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This Means War
8 - Manic Monday

By Jeconais

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From: Min

To: Fil

Subject: That dastardly Slytherin

Help!

In case you've missed it, Severus is trying to steal my star pupils.  Calling Harry and Ginny Slytherins indeed!  Well, I won't stand for it. 

I need something to prove that Harry is a Gryffindor, and that I can be as helpful in his training as Mr "Gives spells in Pig Latin.”

Any ideas?

M.

--
hiss


From: The Happy Ravenclaw

To: The Disgruntled Gryffindor

Subject: Re: Severus

Well, I do envy you both.  I am hoping to spend some time with Harry myself, to see what we can do with his remarkable ability.  He has so much potential it gives me goosebumps.

Now, as for your request... You are already going to teach Harry to be an Animagus, why not really push the boat out?

F.


From: It's too early for riddles

To: Cryptic Gnome

Subject: Re[2]: Severus

What do you mean?

M


From: Nowt wrong with being cryptic, luv

To: Grumpy kitty

Subject: Re[3]: Severus

Teach him to be a dual Animagus.  I'm sure the boy has the talent and ability to pull it off, and he'd be the first ever.

F.


From: Disbelieving

To: The northern genius

Subject: Insanity

Filius my dear fellow, you might be insane, but insanity has always been close to genius.  This will really show Severus.

Thanks!

Min

--
purring merrily


As Ginny's right fist flashed through the air, her mind jumped back to the time she had been taught to punch.


"Bill! Charlie!" Ginny cheered loudly, as she came down to breakfast to see her two oldest brothers sitting at the table.  "Whatcha doing here?"

"Hey Munchkin," Bill grinned at her.  "We came to see you."

"Yeah," Charlie agreed, before shooting a dour look at his brother.  "We thought it would be fun to see our little Snapdragon before she goes to school for the first time."

Ginny bounced on her toes, and then ran over to them, hugging them both in turn.  She sat down on Bill's lap, and nabbed a sausage from his plate.

"Bill and I are going to take you out for the day, so hurry up and eat," Charlie grinned at her. 

Ginny gulped down another sausage, then an egg from the two boys plates in front of her, and then scampered upstairs.  She changed clothes quickly, shrugging out of the old t-shirt of Charlie’s she slept in, and into the nearest dress she could find.  She pulled on some old sandals, and then ran a brush through her hair quickly.  With a cursory glance in the mirror, she scampered back downstairs in record time.

Bill and Charlie looked at each other, and then laughed together.  "Come on, Snapdragon," Charlie said, holding out his hand.  "Let's go."

The day was a lot of fun for the ten-year-old girl.  Time spent with her two hysterical oldest brothers, who always argued over which nickname to call her, was her favourite thing in the world - even more than playing pranks with Fred and George.  "What are we doing here?" Ginny asked, as they stopped in a large field.

Charlie and Bill looked serious, and sat down with her.  "You're going to school in a few weeks, Gin," Bill started. 

"And well, with Ron being a friend of Harry Potter, and with everything that is happening at the moment, we wanted to give you some advice before you start school with them."

Ginny blushed at the mention of Harry, and sighed happily.

Bill and Charlie looked at each, and made a mental note to make sure that Harry never got anywhere near their darling sister.

"Okay," Bill said.  "Boys are going to be coming after you soon, and we need to show you how to deal with unwanted attention.”

"But boys are stinky," Ginny said, mentally excluding Harry from that description.  "Why would they come after me?"

"Because you're very pretty, and while boys may be stinky now, they do grow up," Charlie smiled.

"So," Bill said, standing, and unwinding his long legs.  He held out a hand to Charlie, pulling him up.  "The first thing is to know the vulnerable points.  The quickest way to take down a boy is to knee him in the crotch."

Ginny giggled.

Charlie pulled out his wand, and cast a spell on himself.  He kneeled down, so he was closer in height to his small sister.  "Now," Bill continued, "It's not good enough just trying to kick someone, you have to take them out.  If you don't do a good job, they'll just get mad and that won't be any good.  So, I want you to knee Charlie."

Charlie nodded in agreement, "It's okay," he encouraged her.  "I've cast a protection spell."

Ginny shrugged lightly, took two slow steps forwards and kneed him as hard as she could.

Charlie shot a quick look at Bill, shaking his head, almost imperceptibly.

"Ok, that was a good first try," Bill encouraged.  "Now, this time, I want you lean forward as you do it, try and put some of your weight behind it."

Ginny nodded enthusiastically, and kneed Charlie again, this time leaning into it a bit more.

"Better!" Charlie praised, his spell let him know how hard he was being hit.

Ginny bounced on her toes again, "Wouldn't it be better if I did this?" she asked innocently.  The cute young girl took two quick steps forward and rammed her knee into her second eldest brother's crotch, using her full momentum.

Charlie and Bill gulped in unison.  The size of Charlie's eyes gave mute testament to the fact that she had mastered that particular self-defence act.  "Yeah," Bill nodded.  "That'll do it, Munchkin."

Charlie rose to his feet, and grinned at Bill.  "Your turn."

Bill nodded, pulling out his own wand and cast a spell at his face.

"You can't always use that move, Snapdragon," Charlie explained.  "It's considered to be a really low blow.  So, we're now going to teach you how to punch someone."

"Cool!" Ginny bounced again, giving her brothers a spontaneous hug. 

The two older boys looked at each other over her head, reaffirming their promise to look after Ginny no matter what they had to do.

Charlie held up his right fist.  "The first thing is how you hold your hand.  I want you to make a fist, and then wrap your thumb across the rest of your fingers, but don't go higher than the first knuckle."

Ginny nodded, biting her lower lip as she did as she was told. 

"Now, it's important that you lock your wrist," Charlie continued.  "It needs to be in a straight line from your arm, to your wrist, to your fist.  It will stop you hurting yourself."

"Ok."

"Now, I want you to draw your hand back as fast as you can, then throw it forward, keeping your arm as loose as possible.  As you get near Bill's chin, I want you to snap your fist forward, that's where all the power comes from."

Ginny nodded, and followed the instructions.  She grinned happily as her fist impacted, and she felt no pain, thanks to the cushioning charms on her brother’s chin.

"Good start, Snapdragon," Charlie said cheerfully.  "Now, try it again, but remember to keep your fist in a straight line."

They worked together for several hours, Charlie and Bill taking turns being the punching bag until they were happy with their sister’s progress.


Her punch impacted with an audible thump, slamming into Cho Chang's jaw with the force of a pile driver.

The Asian girl went flying backwards, unconscious before she hit the floor. 

Ginny pulled out her wand, pointed it at the fallen girl, and snarled, "Ennervate."

Cho opened her eyes slowly, and then glared at Ginny as she remembered what was going on.  She touched her hand to her jaw gingerly.

"What the hell do you think you are doing, kissing my boyfriend?" Ginny demanded.

"Harry wanted to kiss me, he just didn’t know it," Cho protested.

Ginny rolled her eyes.  As if talking to a six year old, she said, "When Harry wants to kiss someone, he puts everything he can in to it.  To start with, he likes to have his arms around you, one over your shoulder, and the other around your waist.  He pulls you as close as he can get, and during the kiss, his hands caress your back, giving you a feeling of love and warmth.  He sure as hell doesn't have his arms in front of him, and he does NOT try and push you away!"

Cho regained her feet slowly.  Both girls were unaware of the ever-growing crowd watching them.  "Of course you would know that," Cho sneered. "He's only dating you because you spend half your time flat on your back."

"I'll have you know," Ginny said icily, her eyes glowing, refusing to be insulted by the trollop in front of her; "that Harry and I appear to be the only people in our year NOT bloody having sex.  And that's not because we don't want to, it's more because we want it to be right, and not doing it just because some Dark Tosser is out for Harry's blood.  I happen to love Harry, and I sure as hell know he loves me.  Show me one other male in this school that would allow his girlfriend to set the pace like Harry does, even when she climbs into his bed in the middle of the night.  He is, and always has been, the picture-book definition of honourable.  Harry would cheat on me exactly five minutes after he decides to become a Death Eater and serve the Dark Tosser!"

Cho, looking shocked, blurted out, "But Marietta said..."

Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw Marietta’s face go white, then turn and run off, sprinting away as fast as she could.

"Stop her," Ginny called, reaching for her wand.  Next to her, Harry pulled out his fake wand, but paused, tracking the girl’s path with his eyes.


Hermione was walking back from an early morning prefects meeting with Ron, when she heard Ginny's shout.  She looked up quickly, her mind analysing the details.  She could see the bruise on Cho's face, the look of fury on Ginny's, and the usual blank expression on Harry's.  Marietta was running away from them like the devil was behind her.  An apt description of Ginny in a bad mood, she mused idly.

Beside her, Ron was pulling out his wand, ready to cast a spell on her.

Hermione didn't bother reaching for her wand, instinct taking over instead.  She crouched forwards, her left hand barely brushing the floor for balance.  She leant back slightly, and paused, as her target ran closer not seeing her.

With a growl, Hermione pushed forward with her legs, as hard as she could, launching her right shoulder straight into the larger girl’s stomach, in what could only be described as a perfect spear tackle.

Marietta's feet and head continued forwards, while her torso was suddenly stopped, then violently launched into reverse as her body suddenly contorted into a U-shape.  Before she had a hope of regaining her bearings, Hermione slammed her into the ground as hard as she could.  The bushy-haired girl bounced to her feet, and looked down at her victim, who was by now starting to turn purple through lack of breath.

"That was for last year as well, sneak!" Hermione spat viciously.

Ginny walked up to them, and gave Hermione a quick hug, "Thanks."  The red-haired girl turned to the girl on the floor, pulled out her wand, and pointed it at the fallen girl's face.  "Unless you want to be wearing a permanent Bat Bogey Hex, you better start talking," she snarled.

"It was Pansy," Marietta blurted, terrified of the evil look on Ginny’s face.  "She said that if I didn't break up your relationship with Potter, she would tell Cho that I was just using her."

A faint gasp of betrayal echoed from behind her, but the girl couldn't seem to stop talking.  "It was easy; I just insulted you a few times and encouraged Cho to believe she could take him from you.  I arranged everything, even when she would do it."

"How?"

"With this map Pansy gave me," she said, pulling out a piece of paper. 


Harry watched as his girlfriend interrogated the little sneak with a slight smile on his face.  He had been pretty sure that Ginny would know that he wasn't cheating on her, but it had really brought home how much he valued their relationship when she had explained exactly why she had known that he wasn't kissing Cho.  The truth spell he had surreptitiously cast on Marietta was working perfectly, and he did feel a little sorry for Cho. 

As Marietta mentioned a map, Harry yanked it out of her hand.  "Mischief Managed," he muttered, dread creeping into his heart.  He watched as the map morphed into a piece of paper.  "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."

Words appeared on the map, "Marauder’s Map version 1, abandoned due to incorrect professor locator spells." 

Harry cancelled the truth spell he had cast on the Marietta with a wave of his wand, upset that Pansy had dared try and use one of the Marauder’s projects against him.  "It looks like I made a mistake with her," Harry muttered, referring to the Slytherin.  "I'm..."

"Wait, Harry," Blaise interrupted.  "We will take care of Pansy, I promise.  Don't get distracted over this."

"Yeah," Lavender followed her up.  "This just isn't important.  She will pay for trying to ruin your relationship, we promise."

Behind her, Luna, Parvati, and a few other girls nodded in agreement.

Harry took a deep breath, and nodded. "Thanks," he shot them a shy, but nonetheless grateful, smile, and turned back to his girlfriend.

Ginny was looking down at the girl, then up at Cho, who was looking shocked and ready to cry - again. 

"Run away," she told Marietta. "Stay away from me, from Harry, and from our friends, or we will come after you."

Marietta scrambled to her feet, and took off, suddenly realising that she would never get what she wanted out of Cho now.  Tears poured from her eyes as she ran back to the Ravenclaw Common Room.

"I'm sorry," Cho said simply as she walked up to them.  "I thought, well, I don't know what I was thinking."  She looked at Ginny directly, "I wanted to believe her so much, that I let it override what little common sense I have.  It won't happen again."  Cho paused, then turned and started to walk away.

"Cho," Ginny called.  She walked up to the longhaired Asian girl, and as Cho turned, she cast a healing charm on her jaw, repairing the damage her punch had done.

"Thank you," Cho said quietly.  "I didn't deserve that."  She turned and continued her way through the crowd, realising just how much her supposed friend had betrayed her.


"Okay, people," Ron called.  "Show's over, everyone get to breakfast."

The crowd dispersed with the girls who had volunteered to take of Pansy walking together, exchanging ideas amongst themselves.

At the same time, Hermione and Ginny said, "I shouldn't have hit her!"

Harry and Ron met each other’s eyes for a second, exchanged a wry glance, and then each grabbed their partner’s hand, pulling them towards different empty classrooms.


Ginny looked a little worried, Harry seemed to be struggling to keep his emotions in place, and she felt sure that she was going to be yelled at for hitting Cho.  Harry pushed open the door to the classroom, and then slammed it shut hard behind them.

He turned to the small girl, and pushed her against the wall, his eyes glowing.

"Harry I'm..." Ginny started.

"Do you know what happens to you when you’re passionate about something?" Harry demanded.

"What?"  Ginny asked, shaking her head a little as if she had not heard him correctly.

“Your eyes glow.”

“Huh?” Ginny replied intelligently.

“Your eyes glow,” Harry repeated.

“I’m sorry?” Ginny half said, half asked.

“I wouldn’t be,” Harry whispered, his voice suddenly going a lot lower, sending chills up Ginny’s spine.

“I shouldn’t?” she was now getting really confused.

“No.  Do you have any idea just how sexy it is?”

Further conversation was muted by the sound of Harry snogging the life out of his girlfriend.


"I shouldn't have done that," Hermione worried as she followed Ron into a classroom.  "I'm a prefect; what sort of prefect attacks another girl like that? In full view of the all the students.  And my shoulder hurts.  I'll probably be expelled, or worse, demoted from being a prefect!"

Ron tried very hard not to laugh, as he shook his head.  This morning had been wonderful as far as he could see.  He was back involved with the gang, things were happening to him again, instead of bypassing him.  He'd even got a friendly look of sympathy from Harry for having to deal with Hermione.  He pulled out his wand, and cast a healing spell on Hermione's shoulder, then felt a shot of pride as it worked perfectly.

"Thanks," she looked a little surprised at his proficiency.  "But I'm still going to get expelled.  And what must you think of me, doing that to another student," she continued to castigate herself.

"Yeah, about that," Ron interrupted.  "It was probably the sexiest thing I have ever seen, and I'm going to have to snog you senseless now."

"Wha..." was all Hermione got out, before Ron's lips were on hers.


Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny entered the Great Hall a little late for breakfast.  They took their seats, ignoring the grins and knowing glances the girls got.  They were looking a little ruffled, and had dreamy looks in their eyes.

"So, what's your plan for today, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"I've got Occlumency first thing," he lied easily, "Then double potions, then I'm going to take Lav and Parv to Gringotts to open a business account, check in and make sure that the twins are alright, and that Abe is still okay for our new project, bring the girls back, then pop over to see Sirius as we need a talk about his attitude."

Ron and Hermione looked at each other for a second, and then smiled slightly.  "Harry, would you mind explaining a few things for us."

"Sure."

"Who's Abe, what new project, why the twins, what do Lavender and Parvati need with a business account, and what's wrong with Sirius' attitude?" Ron asked in one breath. 

Harry blinked, as he realised his friends had missed quite a lot recently.

He was interrupted by the Headmaster saying in a loud voice, "Ms Quirke?"

The small girl was approaching the main table, a determined look on her face.  "Yes sir.  We've come up with reward for Harry for organising to save Professor Snape's life."

Harry blinked, and then turned to the headmaster in surprise.

"Excellent," Dumbledore said, a happy smile on his face as his eyes twinkled merrily over his half-moon glasses.  "Do tell, my dear."

Orla took a deep breath, then said, "We think that Harry should be given Assistant Professor status, with his own room and everything, and that he be officially given charge of the D.A."

Dumbledore paused for a second, and then smiled.  "A capital idea, Ms Quirke."  He next turned to face the shocked Harry.  "Harry, if you'll meet me after lunch, we'll talk about your new responsibilities, and your new room."  He paused again, "and we'll talk about giving the D.A. some official school time as well."

The roar of approval from the members of the club was as deafening as it was spontaneous.

After the noise had died down, Dumbledore smiled at the students.  "Oh, Ms Quirke, take twenty points for Ravenclaw."

Orla blushed, and returned to her seat, her housemates congratulating her.

"So," Ron grinned, "Assistant Professor Potter, can you now answer my question, or are such things beneath you."

Harry shot Ron a foul look, then grinned.  "Hey, who's the one with his own private room?"

Ron shrugged, "Just means I get to use your bed as storage space."

The two friends laughed, before Harry launched into an explanation of the previous two days’ events.


From: Confused

To: Knows everything

Cc: My two favourite Weasleys

Subject: Breakfast

Hermione,

Why exactly was Orla (I think that's her name) asking for a reward for me at breakfast?

H


From: Not quite all knowing (But I'm working on it)

To: Dazed and Confused

Cc: Strangely, my two favourite Weasleys as well

Subject: Re: Breakfast

Actually, Harry, Gin and I wanted to talk to you about that.

It seems that Orla is the leader of the unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club. 

Now, before you explode, take a deep breath, and relax.  I've been keeping a close eye on them, and they are behaving responsibly. 

We think that you should agree to legitimise it.  You won't have to do much, well, except maybe pose for a few photos.  I know you hate doing that sort of thing, but look at what good it will do.

People who belong to a HP fan club will not be joining the Death Munchers, and it gives them someone to focus on when things look bad.

And, we can give them a membership badge, like the D.A., but make it an unobtrusive Portkey, so that if they get attacked, they can get to safety easily.

Hermione


From: The younger of your two favourite Weasleys

To: The object of my affection

Cc: My favourite couple

Subject: Re[2]: Breakfast

Hermione's right, Harry.  We've got a chance here to do some good, and while I would rather they didn't have any access to you (You're mine!) it would make sense.  Besides, I can take the pictures of you, so you won't have to worry about being taken advantage of - and any really good pictures I'll be keeping for myself anyway.

Ginny


From: Groaning

To: The persuasive duo

Cc: Ron

Subject: Re[3]: Breakfast

I swear you two could talk me into joining Voldemort.

Yes, it can be official.  Yes, we'll create Portkeys for them.  Yes, I'll even bloody pose for photos.

But at a price!

I want photos of Ginny in return!

H.


Harry walked into Professor McGonagall's classroom, to find his professor sitting comfortably in an armchair she had conjured for the lesson.

"Hi, professor," Harry said, unsure of whether she had heard him enter or not.

"One of the advantages of being a professor, Harry," McGonagall started in a very friendly voice, "is that you are now a member of staff, and as such, you get to talk to us as normal people in private.  Obviously in public we are still formal to everyone.  So, you can call me by my given name."

Harry took a seat opposite her, idly creating an identical couch with a flick of his wand.  "That will take some getting used to," he admitted ruefully.  "I still feel like I've just stepped off the Hogwarts Express every time I see you."

Minerva threw back her head and laughed.  "I do work on that, Harry.  It's most useful for dealing with rowdy children with no sense of fear - particularly ones that like to fight fully grown mountain trolls."

Harry grinned at her, acknowledging the point. 

The professor, smiling a lot more than Harry had ever seen her, curled her legs under and sat in a cat-like position.  "Okay Harry, the first thing we are going to do is have a talk so we can try and work out what animals you are going to transform into."

"Animals?" Harry queried, "I thought that you could only turn into one?"

"A common misconception," McGonagall lied calmly.  "Turning into an animal takes a lot of practice Harry, and people tend to stop at one, because they have achieved their goal.  We are going to work at both from the start."

"Oh, okay," Harry looked interested at the prospect.  "So what sort of animals do you think I might turn into?"

McGonagall waved her wand, and a pen and parchment appeared.  "Don't worry, it's not a quick quote quill," she smiled, ignoring his question, as the quill spelt out her words on the parchment.

"Close your eyes, Harry; I want you to be relaxed, as I ask you some questions.  Just say the first thing that comes to mind."

Harry swung his legs up onto the side of the chair, closing his eyes as instructed and relaxing back against the other arm.

"The questions I am going to ask are rather personal, Harry; please trust me with the answers."

He nodded, rather than reply verbally.

"How do you feel about Ginny?"

"I love her," he said softly. 

"Do you see yourself with her in the future?"

"Yes.  I can see myself married to her."

"What about other girls?"

"No one will ever match up to Ginny," he replied, mentally agreeing that the questions were more than a little personal.

"How do you feel when you are outside the school with her?"

Harry thought for a second.  "Protective. I know she can handle herself, but I want to be there to make sure."

"I know you had an argument with Ron about dating Ginny, why did you forgive him?"

"Because he's a friend.  He's been my closest friend since I started school.  My first real one and I know that he will be there for me when needed."

"What about Voldemort?"

Harry paused for a second.

"Just say the first thing that comes into your mind Harry, there are no right or wrong answers here."

"I will take him down," Harry whispered.  "I will defeat him.  I have to."

"Why?"

"He's standing between my friends and a happy, safe life."

"What do you think is the best way of defeating him?"

"By working together; with everyone I trust near me, they can negate his Death Eaters, leaving me to deal with Voldemort."

Minerva looked at the page of writing, and smiled, 'Loyalty, determination, life-long partner, ruthlessness, teamwork.'  She was pretty sure she could guess one of the animals already.  She was eagerly anticipating the reaction from Voldemort when he found out.

"Apart from Ginny, what do you like doing the most?"

"Flying."

"Why?"

"I feel free, like there is nothing in the world that can touch me.  It's just me against the environment, testing my skills and myself.  I have no responsibilities."

"What's your favourite move?"

"The dive.  I love to fly straight down, and pull up just before the ground.  Especially if I’m following the snitch.  It reacts like it's alive, and I have to chase it down."

The professor smiled to herself, not really surprised that the questions she had asked had yielded such rich results. 

"Harry," her voice was as low and smooth as she could make it now, "I want you to sink deeper into your mind.  As you listen to the sound of my voice, I want you to feel more and more relaxed.  Each word you hear takes you deeper into yourself."

She paused for a second. "As you go deeper inside yourself, you will see two shapes moving towards you."

"I see them," Harry whispered, awe tingeing his voice.

"What do you see Harry?"

"They are gorgeous," the boy whispered.  "The first is so strong, so brave.  He's looking out for his pack, taking responsibility, leading from the front.  He's noble, deserving of respect and honour.

"The other is so free.  He's flying around, diving to the ground, and catching rats with his claws.  He's so triumphant and proud."

"What animals are they, Harry?"

"The first is a wolf; he's got a black ruff and my eyes.  He's stopped now, and is sniffing me.  He likes me!"

"And the other one?"

"It's a hawk.  It's all black, apart from green bands around its wings.  He's landing on my shoulder.  He's got my eyes as well."  He paused for a second, and seemed to shudder.  "They've gone now," he sounded very sad.

"No they haven't, Harry," McGonagall smiled softly.  "They are inside you.  You've found your Animagus forms.  I want you to listen to my voice Harry, follow it back to the light.  Come back to me, and to Ginny."

She continued to talk for another few minutes, pulling Harry out of his trance with practised ease.

"Wow," Harry said softly.  "Is that how everyone finds their animals?"

McGonagall nodded.  "We often say that the animal chooses us, because no one knows what they are going to find when they search amongst them.  I happen to know that your father and Sirius hypnotised each other first, then Pettigrew.  How do you feel?"

"I'm kinda tired," Harry admitted, hiding a yawn.

"You've got half an hour to nap, and then you have Potions."

"Thanks," Harry said, as he rolled onto his side and drifted off.

Minerva watched him sleep for a bit, then transfigured a book into a blanket, and laid it on him gently.  "You are a remarkable young man Harry," she whispered softly, touching his hair for a second, and wondering what it would have been like if she had raised him.

She walked over to her desk, and pulled out some of her student’s homework, flights of fancy dismissed from her mind.

Thirty minutes later she stood and walked over to the boy, waking him.

Harry jerked into wakefulness, instantly on guard, before relaxing as the smiling face of the professor came into view.

"Time for potions, Harry.  We will start to work on the actual transformations next."

They were interrupted by a group of first year students entering the classroom noisily.

"This is not an amusement arcade," McGonagall snapped icily.  "Please take your seats quietly, while I finish with Assistant Professor Potter."

Harry, a formal expression on his face, nodded to his teacher.  "Thank you for lending me your room today," he said politely.

Minerva, her back to the class, rolled her eyes at him, and then stuck her tongue out.  "You are more than welcome, Mr Potter," she replied, keeping up the appearance of Harry having borrowed the classroom for an Occlumency lesson.

Harry struggled to keep a straight face, and bid the teacher goodbye.  He walked out, shocked to find that the serious teacher had a mischievous nature - a nature that he found he really liked.


From: Min

To: The wonderful short person

Subject: Idea

Oh Filius!

It worked perfectly!  I lied like a Slytherin to him, and it all went according to plan.  Once I had disabused him of the notion of only one animal, I took him into the normal trance, and asked him some very non-standard questions. 

I got him to think about Ginny, which really relaxed him, then just told him to look for two animals.  They came creeping out of his subconscious together, and he accepted them both instantly.

I am so excited; I can't wait to show off to Albus and Severus.

Min

--
purr purr


From: Flippant Fil

To: Magnificent Min

Subject: Re: Idea

That's wonderful!  But I notice you failed to inform me what those animals are... You're not going to keep me in suspense are you?

F.


From: Lips sealed

To: The inquisitive one

Subject: Re[2]: Idea

Why yes, I am.

--
puuuurrrr


From: Nervous

To: The moonster

Subject: Tonight

Moony old chum,

I find myself feeling somewhat... nervous about Harry's visit.  You don't happen to know what he is going to say do you? I can hardly sleep at the moment - look how early I am up!

Siri

--
pathetic whimper


From: The aptly titled Moonster

To: The searcher of colloquialisms

Subject: Re: Tonight

I'm afraid that only you could call this early, Sirius.  Most decent wizards and witches have been up for hours.

As for Harry's visit.  Yes, I do have some idea of what he might say.  It's something Lils would have said... In fact, imagine one of Lils 'talks' combined with James giving it.

RJL


From: Confused and Bewildered

To: He who suffers from verbal diarrhoea

Subject: Re: Re: Tonight

Okay, I had to look up colloquialism, and yes, Juanita has had an influence there.  Did you know that Muggles have hundreds of curse words that we don't? I've never been interested in a new language before.

A Lily talk, given by James? ^gulp^ Can’t Harry just use his antlers to hurl me into a tree or something? That was by far my preferred punishment, much better than when James would go quiet and get that serious expression.

Now I'm very worried, and going back to bed - I need a hug!

SB


From: Twin One

To: Twin Two

Subject: Order of business

Well, don't know about you my dear twin, but I feel wonderful.  If I didn't know better - which I don't - I'd say that Harry did more than just put us to bed last night.  We should talk to him about what he did; imagine the money we would make if we could sell alcohol... and a hangover charm.

Anyway.  I'm going hunting for a warehouse, why don't you look into the current Butterbeer.  As much as I like competition (not) I'd much rather have a complete monopoly on the market.

Fred

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Twin Left

To: Twin Right

Subject: Way ahead of you

I'm already on the case of the Butterbeer - can you believe I'm actually in a library at the moment... voluntarily? What has become of me?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that we couldn't recreate Harry's magic.  I suspect that it was some of that wandless stuff Abe was talking about.  I noticed him doing it a few times; it's very casual and discreet. 

George

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Twin Up

To: Twin Down

Subject: Wandless Magic

I noticed that as well, was very interesting - more so that our darling sister thought it was so commonplace.  Good to see, though, as the Dark Tosser, and maybe Albus are the only other two that can do it.  I get the feeling that Harry is coming up with a plan to stop him - and we're going to be in the thick of things.  Wonderful, isn't it?

Forge

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Twin Forwards

To: Twin Back

Subject: Oh Merlin!

Fred, you’ll never guess who owns the Butterbeer factories!

This is brilliant!

Gred

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Tender hooked Twin

To: Baiting Twin

Subject: Re: Oh Merlin!

Well, judging by your reaction, I would guess it has something to do with the Death Eaters?

F.

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: The research master

To: Faithful ally

Subject: Re: Re: Oh Merlin!

LUCIUS MALFOY!

Most of the Malfoy fortune’s cash income is through Butterbeer.  It's a complicated mess of companies, but I managed to get through it.

We need to tell Harry this afternoon; he’ll know what to do.  Just think, we have a chance here to make a MAJOR hole in the finances of one of the DT's biggest supporters.

An excited G.

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


Harry glanced at his watch, and realised he was late for potions.  He entered just before Snape started speaking. 

Snape raised an eyebrow at him, curious as to the reason for his tardiness. 

"My apologies, Professor Snape," Harry apologised.  "My Occlumency lesson overran slightly."

Snape nodded once.  "Mr Potter, perhaps in future, I might be permitted to assist you once more.  I believe that things have changed enough between us to make the experience more beneficial for the both of us."

Harry paused, and then shot the dour professor a sudden smile.  "I think I'd like that, sir."

"Take a seat, Harry," Snape said, as he turned to the blackboard behind him, and started writing. 

The door to the dungeon opened, and Draco Malfoy walked in arrogantly, his customary five minutes late.

"Ahh, Mr Malfoy," Snape said icily, his friendliness with Harry having disappeared completely.  "So good of you to finally join us.  However, this class started five minutes ago.  I do so hope you have a good explanation for your tardiness."

"But..." Draco started, looking shocked.

"'But' is not a good explanation," Snape sneered disdainfully.  "What, you had a liaison you couldn't avoid? A Death Eater meeting to attend?"

"No, I --" Draco stopped suddenly, as if he realised that saying that he always turned up late probably wouldn’t help him.

"Detention, Mr Malfoy, with Mr Filch tomorrow evening.  I hear he has some lavatories that are in urgent need of cleaning."

"But it's Quidditch practice tomorrow night!"

"Ten points from Slytherin for arguing with your professor," Snape snapped instantly.  "I suspect that the team will have to do without your much vaunted talents.  And considering your success rate over the past five years, I hardly feel that it will be a great loss."

"But I bought them their brooms!"

Snape shook his head sadly.  "You do have delusions of grandeur, Mr Malfoy.  I believe you will find that your father donated those brooms to the house.  And another ten points from Slytherin for continuing to argue.  Sit down, Mr Malfoy, before you lose all of Slytherin's house points."

Draco sneered, obviously trying to hide his emotions, and walked towards his normal seat. 

"Not there," Snape called.  "I believe that Ms Zabini will have to suffer without your, no doubt, excellent assistance.  There is a seat at the back.  Please take it."

Draco froze, and then moved over to the empty desk.  He sat down, and started to sulk.

"Now," Snape turned back to the blackboard.  "Who can tell me what potion you create when you add asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"  Snape paused.  "Mr Malfoy?"

"What?" Draco asked, not having paid attention to the question.

Snape sighed, and looked to the heavens.  "It's not enough that you arrive late, Mr Malfoy, but then you insult your classmates with your inability to answer a first year question.  Another ten points from Slytherin.  Ms Granger, would you please answer the question."

"The Draught of the Living Death, Professor," Hermione answered readily, then held her tongue, knowing how he hated her rambling on.

"Excellent.  Ten points to Gryffindor."

The class continued in the same vein, with the Gryffindors almost unbelieving as they watched the potions master skilfully destroy the young Malfoy. 

By the time class had ended, Draco had lost a further 40 points, and ran out of the room, almost in tears.

"Harry, would you mind staying behind for a few minutes?" Snape asked.

Harry nodded, and as the rest of the class walked out, he called, "Blaise."

"Yes, Harry?" the young witch asked.

"Take seventy points for Slytherin.  You shouldn't all suffer from him."  It was the first time that Harry had given points for anything.

"Thanks," she smiled at him brightly, looking a little relieved.  "I'll make sure that everyone knows why you gave them to us," she promised.

"You didn't have to do that," Snape said, closing the door to his dungeon.

Harry shrugged.  "Probably not.  Are you feeling evil?"

Snape laughed.  "After that performance, of course."

Harry pulled out the sheet of parchment earlier.  "I pulled this off Marietta earlier, she got it from Pansy."  He traced with his finger where Malfoy had run off to, and pulled out his quill.  As Snape looked over his shoulder, Harry wrote the Mmail.


To: Terry

From: Harry

Subject: Draco

Terry, if you're serious about dating Draco, he's in the Astronomy tower alone.  And he's pretty upset.

Harry


A second later, a reply appeared.


From: The happy boy who's gonna seduce

To: The boy who match made

Subject: Re: Draco

Thanks Harry, I owe you one - well, a lot more than one.

T.


"Very clever," Snape smirked, impressed.

Harry grinned at Snape.  "It might be good for him."

Snape laughed. 

Harry was about to ask what his Potions professor wanted, when another Mmail arrived.  He glanced at the notification and blinked, before going pale.  He opened it up, and looked shocked as he read it.

From: "Big D" <dursley.dudley@students.stonewallhigh.ac.uk> - WARNING, THIS MMAIL CAME THROUGH THE MUGGLENET GATEWAY!

To: Harry Potter <Harry.Potter!729856242.UK@gateway.mugglenet.com>

Subject: Please don't delete!

Harry,

I'm sure I'm the last person you expected to Email you - ever.  In fact, you're probably surprised that I even know how to email. 

I don't know how to write this, I just know that I need to.  My future kinda depends on my ability to grow up.

I suppose I should start at the beginning.  I was expelled from Smeltings at the beginning of the year.  I was caught bullying some of the younger kids.  My parents, after threatening a lawsuit at the school - and the school laughing in their faces, accepted it, and enrolled me in Stonewall High.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I just didn't know it at the time.  I was taught my first lesson very quickly: There are always people bigger than you.  And losing my first bout in the boxing ring was a bit of a wake up call. 

Shortly after that I met her.  She had just transferred from a school near Hampton. 

Sheryl Thomas. 

You know her half brother, I think, Dean?

Well, I asked her out immediately.  She said No, as quickly.  Which wasn't a surprise, when you weigh more than the average whale, you get used to rejection.

But, to my shock, she became friends with me, and gave me advice on how to lose weight.  I've been running every day since she arrived, and have been watching what I eat properly. 

I can't tell you how much my parents have helped.

Really.

I can't.

But more about them later.  I have lost a couple of stone.  First time I've ever been happy about losing anything. ;-) -- don't know if you have emoticons over there, but that's someone winking and smiling.

So, we've been talking a lot.  And she asked me about my family.  She told me about Dean, and how proud of him she is, and the special school he goes to for gifted children. 

I then mentioned you, in my normal style.  Well, let's just say that as soon as she realised who you were, and who I was by reference, I nearly lost my best friend.  I have never been yelled at for so long, without that person repeating themselves once.  It was scary, and frightening... and extremely impressive.

Well.  She told me what she thought of me, and how I had treated you, as well as Mum and Dad.  She called them disgusting Muggles, I don't know why, but that really fits them.

She told me to think about what she had said, and stormed off.

Well, I did.  This person that I really care about, had just looked at me like I was less than nothing, and I hated the feeling.

Harry, I owe you an apology.  A lot more than that.  I’m trying to take responsibility for my actions now.  I am sorry for the way I treated you.

In my defence, I will say that I didn't know any different.  My parents screwed me up as much as they screwed you, but in the opposite direction.  Being a fat, unhappy, spoiled brat was not the way good parents raise their children. 

I also found out what it was like to be treated like you, when I took Sheryl home, and Mum and Dad spent the evening ordering me to dump her, just because she's black.

I don't know what else to say at the moment.  Please email me back. Even if it's to tell me to stick it up my rather large posterior.

Dudley "Not so Big anymore" Dursley


"It's from my cousin," Harry said slowly, finding it hard to believe that Dudley actually had a sense of humour, or that he was even capable of writing.

"You do realise that if you reply, your Mmail will be monitored?  The Death Eaters and the Ministry monitor all outbound mail - they don't care about incoming."  Snape paused.  "And why is it so surprising that your relatives contacted you?  You must have had some before - I can't believe that they would not try and keep in touch with their perfect nephew."

Harry looked up from the Mmail, his eyes suddenly pinning Snape's.  "What did you just say?"

Snape blinked.  "That your Aunt and Uncle must keep in contact with you."

"You really have no idea, do you?"

"Idea about what?"

"Pull out your wand," Harry commanded, removing his glasses.

Snape gulped, suddenly very concerned.

"Cast Legilimens!"

"Why?"

"Just do it," Harry snarled.

Snape did, and a second later, found himself inside Harry's mind.  He watched as the young boy sat in the closet, alone and hungry, with only a spider for company, before he was taken on a whirlwind tour of the boy’s childhood.  The physical abuse, the starvation, the mental abuse, everything.  He tried to pull back, but Harry wouldn't let him, he was locked in. 

Harry dragged Snape through everything, up to his first meeting with Hagrid.

Snape stumbled back against his desk, while Harry closed his eyes, breathing heavily.

"I didn't know," Snape said quietly.  "Harry, meet me here tonight at seven please.  I still need to talk to you, but I think I need a word with Albus now."

Harry nodded, and almost smiled as Snape stormed out of the room.  He took a deep breath, and then called for the real Marauder’s Map, so that he could find Ginny.

After reliving those memories, he really needed a hug.


Terry rushed from his Ancient Runes class, and bounded excitedly through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts.  He rushed up the stairs, taking them two or three at a time in his excitement. 

He burst through the door to the Astronomy tower, and spotted the blond boy staring out the window.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked.

"No," Draco snarled.

"Talking always helps," Terry replied casually, not intimidated in the slightest.  He knew it wasn't going to be easy, but he was going to get what he wanted.

"What would you know?"

Terry looked amused.  "I'm the only openly gay student here.  I think I know a little about being ridiculed."

"I'm not gay!  I dated girls... Pansy."

Terry looked amused.  "So?  You were just trying to hide it.  A lot of boys go through that stage."

"I am not gay, but thanks to that weasel, everyone thinks I am!"

"First off, don't call Ginny that - if anyone hears you, you'd be cursed to Alaska and back.  If Harry heard you, well, I don't think there'd be enough pieces of you left to pick up and curse to Alaska and back.  Secondly, if you're not gay, why do you care?"

Draco looked up warily.  "What do you mean?"

"If you're completely heterosexual, you have nothing to worry about, do you?  After all, you're a Malfoy."

"But even my father thinks I am gay.  The Dark Lord too.  The Dark Lord is probably going to kill me for being a freak, regardless of whether or not I am gay!"

Terry mentally grinned; Draco hadn't insisted that he was definitely heterosexual.  "So your only chance of survival is Harry?"

Draco went white, and then banged his head against the window.

"You know," Terry said, "Harry has no problem with me being gay.  He's always been friendly."

Draco groaned, "I told you, I AM NOT GAY!"

"How do you know?"

"What?"

Terry leaned into Draco, trapping the blond against the window.  "If you've never tried it, how can you tell?" he whispered, his breath lightly brushing against Draco's mouth.

With infinite slowness, Terry closed the gap between the two boys.


Ginny was sitting with Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor table, eating lunch.  She glanced up as she saw the door open and smiled happily as Harry entered.  Her smile dimmed immediately, as she realised something had happened.  She stood and walked quickly over to her boyfriend, pulling him into a tight hug.

She smiled slightly as she felt him relax a little against her, using her strength to support himself.  Without a word, she pulled him to the nearest empty table and sat him down.  She sat next to him, and swung her legs over his lap.  She moved his arm over her shoulder and snuggled into his chest.  She waited quietly for him to begin speaking, knowing he would when he was ready.

She felt her hair move, as Harry inhaled deeply, and her smile changed slightly, to one of contentment, knowing she was giving her love the support he needed.


"Come on," Ron said, standing.

"I think they want to be left alone," Hermione said quietly.

Ron turned and smiled ruefully at her.  "I have grown up a little," he replied.  "I think I now have the emotional range of a soup spoon.  I just wanted to stand guard and make sure no one bothers them.  They are on the end of the Slytherin table."

Hermione looked at him, and then smiled with pride.  She leant forwards and gave him a firm kiss on the lips.  "A lot more than a soup spoon, Mr Weasley," she said softly.

Together, they walked over, keeping just out of earshot.  They were joined a few seconds later by some of the other D.A. members. 

The Great Hall slowly filled with students having lunch.  The noise level remained low, as no one wanted to interrupt what was going on at the bottom of the Slytherin table.  Those that might have been tempted, who felt that what was going on didn't concern them, were persuaded to keep quiet by the glares from Harry's guard.


"I showed Snape my childhood," Harry said quietly.  "Everything."

Ginny nodded, "Will you show me?"

Harry stiffened.  "Pardon?"

Ginny tilted her head back so she could look at him properly.  "I want to understand," she said softly.  "I need to understand."

"It's not pretty," he warned her, not really sure why he wasn't saying no instantly.

"Please Harry," she begged, her eyes wide and clear, the expression on her face one of complete sincerity.

With a great reluctance, but also a strange eagerness, Harry picked up his wand and cast the same spell Snape had, entering Ginny's mind then passing all the memories he had shown Snape before.  Unlike the Potions professor, however, Ginny's mind remained firm, absorbing everything without flinching; the only sign that it had any effect on her was the single, crystal tear making its lonely way down her pale cheek.

When it was over, she was still for a second, then reached up and kissed him softly.

 "You are amazing," she whispered against his lips.  "You had a similar upbringing to Tom, yet you are the exact opposite of him.  Where he is bent, twisted, decayed, and diseased, you are bright, strong, straight and clean.  You didn't let the anger and hate enter your mind, or your soul; you remained true to yourself."  She raised herself up, and kissed his scar directly, then knelt on the bench, her legs on either side of his, so she could look directly into his eyes.  "I love you, Harry James Potter, in a way that they could never understand or comprehend.  You are the centre of my existence - everything revolves around you, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  You will never have to see them again, deal with them again on your own.  I will be with you every second of the time, I promise."

Harry smiled slowly, and then wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck.  They stayed that way for a couple of minutes. 

"Better?" Ginny asked as they pulled away slowly.

"Yeah," Harry smiled.

Ginny looked at her watch.  "Aren't you meeting Parvati and Lavender shortly?"

Harry nodded, a little reluctant to leave her.

"I have Arithmacy anyway, sweetheart.  Have you got your Gringotts’ key?"

Harry shook his head, a small smile on his face now.

"Then go get it.  I'll tell Fred and George to have something safe ready for you to eat."

"Yes dear," Harry said in mock-serious voice.

"Get," Ginny grinned, swiping him lightly.  "I'll see you later."

Harry nodded, stood, dropped a kiss on her hair, and strode out, his bearing a hundred times more positive than when he had walked in.

Ginny watched him go till he was out of the room, then stood, her expression changing to one of thunderous rage, eyes blazing, reaching for her wand.


Hermione and the others watched as Ginny comforted Harry, received the spell, and then cheered him up.  They were all relieved to see him walk out of the Great Hall in a much better mood, although Hermione was a little surprised that Ginny was taking it so well - she had seen first the tear roll down her cheek, not to mention Ginny’s reaction afterwards, and was pretty sure that it had something to do with Harry’s childhood memories.

That observation went out the window a second later, as a look of fury appeared on the girl’s face, and she reached for her wand.

"Quick," Hermione snapped loudly.  "Ron, Dean, create some targets, now!  Everyone else, cast shields, protect the students from debris."

The D.A. moved quickly, following orders as they had been trained.  They watched, as Ginny screamed, "Those disgusting, filthy, obnoxious, arrogant, selfish, MUGGLES!" Each word was accompanied by a burst of pure magic that incinerated the targets.

Ginny panted, and then shoved her wand in her pocket.  She turned to the D.A. members.

"Ron, I want you to get in touch with our brothers.  Tell them that however bad they thought it was for Harry growing up, it was worse, a lot worse.  Everyone else, I want ideas on how we can make the rest of the Dursley’s," she spat the name violently, “lives a living hell.  I want it subtle and long lasting - death would be far too nice for them.  No one treats Harry like that and gets away with it."

"How bad was it, Ginny?" Hermione asked quietly, looking into the younger girl’s eyes and seeing a smouldering volcano of emotions.  She trusted Ginny's judgment totally, but felt a description would help motivate the others - and explain to the watching Professors exactly what was happening.

"They made him sit in a dark closet for two days.  No food, no water, not even some light." Ginny seemed to be talking through gritted teeth.  "And he had a broken arm at the time, and was only six years old!"

Horrified gasps echoed around the students.

Hermione nodded, hiding her own horror.  The memories of the polite, shy Harry the first time she had met him crept up on her, and she felt her own anger grow.  "We will find some spells Ginny, don't you worry about that."

Next to her, Ron nodded. "I'll send that Mmail immediately.  No one messes with one of us."

Hermione looked around.  The D.A. members were now in a circle around the three of them, the rest of the students outside them, and the two professors who had been supervising were at the edge.

"That goes for all of you as well," she promised the students gathered around them, not really comfortable with making a speech.  "What we do for Harry, we do because we know without any doubt he would do the same for us, if not more.  If you haven't already joined the D.A., join now.  Every single member is treated like family - we look out for each other first and foremost.  We will be there with Harry when he faces Voldemort, making sure he can do his job."

"And we will be there to celebrate with him when he defeats that lowlife," Ginny's voice rang out, her burst of temper over.

There was a second pause, before everyone started cheering wildly.


"Do you ever get the feeling that we're superfluous?" Professor Vector asked, as she watched the students walk out.

"I know what you mean," Professor Sinistra sighed.  "Those children would learn so much if they paid as much attention in Astronomy, as they do to anything that involves our new assistant professor.

"What do you think about that, I mean, a student who's not even in his last year being a professor."

"Madness.  Well, it would be, if it were anyone else.  I often get the feeling that I'm standing in the presence of a legend when I am near him.  He's got this hidden drive, this determination, deep inside him, which means he will not give in, no matter what the odds are against him."

"I don't like it," Vector admitted, "I think he should spend his time chasing Ms Weasley like his father chased his mother.  Not be caught up in all this death and destruction."

"We’d all like the Dark Tosser to be gone," Sinistra agreed.

"And that's another thing," Vector interrupted, "Since when did we start taking linguistic lessons from the students?"

"It's not just from the students," Sinistra said reproachfully.  "Albus said himself that fear of the name increases the fear of the man.  Calling him the Dark Tosser eliminates that nicely - it's hard to have as much fear when all you have in mind is the object meaning of the phrase."

"I guess, it's just... Take what happened just now.  We had an upset student being cheered up by his girlfriend with some very public displays of affection - that would normally involve us having a quiet word - maybe taking house points.  We had a spell cast in the middle of lunch, which should not be known by any student, never mind used in Hogwarts.  Then we had a group of students acting as guardians - making sure that two students were not disturbed as they took up a whole table to themselves, and then we had a magic display of the sort not see in here in decades - including a couple of bursts of pure magic that should not have been possible by ANY of our students, never mind a fifth year.  And to top it off, another student uses the opportunity for a recruitment drive for a club that was illegal last year!"

"Feel better? Now that you've got that rant off your chest?"

Vector looked a little embarrassed.  "It's just... We're the teachers, but Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and to a slightly lesser extent, Ron, have more control over the rest of the students than we do.  I feel sorry for the seventh years, or I would if they weren’t part of it.  They should be the senior students, but no one even knows who the Head Boy and Girl are - and when I asked them about it, they just shrugged and pointed out that they have it easy.  All the problems that they traditionally have to deal with are being dealt with by Harry and his friends."

There was a pause, while Vector looked shocked.  "And I'm bloody doing it myself!"

"Doing what?"

"Calling Harry, Harry, and the rest by their names.  What happened to the formal relationship between staff and pupil?"

"Harry is staff," Sinistra pointed out with a grin.  "You're looking at this from the wrong perspective."

"What do you mean?"

"You should be looking at this as a chance to get to know and influence an exceptional generation of students,” she pointed out.  “We have been given the opportunity to participate in history.  In years to come, they will talk of these students as the saviours of the planet, and we will be the ones who taught them - helped them become what they must.  As professional teachers, what more can we ask for? That the ones we teach go on to fulfil their potential.  Look at how many kids have died through the Dark Tosser, with all that learning snuffed out because of one megalomaniac Tosser."

Vector slowly smiled.  "You're right, and I am a little jealous.  Albus, Minerva, Filius, Pomona, and even Severus are so much more involved than we are."

"Think about it," Sinistra said softly, her eyes a little regretful as she picked up a book, and prepared to walk out.  "I saw a Muggle film once, great story, but there was a quote that applies here.  'With great power comes great responsibility.’  Would you be willing to do what is needed if you had the power?  Harry is still young, but has been under the Cruciatus curse many times.  Would you be willing to do that?"

Vector slowly shook her head, a little embarrassed.

"That's why we’re at the back, helping where we can.  It's nothing to be embarrassed about, it just means that we shouldn't resent Harry getting special treatment - and by association, his friends.  These extraordinary students are putting their lives on the line for the normal people.  The people like us."


Snape stormed towards the Headmaster’s office, in a foul mood, his cloak billowing behind him like the wings of an avenging dark angel, on a mission of revenge.  Students got out of his way in a hurry, suddenly worrying that the old Snape was back.

He snarled the password to the Gargoyle, and then charged up the moving stairs.  He burst into the office, ignoring the other three Heads of Houses who were enjoying lunch with the Headmaster.

"What the hell were you thinking?"

Albus blinked in surprise. "I'm sorry?"

"Leaving Harry with those, those... those... Muggles." The way Snape said the last word made it very clear that he thought of it as a base expletive of the worst kind.

"They're not that bad," Dumbledore said calmly.

"Not that bad!?" Snape shook his head, bitter laughter erupting from him. "I'll show you how 'Not that bad' they were."  He pulled his wand, and cast the same spell he had on Harry, this time pushing the memories he had just received onto the others.  It was a sign of their trust in him that they let him.

There was complete silence around the table, which was only broken by the shifting of cloth against a chair, as Dumbledore slumped down.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't Apparate there and turn both of them into toads," Filius said, as he digested what he had just experienced, so incensed that steam was coming out of his ears. 

"Because by the time you get there I shall have already turned them into mushrooms," Sprout replied, on her feet.

"You will do no such thing," Minerva almost roared.  "Harry is my student; therefore, I get to transfigure them into new bookcases for my room."  She stalked towards the door, determinedly.

"Sit!" Albus' voice cracked across the room, like a whip.  He took a deep breath.  "All of you, please, sit down."

With a bit of grumbling, they did as asked.

"Do you have any idea how old I am?"

"Around 150," Snape snapped, a little bemused by the non sequitur.  "What has this got to do with Harry?"

"Patience, my dear Severus.  Actually, I am 162 years old.

"In that time I have seen so much, and I am tired.  My bones ache each morning that I get up.  All I want is to run this school for a few more years, see Voldemort defeated, and then face my next great adventure with a smile on my face."

His four Head of Houses looked at him with wide eyes, having never seen him so open and vulnerable before.

"When I fought Voldemort at the end of term, it took me two days to get my magical power back up to normal.  If he had attacked again, I would have been finished.

"I have made a lot of mistakes in my time, and I am afraid that the decision I made with Harry is one of the worst.  I truly thought I was doing the best thing.  That Harry would grow up with people who loved him, free from the pressures of being the Boy Who Lived.  That he would have a childhood.

"As with a lot of things in life, out of sight was out of mind.  I had a busy school to run, people to keep an eye on, the Ministry to guide, Mugwump meetings to attend.

"When Harry first arrived here, I initially thought he was just shy, and didn't think anymore about it.  Everything he did, following his arrival, showed me what a remarkable young man he is, and I presumed that his home life was fine.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that I ignored the signs that he showed.  I know he mentioned it a bit later on, but I must confess that I thought it was merely a teenager’s exaggeration - that he didn't want to go back to a non-magical environment.

"I told him the truth - that it was the best place for him, because of the strong blood protection his relatives gave him.  I didn't tell him that I could have created the wards pretty much anywhere else - that with the Wizarding world being so inter-related, most families would have been suitable.  I didn’t tell him because it would have taken more magic, more magic that I was willing to expend, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to recover."

The four teachers sat back in their chairs, while Severus pulled out the Firewhiskey and five glasses.

"So much pressure on one so young," Filius said, in a tone of deep regret.

"I'm sorry?" Ponoma asked, a little surprised by his comment.

"Oh, I jumped ahead in the conversation," the diminutive man sighed.  "Albus has been giving Harry a lot of freedom this year.  I’d wondered why, when compared to previous years.  I'm afraid Albus got a taste of his own mortality that night, and has realised that he needs as much help as is possible.

"With the prophecy stating that Harry is the only who can kill Voldemort, he is the only one who can help. 

"If you look at what Harry has done over the past few years, it is nothing short of remarkable.  He has a group of incredibly loyal friends.  I wasn't going to mention this, but I'm afraid that one of my students tried to interfere with Harry and Ginny’s relationship.  She will not be doing it again; Hermione gave her an object lesson in living up to one’s responsibilities.  A small group of girls also promised to take care of the instigator, so that Harry could focus on the important things.

"The D.A., as I now know thanks to Severus and the cheer at breakfast, is fanatically loyal to him.  Half of the members of the Order would follow him now, more so if Albus gave him some backing.  People recognise that Harry is an Alpha Male.  He's a natural leader that will stand at the front in the fight, and do what he believes to be right."

"It's interesting you should say that," Minerva interrupted smoothly.  "Harry's Animagus form is a Wolf."  She didn't mention his other form on purpose.  "Harry has a fierce loyalty to his mate, and to his pack.  He sees Voldemort as a threat to his pack’s stability and is prepared to deal with the threat."

"You are correct, Filius," Albus re-entered the conversation.  "As I recuperated from the fight with Voldemort, I had some time to think, and I decided that I had perhaps kept a too tight reign on Harry.  I decided to let him have the freedom he wanted this year, and hoped it would be good for him.

"I believe I can say that my faith has been amply rewarded.  My school is one again; students are friends with students from other houses.  They are rallying around the one person they know is their chance at a normal life.  Harry's magic is increasing in leaps and bounds, as is his reasoning and perception.  He is growing up, a lot faster than I would like, but we don't have the luxury of him doing it normally.

"If anything happens to me, he has to be ready to step into my shoes - so we must continue to try and guide him."

"That doesn't explain why I can't go and introduce those Muggles to the blunt end of my wand," Snape said quietly.  His anger with Albus was now gone, but his anger towards those two disgusting examples of humanity still raged.

Albus smiled faintly.  "It doesn't, but do any of you really think that Ms Weasley does not have plans of her own?"

Identical smiles slowly appeared on each of the teacher’s faces as they considered the headmaster’s words. Smiles that were, maybe, just a little bit feral.

"I think I shall call a full Order meeting for nine pm tonight," Dumbledore mused thoughtfully.  "It will be interesting to see how they react to Harry joining."


From: Youngest Male

To: Brothers All

Cc: Mum, Dad, Padfoot, Moony

Subject: Harry

Guys,

At lunch today, Ginny persuaded Harry to show her exactly what went on in his childhood - Hermione said it was a form of Legilimens. 

Well, I'm sad to say that however bad we thought it was, Ginny says it was a lot worse.  Those disgusting Muggles locked Harry in a cupboard for two days, without food, water, or even a light when he was six.  And he had a broken arm at the time!

Suffice it to say that our little sister is not amused - in fact, if she ever looked at me that way, I'd be contemplating leaving the planet.  Immediately. 

Before you go running out, and, yes, I'm looking at you Sirius, Ginny is coordinating the revenge.

Ron


From: Molly

To: Family (extended)

Cc: Ginny

Subject: Re: Harry

Attachment: recipe.pmt

Why those disgusting filthy Muggles, how dare they lock Harry in a cupboard.  If I thought it would do any good, I’d send them another Howler!

Ginny, attached is a little potions recipe I cooked up some years ago.  It will change their taste buds so that no matter what they eat, it will taste like baked beans.  Permanently.

Mum


From: Padfoot and Moony

To: All the Weasleys

Cc: The cute red-head

Subject: Re: Re: Harry

Attachment: truth_tourettes.pmt

It's probably a good thing that Ginny is dealing with this.  I’m not exactly renowned for my subtlety or restraint, and well, when Remus gets going, let’s just say the hidden wolf comes out to play.

Our contribution is based on the one or two meetings we've had with Petunia.  It's a curse that means the victim will blurt out what they are really thinking at random times, no matter who they are talking to.

P&M

--
growling


From: Perce

To: Family & Padfoot and Moony

Cc: Ginny

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Harry

Attachment: anti-ministry.pmt

How dare they! I am tempted to just have them arrested and put into Azkaban!  I don't care that no Muggles have ever been there before.  However, I shall restrain my original impulse, as in this case, a more fitting punishment is being arranged.

Ginny, attached is a nice little charm for their house - it will mask all the magic emanating from that area, so the Ministry will never know.

Please be careful with this spell, it is a closely guarded secret.

PJW

--
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.


From: The Twins

To: Percy

Cc: Everyone Else

Attachment: justice.pmt

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Harry

Percy, when we next see you, we're going to give you such a hug! You are quite definitely a Weasley again! Don't worry, we won't abuse your spell - we don't do that to family.

Gin, our curse is a little harder to do, but it's certainly going to be fun.  We would LOVE to see their faces when they wake up on odd days of the month... only to find that they have switched bodies.  It will last all day, then when they got to sleep, they will switch back.

Mum, we're so impressed with your potion - it's sneaky, underhand.  And all those years you claimed not to know where we got our pranking ability from.  We bet you were a right prankster when you were young... wasn't she, Dad?

Gred

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley


From: Arthur @ work

To: Revenge seekers

Attachment: hogwarts_effect.pmt

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Harry

I'm very glad to see the family working together over this.

One of the things that we work on here at the office is a way to stop Muggle devices, (some of their toys are very nasty).  It recreates the effect that Hogwarts has on elastictrical machines.  I tweaked it a little, and once set off, it will disrupt everything in the house for a short period of time, at random intervals.

And as for your mother, why do you think I fell in love with her in the first place? 

Arthur

--
The Ministry of Magic routinely monitors the content of Mmails sent and received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with its policies and procedures. Employees must never send or store Mmails or attachments that acknowledge the return of 'He Who Must Not Be Named', or defame the name of Cornelius Fudge.  Mmails of this nature sent in or out of the Ministry of Magic network may be intercepted and stopped by highly trained Aurors, and perpetrators will be sentenced to 10 (ten) years in Azkaban.  The Ministry of Magic is not responsible for any changes made to the message after it has been sent. Where opinions are expressed, they are not necessarily those of The Ministry of Magic, or Cornelius Fudge. This Mmail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity or being to whom they are addressed. If you are not the intended addressee, or the person or being responsible for delivering it to them, you may not copy, forward disclose or otherwise use it or any part of it in any way. To do so may be unlawful. If you receive this Mmail by mistake, please advise the sender immediately.


From: Almost feeling sorry for them

To: Family and Friends

Cc: Snapdragon

Attachment: dragon_breath.pmt

Subject: Re[lots]: Harry

I said almost...

Mine, well, let's just say that after this has been cast, you wouldn’t want to be down wind ^smirk^

C.

--
Draconis dominium


From: I appear to be last

To: Friends and Family

Cc: Munchkin

Attachment: Egyptian_curses.pmt

Subject: Re: Re[lots]: Harry

This is what I get for taking an early lunch.  I come back to find that Mum was a prankster, Percy's a Weasley, and that the Marauders haven't lost their edge, Fred and George have proved that they still are still the masters, and those fricking Muggles deserve everything they are going to get! How in Merlin's name did Harry come out like he has from that?

So, what can I add? This is one of the curses from Ramses the Great.  It's a combination of a Cupid spell and a loyalty spell, with the affection part removed.  It will mean that the two of them will be stuck with each over for the rest of their lives, never divorcing or separating.

Bill


From: Ginny

To: Family and Marauders

Subject: Revenge

Thanks everyone, I love you all (Yes, even you Padfoot - but watch what you call me in front of Harry, he's a little possessive)

I could list a hundred different things they did to Harry and believe me when I say that we are being restrained.  Percy's solution was a very good one!  This way though, Harry will never need to know about it, and we can all feel like we have some closure.

I will make it very clear to them that this is punishment for what they have put Harry though - I don't want them thinking it’s bad luck or anything.

Fred, George, Harry is on his way to Gringotts now, and then to see you.  He's not had lunch, so please make sure he eats something filling at your place (and no pranking him).

A grateful Gin.


From: The dynamic duo

To: Dynamo

Cc: The rest of the participants

Subject: Re: Revenge

No problem Gin, we'll make sure he eats something.  And we won't prank him; he was very nice to us yesterday. 

Forge

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Molly

To: The twins

Subject: Harry's lunch

Can one of you two pop home: I've made a couple of sandwiches.

Love you both,

Be good,

Mum


"Are you ready?" Harry asked, as he approached Lavender and Parvati.

The two girls looked at each other, a little nervously, and smiled.  "Yes.  How are we going to get there? Portkey?"

Harry shook his head, "Can you keep a secret?"

They both nodded instantly, more than trusting Harry.

He grinned and reached out and took their hands.  As he touched them, they all vanished from Hogwarts, and reappeared inside the entrance foyer to Gringotts bank.

Harry looked at the two girls, and waited for them to recover.

"You can Apparate!" Lavender blurted, a shocked look appearing on her face.

"Shhh," Harry whispered, holding his finger to his lips.  "It's a secret, remember?"

Parvati nodded, her eyes huge as she looked at Harry, a tinge of hero worship in her eyes.

"Come on," Harry smiled, and opened the door to the huge reception area.

Fred and George had arranged an appointment for Lavender and Parvati, so a harried looking Goblin took them off to a side room instantly.

Harry took a seat, and idly conjured a quill and some paper, and started to do his potions homework.

"Mr Potter?" A voice inquired politely, breaking his concentration.

Harry looked up to see a small goblin.  The goblin looked like all goblins, with no real discernable features that Harry could recognise, so he took a gamble.  "Griphook?"

The goblin showed his teeth in what the boy wizard hoped was a smile.  "Indeed.  Have you come to see your new vaults?"

Harry blinked.  "I wasn't aware that I had new vaults," he admitted.

Griphook's mouth changed shape, into what was now probably a frown.  "Most strange, Mr Potter.  We did try and contact you.

"Your parents will was most specific.  You were to be left a small allowance to pay for school, until you reached seventeen, unless both they and your remaining family had died"

"But my aunt and uncle are still alive," Harry pointed out.

Griphook seemed to sniff disdainfully.  "I'm afraid that Muggles do not count when it comes to Wizarding guardians."

"Well, my godfather is alive as well."

"Ahh yes, Mr Black," Griphook agreed.  "A will is a magical document, Mr Potter.  A contract signed and sealed by powerful wizards in the presence of your parents, and Mr Black.  Once your godfather was pronounced dead, the contract came to an end, and your parent’s full inheritance was placed in your control."

Harry looked shocked.

"I would suggest that you have a look, Mr Potter," Griphook advised gently.  Well, as gently as a goblin could.

Harry nodded, and sent his work back to Hogwarts.  "Will you arrange for my friends to be looked after until we get back?"

"With pleasure, Mr Potter."

The ride through the catacombs took Harry back to his first year, when he had ridden the roller coaster for the first time.  The effect was a dizzying and confusing as it had been back then.

They rolled to a stop outside a huge door bearing an enormous, medieval crest.  The crest’s primary colours were red and silver, with a bold black square sitting front and centre.  Three silver stars shimmered in the low light, two in the upper right corner and one in the lower left corner, separated by a swath of silver. At the top of the square sat an elegant helm, which made him think of Arthurian legend and the Crusades.  It was surrounded by a flurry of red and silver ordinaries – swirling, intricate patterns that looked like ribbons of the finest silks streaming from the helm.  Finally, seated atop the helm was a shimmering golden lion, which appeared to be asleep.

At the bottom of the shield, in golden calligraphy were the words 'Audaces fortuna juvat'.

Harry's crest

"’Fortune favours the bold’," Griphook translated without being asked.  "A somewhat fitting motto for an ancient and royal house."

"Royal?" Harry asked. 

Griphook had what could have been a surprised expression on his face.  "I would suggest that you look up your family some time, Mr Potter.  Sometime the answers to today’s problems can be found in the past."

Harry nodded solemnly; no other action seemed to fit.  "How do I open it?" he asked, as he realised there was nowhere for his key.

"Approach the door, Mr Potter.  Only a true Potter can open it."

As Harry walked towards the door, the lion seemed to wake and fix the approaching wizard with a baleful glance. 

The lion reared back on its hind legs, and let out an earth shattering roar. 

Harry froze, shaking his head a little to clear his ears.

"Approach," the lion said in a huge voice.  "But beware, for only true members of the House of Potter may open my doors."

Harry walked forwards slowly, mentally preparing to Apparate out of the area if anything went wrong.

"Halt," the lion commanded.  As Harry obeyed instantly, the lion continued.  "Place your hand on the stars."

Harry reached out with his left hand, the sudden words of Alastor Moody in his mind: “Constant Vigilance!”  His right hand, his stronger hand, remained safe by his side.  As he touched the bottom of the shield, the stars started to swirl faster and faster.  Before he could react, they had sucked him in.

It was grey.  Everywhere was grey.  It was an oppressive lack of colour that seemed to steal his breath from his body.  Harry looked around cautiously, drawing together his magic.

He heard a coughing sound from behind him, and whirled, his hands up.

"Wouldn't a wand be helpful?" a friendly voice asked curiously.  An old man came into focus, wearing a robe that looked to be military in origin.  "Oh, a wandless user," the man said, his tone now filled with admiration.  "Why, there hasn't been one of them in the family for over a millennia.  Excellent.  Why don't you take a seat?"

Harry looked around and blinked.  The grey was gone, replaced by a log cabin with a roaring fire.  Behind him was a comfy looking chair that he sat in.

"Where am I?"

"Where is an interesting question," The old man agreed.  "However, when am I, would be a far more pertinent one."

Harry smiled wryly.  "Why is it that everyone new I meet has to talk in riddles for the first ten minutes?  Is it some form of law or old charter I'm not aware of?"

The man looked at him for a second, and then burst into laughter.

"It's not nice to ruin an old man's fun.  We tend to talk in riddles to make you youngsters admire our intelligence."

"Oh, sorry."  Harry smiled.  "So, when am I?"

"1323." The man smiled.  "I'm the current gatekeeper for the Potter vault.  The spell sends your spirit to meet me, so I can… what is it the young people are saying in your days?... Oh yes... check you out.  What's your full name?"

"Harry James Potter."

"Ahh, the only son of Lily Evans and James Potter.  I take it they are dead?"

"For some time," Harry agreed blandly, his emotions locked up tight.

"Pity," The old man sighed.  "Some Potters seem to live forever; others are tragically cut down before their prime.  I do so hope you are one of the long ones."

"Yeah, so do I."

The wizard smiled.  "Tell me about yourself, Harry, and would you like a cup of tea?"

Harry nodded, and after taking a sip, he began to speak.  It was only half way through his conversation that he realised the old man was simply lonely, and with that, he started to go into more details, paying his ancestor all the courtesy he could.

"Thank you," the old man smiled warmly.  "You are more than welcome into the Potter family vault.  When you get in there, you may want to look in the chest immediately to your left.  You may find its contents useful in a few years time."

Harry nodded, and a second later found himself in front of the now open doors.  He walked in slowly, slightly awed by the sheer size of the room that seemed to stretch into eternity.

"An illusion, Mr Potter," Griphook said quietly.  "The room is large, but not that large."

Harry nodded, and dropped to his knees in front of the first chest, opening it. 

Inside, on a purple velvet cushion, were three rings.  In gold lettering, of the same style as the crest, were words under each ring.

"I Promise" "I Will" "Forever"

Harry looked down, a little confused, and then saw a piece of paper.  He opened it, and gasped softly.

"Harry," the letter started, in a flowing elegant script.

"Well, if you're reading this it means that Lils and I are dead.  And quite frankly, that is the most maudlin start to a letter I can possibly imagine.  I think I'd rather start by saying: If you're reading this, then you've just become Quidditch champion for the Falcons.  Oww!"

The writing changed, to one that was smaller and harder to read.  "Ignore your father, Harry, he has very little taste.  Anyway, bypassing the fact that we will have to be dead for you to read this, the rings in front of you are a family heirloom."

The writing changed once more, "Yes, thank you, honey.  I can take it from here.  She's just jealous because I have better handwriting than her.  Ouch, will you stop hitting me? Now look what you made me write.  Anyway Harry, a bit of history first.

"Potter men have this habit of finding the girls they are going to fall in love with early in their lives.  I met Lils when I was eleven.  Unfortunately, Potter men then go about completely ignoring the girl for many years, not waking up till it's almost too late.  It was my fifth year before I woke up to Lils, and it was devastating to find she didn't like me.  Can you imagine anyone resisting my irresistibleness?"

"That’s enough of that, James," The writing changed yet again.  "Your father was a little arrogant when he was young, but he grew out of that and actually turned sweet and loving.  I wouldn't have married him otherwise."

"Yes... Thank you once more for ruining my reputation with my son.  Anyway, Harry.  This does have a point.  Honest.  Once we Potter men fall for these girls, we make up for our stupidity with a cunning plan.  You see, one of our ancestors, a genius in my opinion, had these three rings custom-made.

"The first one is a Promise Ring.  It's what we Potters use to a, prove that we are deadly serious about the girl, and b, take them off the market, so to speak.

"The second is the engagement ring, to be given when little details like Wizarding law is no longer an issue.  In case you don't know, they won't allow any wizard under the age of majority to propose on his own.  Stupid custom if you ask me. 

"The final ring is the wedding ring.  When your wife wears all three, they will merge into one, and stay with her till her death.

"So, in case you’re particularly dense (you are a male Potter, it's in your genes), if you've got a girl, get the first ring on her finger as soon as possible!"

The writing changed again.  "If you haven't got a girl yet Harry, make sure you look at everyone you know as friends first - you can often find your partner hidden in a corner somewhere."

"And," his father continued.  "Potter men need a woman that can handle us and.  Historically, that shows that only a Redhead can tackle the task and succeed.

"To finish this off, Harry.  Your mother and I both love you, but we don't want to see you in the next place for a VERY long time.  We know about the prophecy, and everything that is on your shoulders.  Don't let it dominate you; make friends, get the girl, and fight for everything you hold dear.  Fight to avenge us.  But don't get yourself killed.  We want to look down and see grandkids!"

"Your father’s right Harry.  Live life.  Live long.  Live happy.  And when you're ready, we'll be waiting for you and your wife at the gates, where we'll be together for eternity, enjoying the next great adventure.

"Lots of love,

"Mum and Dad"

Harry stayed still for a few minutes, crouched over and looking down.  He had a strange expression on his face, as if he was going to laugh and cry at the same time.

He folded the letter up, placing it securely in his pocket and looked at the rings.  With a slight smile, he grabbed the promise ring and placed it in his pocket.

"Can I get some money converted into Muggle money?"

"Of course, Mr Potter; you'll find that we have an excellent exchange rate.  Only three percent."

Harry nodded absently, and walked out of his vault, the door shutting behind him with a resounding slam.  "Thank you for showing me this, Griphook, I appreciate it."

Griphook nodded and managed to look proud.  "I was wondering, Mr Potter, if you would have a few minutes spare to have a word with the manager.  I assure you that your friends are being well looked after."

"Of course," Harry said politely.

The ride back through the roller coaster was longer than the way in, and they stopped in a strange cave he had never seen before.

"This way, Mr Potter," Griphook said, leading Harry down a red-carpeted corridor flanked by statues of goblins.

"Each one is an former manager," Griphook explained proudly, as they reached the end of the red carpet.  He knocked on the door, which opened immediately.

Inside the opulent room was a huge mahogany desk.  A goblin sat behind it, writing into a huge volume. 

"Thank you, Mr Griphook," the goblin nodded at Harry's escort.  "It is a delight to meet you, Mr Potter; I am Mackrack, the general manager of this branch.  Won't you take a seat?"

Harry nodded, and sat opposite the Goblin.  The chair seemed to sigh as he sat down, and then adjusted itself to fit him perfectly.

"We are in a strange position, Mr Potter," the manager began, not really looking at Harry.  "We operate through trust.  People trust us with their gold.  If they did not trust us, it would be disastrous for business.  It means that, despite how we may feel, we can not interfere in everyday events."

Harry nodded thoughtfully, slipping his glasses off, and looking directly at the goblin, trying to work out if he was trustworthy.

"War is bad for business.  Voldemort --" and the Goblin said the name distastefully, "-- is bad for business.  Most wizards seem to be under the impression that we would join him in a second."  He looked disgusted at the very notion.  "We would lose everything if that was to happen. 

"But as much as we might want to help, our promises bind us more securely than our own wants and needs."  The goblin seemed to be tapping his quill against the page he had been writing on, while meeting Harry's penetrating stare as directly as he could.

"Excuse me, sir," Griphook interrupted.  "I believe you are needed in your private chambers."

"Of course," Mackrack said.  "Follow me, Griphook."

The two goblins walked out, leaving Harry alone in the office, the book wide open.  Harry smiled to himself, getting the not-so-subtle hint, and walked over to see what the Goblins wanted him to read.  He gasped in surprise, and then borrowed a piece of paper and a quill.


To: Percy and Kingsley

From: H

Subject: Interesting Information

Attachment: dates.pmt

Percy, Kingsley,

One of my spies brought this to my attention.  It details deposits to a bank account of one Cornelius J Fudge.  One of them was for the day that Sirius was freed. 

Something smells fishy about this, and I'm not talking about Fudge's aftershave.

Harry

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Shacked up

To: Co-investigator

Subject: Re: Interesting Information

So, how long do you think that Harry has had a spy network?

Fascinating stuff, that document.  What do you make with the dates?

KS


From: Percival Weasley (CIO)

To: Kingsley Winston Shacklebolt

Subject: Re: Re: Interesting Information

My dear fellow; those dates are extremely interesting.  They correlate exactly to dates of prominent Death Eater trials.  As a famous Muggle once wrote: Something may be rotten in the state of Denmark.

As for our young Mr Potter; well, quite frankly I wouldn't put anything past him these days.  I am getting constant reports from Ronald regarding Harry's abilities and progress.  When the time comes, I will be hoisting my own petard next to his, and following him onto victory.

P

--
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.


From: On'tday useway Ictorvay

To: Ercivalpay Easleyway

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Interesting information

They correlate? Hmm.  I think that a trip to Azkaban may be in order.  Something strange is going on, and we're going to need to get to the bottom of it.  I'll get a few friends to provide us with an escort.

As for following Harry, I'll be right with you.  Albus has been giving him a lot more freedom this year, and I'd bet galleons to sugar quills that the prophecy has something to do with it.

Shack


From: Albus Dumbledore

To: Order Members (All)

Subject: Meeting

Will all members please report to Hogwarts at nine pm tonight? 

Albus

--
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards 


From: Snape

To: Harry

Subject: Re: Meeting

Harry, it seems like I am not destined to talk to you today.  Can we please reschedule for tomorrow at 4pm?

S


From: Harry

To: Potions Professor

Subject: Re[2]: Meeting

No problem.

H

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


Harry moved back into his own chair, and sat comfortably.  A few seconds later, the manager reappeared, followed by Griphook who was carrying a tray.

"Cup of tea, Mr Potter?"

"Please," Harry smiled, "call me Harry.  And I'd love one."

The manager showed his teeth, and poured Harry and himself a cup. 

Harry brought it to his lips, and inhaled the aroma. 

"Earl Gray," the manager said softly.  "It's a Muggle affection, and I'm rather partial to it."

"I feel that I should warn you," Harry said in between sips of the hot liquid, "That I have had spies watching your counters.  They did note a few coincidental transactions ascertaining to a certain Minister of Magic."

Mackrack nodded, still smiling, "Shocking, Harry, shocking.  Well, you can rest assured that I will look into this appalling invasion of the sanctity of Gringotts with the utmost urgency.  I shall spare no effort with this investigation; in fact I will head it myself.  Just as soon as I get some spare time."

"Are you a busy man, sir?"

"You can call me Mackrack, Harry, and yes, extremely busy I'm afraid."

They both grinned at each other.  "I shall look forward to the results of your investigation."

"Excellent, I shall send you a copy, just as soon as I can."

Harry finished his tea and stood up.  "It has been a most informative visit."

"That it has, Harry," The goblin stood up as well, and offered his hand, which Harry promptly shook.

As Harry walked out, and the doors closed behind him, the goblin turned to a wall and pressed a button.  The wall retracted, revealing a huge fireplace.

Mackrack through some powder into the fire, and watched as the heads of the other branches of Gringotts appeared.

"How did it go?"

"Excellently," Mackrack reported.  "Mr Potter has the information, and sent an immediate Mmail to the people running the investigation into corruption.  Both of which are, according to our spies, very loyal to Mr Potter.

"Mr Potter, or Harry as he allowed me to call him, does not seem to have the prejudices of other wizards.  He does, however, posses a most intimidating stare.  I do not remember a time when I felt quite so open.  Fortunately, I was telling the truth, so I believe I passed his test.  I feel that it would be very wise for us to continue to aid him as we can."

The other goblins nodded, and then moved onto other business.


"How much Muggle currency do you want, Mr Potter?" Griphook asked.

"A thousand pounds," Harry said, deciding to be on the safe side.

"That will be... 398 galleons, 4 sickles, and 19 knuts, including our three percent charge."

Harry nodded, and a second later was handed a thick wad of fifty pound notes. 

"Thanks for everything you have done today, Griphook," Harry said, smiling at the goblin.

"The pleasure was all mine, Mr Potter."

A giddy looking Parvati and Lavender, who were led over by another goblin, joined them.

"Everything done?" Harry asked.

The two girls nodded enthusiastically.

Harry looked at his watch, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was only two pm.  He led the two girls back into the foyer, and transported them to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. 

As soon as Fred saw them arrive, he closed the store for lunch and called his twin.

"Harry, would you mind if we separated you guys?" Fred asked. "George will take the two lovely ladies through what we have learnt."

Harry shrugged, and followed Fred into the back room, while George took the two girls into their office.

"What's up?" Harry asked.

"Before we talk business," Fred grinned, "you have to eat.  There is no way we're risking the wrath of our darling sister by talking business with you on an empty stomach."

Harry laughed, and took a bite of the large sandwich that Fred placed in front of him.  "I didn't know you guys could cook."

"We can't.  Mum made it for you. George just nipped home and picked it up."

"Ahh," Harry smiled, and demolished the food as he quickly realised he was ravenous. 

As soon as he had finished, Fred gave him a glass of Butterbeer and sat down on the table, pulling out a sheaf of parchment. 

"George spent the morning in the library, looking at the patent issue for Butterbeer,” he began his report.  “Now, while the idea of George in a library is about as realistic as me in a nunnery, nevertheless, my twin managed to apply his brilliant mind to the issue, and discovered something quite remarkable.

"The whole Butterbeer industry is controlled, through various shadow companies, by one Lucius Malfoy, and the Malfoy estate."

Harry lost his relaxed pose in a second, sat up straight and began intently reading the paperwork Fred was passing him. 

"I had a meeting with our solicitor an hour ago, a truly charming lady,” he commented parenthetically, “and it turns out that the patent was a bit of a red herring.  But, what is interesting is that the Malfoy family no longer owns the trademark for Butterbeer.  It was an asset seized by the Ministry Of Magic some time ago, from one of Lucius' underlings.  The Ministry of Magic has a policy of selling off seized assets to bolster public funds.  The guy in charge of such transactions is a close friend of Dad's, as it happens.  We had a rather interesting Mmail conversation with him this morning, and as a result of the trademark just coincidentally becoming available now, we can buy it."

Harry was looking at Fred in surprise.

Fred smirked as he correctly interpreted the look.  "Shocked to see me serious? Well, George and I have found that playing the business game is even more fun than playing tricks on people.  In fact, our reputation helps us massively as we are underestimated wherever we go.  Everyone knows we were chucked out of Hogwarts early, so they expect us to be bumpkins who got lucky."  Fred's smile now had a twinge of evilness to it. "So when we end up taking them to the cleaners, they don't understand it."

Harry laughed under his breath.  "Serious Weasley Twins?  Merlin! I'm glad you're on our side."  He paused a second.  "How much?"

Fred winced slightly, deflating as he sat down.  "Not everybody at the Ministry is incompetent.  And typically, Dad's friend is one of the competent ones.  20,000 galleons.  We've not got anywhere near that much."

Harry started to smirk, "If this money was found, exactly what could you do with the trademark?"

Fred sat up again, with another mercurial mood swing.  "Well, to start with, it would put a major hole in the Malfoy cash flow.  They would not be allowed to market their product under the name Butterbeer anymore, so they would have to rename everything.  At the same time, we launch Honest Abe's Original Butterbeer, as a variety on the original name, and overnight, we replace one monopoly with another - ours.  We will own the market, literally, overnight."

"Do George and Abe know what is going on?"

"Of course," Fred nodded.

"I propose to lend your new company the sum of 25,000 galleons on an interest-free basis.  I expect to be paid back with the profits of selling the Butterbeer.  The only caveat I have, is that this is kept in the utmost secrecy.  No one is to know where you got the money."

"Do I get to ask where you got the money?"

Harry smiled slightly, "Let's just say Padfoot's trip to Ecuador was more useful than anyone expected at the time."

Fred slammed his hand onto the table, "Your inheritance!  Of course, with Padfoot dead, you were officially guardian-less.  You've got to love Wizard contracts!"  Fred put his arms in front of him, and then moved them in a circular movement, while moving his torso in the opposite direction, in a very strange chair dance.  "On behalf of the two other partners, we accept your exceptionally generous offer, as long as it is agreed that the interest rate is 2%."

Harry frowned at that.

"Harry, taking an interest-free loan would cost us more in taxes, Believe me, it’s better this way."

"Oh.  All right then."

"So how do you want to play the revelation that we have the trademark?"

Harry looked thoughtful.  "I'd prefer a devastating blow.  How's the search for premises to make the new stuff going?"

"We're looking at a place this afternoon.  The materials that Abe needs have been pretty easy to source, we just got in touch with a Muggle distributor.  We can get as much as we need as quickly as we need it.  If this place is any good, we could order the equipment tonight, probably get it by the end of the week, and be prepared to launch the product on Monday.  It won't mean much sleep for us, but believe me we can handle it.  This is as much a buzz as making new inventions!"

Harry nodded.  "Right then. When you're ready, we'll launch an immediate publicity blitz - adverts in all the papers and magazines.  We'll get your solicitors to stop the production of Butterbeer at source, let the word be known that even selling it under the name of Butterbeer is now illegal, then offer them this new and better product at a ten percent discount.  We should be in all major retailers immediately.  We'll promise immediate delivery, and offer to buy back any remaining stock of the current Butterbeer at a reduced rate.  It will make us look good, and keep the retailers happy as they will at least be getting something for it."

Fred blinked.

He shook his head, then threw back his head and started to laugh hysterically.

"What?" Harry asked, starting to blush, he hadn't thought his ideas were that bad. 

Fred tried to control himself, and ended up throwing a glass of water into his face to see if that would help.  "Harry, will you make me a promise?"

"What?" Harry asked again, this time suspicious.

"That when you leave school, you won't go into competition against us?"

"Why would I do that?"

"Because you're so bloody ruthless at times, it's scary.  Your plan is amazing; it will wipe out Lucius' cash flow in a second, and leave him with massive debts from his suppliers."

Harry shrugged and said, "Audaces fortuna juvat.  It's the family motto.  ‘Fortune favours the bold’."

Harry and Fred walked back into the sales floor of the shop, and Fred showed off some of their new inventions with pride. 

"There is one other thing, Harry," Fred said, a lot more cautiously than earlier.  "But it is kinda personal, not business."

"What?"

"We know that Ginny is completely in love with you.  Are you serious about her? I think it would kill her if you weren't."

Harry reached into his pocket, and pulled out the ring.  His hand caught as he pulled it out, and he dropped it.  He cursed, and dived after the thin piece of metal, catching it by Fred's shoes.  On one knee, Harry reached up and offered the ring to Fred.


From: Albus Dumbledore

To: Staff (all)

Subject: Assistant Professor Potter

All,

Please remember that as from this afternoon, Harry will be a member of staff, and as such, should be included in all administrative Mmails.

Albus

--
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards 


From: Sev

To: All staff

Subject: Re: Assistant Professor Potter

What he means is, this is your last chance to gossip about him with impunity.

S.

--
Working for the downfall of the Dark Tosser for fifteen years


From: Min

To: Sev and the Others

Subject: Gambling

So, is that still running, or do we all get our money back?

M


From: Hogwart’s Resident Bookie

To: All gamblers

Subject: Re: Gambling

Good point actually.  I had an idea about that.  Why don’t we take all the money, pool it, and bet it on Harry’s team against the Weasley’s.  I think we can mostly agree that Harry knows what he is doing.  And I’m sure we can find someone stupid enough to give us poor teachers decent odds.

S

--
Working for the downfall of the Dark Tosser for fifteen years


From: Albus

To: My poor teachers

Subject: Re[2]: Gambling

Poor teachers? Have you seen the latest budget report I had to put in?  You poor teachers are some of the best paid in the world.

A.

--
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards 


From: Filius

To: Albus and my fellow poverty stricken workers

Subject: Re[3]: Gambling

Sev, the bet is a good idea.

Albus, I hate to point this out, but show me one other job where you are on call to deal with students twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for ten months a year, with no break?  And that’s without mentioning a certain Dark Tosser.

F


From: Scrooge

To: A school full of Bob Cratchets

Subject: Re[4]: Gambling

And in our last pay meeting, we discussed this, and despite Ministerial objections, we raised your pay to compensate.

Can we please leave the arguing till your next pay review?

Albus

--
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards 


From: Ponoma (Head of Staff Council)

To: Staff, All

Subject: Pay

Albus is right.  Very cleverly, he put a clause in our contracts stopping us from asking for more mid-season.  But don’t worry; we’ll make him pay in the summer.

And yes, Sev, go ahead and put the money on Harry.  I have no doubt he will triumph now. 

P.


From: A slightly bewildered Sev

To: Grumbling Colleagues

Subject: Erm...

Okay, the gambling thing I will do...

And would it help if I said that I was only joking about the money issue?

S.

--
Working for the downfall of the Dark Tosser for fifteen years


George, closely followed by Lavender and Parvati, walked back into the main office and froze in mid-step.

In front of them, Harry Potter was on one knee, offering a ring to George’s twin brother.

George's lips twitched.  "Should I get some champagne out?"

"Don't you think Ginny will be upset?" Lavender asked.

"Yeah, isn't that the wrong Weasley?" Parvati chimed in.

"Do you think we should give them some privacy?" George asked, laughing hard.

"No, that's what got them into this mess," Lavender replied, before collapsing into laughter herself.

The two boys turned identical shades of bright red, looked at each other and their unfortunate position, then started to laugh as well.

"It's for Ginny," Harry explained when he got his breath back.  "It's a promise ring."

George whooped loudly, and then launched himself at Harry.  Fred grinned, and then did the same thing, pushing Harry onto the floor, and landing on top of him.  "Welcome to the family," they said together.

"Get off me, you overgrown lugs," Harry wheezed, laughing again.

"Yes, brother-ours," Fred and George said in unison, getting to their feet and pulling Harry to his. 

"Don't worry, we'll keep it a secret," Lavender said with a large smile on her face, her eyes were slightly damp.  "Ginny's a very lucky girl."

"Harry's a lucky bloke," Fred grinned.

"Fred, did you get everything sorted?" George asked. 

Harry, correctly guessing what was going to happen next, took two silent steps backwards and to the side.

"More than that.  We took it to the right person, and the problems are no longer problems."

George cheered again and turned and threw himself at the spot Harry had been a few seconds before, only to land painfully on the floor.  He looked up at Harry's smirking face and laughed.


From: Dean

To: The cousin of Dudley

Subject: Said cousin

Harry, I got a curious email through the Mugglenet gateway.  It seems that my half sister kinda likes your cousin.  She says that once you get through the bluster (and the large size), there is actually a nice person inside.  She's always been one for lame ducks, and can look after herself (she has a temper to rival Ginny's). 

Anyway, she wanted to tell you that she knows what you went through, and is working on him...if that makes any sense to you at all?  And that he's changed so much that he's dumped his friends and spends the evenings walking in the park with her.

D


From: Harry

To: Deano

Subject: Re: Said cousin

Dean: DO NOT REPLY TO THAT E/MMAIL

I'll talk to you as soon as I can to explain why in person - but do not reply!

H

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


"Are we going back to Hogwarts now?" Lavender asked.

"Actually, I was wondering if you might help me out with something?"

"Of course," Parvati said, "What?"

"I need some decent clothes, so I want to go into Muggle London and do some shopping."

The two girls’ already bright expressions turned up another notch.  "You want us to help you chose new clothes for you?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed, finding their enthusiasm contagious.  He held out his hand, "Shall we go?"

"We shall," the girls agreed, grabbing his hand.

The girls literally dragged Harry from shop to shop, once they saw the amount of money he had on him, determined that he would never have to wear the threadbare clothes he normally lounged around in. 

"Hey Harry," Lavender called from across the store.  "What do you think of this?" She held up a short denim skirt.

"I don’t think it’s my style,” Harry said with a straight face.

Lavender rolled her eyes.  "Imagine Ginny in this, with a white t-shirt."

Harry looked at the skirt again, and gulped.  A picture of Ginny in the skirt, walking barefoot through grass, with a tight white t-shirt got firmly lodged in his mind.  He gulped.

Parvati walked up to Harry.  "Harry?"  She turned to Lavender, giggling.  "I think you broke him."

"He is so much in love with her, it's scary," she said with a tinge of sadness.

"I just hope he doesn't start drooling," Parvati said, trying to break the tension.

"I'm not that bad, am I?" Harry asked, coming out of his trance.

"Yes!" The two girls said at once. 

"So you know Ginny's size?" Harry asked, getting back to the point.

"Of course," Lavender replied.  "Why?"

"Ginny's going to need some Muggle clothing for tonight," Harry said thoughtfully, as an idea came to him.  "We're going to need to look pretty normal."

Lavender and Parvati turned to each other.  "One, two, three."  On the three, both girls brought their right hands up, Lavender's was flat, Parvati's clenched.

"Paper beats rock," Lavender crowed happily and walked over to Harry.

"Money?"

Harry, a very amused look on his face, offered her everything.  She looked, smiled, took a couple of notes, and bounded out of the store. 

"Leave her," Parvati laughed.  "She'll be back soon.  Come on, we need to get you some smart clothes now.  You can't live in jeans alone."

They walked through the department store, towards the Suit section.  "Do I want to know why Ginny needs Muggle clothing?"

"I need a chat with my cousin, and we can't Mmail because Death Munchers monitor the Mugglenet gateway, and I don't want them being tracked."

"Is your life like today a lot?"

Harry smiled slightly. "Recently, it has been, yeah."


The three arrived back at school just before dinner started.  Harry took his and Ginny's purchases up to the Common Room, while Lavender and Parvati walked towards the Great Hall.  As soon as Harry was around the corner, they turned and moved towards McGonagall's office.

They knocked on the door nervously, hoping their Head of House was in.

The professor opened the door, and looked slightly surprised to see them.

"Can we talk to you, in private, Professor?"

"Of course," McGonagall moved back, inviting them in, then sat at her desk.

"Is Harry's new room ready?" Lavender blurted.

McGonagall fixed her with a steely look.  "What business is that of yours?"

"Well," Parvati said, looking at her friend for support.  "You know that Professor Dumbledore allowed us to go with Harry to Gringotts today?"

"Yes," McGonagall replied, her voice not quite as frosty.  "How did that go?"

"The goblins were incredibly helpful," Lavender said.  "You know how they normally are? Well, they were nothing like that at all.  They even smiled at us!"

McGonagall frowned.  "Why?"

"We think it's because of Harry; he seemed very friendly with one of the Goblins.  Even called him by his name, and all the other Goblins around seemed to look at him with something like awe."

Lavender took over smoothly.  "After Gringotts, Harry took us to see Fred and George, so they could give us some business advice."

McGonagall couldn't hide a wince.

"Oh no," Parvati said quickly.  "They were on their best behaviour.  George took us to one side, and explained about accountants, solicitors, patents, copyright, everything.  It was an amazing insight into just what it takes to run a successful business.  At the same time, Fred and Harry were talking about something important.  Anyway, we asked why the twins were helping us so much.  George just said it was because he owed Harry."

"Not only has Harry set us up financially, he's done his best to make sure we have the support we will need,” Lavender said with a squeal of excitement.  “The goblins even offered us free banking for a year!"

McGonagall barely refrained from rolling her eyes.  "This doesn't explain why you want to know about Assistant Professor Potter's new room."

Lavender leaned forwards, looking straight across the desk.  "You know how Harry is, Professor.  He hates being thanked, especially in public.  And while we wanted to jump him and smother him in grateful kisses, we know he'd hate it."

There was a slight pause.  "And Ginny would take it personally," Parvati added, remembering that morning. "And that is one witch we don't want to get on the bad side off."

"So, the only chance we have to say thank you is to do things for him before he can stop us.  We want to decorate his room for him.  We know what his, and Ginny's, tastes are, and we can get pretty much anyone in the school to help with the magic."

McGonagall stared at them across the table silently, mentally ignoring the fact that a fifth year student’s tastes were being bought into the discussion about an Assistant Professor’s room - and everything that implied.  "Come with me," she demanded, as she stood up and walked out of her office.  The two girls followed the austere professor out of her office, and across the school.  She stopped in front of a large statue, and said "Hogwarts."

The statue saluted, and then slid to one side, revealing a wooden door.  McGonagall opened it and stepped inside.

They entered into a small apartment with three main rooms.  To the left, was a door, through which they could see a bed.  To the right, was another door, which they presumed to be a bathroom area.  But the main feature to the room was a humongous desk, facing a window.  They looked out the window and were forced to smile.  It had a perfect view of the Quidditch pitch.

"Yes," McGonagall said with a slight smile.  "We did choose this particular room because of the view.  I will trust you with this; please do not let me down."

"We won't, Professor," the two girls chorused their assurance, already itching to get started.

The professor nodded, and walked out.  As she left, she heard Lavender say, "We need to get more chairs in here, Harry will want to use this to hold meetings."  She couldn't help smiling to herself.


"Ahh, Harry," Professor Dumbledore said, interrupting the boy as he walked towards the Great Hall, "Perhaps we could have that meeting now?"

Harry looked at him, confused, then blushed as he realised he had missed his earlier appointment.  "I'm sorry, sir."

"Quite alright, I'm afraid that I to, was a little distracted at lunch.  Will you come with me to my office?"

"Of course sir.  Can I just send Gin a quick Mmail?"

Dumbledore nodded, offering Harry a piece of paper he conjured.

"Thanks."


From: Harry

To: That girl that I love

Subject: Tonight

Ginny,

Do you fancy coming with me to Little Whinging tonight?  I want a talk with Dudley, and I can't use Mmail because Death Munchers monitor the gateway.  I'll explain why I want to talk to him in person later, but I think it's important.

Love You.

Harry

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Your Ginny

To: That boy I worship

Subject: Re: Tonight

You don't even have to ask, love, I said I'd be with you every step of the way, and I damn well meant it.

Where are you now?

Love you more,

Ginny


From: Gonna prove he's yours

To: The most beautiful witch in the world

Subject: Re[2]: Tonight

I'm with Professor Dumbledore; we're going to have that chat I missed at lunch. 

Oh, I left a surprise for you on your bed ^grin^

Wish I was kissing you,

Harry

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Wishes that as well

To: The boy who's going to get some this evening

Subject: Re[3]: Tonight

I like surprises.  I'll have to give you a personal thank you later.

I'll be waiting in the common room for you. 

^nuzzle^ Ginny


From: Harry

To: Ginny

Subject: You

Witch! How am I supposed to concentrate now?

H

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Your girlfriend

To: The boy with the cutest bum in existence

Subject: You too

By thinking of kissing me? ^saucy smile^

I like you distracted Potter.

puurrrr

Ginny


From: Ginny Weasley

To: Professor Dumbledore

Subject: Meeting

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

Please ensure that Harry eats during your meeting.  I don't want him missing any meals.

Thanks,

Ginny


Dumbledore stared at his Mmail in disbelief, and then slowly started to laugh.

"Is there a problem, sir?" Harry asked.

Dumbledore shook his head, still amused.  "You have a very forthright girlfriend, Harry, but she does raise a good point." He raised his hands, and suddenly two plates appeared in front of them, full of food.  "Tuck in. I wouldn't want Ms Weasley upset at me."

Harry looked quizzically at Dumbledore, then shrugged as he realised he wasn't going to get any answers out of him.

Harry dug into the food; he always forgot just how much Apparating three people - and shopping - took out of him.  The lamb chops were as excellent as always, and he found himself finishing the plate a little faster than was probably polite.  His professor didn't seem to mind, he just waved his hand and refilled the plate.

The two ate in a comfortable silence, with only the sounds of a Quidditch practice filtering through the thick walls of the castle.

"So, Professor," Harry eventually said, as he finished his slice of apple pie.

"I think the first thing, Harry," Dumbledore interrupted, "is that in private, all of us teachers call each other by our first names.  You're going to have to do that as well."

"It was hard enough doing that with Professor Mc... I mean Minerva, what chance have I got with you?"

Dumbledore smiled, leaning back in his chair and peering at Harry through his half moon glasses.  "Every chance; Albus isn't that difficult a name and I know that you have no problems calling Abe by his given name."

Harry nodded slowly, "It will still be very strange to call you Albus, sir."  He paused, and noticed a frown appearing on his headmaster face.  "Si..er, Albus?"

"You wouldn't know why my desk was covered with Butterbeer yesterday, would you?"

Harry blinked.  He blinked again, and then suddenly burst into laughter.  "That's where he sent it?"

"Abe?" Albus groaned.  "I should have known."  The headmaster paused for a second, "I think Harry, that I am going to ask you bring us up-to-date on what you know is going on tonight."

Harry nodded.

"You do want to join the Order?" Dumbledore asked suddenly realising he'd been assuming the boy’s interest in doing so.

Harry smiled slowly, pleased to have been asked.  "I think it would be a good idea," he said simply.

"Excellent," the headmaster said jovially.  "Now, the boring stuff.  As an Assistant Professor, you will be expected to follow all the rules that the rest of the staff do, and live up to the high standards of Hogwarts.  You will be able to give House Points, as I believe you already know, and assign detentions.  I trust you will not abuse these privileges.  You will have your own suite, as all staff does."  He frowned suddenly, and then continued, "Which will be available to you by the end of the week.  You will be expected to continue your D.A. classes, and assist our Defence teacher as your schedule permits."

Harry smiled warmly.  "None of that is any problem, sir-er-Albus, thank you."

Dumbledore smiled back, marvelling at how relaxed Harry was these days, despite how much more he was actually doing.

"Well, I believe your girlfriend is waiting for you."

Harry nodded and stood, saying a polite goodbye.


Ginny bounced up the stairs to her dorm room, and dived through the curtains onto her bed.  There were several bags, with logos she didn't recognise on them.  On top, was a piece of parchment, with the word 'Ginny' scrawled on it in Harry's handwriting.

"Ginny," The letter began.  "These are for you.

"I hope you like them,

H."

Ginny opened the first bag, and gasped.  She jumped out of bed and casually removed her robes, flinging them to one side.  She removed her skirt, and then pulled on the new pair of jeans.  As she lost her balance, she laughed at herself and turned to sit on her bed, and pulled the denim up in a more traditional fashion.  As it reached her waist, she stood and did it up, and then looked in the mirror.

The material seemed to hug her hips like nothing she had worn before, emphasising that she was quite definitely female. 

"You like them?" Lavender asked, watching amused from the doorway.

"Harry chose these?" Ginny looked a little disbelieving. 

"Nah, I chose them; Harry just paid."

Ginny's face took on a strange expression for a second, as she realised her boyfriend had probably spent quite a bit of money on her.

"Get used to it, Gin," Lavender said sternly, closing the door behind her.  "Your boyfriend is never going to be poor.  And he's always going to want to spend money on the one person that means everything to him: You.  You know Harry too well to even think that he would try and buy your friendship - or anything else."

Ginny looked at her, a little surprised.  "I don't think I'm ever going to get used to flashes of insight from you," she mumbled.

Lavender laughed loudly.  "Fred and George were on the best behaviour today, and they did feed Harry."

Ginny nodded, and accepted the conversation change. She reached into another bag, and pulled out a t-shirt.  "Did Harry get any clothes?"

Lavender smiled wildly at her.  "Consider that a little present from us to you."

Ginny blinked.  "You chose Harry's clothes as well?"

"Yep, and you may want to keep your wand handy, and your bat bogey hex primed.  Because that boy fills out some of the jeans in a way that should be illegal."

The red-haired girl licked her lips hungrily, and then grinned.


Ron walked into the library, and over to his girlfriend, who was sitting at a desk near the window, writing on some parchment.

"Homework?" Ron asked, looking a little surprised.  "I thought you were up to date."  He looked at what she was writing, and frowned.  "That's not your handwriting!"

"Shh!" Hermione whispered loudly, "and sit down.  No, it's not my handwriting, It's Harry's."

"Why are you doing Harry's homework?" Ron asked, as he did as he was told.

"The professors, Harry, and everyone else may feel that it is acceptable for Harry to barely scrape through school, while he is dealing with everything else, but I do not!"  She took a deep breath. "Harry should not get bad marks just because he has the fate of the wizarding world on his shoulders.  He is going to graduate from this school with top marks.  He hasn't got time for schoolwork at the moment, so I'm doing it for him.  As soon as the Dark Tosser is dead, he can catch up normally, and everything will be fine."

"That's cheating," Ron pointed out calmly.

"I don't care!" Hermione stated irrevocably.  "He's my friend and I am not going to let his grades suffer."

“How long have you been doing this?”

“This is my first time, now shush!”

Ron opened his mouth, then shut it, as he realised he was falling into old patterns.  "Pass me his Care of Magical Creatures," he said mildly, "I finished mine earlier."

Hermione smiled at him, and gave him another quick kiss.  "The way you have changed recently, Ron, means I might just have to keep you forever."

Ron blushed furiously, and turned to look at her directly.  "Do you mean that?" he asked, his voice suddenly soft.

"If you'll have me," Hermione said, looking down and blushing herself.

Ron reached out and touched her chin, raising her head to meet his.  "For eternity, Hermione, for eternity."

She smiled slowly, then lent forwards, closing the gap between them.

Ron felt fireworks explode in his head as his girlfriend poured her heart out to him.  His last thought, before he lost himself in the kiss, was that growing up was very cool.


Harry walked into the Gryffindor Common Room, to find it almost empty.  He looked at Seamus who was reading in the corner.  "If Gin comes in, tell her I'm getting changed, will you?"

"Sure, Harry," Seamus, replied without looking up.

Harry moved to his own dorm room, and stripped quickly, deciding to have a quick shower before they went out. 

One hot shower later, Harry pulled on some of the new underwear he had brought, and a pair of the dark blue jeans Parvati had chosen for him.  He pulled out a white long sleeved, V-neck jumper, which was supposed to be worn like a t-shirt - with nothing underneath it.  He pulled the wool material over his head and stretched his arms into place.  The material stuck to him like a second skin, although he hardly paid any attention to it.  He grabbed a pair of thick white socks, and put them on, following them with some brown boots, and then looked at himself in the mirror.

The mirror looked at him, wolf whistled, and then suddenly acquired a pink hue.

Harry looked at it, trying to work out if the mirror was really blushing, then put it out of his mind, as he tried to do something with his hair.  As it was still wet, he had a modicum of success by pushing it all back straight.

As he walked around, filling his pockets with money, and anything else he might need, he had no idea that his hair was drying, and standing up, giving him a slightly spiky look that suited him down to the ground.

He walked down to the Common Room, which had filled with people after dinner, and paused as everyone went silent and looked at him.

"What?" he asked, suddenly looking a little trapped.

"Ignore them," Ginny said, announcing her presence from a couch.

Harry shrugged and did as she suggested, walking over to her.  "Ready?"

"Always," she replied with a smile, uncurling from the couch and following him out.  As he stepped through the portrait hole, she turned to the watching house.  "Just remember, I don't share!"


Harry turned as Ginny grabbed his shoulder and pushed him against a wall. 

"Err, Gin?" Harry asked, looking warily at her.

Ginny had a look in her eye that Harry had never seen before; it was slightly animalistic, as if she was the hunter and he was the prey.

"What did you expect?" Ginny mumbled, as slid her hands down to his hips, then up to his chest.  "You walk through the common room, with your hair all spiked up, looking extremely cute, wearing this top that is so white it shines, and shows off every muscle you have?

"I'm only human Harry," she whispered, and she buried her face in his chest and inhaled deeply, "And then you're wearing these jeans that you must have been poured into," she added with a smirk. 

Her hands slid around and grabbed his bum, squeezing, causing Harry to struggle to control a squeak.  "And I'm not moving from this spot till I've examined every square inch of this new clothing."


From: Gryffindor Girls

To: Girls: All years, all houses

Subject: Sweet Bloody Merlin

Girls, drop what ever you are doing, and find a way to hide between here and the Great Hall.

You. Have. To. See. Harry. Potter!

We will pay pretty much ANYTHING for a photo of him in those jeans and that top.  Teen Witch Weekly would pay anything for that picture.

Excuse us, while we mop the Gryffindor Common Room floor, there was a little too much drooling.

-T G G


From: Orla Quirke

To: All females

Subject: Re: Sweet Bloody Merlin

Disregard that Mmail.  Do you have any idea how hard it was to talk Harry into legitimising our club? He's actually going to pose for some pictures for us, as well as give us membership badges.  Hermione and Ginny both spent a VERY long time persuading him it was a good idea.  I don't want to lose that status now, or those chances!

And we are DEFINITELY not going to be sending any photos to the Witch Weekly.

Any member found looking at Harry tonight will be summarily dismissed from the HP fan club!

Orla


From: Told you so

To: Mr Reluctant

Attachment: Orla_Mmail.mml

Subject: Fwd: Re: Sweet Bloody Merlin

We told you it was a good idea to have an official fan club Harry - she's already protecting you!

H.


Ginny sighed against Harry's lips.  "That will have to keep me till I can get you alone later."

Harry laughed under his breath.

"Are we going straight to Little Whinging?"

Harry shook his head, "Nah, going to Padfoot's first.  I need a chat with him about his attitude towards Professor Snape."

Ginny smiled as Harry slid his hands down, holding her closely, and Apparated them both straight to his godfather’s living room.  As they arrived, Harry concentrated hard, and slowed everything down, successfully managing to hide the pop that normally announced the arrival of someone Apparating.

"Where are they?" Sirius half-whined nervously.  "I just want him to get it over with.  This anticipation is killing me." 

"So it should be," Harry said gravely.

Sirius, Juanita, and Remus all jumped as one, and turned to glare at Harry. 

"Hi Moony, Juanita," Harry grinned at the two, and then looked at Sirius.  "Padfoot."

"Harry," Moony replied cheerfully.  "And Ginny, it's good to see you again."

Ginny walked up and gave him a hug, "It's very good to see you again, Moony."

"Okay, Sirius," Harry decided to cut short the pleasantries. "I've got a lot to do before the Order meeting this evening.  Sit down."

"But..." Sirius hesitated.

"SIT!" Harry barked, in a voice that was one of absolute command.

Automatically, before he could help himself, Sirius sat.  He blinked, and then shot a baleful glance at Harry, then at the sniggering Moony.  Ginny and Juanita looked on with amused looks.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" Juanita asked hesitantly, in English that had improved dramatically since Harry had last talked to her.

"Please," Harry nodded.  "Some ice water would be great."

"Ginny?"

"The same, please," Ginny replied politely, not liking the fact she had to sit further away from Harry than normal.

Juanita walked out, and came back thirty seconds later with a tray full of glasses.  She handed them out, and as she reached Harry, she whispered. "Go easy on him, please, he does love you."

Harry winked at her, and turned to his godfather. "Right.  Why do you hate Snape?"

"Because he's an untrustworthy, greasy git."

Harry sighed.  "Let's try that again without the meaningless insults.  Why do you hate Snape?"

Sirius didn't answer, so Harry leant forwards and looked directly at his godfather over his glasses.

"Because he took my cousin away," Sirius suddenly yelled.  "It was down to him!"

"Bellatrix?" Harry asked, looking very surprised.

"Yeah!"

Harry lent back in his chair and took a sip of water.  From what he knew of the Death Eater, it was very unlikely that she would let anyone lead her astray.  Without warning, he Apparated away.

"Where did he go?" Sirius asked, looking bewildered.

"It's pretty obvious," Ginny said serenely.  She kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet under her.  "How are you enjoying the country, Juanita?"

"It’s very different.  Good different.  I think I am going to get a job though; I don't like not doing anything.”


Harry arrived back in Hogwarts, and called for the Marauder’s Map.  Locating Snape, he walked to Dumbledore's office, said the password, and walked up the escalator. 

"Ahh, Harry," Dumbledore said, "What can we do for you?"

"Can I borrow Professor Snape for half an hour?"

Dumbledore stared hard at Harry, and Harry felt a light brushing against his Occlumency shields.  Harry lowered them slightly, showing what he had in mind.

"Of course you can, Harry," the Headmaster said jovially.  "In fact," he turned to his surprised potions Professor, and said, "Severus, I must insist that you accompany Mr Potter immediately."

"All right," Snape said, looking very wary, as Harry approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder.  The two vanished.

Albus' smile turned into a full-blown laugh.  "I would pay money to be able to watch this conversation," he said.

"What are they doing?" Minerva asked, her eyebrow raised.

"Harry is going to force Sirius and Severus to get over their differences."

"You're kidding?"

"No, not at all."


"What am I doing here?" Snape growled as he realised where he was.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Sirius demanded, rising to his feet.

"Sit down, both of you," Harry growled.  "I haven't got time for childish displays of temper."

He was the instant recipient of two powerful glares.  Not that he cared; he'd decided he would rather have them both angry with him, than each other. 

"I said, sit down."  To emphasise his point he concentrated hard, and let loose his true power.

The feeling in the room turned electric, and both grown men gulped and reluctantly sat down, as far away from each other as possible.

"Thank you," Harry said, turning his power back down. 

Behind him, Remus took out his wand and silently conjured some popcorn, and settled down to watch the show.  He offered some to Juanita and Ginny.

"I need both of you to be able to work together," Harry explained pleasantly.  "So we're going to talk about what you have against each other --"  He held up his hand to stall the protests both of them were about to make. "-- and deal with it.  This enmity has gone on for far too long."  He paused for a second. "Right, Sirius, let's start again.  Why do you hate Snape?" Harry decided to drop the honorific professor title for the duration of this conversation.

Sirius opened his mouth to speak, to find he had no voice.  "No insults," Harry said warningly, before he returned his godfather’s voice.

"It was because of him Bella became a Death Eater - he corrupted my cousin!"

"Are you insane?" Snape sneered. "Spent too much time as the flea-bitten mong..."

"That's quite enough," Harry interposed smoothly.  "You'll get your chance in a second.  Now, why do you hate Sirius, and remember no insults!"

Snape growled and fixed Harry with his most intimidating glare.  Unfortunately, it seemed to have no effect at all.  "Because he, and his friends," Snape suddenly decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and decided not to mention James in a negative manner, "made my life hell, and tried to kill me."

"You deserve..." was all Sirius managed to get out before Harry cut off his speech.

"Look, every time either of you starts to spout pointless rubbish I'm going to stop you talking; so give up now.  Now, Severus, you may respond to Sirius' point about that witch."

"I did not lead Bella away," Snape ground through his teeth.  "If anything, you're bloody cousin led me astray.  I was in love with her, and joined the Death Eaters because she was in it."

Harry blinked in surprise.  "Right, Sirius, your turn to respond."

"I did not mean to kill him.  Scare him a little, yeah, but kill him, no."  Sirius went quiet for a moment.  It was very difficult for him to remain angry when Harry literally shut him up every time he tried to explode.  Reluctantly, he did something he never thought he would do.  "I'm sorry about that," he apologised.  "It was a stupid and thoughtless thing to do."

Harry smiled at him, nodding.  "And the pranking?"

"That was more of a war, with both sides participating."

"Severus?"

The teacher shifted uncomfortably.  "I did play a few pranks back," he admitted reluctantly.

"Excellent," Harry said brightly.  "So, let's talk about the wicked witch of the west."

"She told me that it was fun to act like an innocent around Sirius," Snape said quietly.  "That she’d pretend to be good whenever he was around.  It amused her how you clung to her as the only other person in your household who wasn't dark."

"But," Sirius roared.

"Let's not forget who pushed you through the veil," Harry interrupted again.  "And came close to putting the Cruciatus on Ginny."

"Fine," Sirius said grouchily, "Maybe she was acting."

"I can feel us all becoming friends as we speak." 

Again, the two men glared at the boy; and again, Harry was singularly unaffected.  "Now, let's talk about something else the two of you have in common."

"I have no..." The both started at the same time, standing up.

"Sit!" Harry roared, suddenly losing his temper with the two of them.  The two men in question sat so quickly no one was quite sure if it had been through their own volition, or if Harry had magically forced them to.  "I have a limited amount of patience tonight," he whispered. 

"Apart from a penchant for long hair, you both spent way too many years of your life in hell.  Severus spying for the Order, and Sirius innocent in Azkaban.  One suffering regular Cruciatus curses, the other the nightmares of betrayal.  You two have a lot more in common than either of you are prepared to admit."

The two men, in a strange synchronisation, tossed their heads and looked away, ignoring the point.

Harry turned so his back was to them, and winked at Ginny.

"I guess I'll have to find other people to be on my Quidditch team," he said mournfully.

Snape was the first to break.  "What?"

"Oh," Harry said, now smirking at his girlfriend.  "You wouldn't be interested in the chance to get revenge on Fred and George, and to remind everyone just who one of the best chasers of his time was - equal to my dad.  And Sirius certainly wouldn't care about pairing up with Moony against the next generation of pranksters."  He paused for a second, to let it sink in, and then continued.  "I guess I could get Neville to help out, he's an okay chaser when he wants to be.  And I'm sure that Kingsley would work well with Moony.

"And neither of you would want to be seen working together in front of thousands of people, cheering you on.  Never mind that you could prove yourselves in public, or get revenge for seven years of pranks, like dying dungeons pink.  I'm sure such petty things are far beneath you and that you would much rather continue your childish hatred of each other, while we play without you."

There was a complete silence in the room.

"Let's not be hasty, Harry," Sirius said in a thin voice.

"Absolutely," Snape agreed.  "Perhaps it is time we grew up a little."  His voice sounded like he was being dragged through stinging nettles.

"Then you'd be able to shake hands, wouldn't you?"

The two men turned to face each other, with palpable reluctance.  Harry silently moved, so that he was standing behind Sirius' back, while Juanita did the same thing behind Snape’s.

Harry pulled down his glasses and glared at Snape, till he started to move, vaguely aware that Juanita was doing the same to Sirius.

Slowly, the two men reached out their hands, and shook them.

Ginny and Remus both started to clap at the same time.

Harry laughed, and walked over to his girlfriend, picking her up so he could sit under her, with her on his lap.  He glanced at his watch and sighed.  He pulled the popcorn bag Ginny was holding from her hand, and concentrated hard. 

"Here," he said, passing it to Remus.  "This is a Portkey set to work at five minutes to eight.  It will take you straight to Hogwarts, so you won't have to walk.”  He turned his head towards the difficult pair, “I suggest you spend some time now seriously talking through your differences.  And I really don't want to hear about any insulting from either of you.  Moony and Juanita will be reporting to me, so don't even try it."

"Where are you going?" Sirius asked, a little surprised.

"To see my cousin," Harry said.  "He made a gesture of friendship today for the first time, and because of the Mugglenet gateway being monitored, I can't reply via Mmail.  So I thought we'd go and have a chat.

"And as we're running a little behind schedule, we'll see you at eight."  He didn't seem to do anything, but a second later Harry and Ginny were gone.

"How the bloody hell does he do that?" Sirius demanded.

"He doesn't know he can't," Snape replied, a slight smile on his face.

"Oh," Sirius said.  "Imagine if we had been like that in school."

Snape laughed suddenly.  "If we had been like that, there wouldn't be a school now."

Sirius walked over to a counter and pulled out a bottle of Firewhiskey.  "Drink?"

"Please."

Sirius poured out four glasses, and passed one to each occupant of the room.  "You seem to have lost your antagonism towards Harry."

Snape nodded and rolled back his sleeve.  "Harry found a way of removing my Dark Mark, after rescuing me from Voldemort."

Sirius laughed suddenly, a short sharp bark of laughter.  "That would do it," he agreed.  "How's Harry doing in school?"

"Assistant Professor Potter is doing fine," Snape said with a smirk.

Sirius spluttered into his glass, narrowly avoiding spraying the room.  "He's a what?"

"An assistant professor. You know he runs the D.A.?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, he taught them to block the Cruciatus curse, by working together, with a spell that Hermione found.  I was spying at the time, as I wanted to see how well he was doing, and even I was surprised.  It occurred to me that I was starting to refer to Harry as Harry, and I felt that he had earned my respect enough to be allowed to call me by my name.  So I asked for him to become an Assistant Professor so that it wouldn't interfere with school discipline - and because I felt he deserved it."

Remus and Sirius were both smiling broadly now.  "That's our boy."

While not friends, Severus and Sirius slowly started to repair the damage of several decades of mutual hatred.


The slowly setting sun cast long shadows over the well-kept grass as Harry and Ginny appeared next to a small clump of trees. 

"It's pretty," Ginny said, looking around her.

Harry smiled, and wrapped an arm around her, walking off towards the play area.  "I have no idea if Dudley is even going to be here," he admitted.  "Dean mentioned that his half-sister, who is half-dating Dudders, said that they like to spend their evenings walking around the park."  He paused, and waved his hand idly, "This is the email Dudley sent me."

"Email?"

"Like Mmail, but it's what the Muggles use.  Based on computers."

Ginny nodded, reading the message.

"Wow, that's quite a large change from what I saw from your memories."

"Yeah," Harry agreed.  "But his point about my aunt and uncle was valid.  They mucked him up as well as me, just in the opposite direction."


Dudley and Sheryl were walking slowly through the park, heading towards the swings, where they liked to spend the evenings talking. 

"Dudley," Sheryl said quietly.  "Look up the hill."

Dudley squinted at the two figures in the distance.  "What about them?"

"I'd bet my history book that those two are your cousin and his girlfriend."

Dudley blinked.  "What?"

"Look at them, and half close your eyes."

Dudley did, and frowned. 

"Can you feel it?"

"I can feel something," he admitted nervously.  He hadn't expected his cousin to come so soon. "It does kinda look like him, although he's bigger than when I last saw him."

The two were rapidly closing the distance between them, allowing Dudley to watch them.  The first thing that struck him was the grace that they both moved with.  It seemed almost innate to them, like every movement had been examined and adjusted to provide the most economical way of making them.  He gulped, as his mind flashed back to a display he had seen at his previous school.  Members of the Royal Marines had come on a recruitment drive; a couple of them had put on a demonstration of hand-to-hand combat.  They had walked in the same way that these two walking towards him were.  It was much like the way a predator walked.

He turned to the small girl, whom Harry had his arm around.  She had deep red hair, which looked like an impossible colour for a normal human.  It was long and thick, and hung down her back in a wave.  Large brown eyes dominated her face, eyes that he could feel digging into him, even over the distance.

"If I wasn't looking at him the same way you are looking at her, I'd be very annoyed with you, Dudley Dursley," Sheryl said quietly.

Dudley laughed and switched his attention to his cousin, the boy he had last seen depressed during the summer.  While the boy in front of him had only grown a couple of inches up, he had certainly put on a lot of weight.  And none of it looked like fat. 

For the first time Dudley felt ordinary.  He had heard about Voldemort from Sheryl, who had heard all about it from Dean, and had heard that everyone was convinced that his cousin would be the one who would have to fight him.  He remembered the abject fear and terror he had felt when the Dementors had attacked them the year before. 

He looked at Harry and smiled slightly, if the world was going to have to be saved by someone, it probably couldn't find a nicer hero.

Dudley could feel Harry's gaze piercing him, and he gulped, and then bravely met the gaze.

"Dudley," Harry said, offering his hand.  Dudley grasped it gratefully, and shook it, squeezing a little, curious to find Harry's strength.

He felt no reaction, apart from a slightly amused look in his cousin’s eyes.

"This is my girlfriend, Ginny Weasley," Harry said with a smile.

"It's nice to meet you," Ginny said, offering her hand; her voice was incredibly smooth, and seemed to speak of maturity far beyond her years.  A second later, he realised Harry had the same undertone to his voice.  It was as if they had both seen things he would never ever want to, and survived. 

Dudley took the proffered hand, and looked into her eyes, and gulped slightly.  He suddenly got the feeling that if he tried anything with Harry, it wouldn't be him that would respond, it would be her - and he didn't get the feeling that she would be anywhere near as forgiving as his cousin might be.

"This is Sheryl, my good friend," Dudley introduced the slightly plump girl next to him.  Harry and Ginny shook her hand, ignoring the slight look of hero-worship in her eyes as she looked at the Wizarding legend.

There was a second of uncomfortable silence. 

"Gin," Harry said quietly, "would you mind going with Sheryl while I have a talk with Dudley?"

"Of course not," she smiled cheerfully.  "Let's go on the swings," she said, grabbing the other girl’s hand.  "It's been ages since I've been to a Muggle park.  And we can compare notes on the cousins."

Sheryl laughed, and allowed herself to be dragged off.

"Is she always like that?" Dudley asked.

"Yep," Harry said, proudly.  "She's amazing."

"She must be, to put up with you," Dudley said, then gulped again as Harry turned his head to stare at him.  "I was teasing," Dudley said quickly.

Harry smiled slightly.  "I didn't even know you had a sense of humour."

Dudley winced.  "You probably didn't, but hey, fat kid here, when dealing with people bigger or harder than me, comedy was my only defence.  I just never needed it at home."

"So," Harry started, "Dean said that you are no longer friends with Piers?"

"Yeah," Dudley agreed. "Piers objected to me hanging out with Sheryl, and made his objections quite strenuous."  He grinned suddenly, "And I'm afraid that I took objection to his objections, and we decided to end it like men."  He paused, "Well, I ended it like a man, he ended it like the snivelling coward he is."  He looked at his hands, "My wrists still hurt from where I hit him."

Harry sat on the edge of a bench, and looked out at the setting sun.  "Look, the reason I came tonight was partly to see if this transformation was for real, and partly because I can't email you.  Death Munchers working for the Dark Tosser monitor the email/magimail gateway."

"Err, I thought they were called Death Eaters?"

Harry smirked.  "I renamed them, makes them seem a little more human and a little less intimidating.  Same with the Dark Tosser."

"Battlefield psychology?"

"Something like that."

Dudley took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly.  "Look, I said it in the email, but I'm sorry.  I was a selfish, fat git who was so self-obsessed I would have married myself in an instant.  I treated you, well, worse than anyone would treat a rabid dog.  I can't say that I still don't get the occasional urges to pig out, or to let someone pass without pushing them, but Sheryl and I are working on that.  I've even seen a shrink.  Who has given me some good advice, after lot of psycho-babble."

Harry removed his glasses, and turned, staring hard at his cousin.

Dudley gulped and paled.  "My God, Harry," he whispered.  "You're the real deal, aren't you?"

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, putting his glasses back on.

"You're the one who is going to save the world."

Harry shrugged, "Yeah."

"So, did I pass?"

Harry paused for a second, and then held out his hand. 

Dudley grabbed it, and shook it in a manner a lot friendlier than he had earlier.  "Hi," he said slowly.  "I'm Dudley Dursley."

"Harry Potter," Harry said with a smile.

"So Harry," Dudley said with a grin, "when you're not defeating evil wizards and spending time with your princess, what do you do for fun?"

"Let me tell you about Quidditch," Harry said.  "It's a bit like basketball played on broomsticks at a hundred miles-per-hour, fifty feet off the ground."

"Ahh, insanity runs in your blood?"

Harry's reply was interrupted by the faint sounds of shouting. 

"That's Sheryl," Dudley said, moving to his feet, a worried look on his face.  He turned and stared back down the hill, towards the playground.  "Harry, that’s Piers and his gang of tossers.  We need to get there now."  The not-as-fat-as-he-once-was boy started running.

"Dudley!" Harry's voice cracked like a whip, stopping the boy in his tracks.  "First off, you don't look fit enough to run all the way there.  It is pointless to arrive at a battle and not be physically able to fight.  Much better to arrive a second or two later, and be able to help.  Secondly, you can relax; they're making a big mistake."

"What do you mean?" Dudley asks, as Harry stood and started walking towards the playground.  He trotted next to his cousin, wanting to get going.

"Ginny's there," Harry said, his smile turning a little evil. 

"But there are six of them!"

"One day, Dudley, I'll tell you about her family.  Believe me; she can handle the lot of them."

"What if she can't? They don't fight fair."

Dudley suddenly felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on edge, and the temperature around him drop several degrees.  He gulped, and reluctantly turned his head to face Harry. 

Harry was smiling in a way that Dudley was very pleased was not aimed at him. 

"If they touch one hair on her head, they will regret it for the rest of their lives."  His voice was low, and seemed to cut straight through Dudley like a blast of cold air. 

"You're downright terrifying at times," Dudley noted.

The feeling vanished as suddenly as it had arrived.  "Do you trust me?"

"Not really," Dudley grinned. "You're one of those freaks Mumsy keeps warning me about.  You might steal my lunch."  He paused for a second, "Yeah, I do Harry."

"Don't scream," Harry said as he grabbed Dudley's arm and Apparated them both to the playground. 

"We're invisible," Harry whispered.  "So don't say anything."


"So, you're Dean's ex-girlfriend?"

"Yeah," Ginny smiled lightly.

"Why the hell did he dump you? You're gorgeous."

"Thank you.  It wasn't really Dean's fault.  I've always been in love with Harry; I was just passing time with Dean till I turned 16.  Dean knew it, deep down.  When my brothers - I've got six of them, all older - threatened him, he decided what we felt for each other wasn't really worth fighting for.  I don't blame him at all.  Besides, it allowed me to move my plans forward and get Harry now."

"So I shouldn't hit him for being an idiot?"

"Nah, probably not.  So, what's the story with you and Dudley?"

Sheryl laughed, "Well, normally I wouldn't have had anything to do with him, but when he asked me out, he was so sweet.  He knew he was going to be rejected, but asked anyway.  I felt that showed a bit of courage, so I decided to see if I could at least like him as a friend.  It turned out that he is one screwed-up puppy.  His parents are awful.  I gave him some advice, and when he took it, I realised that there was a decent person somewhere inside there."

"So, when are you going to tell him you're falling for him?"

Sheryl blushed, and then grinned.  "Soon, I kinda like him being attentive like he is at the moment."

"Good for you," Ginny praised as she sat in the swing and pushed off.  "I've not done this for years!"

"Aren't you a little old?"

"Not at all, you're never too old to swing.  I should get Harry to do this at times, it's impossible to be in a bad mood when you're swinging around."

The two girls swung for a few minutes in a companionable silence.

"Well, what do we have here?" A voice sneered behind them. 

Sheryl took one look at the boys, and shouted, "DUDLEY!"

One of the boys darted forwards and grabbed the chains, stopping the two girls from swinging.

"I'm afraid that Dudley's not gonna get here in time," the lead said with a snigger.  "We're gonna teach you a little lesson about what happens to bitches like you, and teach 'Big D' a lesson for leaving us."

"Piss off, Piers," Sheryl spat.  "I thought Dudley taught you a lesson last time."

Piers shook his head mockingly, and pulled an army knife from his coat pocket.  "I'm prepared for him this time," he smirked.  "I'll take him down like the fat, squealing piggy he is."  Piers turned and ran his eyes over Ginny, taking in the t-shirt and tight jeans.  "What do we have here?"

Ginny smirked at him.  "Ginny Weasley, girlfriend of Harry Potter."

Piers swore contemptuously, "There is no way that that little freak could get a girl like you.  Besides, he's locked up in that stupid school for criminals.  Why don't you come with me, see what a real man is like."

Ginny threw back her head and laughed loudly.  "You think that a little boy playing with knives a real man?  I'll tell you what.  Come back when you've fought a running battle to save your godfather against some maniacs’ intent on killing you.  Then I'll turn you down nicely.  Until then," Ginny finished with some advice that, while practical and informative, probably wasn't physically possible.

Piers growled. "Shut up!" he demanded of his sniggering counterparts.  "Think ya funny, do ya? Well, we'll see how funny you are."

"I wouldn't do that," Ginny advised.

"Why not?" Piers said, swaggering forward, waving his knife in front of him.

Ginny moved suddenly, exploding out of the swing.  Her left arm slid up, knocking Piers knife-holding arm to one side, while her right shot up, the palm of her hand catching him square on the chin, throwing him off his feet and on to the floor.  "Because my boyfriend's been teaching me how to fight for over a year now."

Piers rolled to one side, and grabbed his fallen knife.  He got to his feet unsteadily. 

"You hit me!" he sound shocked.  He turned to the others, "Well, what are you waiting for, get her!"

The five boys shrugged, facing one small girl wasn't exactly going to be difficult.

"Want a hand, Gin?" Harry asked, lowering the spell that hid him and Dudley.

"Sure," Ginny smiled.  "I don't want to break a nail, and you haven't practised today, have you?"

Harry shot her a full-blown smirk.  "Nope, been a little busy.  And I could do with releasing some tension."

"Just remember not to kill any of them," Ginny advised cheerfully.  "You know how much paperwork that creates."

Harry looked sad.  "Gin-n-ny," he whined.  "Can't I just kill one?"

Ginny seemed to consider it for a minute. "Okay, but just one."

"Thanks," Harry said brightly.  He turned to face the boys in front of him, his smile dropping.  As before, the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees as Harry faced them. 

Taking in Harry’s ultra-confident stance and demeanour, the boys suddenly looked a little reluctant to approach him.

"The first one of you that attacks, I will kill," Harry whispered, his voice reaching them easily, as if little things like the laws of physics were a mild irrelevance.

There was an absolute silence, broken only by the rusty sound of one of the swings swaying in the breeze. 

Harry remained motionless, even as the setting sun turned his face into a shadow, leaving only his gleaming eyes on show.  Eyes that promised no remorse.

"Screw this," one of the boys said, "I didn't come here to attack a psycho!"  He turned, and started to run, the others following him.

"Come back you cowards!" Piers yelled, looking after his former followers.  "He's bluffing, you idiots!" 

Showing a remarkable lack of intelligence, Piers then ran straight at Harry, his knife in front of him.

Harry seemed to blur, as he started to move.  He swayed past the attempted stab and grabbed Piers wrist, twisting it violently.

Piers screamed, the knife flying into the air.

Harry pulled the wrist down and back hard, causing the boy to lose his balance and tumble over.  As he fell, Harry grabbed the knife from mid air and slammed it down into the ground, so that the flat, dull, side of the blade was touching the boy’s cheek, and at the same time, ramming his knee into Piers chest, and kneeling on him.

"If I ever hear of you doing anything like this again, I will come after you, and next time, I won't deliberately miss," Harry snarled, his eyes now emerald-hard.

Piers looked terrified, and then nodded quickly, showing his understanding.

Harry moved backwards. "Run away.  Fast."

Piers scrambled to his feet, and started to run, ignoring the large, wet stain on the front of his jeans.

"My hero!" Ginny cried dramatically, and jumped on Harry, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him solidly.

Dudley, in the mean time, was kneeling next to Sheryl, hugging her tightly.

"Harry?" Dudley asked warily.  "Were you serious about killing one of them?"

"Of course not!" Ginny said for him, looking very amused by the question.  "He was using basic psychology.  A mob needs a leader to attack first, so they can follow.  Harry made it so those boys had no one to lead.  No one wanted to be the first because they were scared of the consequences.  Once one of them cracked, the others would follow."

"It was a bluff!?" Sheryl sounded awed.

"Yeah," Harry grinned.

"Dean told me that you two were amazing together, but I thought he exaggerated!"

Harry blushed slightly, and shrugged it off.  "Dudley, you got any coins on you?"

Dudley reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of loose change.  Harry took two pound coins and closed his hand over them.  He concentrated hard, and his hand started to glow.

"You know what Portkeys are?" Ginny asked Sheryl.

She nodded, "Dean explained them."

Harry released his fist.  On his palm were two gold necklaces.  "If anything happens, grab your family, then grab the necklace, and say 'Hogwarts,’ you'll be safe."

"Thank you," Sheryl said, her eyes wide again.

"Yeah," Dudley agreed.  "What will they do?"

"Transport you to safety," Ginny explained succinctly.  "Harry, do you mind if I have a word with your cousin before we go?"

"Of course not," Harry said, and smiled at Sheryl.  He sat next to her on the swings, and watched as his girlfriend and cousin walked away.


"I think you should know," Ginny said quietly, "that your parents are going to pay for what they did to Harry."  She turned and looked at him directly.

"And you would be as well if you hadn't changed."

Dudley swallowed nervously.  "That's fine by me.  When they started insulting Sheryl, that was the last straw for me.  We live in a state where I ignore them, and they ignore me.  As soon as I am eighteen I'll be moving out.  What are you going to do to them? You're not going to kill them are you?"

"No!"

"Pity," Dudley grinned suddenly, breaking the mood.

Ginny laughed. "Harry has a lot of powerful wizards and witches who consider him family, and who really dislike what they did to him.  They all sent me some excellent suggestions to make their lives extremely unpleasant."

"You're in love with him, aren't you?"

"I've been in love with him my entire life.  Even though he didn't know me, he risked his life to save mine a few years ago - he fought a sixty-foot long snake for me.  It's only recently that I've been able to act on it."

Dudley nodded, not really sure if he should say anything else.  His view of his cousin had changed so dramatically over the past hour.  The overriding impression he was left with was almost his first one: that the world couldn't ask for a better person to be responsible for saving it.

"Look after him, will you," Dudley said suddenly.  "I've just found I've got a cousin, and I'd quite like to keep him."

Ginny smiled brilliantly, the expression changing her face from very pretty, to radiantly beautiful. 

"He is one lucky git!"


"Ready?" Ginny asked, as they walked back to the playground. 

"Yep, I explained about the Email issue.  We can use Hedwig to send messages if we need to."

"Are we going back to Hogwarts?"

"Yep, but how do you feel about coming to an Order meeting?"

"Was I invited?"

"Ginny, would you come to tonight’s Order meeting," Harry invited with a grin.

"Sure."

"Dudley, I'm beginning to like you," Harry said as he looked at his cousin.  "Sheryl, it was a pleasure."

Sheryl moved towards Dudley, and whispered, "Maybe a boyfriend wouldn't be too bad."  She turned and waved at Harry and Ginny, who were now laughing at Dudley's stunned expression.  A second later, they were gone.


They appeared in the Headmaster’s office.  A note on the table told him to come through the door at the back, to the meeting area.  He looked at his watch, and saw that he still had a minute.  "Wait here for a second; I'm going to get Ron and Hermione.  No reason they should miss this."

Ginny nodded, as Harry took the Marauder’s Map out of his pocket, checked his friends’ location, and vanished again.

He returned a few seconds later with an excited looking couple.

"Are you sure you can do this, Harry?" Hermione fretted.

Harry shrugged.  "I'd bet each of you against any one of them any time.  I want you there, just follow my lead."

They nodded, and followed Harry as he strolled through the doors.  The room was lit by torches around the outside, and several lamps on the large table that the members of the Order of the Phoenix were sitting around. 

The noise dropped as Harry and his friends entered, but he ignored them.  There was only one space at the end of the table, so Harry pulled out his wand and elongated it, creating three more chairs at the same time.  As all four sat down, Harry turned to his headmaster, and said in low voice that still managed to reach everyone in the room, "Sorry we're late; I got held up in Little Whinging."

"Quite all right Harry," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily.  "We were just about to start."

"Why are these children here?"  Elphias Doge demanded, interrupting the Headmaster.

"Those children," Kingsley Shacklebolt replied caustically, "have fought Voldemort more times than you have."

That was the sign for an argument to start between Harry's supporters, and members who thought they shouldn't belong.

Molly and Arthur Weasley were silent, although they did look like they would have preferred their children, and Harry and Hermione not to be there. 

Dumbledore opened his mouth, but closed it again when Harry shook his.  'Let them argue' he mouthed across the table.

"Harry," Ginny leaned across and whispered.  "Can I stop this?"

Harry turned his head, "I was going to, but be my guest."

"I need to get a message to Fred and George though."

Harry reached across and pulled a piece of parchment near them.  He slid his hand over it.  "Write on this, it will appear on the piece in front of them."


Severus Snape watched the argument with a slight smile on his face.  He had been prepared to enter the discussion as well, but had spotted Harry's message to Dumbledore. At the moment, the people wanting Harry and the others excluded were making up for their lack of numbers by being extremely vocal.  He thought they were all idiots for arguing from a position of weakness.  The ones for, including half the teachers and the Weasleys, were trying to use logic, but it was all getting shouted out.  He looked over at Harry and Ginny, and then elbowed Sirius sharply.

Sirius jumped, and turned to glare at Snape.

"Harry and Ginny are planning something," he whispered.

Sirius stared down the table, and then slowly smiled.  He grasped his wand and created some popcorn.  "Severus?" he offered.


Fred and George were getting quite annoyed by the argument.  They actually felt it would be better for them to walk out, with Harry and the others.  They'd probably get more done.  The interminable meetings had destroyed their fantasies of how exciting it would be to be a full member.

They were contemplating some distractions, when the paper in front of the suddenly flashed.

'Fred, George, do you remember our show from when I was ten?'

The two looked at each other, and grinned wildly.  They nodded down to Ginny, then pulled out their wands and held them under the table.


The lights suddenly started to flicker, as a cold wind rushed through the room.  Above the table small flames of fire appeared, and started to circle the table. 

As everyone noticed, they slowly stopped shouting and sat down, watching it.

The flames started to join together, expanding in size.

The Weasley's smiled to themselves and settled back, obviously recognising what was going on.

Sirius shared his popcorn with Remus as well as Snape.

The rest of the lights in the room suddenly extinguished themselves, shutting the room into darkness, before the fire cast a beam of pure, white light straight above Ginny.

The girl had her eyes closed, and she slowly spread her arms.  Gracefully she was lifted up from her chair, till she was floating in mid-air.  The wind seemed to rush towards her, lifting her hair till it stood straight, like a halo.  The white light emphasised her pale skin, causing her eyes to appear bigger than they were.

She opened her eyes slowly, and looked serenely around the room.  She opened her mouth, and started to speak in a voice that echoed of madness.  "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives...the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."

She paused, and looked around the room again, meeting the eyes of all those who had protested.  "Who among you dares to deny prophecy?"

There was absolute silence in the room.

"Who else among you has been marked by Voldemort?  Who else has faced him and lived?  Who else has fought his possession, and won?"

Again, there was silence, while some of the members refused to meet her eyes this time.

"So I thought," she whispered.  She closed her arms so they were crossed across her chest, and slowly sunk back down into her chair.  As she did, the lights in the room returned to normal.

"Now that's out of the way," Harry said, "Perhaps we can start this meeting.  I've had a long day."

"Yes," Albus agreed, a smile on his face. He paused, to see if anyone would object, before continuing, "If you could start Harry?"

Harry nodded.  "The goblins know that something strange is happening with our beloved minister. I had a very interesting talk with Mackrack today, he's the manager of Gringotts London."

"You've talked to Mackrack?" Albus said, surprise visible on his - and nearly everyone else's - face.

"Yeah," Harry said, "Nice guy.  Is that a problem?"

Hermione smiled slightly.  "Harry, the Goblin society is based around their banks.  The managers of their banks are the members of the World Council.  Mackrack is the current president - you had a chat with the current ruler of all the goblins."

"Oh, thanks," he shot a grin at Hermione.  "This is why I wanted you here," he muttered, just loud enough to be heard.  "Anyway, officially they are going to remain neutral during this war.  But, I have very firm assurances that they will NOT be joining Voldemort."  He paused at the exciting chatter that broke out, then continued, "It would be bad for business."

There was a small roll of laughter that crossed the room.  "I'd like Percy and Kingsley to continue now," Harry said, as he sat back down.

Percy stood instantly, his dress robes immaculate.  "Our report into Government corruption hasn't found much.  Too many important documents have been destroyed, paper trails erased.  In itself, that is enough circumstantial evidence to make us very suspicious."

Kingsley snorted in agreement.

"However, with the information that Harry provided today, we have several avenues of approach, which should see us able to tie Fudge into the Death Eaters, even if he is not one himself."

"Thank you, Percy," Harry said, not actually realising that he had taken full control of the meeting.  "Fred and George, how's our plan going?"

The twins stood, to the amazement of some of the members who had considered them irrelevant jokesters.

"We purchased the trademark this afternoon, as you instructed.  The premises we found are perfect, and we managed to get immediate egress.  Abe is there working at the moment."

"Wait a second," Hestia Jones interrupted.  "Abe, as in Aberforth Dumbledore?"

"Yes," Fred agreed.

"He's back working with the Order?" she asked, sounding excited.

"Not really," Albus interposed smoothly.  "He's agreed to help via Harry, and reports directly to him as a special agent of the Order."

"How is this relevant to fighting Death Eaters?" Alastor Moody said grumpily.  He had not taken part in the earlier argument. 

Harry smiled faintly. 

"This morning, Fred and George discovered that the Butterbeer trademark had been seized by the Ministry a couple of years ago, and was available for sale.  At the same time, they managed to work their way through a convoluted mess of interconnected companies to find the people responsible for the production of Butterbeer.

“One Lucius Malfoy, and the Malfoy family."

There were numerous gasps from around the table.

"These businesses represent the major source of cash income to the Malfoy family.  Most of their fortune is tied up in property and other assets it would be difficult to liquidate on short notice - especially without us knowing about it before hand.  Aberforth, Fred, George, and I have been working very closely, and hope to be able to completely destroy a major source of income for the Death Eaters."

"We should be ready by the weekend.  The materials for the new Butterbeer are arriving over the next few days, and production should start on Thursday.  By working around the clock, we should be ready for Launch on Saturday," Fred said.

"Using Harry's plan, we expect to deliver a fatal blow to Lucius that day, by using the law to shut down his production of the current Butterbeer, buying up any remaining stock from the distributors, and selling them the new Butterbeer at a ten percent discount.  We are more than confident that we will have a monopoly almost immediately."  George took a deep breath.  "This represents a massive investment by the partners of the new company."

Harry looked around the table, and laughed quietly to himself.  The funniest thing was the look on the faces of the other Weasleys, except for Ginny, as they showed complete shock that their two prankster twins could be so business-orientated.

"Hey," Fred grinned.  "Playing business is as much fun as playing pranks."

"Excellent," Dumbledore applauded with a bright light in his eyes.  "I must confess to never having thought about delivering a blow to them that way."

Fred and George flushed slightly, and sat back down. 


Albus Dumbledore watched Harry take control of the meeting with a smile on his face.  As the boy asked Percy for his update and listened attentively to the response, he made a decision.  Using the same spell Harry had a few minutes before, he waved his hand at the parchment in front of him, and started to write. 

He paused, to say, "Not really. He's agreed to help via Harry, and reports directly to him as a special agent of the Order," before continuing with his writing.  He finished with Fred and George, and sent the text to Harry's sheet.


Harry glanced down at the sheet that was suddenly full of information, and looked at his headmaster, a question clearly visible in his eyes.  At Dumbledore’s slow nod, Harry turned to his godfather.  "Sirius, could you give us an update on your progress with trying to find the Death Eaters’ headquarters?"

"Of course, Harry," Sirius said, as he stood and launched into his report.

Harry managed the rest of the meeting, gaining in confidence as he did.  Dumbledore’s notes allowed him to get all the pertinent information into the meeting.  The impression given to the rest of the members, especially to the naysayers from earlier, was that Harry must have had a conversation with Dumbledore beforehand, and had his implicit permission to run the meeting.

Throughout the meeting, Harry relied on Hermione, Ron, and Ginny for ideas and interpretation of data - showing the benefits of a fresh set of minds.


After the meeting, Molly and Arthur walked up to Harry, Molly hugging him automatically. 

"I still think you're all too young," she said softly, a sad smile on her face.  "But not even I can argue with destiny.  Just look after yourself, and Ginny, please."

"I will," Harry said softly, hugging her back.

"And you," Molly said, pulling her daughter into a hug.  "I can hardly believe you used that act from your little play at an Order meeting.  I swear that Fred and George had too much influence over you."

Ginny laughed, "It worked didn't it?"

Molly shook her head and laughed. 

"What have you done with Fred and George?" Arthur asked Harry, a smile on his face.

"Nothing at all, they’ve just found something that they enjoy as much as pranks and they've got a way of keeping score.  It's just a different game for them."

They said goodbye, and the four students walked back to the Gryffindor Common Room.

"What's this, Mrs Norris?" Argus Filch interrupted them. "Students out late at night.  Detention it will be, for all of you." He laughed happily.

"Excuse me?" Harry asked, moving in front of them.

Filch froze, and then his face dropped.  "Oh, I didn't see you there, Assistant Professor.  My apologies."

"Quite alright," Harry said dismissively, and then walked off, the other three following him.

"That was so cool," Ron said, as soon as Filch was out of site.  "No more getting into trouble!"

Harry just laughed, and said the password to the Fat Lady.  They sat down on the couches in front of the fire; Harry yawned, and slid his feet up, resting his head on Ginny's lap.  "This has been a long day," he yawned, again.  "I'll just tell you about my cousin, and we can go to bed."

He yawned again, and closed his eyes for a second.


Ginny lightly ran her fingers through Harry's hair, and then looked down in disbelief.  "He's asleep!"

Ron and Hermione looked at each other, then laughed. 

"Why are you looking mad?" Ron asked.

"Because I was hoping for a decent snogging session.  He's been looking so gorgeous today, and with everything we had to do, we didn't really get a chance."

Ron went white, and then said slowly in a strangled voice. "Look, how about I make sure the Room of Requirement is free tomorrow night?"

Ginny and Hermione turned and looked at Ron in shock. 

He held up his hands.  "I know, but this is Harry, and well, I know I feel better after spending time with Hermione.  I just don't want to know any details."

Hermione leaned over and dropped a kiss on Ron's cheek.  "You're going to get very lucky shortly," she promised.

Ron's smile grew, as did the blush on his cheek, as Ginny laughed under her breath.

"What are we going to do about Sleeping Beauty here?" Ron asked.

"Let him sleep here for a bit, I'll tell you what happened earlier.  We'll float him to bed afterwards."

True to her word, they let Harry sleep there, on Ginny's lap, before the three of them cast the spells to get Harry into bed.  Ginny slowly removed his clothing, while Ron and Hermione said a more personal goodnight to each other behind a silencing charm.

"Sleep tight, my love," Ginny whispered softly, kissing Harry on his scar.  She left silently, letting her brother and his girlfriend have their privacy.


Harry woke with a start, and wondered how the hell he had ended up in bed.  He looked down, and found that he was naked apart from his boxer shorts and smiled.  Only one person he knew would have removed his jeans - last time Ron had put him to bed, he had been left to sleep in his clothes.

He glanced at his watch.  It was four am, and apart from the soft snoring from Seamus' direction, the room was quiet.  He swung his legs out of bed, and noticed some clothing on the floor near Ron's bed that wasn't normally found in a boys’ bedroom.  He walked over and poked his head through Ron's curtains.  He pulled back fast, stumbling backwards till the back of his legs hit his own bed. 

"Well," Harry muttered softly to himself.  "That's something I never want to see again.  I'll wake them later, before the rest of the school wakes up - Hermione would be mortified if the rest of the school knew she had spent the night in Ron's bed." 

He laughed to himself, and walked over to his chest.  He dressed quickly in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and tried on his new trainers for the first time.

It was so much easier for him to walk through the school now that he was an assistant professor - he no longer had to hide behind an invisibility cloak.  He arrived at the Quidditch pitch, which was still shrouded in darkness, dawn not due for several hours, and started to jog around it.  Ten laps later, he stopped, and had a quick drink.  With his warm up done, he walked into the training room, next to the dressing rooms and moved over to the weight equipment.

His routine had been put together by Kingsley and Tonks, at his request, and was concentrating on building him up from the skinny boy he had been.  His daily workouts were supplemented by a huge breakfast, personally cooked by the deliriously happy-to-be-of-assistance, Dobby.

He started with the leg press, moving into a sitting position, as he adjusted the weights, adding an extra ten pounds to his normal amount.  He removed his glasses, and placed them on one of the school towels, before waving his hand idly.  The radio in the corner blared into life, and Harry started to move.

From there, Harry moved around the room, alternating between working his legs and torso, pushing himself as hard as he could.  He found the mindless repetitive movements were great for clearing his mind, and for helping him think things through.  It amused him every time he heard the phrase that Quidditch agreed with him.  Sitting on a broom and flying, while a lot of fun, did not make muscles.  Endless mornings in the gym were much more appropriate for that particular activity.  He never slept much anyway, and this was a much more practical way of handling that, as opposed to lying in bed worrying and feeling guilty.

And, besides, Ginny's reaction was a definite plus.

After finishing his workout, and cooling down, he walked back to the Gryffindor Common Room and straight into the shower.  As he had the night before, he tried to make his hair spike up a little, as Ginny seemed to like it that way but soon gave up as it stubbornly refused to do what he asked of it.  He glanced at his watch again, and saw that it was quarter past six in the morning now.  He pulled on a fresh pair of jeans, and another t-shirt - green this time - and walked over to Ron's bed again.  He paused to pick up his Invisibility cloak, and climbed onto the foot of the bed, sitting cross-legged.

He waved his hand at the curtains, creating a much stronger silencing charm, and smirked wickedly.

"I wonder what the punishment is for a professor finding two students sleeping together?" he sneered loudly, in a pretty reasonable imitation of Snape's voice.

Ron and Hermione both seemed to awake at once, and looked at each other sleepily, till the words percolated into their brains.

Hermione tried to sit up, fast, then realised she was naked under the covers and collapsed back down before she revealed anything.  They both struggled; trying to find a way to turn and face what they thought was the professor, accidentally hitting each other in the process.

"Professor," Hermione said, her mind trying to come up with some form of explanation, as she pulled the under sheet and wrapped it around her, still lying flat on her back.

"Actually, it's Assistant Professor," Harry corrected in his own voice, sounding very amused.

Both of the struggling students froze, and then turned to face the smirking face of their friend.  "Damn it, Harry, you just knocked five years off my life," Hermione said, while Ron grabbed the nearest pillow and chucked it at him.

"Is that the thanks I get?" Harry asked plaintively, his voice now tragic.  "I risk life and limb to wake you up before the rest of the house; I even provide a way of Hermione getting to her room without being discovered, I break the rules, and you shout at me and hit me with a pillow."

"No, the pillow and the shouting were for impersonating Snape," Ron grouched.  "I was having a great dream as well."

"I'm not surprised," Harry said dryly, "Considering you’re sleeping with Hermione.  So, is there anything you two want to tell me about your relationship?"

They both blushed brightly.  "Ahhh," Harry grinned.  "I see."

"At least I was awake to fulfil my obligations," Ron said, teasing Harry back.

"What do you mean?"

"You were supposed to have spent some time snogging Ginny last night," Hermione entered the conversation, having arranged the pillow so she could look at him comfortably.

"I was?"

"Yeah, last night, before you fell asleep on her lap.  I hate to say this Harry, but we Weasleys are a passionate lot.  You really don't want Gin to think you don't fancy her."

Harry frowned, fighting his own blush.  "This is turning into the weirdest conversation I've ever had," he muttered.  "Talking about my lack of sex life with my girlfriend’s naked brother and his equally naked girlfriend, who's about as close to a sister as I could possibly get."

Ron smirked at him.  "You think that's weird, you didn't have to promise to arrange for your sister to get the Room of Requirement tonight so she could allow you to make up for your lack of attention last night."

"You don't need to do that," Harry said, the blush still on his face, "I can run the Marauder’s Map in Amorous mode.  Padfoot said it would be useful."

"What does it do?" Hermione asked, the chance for learning not to be missed.

"I dunno," Harry admitted.  "Not done it yet, but when you consider that my godfather was a tomcat, and that Moony was pretty wild himself (it’s always the quiet ones) - and the amount of work that went into the normal mode, you can bet it will be good.  Padfoot seemed pretty proud of it."

Hermione and Ron looked at each other. 

"Yes," Harry interposed, "I will show you how to use it."

"Thanks," they said in unison.

Harry looked at his watch again.  "Seriously though," he said, "You guys do need to be more careful.  Imagine if Neville had found Hermione's bra on the floor next your bed."

They both blushed furiously again, as Harry climbed out of bed.  "My Invisibility cloak is where I was sitting, and Lavender and Parvati's alarm will go off in five minutes."


From: Harry

To: Remus

Subject: Sirius

Morning Moony,

Just thought I'd let you know that I haven't forgotten about pranking our dear friend for continuous bad Sirius/serious jokes.  I've changed my mind about what I was going to do, wouldn't want to get in a rut at a young age.

Harry - who had a great night’s sleep

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: The intelligent Marauder

To: Son of Prongs

Subject: Re: Sirius

I almost thought that getting him to get along with Snape was your prank ^grin^.

But it's good to know, Sirius will have no idea... any clues for your favourite ex-professor?

Remus


From: Just don't call me Bambi

To: Selenophobic

Subject: Re[2]: Sirius

Maybe one... Snuffles would be an apt name.

H

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Cliotus Hearst

To: Daily Prophet Subscribers

Subject: Ministry braces itself for a damaging 'Shacklebolt-Weasley' Report

Ministry of Magic braces for a damning report into its actions during the first dark-wizard war, and its current actions.

The Shacklebolt-Weasley report, a wide ranging dossier into suspected corruption at the heart of the ministry is due to be published in the next ten days, and early reports suggest that it will make uneasy reading for key figures.

Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge has claimed many times that the Ministry has acted in the best interests of the Wizarding population at all times.  He is quoted as saying that it is "Beyond doubt that Ministry personnel have proven their honesty and ability."

It is reported that Shacklebolt-Weasley will find that this claim was false.  Senior Aurors have now admitted that certain information used was falsified, and that established Ministry procedures were bypassed, on the direct order of senior Ministry officials.

It is believed that the report will question the actions of Fudge and his predecessor, Millicent Bagnold.

The report was started after the dramatic clearance of Sirius Black, wrongfully imprisoned for mass murder.  Black, once the Wizarding World’s most wanted man, has since been trying hard to recover from his ordeal.

Cliotus Hearst is the Daily Prophet's political columnist.  You can Mmail him at Cliotus.Hearst!685231564.UK or use Muggle Email at thedpreporting@yahoo.com.


Ginny's first lesson the next morning was Double Potions.  Once a hated period, recently it had actually become pleasurable.

"Right," Snape said, as he entered the dungeon, his cloak billowing behind him.  "We're going to look at the Dreamfilled Sleep potion today."

Stuart Bradley raised his hand.

"Yes, Mr Bradley?"

"Aren't we supposed to be studying the Aging Potion?"

Snape rolled his eyes.  "Probably," he grunted.  "However, as I am still in charge of this class, we will be studying what I say.  Now, who can tell me what the Dream-filled Sleep potion is? Ms Lovegood?"

"It gives you pretty dreams," Luna said dreamily.  "It's like the Dreamless sleep potion, only more pleasurable."

"Ten points to Ravenclaw," Snape announced.  "Excellent response.  Now, for twenty points, who can tell me what would happen if you added Romanian Longhorn dragon horn to it?"

There was silence as everyone mentally went through what they knew about potions.  Ginny slowly raised her hand.

"Ms Weasley, or should I call you the future Mrs Potter?"  In the past, the question would have been cutting and sneering.  This time, it was lightly teasing.

Ginny blushed, while the rest of the class laughed.  "Ms Weasley will do," she replied, and then paused.  "For now."

Snape smiled.

"It would turn the dreams into nightmares?" she half-stated, half-asked.

"Twenty points to Gryffindor," Snape said cheerfully.  "Now, the instructions are on the board, please follow them precisely."  He then waved his wand and the previously blank board was filled with small, edgy scribe. 

He sat down at his desk, and started to mark some of the essays from the sixth year students.  He was amused when he came to Hermione's, to find that it was the exact length.  She had finally learnt to follow his instructions, and as a result, was getting better grades.

Halfway through the class he walked around examining everyone’s work, offering advice as he went.  He paused by Ginny's table.  She was working alone, as Colin, her regular partner, was in the Infirmary with Wizarding Flu.

"A strange property of this potion," Snape mused absently.  "Is that if it is given to Muggles, it only works on certain days of the month.  It's influenced by the moon."

He walked back to his desk, ignoring the puzzled look on her face.

At the end of the class, he told everyone to bring a vial to his desk and leave quietly.

"Ms Weasley," he called, bringing her back into his class.  He stood, and walked around his desk so he was standing next to her.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to dock twenty points from Gryffindor."

"What for, professor?" Ginny asked, looking confused.

Snape picked up her vial of potion, and reached forwards, placing it firmly in her bag.

"Dropping your potion vial on the floor."

Ginny blinked, then suddenly put together Harry telling her yesterday that he had shown the professor his childhood, the strange potion they had made, and Snape's cryptic comment from earlier.  "You know professor," Ginny said, as she looked up at the tall thin man. "You're getting dangerously close to earning a hug."

Snape looked at her, his facing showing mild shock, as she walked out.  He shook his head and slowly put away the other potions, making careful note that one bottle of potion had been split on the floor - and that the student had been punished with a deduction of twenty house points.

As he prepared for the next class, he suddenly stopped, and said, "Twenty points to Gryffindor for Ms Weasley's excellent acting ability last night."


From: Seeker

To: Opponents

Bcc: Teammates

Subject: Match

Gentlemen, I have reserved the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch for a week Saturday, (twelve days time) 

I believe that two pm will be an excellent time to start, Madam Hooch has agreed to referee for us.

Hope to see you there,

Harry

--
Audaces fortuna juvat


From: Charlie

To: Teammate siblings

Subject: Re: Quidditch

WooHoo, guys, this is it!

I can’t wait for us to get on that pitch and kick some Potter ass.  We’ll show ‘em who the first family of Quidditch is!

Charlie

--
Draconis dominium


From: Ron

To: The boys

Subject: Re[2]: Quidditch

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.  Any chance of you guys getting to Hogwarts before that?  We really ought to have a practice session.

Besides, Ginny and I would love to see you all.

Ron


From: Extremely busy

To: Siblings + Alicia

Subject: Quidditch Practice

Alicia, as our brothers seem to have forgotten we need seven to make a team, we thought we should bring you up to speed.

Harry’s got the match booked for a week Saturday @ 2pm, and the boys would like to meet up one night for a practice.

Transportations not an issue, we can get Hogwarts Portkeys pretty easily, but we’re going to be busy all this week, so how about next Tuesday?

F&G

--
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – coming soon to Diagon Alley.


From: Alicia

To: Weasley Twits

Subject: Re: Quidditch Practice

Yeah, I can make that.

But just so you know, I am only helping because I owe Fred and George, not because I agree with your stance!

A.


From: Bill

To: Alicia

Cc: Siblings

Subject: Re: Quidditch Practice

Alicia,

Thanks for helping us out, but we feel you ought to know that we don’t agree with our stance anymore.  We’re just playing because we think it would be fun.  We won’t be asking them to split up when we win!

Bill - the dates are fine by me.


From: P

To: Team mates

Subject: Re[2]: Quidditch Practice

Sorry to be so brief, but I’m rather busy at the moment.  With any luck, the dates should be fine.

Percy

--
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.


From: Charlie

To: Everyone

Subject: Re[3]: Quidditch Practice

Not a problem for me either.

C.

--
Draconis dominium


From: Ron

To: The winning team

Subject: Re[4]: Quidditch Practice

Ok guys, I’ll book the pitch and tell Harry the dates are fine.

Looking forward to see you guys!

Ron.


Tuesday was a bit of a strange day, Harry mused to himself as he walked down to the dungeons. He'd actually been in classes all day, and had very little time to do anything else.  Still, he guessed it was good to have the occasional down day every now and again - even if it was a bit boring. 

"Ahh, Harry," Professor Snape greeted him, as he entered the dungeon.  "Come with me."

They walked together, down a corridor, near the Slytherin Common Room, and paused next to a portrait of Salazar Slytherin.  "Open Up," Snape hissed, in a Parseltongue.

"I didn't know you could speak Parseltongue," Harry said, surprised.

"I can't," Snape grunted.  "But Salazar set the password for these quarters, and we can't change it.  It took me two weeks to work out how to say it properly."

Harry laughed, and looked around as he entered the room.

"Welcome to my private quarters," Snape said, bowing slightly. 

"This is not what I expected!"

"You thought it would be green and silver, perhaps with a built in torture chamber?"

"And a ready supply of blood," Harry added with a grin. 

The room was painted in a warm deep blue, and had matching furniture.  To one side, a large potions cabinet gave mute testament to the experiences Shape had undergone as a spy for the Order.

"Take a seat, Harry, do you want a drink?"

"No thanks, Professor," Harry said, as he sat down comfortably.

"You managed to call me Severus last night."

"I did," Harry agreed.  "But I was trying to get you both mad at me, as opposed to each other."

"It worked," Snape grunted.  "As with the other teachers, you can call me Severus, or Sev, in private."

Harry nodded, then looked surprised as Snape passed him a shot glass of Firewhiskey. 

"You'll probably need it later.  Let me tell you a story.

"In our fifth year, towards the end of the school year, your father, Sirius, Remus, and Pettigrew were at the height of their pranking powers, and were pulling of some spectacular stuff.  It was that year that they managed to paint the Slytherin Common Room pink.  I was a particular target - Sirius' favourite.

"Well, one night, Bellatrix came to me, and offered her help with pranking him back.  Well, I jumped at the chance.  We worked together, and created a beautiful potion.  We waited for the perfect time, and when Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup, we moved.  We managed to doctor the Butterbeer he was drinking, so that it affected his judgement.  We hid in the corner, under Bella's invisibility cloak, and watched the Gryffindors party all night, waiting for it to affect him.

"It worked better than we could have hoped for.  They were the last ones up, and Minerva came in to send them to bed.  Sirius was in his Animagus form at the time, and walked up to her, and started to hump her leg."  Snape reached out and handed Harry a moving photograph.

The photo captured the look of abject shock and horror on McGonagall's face with absolute perfection, and the slight crazed look on Sirius’ Animagus form as he moved his hips backwards and forwards.

"To this day," Snape finished, "Sirius just thinks he drunk too much Butterbeer.  And I've never dared to confess to Min."  He looked over at Harry, to see his reaction, to find that the boy was no longer sitting in his chair.  He was rolling on the floor, struggling to breathe he was laughing so hard, as tears ran down his face. 

"Can I have a copy of this, please?" Harry begged, wheezing his request out.

Snape grinned, "Sure.  Anyway, she told me the next morning that I owed her one, and she would collect later.  I agreed, and it was then I fell in love with her."

Harry nodded, turning the picture over so he wouldn't look at it and laugh again.

Severus took a deep breath. "Well, she collected the other day.  Harry, Bellatrix has asked me to ask you if you will help her escape from the Dark Tosser."

Harry blinked, and then shook his head.  He opened his mouth, turned to his professor, and then shut it again, quickly.  Almost blindly, he reached out, grabbed the shot glass of Firewhiskey, and downed it in one.  "That's not gonna do it," he muttered, holding the glass out for Severus to fill again. 

"Is she insane? Wait, I know she is, why the hell does she think I will help her?"  Harry stood, and started to pace around the floor.  "She tried to kill Sirius, she tortured Neville's parents to insanity, she tried to put the Cruciatus on Ginny, and she’s lied, stolen, killed, many, many times.  Why on earth would I give her anything other than the business end of my wand?"

Harry suddenly froze, slowly; a horrified look appeared on his face.  He dashed into the bathroom, and knelt by the porcelain, his stomach rebelling.

Snape sat in his chair, a sad look on his face.

Harry returned, drying his face on a towel, and sat down.  "This how Albus felt?"

"What do you mean?" Snape asked, confused.

"When he had to make a deal with the devil."

"I don't understand."

Harry put his head in his hands, and explained in a low voice.  "With you no longer a Death Eater, we don't have a spy in the Inner Circle anymore.  Much as I hate her, I need her information more."  He turned his head, and stared at Snape.  "Are you vouching for her?"

Snape thought for a second.  A myriad of emotions passed over his face, as though fighting an internal battle.  "Yes," he said simply.

"Tell her I want to meet her; I'll give her an answer when I can see her face."

Snape nodded, and stood.  He walked over to his potions cabinet and pulled out a yellow vial.  "Here, it will settle your stomach."

"Thanks," Harry said weakly, collapsing back in to the chair.  "Sometimes I really wish I could just be normal, have my parents, and spend my time trying to work out ways to snog Ginny in private.  Not have to make decisions that affect so many people."

"You don't have to," Snape said softly.  "You can still take your problems to Albus and get him to do so."

Harry shook his head reluctantly.  "I can't hide behind him forever.  The prophecy said that I have to kill Voldemort.  If that's the case, then I'm going to damn well make sure I've done everything I can to ensure that everyone lives through this."

Harry reached for the bottle of Firewhiskey, and took a long swig.  "I was thinking, that night we got rid of your Dark Mark, we managed to work together and threw Voldemort out of your mind."

"Yes?"

"Do you think we could try and do it again, join our minds, and see if we can get into Voldemort's mind?"

Snape seemed frozen in his chair; his eyes then seemed to go very wide.  "That might just work," he breathed. He burst out of his chair, and paced furiously around the room.

"You know that your reputation as a vampire comes from your cloak?"

Snape threw Harry a quick grin.  "Of course, it was a present from Minerva."

"I think it could work," Snape said, now looking excited.  He pulled up his chair closer to Harry.

"My mind or yours?" Harry asked.

"Mine I think," Snape said slowly.  "No offence, but I have more practise than you."

Harry nodded and cast Legilimens, entering Snape’s mind.

"Ready?" Snape asked mentally.

Harry nodded, trying to remember how they had joined their power before.  They tried it a few times, and got it wrong, before they stumbled across the answer.

"Let's go find Tommy Boy," they said as one, and flew into the darkness. 

As they flew through the formless void, shapes started to appear beneath them, like paving stones.  The shapes kept pace with them for a bit, before accelerating ahead.  The paving suddenly seemed to split, forming a tube around them.  They slammed to a halt when the pavement reared up in front of them, blocking their progress.  They looked around, suddenly fearful, to find they were trapped.

"Ahhh Severus, my faithful potions master, and young Mr Potter, what a pleasant surprise," the sibilant voice of Voldemort dragged their attention towards the approaching figure.  "My two favourite people in the world together.  Tell me, did you think that it would be that easy?  That you'd simply find me, and overwhelm me with your power?"

"Yes," they replied, seeing no reason to lie.

"Fools!" Voldemort hissed.  "You will pay for your betrayal, Severus, and you Potter, for being a constant thorn in my side.  With you out of the way, that old fool will be easy to defeat."  He whipped his wand out, cast a spell neither of them recognised at the two of them.

They tried to move, to cast a spell, anything, but couldn't. Nothing seemed to work for them.

"As you look on from the next life, as I take complete control, remember that you could have stopped this.  I knew you would try something so foolish, so heroic," he mocked, "So I prepared for it, found spells that you never dreamed off.  And now, it's time to say goodbye."

With deliberate slowness, Voldemort pointed his wand at the two, and said, "Avada Kedavra."

The green light shot out of his wands and hit the combined mind of the Professor and the Student.


In the Great Hall, Ginny suddenly grabbed her necklace.  "Noooo!" she screamed, her voice sounding like she had just had her heart ripped out, before she fainted into blissful oblivion.

Previous Next
Author Notes:

Huge thanks to my beta team, Jaquelyne, Clidone, John, and Michele - who's managed to be both a new beta, and prove herself invaluable immediately.  None of this would have been possible without their hard word, dedication, and not attacking me with pitchforks for writing such a huge chapter.

I've also got to say thinks to Crys and Kara for ideas and talking things through with me - and to Lochar and Lorien, who are both certifiable, but as cheerleaders go, you couldn't ask for more *grin*

The cliffhanger from the previous part:

One of the things that I really hate when reading H/G is the cliché of Harry and Ginny get together, then Ginny spots Harry doing something he is innocent off, and they break up for a bit.  I wanted to kill this cliché dead - which is why I put it in here.  

Canon aspects: (from review questions)

Blaise: Yes, I know that officially, Blaise is now a male, however, I don't care.  I will continue to write him as a female character until Ms Rowling gives us a non-Pansy female Slytherin.

Ginny's eye colour: They are brown, not green.  Early editions of the American version did have them as green, but that was a mistake that was corrected shortly afterwards.  

Harry just caught sight of a pair of bright brown eyes staring at him before it closed with a snap.

"Ginny," said Ron. "You don't know how weird it is for her to be this shy. She never shuts up normally -" from CoS "Chapter 3: The Burrow", pg 39-40, American Edition: (Thanks Michele)

James as Seeker: According to the second Scholastic chat, Ms Rowling stated clearly that James was a Chaser, even though the films have said Seeker.

The Potter Family Crest

The crest I described is actually a Potter Family Crest.  I was overly excited when I found it, because it fitted the story so well - the combination of Gryffindor and Slytherin Colours, and the lion at the top.

The Potter motto I chose, because I liked it ;-)  

Plagiarism and the history of Mmail

Well, while I was on holiday, one of my beta's and my brother both emailed to say that TMW! had been ripped off - copying and pasting bits of the story into the email, as they seemed similar to parts of this story. I decided to not to read the story in question - partly because it would depress me, and partly because I didn't want to read anyone else's Mmail story - so I couldn't be accused of it myself.

What I will respond to, is the comments that the author (who had asked me permission to write an Mmail story) made, saying that they didn't like the restrictions I put on it - that they follow the genesis of Mmail from chapter four - and ignored them.

Now that you've read this chapter, I hope that some of my reasons for making Mmail and the WizardNet like I did, was because I knew I wanted to interface with the non-magical internet at some stage, so I could bring Dudley into the story.  

Along with that, I didn't like the idea of a bunch of students inventing a global communication system - and if they did, I really didn't want to write the interminable "This is so cool" Mmails that would have to be used.

Updates and progress reports

My live journal is by far the best place to find out what is happening with updates and such like - my username is Jeconais.  

It's more than likely that I won't respond to email just asking when  a story is due to be updated, because if I spent all my time answering those, I'd never have a chance to write.

Cliotus Hearst

Cliotus belong to DailyProphetReporting and is a character in his outstanding "The Season" fanfic, one of the most unique stories I've ever seen.  You can find the season on phoenixsong.net, under the above user name.

Harry's Animagus forms

Both the wolf and hawk were picked for their plot possibilities, as much as anything else.  I have a personal objection to magical animals, even in a fic like this.

And remember, coming after Authors with pitchforks after they leave a nasty cliffhanger means delays to the resolution *grin*