Once more, thanks to Kokopelli and Luan Mao for all their immense efforts.
When Harry awoke, Poppy was pottering around. “Good morning, Harry. Are you up for a couple of out-of-school visitors before breakfast?”
“Derek and Cressida?” Harry guessed. “And good morning.”
“Yes,” the nurse replied as she ran a few charms over him. “You can leave when you are finished.”
He grinned and nodded, sitting up.
Less than two seconds later, the named pair arrived by elf transportation.
“Harry,” Derek called exuberantly, “we are going to have to talk about this strange way of fixing your scar. Makeup, that’s an answer to a vivid scar or other blemish, and there is nothing wrong with someone as ridiculously good looking as us wearing makeup!” Derek reached over and hugged him, hard. He pulled back and allowed Cressida to take his place for a much lighter hug.
“And speaking of which, I had a grey hair this morning!” Derek said, “Put there by worry! Worry about you!”
Harry laughed. “I’m sorry,” he agreed. “The next time I’m being ambushed, I’ll be sure to think about your grey hair first.”
“Thank you,” Derek said primly. Cressida reached across and whacked him on the arm. He grinned in response. “Seriously, though, Harry, thank you for saving Daphne’s life.”
“Thank you,” Cressida added, a tear running down the right side of her face. “And I am so glad you are back and safe.”
“Basically, Voldemort had a piece of his soul in my head,” Harry explained. “The killing curse was absorbed by the soul fragment so this unexpected plastic surgery actually rid me of him.”
“Which is why the scar is hardly noticeable now?” Derek asked.
“Is it? I’ve yet to see a mirror.”
There was a rustling, and Derek was able to produce a small mirror seconds before Cressida. Harry looked, and saw they were right, his scar was hardly even visible now. He smiled broadly. “No more people staring,” he said happily.
“Not at that,” Derek agreed. “You, as I, will still have to suffer the envious glances of other males.”
“Yeah, I kinda got that at the Ball,” Harry said with a smile. “Astoria, Daphne, Hermione and Romilda all looked so incredible.”
“They did,” Cressida agreed. “I know it’s not something you are comfortable with, but yesterday, a killing curse was aimed directly at our older daughter, by a criminal who had shot at you before aiming. As the curse headed toward you, you didn’t freeze, didn’t pause, you dropped down so that the curse hit you, and not Daphne.
“Your actions saved her life, and for that, we are in your debt.”
Harry blushed. “B…”
“No, Harry,” Derek interrupted. “This is where you thank Lady Greengrass, and ask for the Greengrass hand in formal friendship.”
Harry tilted his head, and then nodded slowly. He trusted Derek. “Thank you, Lady Greengrass,” Harry said formally. “While I believe that my role has been overplayed, I am delighted that Daphne is alive and well. And although I do not believe that my actions deserve a reward, I would be delighted with a formal declaration of friendship between our families.”
“Then let it be so,” Cressida said. There was a small feeling of magic that was gone as quickly as it began.
“What was that?” Harry asked with a blink.
“Official friendship is probably the easiest way to explain it,” Cressida said. “The Greengrass family have formalised our friendship with you. It matters to Pure-bloods, and to members of the ruling bodies. It means that people will not ask us to do anything that might go against that declaration.”
“It also means that all our friends will treat you as their friends as well,” Derek continued. “We might not be high in the corridors of power, but I’m ridiculously good looking, and Cress has been the divorce solicitor for a lot of Pure-bloods, so we know a lot of secrets.”
“A formal friendship like this is very rare, because it takes something like you saving Daphne to allow us to do so.”
“As opposed to our friendship as it was before?” Harry asked.
“Exactly. How we feel about you hasn’t changed, but how others on the Wizengamot feel about you will change, as you have honoured their traditions.”
“Thank you,” Harry said.
“Oh no, old bean,” Derek said. “You’re the one we’re saying thank you to, today.” He stood and shook Harry’s hand, before Cressida hugged him again.
“We’ll get out of your hair,” Cressida told him, “I’ve got to get to work anyway; the Malfoy divorce is probably going to go a lot smoother with Lucius in jail.” She paused. “Oh, and I’m afraid you’re just going to have to do without your schoolyard rival. It appears that his grades have not been good, and Narcissa is absolutely furious. He won’t have time to do anything but study, if he wants to stand a chance of inheriting what is left of the Malfoy estate.”
“And I have some meetings,” Derek said with a mournful sigh.
Harry said goodbye as they were popped away. He gave a small chuckle at Draco’s fate, before he looked into the hand that Derek had shook, and then read the note that Derek had palmed him. He was grateful for the warning it provided.
“Well,” Poppy said, “What are you waiting for? Get out of here.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, as he climbed out of bed, and then gave in to the urge to give her a quick hug. He then turned, and was popped away to his bedroom, where he could get changed.
As soon as he was ready, he was popped to the Great Hall.
“Harry!” Daphne yelled, pouncing on him and hugging him as hard as she could. Romilda beat Astoria to joining in the hug by less than a second. Hermione, who’d taken the slow way around the table, unlike Romilda, who’d simply vaulted it, was last to join in.
“I’m fine,” Harry said, “hungry, and fine. I’ll explain more, later, after I’ve eaten.”
“Never stand between a boy and his food,” Daphne said with a little giggle. “Normally,” she added. She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. The others pulled back, as Daphne took a step back. She straightened her shoulders, before dropping down on both knees.
“My lord,” she said in a clear and strong voice. “Yesterday, you protected me, taking a killing curse that was aimed at me. This is a debt I freely acknowledge to all. My life is yours, I am your vassal to do with what you wish.”
“Scion Greengrass,” Harry replied formally, quoting the suggested words Derek had palmed him. “I will consider your debt to me paid in full, if you continue to be the beautiful, amazing, wonderful sister you have been for these past few months.”
Daphne slid her hand to her pocket and pulled out her wand. “I, Daphne Eugenie Greengrass, do swear as payment for the debt of my life, and from the very bottom of my heart, that Harry James Potter is my beloved and adored big brother, with all rights and responsibilities as pertained.”
Harry reached down and lifted her up easily. “And my sister should never bow to me.”
Daphne smiled, “But she can hug her brother?”
“Whenever she wants.”
Daphne hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Right, food now?”
“Absolutely,” Harry agreed. He sat down, next to Daphne, and grinned at his other friends. “Guys, can I get steak, eggs, hash browns, buttered toast, a large pot of tea, some orange juice, and some cereal to start with?”
The cereal appeared instantly, and Harry could detect a happy hum of House-elf magic around him. He was able to finish the cereal as a truly humongous plate – a serving platter, really – of food arrived.
It was five minutes later that he finished, and was able to relax. “So, morning,” he said with a grin.
There were some giggles. “That is the biggest breakfast I’ve ever seen anyone eat, ever!” Daphne announced.
“Yeah,” Romilda agreed. “And I thought my brother and cousins could eat.”
"I've seen more eaten, but not with table manners and with such a wonderful reason to be hungry,” Hermione added.
Harry shrugged, “I think it was the killing curse, because I woke up ravenous. I feel human again. And good,” he added. “Professor Dumbledore agreed with my idea for armour that could stop a Killing Curse.”
“What!” Hermione shrieked. “How?”
Harry blinked, “Didn’t I mention it?”
“Oh,” he said, and went silent. Watching Hermione get frustrated was fun. After a suitable pause, with the measurement of such the almost visible volume of steam coming out of her ears, he continued. “Dumbledore agreed that I can borrow Daph for a few days to help me get it done. It’s going to cost us, because we have to make five copies of plain boring armour for some Aurors afterward.”
“Boring armour?” Daphne asked.
“Yeah, generic stuff you’re going to have to design.”
“Can I at least make it kinda good looking?” she asked.
“If you must, just not as good as mine.”
“Of course not,” she said with a giggle.
“Harry,” Hermione growled. “Knowledge, impart!”
Harry shook his head playfully. "You've been spending too much time with Tori and Romi, fragmented sentences and everything!” He looked around for a distraction, and was granted one as one of the ladies he’d seen at the trial, Amelia Bones, entered accompanied by a group of Aurors.
“Madam Bones?” Dumbledore asked.
“Did you expect me to wait?” she said, her delivery like she was making a dramatic speech to thousands. “The whole world trembles at the idea of protection from the Killing Curse. I know that armour is custom made, so I asked for some volunteers, and these are some of my best. They’re here for measurements.”
“Wonderful,” Dumbledore said dryly. It looked like he wanted to say more, but was being polite. “Harry?”
Harry stood, and walked around the table, looking at the slightly uncomfortable-looking Aurors, who were standing next to their boss in a school full of children.
He called his broad-sword, the one he’d used on the dragon, and held it in one hand loosely. As one, they all watched the sword warily.
“Daph, can you get the rough measuring charm going?”
Daphne nodded and started to move her wand. Harry lifted his sword, and held it at eye height. The tip wavered a bit, but he concentrated and made it still. After fifteen seconds, he lowered the sword, and handed it to the first Auror. She was about five and a half foot tall with pink hair in a pixie cut. She had a friendly smile on her face. “Lift,” he ordered.
She did, and then struggled to hold it up properly. “Crikey, this weighs a tonne!”
“Pass it on,” Harry said.
She did, to a larger Auror. “Give it a shot, Shack,” she added.
The Auror’s eyes widened as he lifted it into position, but could only keep it there for a few seconds.
“You guys are going to need to get fit, and I mean really fit,” Harry said bluntly. “The armour is heavy. We can only put one or two enchantments on each piece, and we will not be wasting something important to make it lighter, not when you can work and get stronger.
“I’ll be building the armour, but you will not receive it until you are fit enough to handle it. The fitness test will be running a mile with a quarter of your body weight on your back, holding the sword up for twenty seconds, and being able to swing it – properly – in a spar for two minutes. I’ve yet to see a magical shield that can stop a swinging sword.
“I seriously suggest that you get someone in to train you in wielding a sword. And look up the experience potions, they can help immensely.”
“Which Nan can supply, for a price,” Romilda chipped in.
The Aurors all nodded, and looked nervous. “You can do that exercise?” the pink haired one asked.
“More,” Harry replied dryly. He nodded at Bones. “To the smithy, please?” He vanished, and a few seconds later his friends appeared, and he explained his plan.
Amelia blinked as the boy vanished with the House-elves, his friends vanishing shortly afterwards. She had come early to show how eager the Ministry was to work with him, and to present the Aurors she’d chosen.
She’d even added Tonks and Shacklebolt, as a gesture to Albus – she was aware where their true loyalties lay. What she hadn’t expected was the way Harry hadn’t actually seemed that interested. She allowed herself a small chuckle at the look of fear on her Aurors’ faces.
“Politics?” Alastor Moody grunted as he thudded toward her. She’d been surprised when he’d actually taken up the role as a teacher for the rest of the year. “Wrong kid for that, Amelia.”
“Albus, can I have some quarters for these five?” he asked. “It will be better if they are out of normal circulation for a few weeks, while we get ‘em fit.”
“Beaty, can you arrange for some guest quarters?”
“Beaty cans be doing that,” an elf said, popping in.
“Beaty,” Alastor grunted, “you got any House-elves that won’t mind ordering this lot around?”
“Excellent. Right, you five, leave, return with clothes for two weeks, say goodbye to your loved ones. Return tomorrow at seven. Beaty, I’ll design a schedule, and help supervise when I can. Your House-elves will supervise the rest of the time.”
“Wes making sure they are ready for great Harry’s armour?”
“House-elves will be making thems work.”
“You heard me,” Alastor suddenly roared. “Leave!”
“You’re going to have fun,” Amelia noted, as her Aurors fled.
“A bit,” he agreed with a shrug. “Advice?”
“Don’t play games.”
She nodded. And then smiled and nodded at her niece.
“Madam Bones, do you have it?” Dumbledore asked.
“Of course,” she replied. She held out a scroll. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said with a sigh. “But you are right, better to get permission upfront than have issues later.”
Albus was suddenly in front of her, the parchment in his hands. “Excellent,” he said as he read through it. “This is all in order; I’ll pass it to Harry later.”
“It’s not a complete commission to kill,” Amelia warned.
“Of course not, just a guarantee that he won’t be prosecuted if any Death Eaters do wind up dead when they are fighting,” Albus agreed. He duplicated it, and the copy vanished. “The I.C.W now has a copy as well,” he explained cheerfully.
Amelia blinked, and then nodded. “We’re going to get slaughtered for letting a child do this.”
“What child?” Albus asked, in his serene mode. “All I see is a man who can take on a dragon one on one, and win.”
Amelia sighed and nodded. She wasn’t going to beat that point, mainly because she agreed with it. “Well, it’s been a pleasure as always, Albus.”
Albus bowed smoothly. “A deep pleasure indeed.”
Amelia disliked that fact that she was never quite certain that Albus didn’t have a completely wicked sense of humour. And that she could never tell if he was being serious or gently mocking her, and most other people.
She nodded to her ex-Auror and headed out into the fresh air. She allowed herself a little chuckle at the thought of the gruelling exercises they were going to go through.
At the gates, she Apparated back to the Ministry, the Ministry that so desperately needed to be purged. As soon as that was done, she was going to retire as well. It desperately needed new blood and energy, and she was very much part of the old guard.
She had been peripherally aware of some of the bad things that had happened, but had never really felt it was worth rocking the boat. She was an old pureblood who had worked for the Ministry all her life and she wanted her retirement to be pleasant.
Harry stretched as he riveted the last strap to the chest guard. The forge was glowing, giving off a low heat that made the room pleasantly warm; it never truly went out. It was the last piece for the first set of armour for the Aurors.
It had taken him several weeks, but he was pleased with what they had designed, and he would be able to knock out copies reasonably quickly now.
Hermione and Daphne had gone to bed a couple of hours ago. Astoria and Romilda had stayed up with him, but they had both fallen asleep at their desks. Romilda seemed to be in a deeper sleep, so he moved over to Astoria and picked the girl up. She instantly snuggled into his arms. He was surprised, in a way, by how light she was. He didn’t know what he had expected, though.
He took a deep breath, and popped to their dormitory. He grinned in triumph as they arrived. He’d been paying a considerable amount of attention to how the House-elves did it, and was delighted that he now understood the different twist on magic that they had to use.
He carried Astoria into her bedroom, and nudged the covers back. He placed her down and removed her shoes, before covering her. He lightly kissed her on the forehead, before popping away.
Romilda was still fast asleep, and he was pleased she hadn’t woken up alone to an empty room. He lifted her, finding that she was heavier than Astoria, more firmly built, more energetic than her friend, but just like her, she curled into his arms.
He popped her away as well, and did exactly the same thing as he had with Astoria. Unlike Astoria, as soon as she was in bed, she turned onto her front and lay spread eagled under the cover,
He silently exited her room and headed to their Common Room. As he did, Cully and Dobby popped in.
“Harry is popping,” Dobby pointed out. “Humans aren’t popping, ever.”
“You’ve popped me a lot,” Harry said as he sat, indicating the House-elves should do so as well. “So I just copied the twist you give the magic.”
“Twist?” Cully asked. “Cully was thinking it was being elfs magic.”
Harry shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. Magic is magic.”
Culluy and Dobby both scratched their heads. “Magic is magic,” Cully murmured. “What is you meaning?” he asked.
“Magic is like a language. A form of communication, with House-elves speaking a different version to humans, which allows them to express concepts in a different way,” Harry said.
Both House-elves nodded. “So House-elves can help Harry learn new language?”
“And Harry could help the House-elves learn as well.”
Both House-elves perked up massively. “But that’s a long-term thing,” Harry added, “something to look forward to once Voldemort is being perpetually burnt in fiery pits.”
Both House-elves giggled. “House-elves still needed, right, for others?”
“Of course,” Harry said, while he thought he could possibly pop all of his friends in one go, he didn’t want to make the House-elves feel like they weren’t helping. He stretched. “Do you think the rules are ready for the bounce game?” he asked.
“They is being ready,” Cully said. “Mopsy and Trixie have them ready. House-elves have tried them out with boots, so we know is working. House-elves is enjoying,” he added.
“So I’ll need to do some elf size boots?”
Cully and Dobby both cheered.
“I’ll do some,” he promised. “We’ll play on Sunday afternoon.”
The two House-elves nodded, and after bidding him goodnight, popped away. Harry went straight to the bathroom, before hitting the sack.
“You were awake, you tart,” Romilda said as she bounded into her friend’s room and landed on her bed.
“Look who’s talking, you cow,” Astoria replied as she sat up. “I told you it would work!”
“Yeah, it was so romantic!” Romilda swooned happily. “And he can pop !”
“He’s Harry. He’s made of awesome, he can do anything,” Astoria stated.
“Yeah, which is why I’m gonna win!”
“Bring it, bitch!”
They stared at each other for a second, and then burst out laughing,
Astoria climbed out of bed and headed to her bathroom. Ten minutes later she exited, to find her friend reading on her bed. She dressed quickly in jeans and a shirt, before grabbing her friend’s hand and walking with her to the Common Room.
“Morning,” Hermione said. “Harry’s getting a shower, and will meet us for breakfast.”
“Okay,” Astoria agreed. “Can we be popped, please?” she asked the empty air. As they arrived, she looked at Romilda and giggled.
Romilda looked blank for a second, before she did so as well. “What?” Daphne asked.
The younger two started to laugh, as they imagined Hermione’s reaction when she knew that Harry could pop on his own.
“What’s up with them?” Daphne asked Hermione.
And if by magic, which it was, Harry popped in.
Hermione’s head titled to one side as she looked at Harry, before it jerked straight up. “Harry James Potter,” she yelled.
“Hermione Jean Granger,” Harry said back. “Bit formal for a good morning, isn’t it?”
“Did you just pop on your own?”
“What? Oh, that,” Harry said, as he took the seat. “Yeah, don’t have a cow.”
“Have a cow!” Hermione shrieked. “Humans don’t pop, House-elves pop, you are not a House-elf, therefore, you do not pop!”
“But that’s just a logical fallacy,” Harry pointed out. “Just because you don’t understand magic, doesn’t mean that the rest of us have that issue,” Harry teased.
“But…” Hermione stated.
Harry swept his hands around, and every plate in the Great Hall started to float, before he let them down gently.
Astoria found herself utterly enthralled by the weird conversation between the two friends.
“Dobby, Cully and I were discussing it last night, and they came up with a great analogy. The House-elves speak one language of magic, humans speak another. I’m just learning how to speak a little bit of elf.”
“But…” Hermione started.
“Magic is magic,” Harry said with a shrug. “I think that we try and put rules onto it because we’re inherently logical creatures, and so we have formalised everything we do, but I’ve got this idea, I’ve been working on it for a while, while working on the forge, that magic isn’t that.” He looked down. “It’s just, my thoughts have been clearer since the incident, and I feel like I understand it more now.”
“You’re being unclear,” Hermione pointed out gently. “Harry, take a breath, organise your thoughts.”
Harry nodded, stood up from the bench, stepped over it and started to pace in front of their table.
“Magic is magic,” he repeated. “That’s the point. We’re here in a school, learning magic, right?”
“Well, most of us,” Romilda pointed out cheerily, “You’re more here absorbing the lessons as a hobby while making magical armour.”
“True,” Harry agreed, as Hermione hushed her.
“So yeah, you can’t teach illogically, that doesn’t make sense, so everything gets formalised, and before you know it, you’re turning one thing into another.” With a casual ease, he transfigured their cutlery into miniature dolls. The knives, now girl dolls, bowed to the forks, now boy dolls. The girls and boys paired up and they started to waltz around the table.
Astoria noted that their dance moves were smooth, and that her parents would have been impressed with their technical skills.
“Magic,” he continued, “like Professor McGonagall taught us. And that’s great, it’s a spell, it’s something that can be taught, and we can understand. But what is it?”
“First,” Hermione said, “That’s transfiguration and charms, two different things. You used the first to turn the knives and forks, and the second to animate them into this dance.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed, “but what is it?”
“Magic,” Astoria pointed out the obvious.
“Exactly,” Harry agreed. “It’s the way we were taught, the way everyone here has been taught. Romi, how do you curse?”
“It’s like a prayer: you pray to magic, you explain the reason, offer your magic, and wait for magic to respond,” Romilda replied instantly.
“Where’s your wand?”
Romilda opened her mouth, and then shut it.
“You don’t use one,” Hermione said into the silence.
“And what are you using?”
“Magic,” Astoria whispered.
“Daph, what was the first thing that Snape said about potions and how they are made?”
“No silly wand waving,” Daphne recited.
“And yet, we offer ingredients, we treat them right, and in return magic gives us the potions. But what is it?”
“Magic,” Astoria said again.
“Exactly, so what is magic?”
“Going by what you’ve said, a bizarre subset of Latin, with some Greek thrown in, invoked by a wand in a mini ritual to produce a desired effect?” Astoria asked.
She then found herself lifted out of her seat, hugged exuberantly, and kissed on the cheek, before being placed back down. She was aware that she was blushing like never before, but she wouldn’t take that moment back for the world. She had felt just how powerful Harry was in that moment, both magically and physically, and it increased her determination to be the one who had all of that looking down on her, as she welcomed him into her body.
She was shocked at the image that had suddenly popped in to her mind, and realised that puberty now had a very firm hold of her. And as shocking as the image was, it was also an extremely charged one, and she felt faint at the very idea.
“Tart,” Romilda whispered as Harry took up his pacing again. Astoria reached out and grabbed Romilda’s hand under the table, using that to try and centre herself, and get herself back from the dangerous areas her mind had drifted to.
“Exactly, a mini ritual formalised as a spell. But what is that, at its core, what is that?” Harry asked.
“A request,” Hermione said suddenly. “A request to magic to do something for us.”
“Exactly,” Harry crowed. “That’s exactly what it is! And each of the examples I gave are us asking a different way for something to happen.
“So when I pop, it’s just the same, just a different way of asking for something to happen.” Harry paused and looked around the room. “Delacour,” he called. “What’s Terroir ?”
“There ees no direct translation,” the French witch said after a few seconds of thought, “It is a combination of many things, of the sun, the land, the temperature, and many ozzer things, and is used to describe the areas that grow wine, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes and other such things where the soil ees as important as the plants.”
“So it’s difficult to explain in English, but is summed up in one word in French?”
“It is,” Fleur agreed. “And you can call me Fleur.”
Harry grinned at the French witch, and then turned back to them, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” he continued eagerly, looking at Hermione. “Magic is magic; it is just easier to do different things in different flavours!”
“Magic is magic,” Hermione whispered. “Daph, Romi, I’m going to have to ask a huge favour from you two.”
“We’ll do it,” Daphne said brightly.
“You should always ask first,” Romilda groaned. “But fine, I’m in.”
“Just stay in class,” Hermione said. She stood, and walked around the edge of the table, lightly thumping Harry in the arm as she went past. She then shook her hand out and winced, before she marched up to the Professor’s table.
“Professor Dumbledore,” Hermione started, “judging by your facial expression, and the expressions of the other staff, this is not something you’ve thought about before?”
“I don’t think that any human has ever had as much contact with the House-elves as Harry has,” Dumbledore replied evenly. “They are probably the closest beings who use a different magic to us.”
“Or the time to think about it,” Hermione suggested, as she nodded at Dumbledore’s point.
“Indeed, normally, thought is driven by need, or guided by others,” Dumbledore replied.
“In which case, I’m going to have to pull out of classes for a while, along with Astoria.”
Astoria blinked, wondering why she was needed.
“So you both can write up Harry’s ideas in a paper?”
“As long as I get first look,” Dumbledore said with a small smile.
“How about you get first read, and if it’s good enough, you sponsor it?”
“Agreed,” Dumbledore said. “The idea is utterly fascinating. My own popping is something I mimicked, but it is not the same; it’s limited to line of sight or places I know very well, and I must confess I never really wondered how the House-elves did it.”
“Why would you?” Hermione asked. “We’re all products of our education, it’s only because we persuaded Harry to be himself, and took him out of the education system, that he had the time and the circumstances to actually think about it, and I’m so proud of him I could burst.”
“A feeling I know well,” Dumbledore agreed with a twinkle in his eyes. Astoria looked at Harry; he was blushing.
Hermione grinned as she turned and walked back down to them; she stopped, and hugged Harry hard, whispering something in his ear.
He chuckled and hugged her back, before releasing her. He looked around, and shrugged, “Fleur, Viktor, Cedric, we’ll play our game on Sunday afternoon, okay?”
“Da, will be fun,” Krum stated.
Harry popped away, returning seconds later next to Krum, and gave him a pair of black hiking boots, before he popped over to Cedric and handed him a second pair. He finished with Fleur, handing her a pair of feminine-looking troopa combat boots in Beauxbatons’ blue colour with lighter blue laces.
Fleur looked at them, and then at Harry. Harry simply pointed to Daphne. “But ze leather work?”
“Leather’s easy to work with,” Harry stated. “Dragon’s a complete pain in the posterior to work with, not only is it resistant to most magic, it actively rejects being used in some ways, so you have to over-power it.”
“Oh,” Fleur said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He turned, and headed toward the table and stopped in front of Professor Moody. “So, your doppelganger, he liked to throw around the killing curse. As you, in fact. Was he exaggerating about your prowess with it?”
“No,” Moody grunted.
“Cool, so, how about you throw a few curses at my new armour, after breakfast?”
“Tonks, Shacklebolt,” Moody roared. Astoria looked down the Professors’ table to where the five Aurors were sat. “Run down to the Gate, then go and get permission from Amelia.”
“But, breakfast,” the female one whimpered. “And we could use the Floo…”
“A nice run before breakfast,” Alastor cackled. “Go!”
Two House-elves appeared, with sparks coming out of their hands.
Tonks and Shacklebolt jumped over the table, and dashed straight out, the House-elves behind them.
“I love those House-elves,” Moody said with a slightly terrifying grin. “Sit down lad, we’ll try it after food.”
“One more thing,” Krum said loudly. “Our fly!”
Harry nodded and sat down. “So, a paper?” he asked Hermione.
“A scholarly paper,” Hermione corrected primly. “Peer reviewed, based on research, duplicable evidence, citations, everything.”
“And what are you going to entitle this formal write up?”
“Magic is magic,” Hermione said dryly. “By Hermione Granger, Astoria Greengrass, and a big jerk.”
“My best friend, a philosopher,” Hermione continued to tease, as the breakfasts finally arrived. “And I just thought he was mindlessly banging on metal like a demented drummer.”
“Pfft, that from the girl who’s only happy when she’s sleeping on a pile of books.”
“Education trumps ignorance,” Hermione countered.
“And yet this ignorant one came up with something new,” Harry said back.
“Pfft, even a brute can get one sliver of an idea, it takes real thought to expand that into something publishable,” Hermione said snootily.
Harry blinked away and appeared behind Hermione, where he dug his fingers into her sides, before popping back.
Hermione jumped, and then pouted at him. “Brute,” she mumbled. She shook herself. “Your idea, Harry, it is unbelievable,” she said seriously. “It’s startling because it’s so complex and yet like all truly brilliant ideas, is so simple. Every book sets out the rules of magic, one way or another, and it puts limitations in place, limitations that people have worked around, often, to use your analogy, by inventing new vocabulary, but this, Harry, you could take further, and invent a new language for a new field.
“The possibilities are endless.”
Harry grinned. “So you’ll want to be around when I start to teach the House-elves our language?”
Hermione giggled and nodded. “Of course you’ll want to do that! But don’t worry; you can talk as you hammer.”
“Ug,” Harry agreed cheerfully. As they finished eating, they stood, and Harry moved slightly and gave Romilda a huge hug. “Everyone told me what you did while I was dead,” he said. “Thanks.” He kissed her on the cheek as he had Astoria.
Romilda blushed and didn’t look like she was able to say anything. Astoria moved over to her and took her hand. “I know what you’re thinking, you tart,” she whispered.
Romilda giggled and was back to normal, as House-elves popped them down to the forge. Professor Dumbledore and Professor Moody arrived a few seconds later.
Harry pulled out a dummy, with his new black armour on it.
It was frankly terrifying, with blood red inserts highlighting it. The red seemed to glow with an unearthly light of its own generation. It was huge, with insets and spikes all over. They were asymmetrical, which seemed to draw the eye in and then make it back off with a feeling of unease. The helmet looked almost like a crown, with two large horns bracketed by two smaller horns, making the whole ensemble close to 7 foot tall.
“Daph and I were going for intimidation,” Harry explained. “And while it might look like the extrudements would guide a sword to vulnerable bits, they actually guide to heavily reinforced bits, and are designed to detach if necessary. The base material is magical ebony, reinforced with everything we could think off.”
“It is beautiful and terrifying,” Astoria said softly.
“Thanks,” Daphne said brightly, “that’s what we were hoping for.”
Astoria moved closer to Daphne, and wrapped an arm around her, resting her head on her sister’s shoulder. Daphne moved an arm around her waist and hugged her. Astoria couldn’t remember the last time she had hugged Daphne like this.
“Well, let’s try it then,” Moody grunted. He whipped out his wand. “Avada Kedavra!”
The green light sped out of his wand and hit the armour dead in the centre. The dummy rocked back a bit, but did nothing else. Harry moved over, checked it, and grinned. “Armour on,” he called excitedly. The armour on the dummy vanished, as a small tornado lifted Harry into the air. As he span, bits of armour appeared, rotating along their own axis, and attached to him.
The helm landed on his head last, casting his face into shadow, despite the fact it was still open. The dull red started to throb, like a heartbeat, and the colour was just a little deeper.
It was the most complete armour Astoria had seen from Harry, black ebony chain mail covered parts that were normally just leather.
“Turn it on,” Daphne cheered.
Harry shifted slightly, and then his eyes started to glow an unearthly green colour. “Place down your wands, now,” he said in a deep gravelly voice, “or face the consequences of your actions!”
The voice touched a part of Astoria that was primal, and she shivered in fear, instinctively grabbing at her wand.
“The curse, Professor Moody,” Daphne encouraged. Harry lowered the lid, but the eyes still seemed to dominate his face, impossibly through the metal.
“Avada Kedavra,” Moody said. Harry twisted as he took an aggressive step forward, his left hand flashing out to catch the curse. He continued his movement, drawing his sword with his right and swinging it. He pulled the strike close to Moody.
Moody gulped. “Please, Potter,” he whispered, “can I be there when you do this to Death Eaters? I want to see them piss themselves in fear!”
Daphne giggled, and Astoria looked up at her sister, and for the first time, realised that she didn’t know her as well as she should, and that Daphne was indeed correctly sorted into Slytherin.
“Armour off,” Harry said, and as it melted away, he looked at his hand. The front was red raw, showing the impact the curse had made. “Ouch,” he said laconically.
“Harry!” Hermione said, moving over to him and taking his hand.
“Nothing is perfect, Hermione,” he said. “The energy in the curse has to go somewhere, and the gauntlet can only dissipate so much magic; my chest piece is better protected.”
“Then why?” she demanded.
“Because I was ready to shit myself when this hulking beast from my nightmares grabbed my killing curse and swung a fuck-off massive sword at me!” Moody said flatly.
“Intimidation,” Harry explained in a slightly cleaner version of what the professor had said.
Hermione turned and looked at Daphne, “Why do I keep expecting sanity from him?”
Daphne smiled brightly, “Because you’re still trying to get out of the mindset you’ve been taught about magic. And you define anything that doesn’t follow that as insanity.”
Astoria looked up in surprise, as she’d never heard Daphne defend someone so directly.
“Come to the insane side, Hermione,” Harry whispered. “We have cookies.”
On cue, a plate of fresh-baked cookies appeared on the table next to her.
Hermione chuckled. “True,” she agreed. “And tempting. But then, who would write the paper?”
“So, Professor, do I pass?” Harry asked.
“You do,” the Headmaster agreed. “I asked for, and received, from Amelia, a commission for you that will ensure that you will not suffer any legal repercussions from fighting Death Eaters. And as soon as we hear of anything, we’ll let you know. We do have some spies, and we will use any information immediately.”
“So that they attack, thinking it’s like the old days, but then Harry appears and wham-bam-take-that-bitch?” Romilda asked, as she mimicked Harry attacking.
“Quite,” Dumbledore said with a chuckle. “Quite.”
“And in a few weeks’ time, you’ll be joined by others,” Moody added. “Really great work.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. “Right, before lunch, I promised that I’d make some elf bounce boots, and we need to come up with a name for them.”
"And protect the spell work from imitation,” Astoria added. “At least to start with. We might want to licence the production out later, and keep a premium product in house.”
“Oh, bugger,” Hermione suddenly said. “I’ve just had one of those thoughts.”
“Who’s the lucky guy?” Harry teased.
“Not that, git,” Hermione retorted. “The sort of thought that you’re incapable of because it deals with reality, not Harry Potter-ity, the weird world you live in and keep dragging us into.
“What if the armour doesn’t protect from the Killing Curse, and it’s just Mr I’ve-Already-Survived-Two-And-I’m-Now-Immune who it works for?”
There was a brief silence as everyone contemplated both her words and her appalling naming skills.
“If you ever have children, I’m naming them,” Harry decided. “You’d just end up calling them Eugenie or something equally as horrid.”
Hermione gracefully stuck two fingers up at Harry.
“You do raise a good point,” The Headmaster mused.
Daphne sighed and removed her arm from around Astoria. She took a step forward and touched the armour Harry was still wearing. “Armour off,” she ordered. The armour flowed off him, and back onto the stand. “Armour on,” she then said. The armour flowed onto her, causing a few squeaks from her.
“Can we hurry, please?” Daphne asked. “This armour is not fitted for me, and is really uncomfortable.”
“Erm,” Moody started. “I’m… well… it’s just…”
“Today?” Daphne snapped. “I’m standing on tip-toe here, and it’s far more intimate than I’m comfortable with, and while you lot seem to have some doubt about Harry’s skills, I don’t. So if we could get this demo out of the way, I can get out of this armour before I slip and risk not being a virgin on my wedding night!”
Astoria found herself blushing furiously as she looked at the cross and uncomfortable expression on the face of her sister.
Alastor took a deep breath. “Avada Kedavra,” he said. The spell crashed into the breast place.
“Armour off, immediate,” Harry ordered a second later. The armour vanished, showing that Daphne was balanced precariously on her toes, before Harry swept her up into a bridal-style hold. He carried her over to a table and sat her down carefully, before his hand swept up and guided her face so she was looking up at him. “You okay?”
“Of course, my brother doesn’t make cheap rubbish.”
He chuckled and pulled her into a hug. “That doesn’t mean that I like anyone throwing a curse at my sister,” he told her. “It took every bit of mental effort I had not to attack him.”
In the background, Moody gulped.
“Are we happy?” Harry asked.
“Indubitably,” Dumbledore replied for all of them.
Cedric stood in the courtyard of Hogwarts, with Fleur and Viktor, waiting for Harry. The boy wasn’t late, they were just all early. There were a lot of students milling around, waiting to watch the champions fly together.
He had his Cleansweep Ten, Seeker Edition broom, while Fleur and Viktor both had Firebolts.
Cho and Esmeralda were waiting with them, but no one was really talking. Cedric felt intimidated by how good Viktor was, and how physically perfect Fleur was.
He was the Hogwarts champion, and a very good wizard, but he felt massively inadequate, especially when it came to the Default Champion, as he called himself. He had to stop himself from snorting. “Default”. If the armour-forging, dragon-killing Harry was a default, what did that make Cedric? He had a sneaking suspicion that distinctly second-class was the answer that no-one would ever say.
And now, he’d even come up with a new theory of magic that was out of this world. And the hook line had kept Cedric thinking all day. Magic is magic. There was nothing he could think of to counter it, nothing at all.
He snorted suddenly.
“What?” Cho asked curiously.
“I’ve just realised that all my life I’ve had this nagging feeling that something isn’t right. It’s magic.”
“Magic is magic,” he quoted. “When I was younger, I always wondered why I couldn’t fly without a broom. Mum always told me that magic couldn’t do that.”
“I vas told that magic couldn’t do lots,” Krum agreed.
“And your next point,” Fleur said with a cute little sigh and a huff, and vastly improved English, “is that the idea of magic not being able to do something is completely false. We just were not asking it properly.”
“Da,” Krum grunted. “When I vas kid, seemed wrong.”
“And it was, but we just accepted it and moved on.” Cedric shook himself. “Because that was accepted knowledge and why ask silly questions?”
“Because ze adults told us, and we accepted.”
“Yeah,” Cedric agreed. “You have to wonder what is going to come of this.”
“A complete revolution of magic,” a new voice joined them. They turned, to see Hermione had been popped in to them. “Harry’s on his way,” she added.
“Thanks,” Cedric said for the message.
Hermione nodded. “Watching Harry forge is incredibly relaxing. And when he is in the zone, nothing else matters to him, it’s just him, the forge and his hammers. And he can happily spend more than ten hours at a time doing it. It’s that dedication with the meditative way he handles it that has given him the time to just think. Dobby is probably his closest male friend at the moment, and that doesn’t really count as they are on different levels, so it’s no wonder that Harry thought about House-elves. And he’s been popped as much as we have – the difference is that Harry is very self-reliant.” She pouted, “And he can cook.”
“Really?” Fleur asked.
“He made quite possibly the best roast potatoes I’ve ever tasted at Christmas, and then for a lark, he taught two people how to make fantastic puff pastry and then he knocked up an apple pie that was out of this world.” She shrugged. “Of everyone I know, he is the only person who could lose his magic and instantly transfer to the Muggle world and be a success.”
There was a series of pops, as Harry’s other friends arrived, and then Harry. The boy was wearing a green t-shirt, jeans and a pair of trainers, despite the cold spring weather. In his left hand was his Firebolt, in his right, a long box.
“Ahh, I thought so,” Harry said cheerfully. He dropped the box, which splintered on the paving slabs, revealing another Firebolt broom. “Here.”
“Thanks,” Cedric said in disbelief, as he was handed a new broom.
“No problem. So, ready for a flight?”
“Da,” Krum said, grinning suddenly.
“I am ready,” Fleur agreed with a small smile.
“Apart from an insanely jealous girlfriend, ready.” Cedric moved to avoid the incoming slap, but wasn’t quick enough.
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I can see that. Maybe another time, Chang,” Harry said with a nod, before he simply took off. It was only as he was ten feet in the air that he bothered to bring his broom between his legs and shot into the sky.
Viktor was the next up, copying Harry exactly, as he just allowed his broom to lift him in the air by his arms, before swinging his legs over.
“Oh,” Fleur said with another devastatingly cute little pout. “Zis is going to be fun.” She mounted her broom and took off.
“Fun,” Cedric mimicked with an eye roll. He mounted his broom and took off as well, loving the feeling of the wind in his hair. He was aware that his takeoff was not as exciting as the other two guys’, but one was a professional Quidditch player and the other was Harry Potter, so he could be excused.
In the air, Krum and Harry were already engaged in a high-speed game of tag. For the first few minutes, Cedric concentrated on learning how the Firebolt reacted to things: extremely well. When he was confident, he flew in to the area that the other three were using.
Harry whipped under him, then did an aileron roll around him, tagging him on the shoulder as he flew past.
Cedric immediately accelerated, sliding around to tag Fleur’s foot. At high speed, she took off after Viktor, who was escaping her with ease, before Harry flew into Viktor’s path, putting him off enough for Fleur to catch him.
The game continued for a while, with plenty of whoops and laughter as they pulled off tricks and manoeuvres to tag each other randomly.
Krum was the first to stop, hovering as the others joined him. “Krum has had fun, good flyers, all.”
“Thanks,” Cedric said.
“Krum mean no disrespect, but Krum is holding back. Cedric and Fleur not mind if Krum and Harry go for it?”
Cedric looked at Fleur.
“Go for it,” Fleur decided. “We shall watch.”
“Yeah,” Cedric agreed.
“Tag,” Harry said, nudging Viktor, before diving close to a hundred foot in less than a second, and taking off. Viktor was immediately on his tail, not paying any attention to such things as gravity, the laws of conservation of motion, or anything else except his single-minded pursuit of Harry.
They both skimmed across the Black Lake, their feet brushing the water, as they left trails behind them, before they shot up to the castle and corkscrewed around one of the towers.
“Zey are good,” Fleur said in an understatement.
“Yeah,” Cedric agreed. “Harry’s lost some speed, though.”
“Yeah, he’s bigger than he was, and you can tell he’s not used to it yet.” Even as he spoke, Krum was able to tag him and then fly straight down. Harry took after him, as they rocketed down at full speed, only swooping horizontally at the last possible second.
They headed out over the lake, both rolling in opposite directions as the Giant Squid appeared. Harry pulled violently on his broom, and shot straight up, going incredibly high, before he seemed to pause and just hover.
Gravity slowly exerted its pull on him, as he somersaulted backward and shot down at an incredible speed. He pulled up, turning his vertical movement into a horizontal one, and shot after Krum, who didn’t manage to dodge in time.
Harry rolled away and flew back up to them, with a sad look on his face.
Krum joined them, looked at Harry, and nodded. “Takes practice.”
“It’s not the same, Vik,” Harry said softly. “I’m not the same.”
“Da,” Krum agreed with a sad look. “Harry cannot have two loves. Broom is jealous.”
“Heh,” Harry said with a slight smile. “Anvil is jealous, too.”
“Viktor has seen armour, Viktor has seen bounce-boots, Viktor thinks that Harry could do own broom, in metal, for Seeker.”
Harry’s eyes lit up.
“Viktor wants first go, though,” Krum added.
Harry laughed, as he swung his feet up and relaxed back on the broom, staring into the blue sky. “You going to pay?”
“He!” Krum said, “Viktor get team to pay, Harry gets money, no feels guilty about charging friend lots.”
“This is why I’m getting Tori to deal with the money side,” Harry agreed.
“You two are being friendlier,” Cedric pointed out lightly.
“Diggovy and Delacour are fun, friends to Krum, but Harry is more; Harry understands Viktor.”
“The price of fame, the unwanted burden when all you want to do is what you love,” Harry explained.
“How?” Fleur asked.
“We flew,” Krum said, as if that explained everything.
Fleur rolled her eyes. “Men.”
“Indeed,” Harry replied, “because we can learn everything we need to know about another person without talking. Vik is strong, direct, and dislikes subterfuge. He wants to just do what he loves, but is very aware of the price for that.”
“Harry is similar, is very strong, driven, wants to be best, but no longer on flying. Could be best flyer, but only loves it now, no longer has obsession to push beyond all boundaries.”
Fleur tilted her head thoughtfully. She then nodded sharply. “I repeat my earlier statement,” she said with a small smile that softened her words.
Harry had a thoughtful look on his face. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Does anyone want to see the smithy?”
“Yes!” Cedric half-shouted, beating the other two by microseconds.
“Come on, then,” Harry said, as he dropped like a stone. Viktor was immediately with him, they both stopped centimetres from the ground, and they climbed off at the same time.
Cedric swooped down with Fleur, dismounted regretfully, and handed Harry the new Firebolt back.
“Thanks,” the younger boy said, as he held both Firebolts in one hand.
“Can we go to the smithy please?”
Cedric found himself popped, and discovered it was a far better way to travel than Apparition.
“Vik will play close attention to Harry’s work,” Krum said, “Learn new magic travel, better than wizard travel.”
“Agreed,” Fleur said.
“Guys, can you get Cho, Esmeralda, and…” he trailed off, looking at Fleur.
“Gabrielle would love it,” she decided.
“And Gabrielle,” Harry finished.
Hermione, Astoria, Romilda and Daphne appeared next, closely followed by Cho, Esmeralda and Gabrielle.
“Fleur, Cho, Esmeralda, do you carry knives?” Hermione asked.
“Knives?” Fleur asked.
The four girls reached under their skirts, and pulled out beautiful knives. “Last option in self-defence,” Hermione explained. “There are rumours of what can happen with girls and memory charms.”
Fleur looked outraged, as Gabrielle looked confused and tugged on her sister’s skirt. She said something in French, causing Fleur to crouch and say something in gentle terms.
Gabrielle’s eyes went wide, and she shuddered. She pointed at Harry, said something, and then crossed her arms, as if whatever she had said was the winning argument in a national debate competition.
Fleur looked at Harry. “I do not need a knife, because I have Mr Potter to protect me,” she quoted.
Harry knelt opposite Gabrielle, and looked into her eyes. “Thank you, Gabrielle, for the compliment,” he said softly, “but while I am good, I am not a deity. I’m not everywhere, and while if I know you are in trouble, I will be there, there are many things in this world that could stop anyone, even me.
“It’s never too early to learn how to help defend yourself, if only to delay until help does arrive. We’re all happy to teach you, as long as you promise to listen carefully, and never show off with it. It’s a secret that could give you the edge if something bad does happen. Hopefully, it never will, but we would all rather be prepared for that one time, than be found wanting.”
There was a pause as Fleur translated, before Gabrielle frowned and slowly nodded. She looked up at her sister and said something with a pout.
“Gabrielle Delacour!” Fleur said with an angry voice; that started a conversation that seemed quite petulant from the younger girl.
After another minute of this back and forth, Fleur looked at Harry, “Can you pop to France?”
Harry nodded. “If I know the destination.”
Gabrielle screeched something at Fleur, who whipped out her wand and silenced the younger girl, before she blushed as she looked at Harry. “Merde,” she muttered. “Do you mind if I give you the directions to your mind?”
Fleur reached out and touched Harry’s forehead. Harry nodded, and then grabbed Gabrielle’s shoulder, who reacted by trying to get away. Fleur reached out and grabbed her, and took Harry’s hand. A second later, they had vanished.
“What was that?” Cedric asked.
“I did a bit of French before I came to Hogwarts,” Hermione said, “and I’ve been on holiday there a few times. Gabrielle seemed to be demanding that Harry should do something, and Fleur disagreed.”
“Treat her like Daph,” Romilda said. “She demanded that Fleur tell Harry to drop everyone else and take care of her. Fleur told her not to be silly, and Gabrielle replied that as Fleur had failed at the task, she couldn’t help, so she should make herself useful and translate properly.”
“She’s a bit of a brat,” Romilda added with a laugh.
“The problem, Romi, is that that was probably Harry’s first interaction with a girl like that, and while he was trying to be nice, it’s going to colour his interactions in the future,” Astoria pointed out.
“True,” Romilda agreed with a frown. “We could get my sister to bring my niece over?”
Astoria giggled. “No way, she’s a complete cuddlebug, she’d immediately climb into Harry’s arms and we’d never get her out of them.”
Romilda giggled as well.
“Harry’s mature enough, now, to understand that everyone is different,” Hermione pointed out evenly. “And one spoilt little princess isn’t going to change that.”
“Veela chick,” Krum grunted. “All headstrong and fiery and think world is for them.”
“And them alone,” Esmeralda agreed. “It’s one of the reasons a lot of Veela keep to themselves, it’s not until they start to mature that they become tolerable.”
Hermione had a fascinated look on her face, before she took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s not important, I’ll file it under interesting, but don’t pursue,” she said to herself. She looked up. “I have an awful habit of trying to research everything, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.”
“It isn’t?” Cho asked, speaking for the first time.
“It just means I have a lot of general knowledge,” Hermione explained, “and that’s why it took my best friend to come up with a new theory of magic. If I’m going to make something of myself, I need to focus on one thing more, and less on everything that comes across my radar.”
“Da,” Krum agreed.
“You can’t talk, you Neanderthal,” Esmeralda grunted, “you’re cheating on your broom with me.”
“Broom understands,” Krum replied evenly.
“Pfft,” Esmeralda said and elbowed him in the stomach, hard. Krum barely flinched.
Krum reached out and pulled her back against his chest, and placed his arms around her stomach. “This why Krum loves ‘Relda,” he said. “She understand that Krum has two loves, but only one that Krum hopes to have baby Krums with.”
Cedric watched as the irritation faded from Esmeralda’s face.
“Harry understands,” Krum continued, “same point as earlier, when fly, to be very best, you focus one thing or two things, focus lots means little progress, focus like nothing else means win.”
“And that’s what he does when he’s forging,” Astoria agreed. “Anyway, it seems to me like Harry was asking about knives.”
“I have one,” Esmeralda replied. She pulled it out of her skirt, and handed it over. Romilda took it, looked at it, sniffed, and then jammed the blade into the vice, pulling on the handle until the blade shattered with a crack. She chucked the handle over her shoulder. It arched through the air and landed in a large pile of scrap metal.
The Bulgarian girl blinked, “Errm… I just bought that!”
“Trash,” Romilda stated. “Absolute trash, an insult to knives everywhere. You’d be better off with a whistle blowing for help.” She handed the other girl her knife. Esmeralda moved away from Krum and did a few practice moves, and her eyes widened.
“It’s about fifteen percent lighter,” Romilda stated, “but more importantly, the balance is right. The steel is tough, but flexible, you can feel it wants to move with you, and it feels natural sat in your hand.”
Esmeralda nodded eagerly.
“Well, as someone who has purchased a knife recently, what do you think it is worth?” Astoria asked.
“I paid fifteen galleons for that piece of junk,” she replied. “For this one, I’d pay a hundred.”
“I was looking at around seventy-five,” Astoria said, “based on how long it takes Harry.”
“I’ll take two, one for me, one for my mother.”
“Krum will take two as well,” Viktor added. “Krum has little sister. Krum worries. Krum thinks 75 is good price for protection and Krum’s peace of mind.”
“I’ve not got that sort of money at school,” Cho said with a small pout. “Can I pay once I’ve owled home?”
“Sure,” Astoria said with a smile. She looked up as Harry and Fleur arrived back. “Romi did a demo of your knife, and we’ve sold five of them!”
“How much?” Fleur asked, as she took the knife from Esmeralda. It seemed to dance in her hands as she played with it.
“I think you might be undercharging a bit,” Fleur said.
“True, but by pricing it like this, we’ve already sold more. Esmeralda’s ordered two.”
Fleur nodded slowly. “It does feel like a bargain,” she admitted. “I will ‘ave four. My muzzer will want one, as will my aunt, and despite being ze world’s biggest brat, my sister will love one as well.”
Harry blinked. “Wait, that’s nine, knives, meaning six hundred and seventy-five galleons?”
“Harry,” Astoria interrupted sharply, “Not in front of customers!”
Krum chuckled. “Is not about raw materials or time, is about skill and result. Krum would play Quidditch for free, but Krum gets paid a lot to be best. When Krum plays, he plays with heart and soul, with years of practice and experience. Krum sits on broom and flies and catches snitch.”
Harry slowly smiled. “Thanks, Vik.”
Krum nodded. “Now, order, make knives!”
Harry laughed. “As they are our first customers, sit down with my sister and she’ll do you a custom colour scheme.”
“Ooo,” Fleur said happily, instantly moving over.
Harry waved a hand at the forge; it burst into life, before he pulled off his t-shirt and pulled on a heavy leather apron. Every move he made was smooth and well-oiled.
Romilda and Astoria started a running commentary as Harry worked on creating the knives for the girls. It was fascinating to watch, and incredibly calming. For a while, the only sound was the roar of the fire and hammer shaping the red-hot metal.
Cedric subtly poked Cho when he caught her joining Romilda and Astoria in spending a little too long staring at the smooth muscles in Harry’s back as they tensed and released.
The gathered guests settled down into conjured chairs and relaxed. Low-voiced conversations started and stopped organically, as everyone lost themselves watching a master at work.
While the metal was still hot, Harry pulled out a template sheet, and inscribed the knives with a series of runes, before he charged them. He then heated the metal back up to a glowing red before he shoved each knife into a bucket of oil. The knives thrummed as the now bubbling oil had small flames on the surface. Harry pulled the blades from the oil, looking quickly at the runes before the blades ignited in the air. With a satisfied nod he dunked the blades again, swirling them gently before he pulled them out. This time they smoked, but didn't ignite. He gently placed them on the shelf in front of the forge and then picked up a rag to clean his hands.
“No matter how many times I do that, it’s still cool,” he said with a grin as he moved over to a table and started to work with some leather.
The whispered magic he used to work the leather was just as impressive, as it changed into the colours the girls had requested. He then joined the knives and the leather, and the last thing he did was sharpen each one.
When they were finished, he displayed them on the tables, each knife, or knives, in front of the person who had ordered them.
“I think I would have paid the money just to watch that,” Cho admitted.
Krum laughed. “Da, Krum not been so relaxed in years. Viktor is keeping friends with Harry, come watch forge before big game, win ever faster!”
“But more,” Krum continued, “With bounce boots and now knife for sister, Krum wins best bruvver in world award!”
“These are wonderful, Harry,” Esmeralda agreed. “Well worth the money. There will always be a market for high quality items, and the fact they are functional as well, it will make them very much sought after.”
“I don’t just want to do weapons,” Harry said with a nod. “Daph’s come up with some amazing designs for all sorts of things. We’re going to put out a catalogue.”
“Krum will take one,” Viktor said instantly. “Krum likes metal work.”
“Bulgaria likes metal work,” Esmeralda corrected. “Our blacksmiths are not as good.”
“Nor ours,” Fleur agreed. She was stroking one of the knives lovingly. She shook herself, and gave a small smile. The smile was amazing, beautiful, completely out of this world. It was the smile of an angel, favouring him with her presence.
“Easy, tiger,” Harry called.
Cedric blinked, to find himself hoisted in the air by his shirt, by an amused looking Harry Potter. He’d been heading toward Fleur with his arms outstretched.
“I am so sorry,” Fleur called. She had a devastated look on her face.
“Was accident.” Krum said, “Friends forgive.”
“You actually love me,” Esmeralda said in disbelief.
“Viktor has said so at least once.”
“I thought that was because you like doing me!”
“I do,” Viktor agreed. “And I like being with you.”
“But…” Esmeralda said. “Broom….”
“Broom can’t give me babies, or keep me warm at night.”
“There was a Veela, with Allure, and you held me!”
Viktor nodded calmly.
“You love me,” she repeated. She reached up and kissed him, hard. When they broke, Krum grinned at Fleur.
“Not even something to forgive,” he corrected himself. “‘Relda now knows Krum loves her.”
Cedric winced and looked at Cho, who was scowling at him.
“Don’t be little girl,” Krum said firmly. “Krum is older, has been around world, knows life, is man. Children confuse hormones with love, need growing. Krum grown. Diggovy growing well, not there yet.”
Cho blinked, and opened her mouth.
“Now’s the time to listen,” Hermione interrupted her before she could speak. Cho was still scowling.
“Pare!” Daphne suddenly called. Cho’s eyes went blank. “Sit on the floor.”
Cho did as she was told.
“Fold your legs and sit like a child.”
Cho did, again.
Daphne cancelled the spell. Cho looked at herself in shock. “Oh, look,” Daphne said, “You are sat like a little girl, should we all call you that now?”
“I cast a compulsion charm on you, a simple little thing that allows a few basic suggestions to work,” Daphne explained. “And yet, you didn’t fight it. And now you’re sat like a little girl. Do I have to explain further?”
“No,” Cho said meekly. “Sorry,” she said to Cedric.
Cedric smiled and helped her up. “I think Viktor was right,” he said lightly. “We’re still growing up.” He hugged her, and leant in, “and it’s not that different to staring at the blacksmith.”
Cho pulled back and gave an apologetic smile, and kissed him very quickly, her eyes giving him a deeper apology.
Daphne walked over to Fleur, who looked at her nervously, before Daphne reached forward and hugged her. “We’re friends,” the younger girl said to the Veela, “so don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah,” Romilda agreed cheerfully.
Hermione and Astoria both added their assurances as well, and Cedric could see a tear appear on Fleur’s cheek.
Daphne stayed next to her, and Fleur looked pleased. “Thank you, all,” she said, “I am improving all the time, but not there yet.”
Harry chuckled. “No one’s perfect Fleur. Well, maybe Daph is.”
“You’re biased,” Daphne replied with a small smile.
“I’ve got competition for the best big brother in the world,” Harry replied, nodding at Krum.
“Oh, Harry,” Daphne called, as she smiled and wiped at her eyes. “I suspect that all that matters is what the sister thinks, and this sister knows she has the best.”
Harry lightly scratched the back of his head. He removed his apron, waved his wand over himself and pulled his t-shirt back on. Cedric made a mental note that he needed to spend a bit more time working out.
“Astoria, we’ll pay in the morning, if that’s okay?” Esmeralda asked.
“Of course, we’re all friends,” Astoria agreed. She frowned, “I’m going to have to do some research into the tax implications,” she murmured to herself. “I’ll start with Mum.”
“I… oh, damn,” Hermione said and stopped. “Focus,” she muttered to herself.
Astoria walked over and hugged her.
“Let’s get to dinner,” Romilda suggested, and they were soon popped away.
And all that Cedric could think, as he ate with his girlfriend by his side was that he had been incredibly lucky that his name had come out of the Goblet, because he would not have had such a good day otherwise.
Alastor Moody blinked as something caught his eye. He’d popped out of Hogwarts for a walk, and a secret smoke of his pipe. Having run out of tobacco, he’d Apparated to Diagon Alley.
Ahead of him, a rat scurried across the cobblestone pavement. The stupefy spell came out of his wand before he’d made the connection between the rat and a person.
He hurried over and activated one of the seventeen Portkeys he kept on his person at all times. The whole thing had taken less than five seconds, and he was pretty sure no one else had noticed. One of the benefits of his eye was that he was able to see reactions of people who thought he couldn#t see them. And with his reputation, who would care if Mad-Eye Moody stunned a rat – people would think he thought it had looked at him in the wrong way.
As the man on the floor of his safe cottage in Essex stirred, Alastor tied him up, and then took a vial of highly illegal truth serum and dumped three drops down the man’s throat.
“What were you up to, Pettigrew,” he demanded.
“Buying ingredients for potions,” Pettigrew said in his normal weak and wheedling voice.
“Which potions, and for whom?”
“Regeneration potions, strength potions, healing potions, and all for my Lord and his followers!”
“How is he back?”
“It was thanks to me,” Pettigrew said, his eyes alight as he seemed to actually enjoy boasting to someone who was listening – even if he was under the influence of a potion.
“We performed a ritual; I used Potter’s blood, the flesh of His most devoted servant, me, and the bones of his father. My lord repaid me with this!” Pettigrew held up a silver hand. “My lord then re-joined his soul, after having the piece in Potter removed.”
“How many pieces did he have?”
“Did he get them all?”
Pettigrew drooped. Alastor was shocked that the snivelling wretch wasn’t even trying to fight the potion. “No, there is one missing, Regulus Black stole it, and two of the Horcruxes have been destroyed but every other part is back with my Lord!”
Alastor growled, Horcruxes were truly vile things. “Why do you need the ingredients tonight?”
“Because there is going to be a raid in Birmingham, at the Wizarding community there.”
“Tonight, at Midnight.”
“Are there any other raids planned?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Stupefy,” Moody grunted, and looked at the pathetic Death Eater in front of him. He should hand him over to the Aurors. He should do a lot of things, but he’d spent months locked in a trunk because of Death Eaters, and he hated them even more than he had before.
He Renervated Pettigrew, and immediately cast the Imperius Curse on him. It was a disgustingly easy to do, and he felt he’d get more fight from a toddler. He made Pettigrew write out the name of every Death Eater he knew.
When Pettigrew had finished, Moody took a deep breath. “Avada Kedavra.” Pettigrew had shown some disturbing signs of competence, which meant that he was too dangerous to leave alive.
With another problem permanently ended, and advance notification of a raid, Alastor found this his conscience didn’t bother him as much as Dumbledore might have suggested it should have.
He transfigured the body into that of a mouse, chucked it into the garbage can as he left his cottage, and headed back to Hogwarts.
As soon as he arrived, he called for a House-elf. “Need Potter,” he said. “It’s urgent.”
The boy arrived, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, a few minutes later.
“There’s going to be a raid in an hour, in Birmingham.”
Harry paused and took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“We’re going to grab Bones, and a few of your trainees,” Alastor said. “Do you need anything?”
Fifty-five minutes later, Alastor, Bones, Shacklebolt, Tonks, and ten other Aurors were hidden under multiple charms, waiting.
Moody was keeping a very close eye on the Aurors, to ensure no one did anything stupid. His other eye was focused on the darkness where Potter was waiting. He couldn’t see the boy, even with his magical eye, his armour rendering him effectively invisible.
Time passed incredibly slowly, before he felt and then saw the Death Eaters arrive in a sloppy formation eight minutes late. There were twenty of them, all with their wands raised and their masks gleaming in the moonlight.
“Ready?” The lead Death Eater demanded.
There was a sudden noise, of someone breathing heavily, only far louder. It was a steady breath, and the volume made it incredibly creepy. Potter was still invisible, so that only the noise gave sign that the Death Eaters were not alone. It brought to mind a predator about to hunt its prey.
In time with the breathing, a soft red pulsing glow arose from where he knew Potter was standing.
“W-what’s that, who’s there!” one of the Death Eaters demanded.
There was a clunking sound, as the red lights grew darker in tone, and they started to move. Two gleaming emerald eyes appeared, focused on the Death Eaters.
“Bah,” the leader shouted. “Avada Kedavra!”
Harry took a few steps forward, batting the curse aside, as he unsheathed his massive sword and cut the lead Death Eater in twain.
Alastor blinked both his eyes, to check that he hadn’t missed it. His memory replayed the stroke as the Death Eater’s upper torso flopped and slid to the ground, the blood spurting from his lower torso.
Two of the other Death Eaters collapsed on to the ground, passed out. Alastor’s magical eye made out that another two had just pissed themselves – the heat from the puddles growing by their feet showing up.
“A demon,” one of them whimpered in a feminine voice.
Alastor nodded at Shacklebolt, who activated the anti-Portkey and anti-Apparation wards. Another Death Eater raised his wand. “Diffindo!”
Harry didn’t move this time, allowing the curse to strike his chest with a metallic ring. He moved afterward, his sword flashing horizontally, and the Death Eater became headless.
With a scream of terror another attacked, “Get him, all of us, fight or we die!” he yelled.
And Harry started to move, his long blade swinging darkly in the night, rending limbs from bodies and relieving the scum of the burden of living.
Screams and curses rang out, until it was over. Three of the Death Eaters had surrendered, and two were passed out. The other fifteen no longer existed.
Alastor emerged from the cloaking spell. He spotted Tonks vomiting, and most of the others looked queasy.
“Nicely done, lad.”
“Do you need me for anything else?” was the quiet response.
“We can deal with it.”
“Good. I need to get some sleep. Dumbledore's making me take a test tomorrow – today – to make sure I'm keeping up on my own.”
Potter vanished, without a further word, a pop, or even a single sound. All that was left was the whimpering of the Death Eaters who hadn’t moved from their supplicant positions.
“Well?” Moody demanded of the Aurors. “Grab them, take them back to the Ministry, and prepare them for interrogation!” He paused. “And if any single one of them escapes, you will all be held responsible,” he finished with a growl.
The Aurors moved quickly, two of them each grabbing a prisoner. They stunned them, allowing Moody to lower the wards. As they vanished, he was left with just Bones, Tonks and Shacklebolt.
“Sweet Merlin on a Bike,” Shacklebolt whispered.
“That was brutal,” Tonks agreed. She took a very deep breath. “That’s why Dark Lords never used to be a serious problem, isn’t it?”
“Aye,” Moody grunted. “Tempting to take some photos for the Prophet. Show people what happens to Death Eaters.” He allowed himself a small smile. “Macnair was the leader. You might want to use that, Amelia, show the I.C.W., they should authorise a check on all Ministry personnel.”
“I’m going to retire,” Amelia suddenly announced.
“What, boss?” Tonks demanded.
“My first reaction is that they didn’t deserve that,” she said, waving a hand at the corpses. “And yet they did. I’m part of the problem, and I don’t like the solution.”
Moody tilted his head. “Hold out until Voldemort is dead,” he barked. “You’re honest, unlike the others, and right now, we don’t need you doubting yourself. You get that luxury when the crisis is over. This is what you worked for, so do your damn job, follow the oath you swore, fix the problems, and then retire with a guilt-free conscience.”
Amelia jerked back as if he’d slapped her. She didn’t move for a few seconds, before she screwed her monocle back into place. “Right,” she ordered, “let’s get on with it. I want these bodies identified, and then returned to their families. We’ll let rumours do our work for us. No one mentions that it was Potter that did the work, he doesn’t want or need that sort of pressure. Make sure you take photos of their arms.”
“Yes, boss,” Tonks said sharply. “And boss?”
“Good to have you back.”
Alastor took the mask off of one, and frowned. “Amelia,” he called, “we’ve lost Azkaban!”
“Shit,” Amelia swore as she hurried over. She paused, and then she gave a little giggle.
“Boss?” Tonks called.
“A rather ignoble end,” Amelia said cheerfully. “Bellatrix Lestrange, feared Death Eater, cut down as an incidental, after pissing herself.”
“I reckon Potter’s mind game got to her,” Moody grunted. “No one’s sane just after escaping Azkaban.”
“I’m going to have to let Augusta know,” Amelia added.
“She’s trustworthy, you can let her know it was Potter,” Moody suggested.
“Agreed.” Amelia pulled out a camera and took a few pictures, Alastor moved Bellatrix’s head next to her body, and felt it made a rather grotesque scene. Maybe he’d get a copy so he could frame it and keep it in his office, or several copies to show what happened to Death Eaters. Bellatrix Lestrange, her head in a pool of her own urine, next to her body, her eyes showing the utter terror she’d died in.
He couldn’t think of a more fitting end for a terrorist who had caused so much pain, agony, and death.
He paused. “House-elf?” he called, feeling a little silly doing so, as he was essentially talking to nothing.
“Can you get a message to one of Harry’s friends; let them know that he might need them?”
The House-elf looked around. “Thems Death Eaters?”
The House-elf frowned. “Harry will be beings upsets. We gets help, makes him chocolate, makes sures he’s okays.” The House-elf vanished.
“Next time,” Shacklebolt said into the silence, “I will be in my armour, and Potter won’t be alone.”
“Me too,” Tonks agreed.
“Back to work,” Amelia grunted.
Thanks to @nothorse on Twitter for the "Pare" spell (which is two syllables and basically means control).
Although it won't get to that stage in this fic, the whole Dementors-trial would never happen in this, because of this friendship. I see it as pure-blood protectionism. A few words would be said, Fudge would be told to drop it, and life would go on.
When I wrote this, I thought I had made up the word Extrudements. Turns out that a few others had used it to mean "sticky-out-bits" as well.
Gabrielle was fun to write. With stories like Hope and Happily Ever After, and even Hogwarts' Dawn (Next chapter posted exactly 5 weeks from today) Gabrielle has always been a loveable person. While I was writing this, I got to thinking about how Fleur was in canon to start with, and what it might be like to actually be a Veela child.
Moody's scene was one of those ideas that just seem to fly out of your keyboard.
Yes, Bellatrix did die easily - but, she was just out of jail, not really sane, and a hulking beast walked out of shadows and started killing people while ignoring killing curses. It broke her mind.