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This Means War
10b - Werewolves, Goblins and Dragons, Oh My! (Part 2 of 3)
If you want to discuss the spy (or any other aspects) of this part on the forum or my yahoo group, please ensure that you give SPOILER warnings!
To: Rapacious Werewolf
Subject: This evening
Moony ol’ boy, several things came up last night. I want you at Hogwarts before it gets dark, so we can try a few things out before you change.
Sirius, you too.
Subject: Higher than you can count
Paddy ol’ boy, I think it’s going to take some getting used to the idea that Harry instinctively considers himself my boss.
From: Sinister Sirius
To: Reposed Remus
Subject: I can count higher than that…
I think I worked that one out when he forced me and Severus together.
Hopefully, as he grows, he’ll grow out of it a little and you can go back to mothering him.
From: Not reposed on the afternoon of a full moon
To: Sinister? Try benign
Subject: Without taking off your socks and shoes?
And I do not mother him! I’m far too masculine for that.
From: Pacifist Padfoot
To: Jumpy wolf
Remus, we’re good friends. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember. And as your friend, I have to tell you…
That moustache makes you look like you prefer the company of other men.
So yes, mothering.
From: Parental Figure
To: The Boy Who Isn’t Quite An Adult Yet
Cc: Metrosexual Man
Subject: Re: This evening
I’ll be there.
From: The Boy Who Hates Capitals
To: Grumpy Gus
Subject: Re: This evening
How shy are you?
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: You’d be grumpy too
To: the boy who lived (happy?)
Cc: That one
Subject: Re: This evening
Not very, why?
Subject: Re: This evening
I just had an idea for something educational. I’ll see you tonight.
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Harry Potter
To: All Students
Cc: All staff, everyone in Hogwarts, Sirius and Remus
Subject: Extra curricular activity
I’d like to invite everyone who is curious to see an actual werewolf transform to meet tonight in the Great Hall.
For too long werewolves have been treated like pariahs because of how they act when they are under their curse.
I feel it would be highly educational for you to see first hand the effects that this curse has on the individual involved. To see the pain they have to go through, through no fault of their own.
Remus Lupin, a former Professor at Hogwarts, has graciously volunteered.
Professor Lupin was bitten as a child by Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf I fought last night, and I do not know a kinder, gentler and more respectable man.
I hope that you will be there at 7 tonight, and that you will leave your prejudices at the door.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: Re: Extra curricular activity
I didn’t expect that!
Do you think it will be safe for them?
Subject: Re: Re: Extra curricular activity
Never mind them, how do you feel?
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Extra curricular activity
What — the demonstration? Harry’s right, it could do a lot of good. As long as people are safe, and Harry wouldn’t even suggest it if he didn’t have it under control, I’ve not got a problem with it. It’s not exactly a secret, is it?
Every time I look around, you surprise me.
I will be there.
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards
To: Unca Albie
Subject: Re: Constantly
Good — because I’m going to need your help protecting everyone who turns up this evening.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: My relatives
Can you do me a favour and move them from wherever Dobby stuffed them into a room for now?
We’ll have to let them go sooner or later, but I’ll repair their house first — it’s not exactly their fault it got destroyed.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: Re: My relatives
You owe me.
Working for the downfall of the Dark Tosser for fifteen years
Harry opened his eyes and slowly smiled.
"That," Ginny said softly, "is the most wolfish smile I’ve ever seen on a human."
"Hey," Harry greeted her. "When did you get in?"
"About twenty minutes ago," she replied with a soft shrug. "Did you know that you’re floating?"
He nodded. "It’s easier to meditate when you’ve not got any external stimulus."
She laughed under her breath.
"I’ve got something to tell you," he said with a grin.
"Oh?" she asked, matching the grin.
He nodded. "I’m an Animagus."
He shook his head and concentrated, forcing his hawk self to the fore. The pain this time was less than before as he shrank down to the smaller bird.
Ginny looked at him and burst into tears.
"Ginny?" he asked, transforming back immediately.
"I’m so sorry," she mumbled as she barrelled into him and buried her face into his chest.
"What for?" he asked, his hands going around her automatically.
"Not telling you." Her voice was muffled by the shirt he was wearing.
"It’s okay," he said. "I’ve accepted it and moved on. You did what you thought was best, and I’ve accepted that."
"You have?" she asked doubtfully.
"You think about things differently as a wolf," he explained. "Part of me was slightly mad at you for going against me as pack leader, but I could smell your sadness and regret this morning, and, well, you are my mate, and if you can’t forgive your mate, who can you forgive?"
She sniffled against him.
He lightly stroked her back. "Although I do think you’re wrong."
"Mmfpff," she mumbled.
"I believe that I am powerful, and I believe that if I stop hiding it, there’s nothing I can’t do. But I believe that of you as well."
"Yes, you can," he insisted. "Look at me, Ginny."
She raised her head. Her face was blotchy from her tears, and her nose was red.
He conjured a hankie and pressed it to her nose. "Blow."
He wiped and disposed of the hankie with a shake of his wrist.
"I’m going to enter your mind."
He silently cast Legilimens and entered her mind. He didn’t hang around as he headed toward the part of her mind that corresponded with the part that his wolf had come from. He was going to prove that she could do anything by making sure that she was going to be an Animagus as well.
â€˜Come,’ he ordered into the darkness of Ginny’s subconscious. â€˜I know you’re there, and I know what you want. I can smell you!’
There was a soft sound, followed by silence.
â€˜Help me, Ginny,’ he said into her mind. â€˜Order it to come forth!’
There was another silence, before a lurch that seemed to shake everything occurred. From the dark recesses of her mind, a she-wolf padded out slowly. She sniffed him slowly and then bowed.
He nodded to her and retreated out of Ginny’s mind.
"Who is she?" Ginny whispered.
"Your Animagus form."
"That’s not possible," she whispered again.
"Oh, it’s possible, if you just forget what you know."
"That makes no sense."
"There are no limits on Magic, Ginny, but the limits that we impose. With enough power, we could accomplish anything. Spells, charms, curses, they are nothing but focusing tools for what we want to do.
"They are the structures and guidelines that we play in, but they aren’t needed, not if we go beyond them and refuse to accept them." He paused and created a chair with a wave of his hand. "Make the chair float."
She reached for her wand, her eyes not looking away.
His hand shot out and grabbed hers. "Don’t use a wand, just make it float."
"Wave your hand, make it float."
"That doesn’t make sense."
"I do it," he pointed out.
"But you’re Harry Potter, you can do anything," she protested.
"And you’re my mate," he snarled angrily. "You’re my love, my partner, my future. Now bloody well prove it, Ginny, make that damn thing float."
She looked at him, shocked.
"Do it," he snarled again, "or are you just a weak willed little girl?"
"You bloody git!" she yelled as she slashed her hand at the chair. It splintered into a thousand pieces.
"Not quite a Levitation Charm," he said with a grin in his voice, "but I think I proved my point. If you can do it when you’re angry, why not when you’re calm?"
She took a deep breath and glared at him for a full thirty seconds. "Because I lose my temper?" she eventually asked.
"And when you lose your temper, are you thinking what you can and can’t do?"
She shook her head. "I just do it," she confessed.
"Like with the raw magic?"
She nodded again.
"So you accept that you can do this sort of thing?"
"When I’m mad, yes."
"If you can do it mad, you can do it normally," he pointed out. "And while I’m out with Remus tonight, I want you to think about that, and I want you to practice calling your Animagus form to the front of your mind, but no transforming until I’m here to help you through it."
Ginny nodded. "Can I tell Hermione?"
"Of course. I’m going to go through this with her and Ron as well. Then maybe a few other people. All we have to do is convince people that their limits are self-imposed, and we’ll see all sorts of things."
"Harry," Ginny said softly, "this won’t be a panacea."
"Because there are probably forty people in the whole school who have the power level needed to do this. Did you ever think about why spells are needed?"
He shook his head.
"It’s because normal people don’t have that much magic. It’s why they can’t fight back against Voldemort. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s that they can’t. They can do a few cleaning charms, do a bit of Apparating, but when it comes to pushing the boundaries, they’ve got nothing there to help push."
"Oh," Harry mumbled.
"I’m a powerful witch. I can grasp what you are talking about, more so now you’ve just proved it to me. Most of my family are powerful. Percy isn’t, magically, but he knows enough shortcuts so that it doesn’t matter — but it’s why he’s never been that interested in defence, which is more of a power based subject. A good strong wizard will always beat a good weak wizard. Most of the classes here talk about theory and techniques to compensate for power. The people who are the top of the D.A. are there not just because of the desire, but because they have the power as well, and they’re the ones that you might be able to persuade. We might be able to do new things with magic, but others won’t."
"So we’ll invent spells to make their lives easier then."
"I love you," Ginny laughed softly and moved back into his arms.
"I love you too," he replied. "What brought that on?"
She inhaled deeply. "Nothing ever keeps you down for long, does it?"
"I guess not."
"You’re a fighter, my love, and you’ll never stop," she said.
He lightly ran his fingertips over her back.
"You’ve still got my wand?"
"Your fake one, yes."
"Start using it."
She laughed against him. "I’ll try," she promised.
"Ginny," he said as he tilted her head up. "Didn’t you tell me that my belief was what made everything work?"
"Then don’t try, do it. I believe you can, because I know that I am not that special. I know that I’m just a powerful wizard, like Albus, like Severus, even like Voldemort. But I believe I can do anything I set my mind to, and I believe you can as well."
She looked at him searchingly before she nodded.
"No doubts, Ginny, because that will stop it."
"Now, I think we should go and see what your family has managed to research."
Hand in hand, they walked to the library. Charlie was on the floor, stretched out, a book hovering above his eyes. Bill and Fleur were sitting next to each other, as were Molly and a slightly tired looking Arthur. Ron and Hermione were opposite Bill and Fleur. They all seemed slightly despondent.
Harry reached around and cast as many silencing and privacy charms as he could. "I’ve been thinking," he announced.
Ron dived over Hermione, taking them both to the floor, and rolled under the table.
"You’re a comedian," Harry said dryly.
"I know," Ron said from under the table.
"And just what do you think you’re doing?" Hermione demanded of Ron. "I’m going to have a bruised hip now."
"I could kiss it better," Ron purred.
"Ronald Weasley!" Molly yelled.
"Bugger," Ron muttered. "I forgot she was here."
"She is the cat’s mother, and not a proper form of address" Molly said firmly.
"If I could interrupt this family bonding moment," Harry said firmly, "I think it’s time you guys had a change of direction."
"Oh?" Arthur asked.
"Yeah, Remus and the werewolves can wait. What I need from you is your skills. Charlie, you’re going to spend all of Thursday with me — we’re going to crack Legilimency, and tomorrow you’re with Bill and Percy. Until then, you, Ron, Hermione and Arthur — as available — need to help Bill and Fleur.
"Bill, Fleur, I need you to research everything you can on Hogwarts’ wards, and how to make them more," he paused, "destructive, or if that’s not possible, to reinforce them from the inside."
"Destructive?" Bill asked dryly.
Harry grinned at him. "Molly, I need you with the Twins tomorrow, getting as many ideas from them as you can. I want as many automatic curses as we can develop."
"Okay, but why?" Molly asked.
"For now, trust me," Harry said. "Until this spy is caught, the only safe place to talk is the Room of Requirement, which I can totally control. There are things you don’t know, and the pace is picking up rapidly. As soon as I can tell you, I will." He paused and looked at his watch. "And anyone who wants to see the werewolf, we need to get down there now."
"Absolutely," Hermione said, scrambling out from under the table. "I’m looking forward to it."
Together, they trooped down to the Great Hall. Most of the school seemed to have turned up, and were sitting on benches. There was a circle in the middle of the hall. Sirius was perched on the side of a table, a frown on his face.
Remus was talking to Albus. He looked tired and nervous.
"Bill, Fleur, protective wards with Albus, please."
They nodded and walked over to Albus, as Harry went to talk to Remus. "Have you taken the Wolfsbane potion yet?"
He shook his head. "Severus is bringing it now," he said as the Severus walked through the door to the Great Hall.
Harry nodded, and took the goblet from Severus. He uncorked it and took a sniff. "That’s possibly the most repulsive thing I’ve ever had the misfortune to smell."
"Agreed," Snape sighed. "And it tastes worse than it smells. Any attempt I make to get it to be more palatable ends up ruining the potion."
Harry reached out and handed it to Hermione. "Smell for yourself and then pass it around." He cast a Sonorus spell on himself and continued. "Thank you all for coming. The potion that is slowly going to make its way around the Hall is Wolfsbane. Imagine having to drink that every four weeks, and imagine knowing that the potion, as foul as it is, is nothing compared to what is going to happen next."
"Err, Harry," Remus pointed out. "I’m going to need that right now."
"Not tonight," Harry said firmly.
Remus and Snape gaped at him.
"Tonight," Harry said, subtly shifting his body language, "you are going to do exactly what I tell you."
"But, without that potion, I become a beast," Remus almost yelled.
"Silence," Harry ordered, "do not question me."
"Yes, sir," Remus replied instantly.
Harry flashed him a quick smile. "How are the wards coming?"
"Almost ready," said Bill.
"And the moon?"
Remus shuddered. "Not long."
"Take out your wand."
"I said, take out your wand," Harry snarled. "Everyone who isn’t an Animagus or a stupidly powerful old man get behind the wards."
"And if I’m both?" Albus asked quietly.
Harry just grinned at him. "Hermione, can you take over the commentary for me? You’ve seen this before. You know what to expect."
"Of course," she said, and she cast a charm so that she could be heard, as Harry added a silencing charm to the wards.
"Remus, I want you pull your magic up to the front. Sirius, you might want to change."
Sirius nodded and moved into his Padfoot form.
Harry squinted at Remus. "More, Remus. Don’t hold back. I want all of your magic available."
Remus grunted and his eyes started to glow.
"Albus," Harry continued, not taking his eyes off the werewolf. "Can you create an illusion of what Remus looks like as a wolf?"
Albus raised his wand and muttered under his breath. A life-sized replica of Remus’ form appeared in front of them.
"Look at it, Remus," Harry ordered. "Recognise it?"
"Yes," Remus hissed.
"Take all that magic and turn, now," Harry ordered again.
"But," Remus started.
"Do it," Harry demanded. "Change! Now!"
Remus screamed as he released the magic and started to shift. When he had finished, the werewolf howled as it shook its head, before he looked at Harry and slinked over to him.
Harry looked down at the werewolf, whose eyes seemed full of malice.
The werewolf reared back a little, preparing to attack, and Harry changed, dropping easily into his wolf form. He stared at the werewolf, taking a dominant stance.
The werewolf growled at him, and like Fenrir the night before, adopted a faux-dominant stance before he attacked.
Harry jumped out of the way easily, before pouncing and landing on the werewolf’s back. The werewolf howled and wheeled on the spot, throwing him off. Harry closed in again and dipped his head under the werewolf’s body, throwing him hard into the wards.
Harry bared his teeth in a wolfish smirk at the werewolf, and stalked forward until he was nose to nose with him. The werewolf seemed confused before it retreated as far as it could before it was checked by the wards.
Harry nodded and walked around the werewolf, nudging it here and there until his posture was better. He walked back in front of the werewolf and stared at it again. The faux-pose wasn’t as offensive now.
The werewolf growled softly, so Harry reached out and cuffed his face, making sure he didn’t scratch him with his claws.
If he had been human, he would have laughed at the look of shock on the werewolf’s face.
Harry nodded as he saw the wolf accept his dominance. The hard part was over. With a howl of triumph, Harry turned toward the door and raced down the tunnel formed by Bill and Fleur’s wards. He could feel Padfoot and Moony beside him, as they raced out of the school and into the Forbidden Forest.
There was a sense of freedom and joy in the movement, as the two remaining Marauders, and the son of the other, recaptured the essence of what used to happen all those years ago.
From: Hermione Granger
To: Fleur Delacour
Cc: The girls
Subject: Veela Bible
Page 76, position 19.
Exactly how does one get into that position?
Hermione the curious
From: Experienced Veela
To: Inexperienced Witch
Cc: My sisters (and NOT my sister)
Subject: Re: Veela Bible
Why, one removes one’s left thigh bone.
Subject: Re: Veela Bible
How silly of me not to think of that… wait, Fleur, are you serious? Harry said that the Skele-Gro potion was horrific, why on earth would you go through that, just for a bit of pleasure?
To: Fleur and Hermione
Cc: Katie, Angelina, Penny, Tonks
Subject: Re: Veela Bible
First, do you have to include me, when I’m the only girl not getting any?
Second, Hermione, if I’m reading the position right, well, I can see the benefits… and what’s a little pain anyway?
Audaces fortuna juvat
Cc: Other satisfactory girls
Subject: Re: Veela Bible
Ginny, dear, are you sure you’re trying hard enough?
And you’re quite right, but there is a bone charm on page 215 that is only temporary and doesn’t hurt.
We Veela are nothing if not efficient.
I could probably be doing a little more to seduce him, but I don’t think it would work. He wants everything to be perfect our the first time.
Sometimes I do wonder, if only a little, about him. Like tonight, he’s out in a forest with a werewolf, and last night he fought another werewolf.
It’s just hard to accept that, at the moment, I come second to the rest of the world.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: Re: Harry
Ginny, my dear, at the moment, Harry needs your support. You know this, and you also know that when this is over, you will be the first for the rest of your life.
Besides, a little patience can spice things up. Just because you are supporting him doesn’t mean that you can’t make it a little difficult for him.
Casually undress in front of him, flash him, press yourself against him, make him hard (literally and figuratively).
Besides, can’t you feel it?
Subject: Feel what?
What, exactly, can you feel?
And if you say my brother, I shall have to poke your eyes out with a stick *grin*.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: Re: Feel what?
That it will be over in weeks, not months. He keeps dropping large hints….
Subject: Cats eat birds
Actually, yes, I can feel it. When I met Harry earlier he had the most wolfish smile I’ve ever seen on his face. I was a little distracted and forgot to ask him, but I know that he has plans.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Re: Cats eat birds
Why Ginny, I didn’t know you swung that way.
From: Blushing furiously
Subject: Re: Cats eat birds
That wasn’t what I meant!!!!
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Ginevra Weasley
To: Marge’s Secret Lingerie Store
Subject: Catalogue order
Page 35, items two and three in forest green, size 34B; please deliver to Hogwarts.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Severus looked in to the mirror and sneered. He sighed and tried again. Blasted Potter had ruined his sneer.
There, that was it.
With a look of supercilious evil on his face, he pulled out his favourite cape and marched through the halls to the expanded first floor cupboard that housed the Dursleys.
He yanked the door open and loomed in, his cape flapping around him. There was a satisfying squeak from the female, and an angry grunt from the fat one.
Vernon got to his feet. "Now see here," he said aggressively.
Snape stared at him like he was a first year Gryffindor.
Vernon gulped, before he started to turn red.
"You," Snape hissed, "will follow me."
"I won’t stand for this!" Vernon stated. "You freaks can’t treat us like this."
Snape almost smiled. "I think you’re missing something," he purred. "You see, everyone in a fifty mile radius can use magic. Everyone can do things that would make your eyes fall out and your mind retreat to its deepest and darkest corner. From our perspective, it is you who are the freaks, and do you know how we deal with freaks?"
"H-h-how?" Petunia stuttered.
"Why, we beat it out of them," Snape smirked. "We put them to work, and we do everything we can to ensure that their freakishness doesn’t contaminate all the hard working witches and wizards that are producing their wonderful magic and potions."
"But we’re normal!" Vernon yelled.
"You? You are a fat, oafish ignoramus who hasn’t seen his feet for several decades. You are quite clearly not normal, why, you can’t even cast a simple unlocking charm to let yourself out of a cupboard. But not to worry, it should only take eleven years before someone from your world will come and rescue you."
"You can’t do this to us!" Vernon yelled again.
"If you don’t stop yelling," Snape said softly, "I shall rip out your tongue and use it an ingredient in one of my potions."
Vernon’s face went deathly pale.
"Now, you will follow me."
"But we don’t want to be here," Petunia whined.
"Did you know that I once worked for Voldemort?" Snape asked icily. "Let me tell you what he does with people like you." He took a deep breath and recounted some of the horrors he had seen while spying on Voldemort.
As he talked, the Dursleys slowly went paler and paler.
"If it was up to me," he finished, his voice back to a hiss, "I would take you back there now, and let Voldemort play with you. Even that wouldn’t come close to what you deserve for how you treated a relative. You call us freaks, but I can guarantee that any normal family would look after a member of their own blood, without thought for reward or thanks, because it is the right thing to do."
He opened a door to their quarters and directed them in. "And here’s something more to think on," he finished. "The boy, who has allowed you to stay here, is already richer than you can imagine, and has started several businesses already that are going to revolutionise our world, and spill into yours. If you had been nice, if you had treated him properly, just imagine how grateful he would be, and how rich you would have become."
He paused and gave them his best patented sneer, "But money doesn’t mean anything to you, does it? Not when it comes from freaks."
He slammed the door shut, cast a locking spell and took a deep breath, and then smirked.
"Care for an escort?"
Snape almost jumped and turned to glare at Blaise.
She grinned at him, "That was nicely done," she said as they wandered down to the Slytherin common room.
From: Remus Lupin
To: Werewolves (All)
Ladies and Gentlemen, we need to meet, today.
I know you’re mostly stiff, sore, grumpy, and generally peeved at the entire world.
Well, I’m not, and I’ll explain exactly why later.
Two o’clock in the Forbidden Forest meeting point.
Subject: Fat-boy and the amazing giraffe Animagus
This is what Professor Snape said to Harry’s relatives last night.
I have warned him and warned him. Now he has to pay!
Audaces fortuna juvat
Harry sat at breakfast with Sirius and a cheerful looking Remus, waiting for Ginny.
Most of the school seemed to be at breakfast, including the Weasleys, Dudley and Dean’s family.
The doors to the Hall burst open and a fiery looking Ginny stood in the morning light.
Harry had to swallow a gulp; she had that look on her face that stated louder than words that she was about to do something dramatic. She was beautiful, her long hair seeming almost charged with energy, her large brown eyes dominating her pale face.
"Severus Snape, front and centre," she called.
Harry was pretty sure that even Dumbledore would have started moving if Ginny ordered him like that.
Snape paled dramatically, an impressive feat for the sallow professor, and reluctantly walked down from the Professors’ table and paused, as Ginny stalked toward him.
"I have warned you," she told him, "and now you have to pay the price."
She pulled out her wand and cast a spell on the floor in front of him. It formed a slightly translucent block. She stood on the charm and wrapped her arms around him tightly, before kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you," she said loudly enough to be heard around the hall.
And Severus Snape, the aloof self-contained spy, the man who had played Voldemort for a fool, the man who had stared death in the eye, blushed like a schoolgirl.
Ginny smiled softly at him, gave him another hug, before releasing him, dismissing her charm, and skipping over to Harry.
Harry laughed under his breath, while next to him; Remus and Sirius were killing themselves with laughter, a laughter that was slowly spreading around the Great Hall.
Severus shook himself, groaned, and retreated back to the Head table, although a small smile still played across his face.
"So," Ginny said as she wrapped Harry’s arm around her comfortably. "How was last night?"
"Brilliant," was Remus’ simple rejoinder.
"Now," Percy said, "I’m going to give a complete rundown before we start, so everyone please sit down."
Charlie, Bill, Tonks, Kingsley, and a few other Aurors they trusted sat around his office.
"What we know is that Fudge has been receiving large scale bribes from the Death Eaters, and the most recent corresponded with Sirius’ freedom. What we don’t know is exactly why. It doesn’t make sense. On top of that, when we inspected Azkaban, it was spotless. Far too spotless - the place is a prison, and as you all know, prison guards tend to be the people who fail to become Aurors. Not the most meticulous of people.
"So, the plan for today is that at exactly eleven thirty we will launch a surprise inspection. We want to catch them unexpectedly, and hope that we find something."
"What are we looking for?" Tonks asked.
"I don’t know," Percy admitted. "Something that looks off, something that makes your nose twitch. Bill, Charlie, I really want your outsider perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask any question, no matter how inane."
"Inane?" Charlie asked, "I resemble that remark!"
Percy grinned at him. "I know. But seriously, the problem is that we all know Azkaban. It’s part of the Auror training, and I’ve inspected it a few times. So we might overlook something due to familiarity."
"How are we getting there?" Bill asked.
"Ministry Portkey. Normally you have to Apparate to the nearest dock before taking a boat to there, but Fudge gets seasick."
"Travelling in style then," Kingsley said.
"We can but try." He rolled out a large map onto his desk. "Bill, Charlie, this is Azkaban island in all its glory. It’s a damp, feculent hell-hole, and frankly, as soon as we get rid of Fudge I’m going to close it down. We need to have some human rights in the Wizarding World and this abridges most of them. I’d rather we executed people cleanly than sentence them to a lifetime of torture. If we’d done that a few years ago, Bellatrix would be dead and not the vicious, crazed attack dog that she is now," he finished coldly.
Harry paused at the door to the History of Magic classroom and shook his head. "Sorry guys," he said to Ron and Hermione, "but I don’t need a nap at the moment."
"Damn it, Harry," Ron complained. "What is it this time?"
"The twins have been suspiciously quiet, so I’m going to go and check on them and Abe."
Hermione sighed. "I don’t like it that you always have good reasons."
"I know, but if it helps, I’m learning more in an out-of-class-room environment than I would be napping in here."
"But goblin history is important."
"If it’s so important, why isn’t a goblin teaching it?" Harry asked flippantly.
Hermione stamped her foot. "You stop that, Harry James Potter."
He grinned at her and shook his head.
"Come on, dear," Ron said, taking her hand. "I’ll have a nice nap on your shoulder, and you can finish your research into rune magic while you pretend to listen."
"Hermione!" Harry said in mock horror.
"Ron! That’s supposed to be a secret!"
"Time for you to go, Harry," Ron said with a laugh. "I need to do my grovelling now."
"Here," Harry said, casting a spell on Ron’s knees. "Knee pads." He tossed them both a casual salute and Apparated to the Butterbeer factory.
"Harry!" Fred yelled from across the floor. "Change into something you don’t mind getting dirty and come and help us."
Harry looked down at his robes and shrugged them off. He was wearing his standard jeans and a t-shirt underneath. He jogged over to where Fred had vanished and headed down into the basement, where the industrial scale production was done.
"We’ve been working flat-out," George said, bypassing the standard dictates of politeness. "Demand has been higher than expected. We’ve sold out of our first week’s supply already. And this morning, after the Quibbler article, we’ve got orders coming out of our ears."
"Delightful to see you," Abe said as he rolled a barrel by. "We’ve got a commercial Floo delivery service going, but we need to get the barrels there, and we can’t use magic — we tried that and it interfered with all the machinery."
"So," Fred continued, "grab a barrel from over there, fill it up over there, and roll it to the fire. When there’s ten barrels in, look at the order form above and send them on their way to the next order." He had pointed out each corner of the room as he talked. "It’s a good job we got enough stock in for a month, it should last us until we can restock."
Harry smiled and walked over to the barrels. "We’re a success then?"
"Oh yeah, word of mouth was even better than planned," Abe replied as he worked next to Harry. "Fred and George told the press that the old butterbeer had been a plot by the Death Munchers to keep them down. It proves that you can mess with people’s money through illegal taxes, you can torture them, you can kill them, but when you mess with their favourite drinks, the good wizards of England finally stand up for themselves," he finished in a deeply cynical tone.
Harry filled his barrel with the dark brown liquid and nailed the lid on, following Abe’s example. He rolled it over to the fireplace and started again.
"Why aren’t we hiring people to do this?" Harry asked Abe.
"Because we’ve not got time! If we slow down to hire someone we’ll never catch up. Grown wizards don’t like physical labour, and all the kids are at school."
Harry rolled his eyes and moved to the Floo fireplace. "Mackrack," he called.
"Harry?" the leader of the goblins asked.
"Have you got any teenagers who have some free time and wouldn’t mind a bit of manual labour in return for some gold?"
"Hundreds," he replied instantly, "including several of my own family who are still â€˜finding themselves’ before they take up a proper banking career."
"Well, send them over then, as soon as you can. We’ve got work coming out of our ears and the gold is running like a river."
Mackrack nodded at Harry. "They’ll be there in a few minutes," he promised.
"Thanks," Harry replied and closed the Floo.
"Fred, George, Abe, front and centre," he yelled at the top of his voice.
"What?" Fred snapped as they stopped their frantic work and moved in front of him.
"Is this the total list of all the orders for this morning?" he asked.
"Right, I want you three upstairs, showered, and having a nap. I’ve got workers coming through in a minute or two. I’ll need you back down by twelve, as I have an appointment this afternoon."
"Where on Earth have you got workers coming from?" George demanded.
Fred and George looked at each other and groaned. "We missed the obvious, didn’t we?"
Harry smiled angelically, "Then there’s no need for me to say anything, is there? Now get out of here, all of you."
A minute after the oddly matched trio left, the Floo flamed into life and five goblins walked through. "I’m Elder Blutwood," one of them growled. "I’m here to make sure they don’t embarrass us."
"I’m sure they won’t," Harry said. "We’re paying a galleon for every two barrels transported. Barrels are in that corner, they need to be filled at that tap, and rolled to the Floo." According to the sheets, the businesses were getting this butterbeer at fifty eight galleons a barrel, which worked out at a profit of around twenty one galleons a barrel. As the late Mr Crys had said, it was the nearest thing to a licence to mint money.
The goblin teenagers perked up at the amount of gold involved, and quickly got to work.
Harry watched them for a few minutes before he shrugged and joined in.
At twelve, three sheepish looking wizards returned, all clean and looking a lot more alert than they had before.
"Elder Blutwood," Harry called to the seated goblin, "would you mind joining us?"
The goblin nodded and shuffled over.
"You three are too valuable to be doing manual labour at the moment," Harry said, deciding not to sugar coat it. He turned to the goblin. "Would you consider an official role as supervisor?"
The elderly goblin looked surprised for a second before he nodded.
"Right, Abe, I want you to show Elder Blutwood what needs to be done, and then leave him to do it."
"Elder Blutwood," Abe said, "if you’ll step this way, I’ll show you the order list." The two walked off to survey the work site.
"Fred, George, I’m pretty sure that Molly has been trying to contact you this morning," said Harry. Both twins looked guiltily at their Mmail notifiers. "So I want you and Abe, when he’s done with Elder Blutwood, upstairs, working with Molly and coming up with things that we can use to defend Hogwarts. And don’t forget that you have Quidditch practice tonight."
"Yes, Harry," Fred said and smiled. "We got so caught up in what we needed to do, we didn’t step back to see how we needed to do it efficiently."
"Defend the castle?" Fred asked.
Harry grinned and tapped his nose. "Anything and everything, gentlemen. I’ll be shocked if this whole thing isn’t all over by next weekend."
"I can’t tell you at the moment — too many things are in the air. All it needs is a nudge." He frowned. "I just don’t know where that nudge is coming from."
Subject: This afternoon
Can you make Hogwarts for another session this afternoon, at three?
Oh, I’m going to send another Mmail along that you can forward to the Dark Tosser.
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The Boy Who Lived
To: The Lady who Charmed
I had the best time ever with you, learning the basics of how to move, while holding a beautiful woman.
I was wondering if you would mind continuing my lessons this afternoon?
With eternal thanks,
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Narcissa Malfoy
To: Lord Voldemort
Subject: Fwd: Dancing
Please find attached the latest missive from Potter.
From: The Eternal Dark Lord
To: Faithful Malfoy Servants
Subject: Re: Fwd: Dancing
Keep up the good work.
Subject: This afternoon
L.V. is pleased with your email — I’ll be there at three.
More than just an anything
Percy shuddered as the Portkey deployed them in the middle of Azkaban. The place was set up like a castle, with a large keep that housed the jails and the Dementors, a large courtyard, and the outer walls.
They were on the top floor of the keep, in the administration offices.
"Mr Weasley?" the warden, a slightly slimy woman by the name of Claudia Striven, asked.
"Surprise inspection," Percy sneered, dropping back into his old personality with an ease that depressed him for some reason. "We’re going to do a spot check of everything, and you’re going to sit there and do nothing."
"You can’t do this!"
"Of course I can," Percy replied, acting bored with the conversation. "And the Aurors here completely agree, so unless you want to be arrested and put in one of your own cells, you’ll do exactly as you’re told."
"I’ll get even," she promised.
"No," Percy replied. "You won’t. You might try. But if you do, I’ll see to it that your next job is road sweeper in Diagon Alley."
Claudia sat back in her chair and scowled at him.
Percy motioned to one of the Aurors. "Keep a close eye on her. If she moves, stun her first and ask questions later."
"Aye, sir," The Auror growled.
"Okay, you know what to do," Percy said. "Get to it." He headed out with Charlie, and headed toward the records department.
Bill was with Kingsley as they went to check on the prisoners, while Tonks and the last Auror went to talk to the other guards.
It was a frustrating hour later that he had to admit that there was nothing here, at all. The records were perfect, and to the Ministry guidelines. And that was the problem — no one, not even the Ministry itself, followed the guidelines.
"What are we missing, Charlie?" Percy groaned.
"I’ve got no idea," Charlie replied.
"We’re not going to find it here. Come on, we’ll meet the others back in the office." The woeful faces of the others told him instantly that they hadn’t found anything either.
"What happened to her?" Percy asked, seeing the unconscious woman behind the desk.
"She moved," the Auror shrugged.
"Good work," Percy said with a smile and absently woke her with Ennervate. She looked around and then smirked.
"I run a tight ship," she boasted. "You got nothing, and I’ll expect your apology in writing."
"Expect it all you like," Percy sneered back. "Tonks, how were the guards?"
"Didn’t seem to be hiding anything," Tonks said, as she changed forms into a breathtaking, rather top-heavy blonde. "I even asked like this," she said in a breathy sort of voice.
"And they didn’t have a chance," the Auror who had accompanied her added.
"Prisoners all accounted for and in their cells."
Percy sighed and pulled out the Portkey.
"The only thing we didn’t check," Bill added, "was the Kissed prisoners."
"We never check them," Percy said absently. "They’re mindless creatures who just wander around aimlessly in their holding area until they die. Everyone take hold."
"Err, Percy," Bill interrupted. "You know you mentioned inane questions earlier? Well, this is one of them. Why haven’t you checked them?"
"Because there’s no po…" Percy trailed off as he looked at Claudia and caught the momentary slip in her expression.
Things suddenly started to click in his head — the payments to Fudge, the other thing that had happened on the day of Sirius’ freedom. He felt himself going pale.
"Percy?" Charlie asked.
"I missed it," he whispered. "I can’t believe I missed it!"
"Arrest her," he said abruptly. "Then get down there and do a head count."
"Huh?" Bill asked.
"It will be short, won’t it, Claudia? And there’ll be a lot more burial records than expected, right?" The look of rage on her face was all the confirmation he needed. "I’ve got to tell Harry. The WizardNet doesn’t reach out here. I’ll be back later." Without waiting for a reply, he activated the Portkey. As soon as he arrived at the Ministry, he ran to the nearest Apparation point and Apparated to the outskirts of Hogwarts.
As he ran up the long drive, he alternately cursed his own lack of fitness, the length of the driveway, and the fact that he had missed something so bloody obvious. It all made sense as soon as Bill mentioned the prisoners that had been Kissed. He now knew exactly what Claudia had been hiding.
He ran into the school, pushed open the doors to the Great Hall, and looked around wildly. Harry was sitting next to Hermione, Ron and Ginny. He ran over to them and dropped to his knees, trying to get his breath back.
"Percy?" Harry asked.
"Spy," Percy wheezed. "The spy is," he coughed, as he tried to get it out.
"Take a deep breath," Harry ordered. "Talk slowly."
Percy found himself doing as he was told. "I’ve found the spy," he said and took another deep breath.
Harry didn’t hesitate. "Accio Wormtail!" he shouted, his magic flaring dramatically.
There was a strange clinking sound from the corner of the Great Hall, and a small rat with a brightly glowing silver paw ran toward the exit.
Harry vanished from in front of Percy, and appeared in front of the rat — which squealed and ran into a hole in the wall.
"Everyone outside," Harry yelled. "Surround Hogwarts. Don’t let him get clear of the wards."
There was a mass exodus as Percy found himself moving with the others.
"This is what I’ve been smelling," Harry growled as he dropped down into his wolf form. He sniffed once, before he growled again and sprinted down a corridor.
"So why didn’t the spell get Pettigrew?" Ron asked, as they lined up around the border of the school ground.
To: All students, all staff
Subject: Rat catching
As I’m sure you’re all aware, the rat that Harry is currently chasing is an Animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew.
The spell attached should be cast in front of you. It will help you see the rat if he should scurry toward you. The second spell will garner our attention. If you are not a fifth year or above, do not try to apprehend him! Call for one of us and we will catch him.
Just to let you know, you’re right. Headcount is down by fifteen, and we suspect a lot more have been "buried" before their time, so to speak. All are known Death Eaters. It’s no wonder the Dark Tosser hasn’t raided this place, he had no need to.
Kingsley is irritated, and has been taking it out on the charming Claudia. I’ve learned several new curse words; however, I don’t think I have the necessary gravitas to say one of them.
"His paw must be charmed against it," Hermione replied as she put away her Mmail parchment. "There’s Harry," she said, pointing to the top of one of the towers.
From the distance, they could see the wolf prowling along the parapet before he looked over the edge and howled.
He disappeared from sight.
"Don’t tell me," Hermione muttered. "Doing it from a low balcony is one thing, but from up there?"
"What?" Ron asked.
There was another howl, and Harry appeared, still in his wolf form, as he bounded onto the parapet, and then launched himself into space.
"Harry!" Hermione yelled.
Half way down, Harry started to change, shrinking as wings sprouted either side of his body.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Minerva’s voice rang out. "The world’s first Dual Animagus!"
"Very well done," Filius said quietly to Minerva.
Harry flapped his wings and soared into the sky, his head moving as he scanned the ground in front of him.
"Poor Peter," Ginny smirked. "A Harris’ Hawk can dive at over two hundred miles per hour."
With a screech, Harry flapped his wings hard as he dived down at an awe-inspiring speed. At the last second, almost like a Wronski Feint, he changed his angle and his claws flashed out, before he was high in the air again, a small form struggling between his claws.
"Got him," Ron cheered as Harry squawked in triumph.
"I’m impressed he didn’t kill him," Hermione remarked. "That move is designed to kill. He must have pulled out at the last second."
"Can you help me create somewhere for Harry to drop him?" Ginny asked. The combined force of most of the professors and senior students at Hogwarts soon had a large topless cube made up of wards ready.
Harry swooped down and dropped Pettigrew from a height, before following him down. As he got near, both Harry and Pettigrew transformed.
Pettigrew landed heavily, screaming as he did so. Harry landed gracefully, like a cat, with a sword in his hand. With an effortless swing, Harry removed the silver hand from Wormtail’s body and then used the sword to toss it out of the cube. He paused, and then cast a spell to cauterize Wormtail’s bleeding stump.
Dumbledore walked over to the silver hand and looked at it thoughtfully for a second before he incinerated it.
Wormtail wailed again, both from the pain and from seeing his hand destroyed.
"H-h- —H-Harry," Wormtail snivelled, getting to his feet, clutching his arm to his chest.
Harry swivelled, whirling in a complete circle before he jumped, his right foot lashing out and catching Pettigrew straight in the face.
The rat-like man crashed into the wards and collapsed into the floor, unconscious.
Harry walked over to him, and placed his sword against the man’s neck, before he cast Ennervate to wake him.
Pettigrew looked at Harry, before his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fainted again.
Harry sighed and banished the sword. "Do you have anything that will keep him asleep?" he shouted to Severus Snape.
Snape nodded and started to jog back toward the school.
Harry took one more long look at the man who had betrayed his parents, before he turned into his hawk form and flew out of the cube, landing next to them.
"Think you can handle him?" Harry asked after transforming back again.
Percy nodded. "I can," he said.
"Percy," Harry said, looking at him. "I’m really proud of you. Without you, he’d still be ruining my plans. If you ever wanted to prove that you’re a Weasley to the core, today is the day you have done so, and done so with style."
Percy found himself standing taller and took a deep breath, as Ginny hugged him tightly and Ron pounded him on his back.
"J-just doing my bit," he said back to Harry, feeling inordinately proud of himself. "I should have realised earlier," he confessed.
"We all should have," Harry agreed. "We all had the same information. We just got so hung up on Sirius’ freedom that we forget that Pettigrew was sentenced to death on the same day."
For the first time, he truly felt he was back as part of the family. He had been given his forgiveness freely from his family, but now he felt like he had earned it, that he had proved his heritage beyond doubt, and that he could now move on.
Harry looked around at the gathered students and cast a Sonorus spell on himself. "Thanks for your help, everyone, but now it’s time for school again. We’ll deal with the rat, and he won’t be able to cause trouble again. I knew that it wasn’t one of you that had been doing the spying, and this just proves it."
The children and some of the Professors started to make their way back to school.
"If you want to apportion blame," Harry continued absently, "you could blame me, Remus and Sirius. We all caught his scent, but we didn’t trust our instincts."
Ginny wormed her way into his arms.
"I think," Harry said slowly, "that we need an Order meeting this evening. I’ll let you know what’s going on, and we can prepare."
"For Voldemort launching an attack during the Quidditch match on Saturday?" Percy asked.
Harry smiled wolfishly. "Oh no, Voldemort won’t be attacking then," he said with such belief and confidence that no one questioned him. "If you’ll excuse me," he continued. "I think it’s time I taunted Tom. This plays into my plans on so many levels I almost can’t believe it."
He dropped a kiss on Ginny’s lips, before he wandered off, almost skipping in happiness.
"Ginny?" Percy asked.
She smiled at him. "He’s in a good mood. I think it’s because he didn’t kill Pettigrew. He had the choice and he didn’t take it, so he now knows that he is still good."
To: Lord Volde-monkey
Subject: Oh it’s such a perfect day
Tom, me old mate, me old buddy, me old pal. Long time no Mmail, don’t you love me anymore?
It’s been a bad few days, hasn’t it?
First you lose some Death Eaters, then you lose your cash flow, and now you’ve lost your worm. Life’s a bitch (for you), isn’t it?
Oh yes, did you really think that Pettigrew could escape me for long? He’s now come down with a serious case of unconsciousness, and was caught silver-handed. Sadly, the hand got destroyed, but you know how it is when you get careless, don’t you?
The good news is that we’ve put new wards up at Hogwarts that will intercept any Death Eaters, and will, at the same time, keep out any Animagi.
I’ll see you soon,
Audaces fortuna juvat
To: The Weasley
Please bury this news for now. I need things to stay as they are over the weekend. Talk to Amelia tonight and tell her what has happened, and prepare the paperwork, but wait until the Wizengamot is in session on Monday to do anything with it.
I want someone else in charge of the Ministry until we can have a fair election.
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The Boy who regained his honour
To: The Boy who is running everything
Subject: Re: Fudge
Not a problem, Harry.
I don’t suppose you’ll give me a clue as to whom I’m going to be working for?
The information in this Mmail is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the addressee. Access to this Mmail by anyone else is unauthorized. If you are not the intended recipient, any disclosure, copying, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is prohibited and may be unlawful.
Subject: Re: Fudge
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Lord Voldemort
To: Narcissa Malfoy
Cc: Lucius Malfoy, Marcus Flint
Subject: Spying and Wormtail
That idiot Wormtail has just got himself caught by Potter. I will be killing him the next time I see him. He’s outlived his usefulness.
You are, no doubt, wondering just why I’m not upset about this.
The boy sent me an Mmail, and when I capture him, I will make him write the Mmail out in his own blood and then make him eat it! But, he did reveal that he has blocked any marked Death Eater from arriving at Hogwarts, and that he feels safe now, as he believes that I have no spy at Hogwarts.
Sadly, in his naÃ¯vetÃ© and childishness, he has massively underestimated my genius.
Narcissa, you will seduce the boy today and "prove" your loyalty to him. No more playing, I want him in love with you.
Flint, as my youngest Death Eater, you will accompany Lucius to ensure that his wife is dressed appropriately for seducing the brat.
Victory or Death
Narcissa wrapped her cape around her as tightly as she could, moved through the halls of Hogwarts unsteadily, and into the classroom without pausing.
Harry looked up at her as she entered, and she felt herself blushing. "I am going to kill him," she promised.
"My darling husband," she ground out through gritted teeth. "And then I’ll kill Marcus Flint for good measure!"
Harry tilted his head. "If you do," he offered casually, "I’ll make sure you get a reward from the Ministry."
"I’ll take you up on that," she muttered darkly.
"Exactly why are you contemplating a more extreme form of divorce?"
She looked at him for a long second, and then shrugged off her cloak in a challenging manner.
Harry looked at her for a long moment, and his face went blank.
She sighed softly. "Let it out," she said dejectedly.
Harry met her eyes for a second before he slowly started to snigger.
"Laugh it up," she mumbled.
"Am I supposed to find this attractive?" he asked.
"I have never felt so utterly humiliated in my life," she stated angrily. "And I’m not sure if I’m more enraged at this outfit, the fact that Flint was doing the advice, or that my dear husband wants me to become a whore for the Dark Lord."
"Tosser," Harry said.
"Call him the Dark Tosser; it will make you feel better."
"Look, Harry, are you any good with clothing? Because I can’t wear this much longer — it’s cold, and I’m about as comfortable as a house-elf at a Ministry ball, and Lucius has my wand to ensure that I don’t chicken out."
Harry looked at her for a long moment. "Flint chose that?" he asked as he pulled out his wand and looked at her thoughtfully.
Narcissa looked down at herself in disgust. She looked like a caricature. Her breasts had been enhanced to an almost ridiculous level with a couple of spells, and the tight blouse she was wearing was unbuttoned, displaying her lack of underwear.
Her skirt was no-such-thing, and was enhanced by the purple fishnet stockings she had been forced into at wand-point. The fact that the purple clashed with the green of her belt and skirt had been ignored by her husband and Flint.
She had refused to look at herself in the mirror, fully aware that her makeup was far too heavy for her features.
All her attempts to protest had been cut short, and the fact that she had been forced to be naked in front of Flint was yet another item she was going to take out of her dear husband’s hide.
"I think I’m insulted," Harry said as he summoned some of his own clothes and started to transfigure them. "Do they really think that I would be attracted to someone dressed like a cheap whore?"
"Yes," Narcissa said with a deep sigh. "Or rather, Flint does not have the imagination to place himself into your shoes, and so pieced together his own fantasy."
"He has some serious issues," Harry noted. "Colour-blindness, for one."
"Can you do something about these?" she pleaded, indicating her chest. "My back is hurting, they look completely fake, and they don’t suit me."
"Finite Incantatem," Harry said, pointing his wand at her chest. She sighed in relief as the pressure on her back lessened, her breasts coming back to their normal size.
"This is slightly your fault."
"You caught Wormtail, so the Dark Tosser has ordered me to seduce you. And then he ordered those two to show me how. As if I would need help on how to seduce anyone!"
"How would you seduce me?" Harry asked absently as he concentrated on the clothing.
"It wouldn’t be by dressing up like a pantomime whore!" Narcissa replied firmly.
Harry smirked at her and offered her the clothing he’d transfigured, a quite nice dress made out of a strange material she’d never seen before.
"May I borrow your wand to do some underwear?" she asked, feeling her abject humiliation return with a vengeance.
"This?" Harry asked. "It’s a stick, not a wand."
Narcissa raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Oh."
"Could I get you some?" he eventually offered, after a long pause.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Malfoy Manor, where else? Think of where you keep them."
Narcissa nodded and thought of the chest of drawers in her dressing room. She felt Harry’s mind brush against hers, before he vanished. She smiled as he returned with the complete chest of drawers. "The Malfoy Manor wards don’t appear to have stopped you?" she asked as calmly as she could, hiding her shock.
Harry shook his head. "I think your darling husband scrimped on them. I’ve seen better wards at the Ministry."
Narcissa frowned; she could remember Lucius boasting about how much he had spent on them. She was now wondering where that money — her money — had really gone.
"I’ll be back in a few moments," Harry said, as he pointed his hand at a wall and created a sink for her.
She moved as fast as she could to divest herself of the disgusting clothes she had been forced to wear, and dressed in the clothing he had left behind. She walked over to the sink and shuddered at the layers of caked-on makeup. She picked up one of the bottles and smiled faintly, deciding that she owed him one for this.
Two minutes later the normal face of Narcissa Malfoy, completely free of makeup, stared back at herself from the mirror. She smiled faintly. Despite being on the wrong side of forty, she was still an incredibly beautiful woman. Her wizard heritage made sure that there was no grey hair and no hint of a wrinkle.
She moved over to her chest of drawers and opened the middle one. She was about to pull out some of her normal underwear when an idea hit her. She smirked to herself and opened the bottom drawer, the drawer that contained her lingerie. She pulled out a semi-translucent off-the-shoulder chemise and some matching knickers and pulled them on quickly. They had been procured in an attempt to relight the fire with Lucius, but the first time she had worn them, he had vanished for a Death Eater meeting, barely even noticing what she was wearing. She had placed the lingerie away and never touched it again.
She looked into the mirror and smiled at herself again. The ruffled lace top of the chemise hid everything it should while hinting at it, while her knickers took care of the rest.
There wasn’t much she could do with her hair — not without a wand — so she tied it back into a simple ponytail, and smiled innocently at herself. She nodded approvingly. She looked years younger, which was just what she wanted.
Harry arrived back with a pop, and she turned to face him slowly, standing with one foot slightly in front of the other and on her toes, a fake expression of surprise on her face.
"I’m s-sorry," Harry muttered, his eyes going wide.
"Wait," Narcissa called huskily, before he could Apparate again. "I’ve never really said thank you," she continued softly as she walked over to him, ensuring that each and every step was smooth and controlled, and that she kept on her toes to emphasise her legs.
"Y-y-you’re welcome," Harry gulped.
Narcissa stopped in front of him, just slightly closer than propriety normally allowed. She reached out and softly touched his arm, stroking him as lightly as she could.
He swallowed, before his eyes flashed for a second and his expression changed.
She smirked at him and took a step back.
Harry slowly started to laugh. "You are dangerous," he said firmly.
"I am a Black," she agreed. "That is how I would seduce you."
Harry nodded. "It would work, too, if I didn’t have Ginny, and you weren’t old enough to be my mother."
"It’s rather academic, Harry; there is very little attractive about a teenage boy, unless you’re a teenage girl. In ten or fifteen years, when you’ve grown into your body and your mind, I might be interested, but right now, it’s more than just a little disturbing for me too."
She turned and walked over to her chest of drawers, and with her back to Harry, pulled off the chemise and pulled on a white bra, before getting dressed in the dress he had created for her.
Her mood had improved greatly. She still had it — even if Lucius didn’t want it, and after this mess was over, she knew she would have no problem at all in finding a worthy consort. His first reaction proved that she was still desirable, even if he had regained control of himself faster than she would have liked — she had wanted to be the one to break the spell, not him. Still, he had her grudging respect.
"Better?" she asked. Turning to him again, she found him sitting in a chair, looking through some parchment.
He looked up at her and nodded.
She raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "Shall we dance?"
Harry moved over to her, and took her in his arms as she had taught him in the previous lesson.
"Better," she eventually praised, after an intense ninety minutes had passed. "You keep this up and you won’t embarrass yourself in public."
"You’re a good teacher."
"What do you think of the material of your dress?"
"I like it, although I don’t recognise it. What is it?"
"It’s something that I came up with. It’s as soft as silk and as tough as denim.
"I have friends who are both incredibly good designers, and we’re going to be bringing out a new range of clothing, both regular material with magically enhanced features, and this stuff."
Narcissa nodded slowly. "I’d buy some decent outfits made out of this," she admitted. "And charmed clothing does sound interesting. There hasn’t been a dedicated store for that since 1949."
Harry nodded, and as she watched him, she could almost see his mind return to the business of her husband and Voldemort.
"Okay, you managed to seduce me, but we didn’t actually have sex. It was my first time, and well, things came to a head before we could get that far. I was dreadfully embarrassed that you’d think less of me, and blurted out something I shouldn’t. I’m playing Quidditch on Saturday, and I’m planning a load of surprises for Voldemort, as he won’t be able to resist making a statement by attacking. Amelia and the other Ministry officials think I’m being ridiculous, and I really need him to attack or I’ll lose some credibility. Fudge isn’t an issue, as we know he works for Tommy. Do you know any Legilimency?" Harry asked.
"Enough to get by."
"You managed to sneak into my head and discovered that the goblins are annoyed at something I said, and will be staying neutral."
Narcissa nodded. "Do I get to know what you are planning?"
He looked at her for a long moment. "Voldemort is going to do what I want, and this will all be over soon."
"That wasn’t much in the way of detail."
"No," he agreed. "It wasn’t."
She rolled her eyes at him. "One last issue; I hardly look like I’ve been successful."
"Do I have to think of everything?" he asked no one in particular. "Here," he handed her the skirt she had discarded. "Think of your bathroom at home, I’ll Portkey you there and send your chest of drawers back."
She felt him brush against her mind again.
"Portus." With the Portkey spell cast, he said, "Go home, have a bath, and then report to the Dark Tosser."
"Narcissa," Harry said, before she activated the Portkey. She looked quizzically at him. "After the war is over, you will have a chance. The more you think for yourself, the better the chance will be. Think about your prejudices and where they got you, and then decide if they are worth everything that has happened to you."
She nodded slowly and activated the Portkey. As she ran her bath, a slow, evil smile settled on her lips.
To: Secret Spy
Suggest Thursday at the meeting tonight. You’ll know when.
Audaces fortuna juvat
To: Busy boy
Subject: Re: Tonight
You’re making some serious waves. I’m intrigued. I’ll do as you ask.
Sorry I didn’t know about the worm — the Dark Tosser didn’t see fit to tell any of us about his secret escape route from Azkaban. And I did note that the bastard didn’t see fit to rescue me like that!
From: Black haired sis
To: Blonde haired sis
Subject: Lord Volde-Monkey
I thought that I couldn’t hate Voldemort any more than I did — and yet, today I realised that he could have gotten me out of Azkaban years ago — as he did for most other people.
I will show him what happens when he crosses a Black!
Subject: Re: The Dark Tosser
You do know that is what Harry is calling Volde-monkey these days? I approve.
I will be personally reminding Lucius that I was a Black long before I was a Malfoy.
But here’s something for you to think about.
According to my research over the past few days, in the UK there are over 50 million Muggles, compared to a little over 1 million wizards. Those Muggles use something called Electricity to mimic most everything that we can do with magic. They are lying, conniving, deceitful, creative, and talented and increasing in knowledge at an alarming rate.
The idea that they are behind us is, well, just wrong. They might have been four hundred years ago when anyone with intelligence last looked, but if we’re not careful, they will be ahead of US! Times have changed — the purebloods have to change as well. Look where the old strategy has led us.
We are Blacks. We are not second to anyone. And if that means allowing the Muggle-born into Hogwarts and using what they produce, so be it.
Not just an anything
"So is there a cure?"
Remus shook his head. "I’m afraid not."
"Then why in the name of Loki are you cheerful today?" another werewolf demanded aggressively.
"Because last night, I took a leaf out of Greyback’s book and embraced being a wolf. Only, instead of trying to fake it like he did, I learnt to actually be one."
Remus moved closer to the fire and looked around slowly. There were just under fifty werewolves gathered around. Most of them were dressed as poorly as he was, and they all had serious bags under their eyes from the night before.
"I didn’t take the damn potion last night," Remus explained. "And I forced my magic to help me change. Greyback was right, that does make it easier. With me was Harry Potter, who is a wolf Animagus. When I changed, I tried to express my dominance, as I’m a werewolf, but do you know what feeling I got from the wolf?"
"Irritation and contempt," one of the other werewolves spoke up. "I’ve met a wolf once, and he sniffed and walked away as if I was nothing."
"Well, that’s because our body language is completely wrong. Harry explained it as a human imitating a wolf. He wasn’t pleased at all, and every time I got in a position I thought was correct, he’d correct my posture until he was happy.
"But then a funny thing happened. The more I embraced being a wolf, the more clear everything was, and this was without the Wolfsbane potion. Last night I learned how to be a real wolf, and it was good. Today, for the first time, I’ve woken up with very little pain, and I feel refreshed and invigorated.
"I truly believe that if there isn’t a cure, this is the next best thing."
The other Werewolves were nodding slowly. "So, who do we join? Voldemort has offered us revenge. Albus has offered us gratitude," Alex Saxon, the current head of the werewolves, asked.
"Me," a new voice said, interrupted them. Remus looked up to see Harry casually leaning against a tree, his arms crossed.
"I offer you freedom, lessons on being real wolves, not this mockery you become every full moon, and my personal guarantee of decent employment until I’ve had all the stupid anti-creature laws stricken from the books."
"Umbridge won’t accept that."
Harry shrugged. "After I’ve killed Voldemort, petty Ministry officials will be a walk over."
"You think you can do all this, boy?"
Remus watched as Alex, a huge man who seemed to be made completely of muscle, approached him. Harry bared his teeth and growled at him. His eyes didn’t show an ounce of fear, and his posture screamed that there was no threat nearby. Remus almost smiled as his Alpha stated clearly that he was the pack leader.
There was a staring match for a few seconds, and the longer it went on; the more Harry started to look irritated. After a minute of having his dominance challenged, Harry took a step forward and made a sharp growl.
Alex took a step back automatically, before he realised what he was doing. He looked at Harry and nodded slowly.
"I need you to do something for me," Harry said — he was back against the tree as if nothing had happened. "I want you to join Voldemort tomorrow."
"What!?" Remus demanded.
Harry growled at him, and Remus adjusted his body language and backed away slightly.
"Voldemort will be pleased," Harry continued, "when you tell him you’ll join his fight, as you’ve heard rumours of even more restrictive laws being put in place and you’ve had enough. He’ll ask you to gather all of your pack together and wait for him. He’ll promise you as much mayhem as you want."
"You have a plan," Alex stated.
"I am pack-leader," Harry agreed. "Wolves are cunning and smart, and we will act that way. You are in charge in my absence."
Alex stood taller and nodded; a proud expression on his face.
"I have given my word," Harry stated. "I’ll be back tonight for the change." He vanished.
Alex turned to Remus. "He is Alpha."
Alex smiled slowly. "He can do what he said?"
"He is Alpha for a reason."
"That’s what I thought," Alex said cheerfully. "I’ll go and see Voldemort tomorrow. Do you think there really will be a fight?"
Remus laughed. "Let me tell you the story of how Harry took down Greyback."
Narcissa stood at the back of the hall, keeping her contempt to herself. She was surrounded by black robed wizards — Voldemort’s inner circle.
"Well," Voldemort hissed toward her. "Did you succeed?"
She knew she was standing out. She was wearing grey robes — black was reserved for his marked followers. "Not quite, Milord," she said.
Voldemort’s face turned sour and he raised his wand.
"But," she continued without hesitation or sign of fear. "I think you’ll like what happened more."
"Oh?" the threat was left hanging in the air.
She allowed her slightly evil smile to grace her features. "First, my Lord, I had to overcome the incompetence of Lucius and Flint."
"What?" Lucius demanded.
"Indeed," Voldemort added. "Explain yourself."
"They dressed me like a cheap whore, with no class at all. I tried to explain, but they wouldn’t listen."
"And the problem?" Voldemort demanded in a bored tone.
"Potter may be a boy, but he has more taste than that. He laughed at me."
Voldemort sat up in his chair.
"I thought fast, and explained that Lucius demanded that I dress like this around the house, and that I hadn’t had time to change. I was very apologetic and downbeat about it. I even cried a few Veela tears to show how upset I was. He couldn’t help comforting me. So I told him about how distant Lucius was, unless I dressed like that travesty."
"Potter lapped it up," she crowed. "He even lent me his wand to sort myself out." She paused and looked at Voldemort. "I thought about taking him prisoner, but you said I was to be your spy — did I do right, my Lord?"
Voldemort nodded. "The boy is skilled at wandless magic, not as much as I am, but he has some ability. You would have been defeated and I would have lost my last spy at Hogwarts. You did well. Continue."
"Yes, my Lord. I quickly removed the appalling makeup from my face, returned my chest to my normal size, and summoned my finest lingerie from my wardrobe. Potter turned away, but I moved so that he could watch me in a mirror as I changed — and he couldn’t take his eyes off me. I won’t bore you with the details," she said airily, "but in my normal form and clothes that weren’t an abomination, I soon managed to get the boy naked. I was about to do as ordered, when, well, the boy came to a premature end."
Voldemort looked at her for a long moment, before, to her horror, he started to laugh. The laugh was dry and rusty, and seemed very wrong coming from his throat.
"My Lord," she continued, "Potter expects and is hoping that you will attack during the stupid Quidditch match."
Voldemort stiffened and looked at her. "Hoping?" he hissed.
"He was embarrassed and started talking before he could engage his brain," she explained. "His credibility is on the line. When you attack, he will have proven his case to Bones and the Ministry, and they will back him."
"My Lord?" Bellatrix’s voice rang out.
"Bellatrix?" Voldemort asked, a new threat in his voice.
"We have the plans to attack," she continued, a dreadful eagerness for pain and suffering in her voice, "and we should do so, but not on Saturday."
"You think I am afraid of the Ministry?" Voldemort demanded.
"No, my Lord," Bellatrix shouted as she dropped to her knees and crawled to him, kissing the hem of his robes. "But if it will weaken Potter, I think that we should hold off, and then attack on Thursday."
"Do you indeed?"
Bellatrix shook in fear as Voldemort pointed his wand at her.
"The boy will have lost face," Bellatrix said quickly, "and he won’t be expecting you to move so fast. You’ll catch him unaware, and with the Ministry thinking he is a joke, we can take out Hogwarts quickly, and then all will bow before you."
Voldemort was very still for an endless moment.
"Dolohov," he eventually whispered. "Warn our allies. We attack on Thursday."
"My Lord," Narcissa called. "I did manage to get one more piece of information out of him. His attempts at a relationship with the goblins have failed. They will be staying neutral."
"Excellent. You are all to prepare for Thursday. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you what the punishment will be if you tell anyone. You may all leave. Except for you, Lucius, and you, Flint. You will stay, and we will have a very long discussion about your competence. There are times, Lucius, when I believe that the only thing you have done right in your miserable life is to marry your wife."
Narcissa shot her husband the same evil smile, and Disapparated, back to her rooms in Malfoy Manor, pleased with her evening’s work.
Harry wandered into the Great Hall and paused to look around. The urge to charge full steam ahead with his plans was overwhelming, but he resisted. He couldn’t accidentally tip his hand to Voldemort early; this was far too important.
Over at the Gryffindor table, the entire Weasley family was together, along with their partners, and seemed to be having a very merry time. Dean, Sheryl and their family were over at the Hufflepuff table, and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
"Harry!" Jenny was the first to notice him, and she ran over to him, tackling him around the waist.
"Hey," he greeted her as he raised her up to eye level.
"You turned into a wolf!"
He nodded. "I do that."
She shot a look at her brother. "See, I told you that you were better than Dean!"
"Not better," Harry explained, "just different."
"Right," she sniffed. "Can you turn into a pony?"
"Jenny!" Dean shouted.
Jenny turned and stuck her tongue out at her brother.
"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "Only a wolf and a hawk."
"Only," someone from the Ravenclaw table muttered.
Jenny pouted. "Come and eat with us," she ordered, squirming out of his arms and dragging him over to her table.
"Careful, Ginny," Blaise said from the Slytherin table, "You’re going to lose him."
Ginny laughed. "I think I’m safe for a few years yet," she replied cheerfully.
Harry sat down. "How are you enjoying Hogwarts?"
"It’s pretty amazing," Mary said quietly. "I didn’t expect it to be quite so wonderful, despite what Dean told us."
"I know," Harry agreed. "I still feel awed every time I step into these hallowed halls."
"The food’s been excellent," Graeme added. "In fact, it’s probably been the best holiday we’ve had."
"That’s an idea," Harry said, "we should see about inviting some of the Muggle-born students’ families to come and stay over the summer, to put their minds at rest about what their children are getting into."
"We would have appreciated it," Mary said. "We’re not going to want to go home."
"Well, you do have a while — there’s going to be a big Quidditch match on Saturday that you’ll want to see."
"I can’t wait," Graeme said happily. "It’s going to be worth missing the Hammers playing Chelsea."
"Jenny," Harry said, as he noticed the girl had finished her dinner. "See the huge man at the professors’ table?"
She nodded warily.
"That’s Mr Hagrid. He runs Hogwarts’ farm. He has loads of animals you’ve never seen before, if you go and ask him nicely, he might take you out and show you some of them."
"Really?" she asked.
He nodded and leaned in. "There are unicorns in the forest."
Jenny’s eyes went incredibly wide, and then she turned and scampered off toward Hagrid.
"Was that wise?" Susan asked softly.
Harry looked at her. "Hagrid would die before letting any harm come to anyone, especially a child."
Susan smiled and nodded. "I didn’t ask for me."
"Oh, sorry," Harry apologised to Dean’s parents. "I didn’t think about that."
"It’s all right, we trust you."
"Yeah," Dean teased. "You’re a better wizard than I am."
"Different, not better!"
"Okay, you don’t like the word better. Would you accept more powerful?"
"More dedicated, harder working, more resourceful?"
Dean smirked at him. "So, if that’s not better, what is?"
Harry glared at him and pouted.
"Accept it, Harry," Mary told him firmly. "It doesn’t make us love Dean any less. There are always talented people around, and what makes them special is when they marry that talent with desire."
"I give up," Harry groaned. "Now, if you’ll excuse for me a few seconds, I’m going to devour this meal. I’ve not eaten enough today." He concentrated on his meal, hardly noticing as Hagrid invited the rest of the family out to see his animals.
When he had finished, and he felt like he could happily get on with his work, he looked up thoughtfully.
"Brace yourselves," Padma said loudly. "He’s got that look on his face that means someone’s not going to get much sleep tonight."
"Well volunteered," Harry responded. He ignored her groan. "In fact, your entire little group has just volunteered." Padma ducked a hail of bread rolls from around the hall. "I want you with Molly Weasley and Fred and George. Charlie, you’re with me tonight. Fleur, can you arrange an appointment with Madame Maxime for sometime soon? I’ll have to ask you to act as translator for us." He looked around the Great Hall again thoughtfully. "Charlie, I’ll meet you in the library in half an hour. I’ve got an errand to run first."
Harry appeared in the outer office of Gringotts.
Five heavily armed guards charged into the room, weapons ready. "Oh, it’s you."
"Sorry," Harry apologised cheerfully. "I need a chat with Mackrack, and I don’t want to be seen."
"This way, Harry," Mackrack called from his office. He looked at the other goblins. "Good response time," he praised.
The goblins all bowed and retreated.
"So, what can I do for you?" Mackrack asked.
"You can be upset with me," Harry requested.
"I had Voldemort informed earlier that you’re staying neutral in this conflict. Normally, he’d try and recruit you, but he hasn’t got the time."
"Because you’ve cut off his money?"
"Something like that," Harry agreed. "Now, I want every goblin warrior you have next week."
Mackrack’s eyebrows seemed to shoot through the ceiling. "You want what?"
"I’ll pay, don’t worry," Harry said, brushing aside the concern of payment.
"Why do you want them, Harry?"
"Because it’s no longer enough to win," Harry replied in a low voice. "I want to send a message that will last for eons so that anyone who thinks about picking up the mantle of a Dark Lord will hear its echo and maybe choose not to."
"Can I ask what your plans are?"
"You can ask, but don’t expect an answer. I’m the only person who knows, and at the moment, it is staying that way. I’ve got a lot of things coming together, more through luck than judgement, and I’m barely keeping on top of things as it is. If things go well, I’ll be able to go back to being a teenager by the end of next week. If things don’t, then I’ll be dead."
"It’s going to happen that soon?"
Harry nodded. "Please, don’t tell anyone that — although obviously, you’ll want to have the fighters I hire practicing."
"Harry," Mackrack said thoughtfully as he leant back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. "What do you think the Ministry and the general population will think if we let you hire our support?"
"They’d probably be grateful?" Harry said, a little doubtfully. "I wouldn’t worry about the Ministry, that’s being taken care of soon."
"The people will think that nothing has changed, and that if Voldemort had offered us enough money, we would have worked for him, and things would continue. I can’t have that, Harry, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to state that the goblin nation is fully behind you, and our army will be under your command when you need it. For free," he finished, looking like his teeth hurt.
Harry gaped at him.
"The time has come, Harry, for us to earn our own place in society. By helping you fight Voldemort, the people will start to see us differently. It will take time, since you can’t change centuries of prejudice overnight, but it will be worthwhile."
"If I lose, though, Voldemort will be against you."
"Do you honestly believe that even if we supported him, he wouldn’t turn on us?"
"No," Harry admitted.
Mackrack bared his teeth. "We trust you, Harry, to lead us into the future we want."
"I won’t let you down."
"I know. Now, while you’re here, let’s discuss Butterbeer."
From: Wonder Researcher
To: Strangely Researching
Exactly why are you pretending to read a book on Charms when you’re really reading a book on how to be an Animagus?
From: The girl who needs to do real research
To: The girl researching for my boyfriend
Subject: Re: Research
I have to, Hermione.
Everyone else here is working away, doing what is needed for the Wizarding World and helping to defeat Voldemort.
I’ve got something more important to do. Everyone’s noticed that Harry’s been different recently. He’s spent more time as a wolf, and it’s changed his personality slightly, and I need to understand that, and I need to be able to match it.
Harry’s already shown me that I can be his mate in more ways than one, and I’ve got to understand what I’m doing so I can be with him when he runs with the werewolves at night, or just lounges around as a wolf.
Everyone else can look after the rest of the world; I’m looking out for Harry!
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The girl who has been told
To: The girl who told
Subject: Well, that told me
That makes a lot of sense. I’ll wander by in a few minutes and pass you a better book.
Ginny looked around the library and smiled softly. Her entire family was sitting around, engaged in low level discussions, the likes of which had probably never been seen at Hogwarts before. The twins were at the head of a large circular table, directing the discussion, as three generations of people shared ideas.
Abe sat next to her mother, Sirius next to her father, Remus next to Bill. Blaise was next to Percy, Padma next to Fleur and George, and so on. The only person missing was Charlie, who was with Harry, practising Occlumency and Legilimency.
"Okay," Fred said, "We’ve had some good ideas so far from this discussion."
"Do we actually know what we’re facing?" Graeme asked apologetically, as he slid into his seat. "And sorry I’m late."
"Not exact numbers, no," George replied. "What we do know is that they’ve going to have some giants, other assorted creatures, and a large number of Death Eaters."
"We’re going to have us, and the allies that Harry is arranging," Ginny added. "I don’t know who or what, but I do know that we won’t be standing alone."
"So," Graeme continued, "We’re here to protect the castle, and do what damage we can?"
"Pretty much," Fred agreed.
"Well, I’ll make my contribution and go back to playing with my kids. Caltrops."
"Bless you," Blaise murmured.
"Can I borrow someone to show what I mean?"
"Come with me," Ginny said, getting to her feet and leading him toward a corner.
"Okay, can you create two pieces of metal that we can bend?"
Ginny nodded and took a deep breath. She held out her hand and concentrated, drawing on the memories of what the elder Dursleys had done to Harry. With a growl, she forced her magic to do what she wanted.
"You didn’t use your wand?"
"Harry’s asked me to try to stop using it. I’ve done some things in the past when I’ve been really mad, and as children, nearly all of us do accidental magic. We then come to school, and everything is done with a wand. It becomes a habit because it’s a lot easier."
Graeme nodded. "All of this is incredibly fascinating to me." He picked up the two pieces of metal and twisted them together. "Can you join them in the middle?"
Ginny nodded and did so.
"Well done," Graeme said. "The thing about this is that no matter how you throw them, one point always points up. You scatter a whole bunch of them. When people attack, they will step on these, and it will hurt."
"Perfect," Ginny whispered. "These are brilliant!"
"I wish I could claim I invented them," he admitted. "But I remember being taught about them at school. I’m going to go and see my family, so I’ll see you later."
"Thanks, Mr Thomas."
Graeme nodded and walked out of the library. Ginny took the caltrop and threw it into the air into the middle of the desk. "That is a caltrop," she announced as she took her seat. "And if you note, no matter how you throw it, a point is always pointing up. We make lots of them and put them where people will step on them." She paused. "And if we use enough poison on them, we should decimate our attackers."
"Ginny!" Molly scolded.
"She’s right, Mum," Percy said. "According to Ministry figures, Death Eaters have destroyed over a hundred families. That includes over thirty children under school age. Just think about Jenny - she’s bright, funny, obviously planning on stealing Harry from Ginny, and now has Hagrid wrapped around her little finger. If Harry hadn’t planned ahead, she’d just be another Ministry statistic, another small coffin buried in an unmarked plot."
There was silence around the table.
"You know, death is almost too good for these animals. They fight people weaker than themselves and call it heroic. They are not. They are barbarians, they are torturers, and they are murderers. And if a bit of poison on a spike ensures that one more family sleeps soundly at night, or that when I have children I don’t have to worry about them being killed, then I’ll be the first in line."
Penny walked around and kissed him, hard, while the others started to cheer.
Molly smiled and waited until the noise had died down. "You’re right," she admitted. "I’m sorry, Ginny."
Ginny smiled at her mother.
"And don’t think that I didn’t notice the wandless magic," Harry said from a seat that had previously been empty. Charlie was next to him, an amused look on his face.
"How the hell do you do that?" Sirius demanded as he jumped in surprise.
Harry waved his fingers. "Magic."
"Ginny?" Hermione asked.
"Tell me something, Hermione," Ginny said, as Harry walked behind her, lifted her up, and sat down with her in his lap, "Did you do accidental magic as a child?"
"Did you use your wand when you did that?"
"I didn’t have a wand at that point."
"Then how did you do magic?"
Hermione opened her mouth and then shut it again. "The magical power was just forming, and I didn’t know how to control it yet."
"Did I ever tell you what happened when Hagrid met the Dursleys?" Harry asked.
Everyone shook their heads. "Well, after tracking us down to a cabin where Vernon was hiding me, he shouted at them for a while, and then he gave Dudley a pig’s tail."
"And?" Blaise asked.
Harry smiled. "Hagrid hasn’t had a wand for years. He used an umbrella. Are you really telling me that you all have to use your wands, when a low-powered half-giant can cast a spell with an umbrella?" He looked around. "You can probably all still do accidental magic, and wandless magic is the same thing, only with a bit of control."
Hermione stared at Harry intently, before she sighed. "You’re a git, Harry," she stated. "But I can’t find a flaw in your logic."
"Agreed," Harry smirked at her.
"It’s worse when you’re right."
"I’ll try not to do it again."
Hermione looked at her wand and sighed. She threw it at Harry, who reached out and caught it. "Skip classes tomorrow morning, and I’ll help you with the basics," he offered, as he chucked it back. "But keep your wand for now. This isn’t really the time to start from scratch."
"Okay," Hermione nodded.
"My heart," Ron gasped, clutching his chest.
"I’ll help," Hermione said sweetly and pounded his back.
"You’re going to be there as well."
"Why?" Ron asked.
"If Ginny can do wandless magic, so can we, and so can everybody at this table," Hermione stated firmly.
"Almost everyone," Ginny said apologetically.
"Sadly, my dear sister is correct," Percy said with a sigh. "Those of us who aren’t that powerful can’t." He paused and his eyes went distant. "Feel free to correct me if I get this wrong," he said to Penelope. "Wandless magic used to be quite common. Wands themselves were invented as far back as our history goes. They were used to make magic easier, but more powerful wizards and witches didn’t use them — they considered them to be limiting. And they are.
"They excel at making spells easier, but they also act as a crutch and a limitation. It’s far easier to keep using memorised incantations and wand motions than to figure out how to do something original.
"Over the last thousand years, the idea of not using wands has become anathema to a society that is far too insular and conservative to make any real advances. Wands should be used to start with, but then abandoned and people should be using magic directly."
"So why weren’t we ever told?" Fred demanded.
"Because the Ministry can monitor wands," Percy admitted. "They, and by â€˜they’ I mean the pure-bloods who try to run everything, think that they can keep the population down by making people reliant on their wands — that they have, on behalf of the Ministry. Can you imaging their fear if a non-pure-blood mastered magic they couldn’t control?
"They are the ones who are responsible, over the past thousand years, for ensuring that wands are used everywhere."
"Percy, why didn’t you tell us?" Charlie asked.
"Well, some of this I’ve only learnt recently. I’m going for a Mastery, and this is an area I’ve studied. Part of it, I’m ashamed to say, was envy that I couldn’t do it, and finally, well, why didn’t any of you look it up yourselves?"
No one answered for a few seconds.
"Because we’re trained not to," Hermione said candidly. "And it took someone who doesn’t really care for any restrictions to point it out to us."
"Just to make this clear," Harry said, "this isn’t a priority at the moment. I’d like all of you who are interested to come along tomorrow morning, but we’ll not do much with it until this is all over. Speaking of which," he closed his eyes and took hold of the table. "Everyone grab hold."
Rather than grabbing the table, Ginny took a firmer hold of Harry. The Portkey activated, and they all appeared downstairs in the meeting room behind Dumbledore’s office. The members of the Order of the Phoenix were already waiting for them. Harry touched the table and it vanished back up to the library.
"Hmm," he said. "A table isn’t going to work." He waved his hands, and row after row of comfortable looking armchairs appeared. "Everyone take a seat," he ordered as he moved to the front and created a lectern to stand behind. Without preamble, he looked around. "The game is afoot, and we can’t let it slip. So, I want every single one of you to raise your wand." He raised his. "And swear that you will never divulge what you are about to hear to anyone not in this room, or without direct permission from me."
"And if we don’t?" Dung Fletcher demanded.
"Your services will no longer be required," Harry said icily. "Your memories will be altered and you will be sent home."
"Harry," Albus said, "I am assured of their loyalty."
"I will not jeopardise the lives of all the people involved for the sake of a simple magically binding promise," Harry replied.
Minerva stood. "I swear that I will never divulge the contents of what I am about to hear to anyone else."
"Thanks," Harry smiled at her. As one group, everyone who had been in the Library said the same thing. From there, everyone else did the same, even Dung, ending with Albus Dumbledore.
Harry smiled softly and started to talk. He talked for close to an hour, as he laid out his plans, what he had accomplished, and what he still planned to do.
"And that," he finished softly, "is my plan."
There was a profound silence as everyone stared at him.
"Any questions?" Harry finished.
No one seemed to know what to say.
"Not really," Blaise eventually said into the silence, "but thanks for inviting us tonight."
Harry smiled at her. "Just as Albus has people he knows and trusts implicitly, I have the same, Blaise, even if you are a Slytherin," he finished with a teasing grin.
"I love you, too."
"If there are no more questions, we’ll meet again on Monday for a final round-up. Remus and Sirius, could you go to the werewolves and get them started? I’ll be along later. The Weasley boys, I believe you have Quidditch to practice. Everyone else, I’ll see you on Monday."
Harry walked quickly through the maze of armchairs, grabbed Ginny and Apparated them both away. He groaned in relief as he appeared in his new bedroom and collapsed onto the bed.
Ginny looked at him for a long moment before she climbed onto the bed and straddled him, sitting comfortably over his hips.
"Did I do okay?" he asked.
"You were wonderful," Ginny told him firmly. "Brilliant, but where’s all this planning skill coming from?"
"Planning?" Harry asked. "What planning? I’ve been contradicting myself every thirty minutes, flying by the seat of my trousers the rest of the time, and relying on my instincts. And I keep forgetting to do things — like talk to Sev about a charm that could have caught Wormtail earlier."
"Oh," Ginny asked as she leaned over him, shaking her head a little so that her hair fell down around them. "Were those the same instincts that made you choose me as your mate?"
"Yes," he whispered.
She smiled at him, "They’re good instincts. You didn’t mention Narcissa or Bellatrix."
"I didn’t mention a few things," he admitted. "I didn’t want to deal with their negativity."
"Oh?" she asked.
Harry’s left hand reached up and cupped her cheek, and she almost missed the words he whispered next. She blinked at him, and then gave into the urge to kiss him. One kiss led to another, and thoughts of planning and the future were lost as she let her future husband kiss away her fears and doubts over what he had told her.
Hey, Blaise, Harry’s running with the wolves tonight, and I’m a little lonely, do you mind coming over?
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The girl who runs Slytherin House
To: The girl who runs Hogwarts
Subject: Re: Tonight
Sure, I’ll be there in a few ticks of Sirius’ tail. I want to run something by you anyway.
Subject: If you’ve finished your homework…
… I know a free place tonight we could… discuss today’s events…
From: The boy just given motivation to finish
To: The girl who likes ellipses
Subject: Re: Tonight
Fifteen minutes. And it will get me a category four reward.
From: Punctuation girl
To: Clever boy
Subject: The room we found Fluffy in
Category four, a proper O?
I’ll look forward to seeing that you’ve earned it…
From: Checkpoint Charlie
Subject: Occlumency and that girl of yours
Hey, Bill, you might want to come and spend some time learning this stuff — makes you immune to that charm.
From: The Senior Sibling
Subject: Re: Occlumency and that girl of yours
Fleur and I will be over in a tick to test it out.
Harry finished his breakfast, kissed Ginny, smirked at Ron and Hermione — whose current odour told him clearly that they’d had an extremely vigorous night, despite the fact they had showered — and Apparated away to Little Whinging.
The house he had lived in for the first eleven years of his life was pristine. The Ministry officials in charge of handing the aftermath of a Death Eater attack had left things as they were before.
The wards that had protected him were gone, overpowered by the Death Eaters’ concentrated attack.
He walked inside, a simple wandless charm unlocking the door, and made sure that he picked up everything that had once belonged to him, from the small blue blanket that had been his only possession for so many years, to the first piece of homework he had brought home. It had also been his last, as the response from the Dursleys to him achieving an A at school had been frightening. He’d managed to fish it out of the rubbish the next morning.
He opened Dudley’s door, and blinked in surprise. Most of the toys had gone, and there was a new bookcase along one side of the wall, filled with second-hand books — proof that Dudley had purchased them himself, as the Dursleys would never have allowed their precious Duddikins to get second hand books.
As an idea hit him, he waved his wand, and a whirling cyclone appeared in the middle of the room. It bounced around the room, sucking everything off the walls and shelves and into itself, before it collapsed into a small box, which he picked up and put in his pocket.
With a shrug he Apparated back to Hogwarts, and appeared outside the small set of rooms that the Dursleys were staying in.
Without knocking, he opened the door and strode in. Vernon appeared to have been waiting for someone, as he swung what looked like a table leg toward Harry’s head.
Acting on the instincts that his hard training had provided, Harry stepped into the swing, catching the arm against his side. His right hand shot out, catching Vernon perfectly on the chin.
The fat Muggle collapsed to the floor, while Petunia screamed.
Harry’s hand shot out, a silencing charm ensuring that the screaming stopped. The words that he had planned vanished from his mind, as he grabbed Petunia’s arm and knelt to touch Vernon.
Apparating Muggles was harder than he had expected, especially Vernon, who seemed to weigh a ton. They arrived in the living room of Number Four, Privet Drive.
Harry cancelled the spell on Petunia and turned, ready to Apparate away.
"Wait!" Petunia called.
Harry turned back to her.
"Are we still protected here?"
"You know," Harry said slowly, "I really don’t care." He Disapparated, knowing he would never see them again, and perfectly content with that idea. They were not worth wasting any more of his time or effort on. They had lost their son, and all they had left was each other.
Back at Hogwarts, he made his way out to the Great Lake, where the Thomases and Dudley were enjoying the last of the autumn sun.
"Harry!" Jenny called as she bounced over to him.
"Hey, short stuff," Harry greeted her, picking her up and swinging her onto his shoulders. "How’s things?"
"Brilliant! We saw a tentacle of a huge monster!"
"You’ve met Iris then?"
"All monsters have names. Iris is the Giant Squid who helps keep the lake safe for us."
Harry sat down next to the others. "I’ve just sent your parents home," Harry said to Dudley.
Dudley sighed under his breath. "So it’s time for me to leave as well?"
"That’s one of your options," Harry agreed as he absently lifted Jenny onto his lap. "The other is for me to trust you and put you up in your own apartment."
Dudley blinked at him. "Excuse me?"
"I wouldn’t punish anyone I liked by sending them to live with Vernon and Petunia. They are the worst examples of humanity and I’m fully aware that if the Death Eaters had a Muggle Auxilliary, Vernon would join them in a second. I don’t really see any other option."
"He could stay with us," Mary suggested.
"It would be a tight squeeze," Graeme said, nodding his head in agreement. "But I think we could do it. He can have Dean’s old room, they can share over the summer, and Sheryl can move back in with Jenny."
"Really?" Dudley asked in surprise.
"Regardless of your relationship with Sheryl, we couldn’t let anyone live with those people."
"Okay, Graeme, why don’t you come with me, and we’ll go and have a look at your house. Jenny, are you going to come with us or stay here?" Harry asked.
"With you," Jenny replied instantly, in a tone of voice that suggested that he was insane to think that she would have chosen otherwise.
Harry laughed under his breath. "We’ll see you later," he said to the others and stood. "Take my hand," he told Graeme, as he picked Jenny up. He Apparated them both back to their house, and like the Dursley’s, it was pristine.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" Graeme asked.
Harry looked at the standard three bedroom house before him. It was a typical semi-detached house, with a garage attached to the side. "How about if I pay for a building conversion above the garage for Dudley to live in?" he asked.
Graeme looked at him in surprise. "Can you afford it?"
Harry smiled faintly. "I could probably buy Little Whinging with spare change and not notice it," he admitted. "I’ll also have some friends place a few wards here, just in case. So, what do you think?"
"I think that would be the best solution," Graeme admitted.
"Good, I hoped you were going to be reasonable," Harry grinned. "Are we going to argue about me paying for Dudley’s rent?"
Graeme seemed to be having a battle with himself.
"I know you’re not doing it for money. If you were, I’d do the bare minimum, but you offered to take Dudley in because it was the right thing to do. That sort of thing means a lot to me, and Dudley is the last piece of family I have left. I don’t want to spoil him or anything, but I also don’t want you, or your family, to suffer when it won’t make much of a difference for me. If you’re unhappy about accepting cash, I can always pay off your mortgage and get you a new car or two. Actually, Dudley’s going to need one, so I’ll be getting one for him. You can tell your friends that you won a bit on the lottery, so they won’t be concerned about the sudden influx of cash."
"You do seem to have thought this through," Graeme admitted.
Harry felt it was prudent not to admit that he was making it up as he went along.
"Can we get a pink one?" Jenny asked. "I like pink cars."
"Okay, Harry," Graeme said. "Do what you want."
"Then let’s get moving," Harry said cheerfully. "We’ll drop in and see my bankers first."
Subject: This evening
Harry, could you (and Gin) pop to the Room of Requirement this evening at five? I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.
To: Blaise and Gin
Subject: Re: This evening
Sure, I should be finished by then.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Subject: Do you need anything?
Do you need me to do anything?
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Nervous girl
To: Encouragement Girl
Subject: Re: Do you need anything?
I think I’m ready, Ginny. Wish me luck?
From: The Future Mrs Potter
To: The current Miss Zabini
Subject: Re: Do you need anything?
You don’t need it, Blaise, but I’ll wish it all the same.
Audaces fortuna juvat
"Dad," Dean said that evening, as he sat next to them at the Hufflepuff table, "you’ve got the sort of expression that tells us that you’ve had a run-in with Hurricane Harry."
Graeme nodded. "There’ll be a few changes by the time you get home."
"Like what?" Susan asked, as she sat down and hugged Jenny.
"We’re going to be taking Dudley in," Graeme explained. "And as he’s the last relative Harry claims, he decided to make sure that we could handle it. He managed to get an architect to draw up some plans for an extension above the garage, and then he walked into the local council and convinced the planners to give us permission on the spot, before he arranged for a team of builders to start."
"That’s brilliant!" Dean said happily. "We’ve needed that for years."
"And then," Graeme continued, "he took me to a dealership and got me a new car for work, to make sure that I can afford to feed Dudley."
"Hey!" Dudley protested in a good-natured way. "I don’t eat that much!"
"Right," Sheryl teased, "which is why you’re just now finishing your second helping?"
"I’m a growing lad, all this exercise is hungry work."
"So what did you get?" Dean asked. "The new Ford Mondeo or the Vauxhall Vectra?"
Graeme sighed. "Harry didn’t like the shapes and Jenny didn’t like the colours."
"You let Jenny choose a car?" Mary asked.
Graeme shook his head. "She just gave her opinion. I tried to point out that either the Ford or the Vauxhall were fine, but Harry decided that Jenny knew more about cars than I do."
"I do," Jenny protested. "Daddy wanted to get ugly cars."
"So what did you get?"
"A new Mercedes E-class."
Dean’s jaw dropped. "We’ve got a new Merc?" He was very close to squealing.
Graeme nodded. "It will be delivered next week. Harry can be extremely persuasive."
"I liked it," Jenny said as she started to eat. "It was pretty. They didn’t do pink, but shiny black was good."
"When I told the firm that I’d got a new car, they passed me over to a new company, and when we finish our holiday, I’ve got a new job waiting for me, as an executive chauffeur."
"All right!" Dean shouted and did a little dance in his chair.
Mary had a small frown on her face.
"We didn’t take advantage of Harry," Graeme told his wife softly. "He just wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t suffer because we took Dudley in."
"But he knows that we didn’t do it for money, he just wanted to make sure that we’d all be comfortable." He paused. "Harry kinda paid off our mortgage as well."
Mary blinked. "Why?"
"So we’d be able to afford to send Jenny to school here," he mumbled.
Mary sighed. "That boy," she grumbled under her breath.
"Has very little concept of what is possible and what isn’t," Susan interrupted. "Dudley is his family, and there’s very little he won’t do for the people he cares about. And don’t worry about it hurting him. Judging by the noise the twins were making yesterday, he could have paid for it with what he’s earned this week."
Mary smiled at her. "You’re a very loyal friend."
"Only as loyal as Harry is to me," she replied firmly. "So, no words about what happened, please. We all like Harry the way he is."
Dean’s mother held up her hands. "It’s just unusual to find someone doing something for no reason."
"It’s not no reason, Mum," Sheryl pointed out. "It’s because you were nice enough to take in my boyfriend. Sometimes good things do get rewarded."
"About that," Graeme said, looking at Dudley and Sheryl. "We’re going to have to have a very long conversation about rights and responsibilities of you two being in the same house!" He enjoyed immensely the look of chagrin and worry that flashed over their faces.
Harry knocked on the door to the Room of Requirement.
"Harry," Blaise greeted him happily. She was wearing a smart black skirt, black heels, and a white blouse.
He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
"Ginny’s already here," she said, offering no explanation for her outfit, as she led him in. "Can I get you a drink?"
"No, thanks," Harry replied as he sat down on the chair next to Ginny.
"Okay," Blaise said, as she walked in front of them. She had her wand in her right hand, and she waved it at a screen behind her. An image of a dodgy looking building appeared.
"Thank you for coming, Harry," she said, her demeanour changing slightly. "I asked you come here because I have a proposition for you. After your successful partnership with the Twins, and your investment with Lavender and Parvati, I started to think about what I want to do after I leave Hogwarts, and I came to the conclusion that, with your help, I could do what I’ve always wanted to do."
Harry nodded and sat a little straighter.
"This," she said, pointing to the current image behind her, "is the Ingredient Shack. It is the biggest supplier of potions in the country. And as you can see, it’s an absolute dump." She waved her wand, and a graph appeared behind her. "This graph shows the amount of money spent on the store — the figures are publicly available, as the business is public.
"As you can see, over the past ten years, the sales have been flat. The reasons for this are many, not least the fact that Professor Snape has put a lot of people off Potions in the past, and the fact that people think that potions tend to be evil — unless, of course, they are using medically.
"The fact that this shop looks so bad, and is in Knockturn Alley, doesn’t help. They do have that small place in Diagon Alley for the students, but that is only open for a few weeks before term starts. The rest of the year it’s a newspaper stand." She waved her wand, and a new image appeared. "Now, what I would like is to open a new shop, the Potent Potions Apothecary." The shop behind her was bright and clean, with a friendly look to it.
"There are two main parts to the store. The first is the pre-made potions section, where people can order their potions to be made for them. This would be everything from a sleeping potion up to Wolfsbane. The second part is the ingredients and the equipment necessary for brewing their own potions.
"I’ve talked to Percy at the Ministry, and I’ve got all the paperwork I need, and I’ve got a list of all the forbidden potions, the key ingredients for which we will only sell to licensed potions masters. There are only four in the country at the moment. I’ve talked to Severus about the Hogwarts account, and if I can find the products needed, at the right price, he’s happy to use a more reputable source.
"I’ve also had a tentative talk with Neville, and he’s interested in working for me as my main gardener. I’ve also made tentative inquiries to most of the world’s wholesale ingredients suppliers, and put together a price list for supply of what I need." She waved her wand and another slide appeared, showing a breakdown of costs and projected sales.
"What I need, though, is money to do this. And unlike the others, I can’t just create the raw materials that I need to be able to do a proper job. Potions ingredients can’t be conjured or transfigured, and I need to be able to open with a full stock list if I’m going to be successful." She took a deep breath. "I need six thousand galleons to start, and I am aware that is an absolute fortune, but it’s the only way I can take this seriously.
"What I’m offering in return is a straight partnership. Fifty-fifty. I have the contacts needed; I’ve got a location scouted out, and contacts made. All I need once I finish is the money to do it, and the advice from the goblins that you can provide." She seemed to run out of steam as she sat there.
"Can I have a look at your figures again?" Harry asked, keeping his voice level. Blaise nodded and waved her wand four times. He looked at the figures for some time, making some mental calculations.
He could feel that Ginny really wanted this, and there was no chance he was going to say no, but he felt like Blaise deserved a serious response. She had obviously put a lot of effort into this, and he didn’t want to cheapen that. From what he could tell, the figures were good, and reasonable. The growth was steady, and the idea of pre-made potions was a good one.
"Have you considered talking to Fred and George, and seeing if you can get them to outsource their own potion requirements? Some of the things that they need are very time consuming, and they can better spend their time doing the things that only they can do rather than brewing routine potions. You’ll also need to contact St Mungo’s and speak to Poppy here, to see if you can become their supplier."
Blaise blinked and then smiled at him. "Good ideas," she nodded. She wrote them down.
"How are you going to deal with demand if you do become popular?"
"I’ve talked to a lot of Slytherins, and found out from Professor Snape who his best ex-students are. There are quite a few who would be willing to leave their current jobs and work making potions."
"Then," Harry said slowly, "I think you have a new partner."
Blaise dropped to her knees in relief, while Ginny jumped onto Harry and hugged him, before diving off and hugging Blaise.
"This is the most impressive proposal I’ve seen," he continued, neatly ignoring the fact that it was the only proposal he’d received. "I think that I’ll expect something of this quality in the future. The Twins are family, so they have different rules. Lavender and Parvati I approached, so again, different rules. This is the sort of professionalism and forethought that I am going to expect."
"Thank you," Blaise said, as she got to her feet and put Ginny down. Ginny pushed her forward, and she hugged Harry. "You have no idea what this means to me," she whispered.
"I think I do," he replied, hugging her back. "You put the effort in, you found out the facts, and it is that effort, more than anything else, that persuaded me."
"I’ve been planning this since I was twelve. I had talked to a few people about investment — the goblins wouldn’t because of my age — and it was looking very difficult," Blaise said, before she moved and hugged Ginny, before she thanked them both once more, and walked out almost floating on air.
"You didn’t seem surprised," Harry said, as he pulled Ginny close.
"She ran it by me last night," Ginny admitted. "I thought it was a great idea."
Harry leaned in and kissed her. "I guess we need to go and get some food," he sighed against her, as his stomach rumbled.
"Did you have lunch?"
"I had some Muggle garbage that Jenny wanted to eat, but it wasn’t very nice. Why don’t we go to my room, and I’ll cook us up something?"
"Can you cook?"
"If I follow a recipe or two, then yes," he said. "I’m going to see the Twins and Abe this evening. They’ve been working with your mother, and I need to know what is going on. Want to come?"
"Of course," she replied as she wrapped his arm around her. "I need to spend more time with you to make sure you don’t run off with Jenny."
"It’s at least six months before you have to worry about that," Harry teased. "Well, more like eleven years, and by that time, she’ll be much more interested in boys her own age."
The day before the big Quidditch match started early enough to irritate Harry. The previous evening had turned into a lot of fun, as they had shot ideas at Fred and George while drinking Butterbeer and Firewhiskey, and the more that Fred, George, and Abe and Molly drank, the wilder the ideas became.
Harry had been careful to write them down, even if some of them did make him shudder in his boots. Molly turned out to have the most Machiavellian mind he’d even been close to, and with a few drinks inside her, she could really let it flow.
They’d ended up crashed on a couch, all of them too tired to bother Apparating home.
"Ginny," Harry said.
"G’way," Ginny mumbled, her face buried against his bare shoulder. "’leepin’."
"We need to get back to Hogwarts for breakfast."
Ginny looked up at him. "Apparate us," she mumbled. "Later."
"It is later," Harry tried again. "You said that twenty minutes ago."
"Hate you," Ginny grumbled. "Warm, comfy, with boyfriend."
"And you’re not hungry?"
Ginny poked him in the chest -- firmly.
"Not a morning person, are you?"
"And you are?" Ginny asked with a sigh as she reluctantly sat up.
"Not really, but I’ve not got anything major planned for today. We’re helping Hermione and the others start with Wandless magic first, and then we can do a bit of Quidditch practising with Severus, Remus and Sirius."
Ginny nodded and stretched. She looked down at him. "My t-shirt smells of alcohol," she complained, and faster than he could think, she whipped it off and threw it in a corner. Or at least, Harry presumed it went to a corner, because he couldn’t take his eyes off the green bra that Ginny was wearing, nor the items encompassed by said bra.
Ginny seemed to find the need to make deep breathing a national hobby, and stretching an Olympic sport, as she settled down firmly across his lap.
Thoughts of school and breakfast vanished from his mind as he stared up at her, his eyes flicking from the amused look on her face, to her chest.
Ginny slowly reached around her back, with both hands.
Harry couldn’t help holding his breath as he stared at her.
"I love you," Ginny whispered as she undid her bra with an audible rustling of clothing.
"Ginny, Harry, you two need to get back to school," Molly’s voice called through the doorway.
Harry released his breath in an explosive swearword.
"Damn it, Mother, I’m trying to seduce my future husband!" Ginny shouted.
"And I’ve ruined the mood, right?" Molly asked.
"Good, that’s what mothers do. Now get to breakfast. Or do I need to come in there?"
Ginny grumbled under her breath as she did her bra back up again. "Fine," she continued. "We’ll do exactly what she said. Harry, Apparate us to the Great Hall for breakfast."
"No buts," she said. "Dad and my brothers will be there, and they’ll tell her that we followed her words exactly."
"But…" Harry tried again.
"We’re decent," Ginny said, "my underwear covers more than a bikini and you’re wearing jeans. Do it."
Harry shook his head and Apparated them both, as they were, to the Great Hall.
The sound of nearly a thousand heads turning at once, followed by the same number of jaws dropping was an unusual one.
"G-G-Ginny," Ron stuttered. "You’re naked."
"Naked?" Ginny asked as she climbed off Harry and stood with her hands on her hips, "Not at all. If my bloody mother hadn’t interrupted I probably would have been, and would have been having a lot more fun than eating breakfast, but nooooooo, she had to order us to come for breakfast, and I am ever the dutiful daughter."
Harry looked around at the other Weasleys, who appeared to be fighting a battle between amusement and shock. Fleur was grinning proudly at Ginny. Harry sighed and sat down.
"You two are going to have to put some clothes on," Hermione said firmly. "The sight of that many tongues out is slightly off-putting, the drool is becoming an issue, and everyone’s food is getting cold."
Ginny pouted. "But I look good like this."
"What ever happened to my shy little sister?" Ron asked the ceiling.
"She grew B-cup boobs and got herself the best boyfriend in the world," Ginny replied cheerfully. "And she spent some of her boyfriend’s money on some fantastic new under garments," she added as an aside. "Fetch me an outfit, honey?"
Harry snapped his fingers, and passed her a t-shirt and a very short skirt.
She grinned at him. "You’re such a leg-man," she teased him, as she dressed quickly. "Better?" she asked Hermione, well aware that her bra was visible through the thin white material of her t-shirt, and that the skirt was a little too short.
"No," Hermione said, her lips quivering as she suppressed a smile. "And that’s only forty-six percent of the tongues in. Harry needs to put a top on as well."
"If you insist," he replied as he pulled on a black t-shirt. "Can we eat now?"
"Of course," Hermione replied. "Ginny’s family seem suitably shocked."
To: The Future Miss Black
I’ll be sending you a Mmail shortly cancelling today. If you’re in, and Lucius is out, I’ll pop by Malfoy Manor later for a dance lesson, but you’ll need to send the Mmail on to Tom.
Audaces fortuna juvat
To: My Darling Narcissa
My heart is filled with despair that I will not be able to see you today, but alas, I have to prepare for Tom’s invasion tomorrow. We must be ready for him, and with everyone at the match, we should be.
I’ll miss you, every second of every day that keeps us apart.
p.s. I’ve discovered a potion that will help eliminate the little problem we had last time (and I’m still sorry about that).
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: Regaining her maiden name
To: The Boy Who Writes Bad Love Letters
Subject: Re: Today
That was truly awful, Harry. I’m sure Voldemort will lick it up with a spoon.
Lucius is rarely around during the day, so stop round at three.
You’ll be pleased to know that Voldemort almost killed him after that crap he made me wear.
More than just an anything
From: The Competent Malfoy
To: Lord Voldemort
Cc: My Darling Husband
Subject: Dance Lessons
My Lord, Potter has cancelled today’s lesson as he is preparing for your "attack" tomorrow. As you can see, he is infatuated with me. I have arranged to meet him again on Monday, when I’ll "console" him.
From: The Dark Lord
To: The Competent Malfoy
Cc: The Incompetent Malfoy
Subject: Re: Dance Lessons
Narcissa, tell Potter that I’m planning a big attack on Halloween. That is the traditional time for me to attack, and attacking early will leave him unprepared.
Lucius, contact the banshees today and gain their assistance for Thursday.
Victory or Death
From: The Boy With Your Future in his Hands
To: The Poisonous One
Bellatrix, I need numbers from you.
The more accurate you are, the more lenient I’ll be.
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The Deceitful One
To: The Adult One
Subject: Re: Spying
Carrot and stick, Potter? You’ll go far.
I’ll get you the exact numbers by Tuesday.
To: Quidditch Team
Subject: Quidditch tomorrow
Good practice last night, guys. You other two, we’ll see you tomorrow — you don’t have to worry, everyone is playing well.
Audaces fortuna juvat
Sev, are you sure that boy is running things? Because he seems to be getting pretty damn ruthless in his dealings with me.
From: Used to handling dangerous materials
Subject: Re: Harry
You do know that he’s a wolf?
He appears to have taken to it like a duck to water. And yes, he has been a little more ruthless. And not just to you.
It certainly makes things more interesting. And really, it makes me even more optimistic. I completely believe now that he’ll put the Dark Lord down.
Working for the downfall of the Dark Tosser for fifteen years
From: Quidditch Master
To: Beating Colleague
Subject: I can’t wait
Man, the years seemed to drop off yesterday. Hogwarts, playing with you and a James look-a-like, even Snape flying around was good.
We’re going to win tomorrow — we have to!
From: Beater Boy
To: Other Beater
Subject: Re: I can’t wait.
The sad thing is that it’s immoral for us to bet on ourselves.
To: Amelia, Tonks â€˜n’ Kingsley
Subject: The match
Can you make sure that there is a heavy Auror presence at the match on Saturday, please?
Get a few desk jockeys into Auror cloaks so that the numbers look good.
They won’t be used, but appearance is everything.
Oh, and Amelia, you’ll need to tell me off for wasting Auror time at the end.
Audaces fortuna juvat
From: The Head of Magical Law Enforcement
To: The Boy who sends cryptic emails before pulling off coups.
Cc: Kingsley and Tonks
Subject: Re: The Match
With that many people expected to show up, Harry, there is no doubt at all that we will have a large presence there anyway.
I will, indeed, tell you off afterward — I will, however, demand an explanation as to why!
To: Tonks and the boss
Subject: Re: Re: The Match
How much do I have to bribe you to tell me what he says?
Aurors do it right, first time and every time
To: The Boss and the King
I’m in; I’ll take half the cost.
From: The Boss
To: Aurors who work for me
Subject: Re: Bribery
Just remember that I know how much you two get paid.
1) You can’t afford me.
2) If you can, you need a pay cut
Any more offers?
From: Kingsley and Tonks
To: Dragon lady
Subject: Re: Re: Bribery
Aurors do it right, first time and every time
"Ready?" Harry asked Charlie as he stepped into the library.
"What for?" Charlie asked.
"Sabotage for tomorrow’s match," Harry smirked.
"Oh, sure, in that case I’m ready."
Harry reached over and grabbed Charlie’s shoulder and Apparated them both to Romania.
"Damn," Charlie whistled. "That is the way to travel internationally. You should run a taxi service."
Harry elbowed him in the stomach. "It’s test time." He looked up as Crenth flew other toward them. "Hey," he greeted the large dragon, and roughly rubbed his hand against the top of the dragon’s head. "How’s Midram?"
Crenth reared back proudly.
Crenth smirked and looked at Charlie.
"I’ve been teaching him," Harry explained. "Want to give him a shot?"
The dragon looked at Charlie thoughtfully, before he nodded.
"You know what to do," Harry said to the Weasley.
"Legilimens!" Charlie said, as he concentrated hard, his wand in his pocket. "I’m doing it," he whispered. "I can talk to him!"
"I’ll leave you two to have a chat."
Harry wandered deep into the dragon reserve, stopping before a humongous blue dragon with light purple ringlets over its scales. He bowed deeply to the dragon.
â€˜Speak, young one,’ the dragon ordered. The mental voice’s clarity was like a diamond drill bit compared to Crenth’s coppery voice. It was also distinctly female.
â€˜I’ve come to beg a favour. I’ve arranged for a Dark Lord to attack my school, and I would like some help defeating him.’
â€˜A Dark Lord?’ the dragon asked. â€˜Open your mind, youngling, and let me see.’
Harry did as he was told, lowering his Occlumency barriers. As if before his own eyes, he relived some of his past involvements with Voldemort, but the memories didn’t stop there. The dragon seemed to delve deep into his soul, examining and judging his every action. He struggled, trying to eject her from his mind, but the dragon refused to let go.
It took everything he had not to drop to his knees when the dragon finally left his mind. He took a deep breath, and then stood up straight, staring the dragon in her purple eyes.
â€˜You are a brave one, youngling. I judge you worthy of our assistance.’ She reared back and blew a plume of fire high in to the air. â€˜The old days return — the riders are back!’ she cried, before looking at Harry.
Harry smiled and ran toward her, placing a foot on her left leg and hopping into place. â€˜You shall see, youngling, what it is like to ride a full dragon, and you shall experience the joy that is a flight of dragons.’ She flapped her wings once, twice, before launching herself in to the sky. Every other dragon joined her, as they burst through the wards and headed east.
Harry looked to the side, to see Charlie flying on the back of Crenth. He had one fist clenched above his head as he yelled his pleasure. Crenth roared back to him. Harry had never seen Charlie so happy.
â€˜I’ve not stretched my wings in many millennia,’ the dragon whispered. â€˜The time has come again for me to fly’"
â€˜What’s your name?’ Harry threw the thought, shouting it at the same time.
â€˜I am Gwyneth.’
â€˜Then, Gwyneth, let’s show these other dragons the meaning of flight!’
Gwyneth turned her head to look at Harry, and then gave him the draconic equivalent of a grin. â€˜Yes. These young ones have almost forgotten!’
The dragon lowered her head, and Harry settled down firmly, whispering a charm to keep him stationary. With a powerful roar, the dragon leapt ahead of the others, and kept accelerating.
Crenth tried to keep up, but he was soon lost in the distance as they flew. It was faster than Harry had ever been, and he couldn’t deny the yell deep inside him. This was the single most exhilarating thing he had ever experienced. The wind buffeted him as the dragon flew through the clouds, the ride becoming progressively bumpier, before it suddenly seemed to smooth. He looked back and saw a ring of vapour behind them. He laughed, the sound almost ripped from his throat before he could release it.
â€˜Up!’ Harry yelled. â€˜Higher! Faster!’
Gwyneth roared her agreement and flew higher, until Harry had to cast a charm to allow himself to breathe. Gwyneth roared again and a faint purple bubble surrounded them. The endless movement of her wings pushed them ever faster. There was a feeling of deep heat as the bubble flared, before it ended and everything went deadly silent.
It was cold, incredibly cold, so Harry cast a charm to warm them both up, pouring more magic into it than he had ever needed before.
With a lazy movement of her left wing, Gwyneth turned around and before them was the earth.
Harry stared down at the small blue planet, unable to think of a single word to say.
â€˜This is what you are fighting for,’ Gwyneth whispered in his mind. â€˜If Voldemort wins, the blue will turn red and then black and we will leave and cross the great void. I have seen people like Voldemort throughout history, people who can only destroy, and it is our duty to help, it is everyone’s duty to stop him. We shall be there, youngling, and we will remind the world that everyone lives here together, and for one species to consider dominion over another intelligent species is abhorrent. This is our home, and has been for longer than your race has existed, and we hope it will continue to be so for as long as the planet exists.’
Harry nodded, unable to tear his eyes from the tranquil scene in front of him. â€˜Brace yourself, youngling, re-entering the atmosphere is always a little rough.’ He re-cast his charm and leaned forward so that he was hugging the dragon.
It only seemed to take a few flexes of the dragon’s wings before the purple bubble lit up again. The re-entry was much easier than Harry expected, less bumpy than a Gringotts dungeon ride. Gwyneth slowed them down to a gentle glide, as she aimed toward the other dragons.
The rest of the flight was made in silence, until the dragons touched back down.
Harry jumped off and stood before Gwyneth. He bowed deeply to her.
â€˜It was a pleasure, youngling. I shall eat and then sleep. We will be ready.’
â€˜I’ll send Charlie as soon as we’re ready,’ he promised.
â€˜Crenth will be waiting,’ Gwyneth replied. â€˜Could you ask the servants to produce a cow for me?’
Harry smiled. â€˜I will. Thank you.’
â€˜Thank you, youngling.’
Harry walked over to the Dragon Keepers. "They’d like cow for dinner."
"Aye," one of them said. "Do you think they’d let us ride?"
"By the time I’ve finished with Charlie, he’ll be able to teach anyone. If you ask nicely, who knows?"
"The blue dragon," the man Harry remembered as Charlie’s boss — Morgo Flashchime - started.
"Gwyneth," Harry interrupted.
"She’s the boss?"
"Yes," Charlie said as he joined them, the grin appeared surgically attached to his face. "Crenth told me that she is the oldest dragon on the planet."
"Right," Morgo muttered. "I’ve never seen her fly before."
"She had no reason to," Harry explained. "We had a nice chat, and she was nice enough to take me for a flight."
"Right," Morgo muttered again.
Harry laughed. "Don’t forget her cow!" He grabbed Charlie’s shoulder and Apparated them back to Hogwarts.
As was becoming usual, the library was full of Harry’s closest friends and family, as well as most of the professors. They were researching and discussing plans in low voices.
"We have new allies!" Charlie yelled, doing a little twirl on the spot.
"Oh?" Albus asked.
"So much for surprise," Harry muttered dryly.
Charlie blushed a rather fetching shade of Weasley red.
"Don’t worry about it." Harry looked at the other in the room and smiled. He couldn’t help it.
Charlie looked at Harry, who nodded. "Well," the dragon handler began, "I was able to talk to Crenth, and he allowed me the honour of flying with him. I was on his back when Harry approached their queen. They talked for a while before Harry jumped on her back and every single dragon took off. We were flying in formation. Crenth was telling me how lucky we were to be flying next to the queen. It was brilliant, unbelievable, and makes flying a broom seem pedestrian. But then Harry and the queen looked at each other, and the queen took off. We must have been doing around two hundred miles an hour. We tried to keep up, but when we reached double that speed, we couldn’t keep going. They didn’t stop, they blasted through the sound barrier, leaving an incredibly cool looking ring behind them, and then they headed up."
"And out of the atmosphere," Harry finished softly.
There was an absolute silence from the library.
"You did what?" Padma asked quietly.
"We turned, and I could see the earth," he continued. "And Gwyneth told me that she would help me defeat Voldemort, and to change the world. She told me that one species subjugating another sentient species is wrong."
He looked up. "Every time I look around, I find allies that we have overlooked in the past. I find magnificence and glory that we, as humans, have tried to ignore and bury. I find goblins, I find dragons, I find werewolves, and I’ve not even started to look. How much have we missed out on, how much have we lost through our arrogance? How long will it take us to reclaim what we once had? How many of our children must grow up, being taught these lies, having our supposed seniority treated as fact?
"The dragons don’t need us, and if they didn’t love this planet, they’d leave and cross the vast expanses of space and find another home.
"The goblins don’t need us. If they desired, they could close their doors and dig deeper, never to be seen again, completely at ease.
"The house-elves do so much for us, and yet we treat them so abysmally, and it’s only through a special elf that I’ve discovered just how remarkable they are.
"The centaurs and merfolk don’t need us. The centaurs barely tolerate us, and the merfolk have their own world beneath the waves.
"How many other species are there, ones that we consider extinct, but who have just hidden themselves from us?
"It is a crime. It is a crime that we must pay the price for, but no more. When Voldemort is dead, that is when the battle truly starts, because I can’t sit by and watch everything we secretly want vanish."
"And you won’t fight alone," Charlie promised fervently. "Can you imagine having dragon flying lessons at Hogwarts, forestry lessons from a centaur? Can you think of how much we could learn from a goblin?"
"And we will follow you," Ginny said simply. "Wherever you lead, we will be there, supporting you."
Harry smiled at her softly and opened his arms. She walked into them, hugging him tightly. He looked up, and whispered, "Legilimens."
With a burst of effort, he pushed the memory of watching the earth on the back of a dragon to all of them. He could see tears form in a lot of eyes, could feel Ginny crying against him.
"That is our goal, now," he whispered. "Voldemort stands in our way, and we will defeat him."
Blaise reached up and brushed a tear away from her cheek. She walked forward and knelt on one knee before Harry. He looked at her in surprise, and then around the room as every other wizard and witch knelt as well.
"I pledge myself to the future you see," Blaise said quietly, preparing herself internally for the next part of the pledge. "My wand, my magic, and my life are yours."
The words echoed around the room. First by Ron and Hermione, then by Luna, Padma, Parvati, Susan, and Lavender. Then by the members of the D.A., then the professors, and finally, to Harry’s complete shock, Professor Dumbledore himself.
Ginny moved out of his arms and knelt before him. "I have already pledged myself to you, but I do so again, willingly and freely. It is your dream, my love, which inspires us. We will follow you to the end of our days, because you have the power to dream and the courage to fight for that dream. We want that future. I want that future. I want our children to grow in the world you see as possible."
Harry took a deep breath. "I swear that, until my dying breath, I will fight for what is right, for those who can not fight for themselves, and I will do everything in my power to start us on the road to regaining the mysteries that we have lost."
Slowly, Blaise rose, so that she was looking directly at him, as did everyone else. She smiled softly at him.
"Wow, that was heavy," Fred remarked casually. "Didn’t we swear once that we’d never be followers?"
"Yeah," George agreed. "Of course, that was before we met Harrikins and he made us realise that there is more to life than pranking and having a good time."
"That there is," Fred agreed. "I want to see the earth from space."
"And with that," Molly interrupted, "Harry has pulled off the biggest miracle."
The laughter that swept the room was almost cathartic. Harry hugged Ginny again. "I’m really tired," he admitted. "The warming spell was really difficult in space. I’ll see you all tomorrow for the Quidditch match."
"Come on," Ginny said, taking his hand. "I’ll put you to bed." They walked out of the room in silence, and headed toward their quarters.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked, as he collapsed onto the bed.
Ginny moved to his feet and undid his trainers. "We felt your awe, Harry," she whispered as she pulled the off his feet, and removed his socks. "We felt your determination, and I think that for the first time, we all felt your destiny."
"To kill Voldemort?"
"No," she replied as she undid his belt. "Not any more. You said it yourself - Voldemort is only a minor inconvenience. One the Wizarding World should have dealt with decades ago. In that room were some of the most important people in the country. A generation of the best students Hogwarts has seen in eons. One of the few pure-blood families that fights for the light, their partners, representing other species, as did some of the professors. And you talked to all of us, my love, you told us that it wasn’t enough for us to continue as we had in the past, you told us that we have to fight against the dying of the light, and that you would be there, in the middle of the fight, doing what you had to, not for a reward or for glory, but simply because it was the right thing to do."
She moved and settled down over him, her hair draping down. "And you humbled us. You gave us a glimpse of heaven. You gave us the choice. And everyone there felt the same thing. We felt your belief, and we all decided that we needed to help, that we had to help, that our honour would demand nothing else for us.
"For so long we have been under the yoke of one Dark Lord after another, of one incompetent Minster being elected after another incompetent Minister retired rich. We hid from the Muggles and settled for our one village in Scotland, a few streets in London and the rest of our population dispersed. We forgot what we had once been. And you reminded us, you gave us just that little sliver that awakened something we didn’t even know existed. And we won’t be able to forget it again, and we don’t want to.
"Without trying to, without meaning to, you demanded that we judge ourselves as wizards, and you told us that if we wanted to look in a mirror again, we’d follow you."
Ginny smiled softly and gently kissed him, just laying her lips on his. "But if you had insisted, we would have refused. If you had begged, we might have considered. But you did neither, and we had to react." She moved so that she was resting on his side. "Sleep, now, my love."
"For eternity, Harry, for eternity."
Full and proper author notes appear at the end of the final part. (including an explanation of why Harry was disingenuous about his first meeting with Hagrid).
Thanks, as always to my betas. Kokopelli, GardenGirl, OhGinnyFan, Ishtar (and Kinsfire), Greywizard and Musings
If you want to discuss the spy (or any other aspects) of this part on the forum or my yahoo group, please ensure that you give SPOILER warnings!
This story has been marked as suitable for adult readers only.