White Knight, Grey Queen
5 - Planning
“Morning,” Harry said, his arm around Pansy as they walked into the library where Malcom and Gruoch were having breakfast.
“Morning,” Malcom replied. “We didn't expect to see you this morning.”
“I had another idea last night,” Harry smiled, sitting down on the couch. Pansy immediately sat next to him and draped her legs over his lap.
“Another idea?” Gruoch smirked. “Careful, Harry, you might hurt yourself.”
“Thank you,” Harry said dryly. “Is Lucius Malfoy still a governor at Hogwarts?”
“Yes, he is,” Malcom said, as he placed his tray to one side and sat up attentively.
“I was just thinking that he probably isn't the best person to serve on the board, what with him being a convicted-then-pardoned Death Eater. It would be much better if another respected member of a pure blood family took his place. After all, the other members have already shown to be spineless when it comes to running the school.”
Malcom smiled slowly. “You want me to take over from him?”
“Yes. It will mean I have an ally at school where we need it, Voldemort's influence is negated, and Draco learns that Daddy will not be able to protect him.”
Malcom nodded thoughtfully. “It's a good idea, actually, and will hide what we are doing with Remus, as people will think that I have what I want. Gruoch, how do I get onto the Board?”
“It's normally a hereditary position. Lucius received it from his father. If we have him removed for being a convicted felon, which wouldn't be hard, you can be elected to replace him by the other eleven members.”
“Who are they?”
Gruoch paused, an expression of deep thought on her face. “Two are related to us, four owe us a favour, and the other five are sheep.”
“Excellent,” Malcom said cheerfully.
Harry frowned, looking at Gruoch.
She laughed cheerfully. “I forgot; you don't know, do you?”
“That while Malcom's the businessman, I'm the one into politics.”
“No, I didn't,” Harry replied. “But it does clear up what you do all day.”
“You could have just asked,” she teased.
“True,” Harry agreed. “But didn't you have more fun telling me this way?”
“Yes,” Gruoch admitted.
Harry grinned at her and shrugged. “So, how are we going to get rid of my Quidditch ban?”
“It will be easier with Malcom as governor; he can simply reverse it. Her ban could only ever be enforced at Hogwarts, as she has no power any where else, and with a Governor overturning it, there is nothing anyone can do about it.”
“It will be good to play again.”
“Are you any good?” Malcom asked.
“Any good?” Pansy interrupted. “Try the best. He's a complete natural flyer, and he's only been defeated when some Dementors attacked him mid game.”
“Ahh yes,” Malcom said. “Another one of Lucius' wonderful ideas. Use the panic of Sirius escaping to put Dementors into Hogwarts. I’ve really spent far too long playing with the Muggles.”
“You were having fun, dear,” Gruoch said calmly. “And it's made you a lot of new friends, so you can't complain. Your attention is back where it should be now, so let it go.”
“So what are you to planning for today?”
Harry stretched, “As little as possible. Paddy worked us extra hard in our fitness classes, and I still haven't recovered.”
“But,” Pansy said with a grin, “he now has a very attractive six-pack.”
“And that makes it all worthwhile,” Gruoch said with a grin.
Harry and Pansy were lying on the bed together, reading. Harry was engrossed in the SH21-76 US Army Rangers handbook, making notes in the margin, while Pansy was studying a book on Close Quarter combat, their homework for their Weapons and Tactics lessons.
An owl floated through the window and landed in front of Pansy, offering its leg.
Pansy smiled and unrolled the letter, opening it quickly. She beamed as she read the contents.
“What's that?” Harry asked.
“My O.W.L. results, and the instructions for next year.” She paused and then looked over at him. “Of course, you can't get yours because no one knows where you are.”
Harry nodded. “I can't send Hedwig, because she won't be able to come back. I'll ask Dobby to go and get them for me; he should be able to avoid any trouble.
“Dobby,” he called.
“You called, Harry Potter sir?” Dobby said, appearing with a pop.
“Can you get my O.W.L. results from Professor McGonagall?” Harry asked.
“Dobby would be delighted,” the house-elf said, vanishing almost instantly.
Harry laughed to himself. “How did you do?”
Pansy handed over her letter.
“An O in potions?” he noted.
“Strange that,” Pansy replied dryly. “You'd think that Snape was biased or something.”
Minerva McGonagall sat comfortably in her chair, idly bouncing a letter in her hand. She now had a problem - how to give Harry Potter his results and schedule for next year. She knew now that an owl sent to him would come back with a confused look on its face.
Everyone else had received their letters. She was tempted to Apparate down to Diagon Alley and get his books for him; it would certainly be the easiest way of doing it.
Her musings were interrupted by a small pop as a house-elf appeared in front of her.
“Dobby?” she asked, frowning.
Dobby nodded. “Harry Potter asked Dobby to talks to Professor McGonagall because Harry Potter apologizes that you can't send his letter and asks that you gives that letter to Dobby instead.”
McGonagall nodded slowly, “How is Harry?”
“Harry Potter is a great and powerful wizard,” Dobby said solemnly. “He is happy, he has good friends that he is being with this summer, he is now safe from the Filthy Muggles and Evil Snape.”
She smiled faintly at the honest opinion of the elf in front of her. “Wait a second while I write him a quick letter,” she said.
Dobby nodded and sat down on the floor, obviously prepared to wait.
She walked over to her desk and pulled out a quill.
“Mr Potter,” she wrote. “I just wanted to reassure you that I have not forgotten my promise to ensure that you become an Auror.
“As such, I will be tutoring you personally in potions. I expect your complete concentration and commitment.”
She signed it with a flourish and handed the note, and his official school letter, to Dobby.
“Thank you,” Dobby said with a half bow and popped out of the room, leaving behind a slightly bewildered professor.
Harry looked at the hand written note in surprise; obviously, things had changed at the school as well. The only problem was that his Head of House's offer was going to get in his way of dealing with Snape.
“I think I need to talk to Professor McGonagall,” he said.
“Why?” Pansy asked.
“She's offered to tutor me in potions and while that’s attractive, I want to deal with Snape personally.”
“How are you going to get there without anyone knowing?”
Harry grinned. “Dobby,” he called.
After the elf had appeared, he dropped to the floor so that he was eye level with him. “Do you know how Dumbledore seems to know everything that happens at Hogwarts?”
Dobby nodded eagerly. “House-elves tell Dumbledore everything.”
Harry smiled – that was the answer he had hoped for. “Second question. How do you get through the wards at Hogwarts?”
“Wizard wards stop are only effective against Apparating,” Dobby explained. “Apparating is a very fast method of travel. House-elves use elf magic to move over distance, it allows elves to walk through wards.”
“Can you teach me?”
Dobby smiled, “Dobby expected Harry Potter to ask this. Dobby has permission from the Elf Council to teach only you.” He turned and looked at Pansy. “Dobby is sorry, Mistress, but Dobby can only teach Harry Potter.”
Pansy smiled, “Don't worry about it, Dobby. I'll go and spend some time with Mum.”
“Thanks, love,” Harry said, deliberately using a term of endearment for her, for the first time. He was rewarded with one of the biggest smiles he'd ever seen from her, and he decided to use them a lot more in the future. He watched as she walked out the door, and smiled as she turned her head to look at him over her shoulder, and then added an extra swing to her hips.
“What is the Elf Council?”
Dobby folded his legs and sat down with Harry. “The Elf Council is very old, but not used much. A long time ago, before elves started serving wizards, the Elf Council was in charge of all elves, like the Ministry is for wizards.
“Elf Council membership is for the sons and daughters of members. The Elf Council was last called many years ago, but Dobby asked for it to be reformed. Others elves agree. House-elves are no longer treated right by wizards.
“The Council have put Dobby in charge of being Harry Potter’s friend. Dobby is to help Harry Potter defeat devil Voldemort. So that Harry Potter will help all house-elves be free like Dobby.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Whatever you need, Dobby, I'll do. I always help my friends.”
Dobby beamed. “Dobby knows, all house-elves know. The Council Elves have watched Harry Potter and seen Dobby’s memories.”
The elf dropped his smile as he became serious. “Apparating is to jump from one point to another. It’s fast and safe, but wards can stop it. House-elves pop into the other place, move to their destination, and pop back into this place. The other place is everywhere and can't be stopped.”
“The first elf discovered the other place by accident. He had tried to Apparate, but found that the elf body is not made for it – there is too much pressure. He fell into the other place, and found that it suited house-elves, so he kept it a secret for everyone but Council. The Council decided that the other place would remain with the elves only.
“The only way to find the other place for the first time is for an elf to show you.”
Harry smiled and held out his hand. “Let's go then.”
Dobby beamed once more, obviously pleased at the gesture of trust. “Harry Potter promises not to tell other wizards?”
He nodded solemnly. “You have my word, Dobby, that I will never show anyone about the other place, or how to get there.”
Dobby nodded and took Harry's hand. A second later he popped; only this time, Harry was with him.
Harry looked around in awe. The other place, as Dobby had described it, looked almost the same as the room in Parkinson Manor. The only difference was that everything was a light brown in colour and strangely translucent.
“Welcome to the other place,” Dobby said softly.
“Thank you,” Harry said, just as soft. There was an almost religious feeling about it, as if speaking loudly would desecrate the atmosphere.
“Hogwarts is this way,” Dobby said, turning. The elf pushed his arms forward, and seemed to blur.
Harry shrugged and did the same. There was a brief feeling of unimaginable speed, before he stopped. Behind him, in the distance, was Hogwarts.
“Good first try,” Dobby announced, appearing near him. “Need practice, though. Distance does not matter in other place, simply face and go.”
“Okay,” Harry said quietly. He turned to face Hogwarts again, and pushed forwards. This time, he managed to stop inside the Great Hall, and looked around. He could see other elves moving through the space.
“Professor McGonagall is in her office,” Dobby prompted him gently. “Dobby has told other elves not to mention Harry Potter to Dumbledore. Elves here do not like Dobby, they think Dobby is a troublemaker, but elves will do as Council tell them.”
“Thanks,” Harry said again, a little amazed at how much the Wizarding world took for granted. This skill was going to be very useful with Voldemort. He moved through Hogwarts, straight through the walls, to McGonagall's office. He paused and realised that it was completely quiet. He couldn't hear anything at all, not even the crackle of the fire that burning merrily.
“It’s a pity I can’t hear anything,” he said to Dobby. “It would be a great way to spy on people.”
“Harry Potter can’t hear anything?” Dobby asked, sounding very surprised. “This is how house-elves are able to tell Dumbledore what is happening in Hogwarts.”
“It must be because I’m not an elf,” Harry shrugged.
Dobby nodded. “Elves have good hearing.” The elf paused for a second, and then said, “Harry Potter needs lunch,” and vanished.
Without really thinking about it, Harry stepped out of the other place with a small pop of displaced air. “Hello Professor,” he said solemnly.
Minerva McGonagall looked up and jumped, reaching for her wand automatically - no one should be able to appear in her private quarters.
Harry moved smoothly, taking a step forward and rapping the back of her knuckles, making her drop her wand.
“Sorry,” he said casually. “I didn't mean to startle you, but I'd rather not be cursed.”
“In person,” he grinned.
McGonagall slumped back down into her chair, shaking her head to try and clear it. She stood suddenly and walked over to her desk, pulling a small bottle out of the left hand drawer. She grabbed a small shot glass and poured herself a small drink of Firewhiskey.
“You are quite definitely the last person I expected to see here,” she said as she felt the smoke came out of her ears. “Can I ask exactly how you managed to get inside Hogwarts?”
“Mind if I sit down?”
“Go ahead, Mr Potter.”
Harry sat down opposite where his professor had been sitting before and relaxed. “I had Dobby show me how house-elves pop from one place to another.”
McGonagall looked longingly at the bottle, but reluctantly placed it down, as she returned to her seat. She had a feeling that the last thing she needed was to be slightly tipsy during this conversation.
“You do know, Mr Potter,” she said dryly, “that wizards have been trying to find out how the elves move for the last fifteen centuries?”
“Did you ask them?”
“They wouldn't tell us. Every time we asked, they said no. When someone tried to threaten them, the elves just vanished. We quickly learnt that they were not going to tell us, no matter what.”
Harry nodded, “Their Elf Council keeps the secret very well.”
McGonagall shot him a sharp look. “There hasn't been an Elf Council in years.”
“There hasn't been an elf like Dobby in many years, either,” Harry countered.
Harry smiled, not saying a word.
“Well, Mr Potter...”
“Call me Harry, please,” he interrupted.
“Harry,” McGonagall said slowly, looking him up and down. This was a very different Harry to the boy she had last seen at the end of term. He seemed to radiate confidence, as well as good health. “Would you care to explain what has happened this summer, and exactly what has happened to you?”
“Can I have your word that you won't tell Dumbledore what I tell you?” he asked.
McGonagall felt her mouth go dry as she looked into the fiery whirlwind that his eyes had become. She could feel them digging into her soul and knew that she couldn't lie to him. “You have my word.”
She felt him drop his power back down, and watched as he settled down comfortably.
With a pop, Dobby appeared with a tray. He handed both of them a plate full of sandwiches, and a glass of pumpkin juice for Harry, and a cup of tea for McGonagall, before vanishing again.
“Sorry,” Harry said with a smile. “It's lunchtime, and Dobby doesn't like me missing a meal.”
“Quite alright, Harry,” McGonagall said, taking a sip of the tea.
“I've started to grow up,” he said slowly. “After I left school and returned to the Dursleys, I was locked in my room, starved, and I caught Wizarding Flu. Some new friends of mine rescued me from probable death.”
“No, wizards. They helped me deal with Sirius' death, and helped fix the problems associated with fifteen years of poor diet, and arranged for some Muggle doctors to fix my eyesight.
“They also did something very unique. They told me the unvarnished truth and left it up to me to do what I wanted with it.”
“And what are you doing with it?”
Harry smiled slowly. “Starting a revolution.”
McGonagall raised her eyebrows. The smile disturbed her slightly; it was cold. “A revolution?”
“I don't trust Dumbledore anymore,” Harry explained. “Being so close to death is a very good way of seeing things in a different light. My friends have taught me how to survive and how to win so that next time I face Voldemort, it will be the last.”
“The last?” McGonagall asked softly.
“There is a prophecy that states that I am the only person who can kill Voldemort. And that we can't both live. So sooner or later, either he kills me, or I kill him. And quite frankly, now that I've got a girlfriend I'm in love with, the thought of death isn't as appealing as it once was.”
“When was death appealing?”
“At the start of the summer when I was starving and delirious. I accepted that I was going to die, and that I'd see Padfoot and my parents again.”
Harry shrugged. “Things have changed since then. I have a reason to win.”
“Didn't you have one before?”
“Not really. I have some of the best friends, but that wasn't really enough. Especially when they've spent the last two years engaged in open flirting.”
A small smile appeared briefly on McGonagall's face. It was an apt description of Ron and Hermione, and it had been the topic of some gossip in the staff room.
“And I lost pretty much everything else that meant anything to me.” He paused and then said with a smile. “So, is there still a place for me on the Quidditch team?”
“I regret that I could not have your ban removed,” McGonagall explained, sliding her eyes to one side. She had tried, but Umbridge had insisted and had refused to budge. “Professor Umbridge...”
“Professor Umbridge will be in jail soon,” Harry interrupted calmly. “And my ban will be lifted on the first day of school, when the new Governor is appointed to the board.”
“What new Governor?” McGonagall asked, sounding a little bewildered, even to herself. Talking to Harry at the moment was disturbingly similar to talking to Dumbledore, or at least, how it had been many years ago.
“The new Governor that will be taking over from Lucius Malfoy. Only, he doesn't know it yet, so I'd appreciate it if you kept it under your hat, so to speak.”
“And why will Professor Umbridge be in jail?”
“Illegal use of a torture device,” Harry replied calmly.
“A torture device, namely a Blood Quill. On me.”
“She did what!?”
Harry stood and walked over to his professor and held out his hand. She looked, and noticed the faint scarring, and quickly realised what had happened. A Blood Quill, something that had been banned shortly after their creation. They were horrible devices.
“Why didn't you bring this to me, Harry?” she asked, desperately trying to control the urge to go after Umbridge and show her exactly what it felt like to use a Blood Quill.
“I was too proud, too stubborn, too stuck in my negative mindset. I couldn't see what I was doing; every time I turned around I found something else to sulk about.
“It didn't help that I couldn't talk to Dumbledore – he avoided me most of the year – and when he did, I didn't take it very well.
“I really felt like everything and everyone was against me.
“It's taken my new friends to show me how an adult acts, and how I need to act so that I have a chance to beat Voldemort.”
“You are growing up,” she said softly, realising that it was true. His frank self-assessment actually impressed her more than any other aspect, not even his mastery of house elf magic. It had been obvious to all the teachers for some time now just how powerful he was, but this mature attitude was much more important to her. It was reassuring, in a way, as it bode well for him in the future.
“It happens to the best of us,” Harry grinned. “I've found that being an adult has a lot more advantages in life, not least of which being an amazing girlfriend.”
“I read about that in the Prophet. Is she really a Muggle?”
“Of course not,” Harry laughed. “We arranged it so that her description was left out of the paper, as certain people would recognise her instantly.”
McGonagall frowned. “You arranged it?” If Harry had influence at the Prophet, it meant that he must be serious about his revolution. The Prophet, gossip rag that it was, was notorious for following its own path, regardless of anything and anyone else.
“I told you,” Harry replied. “We're starting a revolution. But that's not why I came here.”
“Why did you come?”
“I wanted to thank you for your offer to tutor me in potions.”
Harry smiled again, “But it won't be necessary. There are plans in place to deal with Snape.”
“Professor Snape,” McGonagall automatically corrected him.
“Do you really expect me to treat him with respect?” Harry asked with a curious voice.
“No,” McGonagall sighed sadly. “But that's not really important. In school, we can't allow anyone to be outside the rules.”
“Showing a lack of respect to Snape is going to be the smallest of the rules I'm going to be breaking this year,” Harry said with the slightest bit of a smile. “But if it helps, until I'm ready, I will be nothing but polite to him. I'm planning on giving him a little more rope.”
“So he can hang himself?”
“Do you really know what you are doing, Harry?”
“For the first time, I do. I have people I love and trust in my corner, I have resources and information; I have the training and ability to fight and win. The current reaction based way of dealing with Voldemort and the Death Eaters has cost too many lives. We are putting into place a plan to deal with the problems in the Wizarding world. The inequality between the species, the segregation at Hogwarts, the joke that is the Minister for Magic, Snape, Umbridge, the Malfoy family, and not least, Voldemort himself.
“The times are changing, and we are changing them.”
McGonagall nodded slowly, weighing up his words. “Who are your friends, Harry?”
She felt him stare at her again, as if judging whether or not she was worthy of the information.
“Malcom and Gruoch Parkinson. I'm in love with Pansy.”
McGonagall felt her jaw drop, and she desperately wished that her bottle of whiskey was closer than it was. Harry had spent the summer with the Parkinsons... no wonder he had changed so dramatically. As much as she didn't really like them, or their daughter, she knew them enough to know about their particular way of dealing with people. And how attractive that would be to Harry.
“Are you sure you can trust them?” she asked slowly.
“Absolutely. I know what they want, and it's a price I'm prepared to pay. Besides, I like them, and I know that they like me and Pansy's in love with me as well.”
“It does seem a slightly strange match,” McGonagall said lightly, trying to work out what on earth would attract Harry to the sneering Slytherin.
An amused look appeared on his face, and his eyes twinkled. “Some things are not what they seem,” he agreed with a slight smirk.
McGonagall eased back into her chair again, clinging on to her cup of tea almost desperately. So much had changed in her well-ordered world, and what was happening was more than a little scary. Malcom and Gruoch's ambition was legendary, but they were basically honest.
“What do you need me to do to help?” she asked, after deciding that it would be much better if she was on the inside track, so that she could keep an eye on how things were developing and try to at least protect Harry, if it was needed.
“Are you volunteering to help?” Harry asked, a teasing glint in his eye.
“Yes,” she said simply as she realised she was.
“At the moment, nothing,” he said slowly. “I've got spies in the Order, and in the Death Eaters. Malcom and Gruoch are looking after the Ministry; Remus is recruiting the werewolves to join me. Tonks is sounding out the Aurors, and the house-elves and the Goblins are already on our side.”
It took all of her willpower not to gape at him again. She had offered partly because she had felt that he'd need her help with organising, but to find he had been serious about a revolution was actually a little disconcerting.
“When we get back to school, things will be different. At some stage, I'm going to have to sneak into the Forbidden Forest – I need to call in a favour with Aragog, and I'll need someone to cover for me if I need to get out of school at short notice.”
McGonagall nodded. She desperately wanted to ask why he needed to talk to that giant spider but guessed that she probably wouldn't like the answer. She was already feeling a little guilty about joining him.
“Don't worry,” Harry said calmly. “I won't ask you to do anything you're not comfortable with.”
The fact that he could read her so easily, while a plus point, didn't quell her uneasiness.
“I need to get back,” he said, standing. He flashed her another grin, “I just hope I can remember what Dobby showed me.”
With a pop, he vanished, and a second later, Dobby appeared in his place.
“If Professor McGonagall is wanting to talk to Harry Potter sir, Professor should gives a message to Winky who knows where Dobby is being.”
“Thank you, Dobby” she said, inclining her head.
As the elf vanished once more, she walked over to the bottle and poured herself another drink. She had just agreed to join a sixteen year old in a revolution.
She really hoped that she knew what she was doing.
Rather than go back to Parkinson Manor, Harry headed towards the Ministry of Magic, intent on recruiting someone else.
It took him several minutes to walk through the walls in the Ministry till he found the office that he was looking for, in an older part of the building.
He appeared in the outer room and walked in swiftly, closing the door behind him.
“I'll be with you in one minute,” the occupant said cheerfully, his head buried inside a large white box. “Just as soon as I work out what this device is.”
“It's a washing machine,” Harry volunteered, amused.
“Ouch,” the man said as he tried to stand up while still inside it. “Harry?”
“In person, Mr Weasley,” he agreed.
“What are you doing here? I must tell Molly immediately.”
“I'd rather you didn't,” Harry said calmly. “I'm not really here.”
“I thought you were staying with Muggles?”
“I'm afraid that was misdirection,” he explained. “I'm staying with friends.”
“Well, Molly and the others will be delighted to know that you are looking so well. You're even looking a little taller.”
“I had a growth spurt,” he said dryly. “I wanted to talk to you – things have changed recently.”
“They have indeed,” Arthur agreed cheerfully. “I shouldn't tell you this,” he said, the expression on his face strangely similar to when he had given Harry the warning about Sirius Black. “But Malcom Parkinson is back active at the Ministry. I told Albus the other day.”
“Oh yes,” Arthur said, sitting behind his desk. “Malcom's bad news, almost as bad as Malfoy.”
“Really?” Harry said, trying hard to hide his shock. “Why do you say that?”
“Professor Dumbledore and Mr Parkinson have never got on.”
“Why is that?”
“I don't know the details,” Arthur explained. “But I fully believe that Professor Dumbledore has reasons, and that's good enough for me.”
“You're very loyal,” Harry commented.
“Indeed. And he'll be so relieved when I tell him that you are safe. He's been very worried about you. We all have. I didn’t know you knew who Malcom was?”
“Yeah, about that,” Harry said, as he realised that he would not be able to recruit Arthur as he had wanted. “I'm afraid that you can't tell him.”
Arthur frowned, “Why on earth not?”
“Because you're not going to remember that this conversation took place,” Harry said sadly. “Obliviate.”
He popped out of sight, and watched as Arthur shook himself, and then went back to work on the washing machine.
Harry shook his head, and headed back to Parkinson Manor.
“What happened?” Pansy asked as Harry entered the room. He looked a little down.
“Well, the good news is that McGonagall is on our side,” he explained.
“And the bad news?” Malcom asked, suddenly glad he had returned home for lunch.
“I just had to Obliviate Arthur Weasley; he won't be joining us. He's completely loyal to Dumbledore and thinks that you are somewhere near Malfoy in the scheme of things.”
“Have we ever done anything to Arthur?” Malcom asked Gruoch as he tried to search his memories.
“No, I don't think so. He's never been high enough on our radar.”
“So why doesn't he like us?”
“Because Dumbledore doesn't like you,” Harry explained.
“Ahh,” Malcom said as he watched his only daughter casually sit Harry down, before sitting next to him and cuddling into him. Harry smiled and kissed Pansy's hair, and relaxed.
“Why doesn't Dumbledore like you?”
Malcom winced. “I might have called him an interfering stubborn old coot who has his head up his arse,” he explained reluctantly, “and then went against his direct order to stay out of business with the Muggles.
“We've argued ever since then.”
“And it suited our purpose to have Albus against us,” Gruoch added calmly, “so we encouraged people to report our actions to him as often as possible. A lot of it was fabricated, but it gave us a certain reputation for ruthlessness that was extremely useful in dealing with some of our competitors. As far as he is concerned, we are somewhere near Malfoy.”
Malcom looked over to Harry, to see he had his head back and was laughing hard.
“I can't believe that you called Dumbledore that!”
Malcom smiled, “I was a lot younger then, a more headstrong. Now, what is this about Minerva?”
Harry sat back upright. “I had Dobby teach me how elves move over distances, their popping, and used it to go see Professor McGonagall, as she had offered to tutor me in potions, and that wasn't going to help us deal with Snape. While I was there, I felt that she wasn't happy with the way things were going, so I took a gamble and told her everything, like I did with Remus.”
“Oh,” Pansy said and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Good idea.”
“What did you do special with Remus?” Malcom asked, interrupting quite deliberately. He still had a few protection issues to deal with regarding his daughter and her boyfriend. And the fact that he still had the occasional urge to try and keep him away from her.
“He deliberately kept him off balance until he was sure of him, bringing up details in a seemingly random order, so that Remus didn't have time to think things through properly,” Pansy explained. “It means that when Harry asks them a question, their first instinct is to tell the truth, and when you combine that with Harry's Truth Stare, and you can see why he can make good judgements about people.”
“What's Harry's truth stare?” Malcom asked.
“It’s an newer version of what he did to Tonks. Show him,” Pansy said.
“I hadn't realised I hadn't,” Harry replied and then looked Malcom directly in the eye.
Almost as he watched, he felt the eyes lock onto his and couldn't look away.
“What were you planning on doing with the knowledge of my location before Pansy gave you the idea of working with me?”
“I was thinking about using it as an escape card if Voldemort ever came for us,” he found himself saying before he could even think of lying.
There was a silence in the room, as Harry turned off his eyes, his face unreadable. Pansy looked half horrified, half terrified.
Gruoch looked slightly worried but more about Harry's reaction than anything else, Malcom noticed, he knew his wife wouldn't be worried about his plans.
“That's what I thought,” Harry said softly. His eyes blazed back into life. “What about now?”
“Now you're family,” Malcom said, reeling back from the force of the look.
“Is there anything else anyone can use to try and put a wedge between us?”
“There is nothing else that concerns you, and we have told you that we've never been that fond of the law.”
“Okay,” Harry said cheerfully. “Glad that's out of the way then.”
Malcom shook himself, trying to get rid of the feeling of being so open.
“So,” Pansy said softly. “Now you've seen his Truth Stare.”
“How do house-elves travel,” Gruoch asked, making an obvious attempt to change the subject.
“He can't tell you,” Pansy interrupted. “He gave his word to Dobby. Don't you have to get back to work, anyway?”
Malcom looked at his watch. There was no need for him to get back to work at all, but he recognised a hint when he saw one. “Yes, come on, Gruoch.”
“Okay,” she said and stood with him. “We'll see you for dinner?”
“Yep,” Harry smiled at them.
He walked out of the room and turned to his wife. “Why does Pansy want us out of the way?”
“She's terrified that she might lose Harry over this, and she wants to reassure him and get reassurance back that nothing has changed between them.”
He sighed. “If I could have lied, I would have.”
“I know, honey,” Gruoch said calmly. “Don't worry about it. Harry seemed to expect it, and he asked the question. He must have been prepared for the answer.”
“I just hope Pansy doesn't hate us.”
“Come with me,” Pansy said, jumping to her feet and holding out her hand.
Harry took it, rolled to his feet, and followed her up stairs.
She took him straight into her room, where she felt most comfortable. Her stomach was still in knots after her father’s revelation that they had planned on selling him out to Voldemort.
The thought that she might lose Harry's trust or his feelings made her nauseous, and she needed to reassure him, and herself, that their relationship was still okay.
“Lie down,” she begged him. “Please.”
He looked a little surprised and did as he was told, kicking off his shoes first, before laying down in the centre of her bed.
She lowered the lights, kicked off her own shoes, and climbed onto the bed, throwing her leg over his waist, and sitting on her heels.
“I love you,” she said softly and leant down and kissed him gently. She pulled back, and hovered above his head. “And I'm sorry.”
“Sorry?” Harry asked, looking a little confused.
She nodded. “It can't be nice to hear that.”
“Oh,” Harry smiled suddenly. The smile filled her with warmth as she realised he wasn't upset at all. “I know you and your family pretty well by now, and you're nothing if not ruthless to people you don't know. Maybe I should be upset, but I can't condemn you for something you might or might not have done. You didn't do it, and we've all benefited from there.
“It's the only thing you've hid from me, and as long as it's the last thing, it's over and done with.”
“So you're not upset with me?”
Harry shook his head.
Pansy smiled and melted down against him.
“Did you really think I would be?” Harry asked softly.
She nodded slowly. “I couldn't imagine how I would feel if someone told me that they had been planning on handing me over to my enemies for their own freedom.”
He smiled up at her again. “Stop hovering above me and stretch out.”
Feeling a little surprised, she pushed her legs back and lay on top of him. She felt his arms come and wrap around her, holding her securely.
“How do you feel?” he whispered intently.
One of his hands was playing with her hair; the other was stroking her back. “Warm, safe, at home,” she whispered honestly. Life in his arms wouldn't be a hard thing to bear.
“How do you think I feel?”
“I'd hope the same,” she replied.
“I do,” he said simply. “Do you think I'm going to give this up, just like that?”
“I don't know,” she whispered. She couldn't ever remember feeling the same sort of panic that had grabbed her when her father had confessed. She'd forgotten that she had so blithely agreed with them, back then, as if it wasn't important; as if he wasn't important.
“I'm not going to give it up. I'm not going to give up being loved. Pretty much the only way you could make me want to leave you is if you cheated on me with Malfoy.”
She smiled softly at him. “Draco, eh? I'd rather let your disgusting cousin touch me than him. But you don't have to worry about that. I'd never let any other man touch me.”
“I know,” he said softly, his eyes twinkling slowly at her. “You're mine.”
There was a hint of possessiveness in his voice that thrilled her. “I am,” she agreed.
“And you've changed as well, Pansy. You're not the same.”
“I have?” she asked. She knew that she had, in many ways, but was curious as to his opinion of her.
“You think about other people more. You thought about how I'd feel in that situation – I like it.”
“So you're saying I'm not going to be the ice Queen of Slytherin?”
He laughed, and rolled her over onto her back, lying on top of her. “You can be if you want, as long as it's not to me and my friends.”
“Tempting,” she grinned. She felt a lot better now; her worries that had seemed so devastating a few minutes ago were now a distant memory. Harry loved her, and he would fight for her unless she betrayed him in the worst possible way. She reached out to touch his face. Betray him? She was going to protect and love him for the rest of her life. “But I dunno – might be a bit hard to turn it on and off just like that. So I'll just have to be me, and let people deal with it.”
“Good,” Harry agreed, rubbing his cheek against her hand. “Just be yourself, and we'll deal with everything together.”
“How do you think they are going to accept you being in love with a Slytherin.”
“I'm not in love with a Slytherin,” he said firmly. “I'm in love with Pansy, a student who happens to be in Slytherin house. I'm hoping that they will be happy for me and accept that I am happy and that I've made my choice.”
“But what are you expecting?” she asked, aware that it wouldn't be that simple. It never was.
“That Ron will hate it and that Hermione will over analyse it.”
“What about Ginny?”
Harry looked a little surprised. “Dunno. She dated a Ravenclaw, so I can't see her being upset about it. I have no idea how Dean will react, but then, I don't care either. Nor do I care about the rest of the school. They're going to have to live with it, and if they can't live with it, they're going to have to be very quiet about it.”
Pansy smiled up at him. “So I can still stop people gossiping about me?”
“Of course. I don't want you to change, Pansy. I want you to be yourself. Sweet, sarcastic, sensitive,” he grinned suddenly. “Sexy.”
“Sexy?” she asked, the warmth she felt from his embrace suddenly changed dramatically.
“Oh yeah,” Harry said, lowering his head till it was just above hers.
She could feel his breath brush against her lips, and she parted her lips invitingly.
“I fell in love with you,” he whispered intently. “I don't want you to suddenly try and become someone else because that's what you think I want. I want my grey queen with her arrogance, her slight superiority complex, and her innate belief in herself. I want you to stand up to me, argue with me, and to stand up for yourself as well. I need a partner, someone I can lean on when it gets tough, when I feel like giving up, and I want to feel needed, like that person relies on me just as much.”
Pansy felt a tear roll down the side of her face. She slid her hands up him, so that she could cup his face.
“I love you.”
All other words seemed superfluous; that was the only thing she wanted and needed to say. It was her declaration and her promise, her pledge to him.
“And I you,” he whispered back, his eyes open and unguarded.
She slowly slid her hands back up and tangled them in his hair. She pulled him down, and closed her eyes. As she felt his lips come into contact with hers, she started to kiss him.
“Come in,” Gruoch called from inside her room.
“Hey,” Harry said, as he entered.
“Harry? What can I do for you?”
“I've got a request,” he said looking a little embarrassed.
“How do you braid hair?”
“Braid hair. You know, in a plait or something.”
Gruoch shook her head, trying to clear it. Of all the things he could have asked her that was simply not on her list of possibilities. “Why do you want to know that?”
“Well,” Harry mumbled, looking down. “Pansy asked me to dry her hair the other night, and I kinda enjoyed it. And I like how braids look, you know, smart and sophisticated, and there's a picture of her wearing one that I really like. So I figured that if I learnt how to do it, she'd let me do it for her.”
“Oh, Harry,” Gruoch said, instinctively reaching out and hugging him. “I'll be happy to teach you.” She reached up and pulled her own hair out of its ponytail. “And I'll even volunteer to be your practice dummy.”
“Are you sure?” Harry asked nervously.
“I'm a witch,” she pointed out cheerfully. “As long as you don't set fire to my hair, I'll be able to fix it. You do know that you can use a spell to do it, right?”
“Yeah, but where's the fun in that.”
“I don't suppose you'd talk to Malcom would you?”
“About doing hair?”
“Yeah. Where do you think Pansy gets her love of people playing with her hair from?”
Harry laughed. “I hadn't thought about it.”
“Sit behind me,” she said. “The important thing first is to get the hair as smooth as possible.” She handed him a wide toothed comb. “So use this first, and then move on to the other one.”
“Okay,” Harry said as he settled down behind her, perching on the arm of the couch. “I was supposed to be brushing Pansy's hair the other night, but we kinda got interrupted.”
“Oh?” she asked, suddenly realising that the hair was a distraction to what he really wanted. A pleasant distraction – his hands were moving competently over her hair, and felt good.
“I kinda told her that I was in love with her.”
She blinked and felt a massive smile on her face. “Kinda told her?” she teased.
“Well, she had to drag it out of me. I let her see for herself first. I was a little scared.”
“Because everyone I've loved has been hurt.”
“Ahh,” she said, slowly thinking through it. With him being an orphan, abused, and with what she knew of his history, it was hardly surprising that he felt that way. “Switch to the other comb now, Harry.”
“You know, sometimes you just have to take that chance on people. I did with Malcom- a penniless Ravenclaw, where as I was a rich, spoilt, Slytherin Queen. I really didn't like your parents, and they didn't like me. Well, not at first anyway. But Malcom was determined, and he is a man who goes after what he wants with a single minded passion that I found irresistible.”
She felt him laugh behind her.
“I never regretted that decision, even when most of my friends ostracised me. It made me realise something - that true friendship includes acceptance and tolerance. And if they can't offer that, then they aren't true friends.”
She felt him pause for a second and then continue.
“I hope I do have true friends,” he whispered.
“So do I,” Gruoch replied. “You know it's going to be tough, for both of you?”
“A little,” Harry agreed. “But, as you just said, the only people that count are my true friends, and they should accept that I've made my choice and am happy.”
“Separate the hair into three even strands, Harry. And then comb each strand.”
“As for the rest of the school,” he said calmly, “Their opinion isn't what it once was to me.”
“Good,” she said cheerfully. “I know we're elitist, but there's a reason for it. The average person has their opinions formed for them by the wireless or by the Prophet. They're incapable of rational thought, and all they want to do is get through the day, get home, and do it again tomorrow, only with a shinier cloak or a bigger cauldron. They aren't worth worrying about.
“The people to look out for are the ones that hate you when you are popular, or who like you when you are unpopular. They are the people who can make up their own minds, and they'll be your closest friends and your deepest enemies. The rest are sheep, and you can treat them like such.
“You're a wolf Harry; we're all wolves. You keep your pack close, you trade with other packs, and you either ignore the sheep, or use them as food.”
“Don't you think you should look after the sheep?” Harry asked.
“Take the right strand of hair, Harry, and cross it over the middle section, so that the right is now the middle.”
“Yeah. Pull them a little, not too hard, to tighten it. Then cross the left over the centre.”
“And continue all the way down, just like that. The thing is Harry; you've got to be smart about being a wolf. What would happen if you ate all the sheep?”
“You'd have nothing left?”
“Exactly. You care for them, you protect them from harm from others, and you make sure they are there for you. The strange thing is, that they will eventually see you as being good for them.”
He was silent for a few minutes; she could feel his hands moving steadily down her hair.
“I find it hard to think of Neville as a wolf.”
“Wolves come in all shapes and sizes Harry – don't let appearances fool you. It's what's inside that counts.”
“What do I do when I get to the bottom?”
She handed him a soft hair band, “Tie it up.” As he finished, she stood and walked over to the mirror. “Not bad for a first go,” she said, shaking her hair loose. “Next time, try and make the strands more even, and do it a little tighter.”
“Okay, thanks for this.”
“You're welcome Harry. I hope you realise that Malcom and I both approve of your relationship with Pansy, and we both think of you as family.”
She was surprised when he simply leant forwards and hugged her.
“Dad,” Pansy said slowly. She had wanted to talk to him alone, so she had sent Harry to talk to her mother.
“Yes?” he asked, leaning back in his chair and looking straight at her.
“You know that I love you, don't you?”
He smiled and nodded.
“The thing is, I love Harry as well. Totally, scarily, Malcom and Gruoch type love.”
“I know, sweetheart.”
“I just wanted to tell you that he's going to come first if anything came up that we disagreed on.”
Malcom nodded slowly. “You do realise that I didn't expect to have this conversation for a few years yet?”
“I've always been precocious.”
He laughed under his breath. “So I heard. Luckily, your mother and I have already discussed this. We're going to play by most of Harry's rules, now. Being criminals is fun when you're younger, it's got a mysterious air to it, but I find myself wanting respect more than fear. It's time that Gruoch and I grew up and acted our age. So hopefully, it won't ever come up.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Pansy said, a huge feeling of relief shooting through her. “You're still going to make money though, right?”
“Hand over fist,” Malcom confirmed cheerfully. “Different rules, same goal.”
“Make mum the richest woman on the planet.”
“You know that she already thinks she is, as she has you?”
“Shh, don't tell me your mother’s secrets. The games we play with each other keep our marriage fresh and exciting.”
“That kinda brings me onto my next point,” Pansy said, feeling her nerves returning. “You know that I'm sleeping with Harry?”
“It’s been difficult to overlook,” he said dryly.
“Harry has no intention of stopping when we get back to Hogwarts. He's planning on moving out of Gryffindor Tower into the Room of Requirement, and I'm going to do so as well.”
“You're telling me, not asking,” Malcom pointed out.
“True,” Pansy agreed. “I guess I wanted you to know in case you got any complaints about it. Harry is planning on dealing with the repercussions at school.” Her lips curled slightly. “He told McGonagall that being disrespectful to Snape is going to be the smallest rule he breaks this year.”
Malcom nodded, a smile appearing on his face. “Good. So he's planning on shaking up the school?”
“Pretty much,” she confirmed. “Dad, you know what Umbridge did to Harry?”
“I do, indeed,” Malcom's face lost the smile, and he looked dark and foreboding.
Pansy smiled slightly, fully aware that most other people would be running about now. Sometimes her dad could be as scary as Harry, but he was still her dad, and she knew that look would never be directed at her.
“I know Harry's going to take her to court, but that's not enough.”
“I'm going to make her life hell at Hogwarts. I don't want her escaping.”
He smiled slowly, “So you want me, as Governor, and with Fudge in my pocket, to make sure any attempts to leave are thwarted?”
Pansy nodded and smirked. “Last year, she didn't allow us to do any practical spell casting in her Defence class. How do you feel about giving Harry carte-blanche to do his own defence lesson instead?”
“That would annoy Umbridge immensely, completely undermine her as a teacher, create tension with the other staff, and allow Harry to influence the other people in his year group,” he pointed out cheerfully. “The other Governors are sheep, so I'll make it happen. And if I'm feeling generous, I'll even let Dumbledore know... eventually.”
“Are you ready to go back to school?”
“Not really,” Pansy sighed. “I've got all my work done and everything else, so that's not a problem. I've just really enjoyed it just being us four and Dobby, you know? Training every day and sleeping together all night – it's been the most fun I've ever had.”
“I do,” he agreed. “I half don't want it to end as well, but it's not an end; it’s merely a new starting point. When you go back to Hogwarts, we start to take over the wizarding world.”
She laughed at his enthusiasm. “I know, but it also means that I have to share Harry with others, and I don't share well.”
Malcom smirked at her. “I think I might have recognised that character trait in you. But look on the bright side; you might actually have a few more friends by the time this is over.”
“True, and if we're still together at night, it's not as if we'll be separated that much. I'm just going to have to swallow my possessiveness whenever his other friends are around. Still, at least Daph is with us.”
“She's a nice girl.”
“A good friend too, she knew about my glamour. Kinda makes me wonder how many others do.”
“Probably not that many. As soon as people hear a secret, they like to share it, and it’s no longer a secret then. She kept her mouth shut, so it's probable that a few people have suspicions, but no one knows.
“Speaking of which, I need Harry on the day you go back to Hogwarts, so you'll have to take the train on your own,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
“What for?” Pansy asked, frowning.
“I want him to have a word with a few of the senior civil servants at the Ministry. I want him to make sure they understand that if they follow Voldemort, they are following a half-blood and are firmly against Harry.”
Pansy nodded. “And if they join us, they get to be on Harry's good side and not lose their jobs in Remus' purge.”
“If I'm going back on my own, I'm going in disguise,” she stated. The idea of being stared at and drooled over by Draco without Harry there was a little disconcerting. I can have a lot of fun and then get it out the way in one go by removing the spell publicly.”
“When Harry is around to watch your back.”
“I'd rather he watched my front,” Pansy said wickedly.
“Pansy!” Malcom complained. “I am still your father. I still have the urge to imprison Harry in our dungeon and torture him about his intentions.”
“Oh Daddy,” Pansy rolled her eyes. “I'll have you know that he is a gentleman. And if he doesn't start taking advantage of me soon, I'll be putting him in the dungeon myself. Of course, I'd be using it to torture him the same way you did with mum.”
“You and Mum forgot your silencing spell at the beginning of summer,” Pansy said smugly.
“It was very educational,” Pansy continued, a wicked smile on her lips, “hearing you play games. I learnt all sorts of things, especially what you do with that whip. It took me ages to work out the charm on it.”
Malcom blushed furiously, and his mouth opened and shut.
“It made me see you and mum in a completely new light,” she continued inexorably. “But,” she said, suddenly changing her voice and dropping the teasing. “I kinda liked it. It meant my parents are still in love, and while the idea of my parents playing games was a little disturbing, I realised pretty quickly that it meant you were still together and going to be for a long time.”
Malcom exhaled slowly in a hoarse half-laugh. “Well, that will teach us to be more careful with our spells. We didn't mean for you to find out about that.”
“So I’d guessed,” she said dryly. She smiled as she watched him lean forwards and put his head in his hands.
“That sort of thing is very much based on trust, Pansy,” he said seriously, not looking up. “Deep intense trust. Don't rush into that sort of thing – take it very slowly. Find out what you both like and don't like. You've got the rest of your lives to explore each other in depth. Going too fast could kill it.”
Pansy nodded slowly, “We've yet to get beyond kissing.”
“What?” Malcom blurted.
“Yeah. If I didn't know him so well, I'd say he was gay or something. He just won't take it any further, and I've made some pretty strong hints that he's welcome.”
Malcom was silent for a minute, obviously deep in thought. “Have you considered the idea that he hasn't got a clue what to do next and doesn't want to do something wrong?”
“Not really,” Pansy said slowly. “He's a boy.”
“A boy he might be,” he agreed. “But can you really see Harry bragging about his conquests to his dorm mates? Can you see him pouring over magazines, or even getting a talk from his uncle about what to do?”
“No, he's just not like that.”
“Oh god,” Malcom said quietly. “I'm going to have to help a boy seduce my daughter. That is just so wrong on so many levels.”
“You'll talk to him?”
“Before you go back to school,” Malcom sighed audibly. “Are you really sure he's it?”
Pansy sat up straighter in the chair and looked her father directly in his eyes. “The other night, Harry was brushing my hair when I started to hear a faint murmur. He's always been better at Occlumency than me, and he could hear my thoughts some time ago. This was the first time I could hear his. He invited me inside his mind, Dad. He let me see parts of him that no one has seen before, and he told me he loved me. And he does, Dad. Totally.
“I forgot for a little earlier today when we talked about us handing him over to Voldemort, but he knew us. He knows us, and he likes us. And he really loves me. I'm his reason, Dad. His reason for fighting, for pushing himself like he does. And he's my reason. My reason to change and be a better person, to be more grown up, to be happier with my life. He's my reason to live. I've been given everything I've ever wanted, and I'm happier than I have ever been without it.
“I'll be with him, Dad, when he fights Voldemort, and I'll do everything to make sure he lives, because if he doesn't, it would be like you losing Mum. It would feel like half my soul had been ripped out of my body.
“Harry's a part of me now, and I'm a part of him.”
Although it was technically their day off, they had agreed to meet Croaker for one last duelling lesson. Tomorrow they would depart for Hogwarts and stop this living six days for every one.
They walked into the duelling room and paused, looking around. In front of them, were all five of their teachers.
“Welcome,” Croaker said formally. “Today, we are going to check what you have learnt. You may consider this your exams.”
Pansy and Harry exchanged a nervous glance and nodded.
“Margret,” Croaker said. “You're first.”
“Harry,” she said, as she moved forwards, nodding her thanks to Croaker. “You first. Defend yourself.”
She paused for a second, and then snarled, “Legilimens.”
Harry didn't put up his shields. He allowed her into his mind, then slowly started to block off certain areas, guiding her where he wanted her to go. As she continued to push forward, he could feel her disappointment in him that he had allowed her to get so far, and smirked.
He nudged her carefully and then swung his trap shut, catching her in his mind without a way out. He left here there for a few seconds and then released her.
“What the hell was that?” she panted, collapsing to the floor. Her face was white, and she was sweating and shivering.
“That is Voldemort,” he said calmly. “Those were my memories of his mind.”
“What did you do to me?” she asked quietly.
“I guided you to where I wanted you and then pushed you in. I thought it was more effective than simply blocking you. You felt like I had failed, and you were over confident.”
Margret struggled to her feet.
“You pass,” she whispered and turned to Croaker. “I can't do Pansy, not now.”
Croaker nodded. He turned to their Weapons and Tactics teacher and raised his eyebrow.
“I shall go last,” the man said quietly.
“Okay,” Croaker continued. “For the next three tests, we're going to take a Portkey to Lympstone to use the Royal Navy's Commando Course. We will be with Muggles, so no magic will be allowed.”
Harry and Pansy both nodded.
The seven of them took hold of the Portkey that Croaker produced, and they vanished, appearing in an empty Mess Hall.
“Paddy, you're in charge.”
Stephen “Paddy” O'Gara was a living stereotype, and he knew it. He lead them out of the Mess Hall and out into the bright sunshine.
“Hey, Sarge,” a Marine shouted, “these the kids you've been telling us about?”
Paddy nodded, and then jerked his head at Croaker.
“Sorry, sir,” the Marine said, snapping to attention in front of the Unspeakable.
“At ease,” Croaker replied. “I'm off-duty today.”
“Sir, yes sir,” the Marine shouted. “Sir, can we watch? Paddy's been boasting about them for a month.”
Croaker grinned and nodded. “We're starting at the Commando Course.”
The Marine saluted once more and turned on his heel, sprinting towards some barracks.
“Did you have to do that?” Harry asked dryly.
“Why, yes,” Croaker grinned. “I did.”
They followed Paddy half way around the base, to the start of the assault course.
“You're going to have to change,” Paddy said. “Jeans and a t-shirt aren't really suitable for this course. Pansy, there's a room over there.”
Pansy nodded and picked up a pile of clothes marked with a slip of paper with her name on it, jogging into the nearby changing room. Harry shrugged and changed where he was. His concept of modesty was radically different now that he felt like he was the size and shape he was supposed to be.
He pulled on the combat trousers and thin green t-shirt before bending and putting on the thick black boots.
Next to the course, a rapidly growing group of Marines were congregating.
“Excuse me,” Croaker said and walked over to them. “Who's taking the bets?”
“That would be me, sir,” a large blond Sailor replied.
“Fifty quid on both of them to beat the course record.”
There was a moment’s silence before an explosion of noise, as the other Marines tried to get in on the act, betting for and against the two of them.
Pansy jogged back out from the changing room, her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
There was a wolf whistle from one of the Sailors, and Harry turned, his eyes glinting.
Paddy put his hand on Harry's shoulder. “Not now,” he whispered.
Harry nodded reluctantly, making note of who had done it.
“Right you 'orrible brats,” Paddy yelled, getting into the spirit of things. At six foot seven tall, and weighing in at over two hundred pounds, he was the size to make a lot of noise. “You're doing this with full gear,” he continued, pointing to the packs lying on the floor.
Harry and Pansy walked over to the packs and lifted them easily. They had been training under full load since the second day with Paddy and were very used to it.
“The Commodore expects you to finish this course in record time. I expect you to finish in record time,” he yelled.
Harry and Pansy moved over to the start.
“You look really cute,” Harry grinned at Pansy, before looking down the course.
“What do I get if we do this?” Pansy asked.
“Kisses,” Harry offered.
“Deal,” Pansy grinned back, leaning into give him a quick kiss.
“On your marks,” Paddy shouted. “Set. Go!”
Pansy and Harry took off together, running in a fast loping movement. There was no point in sprinting; they would need their strength and stamina later. The first obstacle was simple; a balancing beam, and neither of them slowed - taking it as if they were running along a track.
The still growing group of Marines and Sailors cheered loudly, some encouraging them, with others, who had bet against them, encouraging them to fail.
The second obstacle was a brick wall, six foot high for Pansy, eight foot high for Harry. Still moving in unison, they both jumped, placed their right foot hard into the wall, and used it as a springboard to jump up. They both grabbed the lip of the wall with their hands and vaulted the rest of the way smoothly, flowing over the top of the wall without touching it with their legs.
They both rolled on impact with the floor and crawled under the vicious looked barbed wire for nearly seventy feet. It was designed to hurt their arms and shoulders, but they were both used to it by now.
Next, they jumped up to the monkey bars, swinging smoothly from one to the next, with no wasted energy or motion.
After that, they had a thick rope to climb. Pansy used her feet as leverage, as she reached up, climbing it in the conventional fashion. Harry just powered up it, not bothering with his legs, just keeping them straight for balance. He waited at the top till she joined him, then they both dropped to the floor.
The next series of obstacles meant they had to jump over the five-foot high beam, then roll under the next one, before repeating it four times.
They were both starting to breathe hard but were obviously enjoying it.
They climbed up a net trellis next, and then grabbed a rope to swing across a gap. Finally, they both simply dove off the high platform, landing and rolling again to minimise the damage to their legs.
At the end of the course, they turned and started to run back to the start.
“Race you,” Pansy yelled, trying to hip check him again.
“If I win, you have to kiss me,” Harry yelled back, sprinting after her.
Unlike the first time they had done this, Harry was now at the peak of his fitness, and while Pansy wasn't wearing restrictive boots, she was still not able to keep up as he powered past her with fifty yards to go, finishing a full two seconds ahead of her.
There was an eerie silence as Paddy clicked the stopwatch.
“What?” Harry asked. “Didn't we do it?”
Paddy gulped and looked at his watch, and then the crowd. “Didn't you know that the course finished at the other end?”
They shook their heads.
“You managed to beat the record by two seconds,” he said. “But that record didn't have them sprinting back the length of the course.”
“So we passed then?” Harry grinned and turned to Pansy. “I think you owe me a kiss.”
She laughed and jumped at him, kissing him soundly, while the Sailors and Marines cheered loudly.
“Okay,” Croaker shouted, interrupting them before the kissing could go too far. “Sensei, they're your students now.”
The small intensely private women nodded and walked into the middle of a circle of sand.
Everyone followed her, the crowd standing around the circle, while Harry and Pansy stripped off their packs.
They quickly downed a bottle of water each, before Pansy moved into the centre with the sensei.
“Pansy,” she said quietly. “Attack me.”
Pansy smiled brightly and bounced forwards on the balls of her feet. She took a step forward and then launched into a roundhouse kick. The kick was more designed to move the other woman back, so she finished the movement on guard.
She bounced forwards and back again, keeping on her toes, watching out for any sign of attack. Her sensei moved first, launching into her own kick.
Pansy dropped to the floor, spinning, swiping her leg out, and aiming at her opponent’s support.
Her Sensei jumped casually, and Pansy finished her movement, arriving back in the same position as she had started in.
She didn't wait this time, and took a couple of quick steps forward, launching lightning fast short punches at her torso.
Her sensei moved, blocking and dodging each one, before launching her own attack back, the punches coming from all angles.
Pansy leapt forwards suddenly, jumping straight through her opponent’s defences, and kneeing her firmly in the chest.
Her sensei rolled backwards, absorbing most of the force, and regained her feet smoothly.
As Pansy moved forward again, her sensei launched a kick towards Pansy's stomach. Pansy blocked it, and then leant backwards to avoid the follow up kick that would have remodelled her nose.
They continued to spar, neither getting the upper hand, before Harry saw a hole appear in Pansy's defences. The sensei saw it as well, and threw a punch directly through it.
Pansy gritted her teeth, took the punch, and cast her own into her sensei's face.
“Time,” Croaker yelled from the sidelines.
“Congratulations,” the sensei said softly. “You passed. I should have known that hole was a trap. Harry, you're next.”
Harry nodded and gave Pansy a quick hug as he walked past her. The crowd erupted into cheers, and Harry could hear more gambling taking place as he released Pansy.
“Kick her arse,” Pansy whispered into his ear.
He smiled and walked over to face the teacher, bowing to her slowly.
The small woman bowed back, matching his respect, and changed into a modified Horse Stance.
Harry smiled faintly and shook his arms, ensuring they were loose. This was going to be a very short fight – he was either going to win or lose spectacularly.
The sensei feinted an attack, but Harry didn't move. He was still, silent, watching her, taking in all her movements, conscious and subconscious, as he slipped into his fighting mindset. Nothing else existed, everything faded into greyness, the crowd went silent, as he blocked everything out but his opponent.
She attacked, and it almost seemed to be in slow motion as her right foot traced a path towards his face. He moved. Suddenly. Fast. He accepted her kick, ignoring the pain it caused, and caught her head in his hands, twisting violently.
He stopped, barely, before he snapped her neck. The crowd returned in a flash of light, as his senses retreated from their hyper-extended state.
“How did you do that?” she whispered, shock visible in her eyes.
“Death poems, are mere delusion, death is death,” he quoted Pansy.
“I've heard that before; I don't understand.”
“And you never will,” Harry said sadly, releasing her.
“Jesus Christ,” one of the Marines whispered, breaking the spell the others were under.
Harry walked over to Pansy, who hugged him tightly. “That was amazing,” she said, bouncing once more. “You moved even faster than when you took out those gits at the Embassy.”
Harry nodded and turned back to face Croaker.
“I guess that just leaves me,” Croaker said dryly as he pulled out a large knife.
“Harry?” he invited, indicating a table that had been set up during Pansy's fight.
Harry grinned and walked over to the table. A large array of knives lay spread out on it. He chose a SOG Recon Bowie and walked towards Croaker. He smiled and bowed again.
Croaker nodded and immediately launched a dual attack. A kick spun towards Harry’s left side, while stabbing forwards with his knife.
Harry deflected the kick and brought his own knife into play, blocking the thrust. The two fighters parted, both moving their knives constantly as they stared at each other, looking for a gap, an opening.
They had fought each other many times over the last few weeks and knew each other’s styles well. They knew how each liked to attack, and how to counter it. They knew the subconscious signals the body gave off before an attack was launched.
Together, they danced in and out, the blades glinting in the light, punches and thrusts came from nowhere and everywhere, a bewildering variety of differing power and effects. Everything was blocked or accepted – no quarter was asked for or given.
“Time,” Paddy yelled from the sidelines.
Harry ignored him, knowing that Croaker would do the same. This was about the fight now, and neither of them wanted to lose it.
Harry flipped his knife, so he was holding it backwards, and then jumped forwards, throwing a punch with his free hand, then an elbow with his knife hand. He moved his free hand down to divert Croaker’s attack.
He pulled back, circling again. He took a silent breath, knowing that what he was about to do was going to hurt, but it didn't matter. He was going to have to give everything to defeat Voldemort, and this was good practice.
He attacked, deliberately making his actions look a little tired. Croaker attacked, and he threw his left arm forward, impaling it on the blade. He felt the sharp knife slide into his arm; the pain was agonising. With a growl, he yanked his arm down, trapping the knife and ripping it out of Croaker's hand. His right hand came up as fast as he could move, against Croaker's throat.
“You accepted the pain to win,” Croaker stated calmly, echoing his first words of praise to Harry.
Harry nodded, breathing shallowly. His arm felt like it was on fire, or at least under the Cruciatus curse.
“I told you I'd make you the best,” Croaker continued.
Harry smiled slowly. “So I passed?”
“Yeah. Now let's get you healed up; you're bleeding on my shoes.”
Harry nodded, breathing hard, and followed Croaker towards the tent.
“So,” Paddy looked smug as he turned to the Marines. “I believe some of you owe me an apology.”
“Why?” Pansy asked, as she drunk another bottle of water.
“Some of these muppets doubted me when I said that you two are the best.”
“Harry's the best,” Pansy said cheerfully. “I'm just tagging along for the ride. And to make sure he survives the fight.”
“What are you two?” one of the Marines shouted.
Their Weapons and Tactics teacher moved to the front. “The best,” he said softly, although everyone heard him. “And that's all you need to know.”
“If you want someone a little older, luv,” the Sailor who had wolf whistled earlier shouted. “I'd take you off his hands.”
Pansy smiled brightly and walked through the crowd directly towards him, deliberately slinking her way forwards.
There was a murmur of appreciation as people parted out of the way of the smiling brunette.
“You know,” Pansy said, as she reached up and lightly touched the Sailor's face. “It's your lucky day.”
“Yeah?” he agreed, looking smugly at his comrades.
Pansy kneed him hard in the groin.
“If my boyfriend had heard you say that,” she continued cheerfully. “He'd really take offence, and you'd be in serious pain.” She turned on her heel and marched back into the circle, accompanied by cheering and laughter from the other Sailors.
Harry returned with Croaker, his arm bandaged. Pansy walked over to them, a little concerned.
“It's healed,” Harry whispered. “But we have to keep up the appearance for the Muggles.”
She nodded and wrapped her arm around him.
“So,” Paddy yelled, taking back control. “Do you runts think they've earned their stripes?”
A roar of approval was his response, so he walked forwards and handed them both a box.
Inside the box were two simple patches. “They’re from the regiment,” he explained softly. “If you ever need help, any one of us will help you out.”
“Thank you,” Harry said formally - while Pansy dropped a kiss on the big man's cheek, to a lot of teasing from the crowd.
Maggie moved forwards next and handed them both certificates. “You passed the psychological tests” she said simply. “Congratulations.” The certificates announced that they were both now fully trained Occlumentists.
They both nodded formally. They knew what it meant, now. A lot of their teaching had been about the ethics of using their skill in general, and they both understood how badly Snape had deviated from those rules.
Their sensei was next. “My name is Salundi Miyomoto,” she said simply.
They both bowed to her, understanding the respect she was giving them - treating them as an equal.
“You have done well,” their Weapons and Tactics teacher said. “You have one last test from me.”
“What is that?”
“To defeat the enemy. I will consider you a success if you survive.”
Croaker moved in front of them last. “Well, I have presents for both of you.
“Pansy,” he offered her a box. She opened it and gasped with pleasure. Inside was a silver knife with a gold handle. The wide blade looked sharp, even from a distance.
“Harry,” Croaker whispered. “I'll be there at the final fight. I owe some of them a short sharp death.”
Harry smiled faintly and took his box. Inside was a simple looking black dagger. It had no embellishments like Pansy's. It was elegant simplicity. It had one obvious purpose, and one purpose only. To kill.
“That's one of our knives Harry.” Croaker whispered again. “It's enchanted to absorb a spell when you press the heel. Don't waste it, as it can only take one; then it will be just a normal knife.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, and hugged the older man.
“Enough,” Paddy shouted, after Pansy had hugged Croaker again. “We're going to party!”
“We are?” Pansy asked.
“Yep,” Paddy shouted, “We've got a mess room set up; the Commodore's paying.” He turned to the rest of the Marines. “And you stupid lot are invited as well.”
The roar of approval that greeted that sentence was bigger than any previous cheer.
“What a day,” Harry said softly, stretching.
“Good party, though.”
“I don't think it would be possible to get that lot in a room and not have a good party.”
“Did you realise Paddy was a Squib?”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “His aura was like a Muggle’s.”
“School, tomorrow,” Pansy said changing the subject.
“I know,” Harry sighed. “Part of me doesn't want to go back, but the rest does. We've spent so long training; it's time to put it into action.”
Pansy nodded and gave him a lingering kiss.
“We need to talk to Dobby,” he reminded her reluctantly.
“Oh yeah,” Pansy said, slipping beside him.
“Dobby,” Harry called.
The elf appeared a second later.
“Take a seat,” Harry said with a friendly smile on his face.
Dobby nodded and hopped up onto a chair. Harry suddenly noticed how small the elf really was, as he was dwarfed by the normal sized chair.
“Dobby, we'd like to do something for you, but we want to make sure that we aren't doing it to punish you.”
“Harry Potter sir is not the punishing sort,” Dobby stated firmly.
“We were shopping the other day,” Harry continued. “And we found something that we thought would look good on you. As you're a free elf, giving you clothes isn't the same.”
Dobby nodded eagerly.
Harry reached down to a bag by his feet, and pulled out a dark green tunic and some brown leather boots.
“The important thing about the boots,” Harry said, “is that you need to wear socks under them.” He pulled out a pair of horrendously mismatched socks, and added them to the pile in his hands, and handed them to Dobby.
Dobby looked at the socks, and then at the clothes. His eyes shone brightly, and he vanished, appearing again a second later in his new uniform.
“Wow,” Pansy said, dropping to her knees in front of him, examining him. “You look great, Dobby, but I think you need a finishing touch.” She pulled out her wand and walked over to her closet, pulling out an old hat. She transfigured it expertly, into a small cap that matched his clothes, and placed it on his head. She then turned him around gently, so he could see himself in a mirror.
The tunic they had brought was longer than it would normally be for someone his size, and had a black belt to hold it in around his waist. The brown boots came up to his knees, giving him an almost medieval look.
Tears slowly started to fall down Dobby's face.
“Dobby looks like a wizard,” he said, smiling proudly through his tears. “Harry Potter and Mistress Park'son have given Dobby the biggest gift of all. Acceptance. Dobby will never forget.”
“We wanted to say thank you for all your help this summer,” Pansy said gently, giving the elf a hug. “We both consider you a good friend, and we're very happy that you are working for us.”
“Pansy Parkinson is a great and powerful wizard,” Dobby said solemnly. “You are the perfect partner for Harry Potter. Dobby will be your house-elf forever.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, dropping to his knees as well. “You do look good like that.”
Dobby grinned. “Some house-elves will not like it, as they will not want to stand out. Dobby thinks it is great. Dobby wants to stand out and show the other elves how elves should be treated. With respect and dignity. Other elves will listen and see Dobby’s clothes; it will help prove Dobby's words.”
“Will there be any problems with you being at Hogwarts?” Harry asked.
“No. Hogwarts house-elves will do as Council tell them. Dobby is not letting other elves cook for Harry Potter. House-elves here are now trained, and can cook for Master and Mistress. Dobby does not trust Hogwarts house-elves do a good job.”
“Thank you,” Pansy smiled.
Dobby bowed, “Dobby is going to the Elf Council now to show off my new clothing.”
“Have fun,” Harry said, as the elf popped out of sight.
“I would never have believed a few months ago that I would make friends with a house-elf,” Pansy grinned.
“I wouldn't have either,” Harry smirked back.
“Oooo, you little git,” Pansy said. “You're going to have to pay me back for that.”
“How am I going to do that?”
“You can start by kissing me,” Pansy said primly.
“That I can do,” Harry whispered, as he reached out, grabbed her, and lifted her on to the bed. “With pleasure.”
“Well,” Gruoch said as they stood by the car. “Let's see this glamour spell of yours.”
“I was going to put it on later,” Pansy replied.
“Like always,” Gruoch replied. “At least I know why you always asked your father to take you to the station. Well, I want to see what my daughter looks like at school.”
“Okay,” Pansy said, looking at Harry nervously. She cast the spell on herself.
“Oh, Pansy,” Gruoch said in a tone of profound disappointment.
She turned and looked at Harry, not wanting to see his reaction to her in the form that had been such a bitch to him.
He took a couple of steps forward, and kissed her tenderly.
“Why?” she asked, as they separated.
“You're still you. You're still Pansy. The outside doesn't matter; it's what is inside that counts.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, and hugged him tightly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. I'll see you this evening.”
“I'll miss you,” she said.
“I know,” he whispered back, lightly running his fingers over her face.
“Enough. You two are going to make me diabetic,” Gruoch interrupted dryly. “Come on, you're only going to be separated for a few hours, not a lifetime.”
“Yes, thank you Mother,” Pansy said icily. She turned and kissed Harry one last time. “The sooner you get to Hogwarts, the sooner I can be myself again, and the sooner you can kiss me properly.”
She hugged her father and stepped into the car, which was currently masquerading as a Ferrari F355 spider. Her mother jumped in besides her, and gunned the engine, before tearing off with the back wheels spinning, throwing the shingles from their driveway everywhere.
“We've got a busy day ahead of us,” Malcom explained, as they climbed into his car and started the journey towards his office. “We've got to see the Civil Servants at ten, a judge at twelve to get you emancipated, the Governors at three to get me elected, and then the goblins at five to sort out your inheritance.”
Harry nodded calmly. “Okay. I'm going to be out of sight for your first meeting, but I won't be able to hear what you are saying.”
“You can be invisible?” Malcom asked.
“Not quite,” Harry replied. “Let's just say that I'm there, but not really.”
“Okay,” Malcom nodded. “How about I get a Quotes Quill to take down the minutes of our meeting, that way you can read what is going on.”
“That'll be perfect,” Harry said with a smile.
Gruoch put her foot down as they pulled onto the M1 motorway, heading towards London.
“So,” Gruoch said. “I don't really want to ask this, but I will anyway. Just how far have you and Harry progressed physically?”
“Just kissing,” Pansy replied.
“I’m not sure I want to know the answer, but humour me. Why haven’t you gone beyond that?”
“Because Harry hasn't taken it any further,” Pansy replied, fighting a blush.
“And why haven't you taken it any further?”
Pansy frowned, a little confused. “Because Harry's supposed to order me to do stuff with him, and I’m supposed to do it, right?”
Gruoch winced visibly; and then yanked the wheel to the left, cutting across three lanes of traffic, upsetting several other drivers, and up the slip road of the Watford Gap Road Chef motorway service station. “Go and sit on the bench, honey,” Gruoch said, as she locked the car and walked into the foyer.
She returned, as Pansy waited, with a couple of cups of coffee, and sat down opposite her. “I don't know about you,” Gruoch said. “But I'm going to need a drink during this conversation.”
She took a deep breath. “Now, why do you think that Harry has to order you around in bed?”
Pansy felt herself blush furiously. “Because that’s what you and Dad do?” she muttered.
“And didn't that seem a little strange to you?”
“Well, a little. But you seemed to be enjoying it, and the idea of Harry ordering me around like that – well, it’s kind of exciting.”
“I thought Malcom told you we were just playing?”
Gruoch sighed. “Playing wasn't a euphemism for sex, dear.”
“Oh,” Pansy said, suddenly lost for words.
“We were playing games with sex. Technically, we were playing with Dominant and Submissive roles. I was putting myself totally in Malcom's hands. But that is something that we enjoy, in addition to normal love making.
“Making love is about the coming together of like minds, Pansy. It's intense, emotional, and as much about mental feelings as about physical feelings. You're sharing something intensely emotional and personal. You're closer to your lover than you are to any other person on the planet - when you are with the right person. Making love can be hard, quick, dirty, slow, loving, tender, and everything else, when it's with the right person.
“It's also about partnership. Especially when you are starting out, you need to work together, discover together what you like and dislike, what feels good and what doesn't. You need to spend a long time discovering each other – where and how to touch each other.”
Gruoch sighed softly. “We should have had this conversation a few years ago,” she admitted. “You're so adult at times, that I forgot that you’re still so young.”
Pansy took a sip of her coffee, trying to find the right words. “Okay,” she whispered. “How about we start again now, from the beginning.”
Gruoch nodded and started to talk.
When she had finished, Pansy looked up at her mother, horrified. “You mean all this time we could have been having sex if I'd just helped him along?”
Gruoch laughed softly and nodded. “I thought we taught you to research if you didn't know something.”
Pansy groaned. “Just wait till I get that boy alone.” She paused. “But we can still play those games later, right?”
Gruoch laughed, “Only if you want to, and if he's comfortable ordering you around. You do know that you can reverse it as well?”
Pansy grinned broadly. “I hoped that would be the case. Thanks mum. For everything.”
“You're welcome,” Gruoch replied. “Now, we need to get a move on, we're late.”
“Are we going to make it?”
“Of course. With a car like this, that's somehow invisible to police cameras, it'll be easy.”
“Sit down, please,” Malcom said formally, as he welcomed the three gentlemen and two ladies into his office. They were the secret power in the Wizarding world. They were unelected, and unknown, but held more power than the elected officials. Their job was to advise the politicians and execute Ministry policy.
“I'm glad you could all come.”
“Cut the blarney, Parkinson,” Michael Smith, the Permanent Secretary to the Chancellor said firmly. “What do you want?”
“I was wondering exactly why you are all supporting Voldemort,” Malcom replied amicably. If they wanted to play hardball, it was a game he was more than used to.
“We're not,” Sarah Sullivan replied.
“Please,” Malcom said dryly. “Some of the policies you've come up with recently have practically ceded parts of the country to him. Not to mention the tax breaks his supporters have received,” he turned and looked at another. “Or the way his Death Eaters keep mysteriously escaping from prison. Shall I go on?”
“So you know,” Michael said evenly. “We're pure-bloods, and he is going to ensure that the Wizarding world remains very separate from the Muggles. And that all Mudbloods are dealt with properly.”
“You mean executed?”
“Well, it's good to see the country is in such short sighted hands,” Malcom said cheerfully. “So, what are you going to do when Voldemort is killed?”
“Voldemort can't be defeated,” Michael started to stay, before slowly stopping and looking around.
Malcom felt that hairs on the back of his neck start to rise, as an intense feeling of magic swept the room. It was like sitting next to a generator, and the only time he had felt this sort of thing before was when he had argued with Dumbledore - and even that hadn't felt quite so raw.
Harry slowly faded into view in front of them, and after taking one look at his face, Malcom decided that he was very happy that he was on the other side of the desk, and not facing him.
“Did I head you correctly?” Harry demanded, his voice ice cold. “That all Mudbloods should be murdered?”
There was absolute silence in the room.
“Answer me,” Harry barked.
“And just why is that?” Harry growled.
Malcom hid a smile. He'd never seen the boy quite so intimidating, and it bode well for the future. He could see that the others were now having serious thoughts about their own mortality.
“Because they're not pure-bloods,” Sarah replied weakly.
“I'm not a pure-blood,” Harry snarled. “So does that mean I should kill you, because you're different to me?”
“No,” Michael gasped, as Harry took a step forward, his hands glowing with repressed magic.
“What do you know about Voldemort?” Harry growled.
“He'll,” Michael started.
“Silence!” Harry demanded. “Tom Marvolo Riddle was born to a witch in Little Hangleton in 1927. When she told her husband she was a witch, her Muggle husband abandoned her. His mother died in childbirth, and he went to an orphanage. In 1938, he went to Hogwarts, where he became Head Boy, and won many magical awards, not least for the framing of Reubus Hagrid when he had used a Basilisk to kill several students. During that time, he started using another name.”
Harry lifted his hand, and wrote “Tom Marvolo Riddle” in gold letters in the air in front of them, and then with a contemptuous wave of his fingers, the letters rearranged themselves into the phrase, “I am Lord Voldemort.”
“Yes,” Harry hissed. “The pure-blood you follow is a half blood as well. Born of a Muggle father. I've been inside his mind, and had him inside my own, and I can tell you that he hates everyone. He's using you like the mindless puppets you are, and as soon as he's won, he's going to start on everyone who doesn't worship the very ground he walks on. Your so-called revolution will leave you all penniless and worshipping at the feet of a half blood.
“And that's if you are lucky, and he wins. But he won't. I will defeat him, and then I will be coming after you, and I will be publicly exposing each of you as the racist supremacists you are, and you know how the public will react.
“You make me sick, all of you.”
He turned abruptly. “Malcom, I'll see you later.” With that, he vanished again.
“I'm guessing I forgot to mention that Harry was here?” Malcom asked cheerfully. “And that his best friend has Muggle parents. You can all leave now; you're of no further use to me. I wouldn't try running,” he advised. “Harry's got a very long reach.”
“What happened to him?” Michael demanded. “He wasn't like that last year.”
“Indeed not,” Malcom agreed. “Luckily, he spent the summer at Parkinson Manor, and we became friends. I am, of course, supporting Harry in every way I can. Run along, now, there's a good group. I'm a busy man.”
“Stop,” Sarah said. “Please. How do we get out of this?”
“You don't,” Malcom said, still feeling buoyed by Harry's speech. The idiots in front of him couldn't have pressed more of the boy's buttons if they had tried, and Harry had responded magnificently. He was now just playing games with them, making sure they knew their position relied solely on Harry's good graces. Any doubts he'd had about Harry's ability either to lead, or to defeat Voldemort, had been firmly deleted.
“We've all played the game, Malcom,” Michael said dejectedly. “Tell us what you want. You've won.
“You work for me now,” Malcom said, dropping his cheerfulness as they entered into the negotiation round. “You will help me work against Voldemort, and when I tell you to, you will drop your support of him. You will also help me push through a few laws that are going to help us out.”
“And in return, you will ensure that Harry doesn't do what he said?” Maggie said.
“Indeed,” Malcom replied. “Just so that you know he wasn't lying, I've prepared a dossier on Voldemort for you, so you can see for yourself that he is a lunatic half blood.
“I will guarantee that Harry will not do anything to you at all when he wins.”
Michael and Sarah nodded, and stood, the other three shell-shocked wizards following them. They were all wearing identical expressions of shock, as if they couldn't quite grasp the quick and brutal reversal they had just encountered.
“You guarantee?” Harry asked, as he appeared back opposite Malcom, sitting comfortably in a chair, once they others had gone.
“Absolutely,” Malcom said, aware that he was wearing his most ruthless smile. “That will be a job for the new Minister of Magic.”
He felt Harry look at him intently for a second, before the boy started to laugh. “Very nice.”
“Thank you,” Malcom said smugly. “I thought so too. I don't really care if they are switching sides. They have some ridiculous notions about pure-bloods that really don't belong in government, and Remus should be able to deal with them.”
Harry nodded and took a deep breath. “They irritated me.”
Malcom laughed loudly. “Harry, do you have any idea how powerful you are, magically?”
“Pretty,” Harry said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Harry, I know you're modest, but ‘pretty’ is the biggest understatement I've heard this century. You did wandless magic in front of them, and were generating so much magical energy I could have used it to power Parkinson Manor for a decade.”
“I lost control a little,” Harry said, frowning.
“That's a good thing. Sometimes a show of temper achieves more than hours of rhetoric. How long have you been able to do magic wandlessly?”
“I've been working on it with Croaker. I started with being able to cast spells silently, and we took it from there.”
Malcom nodded and looked at his watch. “Well, as that only took five minutes, it gives me a chance to bring up a more uncomfortable subject.”
“More uncomfortable than racists?”
Malcom nodded. “For a second, we're going to forget that Pansy is my daughter, and we're just going to be a couple of men having a frank and open discussion.”
“Okay,” Harry said slowly, a look of confusion appearing on his face.
“Pansy told me that you two are kissing a lot, but that is about as far as it's gone between the two of you.”
Harry blushed furiously and nodded.
“Why haven't you gone any further?”
Harry seemed to freeze and swallow, before he started to cough furiously.
“Remember,” Malcom said dryly, suddenly realising that he was enjoying the conversation in a strange way, even if it was about his daughter’s sex life. “I'm not Pansy's dad at the moment.”
“I don't know,” Harry mumbled, his face bright red.
“Don't you want to? Pansy's pretty attractive.”
“She's gorgeous,” Harry corrected instantly. “And well, yeah, you know, I do, kinda.”
“But I haven’t got a clue,” Harry mumbled. “It's not come up before, and it's not as if I can owl my friends and ask, 'By the way, what do I do with a beautiful girl while we're in bed together having wonderful snogging sessions?'”
Malcom laughed softly. “Most kids find out what to do from copies of PlayWizard magazine, from friends, and from their parents. But I can't see you doing any of that.”
Harry nodded in agreement. “I always felt it was weird to talk about girls like that. I didn't like it.”
“That's probably a good thing, Harry, because other boys are usually the most inaccurate source of information available. It appears like I'm going to have to do something that no man should ever have to do.”
“Teach you how to make love to my daughter.”
He really enjoyed just how red Harry went at that phrase.
“Okay, sweetheart, have a good time at school. Cause as much havoc as you can.”
Pansy laughed. “You're supposed to tell me to be good,” she replied.
“I know,” Gruoch said. “But normally we're not planning on helping take over the country. And look after Harry as well. His big vulnerability is how much he cares about others. While we don't want to change that, try and protect him from it.”
“I will, Mum.”
“Now, Harry's got one of Malcom's notebooks, so we'll keep in contact as much as we can, and let us know what is going on.”
“I will. And Mum?”
“Thank you. For everything, and for treating me as a friend as much as a daughter.”
“You're welcome honey. And thank you for being you. We're both so proud of the person you've become.”
Pansy smiled. “That's as much down to Harry as to myself.” She leant in and hugged her mother tightly. “I'll see you soon, Mum.”
“I know, now go.”
Pansy smiled and then straightened her shoulders. Her face dropped into a sneer, and she turned and stalked away through the station and into platform Nine and three quarters.
The platform was busy as usual, as families said good-bye to loved ones. She spotted the red that signified the Weasleys, and wondered what it would be like to be friends with the two youngest. She saw Ginny standing a little to one side, a curious expression on her face. It was almost as if she had grown up over the summer, as it was a similar look to one she had seen on her own face in the mirror. She felt that it might end up that she'd make friends with Ginny more than Ron or Hermione, as they both looked the same as the last year, although they were obviously now a couple.
She almost smiled. Since when had she stopped referring to them as Granger and Weasley?
“Pansy!” a voice yelled, and a few seconds later she was embraced by Daphne.
“What's going on,” Daphne whispered. “Why are you in this silly face, and where's Harry?”
“Harry's with Dad starting the revolution at the Ministry,” she whispered back. “I want an audience when I drop this disguise later, so that everyone knows that it's me.”
“And so that you can publicly rub it in Draco's face?”
Pansy nodded, “Exactly.” She paused for a second and then said in loud voice. “So, how was your summer? I spent it in Italy; Daddy wanted to introduce me to a Count. Family thing. He was very rich – had four castles in Italy alone.”
Daphne rolled her eyes. “Egypt Dahling,” she said in a vapid voice. “Let’s find a carriage away from the riff-raff.”
Malcom walked into the Court Room in the Ministry of Magic, presuming that Harry was with him somewhere. All he knew was that Harry could go anywhere, and that it was something to do with house-elves. They were having a private hearing with Amelia Bones. She was one of the few people in the Ministry who was completely incorruptible.
He was thinking of recommending that Remus approach her as she would make a powerful ally.
“Malcom,” she said in greeting from behind the bench. “It's unlike you to request a personal hearing. What's going on?”
“I'm afraid that Malcom arranged the meeting on my behalf,” Harry said, fading into sight.
Madam Bones raised her eyebrows and looked at Harry thoughtfully. “This explains a lot,” she said quietly.
“It does?” Harry asked, looking a little curious.
“Malcom back at the Ministry, strange rumours, Fudge disappearing from sight. I wondered what Malcom was up to. But if you've been staying with him all summer, and guessing by your obvious good health, I'd say it was obvious that you have, something’s up,” she commented sagely.
“So, Malcom, you are planning on taking over the Ministry now?”
“Not quite,” he said with a smile.
“I am,” Harry grinned. “Well, I'm planning on getting someone I trust into power.”
“May I ask who?”
The head of Magical Law Enforcement frowned. “Werewolves are not allowed to stand for election.”
“They will be when Fudge changes the law in a few weeks time.”
“Does Fudge know he's changing the law?” she asked dryly.
“Not yet,” Harry smirked.
“I take it the prophecy is true then,” she asked. “You have to defeat Voldemort?”
Harry frowned. “That is supposed to be a secret,” he growled. “Where did you find that out?”
“I've known for a few years,” she replied. “And don't try that with me, young man.”
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled.
“It's okay,” she said, a slight smile appearing on her face. “It will probably work on most other people, but I'm a grandmother. I can't help see you as a grandchild. It's the Ministry's job to know what is going on in the world, Harry Potter. When Albus started paying special attention to you, I did some research and found the Prophecy.”
“Dumbledore said that he was the only person to hear that Prophecy.”
“He wasn't,” Bones said quietly, effectively closing the conversation. “Why are you here?”
“I want to be declared an emancipated minor,” Harry explained. “I have independent means of support, no applicable family, my parents closest adult friend is a Werewolf and ineligible to look after me and my Muggle family is currently under arrest for child abuse.”
The Head nodded. “So I heard. Normally Harry, granting a child Emancipated status is simply not done. We would prefer to place you with Magical Services, and allow them to look after you. However, you do have the fate of the country on your shoulders, and with the proviso that you follow Malcom's advice, I am willing to grant you that status.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, bowing with respect.
“What I do want to know, is what you have been up to this summer.”
Harry smiled, and seemed to blur; he appeared next to the judge, his full power released, a knife at her throat. “Practising,” he whispered, before returning to his place in front of her.
Amelia took a deep breath. “I take it back, Harry,” she whispered. “You are intimidating.”
“Only to people in my way,” Harry said softly. “I am fed up with the incompetence of the Ministry, the segregation of the school, and the racism prevalent in the Wizarding world.
“I am going to stop it. Remus being Minister is one part of that. Voldemort's death is another.”
Amelia nodded slowly. “How do you want me to help?”
“Help Malcom persuade the rest of the Wizengamot to grant Fudge's law.”
“Malcom, what are you getting out of this?”
“You mean apart from a lot of money, power, and influence?”
Malcom smiled slowly. “It's time we grew up, Amelia. We've had fun being the bad guys, but now we're going to be good guys. We'll play by the rules, and win that way. Helping Harry ensures that my family lives, that our fortune remains intact, and for the first time, we lose the reputation for being dark.”
Harry smiled, “Besides, if Malcom and Gruoch are going to be my parents-in-law at some stage, they'll have to be good.”
“What?” Malcom asked, shaking his head.
“You think I'm going to let Pansy go?”
“Well, no,” Malcom said, it wasn't often that he was speechless.
“My parents got married young, and it seems to be a Wizarding custom. Do I have your permission to ask Pansy to marry me?”
Malcom stumbled to a chair, sitting down hard. “Gruoch's going to kill me, but yes.”
“Why is Gruoch going to kill you?”
“For saying yes when she doesn't know about it!”
“Good point,” Harry said. “I'll be back in a few minutes. Gruoch should be back at the Manor by now.” He vanished suddenly.
“You know,” Amelia said quietly. “I would have paid a lot of money to see the great Malcom Parkinson absolutely speechless.”
“It's not everyday that you find that the most impressive young man in the country is planning on marrying your only daughter.”
“The most impressive young man in the country?”
“Yeah,” Malcom sighed. “Over the past six weeks I've watched him grow and mature. I've seen his dedication, his honour, and his innate sense of right and wrong, and I've watched Pansy and Harry fall in love.
“And it looked so familiar, it was like watching Gruoch and I. Harry is a lot like I am; he feels the need to prove himself, to take responsibility. I had the same desire to prove myself, and make everyone forget that I was a penniless Ravenclaw. Maybe I should have been more involved with the last time around, but I wasn't. I went for my family first, as that is what meant the most to me. This is my redemption. For too long, I have let the Slytherin side of my nature show; it's time to remind people that I am a Ravenclaw at heart.
“I would have been proud to call Harry my son, and I will be prouder still to have him as a son-in-law.”
“Why Malcom,” Amelia said gently. “You're human, after all.”
“I always have been,” he replied. “It's just taken some time, and someone like Harry, to remind me that there is a world outside my family, and that I have responsibilities outside of it as well.”
“I never thought I'd say this,” the austere Head of Magical Law Enforcement said. “But we might actually end up friends.”
Harry rushed through the other place in one of the best moods of his life. He hadn't been planning on asking Malcom's permission to marry Pansy quite like that, but it had seemed right. His motivations weren't quite as transparent as he'd made them out to be.
He didn't want a feud with Dumbledore; it wouldn't be good for anyone, as personally satisfying as it would be. In the same way, he wasn't prepared to stop sleeping with Pansy. A good solution, now that he was an adult, was to propose to Pansy. Being engaged would give Dumbledore a way of allowing him and Pansy to be together without making it look like Harry was completely undermining his authority.
He appeared in the Manor, and walked into the Kitchen.
“You're missing us, aren't you?” he asked softly.
Gruoch jumped and turned to face him. “Yes,” she said softly. “The first few days are always the hardest. I'll throw myself into work – Malcom will too. And we'll get used to it; we always do. I do miss Pansy, and this year, it's going to be as twice as hard, as we'll be missing you as well.”
Harry sat down opposite her and smiled reassuringly. “We're never more than a note away,” he said. “And this year, we'll have a lot more freedom to meet up when ever we like.”
Gruoch nodded. “Why are you here, Harry?”
“Well, I've just been declared a legal adult.”
“Congratulations,” Gruoch smiled. “What's your first act as an adult going to be – have a drink?”
“I've already done that,” he grinned. “My first act was to ask Malcom's permission to marry Pansy.”
The tea cup in Gruoch's hand fell to the floor and shattered, spilling tea and shards everywhere.
“What?” she croaked.
“I asked Malcom's permission to marry Pansy,” he replied, amused. “And he pointed out that I really ought to ask you as well, so here I am.”
Gruoch launched herself across the table, hugging Harry hard and bursting into tears.
Harry hugged her back, smiling. “I'm guessing that's a yes?”
“Of course,” she laughed through her tears. “Have you got a ring yet?”
“No,” Harry smiled. “I only really realised today that I want to spend the rest of my life with your daughter.”
Gruoch smiled, and leant back, pulling a ring off her finger. “This ring belonged to my mother, and her mother. It's time to pass it on. Pansy's always liked this ring, and it's magic - it will resize itself to fit her finger.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, suddenly feeling a little emotional.
“I couldn't think of another man I'd rather look after my little girl,” she said softly.
“I will look after her forever.”
“Okay, I've got to get back to Malcom. I left him with Amelia Bones.”
“So, tell me all,” Daphne said. “What's happened between you and his dark hotness?”
“Oh yeah. Tall, dark, handsome, intense green eyes. If he wasn't nuts about you, I'd be all over him like a rash.”
Pansy laughed. “Unluckily, he likes brunettes and redheads.”
“And what are you going to do about that?”
“Nothing at all. I don't need to. I've won. Harry's mine as much as I am his. There's no point in me being jealous. This is Harry 'I passed the girlfriend test without even flinching' Potter.”
“True. Although it seems strange that you can be confident. Last year, you would have been plotting her downfall, just in case.”
“I've had to change,” she smiled. “And I'm happy about it.”
“And speaking of change, why aren't you in the prefects meeting?”
“Because I can't stand to be in the same carriage as Malfoy. Besides, Harry and I are going to be living together at Hogwarts, so it's not as if I'll be able to be a prefect, and as Harry's not, I'd rather not do it anyway. We’re going to be doing too much for me to waste my time anyway.”
“Whoa, back up a tick. You're going to be living together at Hogwarts?”
“Yep. Harry's got it all planned. There's going to be some fireworks tonight,” she grinned.
They were interrupted by the sounds of taunting from the next carriage.
“Daph,” Pansy said pleadingly.
Daphne sighed and undid the top button of her shirt. “You owe me for this,” she grumbled, before walking out the door, and calling, ”Oh Draco,” in her most insipid voice.
As Draco walked past, she moved out and looked in the carriage. Ron, Hermione, and Neville were looking furious, while Ginny looked dangerous; it reinforced her decision to make friends with the girl.
“What do you want, Parkinson?” Ron demanded. “Draco went that way.”
Pansy rolled her eyes, and then winked playfully at Ginny, before walking out and shutting the door.
“Hey Neville,” Ginny said casually as she sat down with Ron and Hermione.
“Is it true?” Neville asked, shutting the door excitedly.
“That Harry's in love with a Muggle, and that he's run away from the Wizarding world.
Ginny shook her head. “Nope, he's in love with a witch, we just don't know who. And we hoped he'd be on the train. We've not seen him all summer.”
“Well, I'm glad he's not leaving us,” Neville said cheerfully. “I heard about those disgusting Muggles.”
Ron sighed. “We heard from Harry. He said he was with friends who were helping him deal with it, so we've got no idea who they are. Hopefully he'll be at his normal weight.”
“Come on Ron,” Hermione interrupted. “We need to get to the prefects' carriage.”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “See you guys in a bit.”
“So,” Neville said, as the two left. “What did you do all summer?”
Ginny thought for a second, and then smiled at him. “I think I grew up a bit,” she said softly and pulled out a book, settling in comfortably.
An hour or so later, Ron and Hermione returned.
“Anything interesting happen?” Ginny asked, more for the sake of conversation than anything else.
“A lot of people asked about Harry,” Hermione said. “Except Draco. One strange thing: Parkinson wasn't there.”
“Yeah, not even Draco knew why she wasn't there - we saw her get on the train with Greengrass earlier.”
The door to their carriage burst open, and the sneering face of Draco Malfoy peered in. “So,” he said, contempt thick in his voice. “Poor Potty got knocked around at home and ran away and joined the Muggles. What are you going to do without him?”
“Go away, Malfoy,” Hermione said icily. “You don't know what you're talking about.”
“Drop dead, Mudblood,” Draco sneered. “The revolution is here, and your kind are going down.”
Ron struggled for his wand, but as he pulled it out, Draco looked up, down the carriage, and turned and left in a hurry.
Ginny frowned, deciding that she was going to have to teach the ferret a lesson. She could see that Ron and Hermione were both enraged, when Pansy Parkinson looked in.
“What do you want, Parkinson?” Ron demanded. “Draco went that way.”
Pansy rolled her eyes, and then looked directly at Ginny, winking at her.
Ginny picked up her book and settled down. She no longer read it, but used it as a shield so that she could think. Something important had just happened, but she wasn't quite sure what. But, one thing she was sure of was that behind the sneer, something had changed with Parkinson. She was definitely not the same girl who had followed Draco around last year.
Malcom walked into large formal room in the Ministry, and nodded to the governors in front of him.
“Let's cut to the chase,” Malcom said. “You need to remove Lucius Malfoy as Governor and replace him with me.”
“And why would we do that?”
“Because Lucius Malfoy is a convicted criminal, and is no longer suitable. Because some of you owe me a favour and I'm calling them in now.”
“And,” Simon Parkinson added with a grin. “Malcom's my cousin, and I think he'd be good for the school.”
“That was easy,” Harry noted.
“Yeah. It wasn't ever going to be hard. I'll enjoy telling Lucius. He's been going nuts with Fudge avoiding him, and him not being able to find out why.”
“Are you going to be okay dealing with Malfoy?”
“With my hands behind my back,” he said calmly. “This is going to signify the start of open warfare between us.”
Harry nodded and took a bite of the sandwich. “I'm glad that Dobby is going to be at Hogwarts. I've gotten used to his cooking.”
“Yeah,” Malcom agreed. “I just hope his training is as good with the other elves.”
“So, I was talking to Gruoch the other day. Did you know that she loves having her hair played with?”
“Not in so many words,” Malcom said.
“I was asking her how to braid hair, and she let me practice on her. You might want to try it.”
“How do you braid hair?”
Harry sighed and pulled out his wand. “This is only as a thank you for earlier,” he grumbled, casting a spell to make his hair grow.
“First you have to comb it well.”
The goblins proved to be most helpful as soon as Harry could show that he was an adult now. His family vaults were released to him, and he was giving a new key for Sirius' vaults as well.
He sat silently as Malcom discussed the Goblins’ participation. Harry was silent, as the Goblins had more respect for a man who had made his own money, rather than inheriting it.
It was the last thing of the day, and after this, he was going back to Hogwarts, and he would see Pansy again, and maybe even propose to her. He was more nervous about that, than anything else.
After they left the office, Harry turned to Malcom. “I just want to say thank you. For everything.”
“You are very welcome, Harry,” Malcom replied. “I'm prouder than I can say of you, and that you are going to become an official part of my family. Your parents would both be so intently proud of you, and the person you have become. There is no one else in the world that I would trust Pansy with.”
Harry smiled and hugged the older man, and felt his eyes go watery as the older man hugged him back tightly.
“Now, how do you want to play tonight?”
“Well,” Harry said, breaking apart and thinking. “Pansy wants to have her 'coming out' session in public to get most of the questions out of the way. I think the best thing is for me to go in first, refuse to tell Dumbledore anything, and generally be confident and smug. Pansy will then do her thing, and I suspect she has something pretty theatrical in mind, so the best time for you to enter would be after dinner where you can tell Dumbledore the good news. I'll send you a message when I think it's the best time.”
Malcom nodded and smiled. “It's probably wrong that I'm looking forward this so much.”
Harry grinned, “I am as well. It's going to be very different this year, and it's going to be a lot of fun.”
“You know that Pansy is planning on something for Umbridge?” Malcom asked.
“I'd guessed,” Harry replied. “If Umbridge hurts her, I will destroy her.” His voice was like ice.
“As long as you let Gruoch and I help,” Malcom added.
Harry nodded solemnly. “I better get back to school. I'm planning on making a bit of an entrance myself.”
“Yeah, Hermione's been telling us for years that you can't Apparate in Hogwarts. I've been practising, and I can make it look like I'm Apparating, even when I'm not,” he smirked.
“Misdirection is always a good opening tactic,” Malcom said approvingly. “You've got one of my notebooks; keep me informed of what's happening, and if you need anything.”
“I will. See you later tonight.”
Harry had just vanished when the floo to his office erupted into flame. Malcom looked at it curiously; there weren't many people who had the access passwords to his private office.
Croaker stepped out, absently brushing himself down.
“I didn't expect to see you again,” Malcom said. “You've paid off your debt.”
“I didn't do it for the debt,” Croaker said, sitting down. “I paid that off the first lesson. I did it because I like both of 'em.”
“Me too,” Malcom said with a grin. “What can I do for you?”
“I took them to Lympstone yesterday, to do the Commando course there, and to fight me and their Sensei.”
“Well, they smashed the course record.”
“That shouldn't be possible,” Malcom said, frowning a little. “They shouldn't be able to beat people who have been training for years.”
“I agree,” Croaker said. “Paddy was shocked as well. He felt that they could have just beaten it, if they'd been lucky, but not smash it by over fifteen seconds. They actually managed to run the length of the course back to the start, and still break the time.”
“Magical children are not normally trained like Pansy and Harry have been,” Croaker said thoughtfully. “I think their bodies, that are already different to Muggles because of the power they have to handle, simply adapted more than was normal. It might also be proportional to the amount of magic they control.
“Pansy was flat out all the way, and did brilliantly, but Harry was something else. He could have done it faster. He matched himself to her, and at the end, he wasn't even out of breath. He even stopped for her at the top of the rope climb.”
Malcom steepled his fingers, “So by pushing them so hard, their bodies changed to allow them to be fitter and stronger?”
Croaker nodded and started to smile. It was a cold smile, and one that Malcom happily matched.
“Poor old Voldemort,” Malcom said.
“Indeed,” Croaker agreed. “I need another favour from you, though.”
“Anything,” Malcom said instantly.
“I need you to make sure that Harry doesn't become an Auror or an Unspeakable.”
“Can I ask why?”
“Harry can never be an Auror; he's already far too good. He'd breeze through the training without breaking a sweat. The best Aurors are the ones that are recruited to be Unspeakables.
“I want your word that you will not tell anyone what I am about to tell you.”
“I promise,” Malcom said simply. Once he gave his word, he never broke it.
“The Unspeakable department is separated into research and field work. I'm a field agent. The research team investigates magic, dark and light, and tries to come up with counter spells. It was an Unspeakable that developed the Cruciatus, many years ago.
“The field agents are assassins; our brief is to help protect the country from attack. We work abroad, taking out foreign threats. We do not, and are not, allowed to interfere with domestic policy.
“This work is brutal. It's the last resort for people like me. For people who have nothing left in the outside world. I enjoy my work, but I don't want to see Harry become like me. He can do more good for the world than anyone else I've met, and because of that, I don't want him becoming cold and hard. I don't want him to value life as little as I do. Because he has the potential to make Voldemort look like a boy scout.
“I'm on a six month hiatus from the department. I think that the final battle will be sooner rather than later. Voldemort isn't going to take what you are doing lying down.”
Malcom nodded his agreement.
“So I will fight with Harry, and keep this country safe from an internal threat – the rules can go screw themselves.”
“Do you want me to get the rules changed?”
“You can't,” Croaker said. “Only the Ministry with full support from the Wizengamot could do that, and Fudge isn't that popular.”
Malcom smiled. “Harry has a plan to have Fudge replaced in the elections.”
Croaker smiled slowly. “Effective, isn't he.”
“Ruthlessly,” Malcom agreed. “And by the way, I'm the new chairman of the Board of Governors at Hogwarts, and Harry is now an Emancipated minor.”
Croaker laughed. “Had a busy day then?”
“Not really,” Malcom grinned. “I let Harry do all the work. I just pick up the pieces and look smug,
“Thank you for everything you have done for them.”
“It was my pleasure, Malcom.”
“I will persuade Harry not to become an Auror,” Malcom said. “Although, I am hoping that after Voldemort is dead, Harry will have had enough of fighting. If he doesn't want to be a Quidditch player, he can join the business here. I'd be happy to hand it over to him and retire in a few years time. Of course, that's if Pansy doesn't want it herself.”
Pansy attached a happy look to her face, as she sat next to Draco. Luckily, all his attention was still on Daph. Or rather on what was beneath Daphne's undone top button. He was leering in a rather disturbing way.
Over on the Gryffindor table, she could see the slightly disappointed looks on the faces of Harry's friends. On the staff table, Dumbledore looked his normal self, while McGonagall was looking around slowly, as if she was expecting something dramatic to happen.
The Sorting Hat's song had been rather redundant, as she knew what was going to happen, but to the others, it had appeared to be its most startling warning next - that everyone had to work together to overcome the threat of Voldemort.
Well, that wasn't going to be a problem; anyone who didn't was going to find themselves on the wrong side of Harry Potter.
She continued to look around, and focused on Umbridge. The Hogwarts High Inquisitor had recovered from her attack with the Centaurs, and had reprised her role as the Defence teacher. Malcom had ensured that her requests to Fudge to be transferred had been denied, and her brief was to keep a lower profile eye on the school, and on Harry.
Umbridge had no idea that the only reason she was still there was so that Pansy could enact some revenge on behalf of her family for her torturing of Harry the previous year. She was going to get a very nice lesson in the price of upsetting a Parkinson.
“You're got an evil look on your face,” Blaise pointed, interrupting her thoughts.
“La vendetta è un piatto che va servito freddo,” Pansy whispered, as the interminable Sorting ceremony finished. She hadn't bothered to applaud any new Slytherins. She no longer saw herself as one she was more a student now, and knew that was what Harry wanted. People to stop defining themselves by their houses, and instead begin to define themselves by their actions.
She watched as Dumbledore got to his feet to deliver his opening address.
“Welcome to another school year,” he said, looking around, his pale blue eyes twinkling, as they always did.
“Why thank you,” Harry Potter said, arriving with a distinctive crack. “It's good to be back.”
As always, thanks to my beta crew for all their hard work and for keeping me going when I was writing this. John, Cami, Rachael, Susie, Julie, Leslie, and Ellie.
And thanks to Kokopelli for some last minute help.
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