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White Knight, Grey Queen
7 - Consequences
Pansy stretched, and turned to one side.
"What time is it?"
"Half past six," Harry said, as he pulled on a loose t-shirt.
"And why are you up and not warm in bed with me?"
"Because I want to go for a run before we start the day, and you have a wet-haired Ginny arriving shortly."
"Bugger. I’d forgotten about that."
"You might want to wake Daph up as well, make sure she’s ready for the day."
"Okay. Where are you going to run?"
"Oh, just a couple of times around the lake for now. I’ll devise a more interesting route at the weekend."
"You have your wand?"
"Good. Then give me a kiss before you go."
Harry smiled and knelt on the bed. His arms wrapped around her, and she lazily moved up to him, kissing him lingeringly.
"I love you," he whispered. "Morning breath and all."
"Git," Pansy laughed, pushing him away.
"I’ll see you in a bit," he smirked, and turned, moving out the door quickly,
Pansy shook her head and stretched, moving straight to the bathroom. She pulled her hair back tightly, and stepped in the shower quickly, using the almost scalding hot water to wake herself up further.
Once clean, she stepped out of the shower and smiled at herself happily. All the physical exercise had left her in the best shape of her life. It was a pity she didn’t play Quidditch, because now that she was this fit, she wanted to keep herself in shape. She’d just have to find something else to do.
And she reluctantly admitted that getting up with Harry in the morning for a run was going to have to be one of those things, no matter how tempting a warm bed and a warmer Harry might be.
She wrapped a towel around herself and walked into their living area.
"Morning, Daph," she smiled.
"You know," Daphne said, looking around, "I could get very used to this. No sharing the showers; quiet in the morning. No Draco. It’s been my best morning at Hogwarts so far, and I’ve only been up thirty minutes."
Pansy smiled and nodded. "Warm Harry is good too."
"Yes, well, where is his Dark Hotness?"
"Halfway around the lake. He’s gone for an early morning run. Darling boy tried to sneak out of bed without waking me."
Daphne turned and walked to the window, looking out. "Yep, I can just see a speck on the other side."
"The question is, are we going to have breakfast here or in the Great Hall?" Pansy asked.
"The Hall," Daphne said thoughtfully. "We can’t look like we’re afraid of what happened yesterday. So what if we sit with the Gryffindors? At least it means we can eat quietly."
"Even if they ignore us?"
"I don’t think they will," Daphne replied. "Ginny won’t, and Ron and Hermione probably won’t after Harry talked to them. The others, well, we don’t care about them, anyway."
"So when did Harry rearrange the room?" Daphne asked curiously.
"Just before bed last night. He felt it was a better idea to separate it into three distinct rooms, so that we both had our private space."
"And there’s a gap between our rooms, so I can’t hear you both moaning?" Daphne grinned.
"Lucky coincidence," Pansy smirked. "So, I’ll do Ginny’s hair, and then we’ll meet Harry in the Hall for breakfast."
"I forgot she was coming. Are you going to show me how to work that hair thingy?"
"Of course. It’s a life saver."
"Gonna show me how to work that Harry thingy as well?"
"Nope, that one doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and I’m keeping what I’ve learnt secret."
"Damn," Daphne pouted.
Pansy grinned, and looked at her watch. It took her a few minutes to arrange a small stool in front of her chair, and to place a large array of brushes and clips on the side of her chair. The hair dryer rested on the floor.
As a knock rang on their door, Pansy sat down and smiled at Daphne. "Let her in?"
Daphne nodded and sauntered over to the door. She opened it, and Ginny walked in. She was wearing her uniform, but her robes were slung over her arm. She had a Hogwarts towel wrapped around her head.
"Sit," Pansy smiled, pointing in front of her.
"If I’d known that all I had to do to get male attention is walk through the school with wet hair and my robes off, I wouldn’t have bothered," Ginny grumbled.
"Boys are so predictable," Daphne nodded. "You didn’t dry yourself properly, and your shirt’s transparent in places."
"Damn," Ginny sighed. "I overslept a little, so I was running late."
"Don’t worry," Pansy said, as she undid the towel around Ginny’s hair and threw it toward the bathroom. "Next time, you can shower here, it will be easier."
"Thanks," Ginny smiled. "After sharing a bathroom all my life, you’d think I’d be used to it by now."
"Nah, every woman deserves to only have to share with a partner. This sharing with loads of other girls is just wrong."
"And you shouldn’t just leave towels on the floor, Quality," Daphne scolded as she picked up the towel and placed it inside one of the laundry bins."
"Oh shush, and don’t call me that."
"Can you explain that nickname now?" Ginny asked.
Pansy sighed, and started to brush Ginny’s hair, getting all the tangles out and separating it, so that it would dry a little more in the air, before she started to blow dry it.
"It’s down to that dress she wore to the last ball," Daphne smiled. "There’s a Muggle confectionary called Quality Street. They basically come as a box of sweets, each with a different wrapper. I swear that dress was just one of the wrappers. I’ve been calling her Quality ever since."
"Look, it was the most hideous dress I could find, alright? And it meant that Draco really didn’t want to dance with me, so I managed to have a semi decent night." With quick hand movements she separated Ginny’s hair into six even parts, and pinned five of them out of the way on top of the red-haired girl’s head.
"I think you should wear that for Harry," Ginny grinned.
"Why?" Pansy asked slowly, not sure she wanted to find out the answer.
"Because I’m sure Harry would like to open it up and eat what’s inside."
Pansy felt herself blushing as Daphne fell on to the floor, laughing.
"Yes, thank you, Ginny," Pansy said, trying to keep a straight face.
"You’re welcome," Ginny grinned. "And where is he, by the way?"
Daphne walked over to the window. "He’s just finished his first circle of the lake."
"Yeah," Daphne said with a sigh. "If you can call poetry in motion something as mundane as running. What did you do to that boy?"
"Taught him to fight," Pansy said, as she picked up the hair drier, and her wand. "Silencio," she said to the dryer, and started to run it. She moved the brush and the dryer down, directing the airflow down the hair.
"I think I love you," Ginny sighed. "Do you have any idea how nice that feels?"
"This was how mum and I would talk," Pansy smiled softly. "She’d cast the silencing spell, and then spend hours drying my hair. We both knew it didn’t need it, but it was our little ritual. We’d talk about everything, from boys to poetry. Looking back now, I realise just how much she taught me during that time."
"Damn, Pansy," Daphne said, as she curled up in a chair opposite them. "Harry really has changed you."
"You’ve never told me that, in all the years we’ve been friends."
Pansy shrugged, as she let down the next part of Ginny’s hair. "Being open means for better friendship. And I’ve been a bit of a lousy friend over the years. I’m going to change that."
"You’ve not been a lousy friend," Daphne corrected firmly. "Just a bit of a stand-offish one. I always knew I could count on you."
Pansy smiled and changed the subject. "We’re planning on having breakfast in the Hall today."
"Sounds like a good plan," Ginny said dreamily. "I could sit here all day."
Pansy laughed. "I swear, I’d do anything Harry asked if he asked me while he was doing my hair."
"How did he learn to do it?" Daphne asked curiously.
"He asked my mum. The first time he wanted a chat, so he asked her to help learn how to braid my hair. He then just got into the habit, and liked spending time with mum like I did."
Ginny and Daphne shared a long look. "You see why we can’t date with Harry around?" Ginny whispered. "What other sixteen year old would even think of learning how to do all of that?"
"I know," Pansy said softly. "It’s why I have to work hard to make sure I don’t lose him."
"You won’t," Ginny said. "He didn’t even flinch when I kissed him."
"And he passed the boyfriend test," Daphne reminded her. "He’s plum in love with you."
Pansy smiled gently, and let go the last of Ginny’s clips, and started to dry the strands. "And believe me; I’m just as in love with him. My favourite hobby in the world is to wake up before him and spend a few minutes just watching him sleep. It’s the only time when he’s truly at peace, and I can see both the boy he was, and the man he is becoming.
"And then he opens his eyes, and he normally says the first thing on his mind. He’s so completely open at that moment, so without deceit or artifice, I just feel incredibly lucky to be near him."
She finished off the hair in silence, and then cast a charm on Ginny’s hair. "There you go, go look in the mirror."
Ginny bounced to her feet and dashed in to the bathroom. There was a second’s silence, then a squeal, before a red-haired missile launched herself out of the bathroom and into Pansy’s lap.
Pansy found herself in a very tight hug a second later.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Ginny beamed. "It looks so soft and shiny."
"Just wait till we take you to a hair dresser," Pansy promised. "We’ll get your hair styled properly, and you’ll look even better."
"You do realise I want you to do mine now, right?" Daphne asked.
"We need a girls’ night in," Pansy decided. "Full of pedicures, manicures, and all the other fun things."
"Leg waxing?" Daphne asked with a grin.
"I said fun things," Pansy grinned back.
"You like the results," Daphne pointed out.
"Not as much as Harry does," Pansy retorted with a wicked grin on her face. She stood, easily picking up Ginny, who was still seated in her lap, as she did so.
"Wow," Ginny muttered, her eyes going wide, as she squeezed one of Pansy’s biceps. "Daphne, come feel this."
"What am I, a prize horse?" Pansy grumbled.
"A prize filly, perhaps," Daphne said. "And sweet Merlin on a bike, you’re made of iron."
"If you think I am, you should feel Harry," Pansy grinned. "He carried me from Dumbledore’s office back here without even getting out of breath. I felt so girly it was unreal."
"What have you been doing?" Daphne asked, not being sidetracked.
"A lot of time in a Gym, a lot of running, a lot of fighting, and a lot of time on the back of a horse. It’s one thing I’m going to miss. There are no horses at Hogwarts.
"Anyway, let’s go to breakfast. I’ll leave Harry a note in case he comes back here first."
"Let me just get dressed," Pansy said, throwing her own towel toward the corner.
"Modesty a foreign concept?" Daphne asked.
Pansy turned and grinned. "You two don’t count, and Harry is welcome to see me naked. Besides, if you let me and Harry get you two fit, I bet you won’t care, either."
She walked into the bedroom, and pulled on some underwear and the school skirt.
"You know," she said, as she picked her up bra, blouse, and slip-on shoes and rejoined the Daphne and Ginny. "We really need to get some alternate uniforms made. These are really poor material. I’m sure we could get a designer to knock us up something that’s more flattering and in a nicer material, but still fit in."
"That’s a good idea," Daphne nodded. "I hate these damn skirts. It always takes me a week to get used to them again."
Pansy smiled as she put her bra on, and did up her shirt. "And these blouses — I’ve seen sexier bin bags."
Ginny shook her head. "You two are from a different world," she said with a slight smile. "A lot of the time I find the uniform comfier than my own clothes."
"A world you are now in," Pansy said, as she looped her arm through the younger girl’s. "So get used to it. I think what we need to do, is get Mum over here on Saturday. We can go shopping while Harry and Dad get up to date on what’s happened at the Ministry."
"Are you going to tell us what’s going on?" Daphne asked, as she linked her arm with Pansy, and the three of them strolled out of the Room of Requirement.
"That’s up to Harry," Pansy said lightly. "Although, I don’t know everything myself. He and Dad can be as thick as thieves at times. He’ll tell me, eventually. He just forgets sometime."
Daphne laughed softly. "It was a bit weird to see your Dad talking to him like that. I always see your Dad as one of the scariest men I know."
"Dad can be," Pansy nodded. "He’s totally committed to me and Mum. I know that everyone else comes behind us. I think Harry fills a space in his heart that he never thought would be filled. He always wanted a son, but Mum couldn’t have any more children. So he resigned himself to not having one. Now he’s found the son of one of his best friends really needs him, not just because of the money and influence we have, but as a man, and I think Dad’s seized his chance. He sees Harry as a kind of heir."
"Doesn’t that bother you?" Ginny asked.
"Not at all; there are some things that I don’t want to have to do, and Harry enjoys Dad’s attention. It means that I don’t have to try as hard to be what Dad wants."
"That doesn’t sound right," Daphne said, frowning a little.
"Oh, Dad never asked me to be that way," Pansy said airily. "He wouldn’t. I just wanted to try and fill the gap a little. Now I don’t have to, and I can concentrate on just being Dad’s princess."
She paused a second, and grinned. "And Harry’s grey queen." She unlinked both her arms from her colleagues, and turned to Ginny. She looked at her thoughtfully.
"What?" Ginny asked warily.
"Open your mouth a little," Pansy said, as she reached into her pockets. "And don’t move."
With precise movements, she quickly outlined Ginny’s lips in a medium red colour, and then applied a slightly lighter shade of lipstick. She reached out a hand, and took the tissue that she knew Daphne would be holding out, and lightly blotted the lips.
"There," she said, as she turned to Daphne. "Three."
Daphne pursed her lips and looked at Ginny. "Four."
Pansy nodded. "In you go Ginny."
"What’s going on?"
"Don’t worry about it," Pansy smiled reassuringly. "We’ll explain at the table. I want you to walk in with your head held high."
"Okay," Ginny said warily.
Pansy opened the door to the Hall and ushered her in. As Ginny walked toward the Gryffindor table, she was greeted by a few boys trying to grab her attention.
"Three," Pansy said triumphantly as Ginny took her seat.
"Hey, Ginny," Michael Corner called from the Ravenclaw table.
"Four, sweetie," Daphne countered cheerfully. "I win."
Pansy grumbled under her breath.
The two of them walked into the Hall and sat next to Ginny. They ignored their own greetings from the boys, as they were used to it.
"What was that?" Ginny asked, looking a little flushed. "I’ve never had boys say morning to me like that before."
Daphne smiled. "You’ve never worn makeup, moved with confidence, and had your hair like it is, either. Boys recognise that sort of thing. It makes you stand out. Just wait till we get your hair done properly and put you in some new clothes. You’ll be one of the hottest girls in school."
"One of the three?" Ginny asked dryly.
"Six; you can’t discount the Patil sisters, or Chang" Daphne said cheerfully. "And despite her best efforts, Hermione’s close, too."
Dobby appeared with a pop next to them.
"Morning, Dobby," Pansy said with a smile. "Did you have a good night?"
Dobby nodded seriously. "Dobby has been having a long talk with Winky." He looked down shyly. "We is now courting."
"That’s wonderful!" Pansy clapped excitedly. "I’m so pleased for you."
"Dobby is too," he smiled. "What does Mistress Park’son and friends want for breakfast?"
"Cereal for me," Pansy decided. "I’m still a little full from last night."
Dobby nodded. "And Blonde Greenie?"
"I’ll have the same," she said with a smile. "Ginny?"
"I’ll have what they are having."
"Dobby will be back in a second," he said, and vanished with a pop.
"I’m pleased he talked to Winky," Pansy said cheerfully.
"Morning," Ron said, as he sat down with Hermione. He looked at Ginny. "Are you wearing make up?"
"Why?" Ron asked.
"Because she looks good," Pansy said dryly. "And that’s reason enough."
"It is?" Ron asked, frowning. He helped himself to a plate and filled it quickly.
"Yes, it is," Hermione said. "You look nice."
"Thanks," Ginny said, blushing faintly at the unexpected praise.
Dobby returned and served them their breakfasts.
"So this is cereal?" Ginny asked, looking at it.
Pansy and Daphne looked at each other and laughed.
"Yes," Pansy said. "It’s a Muggle thing that’s pretty light."
"I didn’t know it was available," Hermione said.
"Dobby," Pansy called, and waited for the elf to appear. "Could you get Hermione a bowl as well?"
Dobby put his hands on his hips and turned to face Hermione. "Will Miss Granger be promising to not leave clothes in the common room this year? The other elves are not wanting freedom like Dobby."
Hermione blushed deeply. "I promise," she said quietly.
Dobby smiled and clapped his hands. "Dobby will be telling other elves," he said, as he vanished. He was back a second later, with a fourth bowl of cereal.
"Oooh, Special K!" Hermione smiled as she took a bite. "My parents insisted I ate this stuff, as it has no sugar."
Pansy and Daphne both nodded. "I just look at what Ron eats for breakfast and I can feel my hips getting wider," Daphne sighed. "It’s not fair. If I ate like Ron does, I’d be as big as Bulstrode in a week."
"Well, if you two start to get fit with me, you’ll be able to eat what you like," Pansy said cheerfully. "I’ve found my appetite really enjoys working out. That night we went to the Ritz was brilliant; I ate everything on the table, including several bites of Harry’s, while we shared some champagne. Then spent all night dancing it off."
"In the paper there was something about a fight?" Hermione asked curiously.
Pansy nodded. "Yeah, I went to the bathroom, and as I came out, four Muggles grabbed me and tried to persuade me to come with them — and they weren’t taking no for an answer.
"I was getting ready to do something about it myself, magic in public be damned, when Harry appeared next to me so fast I thought he had Apparated. He tried to talk them out of it, and to leave them alone, but they were obviously way too stupid.
"I could feel the potential for violence in the air, and it was all coming from Harry," she said, her voice going dreamy. "You know what he’s like when he’s protecting something or doing what he feels is right?"
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny all nodded together.
"It was like that, but all directed at keeping me safe. It was… intoxicating. He practically begged them to leave us alone, so that he wouldn’t hurt them."
"And?" Daphne asked, hanging on to every word.
"One of them tried to punch Harry in the back of his head, and his training kicked in. I’d only ever seen him move like that once before, when he poured his frustrations about not getting a move right into his next move. He seems to flow from one move to the next, almost as if everything is just one movement. In a few seconds, they were all on the floor, and he wasn’t even out of breath.
"He looked so handsome, standing there, the Muggles rolling on the floor in pain. He had this look in his eyes, that said that he’d fight the world for me. His tuxedo was hugging those broad shoulders of his, and he turned to me, as if I’d be afraid of him, that I’d be scared of him because of how he fought.
"Scared?" she laughed dryly. "It took every ounce of my will power not to jump him there and then, knock him to the ground and have my wicked way with him — the nightclub full of people be damned."
Hermione, Ginny, and Daphne all sighed and smiled.
"Huh?" Ron asked, looking at the girls.
"Shush," Hermione said gently, patting his knee. "So what happened then?"
"We went back to dancing, and then at the end of the night, he finally kissed me for the first time."
"And?" Ginny prompted.
"And whatever happened after that is private," Pansy smiled.
Daphne groaned and poked Pansy. "That’s just not fair."
Pansy smiled and shrugged. "Ask Harry — if you can get him to talk."
"Getting Harry to talk about some things like that is about as likely as Voldemort retiring from evil and becoming a fisherman," Hermione said dryly.
"So you can say Voldemort as well?" Pansy asked.
"It’s not easy," Hermione sighed. "I started last year, the rest of the D.A. promised to practice over the summer."
Ron nodded in agreement.
"Good," Pansy smiled.
The doors to the Hall flew opened, and a wild-eyed second year stood there. "You’ve got to see this," he shouted, ignoring the teachers. "Harry’s flying without a broom!"
There was a second of stunned silence, before people started to move. Pansy was far ahead of the others, already half way to the door, having started to move as soon as she heard the word â€˜Harry’.
She ran out of the door, aware that Ginny and Daphne were right behind her, and out through the school doors onto the driveway, before she stopped and started to laugh.
Daphne and Ginny joined her, and looked at her strangely, as most of the pupils seemed to pour of the school.
"Pansy?" Daphne asked.
"He’s not flying," Pansy said loudly. "He’s riding a Thestral."
The silence that followed that remark was absolute, as the idea of Harry actually riding one of the skeletal winged horses was less easy to comprehend than that of him flying.
As Pansy watched, Harry turned toward them and urged his mount into a gallop, another Thestral running beside him. She smiled, realising what he intended and ran a few steps forward.
"What is she doing?" Ginny asked.
"No one move," Daphne shouted.
Pansy blocked out the crowd, and concentrated as Harry approached her. They’d done this a few times with Thunder and Lightning, and it was very difficult to do with a normal horse. As Harry got nearer, he started to circle, so he would avoid the students behind her.
She took another step forward, watching the horse carefully, and then raised her right hand, and bent her legs slightly.
She could hear the hooves thundering and took a deep breath.
Harry started to lean to one side, half hanging off the horse, and as he approached her, swung his arm down. She grabbed hold of his arm as he swooped past and jumped.
She felt his muscles tense as he lifted her up, and she twisted with the movements, letting go of his arm as she was raised into the air, and grabbing his waist, using her momentum to land behind him securely.
She yelled out in triumph, and held on to him securely.
"I think that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen," she heard Ginny shout excitedly.
She looked at the Thestral running next to them, and raised her legs, standing behind Harry. She felt him straighten his mount, to make it easier for her, and she jumped, landing perfectly. She picked up the reigns, and took control.
"Ready?" Harry yelled over the wind.
"For what?" she yelled back.
"HAH!" Harry yelled, and his Thestral spread his wings and took off. Hers followed him instantly, and before she knew it, they were flying.
"Isn’t this amazing?" he yelled.
She looked around, and down, and realised that it was just like riding, only with the ability to go up and around.
"Completely," she yelled back. They circled the lake before heading back down. The Thestrals spread their wings, and glided down, moving their feet, so as they landed, they were running at full speed.
They both sped toward the still gathered students, and then pulled the reins back hard, stopping the Thestrals with a skid.
"Anyone want to come for a ride?" Harry asked, a boyish grin on his face.
Pansy smiled as she watched him, he was always so relaxed when he could fly. She checked her watch, and was happy that they still had half an hour before lessons.
"I do," Daphne answered immediately. "Riding invisible horses seems cool."
"And me," Ginny added a second later, before anyone else could say it.
"Okay," Pansy said, nudging her Thestral forwards. "Ginny, have you ridden before?"
"Okay, you’re with me; I’ve been riding longer than Harry. Daphne’s been riding most her life, so she knows what to do."
"Okay," Ginny nodded.
Pansy leant down and offered her hand to the smaller girl. "Just take my hand, and slide your leg over the back to the horse."
"I can’t see it, though," Ginny pointed out.
Pansy paused, and then laughed softly. "Guess, based on where my bum is."
"Okay," Ginny said with a grin. Pansy grabbed her hand, and heaved, holding the horse steady with her knees. Ginny jumped and landed awkwardly behind her.
"Okay," Pansy smiled. "Put your arms tightly around me, and hold on."
In front of her, Daphne was sitting behind Harry, her arms around him. It actually made her realise that in a way she was sharing her boyfriend with two other girls. It was a little unusual, because she wasn’t used to sharing at all, but this was her best friend, and her newest friend, so maybe it was good to learn to share.
Besides, they both knew who Harry was in love with.
She turned her head, "Ready?"
Ginny nodded eagerly.
"We’ll start with a trot," Pansy smiled, and nudged her knees. The Thestral responded, and she felt Ginny slowly start to relax.
"Harry, what sex is mine, and what’s its name?" she shouted.
"You’ve got Lucere," he shouted back. "She’s Tenebrus’ mate."
"Thanks," she yelled back. She leant over a little and murmured into the Thestral’s ear, "Come on Lucere; let’s show the boys what we’ve got."
Lucere whinnied her agreement, the sound was almost human, and the Thestral launched into a gallop, quickly over taking Harry and Daphne. She could hear Ginny yelling behind her, and felt the girl tighten her grip. She’d never had a girl hug her so hard before, and found it very different from having Harry’s arms around her.
"Fly, Lucere, fly," she yelled.
The Thestral responded again, and her wings spread, and then took off with a swooping feeling.
"This is incredible," Ginny yelled in her ear. "It’s better than flying a broom."
"I didn’t believe Harry when he said that it was better," she yelled back. "I was wrong."
She turned her head, and watched as Harry urged Tenebrus into a dive over the lake. "What’s he doing?" she yelled at Ginny.
"No idea," the red-haired girl replied.
Pansy pulled Lucere into a gentle curve, so that they could watch.
She smiled and shook her head as Harry guided his winged horse down, till they were running on the water. She could see Daphne throwing her head back and laughing, a look of pleasure on her face, as the Thestral’s hooves splashed water in the air.
Harry pulled back on the reigns, and the Tenebrus flapped his wings a few times, and they soared up to join them.
"We’ve not got time for much more," Harry yelled.
"I know," Pansy yelled back. "Let’s land next to the kids."
"Okay, then follow me back to the stables," Harry shouted.
She nodded, and relaxed. "Follow Tenebrus, Lucere," she said into the Thestral’s ear.
The Thestral nodded, and they swooped down at full speed, landing as gently as they did before. She hardly had to do anything; the Thestral followed her mate with an intelligence that made her wonder jut how smart the horse was.
She could feel Ginny waving at the crowd behind her, as they galloped past and headed for Hagrid’s hut.
She watched as Harry pulled up slowly, and then helped Daphne off the back. He jumped down himself and patted Tenebrus on the neck.
Pansy steered her Thestral next to him, and smiled as he helped Ginny off, then herself. The only difference was that she got a much tighter hug, and a kiss.
"I thought you were going running?" Pansy smiled.
"I was," Harry protested, as he led his Thestral around to the side of Hagrid’s hut. "But I stopped off at Hagrid’s after a lap, to see how he was. We got to talking, and I mentioned how much I enjoyed riding Thunder over the summer.
"His eyes lit up, as it seems that the Thestrals often get bored during term, and some of them would love to be ridden. So I walked up to Tenebrus here and asked him if he minded me riding him."
"How intelligent are Thestrals?"
"Hagrid says that they are very smart, they can understand humans, and are pretty good in a fight as well. They’d make cool war horses."
"Planning ahead again?" Pansy smiled.
"Of course. I want us to have every advantage when we fight Voldemort.
"So, I checked with Lucere, and she was willing to be ridden by my mate, and off we went."
"It’s really weird to ride invisible flying horses," Ginny smiled.
Harry nodded, "I hadn’t actually thought of that. I can see them, and knew that Pansy would be able to as well."
Ginny turned to Pansy, a curious expression on her face.
"I saw my cousin die when I was twelve," she said softly. "It’s not something I like to remember."
"What I want to know," Daphne said, as Harry pulled a plucked chicken out of a chest, and fed it to Tenebrus. "Is what happened to your fear of flying?"
Pansy smiled slightly. "Harry; he took me flying, and got me over it."
"Was there anything that you two didn’t do over the summer?" Daphne asked, an amused look on her face.
"A few things," Pansy replied, looking at her boyfriend. "But we’ll be rectifying that soon." She smiled as Harry blushed faintly.
"We’ll come and see you soon," Harry promised to the two Thestrals.
Tenebrus poked Harry firmly in the shoulder with his nose, snorted, and turned, and ran off with Lucere.
"Hagrid’s going to be so happy," Ginny said dryly. "Someone else likes one of his dangerous creatures."
"Oh, Thestrals aren’t that bad," Harry said absently. "They’re like Hippogriffs. If you treat them right, they’ll look after you. Most creatures just want a little respect. It’s not much, really."
"Most people are too afraid of them to give respect," Daphne pointed out.
"That’s their problem, not the animals’," Harry shrugged. "Come on, we don’t want to be late to class."
"It doesn’t feel right to not have potions as the first lesson," Pansy said.
"I know, when Professor McGonagall gave me our schedules last night I nearly fell of my chair."
"Ginny, come here," Pansy called, as they started to walk back to the castle. "You need to brush your hair; it’s looking a little too windswept. Just do it a little," she finished, handing over a brush.
"How come yours stays like that?" Ginny complained as she started to run the brush through her curls.
"Because I’ve got boring straight hair," Pansy smiled. "And mine’s styled to fall back into place like this. It costs a fortune in hair dressing costs, but it’s worth it simply for the time I save."
"I like your hair," Harry protested. "It’s not boring at all. It’s soft and smooth. I love it when you hover over me, and it falls like a curtain around us, blocking everything else from sight."
Daphne and Ginny smiled widely, while Pansy turned around and kissed him lingeringly.
She pulled back from him, as Dobby appeared with a pop. "Harry Potter sir has been missing his breakfast today," Dobby said sternly, his hands on his hips. "Harry Potter sir will be eating his bacon and egg sandwich before class."
"Yes Dobby," Harry said. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to."
"Harry Potter is great and powerful wizard, but if he continues skipping his proper breakfast he will be becoming house-elf size again."
Harry nodded, and took the sandwich that appeared in the elf’s hand. Dobby turned, and kept up with them as they walked back toward the school entrance.
"Dumbledore is not liking Dobby stopping the spying of Harry Potter sir," Dobby said. "Dumbledore is asking elves directly, and is making elves uncomfortable."
"Do you want me to have a word with him?" Harry asked.
"No," Dobby said. "Dumbledore is not being smart. Pushing house-elves is making a few of the elves think that Dobby is being right. Only few, but better than before."
"That is good news," Harry smiled. "If you do need any help, we’ll all be there for you."
"Dobby knows, Harry Potter sir. Now, Harry Potter sir finish sandwich, drink drink, not want be late for class."
"Yes Dobby," Harry laughed, as he finished the sandwich quickly and took the proffered drink.
Dobby nodded in satisfaction and vanished with a pop.
"He’s like a mother hen," Daphne smiled.
"He just likes to make sure that Harry is well fed, doesn’t miss any meals, and is safe. He’s really loyal."
"He’s a very good friend," Harry nodded. "And a good teacher."
"About that," Daphne said. "You’re going to have to explain how you can do house-elf style magic soon. But I’ve got Arithmacy this morning, so I’ll see you later." The elegant blond strolled off to the left.
"And unlike you, I have got potions," Ginny sighed mournfully.
Harry pulled out his hand and snapped his fingers. "When you get to class, place this parchment on your lap."
"What is it?"
"It’s a Legal Recording Pad. It works without a quill, and will record everything said in the room, and who said it. Don’t worry if he gives you a detention or takes points, just let him rant and rave. I promise you won’t have to spend any time with him alone."
Ginny nodded and smiled. "Am I allowed to provoke him?"
"Only by being innocent," Pansy said. "Your words will be on the pad as well, and we don’t want a Solicitor complaining that he was provoked."
"Okay, thanks," Ginny said, and gave Pansy a quick hug before going toward the dungeons.
"Come on," Pansy smiled, and wrapped her hands in his. "Let’s not be late."
"I really like her, you know?"
"Good," Harry smiled. "I do too. But we have to hurry; I need to get changed before class."
Harry walked into the Room of Requirement and flopped down onto a couch. "Is it me, or was that the most boring day we’ve had in months?"
Pansy smiled and sat opposite him. "It was pretty dull."
"I think we need to do some training," Harry said. "I’ve got way too much energy, and I need to burn it off."
"Why don’t you go and get changed into some workout gear and get this place set up. I’ll go and get Daph, Ginny, Ron and Hermione. We can talk about the D.A. when you’ve finished."
"Are you going to work out with me?"
"I’ll fight you at the end," she promised.
"Okay," Harry smiled and bounded to his feet, his mood brightening at the promise of some limited action in the near future. The day had been dull because he was used to being pushed to his limits, and the school set up simply wasn’t built with that in mind. He had found that a lot of the concepts were coming easier to him now, and was impatient with others to catch up.
He walked into the bedroom, stripping of his school uniform disdainfully, and made a note to get himself some better clothes made as soon as possible.
He pulled on a clean t-shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms and moved back into the living room. He concentrated hard, seeing if he could rearrange it while he was inside. The room seemed to fade into nothingness, then recreate itself as he wanted. It was a little disorientating, but effective.
He now had a huge padded area, with a full gym set in one corner, and a large mat covering most of the floor. With a shrug he started to run around the mat.
He always liked to start with a run, just to loosen himself up a bit. He followed that by stretching vigorously, using the repetitive movements to empty his mind.
When he was fully limber, he moved into the middle of the floor, and started to move as Croaker had taught him. Each move flowed into the next without pause or hesitation, as he started with simple arm movements, used to block and redirect punches.
He then moved on, adding some offensive movements, punching in lightning fast combinations.
As he got used to moving at speed, he brought his legs into the practice, twirling and jumping as he fought imaginary assailants. The idea behind it was to get his body used to the idea of fighting without conscious thought. If he had to think about it, he was already acting to slowly. This way allowed him to free his mind, and enter the state where he was concentrating on everything but how he moved.
With a spinning heel kick, he dropped into a crouch and exhaled slowly. Without looking around, he moved over to a punch bag in one of the corners, and started to hit it. He took his frustrations with the day out on the inanimate object, revelling in the freedom he had. It was so much better to get it out of his system than let it fester the way he had before.
As he got used to the flow, he opened up fully on the bag, not holding back in the slightest, hitting it as fast and as hard as he could. In his mind, faces started to appear on the bag. Death Eaters; Macnair, Goyle, Bellatrix Black, Lucius Malfoy and even Voldemort. He didn’t slow down, letting the anger take him, striking out at the person who was responsible for all his pain, all his anguish, all his loneliness.
He reared back, and launched a side kick at Voldemort’s imaginary face, a savage yell exploding from his lungs. The bag flew backward and ripped from its moorings, crashing against the wall, and he fell to ground, breathing hard, suddenly exhausted.
"Sweet bloody Merlin," he heard Daphne whistle and turned. Lined up against one side of the room, staring at him in shock, were Pansy, Daphne, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Luna, and several other members of the D.A..
He jumped to his feet, and walked over to them. He half smiled, as Pansy threw a bottle of water at him. "Thanks."
"Whose face were you seeing?" she asked softly.
"Death Eaters to start with," he said with a shrug. "Voldemort at the end." There was a gasp from some of the students as he said the name.
He watched as Luna walked toward him, standing uncomfortable close to him. "You’ve changed," she stated.
"I have," he agreed, not backing away. This would have made him uncomfortable last year, but not now. "Can you?" he asked.
"Do I want to?" she countered.
"That’s not up for me to decide. You have the choice."
"And you never have."
"I can change," she said calmly. "Are you going to teach?"
"Pansy and I are, yes."
Luna nodded. "I think I shouldn’t have spent the summer searching for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," she said slowly. "Do Thestrals like being ridden?"
Luna nodded and stepped back, smiling slightly. She pulled her wand from behind her ear and absently transfigured her clothes into a rough approximation of Harry’s. She turned, and looked at the others in surprise.
"Aren’t you taking part?" she asked.
Harry laughed softly, and placed a hand on Luna’s shoulder. "Not everyone can see where they are leaping before they jump," he said softly. "I don’t think the others are going to want to start today."
"Oh," she looked disappointed.
"But that doesn’t mean you can’t," he smiled. "Why don’t you warm up first?"
Luna nodded and started to bounce around the room, before settling into a steady pace.
"I don’t think I can transfigure like she just did," Ginny said slowly. "But I’d like to start as well."
"Go and get changed in our room," Pansy said with a smile. "I’ve got some shorts and a sports bra in there that should just about fit you. I’d wear one of Harry’s t-shirts over the top."
"Thanks, Pansy," Ginny smiled.
"Actually, I’ll join you," Pansy decided. "I think Harry needs to talk to the others."
She took Ginny’s hand and they walked out.
"Daph?" she asked curiously.
"I think I’ll listen in," the blonde decided.
Harry sat down on the mat, folding his legs, and looked up at the others. "I’m guessing you have questions?"
"What the hell was that with Loony?" Ernie MacMillan asked, before the others could say anything.
Harry tilted his head slowly and looked at the boy before, and then slowly shook his head. "Friendship goes past what you can see, and what you can’t," he said softly. "Luna just signed up to learn to fight like I can, because she feels that it’s the right thing to do with Voldemort gathering his forces." He allowed his stare to become a glare. "She’s as odd as a prime number, but she’s anything but loony."
Ernie gulped, and nodded.
"Pansy said you wanted to talk about the D.A.?" Hermione said, as no one else seemed to want to say anything.
Harry nodded. "Last year we did some remarkable things. This year we’re going to do better. I want to open it up to every year, every House. When people step through my door, there will be no such thing as Houses. We will all just be students attending Hogwarts, working together for the downfall of Voldemort."
There was another slight gasp from some of the D.A. members at his name. Without any conscious thought, he was on his feet, prowling around in front of them.
"Voldemort," he said firmly, "will be the password for entry to the D.A.. Any one who signs up will be taught how to duel properly, taught how to fight, and more importantly, taught how to win."
There were some noticeable gulps from people as they looked at him.
"Are you going to teach us to move like you do, with the kicks and the punches?" Ron asked.
"Yep," Harry replied instantly. "A wizard who relies purely on a wand will be at a disadvantage to one who can fight without one."
"Where do I sign up?" Daphne asked, smiling.
"I need to talk to Hermione about that," Harry replied, falling into parade rest in front of them. "Last year’s contract needs a little tweaking. I want to increase the power of the spell. I don’t want what we are doing getting out — the punishment won’t just be a few spots this year."
Daphne nodded. "I thought you’d say that. I told you before; I’ll follow you, even if you are tilting at windmills."
"I’m only after Voldemort," Harry grinned. "The terms will be open, so it’s up to you if you want to join or not," he said to the others.
"Wait a second," Ron said. "Did you say that you’re letting Slytherins in?"
"Obviously," Harry said dryly, as he nodded at Daphne.
"She doesn’t count as one," Ron stated, drawing a small smile from the tall blonde. "Are you going to let Malfoy in? Crabbe? Goyle?"
"I’m going to let anyone who signs, come in," Harry said simply. "I told you, there aren’t going to be any house divides in here. We’re all aiming for a common purpose; Voldemort’s defeat."
"Well, I want the Malfoys defeated as well," Pansy said, as she led Ginny past the others. "But that’s a private issue. Come on, Ginny," she finished, as she jogged across the room, joining Luna who was still running in comfortable circles.
Harry smirked at her, and watched admiringly as she smoothly ran next to the other two. He loved the way she moved, the elegant grace she always showed, as if everything she did was as natural to her as breathing.
"Harry!" Hermione called.
"Oh, sorry," he said, feeling a little embarrassed. "The plan is for Hermione and me to work on the contract, and then I’ll make an announcement of when we are going to start meeting. There will be four sessions a week, of which everyone has to come to at least two which should allow everyone the opportunity to get their homework done."
"What about yours?" Hermione asked suspiciously.
"Mine will be done as well," Harry promised. "Any questions?"
There was a silence, which he recognised as people having plenty of questions, but not actually having the courage to ask. "Okay, Ron and Hermione, if you can stay behind, I need to talk to you."
The others filled out, recognising his dismissal for what it was. Daphne jogged into her room, and emerged a few seconds later in her own training gear and went to join Pansy, Ginny and Luna. "Let’s go sit down," he invited his two friends.
He preceded them into the room he shared with Pansy, and sat on the bed comfortably.
Hermione sat down next to Ron, and looked at Harry sadly. "You’re changing so much," she said softly. "I hardly recognised you back there. You had so much focused fury when you were punching that bag, it was almost scary."
"I was thinking about Voldemort," Harry replied. "I saw his face as he killed Cedric, as he killed Mum and Dad. I saw the glee when he realised that Sirius was dead. You know the prophecy… either he dies or I do. And there is no way on this planet that I’m leaving the brunette who’s gliding around the training room."
"So what do you need us for?" Ron asked.
"Because I can take out Voldemort. I need everyone else I can get to counter the Death Eaters and who ever else he brings to the fight."
"Cool," Ron grinned. "So, you really gonna teach us to fight like you?"
"That’s the plan," Harry confirmed. "One of them, anyway."
"One of them?" Hermione asked warily.
"Yep," Harry nodded. "I’m planning on having Remus elected as Minister of Magic." He had decided to tell them earlier, as he wanted to see what their reaction was going to be. He hated the idea of keeping things from his friends, but he couldn’t let friendship get in the way of defeating Voldemort. If they didn’t approve, or if he couldn’t convince them, he was going to have to wipe it from their memories, and if he did that, they’d never have the same relationship again.
It made him feel a little sick to his stomach to think of life without Ron and Hermione, but this thing was bigger than them, it was bigger than him.
"You’re going to do what?" Hermione demanded.
"Malcom is getting Fudge to pass a law allowing for Werewolves to run for public office," he explained. "We know that a Death Eater is going to run, as well as Fudge. We’re going to discredit Fudge a few days before the election, and expose the Death Eater. At the same time, I’m going to publicly endorse Remus, and give a few interviews to the press about how I think he would be the perfect person to unite the warring factions and allow us to take the fight to Voldemort.
"Of course, Remus’ primary job is to stop the Death Eaters gaining power, and then make sure that the Werewolves either fight for us, or are neutral. Malcom and I will be dealing with Voldemort."
"But…" Hermione said, before she stopped and frowned. "Are you sure that there will be no other candidates?"
"No one else is willing to run, as rumour has it that the Death Eaters will be most displeased. It needs someone with courage to do it. Moony has that courage, and knows what he is getting into. The fact that he’s going to be a token candidate to start with should protect him. If not, he’s safe, as he’s living at Parkinson Manor with Tonks, and that place is unplottable, and has enough wards to keep me safe."
"I don’t like it," Hermione sighed. "I don’t like that you’re taking away people’s choice."
"No, I’m not," Harry interrupted. "I’m changing the circumstances. People are sheep; I’m just pointing them in the direction I want them to go."
"People are not sheep," Hermione retorted irritably. "They have rights, thoughts and feelings. They are not something you just play with."
"Really?" Harry demanded, his eyes flashing with emotion. "Then where were they when Voldemort first came to power? Where were they when my parents were killed? Or if you want to bring it up to date where were they when Cedric was killed or Sirius? I’ll tell you where they were; they were reading the Prophet and thinking I was insane. And even if not me, they were thinking that the supposed greatest Wizard alive was insane. They didn’t even trust their supreme Mugwump. And why didn’t they trust him? Because an incompetent elected official whispered the words they wanted to hear in their ears, and they buried their heads in the sand and did nothing to help stop Voldemort.
"What do you think they would do if Voldemort and some Death Eaters Apparated into Hogsmeade right now?"
"They would run away," Ron said, after a second when it was obvious Hermione wasn’t going to answer.
"Exactly. They would run and hide. Despite being warned, despite the fact that they know now for a fact that Fudge lied to them, that Voldemort is back, how many have signed up to join the Order of the Phoenix?
"None of them."
"How do you know that?" Hermione demanded.
"I’ve got a spy in there," Harry said, waving his hand dismissively. "Instead of helping out, they are taking a back seat and are willing to let a bunch of children fight for them. Children! We should be getting ready for our NEWTS next year, not coming up with plans to defeat the Dark Lord! Do you think its right that the D.A. is the only other group, apart from the Order of the Phoenix dedicated to help people survive this bloody war?"
"No," Hermione said softly, looking down.
"Do you think it’s right that I have to kill Voldemort, that until recently I had no training, no support from any of the adults apart from Remus? That last year even Dumbledore stopped talking to me? I would have been dead several times if it wasn’t for you two. And quite frankly, I would have probably given up if I didn’t have you as friends. But the way we were going, we were going to lose. Voldemort was growing in power, and no one else was doing anything.
"I’ve grown up, because I’ve been forced to. If I had the choice, I’d walk away now, and spend my time trying to find out what colour underwear Pansy wears. Instead, I’ve already asked Malcom and Gruoch for permission to ask Pansy to marry me."
Ron and Hermione both gasped in shock.
"And you know why I’m doing it? Partly because it will mean that Dumbledore can bypass the rules to allow us to continue to live together without losing face. Partly because I’m still bloody scared that no matter what I do, Voldemort will still win, and I won’t get to have a future with Pansy. And mainly because I’m so in love with her, that I know at sixteen that I want to spend the rest of my life with her.
"And you know what? With that is the knowledge that I am fighting for her, that I’m fighting for the possibility of having children with her. I’m fighting for the chance to watch her hair turn grey and her skin slowly start to wrinkle.
"Before I met Malcom and Gruoch, the only adults I could trust implicitly were your parents, Ron, and Moony. Because I knew that they liked me for myself; apart from that, every other adult in the Wizarding world has used and abused me in one way or another. And I’m sick of it. I want to be myself, but I don’t have that choice, and I’ve been groomed for a very long time for this role.
"You know, I’ve been thinking about this for ages, and I think I’ve figured out that Dumbledore knew what he was doing when he placed me with the Dursleys, that he knew what he was doing when he forced me to work with Snape. He wanted me to have nothing to live for, so that when I face Voldemort I could give everything and die heroically.
"But Dumbledore also believes that the needs of the individual out weigh the needs of the majority. The only way that he can see society working is if the individuals he wants make the progress he thinks is needed. It’s the only reason I can see why he continually sticks up for Snape. Why he is protecting Draco now, why he has hidden the details of Voldemort’s birth. He believes that everyone has the chance of redemption, and should be given it.
"Everyone," Harry whispered, suddenly exhausted as he dropped back onto the bed.
"Everyone but me."
He laughed softly under his breath and ran his hands through his hair. "Because I’m not a boy to him. I’m not a teenager struggling to be a man. I’m a tool of his bloody prophecy, and I’m what he intends to use to allow Voldemort’s redemption."
He looked up at his two friends, tears running down his cheeks as he gave into the relief of finally getting his fears off his chest.
A second later, he saw Hermione kneel in front of him. She pulled him down off the bed, so that he was kneeling as well, and into a tight hug. A few seconds later, Ron joined them.
Harry relaxed for a second, and then pulled back to look at his two friends. "You’re right," he said softly. "I have changed. I’ve had change forced upon me. In a way, I wish I could go back to being the screwed up little boy I was when I was younger. I wish I had handled last year a lot better. I wish my parents had never died, and I had grown up happy. But you know what they say, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
He met Ron’s eyes, and then turned slightly to meet Hermione’s. "I’ve had that taken away from me, and I can’t get it back. I’m going to be doing things you won’t approve of, and I’m sorry if that upsets you both. I really want us to continue to be best friends, but we can’t do that if you can’t accept what I am, and what I am becoming. And to be honest, I don’t want you to be dragged down with me.
"I’m in a situation where I have to kill someone, or I will die. It’s remarkable how much that can focus your mind. Voldemort will probably not be the only person I kill. I will have many more blood stains on my hands by the time I finish.
"I will not be following Dumbledore, and the path he has set out. I’m forging my own way with Malcom and Gruoch, with others who believe that we need to end this once and for all. I want you with me, but I won’t force you. Or hold it against you if you choose to follow Dumbledore, or even if you stand out. You two have already done more for me than anyone else."
He watched as Hermione turned to Ron, and nodded for him to go first. He hid a smile, suddenly realising that she was making Ron think about what he said, that she wasn’t going to let her boyfriend hide behind her logic.
"I still think you should be dating Ginny," Ron said slowly. "But you know what? I think it’s about bloody time we fought back. If you know what you are doing, and those moves you were pulling off in there do kinda point to that, then I’ll follow you mate. Been doing it this long, I’m not going to stop now."
Harry smiled at him, and then turned to Hermione.
She was studying him thoughtfully. "I’m not going to change, Harry," she said slowly. "I do think you’re wrong about people being sheep. I think that if they are mobilised properly, they could be an asset. I can also see your point of view. It may be naive of me, but your grey outlook of the world just feels wrong. But that’s irrelevant. You are my best friend, you’ve been my friend a little longer than Ron, and while I love Ron, you will always be my best friend. I know he feels the same about you. I’ve followed you into places I would have sworn beforehand I’d never have had the courage to go. I’m not going to stop now. I’ve become a better person because of you, Harry."
Harry smiled with relief, and relaxed back against the chair.
"There is one thing, though," Hermione added.
"I, and I’ll bet Ron does as well, want to move into here with you, Pansy and Daphne. It’s the only way we can still spend all our time together, because otherwise, we’ll be torn."
"Do you want to share a room or have one each?" Harry asked, deliberately making the question as bland as possible.
He watched as Hermione smiled massively as his instant acceptance. "Two," she said simply.
"What do you want your room to look like?" he asked.
"Why don’t you think it, hard? In the front of your thoughts. I’ll have a look at your mental picture and create it."
"Okay," she smiled.
He felt a little touched at the absolute faith she had in him, and reached out with his mind, lightly skimming hers. He smiled at the image of the book lined room, and turned to look at one of the walls. He concentrated hard, willing the image into life.
The wall of the Room of Requirement faded into nothingness, before a door appeared.
"Ron, what about you?"
"Come and get it, mate," he said excitedly.
Harry looked into Ron’s mind, and laughed. "I could have done that without reading your mind," he smiled. "I don’t suppose you’d choose a colour other than vomit-inducing orange?"
"But I like orange," Ron protested.
"Oh Ron," Hermione laughed. "The muskets again?" she said, with a slight wink at Harry.
"Muskets?" Ron groaned. "It’s the Cannons, the Chudley Cannons. And they’re going to win this year, just you wait and see. They’ve got a new seeker and a new chaser. They’re on the up again."
Harry laughed and shook his head. He concentrated hard on the wall, and made another room for Ron, complete with orange coloured walls, next to Hermione’s.
"Dobby," he called.
The house-elf appeared in his trademark pop.
"You rang, Harry Potter sir?" he grinned.
"Insolent elf," Harry smirked. "Make yourself useful and move Hermione and Ron into those two rooms will you?"
Dobby grinned and took of his cap, sweeping into an over the top obsequious bow. "Ohhh, Dobby is a bad elf, Dobby will be punishing himself endlessly," he promised. "Dobby will be listening to Hogwarts elves complain about Dobby rocking boat for thirty minutes or more."
Harry laughed and shuddered. "I’ll forgive you — I wouldn’t wish that on anyone."
"Harry Potter is great and powerful wizard," Dobby smiled. He nodded to the others, and vanished.
Harry turned and looked at Hermione, who was staring at the space Dobby had just occupied, wide eyed at the completely un-elf like behaviour she had just witnessed.
"I told you," he said gently. "Dobby is a friend who happens to work for me. I don’t beat him; I don’t force him to do anything. It’s taken Dobby years to get to the state where he is comfortable around me and Pansy. When we were using the Time Turner, Dobby didn’t, he simply served us at different times during his day, so that he could make sure I was alright at all times.
"He is a wonderful person, and vastly more intelligent than even I thought. Like most wizards, I took his speech patterns to mean he was stupid. He is not. He was simply trained from birth to be subservient to wizards. We both agree that that is bad; it’s just how we went about it that’s different. I’m going to change a lot of things in the Wizarding world, including how we treat the elves. I’d love it if you would help us organise the company that looks after the elves."
"Are you offering me a job?" Hermione asked, turning to look at him with an expression of wonder on her face.
Harry smiled at the thought.
"I’m offering you total control," he gently corrected her. "We can wait till you finish school, and we’ll let you organise everything. You will be the one who talks to Remus about the house-elves’ secession from the Wizarding world. You will be the one who handles the publicity as the elves pull out of every home in the country, and you will be the one responsible for hiring the staff to help you organise everything."
"Are you serious?" Hermione squeaked.
"It will be like running S.P.E.W. full time," Harry said softly. "But without the nauseous acronym."
Hermione blushed faintly. "I was young," she said limply as an excuse.
Harry smiled. "The offer stands, Hermione. It won’t be easy, they’ll be a lot of work, and you’ll have to learn more about how the elves truly are than any other wizard alive."
"Yes," Hermione blurted instantly. "Yes, I’ll do it. Thank you. Thank you."
Harry shrugged and smiled. "I wouldn’t have offered it to you if I didn’t think you’d be the best person for the job."
He smiled as Hermione gave Ron an enthusiastic kiss.
"Anything you want to do?" He asked Ron, not wanting his other friend to be jealous.
"For me and Hermione to be sharing a room," Ron said instantly. "But as that’s out of the question for the moment, I’ll tell you nearer the time."
Harry laughed and looked between them. "So, are we okay?"
They both nodded. "Thank you, for opening up to us," Hermione replied. "It helps us see how you’ve changed, but inside, you’re still Harry."
"And that’s a good thing, right?"
Ron reached over and lightly punched his arm. "Oww."
"Isn’t Harry supposed to say that?" Hermione queried.
"You bloody try punching the steel man over there," Ron complained.
Hermione reached out and lightly prodded Harry’s arm, and her eyes went wide. "How hard have you been working out?"
"With the Time Turner, for every day in normal time, we did one day Martial Arts, one day duelling, and one day on Physical fitness."
"Going back a second," Hermione said, as she curled her legs on the floor. "Are you really going to ask Pansy to marry you?"
"Yes," Harry said simply.
"Why not Ginny?" Ron asked.
"Err, because I’m not in love with her?" Harry replied.
"That’s not what I meant."
"Look Ron," Harry said softly. "Ginny’s a great person, I really like her, and yes, I am attracted to her. Pansy knows this, we’ve talked about it. If things were different, I might have fallen for her. But I didn’t. I fell for my grey queen instead. And I wouldn’t change the decision for anything or anyone. Pansy didn’t play games with me, didn’t try and make me jealous, she simply went for what she wanted, and made me the best offer she could.
"Even if Ginny hadn’t said anything about Dean, I would have still fallen for Pansy, because of who she is and what she has done for me."
Ron sighed, "I think you’d be better with Ginny, but I won’t say anything more."
Harry sighed and smiled crookedly. "That’ll do for now."
"Have you got a ring?" Hermione asked.
Harry raised his hand and whispered under his breath. A box flew from the other side of the room and into his hands. He opened it, and showed Hermione.
"Jeez," Ron whistled. "That rock’s big enough to buy half of the Ministry."
"It’s a Parkinson heirloom," Harry said. "Gruoch gave it to me to give to Pansy."
"So her parents really do approve."
Harry nodded. "I think they were more than a little relieved that she’s not marrying Draco."
"Wouldn’t anyone?" Ron asked.
"Probably," Harry grinned. "I do expect him to try and join the D.A., but I don’t think he will when he sees the contract."
"What do you have in mind?" Hermione asked.
"I don’t suppose you’d agree to let me put an insanity clause in there?" he asked, a hopeful expression on his face.
"No," Hermione said dryly.
"Okay then, any attempt to divulge the secrets results in complete loss of voice," he compromised. "If they try and write it, they lose control of the hand that is doing the writing. In effect, any communication renders the method unusable."
"And speaking of that, it’s about time I saw what my girlfriend is doing with Ginny and Luna."
He stood, and reached down, pulling his friends to their feet, and walked with them back into the large training area.
He made a mental note to ask Hermione to research into how the Room of Requirement worked, because the space it was now taking up was probably bigger than the space Hogwarts had available.
Inside, he paused and watched as Pansy took the two girls through a very simple routine to help them control their falling.
He walked over to them.
"Harry," Pansy smiled and jumped at him, wrapping her legs around his waist. She kissed him firmly. "Hi."
"Hi, yourself," he smiled. "How’s it going?"
"They’re doing great. Are you alright? I felt that you were upset."
"Long conversation," Harry explained. "We got through a lot."
"You felt?" Hermione asked curiously.
"I learnt some Occlumency and Legilimency as well," Pansy said casually. "We can normally feel each others thoughts, especially when they are high."
"Yep," Harry agreed. "I try and keep some thoughts on Pansy all the time, I find it reassuring."
"So, since they’re about finished, so how about I give you that fight I promised earlier?"
"That would be great," Harry said, as he placed a kiss on her hair.
"I get to choose the weapons?"
"Of course," Harry said, as he casually threw her into the air.
Pansy twirled gracefully and walked over to a cabinet in the corner.
"Weapons?" Daphne asked.
"Of course," Harry grinned. "I’ll bet she chooses Bo Sticks."
"What are they?" Ron asked.
"They’re like Quarterstaffs," Harry said. "But a little thinner and a little shorter. See?" he finished, as Pansy ran back over and threw one of the sticks at him.
"See what?" she asked.
"That you’d pick this."
"Of course," Pansy grinned. She twirled the stick above her head, then to one side, rotating it at a frightening speed. "It’s the only one I can beat you with."
Harry smiled as Luna sat serenely and watched them. "Sit, Ginevra," she smiled. "It should be entertaining."
He didn’t miss the wince that flew across Ginny’s face, and he idly wondered who had told the blonde witch Ginny’s true name.
His thoughts were sidetracked as he had to leap back wildly to avoid the edge of Pansy’s Bo as it rocketed toward his face.
"You really said that you’d rather spend your time trying to see what colour underwear I was wearing rather than fight?" Pansy said with a laugh.
"Yep," Harry grinned. "It was a hell of a conversation, but I hope that’s it for now."
Pansy nodded, "They were a little warmer to me; well, Hermione was anyway. But you know what colour underwear I wear," she finished, returning to the more interesting subject.
Harry smiled and replied, "I don’t know what colour you are wearing today."
Pansy smiled at him, and stood in front of the bed, moving her arms out to the side. "Don’t you think that’s the sort of think that would stop you sleeping?"
Harry gulped softly, and nodded.
"Then come and find out," Pansy offered gently.
Harry walked over to her, and dropped to his knees.
After their fight, they had both showered, alternating so that one of them was with the others all the time as they ate together, Dobby providing them with a full cooked meal. They’d shared a lot of laughter as they had done their homework together, before retreating to their separate rooms. As soon as Pansy had heard what he had done for Ron and Hermione, she had offered Ginny the same — and she’d accepted.
So Harry had rearranged the Room of Requirement, fixing his earlier mistake of placing the doorways to Ron and Hermione in his and Pansy’s room.
The layout was a lot simpler now. There was one central room that was their living room. Directly opposite the entrance was the door to the gym. To the left were Ron, Hermione, and Daphne’s rooms; to the right was the room he and Pansy shared, and Ginny’s. At the back of each room was their own separate en suite bathroom.
Harry slid his arms around her, and nuzzled his face into her stomach, before gently pulling her down so that she was straddling his legs.
He gently kissed her. "I think I should explore like that when we have more time," he said gently. "I want to be able to take my time, and not think about the sleep we need before class tomorrow."
She sighed softly, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Sometimes you’re too noble for your own damn good. And it’s worse when you are right."
He smiled and kissed her again. "Let’s go to bed."
She nodded and stood, pulling her dress off in front of him. "It would have been more fun for you to find out for yourself," she pouted at him.
He looked her up and down admiringly. "You know, you are simply gorgeous."
"And do you like the colour?"
"Very exotic," he smiled, and pulled off his own t-shirt, before removing his trousers. He always slept in just his boxers.
Pansy turned her back and pulled off her bra, pulling on one of his t-shirts.
He crawled into bed, and as Pansy joined him, he waved his hand at the light switch, so that it went off, before he wrapped an arm around Pansy, buried his face in her hair, and relaxed.
"Harry, could I have a word with you alone, please?" Dumbledore asked after they had finished breakfast the next morning.
Harry looked at Pansy for a second, and then nodded.
"I’ll tell Umbridge you’ve been detained," Pansy said dryly.
"Thanks," Harry replied, and paused to give her a quick kiss. With a grin at his friends, he walked in front of Dumbledore confidently. He wanted to give the rest of the students the subconscious impression that he wasn’t cowed by the ancient wizard.
He walked to the door, and said the password quietly. It turned out that the house-elves, under the order of the Council, were telling Dobby everything of interest that was happening in the castle. And Dumbledore’s password was just one of the tid-bits the house-elf had passed on to him. He was no longer even going to pretend that he felt in the slightest subservient to him. Things had changed, and while Dumbledore had still done so much more than him, he didn’t care.
Dumbledore sat in his own chair, and looked at him, his eyes twinkling. "I see you’ve subverted my office."
"We could exchange semantics for a bit if you like," Harry said cheerfully. "But apart from proving that my vocabulary has improved over the summer, I really don’t think it will get us anywhere."
"As you wish," Dumbledore said slowly. "It’s good to see you looking so well."
"It is, isn’t it," Harry agreed.
"Yes, well," Dumbledore continued slowly. "I must confess to being slightly concerned when a number of students from Gryffindor aren’t sleeping where they belong."
"I can see how that would concern you." Harry had decided that his best option was to respond to direct questions, not idle queries.
"Excellent. Would you mind telling me where Mr and Ms Weasley, and Ms Granger were last night?"
"In their rooms in the Room of Requirement." The question had been direct, so the answer was as well.
"I believe that Professor Snape checked the Room of Requirement, and it was empty," Dumbledore replied.
"Do you?" Harry asked, deciding that the question hadn’t been direct enough.
"Why did Professor Snape find the Room empty if you were in it?" Dumbledore asked, evidently cottoning on to the game that Harry was playing.
"I can’t answer as to his competence or lack thereof," Harry offered. "I’m afraid that I had to take charge of the Room, and as Snape was neither invited nor wanted, all he saw was an empty room."
"So you were in there?"
"As I said."
"I’m afraid that you will all have to return to your individual dormitories tonight. I simply can not let children sleep where it is not safe."
"I don’t think we’ll be doing that," Harry replied. "As you well know, the dormitories have been compromised time and time again; on the other hand, anyone looking for us in our present quarters would encounter the same problems as Snape. And I will not let either my girlfriend or my friend sleep anywhere near the Death Eater spawn you didn’t expel."
"Mr Malfoy has apologised for his mistake, and has assured me that he is not a Death Eater."
Harry laughed loudly. "And you believed him?"
"He was telling the truth."
"Ahh," Harry smiled. "You asked him if he was a Death Eater, and he said no, correct?"
The ancient headmaster nodded.
"And he promised to reform. Wonderful. However, I regret to inform you that as his father is still an active member of the Death Eaters, that I do not believe him. As he has been leering over my friend for sometime, and knowing Malfoy’s immense childishness, I will not allow her to be anywhere near him at night. Especially when Slytherin house has no credible adult supervision."
"You do not have a choice," Dumbledore said firmly. "You will return to your own houses tonight."
"The problem with your demand is that you have neither the power nor the authority to back it up. Authority comes from respect, and I have found my respect for you has been sliding over the past few years. There are too many questions that I have no answer for."
Dumbledore sighed softly, obviously not having expected Harry to be so blunt. "Perhaps I could answer some of those questions for you now," he offered.
"Why have you forced me to work with Snape, when throughout the time I have been here, he has done nothing but insult, belittle, and generally abuse me?"
"Professor Snape is a competent teacher in Occlumency," Dumbledore said.
"Now, you see," Harry sighed. "Already we are back to normal, where you are simply avoiding the implicit question. First, let me state quite clearly that Snape is not a competent teacher, of Occlumency or any other subject. We both know that, and I believe that I am not the only person to tell you. Now that we have that sorry excuse out of the way, let’s try the question again. Why have you insisted that I work with Snape, despite his ever present animosity to me?"
"Severus needs to learn to get over his hatred of your father," Dumbledore said softly. "It is something that is destroying him from the inside."
Harry nodded once. "Now, on to my next question. Why was I left in an abusive home for the first eleven years of my life, and then forced to return there each summer afterwards?"
"It was the safest place for you," Dumbledore replied instantly.
"Yet I have found that simply isn’t true. I was able to be taken from there with no fuss and no force, and even the alarm not being raised till the next day. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but does that seem very safe to you?"
"There were wards to prevent anyone from hurting you."
"Except, of course, for the relatives who were looking after me. Tell me, exactly why was it important to place a Wizarding child with a couple with a deep mistrust of magic?"
"They were your only blood relatives."
"You mean all of our history lessons have been wrong?" Harry gasped theatrically. "Hermione will be devastated."
"What do you mean?"
"It’s a well known fact that all the pure blood families are interconnected in a complicated pattern. There are plenty of people who I can claim to be connected to by blood."
"It was also important that you got a chance to grow up normally, without the trappings of a Wizarding life."
"Normally?" Harry laughed. "How bloody normal is it to grow up in a cupboard? You know what else I want to know?" he said, suddenly staring across the table at the pale blue eyes of his Headmaster. "Exactly how is it that social services were never informed of my predicament, despite the abuse being obvious."
"I’m afraid I have no idea," Dumbledore said softly.
"You are not telling the truth, Albus," Harry replied, matching his tone. "I had Malcom do some research for me. Social Services were notified on eight different occasions about possible abuse at Privet Drive. Every time, the investigations were stopped mysteriously."
"I had to, for your own protection," Dumbledore sighed. "If your name had been published in the investigative reports, then Voldemort’s followers would have located you."
"And the fabled blood protection would no longer have been effective enough," Harry finished for him. "Security through obscurity, eh? But this still doesn’t answer the question as to why you felt that being abused was preferable to growing up in with love or comfort. It doesn’t explain why, as soon as I turned eleven, you started to treat me differently to everyone else. Hermione had a visit from Professor McGonagall to explain to her parents what Hogwarts was. Yet all I rated was a visit from the school’s groundkeeper. Who is also a half-giant, designed to evoke fear from my relatives. I must say that was a masterful decision. It certainly succeeded in further alienating my relatives."
"Hagrid is extremely good with children," Albus replied. "I felt that, as he was the person who rescued you that night, he would be the best choice to introduce you to the Wizarding World."
Harry snorted eloquently and shook his head. "I’m unable to decide if you truly believe your actions were correct, or if you have convinced yourself after the fact. I suppose it really doesn’t matter. Actions have consequences, Albus, as you are going to find out,." He chose to use the professor’s first name deliberately.
"I will not play your little games anymore, nor will I work for you, or through the Order of the Phoenix. I will forge my own path; with intelligence supplied by people I trust a lot more than you, for the simple reason that they have never broken their word to me, and that when faced with a situation, they dealt with it as human beings, not as some sort of marionette. I firmly believe that had you handled things differently, a lot of the tragedy of last year would not have happened.
"But it did. With reluctance, I have moved on. I have made arrangements for you to continue to be able to use my property at Grimmauld Place. I’m afraid that you are no longer welcome at any of the other properties that I own."
"I’m sorry you feel that way, Harry," Dumbledore said slowly.
"I think I am as well," Harry admitted. "It doesn’t change the fact. Now, to get back to our original discussion; it is probably common knowledge that Pansy and I are sleeping together. And while we both know that the board of Governors are sheep, I don’t want open warfare with you. So, I believe that there are special rules for engaged students with Parental consent?"
"There are indeed, Harry. But I’m afraid that, while I’m sure Malcom and Gruoch have given their permission, your guardians, the Dursleys, have not."
Harry smiled broadly. "Fortunately for both of us," he purred, "the Dursleys are no longer my legal guardians. By special edict of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, I was declared an emancipated minor two days ago. And as a full Adult under Wizarding law, I hereby give myself permission to marry."
"You do seem to have thought this through," Dumbledore admitted. "Can I ask what your plans for Voldemort are?"
"I’m going to kill him," Harry replied evenly. "And probably a lot of his Death Eaters as well."
"Do you think that’s wise?"
"Yes. They chose to support a murdering half blood; they will have to pay the consequences."
"I can see Malcom’s influence on you," Dumbledore said disapprovingly.
"Can you?" Harry asked curiously.
Harry nodded. "I do try and mould myself after him. It’s been a revelation; finally, having a positive male role model I can look up to. Especially one who believes in his family first and foremost. I hope to continue to learn from him as I grow, and I’m looking forward to formally entering his family as his son in law."
"Sixteen is a very young age to get married."
"It is," Harry agreed. "However, as I have a psychotic Dark Lord wanting to kill me, and a Headmaster who’s made my life as uncomfortable as possible, I’m not entirely confident in my ability to live to an age I would like to. So rather than miss out on life and worry about it, I am going to live each day as if it is my last."
"I am sorry that you feel that way, Harry."
"You could have stopped it," he said tiredly, sitting back in his chair. "And I’m still not sure you are telling me the truth about your actions, but I am going to presume that you made the decisions you did with good intentions, despite the Muggle saying."
"I believe that I preferred your more external displays of temper," Dumbledore said with a slight smile on his face.
"While more dramatic, it wasn’t as informative," Harry replied. "Although a display of temper, in the right place can accomplish more than polished rhetoric."
"A quote from Malcom, I believe."
"Paraphrased, yes," Harry nodded. He looked at Dumbledore directly, but all he could see was a tired old man, and for the first time he wondered if maybe he had been wrong; that possibly Dumbledore had really made the best decisions he could at the time, but had let his judgement be clouded as he started to believe in his own legacy. "Do you want to talk about the D.A.?"
Albus nodded slowly, and the conversation moved on.
Pansy took a seat next to Daphne and eagerly tapped her quill on the desk.
"You’re excited," Daphne said dryly.
"Just anticipating the amount of points I’m about to lose for Slytherin."
"It is a problem with the House points system, when you have students who are suddenly without house."
"And one who desperately wants a detention," Pansy smirked.
"Ahhh," Daphne smiled, and then went quiet as the short fat figure of Professor Umbridge stalked in.
"Open your books at page 57," She snapped.
"Tell me," Pansy drawled cheerfully. "Now that you’ve been proved an idiot from last year, are we actually going to learn something useful, or are you going to continue to ensure that this class is about as useful as Fudge in a meeting without someone telling him what to say?"
"I beg your pardon," Umbridge spluttered.
"Ahh, ignorant as well as ugly," Pansy sighed. "I asked if you had now learnt your lesson that Voldemort is back, and if you are actually going to teach us some defence against the Dark Arts, or if you are going to crouch behind your desk and catch flies."
"Fifty points from Slytherin," Umbridge roared. "I have never been so insulted in my life."
"Oh come on, I’m sure someone’s called you worse than an ugly toad with an inflated opinion of herself? If not, I’ll have to see if I can do better."
"How about a fat bitch whose only talent involves using that elongated tongue to make Fudge’s day?" Daphne asked Pansy. "Do you think that was worse?"
"I’m not sure," Pansy replied thoughtfully.
"One hundred points from Slytherin, and detention, both of you, tonight!"
Pansy smiled cheerfully. "You didn’t answer my question, though."
"Study your books in silence!" Umbridge yelled.
After a very boring hour had passed, they all filed out of the class.
"What was that about?" Hermione asked, as she walked next to Pansy, Ron flanking her.
"No one touches my family," Pansy said softly. "She hurt my Harry, and now she is going to pay. The only reason she’s still at school is so I can get my revenge. I got Dad to arrange it for me. I want a message sent out around the world that if you touch Harry Potter, he might forgive you, but I won’t."
Hermione turned to look at her closely. "Are you serious?"
"Very," Pansy said softly. She turned to look at Hermione. "I’ve been inside Harry’s mind, I’ve seen what people have done to him, and I won’t let anyone hurt him and get away with it again."
"I told you Slytherins were dark," Ron muttered.
Pansy sighed and shook her head. "You really don’t get it, do you?"
"Get what?" Ron demanded.
"That Houses are totally irrelevant. There is Good and Evil are in all of Hogwarts’ Houses, and stereotyping people by a decision made when they were eleven is pointless. I can name Death Eaters that have come from every house, including Gryffindor. Does the name Peter Pettigrew ring a bell? Tell me, Ron, what would you do if someone hurt Ginny, hurt her bad?" she challenged him.
Ron went silent.
"What would you do if Michael Corner pulled her into a cupboard, and abused her?" Pansy waited a second, and then sighed and continued. "I’ve seen how you act, Ron. I’ve seen how you lose your temper. You love Ginny as your sister; I love Harry as my life. I don’t get mad, I get even. If no one ever hurts Harry again, I will never have to do anything at all about it, and I will be happy. But if one person does, I will make them into an object lesson for everyone else, in the hope that I never have to do it again.
"To me, Ron, Harry comes first, above everyone else." She turned on her heel, and walked off. She could feel that Daphne was besides her and felt her friend place her arm around her.
"Thanks, Daph," she whispered softly.
"Let’s get to class," the blonde replied.
Ginny sighed as she flopped down on the chair. "You could have warned me in advance you were going to get a detention with Umbridge."
"Oh, sorry," Pansy apologised. "I forgot."
"Well, I finally managed to have detention with you tonight. I had to call her an ugly toad to her face, but it worked." She frowned. "Some people are a little upset with me for losing so many points."
"Do you care?" Pansy asked, as she looked at the smaller girl.
"Not as much as I did last year," Ginny admitted. "It’s strange how the points system seems a little stupid now."
"I was saying the same thing earlier," Daphne smiled. "As we’re no longer really in a House, it’s a bit pointless."
Ginny nodded, and looked at her watch. "Where’s Harry?"
"He’s spending some time with Vector. As he’s new to the course, he asked for some tuition so he can catch up."
"Have we got time for something to eat first?" Ginny asked.
"Dobby," Pansy called.
Dobby appeared in a pop, "You rang Mistress. Dobby thinks that you are wanting something to eat?"
"Please," Pansy said.
"Dobby is happy to help Mistress Park’son," the elf said, as he vanished, and food started appearing on the table to the side of the room.
"Come on," Pansy said, standing and dragging Ginny out of her chair. "Let’s eat. But not too much, you might not like what you see this evening."
Ginny paused and looked at Pansy directly. "I’ve been possessed by Voldemort," she said seriously. "I know more about horror than most people."
Pansy took a step forwards and hugged Ginny tightly. "I’ve seen Harry’s memories of Voldemort," she whispered. "As much as I can, I understand."
"Not to break up the moment," Daphne said dryly. "But when were you possessed by Voldemort?"
"My first year," Ginny said as she sat down, avoiding Daphne’s eyes. "I was given a diary with a bit of Voldemort’s soul in it. I told it everything, and it used me. He used me to control the Basilisk."
Pansy watched as Daphne dropped to her knees next to Ginny, and forced the younger girl to look at her. "One of the things about being friends is that they stand by each other," the blonde said softly. "It wasn’t your fault."
Ginny smiled a little crookedly. "Not everyone would accept that."
"We do, and we’re the ones who count," Pansy said with a grin. "Now let’s eat and get to our detention."
They ate together, and then walked to the Defence classroom for their detention.
"So good of you to turn up," Umbridge crowed as they entered. "Your father will be of no protection to you here."
Pansy shook her head sadly and shut the door firmly.
"I want you to write â€˜I will not insult a Professor’ a hundred times," Umbridge stated firmly.
Pansy grinned and picked up the quill laid out for her, and made a small scratch on the parchment. The scratch was instantly duplicated on the back of her hand.
"You really are incredibly stupid," Pansy sighed. "Daph, will you silence the door, please?"
"What are you doing?" Umbridge yelled as Daphne cast a silencing charm on the door.
"Now, we’re all alone," Pansy said cheerfully, dropping the quill on to the parchment. "Didn’t you get any idea about what was happening in the Ministry when your requests for transfer were denied, when Fudge wouldn’t even talk to you any more?
"Didn’t even a small warning bell ring in your head when my father announced that he was the head of the board of Governors?
"Or did you think that this little detention would be your revenge for my father humiliating you, for our house-elf humiliating you? You did, didn’t you?"
Umbridge pulled her wand out and pointed it at the three girls uncertainly.
"Did you think that no one would ever know about what you did to Harry last year?" Pansy purred in a low voice that was all the more daunting for its lack of volume. "Did you not think that his girlfriend might know, and might expect your tricks?"
"Stay back," Umbridge said, waving her wand threateningly.
"Put it away, you stupid cow," Ginny sighed.
"You little," Umbridge started, but stopped in shock as Pansy placed one hand on the table and used it as a pivot point, swinging her legs over it, and kicking the wand out of Umbridge’s hand.
Pansy continued the movement and tucked her legs in, shifting her weight, so that she landed in a chair on the other side of the table quite comfortably.
Umbridge gaped at her.
"It’s amazing what you can learn when you have a competent Defence teacher," Pansy smiled.
"What do you want?" Umbridge demanded, looking at the door with a desperate expression on her bloated face.
Daphne and Ginny pulled out their wands, and pointed them at the Professor.
"You can’t get away with this," Umbridge blustered fearfully.
"We already have," Pansy replied. "Dad knows that I am doing this, it’s why you’re still here. You hurt one of my family, and we all work together to get revenge. Your political career is over and done with. Fudge has washed his hands of you."
"What do you want?" Umbridge asked, as she suddenly collapsed behind her desk.
Pansy leant forwards and slowly, deliberately, placed the quill and pad before the professor.
"You are going to write, â€˜I will not hurt Harry,’ five hundred times."
"But that’s a Blood Quill," Umbridge protested, going white.
"Yes, it is, isn’t it?" Pansy smiled coldly.
"I won’t do it."
"Oh you will," Pansy purred. "Because if you don’t, you’ll be confessing all your sins to the school tomorrow morning, and then, after you have been fired, you will walk up to the Astronomy Tower, and you will jump off the roof."
"I would never, ever, do that," Umbridge said, crossing her arms defiantly.
"Imperio," Pansy said, making her voice as cold as she could. "You forget who you are dealing with. I am not Harry; I’m not honourable or nice. I come from a family of dark wizards."
"But there are witnesses," she said, pointing at Daphne or Ginny.
"I think the word you are looking for is accomplices," Daphne corrected fastidiously.
"She’s right," Ginny agreed. "Just think, I’m from a light family. Everyone knows that we are against Voldemort, and with me swearing that we had detention, and that you seemed a little depressed about your situation as we left, no one will even look at us twice. Now be a good little toad," she finished, her voice as cold as Pansy’s, "and start writing."
With a tear rolling down her cheek, Umbridge did just that. As she made the first stroke, she winced, but didn’t stop.
"I think that I’ll get Harry to tell Dad to get rid of her," Pansy said, as they walked back to the Room of Requirement.
"I can’t believe she put Harry through that," Daphne sighed.
"I didn’t realise just how bad things were for him last year."
"Harry should have told someone, anyone, about it," Pansy nodded. "I do blame Dumbledore for allowing it."
"Ladies, should I expect a new colleague soon?" a stern voice interrupted them.
Pansy turned and looked at the tall Professor.
"One of the Professors might have trouble grading paper this week," Pansy said evenly.
"An eye for an eye?"
"Something like that," Pansy nodded. "I think that any request for transfer she might make would be granted now."
McGonagall smiled faintly. "It’s late; I’d get to your rooms."
Pansy tilted her head and looked up at the Professor. "Thank you, Professor."
The professor nodded her head, and turned around and walked away.
"I can see why Harry has such respect for her," she said softly.
Ginny and Daphne nodded, and they hurried back to the Room of Requirement.
Inside, Harry was lounging on a couch, reading from a book; Ron and Hermione were seated next to each other at the table, studying.
Pansy walked straight over to Harry and sat down next to him.
"Hey," he smiled. The smile warmed her, and reminded her exactly why she had done what she had done a few minutes ago. "Long detention?"
"Umbridge and I came to an understanding," she said softly. "She won’t be doing it again."
"So we can get rid of her?" Harry asked.
"Okay. I’ve already talked to Malcom, and we’ve got a plan to deal with Snape tomorrow. Ginny really helped speed things up today. With him gone, we’ll be free to study in peace."
"Can I ask what you did?" Hermione asked, walking over to join them.
They’d rearranged the furniture again, so that there were three two-people couches surrounding a new fireplace.
"Made her use her own torture device," Ginny said calmly. "Pansy’s acting was perfect."
Pansy smiled slightly. "Thanks."
"Good," Ron said, "Serves her right."
Hermione looked troubled, but didn’t say anything.
"What’s the plan for Snape?" Ron asked eagerly.
"Let him hang himself," Harry shrugged. "I’m hoping to not have to do anything at all."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
"Professor Snape has a legal obligation to act like a Professor. If he doesn’t, then he can only hold himself responsible for any ramifications."
Hermione nodded and smiled. "That I can agree with."
"Harry, I need to talk to Dad, can I borrow the notepad?"
"Of course, it’s in our room in the top drawer of my cabinet," Harry smiled. "After you arrange for Saturday, make sure you leave the evening free for us. I want to take you out for dinner."
Pansy smiled happily, and gave Harry a hug. "I’d love to," she whispered, as she placed a kiss on his cheek.
She walked out, and smiled as she heard Ron ask, "What’s happening on Saturday?"
"Daph," Harry said, as they walked toward the Potions dungeon. "Whatever Snape says, do not react."
Harry flashed her a grin at the term of affection, "No matter what he says about me, don’t react."
Pansy pouted. "Can’t I just curse him once?" she whined playfully.
"Uh-uh," Harry grinned. "If you curse him, you don’t get kisses afterwards."
"But I like kisses," Pansy pouted.
"I know," Harry agreed. "But kisses are for good girls who don’t curse their Potions Professor today."
"No fair," Pansy said, her lower lip trembling.
"That’s the rules," Harry stated firmly.
"They better be good kisses," Pansy muttered, giving in.
"Excuse me for a second," Harry said politely to Daphne. He turned to Pansy and placed his hands under her arms, and lifted her into the air, spinning her around. He walked against a wall, and lowered her slightly so that she was eye to eye with him. With a deliberate slowness he leaned in and kissed her tenderly. Very carefully, he flicked his tongue out and gently touched Pansy’s lips. She opened her mouth instantly, and he deepened the kiss, before pulling back. "Lots of kisses, just like that," he promised.
Pansy looked at him for a second, and then laughed. "Oh, I do love you, Harry Potter," she said firmly, and kissed him briefly.
Harry smiled at her and let her down.
"If you two have quite finished," Daphne smiled. "We’re going to be late to class."
"Actually," Harry said as he looked as his watch. "We should be right on time."
He opened the door to the Dungeon, and ushered the two girls in.
"So good of you to join us," Snape sneered instantly. "Ten points from Gryffindor for being late."
"I believe that there are three of us exactly on time," Harry said amicably.
"Ten points for your rudeness," Snape snapped. "It’s obvious that you are in charge of your little harem, so you lose points."
"I’m sorry," Harry said. "Did you just accuse both of these students of engaging in illicit behaviour that is against Hogwarts rules?"
"Ten points for questioning a Professor," Snape replied instantly. "And since when has something being against the school rules stopped you, Potter?"
Harry shrugged and went to sit down, Pansy next to him.
"Oh no, I’m not having you cheat with your little tart, Potter," Snape interrupted them. "You will sit alone. I have no idea how you managed to bribe the Examining board to give you a passing grade in your potions exam, and I don’t care. You are a complete waste of my time and effort, and have the potions skill of a first year."
"Wouldn’t that reflect more on the professor than the student?" Harry asked, his voice as level and incurious as possible. He could see Draco smirking out of the corner of his eye.
"What did you just say?" Snape roared, storming over to Harry’s desk.
"I questioned your professional integrity," Harry explained helpfully, "and gave a pretty strong implication that your abilities as a professor were lacking both in the personal sense, and in the instructional sense. I also implied that you should not be teaching at all."
Snape gaped at him. "You’re as arrogant as your father, and just as ignorant. I will not be talked to like that in my own classroom."
The door to the dungeon slammed open, and Malcom, accompanied by two other board members and the Headmaster of Hogwarts entered the room.
"Fortunately, Snape," Malcom sneered. "This is no longer your classroom. Please consider your contract terminated with prejudice, effective immediately. You will accompany my colleagues to you quarters, where you will pack your belongings, and leave Hogwarts immediately."
"What?" Snape asked, his pallid face going even paler than before. "You can’t do that."
Harry stood and handed Malcom the Legal Recording Pad he pulled out of his pocket.
Malcom took it, and added the one from Ginny that Harry had given him earlier. "I have numerous testimonies from students over the past fifteen years about your inability to teach, and your complete lack of professional decorum," Malcom said, sounding bored with the whole thing. "I also have two transcripts of your attempts at teaching. You are obviously not qualified to instruct children in the art of potions. Your class yesterday with the fifth years was the most disgusting display I have ever had the misfortune to read.
"And take the last five minutes," Malcom continued. "I was planning on waiting till you had at least finished this lesson, but a student entered on time for the first lesson of the year. And your reaction was to single out one of the three students, incidentally, the only one not in your house. You then ignored his polite response, and accused my daughter and her friend of being whores.
"You followed that up by casting scandalous aspersions both on the student himself, and the whole examining board. I have personally checked Harry’s results, as has your Headmaster, and my two colleagues from the Board of Governors. We all agree that Harry’s passing grade was a fair result, and that he received no special treatment at all."
"Professor?" Snape asked, looking at Dumbledore for help.
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "I did warn you, many times, Severus. I even asked you this morning to behave yourself. The Board of Governors have revoked your contract, and there is nothing I can do."
"This isn’t over," Snape hissed at Harry and turned away.
"So he’s no longer a Professor, right?" Harry asked Malcom.
"Snivellus?" Harry called, as he stood and moved around his desk.
Snape turned, his face going red.
Harry reared back slightly, and launched the hardest punch he had thrown yet. He felt the cartilage of Snape’s nose snap under his fingers. He turned around, and sat back down at his desk.
Malcom looked down at Snape, who was now on the floor clutching his nose in pain. He looked up at the other two Governors. "Considering there’s been five years of abuse, I’d call that a justifiable reaction to extreme provocation, wouldn’t you?"
"Absolutely, Malcom," Simon, Malcom’s cousin, said, nodding firmly. "Tempted to do it myself. Mighty fine punch, young man. Mighty fine."
Harry looked up and smiled, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so good at school. He hadn’t been intending on punching the professor, but the final comment about his father had been a step too far. He was pretty sure that he’d actually saved his professor from a serious curse, as Pansy had looked furious. He was actually quite looking forward to giving his girlfriend her reward kisses.
"I think that Umbridge would love to have a word with you, as well," Harry said to the older man.
"Already done," Malcom smiled. "Our dear ex-Professor is currently waddling her way down to Hogsmeade."
Harry matched the smile. "It’s been a good morning," he admitted.
"I have some more good news for you," Malcom smiled. "I persuaded Nymphy to take the post of D.A. professor for the rest of the year."
"That’s brilliant," Harry said enthusiastically. "Having a real Auror is a great idea."
"I thought so," Malcom said modestly. He bent down and absently removed Snape’s wand from his pocket. "Get him out of here," he said to his two colleagues. "Get him to the Nurse, and then get his stuff and him off school property as soon as possible."
"Right away, Malcom," The one who had spoken before replied. He walked over, and pulled out his wand and cast a levitating spell. "Come, Matthew," he continued to the other man. "The sooner we get out of here and stop interrupting the classroom, the better."
"Professor Dumbledore," Malcom said formally. "I believe it would be wise to cancel today’s Potions classes, while we retreat to your office and have a look at applications for your new vacancy."
Dumbledore nodded firmly. "Please return to your Common Rooms," he said to the class, before turning and walking out of the dungeon."
Malcom nodded at Harry, and shot a wink at his daughter, before following the Professor out of the room.
"It’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it, Draco," Daphne said as she looked at the now pale-faced Slytherin.
"Your problem," Pansy said as she sat down comfortably on Harry’s lap and wrapped an arm around him for balance, "is that you have no idea how to really use power. You threaten and bluster and rely on your father’s reputation. Harry has never relied on anyone, and he has the authority you lack - because everyone knows that when our backs are against the wall, he’ll be in front, fighting."
Draco sneered at them. "The Dark Lord will get you," he hissed.
"Yes, Draco, we all know you’re a Death Eater wannabee," Pansy sighed. "You told us the other day. Tell me, can you say his name yet?"
"Voldemort," Ron said. "It’s not a hard name."
"Voldemort," Hermione added. "Look, a mudblood saying the name of your saviour," she taunted. "And look, I’ve not been shot down."
Draco pulled his wand out, and pointed it at Hermione.
There was a shifting in the room, as everyone else pulled their wands out and pointed them straight at Draco.
"Say his name, Draco," Harry said. "Say Voldemort."
"Come on Draco," Neville said. "If even I can say Voldemort, surely you can as well."
Draco looked around at all the wands pointed at him helplessly, and then stormed out the door, his two body guards behind him.
"Nicely done, Neville," Harry said, impressed.
Neville blushed slightly. "Thank you," he said. "I got Nan to practice with me over the summer. She’s not afraid of anyone."
Harry smiled and nodded.
"I can’t believe Snape’s gone," Dean said, shaking his head. "It’s like a wonderful dream I don’t want to wake from."
"And the best thing," Pansy smiled, "is that we didn’t do anything, we just let people see the true Snape. If he’d been a decent professor, he’d still be teaching here."
"I’m more pleased that Tonks is teaching the Defence class," Harry said.
"It’s a pity we couldn’t get Professor Lupin back," Blaise Zabini said.
"Moony’s busy," Harry said calmly. "He can’t be stuck in school at the moment."
"Okay," Blaise said thoughtfully. "Where do I sign up for the D.A.?"
Harry looked at Blaise. "Have you heard of the contract?"
"We’ve changed the spell on it. If you try and talk about the D.A., you will lose the use of the part of your body that you are trying to use to communicate. Only one of the senior D.A. members will be able to remove the spell."
"Like I said," Blaise smiled. "Where do I sign up?"
Harry sighed and watched as the owl swooped down toward Ron and Ginny in the Great Hall. They’d spent the rest of the day before in lessons, before doing their homework and relaxing.
The owl landed in front of Ron, carrying a steaming red envelope on its leg. The red-haired boy stared at it as if it was Voldemort himself. Harry made an instant decision to do something about it. "Finite Incantatem," he said, his wand in his hand.
"Thanks." Ron sighed with relief.
"Pick it up," Harry told him. He shot a glare at Dumbledore, who didn’t react. "Guys, let’s get out of here. We’ll eat breakfast alone."
He stood and walked straight out of the Hall, the doors opening long before him as he let loose a bit of his temper. He knew exactly what was in the Howler he had just disabled, and didn’t like it one bit. He should have anticipated it.
He stormed into the Room of Requirement and threw himself into a chair.
Pansy sat next to him, Ron and Hermione to his left, Ginny and Daphne to the right. Ginny reached over before she sat down and grabbed the envelope from Ron.
"Harry?" she asked.
"Dumbledore told your parents," he said to her. "I’ll bet that’s a Howler from your mum for moving out of Gryffindor Tower."
"Why haven’t Daphne and Hermione got one?" Ron demanded.
"Probably can’t find my parents," Daphne shrugged. "And even if he did, they’d tell him to mind his own business."
"And mine can’t send Howlers, they’re Muggles, remember. I fully expect to receive some form of communication from them."
"I should have anticipated that Dumbledore would do this," Harry grumbled, letting his temper fade away.
"You can’t think of everything."
Ginny opened the envelope. "You know, why didn’t we think to just cast that spell on these before? Why didn’t Fred and George? It would have saved so much embarrassment over the years."
"Because you felt that you deserved them," Harry said with a sigh. "It was part of the punishment for something you did. In this case, you’ve not done anything bad at all, but I’m sure that Dumbledore gave that impression without actually saying it."
"Hmm," Ginny said. "It says here that I’m a scarlet woman; so are you Hermione. Pansy, you and Daph are evil monsters, Harry, she doesn’t know what you are playing at, but demands that you stop. And she finishes with something that would probably sound impressive if it was shouted, but looks a little silly written down." She shrugged, and threw it into the fireplace. "Basically, Ron and I are ordered back to Gryffindor Tower.
"And you’ll have to go," Harry said grumpily. "I wouldn’t put it past Dumbledore to either expel you, or get your mum here on a permanent basis. I really wish she’d show just a little trust in us."
"You wish?" Ron said. "I’m bloody fuming. This is the second time she’s jumped to conclusions about us and reacted first."
Hermione sighed. "So we’re moving back?"
"You know, I can see why Dumbledore has done this. He still believes that he is the great chess master. Unfortunately, he’s been playing the game too long, and thinks that all the pieces are pawns. Without the key pieces, pawns will lose every time.
"The only thing I can think of doing is trying to talk to Molly at the next Order meeting. I somehow get the impression that she wouldn’t be impressed if I just turned up in her kitchen at the moment."
"She wouldn’t listen," Ginny said sadly.
"I wish your parents weren’t so convinced of Dumbledore’s infallibility," Harry sighed. "I tried to recruit your dad in his office, over the summer."
"He didn’t tell us that," Ron said with a frown.
"He wouldn’t even listen to me," Harry explained. "He immediately spouted off about Malcom and Pansy being dark, because Albus has told him that’s true. I know your dad’s a good person, but a bit more independent thought wouldn’t hurt. So I had to Obliviate him."
Ron blinked. "You Obliviated Dad?"
"He had to," Ginny interrupted. "Think about it. Dad would have told Dumbledore instantly that Harry was at the Ministry. Dumbledore would have known instantly that Harry wasn’t in hiding with a Muggle family, and would have been able to track him down."
Harry nodded. "And I was nice, I left him with the memory that he was looking at a very interesting washing machine."
"But still…" Ron grumbled.
"I would have done you and Hermione yesterday if things had been different," Harry said bluntly.
"Didn’t you listen?" Harry demanded, a bit irately. "I’ve told you, this is bigger than anything. This is the future of the Wizarding World we are talking about. I gave you a choice, and if you hadn’t taken it, I would have removed the memory of the plans from your mind. If you’re with me, I’ll trust you with everything. If you’re not, then I won’t."
Hermione shook her head slowly. "You know," she said in a soft voice. "I think I actually find that reassuring."
"What?" Ron asked, swivelling to look at his girlfriend.
"He wasn’t lying, Ron. He really believes that this is the way forward to end this once and for all. Just imagine a Hogwarts where we can study in peace, have fun, and not have the threat of death hanging over us.
"Imagine a world where you can go to a Quidditch match and watch it with your friends, knowing that a stupid Death Eater attack won’t spoil it. Imagine a world where we can have Hogsmeade weekends every weekend, without it being a massive security effort.
"That’s what Harry’s going for here. Not a half way solution that might end it or might not. He’s going for a complete victory. It’s a little risky, and I do think he’s gambling, but you know what, I’m not the one in charge here. I’m here to help advise him. We are all here to do that. We’ve all got different perspectives on things, and offer different insights. A good leader surrounds himself with people he can trust, and people who trust him. He gets people who will offer different things. Look around, we’ve got you, a hard core Gryffindor with more loyalty than any Hufflepuff. Ginny, a girl who knows as much about Voldemort as Harry does and isn’t afraid of him. Pansy, a girl whose first concern is Harry, to a level I find a bit scary. Daphne, a girl who’s sneaky and not far from being as smart as I am. And me; I’m probably the most Ravenclaw of us. We cover a lot of the spectrum.
"Harry said yesterday that he’s going to do things we don’t like, but that’s his job. He’s our focus point. It comes down to trust, Ron. Do you trust that Harry is going to get the job done or not?"
Ron looked in surprise at his girlfriend, and then at Harry. "I do," he said simply. "But what I don’t like, is bloody moving out."
Harry laughed softly. "I don’t either."
"Can you ask Dobby to move our stuff back?" Hermione asked with a sigh. "I swear that you lot are a bad influence on me."
"In what way?"
"In that we’re going to have yours and Ginny’s birthday party, tonight," she replied. "And we’re going to have a drink."
Harry laughed and looked at his watch. "What time?"
"Seven o’clock in the tower. We’ve invited most of the D.A."
"Speaking of that," Harry said with a frown. "We need to officially change its name to the Defence Association. I’m not running Dumbledore’s Army."
"Not many people actually think of it as that," Ginny said. "They’re fighting for you, not for him."
Harry nodded and smiled. "Right, we need to get to class. Let’s keep our heads down today, keep quiet, have a ball tonight and then, tomorrow, Malcom and I will put our heads together and see what we can come up with."
"Okay," Pansy smiled and climbed to her feet. She offered her hand to Ron. "Let’s go eat."
"Sounds like a plan," Ron said, looking a little surprised, as he took her hand.
She pulled him up, and moved him toward the table. Daphne and Ginny followed them.
Hermione looked at Harry and shook her head slowly. "You know that’s kinda spooky?"
"What?" Harry asked with a grin.
"The way Pansy decided that we needed to talk alone, and diverted Ron without trying."
"That’s Gruoch," Harry nodded. "Pansy’s been learning how to manipulate people for some time. She was a little disappointed that she couldn’t do it on Snape."
"She tried?" Hermione asked, looking surprised.
"The first night we were here, when we both went to Dumbledore’s office. Snape was being his usual bright and cheery self, and tried to intimidate us. It didn’t work, so Pansy tried it back."
"What happened at that meeting?"
"It ended strangely, with Dumbledore suddenly being cheerful and closing it. At the time, I thought that he knew something, but you know, I’m beginning to think that he was bluffing."
"It worries me that you have a bad relationship with Professor Dumbledore," Hermione said.
Harry nodded slowly. "Hermione, next time you get a chance, just look at him. Just watch him and see what you think. You might be a little surprised if you look behind his aura at the man behind it."
"What do you mean?"
Harry shook his head. "I’m not going to tell you. Consider it an experiment. I don’t want to prejudice you with an answer."
He stood up and offered her a hand. "What I am going to do, is something I don’t think I’ve ever initiated before."
"What’s that?" Hermione asked, as she moved to her feet.
"Hug you," Harry said, and did just that.
He felt Hermione’s arms wrap around him.
"Promise me we’ll always be friends - that we’ll grow old as friends."
"I can’t promise that," Harry whispered.
"Lie to me convincingly, then."
"I can’t do that either. All I can do is promise you that I will do everything it takes to make it happen."
Hermione sighed softly. "You’ve changed so much Harry, grown up so much, and you’re forcing me to, as well. I’ll fight you if I think you’re wrong, I’ll try and change your mind. But never doubt that I love you."
"I love you back, Hermione," he whispered. "I’ve never doubted that you won’t be there for me."
"Let’s go eat breakfast," Hermione replied, stepping back from him. "I don’t want your grey queen thinking I’m poaching on her private grounds."
Harry laughed softly. "You’re talking about the girl who sent me flying with Ginny, with the full knowledge that Ginny was going to kiss me. You’re talking about a girl who’s probably guessed our entire conversation already."
"And she trusts you."
"Completely," Harry agreed.
Hermione sighed softly and looked at Ron. "I wish I could say the same."
"You can trust Ron," Harry said with a frown.
"Oh, I can, as much as I could trust any other boy," Hermione smiled. "But he’s only human. I couldn’t let him kiss Lavender — I’d be scared of what would happen."
"He might surprise you."
"And he might not, I don’t want to take that gamble," she explained.
Harry smiled, "Then don’t."
Hermione laughed and they walked over to eat before classes start.
"Harry," Pansy called.
"Yeah?" Harry said, as he looked up.
"I’ve put some clothes in the training room for you. Make yourself a shower in there."
Pansy smiled and walked over to him. "I’ve got Ginny and Hermione coming over, and we’re going to have a girly session before the party. And as much as two of them probably wouldn’t mind you ogling them, the third would. So you’re banned to the training room."
Harry laughed softly. "Does the fact that I don’t really want to ogle anyone but you come into it at all?"
"I know you don’t, sweetheart," Pansy replied. "But you’ll enjoy the results."
Harry nodded. "I’ll have a bit of a workout before we get going," he said.
Pansy nodded. "Starting from Sunday, you’re going to have to force me to workout with you. It’s been too easy for me to stop this week."
"I will," he promised, and turned around.
"Harry," Pansy called.
She turned him around and gave him a kiss that made him a little unstable. The kiss was full of promise and desire.
"I fully expect you to find out for yourself what colour underwear I’m wearing later."
Harry grinned impishly at her.
"We’re not meeting your parents till eleven tomorrow," he smiled. "That means that we can sleep in a bit."
"I’ll knock on the door when we’re done, and meet you there."
Harry pulled her in for a quick kiss, and then walked into the training room.
He looked at the khaki trousers and shirt that had been provided, and shook his head. If Pansy was going to make an effort for him, he should really make one for her. He stepped into the other place that the elves used to travel, and wandered over to Parkinson Manor.
"Hey, Gruoch," Harry said cheerfully.
"Harry!" Gruoch smiled, as she walked over and gave him a hug. "How are things going at school?"
"A lot of conversations with Dumbledore," Harry smiled. "He’s being himself. I had Ron, Ginny, and Hermione moved in to the Room of Requirement with us, but he decided to talk to their parents about it."
Gruoch nodded. "I know, I had a chat with Dumbledore as well." She sniffed elegantly. "I suspect I made my position perfectly clear. But let’s not talk about interfering old men. When are you going to ask my daughter to marry you?"
"Tonight," Harry said with a slightly nervous smile. "Hermione, Daphne, Ginny, and Pansy are all having a girl’s night in, before the birthday party for me and Ginny."
"And you were told politely to get out of the way?"
"Absolutely," Harry grinned. "I’m supposed to be working out, but I figured that if she’s putting an effort in, I should do the same. So, knowing that my idea of fashion is â€˜does it fit?’, I decided to come see you."
Gruoch laughed and reached out, tousling his hair.
"I’m glad you did. Malcom’s working late, and with us going our separate ways tomorrow, I was worried I wouldn’t get to see you."
Harry nodded. "Me too."
"Come on," she smiled. "I’ve got just the thing you need for tonight. It’s not too formal, and it will guarantee that my daughter will fall in love with you all over again. I picked it up a few days ago, when I was shopping."
Harry smiled, "That sounds good."
"And then I’ll do your hair, and you can bring me more up to date with what has happened over the last few days."
"No problem. Go jump in the shower while I get the clothes out."
Harry nodded, and walked out of the room, automatically going to what he thought of as his room. He pulled off his clothes and stepped into the shower, washing himself, and his hair, quickly.
He stepped out and dried himself with a soft towel, and made a note to himself to get some sent to the school.
He pulled on a pair of boxers and walked back to see Gruoch. She wasn’t his mother, but she was probably the closest thing he had. As much as he loved Molly, he preferred spending time with Gruoch. She was less emotional, and much more likely to think things through before reacting.
"Put these on," Gruoch smiled as he entered his room. "They were screaming your name as I walked past. I couldn’t help myself."
Harry nodded and pulled on the trousers, doing up the belt. "Can I ask a favour?" he said, a little shyly.
"Of course," Gruoch smiled.
"Can you do some shopping for me tomorrow? The school uniform is just awful, and I’d really like to wear something a little more comfortable during the day. I can pay."
"Don’t you even think of offering to pay, Harry James Potter," Gruoch said firmly. "You are family."
Harry nodded, "Thanks."
"I suspect Pansy will want the same thing," she smiled. "So tell me, what’s Ginny like?"
Harry smiled and pulled on the shirt. He paused as he arranged his thoughts.
"Unique," he smiled.
Pansy knocked on the door to the training room, and yelled, "We’ll see you there!"
"Come on, girls," she grinned. "Let’s go have a great time."
"Excitable, isn’t she," Daphne smirked.
"Wouldn’t you be excited if you got to spend the evening dancing with his Dark Hotness?" Ginny asked.
"Absolutely," Daphne smiled.
"So can Harry really dance?" Hermione asked. "I read it in the Prophet, but you never know what’s true and what’s made up."
Pansy smiled and twirled merrily. "I spent a long time teaching him how to dance properly. Once he realised that fighting and dancing are not that different, he took to it like he did to Quidditch. It’s all about controlling your body and reacting to the other person. He can dance like he fights, only without the deadly punches and kicks." She stopped, and faced Ginny and Daphne. "While we’re at the party tonight, I’m sharing him with you. So you’ll both get to dance and have a good time. And don’t even think about complaining. If it’s slightly his fault that you two don’t want anyone else, he can make it up to you by ensuring that you have a good time."
Ginny frowned softly. "I don’t know if I can," she said quietly.
"I know," Pansy said, walking up to her. "But it’s the best way forward. I know you’re still in love with him. That’s not going to go away till he leaves school and isn’t a major part of your life day in and day out, so why not just enjoy it for now?"
"I can’t believe you’re doing this," Ginny whispered, shaking her head.
"You’re becoming family, Ginny," Pansy said simply.
Ginny nodded and hugged Pansy hard.
"Now, enough maudlin talk," Pansy demanded. "Let’s go make some jaws drop."
They walked into Gryffindor Common Room, the fat lady sniffing at the idea of two Slytherins entering. Inside, the room was set up like a ball room. A wireless was playing some music in the corner, and some of the normal carpet had been replaced by a dance area.
"Dobby’s just wonderful, isn’t he?" Ginny smiled.
"I really need to do something nice for him," Pansy said with a frown. "I know, I’ll hire Winky as my personal house elf. That way, they can both be together all the time."
"You really care about Dobby, don’t you?" Hermione asked.
"Absolutely. He’s a good and loyal friend."
Hermione nodded. "Have you noticed that we’re the centre of attention?"
"I had," Daphne said with a grin. "I don’t think people expected us."
"Actually," Hermione corrected fastidiously. "I don’t think that people expected us to look like this."
"You’re quite right," Daphne smirked.
Ron walked over to them, his eyes on Hermione. "Wow," he spluttered.
"Why thank you, you’re looking nice as well," Hermione smiled. She was wearing a dark blue dress that highlighted her eyes. Her hair was pulled back in an elegant pony tail, just a few stands escaping to frame her face.
Ginny laughed softly, "You’re going to have to do the talking till the blood returns to my brother’s brain," she smiled. "And that looks like it might take a while." She was wearing a black cocktail dress that was a little shorter than normal, and showed off her legs. Her hair had been blown dry like before, and fell over her shoulders like a wave of fire.
"Let’s get a drink," Daphne suggested. The elegant blonde was wearing a formal green dress with a high colour, and buttons down the front. She had the top two buttons undone, hinting at her cleavage, but not actually showing it.
"Sounds like a plan," Pansy smiled. Of the four girls, she looked the best, and carried herself like she knew it. The dress itself was one of her favourites, and was elegant simplicity. It was made for dancing. The pure white dress had a strap over each shoulder leading down to a tight bodice that offered support while showing off to the ultimate effect. The dress fell to her hips, where it flared out to her knees. She had finished the outfit with strappy white heels that should make her the same height as Harry.
She picked up a couple of bottles of Butterbeer, and passed them to her two companions. "I hope Harry gets here soon," she muttered. "I think this party needs someone to get it started."
"I think we made too much of an entrance," Daphne mused. "Some of them look a little intimidated."
"Possi…" Pansy said, before trailing off into silence.
"Pansy?" Ginny asked, looking slightly concerned.
"Sweet Merlin On A Bike," Daphne whispered, deliberately enunciating each word clearly.
Ginny turned and swallowed. "I thought you left him some khaki trousers and a blue shirt?"
"He’s been to see Gruoch," Daphne said. "Damn, but he’s a clever one."
"Why is Pansy in a daze?"
"Because Gruoch knows Pansy. She had such a crush on a Muggle film star when she was young, from a movie. She told me a few years ago that she watched it every day for a month. It’s one of the reasons she worked so hard at learning to dance. She wanted to be that actress.
Harry was wearing a simple, tight fitting, black shirt, with the top three buttons undone. His hair had been tamed into something that looked stylish, and he had on tight black trousers and shoes.
The shirt sleeves had been rolled up, which emphasised his arm muscles.
"Hey," he said, as he approached them, his eyes on Pansy. "You look unbelievable, my angel," he whispered to her. "Dance with me?"
She nodded, and followed him to the centre of the new dance floor.
"That’s how you compliment a lady," Ginny sighed. "Sure, stunned into stupefaction is nice, but a real compliment is nicer."
"Well," Daphne said. "Let’s get drunk and tell each other stories."
Ginny smiled. "Drunk on Butterbeer?"
"Of course not," Daphne smiled. "Pansy asked Dobby to charm some of the bottles of Butterbeer to have something a little more interesting inside it. Take a sip."
Ginny did, and blinked. "What the hell is this?" she gasped.
Daphne laughed and took her sip as well. "It’s called an Alco pop. It’s a mixture of alcohol and fruit juice.
"It’s gorgeous," Ginny sighed. "How much alcohol?"
"Enough to get us completely drunk," Daphne smiled.
"We should go easy on it then?"
"Sadly, yeah. Otherwise we might think we can take Pansy."
Ginny laughed. "Nah, she’s not drinking."
"So, are you nervous about tomorrow?"
"About meeting Pansy’s mum?"
"A little. I mean, I’ve heard so much about her that contradicts itself. My parents don’t like her, but Harry obviously loves her."
"Pansy’s a miniature version of Gruoch. So if you just treat her like you treat Pansy, you’ll be fine. Don’t be a mouse, and don’t be afraid of her. She can’t stand people who don’t stand up for themselves."
Ginny groaned. "Great, I’ve got years of being shy behind me. It’s still default behaviour."
"Nah," Daphne grinned. "Pansy won’t let you." She paused, and turned to the dance floor and sighed. "That’s the problem, Gin," she said, quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"Look at Dean and Parvati dance."
The two in question were moving their arms a little as they bounced along to the beat. Dean seemed to be spending as much time looking down at Parvati’s chest as her face, and they both look a little uncomfortable dancing.
"Looks pretty normal to me," Ginny said.
"Right. That’s the problem. Now look at the white knight and grey queen."
At the moment, Pansy had her arms above her head, and was twirling fast on the spot, Harry was crouched in front of her. As the brunette stopped twirling, Harry slid up back up, and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her close, as they danced around the floor, each step in perfect synchronisation.
As the music upped its tempo, Pansy jumped, spreading her legs almost in a forwards split, as she locked her arms against Harry, and he carried her around the dance floor.
He placed her on the floor, and dashed away from her, jumping and sliding on his knees. He turned mid slide, so that he was looking at her, and slid to a halt. With his eyes locked firmly on hers, he waited for the next song.
He smiled, as a regular Latin beat came out of the wireless in the corner. He raised his hands up, jumped to his feet, and took two quick steps forward, clicking his heels on the floor. He slid his arms down as he took another two quick steps.
The others who had been dancing had stopped now, and were gathered around in a circle, watching.
Pansy smiled softly, playing with her skirt, as if nervous, as Harry continued to prowl before her.
With a sharp staccato clap of his hands, Harry slid over in front of her, an intense look on his face. He leaned in, as if to kiss her, but Pansy leaned backwards away from him.
Harry stood upright again, and then fell backwards, supporting himself on one arm as Pansy pushed him in the chest. She took a similar two steps backward her heels making a similar noise on the wooden floor. The move was a challenge and a declaration of independence as she twirled, her skirt flying out, before finishing in a pose that invited Harry to chase her.
He smirked at her, lowering himself to the ground, and lying on his side, his legs crossed. As the music picked up, he slid his feet around, smoothly returning to his feet, and danced over to her, circling her as she stood still, as if he was admiring her from every angle.
Formally, Pansy held up her hands, as if agreeing to dance with him. He moved closer to her, taking her hands in his, standing a little away from her. With the music, they started simply, swaying back and forwards, small steps that showed how in tune with each other they were. Harry moved into a cross body lead, turning around as Pansy followed him.
"That’s not dancing, that’s shagging standing up — with clothes on," Ginny sighed.
"Exactly," Daphne agreed. "They’ve got a level of comfort with each other that teenagers don’t normally have. It’s like watching two adults in a room full of kids. Not just the fact that they’re both amazing dancers, it’s the confidence they have in both themselves and each other."
As the dance ended, they both smiled at each other, ignoring the cheers from the other students, and they walked back over to Daphne and Ginny.
Ginny calmly handed Pansy a drink.
"Thanks," she smiled. "We’ve provided enough entertainment for now."
"As long as for now isn’t long," Harry smiled.
"Yes," Pansy laughed. "I know, you like dancing. Now. The first time I showed him he was so nervous."
"Yes, thank you, honey," Harry grinned.
"Well, as you’re obviously full of energy, take Ginny on to the dance floor."
A look of surprise flickered across his face, followed by a look of concentration. Ginny was suddenly hit with the idea that he was checking with Pansy mentally. She turned her head, and watched as Pansy’s face flickered.
"So, fair maiden of the flame," Harry grinned, bowing elegantly before her. "May I have this dance?"
"You may," Ginny said formally, and then ruined the effect by giggling. "Maiden of the flame?"
"Oh yeah," Harry smiled, as he puller her into his arm close, holding her a lot more loosely than he had Pansy. "Flame haired maiden, while more accurate, isn’t quite as grand sounding."
"You do know that I can’t dance, right?" Ginny asked.
"Just keep your eyes on mine, and relax," Harry said. "I’ll take you around slowly; you’ll be able to keep up."
"That’s easy for you to say."
"You have no idea how many times I made a fool of myself," Harry smiled, as he started to move them both around the dance floor.
Ginny found herself following him automatically. She had no idea how she was doing it, but soon she realised she was actually dancing.
"I was falling for Pansy at the time, and the idea of making a fool of myself in front of her wasn’t high on my list of things to do."
"Where did you learn to dance?"
"In a field by Parkinson Manor, we’d go out to the lake there on Thunder and Lightning, our horses, and spent the afternoon and evening with Pansy teaching me how to dance."
"It was," Harry agreed. "We’d watch the sunlight slowly set over the hills, as we danced close. I found myself lost in her eyes as she’d smile at me, and show me a new move."
Ginny sighed softly, and moved closer, placing her head on his chest. She wasn’t sure what she was doing at the moment. Being this close to Harry and not having him was more than a little painful. But on the other hand, it was fun, and she was having a good time. She knew now that he would never betray Pansy. And that she had been right, the only other thing she could do was cut him out of her life completely, but she couldn’t do that. It wasn’t his fault he was in love with someone else. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just was. And she really didn’t want to lose his friendship. It was to important to her, and she knew it was to him, as well.
She felt Harry tighten his arm around her, and she smiled slightly, and closed her eyes, just enjoying the moment.
After a few minutes, she heard an amused voice say, "Mind if I cut in?"
She looked up at Pansy, and stepped back automatically.
"Thanks," Pansy grinned, and before Ginny knew it, she was being whirled around the dance floor by the brunette girl.
"How are you doing?" Pansy asked.
Ginny smiled up at Pansy, "Not bad, actually. That was fun."
"Good," Pansy smiled. "It may seem that I know what I’m doing with you and Daph, but I don’t. I don’t want to cause you pain."
"You’re not," Ginny assured her. "It was nice, and you know, I realised what you said was right. It might not be the perfect answer, but it is the best. You do know how much he loves you?"
Pansy nodded softly. "I do," she said simply.
Ginny looked around as they danced. "We’re the centre of attention again," she sighed.
"Girls don’t normally dance like this together," Pansy said with a shrug. "But don’t worry about it. Their opinions don’t matter. All that matters is that we’re having a good time and that we are open with each other."
"How come you’re so wise?" Ginny asked. She knew what Daphne had said earlier, but wanted to see Pansy’s opinion. "Mum, and Dad. I’ve been treated as a full adult at home for years. It was hard at first, because I wasn’t an adult, but it helped me to grow up. I wouldn’t have been able to get Harry if I hadn’t had that experience.
"He felt the same way. My parents treated him as an adult from the get go, and you could almost see him realise how much he liked it, and how he decided that he would have to act like one to continue to be treated like that."
Ginny nodded, "And how come I’m able to dance with you both, when normally I’m lucky to string two moves together?"
Pansy laughed and twirled her around. "Because we both give you little signals of what we want you to do, and your body does as it’s told."
"What did you say to Harry earlier, before he asked me to dance?"
"You caught that?" Pansy asked.
"He asked if I was sure, and I told him not to be silly. He wanted to dance with you, but was checking on me first."
Ginny smiled, "What’s he doing now?"
"Dancing with Daphne," she replied instantly. "I think they’re talking about riding."
"That mind thing has got to be really useful," Ginny laughed.
"A little," Pansy agreed.
They went silent as they continued to dance. It was different from dancing with Harry, partly because of the differences in physiology. Where as Harry was all hard muscle, Pansy was alternately hard and soft. Harry had kept her to simple steps, but Pansy was making it a little more complicated, and she realised it was because Pansy was a more experienced dancer, and she felt like she was learning more just by doing it, than she would have by standard teaching.
As she had with Harry, she leaned her head on Pansy shoulder and closed her eyes, just enjoying the feeling of being perfectly graceful.
They danced for another hour, swapping partners randomly, before they stopped as Hermione turned off the wireless and turned the lights on. "As it’s a birthday party, for Harry and Ginny, we’re got a few gifts to exchange." She pointed behind everyone to a corner. "The house-elves have provided a bit of a feast for you, so if you’ll excuse us?"
Harry smiled, looking grateful, and Ginny realised that he still wasn’t that comfortable in large crowds.
They moved over to a corner, and sat down in comfortable seats. Ron sat down unsteadily, looking like he’d been on a few too many of the Alco-pops. Hermione sat next to him, looking a little disgruntled.
"Here, Ginny," Harry said, handing her a small package. "This is from both of us."
Ginny opened the package, tearing the paper, wanting to see what it was. She looked down as a heavy weight dropped into her lap, and picked it up. It was a red and gold necklace, that was simply stunning, and she gasped with pleasure, examining it closely. The strains of red seemed to pulse in the light, as they danced over the gold.
"Thank you," she cried, throwing herself at Pansy, then at Harry, hugging them both tight.
For some reason, Ron was frowning, but she ignored it.
"And this is from me," Daphne smiled, handing her a slightly larger package.
"You didn’t have to," Ginny smiled.
"But I wanted to," Daphne said with a shrug. "I had to get it owled in," she admitted with a grin.
Ginny tore off the wrapping paper, and opened the box. It contained a matching brooch for the necklace. "Thank you," she squealed, throwing herself at Daphne for a hug as well.
"You’re welcome," Daphne whispered.
This time, Ron didn’t seem so upset, which was confusing to say the least. They were both obviously expensive presents, so that wasn’t what was bothering him.
She reached down to the side of her chair, and pulled out her present for Harry. With a smile, she lobbed it at him.
"Thanks," Harry grinned, and following her example, he tore the wrapping off.
She was a little nervous about the present, not least because of Pansy’s reaction. She’d wanted to do something different for him, so she’d done a little work for the Twins testing products, to get some money.
He opened it up, and his face broke into a wide smile. He shifted, and pulled out the ring, putting it on his right hand. He showed it off to Pansy.
"Very nice," Pansy said admiringly. "You’ve got good taste, Gin," she praised.
Harry stood and moved over to her, showing her how the solid silver Celtic Knot band looking on his finger. He then moved closer and pulled her up, into a huge hug. "Thanks, Ginny," he said softly.
"You’re welcome," she said, suddenly really happy.
After a few more presents, from Ron and Hermione to Harry, Pansy said, "So, let’s get this party going again. Why don’t the birthday boy and girl have a dance?"
"Come on, Gin," Harry grinned, grabbing her hand enthusiastically.
As they started, Ginny realised he had relaxed a little, a combination of his good mood and the alcohol he had imbibed. He danced her around the dance floor gracefully. As before, she simply didn’t think about what she was doing, and let him guide her around. She trusted him, completely.
The others in the party seemed to watch them for a minute, before everyone started dancing again, and Harry slowed them, so that they were dancing on the spot.
"Happy birthday, Ginny," he said gently, and kissed her briefly on the lips.
"Harry birthday, Harry," she echoed, and placed her head on his chest.
She danced with Pansy again next, before returning the girl to her partner, and making her way over to the corner, where Ron and Hermione were sitting.
She wondered if Harry had danced with Hermione yet, but realised her brother might not take that too well.
"What on earth are you doing?" Ron asked.
"Huh?" Ginny replied, helping herself to an ordinary Butterbeer. She’d had a couple of the alcoholic drinks, and stopped as soon as she felt herself start to get a little drunk.
"Dancing like that with her."
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked, more than a little confused.
"You should be with Harry," Ron said.
"I did dance with Harry," Ginny said slowly, realising her brother was slightly more drunk than she had presumed.
"And that was right," Ron agreed. "But then you danced with her the same way. You shouldn’t be doing that; you should be winning Harry off her."
"You mean Pansy?" Ginny asked, her voice going cold.
"Yeah, her. The one who stole Harry."
"Pansy did not steal Harry," Ginny replied, placing her hands on her hips. "And Pansy is my friend; why shouldn’t I dance like that?"
"Because people are talking," Ron said loudly. "It’s not right, you dancing with a girl like that."
"Ron, stop it," Hermione said.
"No," Ron said mulishly. "You were danshing like you were in love with her."
"Grow up, Ron," Ginny said, feeling herself start to lose her temper as her brother tried to ruin what had been one of her best nights.
"She’s just buying your friendship with expensive presents, while she flaunts Harry in front of you," Ron slurred.
"I’m not for sale, Ron. You have no idea what you are talking about," Ginny retorted furiously. "Pansy’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She has no need to buy anyone’s attentions. If she feels something for you, you know it."
"Oh," Ron said with a sneer. "So what, are you in love with her too? She’s your bloody rival."
"She is not my rival," Ginny shouted. "She’s my best friend."
"Is that why you were dancing like a slut with her? Mum was right, you are a scarlet woman."
"Ronald Bilious Weasley," Hermione exclaimed. "If you don’t stop this right now, we are through."
"Not now, Hermione," Ron said, obviously not listening to her. "Girls don’t dance like that. So what, you kiss Harry, and then kiss her?"
"I’ve never kissed Pansy," Ginny said, her hands now on her hips. "And it wouldn’t matter if I did. We’re friends, obviously a concept you can’t bloody understand."
"Just wait till I tell mum you’re a bloody lesbian slut," Ron slurred.
"Is that what you bloody think?" Ginny shouted. She turned, to see that Pansy and Harry were glaring at Ron, both looking furious. "Then if you’re going to tell mum, you may as well tell her about something that did happen."
She stalked over to Pansy, grabbed her, pulled her head down and kissed her as hard as she could. She was so furious with her brother she didn’t even think about what she was doing, and she kissed her like she had kissed Michael Corner, her tongue sliding between the other girl’s still lips. She absently realised that Pansy tasted very different before she froze.
She pulled back, and looked up at the shocked face of Harry, her brother, Daphne, Hermione, everyone who had heard the argument.
She realised just what she had done, and felt tears running down her face. She had just been goaded into ending a friendship that had existed only for four days, but still meant the world to her.
"Oh no," she whispered. "I’m so sorry." She turned, and ran out of the door, having no idea where she was going, just wanting to get away.
Harry looked at the thoughtful expression of his girlfriend, as she watched the girl run out. "Harry, deal with your friend," she commanded, and ran off after Ginny.
He was pretty sure that whatever happened, Pansy would fix it.
He turned back to look at Ron, and resisted the urge to break his jaw. "Party’s over," he snarled. "Everyone to their own dorm rooms, now!"
The room emptied of people faster than would have been thought possible, leaving only Ron, Daphne, and Hermione with him.
"I was planning on finishing this evening by asking Pansy to marry me," he growled at Ron. "Instead, my girlfriend is comforting the girl whose evening you just ruined."
He took a deep breath, trying to reign in his temper. Ron had systematically managed to insult Pansy, Ginny, and him, in an amazingly quick time. He looked at Hermione and Daphne. "Daph, take Hermione back to our rooms, talk to her."
Daphne nodded, and grabbed the protesting Hermione by her hands and took her away. If anyone would be able to save Ron and Hermione’s relationship it would be her. He suspected that Pansy would be as likely to persuade Hermione to dump Ron immediately, as not.
He marched over to a window and opened it, calling for his broom. He grabbed Ron, completely ignoring his spluttering, and carried him over to the broom. He roughly dumped Ron over it, and flew out the window.
As he reached the middle of the lake, he pushed Ron off, and let him fall — with a loud wail — into the water twenty foot below. The temptation to drop him from higher had been immense. And barely resisted.
He circled a few times, watching as Ron tried to keep afloat.
Eventually, he swooped down, and grabbed Ron’s outstretched arm, dragging him through the water, till they reached the edge and he dropped the boy onto the grass.
Ron coughed, repeatedly, and spat out a mouthful of water.
Harry got off his broom, and walked and sat down, his back against a tree.
Ron walked over and sat opposite him. "I really mucked up, didn’t I?"
"Ginny’s going to hate me, isn’t she?"
"You hurt one of her family. You know what she did to Umbridge."
"Right now I’m restraining the urge to ensure you don’t say anything for some time, by breaking your jaw."
Ron sighed and went silent, looking up at the stars.
"You and Ginny looked so good when you danced, like you were meant to be together."
"Better than me and Pansy?"
Ron went silent, and Harry nodded once, his point made.
"I just didn’t think that she should be dancing that close with another girl."
"Did you feel that way when Pansy and Daphne were dancing?"
"This was my sister."
"Who was having a good time dancing with a friend. A friend, who happens to my future wife."
"She looked happy."
"And why shouldn’t she? It was her birthday party, and Pansy was trying to make sure that she had a damn good time."
"It just all came together," Ron sighed. "And I had a few too many to drink."
"That’s not an excuse. We all made our own decisions not to get to drunk — apart from you."
"What I find most annoying, was that you ignored the fact that I have told you that I love Pansy - that I am planning on marrying her. Just how exactly is Ginny supposed to â€˜win’ me from her? It has very little to do with her, and everything to do with me and Pansy. Do you really think so little of me, that I’d dump someone I loved for someone else? Do you think that I don’t know Pansy inside out? I’ve been inside her mind, I’ve seen what makes her tick, and I’ve seen both sides of her. I’m not going to leave Pansy, or lose Pansy, no matter what. She is the most important person in the world to me, more so than anyone else. So bloody get it into your thick skull that I will never leave Pansy, and that Ginny and I will never bloody happen."
"No bloody buts, Ron," Harry shouted, finally. "It’s got absolutely bloody nothing to do with you at all. Ginny can make her own decisions, and you can be as sure as hell that I can make mine, and Pansy can make hers."
"I was jealous," Ron said softly.
"Of Ginny?" Harry asked, confused.
"No, of you," he admitted. "You can dance, you’ve got at least two girls in love with you, probably three, and you’re so impossibly perfect, not even looking at the others, unless Pansy tells you too."
"So why didn’t you do something about it? We told you when we would be running in the morning to get fit. Why didn’t you ask for dancing lessons?"
Ron was silent.
"Because it was much easier to just sit at the back and be jealous, right?" Harry sighed forcefully. "This is real life, Ron. If you want something, you have to work for it yourself, it’s not handed to you on a plate."
"It is for you."
"Handed on a plate," Harry said icily, "implies that there is nothing to pay. I’ve paid and paid and paid and continue to pay a lot more than you can ever know. But let’s put it in terms you can understand. My girlfriend is rich, no doubt about it. Yours is the smartest witch of our generation. Can you see Hermione not being a success at whatever she does? Because I can’t.
"I’m rich," Harry continued. "But I happen to know that your parents have a massive life insurance policy. So, you want them dead so you can collect on it?"
"No!" Ron yelled. "That’s sick."
"Oh," Harry scowled. "So it’s okay for me to be rich because my parents were murdered, but for you to get rich because your parents die?" He took a deep breath. "I’ve got two girls in love with me. I didn’t ask for that, and it’s not something I like — it complicated things tremendously. Especially as I care for Ginny a lot, but I am in love with Pansy, and I don’t like seeing Ginny hurt. It’s something I have to deal with, and something that Pansy has to deal with, and I know she’d much rather send Ginny away, but she’s being as open as she can for me. Before wishing you had something that hurts us both, I’d concentrate on getting one girl to love you, and not by telling her, "Not now," when she’s trying to stop you from doing something incredibly stupid."
Harry climbed to his feet, and threw his broom at Ron. "Go back to the tower, Ron. Go back and take a shower, then go to bed. Stay the hell away from us tomorrow, and bloody well think about who you are and what you are becoming. We’ll see you Sunday."
"What about you?"
"I’m in too much of a bad mood to see anyone at the moment," Harry growled. "I’m going to see Aragog."
"You’re doing what?"
"Going to see the spiders, Ron. So unless you want to join me, I’d go back to the tower. I’ll be fine, I can get away if I get in any trouble."
Ron nodded and mounted the broom. "I am sorry," he said quietly.
"I know," Harry sighed, and watched as Ron flew back to the Tower, climbing into the window.
With a shrug, he walked straight into the Forbidden Forest, breathing deeply. It didn’t take him long to stumble across some of Aragog’s children, and as before, he let the spiders carry him to the giant spider.
"I can smell you," Aragog as he crawled out of his burrow. "You’re back, are you?"
"I am," Harry said, freeing himself from the spiders effortlessly. "I’d say it’s good to see you, but you’re looking awful."
Aragog turned his eight milky eyes on to Harry.
"Honesty, human, could be seen as an insult."
Harry shrugged. "If you choose to take it that way."
"You’re very different. Why are you not scared?"
"Because you’ll be dead before the order to attack is finished," Harry said casually.
"Really?" Aragog asked, sounding curious.
Harry moved, his hand dipping into his pocket, flicking off the catch on his knife holster, and pulling it out. He threw it hard, narrowly missing Aragog’s head, embedding it in a tree.
Aragog turned and sniffed the handle.
"Accio knife," Harry said calmly, and watched as the blade spun toward him. Carefully timing his movement, he reached out and caught it by the handle, placing it back in the hidden holster.
"Hagrid is the only human not afraid of me."
"Now there are two," Harry said with a slight smile. "But I’m here for a reason. The snake man is going to be fought soon. I want your help, as a thank you from you."
"Thank you for what?"
"Killing your mortal foe," Harry said calmly.
"Ahh," Aragog said. "I wondered when you would come to claim that. It is yours. The snake man will make more, if not stopped. My children do not like him."
"Can you travel?"
"We are spiders, human. We can move like the wind. What is it you require?"
"Fighters on the field, and disposal of remains."
Aragog perked up. "You want us to take away the dead?"
Harry smiled faintly. "The dead in black, yes. They may as well have use in death that they haven’t had in life."
"Humans don’t normally care for our eating habits."
"I’m far from normal," Harry said.
Aragog looked around slowly. "What say you, my children?" he asked.
There was a sound of clicking from around the hollow.
Aragog laughed briefly. "Some of my children want to eat you."
"They’re welcome to try," Harry said coldly.
"But they won’t," Aragog continued. "They can see the danger in you, and are warned, snake-killer. They will fight for you, and they will take away the dead — just the black ones. Simply send word when you are ready."
"I consider your debt paid," Harry said, with a bow.
Aragog clicked thoughtfully. "You may visit me again. I find it nice to occasionally talk to intelligent humans."
"I will bring my mate to see you."
"Your mate will come?" Aragog asked.
"My mate is as brave as I am, and will be displeased that I came to see you without telling her beforehand."
Aragog laughed, a dry crackling sound, as if he hadn’t done so for many years. "That is the way with mates," he agreed. "But they are worth their weight in gold."
Harry nodded in agreement. "Thank you for your time."
"You are welcome. Hold out your hand."
Harry did so, and Aragog moved over to him, lowered his head, and his pinchers shot out, nipping the skin.
"You have the Mark of the Spiders," Aragog said formally. "You speak with my voice."
Harry went down on one knee and bowed formally. "An authority I will not abuse."
"Of course you won’t," Aragog agreed. "It was good speaking to you, human."
"Harry," Aragog said thoughtfully. "I shall not forget. Farewell."
Harry smiled, and turned on his heel, walking out of the forest. He thought briefly, and entered the other place, returning outside the Room of Requirement.
He entered, to find that Ginny, Pansy, Daphne, and Hermione, were all wearing thick dressing gowns and thick socks. They were sat close to the fire, cooking marshmallows on sticks.
"Come and sit down, love," Pansy said gently to him.
He nodded and walked over to them, kicking his shoes off.
"You’re cold," Pansy said, sounding a little worried. She started to rub his arms, pulling him down to the floor.
"Harry?" Hermione asked. "What’s on your hand?"
Harry looked at it, and stretched out, his feet toward the fire. "The Mark of the Spiders."
"You went and saw Aragog?" Pansy asked.
"Yeah, after dealing with Ron."
"What happened?" Hermione asked.
"Well, I put Ron…"
"Not Ron," Hermione said firmly. "With Aragog?"
"We had a chat, we threatened each other, we came to an agreement, and he gave me the mark."
Hermione sighed and smiled at Pansy. "Can you please get some more out of him."
Pansy laughed and poked Harry in the ribs. "More details, please."
"A kiss would help," he grinned at Pansy.
"Fine, be that way," Hermione sighed and got to her feet. She took a few steps forward and dropped on his lap.
Harry gaped at her.
She gave him a chaste peck on the lips, and then went back to her spot, looking smug.
Next to him, Pansy was laughing so hard he thought she might hurt herself. "You asked for that," she chortled.
He laughed softly, a little embarrassed. "It was aimed at you."
"I know," she giggled, and gave him a quick, but much more intense, kiss. "Now, tell the nice lady what she wants to know."
Harry nodded, and recited everything pretty much word for word.
"I’m going to have to do some research tomorrow to find out what this Mark of the Spiders is," Hermione said as he finished. "It sounds like it’s a good thing."
Harry nodded in agreement. He stretched out further, lying fully out, propping his head up on the edge of the chair.
"Okay," Ginny said quietly. "What did you do with my idiot brother?"
"I flew him out to the centre of the lake, and dumped him in it. I let him struggle for a few minutes, before I dragged him through the water to the shore."
"An effective cure for being drunk," Daphne said with an audible smirk.
"He seemed pretty sober by then," Harry agreed. "I was fighting the urge not to break his jaw." He felt Pansy slide closer to him, and take his hand, placing it on her leg, and covering it with her own.
"We had a long talk, where I basically told him to grow up, and to not come near any of us tomorrow. He knows what he’s done, and he knows his reasons were stupid. I think he needs sometime to think it all over. I’m suspending judgement till then, and I can listen to what he has to say."
There was silence around the room, except for the popping of the fire.
"Harry?" Ginny said in a small voice.
"I’m sorry, for, you know, ruining tonight."
Harry sat up, and looked at the red haired girl. She looked a little lost in one of Pansy’s robes. "Come here," he told her.
Nervously, she climbed to her feet and walked over to him. He reached out as she got near, and grabbed her hand, pulling her down. "You didn’t ruin anything," he said firmly, and hugged her tightly.
He felt her crying on him, and stroked her back reassuringly. "It’s okay," he whispered.
He reached out with his mind, and lightly touched Pansy’s. A second later, he felt her arms wrap around them both, in a three way hug.
As he felt her stop crying, he shifted to the left, making space between Pansy and himself, and placed her in it, so that she was surrounded by them.
"I still owe you a dance," he said to Hermione.
She laughed and nodded. "Absolutely. I want to see if you can make me look as graceful as Ginny."
"Harry could make Millicent Bulstrode look graceful," Pansy grinned.
"Ewww!" Harry complained. "I’m not dancing with her."
The others laughed, and they settled into a relaxing conversation, just laughing and joking. The ring Harry wanted to give Pansy, stayed in his pocket.
"Morning," Harry said, as he joined Ginny and Pansy outside the Great Hall. He’d had a quick run to wake himself up, and was now pretty hungry.
"Ginny," Pansy said, "You’re walking between us, don’t react to anyone or anything. Leave that to us."
"Okay," Ginny nodded.
"And raise your head; you’ve not done anything to be ashamed off."
Ginny nodded again, and raised her head proudly.
Harry pushed the doors open, and they walked in. He looked around, and was a little surprised that Draco wasn’t sitting at the Slytherin table. As he walked, he heard Zacharias Smith say something to his colleague, and they both laughed.
Harry veered off, Malcom’s advice firmly in his mind.
"Is there a problem here?" he asked icily, channelling some of Snape at his most intimidating.
"N-n-n-no," Zach stuttered.
"I do so hope that no one is talking about me, Pansy, or Ginny behind our backs," he whispered, letting his magic flare up around him as he leaned forwards. "I’d be very upset if people thought that it would be fun to say things they wouldn’t say to our faces."
"No-no-no one is talking," a clearly terrified Zach assured Harry.
"Good," Harry said, standing straight and looking around the Hall.
He bought his magic back under control, and went and sat down with the others.
"Good acting," Hermione whispered.
"You could tell?" Harry asked.
"Guessed," Hermione replied. "Pansy confirmed it."
Harry nodded and sat down, Dobby appearing a second later with some cereal for the girls, and a full cooked breakfast for him.
"Dobby," Harry said.
"Yes, Harry Potter sir?"
"Could you take Ron some breakfast?"
Dobby sighed, "Dobby is not being happy with the Stupidest Wheezy. Harry’s Wheezy hurt Harry Potter sir, and all sirs friends."
"We’re not either," Hermione said to the elf. "But we want him to think about what he has done, to see if he can make it better. We don’t want him to be hungry while he is thinking."
Dobby nodded slowly. "Dobby will be making an average breakfast. The Stupidest Wheezy is not deserving a full breakfast."
"Thanks," Hermione said with a smile.
Dobby nodded and vanished with a pop.
"Harry," Pansy said. "I’ve been thinking, so that Dobby and Winky can be together, I’m going to offer Winky a job as my personal house elf."
"That’s a great idea," Harry said with a smile. "Why not do it now?"
"Winky?" Pansy said, clicking her fingers.
The red-nosed elf appeared in a flash, looking scared at Pansy.
"Mistress be calling Winky?" she asked.
Pansy nodded, and slid down to her knees in front of the elf. "I know you’re not happy being a Hogwarts elf," she said gently. "And I was thinking as Harry has Dobby as a house-elf, you might like to be my personal house-elf."
Winky blinked. Repeatedly. Her brown eyes going impossibly wide. "Mistress is being serious?"
Pansy nodded. "There are a few little conditions. I’ve got to pay you something, although not as much as Dobby — and you’ll have the same time off, and you’ll have to wear some decent clothes."
"Winky will be like Dobby?" Winky asked.
Pansy nodded. "So, do you accept? Will you become my house-elf?"
Winky burst into tears, and nodded hard. "Winky will love to be working for Mistress Park’son."
"Excellent," Pansy smiled. "Why don’t you go tell Dobby."
"Mistress approves of Dobby and Winky being — being — together?"
Pansy nodded. "Absolutely."
Winky burst into a huge smile, and vanished with a pop.
"Five, four, three," Harry started to count down. "Two, one."
As he finished, Dobby appeared, his eyes wide. "Did Harry Potter sir and Pansy Park’son ma’am really be hiring Winky? Let Dobby and Winky be courting, live together?"
"We can’t have you and Winky in different places, can we?"
Dobby shook head. "Dobby is being the happiest elf in world," he said simply, and vanished.
Hermione sighed. "I don’t like feeling stupid," she said with a rueful grin. "I should have done more research with the elves."
"We all make mistakes," Pansy said. "Don’t worry about it."
"More importantly," Daphne interrupted, "Malcom’s been busy." She handed over the copy of the Prophet she was reading.
Harry skimmed it, and smiled. "I’m glad something went to plan last night," he grinned cheerfully. "The press are calling it a daring move, showing Fudge’s decisive role in fighting Voldemort. I swear, these reporters are so far up Fudge’s arse, all you can see is are pairs of feet sticking out and wiggling."
"Harry, I’m eating here," Pansy complained.
"Sorry," Harry said unrepentantly. "Still, we’ll see how much they like Fudge when we expose him. I’ll talk to Remus later, to discuss when we should announce that he is running against Fudge."
"I’m going to spend the day in the Library," Hermione said cheerfully.
"Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?" Pansy asked.
"Quite sure," Hermione said with a faint hint of sadness. "I need to spend some time alone today, and doing some research is the best way I can do it."
Pansy nodded, and then smiled as an owl swooped down in front of her, offering its leg. She grabbed it, and read the note briefly. "It’s the Portkey for today," she told Daphne and Ginny.
"I’m going to meet Malcom at his office," Harry said, as he finished his breakfast and checked his watch. "And I’m due there in a few minutes. I’ll see you later." He softly kissed Pansy, smiled at the others, and walked out of the Hall
As soon as he was out of sight, he moved to the other place, and transferred to Malcom’s office.
"Morning," he said, as he came out of the other place and dropped into the chair.
"Are you feeling cursed?" Malcom asked with a slight grin.
"That I can’t seem to find the right moment to propose? More than a little."
Malcom nodded. "Well, we’ve got a busy day today. I’ve got some people for you to meet, that we’ll need on our side to get Remus in power. Remus is coming along later. How did Nympy do as a Professor?"
"Pretty well, she was a little nervous, but she soon got over that. Draco proved useful and insulted her. She lost her temper and used him for demonstration purposes for the next hour. She went through a lot of the stuff that Pansy and I already knew, so we spent the time having a mental conversation while looking like we were paying attention."
"That’s going to be pretty useful."
"It was," Harry smiled. "Pansy hired Dobby’s girlfriend this morning."
Harry nodded. "Dobby was happy. I see the Wizengamot voted their approval of our Fair Treatment for All Creatures act."
"It was a close run thing, but we managed to swing it with Amelia putting her weight behind it. Dumbledore voted for it, but he seemed very surprised, and tried to talk to Fudge afterwards. I had Fudge whisked away as soon as the vote was done."
"How is Fudge?"
"Convinced that he will be re-elected."
"What about Lucius Malfoy?"
"He now knows that I am involved, but doesn’t know why. He’s very wary to move against me with Voldemort, because it would decimate a lot of his pure blood support, and he knows he needs them to get anywhere at all."
Harry stretched out. "How’s Croaker?"
"We’re going to see him later today, he’s got a few friends together who want a word with you. He thinks that they might help, if they feel they can trust you."
"So I’ve got a busy day," he smiled.
"Yep. Did you bother to tell Dumbledore where you were going?"
"Nope, must have slipped my mind."
"Hmmm. What about Pansy, Daphne, and Ginny?"
"I think they might have forgotten, too" Harry said innocently.
Malcom chuckled to himself. "Ready?"
Pansy took hold of Ginny’s arm, and told Daphne to take the other side. "Ready?" she asked.
"Yep," Daphne required.
Pansy flicked the cigarette lighter, and they vanished, pulled through space till they reached Parkinson Manor.
"Pansy!" Gruoch said happily, and hugged her daughter, and then hugged Daphne. "It’s good to see you again, Daph."
"Thanks, Mrs P," Daphne said with a smile.
"Mum, this is Ginny," Pansy said, pulling the girl forward. "Ginny, this is Gruoch Parkinson, my mother."
"Hi," Ginny said, a little shyly.
Gruoch stuck out her hand and shook Ginny’s. "It’s nice to meet you," she said with a smile. "So, are you three ready for some serious shopping?"
"Absolutely," Pansy said excitedly. "We need some new uniforms for the three of us, and Ginny needs a haircut as well."
"Her appointment is at three," Gruoch interrupted. "And we need to get Harry a new uniform as well."
"Ohh, that reminds me," Pansy said, as she walked forwards and gave her mother a huge hug. "He looked gorgeous, thank you."
"I told him that you’d fall in love with him all over again."
"I think I did," Pansy smiled. "Now let’s go shopping."
"Where are we going?"
"London, dahling," Gruoch said in a vapid voice. "Come on, the car’s waiting outside."
"We’re going in a car?" Ginny asked, a little hesitantly.
"Not just any car," Gruoch said, putting an arm around the smaller girl. "This is our family car. It changes shape and make on command."
Ginny walked with her, her eyes wide as she looked at the Mercedes S class waiting outside.
"Right," Gruoch said cheerfully. "I think we’re done, and that we could do with a drink."
"Yeah," Pansy agreed as she put the last of the bags inside the boot of the car. "Where?"
"The Leaky Cauldron," Gruoch replied. They got in the car, and she drove them through the tight streets of London, to the NCP car park nearby, and they walked to the pub.
"Okay," Ginny said as they entered. "What’s everyone having?" Her expression dared them to argue with her buying everyone a drink.
"I’ll have a coffee," Gruoch said calmly.
"Butterbeer for me," Daphne said.
"Me too," Pansy added with a smile.
Ginny nodded and bounced off to the bar.
"Okay, I can see why you like her," Gruoch announced.
"Harry said I could keep her," Pansy replied with a grin. "And that’s what I intend to do."
Gruoch smiled and lounged back in the chair. "The hair cut suits her."
"I thought it would," Pansy said smugly.
Ginny returned with a tray, and handed out the drinks.
She opened her mouth, but closed it again as she heard screams from outside.
"Oh shit," Pansy swore, looking around.
Gruoch walked to the window, looking out.
"There’s only six of them," she said with a sigh. "If the bloody sheep weren’t running away, they’d be able to take them."
"Shall we?" Pansy asked, a smirk on her face.
Gruoch looked at the three girls, who all had their wands out. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Someone is probably already notifying the Ministry," Pansy said with a shrug. "As soon as Dad hears about it, Harry will. And he’ll be here immediately."
"Come on then, and for Merlin’s sake, don’t get hit!"
They walked out of the door, avoiding the normal wizards and witches who were running.
"Stupefy," Gruoch cast at one of them, opening the battle.
"What do we have here?" One of the five remaining Death Eaters said with a smirk. "Gruoch Parkinson."
"Wow, that was almost a full sentence, Nott," Gruoch replied. "I’m impressed. I thought you could only grunt."
"Our Dark Lord will reward me well for you and your brats."
Gruoch sighed audibly, and hid a smile as she heard Ginny cast the Bat-Bogey hex next to her.
That was the signal for the battle to start for real.
"Death Eaters! Death Eaters at Diagon Alley," a panicked voice shouted, as he ran past.
"Here," Malcom said, handing over two keys. "Portkeys to Parkinson Manor."
"Get the Aurors" Harry said, vanishing into the other place, leaving the meeting with Remus he was in.
He appeared in between three of the remaining Death Eaters. "Hey boys," he said, grabbing their attention.
"Potter!" Nott said. "This day just gets better and better!"
"Yeah, about that," Harry said. He jumped forwards, his foot flying upward and inward in a crescent kick as he caught one of the Death Eaters directly on the chin. His right hand flew out, a powerful stunning charm hitting one of the others.
He approached Nott, dodging the curses the Death Eater threw at him without really trying. A single punch to the face rendered him unconscious.
"Gruoch," he snapped. "How secure are your dungeons?"
"Very. Unplottable, with anti-apparition barriers.
Harry nodded and looked around. "Are you all okay?"
"Ginny’s a little hurt," Pansy said. "She jumped in front of a curse aimed at me."
Harry nodded. "Right. Take Nott to the dungeon," he said, handing Gruoch one of the Portkeys. "As soon as the Aurors show up, I’ll get Peirce to look at Ginny."
"I’m fine," Ginny said quietly. "It’s just a scratch."
Harry walked up to her, and looked at her pale face. "You’re family, Ginny. Family comes first," he said firmly.
"Come on," Pansy said, taking her by the shoulders. She walked over with Ginny to Gruoch, and they disappeared with Daphne and Nott.
Harry looked around, and smiled as he saw one of the Death Eaters lying unconscious, giant green bats still flying around his face.
With a series of pops, the Aurors, and Malcom arrived.
"What the hell took you so long?" Harry snarled at the Aurors. "Exactly how long does it take to Apparate here?"
"We didn’t hear about it till a few minutes ago," Kingsley Shacklebolt said. "And a lot of Aurors don’t work Saturdays."
Harry blinked, and shook his head. "Are you seriously telling me that half the police force doesn’t work weekends, in the middle of a bloody war?"
There was some shuffling of feet.
"Right," Harry said. "Malcom, I want a full meeting with the Aurors tomorrow. Get Croaker there as well. For now, take this scum to the Ministry, and lock them in the dungeons. And if Lucius Malfoy comes within one hundred metres of them, I want him stunned and arrested."
"Who the hell do you think you are?" One of the Aurors said, pointing his wand at Harry. "I don’t take orders from a schoolboy."
Harry growled, these people were delaying him from getting to the doctor. He moved, as fast as he could, and disarmed the Auror, sending him flying to the ground. "I’m the person who just took out three Death Eaters before you even got here — and I was in the Ministry as well."
"You heard what he said," Malcom said, coming to the fore.
"Malcom, when you get back, can you first get Fudge out of bed, tell him what is going on, and what I’ve said."
"Will do, Harry."
Harry nodded and vanished, finding Pierce’s small cottage instantly. The doctor was already packing his bags. "Gruoch floo’d me," he explained.
Harry passed him the Portkey, and said, "I’ll be there later, I need to check what’s going on."
He vanished into the other place, and went to the Ministry. He didn’t trust the Aurors, and while he was worried about Ginny and Pansy, he knew they could look after themselves. He followed slowly as some of the Aurors took the Death Eaters down to the bottom of the Ministry. He was more than slightly annoyed at himself for breaking his cover like that, but wasn’t too concerned. It wouldn’t tell Voldemort much that Draco hadn’t probably already told him.
As he watched, two Aurors took one of the Death Eaters to one side, and cast a spell on him that woke him up. Harry moved to the corner of the room and appeared from the Other Place as still as he could, hoping they wouldn’t see him.
"…then bloody Potter showed up, and the next thing I know is you two wake me up."
"You better get out of here fast," one of the Aurors said, holding out something in his hand.
"I don’t think so," Harry snarled. "If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people who betray the trust of others. Stupefy!" He was perhaps a little enthusiastic in his curse, as all three slammed against the wall, before collapsing into unconsciousness.
He stormed out of the door, to check the other Death Eaters. They were all being restrained properly.
"Get Shacklebolt down here," he ordered a passing Auror. "On the double."
"Yes, sir," the Auror shouted, saluting instantly, before running off.
Harry prowled in front of the dungeons, aware he was giving off large amounts of magical energy and not caring in the least.
The bald-headed Auror appeared a few seconds later. "What’s up, Harry?"
Harry threw open the door, to show the Death Eater and the two Aurors lying on the floor. "They were trying to help him escape," he said with a scowl.
Kingsley shook his head, and slammed the door shut. "Are you serious about what you said a few minutes earlier?"
"About making sure the Aurors are under someone I trust? Damn right."
Kingsley smiled suddenly. "It’s about bloody time!"
Harry smiled suddenly. "I’ve got Nott locked up," he whispered to Shacklebolt. "I’ll bring him along to the Order meeting tonight."
"There isn’t an Order meeting tonight," Kingsley said with a frown.
"There will be as soon as Dumbledore realises what happened."
Kingsley nodded. "Should I ask how you got past the anti-Apparition wards?"
Harry shook his head. "Let’s just say that I don’t like to follow all the rules, as Voldemort will soon find out."
"And don’t tell Dumbledore anything about me at all," he finished, and vanished.
"Fudge," Malcom said into the fireplace. "Six Death Eaters attacked Diagon Alley earlier. My wife, daughter, and two of their friends held them up, till Harry could arrive. The Death Eaters are now all incarcerated downstairs and Harry is rather upset."
"So?" Fudge asked, looking rather confused. "What does that matter?"
"Ahh," Malcom said. "I knew I forgot to tell you something. I work for Harry."
Fudge changed several interesting shades of pale. "But Potter hates me."
"No, he thinks you’re an incompetent baboon," Malcom corrected. "But he also thinks that you are better than a Death Eater."
"Oh, good," Fudge sighed in relief. "So what’s the problem?"
"Harry isn’t happy with the way the Aurors are being run, and is going to do something about it tomorrow."
"Okay," Fudge said. "I can get some good press off that."
"You can indeed," Malcom said cheerfully. "As long as you rubber-stamp the decisions Harry makes."
"Of course, of course," Fudge said cheerfully.
"Excellent. I’m sure Harry will remember it as the election gets closer."
Fudge nodded so hard that Malcom was afraid his head might fall off. "I’ll talk to you tomorrow, have a good evening."
Malcom picked up another pinch of the floo powder, and threw it into the fireplace. "The Weasleys."
"Malcom?" Arthur Weasley asked, surprise on his face. Which wasn’t that surprising. He’d never actually called the red-haired man before.
"There was an incident involving some Death Eaters today," Malcom said. "Ginny was hurt."
"What are you doing with her?" Arthur yelled.
Malcom paused and turned his head. "I believe that my wife is at this very moment subjecting her to the horrors of a warm bath, after my personal physician tended to her wounds," he said coolly.
"Yes," Malcom sighed. "We’re a dark family, if you listen to Albus. And we’ve influenced Harry to be dark, right?" he said, repeating the rumours he had heard.
"Well, yes," Arthur replied, a faint flush appearing in his face.
"I find your lack of faith in Harry disturbing," he said. "You might want to wonder what would happen if Harry changed us more than we changed him."
He saw Molly Weasley’s head appear next to her husband’s. "Where is my daughter?"
"As I said," Malcom replied. "In the bath at the moment. I Floo’d to invite you to come and see her."
"Oh," Molly blushed. "Thank you."
"The address is Parkinson Manor. You are now on the access list."
"Thank you, Malcom," Arthur said, his voice sounding as if he couldn’t believe he was saying it.
Malcom nodded and closed the Floo. He picked up some more powder, and threw it into the fire again. "Croaker."
"Want to pop through?" he asked. "You’ve just been conscripted."
Croaker nodded, a surprised expression on his face.
Malcom walked over to his desk, and pulled out a bottle of Firewhiskey.
"So, what’s going on?" Croaker asked, as he sat down in front of Malcom’s desk.
"We had a minor Death Eater attack earlier. My wife and daughter and a few friends took out some, â€˜til Harry got there and took out the rest. We’ve got Nott in our own dungeons, the rest downstairs.
"Harry was extremely annoyed that the Aurors took so long to get there and doubly so when he found out that half of them don’t work weekends.
"One of his friends was injured, so he made sure my doctor got to our Manor as quickly as possible, and then spied on the Aurors. He found two of them were either Death Eaters or sympathizers, and were trying to set one of them free.
"So Harry has decided to take control of the Aurors, and you’re in charge of them."
Croaker blinked. "He’s done what?"
"You start tomorrow," Malcom smiled.
"Has promised to rubber-stamp Harry’s decisions," Malcom agreed.
Croaker leant back and shook his head slowly, and started to laugh. "Well, that’s a promotion for you."
"It’s the way Harry works, he puts people he trusts in power. I’ve now got to run damage control with the Prophet, to try and keep as many names out of things as I can."
"It sounds like you’re having a fun day."
"You know, I am," Malcom grinned.
"Where’s Ginny," Molly demanded as soon as she arrived at Parkinson Manor.
"Sit," Harry growled, still in a foul mood.
"Harry?" Arthur asked.
"I said, sit," he repeated, pointing to the chair. "Ginny is fine, the doctor’s patched her up, and Gruoch and Pansy are looking after her in the bathroom. What she doesn’t need right now is some hysterical, over the top reaction from her parents."
"What?" Molly asked, bristling.
"I said, sit!" Harry roared, his magic escaping for a second. The two adults sat instantly.
"Thank you," Harry said and flopped down into a chair. "We are going to sit here and talk a few things through before they are finished and come downstairs. They are aware you are coming over."
Molly and Arthur exchanged a long look.
Harry took a deep breath. "I seem to have been doing nothing but having awkward conversations lately. What do you know about what happened this summer?"
"Not much more than you told us," Arthur admitted. "But Albus was very worried about you."
"Okay," Harry sighed. "Here’s what happened." He explained as fast as he could most of what happened over the summer, including his relationship with Pansy.
"But…" Arthur said slowly, as he finished.
"Yes, the Parkinson’s are grey, and they only care about family first and foremost, and you know what? I don’t mind. I’m happy with it, because they’ve given me the support I need without question. Malcom is in the office at the moment, working as hard as he can to keep Ginny out of the press tomorrow, and to ensure that everything goes smoothly when I have a talk with the Aurors."
"You’ve changed," Molly said softly, shaking her head a little.
"I’m still the Harry you love," he said softly. "But I’m also the Harry that has to kill Voldemort, or die trying."
"And Albus knew this all along?" she asked.
"He told me himself," Harry agreed.
"I’m more than a little confused, Harry," Arthur said. "There’s been a few too many reversals of long held beliefs today."
"Moving on, exactly why did you send the Howler to Ron and Ginny?"
"Because they had moved out of Gryffindor Tower."
"And into their own rooms in the Room of Requirement. Where I could keep a permanent eye on them. They were safer there than anywhere else in the school, because I control the environment, unlike the rest of the school, which has been a death trap the last five years."
"Albus exaggerated to get what he wanted; you to react. Think about it logically for a moment. Do you really think so little of your daughter that she’d suddenly become a scarlet woman, or of me, that I would become evil?"
Molly blushed and looked down.
"Your children are in danger because of me, and their friendship with me. Ginny is a target, Ron is a target, Hermione is a target. Right now, the Parkinsons are a lot more of a target than you are. Because they are fighting Voldemort in a new way he hasn’t experienced before. We’re matching him at his own game for the first time ever. I’ve taken control of parts of the Ministry, and if things go well, I’ll have full control after the election.
"Ron and Ginny, and the rest of your family, are targets because of your involvement with the Order, they are targets because they like Muggles, and they are targets because they are decent, honourable people.
"Today, Ginny helped save peoples lives. What she needs right now is love and support, not recriminations that you will certainly regret later. That’s why I didn’t let you go upstairs earlier. You can’t afford to push your children away at the moment, we all need our families."
Molly looked at him and sighed softly. "They’re my babies," she said. "It’s so hard to see them in danger."
"I know," Harry said, dropping to his knees in front of them. "I feel the same way every time they step out the door. But this isn’t normal. Ginny is an incredible witch, and Ron, when he uses his brain, is an incredible wizard. They are people who you should be so proud of. They are people who stand up for what they believe in. Ginny is someone who fought being possessed by Voldemort for a year. She knows, just like I do, how evil he is. You can’t put that genie back in its bottle.
"What you need to do now is what you do best; support your children as they become the adults that they are determined to be."
Molly smiled down at him. "Okay, before we continue, what’s that son of mine done?"
"What do you mean?" Harry prevaricated, looking away.
"Harry," Arthur said, shaking his head. "We have raised seven children. That’s not going to work."
"It’s an issue between all of us, and we are dealing with it, as adults. Ron is thinking things through today. Hermione’s in the library, staying away from him. He made a mistake last night, and he has to decide if that is what he wants to be."
"Okay, Harry," Arthur said firmly. "We’ll take you word for that." It was clearly more aimed at his wife than Harry.
"What am I going to do with you?" Molly asked with a sigh.
"You’re going to trust me," Harry entreated them. "Trust me that I am going to end this war once and for all, and that I will do everything I can to keep as many people alive as possible."
Molly took a very long look at Arthur, and then sighed softly. "I do trust you, Harry. And I do trust my children."
Harry smiled and sat back on the chair, sending out a mental call to Pansy.
A few seconds later, Pansy walked in, followed by Gruoch, Daphne, and Ginny.
"Ginny," Molly said, embracing her child. "How are you?" she asked gently.
"I’m fine, Mum," Ginny said with a smile. "Peirce fixed me up, and Gruoch and Pansy looked after me."
Molly shifted slightly and released Ginny so that Arthur could hug her.
"What have you done to your hair?" Molly asked, when Arthur released her, and she could see her daughter properly.
"I’ve done nothing," Ginny replied, smiling a bit. "The hairdresser, on the other hand, styled it for me."
"I took her to see mine," Pansy said casually, sitting formally opposite the elder Weasleys. "She was jealous that mine still looked good after we rode the Thestrals that other day."
Ginny nodded in agreement. "After she blow dried my hair, it didn’t seem fair that her work was wasted."
"I don’t even know where to start with this," Molly grumbled, as she sat back down. "Can I…"
"I really hope," Pansy interrupted, "that you weren’t about to offer to pay for Ginny’s haircut. After she saved me in tonight’s fight, there is pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do for her."
Molly’s mouth opened and shut several times. "Should I ask what you were doing out of school?"
"I.." Gruoch started.
"They were doing something for me," Harry said. "Much as I try to be everywhere at once, I am only human. Like I said before, I hate putting people I love in danger, but sometimes I don’t have the choice. There are things that need to be done, and I will use whatever resource I have to get it done. I was very confident that there wouldn’t be any problems if they did run into trouble. Pansy is probably the highest trained witch in the country, and if things had become seriously bad, she would have shown it. Ginny and Daphne are both very skilled duellists, and Gruoch is someone I wouldn’t cross.
"I was in the Ministry, discussing some plans for me to take complete control, and unfortunately, I couldn’t schedule these for any other day."
Molly and Arthur gaped at him again. And continued to do so as the Floo sounded, and Malcom arrived back.
"How did it go?" Harry asked.
"Croaker said yes, and Fudge agreed to rubber-stamp whatever you decided to do. I told him you’d remember at election time."
"Smart," Harry snorted. "Play as many syntactic games as you like, just don’t promise anything I won’t deliver."
"Isn’t Croaker an Unspeakable?" Arthur asked softly.
"He is," Harry agreed.
"What did he agree to?"
"I’m taking control of the Aurors tomorrow," Harry said bluntly. "Too many of them appear to be either corrupt, or think that this is a fun job. They’re the police, and they’re going to start acting like it. We’ve practically ceded parts of the country to Voldemort, and it’s time we started taking it back."
Harry sat back down next to Pansy, and then waved Ginny over. He sat her between him and Pansy so that he could keep an eye on her. He wouldn’t forget that she had stepped in front of a curse aimed at Pansy.
Pansy put her arm around Ginny as the red-haired girl rested her head on the brunette’s shoulder.
"I know you’ve been through a lot this past hour," Harry said to Molly and Arthur. "But I need to know what you are thinking. If you need more time, I can give it to you, but I will have to Obliviate some of the things I’ve told you from your memories. If you’d rather forget everything, I can do that as well."
"You’d do that?" Arthur said.
"Without hesitation," Harry said coldly. "I’m not playing games here, and if I have to mind wipe people I love to protect others that I love then I will do that and more."
Molly stared at him hard, and he took a deep breath, and completely lowered every one of his Occlumency shields. He hated being so vulnerable, but he needed Molly to trust him; otherwise he would have to wipe their memories.
"I’m in — I’m following you," Molly said abruptly.
Harry sighed with relief and slammed his shields shut, and shut his eyes.
"Are you okay, sweetheart?" Pansy asked, looking at him concerned.
"I hate doing that."
"I know," she said. "But I was there; I would have been able to delay long enough."
"What are you two talking about?" Daphne asked.
"To get Mrs Weasley to trust him, Harry just lowered all of his shields. For a few seconds, he was more open than a Muggle. He hates it, with a passion."
"And I appreciate it," Molly said with a sigh. "I’ve not got much in the way of Legilimency talent. I actually felt Harry helping me along, but sometimes it’s hard to make the right decision, especially when you know the other side of the table." She laughed softly. "Who would have thought that I’d be sitting in the Parkinson living room, this evening, joining a sixteen year old boy on a quest to finally eliminate Voldemort?
"Right," she said, pulling herself together. "There is an Order meeting tonight, and I think that everyone needs to be able to make the choice I just made. We need some food first."
"That’s taken care off," Harry smiled. "Dobby and Winky have been cooking up a storm. But there is one other thing. We captured Nott. I think we should bring him with us to the meeting. See if he can answer a few questions; I’ve not got access to Veritaserum at the moment. And that’s something we’re going to have to get hold of, Malcom. Can you talk to Peirce, see if he knows anyone?"
"Will do," Malcom said, making a note on one of his notepads.
"Can I ask how you intend to take full control of the Ministry?" Arthur asked.
Harry smiled, "Did you read the Prophet this morning?"
"Did you see the new act passed last night?"
"The act that allows other creatures to run for office?"
"Yep. I’m going to have Remus elected as Minister."
Harry, Ginny, and Pansy all laughed at the stunned expression on Arthur and Molly’s faces.
"Daph," Harry said, as they walked as a group toward the school. "Can you run ahead and get Hermione? And Ron, I guess."
"Will do," Daphne promised, and started to jog away.
"Command seems to come naturally to you," Molly noted.
"Not really," Harry sighed. "But the appearance is more important than the fact."
Pansy looped an arm into his right, Ginny into his left. "But as long as Harry has us backing him up, he’ll always seem to be in control."
"Right," Ginny agreed.
"Okay," Harry said, as Ron and Hermione met up with them. Ron was hanging sheepishly at the back. "Molly, Arthur, if you want to go in first? When we get in there, Gruoch, Snape’s yours. Keep him quiet."
"Okay, Harry," Gruoch said with a smile. "I’ve been hoping you’d give me him."
"Malcom, just be yourself. You’re scarier than anyone else I know when you go cold."
"That’s rich," Malcom laughed, "from the boy who scared the magic out of a bunch of Aurors earlier."
"I was little annoyed," Harry said, looking embarrassed.. "The Death Eaters had attempted to hurt my girlfriend, had hurt one of my best friends, and the bloody Aurors were late. Again."
"Sounds like you had a hell of a day," Hermione said, shaking her head. "I’m sorry I didn’t come now."
"What did you find out?" Harry asked.
"Quite a lot, but we’ve not got time right now to go through it."
Harry nodded. "Okay, people, everyone ready?"
There was a group of nods, and Arthur and Molly entered the large meeting room first.
Harry waited outside, concentrating hard. "Molly’s trying to broadcast the room layout," he said. "I’m going to have to see if I can teach her some more Legilimency, she’s not very clear."
He closed his eyes, picturing the scene, and exhaled. "Right."
"Harry, before we start, I just want to say thanks, for bringing me back in," Ron said quickly.
Harry nodded at Ron. "Show time," he whispered to himself. He turned, and stormed toward the doors. They swung open with a bang before he got there, and he entered the room.
"Harry?" Dumbledore asked, looking surprised.
"Have you got any Veritaserum, Albus?" he asked.
"Some," Dumbledore replied, after pausing at Harry’s deliberate use of his name.
"Excellent," Harry said, as he walked to the front of the room. "I didn’t have any myself or I wouldn’t have bothered you. I picked up Nott earlier."
"Nott?" Mad-Eye Moody demanded. "What are you doing with him?"
"I took exception to him throwing some spells at my girlfriend," Harry replied, as he levitated the Death Eater in. "I thought we could ask him a few questions."
"Enervate," he said, as he looked at the unmasked Death Eater.
Nott looked around wildly, and his hand went to his pockets.
"I’ve removed your Portkey," Harry informed him.
"But not everything," Nott replied with a smirk, tearing a button off his sleeve and eating it.
"Accio Button," Harry called, and grabbed it. There were a few drops of liquid left in it, and he sniffed it thoughtfully. "Hermione?"
She sniffed as well, and then tasted it. "It smells like some form of elixir."
"If you’d asked," Snape sneered, "I could have told you that all senior Death Eaters carry around a button like that. Veritaserum won’t work on him for hours now, not even Legilimency could get through to him. He’d have to tell you voluntarily."
"Your problem, Snape," Molly Weasley said, "is that you are absolutely useless. You never tell anyone what you know, unless they ask for it specifically, and by then it’s usually useless information. Exactly where was your warning of the attack earlier today?"
Snape sneered at her. "I’m not privy to everything."
"Severus," Gruoch called. As Snape looked over at her, she drew back her fist and punched him hard, catching him on the chin.
Harry laughed softly. "I wonder why everyone who gets the chance just hits him, and doesn’t use magic?"
"It’s more personal, this way," Gruoch explained.
"Can I ask just what’s going on here?" Mad-Eye demanded.
"Later," Harry said dismissively. "As our friend is now immune to potion, I’ll have to get the answers out of him the old fashioned way."
"Start by breaking his arms," Pansy encouraged. "It’s only moderately painful, but it should get him in the right frame of mind."
"Are you insane?" Ginny demanded. "You can’t just break his arms, we’re the good guys."
"You’re the good guys," Pansy sniffed, as she pulled out a nail file and started to work on her nails. "I’m much more of a dark witch."
"Even so, you can’t just torture someone."
"Actually, I can, Ginny," Harry said reluctantly. "And I can’t let these do-gooders get in the way, either." He waved his hand, creating a transparent barrier across the room, dividing him, Ginny, Pansy, and the bemused Nott from the others.
"What are you doing?" Nott asked, looking concerned.
"You have information I want," Harry said coldly. "As you’re not going to tell me what I want, I’m going to start breaking your bones."
"No buts," Harry said with a sigh. He watched as Hermione banged on the barrier dramatically, then pulled her wand out and cast a spell on it. He hid a smile at her acting. That spell wouldn’t keep a first year out, never mind the combined might of the Order of the Phoenix. It would keep out the sound though, and that was what he wanted.
"You see, I’m not with the Order. I spent the summer with the Parkinsons. And they were such nice hosts. I spent many hours in their dungeons learning just exactly what makes humans tick. Unfortunately, we had to practice on Muggles; you know how it is, don’t you Nott?"
"Harry," Ginny said. "It’s not too late for you. Sure you killed that Death Eater earlier but that could have been justified as self defence. This is torture, pure and simple."
"Grow up, Ginny," Pansy said, placing her wand on a table. "Nott started the war; we’re just going to finish it."
She moved in front of the captured Death Eater, and twirled slowly in front of him, letting her skirt flick up a little.
"Do you know who I am?" she asked, stretching her arms behind her and arching her back, emphasising her chest.
Nott shook his head, a confused expression on his face.
"Didn’t little Theo tell you?" she taunted, referring to his son, and turned away from him, and bent over a little, showing off more of her legs. She turned again, and leant over in front of him, lightly running a finger down his face. She smiled as he tried to pull away. "Perhaps you know my parents. Malcom and Gruoch?"
Nott blinked, "You’re Pansy?"
"Oh yes," Pansy smirked. She danced in front of Nott, sliding her dress up slowly, drawing Nott’s eyes down, till she got to the knife holster she wore. She pulled out her knife slowly, exhaling with pleasure. "Can I cut him first?"
"No," Harry said firmly. "He’s mine. I’ll make him scream."
Pansy shuddered in pleasure, and walked over to Harry, kissing him hard. She turned, and sauntered back to Nott. He noticed how the Death Eater couldn’t take his eyes off her.
"I know what you’re thinking right now," she purred softly. "I know what you want to do to me." She shot a slow look at Harry. "If he makes you scream so hard you snap your vocal chords, I’ll let him do everything you are thinking of to me. The more you hurt, the more I will reward him with pleasure you can only dream of."
"Harry," Ginny said, pushing Pansy back away from Nott. "Ignore the slut, please. You can’t descend to his level."
"Yeah, that’s right" Nott frantically agreed. "You can’t do that." He was now looking very pale, and was sweating profusely.
"I can, Ginny," Harry smirked.
"You don’t know what I did all summer. It was fun." He took the knife from Pansy, and lightly cut his own hand, the blood dripping down the knife.
He held up the knife to Pansy, whose face took on a rapturous expression as she licked Harry’s blood from the knife, and smiled, before kissing him lingeringly.
"Give me some of his blood," she said begged, dropping to her knees in front him. "Please, my master," she said, looking up at Harry. "I want to bathe in his pain."
"Don’t, Harry. She’s corrupted you, can’t you see it? You didn’t use to be this way!" Ginny shouted
"Oh no," Harry purred, as he moved away from Pansy and approached Nott. "She didn’t corrupt me. Voldemort did that, when he possessed me. I got everything from him; including his love for pain and for torture."
"No," Nott screamed, as Harry ran the knife down his face. "You can’t."
"Oh, but I can," Harry growled softly. "I can, and I’ll enjoy it."
"Please, Harry," Ginny said as she pulled him away from Nott. She dropped to her knees in front of him like Pansy had earlier, only instead of looking up at him eagerly; she looked down, in a submissive pose.
Slowly, she whispered, "Harry, do it to me; you know that I’ve always loved you. You don’t need her; I’ll be your sacrifice, anything you want. You know that I’m pure, unlike that slut over there. You’ll still be on the good side, because I’ll be doing it by choice."
"Oh no," Harry said, as he reached down, and grabbed her hair, forcing her to meet his eyes. "I’m going to have you, anyway, whether you want it or not, after I have him."
Huge tears ran down Ginny’s face. "Tell him," she begged Nott. "Don’t make him go down this route. Please! If he does, he’ll be worse than Voldemort!"
"Don’t tell him," Pansy said, taking a few steps forward and pushing Ginny away. "Let him cut you. You’ve served evil, you know what it’s like. Let Harry become what he is destined to become, and I will be his black queen, feared and loved by all."
"You’re insane," Ginny gasped. "How can you want that?"
"I’m a Parkinson," Pansy said proudly. "For too long, we’ve ruled from the shadows, now is our chance to rule from the throne."
"Harry will be a God," she breathed. "A God I will serve in the most personal way."
"What if he answers your questions?" Ginny cried to Harry.
"I don’t want anything he knows anymore," Harry said, moving back to Nott. "I just want his screams to echo in these hallways for eternity. I want everyone who walks by this spot to shiver, as if the remnants of his agonies are embedded in the very stone."
"What do you want to know?" Nott begged.
"Tell him about the Portkeys," Ginny said. "Maybe that will do it."
"They are charmed to take us to the holding area. We don’t know where Voldemort’s base is at the moment, no one does. He’s paranoid, thinks there’s a spy. Let me go, I won’t tell anyone what happened," Not begged. "Please! I’ll leave the country, go some where else, and never come back. I didn’t want to support him anyway."
"I’m not interested," Harry snarled, digging the point of the knife under his chin.
"H-h-he’s trying to get the giants on his side at the moment," Nott screamed. "I shouldn’t know how, but I overheard Malfoy talking about it."
Harry paused, and turned to Ginny. "But I want him to bleed."
"Keep talking," Ginny begged. "Maybe he’ll leave you alone and just take me."
Nott, now that he had started, didn’t seem to be able to stop, as he babbled for over thirty minutes, confessing everything he had done, and everything he knew about Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
"I don’t know anything else," he finished, his voice cracked and dry. He seemed to be about to pass out from his fear.
Harry took a step back and tossed the knife to Pansy, who caught it casually, and re-holstered it. He moved over to Ginny and picked her up off the floor.
"You okay?" he asked seriously.
"Knees are a little sore," she said with a smile. "I’m not used to kneeling for that long."
He wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and walked over to Pansy, kissing her gently. "You okay as well?"
"Of course," she smiled, and picked up Ginny, hugging her and spinning her around. "You were brilliant," she smiled.
"You were amazing as well," Ginny replied to her. "I got goose bumps when you licked the blood from the knife."
"W-w-what’s going on" Nott asked, looking at them in disbelief.
"You just fell for the oldest trick in the book," Ginny smirked.
"Pure innocent witch," she pointed to herself.
"Evil slutty witch," Pansy said, pointing to herself.
"Completely psycho wizard," they both said, pointing at Harry.
Nott looked at them in horror.
"But the blood," he said weakly.
"Designed to unsettle you," Pansy said cheerfully. "It was only a tiny drop. My family name has an amazing reputation."
"What are we going to do to with Nott now?" Ginny asked.
Harry thought for a moment. "We can’t let him go, he knows too much about him now." He paused, and had an idea. "I know, we can turn him into what he hates the most."
"What?" the prisoner asked.
"No," Nott begged. "Anything but that."
"Your actions have consequences," Harry said with a sigh. "I need you out of the way, and I can’t take the chance you might escape."
He pointed his hand at Nott, and started to bring his magic up between his eyes, using house-elf magic. As he looked at the dark wizard, he saw the source of the brightness. He reached out, trying to find a way to grasp it. It was a little like joining his broom, but this time without guidance. He slowly worked around the magic, disconnecting strands as he could find them.
He took a deep breath, and then pulled all the magic inside him. The feeling was incredibly intense, like nothing he had experienced, and nothing he wanted to experience again.
He felt the magic merge with his own, till he felt like he was going to explode; only it didn’t stop. There was more magic coming. He started to shake.
"Ginny," Pansy called, as she placed her hand on Harry’s shoulder.
He felt Ginny do the same, and he immediately diverted some of the incoming magic to both of them.
His vision turned silver, and he could see that both Pansy and Ginny’s eyes had turned the same colour, before suddenly, beams of solid silver erupted from them. He realised a second later that he was doing it as well.
As quickly as it started, it was over, and room seemed to darken as they fell to their knees. He could see Nott, unconscious on the chair, a look of horror imprinted on his face. He absently waved his hand, and the barrier separating them from the others fell down.
Gruoch, Malcom, and Molly moved first, the two mothers hugging their daughters closely.
Malcom walked over to him, and offered him a hand up.
"That was scary acting," Molly said, holding Ginny at arm’s length. "But if anything is going to prove that you are growing up, that was it."
"And you," Gruoch said to Pansy. "I’m going to have nightmares about the way you moved in front of him to get your knife out. How do you feel?"
"Tired, but more powerful," Pansy smiled softly.
"Can I ask what the HELL is going on here now!" Moody demanded.
"Not now," Harry sighed. He climbed to his feet slowly.
"Are you alright?" Malcom asked, looking concerned.
Harry nodded slightly, touched. "I’m fine," he assured him.
Malcom nodded, and sat back down at the table.
"Tonks?" Harry called.
He looked at her, and sighed softly. "Nymphy," he said, as the room suddenly went silent. "Did you get everything he said?"
"I did," she nodded.
He looked her straight in her eyes. "Can you replicate a Dark Mark?"
She nodded again.
"I am ordering you to turn into Nott, and infiltrate the Death Eaters."
Tonks swallowed hard and took a step back. She saluted him formally.
"I don’t care what you have to do to survive," Harry said softly. "You will not face any punishment for it. Your mission is to simply find out where he is. As soon as you do, get the hell out of there and report back."
Harry handed her the Death Eater’s Portkey, and one of the Parkinson’s. "If you get in any trouble, find a house-elf, they’ll be able to get a message to me."
Tonks nodded, and stared at the prisoner.
Harry walked over to him, pulled the Death Eater robes off of him. He passed them to Tonks, along with the mask.
"Don’t die," he said, and hugged her tightly.
Tonks shot him a grin, and pulled the robes on, before she turned into a perfect replica of Nott. "How do I look?"
"Stupid, but evil," Harry half smiled. "When you get there," he said softly. "Turn Snape in as a spy."
Tonks nodded, looked around the room briefly, and then tossed off a salute and hit the Portkey, vanishing.
Harry sighed and collapsed down on to a chair at the head of the table. There was absolute silence as everyone looked at him.
"Things have changed," he said softly. "Albus and I disagree over many things, but not that Voldemort is going to die. I believe that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual, not the other way around. I am aware that I may have just ordered Tonks to her death; that’s why I did it that way. It’s my responsibility, not hers or anyone else’s. She is incredibly brave, and I will do everything to keep her alive, as I would anyone else."
He felt Pansy move behind him standing to his right and place a hand on his shoulder, and Ginny move to his left.
"Malcom and Gruoch are working for me; they are here to bring everyone up to date on what is happening in the Ministry."
"What about me?" an awakened Snape demanded. "You’ve just signed my Death Warrant," he complained.
"Snivellus, if it came down to a choice between Tonks’ life and yours," Harry sighed, "it would be her every single time. However, Voldemort has more important things on his mind than chasing after you."
"You’re behind everything?" Mad-Eye demanded. "You’re the one who has the Aurors running around in panic, who has Fudge in his pocket, who has Croaker playing games?"
"I am," Harry agreed.
"Well damn," Mad-Eye grinned. "Why didn’t you just say so?"
Harry laughed softly.
"How are you feeling, boy?" the wizened ex-Auror demanded.
"Bloody awful, thanks."
Mad-Eye laughed. "Perfect. Always is difficult the first few times you do it. And don’t think I wasn’t impressed by that little play you put on. He sung like a canary, and you didn’t even draw blood."
Harry smiled slightly, "I was lucky. Ginny and Pansy are fantastic actresses."
"And very loyal. I like to see that. So, Albus, what’s going on with you and Potter?"
Albus sighed and settled down on the chair, his pale blue eyes twinkling slowly.
"I’m afraid," he said slowly, "that actions have consequences, and I’m just finding out now what the consequences of my actions are." He smiled faintly at Harry. "I’ve found out a lot over the past few days. I know I’m old, but my facilities are still working. It fell together for me when Remus said that he was busy, and I saw the Prophet this morning."
"What?" Fred, who had been quiet longer than Harry had ever seen him, blurted.
"Yeah," George added.
"I’m going to have Remus elected as Minister," Harry said simply.
Charlie whistled slowly. "What I want to know," he demanded, "is exactly why I am only finding out about these plans now? Surely you knew I’d follow you in a second?"
"Damn right," Bill agreed.
"Please," Albus said softly. "I haven’t finished."
The ancient wizard took a deep breath as he looked around.
"I was hoping Harry would show up tonight. I will admit to not anticipating Nott being here, but I knew about nearly everything else.
"I’ve been fighting for more years than I can remember," he continued. "And I started to forget what I was fighting for, and who I was fighting for. It became a game for me, and for Voldemort.
"For that reason, and for the consequences of my actions, I will pay the price."
He stood, proudly.
"If you will allow it, I will follow you, Harry."
What Pansy said to Ginny, and what happened during the day out will be shown in an outtake later - the events don't have real relevance on the rest of the story.
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 - especially with Dobby's dialogue.