefects into our midst. Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass from fifth year, and Zachary Hollister from sixth year Slytherin.
Welcome to you, and I'm sure you'll be an improvement." The rest of the compartment clapped enthusiastically at the new additions, who looked somewhat surprised, but happy to be there. Cedric and Audrey spent another ten minutes going over patrol schedules, and a few other things, before they disbanded the meeting.
Susan and Justin had the first patrol, so Harry and Hermione went back to their compartment, followed by Blaise and Daphne. Luna had joined Ron, Neville, and Ginny, and they willingly scooted over to make room for the Prefects. Blaise and Daphne sat down next to Luna and Neville, while Harry and Hermione took the seats next to Ron and Ginny. Harry was surprised, as he sat down, to see that Cedric had followed them as well.
"I just wanted to thank you for the gift, Harry," the Head Boy said. "I asked my dad about it, and he said it would be a good thing to learn." The rest of the compartment looked confused, but Harry nodded. For Christmas, he had given Cedric, Blaise, Daphne, and Luna copies of The Mind Arts Identified, to help them learn Occlumency.
"Did he give you the same book he gave us?" Daphne asked, looking at Cedric as she gestured between her and Blaise. Luna looked up from the copy of the Quibbler she had been reading upside down. "It really is quite interesting, don't you think? I'm almost finished with it. The humblingers have already helped me start building defenses." Blaise chuckled and leaned over to give his girlfriend a kiss.
"I'm pretty far along in the book as well," he said, pulling back and looking over at Harry. "It's a lot harder than I thought." Harry nodded.
"Just keep working at it. I want you all to be able to protect your minds. We've all mastered the art," he gestured to himself, Ron, Neville, Hermione, and Ginny, "but it took almost a year to do so. There's more that I want to tell you.
You're my friends, and I trust you. But I need you to be able to protect my secrets." Cedric nodded. "I'll work hard," he promised. "I want to be there to help you, however you need. A storm's coming, and we're going to need all our wits about us to ride it out." "How poetic," Blaise drawled, but his eyes were sharp and amused. "But I agree. My mum may remain neutral in this war, but I'm willing to fight for what I believe in. I'll master Occlumency so that you can trust me with everything, and if you need anything, I'm here." Daphne and Luna nodded their agreement, before Cedric went to go find his girlfriend.
Susan returned from patrol a little while later, and as there was no more room left in the compartment, Luna, to the surprise and amusement of everyone, moved to sit on Blaise's lap, so that the Hufflepuff could join them. That seemed to be a good idea to Hermione and Ginny, who chose to employ similar seating arrangements with their boyfriends Ron and Harry certainly weren't complaining.
The rest of the trip to Hogwarts was uneventful, with Harry and Hermione heading out on patrol a few hours into the ride, and Blaise and Daphne after them. Malfoy chose not to stop by, something they were all happy with, though they did speculate on the reason why, deciding it probably couldn't be good, and promising to keep a close eye on the Malfoy heir.
Amelia had begun looking through Cornelius' decisions as Minister, and some of his files. She knew he had been taking bribes for years, but so far, she hadn't found hard evidence. She had yet to actually interview the former Minister, who was still enjoying the comfort of the Ministry holding cells. Harry knew that Malfoy had been a huge benefactor to Fudge's campaign, and was looking forward to seeing the haughty aristocrat fall from grace.
XXX Dumbledore waited until the meal was over before he stood up, drawing the attention of the Great Hall to him. "Welcome back everyone," he beamed.
"I hope you all had wonderful holidays. I only have a short announcement, before I send you off to your beds. I would like to introduce to you all our new Defense professor, Sirius Black." There was massive applause, especially from the Gryffindor table, as Harry and his friends were on their feet, cheering for the newest professor.
As the applause died down, Dumbledore was about to continue, when he was cut off. There was a collective groan as Sirius stood up and cleared his throat. "Hem, hem." Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at the man, and Sirius grinned. "Just kidding." The groans turned to laughter, and more cheering. Minerva shook her head fondly, and Snape just scowled. Dumbledore allowed himself a small chuckle. "I am certain that Professor Black will be an excellent addition to our staff. Now, it is getting late, so off to bed with you all." There was a mass exodus from the hall, Harry waving to his godfather as he left with his friends.
XXX Minerva looked up as someone knocked on her office door. "Come in," she called out, hoping that there was nothing wrong with any of her Gryffindors.
She was surprised when Severus entered, actually looking nervous. "Minerva," he greeted, closing the door behind him. "I wondered if I could speak with you for a moment?" Minerva nodded, gesturing to the seat in front of her desk, as she set down the essay she had been reading.
"Certainly. Is everything all right?" Snape fidgeted a little, startling Minerva. She had never seen the man look so… unsettled. "This isn't a conversation I wish to be overheard.
Would you consent to some privacy wards?" Minerva furrowed her brow, but nodded, whipping out her wand and setting the requested wards, before re-pocketing her wand.
"Now, what's this about?" Severus sighed. "I'm… concerned, to be perfectly honest." "About what?" Minerva asked, feeling confused. "Albus has asked me to teach Potter Occlumency, but he has to know that the boy has already mastered the art. Adding that to a few other things I've noticed over the years, and I'm just a little confused as to what the man's motives are." Minerva raised an eyebrow. This was interesting. In all their discussions, not once had any of them thought that they might trust Severus with their secrets.
"What else have you noticed?" Snape bit his lip as he thought about everything he had observed since Potter had arrived at Hogwarts. "Albus seems to have an unhealthy interest in Potter. Why does he care so much where the boy lives, or what he does when not in school? I can understand, with the prophecy, he would have an interest, but why did he have so much say in Potter's life before you and Black took guardianship? And did anything seem strange to you, with the stone?" Minerva gestured for him to elaborate.
"Doesn't it seem odd that three first years were able to get past those traps?" "It does seem unlikely," Minerva agreed. Snape nodded, gaining momentum. "And why couldn't Albus find the Chamber of Secrets?
If the story is to be believed, Fawkes was able to flash in with the Sorting Hat, so why couldn't the phoenix take Albus as well? And as much as I dislike Black, how could Albus not have known he was innocent? Why not push for a trial, even if it was just to find out why Black would betray his best friends? Albus is head of the Wizengamot.
Isn't it his duty to preserve justice, even for the guilty?" "Good points," Minerva said, relieved that he seemed to be coming around, and letting go of his childish grudge.
"I personally agree with you, and I know several others who do as well. What did you say to Albus when he asked you to teach Harry Occlumency?" Snape snorted. "I asked him if he had tried to test the boy's defenses lately. I'm sure he has, at least once, in the last year and a half. He has to know that Potter's shields are strong. There's nothing I can teach him. But Albus told me he still wishes me to test Potter." Minerva nodded slightly. "Harry mastered the art over the summer, after a lot of hard work.
As I was informed by Master Jason Holding, who tested all of his friends, neither you nor Dumbledore would be able to get anything from him but a large headache." Snape inclined his head, agreeing, and Minerva suddenly grew stern. "Have you been performing Legilimancy on students, Severus?" Snape almost grimaced. "Cursory thoughts and emotions only, Minerva, I promise. I never go deeper. It's simply a precaution, in case someone is planning something nefarious." Minerva nodded slowly.
She didn't like it, but she saw the need, especially in Slytherin, before the DA had revolutionized Hogwarts. Even now, there were several students who tended towards the darker side of magic, that she worried about. Most of those were in Slytherin, but she could name a few in other houses, even her own, that she was keeping an eye on.
"Can you tell me anything about your guardianship of the boy? What made you decide to remove him from his relatives' home?" Minerva hissed, her eyes narrowing. "Don't believe everything you read in the paper. Vernon Dursley may have been arrested and incarcerated for fraud and embezzlement, but the only reason we chose that angle was because Harry did not wish for the truth to be known to the wizarding world." "And what is that truth?" Snape asked delicately.
He had an idea forming in his mind, which he desperately hoped would be disproven. Please, not Lily's boy. Please don't let me have failed. Minerva sighed, trying to let go of her anger. They had been punished. It was over. "Harry was abused," she stated bluntly, noting but not bringing to attention the flinch Severus tried to hide.
"He ran away in the middle of the night after his uncle beat him into unconsciousness. It was fortunate that Sirius was worried, and went to check up on him; he found Harry dragging his trunk down the street, and got him somewhere safe." "How bad was it," Snape growled, his eyes cold and hard.
Minerva looked almost surprised, but she supposed she shouldn't be, considering the subject matter. It didn't matter who the person was, Severus hated abusers, after his own family life growing up. She also knew that he wasn't just asking about that one time. "Poppy was able to heal many previous injuries, including a broken leg, broken wrist, multiple broken ribs, and severe malnourishment.
You must have noticed how he grew almost six inches over the summer last year?" Snape nodded thoughtfully. How could he have missed it? How could they all have missed it? "Did Albus know?" He sounded very unforgiving, and Minerva knew that his eyes were being opened as well. They may just have added another member to their circle. She shook her head slightly, sighing.
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "He definitely knew that Harry wasn't treated well, but I'm not certain if he knew how far the abuse extended. A squib, Arabella Figg, was placed nearby to keep watch, and I know she made regular reports to Albus, but I don't know what they said. I warned him, before he placed Harry there, but he ignored me. And he didn't check in once in the first ten years. His intentions may have been noble, but his execution… well, it sucked, to be perfectly honest." They both chuckled a little at her choice of words, and fell silent for a few minutes, contemplating what had been revealed so far.
"I'm just not sure what I should do," Severus said, drawing her attention back to him. "I thought coming to you with my concerns would be a good idea, considering you are the boy's guardian." Minerva smiled slightly.
"Thank you, Severus. I appreciate your disclosure. As to what you should do… I'll admit that I am not quite certain either. Perhaps you could consider speaking with Harry, and even Sirius, at some point." She noted his grimace, but shook her head once. "I understand your animosity, but perhaps fourteen years is too long to hold onto your hate. James Potter is dead, and his son is not him. As for Sirius… he's changed. I would be the first to admit it. He's not the boy you knew in school.
Perhaps it's time to let go of the anger and animosity from your time as classmates. You've both grown up. Just think about it?" Snape nodded curtly, standing up as Minerva sighed and took down the privacy wards. He may not like it, but he would think about it. Especially when it came ot her suggestion with Potter. He had to admit, as he headed back to his rooms in the dungeon, that holding all the crimes of the father over the son was not right.
James Potter had been a bully and a prankster, and a bit of a selfish prat. But he had to have changed, because Severus knew Lily Evans, and if James hadn't grown up and matured, she would never have fallen for him.
And as for Harry, looking back objectively, he knew that Harry was nothing like his father. He never wanted his fame, and Snape had seen, even if he hadn't acknowledged it at the time, how much the boy shied away from his celebrity status. He couldn't believe he had missed the signs of abuse… no, that was a lie, he could definitely see how he had missed it.
When Harry had arrived for the beginning of his Hogwarts career, he had refused to see the scared and hurt little boy. He had seen the son of his childhood nemesis. He had seen James Potter, the well fed, lovingly raised pureblood heir; the selfish, arrogant boy who had made his life hell for seven years actually, come to think of it, Snape realized as he absentmindedly spoke the password to enter his rooms and collapsed into a chair in his study, James had changed a lot towards the end of their sixth year.
He had become much less arrogant, pulling fewer pranks in general, and against the Slytherins in particular. So he could see why he hadn't paid any attention to the signs of an abused child.
He had been so wrapped up with his petty hatred, he hadn't looked for it, and he had ignored any evidence in front of him. But last year, with guardians who cared for him, Harry had changed. His prowess in his subjects had grown exponentially, something that surprised many of his professors, Snape included. Especially since Harry now seemed to have a decent grasp of Potions, when just a few years earlier, Snape had been counting down the days until he wouldn't have to teach the Potter brat anymore.
Now, he rather thought he might enjoy seeing Harry in his NEWT class next year. He sighed and stood up to get ready for bed. He didn't really want to talk to Black, but somehow, he suspected that he would have to. Especially if they were to work in close proximity to each other. At least Black would be a better professor than that Umbridge hag.
He had received many complaints from his Slytherins about her teaching style, but had been unable to do anything. He would talk to Black. Soon. _ _ _ Chapter 16 Disclaimer: not mine Sirius was a huge hit as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
It took less than a day for that news to circulate. He used Remus' lesson plans mainly, adding a little here and there, taking from what he had studied in Auror training, and what he had been teaching Harry and his friends. When the fifth year Gryffindors entered the Defense classroom for their first class of the new year that Wednesday, they found that all of the desks and chairs had been pushed against the side, with a platform in the center.
The room itself had been temporarily expanded. "Good afternoon, everyone," Sirius greeted as the last of the class trickled in. "As you all know, I am Professor Black. I want to start out the new year with a practical lesson." Excited whispers broke out.
They all liked practical lessons. "I'd like to get a good sense of where you all are, so we're going to spend most of class today in some mock duels. Harry, would you like to go first?" Harry grinned, excited. He set his bag down and joined Sirius on the dueling platform. Sirius smiled. "This won't be like the dueling club attempt from your former professor Lockhart that I've heard about.
I'm going to count to three, and then we'll start." He turned back to Harry. "Go easy on me, Harry." Most of the class laughed, thinking it to be a joke, but Ron, Hermione, and Neville knew that Sirius was actually being serious. Harry just smirked. "Not a chance," he replied, shifting into a dueling stance. His feet spread until they were shoulder width apart, his body centered, ready to move at a moment's notice.
"One, two, three!" Sirius shouted, and immediately shot off a stunner. If Harry hadn't moved, the red beam would have hit him, ending the duel immediately. However, Harry had moved to the left before Sirius had even finished saying 'stupefy', shooting back a disarming spell of his own, which Sirius dodged, and the duel was on.
For almost ten minutes, the fifth years watched, awed, as Harry and Sirius ducked, dodged, and shouted spells. They all splashed harmlessly against the shield that Sirius had erected to keep stray spells from hitting the observers. After ten minutes, neither of them had managed to land a debilitating hit. Sirius knew he'd need to deal with a burn on his right arm, and Harry ignored the sting from a cut on his side as he moved, firing spells all the while.
It took another two minutes for Sirius to get lucky. Using a tactic that had worked for the teens over the summer, Sirius boxed Harry in with several rapidly fired spells. Harry dodged the stunner to his left, but in doing so, stepped into the disarming spell Sirius had fired to his right.
His wand flew out of his grasp, and Harry groaned, disappointed. Sirius handed him back his wand, grinning, happy that he had actually won. He had been a little worried there, for a while. It would have been embarrassing if he had lost to a fifth year in their first class. "Nice job, Harry." He turned back to the rest of the class, who were all looking at them with varying degrees of awe. "I hope you all learned something. Harry, give me a hand here.
What's the best offense?" "A good defense," Harry replied promptly, remembering that training quite clearly from their many lessons the last two summers. "Sometimes the best way to block a spell is to not let it hit you." Sirius nodded.
"Very good. You can get down." Harry did so, and Sirius spent another few minutes in lecture mode. "The shield charm is a good spell to have in your arsenal, but it won't block everything.
Seamus, can you tell me any spells that can't be blocked by a shield charm?" Seamus gulped. "Any of the Unforgivables," he replied. Sirius nodded. "Five points to Gryffindor. While a shield charm won't block those spells, there are other ways to halt them before they hit you.
In the next couple of years you'll learn about conjuration, though it takes a lot of power to conjure something strong enough to halt a Killing Curse. Can anyone think of another way to stop an Unforgivable curse?" No one spoke for a few moments, before Neville raised his hand.
Harry, Neville, Ron, and Hermione had decided to hold back in this class, when it came to answering questions and the like; they already knew the material, and Harry had made the point that it might be a good idea to give their classmates an opportunity first. Hermione had been a little less than enthusiastic, but she had agreed. Sirius nodded towards the Longbottom heir. "Neville?" Neville lowered his hand. "The Summoning charm," he offered. "You could summon something into the path of the curse." Sirius smiled.
"Five more points to Gryffindor. Good answer, and certainly doable. You all learned the Summoning charm last year. And as Harry demonstrated, the best way to avoid a spell is to not let it hit you." He then spent most of the next hour having different pairs go up and duel each other. In between, he would give comments and suggestions. He did try to pair up those he knew to be somewhat equal. He had Ron and Hermione go against each other, something that amused the whole class, as they wondered if their romantic relationship would affect the duel.
Hermione beat Ron, but it was closer than many may have thought, considering Hermione's place near the top of their class. Sirius had Neville and Harry duel against each other, something that both teenagers were very pleased about.
Neville was the one in their group who most closely matched Harry in terms of power, especially once he had gotten his own wand to work with. Ginny was pretty close as well, but it was hard for them to fight each other, because of their bond. They tended to know what the other was going to do before they did it. As the two boys dueled, the shy, uncertain, magically ungifted Neville Longbottom was put to rest once and for all.
He matched Harry move for move for almost fifteen minutes, before Harry landed a stunner. It was exhilarating, for them to duel each other. Harry may have been a little more advanced, but Neville made him work for his victory. They were surprised, when Harry revived Neville, to hear the class cheering them as they stepped down. The other duels were much less remarkable.
Parvarti beat Lavender, and Dean won against Seamus. Once everyone had gone again, this time with different pairings, Sirius had them all sit down, after he returned the room to its former state, the desks and chairs flying back to the center of the room, the dueling platform disappearing, and the room shrinking to its normal size.
"Have a seat everyone," he said, going to the front of the room, leaning against his desk. "That went really well. You're all advanced for your ages, thanks to the DA, I'm sure." He grinned at Harry, Neville, Ron, and Hermione. "I'm glad I don't have to make up for an entire term of doing nothing. We'll be having mock duels at least once a month, to make sure you're actually learning. As Harry said, the best offense is a good defense, so we'll be practicing dodging as well.
I know you've done a little of this in the DA, so it shouldn't be anything new. Are there any questions?" No one raised a hand, so Sirius smiled. "Well, I'm glad you all seem to understand everything. Since we have a little time left before class is over, why don't I tell you a little about my qualifications. Since you had to suffer through a professor who was in no way qualified to teach Defense, I'm sure it would put you all at ease." Several people did look like they would be interested in hearing Sirius' experience.
"I graduated from Hogwarts with an O in my Defense NEWT, so I did do rather well in the subject, I must say," he mock-preened, causing the class to chuckle. Sirius sobered. "The first war was in full swing at that point. My best friend James and I joined the Aurors immediately." More than one person glanced at Harry at that statement.
"At that time, they had condensed the typical three-year training period down to six months, the need for competent fighters was so great. I spent the rest of the war fighting Voldemort's followers, and on two nasty occasions, the evil git himself." There were several flinches around the room at the name, and Sirius shook his head. "That's something you'll all have to get used to. It's just a name, and a made up one at that.
I want you all to use it. Fear of the name only gives him more power, and he doesn't deserve it. We're facing another war, and unlike some, I'm not naïve enough to think that you'll be able to sit it out. You have to fight for what you believe in, and as unfair as it is, there may come a time when you have to fight for your future. How do you expect to fight Voldemort when you flinch every time you hear the name?" The class ended at that moment, and they all departed, thinking about the words Sirius had left them with.
XXX Almost to offset the wonderful Defense lesson, Care of Magical Creatures by contrast was the complete opposite. Hagrid had completely lost his confidence with Umbridge, and even though she was gone now, he still hadn't bounced back. Since his suspension, Harry and his friends had been spending classes looking after flobberworms, and that hadn't changed even once Umbridge had been arrested. Harry wondered what could be done to help his large friend, but didn't know if he could do anything.
He tried talking to him, but Hagrid just said he wouldn't risk losing his position. He couldn't leave Hogwarts. Harry thought there was more to it than that, but he didn't force the issue, even though he was pretty sure if they kept feeding the flobberworms as much lettuce as they were, they were going to kill the creatures.
XXX At the animagus training session Harry and his friends had that Saturday afternoon, Ginny finally managed to complete the transformation, changing completely into a lioness after an hour of practice. She informed the rest of them of her success by pouncing on the feather that Ron had been attempting to levitate wandlessly.
He had actually been succeeding, the feather hovering shakily an inch off the ground, before Ginny appeared, causing her brother to yell out and fall backwards, surprised. Harry grinned, before he transformed as well, and the pair spent some time romping around, while their friends alternated between watching them, and working on their wandless magic.
After a while, the two changed back, and Harry spent the next couple of hours helping to guide Neville through the next part of the process. Now that he had gotten a good feel as to how to use magic without a wand, he was attempting to transfer the theory to the animagus transformation. "Don't over think it," Harry encouraged, seeing how frustrated Neville was becoming. "It's the same theory as levitating a feather. Just feel the magic, and concentrate. Magic's all about intent, remember that." Neville nodded, taking a deep breath, and forcing himself not to get upset.
Just a couple of years ago, he wouldn't have considered himself powerful enough to even attempt the animagus transformation, let alone have the capability of performing wandless magic, and now look at him. They spent the rest of the afternoon until supper practicing, and Neville's hard work paid off, shortly before they left the Room of Requirement to go eat.
"I did it!" his shout drew everyone's attention, as they looked over to see a furry arm, with a paw at the end. Harry grinned. "I knew you could, Nev. Do you remember how it felt?" Neville nodded.
"Really weird," he replied, still beaming. He then flexed his claws. Susan reached over and ran a finger down his arm, feeling the light brown fur.
"Nice job, Neville," she smiled. "Harry, look at this." She then pointed at the feather in front of her. "Wingardium Leviosa." The feather lifted up into the air steadily, hovering a good foot off the floor, until she lowered it back down.
Harry's smile widened. "Great job, Susan. Ron, how's it coming?" Ron then showed Harry his own prowess. The feather was a little shakier, but it rose up a few inches willingly, and he seemed to have good control. Harry nodded. "You're getting there. Maybe a couple more days of practice, and we'll see how you do with the transformation.
Hermione, what about you?" Hermione huffed. "I'm still not getting it." She sounded really frustrated. "I understand the theory, I know that it's possible, so why can't I do it?" Harry sighed. "Because you've still got this block in your mind. Hermione, you're a very intellectual person. Even if you know that it should be possible, you spent so long thinking that it wasn't. It's going to take some time for you to overcome that. Just keep working at it." Hermione nodded, but she didn't seem pleased, as they headed down to eat.
XXX Sirius had joined Minerva and Filius as sponsors for the DA, as the students found out that evening at the meeting. It was something that made them all very happy, as they had seen throughout the week that their newest Defense professor really knew his subject. He had been compared to Professor Lupin more than once, something that made Harry very happy; even knowing that the kind professor was a werewolf hadn't diminished him as a person in the student body's eyes. "Welcome back, everyone," Harry said, standing up in front of the crowd.
"Professor Black has kindly agreed to act as another sponsor for the DA," he had to pause to wait for the cheering to die out, "so let's divide up by subject, and get started." "Can we see a duel?" Katie asked eagerly. Harry looked at her, confused. "What do you mean?" he asked. Katie grinned. "We've all heard about the duel between you and Professor Black in your class this week. We want to see a demonstration too!" There was more cheering and clapping, and heads nodding all around the room.
Sirius and Harry shared a look. Sirius raised an eyebrow, and Harry nodded in reply. With a sweep of his wand, Sirius had all the furniture cleared from the center of the room. Flitwick put up a dome shield, while the students all moved to the edges of the room.
"How about two on two?" Harry asked impishly, fingering his wand as he looked over at Sirius. Sirius paused for a moment, but then nodded, his grin widening.
He looked over at Minerva. "Professor McGonagall, care to give me a hand?" Minerva looked surprised, but nodded, a smirk adorning her face that had most of the students looking at their Transfiguration professor in a new light. She looked like the cat that ate the canary, and got the cream as well. Harry didn't even look over, but Ginny separated from the crowd and joined him, smiling widely. The two pairs went to opposite sides, while Flitwick stood in the middle.
"On the count of three," he squeaked, moving backwards until he was at the very edge of the dome shield. He counted to three, and immediately, the four duelers sprung into action. Those watching were awed. They had never seen their Transfiguration professor in a duel before, and were amazed at the way she moved. On the other side, Harry and Ginny acted almost as one entity, weaving around each other, trusting the other to protect them.
Not once could the adults land a hit on the two students, something that wowed the audience and frustrated the two professors. While they had fought against and beat Sirius, they had never actually dueled Minerva, so Harry and Ginny were cautious with her, sizing her up and communicating through the bond.
Harry was resorting to a lot of nonverbal spells. A collective gasp rang out as Harry actually dove over a stunner cast by Minerva, tucking into a roll and coming up again on his feet, firing back three spells right on top of each other, causing Minerva to resort to a shield charm, as she couldn't get out of the way of the return fire.
The shield only lasted against the first two spells, before collapsing, causing Minerva to dive to the right to avoid the stunner headed her way. Gin, we need to take care of Aunt Minerva. Shield me. He felt her mental nod, even though she didn't actually respond, and a moment later, her shield snapped into place.
Harry then exploded into action. He dropped down and fired off a round of spells, sticking to stunners. After a few moments, he switched spells. Minerva was still defending against the incoming stunners, so she didn't have time to block the spell Harry shot at the floor beneath her. It was as if the floor had turned to ice.
Her feet slipped out from beneath her and she fell to the ground, caught by another stunner from Harry before she hit the floor. With it now Sirius against Harry and Ginny, the dog animagus didn't stand a chance, especially when Ginny dropped the shield and went on the offensive as well. He lasted another thirty seconds, before being hit by a disarming charm and a stunner at the same time.
The room was completely silent. Harry and Ginny lowered their wands, panting with exertion, but grinning with success. Flitwick revived both professors, before lowering the dome shield. "Nice job you two," Sirius smiled, looking a little rueful, but proud of his godson and his godson's girlfriend.
"Indeed," Minerva added. "Twenty points to Gryffindor for that impressive display." "Wicked," Colin breathed from his place at the front of the crowd. "How'd you guys do that?" Harry and Ginny shared a secretive look. "Lots of practice," Harry replied, answering the fourth year. "So," he changed the subject, "let's get to work now. Fifth and Seventh years, the professors have some revision outlines for our exams in June, so you can know what you need to focus on over the next few months." The students all separated, still looking in awe at Harry and Ginny, the younger years and sixth years dividing up by subject, while those who would have to face exams in June went over to Harry and the professors.
XXX Most of January passed by relatively quietly. Montague was found in a toilet on the fifth floor. He had gone rather strange, babbling nonsense, not appearing to know where he was. His parents could be seen striding up the path to the school a few days after his reappearance, not looking pleased at all. Harry wondered if it was because of what had happened to their son, or if it was because this was the first time they had heard about his disappearance.
Minerva had confided in him that Dumbledore hadn't even told them that their son had gone missing. Neville managed to change both arms into those of a wolf's, and Susan had good success at transforming one arm into a wing. Ron hadn't had quite as much luck, but he had managed to change his nails into claws, and Hermione had finally gotten her feather to levitate, much to everyone's joy. She had been rather frustrated over the last few weeks, and they were all pleased that she had made progress.
Harry and Ginny had decided to devote several days to reading up on phoenixes, before they attempted to make the transformation; books on magical creatures in the library proved very useful, and they were hoping to make an attempt before Easter, wanting to employ every necessary caution, just in case. Magical animagus forms were practically unheard of, though there were several myths that said both Gryffindor and Merlin had taken the form of a mythical creature.
Harry wasn't sure if it was true, not having seen any facts to support the myth in Godric's journal. One day in the middle of January, Harry was awoken an hour before he would have gotten up for their morning run, by a shooting pain in his forehead.
He was surprised, because he hadn't felt much through his strange link to Voldemort at least, not when he was awake in a year and a half. Not since he had used the Black Family charms on his bracelet, and started learning Occlumency. Accompanying the pain was an odd desire to laugh. He quenched the craving, taking deep measured breaths to control the pain, as he quietly got up and dressed in workout clothes, grabbing a book to read while he waited for his friends to wake up.
He felt Ginny join him a few minutes later. Are you all right? she asked worriedly, sitting next to him. Harry closed the book and rested it on his lap.
Something's wrong, he replied, just as nervous. My scar really hurts. Ginny nodded. I know, she said. Even her mental voice was soft. Harry looked over sharply. What do you mean? Can you feel it too? Ginny nodded again, this time hesitantly. It's more like… phantom pain. It doesn't actually hurt me, but I can feel it just the same. Does that make sense? Harry shrugged.
I don't know. I'm sorry you're hurting too. Ginny shoved him lightly. Don't be. Blame Voldemort. Do you have any idea what's going on? Harry shook his head. He's happy though. Something's happened, and he's happy about it. I have a feeling we'll probably know what it is soon enough. He wasn't sure where his information was coming from, but he knew it was true. I don't really see anything unless it's a dream, but this morning, it was just pain that woke me up.
It's weird though. Apart from a few dreams, I haven't really felt much pain from my scar since I started learning Occlumency. This is the first time I've really felt it since I went to live with Aunt Minerva and Sirius. Ginny burrowed into his side. I'm sorry, Harry. I know how much you hate to have that link with Voldemort. Ron and Neville descended from the boys' dormitory a minute later, cutting off their conversation. Hermione joined them as well, and the five students went outside, meeting up with Susan as they crossed the Entrance Hall, for their customary morning run.
XXX It was obvious what Voldemort had been so happy about, Harry noted, as soon as he saw the front page of The Daily Prophet. The entire cover had been taken over by pictures of captured Death Eaters. Each one was captioned with the name, and what the criminal had been imprisoned for. Hermione gasped as she saw the front page, dropping the paper down on the table.
Ron and Neville, on either side of her, leaned over and studied the article, their own breakfasts forgotten, even Ron. Harry and Ginny were likewise occupied by Harry's paper he had decided to get his own subscription to the paper as soon as Fudge had been removed from office, knowing that there was a greater chance of more objective articles without the corrupt Minister in charge. Ron growled at the picture of Anton Dolohov. Beneath it was the caption 'convicted of the murders of Gideon and Fabian Prewitt.' He had never known his mother's older twin brothers, but he knew she still got teary eyed over their deaths.
Neville's eyes, however, were drawn to the solitary witch in the line up. Bellatrix Lestrange cackled soundlessly in her photo, looking quite mad after so many years in the constant presence of the Dementors. 'Convicted of torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity' was her caption. All around the Hall, people were reading papers and whispering. Harry didn't remember so many students receiving copies of the newspaper the year before, or even a few months before, but he supposed, with the official news of Voldemort's return, more people wanted to keep informed.
Susan went over to join them at the Gryffindor table, tears in her eyes. She squeezed in between Neville and Harry, who both offered her reassuring hugs. They had seen the picture of Mulciber, along with his caption: 'Convicted of the murders of Edgar, Marie, and Elisa Bones.' He looked up at the headline. MASS BREAKOUT FROM AZKABAN screamed up at him from the page. "Are you all right?" Harry asked worriedly, looking down at the Hufflepuff. Susan nodded slightly, her eyes downcast.
"How could this happen?" she asked, sniffing to keep her tears in check. Harry sighed. "The Order's been worried about the Dementors defecting for a while now," he admitted, his voice dropping to a whisper. "Fudge refused to listen, and I know Amelia's been busy with everything lately.
I'm sure she did the best she could, but there's no way she could have relocated the entire prison's population in the last couple of weeks." Susan nodded again. She knew it wasn't her aunt's fault. She just hated that her parents' and sister's murderer was now running around free.
XXX For days, the breakout was all people would talk about. There were several students who had relatives named as victims of the Death Eaters, and found themselves on the receiving end of plenty of unwanted attention. Ernie Macmillion's grandparents had been killed by one of the escaped criminals, and Hannah Abbott had lost an aunt, uncle, and cousins.
She had tearfully admitted to Susan during Herbology that she now knew what Harry felt like, with everyone staring at him all the time. There were even more students who had family and friends who had been hurt, injured, or killed by the escaped criminals, even if they hadn't been named in the article.
Far from being cowed by the mass breakout, however, the students of Hogwarts threw themselves into the DA and their studies, particularly Defense.
It was a good thing Umbridge was gone, because Sirius was incredibly happy to help the younger generation learn how to protect and defend themselves. He was ecstatic to learn that he didn't have to introduce the Patronus Charm, now that the Dementors had defected, since Harry had done it for him several months earlier.
He told his seventh year class that they would all most likely receive extra credit on their NEWT for being able to cast a corporeal Patronus. Harry dragged Neville away one evening, telling Ginny to keep the others in the common room, as he pulled Neville to the Room of Requirement, asking for a quiet place for them to talk and not be interrupted. "Talk." It was almost a command, but Harry somehow managed to make it sound like a request, as he sat down on one of the sofa's the room offered.
Neville collapsed onto the other couch, and buried his head in his hands. "I'm trying not to think about it," he admitted. Harry nodded, understanding.
Neville sighed, sitting up and looking over at his friend. "I want to kill them." Harry nodded again, knowing that Neville was talking about the Lestrange family, but didn't say anything, just letting the teenager talk. "They destroyed my life." His gaze dropped to his lap. He fell silent after that, and Harry let the silence percolate for a few minutes, before he spoke. "They deserve to rot in prison, but Neville, your life isn't destroyed." Neville looked up sharply, and Harry sighed.
"I can't imagine what it was like for you, being able to see your parents but not have them recognize you." Neville flinched. "In many ways, I think you probably had it worse than me. I wish there was something I could do to give you your parents back.
But look at what you've got, Neville." Neville still looked confused, so Harry elaborated. "You're a good person, you're smart and talented, you've got good friends, and a grandmother who loves you, even if she doesn't always know how to show it. Yeah, your life would probably have been better with parents, but don't belittle their sacrifice.
Frank and Alice Longbottom gave their sanity for you. Be angry, but use your head. Train, work hard, and I promise you, when you go to collect, I'll be right there by your side." Neville couldn't help but stare at the teenager sitting across from him. Harry's voice was a mix of pain, anger, sorrow, worry, determination, and even a slight hint of disappointment at the words Neville had used.
It made Neville ashamed, as he realized that he had let Harry down. He nodded, biting his lip. "I'm sorry, Harry. I don't mean to sound so dramatic. I just miss my parents. I wish there was a cure, as well." Harry furrowed his brow in thought. An idea was niggling in the back of his mind, but he knew he would need to do a lot of research before he even thought of getting Neville's hopes up.
So instead, he sighed and stood up. "Just keep doing what you're doing. The Lestrange's will pay. I promise you that." And Neville believed him.
Together, the Gryffindors headed back to the common room. Thankfully, their friends didn't comment on their departure or arrival, and they finished out the evening doing homework, before heading up to bed.