The British Isle, by a fortuitous intersection of ocean currents and
latitude, is seldom called upon to endure the extreme temperatures at
either end of the meteorological pendulum. Certainly it rained quite a
bit, and there were the odd weeks here and there where the snow fell
unexpectedly deep, but by and large the weather was a remarkably well-
However, every now and then Mother Nature threw a wobbler and let all hell
break loose. Or, more specifically, opened a doorway to the nether regions
themselves and let a blast furnace of heat settle over Europe, then sat
back and watched the suffering. Number Four Privet Drive was in no way
exempt from these conditions and as July had settled in so too had the
heat, leaving the lawns and flowerbed parched, the streets absorbing and
radiating the heat back with a gritty, merciless efficiency. By late
afternoon, Harry Potter was seriously considering adopting his cousin's
method of coping with the relentless heat and flopping down in front of a
fan wearing nothing but a pair of cut-off trousers.
Or perhaps not, he reconsidered, glancing sidelong at the vast expanse of
pale blubbery flesh currently spread-eagled on the floor of Aunt Petunia's
immaculate lounge. He could just imagine his aunt and uncle coming back
from their shopping trip to find Dudley lying on the floor. His aunt would
most likely jump to the conclusion that her precious son had been laid low
by some illness, while his uncle would assume Dudley had been assaulted by
his freak of a cousin. They'd be closer to the truth if they considered
the possibility that their enormous son had suffered a coronary.
Padding barefoot into the kitchen for another glass of water, Harry decided
to leave on the long sleeved shirt he currently wore, though the cuffs were
unbuttoned, as was the front and the tails untucked from the voluminous
jeans he wore belted tight to his waist. He preferred to leave the shirt
on to cover the wand strapped to the inside of his left arm; after the
events of his last year of school, his paranoia had reached levels that
Alastor Moody would approve.
A grunt of sorts from the lounge brought Harry back from his contemplation
of the freezer, wondering if anyone would notice him sticking his head
inside of it for an hour or so.
"What?" Harry asked, coming to the doorway of the kitchen.
"Get the door, you freak," Dudley bellowed in a fair imitation of Uncle
Vernon, even as another knock came from the front of the house.
"Lazy git," Harry muttered under his breath as he walked past his cousin's
impression of a beached whale. Confronted with the front door, he wished
for just a moment that Uncle Vernon had bought the type with a window in it
when he'd replaced the front door. Really, though, what kind of dark
wizard would knock? It was more than likely their neighbor, complaining
about the Dursleys violating the hose restrictions again.
That idea went completely out of Harry's head when he pulled open the door
and gaped at the wizard on the front stoop.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded rudely, even as he pulled his wand
from his sleeve.
Percy Weasley drew himself up to his full Weasley height, and might have
been slightly impressive if it weren't for the perspiration drops forming
on his face. His cheeks were bright pink as well, and the color clashed
rather horribly against his red hair and formal business robes.
"I'm here on official Ministry business, Mr. Potter."
Glancing quickly up and down the street, Harry grabbed the front of those
same robes and unceremoniously dragged Percy inside the house.
"Now see here," Percy protested, but Harry ignored him as he shut the door
"Very suave, Perce," Harry observed. "Nice attempt to blend."
"As I stated, I'm on Ministry business. Muggle clothing would not be
"Bugger appropriate," Harry told him shortly. "What do you want?"
Percy did his best to look down his nose at Harry, but unfortunately Harry
had shot up since the last time Percy had seen him, and was now practically
eye to eye with him. Before he could speak, Dudley appeared in the
"Who's he?" Dudley goggled at Percy's robes, torn between fleeing in terror
and attempting to enforce the 'no magic' edict instituted by his father.
Percy nearly goggled in return at the amount of Dudley on display.
"He's a git named Percy Weasley," Harry muttered. "At least, I think he
is. You can't be too careful, right Perce?"
"What?" Percy protested. "Of course I'm Percy Weasley."
"Huh?" Dudley added.
"Well, you never really know, Dudders," Harry elaborated, starting to enjoy
himself just a bit. "He could be a dark wizard in disguise." If anyone
deserved a hard time, it was Percy Weasley, especially after the way he had
treated his family over the past year.
"Now see here," Percy blustered, only to shut his mouth as Harry leveled
his wand at Percy's long, narrow nose.
"No, see here. This is a wand. I'm really, really good with it. So you
either prove you're not a Death Eater using Polyjuice, or we'll see just
how good you are at defensive spells."
"Polyjuice is a restricted potion," Percy told him impatiently. "It's
against the law to use."
"Like that means anything," Harry said with a sneer. "I've seen it brewed
in the girl's loo at Hogwarts, Percy, IF that's who you are. It's not like
"It's exceedingly difficult to produce, and I think you're making it up
just like every other story you've invented over the last few years," Percy
"Made it up?" Harry was getting quite angry now. "I didn't make up
Voldemort blasting away in the Ministry last month, did I?" He leveled his
wand at Percy's forehead, making allowances for the inevitable wince at the
Dark Lord's name. "Either you prove you're really Percy Weasley or I'm
going to use this."
Dudley's head was going back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match,
but Harry ignored him.
"How in the name of Merlin do I prove I'm who I say I am?" Percy demanded.
A nasty little smile formed on Harry's face. He would have been appalled
to realize he looked quite a bit like Professor Snape just before that
gentleman cut some unsuspecting student to the quick, but it likely would
not have stopped him asking, "You used to work for Barty Crouch, right?
Tell me, what did Crouch use to call you?"
Percy frowned. "He called me Weasley, of course," he replied fatuously.
Harry made a rude noise. "Nope, wrong answer. He never once called you
Weasley where I could hear him. He called you something else. What was
"I don't know what you're talking about," Percy tried to insist, but Harry
wasn't letting him get away with it.
"Last chance, Perce. Give me the right answer, or so help me..."
"You're underage. You'll lose your wand," Percy added, sounding a bit
panicked. "You don't dare."
"I'm being hunted by Voldemort," Harry told him in a low voice, ignoring
the flinch the name elicited. "I'll take my chances with the Ministry –
somehow, I think they'll understand me being a bit suspicious."
Percy's face twisted in distaste and outright hatred, until he bore a
striking resemblance to Professor Snape, but his mouth finally opened.
"Weatherby, all right? He called me Weatherby."
"There! That wasn't so hard, was it?" Harry asked nonchalantly, putting
his wand away. For just a moment, he felt a pang of remorse for bullying
Percy. It was only a small pang, however, for he still could not forgive
Percy for causing his family so much unhappiness over the past year. It
had been Percy's choice to ignore everything his family had told him or
stood for, and instead had toed the party line right along with the
Ministry in insisting Harry Potter was off his rocker and that the Dark
Lord Voldemort had not returned. Harry only regretted he hadn't been there
when Percy learned that even the Minister of Magic himself was convinced of
"Now, what do you want?"
"I'm here to deliver your provisional O.W.L. results," Percy replied, doing
his best to dredge his dignity back into place as he pulled a sealed
envelope from his breast pocket of his robes.
"All right," Harry said, taking the envelope. "Wait a minute. What do you
"That's the other bit of business," Percy announced loftily. "You are
hereby summoned to appear before the Hogwarts Board of Governors, day after
tomorrow, at ten o'clock on the morning, to answer an official inquiry
regarding the irregularities in the O.W.L. results for your class this
year." Another envelope, thinner and longer than the other, appeared from
the same pocket.
"What irregularities?" Harry was too busy ripping open the envelope to
look at Percy, but he could tell the pompous manner had returned by the
tone in his voice.
"The recent fifth year class at Hogwarts received some very odd marks on
their O.W.L.'s this year," he said with a sniff. "This has brought the
attention of the Board of Governors, and they are looking into the
possibility of fraud. Naturally, your name came up."
Harry was busy checking his levels, not entirely sure he was reading the
sheet in his hand correctly. Tranfigurations - E, Potions - E, History of
Magic - T... that was certainly no surprise, considering he'd fallen asleep
in middle of everything and not even finished his exam. "D.A.D.A. – O!
That's for Outstanding, right?"
"Yes," Percy told him. "For now, that is."
Something in the young man's smirk sent a warning down Harry's back, but
before he could insist on an elaboration, Percy pulled a limp rubber
spatula from his robes. "Here is your portkey. It will activate at
promptly nine forty-five the day after tomorrow. You will be expected to
present yourself before the Board at ten. Don't be late."
"As long as no one changes the time on me, I won't be," Harry shot back.
Percy shifted uneasily, but pretended he hadn't heard that parting shot.
With a curt nod, he Disapparated, leaving behind only the sharp crack of
air rushing into the vacated space.
Harry tucked the summons under his arm while he looked over the results
again. An Exceeds Expectations in Potions... he tried to remember what the
dour Potions Master had said about the requirements for his N.E.W.T. level
potions class, but was distracted when he realized his cousin was still
standing in the doorway to the lounge, blocking most of it with his own
"What?" he demanded.
"Those are your O levels, then?" Dudley asked.
The urge to look over his shoulder was overwhelming; surely Dudley could
not have been talking to him. It was possibly the most polite tone he'd
ever heard out of his cousin's mouth in all the years he'd known him.
"O.W.L.s," Harry corrected. "Fifth year examinations."
The pudgy head nodded sagely, as if Harry had performed a trick on command.
Again, Harry stifled the urge to look over his shoulder to see who Dudley
was really addressing. "I failed History of Magic, but the rest are all
right." Harry was puzzled at his cousin's curiosity. "What do you care?"
"Well, you can, you know, change them, right? Can't you? You know," and
he made a twinkling movement with his pudgy fingers, "like that?"
Harry looked at the sheet in his hand. It didn't say so, but he was fairly
sure the faint glimmer on the parchment was a charm of some sort to prevent
any such tampering.
"I doubt it," he told Dudley. "They're probably prepared for kids trying
to use magic on things like this. Besides, if you could figure a way
around the charm, you probably didn't need to cheat." Hermione Granger
could probably figure a way around the charm, but knowing his brainy
friend, she not only would object to doing so from a moral standpoint, she
probably scored O's across the board and would have no incentive to do any
Dudley's face fell, and Harry realized that his cousin had probably already
received his O levels and hadn't shown them to his parents. The thought
briefly puzzled him, knowing how indulgent the Dursleys were, before he
realized that the marks were probably quite bad if Dudders was worried that
his father was likely to go starkers about them.
"You know I can't use magic to change my grades," Harry warned him in an
apologetic tone. Dudley nodded as though he had expected that answer, but
his expression revealed the exact opposite.
"So that's it, then?"
"Well," Harry hedged, "I'm supposed to go see the Board of Governors in two
days." Pulling the other envelope from under his arm. The missive, when
he opened it, did not elaborate any further than Percy had, merely
requiring his presence due to irregularities in the O.W.L. scores.
"So how did you cheat on the test then?" Dudley asked.
"I didn't cheat," Harry shot back, feeling his temper flare. "DADA is my
"Dada?" A familiar smirk spread across Dudley's fat lips. "Do you have a
mama class, too?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts," Harry told him coldly. "Like that
Dementor you met in the alley last year. Remember that?"
Dudley swallowed loudly. "Defense... against things like that?"
A heavy frown replaced the smirk as Dudley worked through that idea. "You
have a lot of things like that, where you go to school?"
"The school is usually safe," Harry managed to unbend slightly. "It's out
in the real world that you can get in serious trouble."
A thought seemed to be forming beneath the thick thatch of blond hair on
Dudley's head, and was apparently painful as it came to the surface. "That
man you're afraid of – Lord Whatsit."
"Voldemort," Harry supplied, wondering where his cousin was going with
"Yeah, him. Is he as bad as those dementing things?"
"They follow him, Dudley. He provides them with food, so they do what he
"But.. you said – you said they eat your soul."
"Then.." Dudley's face screwed up as he tried to add the two facts
together. "He gives them people to eat?"
"I suppose so. He's a murderer, Dudders. Two years ago I saw him kill a
classmate of mine. He's killed lots of people, including my parents."
"I thought they died in a car crash," Dudley said, confused.
"That's what Aunt Petunia told everyone, but that's a lie. They were
killed. By Voldemort."
Because of me, he thought. Because I'm supposed to be able to kill him.
Because I'll have to kill him, or he'll never stop.
Harry didn't elaborate any further; his cousin was having a hard enough
time wrapping his brain around the concept of wizards fighting each other.
Besides giving a credible impression of Gregory Goyle at his most dense,
Dudley looked as though he might come down with a heat stroke if he were
forced to use his brain any harder than he already had that day.
Two days later Harry had brushed the wrinkles from the longest set of robes
he owned, made a mental note to visit Madame Malkins' when he visited
Diagon Alley for school supplies next month, and did his best to tame the
thatch of black hair on the back of his head that refused to lay flat. At
nine forty-three he grasped the rubber spatula, double-checked his wand was
firmly seated in the cheap leather watchband he used to keep it strapped to
his arm, and took a deep breath.
When the portkey activated, he tried to ignore the nausea and memories the
hooking sensation behind his navel gave him (Kill the spare!) and waited
for the world to stop spinning. After a moment the three copies of Ron
Weasley's face became one, and split into an enormous grin.
"Harry! We've been waiting for you!"
A cloud of brown hair blocked his face as Hermione Granger enveloped him in
a hug. He thought she constituted the rest of the 'we' but when she
released him he was greeted by a double handful of his classmates.
"We've all be talking while waiting for you, Harry," Hermione began as she
and Ron flanked him on each side and began to walk him swiftly down the
corridor. "I realize Professor Dumbledore probably asked that you not be
brought in too early, but it really is too bad; I wanted to talk to you
about what we're going to say."
Harry frowned at her, trying to keep up with her rapid-fire words as well
as her swift pace; they were all hurrying around corners and down several
hallways. Everyone seemed to know where they were going except him; even
Neville Longbottom was ahead of him and seemed impatient for him to keep
"Professor Dumbledore's been delayed, somehow," Ron added. "He's sent
McGonagall instead. We expect Fudge had something to do with that, but
until he shows up we're on our own."
"We'll be fine," Hermione insisted. "Just stick to the plan."
Harry would given a lot to know exactly what the plan was, but there was no
more time to discuss it. Halfway down the last hallway, Harry spied the
familiar stuffed vulture and pea-green dress Neville's grandmother wore
nearly everywhere she went.
"Do hurry, Neville," ordered the formidable witch, greeting Harry and the
others with a barely perceptible nod. "We're ready to start."
"Neville's gran is on the board of Governors for Hogwarts," Ron whispered
in an aggrieved tone, glaring at Neville. "She's the one who the put up a
fuss because Neville got such a good score on his O.W.L."
The pudgy boy shrugged, embarrassed, and led the way into the chamber.
Unlike the Wizengamot hearing Harry attended the year before, this chamber
was smaller, but no less impressive. Twelve witches and wizards sat in
chairs on a small raised dais at one end of the room. Several more sat in
the spectator's galley at the other end, most noticeably Ron's mum, Minerva
McGonagall, and several of the teachers from Hogwarts. Harry and his
fellow students clustered in the center of the room, looking about
Except for Hermione, of course, who was speaking rapidly and urgently to
Susan Bones and Neville. She quieted when the Minister of Magic, Cornelius
Fudge entered the room, followed by Percy Weasley and another wizard Harry
didn't know. Fudge and Percy joined the Governors, exchanging greetings
and handshakes like Father Christmas giving out sweets. After a few
minutes everyone settled down and turned their attention to the students
"We are here today," Fudge began, "to address the irregularities in regards
to the results of the most recent O.W.L. examinations administered at
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." He paused importantly,
exchanging significant glances to the wizards on either side of him before
staring down at the young people.
"Well?" he demanded.
"Well, what?" Hermione answered back coolly.
"Miss Granger," Fudge said in a puzzled voice, "your presence was not
required here today. May I ask why you decided to thrust yourself into
"I'm afraid I can't answer that," she replied, "except to say I learned of
this by corresponding with a fellow student. I thought I'd come along and
lend my support."
Harry was just as puzzled as Fudge, but the Minister settled for giving
Hermione a suspicious look before motioning to Percy.
Smoothing his hair down, Percy stood and rattled the parchment in his
hands. "The fifth-year class at Hogwarts were almost universal in their
poor Defense Against the Dark Arts scores," Percy announced. "However,
certain individuals who were expected to perform poorly instead received
scores far above their perceived abilities." Neville cringed slightly at
this, but stuck his hands in his pockets and didn't say anything as Percy
"The Ministry and the illustrious Board of Governors would be amiss if they
did not address this obvious example of fraud. Therefore, the students
suspected of these actions have been brought here this morning to explain
"Fathead," muttered Ron, just barely loud enough to be heard. In the
gallery Molly Weasley made an exasperated noise, but it was hard to tell
which of her sons that noise had been intended for.
"All right, then," Fudge continued, waving Percy to his seat. "What do you
have to say for yourselves?"
Swallowing, Harry looked at his friends, wondering what they were supposed
to confess. Hermione, however, did not hesitate.
"We have nothing to say," she responded in a loud, clear voice.
"What-what's this?" Fudge stammered. "What did you say?"
"We have nothing to say," Hermione repeated. "As long as Educational
Decree number Twenty-four as instituted by the High Inquisitor Delores
Umbridge remains in effect, we, the previous fifth-year students, have no
response to your accusations."
This announcement created a small stir among the governors, and apparently
caused a pain in the Minister's ample belly, judging by the expression on
his face. One of the witches on the board, an older woman Harry had never
met before, leaned forward.
"Delores Umbridge is no longer in a position of authority at Hogwarts," she
told Hermione in a reasonable voice. "There's no longer any reason to
worry about the decrees."
"I'm beg to differ, ma'am, but there is," Hermione replied seriously.
"I've checked the bylaws of Hogwarts charter and past Ministry decrees
thoroughly. While the individual may no longer holds the office, the
decrees are still in effect."
The attention of the entire room was now centered completely on the slim
girl with her wild crop of brown hair, and she stood firmly up to that
scrutiny, her fingers laced together in front of her.
"If any student confesses to a violation of any of the Educational Decrees,
or any part thereof, you would be within your rights to have us expelled.
However, if an accusation of cheating cannot be proved, the harshest
punitive action the board can take is to disallow our results completely.
It won't count as a bad grade, it simply won't count at all.
"So, we respectfully decline to answer any questions on this subject."
In the absolute silence that followed Hermione's words, Fudge simply sat
and blinked at her.
"Now, see here," he began in a reasonable tone. "No one here is looking to
expel you," he said, chuckling a bit at the very idea.
"You were certainly eager enough to expel Harry Potter last summer,"
Fidgeting visibly, Fudge harrumphed and looked around the Board for
support. He found none; the others looked remarkably interested in what
his response would be to this challenge posed by a fifteen-year-old girl.
"I daresay we're not concerned about any decrees here. We've only come
here to address the issue of the O.W.L. results."
None of the students replied to this. Neither did the Board.
"The decrees instituted by the interim Headmistress of Hogwarts are
expected to be revoked next week," Fudge told the assembly, an air of
desperation beginning to creep into his voice. "It won't be an issue."
"That does us no good at all," Hermione pointed out. "Repealing a law does
not mean that a confession of breaking that law during its enforcement will
not be punished."
Finally, the Minister caved in completely. "All right, Miss Granger.
What, exactly, do you want?"
"I want assurance that no student or former student of Hogwarts will be
held accountable for having broken any part of the Decrees," she answered
"You have my word," Fudge replied wearily. "Can we get on with this?"
"You're offering complete amnesty for any student who violated the
He nodded and waved one hand in an irritated, dismissive gesture. "Yes, of
"Can I have that in writing?"
Fudge was practically smoking at the ears by now, but he imperiously
demanded a sheet of parchment and quill from his assistant. He scribbled
on is furiously for a moment, stabbing the quill into the bottle Percy
held, making it slop all over the younger wizard's fingers. Hermione
contributed a helpful phrase here and there, until Fudge signed the
document with a frenzied flourish and thrust it at the girl, nearly
smearing the ink in the process.
"Will that do?" he demanded as she read it over.
"Perfectly," she told him sweetly. She blew on it gently and carefully
rolled it into a large cylinder before turning towards Harry expectantly.
"What?" Harry replied, confused. He'd been perfectly happy watching the
Minister of Magic being worked over by a Muggle-born witch who wasn't even
of age. This was not part of what he was expecting.
"Me?" he repeated.
"You. You're the leader of the D.A.," she pointed out sensibly.
With a push from Ron, Harry shuffled forward uncertainly. A long-suffering
look appeared on Fudge's round, florid face.
"I thought it might come to this. Well, Mr. Potter, what tale do you plan
to spin today?"
"No stories," Harry replied slowly. It's just -- nobody cheated, least of
all Neville. They all deserved to get an Outstanding, or at least an
"Then how can you explain twenty Outstanding scores among your best
friends, Mr. Potter," Fudge demanded, regaining a bit of ire in his voice,
"while the rest of your class were lucky to scrape up D's?"
"Because -- I taught them."
"You?" Fudge snorted. "You taught what, exactly?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts. We formed a study group of sorts.
Umbridge found our roster, the D.A. It really stood for Defense
Association, but we called ourselves Dumbledore's Army because – well, we
thought it was funny."
Nobody laughed, but several members of the Board leaned towards each other,
their low comments undecipherable.
Fudge looked as though he were slowly being filled with hot water. "Why
would you form an independent study group when such a thing had been
forbidden?" he demanded.
"Well, Umbridge's classes were rubbish, weren't they?" Harry asked.
"Nobody was learning anything. We had to do something. So we did."
Mrs. Longbottom moved forward to the edge of her seat, staring at Harry
intently. "You're saying the Ministry appointed teacher was inadequate?"
Harry's face twisted as he tried to find an appropriate euphemism for the
first colorful words that sprang to mind. "The classes were a nightmare.
It was nothing but reading theory. We never discussed anything, and we
were never allowed to cast the spells."
"Just because you weren't throwing spells left, right, and center,"
Harry cut him off. "Ever. We were never allowed to use our wands. Not
"Supposedly the theory would let us cast the spells properly for our exams,
but of course we'd never need to cast any outside our exams since there
weren't any threats to be prepared against," Hermione added. "No Lord
Voldemort, no Death Eaters."
Her voice was perfectly respectful, but the words dropped like rocks in the
otherwise silent room. Everyone who came into the Ministry these days
still shied past the missing golden statue in the lobby as quickly as
possible, and the return of the Dark Lord was on the front page of the
Daily Prophet on a regular basis.
Fudge shuddered when Hermione mentioned the Dark Lord's name, but doggedly
kept his focus on the subject at hand. "So, you're saying all of you
learned your defense spells from Harry Potter."
The group of students nodded as one.
"I don't suppose you can prove it," he challenged.
Harry stared back at the Minister before calling over his shoulder.
"Hermione. Cast a Rictusempra at Ron. Ron – block it."
The spell was barely out of Hermione's mouth before Ron had drawn his wand
and thrown up a Protego spell. The curse bounced off and dissipated
against the wall.
"Lavender," Harry called out. "Incarcerous. Padma – Silencio."
The Indian girl cast her spell a fraction of a second before her best
friend, and Lavender's voice shut off in mid-spell.
In quick succession, Harry called out to the members of the D.A. to cast
the spells he'd drilled them on, and one after another they each cast them.
Some of them were missing their usual partners; Ginny Weasley was in a
different year than her ex-boyfriend so Michael Corner had to partner with
Anthony Goldstein, but each of his students were unhesitating as he snapped
out spells and their counter-measures.
They performed flawlessly, and were understandably flushed with pride as
Harry reached the last student. Neville waited nervously, a tight grip on
his wand. Feeling reckless but invincible, Harry decided to go for the
"Neville," he called evenly. "Cast a Patronus."
The boy flinched. "Harry," he hissed in protest. "I never got that one!"
"I know you can do it, Neville. You watched my back all the way through
the Ministry that night. You know you can do it."
"Remember your happy thought," Hermione prompted. "Remember how you felt
when you saw your O.W.L. scores!"
The round chin grew determined, and Neville nodded at Harry. His face
screwed up with concentration, and a moment later his wand slashed through
the air decisively.
A great silver blob erupted from Neville's wand, shimmered, and spread out
into wings. The enormous bird flapped mightily, banking sharply in the
limited space, and then landed with a silent ungainly thump onto the
Ugly and bald, the vulture's head turned from side to side, glaring at the
assembled board of governors with a defiance reminiscent of the ever-
unpopular Professor Snape. Even its hooked beak looked a bit like the grim
Potions Master, but its beady eyes were pure silver and the fluffy feathers
ringing its neck were nearly incandescent.
Stunned, Neville nearly dropped his wand.
Harry wasn't sure who started applauding, but he was one of the first who
crowded around Neville, patting him on the back and congratulating him.
The students were loud and boisterous, but the governors were busy talking
among themselves and made no attempt to halt the youngsters' celebration.
It wasn't until the door of the hearing room opened and Professor
Dumbledore stepped within that they quieted down.
The Headmaster closed the door behind him and smiled genially. He made no
move towards either the gallery or the board, but remained near the
students, his hands clasped behind him, his face composed in mild inquiry.
"Well," managed Mrs. Longbottom. She cleared her throat, but her voice had
developed an unusual rasp to it. "I believe these students have adequately
demonstrated their grasp of the subject. I withdraw my objection, and
suggest the O.W.L. scores stand."
"Seconded," came another voice, the witch who had first addressed Hermione.
"I'd also like to take this moment to suggest a review of Educational
Decree number 24, this notion that the Ministry should be allowed to
appoint instructors at Hogwarts."
"Now – wait just one moment!" Fudge objected, but he was quickly drowned
out. The voices began to raise louder and louder, until Dumbledore moved
forward through the students and lifted one hand for silence.
"The Hogwarts governors obviously have business to discuss," he began in a
moderate tone. "Perhaps we should let these young people enjoy the rest of
That notion was quickly approved, and Harry and the others found themselves
outside the hearing room in no time at all. Dumbledore gave him a wink
just as he closed the door. Harry shot him a grin before turning to the
other students and found them all waiting for him, an expectant look on
For one second, Harry had no idea what they wanted from him, but something
that might have been more than just force of habit prompted an idea into
"Let's go to Fortesque's for ice cream," he suggested.
A hearty cheer rose up at this idea, and Harry soon found himself leading
the group through the ministry halls to the Floo corridor. Ron and
Hermione were at his side, the D.A. at his back... for just one moment in
time, he felt that all was right with the world.