Content Harry Potter Naruto Buffy the Vampire Slayer XMen Translations

Author Notes:

I turned 40 a short time ago.  To celebrate, I've jumped out of a plane in a tandem skydive and seen Bruce Springsteen live for the first time, of the two, it's the latter I want to do again immediately.

For those who have been with me all these years, you're probably aware that I like to write one-shots when I get stuck on multi-chapter fics.  My initial problem was that my first one-shot is now longer than Hogwart's Dawn, so, with an obvious lack of logic, I wrote this one-shot, which at 40,000 words stretches what one could call a one-shot.

My deep thanks for Luan Mao and Kokopelli, as they both went way over the call of duty on this, offering some great suggestions, as well as fixing my awful typing and grammar.  


“Hey Ron, wanna join a club?” Harry asked. It was the start of his second year at Hogwarts, and he wanted to do more than study the stuff they were learning in classes with Hermione, lose to Ron at chess, and fly the endless drills that Oliver ordered.

“Whatsit do?”

“We’re gonna study some Maths, maybe some Geography, some English, you know, normal stuff. The Puffs are organising it. Bones invited us.”

“Muggle stuff?” Ron asked, “Nah, you’re alright.”

Harry shrugged and walked off. He picked up Hermione and they entered the classroom.

There were about fifteen students, all in clusters with their Housemates, all talking loudly. No one actually appeared to be in charge.

“Okay,” one of the Hufflepuff prefects shouted. “Thanks for coming.” Everyone went quiet. “We’ve got no idea how this is gonna work, all we know is that we wanted a club where we can discuss Muggle subjects.”

“We should start with Maths,” Hermione suggested.

“We should start with finding out what people actually want to learn,” the prefect suggested dryly.

“Anything but Shakespeare,” one of the boys shouted.

“Shakespeare is important,” Hermione protested vehemently.

“No one, apart from Jack is disagreeing,” the Hufflepuff pointed out evenly. “But we’re not a dictatorship. I hope we’re all going to be friends and have fun studying some stuff not covered at Hogwarts.”

There were some agreeing nods from a lot of the other kids.

“We could do a study on nondeterministic probability,” an older Ravenclaw suggested hopefully.

The Hufflepuff laughed. “I could get behind that.”

“Poker?” Hermione demanded.


“Excuse me,” Harry said politely. “What’s your name?”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Greg Munslow.”

“Harry Potter,” Harry said, “This is Hermione Granger.”

“The half-pint has a good point,” Greg said. “Everyone say a few words.”

It took a few minutes for everyone to introduce themselves.

“Anyway,” Greg said, “I guess poker is on the list, and Shakespeare. Anything else?”

Harry put his hand up, “I’d like to know more about English and how to write essays. I keep getting marked down on my grammar and structure.”

“Great,” Greg said.

At the end of the meeting, they walked out, Hermione huffing, “Basic English, basic Maths, and poker? I’m not going to waste my time on this club.”

Harry chose to say nothing, after deciding that he thought the whole thing looked rather fun, and that maybe the reason Hermione wasn’t a fan was that her attempts to make it a traditional study group had been dismissed in the nicest possible way.

Harry attended the second meeting on his own, without mentioning it to Hermione.

“Hi, Harry,” Fay Dunbar greeted him. “Back then?”

“Hi, Fay,” Harry said. “Yeah.”

“No Hermione?”

“I think she prefers a more structured environment,” Harry explained.

Fay grinned. “Yeah, she was saying it was a waste of time. I figured that it must be fun if she didn’t like it.”

Harry giggled; as much as he tried to stick up for Hermione normally, Fay was right. He quashed the guilt he felt at even thinking that.

The third meeting had five new people in it. Lavender and Parvati from his year in Gryffindor, and the other three were all were wearing Slytherin colours. He recognised Graham Montague, from the Slytherin Quidditch team, but not the other two.

“I’m Victoria Levenson,” the shortest of the three announced. “This is Graham Montague and Gemma Farley. I’ve heard rumours about this shindig. What’s the plan?”

“Well,” Greg said, “we want to study more subjects, and have fun doing it. So far we know we want to study some Maths, some English – including Shakespeare – and maybe some poker.”

Victoria nodded. “And that’s as far as you’ve got?”

Greg nodded. “We’re taking it easy.”

“Wasting time,” Victoria snorted. “How much of a stink are people going to kick up if I get stuff organised?”

“If you can do it, you’re welcome,” Greg said with a shrug. “I just wanted to learn new stuff, not run a club.”

Victoria clapped her hands. “Hands up, anyone with older siblings without magic.”

There were some nervous looks at each other from some of the students.

“Victoria is a Pure-blood but she isn’t one of those idiot Pure-bloods,” Gemma said. “I’m her friend, and I’m a Half-blood.”

Three students slowly put their hands up in response to the original question.

“Right, you three, owl home and get as much info from them of what they are studying, and what books we should buy.

“We should also talk about club fees, I’m thinking a couple of sickles each a week from those who can afford it, so we can afford to buy books and anything else we need.”

Harry put his hand up.

“Yes, kiddo?”

“I’ll put in a few galleons,” he shyly, liking the fact he was given a nickname that had nothing to do with his parents or his scar. “You know, to help get us started. I miss some of the stuff I learned before I came to Hogwarts.”

Victoria gave him a nod and a smile. “I’ll do the same,” she decided. “There is absolutely no obligation for anyone else to put in for than a few sickles.”

“I’m up for a few galleons,” Greg said. “And honestly, this is a private school, and it’s not exactly cheap. Is there anyone who can’t afford it?”

No one even looked embarrassed, everyone just shrugged their agreement.

“Neat,” Victoria said. “Right, some rules. First rule: whatever happens in the club stays in the club. Second rule: inside the club, no surnames. Final rule: don’t be a dick.”

Harry snorted, as others laughed.

“As for organising this, we should have two people from each House on a council, with one person in charge.”

“I vote for her,” Harry called, pointing at Victoria.

She wrinkled her nose at him. “I was thinking of senior students, short-stuff.”

“You’re as short as I am,” Harry pointed out.

Victoria put her hands on her hips and glared at him. Harry had a lot of experience with a wide variety of withering glares, especially from Vernon and Petunia, not to mention Snape, so a girl glaring at him, no matter how well she was doing so, just wasn’t going to do it. “I still vote for her,” he added.

“I’m with Harry,” Greg said, sounding amused. “I’ll go for the council, but you’ve got the plan, Victoria.”

There was a round of agreement, and then a quick vote for the people who wanted to be on the council.

With that finished, Victoria clapped her hands once more. “Until we know what we should be studying, let’s break out some cards and play poker!”

There was a cheer, and a general feeling that their unnamed club had made its first steps into becoming something useful.

Over the year the club grew beyond its original remit, as they added duelling and potions on top of their Muggle studies, and they persuaded Professor Flitwick to sponsor the club after being informed that all clubs must have a staff sponsor. Flitwick, delighted at the subjects being covered, was more than happy to sponsor their club, as well as actually help in organising access to any materials required. The best thing, as far as Harry was concerned, was that he allowed them to run the club themselves, even if they did make a lot of mistakes.

Harry was happy spending time with Ron and Hermione and he was also happy to meet up with the rest of his friends in the club. He kept the two separate, and was happy doing so. He felt that making friends with the people in the club meant that he could be a better friend to Ron and Hermione, as he understood more of what friendship actually was – and that he didn’t need to be quite so annoyingly obsessive over the friendship that the three of them shared.

His first meeting in the club’s second year, and his third year at Hogwarts, was something he had been looking forward to all summer, and as he entered the room, he was surprised at the amount of hugs he received.

The fact that the other members had genuinely missed him over the summer gave him a warm glow. He didn’t even mind the almost back-breaking hug from Millicent Bulstrode, who had become a friend over the past year.

The first meeting wasn’t really formal, more a way to introduce any new members, and as such, the formal part of it ended quickly, to allow people to mingle.


Harry smiled, “Milli,” he replied, as the large girl strode over.

“Harry, may I present Astoria Greengrass. Tori, this is Harry Potter.”

Completely hidden by the Slytherin was a far smaller girl, who moved from behind Millicent. She curtseyed deeply. “I’m honoured to meet you,” she said, and then flashed him the cutest smile he had ever seen.

“Nice to meet you, too.”

“As unbecoming as it is for one who has just met you to request a boon,” Astoria started, looking up at him earnestly, “circumstances dictate that I must do so.”

“What can I do for you?”

“Are you aware of my sister, Daphne?”

Harry shrugged. “In that she’s in a few of my classes, yes.”

“She has been asserting her seniority in a most unbecoming manner, and has taken amusement in using magic to throw things at me. They are meant to be fun, but are a source of irritation.”

Harry nodded, as he mentally translated the formal words to a more casual, ‘My sister’s been pranking me.’ “Okay, so what is your request?”

“I wish to learn the banishing charm,” she said.

Harry tilted his head. “That’s a fourth year charm, I believe?”

“Millicent has assured me that you are simply the best at defence, a gifted teacher, and that you took home a book on charms for the summer.”

Harry felt himself blush a little. “Erm, shouldn’t you get used to magic first?”

“Please,” she said, as she clasped her hands under her chin and looked up at him through the clearest blue eyes he’d ever seen. She had light brown hair in one of the more elaborate braids he’d even seen, with a plait running across the top of her forehead and down the right side of her head.

“I might know the spell,” he sighed.

“And you will teach me?”

“Depulso,” he said slowly. “The spell is depulso, de-PUHL-so,” he emphasised. “You sweep your wand as you cast it, and focus on where you want it to go.” He took a few steps back. “Milli, throw something at me.”

The girl shrugged, pulled an apple out of her pocket, and threw it at him, hard.

“Depulso,” he said, swiping his wand. The apple flew half-way across the room and smacked dead-centre into a target.

Astoria gasped delightedly.

“Nice one,” Millicent agreed. “You can teach the rest of us that in the next meeting, but you may as well help the princess.”

Astoria blushed lightly and smiled hopefully. “I am ready.”

Harry took off his robes and rolled up his sleeves. “We’ll start with pronunciation first,” he said. “Then we’ll focus on the wand movements, before we try it with stationary items.”

It took Astoria five minutes to get the first two down, but she couldn’t seem to get them together. He paused, and took her through the levitation charm first, as that was at least a first year charm. Once she had that, he moved on to the disarming charm, before making the jump back to Depulso.

Astoria bounced as she made the apple move for the first time, but Harry didn’t let it finish at that. He kept working with her until it went where he told her to send it, proving that she had full control over the spell.

The last thing he did was walk to the side, pick up a fork, and chucked it in Astoria’s direction.

“De-PUHL-so,” Astoria stated, as she slashed her wand. The fork flew across the room and hit the target.

Astoria holstered her wand, clasped her hands together under her chin and bounced cutely. She then lunged forward and he found himself embraced tightly, as Astoria whispered her thanks.

He patted her back, amused.

Astoria broke the hug and grinned at him. Her face was slightly damp with the results of her effort, and strands of her hair had escaped her braid. She looked even more adorable than when they were first introduced, and a part of him made a note that he wanted her to look at him like that a lot.

“Come on, Tori,” Millicent called. “We need to get you back to the Common Room before curfew.”

Astoria pouted softly. She looked at Harry and curtseyed deeply, “Thank you, my Lord,” she said. She turned and walked off with Millicent.

Harry turned to find that Victoria was one of the few people left in the club. “Lord?” he asked, as he wandered over to the girl that he was now an inch taller than.

“In Pure-blood society it means one of three things,” Victoria said with a sigh. “Officially, if that member of society has a peerage. Sarcastically, if someone is acting like a dick, and finally, a term of personal endearment. It is a way of saying that you respect that person immensely.”

“Gotcha,” Harry said with a nod.

Victoria sighed again. “Your relatives don’t like you, do they?”

“No,” Harry said with a blush.

“You’re not the only one, Flora and Hestia’s parents are abusive assholes,” Victoria said evenly.

Harry nodded his agreement. He’d picked up the clues when they spoke of their parents the same way he spoke of the Dursleys.

“Anyway, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Do you know where babies come from?”

Harry felt himself blush. “A little,” he squeaked.

“Right, come on,” she ordered. “We’re going to have a talk about little Tori and what happens when a mummy and a daddy love each other very much. You’re about to hit puberty, so this knowledge will do you in good stead for when she gets visited by the boob-fairy and should mean that you know enough about what is going on to make sure you don’t screw things up.”

The following conversation was something that Harry appreciated on one small level, and blocked out of his mind on every other level possible. He resolved to never ask where Victoria kept the puppets, or why she even had them in the first place.

The whole Sirius Black thing was an almost welcome distraction to him looking at all the older girls, blushing, and wondering what sex would be like with them. Astoria became a close friend and always seemed to be within a few feet of him in the club. Fortunately, she didn’t yet have boobs, so he was able to just enjoy making her breaking her Pure-blood mask and making her giggle.

In his fourth year, none of the students in the still unnamed club wore the stupid badges that Malfoy had made, and Harry knew he had far more friends than he’d ever had in his life, friends that helped him study for the tasks, and allowed him somewhere to hide so that he wasn’t at the Yule Ball. He didn’t even mind the month of detentions he got from McGonagall for boycotting the ball, as she was careful to avoid his club days, and he benefited from the one-on-one tuition the detention became and he used the skills to help his club-mates improve as well.

For the final task, he followed the agreed-upon plan. He walked into the maze, fulfilled the contract with the Goblet of Fire, and then quit as soon as he was confronted by a beast.

He was horrified when Cedric Diggory turned up dead, but he knew it wasn’t his fault, so he mourned the boy as someone he had talked to twice, but that was it.

He was doubly grateful for the club in his fifth year.

The fact that his club was completely sanctioned by Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonagall and had several extremely prominent Pure-blood heirs as members meant that it was safe from Umbridge. He’d turned down Hermione’s request to teach some students in some sort of defence club. He already had a club and was quite happy to teach defence at their club meetings. And he kept his head down in Umbridge’s class, never saying anything about Dumbledore’s thoughts that Voldemort was back – how could he, he hadn’t seen Whatsisface return.

He’d lasted two lessons on Occlumency with Snape, before heading to the club and asking for help. He felt a little silly that he’d asked Hermione for help first, but Ron and Hermione were still his friends and he never gave up on friends. Three weeks of intensive study later, he was able to keep Snape out from a normal attack. Another three weeks, and he was safe from Snape full stop.

The fact that he felt like Voldemort was sending him dreams was hardly something he could report to anyone in authority. The club was a different matter, he felt confident there. He found he liked teaching, especially the young ones who were always so bright eyed and happy to learn the fun things you could do with magic.

His club was also there when Voldemort attacked his mind at night toward the end of the year. They helped him keep his temper, kept him from panicking, and pointed out that he had a way to contact Sirius.

The papers the next day had made him laugh, as somehow someone had obtained a photograph of Dumbledore and Voldemort fighting. Umbridge vanished from the school shortly afterward.

“So, we’re agreed,” Victoria announced in the last meeting of year, and her last ever meeting. “The photo of Whatsisface will forever reside on the wall of fame.” She walked over the wall and added the photo dead centre. The caption of “Whatsisface, in his glorious return.” was hand-written under the photo.

“Now then, as you all know, I’m done with Hogwarts after tomorrow. You guys haven’t been a major disappointment, so I’m pleased.”

There was a round of chuckles that Harry lead. “We love you too, Victoria,” Harry said dryly. He ignored the glare he received in return.

“Ignoring the idiot, I’ve been accepted to Oxford and I better not be the last one of us that actually continues education.” She gave everyone another glare.

“The wind will change one day, and you’ll be stuck like that,” Harry pointed out cheerily. With the ease of long practice, he ignored the obscene gesture he received in response.

“Anyway,” Victoria continued through gritted teeth. “You guys need a new leader; you’ve got the council sorted out.”

“I vote Harry,” Susan Bones, the newly elected Hufflepuff council member called.

“Seconded,” Hestia Carrow agreed.

“Hey,” Harry protested.

“Quiet,” Victoria ordered. “There’s a matter up for discussion and as it involves you, you can’t participate.” She gave an evil grin. “Now then, any other candidates?”

No one said anything, although Harry noticed that Victoria’s evil grin had spread.

“I agree,” Parvati said lightly. “But I’m trying to decide if want to expand on the positive reasons or the negatives.”

“Negatives,” Victoria urged. “He’s a foolhardy Gryffindor, he’s used to that.”

“True,” Parvati mused. “In which case, I think it will be most fun watching Harry try and herd us cats in the same direction.”

There was a burst of laughter as Harry rolled his eyes.

“Okay, council, vote.”

And with seven raised hands, his fate was sealed. A unanimous vote from the eligible members of the council was probably the proudest moment of his life so far. “Jerks, the lot of you,” he said, to start his acceptance speech. “And as the new leader of this club, I first want to thank Victoria for turning us from a group of kids who just wanted to learn something new into something we are all proud of.

“It was Victoria who guided us, Victoria who led us, and Victoria who ensured we lasted more than a few weeks. So before I say anything else, a round of applause for our founding leader, who will be forever remembered in Hogwarts.”

He turned and applauded the now furiously blushing and embarrassed Victoria. He gave her a smirk, to ensure she understood that he was getting his revenge.

As the applause died down, he shifted tack slightly. “I swear that I’ll continue Victoria’s good work in ensuring that this club last longer than all of us. I want to know that this club still exists in ten, twenty, fifty years. That it is still helping students make friends, it is still exploring the joys of Shakespeare and the fun of poker. As such, the next two years I will work with each and every one of you to come up with a charter for this club, a charter we will enshrine in the magic we share to do everything we can to know that my children and my children’s children can have the same enjoyments and benefits that I have received from joining this club.”

As one, the members surged to their feet and cheered.

Harry smiled and waited for them to finish. “And that’s it. Have a great summer, everyone, just because Whatsisface is back, doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun and get on with our lives.

“Finally, can the council, Victoria, Lavender, Fay, Astoria, Tracey, David, Natalie, Gabriele, and Rohit please hang around?”

The other members trooped out, chatting cheerfully. As they did, Harry stood and cast a series of spells to pack the chairs away. He then expanded the table and sat at head. Victoria sat to his left, Hestia and Flora to his immediate right.

He leaned back, forcing the chair onto two legs and shoved his knee against the table so that he was relaxed. “First off, thanks,” he said. “This means a lot to me. And because of that, I think it’s time to tell you guys exactly what happened in my first year with the Philosopher’s Stone and then the second year with the Chamber of Secrets. You all know about my Godfather now, so we don’t need to rehash that.”

There were some surprised looks and his friends went from lounging around to paying absolute attention.

He looked straight ahead and started to recite everything he could remember, going through the traps and dealing with Quirrell in his first year, and then finishing with his fight with the Basilisk in his second year.

He trailed off into silence as he finished. He felt curiously empty, but somehow freer as well. It was a strange feeling but one he felt was going to be good for his personal future.

“That is not right,” Astoria called. “My Lord, you should not be so burdened, the woes of the world are not yours to carry alone.” There were twin tear tracks running down her face, and even across the table, he could see just how upset the thought of him in trouble was to her. “You simply must remember that you are loved as you love us, and that we are for you as you have proven to be for us.”

“The princess is right,” Victoria said. “But what I want to know is what was our glorious leader doing during this? Because frankly, Harry’s history at Hogwarts ain’t great.”

“No,” Flora agreed. “Even this year, we had the whole Whatsisface sending Harry dreams. That’s weird in itself.”

“To make sure we’re on the same page,” Lavender said. “First year was the Philosopher’s Stone. Second year was the Chamber of Secrets, third year was Sirius Black, fourth year was that ridiculous tournament, and this year was Umbridge. Admittedly, this year was amusing watching her getting frustrated as none of us talked about Whatsisface at all. But even so, we had the Ministry forcing shitty professors on us, and a lot of us would have been screwed without our defence prodigy.”

Harry blushed at the praise for his defence skills, but quickly got himself back under control.

“Exactly,” Victoria agreed, slamming her hand down on the table. “Dad thinks that Dumbledore is always up to something. It’s just what that thing is we never understand.”

“Perhaps he’s trying to help Harry become a leader,” Fay suggested.

“I think we can take more credit than Dumbledore for that,” Victoria said. “Harry was this timid little thing, almost afraid to speak his mind before we got hold of him.”

“Hey,” Harry protested lightly.

“Oh, hush,” Victoria said. “What are you doing for summer?”

“Going home?” Harry asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Victoria mused. “Right, I’m still in charge until tomorrow. Quick vote, Harry should stay at my place for the summer? We’ve got wards that are the best in the country.”

“Seconded,” every council member said in unison.

“Motion passes. We’ll meet up after the train on the platform. We’ll spend the summer trying to work out what Dumbledore wants. Now then, everyone scram. It’s late.”

That summer was pretty good, despite Voldemort being back. Harry spent a lot of his days visiting his friends and his nights studying with his hosts. He ignored the requests from Dumbledore to leave where-ever-it-was-that-he-was and join everyone at Grimmauld Place. An attempt to put pressure on his hosts was ignored due to their vaunted heritage, even if none of them really cared about that sort of thing.

So he was cheerful when he arrived back at Hogwarts. He ignored the standard telling off from his oldest friends about not doing what Dumbledore had told him, and it took him a few minutes to make his way to his seat for the feast that accompanied the Sorting of the new first years, as for the first time he could remember, he was publicly welcomed back by a lot of familiar smiling faces.

“Harry,” Lavender cheered as he sat down. She reached across the table, he stood and met her halfway across the table as she kissed his cheeks.

“Have a good rest of the holiday?” he asked, having decided to go with the flow, and he hadn’t seen Lavender for almost a month.

“The best,” she assured him.

“Hi, Parvati,” Harry added.

The Indian witch smiled brightly at him and blew him a kiss. “You got some hints for us for this year?”

“None,” he said with a wink.

She pouted playfully at him. “But you do know what you’re doing?”

“Of course,” he said with a grin. “I’m looking forward to it.”

He paused, ignoring the looks from Ron and Hermione, as the Sorting started. He had a look at each student that was sorted, and tried to put names to the faces he’d met briefly on the train.

He clapped for all the students, regardless of which House they were sorted into, Parvati and Lavender joined in, which seemed to kick off all the other members of his little club. The remaining kids waiting their sorting looked noticeably less nervous as they were sorted.

After all the students had been sorted and the Headmaster had pontificated, the feast started. Harry noted with pleasure that Ron’s table manners had improved, and then he ignored Hermione’s anti-social manners, as she ate with a book on her lap.

When he had finished, he looked up at as a group of firsties from all four Houses got together and dashed toward him.

So he could talk to them easily, he stood, cleared his spot, and sat on it, his feet on the bench. He held up his hand as they came to a stop in front of him.

“Let’s see,” he said, “Violet, Samantha, Christie, Derek, Ian, Charlotte, and Steven.” He pointed to each student as he did so. “And good to see you again, Nick, Cassie, Jo, Summer, and Mags.”

The kids he didn’t know looked wowed that he knew their names, the ones he did know, as they were the younger siblings of his friends, beamed at him.

“Hi Harry,” Summer said with a large smile. “These guys are friends of ours. Nick, Cassie and I were talking about the club on the train, and we wanted to make sure we got in. Jo and Mags had the same thought.”

Jo and Mags both nodded hard.

“First meeting is going to be next Tuesday after class and before dinner,” Harry told them. “All firsties are welcome to the first one –”

“But numbers are limited,” Nick, Cassie, Summer, Jo, and Mags all chorused.

Harry chuckled. “Yeah, that,” he agreed.

“Can I ask a secondary question?” Cassie asked.

“Sure,” Harry said.

“This has been bugging me for, like, ever, since Lav started talking about the club years ago. How come you’re not a Prefect?”

Harry blinked. “Erm.”

“The prefects are useless,” Lavender said. “All they do is patrol the halls and have meetings and pretend they have power. They don’t organise anything, or help when you go to them with problems.”

“Lav,” Harry protested.

“Hey, that’s the view of the rest of the school,” Lavender said with a shrug. “It’s just the suck-ups that get it, anyway.”

“That’s not true,” Harry said firmly.

Lavender pouted. She grinned suddenly. “Very true, our prefects in the club are far better.”

“Ignoring Lavender,” Harry said, returning to Cassie, “I wasn’t offered the position, and I don’t think I’d want it, anyway. The club has grown massively over the years, and it takes all the free time that I have to organise it and make sure we know what we’re doing.”

Cassie put her hands on her hips and blew a lock of her hair up. It was a pose that she had so clearly stolen from Lavender that Harry had to smile at her.

“This is more of that stupidity isn’t it?” she asked. “Proving my sister’s point.”

“You’re still a little young to be so cynical,” Harry said dryly. “But enough, guys, those of you from other Houses, your prefects are ready for you.”

The kids nodded and trotted off. Harry stood and stepped down from the bench. “I’m heading to the tower,” he said, and walked out. The prefects had already left, so he knew that the Portrait would be open for them to enter their Common Room. He was quickly accompanied by far more people than he had expected. And even before he managed to get out of the Great Hall he was assaulted into a flying-tackle-hug by an excited and very suntanned Slytherin.

“Tracey,” he said dryly, as he caught the flying witch.

“Thanks to you, I got a new unicorn this summer,” she said with a beaming smile. “Father was so impressed with my DADA result that he had me fight my brothers, and I won!”

“Great work,” he said with a smile. “I’m proud of you.”

Tracey blushed and grinned. “Thanks, Harry.”

“Did you enjoy Puerto Rico?”

“It was brilliant, I was disappointed that you couldn’t join us like Milli did, but Dad’s also promised me that I can invite everyone to our ranch next year!”

“That’s great, Tracey. I’m sure we’ll love that. And I thought –”

For the second time in a few minutes he was interrupted. “All the club had a vote that excluded you,” Tracey said. “We sent each other letters all summer, and then had a proper ballot. It came out eighty-seven percent in favour of the new rule. The thirteen percent didn’t mind losing, as credible arguments were made for both sides.”

“As pleased as I am that policy was followed, I do believe that I’m supposed to know about rule changes first.”

“Ah, this rule change involved you personally, so we decided to ignore that bit,” she said with a grin. “And the new rule is that we’re not hiding how much we love this club anymore! Now, more than ever, we need to stand together. We’re all your friends and we’re going to act like it.”

“And you’ve gotta follow the rules, Harry,” Lavender teased.

“You guys suck,” he complained.

“Some of us guys have very important parents,” Tracey contradicted, “parents who are very happy with some of the things we’ve learnt, and want it to continue. Later!”

“I swear that girl is on a permanent sugar high,” Millicent grumbled. She moved forward a little, and Harry gave her a quick hug and braced his ribs as she hugged back.

“You have a good summer over the other side of the world?”

“An excellent one. Worked with Father on the books for the first time after your visit. I was able to spot some issues, we tracked it down, and someone was trying to defraud us. I’ve never seen Father so proud of me!”

“That’s great, Millie!”

“I voted against the new rule,” she admitted. “Not because I’m not proud of the club - I am, more than anything I’ve ever done - but because I know you like your privacy. We would have told you on the train, but you were busy checking out the first years.”

“Thank you,” Harry said. “And that’s a sentence that could be misconstrued. I don’t really mind that much, I do like flying under the radar, but having spent so much time with some of the guys this summer worked against me. All the kids joining Hogwarts wanted in.”

Millicent giggled. “Yeah, Summer’s been talking about it more than actual classes.”

“Anything that gets kids excited about learning,” Harry agreed. “I’ll see you later?”

“We’re going to have an executive council meeting this evening in the Ravenclaw common room at eight,” Millicent said as she turned. “Bye Harry, Lavender, Parvati, Fay.”

Millicent turned and walked off, allowing Harry to head to the Common Room without much more fuss. He made it exactly eight steps before he was stopped again. “Mr Potter?”


Professor McGonagall walked up to him. For the first time he realised he didn’t have to look up to her. “I thought that you’d want to know that every member of your club got an Outstanding on their DADA OWLs, and all bar one got Outstanding on their NEWTs.”

Harry winced. “Andrew?”

McGonagall nodded. “He did get an Exceeds Expectations, though.”

Harry nodded and pouted softly.

“Considering that he was expected to get a Troll, you did remarkably well. Professor Flitwick has been keeping the senior staff aware of the club, which, by the way, you really ought to name, and we’re all very proud of how far it’s come over the years.

“As your club is now public, Professor Flitwick and I have decided to resurrect an old tradition with a small twist. House Captains have not been used for many years. However, you are the leader of a Cross-House club. The only Cross-House position we have is Head Boy; a position I fully expect you to achieve for next year. For this year, we’re simply going to make you the first All-House Captain.

“This position is recognition for all your work in bringing down the walls between the Houses. You have the rights of a senior prefect but perform a different role. You have the right to suggest point gains and detentions to the Senior Staff. You will also be given extra time during the school week to organise and run your club – this will be in the shape of less homework from some of your classes.”

“Thank you, Professor,” Harry said, feeling a little stunned.

She waved her wand, and a new badge appeared on his robes. In gold, it had the Hogwarts crest on it. The words “All-House Captain” were emblazoned below.

“As you were, Mr Potter.” She smiled faintly. “I must also say that your mother would be so incredibly proud of this, and your father, while perhaps dismayed that you have a position of authority, would be just as proud.”

“My father was Head Boy, wasn't he? Why would he be dismayed?”

“Yes, well.” McGonagall coughed and looked away for a moment. “He made it clear that he sought the position only after it became obvious that your mother would be Head Girl, and that he would use the position as part of his pursuit of her. I must say, though, that he grew into the position marvellously.”

“Thank you,” Harry said thickly, trying not to show how much that meant to him. Fay and Lavender were the closest to him, and pulled him into a hug. He felt Parvati slam into them a second later.

“That’s awesome!” Lavender cheered.

Harry chuckled and took the tissue that Fay pressed into his hand, and used it to wipe his eyes.

“Okay, get a move on,” Lavender called to the students around them, “I know the club members want to congratulate Harry, but we’ve done that. Save it for the meeting next week.”

There was some joking grumbling as the students continued their walk back to the Common Room.

As they entered, Harry stuck an arm around Lavender, and pulled her close. “Keep the others away. I’m going to need to have that awkward conversation now,” he whispered.

“Good luck,” Lavender whispered back. She moved away from him, gathered the arms of Fay and Parvati and dragged them away.

Harry headed over to the sofa he normally sat in, and collapsed down.

Ron, Hermione, and Ginny instantly made their way over to him. Behind the other two, Ron rolled his eyes and winked. Harry didn’t react, as much as he wanted to.

“Before you start,” Harry said firmly, “You two have been invited to join the club every year since it started in my second year. You’ve both said no, and Ginny you’ve been invited since your second year.”

The three of them paused and then sat down. They looked at each other, Ron’s face almost comically blank. “The first meeting was bad,” Hermione said.

“It was,” Harry agreed. “We didn’t know what we were doing. Luckily, some of the older students put down some rules and it improved.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hermione asked.

“I did, every year,” Harry stated. “You didn’t want to waste your studying time on frivolous studying, and Ron and Ginny didn’t want to learn about Muggle school subjects. You’re not unique; we don’t get many people joining each year because it’s not just fun, it’s a lot of work. This year is a bit different, as we have a load of little siblings joining, and I know quite a few of them.”

The three of them looked at each other again. “When did you become in charge?” Ginny asked.

“I was elected in at the end of last year. When the last of the original leaders left.”

“And that’s why you said no to my idea of running a club?” Hermione asked.

Harry nodded. “I was already doing it, but you said that my club didn’t count and that yours would be better.”

Hermione blushed. “I thought it was just you wasting time and mucking around playing poker.”

Harry shrugged. His three friends looked at each other again, and Harry could almost see two of them trying to work out where to go next, while the third was making more faces at him behind their back and trying to make laugh. Harry made a mental note to get some revenge on the lanky jerk later.

“And this was where you were this summer?” Ginny eventually asked.

“Some of the members are Pure-bloods,” Harry said. “They have wards that make Grimmauld Place look like a joke. Sirius knew where I was all summer.”

“He never told Dumbledore!” Hermione gasped.

“Yeah, he got a kick of out of that, too,” Harry agreed with a grin. “Dumbledore stopped asking when I eventually told him where I was. The guy’s a bit of a control freak, but he’s not stupid.”

“Harry, don’t talk about the Headmaster like that!”

“Hermione, I’m allowed my own opinions,” he stated firmly. She, along with Ginny, looked shocked that he was answering back and standing up for himself. In the past, he would have let it ride to keep the peace.

There was another silent look between the three of them. Eventually, Hermione said, “Can we join?”

“You can put your names down. We have a strict maximum number, and changing that requires a full vote. We’ve been undersubscribed for the last few years, which is one of the reasons I’ve been asking you guys to join. The first years always get preference, so once we’ve got the number of firsties that are going to join; there will be a ballot for anyone else who wants to join.”

“You’re the leader. Can’t you get us in?” Ginny whined.

“No,” Harry said implacably. “I’m not going to get myself expelled for abusing power for anyone. The leader traditionally abstains from all the votes involving membership.” Harry smiled. “Victoria was a stickler for rules. She came up with most of them.”

“Victoria who?” Hermione asked, looking confused.


“The Head Girl from last year?” Hermione demanded.

“The Slytherin?” Ron asked at the same time, his face a picture of faux-horror.

“Yes and yes,” Harry said, looking at Ron reproachfully – who responded with a teasing grin that the other two didn’t see.

“You had the Head Girl as part of your club?”

“And Head Boy, for the past three years,” Harry agreed.

“What?” Ginny and Hermione asked.

Harry sighed. “For the past three years, including this one, the Head students have been part of the club.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hermione demanded.

Harry looked at her for a long moment. “Why would I?” he retorted. “You were invited every year to come and see who were members. And just as we agreed we wouldn’t use my participation as some sort of recruitment drive, we wouldn’t use anyone else. Victoria was one of the founding members.”

“I don’t remember her that first meeting!”

“She wasn’t at the first meeting, or the second. She joined for the third,” Harry said with a shrug.

“Wait,” Ginny said, “Did you say that our current Head Boy and Girl are members?”

“Yes,” Harry said.

The two looked stunned. Ron looked stunned, and was over-acting so much he practically deserved an award for it. Or a punch.

“That’s not fair, only selecting people from the club,” Hermione said.

Harry frowned at her and stood. “The best people are chosen, not because of the club, but because they’ve helped in extracurricular activities. I’m sure that if someone was helping others as much as senior club members do, then they’d be looked at as well. I’ve got a meeting now, so if you’ll excuse me.”

As he walked out, Parvati joined him, moving her arm so that she was holding his. “That go well?” she asked.

“Not hugely,” he said with a sigh.

“You do know Hermione and Ginevra have pretty much alienated themselves from most of the club members?”

“Yeah,” Harry said with another sigh. “It’s one of the reasons I put the rule change in last year where I can’t vote on new members.”

“Just remember that you have lots of friends,” Parvati said.

“I know, thanks.”

“Mother thinks that you hung the moon,” Parvati said with a giggle. “Pad and I weren’t supposed to wipe the floor with all our cousins. There’s now some serious questions about the quality of their education. We had to confess it was the club and not the school, if only to keep us from having all of them transfer in.”

“You had any thoughts about a name for the club?”

“Not really, Fay, Lav, Sis, and I had a chat about it over the summer, but we couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound lame.”

Harry nodded. “I had one idea. I’ll raise it later.” They paused in front of the Ravenclaw knocker.

The knocker opened its eyes and started to speak. “My first is… Oh, excuse me. House Captain, you deserve a special riddle. Let me see. I have a scale in front of me, but only four weights. I have to measure between one and thirty kilos. What weights do I use?”

Harry blinked. “That’s more of a logic puzzle than a riddle.”

The knocker rolled its eyes. “Everyone’s a critic,” it murmured.

Harry sighed and pulled out a notebook. He scribbled down the problem, and started using algebra to break the problem down. “One, three, nine and seventeen,” he said a few minutes later.

The knocker slowly smiled. “House-Captain indeed,” it said. “Congratulations, you are the first student to even get that answer. Admittedly, it’s not been asked that many times, but take some pride anyway. Technically, House-Captains don’t need to answer a question to get past, but I was curious.” The door swung open, allowing them entrance.

“Wow,” Parvati murmured.

“Wow indeed,” Harry agreed.

“Over here, Harry,” Padma called.

He walked over with Parvati to the table in the corner. Already sat at it were Susan Bones and Heidi Macavoy from Hufflepuff, Padma Patil and Marcus Belby from Ravenclaw, and Millicent Bulstrode and Hestia Carrow from Slytherin.

“We’re massively outnumbered here,” Harry said to Marcus as he took his seat between Marcus and Hestia.

“Are you really complaining about the male to female ratio?” Marcus asked dryly.

“Only when it comes to the belching competition.”

“In which I remain unbeaten,” Millicent said with a proud grin.

“Besides,” Susan said, “the cream always rises to the top, and there’s just far too many good girls at Hogwarts.”

“And far too many bloody-minded idiots in the male cohort,” Harry agreed.

“He’s going to be grumpy. He’s just had The Club Talk with the Weasleys and Granger,” Parvati explained.

“Poor Harry,” Hestia said with a teasing grin. She turned and hugged him.

“Thanks,” he murmured. “On the bright side, my rule change about everything membership related of last year really helped.” There was a smile from everyone at that. “I know that Millicent and Parvati did, but did the rest of you all have a good holiday?” Harry grinned. “Admittedly, I do know a lot of what you guys did, but I’m acting as facilitator so you can all gossip before we get to work.

His announcement was met with some gestures of discontent and teasing grins.

Marcus spoke first. “An excellent holiday. Mother, Father, and I spent a day at Thorpe Park. It was a blast, although you were right, Heidi, the food was awful. The rest of it was spent working with Mother on the family business. I think that, like Millicent, the fact I understood the basics of accounting and could keep up with the maths involved impressed her. I was paid for the first time –” He grinned, “– and purchased my first broom!”

“Mine was brilliant,” Susan said. “I impressed Auntie, who really wants to recruit Harry.”

“Join the club,” Hestia interrupted. “My aunt and uncle have asked me to try and get him to work for us.” She blushed suddenly. “There was a hint given that a courtship request would be accepted immediately for me or Flo.”

“My, he is popular,” Millicent rumbled with a teasing grin. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who can make the club like it has become is going to be wanted. Especially in politics.”

“Yeuch,” Harry said, causing a round of laughter. “Hestia?”

“As you all know, my dear parents are in jail.” She put a hand to her forehead and mock swooned. “How ever did Madam Bones discover all our illegal secrets?”

“A mystery,” Susan agreed solemnly.

“Good detective work,” Harry added.

“Blind luck?” Parvati speculated.

“My aunt and uncle were delighted to have us stay with them full time, especially when were able to use some of the Muggle things we’ve learnt combined with magic to increase the output of the farm. We got a thirty percent increase in yield. It went from a good year to one of the best ever. As a thank you, my aunt and uncle have promised to provide the club with all the materials we’d need to bring our accounting and management classes up to scratch.”

There was a soft cheer from all the council members.

“That’s awesome, Hes,” Harry praised.

“The club made them some money, and real Carrows never forget their friends.”

“Heidi?” Harry asked.

“Despite Whatsisface being back, it was great,” she agreed. “I gave Mother and Father those books that you lot recommended, and hardly saw them for the first few days. I then got Harry to take us shopping in London.” She giggled. “He was awesome, he bullied Dad into wearing some nice clothes, and then while we were out, he talked Mum into going off with him for a few minutes. And well, let’s just say that Mum’s pregnant!”

There was a round of applause, before Harry found himself the centre of attention. “What did you get her?” Hestia asked. She leered at him, “Or did you turn on the old Potter charm, and Heidi’s dad reaped the benefits?”

Harry rolled his eyes and waved his hands at his friend dismissively. “It was just some lingerie. You know, a teddy, some thigh high stockings and matching heels. She almost fainted when she saw them for the first time, but she soon recovered and saw the potential.”

“The atmosphere around the house the next day was awesome,” Heidi continued. “Mum wasn’t moving fast, and Dad was showering her with affection and I was so happy that their marriage was back on track that I forgot to be embarrassed by the realisation that my parents still have sex. You up for being a godfather, Harry?”

“Me?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes,” Heidi said simply.

“I’d be honoured.”


“Anyone else got an anecdote?” Hestia asked.

“Just more of the same. Harry’s demand that we treat everyone and everything on its merits has resonated a lot,” Millicent said. “The fact that I’m happy, well, the Bulstrode family has declared itself with the Potter family.”

Harry blinked. “Erm, thanks.”

“The Carrows, too,” Hestia agreed. “It is a chance to clear our names, earn more money, and not be stuck being tortured by Whatsisface.”

“Next question,” Marcus said. “What’s with the badge, Harry?”

“Well, Mr Head Boy Sir,” Parvati responded with a grin. “Harry’s been made All-House Captain.”

“As it says on the badge,” Marcus pointed out dryly. “What does that mean?”

“Basically, he’s got similar powers to you.”

“But under you and Hes,” Harry added.

Marcus looked at Hestia. “Seems like a fair reward. We only got these roles because of the club,” he said.

“I dunno,” Hestia, “I kinda like the idea of Harry under me.”

“Hey,” Harry protested, ignoring the innuendo with a skill born of long practice. “Don’t sell yourselves short like that.”

“Nah, he’s right,” Hestia said. “Merlin knows what sort of evil little shit I’d be if Flo and I hadn’t been persuaded to join in our third year. Victoria was always looking out for us.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “She sends her…” he paused. “Regards, I guess.”

“You mean, she told you to tell us not to screw it up and make her come and yell at us?” Susan asked.

“Something like that, my mind tends to wander,” Harry agreed with a grin. There was a round of laughter. “The last thing I should mention before we start: you remember my idea from the second-to-last meeting?”

They all nodded.

“I’ve sent a message to the Ministry Education Board asking for permission to try it.”

There were some raised eyebrows. “I propose we don’t discuss that unless anyone has anything new to add?” Marcus said.

No one argued, although Hestia obtained a faint smirk on her face.

“So, moving on,” Harry agreed. “Anyone want to raise any rule changes?”

No one raised their hands.

“Good. I like the rules as they are,” Harry agreed. “So far I’ve got a German Auror, a member of the Firebolt company’s R and D department, a Chartered Accountant and one of the Goblin lawyers lined up to give talks.”

“Awesome,” Hestia said over the sounds of agreement from the others. “My Uncle’s willing to do a talk about farming Manticores.”

“Father is willing to talk about the Import and Export business,” Parvati added.

“Great,” Harry said, as he wrote the new offers down.

“My cousin has a guy working for him who is married to a stock broker,” Marcus said. “She’s on secondment to the UAE but will be back next year, and is willing to do a talk then.”

“Excellent. We’ll space them out, one a month. Do you think we should try and get the Headmaster to do a talk on Alchemy?”

There was a series of nods, so Harry put that suggestion down as well. “Any issues?” he asked.

“We’re going to be oversubscribed from the firsties,” Millicent said.

“We’ll deal with that problem as it comes up,” Harry suggested. “As Hes and Flo know, we can make a real difference with the first years, and if I need to, I’ll run a sub-group for them, and promote the best to the real group.”

“Harry,” Millicent sighed. “You have an executive council. You have another twenty students who would walk through fire for you. For Merlin’s sake, learn to bloody delegate! If we need to do a sub-group, Susan, Parvati, and I will run the sub-group. The others are either prefects, head students, or you. That doesn’t mean you can’t get involved.”

Harry scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Erm, anyone object to that?”

There was a round of laughter as the council agreed.

“Fine, yes,” he murmured. “Letting go is hard.”

“Well, you did learn from Victoria,” Hestia said with a grin. “And she didn’t like people breathing on their own without checking that it was done to her standard.”

There was another round of laughter.

“Right, any other business?”

“Slytherin’s going to be a bit rough for the next day or so,” Millicent said. “However, as we can all outfight the others, we’ll be fine.”

“Oh, yes,” Hestia grinned evilly. “Little, innocent Tori pulled the wheels out from under her bitchy older sister earlier. It was beautiful. Miss Ice Princess is going neutral, to avoid losing the position of heir-apparent to Astoria. It seems that the elder Greengrasses have not been impressed with her grades, especially not with Tori doing so well.”

“Good,” Harry said to the latter part. “Tori’s a sweetheart.”

“Politically, there’s a growing block of people on Harry’s side,” Hestia continued. “Especially after Whatsisface was photographed so conveniently after months of denial from the Fudge Administration, and this block has made all the other blocks very wary, so a lot of kids that might have tried to cause problems have been told to stay the hell out of it. New blocks scare people.”

“Very much so,” Susan agreed. “Auntie is suddenly finding things a bit easier.”

“Good,” Harry said again. “As much as I hate politics…”

“Victoria would kill you if you didn’t continue,” Hestia finished for him.

“That,” Harry agreed. “Hestia, Millicent, emphasise to all our Slytherin members to use their wrist bands if they are in trouble. I’ll be there in seconds. And that goes for anyone else as well.”

“We know, Harry,” Heidi said.

“Okay, final thing then. Professor McGonagall suggested that we really need to come up with a name for this club.”

“Parvati, Lavender, Fay and I tried, with some help, to come up with something over the summer, but didn’t like anything we came up with,” Padma said.

“Yeah,” Susan agreed. “I think we’re all afraid of acronyms after SPEW.”

There was another round of chuckles.

“The only thing I came up with is the Hogwarts Extra Curriculum Society,” Harry said.

“HECS?” Hestia said, pronouncing it with a k after the c. “I like it. Expanded, it sounds classy.”

“Quick vote, all for?” Heidi called, as she put her hand up.

The others raised their hands. “HECS it is,” Marcus stated. “Harry can tell McGonagall and Flitwick; we can tell the members in our Houses.”

“In which case, I call this meeting done,” Harry said. “I’ll circulate the notes at the first meeting. Milli, it’s your turn at the next council meeting.”

“Yup,” Millicent agreed. “Come on, Hestia, let’s go see if anyone needs some urgent dentistry.”

Hestia leaned over and kissed Harry on the cheek. “Later, all,” she said as she followed the much bigger girl out of the Ravenclaw common room.

“Susan and I will head out as well. I should do a quick check of my House, if nothing else,” Heidi said. The two Hufflepuffs left.

“Night, Sis,” Parvati said as she hugged her sister. “You coming, Harry?”

“I’m going to pop in and talk to Professor Flitwick,” Harry replied.

“I’ll see you later, then,” Parvati said and wandered out.

“Ah, Harry,” Padma said, “my parents love the change in my sister. They asked me to pass on their thanks.”

“It was everyone, not just me.”

“You’ve been the soul of this club for three years now, even when Victoria was still here,” Marcus said. “We all know it. And we’re going to keep raising it, until you’re happy with it as well. Night.” He walked off, leaving him with Padma. Padma gave him a hug and wished him good night, before she headed to her dorm.

Harry headed to Flitwick’s office and knocked. “Come in, Harry,” the professor called.

Harry entered and took the proffered seat. Flitwick levitated a cup of tea over to him. “Thanks,” he said. “Highlights include that the Hogwarts Extra Curriculum Society is willing to set up a sub-group if we get over run with firsties wanting to join. We’ve also got several guest speakers lined up this year.” He quickly ran through who they were.

“Excellent, Harry, or should I say All-House Captain Potter?”

“Harry’s fine,” Harry said dryly.

“I’m sad to say that Professor Snape was most vociferous with his objections to you being made anything.”

Quelle surprise,” Harry said, keeping his dry tone.

“Quite. He was quite surprised when he was told to be quiet by the three of us. We’ve also agreed that we’ll monitor any House deductions for the next few weeks.”

Harry smiled. “Thanks.” He took a long sip of the tea. Flitwick always had the best tea but McGonagall had the best snacks.

“Have you had your awkward conversation with your other friends?”

“I have. It didn’t go great,” he admitted.

“Your loyalty is amazing, Harry. But there’s a limit as to how far you should go.”

Harry nodded. “I know,” he agreed. “They don’t seem to have grown much.”

“Mr Weasley has no incentive to grow up, and Miss Granger has yet to learn that there is more to life than books. Young Miss Weasley revels in being the girl of the family.”

“She was reading at dinner, during the feast,” Harry said. He ignored the bit about Ron as he was aware that Flitwick didn’t know the full story. “It made me realise just how insular she can be. And Ginny’s nice, but, well, inconsistent at times.”

“Indeed, I’ve had quite a few conversations with her, appealing for her to join in with other events, to little success.”

Harry sighed. “You mind if I hide here until curfew?”

Flitwick chuckled. “You’re welcome to camp in my office, or out in the Common Room.”

“Office,” Harry said. “I love it in here.”

“So do I,” Flitwick. “So, as you’re here, talk to me about your plans.”

So Harry started to explain.

Harry woke and had a nice long shower. Once cleansed, deodorised and dressed, he headed down to breakfast.

“Morning,” he greeted everyone. He was acknowledged in various ways, as he sat down and helped himself to some cereal, some yoghurt and then some fruit. He ignored the variety of fried foods on offer; he was trying to eat healthier, as he was working on his fitness and didn’t want to lose any of the benefits he’d gained over an active summer.

He looked up as the doors opened, and Lucius Malfoy entered, his cane making a distinctive tapping sound on the stone floor. Behind him was a pretty girl, who was looking around in awe, while attempting to remain close behind the senior Malfoy. She appeared to be in her early teens, and had blonde hair and grey eyes.

“Father,” Draco called, standing up. He paused. “What’s she doing here?” he asked, with a more obnoxious tone than he normally used, which was quite impressive, considering that he was a reprehensible git at the best of times.

Lucius glared at Draco until he went pale and sat down quickly.

“Lord Malfoy,” Dumbledore called in greeting.

“I’m here as the Chairman of the Board of Governors,” Lucius stated. “I apologise for interrupting the end of breakfast. I received an interesting letter that had been forwarded to me this morning, from the Ministry Education Board. Its content was so surprising, that I decided to attend to the matter personally and immediately.”

“Then please,” Flitwick said, causing the Headmaster to look at him in surprise, “proceed. I’m just as interested.”

Lucius looked at Flitwick for a long moment, and then bowed his head in respect. “Mr Potter,” he called.

Harry stood and headed around to the gap between the students’ tables and the Professors’ table. “Lord Malfoy,” he said, with an appropriate bow that fulfilled the requirements of decorum but without a hint of deferential respect. The elder Malfoy nodded back respectfully.

“To make this conversation move a little faster, I am Lucius.”

“Then I am Harry,” Harry offered his given name back.

“This is my daughter, Isabelle.”

Isabelle slid to the side and gracefully curtseyed, she then retreated back to the safety of her father’s shadow.

Harry met Lucius’s eyes for a long moment. There was the softest sign of hope in them. The letter in his hand was the one Harry had written.

“Hi, Isabelle,” Harry said, as he moved around Lucius. “What’s your favourite subject at the moment?”

She blushed prettily. “I like English,” she said.

“So do I,” Harry said. “We’ve got a little club here, and once a month we do a session on English. This year we’re going to go over Macbeth.”

“I love that,” she gasped. “And Romeo and Juliet!”

“Ah, a tale of such woe,” he agreed. He looked around before leaning in conspiratorially, “it’s also a story about how silly us kids can be!”

Isabelle giggled. “Romeo did seem a bit of a rake,” she admitted.

“Also an important lesson in communication.”

Isabelle nodded.

“Do you know why you’re here?” he asked.

The girl looked shyly down. “Only that father thinks that something ground breaking might be happening here and he asked me to come.”

“Well, so far, I can see that you’re a brave girl, and unlike your brother, you’ve got an open mind.”

“He’s always been a twat,” Isabelle agreed, before covering her mouth with her hands as her grey eyes went wide in horror.

“It’s okay, I think everyone here knows that he’s an arrogant and delusional bigot,” Harry agreed, trying to hide his amusement. “So, want to help me prove him an idiot as well?”

She nodded hard, her eyes locked on his – he suspected to avoid seeing the disapproval in the senior Malfoy’s mien.

“Elves,” Harry said, “can you set up our club’s portable potions table?”

A couple of House-elves popped in carrying the table. It had a series of copper compressors to the left, and a complicated looking extraction fan. There was a Bunsen burner in the middle, and a copper cauldron hanging over it.

“Do you know anything about potions?” he asked.

“Only that they can do amazing things,” she said, as she looked at the table in fascination.

“There’s a nice potion that you might have seen, the clotting potion?”

“Oh, Father used that one on me just the other day when I accidentally cut myself,” she said.

“Indeed I did,” Lucius agreed. The lack of ire in his voice caused Isabelle to glance at him briefly then relax slightly.

“Want to learn how to make it?” Harry asked.

“Squibs can’t do potions,” Draco yelled.

Harry threw out his wand without looking, a silencing spell exploded out of it, and smacked into Draco. The force of the spell toppled him off the bench.

Isabelle shrunk into herself, blushing furiously.

“Ignore him,” Harry said. “I have to put up with that all the time,” he continued. “He was the only reason I didn’t go into Slytherin House.”

There was a series of gasps from a lot of students, all of whom had gone silent at his actions.

“I hate it when he comes home,” she whispered to him, with a glance toward her father. “He’s always so mean.”

“Yeah,” Harry sighed. “You know the best way to deal with people like him?”

She shook her head.

“By proving that they are idiots,” Harry said brightly. “So, gonna help me do that?”

Isabelle smiled a little and then nodded.

“Okay then, let’s get this show on the road,” he grinned. “Stand behind the bench and let’s get to work.” He looked up at Lucius. “It’s lucky you came at breakfast; I normally charge by the hour for this sort of performance after breakfast ends.”

Lucius chuckled softly. “I’m sure,” he agreed. “As I believe that your idea has the potential to revolutionise our world, I’m quite willing to give you the opportunity to do so. I’m sure that the professors will watch with great interest and without interrupting.

Harry looked up to see Flitwick nodding eagerly, while Snape had an expression that appeared to be a mixture of anger, disbelief and resignation. The other professors had settled back and were watching with amused expressions.

Isabelle nodded and moved into position. Harry conjured an apron and placed it over her head, and then tied it together. “Roll your sleeves up,” he told her. He moved behind her and gathered her blonde hair and quickly used one of the many hair ties that he always carried for just this purpose, before moving in front of the bench.

“The apron is to protect you. I tied your hair back because human hair can have odd reactions to various potions, so it’s better to be safe than exploded.”

“Okay,” she said with a small grin.

“Now, this is a pretty simple potion. On your bench are all the ingredients you’re going to need. So the first thing you need to do is get the cauldron hot. Some potions work better if they start cold and get heated on the way, others like it nice and hot first. This is one of those that like it hot. Turn the knob.”

Isabelle reached out and did so, the burner burst into blue flame.

“Excellent,” Harry praised. “The first thing we’re going to do is practice some cutting techniques. This potion calls for some slicing. There’s a cheater’s way of doing this, which we all use when we’re in a hurry, but we’ll avoid that today, as we’re proving a point.”

Isabelle giggled and picked up the knife.

“We’ll practice on the carrot. Cut it in half vertically first.” She did so. Harry moved behind her and reached around. He took the knife, and placed one of the halves flat-side down. He placed his left hand over it, his thumb against it, and used his knuckles as a guide. Slowly and surely he made a slice, and then eased his knuckles back a little, and sliced again. He sped up as he went, slicing the carrot. “You try.”

She moved her hands into place, and he corrected her a little, and watched carefully as she made the first slice, and then the second. He could see her gain in confidence as she went.

“Slow down a little, make each slice the same,” he said.

“Okay,” she agreed, and tried again.

Harry moved around the front. “Brilliant,” he praised. “The liquid is dwarven spirit, so we add that in first. It will steam, so be careful.”

Isabelle nodded and poured the dark spirit in. It hissed and started to steam immediately.

“We leave that for a few minutes,” he said. “Now, we need to prepare the ingredients.” He passed her the Ficaria Verna, imbuing it with some magic as he did. “Slice the wooden stalks on a few of them. Slice them nice and thin,” he added.

Isabelle nodded and carefully sliced along the stalk.

“We need three tablespoons of that,” he said. “So check how much you’ve made.”

Isabelle measured it out, before adding two tablespoons to a clear dish, and cut some more. She looked at Harry when she had finished.

“Well done,” he lauded. “How’s the liquid doing?”

She peered over the cauldron. “It’s bubbling,” she said.

“Has it changed colour?”

“It looks a little lighter,” she said.

“In a few minutes it will change colour to a nice yellow. That’s when we add the ingredients. So we’ll take this time to look at the nasty ingredient.”

“It looks disgusting.”

“Potions are often like that,” Harry commiserated. “And the smells can be abominable and that’s not to mention how disgusting some of the ingredients are. Anyway, we have to cut this into really small pieces. So grab the onion and slice it in half.” He walked behind her again. “We’re going to do it slightly differently. First, we’re going to check our knife is clean and nice and sharp.” He pulled out the strop and showed her how to sharpen it.

“Now that our knife is ready, we make two horizontal cuts most of the way through,” he demonstrated the first and allowed her to do the second. “Then, we cut through most of the way vertically.” After a demonstration slice or two, Isabelle did the rest.

Harry moved to the front. “Now, turn it ninety degrees and slice it again.” Isabelle grinned happily as she did so and the onion fell into tiny parts. “Now do the exact same thing to the nasty-looking thing.”

Isabelle wiped down the knife and sharpened it again, before she slowly cut the brain into the chopped bits required. As she finished, she cleaned the knife again and wiped her hands down. “How much do I need?”

“Half a teaspoon,” he said.

“Could you make more, if you multiplied the ingredients?” she asked as she measured out the required amount.

“Excellent question,” Harry praised once more. “You can, yes. You just have to be aware that it takes longer.”

“Because of how long it takes to boil the spirit?”


“Ooh, it’s changed colour,” she said excitedly.

“Right, add the two new ingredients,” he said. “As you do, you need to use the silver stirrer and stir from left to right, then front to back, continuously.” He picked up a quill and demonstrated in the air.

Isabelle nodded and poured the ingredients in, and started to stir perfectly.

“There several types of stirring,” Harry said, as he watched. “The first, the cross stir is designed to mix all the ingredients equally with no other effect. The circular stir is done to mimic the rotation of the earth, and is useful for potions that use a lot of plant ingredients. There’s the diagonal stir that we use to counter ingredients that have a reaction we don’t want.”

Isabelle nodded. “So we’re just mixing this one.”

“Yup, and once it changes to a deep green, it will be ready.”

Isabelle grinned and kept her eyes on the potion, her stirring at exactly the same pace.

“You’re very good at that,” he told her. “I’ve still got a habit of stirring a little too fast.”

“Is that bad?”

“A little isn’t, but if you go way too fast, you cross the line from helping to hindering, and the ingredients can separate.”

“Leaving you with a mess?”

“Yup! And if you do it perfectly wrong, it’s a nightmare to clean. It reacts badly to magic, so you have to scrub it by hand.”

The potion started to bubble energetically. “That’s the sign it’s getting ready,” Harry said. He switched on the extractor. “It’s never a good idea to inhale fumes. Steam is nothing more than water that has been given the energy to escape the surface tension of the water. In most cases, it leaves behind all the impurities, but in some, it can contain trace elements on the potion.”

“What’s surface tension?”

“Have you ever seen a drop of water that just sits on a plant leaf?” She nodded. “That shape is kept by the surface tension of the water; it’s what makes water hard when you jump into it from a high stop. If we want to be a bit more scientific, it’s the elasticity of the water as it tries to use the least amount of surface area it can.”

“Wow,” she whispered. “That’s awesome.”

“Nature is,” Harry agreed. “A million problems that humans have are already solved in nature.” He looked at the cauldron, “probably another two minutes.”

“What’s the cheat method for cutting potion ingredients?”

Harry grinned and walked around the table. From the bottom drawer he pulled out a Mandoline. He used the guard to pick up the other half of the onion and adjusted the horizontal blade.

With a well-practiced movement, he slid the guard up and down the Mandoline. Ten seconds later he had demolished the onion and was left with a large pile of perfectly sliced ingredients.

“You can also use this to julienne ingredients,” he said, as he cleaned the Mandoline.

“That’s amazing!”

“Wanna know a secret?”

She nodded, looking up at him eagerly with exactly the sort of expression he loved – that of someone seeking knowledge. “It’s a Muggle kitchen device.”

“Wow!” She paused and looked at the cauldron. “It’s changing again. It’s going green!”

Harry peered over, and grinned. “Yup. Stop stirring and turn off the heat.” Isabelle moved quickly. “Now put the gloves on, and pour the cauldron into the funnel and into the glass.”

Isabelle lifted the hot cauldron carefully and poured the potion out.

“What does it smell like?” Harry asked.

“It smells like iron and grass,” she said in surprise.

“That’s a sign it’s good, as well as the colour. Grass represents nature and healing, and iron the blood. We have a potion that’s the right colour, and smells correct. So what’s the last step?”

“I don’t know?”

“Test it,” he grinned. He reached out and took the knife that she had cleaned. “Ouch,” he murmured as he cut his finger deeply.

“Harry!” Isabelle yelped.

“Let’s hope the potion works,” he suggested, as he cleaned his blood from the knife magically. His finger was bleeding heavily into a towel that was set up for this purpose. He picked up a spoon and put it into the potion, before lifting the now full spoon to his mouth and swallowing it. As soon as he did, Isabelle and he were able to watch the deep cut on his finger heal itself in five seconds.

“Daddy,” Isabelle whispered in shock. “Daddy, I made a potion. I did a potion, Daddy,” she whispered. She started to cry, large tears flowing down her cheeks as she looked up at Lucius. “Daddy, look, a potion,” she said, pointing.

“Hey,” Harry interrupted. “Do you think we’re finished?”

“There’s more?” she gasped.

“But of course,” He grinned. He vanished his bloody towel, ensuring his blood was gone as there were all sorts of disturbing things that could be done with blood, before he dried her tears. “This one will be much quicker, but it’s just as important.” He opened a drawer and pulled out two pieces of parchment and two quills. He conjured two stools and sat next to her.

“Copy what I do,” he said, as he made a vertical strike. Isabelle copied with more precision than he had expected. “Nice one,” he said. “I bet your handwriting is awesome.”

“It is good,” she agreed. “I have to practice every day.”

Harry made a vague w shape on top, that Isabelle copied, and then quickly wrote two more characters, Isabelle duplicating them almost perfectly. He suggested a few alterations, which she followed.

“What we have here is a small rune cluster,” he explained. “We’re making a small sentence, almost. The first is earth, the earth is protective, it cares for us, it provides for us. The second is stone. Stone is strong and hard, it can protect us and fight for us. The final is joy or happiness. We’re saying that we would be happy if the earth and stone would protect us.”

Isabelle nodded, looking fascinated.

“This is a very basic rune set,” he continued. “The bigger and more powerful sets can have hundreds of symbols.” He paused. “Now, here we have two identical rune sets, one by me, one by you. The only difference is that I have active magic. But,” he continued. “If I press my finger on your sheet right here–” he did so, “there’s no difference between the two. You did all the work, after all.” He stood and picked up his rune sheet. “Hold up your sheet,” he told her.

She did as she was told, as Harry took a few steps back, and before she could react, he drew his wand and cast a low-powered tickling charm at her. She flinched, and then gasped as the shield exploded into a green light and protected her from the spell.

Her mouth dropped open.

She looked at him, and then down at the paper. The rune cluster she’d drawn had burnt out on the page. She started to bounce on the stool. “Daddy,” she said excitedly, “runes and a potion, I did it, Daddy, can I stay with you and Mummy?”

Lucius swept around the table and lifted Isabelle high up into the air before hugging her tightly. “My darling Issy,” he said, sounding choked up. “You were always welcome to stay.”

“I know, but now I can be useful as well!”

Lucius appeared to tighten his hold and swung Isabelle around. “I’m so proud of you,” he said, his voice raw.

Lucius stopped, his daughter still held tightly against him. “Harry,” Lucius said, his whole mien having changed. “I was under the impression that you were not very good at potions.”

Harry shrugged. “Snape is not a teacher,” he said. “The Hogwarts Extra Curriculum Society has been working hard to teach our members proper potions for as long as I’ve been here. There’s no point in doing so in class. Snape’s far too busy making sure that no one can ever challenge him.”

Lucius cocked his head. “What?”

“Snape’s never explained the difference between the different types of stirring, or how to cut properly, or why you should use different cauldrons. Most of the information isn’t even found in the books recommended by the school. We talked about it, and we decided the only reason he’s sabotaged so many people is because he’s scared someone else might be better than him.”

“Draco, is this true?”

“Potter’s just jealous,” Draco spat as Harry cancelled the silencing spell on him.

“Then Draco would have no problem making the Hair Raising potion,” Harry said.

“Draco, make the potion,” Lucius ordered.

Harry moved out of the way, looking up to find that Flitwick had Snape silenced and secured to his chair with thick gold ropes, and that Dumbledore was looking on with great interest.

Draco sniffed, and stalked over, his body language screaming that he felt this task was beneath him. He pulled some ingredients out of the drawer, all the while sneering at the portable potions table.

Lucius frowned as Draco started to cut, and then scowled as he lit the cauldron. Harry met his eyes and shrugged. “Basic information was never given.”

Isabelle kept quiet as she watched Draco slice the ingredients slowly.

“Enough,” Lucius growled as Draco poured the starter liquid into the cauldron. Draco looked up in surprise.

“Tori,” Harry called. “Come and make the potion.”

Astoria Greengrass hurried over. She curtseyed to Lucius, and moved in front of the desk. She huffed silently and poured the mixture in the cauldron away safely. She then put the cauldron on the floor and pulled out a silver cauldron from one of the drawers. Her hair was already in an elegant braid, as it always was, so she didn’t need to do anything with it. She moved and Isabelle handed her the apron.

As the cauldron started to heat up, she expertly crushed two of the ingredients before cubing the others.

“Miss Greengrass, do you agree with Mr Potter?”

“Absolutely, my Lord,” she said clearly. “My first lesson was Snape shouting at us that we were all idiots, and that the instructions were on the board. I didn’t learn proper potions until we started doing them in the club.”

“And is my son an idiot?”

Astoria shrugged. “He’s made it abundantly clear that he has no power of his own, only that which he wields in your name. He does not seem to have grasped the need to develop power and respect in his own name.” She added the ingredients to the potion, and started a circular stir. She raised her wand and tapped the stirrer with her free hand. It started to stir on its own.

Lucius blinked.

“He’s incapable of standing on his own two feet, as any time something goes against him, he will use your influence to silence opponents or your money to get past other problems,” Harry explained.

Lucius sighed. “You will be coming home this weekend so we can discuss this in great depth. Return to your seat, Draco.”

“But –”


Draco ran off, his face white. Lucius turned to Dumbledore. “As Chairman of the Board of Governors, I want to know why my son did not demonstrate even a basic knowledge of Potions’ procedures, and why the daughter of an important family and the School All-House Captain claim such incompetence in this school’s faculty. I will expect Pensieve evidence of classes as part of the investigation. Two board members will be here this afternoon to conduct it.”

Albus nodded slowly, as Snape paled and sat back.

Lucius turned his back on the staff. “Thank you, Miss Greengrass.”

Astoria curtseyed back, and then looked at Harry.

“Go on, Tori,” he said, “I’ll finish it off.”

“Thanks, Harry,” she chirped cheerfully and hurried off.

“I think I understand the discussions about the Greengrass family changing heirs now,” Lucius mumbled.

“Astoria’s great,” Harry agreed, using a louder volume than Lucius’ mumble. “She’s up for election to join the council next year. She has my vote.”

Astoria gasped audibly, and looked thrilled. Harry looked at her. “Why the surprise?” he asked. “You’re everything we love in the society.”

Astoria blushed massively even as she stood and gave him an incredibly deep curtsey.

“Tori,” Harry complained. She gave him a look, and he knew that if it wasn’t for Malfoy next to him, she’d be poking her tongue out. She sat down; her back straight and a proud look on her face.

“Ignoring the distractions, Harry – and you have my word that I will get to the bottom of them – how?”

“How did I help Isabelle create a potion and a runic shield?” Harry asked to clarify.

Lucius nodded. “This changes so much about our society, it’s revolutionary. I’m sure that most families have a Squib, and it’s a sad fact that they leave our world due to lack of opportunity, and living off your parents’ efforts is a dull way to spend your life.”

“Exactly,” Isabelle agreed, not moving from her father’s arms or moving her eyes from Harry. “I don’t want to leave the wizarding world, but being useless in it was, well, full of people like Draco, or so it seemed. But suddenly, I can be useful! I’ve got a whole new future in front of me.”

“And just think,” Harry said, “that if you study, you can design your own potions.”

Isabelle gasped and squeezed her father.

Harry chuckled. “I was thinking about it at the end of last year,” he explained. “And spent some time working out where the magic was in potions, and realised it was mostly in the ingredients. So if you take that out, it’s just a very complicated version of cooking. You assemble your ingredients in a certain way and a potion comes out.

“The fact that I was pretty sure it would work is thanks to Hestia and Flora,” Harry said, gesturing at the twins.

The two moved over and curtseyed to Lucius.

“You two are members of the Society?” Lucius asked.

“Since our third year,” they agreed in unison.

“As for helping Harry, when he proposed it, we told him it couldn’t be done. Fortunately for our race, Harry is a stubborn git when he gets an idea, and doesn’t let known fact get in the way,” Flora teased.

“Love you, too,” Harry said dryly.

“So when he visited us the day before we got back to school, we let him cut off our magic.”

Lucius and Isabelle joined the rest of the school in gasping. “What?” Lucius demanded.

“Harry wanted to know if his idea would work, and we agreed to give it a try. I had my magic disabled and did a potion, then Flo had hers blocked while she did some runes.”

“It was the runic array of magic binding,” Harry said.

The two girls nodded together. “So it was perfectly safe, and besides, if you can’t trust Harry, who the hell can you trust these days?” Flora added.

“Exactly,” Hestia agreed. “He’s gone from this shy little kid with great ideas to this amazing man who’s been there for all of us that have needed him. Besides, we were curious.”

“Thank you, both,” Isabelle called.

“You’re welcome, Issy,” Flora said with a grin. “There’s just one piece of the puzzle that’s yet to be figured out.”

“Which is?” Lucius asked.

Hestia and Flora both pouted, “We’ve yet to work out how Harry activates the potion ingredients and the runes.”

Harry winced. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Now that we know it works, I was going to suggest it’s our first research project of the year.”

“Seconded,” Hestia stated.

“Thirded,” Marcus called. Lucius swivelled to look at him, and his Head Boy badge.

“Vote,” Hestia called.

“Aye,” Susan called. She was then echoed by the Patil twins, Heidi, and Millicent.

“Vote passed,” Hestia stated.

Lucius started to chuckle. “The Head Boy, the Head Girl, two prefects, and two students from each House on this council? Including the niece of the DMLE and the Bulstrode heir?” He paused. “I see how the political landscape is changing.”

“In the short term,” Harry said, ignoring the commentary, “I’d be happy to tutor Isabelle.”

Isabelle bounced in her father’s arms. “Please, Daddy,” she begged.

Lucius laughed under his breath. “Harry,” he said after a few moments. “Would you be willing to give an evening and half a day on the weekends?”

“My schedule is such that I can do two hours on Thursday evenings and three hours on Sunday mornings,” he said. “However, I would, of course, need permission from the Hogwarts Senior Leadership team.”

Lucius turned and looked the Headmaster pointedly.

“Of course, Harry may Floo from my office,” the Headmaster agreed.

“And would you mind if I added a few of Isabelle’s friends?”

“As long as they are all as attentive as Isabelle, I’m sure it would be a pleasure.”

Lucius nodded and placed Isabelle down absently. He took a deep breath and became Lord Malfoy again. “House Malfoy is indebted to House Potter,” he said, to the gasps of others. “House Malfoy supports your goals.”

Harry bowed deeply, remembering Victoria’s lessons on propriety and dealing with aristocracy. Lessons that were, in a few cases, literally beaten into his head by her entirely unladylike (but light) smacks to the back of the head.

“Headmaster,” Lucius said, “I will be in touch shortly about the investigation. Draco, I will send a House-elf to fetch you after your last class on Friday. Harry, thanks.”

Harry smiled and moved out of the way.

“Father, look, a distraction while I act unladylike,” Isabelle said, pointing above Dumbledore. As Lucius turned obediently, Isabelle dashed forward and jumped into a full body hug, and wrapped her legs around his waist. She kissed his cheek as he adjusted to her weight. “Thank you, my Lord,” she whispered, before she lowered herself down and took her father’s hand.

The two walked out, Isabelle practically skipping alongside Lord Malfoy. The door shut behind them. Harry moved and quickly finished off the potion that Astoria had started, as it was starting to spoil.

He stood as he finished, he was pulled into another massive hug, this time from Hestia and Flora. “You were brilliant,” Flora pronounced.

“You ruined two of your enemies, gained a powerful new friend, and offered hope to hundreds,” Hestia agreed. “We’re proud of you.”

The two girls kissed him on each cheek, before moving back to their seats. Harry looked up, to see Flitwick and McGonagall beaming, and a dumbfounded Dumbledore staring at him, while Snape was still looking distracted and half-heartedly glaring at him.

“Mr Potter,” Dumbledore said, as he slowly stood up.

Harry looked at him.

“For turning the world on its head, for practical demonstrations of great teaching skills, as well as the benefit of being a member of your Society, and for making friends out of political rivals, I award you two hundred and eleven points, the highest amount ever given in Hogwarts in a single award, and a figure I highly doubt will ever be beaten.” He started to clap. McGonagall and Flitwick both burst to their feet, and applauded as well.

The students started, as Harry was mobbed by the other members of the club, led by Tracey.

Harry grinned and accepted the mobbing for a few seconds. “Back off,” he called cheerfully. “I need to breathe.”

“There you are,” Narcissa commented, as her husband and daughter arrived in the Floo.

“Ah,” Lucius said, “I should have left a note.”

“Yes, you should,” Narcissa agreed. “Mr Jones is waiting.”

“And he can continue to do so,” Lucius said to her surprise.

Narcissa looked at Isabelle, to see the girl was so happy she was practically floating. “Did you sneak out for ice cream for breakfast again?”

Lucius chuckled and pulled a folded letter out of his pocket and passed it to her. It was addressed to the Ministry Education Board, and asked for permission to bring a Squib to Hogwarts, as the writer had an idea of how they could brew potions.

Which was, of course, impossible.

Narcissa raised her eyebrows at the signature.

“It was forwarded to me this morning,” Lucius said. “And Harry was right.”

Narcissa noted the use of a given name, and then her mind caught up with the implications of the sentence.

“Mum, I made a clotting potion AND a runic shield!”


“I saw it, Cissi. Harry taught her how to do both, and all it needed was one bit of magic for the potion that was so smooth I didn’t even see it, and one slightly more obvious for the runes. I’ve asked Harry to tutor Issy, and some of her friends, and he will be here Thursday evening and Sunday mornings.”

“I’m going to be the greatest Potions Mistress ever!” Isabelle cheered. “I’m going to start reading all our books as soon as class is done. Did you know that that if you stir potions in a cross-stir it helps merge the ingredients, as long as you don’t go too fast? But if you don’t want that, you need to use a diagonal stir?”

Narcissa felt her lips creep up into a smile. “I did,” she agreed. “But it’s been a long time.”

“Harry taught me how to cut as well, he’s really good. And Tori was great as well!” She beamed happily. “And now I can stay in the Wizarding World!”

Narcissa dropped to her knees and embraced her daughter. “I’m so pleased,” she whispered. She felt Isabelle cling to her, before stepping back.

“I should get to class. The sooner we’re done, the sooner I can read about potions!” She turned and walked off as fast as she could, while appearing dignified.

“Has she had breakfast?”

Lucius coughed. “We might have stopped on the way to Hogwarts.”

“Lucius, you can’t feed her ice cream for breakfast!”

“Yes, dear,” Lucius agreed. Narcissa knew that this agreement would last exactly until Isabelle batted her eyelashes at her father and asked nicely again.

“I find it almost unbelievable, Luc,” Narcissa said as she regained her feet.

“I was there, watching, and I found it unbelievable,” Lucuis said dryly. “Two bits of bad news, though.”


“It seems that our good friend Severus has been lying through his teeth.”


“It appears that when he’s not around us, our son is an idiot of the highest order, and one who doesn’t understand the basics of Potions.”

“But Severus said that he was highly popular and excels.”

“He lied.”

“Why would he do so?”

“I believe it is to hide the fact that he is an appalling teacher. As Head of the Board of Governors, I’ll be arranging an investigation. As an extremely irritated father, I may have to contract for an accident as well.”

Narcissa sighed.

“As for Draco, he will be home this weekend, and we will find out if it is as bad as I fear.”

“That bad?”

“It appears that his favourite way of dealing with issues is to use his relationship with us as a theat. Harry challenged him to brew a simple potion. He didn’t put on an apron, he used the wrong type of cauldron and didn’t clean the cauldron he was going to use, and he prepared the ingredients badly.”

“But we’ve taught him better than that!”

“I know, Cissa, but somehow we’ve screwed up and missed it.”

“Are you sure?”

“I asked Astoria straight out after she showed the difference in skill between herself and our son, and she answered without fear and gave me the unpleasant news. I understand why the Greengrasses have been discussing re-designating their heir. Astoria would make a fine addition to any House, and yet I can tell that Draco has already alienated her!”

Narcissa moved over to a seat and slumped down. “Did we baby him too much?”

“It is possible,” Lucius agreed as he sat next to her. “We shall find out more this weekend.”

“The second piece of bad news?”

“I’m going to have to quit our club.”

“That’s hardly bad news, Luc,” Narcissa pointed out. “You can use the charms from the Black library.”

“I would not even be thinking about leaving if we didn’t have the charm, as it would not be possible. The point is, we’re now going to be on Harry’s side in the upcoming political revolution. He offers a better future.”

“One that includes our non-magical children?”


“In which case, I want another one.”

“Another child?”

“Without the fear of producing another child who would grow up and leave us, yes.”

“Well,” Lucius said, his eyes teasing, “it will be a hardship sleeping with my wife again.”

Narcissa slapped his arm. “I shall work out when I am most fertile. I will expect you to be ready to practice this evening.”

Lucius grinned.

“However, I am slightly irritated with you, so it won’t all be pleasant this evening.”

Lucius went very still. “Can I ask why, my dear?” His tone was wary, which was what she wanted.

“You introduced Issy to everyone, taking her from a barely talked about secret to public knowledge.”

“I did,” Lucius agreed quickly. “It will do nothing but help us in the future as we claim ignorance, acknowledging our magic-less child will be well received by the public.”

“I was not born yesterday,” Narcissa pointed out icily. “I am aware of this, and it is why I am vexed at you!”

“Huh?” he asked, looking confused.

“You introduced our daughter to enough people so that word will spread, without me! I will not look like a judgemental Pure-blood if we’re going to be moderate!”

“Ahh,” Lucius said, looking relieved as he finally understood her point. “You’re quite right, my dear. I am sorry.”

Narcissa huffed.

Lucius coughed. “Anyway, I’m off to get rid of our guest.”

“Do be careful.”

“Am I not always?”

Narcissa looked pointedly at his knee.

“Ah, yes, well,” he murmured. He stood and walked off toward their ballroom.

Narcissa raised her wand and checked the wards. She was going to have to reconnect with Sirius, as his gift looked like it was going to save them.

But first, she needed to send an urgent letter to her cousins in Spain, and tell them that they would not be evacuating Isabelle as they had planned.

After that, well, perhaps an inspection of her private collection of toys was in order.

Lucius walked into his ballroom and kept the sneer off his face. He regretted enslaving himself to this monster all those years ago. His doubts had been tripled when Voldemort had killed a Pure-blood to regain his body, and now knowing how close Lucius had come to losing the one person who could help his darling daughter, his seed of doubts had bloomed into an all-out rebellion.

How dare this cretin order around a Pure-blood Lord?

“Lucius, how goes my plan?”

“Well, My Lord,” he said respectfully. “A question, if I may be as bold?”

There were six other members of the Inner Circle around, including Bellatrix.

“Of course,” the snake-like being hissed.

“What is your plan for the Squibs?” he asked. He was pretty sure he knew the answer, but he also knew three of his friends far better than this cretin did.

Voldemort looked surprised for a moment. “A subject I have never thought about,” he murmured. “They are nothing more than filthy Muggles.”

Lucius took control of the wards. “Tom Marvolo Riddle, you are an enemy of this House,” he snarled. “Begone.”

Voldemort’s wand leapt into his hand, a Killing Curse on his lips, before the wards, wards powered by generation after generation, smacked into him. His body was torn apart in seconds. He screeched, the sound unearthly, and from behind his throne, his snake exploded. A black spirit escaped from the snake and flew up through the roof, chased by the wards that were already adapting.

Lucius raised his arm and cast the removal spell. The Dark Mark that he had once been so proud of melted away, leaving bare skin. He felt much better immediately. Absently he sent a blasting curse at the throne.

“Lucius, what’s going on?” Nott demanded.

“Diffindo,” he said, cutting Nott down where he stood. The other members had drawn their wands, but made no other movements. The Malfoy wards were world famous, after all.

“I’ve switched sides,” Lucius said. “To Potter’s side, to be precise. I won’t be ordered around like a servant by a Half-blood.”

“What?” Bellatrix asked.

“Half-blood, yes,” Lucius agreed. “And I suspect a soul-splitter on top.”

“Lucius, remove this, this, this brand!” Bellatrix ordered, holding her arm out.

Lucius did as requested, causing Bellatrix to drop to the floor. “Son of a diseased whore,” she moaned. She stood unsteadily. “I believe the shock allowed me to break through a loyalty brand,” she murmured. “My actions were my own, I was just unable to question,” she explained. She shook herself. “I think I’ve got another of his soul pieces in my vault. I shall enjoy destroying it later.”

“Why the side switch?” Chester Parkinson asked him, ignoring Bellatrix.

“Because Potter taught Issy to make a potion,” he explained. “He activated the ingredients a certain way, and Issy did the rest. And of course, having access to a family charm that breaks our manacles meant I could plan without fear.”

“But that would mean…”

“That our non-magical children won’t leave us?” Lucius asked. “Exactly. Issy is determined to become a Potions’ Mistress. Can you imagine what it would be like if you could activate ingredients in bulk, and then allow hundreds of non-magical adults to create potions? Potter also had Issy do a rune set, and activated it for her. It blocked a tickling charm.”

“Charles loves runes,” Chester pointed out. “He’s always looking at them, even if he can’t do them.”

“Harry will be running tutoring sessions here on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings for Issy and any friends.”

“I’ll be delighted to pay half of Potter’s fee for Charles to attend.”

“I’ve not actually thought about paying him,” Lucius admitted. Adding Chester’s nephew wouldn’t be a problem. “I presume we all want the Dark Mark removal charm?”

“Yes,” Chester said for all bar one of the remaining group.

Lucius absently stunned the slowly retreating Pettigrew. He walked around the other three and removed their Dark Marks.

“Wherever did you find this charm?” Bellatrix asked.

“Sirius Black found it in the Black Library and sent it to Narcissa a few days ago. When we received it, I realised I could escape for the first time. I’d just been waiting for the right moment to do so.”

Bellatrix pouted, “So we owe ickle-Siri?”

“Yes, and I believe I know how we can start to repay him,” Lucius said, as he looked down at Pettigrew.

“Oh, yes,” Chester agreed, as did the others.

“I don’t think Pettigrew requires that hand,” Matthew Goyle pointed out.

“Can I cast a spell, Luc?” Bellatrix asked, as she raised her hand in the air and bounced on the spot.

“You may, but just the cutting curse,” Lucius agreed.

Bellatrix drew her wand and pointed it at the downed Pettigrew. Suddenly she swung her wand up, “Diffindo,” she yelled, pointing it at Lucius.

Lucius rolled his eyes as the curse evaporated. The wards destroyed her a second later.

“A loyalty brand?” Lucius asked in disgust

“If we were as brainless as an flobberworm, maybe that would have been an adequate ruse,” Matthew grunted. “She was a nut job long before Riddle came along.”

“Quite. So, we’re going to need to get hold of the soul pieces,” Chester murmured.

“I propose an accident at Azkaban so we can eliminate the remaining Lestranges,” Lucius suggested. “Narcissa is the primary beneficiary of Bellatrix’s pending untimely death at the hands of that monster, Voldemort.”

“Yes, quite,” Matthew agreed. “Well, I guess magic is out of the question right now,” he murmured to himself. He headed over to the side of the room and pulled a decorative sword out of a scabbard. He walked over to Pettigrew and kicked his arm out. “Oh, how unprofessional of me. Lucius, if you would?”

“Rennervate,” Lucius said, “Incarcerous.” Pettigrew awoke, but was instantly bound. He squeaked from his position on the floor.

“Do think of the lovely marble,” Matthew murmured, as he swung the sword down. Pettigrew screamed in agony, as the sword only made it a third of the way through Pettigrew’s outstretched arm.

“Silencio,” Lucius muttered.

It took five more hefty swipes before the silver hand dropped off. Lucius cauterised the stump as sloppily as he could, banishing the blood before it could stain his expensive marble. It was charmed against accidental damage, but not stains.

“Chester, would you do the honours?” Lucius asked his friend.

Chester pulled his wand out and looked at Lucius, who nodded. Trust wasn’t something Lucius gave easily.

“Legilimens,” Chester whispered, and went still. It took two minutes before he next moved, and put away his wand. “Peter Pettigrew, criminal mastermind, betrayed us to Voldemort, who kept us under a heavy mix of potions and curses.”

Lucius smirked. “Before we heroically overcame the dastardly potions and curses! Anyway, I’ve got another thing to raise. Potter’s got a club at Hogwarts, that pretty much is Slughorn’s wet dream. Also, far less vaingloriously named than the Knights of Walpurgis.”

There was a round of laughter at the thought of the known, if harmless, collector of the influential and to-be influential and at Lucius’ sarcasm.

“Honour forced me to state that I’ve pledged our support to him for the near future. Knowing I had this charm to eliminate our ties to that filth, I’ve been thinking about how we can profit from the filth’s death. Admittedly, I’d offer some support to Potter for what he’s doing for Issy, but my primary motivation was the good it will do all of our reputations to be on the side of the light as we end the threat of the filth.

“And with it gone, I’m sure we can make a lot of money out of a stable economy. These Dark Lords are really bad for business.”

“Hear hear,” Matthew echoed. “Peter and I have had our incomes slashed since he returned.”

“Indeed we have,” Peter Crabbe spoke for the first time, his voice soft and barely audible.

“As much as I don’t want to raise this issue, would a less, well, Pure future be so bad?” Matthew asked. “I speak, on the grounds that I’m married to a beast that has Pure-blood, and who can barely string a coherent sentence together.

“My mistress, on the other hand, is not a Pure-blood, and I look at the children supplied by each, and cannot help but note that my legitimate children are idiots.”

“The neatly leads me to the final thing,” Lucius said. “Did any of you know that my son was an idiot?”

The look of surprise on the faces of the other three men convinced Lucius that they hadn’t been hiding things from him. “Pansy thinks Draco is the second coming of Merlin,” Chester said.

“Our heirs take after their mothers,” Matthew said. “To be honest, I’m thinking of legitimising Sasha. She’s far smarter, and far nicer to be around.”

“She started Hogwarts this year?”

“Yeah,” Matthew said, and then smiled with pride. “A Ravenclaw!”

“I’m in a similar boat, only my darling daughter Rose won’t start Hogwarts until next year. To my surprise, I actually feel rather paternal to her.” Chester paused. “In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if someone was to request a betrothal to my beautiful daughter, I would have to rewrite their minds so that the only thing they were good for was acting as Rose’s maid.”

Lucius instantly deleted the thought about suggesting that Rose might be a suitable partner for Draco in a few years. “Maybe we should get all our heirs home this weekend, find out what is going on? If they are idiots, Matthew may be right. Either way, we remain in control, and isn’t that what is important?” he asked rhetorically.

Lavender was on a mission. A mission she had volunteered for. A mission that she had then begged, cajoled and made several promises to get. She had Hestia and Flora next to her, and Parvati and Fay behind them.

She moved forward just right, slipping behind the male Weasley, and in front of Granger and the female Weasley. The three were returning to their Common Room before curfew.

“Hi, girls,” she brightly. “Be a dear and piss off, Weasley,” she added, looking at Ron. “We’re gonna have some girl talk.”

“Hey,” Ron protested.

“Oh, you want to join in?” she asked. “Right, my period is really heavy at the moment, and the standard warming charms aren’t helping with the pain, and I felt like I was leaking earlier. Do Muggles have anything that can help with a flow that tends to stain my knickers?”

Ron paled dramatically. “I’ll see you guys later,” he squeaked, before turning and running off.

Lavender smirked. As if witches would put up with something like that? It’s practically what magic was invented for!

She turned to see Granger open her mouth. “I’m not on my period,” she interrupted Granger before she could start. “Now scoot into the classroom.”

Suddenly, Weasley and Granger seemed to realise they were outnumbered. They moved into the empty classroom. Lavender moved around them and sat on the Professor’s desk. She swung her feet happily.

Hestia, Flora, Fay and Parvati relaxed against the walls near the door nonchalantly.

“Welcome, bitches, to Lavender’s friendly Back-The-Fuck-Off meet-up,” she announced cheerfully.

Both girls looked blankly at her. They opened their mouths, only nothing came out. Hestia twirled her wand around her fingers.

“At the end of last year, a few of us had a little meeting, which was when we decided we weren’t going to hide our club anymore. Of course, we still had to go for the vote, but we were pretty sure we were going to win. You see, our little Harry had come up with his idea of teaching Squibs to do potions.

“The git didn’t mention runes, but knowing him, he probably didn’t think of that until the last few days.

“And while everyone knows you can’t do that, Harry didn’t care. Just as he didn’t care when an insecure, but exceptionally pretty, girl unloaded all of her insecurities onto him. And then he pointed out that the exceptionally pretty girl had loads going for her, with such earnestness that she believed him, and lost some of her insecurity, especially after he taught her some awesome spells.

“And most of the girls and boys in the club have similar stories. Of course, all the boys and girls have helped him back, showing him the same loyalty he showed us.

“And some of us wondered just why the hell he hung around with you two bitches all the time he was out of the club. It didn’t make sense to us, but then, we’ve not got his level of loyalty to others.

“Neither do you two bitches, by the way.

“We listened to him every year as he was saddened that his friends didn’t want to join the club that meant so much to him, but he didn’t dump you. And now it’s all in the public, we’re not gonna accept you putting any more pressure on him.

“Ginevra, you’re about as subtle as a drunken, love-struck giant. We’ve already pointed out a few things to Harry, and while he doesn’t doubt us, he thinks we’re wrong. Which is great.” Lavender enjoyed the look of total confusion on Ginny’s face. “Of course, if you dump Dean and make a play for him, he’s going to realise that we’re right, and that you’re an honourless trollop.”

Ginny paled dramatically.

“Of course, you can break up with Dean and find another boyfriend, or even keep Dean. We don’t care. We’ve just made very sure you can’t get to Harry.”

Ginny’s expression turned to one of something close to hatred. Lavender ignored her and turned to Hermione.

“Firstly, who the fuck do you think you are, you arrogant bitch?” Lavender asked. “Saying your poxy idea of a club would be better than ours?” Lavender took a deep breath, pleased to have that off her (substantial and awesome) chest. “Secondly, we all know you want Head Girl. We know Harry’s going to get Head Boy next year, and we’re all pushing for Susan to get Head Girl.

“You’re more than welcome to push yourself forward for Head Girl, to help more, organise whatever comes to your little obsessive-compulsive mind.

“But what you can’t do is put pressure on Harry to support you as anything more than a friend. You don’t get to use his reputation to push yourself forward, capiche?”

Hermione’s mouth moved, but no sound came out. Lavender nodded at Hestia, who dropped her spell.

“­– not fair,” Hermione finished.

“Actually, we’re being more than fair,” Lavender corrected. “We’ve not told you to do anything other than treat a guy who’s treated you with nothing but respect with the respect he is due.”

Hermione’s mouth closed. “Not to Ginny,” Hermione said after a few seconds of thought.

“Don’t care,” Lavender said brightly. “We’re Harry’s friends, so we get to make sure that he’s spectacularly happy.”

“And if we didn’t, Victoria would probably kill us,” Parvati added dryly.

Lavender giggled. “Yeah. Anyway, I’m glad we had this little chat, bitches,” she finished as she hopped off the table and swanned out. She led the way back to their club room, an appropriated classroom, and burst into laughter as soon as Fay shut the door behind them.

“Damn, Lav, harsh much?” Parvati asked with a smile that took the sting out of her words.

“Hey, we’ve been preached at by Hermione for years, I was happy to get some of that of my chest,” she defended herself playfully. “And Ginevra just bugs me.”

“I think,” Hestia said, “that we should commence with operation Get Harry A Girlfriend immediately.”

“Just in case Ginny doesn’t listen and discovers that you were lying to her,” Flora finished.

“You think?” Lavender asked.

“Your performance was brilliant,” Fay said, “but why take a chance?”

Lavender nodded thoughtfully. “You sure that none of you want the spot? I mean, I kinda do, but kinda don’t as well.”

Parvati smiled softly, “Because it’s not about you, it’s about what’s best for Harry?”

“Yeah. I mean, I think it would be good, but not great.”

“Flo and I don’t want a boyfriend yet,” Hestia said with a shrug. “It’s nice having a respectful friend who we can talk to, who isn’t out to get into our knickers.”

“Pretty much that,” Fay agreed. “I wouldn’t mind a shot, but …” She paused and shrugged. “But there’s a but somewhere.”

Lavender smiled. “Okay, let’s do it now! We’re on a roll anyway.”

The other girls looked at each other and giggled.

“My turn,” Fay said. “I’ll get Harry with Parvati, Hes, Flo, you get our dear victim. Lav, sort out that room next door, the one with two entrances. Hestia, Parvati, your job is to communicate with Lavender, so she can coordinate us.”

“That’ll do as a plan,” Flora agreed. “Let’s do this!”

The four girls ran off, leaving Lavender alone. She walked into the room next door and smiled. Candles were definitely required. She contemplated transfiguring a bed, but decided not. The girl in question was a sweetie and only fourteen, and Harry was a noble git.

Which was probably why she didn’t want to be his girlfriend. He was far too serious, and would probably fall in the love with his first real girlfriend. She had far too many plans to get tied down early. She wanted to have fun first, and then settle down afterwards.

She grinned to herself. A nice couch, a fireplace, some candles, some tasteful decorations and maybe a bottle of wine. She summoned a House-elf to fetch the wine as she set to work.

She finished and looked at her wristband. The victims were on the way. She lit the candles and the fire, and then retreated back to their club room. She activated the map on the wall, and found the two groups of students and their respective targets.

Hestia and Flora burst into the Slytherin Common Room with gleeful abandon. This was going to be fun.

“You’re late,” Malfoy said, posturing.

Hestia paused, realising that allowing Harry to arrive first would probably be a good thing. “Oh Draco, this is a rather transparent attempt to regain some face in Slytherin,” she pointed out.

“But he’s a Prefect,” Flora pointed out dramatically. “A trusted member of the House, and certainly not in that position because our Head of House has a hard-on for his mummy. I’m sure Snape finds all that blonde hair irresistible.”

“Silence!” Draco yelled. “When my fath-urgh.”

“Hes,” Flora sighed. “We could have wound him up for minutes still.”

Hestia retracted her knee from where it had slammed into Draco’s crotch with vigour. “He bores me. And I’m in a good mood.” Hestia looked at Crabbe and Goyle. “Be good trolls and throw this piss-ant into bed,” she ordered.

The two grumbled but did as ordered.

“Now then,” Hestia said. “As we were?”

“Wait, rub your eyes,” Flora said, “make them red.” Flora did as she suggested, and Hestia followed suit. “Now pinch me, hard.”

Getting her twin’s point; she did as requested and allowed the tears to flow as she was pinched back. “Ow! Fuck! That was my nipple, you bitch!” Flora giggled. Hestia rolled her eyes at her sister. “Ready?”

Flora nodded. “Yes.”

The two of them dashed down the spiral staircase to the fourth year girls’ dorm. They burst into the darkened room and dashed over to Astoria’s bed. “Tori,” Hestia said, grabbing the girl’s shoulder.

The girl awoke with a gasp and squinted in the low light. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s Harry,” Flo cried dramatically. “He needs you.”

Astoria jumped out of bed. She was in long, flowing, white nightgown that clung to her form delicately, of exactly the sort Hestia would expect a princess to wear. She started to run out, ignoring the facts that her feet were bare, and that what she was wearing was not suitable for anyone but her future husband to see.

And while the package was one of an incredibly innocent and unknowing sexuality, it wasn’t something that Hestia was willing to allow to be shared by anyone other than Harry.

“Slippers and gown, quick,” Hestia snapped.

Astoria paused her flight, and did as she was told, her face a study in worry. Any doubt about getting these two together flew from Hestia’s mind. The complete disregard for an entire lifetime’s lessons in propriety, on just the word that Harry was in trouble spoke of far deeper feelings than just friendship.

As much as Hestia loved Harry, if she’d been woken up, she’d have asked some questions first, and then got dressed. And certainly wouldn’t have had the panic visible as Astoria thrust her arms into the gown and her feet into her slippers.

Of course, Hestia knew just what a vicious little bugger the boy could be, and it was very unlikely that she wouldn’t know about it beforehand, if some serious shit was going down.

Flora took Astoria’s hand and pulled the girl away. That didn’t last long, as Astoria overtook and dragged Flora out. Flora sent her a look that made Hestia giggle silently. She wondered if Fay was having as much fun.

Fay entered the Common Room, diving through the portrait hole. She rolled and came to her feet. She looked around, to see Harry talking to Ron in a corner.

“Harry!” she said, placing herself in front of Ron.

“What’s up, Fay?”

“Tori’s in trouble, she needs you!”

“Where is she?”

“The room next to the left of our club room.”

Harry didn’t hesitate as he ran toward the portrait, Ron gesturing for Harry to go at the same time. He jumped and slid feet first through it, in a move that must have had magical assistance. Fay followed him, and was grateful she’d taken her time getting here. It was so typical of the boy to just react.

She dived through the portrait hole as well and followed him, catching up with Parvati. The Indian girl was whispering into her bracelet as she ran.

“We need to slow him down by a few seconds,” Parvati whispered. As they ran down some stairs, Fay squealed and threw herself down the last half-a-flight of stairs.

Harry skidded to a stop and returned to her, crouching. “You okay?” he asked, concern shining through his green eyes, his hand going to her shoulder. She could practically feel the concern radiating from him.

“Twisted my ankle,” she whimpered. She took a deep breath. “I’ll be fine. Go!”

“Are you sure?”


He nodded and started to run again.

“Ouch,” she said to her friend. She pulled her skirt up a little and looked at the scrape from where she’d landed on her knee during her dramatic award-winning dive.

“Let me get that,” Parvati said with a grin. “Nice fall.” She pulled out her wand and produced a flawless healing charm.

“Thanks, Parvati.” Fay stood, tested her knee, and the two of them ran after Harry.

They saw Harry enter the room, and as the door swung shut behind him, they locked and barricaded it, before joining Lavender.

Hestia kept her bracelet to her ear, as Flora panted and slowed Astoria a bit.

It looked like their timing was perfect. Hestia dashed forward and arrived at the door first. She opened it, and glanced at her sister. As Astoria barged past, Hestia adroitly undid the haphazardly tied belt on the gown, while Flora grabbed the back of it.

Astoria hardly seemed to notice as she allowed it to slip off, clearly unwilling to be delayed any more.

Hestia slammed the door shut and locked it firmly, and then barricaded it shut with Flora’s help. When they had finished she turned and high-fived her twin and headed into their meeting room. She noticed Fay and Parvati enter together and the five of them met in an enthusiastic hug, before they started to laugh.

“Tori, what’s wrong?” Harry asked, as he burst into the room, and moved over to the brunette girl.

“Harry, what’s wrong, how can I help?” Astoria asked at the same time. She had a concerned look on her face, and for the first time he could remember, her light brown hair was loose and hanging down her back.

He shook himself and paused. “Tori?” he asked. “Were you told that I was in trouble?”

“Yes, I came immediately,” she agreed.

He moved past her, and checked the door. It was locked. He groaned softly as he realised what had happened.


“Tori,” he replied softly. “Look around.”

She did, and he could see the confusion on her face as she looked at the candles on most of the surfaces, the flickering wood fire in the fireplace, and the large red couch in front of the fire.

She looked back at him; the shadows making her eyes seem larger as the candlelight’s reflection sparkled in her eyes.

“I was talking to Ron, when Fay came in and said you needed me,” he explained.

“I was asleep, when Hestia and Flora woke me and said you were in trouble,” Astoria said breathlessly.

Harry suddenly realised exactly what Astoria was wearing, and it took every bit of his willpower not to stare. He pulled off his robe and offered it to her. She looked blankly at him, and then down at herself and squeaked. Her face darkened in a blush and she took them. “Thank you,” she whispered, clutching the robe to her front.

“The doors are locked,” he explained. “I presume our friends thought this was a good idea,” he murmured.

Astoria held the robe in front of her. “Why?” she asked.

Harry cast an unlocking spell on the door and tried it – it was still jammed. He took a deep breath and rammed his magic at the door. The door sprang open noisily.

“Egeria damn it,” Lavender said as she appeared in the doorway, her hands on her hips. “Stop being such a bloody noble git.” She exhaled violently, forcing a lock of her hair to fly out of her eye line.

Harry blinked at her, not having expected the verbal attack.

“Some of your closest friends have pulled a beautiful girl out of bed, arranged for you both to be locked in a room, so you can get to know each other properly. Now turn around, sit down on the very nice couch I transfigured for you, and get to know that very pretty girl who was so willing to break all the protocols she was raised with on the merest hint that you needed her.

“Yes, you’re worried about her reputation. We’re not; as the five of us will swear that we were chaperones all night.

“No, you’re not going to pressure her into anything she doesn’t want, because as we’ve already established, you’re an overly honourable git.

“Now turn around, sit down, tell Astoria that’s she the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen, drink some of the rather nice wine I chose for you, and be a bloody teenage boy and not some ridiculously chaste storybook character!

“And no more bloody magic” Lavender slammed the door shut dramatically.

Harry growled at the door and then stared at it, contemplating just blasting it open again.

“Would it be so very unpleasant to be with me?” Astoria asked softly into the silence.

Harry turned to face her, “I’m sorry?” he asked. She was looking down, her face still red in the light of the candles and fire.

“To spend time with me, would that be so very unpleasant?”

“Of course not,” he said immediately.

Astoria turned slowly, and Harry couldn’t help his eyes drifting down her form to her bum. She moved over the couch and sat down, popping her feet out of her silver slippers. She draped his robes over her front.

Harry moved over and sat next to her, making sure he was far enough away on the couch, without seeming too far.

“Drink?” he blurted to break the silence.

“I think that would be good,” she admitted. “For both of us.”

Feeling inexplicably nervous, Harry stood and opened the wine, using his magic in lieu of a corkscrew. He poured them a small glass of the red wine each, and handed Astoria a glass.

He sat down again, and looked at Astoria. She took a small sip of the wine, and then twisted herself so that she was facing him, her legs curled in front of her. She had incredibly dainty feet with no sign of any nail polish on her delicate toes.

He shifted as well, locking his left leg over his right ankle as he settled back, his right leg bent across the crouch comfortably.

He blushed as he couldn’t think of anything to say. The silence seemed endless. Astoria licked her lips quickly, met his eyes, blushed and looked down.

Harry groaned softly. “Victoria would kill me if she could see this.”

“She’s not that bad,” Astoria whispered.

“Of course not,” Harry agreed, “just don’t tell her we know that.”

Astoria giggled and looked up shyly, a lock of her hair falling over her face. Harry had the urge to reach forward and brush it back.

“Why do you find it hard to talk to me like this?” she asked, still looking down.

Harry opened his mouth and then shut it. Why did he have such trouble? He talked to girls all the time. Admittedly, not girls that were so beautiful, with amazing eyes and hair he wanted to stroke, and definitely not girls who’d he’d just discovered wore beautiful nightgowns to sleep, nightgowns that revealed she didn’t sleep in a bra, as the thin straps that held the gown up could simply not cover up a bra strap.

He took another sip of the wine, and decided to be honest. “Because I’m scared of making a fool of myself, as I’ve just realised just how much I value your opinion,” he finished in a rush.

Her lips curled slightly into a soft smile. “Please, do not think that I am unaffected by the same concerns,” she said, her voice still so soft that he could barely hear her over the occasional crackling of the logs in the fireplace. “But rest assured that your reputation with me is such that it would be quite impossible for me to think of you in a negative manner.”

“I’m sorry that they did this,” he said. “If they were so determined to throw us together, they could have done this at any time, not when you were asleep.”

“I do not mind,” she said, raising her chin slightly and giving him a quick glance. “I admit that this is not my preferred mode of public dress, but the room is romantic, and I do wish to get to know you better.”

Harry felt his heart rate increase slightly at the minor confession.

“And I think I do know why they have done it like this.”

“Oh?” he asked.

“After the meeting earlier, I overheard Lavender begging for permission to be the one to talk to Granger and the female Weasley.”

“Why would she want to do that?” Harry asked, leaning forward slightly.

“We are aware that Granger wants to be Head Girl. Our prefects have told me that she has stated her preference in the prefects’ meetings. Perhaps not directly, but she would ask too many questions of Heidi and Marcus. I believe that Lavender really wanted to pass the message that we would not accept her pressuring you to campaign on her behalf. Of course, Lavender, and I, and the rest, would be happy if you chose to do so on your own behest.”

Harry nodded slowly. He was aware that his friends were as protective of him as he was of them, and while he perhaps wished they had left it, he could not fault them for being proactive. “And Ginny?”

“Weasley has long made it clear that she would like nothing more than to be in the fortunate position that I find myself in now.”

“Wait, Ginny fancies me? I thought she had given up on me and was with Dean?”

“As much as I dislike rumour and gossip, I am aware that the current rumour is that she is planning on separating from Thomas, so that she might advance her dreams.”

Harry once again found himself focusing on Astoria’s cute toes, and as he did, he tried to picture Ginny sat in front of him like this. There was no way that Ginny could pull of this enchanting mixture of nervousness, bravery, formality, and cuteness at the same time.

“I believe that Lavender, with assistance, told Weasley to back off, before arranging this intimate rendezvous between the two of us.”

Harry nodded his agreement. On the down side, his friends had chased off a girl who had really nice red hair, whom he had known for a while, and who could play Quidditch.

On the up side, they had him sat here, with Astoria, who had managed to captivate him with her intelligence, poise, calmness, and the feeling he got when he managed to make her laugh, or poke her tongue out at him. A feeling that had been growing since they were introduced her third day at Hogwarts.

“Well,” he said dryly, “I guess I shall just have to forgive them. And perhaps get them a present.”

Astoria looked up in surprise.

“I do find Ginny attractive,” he confessed, then continued, rolling his eyes at himself. “But I realize that I am a healthy, sixteen-year-old boy with no girlfriend and Ginny is not hideously repulsive, so my finding her attractive may not mean much. And who knows, I might have been happy with her. But I can say honestly that I do not know of anyone I would rather be sat here with.”

Astoria gasped softly. “Do you truly mean that?”

“I do,” he said. And he wasn’t lying.

“Oh,” she said. “I am glad. And I am grateful too, for I have wished to approach you for a while.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“It’s not done, my Lord,” she said as she looked down. “I am of lesser rank than you.”

“Tori, you’re a Pure-blood witch with an impeccable linage. More than that, you managed to learn a fourth year spell on your third day at Hogwarts.”

“I am but a second daughter, my Lord,” Astoria contradicted. “While your matriarchal line is short, your patriarchal lineage is second to none, but above that, you will soon be made Pure-blood by decree when you attain your majority. In addition, you are marked as the Black heir apparent. While I know you are not fond of the moniker, you are also renowned as the Boy-Who-Lived, and I have nothing but the utmost faith that you will soon defeat that deplorable monster.

“I am merely a girl who feels a little anachronistic, and who, even now, is fighting the memories of the rules she was brought up on, but is excited by the daring she is showing in doing so.”

“What are these rules? That is, what rules are you, Astoria Elizabeth Greengrass, supposed to follow? I know that each family appears to have their own variation to the rules of courtship, so what are you supposed to do and what can I do without making you uncomfortable?” he asked, wanting to get away from the subject of any supposed ennoblement on his part.

“A proper girl should never approach one of higher rank, unless being introduced by a mutual friend. I should only be introduced to you with your permission. I am reliant on you maintaining the relationship to start with. I should never walk alone, nor be in a closed carriage with a man who I am not related to. And of course, I must be pure and chaste.” She paused, and a flicker of distaste flashed across her face. “Intelligence is not encouraged,” she added.

“As much as I can respect some of that, I’m a 20th century boy, raised by reprehensible Muggles, so I’ve developed my own rules and standards,” Harry stated. “And I could never be interested in a doormat. The things that I like about you are how smart you are, how easily you pick up charms and how good you are at potions. I like the way your eyes light up when you learn something, the impish look you get in your eyes when I get you to laugh, and the feeling I get when I get a reaction out of you.”

Astoria met his eyes for the first time, surprise on her face. “I do try to overcome my upbringing,” she whispered. “Some of it, at least.”

Harry nodded. “There are parts that are just you,” he agreed. He grinned. “How about we come up with our own rules of courtship?”

“You want to court me?” she asked, her heart appearing to leap into her eyes as she clasped her hands in front of the elegant curve of her neck.

Rather than give a flippant answer, Harry took the time to think about it. Courting Astoria wouldn’t be a quick thing; it wouldn’t be a date down Hogsmeade and a quick snog. It would be slow paced, as they got to know each other, before, if it went well, an engagement.

But the slowness could be good, as it meant that they would really get to know each other. He wasn’t really interested in dating for dating’s sake. He wasn’t looking for casual fun, as he craved a real relationship more than practically anything else.

“I do.”

It felt like he could see sparkling hearts in her eyes. “I would very much like to be courted,” she said.

He grinned at her. “So shall we negotiate the courtship of the beautiful Astoria.”

“We shall,” she replied with a small grin of her own.

“I would like to be able to hold your hand, to hug you occasionally and maybe after a while, the odd little kiss,” he said as his initial offering.

Astoria looked surprised. “Is that it?” she asked with the faintest curl of her upper lip. “You wouldn’t like to, well,” her blush erupted, “be more intimate?”

“So bold,” he teased gently. “This is a courtship, not dating,” he went on. “If the courtship goes well, we shall end up in our marriage bed, with my ring on your finger, and your hair draped over my pillow.”

Amazingly, her blush seemed to increase further. “Those terms seem overly in my favour. I am aware of how people act these days,” she said. “Did not Lavender entreat you to avoid being a ridiculously chaste storybook character?”

Harry felt his cheeks heat up. “She did,” he agreed.

“Then shall we agree that your terms are a good start, but that we should add real kisses into the mix?”

“I thought that I would be one trying to persuade you.”

“As much as I do appreciate you trying to accommodate my anachronistic views, I believe I should attempt to match your modern views as well. Furthermore, I have desires of my own, and as much as I am not ready for complete intimacy, real kisses appear quite approachable.”

Harry nodded.

“In summation, we shall embark on a more modern courtship and work toward your suggested goal?”

As his stated goal was Astoria in his bed with his ring on her finger, he nodded.

Hestia reached for the popcorn. “Good for Tori,” she said, around a mouthful, as she watched the private conversation on the painting in front of her, with absolutely no sense of guilt.

“Yeah,” Fay agreed, “she’s going to be good for him. He was far too eager to head into the slow courtship thing that didn’t put any social pressure on him.”

“For all the improvements we’ve made in his confidence, deep inside he’s still that little scared boy that we first met,” Lavender said sadly. “I’m beginning to think we should have done this in a few months’ time, and let me have a go at him first.”

“Why?” Flora asked.

“Because I’d’ve quite happily fucked some relationship-based confidence into him.”

Hestia spat the mouthful of popcorn halfway across the room, and started to choke on a kernel she inhaled. Fay slapped her on the back until the kernel popped out. “Lavender!” Hestia looked around to see her sister and Parvati looking just as shocked as she was.

“At least this way, Astoria will know that they are learning together,” Fay suggested. “And by the looks of it, Astoria will be open to some advice.”

“Yeah,” Lavender agreed. “We also need to find out where he used to live.”

“Why?” Hestia squeaked.

“So I can, slowly and thoroughly, hurt the people who made him like this.”

“Oh. Agreed. We’ll get Victoria to find out,” Flora agreed.

“So yeah, watching this is a weird mixture of sweet, frustration and sadness,” Lavender sighed. “Tori’s right, I mean, about his lineage, and he’s awesome at magic, and can run a class like no one else in school, but seriously, holding hands and a few kisses? His self-image has gotta be poor, and that fucking massive ‘thinking of others’ gland of his would drive me nuts after a few months. It’s a basic human right to think of yourself before others.

“And you can almost see that he’s thinking of marriage. He said it outright. The dude is sixteen!”

“It’s very sweet,” Parvati said. “And look, he’s asked to see pictures. I’ll bet that’s gonna make him even more determined. Just imagine how obnoxiously sweet a little girl with Tori’s features and his eyes would be.”

The five girls imagined, and then sighed. “As long as she gets her mother’s hair,” Flora added. “His hair would be a disaster for the poor girl.”

“The kid is going to get spoiled rotten. So many aunts,” Lavender said. “Especially as I’ll bet they go down the early kids route.”

“Very spoilt,” Hestia agreed. “I don’t want kids until I’m in my thirties. Having a little niece that I can cuddle, spoil, have fun with, fill with sugar and soft-drinks, and then dump with the parents at the end of the day sounds perfect.”

There was a synchronous giggle of agreement, before they went back to doing some remote chaperoning of the first date.

Astoria thanked the House-elf that had fetched one of her mother’s photo albums, and sat upright, the album on her lap.

Harry slid himself next to her, so he could see clearly. It was the closest he’d been, and he was incredibly aware of the pressure of her arm against his and the – possibly imagined – warmth of her thigh as it pressed against his.

“Ah, this was me on my way to my first party with my peers,” she said, showing him a picture of her in a formal gown. Her brown hair barely reached her shoulders, and her eyes were wide to match her beaming smile. “I was five.”

“And really cute,” he agreed.

“I do confess I thought that the frilly dress was far too fussy for me. But when I wore it, I do remember feeling pretty.”

“All Hallow’s eve,” she explained as she turned the page in the album. This time she was dressed in mini formal robes, in green and silver.

“Were you parents planning ahead with the colours?”

“Oh, no, green was always my favourite colour. Mother was a Ravenclaw, father a Gryffindor. Daphne always liked the colour red. She stopped when she grew up and she decided that she would be a Slytherin.”

Harry nodded, and blinked as his robe, that was still clutched to her, dropped forward. Astoria absently moved it out of the way, and turned the page. Only Harry was now very aware that the position he was in allowed him to see a little way down her top, and it took every piece of willpower he had not to just stare.

He was aware that he was responding to her words, and hoped he was making sense, because he could not take his eyes away from the shadow made by the top of her gown as it fell away from her chest.

“Oh, that little minx,” Flora praised.

“You know, I can’t decide if she’s really that innocent, or if she’s by far the cleverest of the lot of us,” Lavender complained. “I mean, she didn’t put his robes on, like anyone else would have, and she took the opportunity to get rid of it. But, she’s not making any obvious moves to draw his attention there.”

“Look at the poor boy’s face,” Fay giggled. “He really wants to stare, but is trying too hard to be honourable and not do so.”

“It must be innocent,” Lavender eventually stated.


“No poking-out bits in that gown.”

“It could be charmed,” Hestia said.

“There are nightgowns with anti-nipple charms?” Fay asked. “Who would invent such a thing?”

“A Victorian society with a massively repressed sexuality?” Lavender replied immediately. “And you could be right, Hes. That’s definitely a princess gown, pure white, silk with a modest lace neckline, and worth at least forty galleons.”

“That’s a lot of money for a gown,” Fay said. “It’s more expensive than any of my dresses.”

“The Greengrasses are one of the wealthier families, Fay,” Hestia said. “And with how well Astoria’s been doing this past year, I’m sure she has access to more money than practically any other kid at Hogwarts.”

Fay whistled slowly. “So, either she’s innocently showing some pictures of her childhood to a boy who’s trying really hard not to stare at her tits, or she knows exactly what she is doing, and is reeling the boy in?”

“Exactly. At least if there was a physical reaction, we’d know,” Lavender grumped. The two finished looking through the book, and retook their positions, if a little closer than before.

The five of them learnt a lot more about their friends, and then took an oath to never share what they had learnt, as they were now feeling a little guilty about their spying.

“Wait a second,” Fay suddenly blurted into the silence.

“What?” Lavender asked.

“Look at Astoria, closely.” She pointed to the image – a life-size view of the two of them, from the picture above the fireplace. Now that they were facing the fireplace, it was easier to see in more detail.

The girl, despite being sat next to Harry, was managing to look up at him, her eyes wide and clear, and perhaps appearing a little bigger than natural.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Lavender whispered. “She’s wearing makeup!”

“This doesn’t make sense,” Hestia protested. “I can just about accept that she sleeps in that gown normally, but in makeup as well? There is no way that she sleeps in makeup, she cares too much for her skin.”

“That means that tonight isn’t a surprise,” Parvati pointed out. “She must have known.”

“But we didn’t know,” Flora re-joined.

“Are we that predictable?” Lavender asked.

“Millicent,” Fay stated. “She knew about operation Get-Harry-A-Girlfriend, and she knew that we were talking to Weasley and Granger, and she’s offered her support to the idea of Astoria being a good match for Harry.”

“And now that I think about it,” Hestia mused, “Astoria was nowhere around earlier when we mentioned we were going to talk to them, but Milli was.”

“So, we think that Millicent told Astoria, and our little Tori put on some eyeliner and eye shadow, her best nightgown, and waited?”

There was a series of nods.

“And now, she’s consciously sitting there, allowing him to fixate on the gap at the top of her gown, showing him pictures of how cute she was as a child.”

“And done it while seeming a demure princess to Harry.”

“That girl’s got talent,” Hestia stated.

“I’m feeling like a rank amateur,” Flora agreed. “And I’ve made a mental note to talk to her when I find someone I want to land.”

“Agreed,” Lavender said. “I am going to keep an eye on her, though, make sure she doesn’t abuse this power.”

“Agreed,” the other girls chorused, before settling down and watching what they now knew was a masterpiece of innocent seduction.

Harry awoke with a start, to find he’d drifted off. Astoria was spread out on the conjured couch, her head on his lap. He remembered stroking her hair before he fell asleep.

She was breathing softly, lying on her side. He could make out half of her face in the soft red glow of the fire that had almost reduced itself to embers.

Last night had been amazing. They’d talked for hours, about everything they could think off. Their hopes and dreams, their childhoods, anything and everything that would allow them to learn more about each other.

They’d finished their wine, and laughed in embarrassment as they’d both had to use some charms as there was no bathroom in the room. Neither of them had wanted the evening to end, so they had continued the charade of them being locked together in the room.

He examined his feelings and realised he’d meant what he’d said last night – well, before he’d lost most of his ability to form coherent thoughts due to his new-found obsession with her boobs. He was pleased that Victoria had been right, and that Astoria had clearly charmed the boob-fairy into understanding the importance of ratio, proportion and general shape as being more important than pure size.

He did want to have a relationship with this girl. She had everything he wanted in a girl: looks, personality, mind, a kind nature, everything. And she’d been totally adorable as a child, and he hoped that if they had children, they would look like her.

He looked up as the door opened and a yawning Hestia and Flora walked in. “We need to get the princess back to her room,” Flora said.

“Tori,” he called softly, giving in to the urge to stroke her face.

Astoria’s eyes flickered open, and she shifted to look up at him. She smiled at him, and he felt like he could see her soul in her eyes. “My Lord,” she whispered. “I am so pleased it was not an excellent dream.”

“Me, too,” he agreed softly. “Hestia and Flora are here to smuggle you back to your room.”

She pouted softly. “I feel like I should be vexed with them on principle. However, I am finding it difficult to be so.”

“I think that we should let them off for now,” Harry suggested.

Astoria sat up slowly. She stood, put her slippers on and then curtseyed to him, forcing Harry to try not to stare at her body. “Thank you, my Lord. Your warmth helped me enjoy my repose more so than normal.”

“Astoria,” he said softly. He had to hide a shiver at the subtle possessiveness in her term of affection. “Do you have any doubts?”

“Not a single one.”

“Does that make you my Lady?” he asked.

“It has long been a dream of mine for you to declare those words to me, filled with possessiveness,” she said softly.

He stood, and looked down at her, her soft blue eyes staring up at him so wide open. He reached down and kissed her on the forehead. “My Lady,” he whispered intently, putting the same emphasis on the first part as she had. He pulled back, and watched her reaction.

Her smile was brilliant, before she turned and moved into the dressing gown the twins held up for her, and as he expected, she left without looking back.

As the door slammed shut, he punched the air, and did a small dance. He’d scored an amazing girlfriend! He danced over to his robes and donned them, before opening the now-unblocked other door, and headed to the shower. He didn’t feel like going back to bed, so he was ready for the day to start.

After the shower, he headed back to the clubroom, checked that Astoria was safely in bed, and started to plan their next Society meeting. As much as he appreciated what Hestia, Flora, Lavender, Parvati and Fay had done, they had crossed several lines, and he was going to ensure that they were his practice partners for the rest of the year. With the next meeting planned, he wrote a quick letter to Victoria about his new girlfriend, and headed up to see Hedwig. She was happy to see him, and listened as he told her about Astoria. With a bark, she set off to deliver the letter. He then pulled out his mirror and woke Sirius. He ignored the loud grumblings – Sirius was not much of a human before midday, so that he could deliver his news to his Godfather.

As it was finally time for breakfast, he headed down to the Great Hall, mingling with the stream of Gryffindors he met half-way.

With luck, he managed to time it so that he arrived just after Astoria.

“Tori,” he called.

She paused in her journey to the Slytherin House table. She turned and smiled brightly at him. “My Lord,” she said, curtseying once more.

As much as he wanted to embrace her, he was aware of protocol. “My Lady,” he said firmly. “You look enchanting this morning.”

There was the almost expected series of gasps at the respect and title he gave Astoria. A noticeable blush arose on her cheeks. “Thank you, my Lord,” she said.

Unable to resist, he moved forward and captured her hand. “Please, my darling Astoria, join me at lunch for a picnic by the lake? I’m sure some of our friends will act as suitable chaperones.”

“I would be delighted,” she said into the silence.

“Until then,” he said, reluctantly letting her hand go.

She curtseyed again, and turned, resuming her stroll to the table, only for her to be intercepted by a posse of excited and squealing girls from several Houses. He spent a few moments watching, feeling both saddened and pleased that once again her hair was immaculately braided. Saddened because he loved how her hair looked loose, pleased because it meant that he would be the only one to see her so informally.

The possessiveness of the thought surprised him, even as it warmed his heart.

He made his way over to the Gryffindor table, slipping in next to Ron and Lavender, on Ron’s left. Lavender smirked at him.

“Don’t say it,” he told her. “I should be irritated at you.”

“Nah, you love me too much for that. So, you and our little princess?”

“Not that it’s much of your business, but we are at the nascent stage of courtship.”

Lavender’s smile grew. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you. Now, as you owe me, what’s her favourite chocolate, and when’s her birthday? Oh, and you, Parvati, Fay, Hestia, and Flora are chaperoning our picnic at lunch time.”

Lavender’s smile became a smirk. “We do, and we are, are we?”

“Well, it’s that, or I get irritated and we have an extra-long duelling demonstration at the next Society meeting.”

“December the first, and rose-flavoured Turkish delight,” Lavender answered immediately.

“Thanks,” he said. “Morning,” he added, as he turned and spoke to Ron and Hermione, who was opposite Ron. Ginny was sitting to Hermione’s left.

“A courtship?” Ron asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said, still buzzing at the idea. “With Astoria.”

“Wait, Greengrass, the Slytherin?” Ron asked.

“Yes, Ron,” Harry said.

“Oh,” he muttered. “Erm, congrats, and all that. Isn’t a courtship a bit, well, old fashioned?”

Harry smiled at his friend. “A little,” he agreed.

“Better you than me,” Ron said. He grinned. “She is good looking.”

“I think so as well,” he agreed. He met Ron’s eyes for a second, and they shared a ‘boy’ moment.

“Erm, congratulations,” Hermione said, a little thinly.

“Thanks,” he agreed. He was about to ask her a question when he became aware of someone standing behind him. He turned. “Professor Babbling?” he asked.

“You’re a hard boy to get a hold of at times,” she said, as she folded her arms under her chest. “I went back to my class schedule after your little presentation yesterday, and I noticed that your name was not on any of my lists of students.”

Harry nodded his agreement warily.

“And yet you were able to knock together a rune cluster with supreme ease, as well as power someone else’s,” she pointed out.

Harry nodded again.

“Am I to believe that your Society practices Runes?”

“Well, no,” he confessed.

“So I am to assume that you were learning from Miss Levenson?”

“Yes,” Harry agreed. “It is still Victoria’s favourite subject. She was most displeased that I wasn’t taking Runes, so spent some time this summer expressing her displeasure at me. I agreed to study with her, if only so she’d stop banging on about them.”

“I see,” Babbling said. “And of course, you wouldn’t want to disappoint Miss Levenson, would you?”

“No,” he said, backing up slightly.

“Excellent,” she said with a triumphant grin, “then you’ll have no problem joining our seventh year class, will you? I’ve already checked that it doesn’t conflict with your schedule.”

Harry paused and gave her a long look. He was, admittedly, in a good mood, otherwise her high-handed decision to increase his work-load would have rankled far more than it currently did. “I am supposed to have more time to run the Society,” he pointed out.

Babbling’s confident front shifted slightly. Harry could see her cheeks darken slightly. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. She took a deep breath. “Harry, I’d love for you to join my seventh year class. I know you’ve got the theory down already, and the seventh year is where we experiment with runes and really push the boat out, I can promise that you’ll learn much more about practical rune uses than you can dream of right now.

“I want you in my class because Miss Levenson gave an appraisal of your current level, and your idea of pre-powering runes is mind-blowing. Please, Harry, let me help fulfil your potential, and let me at the same time learn from you.”

Harry thought about it for a few seconds.

“I promise no homework!”

He chuckled and nodded his agreement.

Babbling clapped her hands together excitedly. She handed him a piece of parchment with his new schedule on it and practically skipped off.

Ron sniggered quietly.

“Oh, quiet you,” Harry grumped.

“That’s so unfair,” Hermione said with a pout.

“Oh, don’t you start with fairness,” Lavender’s voice cut across the table.

Hermione blushed. “Sorry,” she muttered.

“Victoria loves Runes,” Harry said. “And considering I was living with her and her family, I could hardly say no. She inherited her mother’s skill at it, and her dad wasn’t half bad either.”

“So that’s where you stayed over the summer?” Ron asked. “With the Levensons?”


“Bit posh, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “But nice house and incredible wards.”

“Bill’s talked about them before,” Ron agreed. “He was on a penetration test team a few years ago, said they were the best he’d seen.”

“You can see why I was happy to stay there.”

“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “I’ll bet you didn’t have to spend half the time cleaning that dump up.”

“You do know that you can do magic at Grimmauld Place?”

“That’s illegal,” Hermione said.

Harry shrugged. “And undetectable behind wards, especially the Fidelius.”

“You can say that’s unfair,” Lavender told Hermione.

Harry shot a grin at Lavender, amused by that. “So yeah, when I wasn’t visiting friends, I spent it playing with magic with them.”

“You could have visited us,” Ginny said.

“Your mother would have called Dumbledore, and we’d have ended up fighting as he wanted me to stay with you,” Harry pointed out.

“Which would have been kidnapping,” Lavender sniffed. “Far better he spent it well away from you guys. It was nice to have him visit. Although not as nice as what he did for Heidi’s family,” she added with a laugh.

“Hush you,” he said, “and pass some yoghurt.”

Lavender reached over and placed a scoop from the raspberry yoghurt bowl into a smaller bowl and handed it to him. She then put him together a plate of fruit and out it in front of him. “House-elf, can we get Harry some scrambled egg, please, on brown toast.”

“Erm,” Ron said in the small silence.

“Oh, Harry’s got a bad habit of skipping breakfast, but he’s far too polite to say no if I arrange it for him,” Lavender said brightly.

“I was going to have breakfast,” Harry pointed out.

“Rabbit food,” Lavender dismissed. “Now eat up, it’s up to your lady to faint dramatically so you can carry her, not the other way around. You’d look ridiculous.”

Harry snorted at the mental image. “True. Though I can’t help but find the idea of Astoria’s carrying me, while swearing like a dockworker, amusing.” He finished off the yoghurt and the devoured the melon and blackberries. As he finished, a plate of scrambled eggs appeared for him. “Thank you,” he said to the thin air, which appeared to quiver in delight.

He ignored Hermione’s disapproving glare as he ate the food the elf had made for him.

When finished, he placed his cutlery down. “Transfiguration first?”

“Dibs on Harry as my partner,” Parvati called.

"I need to pop to my dorm first," Harry told her, "so I'll see you there."  He walked out, he needed to talk to Sirius again.

The door to the Charms classroom opened, and a nervous-looking first year entered. “Professor Flitwick?”


“Miss Greengrass, Sir. Her parents are here. Professor McGonagall sent me to get her.”

“Thank you. Two points to Hufflepuff. Miss Greengrass, off you trot.”

Astoria nodded as she packed up her class materials. She wondered what her parents wanted, as it was extremely unusual for parents to visit the school. She followed the first year out of the classroom, and suddenly realised that it was a scheme of her big sister to get her in trouble.

How boringly predictable of Daphne.

She greeted her parents and sister formally, and they moved into one of the public meeting rooms. She waited for her mother to sit, before she sat as well.

Her father was looking stern, while Daphne was looking a little smug. Her mother was unreadable, which was what she expected. Astoria had always looked up to her mother the most.

“What’s this I hear about you being out all night, and with a boy no less?”

Really? That was it. That was Daphne’s big play?

“I’m sorry,” Astoria said sweetly. “Are you asking about the three Pure-blood and the two Half-blood chaperones I had, or are you asking about being courted by the heir apparent of House Potter and House Black, the heir who has come up with a way to allow Squibs to make potions and design runes?

“I will confess that I have acquiesced to my Lord’s desire to a courtship. Traditionally, he should have asked permission first, but my Lord was raised outside our culture, so I have simply allowed a few adjustments to the rules of courtship to ensure that I do not lose out on such a promising wizard simply due to a lack of upbringing that was in no way his fault.”

Her father’s expression went from stern to thoughtful.

“Of course, Lord Malfoy pledged his support to my Lord’s cause just yesterday,” she added.

Nodding absently, her father stepped back a little. Astoria had to work not to let her smile show. She looked at her mother, who now had a hint of amusement in her eyes. “We talked all night,” she explained. “We shared our childhood. I showed him some pictures, and it was an amazing night.”

“Wait,” her mother said, suddenly scowling. “You showed him pictures of you as a child?”

Astoria blinked, and wondered why her mother was picking up on that part of her statement. “Yes, Mother,” she said clearly. “My first ball, from the third photo album.”

Her mother’s face cleared and she smiled. “That’s okay then. It is a mother’s sacred right to show her daughter’s beau baby pictures.”

“Mother! I’m naked in some of those!”

Her mother just giggled softly. “Tell me about this young man of yours,” she ordered.

“My Lord is arranging a picnic for lunch today, why not join us?” Astoria offered. “I’m sure he would be delighted to talk of affairs with Father, even if it is earlier than normal. You will also be able to meet my chaperones of last night, although, you are of course familiar with Hestia and Flora Carrow.”

Her father, as expected, jumped at the opportunity. “Yes,” he agreed. He suddenly fixed Daphne with a pointed glare. “Who are more than adequate chaperones, information that was not passed on to me.”

“I didn’t know,” Daphne said weakly.

Her father harrumphed in an extremely unimpressed way. Astoria arose from the seat, now confident in her position, and assisted her mother up. She opened the door and allowed her parents to exit first.

She paused and looked at Daphne. “Do anything like this again and I will ensure you are engaged to Malfoy within the day.”

Daphne gasped and paled dramatically. She held up her hands in surrender.

Astoria sent her a scathing look and followed her parents. Ever since Harry had taught her how to return her sister’s objects with a vengeance, Daphne had occasionally tried other avenues of irritating her.

She led the way outside, to find that either Harry’s idea of a picnic was either extremely formal, or he knew her parents were here. There was a large table with an even bigger canopy acting as a sun shade. The table had enough room for ten, and five of the seats were already taken by her friends.

Harry had removed his robes and rolled his sleeves up. Astoria felt her cheeks warm, as he strode over to them with the confidence he always showed to the public. He had the roguish grin she loved so much, and his eyes were sparkling in the early September sun.

“Lord Greengrass,” Harry said with a respectful bow. “Would you care to join us for a spot of lunch?”

“We’d be delighted. I’m Clarence.”

“I’m Harry, of course.”

“This is Clara, my wife.”

“My Lady,” Harry said, as he took the proffered hand of her mother and bowed over it, raising it to his lips but not actually touching. “A friend of mine once said that if you wanted to know what a girl will look like in twenty years, look at her mother. And as I do, all I can think is that if Astoria grows up to be half as beautiful as you, her husband would be a very lucky man indeed.”

Astoria almost tripped at such blatant flirting, her eyes flying to her parents to see how they were going to react to something so outrageous.

To her surprise, her father laughed, as her mother blushed slightly. “You are trouble, Mr Potter,” she stated.

“Nonsense,” Harry said. He looked around conspiratorially, then stage-whispered. “I’m not above abusing my upbringing, mind you.”

“Delighted to meet you, Harry,” her mother said with a warm smile.

“My other daughter, Daphne,” Astoria pulled herself back under control as her father continued the introductions.

“Daphne,” Harry said with a small nod at Daphne’s curtsey. “It is nice to see you out of class.”

“And I believe you are aware of my youngest, Astoria.”

My Lord,” she said, curtseying as deeply as she could.

My Lady,” he said, his tone deeply possessive in a way that sent a shudder through her soul. “It has only been a few hours, and yet I found myself longing for your company in a way I have never experienced.”

Astoria tried really hard not to blush again, but the effect his eyes always had on her returned her to the state before she had learnt self-control. Luckily, her mother’s subtle nudge distracted her before she made a complete fool of herself.

Harry swung dramatically, and offered his arm to her mother. “Come, Clara,” he practically ordered. “You must have a thousand stories of Astoria, and it would be absurdly remiss of me not to hear of them.”

Astoria watched in disbelief as Harry charmed her mother. She took her father’s arm and followed the two.

“I approve,” her Father whispered. “He’s the first person I’ve seen break through your façade, my dear.”

Astoria blinked. She came to a halt and allowed Daphne to walk past them, before she looked up at her father.

“Why do you think I fell in love with your mother?” he asked.

Astoria paused. “Father?” she asked softly. “The first time you talked with mother privately. Were you… did you…” she couldn’t find the question she was so desperate to ask.

“Was I an incoherent mess?”

Astoria felt herself blush, even as she nodded.

“I was a teenage boy with a very pretty witch. Of course I was.”

Astoria smiled at him, before standing on tiptoe and kissing his cheek.

“Go easy on your sister, eh?” he asked. “You inherited the best of both of us, and spent the time learning while Daphne would ride her horses. She’s very jealous of your successes, more so now than ever.”

“I will try,” she promised. “Petty squabbles seem somewhat pointless now.”

“Now that you’ve won,” he agreed.

“Father, if you knew it was a scheme from Daphne, why did you come?”

“And miss visiting you at school?” he retorted. “And a chance to meet young Harry? Don’t be silly. And that’s not to mention that your mother would curse me in my sleep if I didn’t give her the chance to meet the boy our youngest is enamoured with.”

Astoria giggled. She resumed walking, hugging her father’s arm, somewhat aware that it would be one of the last few times she did so. She had another man to hang on to now.

“Victoria pointed it out years ago,” Flora confessed. “We had Harry, this still small third year, helping this cute little first year Slytherin as she was trying to learn a fourth year curse.”

“Flora,” Astoria protested.

“He’d demonstrate it again and again for her, never losing patience, as she struggled for magic that she wasn’t ready for,” Flora continued, ignoring Astoria’s plea. “And when she got it, she gave this cute little jump and bounce while clapping her hands under her chin, before pulling Harry into a hug.

“Victoria looked at the two of them, and said…”

“Those two are disgustingly cute, keep an eye on them!” Flora, Hestia, Fay, Lavender and Parvati all chanted together.

Harry chuckled. “What I remember, is this determined little girl with a massive vocabulary who wanted to learn everything she could. And it became a game for me, to try and break her out of this mature role she’d picked for herself and make her giggle.”

Astoria looked down. “Even as some of the other Gryffindors were mean, Harry always helped me, no matter what I went to him with. Even outside the secrets of our club, he would protect me, and what made it even better was that he treated me the same as everyone else. For once I wasn’t Astoria Greengrass, daughter of an influential family. I was a friend.”

Harry looked at Astoria. “The Society was my haven,” he said. “No one expected me to live up to a stupid moniker.”

“Yeah,” Lavender interrupted, “because the Boy-Who-Lived is silly. We had Harry, and he rocked.”

“Only after a few drinks,” Harry replied with a wink.

Lavender laughed. “Okay, Flo embarrassed Tori. It’s my turn to embarrass Harry.”

Harry groaned and looked Clara. “How about a walk around the lake?” he suggested.

Clara giggled. “Oh no, I want to hear these stories of youthful misdeeds.”

Harry play-groaned and put his head on the table.

“This was at the end of theyear before last,” Lavender said, as she settled back. “We had all the fifth, sixth and seventh years there. Brenda, who was the Head Girl, had brought along some alcohol, to commiserate all the seventh years who were leaving us.”

“Not that they are forgotten,” Hestia interrupted. “We keep in touch with all of our graduated-members.”

“Yeah,” Lavender agreed. “We had some music on, but we weren’t dancing, we were just sat around laughing and joking and our hero here had his first shot of Firewhisky.”

“And choked for about five minutes,” Harry said dryly.

“Yeah,” Fay said with a knowing smirk. “I almost hurt my hand pounding your back.”

“Like a true Gryffindor, Harry kept on the booze with the rest of us. Of course, we all didn’t realise that he’d never touched a drop before. And as he drunk more, we finally got the answer to the question that some of us had been giggling about for years. What sort of drunk was Harry Potter?”

“I had miserable,” Flora said.

“I had happy,” Hestia added.

“I went for amorous,” Parvati said with a touch of embarrassment.

“I’d gone for rowdy,” Fay said.

“And, I,” Lavender finished, “had gone for uninhibited.” She paused. “And we were all wrong. Turns out, the inner Harry is a wannabe-intellectual drunk!”

There was a round of laughter at the table, as Astoria reached over and patted Harry’s hand.

“And he spent the rest of the evening trying to convince us all that the concept of infinity doesn’t exist.”

“I’m sorry,” Clarence asked. “Infinity doesn’t exist?”

“Go on, Harry, you’ve got another person you can try your spiel on,” Lavender suggested.

Harry groaned and looked up. “Okay, you get the concept of infinity?”

“Explain it,” Clara suggested. “Start with pretending your audience doesn’t know anything.”

“Well, I don’t want to cover issues that I teach in my octogenarian Gallus embryo displacement seminar,” Harry replied. “In really short, infinity means endless. And endless means that anything that can happen, will happen, somewhere and somewhen. And by anything, I mean anything, such as this table becoming a Nundu without anyone casting any magic.

“So out there,” he waved toward the sky, “there’s a planet where it rains diamonds, or a planet that’s just like this one, down to the smallest degree, only Tori has black hair.”

“Was that a hint for me to practice my hair charms?” Astoria asked with a smile.

“No,” Harry replied, ignoring the teasing. “I adore your hair colour as it is.” He grinned as Astoria blushed. “Anyway, the chances of this table turning into Nundu is incredibly small. Something like the number 6626 followed by 37 zeros to one. But in an infinite universe, that incredible large number is nothing.” Harry took a sip, and was pleased with the fascinated looks on Astoria’s parents’ faces.

“Moving on. You get the concept of a trillion, a thousand billion?”

Everyone nodded.

“And up from a trillion, you have all sorts of numbers, like googol, which is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. One of the biggest is something called Graham’s number. If you wrote that number out, each character the smallest possible representation – which would actually be the same as the chance of this table turning I mentioned a bit ago – there is not enough space in the universe to contain the number.

“Which means that the universe can’t be infinite, as if there exists a number that can’t be expressed, there is a theoretical limit. Which means I’m safe from random acts of table transformations.”

There was some laughter from the others as he finished.

“Of course, it came out when I was drunk because there are several large holes in my theory. Not least my shoddy understanding of the subject and my failure to realise that we don’t actually know how big the universe is.” He picked up the butterbeer he was drinking and saluted the rest of the table.

Flora smiled. “It was a great night,” she said. “Harry was so relaxed, and he expounded on his theory to all of us, twenty students from all the Houses, and he went into a load more depth.”

“And spent the next day in bad with a massive hangover,” Lavender finished, causing another round of laughter.

Harry chuckled and then turned as he heard something. He blinked in surprise as, in his dog form; his Godfather was sprinting over the grass to them.

As Sirius got near, and before anyone could draw their wands, he leaped, changed shape, and toppled both of them to the ground. “I’m free!”

Harry blinked. “Really?”

“Pettigrew was found, and confessed everything. Fudge was forced to cancel the kiss-on-sight policy, and I’m a free man!”

“That’s great, Sirius!” Harry said from his back. “Now let me up.”

Sirius grinned and Harry felt something pushed into his pocket. Sirius hopped to his feet. He offered Harry his hand. Harry took it and was heaved up. He embraced Sirius quickly, and then conjured him a chair. He suddenly realised he didn’t know who was the senior lord present, and glanced at Astoria. She flicked her eyes to her father, then Sirius.

“Lord Black, I’d like to introduce Lord Greengrass, and his beautiful wife Clara. Next to them are Daphne, and the beautiful Astoria. To the right of Lord Greengrass are Flora and Hestia Carrow, Fay Dunbar, Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown, all good friends of mine.

“This is Lord Sirius Black, my apparently recently exonerated Godfather.”

“Someone’s been swotting on his etiquette,” Sirius said brightly, as he sat down. “Good to see you again, Clarence. And technically, not exonerated, as I was never convicted in the first place. Let’s just say that the revenge is good for my soul, and leave it at that.”

“It is quite a surprise to see you, Sirius,” Clarence said. “I’m inferring that Pettigrew being alive meant that you did not kill those Muggles, or betray the Potters.”

“Exactly,” Sirius agreed, grabbing Harry’s drink. “And of course, as soon as I was free, I had to share it with Harry. But enough about me, there’s some damn fine looking women at this table and only one unattached boy. I’m proud.”

“Technically,” Harry countered, “not unattached. Astoria and I are entering a courtship.”

“No, no, no,” Sirius wailed. “You’re not allowed to end my teasing just like that!”



“I am,” Harry agreed cheerfully.

“Besides, you’re supposed to play the field first before settling down,” Sirius stated.

“And then take a quick look at Astoria, and quick because I get jealous, and point me to a more beautiful girl.”

“That’s impossible, you’re biased.”

“Nope, Astoria is clearly gorgeous.”

Sirius pulled out his wand and conjured himself a flat beret. “Putting on my politics hat,” he said, donning the hat at the same time, “I can’t help but notice what a political powerhouse a family comprising of Potter, Black and Greengrass would be.”

Harry reached across and snagged the hat, before standing, walking around the table and placing it on Astoria’s head. He re-took his seat and looked encouragingly at Astoria.

“Well,” she murmured, the beret making her look even more adorable than usual. “I could point out that I’m a Pure-blood, so have that faction on my side, that I’ll be married to a Half-blood, so would have the moderates, and be married to a hero, so would have the public, that I’m going to be completely in love, so I’ll have the women, and Harry’s been teaching me how to fight, so I’ll have the men, and Minister for Magic Astoria Potter does have a nice ring to it.”

Most of the table gaped at her, apart from Harry who was laughing softly. Astoria smiled cutely and pulled the hat off. “But that’s talk for the future.”

“Not shy, is she?” Sirius said. He shook himself and grabbed his hat.

“Dobby, the food, please.”

The table in front of them was suddenly full of outstanding picnic food, without a dodgy sandwich or half-baked quiche in sight. Harry paused to allow the girls to fill up first, before filling his own plate along with Clarence and Sirius.

The conversation was light and fast paced, as Sirius showed his most charming front, and Harry did his best to match his Godfather.

“That was very nice,” Clara announced as she finished. “The finest picnic I’ve had that I can remember.”

“Hear hear,” Clarence agreed.

“I do hope you’ve got a tiny bit of space left,” Harry said, as he smoothly extracted the object Sirius had placed in his pocket. He enlarged it, before opening the wooden box and offering the contents to Astoria first.

Astoria gasped in absolute delight. “Harry,” she cried. “These are my favourites! And from my absolute favourite shop as well! I so rarely get to try them!” Her hand reached out. “But these are too extravagant a gift!”

“Astoria,” Harry said solemnly, “I am utterly convinced that both your father and my godfather agree that it is a man’s Merlin-given right to do whatever he deems necessary to see his chosen girl’s face light up with pleasure at a gift.”

“Correct,” Clarence agreed. “Now don’t be rude, Astoria.”

“Oh, my Lord,” Astoria whispered, her eyes locked on his and in the deep blue he felt that he could see her soul. She took one of the small cubes and popped it into her mouth. For the second, her soul seemed as large as the universe. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Harry, with some considerable effort, freed himself from Astoria’s enchanting eyes, and offered the box to Clara.

“Thank you,” she said solemnly.

Harry turned and offered the box to Daphne. “Miss Greengrass?”

Daphne studied him for a long moment. “My Lord,” she said, bowing her head briefly. “I apologise for allowing others to affect my personal judgement.”

“Then it is forgiven and forgotten,” Harry said. “And you may call me Harry.”

“My thanks, I am Daphne.” She reached out and took one of the sweets. “I do believe that Astoria would curse me in my sleep if I dared take more than one.”

“I wouldn’t wait that long,” Astoria said with a teasing grin at her sister.

Daphne met her sister’s eyes, and something Harry didn’t understand passed between the two girls, and Daphne relaxed afterward.

Harry continued around to his friends, who were all looking impressed.

Harry finished by offering the box to Clarence and Sirius. As everyone had one, he closed the still mostly-full box, and placed it in front of Astoria. “For you.”

Astoria gave him another of her amazing smiles and possessively put her hand over his, which was still on the box.

As the group stood to disband, Harry was able to hug Sirius and whisper his thanks for Sirius for getting the sweets.

“My pleasure, Kiddo,” he agreed. “And while I do think you’re a little young, at least you have good taste.”

Harry laughed and patted his now-free Godfather on his back.

“That was interesting,” Clara said, as she walked with her husband toward the gates of Hogwarts.

“Extremely,” Clarence replied. “How the hell did we manage to raise Astoria?”

“I have no idea,” Clara admitted. “If we hadn’t both been present at her conception, I’d be wondering who I slept with.”

Clarence laughed softly. “Indeed,” he murmured. “I’m almost tempted to warn Harry, just to make it sporting.”

“Nonsense. In the world that Astoria inhabits, a strong and powerful husband she adores is a necessary part of her family rhetoric. I’d like to think that she would still be after him so much if he wasn’t the Black heir as well as the Potter heir.”

“I agree; it leads to a much nicer view of our ambitious daughter.”

“The niceness might take a dip if we were to ask what she threatened Daphne with.”

“Considering Daphne was pale, not to mention quiet and polite for almost the entire lunch, it was probably nothing at all and we’re over-reacting,” Clarence stated.

“Yes, seeing our normally vibrant eldest daughter looking fearfully at her younger sister and acting as if Astoria was dangling the sword of Damocles over her head was definitely just our imagination.”


“What I will admit to some curiosity about, is just how, for all his charm, formal Harry was being. And as I think about it, there was a very high level of formality behind the banter.”

“And more talk of bloodlines than we’ve heard in a long time,” Clarence agreed. “As if our daughters have been playing the roles of Pure-blood princesses at Hogwarts.”

“That’s what I got as well. I bet Daphne started to fit in with Parkinson and Bulstrode, and when Astoria arrived at Hogwarts, she saw the act, and realised she could use it for her schemes.”

“Damn it, you’re a Ravenclaw, I’m a Gryffindor, so how did we end up with a girl that Slytherin?”


Clarence laughed. “Yeah, probably. We could go home like good Pure-bloods and I could read the paper while you play the piano.”


“Let’s pop down the pub, have a few drinks, catch a movie, have a few more drinks, and have kebab on the way home?”

“A kebab with meat of dubious origin that is at least thirty percent rat, carved from a rotating spit, served by a hirsute Muggle with no command of the English language but absolute command of eighteen eastern European languages, served with eight small pieces of lettuce from last week’s supermarket returns, and covered in a sauce that is almost completely made of garlic, gelatine and artificial flavourings?”

“Don’t forget all the wonderful artificial colourings and flavourings. And yes, a good kebab.”

“Sounds like a plan, dear.”

“Well, Chief Warlock, we think we’re going to start by interviewing some of the students, we’ll then audit some of the classes, pore over the records for the past few years, and generally make sure everything’s as ship-shape as we know it is.”

Harry blinked a few times at the jovial nature of the comment from the women who had interrupted their dinner to announce her inspection of the school.

“You are of course more than welcome,” the Headmaster started.

“Headmaster,” a voice from the door called. “There’s a meeting of the Wizengamot. You’re needed.”

“Of course,” the Headmaster agreed. He stood and followed the man out.

“Tell me, Deputy Headmistress,” the woman said. “Does the Chief Warlock leave the school so easily often?”

McGonagall pursed her lips and nodded slowly.

“I see,” the woman murmured. She turned and addressed the class. “I am Rebekah Jones, a specialist inspector for the Department of Education.”

Harry whistled softly, “That’s brilliant, Lucius has got a witch who is not affiliated with the Ministry, but has experience.”

“Is that good?” Lavender asked.

“Exceptionally. Have a think about the titles they were using. And just as importantly, when they were using them.”

Lucius rapped smartly on the door to Number 12, Grimmauld Place. A sleepy-looking Sirius opened it after a slight delay.

“Lucius, Narcissa,” he greeted them. “You’ll have to excuse me; I’ve spent the last few days catching up on my freedom.”

“Quite understandable,” Narcissa agreed. “We need to use the Black library; we have one of Voldemort’s soul pieces.”

“Horcrux?” Sirius asked through a yawn. “I’m sure I’ve read something about them recently. Come on.”

Lucius followed the pyjama and robe-clad wizard into the fabled Black library.

“Let me see,” Black murmured. He pulled out a book and skimmed it, then two more. He put one back, and handed the other two over. “Knock yourself out; I need a shower and a shave.”

“Very much so,” Narcissa said with a small smile.

Sirius poked his tongue out, and vanished.

Lucius took the second of the three chairs, well aware that he was a guest in the house. Narcissa passed him one of the books as she sat next to him.

“I’ve missed this place,” she said.

“You should talk to Andromeda,” Lucius suggested. “Perhaps tell her about her sister.”

“The story about the cretin killing her, and not our wards?” Narcissa asked sweetly.

“I don’t think it matters which one,” Lucius pointed out. “She will have been aware that Bellatrix was always a few hoops short of a Quidditch pitch.”

“That was proven with that ridiculous statement of her only supporting Voldemort because of some curse,” Narcissa sniffed. “She was never the brightest.”

“Perhaps she felt that the Muggles had stolen her intelligence.”

Narcissa gave a half-snort, and Lucius felt triumphant. Getting his wife to react was always one of his great pleasures in life.

“If we’re going moderate, I guess I will.”

“As I’ve said, Narcissa, power without having to deal with that lunatic in charge of the country, and a suspicion that our eldest is an idiot. I worry for the family fortune with Draco in charge.”

“Quite,” Narcissa agreed. “I heard a fascinating rumour last night about Astoria Greengrass.”

“Ah yes?” Lucius asked.

“She’s somehow finagled herself a courtship with Potter.”

Lucius blinked. “I thought that Clara and Clarence were moderates,” he stated.

“They are. A Gryffindor and a Ravenclaw appear to have produced an extremely competent Slytherin who has designs on Fudge’s job.”

Lucius pouted as much as he would allow himself to. “I’m not hallucinating when I remember sitting down with Draco and telling him how to read people and how to judge their potential?”

“No, he appeared attentive,” Narcissa agreed. She sighed. “Let us change the subject, so that we do not prejudge the issue.”

“I’m operating on the idea that after I think the most negative, anything positive would be a relief.” Lucius sighed. “I’ve also realised that a lot of Draco’s reports were works of fiction.”


“Take just one thing – he was the one that told me that the Greengrasses were thinking of switching heirs.”

“You did mention that,” Narcissa agreed.

“Would Clarence and Clara do that?”

“Oh,” Narcissa agreed. “No.”

“And if one report was a fabrication, it calls into doubt all others.”

“Ah,” Narcissa agreed. “What are we going to do with Severus?” she asked, clearly changing the subject.

“We’ll see how Draco is. If he is just a small idiot, then perhaps we’ll have Severus make some potions for us and not teach.”

“And if Draco is a complete idiot?”

“We won’t give Severus the choice. He has a talent, as much as he is a tiresome fellow.”


Sirius entered, dressed and looking refreshed. “Coffee, tea?”

“Tea, please,” Narcissa said. “And for Lucius.”

“The Earl’s wife, a hint of lemon and a smidge of milk?”

Narcissa smiled. “Exactly. Lucius would prefer something a bit stronger, milk and one sugar.”

“Kreacher,” Black called. An elf appeared, looked at the two guests, and stood up straight. “Three teas, one Lady Grey, with a small amount of milk and a hint of lemon, and two of my normal teas.”

Kreacher bowed and popped away.

“Get anywhere?” Sirius asked.

“Not exactly. You were fast and we were discussing issues.”

“Like my heir’s relationship?”

“That was one of the things.”

“I know I’ve been out of it for a while, but when I went in, Clarence and Clara didn’t exactly care for all the normal formalities, yet Astoria was, well, like Dromi was at school.”

Narcissa laughed softly. “My sister did so enjoy playing the approachable and friendly princess.”


“Clara and Clarence are still moderates,” Lucius said. “Astoria is an intelligent and determined witch.”

“If she wasn’t clearly crazy about Harry, I’d be concerned,” Sirius muttered. “Anyway, to get it out of the way, thanks for what you did with Pettigrew.”

“We didn’t do a thing,” Lucius said.

“I’m not an idiot,” Sirius said beneath a sceptically raised eyebrow. “A week after I sent you the charm to remove the Dark Mark, Pettigrew turns up as some sort of conspiracy spinning mastermind? Only Fudge would believe that. Pettigrew was an opportunist wazzock, not a mastermind.”

Lucius chuckled. “I play the cards dealt. While I had the brand, I played that game to win, with it gone, the game changed. Chester is still extremely good with his personal variety of Legilimency.”

“Oh, yes,” Sirius agreed. “A truly terrifying man. I was always pleased that he never used that the first time around.”

“He realised what we’d signed on to faster than I did,” Lucius agreed. “He paid lip-service to the game.”

The tea arrived, two in mugs, one in bone china. Sirius conjured a small table between them, allowing the elf to place the tray down and vanish. “What are we looking for about these Horcruxes?”

“Identification spells, I don’t fancy a treasure hunt,” Lucius said.

Sirius stood and moved over to the library, mug in hand. “I’ve got another book on them somewhere,” he muttered.

“How long did it take you to start reading?” Narcissa asked politely.

Sirius raised two digits in a familiar, if somewhat obscene, gesture. “Far too long, actually,” he admitted.

Lucius opened his book and started to read. He grabbed his mug absently and made a note to find out what tea Sirius drank, as it was very good.

It was about forty minutes later that Sirius made a sound of triumph. “Heh, a variety of the Point Me spell. But we need a Horcrux to calibrate the spells.”

Narcissa reached into her purse and pulled out the Hufflepuff Chalice.

“Yeuch,” Sirius muttered. “That thing feels disgustingly perverse.” He read a passage, and then cast a spell. He let his wand go, and it span several times, before slowing. It moved, paused, moved, shuddered and stopped.

“Hmm, it looks like there are three more,” he said. “Okay, let’s find the nearest. One full spin of the wand is a hundred miles.” He cast another spell, it didn’t move.

Sirius looked at it, then at the book, and then looked at it again. He cast another spell, and the wand turned and pointed down. “Kreacher!”

The elf popped in.

“Is there another item in the house that feels like this?”

The elf looked rebellious.

Lucius stood and backhanded the elf. He hated the filthy creatures, and given a choice, would just get rid of all of them as they made appalling servants, unfortunately they tended to be tied to the house magic, and losing them meant less magic for the wards, and right now, with Voldemort still around, he needed all the magic in his wards that he could get.

“Kreacher’s real master made him promise that Kreacher would destroy it,” Kreacher snivelled.

“Idiot,” Sirius said, “that’s entirely the point of why we’re here!”

Kreacher vanished and returned with a locket.

“That foul bastard,” Narcissa declared. “That’s Slytherin’s Locket he’s befouled. Kill that piece of soul.”

“Kreacher, fetch the basilisk venom from the potion supplies.”

Kreacher popped out and returned with a small vial. Sirius took it, and without hesitation added a single drop to the inside of the locket. As he opened it, they were all hit with a magical attack on their minds, but it was trivial to remain in control. After fighting Dementors for over a decade, keeping out a spell like this wasn’t worthy of mention, and Sirius was sure that Narcissa remembered the Occlumency lessons she had endured as a child, and he was sure that Lucius had been raised in a similar manner. The attack faded away quickly, and Sirius lobbed the locket to Narcissa.

“Thank you,” she said.

Sirius nodded and destroyed the other one as well. “So, two left.”

“A decent morning,” Lucius agreed. “Where are the other two?”

Sirius cast the location spell again now that his wand knew that to look for; he no longer needed the original Horcrux and then pulled out a map. He orientated it on the table, “So, the wand turned exactly five times, and then another 177 degrees. Obviously each degree is very close to 0.277 miles, so that makes the Horcrux roughly five hundred and forty-eight miles away.”

“Sirius!” Narcissa exclaimed, sounding shocked.

Sirius sighed and rolled his eyes. “James’ mum was a stickler for us learning maths during the holidays.”

“I’m impressed,” Narcissa assured him.

Sirius traced the map and then slightly pale. “Bugger,” he muttered. He looked at them. “They are at Hogwarts.”

Harry was sat between the Carrow twins with Astoria, Tracey, and Millicent opposite him, enjoying lunch at the Slytherin table.

“I think,” Harry said slowly, “that we’re going to need to find out who is orchestrating this campaign against Dumbledore.”

“Why?” Hestia asked.

“Because it’s really clever and we’re going to want them on our side.”

The five girls all leaned in closer. “Explain, Harry,” Millicent requested.

“They’re dragging Dumbledore from pillar to post. He’s been called to the ICW, to the Wizengamot and to the school. As soon as he’s finished with one, they are calling him to another. They are also using the wrong title each time. Dumbledore is getting very little rest, and is always a little late to everything. It’s giving him a bad reputation, and he’s not as young as he once was.

“They are forcing him to choose one position. And they are doing it without a bad word in the press. It’s a really impressive strategy.”

The doors opened and Sirius entered, accompanied by both senior Malfoys.

“Lord Black, Lord and Lady Malfoy?” Dumbledore called tiredly.

“Not now, Albus,” Sirius said dismissively. “You concentrate on the inspectors and being where you are supposed to be, old boy.” He walked over and looked at Harry. “Every time I see you, you’re surrounded by pretty girls. It would make your old man so proud.”

“Thanks,” Harry said dryly. “I presume that the distinguished company that you keep means that you’ve visited for some reason other than to try and persuade me once again to build a harem?”

“Sirius,” Narcissa sighed.

“I wasn’t persuading him of that,” Sirius said, sounding hurt. “I was just pointing out that theoretically he could be deemed two people, Black and Potter, and therefore, get a wife for each.”

Harry snorted. “Marriage is a joining between man and woman, not woman and title.”

“Well said,” Narcissa said. “Taking legal advice from Sirius would lead to you being arrested as a bigamist.”

“Yes, it was an example of his stellar sense of humour,” Harry agreed.

“If I may cut in,” Lucius said. “As you are no doubt aware, as part of my vow to support your cause, Narcissa, Sirius and I have been working toward the downfall of the –”

“Call him Whatsisface,” Harry suggested. “Tracey spent a few days studying Debretts, and found no hint of an ennobling.”

“Agreed,” Lucius said. “Question, Harry, do you know anything else about him?”

“Apart from him being a Half-blood bastard named Tom Riddle, no.”

“An accurate description.”

“Not being happy with just murder and torture,” Sirius said, “ol’ Whatsisface has also split his soul.”

“That sounds nasty,” Harry said into the silence.

“Sirius!” Dumbledore yelped.

“Do be quiet, Mr Dumbledore,” Narcissa said firmly. “Is there not a meeting of the ICW that you should be attending?”

Dumbledore managed to look even more exhausted. “I’ve decided to end my association with them.”

Narcissa nodded. “There’s going to be a Wizengamot meeting this afternoon. Do make sure you’re on time for a change.”

“Anyway,” Sirius said, seizing back control. “Ignoring the Chief Warlock, as he’s had a lot of meetings to attend over the past few days. Whatsisface has only got two left, and until they’re gone, his great snakiness is going to haunt some poor rats.”

“Mother, Father, why are you helping Potter against our Lord?” Draco yelped.

Harry was actually able to see the shame that appeared in Lucius’ eyes, and the dismayed realisation that appeared in Narcissa’s. He didn’t know them well enough to know whether they disapproved of his words or the public nature of them.

Narcissa turned to the Headmaster. “I’m afraid that my son appears to have come down with an illness. To ensure he doesn’t infect others, we will be taking him home today.” She looked at her son. “Pack, now, and then sit on your trunk.” Her voice was ice hard and implacable.

Draco ran out of the Great Hall.

Narcissa’s face cleared and she gave Harry a small smile. “Sirius was under the impression that if anyone would be able to find something here fast, it would be you.”

“Yeah,” Sirius agreed. He cast a spell and his wand rotated up and to the right. “We’re probably looking for two artefacts, the first is this way and that’s the furthest one away.”

“I don’t know if I should be proud or ashamed that I recognise which way the wand is pointing, and have correlated it with an obvious room as to hide that sort of thing,” he said. “Tracey, you get it?”

“Room of Requirements?”

“Exactly.” Harry looked at his Godfather. “Apart from an ancient artefact, anything else?”

“Possibly a Founder’s heirloom, and feels icky.”

“Dobby, my broom please.” The elf popped in seconds later. “I’ll be back in a second,” he promised. He shot off, allowing the broom to pull him out of the chair before he swung his legs over it and flew out of the hall.

He shot up the stairways and corkscrewed at the top, before using his momentum to shoot through a ninety degree turn, and then went vertical.

He’d wanted an excuse to fly through Hogwarts like this since he’d flown for the first time on a broom. All too soon he arrived at the door to the Room of Requirements. “I need a place that stores a Horcrux,” he muttered as he paced back and forth.

The door appeared and he entered. On a plinth illuminated by a blade of light was a covered bust. Removing the white blanket, he found what looked like a tiara, and as he reached out he discovered why Sirius had called them icky.

He used the blanket to wrap the tiara up without touching it, and flew back down to Sirius. “Here,” he said, unwrapped the blanket on the table.

“Eww,” Flora said. “Hey, that’s the Ravenclaw Diadem.”

“Do we get the other one before destroying them?” Harry asked.

“Destroy first, fetch later,” Sirius said. “Take every opportunity you get to deal a blow to your enemy.”

Harry nodded his agreement, and watched as Sirius poured a drop of something from a vial. The diadem hissed and then the ickyness vanished in a cloud of black smoke.

“What is that?” Harry asked.

“Basilisk venom,” Sirius replied.

“Hey, I’ve killed one of those Horcruxes before, my second year, it was a diary.”

Lucius looked guilty for a second. He glanced at his right arm, and then looked up. Harry nodded his acceptance, even as he stored the memory away for later years; it was always good to have something hanging over someone like Lucius. It would hopefully keep him honest for longer.

Harry picked up the Diadem, although, he didn’t know what the difference between that and a tiara was. He looked at Narcissa and asked her the question.

“A diadem is group name of the family of headwear that includes tiara,” she replied.

“So it’s a generic name for a headwear, rather than a specific name for a type,” Harry said. “Right, next piece, if we get rid of Whatsisface now, it would be cause for a great Ball, and I could get to see Astoria dressed up to the nines!”

“As you will,” Astoria murmured happily.

“Right,” Sirius said, and cast the first of the two spells again. This time, the wand span and pointed straight at Harry. Harry turned and looked behind him. He paused, and moved to the bottom of the Hall.


Sirius cast the spell and it once more pointed to Harry.

Harry moved back slowly, and nodded at Sirius, who cast the spell a third time. The wand pointed, directly at Harry’s forehead. “Is this spell telling me that the reason I’ve had such issues with Whatsisface is because I have a piece of his fucking soul in my scar?”

Sirius gulped. “It looks like it, yes.”

“How the fuck was this not spotted?” Harry demanded.

Narcissa moved up and pointed her wand at the scar. “It registers as a curse scar,” she said. “So why wasn’t it picked up? Your guardians should have had it examined.”

“I grew up with Muggles, dumped on the doorstep like an unmarried teenage mother’s shame,” Harry explained.

“Say the word, Harry,” Lucius said, “and I’ll have the whole business investigated.”

“Say it, My Lord,” Astoria said, as she stood and walked over to him. She took his hand and stared up at him earnestly. “My heart hurts as I think about your suffering. The truth must be heard.” Her eyes were practically projecting her sincerity and he could feel how much she cared for him.

“I could deny you nothing,” he whispered. “Please, Lucius.”

Malfoy smiled and nodded. It was the first time that Harry was pleased to see the smile that promised career ending disasters for the people involved.

“How are we going to get this… this… Horcrux out of me? The basilisk venom?”

“No,” Sirius said as he paled. “Basilisk venom would go straight through it, and enter your brain.”

“No!” Astoria cried. She was in his arms suddenly. “I have just got you; I cannot bear to lose you, already.”

He held her tightly, using her to garner the strength required for his next question. “Then how?” he asked.

Sirius reluctantly pulled out a book, and floated it over. Harry read the open pages and blinked a few times.

“A Killing Curse?” he asked.

Some people yelled, others moved, and in the chaos, Harry found himself surrounded by the members of the Society, all with their wands drawn, pointing at Sirius and the Malfoys.

“Please,” Dumbledore called.

“Shut up, Albus,” Narcissa and Sirius snapped at him at the same time. They looked at each other and smiled faintly.

“Go for it,” Sirius said to Narcissa. She smiled politely in response.

“Chief Warlock, what are you doing at Hogwarts?” Narcissa asked politely.

“I am the Headmaster,” Dumbledore pointed out.

“But why would the Headmaster be interrupting a discussion between two Lords and the heir apparent of the Potter and Black families?” she asked. “Surely a gifted educationalist such as yourself recognises the value of a good debate?”

Albus sat down.

“You know what I’m more concerned about,” Flora mused loudly, “and that’s both the lack of surprise on the Chief Warlock’s face earlier and the sad acceptance he was showing before he decided to interfere.”

Everyone turned to look at the Headmaster, whose expression changed to that of appearing slightly embarrassed.

“You knew about these Horcrux things?” Hestia demanded.

“Know? No, I did, however, suspect.”

“And you were going to tell me when?” Harry asked.

“I had hoped to find out for certain this year.”

“Oh, another one of those things my aunt likes to complain about?” Susan asked, “Something that takes you an entire year to get to the point.”

“Oh, Merlin, just kill me,” Harry moaned. He released Astoria as she squirmed slightly.

“Harry,” Lavender said, “don’t even think about continuing to try and defuse the tension and explain why this is a good idea. We will not accept anything that leaves you with a chance of being dead.”

“I have no wish to be dead,” he assured her, “but if this is the way to end Whatsisface for good, shouldn’t I be taking it?”

“No,” Millicent managed to be the first to talk. “Frankly, if he’s just a wraith with no piece of soul left but yours, then he can float around for a while, maybe a hundred and fifty years, before you croak of old age.”

“Damn right,” Lavender agreed.

“Wands down everyone, honestly,” a new voice Harry recognised so very well, yelled. “I leave for a three months and my little club is suddenly willing to fight everyone?” The voice paused. “I’m so proud I could vomit! Now, wands away!”

Harry grinned at the stern-looking lady who was walking toward them. A tiny woman, of just over five feet tall, with black hair in a smart bob, and large glasses that emphasised her brown eyes. She was dressed in brown shoes, blue jeans, and a t-shirt with a blazer over it.

“Hey, Vicki,” he said.

“Call me that again and I’ll ram your wand where the sun doesn’t shine, Potter,” she whispered as she walked over to him.

“Aww, you’re so cute,” he called, and gave her a huge embrace. Victoria responded by kicking him firmly in the shin.

“This is hardly the time for levity,” she pointed out as he released her.

“Nonsense,” Harry responded. “People are no longer about to kick off a fight. What are you doing here?”

“I received an urgent summons,” Victoria said with a shrug, “And as I don’t start Uni for a few more weeks, I was available to come and fix your problems again.”

“Oh, how nice,” Harry replied.

“Yes, and you should appreciate it,” Victoria agreed. “So, to ensure I’m up to date, Heidi, a quick summation, please.”

“Whatsisface used Horcruxes to split his soul. Black and Malfoy have used some spells to track them down, and the last two were at Hogwarts. Harry found the first one in the Room of Requirement. We then discovered that Harry is the last Horcrux, and that our Headmaster probably knew, and that Harry never had the scar checked out as he was dumped with Muggles.”

“Muggles who were recently accidentally poisoned with the Malus Felicis potion,” Victoria interrupted. “So are no longer important.”

Harry laughed and picked Victoria up into another hug.

“Put me down, you insufferable oaf,” she snarled and rammed a fist into his side. He ignored her and kissed her forehead, before placing her down again.

“Anyway,” Heidi continued, “we had just got to the fact where it was hinted that the Killing Curse would work.”

“And that’s when I entered, when you all decided that Potter’s too damn noble for his own good, and were stopping his instant desire to sacrifice himself for some nebulous greater good?”

Heidi, and every other Society member nodded as one.

Victoria turned and started poking Harry in the chest. “I have spent far too much of my time turning you into someone I can just about stand in public. I’m not having that effort made pointless as you do more bloody self-sacrifice, understand?”

“We should allow Harry to do it,” Astoria’s voice seemed to dance across the silence. Harry, and everyone else, turned, to find Astoria was sitting cross-legged on the table, the book on Horcruxes in her lap.

“Explain, Tori,” Victoria demanded.

“It’s been done five times in the past, and of the five, two survived.”

“Forty percent success is not acceptable,” Victoria stated.

“Hush, let me finish,” Astoria said. “Of the two that survived, they described a choice, to move on or to come back. And that the choice was hard.”

“Harry’s a self-sacrificing git,” Lavender said, “and I’m not willing to take the chance.”

“Well said, Lavender,” Victoria agreed.

“I have faith in Harry,” Astoria responded. “He would not force me into a life of loneliness and despair, would you, my Lord?”

“No,” he stated simply.

“This is insanity,” Flora moaned. “Fuck it. You die, Potter, then I’m following you, and you can have that on your conscience for the rest of eternity.”

“And where Flo goes, I follow,” Hestia added.

Victoria made an angry noise, before storming over to Astoria and grabbing the book. She read through the passages, and then further. “Damn it,” she eventually cursed. “It looks like that as long as this piece of soul exists, Whatsisface could theoretically do what he wants in getting a new body.

“And the green-eyed idiot wouldn’t understand that he is not responsible for other people’s actions, and would think that his own inaction somehow made him responsible for whatever Whatsisface did.” She slammed the book shut and stormed back over to him. “We are going to do this. If you choose anything other than coming back, I’m learning necromancy, teaching the Society, and we’ll tear you from heaven repeatedly, so you never get any rest, capiche?”

Harry laughed and patted her on the head. “Alive or dead, existence without you in it would be far too dull.”

“Don’t say such touching things. You’ll make people think I care for you.”

“I love you too, Victoria,” Harry said with a soft smile, “you do know that.” It wasn’t romantic love, but familial love.

Victoria blushed and then punched him again. “Idiot,” she mumbled. She clapped her hands, “Right, if we’re doing this, we’re doing it properly.”

“Perhaps my office,” Dumbledore suggested.

“Nonsense,” Victoria scoffed. “Someone’s going to be throwing the killing curse, and as we need to avoid repercussions, doing this as soon as possible and in public is the best way. Harry, the book was written by a noted expert on the Dark Arts from the eleventh century. Society members, clear some space and form a circle. Lord Malfoy, do you have the courage and bravery to be a key part in ending Whatsisface?”

“The courage, yes. I might actually find the curse itself difficult,” he admitted.

“Oh, yes, Harry’s successful ideas about potions and runes with Squibs and the benefits to your daughter,” she agreed. “Focus on this, you’re not aiming at Harry, you’re aiming at what’s left of the Half-blood traitor, Riddle.”

Lucius blinked, and then nodded.

There were a few minutes of chaos as tables were moved out of the way, and a circle was formed. Sirius, Narcissa and Lucius stood at one side, Harry, Astoria and Victoria the other.

“Madam Pomfrey,” Victoria called.

“This is insanity,” the nurse stated as she moved over to them. “And how are you calm?”

“Well,” Harry said as he thought about it. “First, I’ve survived the curse before, so that gives me a bit of confidence. Secondly, Victoria, the person I trust more than anyone, is here and she thinks it’s a good idea. Thirdly, Astoria was the one who suggested it, and she’s not going to let me down. Fourthly, Lucius isn’t going to accidentally miss, because he’d kick off a riot, plus he knows he’d be physically torn into pieces, and I somewhat like him as well. Fifthly, I’ve lived with the idea of death all my life, and I have more hope now than I’ve ever had. Finally, if it does go bad and I do die, at least I’ll take the arsehole with me.”

“Watch the swearing, that’s my job,” Victoria said automatically. She sighed. “Come back, pipsqueak,” she ordered. “I’d miss you.”

Harry grinned at her, but didn’t tease her. He took a deep breath.

“On my word, please,” Astoria said. “Lord Malfoy, please get ready.” She moved so that she was in front of him, and he looked down in her warm eyes. She reached up with her hands and softly cupped his face. “I want to see where this courtship goes,” she whispered. “I knew I wanted you in my life from the first moment I met you. You had my heart before I understood what my heart was for. Come back to me, to us, to everyone who loves you, understood?”

He nodded silently, feeling himself go tense.

Astoria stood on tip toes and planted a soft kiss on his cheek as she lowered her hands to his shoulders for balance. “I didn’t wear anything under that nightgown,” she finished with the softest whisper. “I’d never worn it before and I won’t wear it again until we’ve agreed you can take it off.”

The blood rushed from his brain heading down, as a green light flashed into his vision, and he knew no more.

Harry opened his eyes with a gasp, and looked around. He appeared to be on a train platform, only everything had an ethereal quality to it.

“Minx,” he murmured, as he remembered the last thing Astoria had said to him. There was no way he could move on to the next life without finding out what it would be like to remove that gorgeous silk nightgown. The idea that Astoria had been cuddled up to him all night, naked under the sheer fabric of the incredibly smooth gown she had worn the entire night was incredibly intoxicating.

He frowned, thoughts of naked Astoria vanishing, as he spotted a pile of rags in front of him. As he looked, the rags seemed to grow, until the figure of an older Tom Marvolo Riddle appeared before him.

“Potter,” he hissed. “Where are we?”

“Dead,” Harry said cheerfully.

“Lies,” Riddle hissed. “I have defeated death.”

There is no defeating death.

Harry looked around, and found two people looking at them. One was tall, and wrapped in a purple robe. The fact he was a skeleton with impossible blue eyes, holding a large scythe, and had a sword attached to his belt gave significant hints to who he was. Next to Death was a smaller male, whom Harry had only seen in photographs. James Potter, his father.

Who do we have here?

The voice was strange, like it wasn’t actually spoken, it was more implanted in Harry’s brain, bypassing his Occlumency defences like they didn’t exist.

“I’m Harry Potter,” Harry said cheerfully. “Delighted to meet you, Lord Death,” he bowed. “This is Whatsisface, a known irritant.”

“What trickery is this?” Riddle demanded. “An illusion?”

“May I ask a further question?” Harry said to Death.

You may.

“You strike me as a reasonable fellow, I was wondering how you would feel about granting Whatsisface his dream?”

Death tilted his skeleton head. Explain, brief mortal.

“Whatsisface desires immortality.” Harry felt Death skim through his mind, the feeling so utterly alien that Harry couldn’t even begin to describe it. Somehow he knew that Death had read his plan.

Is this true? Death asked Riddle.

“As ridiculous as answering an illusion is, I don’t desire it, I have obtained it.

Death chuckled. You have not. You are willing to pay the price for it?

Riddle frowned as he nodded.

Be gone, live forever, your magic is the payment for your goal.

Riddle looked horrified as he vanished.

I have never granted immortality before. Death chuckled and met Harry’s eyes. For a second, Harry felt utterly bare. His crimes were grave, but not as grave as the punishment you gave him.

“He will beg for you,” Harry said.

He will, Death agreed. I sent him forward in time as you suggested, to start him off. As for you, as it is written, so it will be. You have the choice. Farewell. Death vanished, leaving Harry alone with his father.

“Well, you’re definitely your mother’s child,” James Potter said with a grin. “Hey. It should be obvious, but I’m your father.”

Harry laughed. “Hey,” he greeted his father.

“It wouldn’t be weird if I was to hug you, would it?”

“Nope.” He moved forward and slammed into his fast-moving father. He hugged his dad back as hard as his dad was hugging him.

Eventually they separated. “So, let’s get to it, then. I’m supposed to offer you the choice, and then convince you to return, but I’ve got a feeling you don’t need much convincing?”

“To return? Hell, no,” he agreed. He blushed as the last thing Astoria had whispered to him shot to mind again.

“Your girl whisper something?”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“That’s kinda why I’m here, and not your mother,” James said. “Well, that and I won the rock-scissors-paper contest.”

Harry laughed. “It would have been great to see Mum; tell her I love her.”

“I will do,” James promised, as he sat on a chair that rose up behind him.

Harry sat as well and was pleased when a seat rose behind him as well.

James pulled out a ghostly piece of paper. “Right, item one on your mother’s agenda. We’re really sorry.”

“What for?”

“For being idiots and getting killed,” James explained.

“You were betrayed; it was hardly your fault.”

“Well, if you look at it that way, you’d be correct.” James rubbed the back of his neck. “It was only after we died that we asked the question, ‘Why didn’t we choose Lily to be the secret keeper?’”

Harry blinked. “Oh,” he agreed. He shrugged. “Apology accepted. I still do stupid things all the time.”

“Like agreeing to have a killing curse shot at you?”

“Exactly,” Harry grinned. “Item two?”

“Tell Sirius we’re sorry as well. All the years in Azkaban were hellacious for him.”

“I know,” Harry agreed. “I will. Sirius was cool when I ran away during the summer.”

“Yes. He enjoyed it. Get him to tell you some of the stories about his arguments with Dumbledore and Molly Weasley. Ply him with alcohol first. The stories will be a lot funnier that way.”

“Will do,” Harry agreed. “Next?”

“Okay, the hard one. Are you aware that Astoria’s parents are moderates?”

Harry laughed. “Okay, let me ask a question in return. When did you know that you liked mum?”

“Pretty much from the first time I set eyes on her,” James replied.

“I was in the Society, and this cute little princess walked up to me, with no fear at all, and asked to learn the Banishing Charm, a spell years beyond her ability. She had huge blue eyes, and that soft brown hair. I taught her, and it was a lot of fun. As we finished, I asked Victoria who she was, and of course, got her complete genealogy.

“Including the fact that her parents are moderates. At the time, Slytherin was not a good place, which is why we worked so hard to make the club a safe place for them.”

“So you don’t mind that part of what she is doing is an act?” James asked.

“And how many schemes did you come up with to get mum?”

“Far too many to count,” James said with a grin.

“I gave her a test,” Harry explained as he realised that his father knew more than expected. He didn’t want his father to worry, so he was quite willing to stretch the truth somewhat. “She passed.”

“Wait,” James said. “That chaste crap?”

“Your knowledge of my private meetings is scary.”

James laughed. “You were chaperoned all night, what are two more people?”

Harry put his palm to his face. “They have just volunteered to be my practice partners in duelling for the rest of the year,” he muttered.

“Basically, we can see when you’re in public or upset,” James explained. “If no one had been watching, we wouldn’t have.”

“That’s good to know.” Harry smiled. “So, I’ve been thinking about asking her out for a while anyway, and doing it this way is fun.”

James grinned. “That’s reassuring. To be honest, we do like her. Your mother likes her for her intelligence, and well…”

“She’s hot,” Harry agreed.

“I just want my son to have the same standards as me,” James said as his grin grew. “Now, you need The Talk? Complete with capital letters?”

“Nah, Victoria gave it to me a few years ago. Right after I met Astoria, in fact. Complete with anatomical dolls, a copy of Penthouse, and an audiobook.”

James laughed. “I got the talk from Mum, and a suggestion of practising putting condoms on a banana.”

Harry joined in the laughter. “Victoria said the same thing. Oh, she was trying so hard to hide the fact that she was as embarrassed as I was.”

“We thought you might hook up with her,” James said.

“She’s my best friend, and she’s pretty and all, it just, well, never came up.”

“I was like that with Susan’s mum,” James agreed. “Okay, item four. The Malfoys.”

“I trust them for the next few years,” Harry said. “They’ve got too much to lose at the moment. After that, well, I have the Basilisk and the Diary to hold over their heads, and by that time, I should have Isabelle firmly on my side.”

James smiled. “That’s more of your mother in you. Narcissa is pregnant, which you can tell her, but don’t tell her that her new daughter is a Squib. The Black and Malfoy families are too inbred.”

Harry winced and nodded. He frowned. “And the Potter and the Greengrass families?”

“Potters have a great and diverse bloodline, and the Greengrasses are pretty much the same. You shouldn’t have any problems.”

“Neat,” Harry said with a grin. “Next?”


Harry rolled his eyes.

“My advice is to get him chucked out of everything but Hogwarts. I reckon with nothing else to do, he’ll be a good Headmaster.”

“I agree,” Harry said. “We’ve talked about it in the Society. Too much power in one man, and the whole power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

“Exactly. He’s not a bad man, but not as great as he perhaps thinks. And that’s the end of the list!”

“Cool,” Harry said. “Any more advice?”

“Just this. Be happy and have a family to continue the Potter line. We don’t care about anything else, at all.” James gave an unapologetic shrug. “I’m not even that bothered by the Black family name you’re getting. You were born a Potter.”

Harry smiled at his father and nodded his agreement. “Will do,” he promised. “Any messages?”

“Tell Sirius he sucks. Tell Minerva we’ll be having a talk about the Nuremberg Defence when she gets here. Tell Albus we’ve reserved a room downstairs to discuss his actions in great depth. Tell Pomona that it was Sirius who stole her grapes. Tell Flitwick he’s short. Tell Snape that Lily is waiting for him – and make that as ominous as you can. Tell Susan her parents love and miss her. Tell Flora and Hestia that their Grandparents are proud of them for restoring the family name to mean something, and that you’re paying for their University or Masteries on their behalf. Tell Millicent her mother is incredibly proud of her.”

“Nuremburg Defence… did that come from Mum?”

“Yes, she explained it though. Right, time for you to go.”


“Yes, Son?”

“Thanks for making this easy, you know?”

“Your life sucked for a while, we’re not going to guilt you into joining us just as it’s getting really good. Go back, have fun, you’ve got enough money to do whatever the hell you like. Spend it on making yourself and all your friends happy, and waste the rest.”

Harry stood and embraced his father. “I love you,” he said, feeling weird as he said it to another man. “And tell Mum I love her as well.”

“Will do, kiddo. And I love you too. You’ve exceeded everything we hoped for from our son.”

Harry stepped back from his father. He took one last look at him, before he turned and walked into the mist.

Astoria softly stroked Harry’s face and felt the slightest hint of worry. He’d been dead for close to five minutes now. He was flat out on the floor, with his head in her lap. She wasn’t worried, yet. She had faith that he’d return to her. Although she wished she’d been a bit more succinct in her final message to him. She’d tried to impart too much data while maintaining her image as a loving princess.

She should have left it short and explained later.

Victoria was sat next to them, holding Harry’s hand. “Come on, idiot. I need to tell you off for making me worry,” she whispered.

Lucius and Narcissa were kneeling by Harry’s feet, while Sirius and Poppy were to the right, finishing the circle.

And just like that, Harry inhaled, and sat up. He hopped to his feet, and Astoria found herself lifted off her feet and into a huge hug. She clung to Harry as hard as she could. She felt herself cry in relief. He had returned to her!

He met her eyes for a second, and gave her the softest kiss on the forehead. Astoria cursed her little charade for the first time, and then decided it didn’t matter. No one would gainsay her moment of passion and relief. She grabbed him and planted her lips on his, and hoped to hell he knew how to kiss, as she didn’t have a clue.

The way his hands held her tightly against him, the textured and soft but firm feel of his lips, and the sheer emotion, soon had her realising just why most of the adult world loved kissing so very much.

He broke the kiss and grinned at her for a second. “I’ll be back,” he whispered, before he turned, and lifted Victoria off her feet, and into a huge bear hug. She didn’t scold him, for the first time.

He then turned and hugged Lord Black, before he shrugged and shook Lucius’ hand and then hugged Narcissa, who looked surprised by the action.

Astoria found herself wrapped in his arms again, a place she was more than happy to be.

“Right, I’ve got a few messages,” Harry announced. “Sirius, you suck. Professor Flitwick, you’re still short. Professor Sprout, it was Sirius who stole your grapes.”

Sirius barked a laugh. “I see you’ve met your father,” he stated.

Harry nodded. “Professor Dumbledore. My parents are very much looking forward to the talk they’re going to have with you. They’ve booked a room downstairs for it. Snape,” he continued and his voice went dark, “my mother can’t wait until you join them. Professor McGonagall, my father suggests that when you meet, that the Nuremburg Defence won’t be accepted.” He paused. “Although to be honest, I’m not sure why you’d be using it?”

The three senior staff members seemed to pale in unison. McGonagall clasped onto the table in front of her. Snape reared back, looking horrified, as Dumbledore froze and looked down.

“On to more important things,” Harry said, as it didn’t look like McGonagall was going to reply. He unwound his arm from her waist and walked over to Millicent. “Your mother is incredibly proud of you, and the person you’ve become.”

Milli’s face lit up with the most enchanting smile Astoria had ever seen on the girl, before Harry was engulfed in a huge hug. Astoria had to hide a giggle as Millicent lifted him clear off his feet.

As Harry was released, he moved over to Flora and Hestia. “Your Grandparents think that you’ve restored the Carrow name to mean something again, and they are so proud of you as well.”

The twins both burst into tears.

“They requested that I pay for you both go to University – which I know you want. I was going to do anyway, so wasn’t a problem. But it does mean that I’m now going to endow the newly created Carrow Sponsorship, and put two worthy people through Uni each year. It also means you can’t complain about it.”

Once more, Harry was hugged tightly, and then kissed on the cheeks by both girls. Millicent moved over and took the girls’ hands as they released Harry.

Harry moved over and stood in front of Narcissa and Lucius. His eyes turned impish. “Congratulations, it’s a girl; one I hope is as beautiful and clever as her mother and her sister.”

Lucius looked stunned, as Narcissa’s normally composed faced suddenly became excited. “Truly?”

Harry looked at Madam Pomfrey, who bustled over and cast the spell. “Congratulations.”

Narcissa beamed and hugged her husband’s arm. “Does this mean the practicing is over?” Lucius asked quietly.

“Lucius!” Narcissa scolded as she blushed in embarrassment. Lucius gained an expression that Astoria realised was exactly the same expression as the one Harry got when he made Astoria giggle or poke her tongue out.

“Enough with the messages just confirm that Whatsisface is dead,” Victoria demanded.

Harry wandered back over, and rubbed Victoria’s hair affectionately again, before swaying out from her retaliatory kick.

“Dead?” Harry asked, as he wrapped his arm back around Astoria’s waist – which was, as far as she was concerned, exactly where it belonged. “Not exactly.”

There was another uproar from some of the professors and some of the students. “What have you done, Harry?” Dumbledore’s voice was heard.

“Silence, you inbred monkeys,” Victoria’s voice almost shattered the windows as her Sonorus charm, which was always one of her favourite spells, practically deafened everyone. “I swear, you lot get stupider every time I see you, especially that idiot on the throne. At least the Society isn’t acting stupid, Black and the Malfoys as well.”

“He’s got his father’s grin,” Sirius explained with a shrug.

“Yeah,” Hestia agreed. “To be precise, it’s the grin he uses when he’s decided that someone has volunteered to help at his next duelling demonstration.”

Astoria couldn’t help her own shudder at the thought, though she was pretty hopeful that she was safe from that now. It was a small, but not insignificant, bonus to courting Harry.

“As for us,” Narcissa said, “logic does somewhat point out that Harry wouldn’t be this happy if suitable punishment had not been made.”

“While I was dead, I met Death. A nice guy, for an anthropomorphic personification who spoke in small-caps.”

“How did he do that?” Victoria asked curiously. “Actually, don’t answer that yet, that’s a divergence. What happened?”

“Death gave him immortality, true immortality.”

“And?” Astoria asked into the silence.

“Well, he might have removed Whatsisface’s magic, and, well, sent him a few million years into the future.”

Victoria started to giggle. “Oh, there are times when you make me so proud,” she said. “So, he gets to wander an empty world?”

“And he will get to see the sun become a red giant, where he’ll spend the rest of existence in a literal hell,” Harry finished. “He’ll beg for death long before that, mind you.” He smiled. “Key point is, Whatsisface can never bother us again, and has begun his eternal torment.”

A huge cheer rang out, as Astoria pressed herself closer to Harry.

“This calls for a celebration,” Lavender called as the cheers died down.

“A Ball,” Tracey agreed.

“No,” Victoria yelled. “No Balls.”

Sirius turned and whispered to Lady Malfoy, “Harry obviously has giant balls.” Astoria blushed as the woman giggled, though no one else overheard.

“Nonsense,” Harry overrode Victoria. “We’re having a Ball, and you’re dressing up.”

“I hate dressing up,” Victoria complained.

“In a dress,” Harry continued, causing Victoria to glare at him.

“I don’t do dressing up, I don’t do Balls, I don’t do dresses.”

“Nonsense. Lucius, as chairman of the Board of Governors, may we have a Ball this evening?”

Lucius nodded. “Chief Warlock, I believe that the downfall of Whatsisface will be too much of a distraction, perhaps cancelling classes today would be a good idea. Harry, I think I’ll need you with Sirius, the Headmaster and myself, so that we can bring the Wizengamot up to date.”

Albus sighed and nodded his agreement.

“Hestia, Flora, Lavender, Fay, Parvati, front and centre,” Harry ordered. The five girls moved forward. “As well as volunteering to be my assistants in the duelling classes for the rest of the year, you five are in charge of making sure Astoria and Victoria are suitably attired for this evening.”

The girls paled at the first part of his decree and agreed to the second.

“Executive Council, work with the House-elves, get the Ball organised for seven. All years, and a few guests only. No politicians, no reporters, etc.”

The council members all nodded their agreements.

“Narcissa, Lucius, I expect you to be here tonight, along with Isabelle. Sirius, you too, bring a date and Astoria’s parents. Lucius, Sirius, let’s get the Wizengamot out of the way. Coming, Headmaster?”

Astoria felt herself be kissed on the forehead, as Harry released her, and he walked off. The two other Lords followed him, the Headmaster trailing after them. Astoria was suddenly aware that Albus Dumbledore had just lost most of the rest of his influence. He was the past, and her prospective husband and the two Lords were the present.

Astoria reached out and took Victoria’s hand. “I’ve got just the dress for you.”

“I don’t wear dresses,” Victoria grumped.

Astoria laughed softly. “Do you want to see what Harry does if you are not there and not in a pretty frock?”

“It’s mainly your fault that Harry is like this, so you get to live with the consequences,” Lavender told Victoria cheerfully. “Right, let’s get a move on. Heidi, we’re going to use your rooms.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there once we’ve organised things,” Heidi agreed.

Astoria towed the reluctant Victoria toward the Head Girl’s room with a bounce in her step. They only had six hours, and that was going to cut it close. She had to look her absolute best for this evening. And fortunately, she could Floo home for the perfect dress.

She looked around, to see Hestia, Flora, Parvati, Padma, and Heidi whispering to all the female Society members that they could pop by the Head Girl’s room and use the Floo to get better clothing.

Of course it wasn’t fair on the rest of the school, but that was the rest of the school’s fault for not being in the Society.

Astoria started to trot, so much to do in such little time. She entered the Head Girl’s room, Victoria in tow, and paused.

She looked at the five girls who had followed them. “I’m going home,” she announced. “Mother will assist me.”

“Don’t leave me with them,” Victoria pleaded.

“It’s them, or my mother,” Astoria stated. “Either way, you end up primped and in a dress. At least with my mother, you’ll get something that suits you. And you can give your opinion on which of my finest frocks Harry will love me in the most!”

Victoria scowled. “I’ll chose your mother,” she eventually decided.

“I promise we’ll be back on time, dressed appropriately,” Astoria stated to the others, now very eager to get the afternoon started. “So you guys look after yourselves and the rest of the members. Let’s make a statement that not only are we the best club, but we’re the best dressed as well!”

Lavender giggled and nodded. “Okay, go for it.”

Some powder, a step, and a call later, and they were spinning toward her house.

“Damn Potter,” Ron groaned, as he entered the Gryffindor Common Room.

“Ron,” Hermione sighed in a perfunctory manner.

“What?” he asked.

“Harry did defeat Voldemort,” Hermione said.

“I don’t care about that,” Ron explained.

“Wait, what?” Ginny asked. “Why the hell not?”

Ron blinked at her a few times. “Why would I be?” he asked curiously. As slow as he could occasionally admit he was, there was clearly something going on here.

“He did it without us, and with help from some Slytherins!”

Ron made a carry-on gesture, as he waiting for his sister to get to the point.

“Gah!” Ginny exhaled in frustration. “It’s like the summer all over again!”

“Oh,” Ron said with a grin. “You mean where Harry tries to talk to you, and you spend your entire letter telling him off, and telling him to do stuff for his own good? So that he gets fed up of dealing with it and doesn’t bother writing you again?”

“How do you know that?” Hermione demanded.

“I didn’t tell him what to do,” Ron said with a shrug. “He said he was safe, so we exchanged a few letters, and when he told me which family he was staying with, I agreed with him.” He smiled. “I had an awesome time with Sirius. He loved hearing stories about Harry.”

Hermione and Ginny looked gobsmacked.

“Harry’s my mate,” Ron explained slowly, as they were clearly not getting the point. “Just because you two have been avoiding him, doesn’t mean I have. So, yeah, Voldemort’s got an awesome punishment. That doesn’t excuse him organising a Ball at really short notice, and now I have to scramble to get a date.”

He paused as he spotted a curly-haired girl walk past. “Hey, Vane,” he called, moving past Hermione and Ginny.


“Ron, and you’re Romilda, right?” She nodded and smiled at him, white teeth peeking through generous lips and a tanned face. “Fancy going to the Ball with me?” he asked.

“Yes, I am Romilda,” she said, paused, and then the smile grew. “And yes, I’d like that.”

“What colour is your robe?”

“Black with a splash of colouring, so don’t worry about what colour accents you have, we can charm my robes to match.”

Ron grinned at her. “That is totally awesome; my robes have the same feature, and as I’m betting you have a better sense of aesthetic than I have, meet down here at ten to seven so we can coordinate before we go?”

Romilda nodded, smiled once more, and turned to run off. She paused, and turned back and pecked him on the cheek, before fleeing amidst the tittering of what seemed to the entire contingent of lower-year Gryffindor girls.

“Awesome,” Ron muttered. “So,” he said, as he turned back to his sister and his friend, “who are you planning on going with, Hermione?”

Hermione was staring at him as if she’d never seen him before. Ginny was looking surprised as well. “Okay,” he said after a few seconds, “I think I’m going to go have a shower. Later.” He turned and walked off.

He had plenty of time, and fancied a bit of a nap. He’d be awake in plenty of time to get ready, and spend some time with Harry. That was the best thing about his mate; Harry always had time for his friends, no matter how busy he was.

Ron had known about the club, but it wasn’t his thing. He admitted, at least to himself, that he was pretty lazy, and he’d seen how much effort and lost sleep it had cost Harry to be a part of it and make time for everyone. He preferred sleep and mucking about.

“Deano,” he greeted the other boy in the room.

“Ron,” Dean said. He was pacing. “Are you in a really good mood?”


Dean shrugged. “What the fuck is up with your sister? One second she’s all over me, the next I can barely get a word out of her?”

Ron blinked and contemplated getting upset at the words. The problem was that there was maybe a small percentage of truth in Dean’s statement, and Ron was indeed in a really good mood. “Dunno,” he said honestly. “To be honest, I reckon she might be pissed that Harry’s got a girlfriend.”

“Why?” Dean asked.

Ron shrugged. “Ask her? I don’t know.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “I will. Hey, Seamus.”

“Tosspot, Ron,” Seamus greeted them casually, as he strolled in. “I’m going to get this out of the way before saying anything else. Harry’s new girlfriend is ridiculously pretty, and is going to be as hot as fuck when she finishes growing up.”

“Agreed,” Ron said, echoing Dean. “That out the way now?”

“Yup,” Seamus agreed. “And seeing that people are starting to realise that fighting the Snakes is stupid, I’ve got a date with Tracey.”

“Nice,” Ron agreed.

“Indeed,” Dean agreed. “Best rack in Hogwarts.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Seamus said with a flat tone and an agreeing grin.

“Of course, how foolish of me,” Dean muttered. “Right, I’m going to go and find out if I still have a girlfriend.”

“If not, Katy’s not got a date yet.”

“Yeah, but she’s older?” Dean pointed out. “She wouldn’t want to go with me.”

“You could always pull the ‘I’ve been dumped’ card,” Ron suggested. “And ask to go as friends.”

Dean and Seamus appeared to freeze, before they both turned and faced Ron. “What the hell?” Seamus demanded.

“What?” Ron asked.

“Since when do you know how to give good advice about girls?” Dean asked.

“Oh, that,” Ron said. “Look, Harry got pissed about having to go back to his place, right?”

“Right,” the two agreed.

“So he pissed off to the scary midget’s place and spent the summer there. Harry’s a good bloke, so he wrote to me, and Ginny and Hermione. Those two replied telling him to give up his fun and go do what Dumbledore said, I told him to go for it, and keep me informed.”

“Right,” Dean agreed. “As you should. The second term is over, I don’t even wanna think about Hogwarts, let alone be in contact with the professors.”

“Anyway, a day of listening to those two and my mum talking shit about Harry, and I got annoyed. Harry suggested I visit Sirius Black.”

“Cool,” Seamus interjected.

“Sirius is the very definition of the word cool. He ended up persuading my mother that I was helping him clean, and that I was employed. So I got to spend all the summer with him. Meant that I got to play with tonnes of magic, Floo with Harry a lot – and the scary midget occasionally – and just have a blast. We kept sneaking out and going around Muggle London, when I wasn’t visiting you two tossers, and I did even help Sirius.

“I now have some neat dress robes, a date for this evening, and some understanding of how girls work. Basically, Sirius gave me a shit-tonne of advice from when he was at school.”

“Awesome,” Dean agreed. “Be back in a few.”

Seamus collapsed down onto his bed. “Pretty cool about Whatsisface.”

“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “I get the feeling that if we’d joined that club, we’d actually understand just how bad a punishment it is.”

“Good point, but, I’m happy having others tell me it’s bad, and not doing all that extra work.”

“Absolutely,” Ron agreed cheerfully. “My plan now is to have a nap, have a good time this evening, and relax through the rest of school, and, as long as you promise not to tell anyone, try and get a job doing charms.”


“Yeah, Sirius had loads that I had never even thought off before, from an improved shaving charm to a charm to find your missing sock in the morning. I’m thinking that I’d maybe invent a load of useful charms like that and sell a book.”

“I’d buy it,” Seamus said, sounding honest. “Charms always seem focused on pointless stuff, like match to needle, rather than useful, such as, why the fuck are my boxers so fucking starched and why can’t I have a charm to make them comfy?”

“Good idea,” Ron said, as he reached into his bag for a quill and some parchment.

“Ron, your sister’s a bitch,” Dean said, as he walked in. “Katy’s got a date just as I was walking over, so I sent a message to Lovegood, and she said yes.”

“Luna?” Ron asked.

“She’s pretty funny,” Seamus agreed. “Cute, too.”

“Exactly,” Dean said. “So even if we don’t hit it off, it’ll be interesting.”

“In which case, I’m gonna have my nap.”

Draco scowled as he sat on his bed, his back propped up against the headboard by the pillows. He couldn’t believe what had happened this afternoon.

His own parents were blood-traitors! And this nonsense that Potter had banished the Dark Lord. There was no way that was happening, Potter was an idiot, everyone knew that.

And what was worse was that his stupid Squib sister, who should have been drowned at birth, was attending a Ball at Hogwarts. It was an insult to everything that mattered, that she was at Hogwarts, just because Potter wanted her there.

He crossed his arms. He didn’t even have his wand to destroy something. It wasn’t fair!

The door to his room opened, and he scowled, only to stand as Lord Parkinson walked in. “Draco.”

“My Lord,” Draco replied, rolling to his feet. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“I’ve heard some disturbing things,” Parkinson said with a sad shake of his head.

Draco knew that Parkinson was a Death Eater, and he realised that Parkinson was here to help him escape Malfoy Manor and join up with the Dark Lord. “Yes, my Lord,” he agreed. “My parents are blood-traitors; we need to get out of here quickly.”

“So you’re loyal to the Dark Lord?” Parkinson asked.

Draco nodded eagerly. “Absolutely,” he agreed.

“And you’re on board with the Dark Lord’s attitude to Half-bloods?”

“They should all be killed,” Draco agreed, thinking of Potter.

“I’ve got a message for you, Draco, from the Dark Lord,” Lord Parkinson said.

“I knew it!” Draco said excitedly. “I knew Potter couldn’t beat him and my traitorous parents were lying! What is it?”

“Look at me, Draco, so I can pass the message on,” Parkinson crooned.

Draco met the Lord’s eyes excitedly.


Author Notes:

I’ll leave it to everyone’s imagination just what someone of Chester’s particular ability would do to a boy who thinks Chester’s beloved Half-blood daughter should be killed.

To make the relationship’s clear:

Lucius and Narcissa — Draco Malfoy, Pure-blood heir.   Isabelle Malfoy, Squib second born daughter.

Chester Parkinson — Pansy Parkinson, Pure-blood heir.   Rose, illegitimate Half-blood daughter.   Charles Parkinson, Chester’s Squib nephew.

Matthew Goyle — Gregory Goyle, Pure-blood heir.   Sasha, illegitimate daughter.

There were quite a few lies told throughout this fic, from little white lies to big whoppers.   A lot of time it was to save face with people the liar cared about.   Harry had the most blatant face-saving lie.

Harry was also a bit disingenuous.   He did invite Hermione, Ron and Ginny each year, but he didn’t exactly go out of his way to extol the virtues of the club either.  

In a big way, the worst behaviour in this story was from Lavender, Fay, Parvati, Hestia and Flora.  They bullied Hermione and Ginny — in that they used superior numbers to isolate them, used spells to silence them, and then told them how to behave with threats of what would happen if they didn’t follow orders.

If you asked them, they would be horrified at the accusation; they are teenage girls and didn’t think of it as anything other than protecting Harry.   Harry, when he heard about the warning, imagined something nice and healthy — not five girls picking on two at wand point.  

It’s pretty much canon that Lavender and Hermione didn’t get on, and despite Lavender’s reassurance and sense of self-worth being much higher, she is still somewhat jealous of Hermione’s relationship with Harry.   Lavender took the opportunity to unload 6 years of angst on a pretty underserving Hermione.

As for Ginny, this predates the chest-monster, so Ginny was still pretty anonymous at the time… and Astoria was there, in front of him, wearing only the princesses’ night gown and makeup assisted by Millicent.

All that said, Lavender was a lot of fun to write.

Egeria was the Roman goddess of prophecy.

Sirius was an awesome wing-man.   Harry told Sirius about Astoria’s love of Turkish delight, so Sirius knew to bring some with him, and offered just enough teasing to ensure that no one was scared off.

At the same time, while understated, Millicent was Astoria’s wing-man.   Considering that Harry was her friend, she was looking out for him, as well as looking out for Astoria.

The name of the Society was decided after reading the list of societies available at Oxford and Cambridge.   The Society itself was based loosely on a club at school.   A club I definitely was not involved in, as I was far more like Seamus, Ron, and Dean at school.

For a change, I didn't want there to be the tradition "Horcrux! Horror!" - and went for the "They exist, but no one really wants to tear their very soul," approach.

Death was borrowed (without permission) from the late, great, Terry Pratchett.  

Perhaps the world’s most insignificant tribute.

Back to:: Harry Potter » Motivations