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White Knight, Grey Queen
6 - Return
“Welcome to another school year,” Dumbledore said, looking around, his pale blue eyes twinkling as they always did.
“Why thank you,” Harry Potter replied, arriving with a distinctive crack. “It's good to be back.”
Pansy managed to keep her face straight, but only through using a huge amount of will power. Harry hadn't changed from when she had seen him this morning, and hadn't bothered with his robes.
In a way, she had missed the changes that had occurred to him, because she had seen them happen gradually. It was only now when she could see him in a familiar setting that she realised just how much he had changed.
His hair was the same, unruly and untameable – at least without serious application of Muggle hair-gel. His eyes were the same, although now they weren't hidden by the old glasses he used to wear, and his face was similar, just more adult, any softness he’d had remaining having been burnt away. The soft white t-shirt he was wearing clung to his chest like a second skin, a chest that was much more impressive than it had been before. The four inches of height, when combined with the new muscles he’d developed, gave him an imposing air, and she could feel the power he possessed from where she was sitting.
As she looked around, she struggled to stop herself from leaping to her feet, walking over to him, and kissing the daylights out of him, marking him as her possession to the other witches. It looked like one of the Patils needed a napkin as she was drooling so much.
She took a deep breath and remembered that she was going to be able to make her statement shortly, just as soon as she could get rid of this stupid glamour spell. She caught Daphne's eye and coughed to hide the giggle her friend’s face caused.
“You can't Apparate into Hogwarts!” Hermione squeaked, the first person to break the unnatural silence that had fallen over the school.
“It's good to see you too, Hermione,” Harry said cheerfully. “Have a good summer?”
Pansy giggled to herself at the stupefied expression on the girl's face. She admired the way Harry didn't actually answer the question; he'd learnt a lot over the summer. She looked up at the staff table. Dumbledore looked vaguely surprised, while Snape was staring at Harry with evident loathing. McGonagall was looking stern, but it also looked like she was hiding a smile. As the Professor looked at her, Pansy risked a quick wink at the Gryffindor head of house, and was a little shocked when it was returned.
“Welcome back to school, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “How was your summer?”
“Excellent,” Harry said cheerfully. “Did you have a good summer?”
“It could have been better,” Dumbledore replied.
“How true,” Harry said with a look of commiseration on his face. “But it's so rare that we actually get what we want, isn't it?”
Pansy looked around again and noticed that Draco was staring at Harry with loathing, but there was also a little fear in there. As there should be, she decided, because sooner rather than later, Draco was going to be on the end of some of the skills they had learnt over the summer.
“You'll have to excuse my lack of robes,” Harry continued. “I'm afraid that I've had a very busy day, and simply haven't had time to get changed.
“And while we're at it, can you tell your pet to stop trying to get into my mind?”
“Excuse me?” Dumbledore asked, looking a little lost. It was an expression Pansy had never seen from him before.
“That sorry excuse for a professor sitting next to you,” Harry explained, his smile not wavering. “Actually, I'll deal with it myself.”
There was a minor pause, as the whole school swivelled to look at Snape, who was sitting next to Dumbledore.
Snape suddenly went very white, and sweat appeared on his forehead. His expression changed from a sneer to one of agony, and he started to shake.
“Stop!” Dumbledore yelled. “Both of you.”
“Why?” Harry asked offhandedly. Pansy doubted that anyone else would be able to detect the note of strain in his voice. She concentrated hard, and sent her own thoughts towards him, giving him a small mental caress to try and help him out.
“He attacked me, using Legilimency to try and see what happened to me this summer. That is in direct violation of the code of ethics that binds all practitioners of the art. I don't have to release him at all. He has broken the rules; now, he has to pay the consequences.”
Snape was now shaking hard, a look of abject terror on his face.
With a contemptuous nod, Harry released the Professor, who collapsed onto the table.
“Well?” he asked as he switched his attention to Dumbledore.
“Aren't you going to do anything?”
Dumbledore nodded slowly. “I will deal with this in private.”
Harry smiled cheerfully, and Pansy felt a tendril of gratitude caress her mind. “Good,” he said. “I'd hate for the 'Sins of the Student' doctrine to be applied.”
“Can I ask where you received your training?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry looked thoughtful. “I received my training from a member of the Council,” he said simply. “And my instructor desires to remain anonymous. You can expect a visit from the Council, though; they wish to discuss some irregularities in my early training.”
“What was that?” Snape gasped, suddenly, as he scowled at Harry.
“Why, that was Voldemort,” Harry whispered, his smile turning into a slightly evil grin. The room seemed to gasp at the name. “That's the fragment of Voldemort's mind that he left when he possessed me. I find it very useful for dealing with unwanted guests.”
“Take a seat, Harry,” Dumbledore interrupted. “You're just in time for the feast.”
“Thank you,” Harry replied formally, offering the headmaster a faint bow. “I've not eaten in several hours. The goblins do make good tea, but their food leaves a lot to be desired.” He strolled over to the Gryffindor table, and smacked Ron on the back casually, and grinned at Hermione.
“So,” Pansy faintly heard him say. “You two are together now, right?”
“Pansy!” a hated voice said, dragging her attention away from Harry, where it really wanted to stay.
“Yes, Draco?” she simpered, making a mental note to wash her mouth out later. She really hoped he'd say something now, so that she could use it to start her own coming out.
“I've decided to grant your deepest desire,” he smirked. “You will be my mistress for ever.”
“What?” Pansy asked; that statement had been pretty much the last thing she had expected.
“My father has informed me that your father has fallen out of favour with our Lord. And while your parents will be killed, I have decided to allow you to live as my mistress. You're not bad looking, you’ve got a good body, and while you will have to learn your place, I'm sure it will not be too hard for you. Of course, in case you're wondering, there will not be an engagement; I could never marry the daughter of a traitor.”
Pansy gaped at him, simply unable to believe his arrogance.
Did he really think that she'd just agree to something as repulsive as that kind of arrangement with him? And that he'd declare it so obviously in public with the other Slytherins listening in was simply intolerable. He obviously thought she'd be grateful that she'd be allowed to have anything at all to do with him, and would show him the proper gratitude.
She smiled at him, fully aware that he'd think she was accepting his repugnant offer. And in a way, it was gratitude. Gratitude for the most perfect opportunity she could imagine.
“You disgusting, filthy, arrogant, spawn of a Death Eater,” she said loudly. “Do you honestly think that I would agree to a be degraded like that? By you of all people?”
“Huh?” Draco asked, looking shocked.
Pansy stood up and placed her hands on her hips. She could see Daphne shooting her encouraging glances - telling Draco exactly where to go had been a fantasy of both of theirs for so many years.
“I said, you ugly son of a bitch, do you honestly think that I would consent to being your whore. Were you stupid enough to think that I'd jump at the chance to spread my legs for you? I never had any intention of marrying you, you stupid idiot.”
“Of course you did, you’ve been throwing yourself at me since we began at Hogwarts,” Draco retorted indignantly, climbing to his own feet.
Pansy glanced up at the Professors’ table, and watched as Snape tried to get to his feet, before being unobtrusively slammed back down in to place by an unseen force. Dumbledore was watching curiously, not noticing his Potions professor being held down.
She laughed loudly and then grinned coldly at Draco.
“Actually, my dear toad face, I was hiding from you. Daphne and I have been playing with you for the past five years. You've been remarkably easy to fool, but then the better part of your brain is obviously in your trousers, and even that is amazingly small. You've spent all these years chasing after Daphne, while I've been running interference; making sure you never had any time to actually get close to her.”
“Yes,” Daphne agreed, getting to her feet as well, a smirk on her face. “You've been so busy chasing me with your tongue hanging, that you never even noticed what was under your rat-like nose.”
“Huh?” Draco said, his eyes wide, as he moved his head rapidly between the two girls.
“Take that ridiculous glamour spell off, Pansy,” Daphne ordered. “Show toad boy what he’s been ignoring and trying to get away from.”
Pansy pulled out her wand, and whispered, “Finite Incantatem.” She idly wondered what the change looked like to other people as the glamour spell vanished.
She enjoyed a few seconds of silence as Draco gaped at her and then she undid her robes, letting them fall to the floor. The dress she was wearing was not the school uniform, and it had been carefully chosen. It hugged her figure closely, emphasising both her legs and her bust, while leaving her shoulders bare. Her hair was loose and hanging in a wave down her back, and her make-up, carefully applied earlier, finished the look. She knew she looked good, and the stunned look on most of the boys’ faces she could see was more than adequate proof of that.
“Did you even realise that Daphne is the third best student in our year?” she demanded coldly. “Of course you didn't, since you fell for her beautiful, dumb blonde act. We've been playing with you for years, keeping you out of our hair, and you never once even thought to question what was happening. Things have changed, you arrogant son of a bitch. And neither of us is going to put up with your childish attention this year.”
“Our Lord,” Draco started to sneer.
“Your lord,” Pansy interrupted. “His name is Voldemort. Can you even say it? Now that you've publicly confessed to being a Death Eater, in front of all the professors, can you even say the name?”
Draco looked horrified, as he turned to look at the Professors.
Dumbledore looked profoundly disappointed, while some of the other professors looked shocked.
“I'm not a Death Eater,” Draco stuttered.
“Of course you're not,” Pansy agreed. “Why on earth would Voldemort want a bungling idiot like you? He already has your father to fill the Court Jester role.”
“My father,” Draco started again.
“Is impotent,” Pansy interrupted. “Figuratively and literally so, from what I hear. Haven't you noticed how frustrated he's been recently? He can’t find Fudge, his Werewolf Protection Act mysteriously dropped in the Wizengamot. His sudden addiction to the post-Cruciatus potion? No? Well, that's not surprising. You're not the brightest toad in the lake. You really don't know me very well at all, Malfoy. And you don't know my family. When we're faced with a threat, we work together, we come up with a plan, and we always win.”
She now knew exactly how she was going to finish this off, and she was going to get her desire to publicly claim Harry as well. She could feel Harry's amusement as he watched, and she sent him back a quick thank you for keeping the professors quiet.
“Do you know what our plan was?” she asked, with a malicious tone in her voice.
Draco gaped at her, shaking his head.
“We'd ally ourselves with the opposition, obviously. And we'd throw the Parkinson money and name behind them.” She could see a look of horror appearing on Dumbledore's face, and enjoyed it immensely, as she watched him put the clues together.
“Of course,” she continued, “That fact that he's the most honourable, gorgeous, smart, and powerful wizard of our generation was a bonus.” She paused and sighed, as Draco still looked blank. She turned her head, sweeping the students, and noted that Ginny had worked it out, Hermione was about to, while Ron still looked blank. Various other students seemed to have put it together as well.
“Come on, you ignorant toad,” Pansy sighed. “You can’t be as stupid as you look. Well, perhaps you can be. Powerful, fights Voldemort, good looking? How many students here does that that describe?” She enjoyed the look of horror that appeared on his face as he finally worked out that she was talking about Harry. “Should I add that he has gorgeous green eyes, and that he's defeated Voldemort time and time again? Should I add that he's spent the summer at my parents’ Manor? And that I've been sleeping with him since the night he arrived?” She smirked at the gasp that her pronouncement produced and at Harry as he bowed his head, laughing under his breath.
“Isn't it amazing,” she purred to Draco, “how Harry, despite not having any of the advantages that you've had growing up, is so much more of a man than you, you arrogant, egotistical, ugly, ignorant, spawn of an incompetent fool and an alcoholic?
“Harry's better looking than you are, he’s more powerful than you are, far richer than you will ever be, far braver, far more courageous, and,” she really hoped that Harry wouldn't be too upset with her for what she was about to say, “after having seen both of you naked, he's much, much, much, better equipped.” She hadn't actually seen Draco naked, but no one would doubt her word.
She turned on her heel and walked straight over to the Gryffindor table. Harry had moved to his feet and had his arms crossed across his chest, emphasising his healthy muscular stature. He had an amused look on his face, and she could feel him laughing inside her mind.
“I believe you owe me a kiss,” he said into the silence that was the Great Hall.
“I do?” she asked.
“Some things should definitely remain private,” he said, teasing glints in his eyes.
“What, that Draco's mother's an alcoholic?”
He shook his head. “That's common knowledge.”
“Oh, you mean the size thing.”
She grinned at him. “You're not the one with anything to hide,” she explained. “Unlike the emaciated dick-less wonder over there.”
“Even so,” he said, playing along with her, “that's the sort of thing that should remain private.”
“Oh,” she said. “In that case, I do owe you a kiss.” She took a couple of steps forward, and she slid her arms around his neck. She gently pulled his head down the inch she needed, and stood on tiptoes, softly kissing him. She felt his arms slide around her securely, and the rest of the school vanished. All she had was the feeling of his lips against hers, his warm hard body holding her so securely and his tongue gently sliding over hers. She gave into the kiss, closing her eyes, and pressing herself harder against him.
The kiss seemed to last forever but was over far too soon. She reluctantly let him go. “I love you,” she said softly, their audience nothing but a distant memory.
“I love you,” he said back, his hand sliding up and tracing the curve of her cheek. With a reluctant half-smile, he slowly dropped his hands. “You joining us, Daph?” he asked.
“Of course,” the blonde replied. She buttoned the top buttons of her blouse. “I can't tell you how glad I am that I don't have parade myself in front of that ugly rat anymore.”
Harry smiled at her. “I'll bet.”
Pansy met Daphne as she joined the Gryffindor table and hugged her tightly. “Thank you,” she said, wanting to make sure that everyone heard her. “I couldn't have survived all these years without you.”
Daphne grinned. “It was fun, but practicality does intrude here. Where exactly are we going to sit?”
“Dobby,” Harry called.
The house-elf appeared, and another gasp of shock echoed around the room, as Dobby was in his full uniform. “You rang, sir?”
Pansy looked at Harry and then burst out laughing.
“Not you, too,” Harry groaned at Dobby. “Can you add a few more places at this table?”
“Adding is one of Dobby’s specialities, Hary Potter, sir,” Dobby said smugly. He moved his hands, and the table stretched, creating two more places, one next to Hermione, one next to the place that had been kept for Harry.
“Thanks, Dobby. Is everything going okay with the other elves?”
Dobby frowned and shook his head. “The Hogwarts elves is not liking Dobby,” he said disgustedly. “Elves that lives a good life think that all elves lives good lives. They is not believing Dobby when he tells them of the misery of other elveses.”
“Do you want me to talk to them?”
Dobby shook his head. “Even Hogwarts elves will do as they has been told or elves be explaining themselves to Council.”
“Harry Potter sir, be sitting down and Dobby will be bringing dinner for Master Potter, Mistress Park'son sir, and the Blonde Greenie.”
“Thanks, Dobby,” Pansy said. “I'm starving.”
Dobby vanished with a pop.
“Blonde Greenie?” Daphne asked curiously, as she walked around the table to sit down opposite the two of them.
“Dobby likes to give titles to people,” Pansy explained as she sat down at the Gryffindor table. “I think my favourite one is Evil Snape,” she mused. “Although Smallest Wheezy is kinda cute,” she indicated Ginny, who was sitting the other side of Harry.
“Introductions, please?” she asked Harry, as the noise behind them picked up again. She had no idea what Draco had done, and would have to find out from Daphne later, as she was facing the Slytherin table.
“Of course,” Harry smiled. “Next to Daphne are Ron and Hermione, my two closest friends for the past five years at school. Guys, this is the real Pansy, who incidentally, is also the girl the damn Prophet wrote about.
“Next to me is one of my newer friends, Ron's sister, Ginevra Weasley - of course, if you call her by her given name, you'll probably be hit by her infamous Bat Bogey Hex.”
“And such a beautiful curse it is,” Pansy interrupted with a grin. “The memory of you casting it on Draco last year is one of my favourite school moment so far.”
“And,” Harry continued. “With G...” he trailed off as Ginny shook her head, and with a minor shrug, he continued smoothly, “Over here we have Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas, Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, and Neville Longbottom.”
“Hi,” Pansy said brightly to them.
There was an awkward silence on the table, as the Gryffindors were staring at Pansy, as each of them tried to reconcile their memories of the Pansy Parkinson with the bright smiling girl in front of them.
Next to Harry, Ginny took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly.
“Hi,” she said brightly. “You'll have to excuse the rest of the Gryffindors. They're never that awake at the first feast; my brother can never think on an empty stomach.”
They were interrupted by a slight cough from the McGonagall, and they swivelled as one to face Dumbledore. “If there are no more interruptions,” he said dryly. “Let the feast begin.”
“Strange,” Harry said, as the food started to appear. “He didn't say that the Forbidden forest was still forbidden.”
“And that would that stop you?” Pansy asked, eagerly digging into the chicken.
“Of course not,” Harry grinned. “The sooner I can have a talk with Aragog, the better.”
She felt his disappointment that his friends weren't responding, and smiled reassuringly at him, and sent him a quick thought of love.
He turned and shot her the slightly shy smile that only he could pull off, the one that he saved only for her. It was such an open look, and every time she saw it, it made her knees go weak.
“Who's Aragog?” Ginny asked.
“The Patriarch of the Acromantulas,” Harry responded. “Ron and I met him in our second year.”
Ginny nodded, and Pansy noticed that she paled slightly at the mention. A lot of things suddenly fell into place, and she decided to get Ginny alone as soon as she could.
“How are your parents?” Harry asked Daphne.
“They're in Geneva for a conference at the moment,” Daphne replied. “Then they're off to the Ukraine for a few months.”
“Do they ever come home?”
Daphne shook her head, “Not if they can help it. I don't think they even realise there's a war on at the moment.”
“Mum and Dad did during the first war,” Pansy said.
The conversation tapered off, as they concentrated on eating. Harry was frowning at Ron and Hermione, and Pansy sighed, realising that it wasn't going to be as easy as she had hoped.
After the meal, Harry pulled out a notebook from a pocket, and he scribbled a few words on it. “An idea,” he explained at Daphne's curious look.
The noise around the Hall started to pick up; as the shocked students turned to each other to try and make sure they had actually seen what they had thought they were seen. Over on the Slytherin table, Draco Malfoy was hunched over, ignoring the whispering of the other students.
A few minutes later, the doors to the Great Hall swung open, and a tall man stalked in.
“Malcom?” Dumbledore said, getting to his feet.
Pansy grinned at her father who winked back at her.
“Good to see you to, Albus,” Malcom replied urbanely. “It's been such a long time.”
“Is there a problem?” Dumbledore asked.
“Of course not,” Malcom said. “I just thought I'd tell you the latest news in person.”
“How kind of you; shall we go to my office?”
“No need,” Malcom replied. “It affects everyone here, anyway. There was a meeting of the Board of Governors of Hogwarts this afternoon. With a unanimous vote, Lucius Malfoy was ejected from his position. It was felt that a convicted Death Eater was not the sort of person who should have influence at a school as hallowed as Hogwarts.
“And after his appalling behaviour in bowing to Fudge's will and unceremoniously ejecting you last year, the Board decided to ensure that it could never happen again.
“As the most revered Headmaster in the world, we can't have any two-bit Inquisitor questioning your position,” he added.
Pansy looked over at Umbridge, and enjoyed the look of hatred on her face. She obviously objected to being called a two-bit Inquisitor, and probably had a lot of grudges stored up from her inability to move away from Hogwarts over the summer.
“Thank you,” Dumbledore said formally. “Might I enquire as to whom has taken his position?”
“I have been honoured with that task, myself,” Malcom said with a dramatic flourishing bow. “They felt that, as someone with extensive Muggle interests, I would bring a new tolerance to the Governors, and to all students, no matter what their ancestry.”
“A move I'm sure that we all appreciate,” Dumbledore said dryly.
Malcom nodded. “I look forward to our first meeting next week.”
“As do I.”
Malcom turned on his heel, and he started to walk out.
“Malcom?” Harry called.
“Aren't you forgetting something?”
“Of course,” Malcom said, stopping. “You know what I'm like.”
Harry grinned, “Without Gruoch, I do indeed.”
“Be nice,” Malcom grinned.
“I am nice,” Harry protested with a grin.
“You better be – that's still my daughter who's on your arm.”
Pansy smirked at her father, enjoying the two men in her life bantering.
Harry waved his hand airily. “Your announcement,” he prodded.
“Oh, yes.” The taller man said, as he turned to face the teachers. “What on earth gave you the idea that you had the right to give Harry a Quidditch ban that extended outside Hogwarts?” he demanded of Umbridge.
“What?” the Professor replied, a dumbstruck look on her face.
“I read the reports about what happened during that match,” Malcom said in a bored voice. “Your actions were ridiculously biased, unfair, and a complete misuse of the small power Fudge gave you. Harry's ban on Quidditch is hereby lifted, and you will return his broom to him immediately.”
“You can't do that,” Umbridge spluttered.
“Of course I can,” Malcom replied. “I have the full backing of the board of Governors, and Fudge himself. Now be a good girl and give Harry his broom back. You confiscated it, remember?”
Umbridge gulped, and then looked around nervously. Pansy felt a lead weight settle in her stomach. Something bad was about to happen; she could feel it.
“I can't,” she whispered.
“What?” Malcom demanded, his causal demeanour vanishing, being replaced by the look of a very dangerous man. “And just why can't you?”
Umbridge gulped again, and she looked around for help. Dumbledore was staring at her, his expression stating quite clearly that he wasn't going to offer her any help.
“It’s broken,” she mumbled reluctantly.
“You did what?” Malcom growled.
Pansy shuddered, and turned, wrapping her arms around Harry firmly. She could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up, as Harry began to generate an awesome amount of writhing magical power. She could feel him staring at the fat toad-like Professor, and she pressed herself against him harder, pushing calming thoughts at him as hard as she could. His mind was like a diamond at the moment, completely impenetrable, but she kept pushing anyway, not wanting him to do anything rash at the moment.
Dobby suddenly appeared with a pop,
“Why is Master Harry Potter being angry?” the elf growled, his eyes narrowing in a look of anger that seemed completely out of place on a house-elf’s face.
“She,” Pansy nodded towards Umbridge, “broke Harry's broom.”
“Where are the pieces being?” Dobby demanded, turning to the witch.
“They are being… I mean, they are in my, my, closet,” Umbridge stuttered, staring at the smartly dressed elf.
Dobby popped out and was back in a second, the two broken pieces of the broom in his hands. He handed them to Harry. “Master Potter can be fixing this.”
Harry shook his head, and looked at Dobby. “You can't fix a broken broom, Dobby” he said.
“Wizard magic can't be fixing broken brooms,” Dobby agreed. “Elf magic can do the fixing but elves are not being with enough power. Master Potter, sir has powers enough.”
Harry slowly smiled, and Pansy breathed a huge sigh of relief. The tension and promise of violence filling the room leaked away as Harry regained control. There was still a look of fear on a lot of the students’ faces, which, she decided, was probably a good thing. The sooner the sheep realised that Harry was not to be trifled with this year, the better.
Dobby sat down on the floor, cross legged, Harry sat on the floor across from him, the pieces of broom resting between them.
Around the room, everyone looking intrigued with what was going on. The Ravenclaws as a house seemed even more so that the other houses. Opposite her, Hermione seemed to have put aside what ever was bothering her earlier, and was paying very close attention.
“Master Potter will be taking his magics, like when viewing magic.”
Harry nodded, and his eyes started to glow an intense green.
“Now, Master Potter sir will be needing to be seeing magic in the broom, with the broken charms.”
Harry nodded and raised his hands. The two pieces of the broom floated into the air in front of him.
“Master Potter needs to be joining the charms now,” Dobby said quietly.
Pansy felt the hairs on the back of her neck raise again, but this time it was much more focused and she watched as Harry extended his hands, making obscure shapes in the air around the broom.
“Harry Potter sir just need join wood of broom now,” Dobby said quietly.
Harry nodded and slowly brought his hands together. The wood seemed to fuse with an audible snap, and as the feeling of magic vanished, Harry stood up. The broom dropped to the floor, and with a slight smile, he simply said, “Up.” The boom jumped into his hand, and he smiled brightly. “Thank you, Dobby.”
Dobby beamed with pleasure and bowed to Harry. The house-elf turned and waved his hand at Umbridge.
The professor had just taken a bite of the food in front of her, and spat it out in disgust.
“What did you do, Dobby?” Malcom asked curiously.
“Dobby made her food taste like flies,” Dobby explained. “Most fitting for a toad woman. Might even help with her weight.”
Pansy laughed, while her father struggled to keep a smile from forming on his face. “Not the punishment I was going to enact,” he said, “but suitable all the same. Quid pro quo and all that. Albus, I'll see you next week. Harry, I'll keep you informed of everything that's going on.”
“Thanks, Malcom,” Harry replied, absently moving his arm around Pansy. “Why don't we meet up before your meeting with Dumbledore?”
“I'll see you next week. Cause havoc.”
Pansy grinned. “Bye, Dad.”
“Okay,” Harry said, looking around. “I think we've provided enough entertainment for today. Dobby, are our rooms ready?”
“Excellent, and thank you, again.”
“Harry Potter sir is a good friend and a good master,” Dobby said simply. “Dobby is always being happy to help.” The elf popped away.
“Pansy, let’s get out of here. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Daphne, we need to talk.”
He turned, and walked out. Pansy trailed after him, the others following her.
Minerva McGonagall surveyed the Great Hall thoughtfully. It had certainly been the most eventful start to the year that she had ever seen. Although with foreknowledge, she had been able to see how well it had been choreographed. There had been a lot of subtle messages that might have bypassed most of the students, but certainly wouldn't have bypassed Albus.
The biggest was Malcom making it clear that he worked for Harry, not the other way around. It spoke of a deep trust that the older man had for the younger boy, and their bantering and use of in jokes had also shown a close relationship.
She'd never really thought about it, but Malcom was probably the first normal male that Harry had come into contact with. His uncle certainly wasn't normal, and Arthur Weasley, as nice a person as he was, was more like a kid than some of his children. Albus himself gave the impression of being slightly mad.
When Pansy had removed the glamour spell, a lot of pieces had fallen into place. She had wondered exactly what Harry had seen in the girl, and that had been suddenly very obvious. She had occasionally thought about why Pansy had looked nothing like her parents, and she had put it down to her looking like her grandparents. The tall, elegant girl hidden beneath the spell had definitely received the best features of both her parents. And Pansy's heartfelt declaration of love had actually touched her and showed just how much things had changed.
She had never felt afraid of a student before, but seeing Harry almost lose his temper had been the closest she had come. The power the boy, well, no, the man, now possessed was truly awesome, and she could almost taste the potential for violence in the air. He had looked like he was a second away from attacking Umbridge, and she wouldn’t give the bloated Professor any chance at all of survival if Harry had decided to attack.
What she had also noted was that far from pulling away, Pansy had pushed herself closer to Harry, completely unafraid of the violence and power he possessed, and had helped restrain him.
Which then led to Dobby, the first house-elf she had ever seen wearing clothes properly; clothes that both fitted and suited him. He looked extremely smart, and obviously had the confidence to act independently. His punishment for Umbridge had been most amusing, especially his comment about her size. But as a teacher, she found the most amazing thing was how he helped Harry mend his broom. What wasn't as good to realise was that Harry was probably the only person present who could begin to master elf magic.
The way they had both acted demonstrated a direct manipulation of magic. It meant gathering your power and controlling it directly, without a keyword to release it to your will. She had no doubt at all that Harry could do wandless magic – if he could do elf magic, it would be easy.
He hadn't lied when he had said that not being polite to Snape would be the smallest rule he would break. And then he had completely ignored the questions about his Apparition, which she was pretty sure was a diversion. She wondered exactly what had transpired between them that had made Snape so scared. Harry talking about being possessed by Voldemort worried her, as she hadn't heard anything about that. What she did know was that he had hidden a threat in his conversation; the 'Sins of the Student' doctrine sounded ominous, and she resolved to look it up as soon as she could.
She turned to look at the Headmaster next to her, and realised that he was tired. It was a strange thing to think, as he had always appeared invincible. As she thought back, as to how old he actually was, she slowly started to realise that his tiredness might very well be genuine.
“Prefects, please escort the first years to their dorms,” she said, as she stood, effectively dismissing the Hall. “Might I suggest that we adjourn to your office?” McGonagall said quietly to the Headmaster. “I believe we have a lot to discuss.”
“Harry,” Pansy said, lightly touching his arm. He raised an eyebrow, smiling slightly at her. “Why don't you take Ron and Hermione to our room?” she suggested. “Leave Ginny, Daphne, and I to have a chat. I think you three need some privacy.”
He nodded, “Good idea, love.” He turned to his friends. “Follow me,” he told them curtly, and like scolded children, they followed.
Ginny looked nervous as her friends left her alone with two Slytherins.
The blonde witch smiled cheerfully. “Let's go to the Library. I'll set up a charm so you two can speak privately.”
“Thanks,” Pansy said. “Come on, Ginny. I promise not to bite.”
Ginny sighed and followed. “All my Gryffindor instincts are telling me to get ready to fight.”
“That's okay,” Pansy grinned. “My Slytherin instincts are telling me to curse you straight off, so if we both agree to use our minds instead of our instincts for a change, we'll get somewhere.”
Ginny laughed. “I thought Slytherins weren't allowed a sense of humour?”
“We're not,” Daphne responded promptly. “This is a cunning appearance of a sense of humour to lull you into a sense of false security.”
“Ahh,” Ginny said. “In which case, I'm simply playing along, looking for an opportunity to apply some Gryffindor heroism, which will no doubt lead to an heroic death.”
“That's the spirit,” Pansy grinned. “If you want, we can arrange for a Basilisk?”
Ginny froze at those words, her face going white.
“I'm sorry,” Pansy apologised, walking up to the smaller girl and pulling her into a hug. “I had to know for sure. And Harry would never tell me.”
“Err, what's going on?” Daphne asked, a lost expression on her face.
“Don't worry about it, Daph,” Pansy said. “It's one of the things that Ginny and I need to talk about.” She carefully kept hold of the younger girl, and pulled her into a corner of the library.
Daphne shrugged, cast a spell surrounding with impenetrable silence and sat down with a book.
“How did you know?” Ginny asked brokenly.
“You flinched when Harry mentioned his second year earlier, and a lot of things fell into place. Daphne and I had already guessed it was a student. You were possessed, weren't you?”
Ginny looked up slowly, searching Pansy face. “How did you know that?”
“I didn't,” Pansy said quietly. “But Harry would not be friends with you if you weren’t a good person. So that left just one thing. I put that together with the malicious delight on your face when you cursed Draco last year, leading me to guess that it had something to do with Lucius.”
Ginny nodded. “Lucius gave me a diary with Tom Riddle's personality trapped inside it. I poured my heart out to the bloody thing, and he gave me advice. When I was feeling ignored and alone, he was my friend. I told the diary everything, and I didn't even notice as he slowly took control of me. I tried to fight it, but it seemed like I would never be free of it.”
“And Harry went into the Chamber of Secrets and rescued you.”
Ginny nodded again, a couple of tear tracks marking her pale face.
“And no one knows, but Harry, Ron, Hermione, the Professors and your parents?”
“And now you.”
Pansy nodded in agreement. “It will go no further.”
Pansy pulled out her wand and turned a scrap of paper into a tissue. “Here.”
“Thanks,” Ginny said quietly.
“I've been wondering how to handle today for the past few weeks,” Pansy said quietly. “Ever since I knew that Harry and I would be coming back to Hogwarts as a couple.”
“How to deal with his friends?”
Pansy nodded. “And you in particular. I take it you're not dating Thomas?”
“Dean? No. I said that to get Ron off my back.”
“You do know that Harry thought you were telling the truth back then?”
Ginny nodded and sighed softly. “Ever had the feeling that a few words spoken in the heat of the moment can change your life forever?”
“Yes,” Pansy admitted. “Because those words changed my life as well. Harry fell in love with me because he thought that you were not only unavailable, but being taken care of by someone else. That left him open to other possibilities.”
Ginny lowered her head and banged it against the table.
“I really didn't want to hear that,” she mumbled. “So, why are we here having this discussion?”
“Well, what normally happens in this situation is that I try and be friendly to you, in a slightly fake manner, and you are snide back to me. We try and maintain civility for a few days, and then we threaten each other. You and I are frosty to each other around Harry, and at each other’s throats in private. After a while, something happens, and you lose Harry's friendship as I'm the one he's in love with, and he's upset, but eventually gets over it, and you're left by the sidelines.”
“You're so sure you'd win?”
Pansy nodded. “I'm a lot more of a bitch than you will ever be, Ginny,” she said simply. “And I'm already sleeping with him.”
Ginny nodded, conceding the point.
“On top of that, Harry loves my parents as much as he loves yours. So while it would hurt him to lose contact with your family, it wouldn't be as bad as it might once have been. And on the off chance that you might become a threat to me in the future, I would probably destroy your family, just in case.”
Ginny laughed suddenly. “Just in case?”
Pansy grinned, “Hey, we’re talking major bitch here, remember?”
“So why aren't you doing that?”
Pansy sighed. “Harry.”
“You're in love with him?”
Pansy nodded. “Painfully and completely. And he makes me want to change and be a better person – my bitch-queen side is not happy about it. And my jealousy of you to one side, I want to be friends with you.”
Ginny blinked. “You're jealous of me? What on earth for?”
Pansy looked up. “Have you looked in a mirror recently?”
“Oh please,” Pansy rolled her eyes. “You've got the most amazing complexion – that pale translucent skin, deep brown, soulful eyes, and boobs that are, what, a b-cup?”
Ginny nodded, looking shocked.
“Same size as me, but on your frame they look huge. You're small and cute, just the right size to sit in Harry's lap. I have to sit next to him and swing my legs over his lap. And that's without that mane of red hair that I'd kill for.”
“Oh please,” Ginny responded. “You're gorgeous. You're got this amazing elegance, legs that go on forever and can look him in the eyes without either of you cricking your neck. And your hair; I'd kill for hair that behaved itself like that.”
Pansy grinned suddenly, and laughed. A laugh that magnified when Ginny joined in. “So, that grass not really greener?”
“Probably not,” Ginny smiled back. “But you haven't explained yourself yet.”
“Typical Gryffindor,” Pansy said. “No patience.”
“Typical Slytherin,” Ginny grinned, “takes ages to get to the bloody point.”
“Okay,” Pansy said softly. “I want us to be friends. I know it's going to be hard for you, but Harry really likes you as your own person and not as an addition to Ron. I don't think I'm ever going to be too close to Ron, as he manages to annoy me at a distance, and I think I'm going to have a major personality clash with Hermione.
“Added to that, you're the most powerful witch in Gryffindor, magic wise, and we're going to need everyone we can get to help. If you don't think you can do it, and in your position, I doubt I'd be able to, I'd prefer it if you would say so right now.”
Ginny sighed softly, “I swore this summer that I would make friends with Harry's girlfriend, no matter who she was, or how hard it was. I felt that I owed Harry that much for how open he was in offering to be with my phantom boyfriend. I resigned myself to having lost him over the summer. You know, I'm still in love with him, right?”
Pansy nodded, smiling slightly.
“I'm going to live up to my promise to myself.” She held out her hand. “Friends?”
Pansy grinned and ignored the hand. She stood and walked around the table and pulled the smaller girl into a hug. “Friends,” she agreed. “Now, let's bring Daphne in here, and gossip.”
Ginny smiled. “Gossip?”
“Gossip?” Daphne asked as she cancelled the spell, and casually recreated it behind her. “I want some gossip. Just how big is his dark hotness?”
Ginny laughed. “Dark hotness?”
“Oh yeah,” Daphne sighed. “If he wasn't so nuts about the princess here, I'd be over him like a rash.”
Ginny giggled, “Me too. Let’s say we overpower her, tie him to a bed, and find out for ourselves?”
Daphne looked thoughtful. “Well, there are two of us. We could probably take her.”
Pansy smirked slightly and moved, a flash of steel glinting in the light.
“On the other hand,” Ginny said calmly. “Perhaps we should leave them be.”
“Exactly how can you sound so calm with a knife at your throat?” Daphne asked.
Ginny smiled wryly. “Practice; I've fought Death Eaters with Harry.”
Pansy nodded, sliding her knife and wand away. “I practised a little with Harry over the summer.”
“Do I want to know where you keep that knife?” Daphne asked dryly.
“Probably not,” Pansy grinned. “And by the way, I don't want to advertise the fact that I'm more than arm-candy for Harry. It will be a nice surprise when I need to use it for real.”
Daphne and Ginny nodded. “You didn't answer the question, though.”
Pansy laughed, “And I'm not going to.”
“Oh come on,” Daphne teased, “we're all friends here.”
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed with an impish look on her face. “Spill the beans, Parkinson.”
Pansy groaned and raised her hands.
Ginny and Daphne looked at each other. “Still think we could take her?” Daphne asked.
“If we did, do you think we could take Harry?”
Daphne sighed, “Probably not. He doesn’t like blondes anyway. Just brunettes and red heads.”
Ginny shook her head, leaning back in the chair. “Actually he’s pretty egalitarian when it comes down to externals. Cho's has black hair. He cares about the person, not hair colour.”
“Gee,” Daphne said dryly. “Thanks. I was so happy with my delusion there, Ginny, and you had to go ruin it for me.”
“So, Ginny,” Pansy said. “Should Daphne and I set you up with a guy?”
“What?” Ginny asked, her arms flailing as she almost over balanced.
“Do you want a boyfriend?”
“Blunt, aren't you?”
“Family trait,” Daphne smirked. “She’s subtle compared to her mum.”
Pansy leaned over and pushed Daphne playfully. “Shush, you.” She turned to Ginny. “And you answer the question.”
“No,” Ginny sighed. “I'd be comparing them to Harry, and that wouldn't be fair to either of us. I'm going to be single for a while. Till you guys leave.”
Pansy nodded, “Daph?”
“Different reason, same answer,” she said. “I've got enough on my plate, making sure I get good grades and that we all survive this bloody war.”
Pansy pouted. “So you're saying I can't matchmake?”
“No, you can’t,” Daphne said clearly, and looked over at Ginny. “She's in that, 'I'm deliriously happy, so everyone else should be' mood that girls in love get. If she starts talking about it again, we'll just have to lock her in a closet till she gets out of it.”
“Is that with, or without, Harry?” Ginny asked.
“You wouldn't be so cruel!” Pansy cried melodramatically.
“Of course we would,” Ginny grinned. “You've got what we want.”
“Pfft,” Pansy replied.
“And what would your mum say if she heard you say that?”
“That I could put my tongue to much better use with Harry?” Pansy asked wickedly.
“Pansy!” Ginny laughed.
“Actually,” Daphne said slowly, “That's probably exactly what Gruoch would say.”
“Really?” Ginny asked. “Mine would lock me up in my room for a month, on the off chance that I might think of using it for something else.”
“Mum's treated me as an adult since I was twelve,” Pansy explained softly. “She let me look after Harry when I needed to, and she trusted me to make my own decision.
“I'm not going to tell you what happened – that's Harry's story to tell. But there is one more thing we need to talk about.”
“Oh?” Daphne asked.
Pansy nodded. “Daphne and I are both have money, a lot of it. The three of us are going to shop, go out, drink, what ever we feel like doing, because that's what we do and that's what we enjoy. You are going to be coming with us, and we're going to pay for you without thinking about it. We know you can't pay and that's not going to bother us, at all. Is it going to bother you?”
Ginny blinked, repeatedly. Her mouth opened, and shut, as she tried to formulate a response.
Daphne grinned. “I think you broke her. That bluntness of yours could be a weapon!”
Pansy laughed. “Really? I just wanted to get the uncomfortable thing out the way first.”
Ginny leaned forwards and placed her head in her hands. “It's going to cause problems,” she said. “But Ron has always been more sensitive about it than I have. It will probably make me feel uncomfortable, but I'm creative, I'll just come up with different ways to pay you back.”
Pansy smiled and held her hand out. “So, friends?”
Ginny looked at Daphne, “Why are you being friendly to me?”
“Bluntness is obviously contagious today,” Daphne said to Pansy. “Pansy has been my only friend for the past five years. I made friends with Harry over this summer. Harry's always held you in high regard, so that's a plus for you. Pansy, as secretive as she tries to be, chose you to make friends with first, another plus for you. So, two of the most powerful people of our generation either have you as a friend, or want you as a friend. That's enough for my Slytherin nature, and having seen how you've acted over the past twenty minutes, I think we could be very close. I love and trust Pansy. I'm open to more.” She held out her hand, taking Pansy's.
“I've got to be insane for doing this,” Ginny sighed. “But what the hell, let's make friends with a love rival, not to mention two Slytherins.” She reached out, and took their hands as well.
Harry walked into the Room of Requirement, and casually chucked his Broom into one corner.
“Sit,” he said calmly, nodding to a couch in one corner. He waved his hand casually, and an armchair floated over and landed by the couch.
He walked over and picked up a glass of water and took a deep breath. He idly wondered if his short temper was due to the long day, but he was willing to admit that he was also suffering from Pansy withdrawal – one kiss did not make up for a day being apart.
He paced, trying to decide where to start, before throwing himself down in to the chair.
“Okay, why the silent treatment?”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other for a second.
“Harry, you’re out of your bloody mind! You can't trust a Slytherin!” Ron blurted. “How can you be dating Parkinson, of all people?”
“That was a remarkably stupid thing to say,” Harry noted icily. He ignored the blush that formed on Ron's face. “Hermione?”
“How can you keep Dobby as a slave? That is exactly the sort of thing S.P.E.W. was formed to fight against.”
“I had a wonderful summer, thank you,” Harry said, closing his eyes. “And I can't tell you how much I missed both of you. I was so looking forward to seeing you again, catching up with what we all did, how we had changed, how we had grown up.” He paused for a second. “I can't tell you how I feel right now. How disappointed I am in both of you.
“First, Ron, you make a judgement based on a House, of all things, without a single question to me as to what happened, and I know that you know I was rescued by someone. And then you, Hermione, my other best friend decides that as I have a house-elf, I've suddenly become some form of plantation owner. Now that we've got the knee jerk reaction out of the way, how about we start again?”
Harry heard some shuffling opposite him. “I wouldn't bother losing your temper, Ron,” he said casually. “We're going to discuss this like adults, even if I have to petrify you.”
He reluctantly opened his eyes. Both his friends were gaping him.
“I never knew you had fillings, Hermione.”
Hermione snapped her mouth shut with an audible click, and she blushed furiously.
Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Harry interrupted. “I really hope you've had a think about what you're going to say before you say it.”
Ron shut his mouth again, a blush reappearing.
“You've changed,” Hermione said.
Harry took a deep breath, and reigned in the sarcastic comment he had about to reply with. He needed to remember he wasn't with Malcom and Gruoch anymore.
“What happened over the summer?” Hermione asked.
Harry exhaled slowly. “That should really have been your first question,” he noted. “After I left Hogwarts, I went straight home. The Dursleys were being all right to me, but only because they had been scared into it. But I didn't care; I was too busy mourning for Sirius and castigating myself for the mistakes that I made. My nightmares returned with a vengeance, and I couldn't sleep. Even when I was awake, I couldn't escape the memories of Cedric's look as he died, the sound of my mother screaming, Sirius falling through the Veil. I hardly ate, and what little I did eat was what Ron's mum had given to me. And then everything went hazy, as the symptoms of Wizarding Flu started to show. The Dursleys locked me away, scared I would infect them.”
“Muggles can't catch Wizarding Flu,” Hermione interrupted. “It only affects wizards.”
“They’re too stupid to know that, and didn’t care to find out either,” Harry said with a nod. “I was dying. I hadn't eaten, and even in my delusions, I couldn't sleep either. I felt like I was going to die. Even worse was that I wanted to die. I wanted it to all be over. I wanted the pain to stop.”
He paused and looked at the horrified faces of his friends. “I want you to know how far I was gone,” he continued quietly. “How far down I had fallen. I was locked in a cycle of pain and misery, and I didn't want to get better, I just wanted it to stop. I guess it was a natural follow up of my behavioural problems of last year.
“And then, like in a story book, an angel appeared above me. She had shining grey eyes that I could see in the darkness, and she promised to look after me, to help me. For the first time I felt hope, that someone cared, even if it was an ethereal creature from beyond. For a second, I was disappointed that it wasn't my Mum, but that soon passed.
“Then I fell asleep again. I can vaguely remember being levitated out of the house and into a car and a long drive with someone stroking my forehead.
“The next thing I remember was being fed some potions, and I was starting to feel better, if tired. The angel promised again to look after me, and I managed to get some sleep before the nightmares returned. When I woke up, I was in a huge room in a bed that put the Hogwarts beds to shame. And next to me was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I watched her sleep, trying to work out who it was. I knew that she knew me, as she had called me by name the night before, and I had it down to three or four people, and a suspicion as to who it was exactly. I watched her sleep for a long time, examining her, thinking about what had happened, and it gave me some quiet time to think about the situation I was in. I've been kidnapped before, I've been unconscious many times, but I have never woken up like that before. It was almost unreal - that I had moved from the Dursleys and that truly awful room, to being in the same bed as an Angel. Thinking about everything, I made a simple decision, to take charge of my life. I decided to listen to what people had to say, but never let anyone take a decision for me again. This is my life, and I have to deal with it. And do you know why I was in such a state, why I felt I had to make that decision?
The two teenagers opposite him shook their heads mutely.
“Because of a prophecy, one that Dumbledore told me at the end of term.” He took a deep breath, and then recited, “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...”
Hermione gasped, paling dramatically.
“What?” Ron asked.
“It means that Harry has to kill Voldemort, and if he doesn't, Voldemort will kill him.”
“Exactly,” Harry said calmly. “My destiny is laid out before me; it's been set in stone for years. Now, I'm finally taking control of it.”
Ron gulped as both he, and Hermione, digested the thought.
“The rest of the summer I spent training with Pansy. Malcom and Gruoch arranged for some of the best teachers in the business to tutor us. During that time, I fell in love with Pansy. They have treated me like an adult, have told me the unvarnished truth every step of the way, and never once hid stuff from me.” He slowly stopped talking and looked directly at Ron. “So telling me that I can't trust the people who I have lived with for most of the summer really wasn't the best way to get going.”
“But they're Parkinsons,” Ron protested. “Everyone knows that they are dark.”
“And your proof is?”
“Where is your proof that they are dark?”
“Dad says that they're as bad as the Malfoys.”
Harry nodded. “Your dad got that from Dumbledore,” he explained. “And their reputation was enhanced.”
“How can you know that? They've been dark for ages.”
Harry sighed and pulled his magic into his eyes. “What's your full name?”
“Ronald Bilius Weasley,” Ron said without hesitation.
Harry dropped his power back down.
“What was that?” Hermione asked.
“Something I learnt from Dumbledore. You take your magic, pull it under your control, and look at someone. They can't lie to you, unless they are prepared beforehand.”
Ron gulped. “I would have told you anything,” he admitted.
“That's how I know,” he said simply. “They are grey, not black, not white. And you know what? It suits me. I like them that way, and I like Pansy being that way.”
“But she's a Slytherin.”
“Did you pay attention to anything she said to Draco?”
“That she called him dickless,” Ron said, grinning suddenly.
Hermione rolled her eyes and elbowed Ron.
Harry sighed audibly, and leant back in the chair, crossing his feet at the ankles. “I meant before that. Think, Ron. How would you feel? You're intelligent, you've recently watched your cousin die in front of you, and you think your parents want to marry you off to someone you hate for the sake of expediency. What do you do?”
“Dunno,” Ron said with a shrug.
“Pansy decided to hide in plain sight. Sure, it was a Slytherin thing to do, but between her and Daph, they both managed to survive for more or less unharmed for years. The first thing she did this summer was apologise to me, and I accepted it.”
“But still,” Ron protested.
Harry sighed slowly. “Your turn,” he said to Hermione.
“How can you have a house-elf? How can you enslave another living being?”
“Who said I had?” Harry asked, aware that he was being provocative, but he felt it was the best way to get this conversation out and over with.
“Who said that I had enslaved Dobby?” he repeated patiently.
“He called you master.”
“That he did, and sadly, I can't control what he says. In fact, I think he was being a lot more formal because he was in public, and wanted to give a good impression. You know, the thing that I'm most disappointed with is that despite everything you have between your ears, you've just jumped to a conclusion. Dobby works for me. I doubled his wages from Dumbledore, I've given him time off, and I've made very good close friends with him. Don't judge house-elves by their speech patterns; they are highly intelligent and have a whole world of magic that I'm still exploring.
“You want to know how I Apparated into Hogwarts?” He didn't wait for a reply to his rhetorical question. “I didn't. I faked it. Dobby showed me how the elves travel from one place to another, and I used that. It only took a small spell to make the crack-like sound as I arrived.
“What do you know about the Elf Council?”
“The what?” Ron asked blankly.
“Many years ago, before the elves started to work for wizards, a Council of elf elders had a similar position to the Ministry of Magic for wizards.”
“The Elf Council has been reformed. Dobby arranged for it. He has spent a lot of time over the summer showing other elves how elves should be treated. Speaking of which, Hermione, you are going to have to stop trying to free the Hogwarts house elves.”
“What? No, I won't! I will not sit by and watch enslaved creatures work for me.”
Harry sighed audibly. “Okay. Every house-elf is now free. What now?”
“Now that every house-elf has been freed, what is going to happen to them?”
“They will get jobs, be treated better.”
“Just like that?”
“Who will do the hiring? How will they apply for jobs? How will they negotiate fair terms for themselves?”
Hermione went silent for a second. “People will take care of them.”
“Why should they? They are free now. The very thing you are protesting against is the misuse of the elves, and now that they are free, why would they suddenly stop abusing the elves and care for them?”
“It would be a better situation than they are in now; at least they would be free,” Hermione protested.
“Freedom that they don't want and can't handle. You can't just force an entire race to change and not give them any support.”
“The Ministry would help out.”
“The Ministry is funded by taxes, taxes from the public purse. Can you see the Wizarding world accepting that they have to pay more for a race of sub creatures?”
“They are not a sub race.”
“I know that,” Harry replied. “But look at how the rest of the world treats them. Which means we're back to the start again. Last year, Dobby had to clean all of Gryffindor Tower on his own because no other elf would dare go into there, in case they were suddenly freed.
“I'm a little surprised that you didn't do your homework on this, Hermione.”
“What do you mean?” the girl demanded, looking upset at Harry’s comment
“Hogwarts house-elves are the most conservative elves on the planet. They have always been treated properly, and as such, they see no reason for things to change. The only abuse you have ever seen was Dobby, a house elf that belonged to the Malfoy family, and Winky, an elf belonging to another Death Eater family. You saw two elves being abused and heard rumours of other elves suffering abuse, and you immediately decided that you knew what was right for an entire race. You can not just try and free a whole race, without some form of plan for the future.”
Hermione and Ron were both looking at Harry in shock, expressions that bordered on fear on their faces.
Harry leant back, suddenly realising that he had lost some control of his power. He clamped it down ruthlessly. “If you want,” he said in a quiet voice. “I can tell you what we have planned to free the house-elves properly.”
“But you just said you can't do that,” Hermione protested.
“I said you can't do it without a support system in place,” he corrected her. “I've been working with Malcom and Dobby, and through Dobby, the Elf Council to come up with a solution to the mistreatment of the elves. I hate it as much as you do, possibly more, because Dobby is one of my best friends, and I've seen first hand what wonderful people the elves can become.”
“What do you have planned?” Hermione asked, leaning forwards.
“After Voldemort is defeated, the Elf Council will send an edict to the Ministry, effectively announcing the secession of the elves as a whole. The elves entered into voluntary slavery over a thousand years ago, in return for the protection of the wizarding society, after a devastating war with the goblins.”
“That's not in any of the history books,” Hermione pointed out.
“No, the information has been kept quiet by the Ministry. The Elf Council knows, and still has records to prove it. It is a voluntary agreement that can be cancelled at any time.
“Malcom has spent some time talking to the Goblins, and they are not interested in war, not anymore. It would be bad for business, and frankly, they think the idea of slavery is a little repugnant.
“Once the announcement is made, the elves will travel, as one, to one of the properties I now own, which I have given to them as a gesture of friendship. From there, those that want to will be able to live their lives in freedom. However, both I and the Council are aware that most elves love what they do, and also that the immediate end of service will devastate the Wizarding economy.
“So, the elves will form a company where any family desiring to do so will be able to pay a nominal amount, say five galleons a month, for a house-elf. That house-elf will then work set hours, have regular time off, and get four of the galleons for themselves.
“Anyone who mistreats an elf will be tried in the courts for abuse, will permanently be barred from hiring anymore house elves, and any existing contracts will be immediately declared null and void.”
“But what if people don't want to pay?”
“The house-elves have a place to live, and I expect it will become the cleanest place in the country.”
Hermione was looking at him, her eyes wide. “The Ministry won't accept that.”
Harry smiled slowly, “Oh, but they will.”
“Harry James Potter,” Hermione said, a smile appearing on her face. “What do you have up your sleeve?”
“That depends,” Harry grinned. “Are you over me hiring Dobby?”
“Harry, you appeared to Apparate into Hogwarts, you did something to Snape...”
“Which was bloody brilliant,” Ron intervened.
“Language, Ron,” Hermione sighed. “You didn't answer any of Dumbledore's questions. We then had to watch as someone we've come close to hating, not only showed that she's been hiding in plain sight for years, but is in love with you - that your mysterious girlfriend is not only a Slytherin, but is the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country, and then we realise that this man is working for you, and not the other way around. And to top it off, you do some of the most powerful magic anyone here has ever seen, and do it with the sort of casualness that only comes after long practice. Is it any wonder that we're stunned, that we get locked into a loop?
We're your friends Harry, we've been with you for so many years, and we have no intention of stopping being friends now. But think about it from our perspective. All we've heard from you is a couple of letters over the summer. We know why, and we understand, but the changes in you aren't something we can just shrug and casually accept. They are too big, too massive; too much has changed. It's almost like you're a different person. You obviously know Pansy very well. A lot has happened over the summer, we accept that, but you can't just expect us to welcome her with open arms. We don't even know her - the last we saw of her, she was working for Umbridge’s squad, helping get Dumbledore thrown out of school. You've just thrown everything at us all at once and expected us to handle it, like you would. We're not you. We can't just roll with things the way you can. We have our own thoughts, our own feelings, we have our own opinions, and that's why were such good friends, because our differences help each other out. The sum is greater than the parts.”
Harry looked thoughtfully at his friends, slowly digesting what they she had said, and he reluctantly realised it was true. He had just dropped a series of major bombshells. They hadn't been aimed at his friends, but they had been caught in the blast, and had reacted by concentrating on one thing, something they could understand.
“I'm sorry,” he apologised. “I honestly didn't think of how the changes I've been through would affect you. I have changed, and I am going to need you to change as well. I've grown up over the summer, started to become the man I am going to be. The man I need to be, if I’m to survive. Are you willing to grow up as well?”
“We don't have a choice, Harry,” Hermione answered. “We will be growing up anyway, everyone does. Well, most people, anyway.”
Harry smiled slightly. “Ron, what about you?”
Ron groaned, “Most of this conversation's gone straight over my head. Look, I'm willing to give Pansy a chance, all right? I think she's still a Slytherin, and they're bad news. But she did insult and humiliate Malfoy in public, and I did enjoy that immensely. As for this growing up business, I think it's a horrid idea. Absolutely disgusting – no pranks, and being responsible, sounds impossible.
“But,” he continued, a smile appearing on his face, “having a beautiful girlfriend has pointed out a benefit or two of growing up that far outweighs the horrors of responsibility.”
Harry laughed, “I've missed you guys.”
“We've missed you too. Now, what's going on with the Ministry, why are we in the Room of Requirement, and what did you mean about the “Sins of the Student” doctrine with Dumbledore? How are you doing elf magic? How are you doing wandless magic?” Hermione asked.
“And how have you grown four inches, and put on more muscles than Charlie in six weeks?” Ron finished.
Harry laughed again, “Ever had the feeling that there's a lot of catching up to do?”
“Well, if you want, we'll go first,” Ron said. “After your letter, Hermione and I got together, and from there, we have a very boring summer with only the occasional letter from you to brighten our day.”
The door to the Room opened, and Pansy, Ginny, and Daphne walked in. “Everyone's still alive,” Pansy said brightly. “And look, no bruises.”
“Aww,” Ginny pouted.
“What?” Ron asked.
“Oh, I bet Pansy that Harry would have to hit you to get you listen.”
She grinned impishly.
“I think it's time to swap,” Pansy announced.
“Swap?” Harry asked.
“Yeah. We need to talk to Ron and Hermione. You need to talk to Ginny.”
“We do?” Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny asked at once.
Daphne and Pansy laughed. “Yes, we do.”
Harry nodded and got to his feet. “Fancy some late night flying?”
“Sure,” Ginny said. “My broom’s not unpacked yet, though.”
“Take her up on yours,” Pansy said firmly.
“Okay,” Harry replied, feeling a little surprised. He picked up his broom. “Come on then.”
They walked in silence, Harry guiding her up to the Astronomy Tower. He walked through the room and out onto the balcony. “So,” he grinned. “Ready to see if I really fixed this broom?”
Ginny smiled at him and straddled the broom in front of him.
“How are your nerves?”
Harry grinned and whooped loudly. He launched them over the edge and straight down. Faster and faster they flew, as Harry urged the broom on, till, at the very last second, he pulled up hard and inverted their flight, so that they skimmed across the grass upside down, Ginny's long hair brushing the ground.
Ginny yelled as well, as Harry pushed the broom, sending them into an outside loop. He clamped his arms around her, holding her down, as they reached the top of the arc, and gravity tried to remove them from the broom.
“You're insane,” Ginny yelled.
“If I was, would I know?” Harry yelled back. He pulled the broom handle back and shot straight up into the air. He pushed the broom as hard as it could go, taking it as fast as he could go, straight up. As they burst through the cloud cover, he turned off the power.
There was a few seconds feeling of weightlessness, as their speed slowed. For an endless moment, they hung in the air, the bright mood shining on them, before they started to slip backwards.
As gravity reaffirmed its dominance, they started to fall, faster and faster. Harry held the broom in position as they fell towards the ground, both watching the clouds receding before them.
With a grin, he kicked the broom to one side, sending them into a dive, before levelling out and rising up to a normal flying height.
Ginny shifted out of his grip, and he let her go. He watched as she inched her way to the front of the broom, then shifted around so that she was facing him.
The lights of Hogwarts twinkled in the distance, as they hung above the Lake.
“So,” Harry said softly. “Should I be preparing to skin Dean alive?” His voice was deliberately as cold as he could make it.
Ginny shook her head.
“I noticed you weren't sitting together earlier; did he hurt you?”
Ginny sighed and smiled sadly. “There never was anything with Dean, Harry.”
“I made it up. I wanted to get Ron off my back, and that seemed like the best way to do it.”
Ginny nodded. “You don't know that I'm in love with you, do you?”
Harry shook his head. “No. I thought you were in love with Dean.”
Ginny nodded again. “I know. I guessed after reading your letters.”
“I'm in love with Pansy,” Harry said simply.
“I know, I just had a very long talk with her.” She paused for a second. “This was one of my fantasies for so very long,” she said, looking around. “Flying with you, alone at night. Would things have been different, if I hadn't said what I did about Dean?”
“I don't know,” Harry said honestly. “I’ve always liked you, a lot. It might not have been as easy to fall for Pansy, but I suspect I would have, anyway. She gave me something no one else has ever been able to.”
“Peace. The second night I was there; she sat me down and ordered me to talk about Sirius, Cedric, and my parents. She game me some advice, and well, you know how I can be at times?”
Ginny smirked, “Stubborn? Pig headed? Completely unwilling to listen to anyone else?”
Harry laughed softly. “Yeah, that.
“Well, she pointed out, quite firmly, that I don't have a monopoly on death and making mistakes. I made a promise then. I told them that it wasn't my fault they died, and that I would avenge them. My summer was spent making sure I could achieve that goal.”
“I miss Sirius, too,” Ginny said.
Harry nodded. “A lot of people do. He asked me to deal with that painting at Grimmauld Place. Pansy and I went there and used turpentine to erase it.”
“Paint remover; it's a Muggle chemical.”
Ginny laughed. “Fitting.”
“Yeah. I'm looking forward to when someone goes there again. We left a little message in its place.”
“Do I want to know?”
“Probably not,” he grinned. “What are we, Gin? Where do we go from here?”
“Forward,” she replied softly. “I don't own you, Harry, and you don't owe me anything. I had a long time to think over the summer. We were all pretty much locked in the Burrow. Ron and Hermione spent a lot of time squabbling and kissing, and it allowed me to think. Sometimes, we don't get the fairytale ending. I was touched that you were willing to let Dean into your circle, just because of me.”
“I'm kinda relieved I don't have to,” Harry admitted.
Ginny smiled. “Yeah, I know. I made a decision there and then, Harry. That I would try and be friends with you like you were trying to be friends with me. But I was worried that I wouldn't be able to be friends with your girlfriend. That maybe she wouldn't want me hanging around you, that she'd stop me being your friend.”
She looked at Harry directly. “Give me an honest answer. If it came down to a choice, between us and Pansy, who would you choose?”
Harry looked back at her evenly. “It would depend on the circumstances.”
“Only you would say that, Harry. But it doesn't matter. Pansy loves you; it's obvious, as much as I wish it wasn't. Do you know what she said to me?”
Harry shook his head. “I didn't even know she was going to talk to you.”
“She gave me a choice. She said that we could be friends, or we could be enemies.” She laughed suddenly. “She also pointed out that if we were enemies she'd win, and probably destroy my family, just to be safe.”
Harry laughed. “She probably wouldn't go that far,” he admitted.
“You didn't disagree that she'd win.”
“Pansy can be like a force of nature.”
“She worked out that you saved me in my first year.”
“She did?” Harry looked surprised. “I didn't tell her.”
“I know - you wouldn't. She offered me her friendship, and not a fake friendship, but a real one. She pulled Daph in and treated me straight away as a full person, not as an addition to my brothers or as part of my family.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds like Pansy. If you are friends with her, you become family, and there is nothing she won't do for you. If you're not family, she'll be polite, and if she doesn't like you, well, you'll know about it.”
“Does that bother you?”
“No. I'm not the same, Ginny. I'm not what I will become, but I'm on the path to get there. I agree with Pansy's outlook on life. You, Ron, Hermione, and Daphne are family. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, but as for the rest of the school. Well, I won't accept any of us being gossiped about. And I won't allow Snape to get away with the stuff he has been, previously.”
He reached out and took her hand. “Are we going to be friends, Gin?”
She nodded, a single tear in her eye. “Just tell me one thing.”
“Are you happy with her?”
Harry looked up at her, meeting her eyes directly. “She saved me, Gin, from the Dursleys, and from myself. She taught me how to have fun, and how to be serious. She taught me that some things are worth fighting for, and that other things are worth waiting for. She showed me how to live, and slowly, she showed me how to love someone. She decided that she wanted me very early on, but gave me the space to make my own decision about her. Over the past few weeks, I've been with her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We were never bored; we never got annoyed with each other.”
Ginny nodded, leaning forward and kissing Harry softly on the lips. She pulled back a second later.
“Friends?” she said, offering her hand.
Harry smiled and took the hand. With a tug, he pulled her close and into a hug. “Friends, Ginny.”
“Now,” Ginny said, turning around. “Hold on.”
“It's my turn to drive,” Ginny said, as she pushed the nose of the Firebolt down, and raced towards the ground, spinning along the broom’s axis as they went.
“Dobby,” Pansy called, as she sat comfortably in the chair in front of Ron and Hermione.
The house-elf appeared instantly. “Can you bring another chair for Daphne over?”
Dobby nodded and floated another of the big armchairs around the room. He looked at Pansy and shook his head. He popped out and returned again with a pitcher of pumpkin juice and a pot of tea. “Mistress Park'son is not drinking enough today,” Dobby scolded.
Pansy smiled, “Sorry, Dobby. It's been a long day.”
Dobby's face changed. “Mistress was missing Master Harry Potter all day. Dobby understands missing. Dobby doesn’t like Master Harry Potter being out of Dobby’s sight either. Master Potter has a nasty habit of getting into trouble when Dobby isn’t being there to help him.”
“We're trying to cure him of that,” Pansy laughed.
“Good,” Dobby said. He grinned. “Ferret boy is not being happy, he’s raging, because other snakes are laughing at Ferret boy.”
Pansy smiled, “Good. Would you be a dear and move Daphne's stuff into the other room? I don't want her alone down there.”
“Already done. Blonde Greenie is a good friend to mistress.”
“Thank you, Dobby. And how's Winky?”
Dobby blushed furiously. “Harry Potter told mistress about Winky?”
“Dobby is liking Winky. Winky is a good elf, she understands that Dobby is annoyed at the other elves. Winky has stopped the other elves from being stupid, she reminded them what life like with other owners. Winky still not like what Dobby is doing, but Winky understands why is Dobby doing it.”
“If you need us to help, Dobby, just ask.”
“Dobby knows, Mistress Park'son like Harry Potter sir, friend to house-elves.” With a bow, the green clad elf vanished with his distinctive pop.
“Drink?” Pansy asked, ignoring the looks on Harry's friends’ faces.
“Tea, please, love,” Daphne said, as she lounged elegantly on the chair. Pansy poured a cup, adding some milk and a single sugar cube, before passing the cup to her friend.
“Pumpkin juice please,” Hermione said in a small voice.
“The same, please.”
Pansy poured two glasses out, and placed them in front of the two students, before pouring herself a cup of tea. She sipped it and looked thoughtfully at Ron and Hermione.
“So, I suspect you have a few thousand questions. But before you start asking, allow me to apologise for my behaviour to you both over the last few years. In my defence, I was under the impression that my and my family’s future pretty much depended on my being nice to his toadiness.”
“What do you mean?”
“I'm the only daughter of a rich pure-blood family. The obvious match for me was Draco. This caused a slight worry, because I knew that if I ended up with him I'd end up a useless alcoholic like Narcissa, and the thought of that was truly terrifying.”
“What have you done to Harry?” Ron asked.
“Told him the unvarnished truth.”
“As you see it,” Ron sneered.
Pansy stared at Ron till he blushed and looked down. “There's no need to be rude,” she said slowly. “As I think you'll find if you ask Harry, we have no need to lie.”
“There's lying, and then there's bending the truth to fit your views.”
Pansy nodded at Hermione. “Indeed there is. I believe that we gave Harry a pretty impartial view of the world as we see it, and we gave him the choice to do what he wanted to do. He decided that when he faced Voldemort, he wanted as much power behind him as possible, so that he would survive.”
“How did you find Harry?” Hermione asked.
“Blind luck, actually. Dad owns a lot of businesses in the Muggle world. He just happened to overhear that fat git talking about his son and Harry. Dad did some checking, and found out that Petunia was Lily Evans' sister.”
“What happened to the Dursleys?” Ron asked.
“Dad left them under a version of the Imperio to confess everything to the Muggle law enforcement.”
Daphne nudged Pansy, “And the other one.”
Pansy smiled slightly, a faint blush appearing on her cheeks. “I might have broken Dudley’s jaw.”
“The fat whale spent ten minutes staring at my chest while he told about how he used to bully Harry growing up. How Harry turned out the way he did, when being brought up by those monsters, I will never understand.”
Ron nodded. “We gave him a Ton-Tongue Toffee, and Hagrid gave him a pig's tail one year.”
Pansy laughed softly, “I came very close to setting their house on fire and letting fate decide if they lived or not.”
“If they got out, they lived.”
Ron and Hermione looked horrified, Daphne looked faintly amused. “You'd adopted him already, then?”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked with a frown on her face.
“If you ever want to commit suicide, try and touch a member of Pansy's family. They will all come down on you like you wouldn't believe.”
“Family is very important to us,” Pansy elaborated. “With our reputation, which we admit to having cultivated, there's not much that hasn't been thrown at us over the years. Pretty much everything from Muggle assassins to someone trying to kidnap me when I was young.”
“They got her nanny instead. Malcom and Gruoch were not best pleased,” Daphne added.
“Mum and Dad found her, rescued her.”
“And killed them?” Ron asked, a sneer on his face.
Pansy paused and looked at him again. It was a tactic she had seen her mother use with great effect time and time again.
“Sorry,” Ron muttered.
“No, as it happens, we didn't kill them. We merely destroyed their lives and let them live as Muggles.”
“And that's better?”
“They lived,” Pansy replied coldly. “And no one dared try and touch me again.”
Pansy took another sip of her tea. “I got addicted to this over the summer,” she said softly. “Dobby took very good care of us.”
“What do you think of Harry's plans for the house-elves?” Hermione asked.
“It was rather a shock to find that they were capable of independent thought,” Pansy said candidly. “But when we realised, it made sense to free them. The idea of slavery isn't that attractive, and it is yet another way that, socially, we are a long way behind the Muggle world. They outlawed slavery decades ago.”
“It's strange to hear a pure blood praise Muggles.”
Pansy shrugged. “A long time ago, our family looked down on them, but it's hard to remain superior when you have a long running set of dealing with them. I believe my parents actually prefer the company of intelligent Muggles. They are more concerned about the world around them than the average wizard.”
She paused for a second and then looked at them straight. “So, are we going to try and be friends, or are we going to go for open warfare?”
“I think Harry should be with Ginny, not you,” Ron said.
“I believe that is between me, Harry, and Ginny,” Pansy replied coldly.
“You know?” Ron said, looking confused.
“That Ginny is in love with Harry? Yes. And that Harry finds Ginny attractive? Yes.”
“But, you just sent them out flying together,” Ron said, looking lost.
“I trust Harry. I've talked to Ginny about her feelings, and I offered her my friendship. I know exactly who Harry is, deep down. He would never betray me, just as I would never betray him. They need to talk things through, get things into the open, so that they can stay friends.”
Ron gaped at her, and she restrained the urge to tell him that he looked a little ridiculous with his mouth hanging open like that.
“You seem very sure of Harry,” Hermione said slowly.
“I am. When you spend as much time with someone as I have with Harry, you get to know him very well.”
Hermione stared thoughtfully at her, and Pansy could see the wheels ticking in her brain.
The door opened, and Harry and Ginny walked back in. They were both laughing; Ginny's hair was wild behind her.
“I swear, I'd kill to have that skin and hair combination,” Pansy said grumpily to Daphne.
“I'd swap,” Ginny replied with a grin. “Could be that Harry prefers brunettes.”
“Actually, it’s the heart that does it for me,” Harry said. “The outer package is largely irrelevant.”
“See,” Ginny laughed, looking at Daphne.
“Oh not you too,” Harry groaned.
“Must be your magnetic personality,” Pansy teased. “Ginny, dear, grab the brush on the counter and sit on the floor here. Harry, pull up another chair. Hermione's on the verge of putting the pieces together.”
“I told you it wouldn't take her long,” Harry said with a smile. “We're going to need more chairs.”
“Room of Requirement,” Pansy prodded.
“Oh, yeah, right. It still looks too much like our rooms at your parents’ manor.” A look of concentration flitted across his face, and a new chair appeared.
He moved it over to them, and sat down comfortably, crossing his legs at the ankle.
Ginny sat in front of Pansy, closing her eyes and smiling blissfully as Pansy started to brush her hair. “How the hell do you get this dry in the mornings?” It was incredibly thick, and she had to struggle to get the brush through it.
“I don't wash it in the mornings,” Ginny replied. “I have to do it at night, and then spend a couple of hours or so brushing it dry.”
“Have you heard of a hair dryer?”
“A Muggle device for drying hair,” Hermione answered.
“Exactly. I've got one that we'll have to teach you to use. You should be able to dry it in ten minutes.”
“Really?” Ginny asked, twisting her head to look at Pansy.
“Yep, and if you’re really good, I'll lend you Harry to dry it for you.”
Everyone turned to stare at Harry, who was began to blush.
“He does hair?” Daphne asked.
“Sure, it was part of the deal.”
“What deal?” Ginny asked
“He wants me to keep long hair; he has to help look after it.”
“Whipped,” Ron coughed, before turning as Hermione poked him.
Hermione was frowning at Ron. “I think it's a very good idea, Ronald Weasley. I’ve been thinking of getting my hair cut all summer.”
“No, don’t, I love your hair,” Ron said.
“Then you should ask Harry for some tips, because you're going to be helping look after this mane, starting now.”
“But...” Ron said.
“It's not that bad actually,” Harry said, smiling at Pansy. “I like playing with her hair. You'll find that you'll enjoy it a lot.”
Ron looked sourly at him. “But we're Gryffindor Males. We shouldn't be doing stuff like that.”
“Ron, my friend,” Harry said. “You're on your own here.”
Pansy hid a smile as she glared at Ron, well aware that Ginny, Daphne, and Hermione were doing the same thing.
“Err,” Ron said slowly. “Perhaps I was a little hasty; what I, of course, meant to say, Hermione, was that I'd love to help.”
The girls and Harry laughed.
“So, you're probably wondering why we're in the Room of Requirement?”
“Pansy and Daphne are sleeping here to avoid Draco,” Hermione said. “Right?”
“Almost,” Harry agreed. “Pansy, Harry, and Daphne will be sleeping here. And to answer your next question, yes, Pansy and I will be sharing the same bed.”
“And I have to sleep alone,” Daphne said dramatically, “it’s most unfair.”
“You can't do that,” Hermione said, her eyes going wide. “It's against all the rules.”
“And exactly when have I followed the rules?” Harry asked with a grin. “Besides, I already have the permission of the Board of Governors, and if you pushed the point, I could probably get an edict from Fudge as well.”
“You're moving out of Gryffindor Tower?” Ron asked, looking a little upset.
“I am,” Harry said softly. “I'm not willing to go back to sleeping alone; I spent too much time with Pansy to go through that. And to be honest, it's also a statement of intent towards Dumbledore.”
“A Time Turner!” Hermione said suddenly.
Harry and Pansy clapped loudly. “See,” Pansy grinned. “I told you she'd be the first to get it.”
“What?” Daphne asked, “I'm lost. What Time Turner?”
“Pansy and I used a Time Turner this summer to give us the time we needed to get ready for Voldemort.”
“Oh,” Daphne said. “I wondered how you two were so bloody comfortable with each other after only a few weeks.”
“How long did you use it for?” Ginny asked.
Pansy nodded to Harry, as she concentrated on brushing Ginny's hair. She was now giving some serious thought to adopting the younger girl.
“We did six days for every one,” Harry said simply. “For all six weeks.”
“Eight months?” Hermione gasped. “You spent eight months together?”
“Well,” Ginny said to Daphne, a playful grin on her face. “That explains why we never had a chance.”
“No shit,” Daphne agreed. “And it probably explains why his dark hotness here acquired enough muscles to make a giant wary.”
Harry winced. “Please don't ever call me that again,” he pleaded.
“I dunno,” Ginny said with a grin. “It kinda suits you. Perhaps we should call him that at breakfast tomorrow.”
“Enough,” Pansy said, a smile on her face. “I think that Hermione has a few more questions about our living arrangements.”
She made a mental note to talk to her mother as soon as possible and thank her. She was very aware that without the training she had received from Gruoch, this conversation would not be going as smoothly.
“Dumbledore's not going to like it and what about the rest of school?”
“Dumbledore doesn't know yet,” Harry said quietly.
“But Dumbledore knows everything that happens in the school,” Ron said.
“He does, but do you know how he knows?”
“That is something I've wondered for years,” Ginny said, a relaxed look on her face.
“The house-elves tell him everything. Dobby's told the house-elves that they are not to tell him anything about me or my friends.”
“Wow,” Ron said, his eyes going wide. “Imagine the pranks we can pull off now.”
Harry grinned, “We're not going to need pranks, Ron.”
“Who would you play pranks on?”
“Snape, Umbridge, Malfoy,” Ron listed quickly.
“Umbridge is mine,” Pansy said softly. “She touched a member of my family. She will learn not to do that again.”
“What?” Ron demanded.
“The quill,” Harry said.
“Oh, right,” Ron nodded.
“I'm lost,” Daphne said, raising her hand.
Harry held out his hand, showing the faint scar.
“A Blood Quill?”
“Pansy, you don't intend to work alone, do you?”
“Well, you're not,” Daphne said, her voice suddenly ice cold.
“Okay,” Pansy said. “I'll tell you what I have planned later.”
“You can count me in as well,” Ginny said casually.
“I think I actually pity her,” Harry said, a slight smile on his face. “I can't think of anything scarier than you three when you look like that.”
“Voldemort?” Pansy asked.
“I can fight Voldemort,” Harry pointed out with a grin.
The three girls laughed.
“What about Snape?”
Harry frowned, and looked down.
“He's Harry's,” Pansy said softly. “Do you want me to tell them?”
“You know that Dumbledore got Snape to teach Harry Occlumency last year?”
Ron and Hermione nodded.
“Well, he used that opportunity to mind rape Harry. He entered Harry's thoughts at will, doing all sorts of damage to Harry’s mind, and leaving him very vulnerable to Voldemort. It is unlikely that Harry would have been possessed at the Ministry if he had received proper training.”
“That git,” Ron shouted, jumping to his feet, his face red. “That's what Dobby said.”
“Sit down, Ron,” Harry said.
“Sit,” Harry growled. “One of the things I learnt over the summer is that revenge is a dish best served cold.”
“You better be planning on including me,” Ron snarled.
Harry smiled slightly. “I'm planning on giving Snape enough rope, and letting him hang himself.”
“Good,” Hermione said. “How can I help?”
“What? That man is an atrocious professor, and he should not be allowed near children.”
Harry nodded, “I agree. And if things go right, he won't be.”
“So you've had Occlumency training, and that's what you did to Snape earlier?” Hermione asked.
“Yes. I got some proper training from a member of the Council of Occlumens, including the code that we agree to follow.
“When Snape attacked me earlier, which, by the way, he's been doing, or trying to do, since our second year, I used an advanced technique to make him think I was defenceless. As he entered my mind, I guided him to where I wanted to him to go, and then locked him inside my memories of Voldemort. It's not a very nice in there.”
There was a knock at the door. Harry and Pansy both looked surprised, and Harry waved his hand, opening it.
Professor McGonagall walked in and looked around. “I take it this is one of those rules you said you would be breaking,” she asked Harry with a sigh.
“Yep,” he grinned at her.
“Professor Dumbledore would like to talk to you. He's a little concerned, because he thinks that you have all vanished from the school.”
Harry and Pansy laughed.
“I had to ask Dobby where you were, and he almost refused to tell me. I had to be most persuasive.
“Mr Weasley, Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, I would suggest that now would be a good time for you to return to Gryffindor Tower. Miss Greengrass, I take it you will be staying here?”
“Yes,” Daphne said. “Pansy pretty much ordered me into the spare bedroom. I didn't put up much of a fight; I really don't want to be near that Death Eater spawn.”
McGonagall pursed her lips together tightly. “Unfortunately, he will not be expelled.”
Harry nodded, “Good. I would much rather have him where I can keep an eye on him.”
“Guys, we'll see you at breakfast tomorrow, and then meet here for lunch after class.”
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny nodded.
“Don't wait up for us, Daph,” Pansy said with a sigh. “I suspect that it will be a long evening.”
“Professor Dumbledore only asked for Harry,” McGonagall pointed out.
Pansy laughed and shot a smile at the Professor. “I'm afraid that what Dumbledore wants, and what Dumbledore gets is going to be rather different this year.”
McGonagall nodded and turned on her heel, walking out the door.
There was a pause before Ron said, “What the hell have you done to McGonagall?”
Harry turned. “I had a talk with her. She's on our side, but she is still a professor, the only professor who has my full respect.”
Ron and Hermione nodded. “Come on, Gin,” Ron said. “Let's go see the others.”
“Tell them that I'm with Dumbledore,” Harry said thoughtfully. “They can find out I've moved out later.”
Ron nodded, and the three of them walked out the door.
“Ginny,” Pansy called.
The red haired witch paused and looked back.
“Wash your hair tomorrow morning, and come here at seven. I'll show you how to do your hair.”
“Thanks,” she grinned. “Have fun tonight.”
“We will,” Pansy laughed.
“And we'll tell you all about it at lunch tomorrow.”
“Well,” Harry said, as the other three left. “We'll see you tomorrow morning, Daph.”
“Night,” she smiled and walked into her room.
“So, what do you think?” Harry asked Pansy as they walked towards the Headmasters office.
“It could have gone better,” she sighed. “It was a lot easier when you were in the room to act as a buffer. Ron thinks that you and Ginny should be together.”
“He does? He was always so protective of her and who she dated.”
Pansy shrugged. “I told him that it was nothing to do with him, and it was only to do with me, you, and Ginny.”
“Who you like?”
“I do.” Her lips curled slightly. “Can I keep her?”
“You know that she kissed me?”
“I thought she would,” Pansy replied.
“She had to know.”
“That you were serious about me.”
“She could tell that from a kiss?”
“Did you kiss her back?”
“What do you think?”
“That’s how she knew. If you had, well, it would be really messy about now.”
“You took a gamble, didn’t you?”
“A calculated one, yes. But look what I won. I now have a new friend, and a boyfriend that I know I can trust without doubt.”
Harry smiled and placed his hands on her hips, and lifted her up, dancing down the hall with her. “A boyfriend who loves you.”
“I already had that,” Pansy grinned. “And besides, I had a backup plan if you hadn’t proved trustworthy.”
“You did?” Harry asked, stopping, and lightly pressing her into a wall, still holding her several inches off the floor.
“Absolutely. Winky would not have had a chance.”
Harry froze, and then laughed. “So, you and Dobby, eh?”
“I go for short people – I liked you before you grew.”
“Want me to shrink again?” he asked, as he slowly lowered her to the floor.
Pansy reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. “No, I don’t think so,” she purred, giving into the urge to kiss him.
“As much as I’m enjoying this,” Pansy sighed a few minutes later, “we really need to get to Dumbledore’s office.”
Harry nodded, and they walked, arm in arm, down towards the Headmasters office. The door was open for them, so they didn’t have to waste any time searching for a password.
Inside, Pansy looked around curiously. She’d never seen the cluttered inside of the office before, and she took in everything she could. There was a young looking phoenix to one side that seemed to chirp a welcome to Harry.
There was only one chair in front of the large desk; Snape and McGonagall were flanking Dumbledore at the other end.
Harry rested his hand on the back of the chair, and it instantly grew into a two-person sofa, which allowed them both to sit down.
Dobby appeared a second later with a tray of tea, and Pansy made a mental note to thank him, yet again, when they got some time. His habit of turning up at the start of meetings always seemed to put the other people off for some reason.
“Tea?” She asked the professors politely, as she made Harry a cup. He always liked his strong, no sugar, with just a hint of milk.
“White, one sugar, please, Pansy,” McGonagall replied with a smile.
“No,” Snape grumbled.
“Not for me, thank you, Ms Parkinson.”
Pansy nodded and made McGonagall’s, passing it to her, before perching on the edge of the couch, her legs crossed daintily at the knee.
“Now, what can we do for you?” Pansy asked.
“You weren’t invited,” Snape growled.
Pansy paused mid sip and stared at her head of house distastefully. She wondered if the look would have as much an effect on him as it had on Ron earlier. Sadly, the hook-nosed professor appeared immune. She would probably need as much experience as her mother had to deal with him properly.
“I think you’ll find she was,” Harry interposed. “I quite clearly remember inviting her.”
“You?” Snape snarled distastefully.
Harry stood up and held his hand to Pansy. He looked at Dumbledore and shook his head. “I haven’t got the time nor the energy tonight to play with other people’s pets. Perhaps we can have a proper conversation at some future date.”
Pansy smirked to herself at the shocked look of two of the professors across the table. McGonagall was looking amused. She regretfully placed her cup on the Headmaster’s desk.
“Harry,” Dumbledore called. “Please sit down.”
“Are you going to keep your pet under control?”
Pansy struggled to keep the laughter from bubbling up inside her, both at the look of fury on Snape’s face and the look of chagrin on Dumbledore’s.
“Ms Parkinson is welcome to stay,” Dumbledore said tiredly. “And Severus, please remember your position.”
Snape went red for a second, before he appeared to regain control of himself, and his face went blank.
Harry nodded and sat down, picking up his own cup of tea again.
Pansy resumed her attentive position, and for effect, picked up some parchment and a quill from the Headmaster’s untidy desk, and sat poised to make notes.
She looked at the Headmaster attentively, and could see Harry doing the same out of the corner of her eye.
Dumbledore’s pale blue eyes seemed to twinkle lazily as he looked back across the table.
Pansy gently reached out with her mind, lightly touching Harry’s. The silence was an obvious tactic to get one of them to break it. It was a tactic to find out how able to handle uncomfortable situations they both were.
She felt an echo of amusement from Harry, and kept her face in the same polite smile. Her father was a master at making people uncomfortable, and this was one of his least used tactics. She wondered how long the Headmaster was willing to let it drag on for.
“That’s quite enough,” McGonagall interrupted with a distasteful sound in her voice. “I have better things to do than watch you all play games with each other.”
“Sorry, Professor,” Harry said, nodding in agreement. “I have had a long day, and I would like to get some sleep before classes tomorrow. What is it that you want from us?”
“An explanation would be effective place to start.”
“About your departure from the Dursleys, and your rather dramatic physical and mental transformation.”
Harry nodded, “To give you the highlights. I came down with Wizarding flu with no means of contacting you; my relatives locked me up so that they wouldn’t be contaminated. Pansy and her family rescued me.”
“Can I ask how you found Harry?” Dumbledore asked Pansy.
“You can,” Pansy said with a charming smile. “But I’m afraid that I won’t answer. Suffice it to say that we were pretty horrified at the state Harry was in, and we removed him quickly to a safe place.”
“Safer than the ancient blood protection on their house?” Dumbledore asked.
Pansy looked coolly across the table, and lowered the temperature in her voice. “We found out where Harry was, so it wasn’t a big logical leap to presume that Voldemort or one of his minions would do the same. And once they found him, the blood protection was useless.”
“Extremely,” Pansy agreed. “How do you think Dursley would react to Malfoy offering him a large sum of money to hand Harry over? Or how would Harry react if Voldemort started killing Muggles? Both scenarios would render the fortress like protection offered by the ancient magic rather useless.”
McGonagall frowned. “Would Dursley have done that? After we had a quiet word with him at the end of the summer?”
Pansy shrugged. “No idea, but we weren’t willing to take the chance. And, as Harry is here, in obvious good health, and not a starved relic of himself, I would suggest that our protection was vastly superior to yours.”
She felt Harry laughing inside her mind, and sent him a sharp poke back. She didn’t need to be distracted at the moment, not when playing verbal tennis with a master.
“About your remarkable good health,” Dumbledore continued. “Can I ask how the transformation came about?”
“Malcom and Gruoch arranged for a doctor to look me over. He felt that the malnutrition I suffered at the Dursleys was curable, and gave me a potion to help repair the damage. After that, Gruoch and Pansy took me to a Muggle eye clinic, where they performed laser surgery on my eyes.”
Dumbledore nodded slowly, the twinkling in his eye almost stopping.
“What is laser eye surgery?” McGonagall asked, curious.
“They basically cut open your eye, and shine an incredibly powerful beam of light into it, effectively changing its shape.”
Harry nodded in agreement. “Kinda painful as well,” he admitted candidly. “But not as much as the growth potion.”
Pansy shuddered lightly. “That felt like being hit with a Bludger, repeatedly.”
“You felt it?” McGonagall asked, confused.
“Yes,” Pansy replied. “I had to know what he was going through.”
“So,” Harry said, moving the conversation back on track. “After that, Malcom and Gruoch paid for some tutors to help me out with magic, and to help prepare me for killing Voldemort.”
Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose.
“You told them about the prophecy?”
“And my friends, yes.”
“Is that wise?”
“Wiser than hiding the truth from them,” Harry replied coldly. “This way, they have the information needed to make their own decisions about the future, and they are not making false conclusions based on either out of date or incorrect data.”
There was another uncomfortable silence around the table. “Is there anything else?”
“I have your schedules,” McGonagall said quietly, sliding two pieces of paper across the table.
Pansy picked both up and studied them. She used her quill to scratch a few changes on hers, and one on Harry’s, before passing them both to him. He took them, glanced over them briefly, and handed them back to Professor McGonagall. “Will there be any trouble with the changes?”
“Not at all,” McGonagall said as she looked at the changes.
Pansy smiled. She didn’t think the professor would mind her changing Harry’s Divination to Arithmancy, or changing hers so that she was in all the same lessons as him.
“There is one more thing,” Dumbledore said smoothly. “The D.A.”
Harry nodded. “We will be meeting Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons.”
Dumbledore looked surprised. “You will?”
“Oh yes. The Governors thought it was an excellent idea, with the current situation with Voldemort.”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore said softly.
“Along with that,” Harry continued. “Pansy, Daphne, and I have moved out of our respective House rooms. I am not prepared to allow Death Eater scum easy access to either my friend or my girlfriend.”
“You’re doing what?” Snape demanded.
Harry looked at him coldly. “I am moving my girlfriend away from Malfoy, along with our friend. And as I have become quite used to sleeping with Pansy, and not being agreeable to stopping, I am moving in with them.” He paused for a second, and then finished acidly, “I thought I made that quite clear with my original statement.”
“I take it you have the Governor’s permission?” Dumbledore said, his eye regaining their former twinkle.
Harry and Pansy both nodded.
“My father approves of my relationship with Harry,” Pansy said, in an amused voice. “Both he and my mother were rather apologetic for even hinting that I would have to have an arranged marriage with the toad.”
Dumbledore smiled. “I think that is enough for this evening,” he said calmly. “Harry, Pansy, can we reconvene at a later date? I have a few more things to discuss with you.”
Harry nodded and stood, placing the now empty cup on the table. Pansy straightened her dress as she stood as well. She smiled at the Professors and took Harry’s hand.
Once outside, she turned to Harry. “That was strange.”
Harry nodded. “Dumbledore took a lot of that far too well.”
“He didn’t even ask about how you Apparated into Hogwarts.”
“He wouldn’t,” Harry sighed. “That would mean admitting that he didn’t know something. And he’d never do that in front of me.”
Pansy yawned and lent against him. She felt him pause, and then lift her up. “You can’t carry me all the way back.”
“That sounds like a bet,” Harry grinned. “What do I get if I win?”
Some people have asked in reviews how to contact me - the best way is either to email me directly - and my email is at the top of every story, or try my Yahoo Group.
As always, thanks to my beta crew for all their hard work and for keeping me going when I was writing this. John, Cami, Rachael, Susie, Julie, Leslie, and Ellie.
And thanks to Kokopelli for some last minute help - especially with Dobby's dialogue and some good suggestions.
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