Thanks to Luan Mao and Kokopelli for their incredible effort in beating this for me.
Harry entered their little common room to see Hermione and Daphne studying together on one couch, and Romilda and Astoria on another couch, poring over a map.
Harry took the large chair between them. “There’s going to be a Yule Ball,” he called. The other four looked up. “Fourth years and above, third years if invited.”
Astoria and Romilda both looked upset. “Unless you’re Harry Potter,” he continued, “then you’re allowed to ask a couple of cheeky second years if they want to come as well?”
“Yes,” they replied instantly.
“And thanks for not forgetting us,” Astoria added with a little smile.
“Yeah,” Romilda agreed.
“What are you planning, Harry, that we go as a group?”
Harry nodded. “That’s what I was thinking, but if you want a partner, that’s fine too,” he added.
“I have no wish to spend an evening with some moron trying to paw my boobs like a dog trying to open a door,” Daphne said with a sniff. “Going with my friends sounds like fun.”
Hermione shrugged. “I don’t actually know many people outside of our group, and honestly, I have no wish to either.”
“Other boys smell,” Romilda pointed out.
“I agree,” Astoria finished.
“You know what this means?” Daphne asked excitedly.
“Yeah!” Romilda cheered.
“No,” Astoria groaned. “I hate dancing.”
Romilda leant over and whispered something in her ear. “But I’m willing to take one for the team,” Astoria quickly added.
“Seeing as the only time I’ve danced was when we were in the Chamber, it’s probably a good plan. So, how about we look at this egg for a bit, and then start?” Harry asked.
“Good plan,” Hermione approved.
Dobby popped in and gave the egg to Harry. He was about to pop out, when Harry said, “Please stay, Dobby, you might be able to help.”
“Dobby will try,” he agreed, looking delighted. Harry created a small chair for him, and Dobby sat with pride.
After looking, tapping, shaking and generally examining the egg for a few minutes, Harry opened it. A caterwauling immediately filled the small room. Harry shuddered, and quickly closed it.
Hermione shuddered. “It sounded like a hundred cats being tortured, as a rooster was squished by a hippogriff.”
Harry laughed. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Anyone?”
Daphne, Astoria and Romilda all shook their heads.
“Dobby ask,” the House-elf declared, and popped away. He returned with Cully. “Cully is thinking he is recognising description.”
“Can yous be making sound again?” Cully asked.
Harry opened the egg, as the girls all hurriedly put their fingers in their ears. He gave it a quick blast, before shutting it again.
Cully shuddered. “Sounds like noise when Headmaster is talking to man-fishes when they is being above water. Different in water.”
“Wizards are so stupid,” Daphne announced. “For years, we’ve ignored a great resource under our noses.”
Both House-elves blushed and looked pleased.
“Thank you, Cully, Dobby,” Harry said. He put the egg down, and rolled it into a corner. “So, I’m presuming you can teach us to dance, Daph?”
Daphne beamed. “I can’t, so it would be far better if we just asked one of the wonderful House-elves to get dad here.”
Harry blinked. “Good point,” he agreed. He didn’t even have to ask, as Dobby and Cully popped away, and less than two minutes later, Derek and Cressida appeared, each with a small box in their hands.
“So, I hear you need a ridiculously good looking dance instructor?” Derek beamed, as he turned his head slightly to one side, and gave a small pout.
Harry gulped, and then had to blink repeatedly.
“And that’s the power of Blue Steel,” Daphne cheered.
“Intense,” Hermione agreed with her cheeks flushed, and her lips freshly moistened.
Cressida elbowed her husband. “Right, you and Daphne can help with the girls, I’ll take Harry.”
“Wonderful,” Derek said.
“Come on, Harry,” Cressida called. “I’m sure you have somewhere with enough room?”
“My bedroom’s probably large enough.”
“Splendid.” Harry followed the older woman into his bedroom.
“Shut the door,” Derek called, “it’s far better to embarrass yourself in private.”
“If you say so,” Harry replied. He shut the door, to find that Cressida had put the box on his bedside table, and removed her shoes.
“Take yours off, Harry, to start with, you will be treading on my toes a lot, and it’s easier to tell you are doing so with the feet protection charms if you aren’t wearing shoes.”
Harry did as he was told, and then added a freshening charm, just in case.
He stood, and looked at the older witch. She smiled warmly at him. “You are going to have to call me Cressida,” she said, “or Cress, I don’t mind. But we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, so you may as well get used to it.”
“A lot of time?”
“Probably every night until the ball. Dancing isn’t easy, and practice makes perfect.”
“Won’t this get in the way of your private time?”
“We’re not newlyweds, Harry. A couple of hours a night where we either spend it with Daph, Tori, Romi and Hermione, or you? That’s not a bad thing, Harry. We have the rest of the days for private time.”
“In that case, instruct me!”
Albus purchased an ice cream cone, in his favourite TuttiFrutti flavour, and sat comfortably outside Fortescue’s ice cream parlour.
It was remarkably pleasant to just sit there and not be busy. He had a notice-me-not charm covering him. He was nearing the end of his treat, when he heard screaming.
Peter Pettigrew ran through the crowd, and jumped onto a table near him.
Albus quickly finished his ice cream, and then picked up his camera.
“The Dark Lord is going to kill you all!” Pettigrew yelled. “Now, fear the Dark Lord’s Mighty Basilisk!” He dropped his robes, and then his trousers, and humped his hips forward.
The screams abruptly stopped. There was some sniggering from the crowd.
“It’s working; My Lord’s Basilisk is turning you to stone!” He moved his hips back and forth, and to the side, before he abruptly pulled his trousers up, and Apparated away.
“That was Peter Pettigrew,” someone in the crowd shouted. “If he’s alive and working for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, then Black must be innocent!”
Albus smiled, as other members in the crown started the same conclusion. What was the icing on the cake, was when someone muttered, “You have to wonder if the Inner Circle were all the people that the Dark Lord liked to bugger.”
Albus Apparated straight to the Daily Prophet offices. After all, such a performance of the Dark Lord’s Mighty Basilisk needed front page status.
“Would a House-elf be so kind as to ask Harry to be here in ten minutes?” Albus asked the empty air. “I’m sure he’ll want to see Sirius’s trial.”
Cully popped in a few seconds later. “Harry is told, Professor. He wills be ready.”
“Thank you, Cully. Tell me, is the drain on Harry’s magic significant?”
“Not for such a great and powerful wizard,” Cully said.
“We now has permission to work on proper solution, but we has centuries yet.”
“I’d be delighted to help, if you want to run some ideas past me.”
Cully beamed and nodded eagerly. “Wes be doing that,” he agreed.
“Fawkes, would you mind retrieving Sirius from his holiday abode?”
His phoenix squawked, and vanished in a puff of fire. A minute later, the tanned, clean shaven form of Sirius Black appeared in front of him. He was wearing a suit and tie, with the gold chain of a pocket watch poking out of his waist pocket.
“Albus,” Sirius greeted him.
“You are looking good, Sirius.”
“I couldn’t sleep, and I was complaining to a bar tender. He suggested I try a psychologist. Turns out, that was a great idea. I’m going to need a lot of therapy, but I feel like I’m on the right track to get my life together, and once I am together I can have Harry live with me.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that. Now, have you heard about the prank that your godson has pulled off?”
Albus quickly explained about the Horcrux, and what it meant for their ability to use that to target anyone with a Dark Mark, and then what they had done to Lucius Malfoy and Peter Pettigrew.
By the end of the story, Albus didn’t think that he’d ever seen Sirius look so carefree and happy. Especially when he passed him the latest edition of the Prophet. Sirius started to laugh so hard, he was crying.
“Come in, Harry,” Albus called, as the wards on the door registered Harry’s magical signature.
Harry entered; he was dressed in a smart suit as well. “Harry,” Sirius cried, and pulled him into a bear hug.
“Sirius,” Harry cried, and slapped his Godfather on the back a few times.
“Hey, ease up, you could break a rib like that,” Sirius chuckled. He pushed Harry back so he could look at him fully. “You’ve grown several inches,” Sirius declared, “and if I’d known that smithing could help put on muscles like that, I’d’ve been doing it when I was at school. You must be pulling the birds like no one’s business.”
Harry smiled and ignored the half-question. “So, let’s go,” he said. “Let’s get you cleared.”
“Thanks to you, yes. And then we can plan the summer!”
“Oh, I have a plan, if it’s okay with you?” Harry said.
“I’m listening.” Harry quickly explained, and Sirius smiled, “Sounds great.”
“I checked with Nadya, and you can come.”
“You couldn’t keep me away,” Sirius promised. “Four weeks traipsing through Europe sounds heavenly.” He paused. “Would you mind if I missed Christmas?” he asked Harry.
Harry tilted his head.
“I’m undergoing therapy on the island, and I think I should finish it, and I’m scared that if I spend Christmas with you, I’ll convince myself I’m fixed, and not go back.”
Harry smiled and hugged Sirius tightly. “That’s the best reason,” he reassured him. “It will make summer all the better.”
“It will, which is why I’m going as well on the summer trip,” Dumbledore said cheerily.
“That’s great, Professor,” Harry said with a huge smile.
“Anyway, let us be off!” Albus held out an old copy of the Beano. And as they all touched it, he felt the familiar feel of his spine being pulled through his navel.
They arrived in the middle of a scrum of people, outside a courtroom. The noise was deafening.
“Quiet,” Harry yelled. Albus suspected a bit of accidental magic helped him. “Thank you. Right now, we are concentrating on the trial, and allowing my godfather a chance to tell his side of the story, twelve years late. Now, if you’ll excuse us.”
Harry marched forward and the crowds parted before him. Sirius followed him, and Albus trailed after, highly amused by the whole thing.
As they entered the court room, they were met by Amelia Bones. “Mr Black, if you’ll accompany me?”
“Catch you later, Harry.”
“I’d say good luck, but all you need is the truth,” Harry replied. Albus followed Harry up to the stands, where they took two seats near the front.
Albus surreptitiously cast some comfort charms, and relaxed. “Normally, I’d be in the Wizengamot, but as I am retiring soon, I’ve been asked to sit this one out.”
Harry nodded, and looked up at the empty balcony ahead of them.
“All rise,” a clerk called. Albus got to his feet as Amelia Bones, Dolores Umbridge, and Cornelius Fudge entered.
Fifty wizards in red robes traipsed in.
Finally, Sirius entered and sat down on a solitary chair in front of them.
Albus frowned as after four decades on the Wizengamot he finally realised what this looked like from the other side. It was highly intimidating.
“Ah-hem-hem,” Umbridge coughed. Dumbledore kicked himself for not having destroyed her years ago. She was a symptom of everything that was wrong with their world at the moment. He consoled himself with the thought that at least the I.C.W. was very close to arresting her.
“We are here to listen to Sirius Black’s appeal…”
“Objection,” Sirius interrupted. “As I have never had a trial, nor been found guilty by my peers, I am legally completely innocent. Referring to me in anything other than those terms is slander against the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, and will be treated as such.” His voice was cool and calm, with an underlying fury that was almost palpable. "And let me remind you that while years of unjust imprisonment have left me currently unfit to duel anyone, the Black fortune is more than adequate to retain barristers for any number of lawsuits.”
For the first time since they had arrived, Harry relaxed.
“Excuse me?” Umbridge started.
“No, I won’t. Your deliberate attempt to undermine me in these proceedings has been noted and will be dealt with officially later. Now, I suggest we clear up this misunderstanding as quickly as possible. I am fully willing to have the truth charm cast at me, as well as take Veritaserum at the same time. I want it very clear that I am telling the truth.”
“Veritaserum is a very powerful truth potion,” Albus whispered to Harry, to make sure Harry knew what was going on. “It is possible to fight off the effects, but with the use of a truth charm as well, no one will doubt his testimony.”
“An excellent plan,” Amelia agreed, “Clerk, fetch the Veritaserum. I will cast the truth charm myself, as head of Magical Law Enforcement.” She waved her wand a few times, made a swish, then pointed at Sirius. A bright green glow surrounded him. When it finished, the scribe appeared with the potion.
“Before I take it, who will be asking the questions?” Sirius demanded.
“I will,” Umbridge and Amelia said at the same time.
“As Head of Magical Law Enforcement, I have the ultimate right,” Amelia snapped. “And I would thank you not to try and usurp my authority again.” Amelia raised her wand. “I, Amelia Susan Bones, hereby swear that I, and I alone will be asking questions of the suspect. I swear that the questions I ask will be relevant to the events of the 31st October, 1981.”
Sirius nodded and leaned his head back, allowing them to place three drops on his tongue.
“The suspect has been dosed,” Amelia said. “There will now be quiet in court. Anyone speaking will be immediately arrested, tried, and if found guilty, sentenced to four weeks in Azkaban.
“You are Sirius Black?”
“Sirius Orion Black, yes.”
“Were you the secret keeper of James and Lily Potter?”
“Quiet in court,” Amelia immediately said, as hushed whispers broke out.
“Who was the Secret Keeper?”
“Peter Pettigrew. He betrayed us to Voldemort. After I confronted him, he cut of a finger on his hand, created an explosion, and took off in his rat Animagus form.
“As he escaped, it suddenly hit me that it was I who had suggested that we switch secret keepers, as I was the obvious choice. I remember falling to my knees, saying that it was my fault. The next thing I knew, I was in Azkaban.”
There was complete silence in the court.
“The court notes that Peter Pettigrew is indeed alive, with his picture on the front page of this morning’s Daily Prophet ,” Amelia said in a small voice.
Umbridge raised her right hand. “You may address me,” Bones said.
“How did he escape from Azkaban?”
Bones frowned. “Firstly, that is not relevant. Secondly, as he was illegally interned at Azkaban, he cannot be deemed to have escaped.”
“Is he a Death Eater?”
“Good question. Black, were you a Death Eater?”
“Do you have any more questions about the night in question?”
Fudge and Umbridge shook their heads.
“There will be a twenty minute recess, while the Wizengamot come to a decision as to Sirius Black’s participation on the night in question.” The Wizengamot stood and walked out.
Albus whipped out his wand and cast a spell at Sirius.
“Albus?” Amelia asked.
“Simply a silencing spell,” Albus explained cheerfully. “Until the potion wears off.”
Amelia nodded. “Thank you.”
“Now comes the dull part, waiting,” Albus said softly to Harry.
“I don’t like that woman.”
“Umbridge? Yes, a particularly dreadful woman.”
Harry nodded in agreement. “To me, that went well.”
“Yes, Amelia Bones, who is Susan’s aunt, a Hufflepuff girl from your year, is a competent Ministerial employee.”
Sirius looked dreadfully bored, sat in his seat. He leaned back and closed his eyes, looking completely relaxed, despite his current situation.
Albus kept a light conversation going with Harry, while he waited. Finally, the Wizengamot returned. Elphias Doge stood and moved to the front. “We, the Wizengamot, unanimously clear Sirius Black of any and all suspicion in the act into which he was illegally interned. Additionally, we order the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to launch a public investigation into how this occurred.”
“I will,” Amelia promised.
Albus resisted the urge to palm his face. He was pleased he was no longer involved in the I.C.W. because that sort of sloppy and vague statement would only have caused him more embarrassment.
“Sirius Black, you are an innocent man.” There was a cheer from the audience, one that Albus noticed Harry was quite keen to join in on.
Sirius stood and looked at Albus, who removed his spell. Sirius turned. “Madam Bones, it is my intention to sue the Ministry for Magic for its admitted illegal internment. I will be doing so this summer, when I have completed my rehabilitation.”
Amelia, Cornelius and Umbridge all paled.
Sirius turned his back on them. “Come on,” he said directly to Albus and Harry.
Albus hurried out of his seat and down to the courtroom floor, where he was bypassed by Harry who hugged Sirius hard.
They were quickly surrounded by well-wishers, busybodies, and the press.
“To the smithy,” he heard Harry call, and a second later, he was grabbed by a House-elf and popped away.
They arrived at the Hogwarts forge, which was now decorated with a large banner declaring, “Congratulations Sirius!” The roof had been decorated with streamers, and four girls were all wearing party hats.
Harry popped to the front. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he called, “May I present Sirius Orion Black, the completely exonerated Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.”
The girls cheered.
“Sirius, you do of course remember Hermione Granger?”
“Hermione,” Sirius said, with a large bow, obviously playing along.
“And this is Daphne Greengrass, who has designed all my armour.”
“Charmed,” Daphne said, with a formal curtsey.
“It is an honour to make the acquaintance of such a witch,” Sirius said with a roguish grin.
Harry moved over to Romilda. “We also have Romilda Vane, of the Romany Vane clan. She is personally responsible for the curse that affected the not-yet-sufficiently damned Mr Pettigrew, and made him show to the world ‘Voldemort’s mighty basilisk.’”
“Enchanted,” Romilda said with a grin.
“A witch with wit to match her beauty,” Sirius said, his eyes wandering a little too far down for Harry’s liking. Romilda blushed, as Harry smacked Sirius over the head.
“And last, but in no ways least, Astoria Greengrass, the witch who kicked off everything we are doing with one little spark of knowledge.”
“My Lord,” Astoria said, giving another curtsey,
“I’ve got to know,” Sirius said, dropping his acting, “who did your dad marry? Because he’s the only man to ever make me question my sexuality. Slightly.”
Harry laughed. “I thought the same thing.”
“Cressida Dumarks,” Astoria replied.
“Cressida, Cressida…” Sirius mumbled.
“She was in the sixth year when you started,” Albus said helpfully.
“Oh, yes, and frightfully smart,” Sirius said. “Prefect as well, she always seemed to catch us when we were going to prank Ravenclaw.”
Astoria smiled proudly.
“Anyway,” Sirius said with a shrug. “I wanted to thank you four for sticking with Harry, and helping him like you have. It means a lot to me, and means I’m not going to feel guilty when I head back to my counselling sessions. I’ll be missing Christmas this year, so that I can look after Harry properly from the summer.”
“Sirius,” Hermione said, “that’s great! Truly.”
“Yeah, I lucked into it,” Sirius agreed. “But depressing talk is for another night. I need to know what happened at the first task!”
“Actually, Sirius, I do have a Pensieve. Would you like to view it later?” Albus interrupted.
“Yeah, do that,” Harry agreed. “The House-elves have been cooking all your favourites, we’ve got some music, some whiskey for you and Professor Dumbledore, we’ve even got a Lemon Drizzle cake for Professor Dumbledore afterwards, and Remus should be arriving…”
There was a pop, and Remus appeared, and bounded over and hugged Sirius tightly.
Albus smiled; absolutely delighted that Harry was including him. He felt so lucky that his mistakes were not haunting him. He spared a brief thought for poor Minerva, whose mistakes apparently were not so readily forgiven, then turned his attention back to the party.
“Mum?” Astoria called, as Cressida walked out of Harry’s bedroom. They quickly headed into Astoria’s bedroom.
“I need a new robe.”
Astoria pouted. “I’ve seen Romilda’s new dress, and it’s not fair.”
“Well, if I had a dress that showed of my best assets like that shows off her boobs, it would barely cover my bum and people would call me a whore, but if Romi has her cleavage on show, no one cares!”
Cressida chuckled. “Yes, dear. However, you are still twelve. There is plenty of time. I didn’t start to mature until I was fourteen.”
“By that time, Romilda’s boobs will turn corners before she does!”
“I think you are exaggerating, dear.”
“A little,” Astoria agreed. “I’m just ranting; I’d do the same if I could.” She sighed. “So, can you get me one?”
“Your father and I will pick one out for you and Daphne.”
Astoria nodded, before she paused. “Do you think Dad would help with our hair beforehand?”
“I think you should ask him yourself.”
“Yeah, I will.”
Christmas morning officially began with four bodies landing on his bed. He was pleased they all missed him. He still remembered one unfortunate morning when an over-enthusiastic bounce had ended with an elbow landing where it shouldn’t.
“Come on,” Daphne demanded. “It’s time for Christmas! Dad will have breakfast ready soon, and we need to get there!”
Harry blinked. “We’re going to your house?”
“Of course,” Hermione confirmed. “Why stay at Hogwarts when we can spend some time with some really great people?”
Harry tilted his head and looked at Hermione.
“Not now,” she said to his unasked question. “Someday, maybe.”
“Romilda?” Harry asked.
“My family don’t celebrate Christmas, so today is just a fun day to spend with my friends.”
“Right, then, get out, the lot of you,” Harry demanded. “I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
The four girls giggled and left, not without some play reluctance from people already caught up in Christmas Spirit, leaving Harry to have a lightning-fast shower, and then pull on some clothes and shoes. He met them in their little common room as five House-elves appeared to pop them to the Greengrass mansion.
They appeared near the door between the kitchen and the living room. The kitchen had been fully decorated, and the living room now had a large tree in the corner, complete with floating lanterns. It, too, was decorated enthusiastically.
“Excellent,” Derek cheered as he spotted them. “Come, sit. We’re going to have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, then do presents, then we’ll have a late lunch, before you get ready for the ball tonight.”
“Yes, sit,” Cressida ordered with a smile on her face.
Harry started to, before he paused, and then went and hugged Cressida, and Derek, before sitting down.
“Harry?” Hermione asked.
He smiled. “I feel at home here.”
“Why thank you,” Derek said. He placed a plate in front of Harry, and spooned a large portion of eggs on top of the salmon.
“No, thank you . I mean, don’t get me wrong, I always felt welcome at the Weasleys, but it was always just that bit…” he paused, “tense?”
Hermione nodded. “What, with Ginny staring at you, the twins wanting to prank you, Percy wanting to rant at you, and Molly wanting to feed you more than you wanted to eat.”
“Yeah, it’s just here, I fell, well, respected as a person.”
“If you treat people as children, they will act that way. You are all old enough to act maturely, so we treat you as such.”
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Harry agreed.
“Even if we do have to make our little Tori have fun,” Derek said with a playful ruffle of her hair.
“Dad,” she complained playfully.
“Anyway, dig in,” Derek ordered.
The conversation died down, as everyone concentrated on eating. As soon as they had finished, the plates vanished. Harry blinked. “Dobby?”
Dobby appeared. “Tis Christmas,” Dobby said shyly, “so Dobby was wanting to do a bit of work for you.”
“Derek, do you have plenty of food for lunch?”
“And do you mind me helping you with it?”
“Can you cook?”
“Then I’d be delighted.”
“Excellent, in which case, Dobby, I’d like you to sit down with us, for dinner.” He paused. “Er, excuse me, Derek, Cressida. Do you mind if I invite someone to dinner at your house?”
“No, it’s alright,” Cressida said. “But please ask next time.”
“Harry wants to cook for Dobby?”
Harry nodded firmly.
“Dobby keeps being honoured,” the House-elf said, his voice wavering. “Dobby will be being back for lunch,” he promised, and popped away,
“So,” Harry said, into the silence, “I have a bunch of presents for people that are not going to open themselves.”
“Presents!” Daphne cheered.
“I suppose it is time,” Cressida agreed. Daphne, Astoria and Romilda all scrambled into the front room, Derek close behind them. “Go on,” Cressida urged.
Harry entered, and found a chair near the fire. He sat, kicked off his shoes, and curled up slightly. Derek was sat at the base of the tree, near all the presents.
As Cressida took her seat, Derek grabbed the first package. “To Cress, from Romilda.”
Cress opened the package, and smiled warmly. “Thank you, dear,” she said, as she held out the black shawl with intricate rose pattern.
The presents sped up, and Harry was delighted that there was nothing extravagant, just thoughtful gifts to and from everyone. His own gifts were well received, and he was delighted with the ones he’d received in return. Especially a new cage for Hedwig from Cressida.
“And second to last, Hermione, from Derek and Cressida,” Derek called, handing a slim envelope to Hermione. She opened it eagerly, and the squealed in pleasure. She jumped up and hugged Derek, and then Cressida.
“What is it?” Harry asked.
Hermione handed over the paper. Harry read it out loud. “One day to read through the Greengrass Book of History.”
Romilda, Astoria and Daphne all burst into laughter. Hermione stuck her tongue out at them.
“And finally, Daphne, from Harry.”
Daphne eagerly ripped open the presents, and looked curiously at the titles.
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said softly. “You’ll love them, Daph, I promise.”
“The Wind in the Willows,” she read out.
“Come on, let’s cook,” Harry said to Derek, as Daphne pulled out the first book, and opened. Astoria and Hermione quickly pulled out new books as well, and even Cressida joined in.
Romilda rolled her eyes, and joined them in the kitchen. She sat at the table, “I can’t boil water, but I can keep you company.”
Harry looked at the side, and saw all the ingredients. “How about I take care of the parsnips, the brussel sprouts, and the roasties?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Derek agreed, as he made his way to a huge rack of beef. “I’ve never been a turkey fan,” he explained. “The plan is to cook everything at once, and we’ll keep it at the right temperature with a nifty little spell my mam taught me.”
“You have any bacon?”
“In the fridge.”
“Cool.” Harry took the sprouts and dumped them in front of Romilda. “You can help with this, it needs a knife.”
Romilda reached under the table, and a second later, the elvish dagger he’d made was in her hand.
“I wondered where that went,” he said. “These sprouts are peeled already, so you just want to make a small cut in the base.”
“Is the knife clean?” Derek called.
“Magically so,” Romilda replied. “I keep all my knives clean and sharp.”
“Good girl. Clean your hands first.”
Harry started with some bacon in a pan, and put it on the heat, as Romilda popped up to wash.
At the same time, he started to peel the parsnips. This felt so different from the times he had been forced to cook for the Dursleys. Here, it was fun, and he was happy that he was cooking for people that he truly cared about.
“So, I hear you’re a good flyer?” Derek said.
“The best in the school,” Romilda confirmed.
“Yeah, I like flying, but this year, well, I’ve loved smithing just as much.”
“You do it with the same intensity,” Romilda intervened. “It’s so… I could watch you all day.”
“You do,” Harry said dryly.
“Perhaps after lunch, we could all go for a fly?” Derek suggested, getting the conversation back on track. “We have some Cleansweeps out back.”
“The Greengrasses always have an after dinner fly,” Romilda said.
“Hush, you,” Derek called, flicking some water at her. “I didn’t want to put any pressure on Harry.”
“And Harry would have been horrified if he’d said no and mucked up a tradition,” Romilda replied with a cheeky grin.
“She’s right,” Harry agreed. “I’d love to go flying.”
“Finished,” Romilda called.
Harry looked at the pot with the bacon in it, and as it was now nicely browned, he added some water and a couple of good splashes of cider vinegar, and then added the sprouts. He turned the heat right down.
“Here,” he said, “slice these, like this.” He took the knife, and made quick work of one of the parsnips.
“Will do,” Romilda agreed.
Harry went back and started to peel the potatoes. “Thyme?” he asked Derek.
Harry nodded, and went back to peeling. There was something so pure about peeling potatoes that he loved. He wasn’t thinking of anything, just repeating an action over and over.
“Finished,” Romilda called.
“Put them in a pan, Romi, then add a little bit of water, and put them on the stove with a lid on. We’ll steam them to start with.”
Romilda did as she was told, dancing herself between him and Derek, before retreating.
“Cut,” Harry said, placing the potatoes in front of her, “into rough pyramids, we want to maximise the surface area to get them as crispy as possible.” He headed out the kitchen door, and was struck with envy at the herb garden. He picked a couple of sprigs of thyme, and headed back inside.
As soon as Romilda finished, he put the potatoes on to par-boil, and put a large roasting tin of duck fat into the top oven. With nothing else left for him to do, he cleaned up quickly, and then sat with Romilda. Derek placed the rack of beef in the oven; it was coated with mustard powder.
He quickly finished prepared the other veg, and joined them at the table.
“Dessert?” he asked.
“We have some trifle in the fridge, and a Christmas pudding.”
“Of course, Derek prefers apple pie,” Romilda said with a grin.
“I have no pastry,” Derek pointed out. “It will be fine.”
“Nonsense,” Harry said, as he hopped to his feet. He had a good look through the cupboards, and grinned. “Right, I’m going to need a ridiculously good looking volunteer?”
Derek waved his hand.
“And a pretty little gypsy with great knife skills?”
Romilda waved her hand as well. “Ooh, ooh, pick me, I can do that!”
“We are going to make our own pastry.”
“Really?” Derek asked. “I’ve never done that.”
“My upbringing wasn’t great,” Harry said softly, “and my aunt didn’t like store-bought pastry, so I learnt.” There was a moment’s silence. “This is going to be messy,” he warned.
Derek took off his shirt, leaving him in a blue t-shirt. Romilda took off her cardigan; she had on a fitted tank top.
Harry placed a bowl in front of each of them, as well as a large amount of butter, some salt, some cold water, and two rolling pins. He added some flour to each of the bowls, and then some butter. “Right, using your fingers, rub the flour and butter, until it resembles bread crumbs.”
He pulled out some apples and started to peel them, keeping an eye on the two pastry chefs.
“Now add some water, not much, just enough to make a dough. Knead the dough just enough to get it all moist, not any more than that, then cover it, and put it in the fridge.” He watched them pour water carefully, telling them to stop when it looked enough.
While they did that, he finished the peeling, and cored the apples, and sliced them, before putting them in a pan, along with a tiny bit of water and a large chunk of butter.
“The fun part is next, after it’s chilled, as we roll the butter into the pasty.”
Romilda and Derek both grinned at each other.
The problem with puff pastry was that it was five minutes of activity, followed by half an hour of waiting and doing the other food. It did allow them to talk.
At the end, they’d both made some acceptable pastry, and had rolled it out into thin sheets. Harry greased the bottom of a dish, and used Derek’s on the bottom, added the half-cooked apple, along with some cinnamon, and put Romilda’s pastry on top. He sliced around the edge with a knife, and then used his fingers to crimp the edges.
Romilda and Derek both beamed. Harry looked at them, and laughed softly. “You two look like there was an explosion down t’ mill.”
Derek looked at himself, and nodded in agreement. He waved his wand a few times, and everything and everyone was soon clean.
Harry placed the pie in the now empty oven, and sat back down.
“It smells fantastic in here,” Cressida announced as she entered the kitchen.
“Yes,” Derek agreed, “that’s because someone’s a really good cook.” He pointed at Harry.
“So is Derek,” Harry protested.
“I’m willing to bet this dinner is going to be the best we’ve had,” Derek continued, ignoring Harry. “Take a look at the honey-glazed parsnips.”
Cressida walked over, and inhaled. “I’m impressed,” she said. Her hand flew out, coming back with a sprout. “Sweet Merlin, these are edible,” she said in surprise.
Derek looked smug. “Told you so. And have a look in the oven.”
She did so, and laughed. “An apple pie? Where did you go to get the pastry on Christmas Day?”
“Derek and Romilda made it from scratch,” Harry said.
“Pfft,” Derek said, “Chef Potter told us exactly what to do; all we had to do was follow instructions.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that you made it,” Harry said.
Cressida ruffled his hair and sat next to him. “I love my husband, and Romilda,” she said softly, “and he is a very good cook, but there is nothing wrong with being better than someone at something. Not if you’ve worked hard at it.”
“Okay,” Harry said softly.
“What time of day do your relatives eat?” Romilda asked.
“On Christmas day, they have a full breakfast, the roast at lunch, then chocolate at three, and another roast in the evening.”
The adults looked slightly sickened.
“In which case,” Romilda said, “it’s time for a cursing!”
Harry laughed. “When is it not time for a cursing?”
Harry, Derek, and Cressida laughed along with the curse-happy gypsy.
Romilda sat on the floor, and Harry sat opposite her. He took her hands, and brought his magic up.
“The balance has been broken, justice has not been served. Wrongs were not set right. To the spirits of my ancestors, I ask that the guilty be punished justly for their crime.” Romilda paused for a second. “The name?”
“Vernon Dursley,” Harry said firmly.
“Over ten years.”
“That he be cursed to never enjoy food again, that all food consumed gives him the minimum nutrition needed to survive, as it traverses his body instantly.”
“Take this offering of magic, so that justice may be done!”
Harry let loose his magic into the spell that Romilda had cast. He felt it rush out of him, and smiled. The curse had been accepted, as a just and responsible one.
He actually felt lighter, as something Nadya had said when he had asked about removing a curse came back to him. “The simplest way is not to do something that would get you cursed.”
A do-unto-others philosophy that he liked.
He released Romilda’s hands, and gave her a quick hug.
“Feel better?” she asked.
He nodded, and then inhaled deeply. “I think it’s time to eat!”
“I agree,” Derek said immediately. He pulled out his wand and created a spot and a higher chair for Dobby.
“Dobby?” Harry called. “Hermione, Astoria, Daphne. Food!”
Daphne scarpered in, and gave him a huge hug. “I love Mr Toad, and Ratty, and Mole,” she declared.
“I’m glad,” he said softly.
She smiled and sat down. Dobby popped in next and took his seat. Hermione and Astoria entered last, “Ooh,” Hermione said, “It smells amazing in here. And is that apple pie?”
“Did you know that Harry can make puff pastry?” Romilda asked. “He taught Derek and I.”
“I think, now that Harry is trying his best, I’m never going to be surprised at what he can do,” Hermione replied proudly.
Harry grabbed some oven gloves, and moved the beef in front of Derek. “You carve, while I sort everything else.”
Very used to feeding others, Harry soon had a production line system in place, where he was able to take the slices from Derek and then fill the plates.
“This is far too much,” Hermione said as she looked at her huge portion.
“Eat what you can, the rest will make great bubble and squeak tomorrow,” Harry replied, as he placed a large jug of gravy in the centre of the table.
“Thanks you,” Dobby said shyly, as Harry put a plate – deliberately the same as everyone else’s – in front of him.
Harry served himself and Derek last, and removed the tray of the beef, and sat down.
“Don’t stand to attention,” Derek said, “let’s eat!”
There was little conversation as they all dug in, the wait and the smells had awakened a huge appetite in Harry, and he was delighted the food tasted so good. About half the way through the meal, the conversations started to pick up, but Harry felt something pricking his magic.
“Dobby, are you using magic?” he asked.
Dobby nodded eagerly. “Dobby is broadcasting,” the House-elf said excitedly. “House-elves are not remembering the last time someone cooked for a House-elf. So Dobby is sharing the meal with every House-elf.”
“That’s great, Dobby,” Harry said. “You guys are so good at magic.”
“Harry Potter is great,” Dobby replied. “Harry Potter helps and likes helping. All House-elves agree.”
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “Anyway…”
Dobby giggled. “And Harry Potter is not liking praise. But Dobby has to. Dobby, and other House-elves, think this is best Christmas ever. And Pretty Derek and Great Harry Potter with help from Cursing Romi have made meal house-elves would be proud of.”
“Hear hear,” Cressida agreed.
“And there can be no greater praise than that,” Derek said.
“I’m glad you could all attend this evening,” Albus said as he opened the staff meeting. “It should be a lot of fun, and I do hope to see you all on the dance floor as well.
“Now, before we kick off properly, I’d just like to say that I expect all of us to keep a close eye out this evening. It is a chance to show the I.C.W. that we have learnt lessons, and that we are taking things forward.
“So please, everyone, be proactive. Nip anything untoward in the bud. Minerva’s idea of banning people from Hogsmeade visits is a splendid one. I’d encourage you to all use it, both as a threat and following through.
“I will supervise anyone banned for the entire day, a Headmaster’s detention, if you will.
“And while I dislike special cases, I would also like to use this evening to show Harry and his friends that we can be the teachers that he, his friends, and every other student deserves.”
“Well said,” Filius agreed. “I am planning on having a word with my Ravenclaws beforehand, and reminding them to be on their best behaviour.”
“Good idea, I’ll do the ‘Puffs,” Pomona agreed.
“I’ll do the Gryffindors,” Minerva added.
“And I shall do the Slytherins, with Aurora’s assistance, then,” Albus said. “Now, did everyone get good presents?”
There was some chuckles around. “What about you, Albus?” Aurora Sinistra asked.
Albus allowed himself to beam. “I got the greatest present,” he admitted. “Five pairs of the finest argyle wool socks.”
“Someone gave you socks?” Pomona asked in disbelief.
“I told Harry, many years ago, when we were discussing the Mirror of Erised, that I saw myself holding thick socks. And he must have remembered, because he had Cully deliver a package to me this morning.”
“Only you, Albus,” Minerva groaned. “Only you!”
Harry found that one problem with being male was that it really didn’t take him too long to get ready. After dinner, they’d had a fly, and then sat around and talked, and Harry had found himself napping. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so relaxed.
They’d then had a slice of the pie each, and started to get ready for the evening ball. He had been particularly pleased when Hermione had pronounced it better than Mrs Weasley’s!
All he’d had to do was shave, shower, wash, and put on the clothes that Derek had laid out for him.
After that, the only thing he had to do was use the gunk in his hair to make it stand up, just as Derek had shown him (six times). And with that done, he was ready.
He stood at the bottom of the entrance hall. The door at the top opened, and Hermione entered. Slowly and carefully, she walked down the huge wooden stairs.
Harry blinked, and did a double take. He opened and closed his mouth. She was wearing a pale pink dress, with diaphanous shoulder coverings. “I’m going to need my armour,” he eventually blurted. “Bloody hell, Hermione, you are gorgeous!” Her hair was half up, half down, and looked long and smooth.
Hermione blushed. “Thank you,” she said softly.
“I mean, seriously, you’ve always been really pretty, but with your hair smoothed down, and that wonderful dress, you look fit to grace the arm of any man in the world.”
“And since when have you been so smooth?” Hermione teased.
“Always thought it, never had the confidence to say it,” Harry replied with a grin. “And I had three hours to kill while you got ready. Derek and Cressida talked with me for a while. Derek told me that I have the 'sincere' part down and now I need to work on the 'charming' part, then they both gave me some pointers on being charming.”
“Daph,” Hermione called. “I’m done.”
Daphne walked out next; she was wearing silver robes that set off her dark hair wonderfully. She smiled at him hopefully. Her robes were calf length, and she was wearing matching silver heels. Her hair was neatly braided in an elegant pattern that fell down her back.
“I said it before, Daph,” Harry said, “that someday, you are going to make someone the luckiest person in the world. You are amazingly beautiful, and that smile, that happy Daphne smile, just makes you radiant.”
“Oh, Harry, you’re going to make me cry and ruin my makeup,” Daphne scolded, as she hugged him tightly. “Thank you.”
“I’ll protect you,” he whispered back to her. “Just have fun tonight, and show everyone what they could have got to know if they didn’t suck.”
Daphne giggled. “Tori, Romi,” she called.
The two younger girls appeared. Romilda was wearing a deep blue tiered dress with a low-cut ruffled bodice, and a clinched waist. Her dark curly hair was loose and hung over her left shoulder in an artfully chaotic wave.
Astoria was in a floor length A-line princess dress, with fabric over the left shoulder. As she moved, Harry noticed it had a split in the front, where you could see her bare right leg from just over her knee and matching ivory sandals.
Harry whistled slowly. “When I made this plan of going as friends, I didn’t realise I was putting myself in such danger. When the other boys see that I have four incredibly beautiful women with me, they are going to want to kill me!
“Tori, Romi, you both look absolutely incredible, and frankly, any one of you four will put that French Veela girl to shame!”
Astoria and Romilda both blushed, but looked happy.
"Pictures," Derek called, as he appeared with a reasonably modern looking camera.
Ten minutes of posing in various combinations later, they were finished.
“Shall we go?” Harry asked. The four girls nodded, and they were all popped away. They appeared in front of the doors to the Great Hall. Some people were entering, except for the champions, who were hanging around near the door. Krum was with a girl Harry had never seen before. Cedric was with Cho Chang, and Harry remembered that he’d been crushing on her what seemed a lifetime ago. She was wearing a flattering pale pink dress, and had her hair up. And she had no effect on him at all.
Delacour was with Roger Davies, who looked completely besotted. Harry refrained from comment, and started to enter.
“Harry?” Cedric called.
He turned his head to look at the senior boy.
“Aren’t you joining us?”
Harry shook his head. “You heard the results of the investigation. The Goblet only chose me as a champion of a school of one. That’s not a champion, that‘s a default. And as I’m not a champion, there is no way in hell I’m getting in your way.”
Daphne and Hermione moved in front of him, while Astoria and Romilda each stood next to him, close, and they entered the Great Hall. They quickly found a table, and Harry hurried around so that he could sit each of the girls, clucking his tongue at Hermione when she started to seat herself.
The champions, and their dates, entered last, and sat at the head table. “Who is that at the table?” Harry asked lightly.
“Dirk Cresswell, he’s quite senior in the Ministry, he must be Crouch’s replacement,” Astoria replied.
“Ahh,” Harry said. As everyone sat, he could see and hear people say the name of food out loud, and it appeared.
Harry turned, as a House-elf he hadn’t seen before appeared. “I is being Crenky,” the House-elf announced shyly. “I used to be nasty Malfoy cooking House-elf. Crenky was so happy to be free,” he added. “Crenky is cooking your dinner, if that’s okay?”
“That’s great,” Harry said seriously. “I had no idea what to order, and you cooked the last special meal we had, in the library the first night after you guys were freed.”
“Harry is remembering,” the House-elf said in awe. “Crenky is cooking greatest meal,” the House-elf promised, and popped away.
“Yay,” Romilda cheered. “This is going to rock!”
A starter of spiced pumpkin soup was followed by pan-fried saddle of venison, with a sweet potato, roast garlic and rosemary fritter, and duck fat roast potatoes. It was followed by a dark chocolate mousse, with hazelnut foam.
And the best thing about it was that it was light. Crenky was clearly aware that they’d eaten a huge meal earlier.
After dinner, the three champions took to the dance floor. Harry shook his head, Krum, for all his grace on a broom, danced like a sack of potatoes. Cedric was adequate, as was Cho, but that was it, and while Fleur may well have been the best dancer, her partner was an inept as expected of someone lacking higher brain function.
“That’s pathetic,” Hermione muttered. “Derek would be in tears.”
Daphne giggled. “True,” she agreed. “Harry, I want to dance next.”
Harry frowned, “won’t that look like I’m trying to show off?”
Daphne paused, and looked at Astoria. Astoria winced and nodded. “Would be better to leave it for a few dances, so that there is not a direct comparison.”
“How about a drink?” Harry suggested. As the girls nodded, and before he could move, five drinks appeared for them. Harry chuckled. “Thank you,” he said with a small shrug. “So, as my back is to everyone else, am I still being glared at?”
“Not so much glares, as looks of jealousy,” Hermione said. “Perfectly understandable, as you are sitting with four shining specimens of feminine perfection.” She buffed her nails and everyone laughed. “So, while we are waiting for the right chance for us to dance, how are your plans for the new armour coming along, Harry?”
“I got a bit distracted,” he said. “Some gypsy stole one of my knives.”
“The thief!” Romilda said, with a faux horrified tone.
“And I’m going to have to ask for it back, later.”
“Because I made you all one.” At his signal, four small walnut boxes appeared in front of them, transported by the House-elves. “I only made enough for your four, so I didn’t want to give them out earlier.” Almost as one, Daphne, who was sat next to him, and Hermione, Romilda and Astoria who were opposite him, opened the boxes.
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione sighed, as she held up hers. The four knives were identical. Each had a steel handle, wrapped in leather. The leather at the quillion had been inscribed with the Hogwarts crest. The steel cannelure was surrounded by a heavily worked piece of dragon bone.
“It’s a full tang,” Harry said, “which means that it’s a single piece of steel worked into shape. The leather was then wrapped around for comfort and decoration, and it was then bonded to the bone with runes. I even managed to fit on some ever-sharp runes to the bone, so that it will never go dull.”
“This is an amazing piece of work,” Romilda said softly. She held it up on her finger, balanced neatly. “Just the balance of it.” She shook her head. “You are going to be in so much demand,” she said with a laugh. “This sort of thing can sell for thousands of galleons.”
“Much more,” Daphne said. “It was made by Harry Potter. He could sell crap, and it would sell, but selling such quality? People will queue for miles to get a hold of one.”
“I am thinking of working really hard on this for the next few years,” Harry admitted, “and trying to get to the stage where I can do anything. If I can do that, I will be ready to open a commercial shop and sell the sort of items I want to sell.”
“Like what?” Astoria asked.
Harry shrugged, “Anything, from steel roses to broadswords.” He took a deep breath, “I am planning on seeing if I can get Daphne to work with me.”
“Me?” Daphne squeaked.
Harry nodded. “Your designs for my armour have been brilliant. Imagine what else you could design for a house, or for a wizard with more money than taste of his own?”
“Oooo,” Daphne’s eyes went wide.
“And after you two get started,” Romilda said, “You’re going to need a pretty little Gypsy to sell things for you.”
“And a researcher to add protection, strength, warnings, communication and everything else that people would want attached to steel and iron,” Astoria added quickly.
Harry laughed. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
“I would love to, Harry,” Daphne said. “So, let’s do it. We’ll put a year or two in together and see where we end up. That way, if we don’t like it, it’s only a year, or if we fail. And if we love it, then we have our careers set.”
Harry put an arm around Daphne and hugged her.
“That’s an excellent idea, Harry,” Hermione said approvingly. She put her knife away reverentially. “From what I’ve heard, there is a huge gap in the market for this sort of thing. And who knows, when I finish university, you might be making enough to afford to hire me to run the whole thing for you and ensure you actually make money. That will allow me to get some out-of-education experience before I return to University to get my teaching qualifications.
“I’ve heard in the Muggle world that some truly great blacksmiths and other craftsmen only make things on commission and have multi-year waiting lists. We should research whether the same is true in the magical world. And then research immortality, because that's the only way you'll be able to fulfil all your commissions”
Harry laughed at the teasing tone Hermione used. He looked behind him, and noticed that it had been at least four songs since the opening dance. He stood, and offered Daphne his hand.
She smiled and took it, standing gracefully. They moved into the crowd, and as the song started, they danced.
Hermione found herself dancing with Astoria and Daphne, while Romilda and Harry were weaving around the dance floor, in an energetic dance that she wasn’t sure she had the fitness for.
The evening had been a surprising amount of fun. Once they’d started dancing, they’d all been able to rotate with the only male, and dance with each other the rest of the time.
She’d been asked to dance four times by four different guys, which had given her an ego boost – and had shown that Harry’s awe at her new appearance hadn’t been faked.
She did feel a little like a fraud, though. As this wasn’t really her, it was like an idealised version, maybe, what she could be. And she wanted a boy who would understand that she would not be like this most of the time.
Still, the best thing about the evening was the total lack of pressure. At fifteen, she didn’t think she was ready for more than the odd kiss, and an evening like this could lead to all sorts of events that she might agree to in a fit of hormones, and regret later.
Actually, that was the second best, the absolute best was seeing her best friend so relaxed. She’d spotted Ron approaching them earlier, only for McGonagall to intercept, and the same with Malfoy. Everyone else, apart from the admirers, was leaving them alone. She wondered if the professors had had a word with the students, warning them not to bother Harry, or if it was simple fear of the dragon slayer.
Harry and Romilda landed next to her, and a second later, she was in Harry’s arms, dancing slowly as the song changed.
She put her head on his shoulder, and wondered if life would ever be this simple again. Five friends, a good time, no worries, and after such a warm and caring day at the Greengrass house.
She didn’t let her mind worry about the future, about Voldemort. For one day they were just teenagers. They didn’t have to think about dark wizards or evil, they could just relax and have fun.
And it was amazing.
I pity anyone caught in the spell of the mighty basilisk.
I really wanted to do something I'd never done with this chapter - have a full day where nothing went wrong; where the staff and people around Harry all did their jobs, acted as they should, and generally did the right thing. You could, ofcourse, infer that this did happen a lot in canon, and for good reason, it was not included in the books. Also, to continue a theme, I was aiming for normality.
I fully accept that it wasn't as exciting as it could have been - and while I don't consider it so, I wouldn't fight the label of "filler".
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