Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to the proverbial Duchess of Magic, JK Rowling, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros and some other high falutin' companies. No matter how much I whine about not owning anything related to the HP universe, other than a few fanfic plots, I do not profess to own - and would never dream of making any money off - JKR's wonderful world... Damn it!
Chapter Twelve - The Grangers
The result of Dumbledore's trial showed there was still far too many people on the Wizengamot that, according to Harry, thought the sun shone out of Dumbledore's arse.
While he was found guilty of some of the minor infractions, and the one major infraction of continually attempting to Obliviate Harry - that could not be argued away by anyone - Dumbledore escaped a prison term.
Instead, he at least lost his position of Britain's representative on the ICW, which meant he lost the Supreme Mugwump position with it, and lost the Chief Warlock position to go along with that, too.
Harry thought that meant he'd still be on the Wizengamot; but, surprisingly, he was not. It seems, as only a head of a Minor House, he only occupied the Seat of Potter as regent, which he had then passed on to Doge as proxy when he became Chief Warlock, and no longer held any other Wizengamot-eligible authorities.
Further, he received a fine for the attempted illegal obliviations. He received no gaol time for it because, as Harry showed in his memories, they did not 'stick'. Which meant they were only 'attempted' obliviations and not 'actual' obliviations. He was still fined a hefty financial penalty, though.
Harry's memories of the obliviations Dumbledore sent Poppy Pomfrey's way those times at the Dursleys had to be discounted because of two significant points, both of which Dumbledore - not so funnily enough - pointed out. First, the magical 'signature' of the obliviations was not, supposedly, Dumbledore's. And, second, the old man 'could have' been someone either under Polyjuice Potion or glamour. It was also he who 'noticed' that the wand the Dumbledore in memories was using was not the wand that 'everyone knew' was his own - it visually lacked the berry ridges down it's length.
Harry gave a sigh and said, as an aside to Hermione, "At least Bones will now know what the secret wand Dumbledore's been using looks like."
She silently nodded back.
When it came to his position as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Ogden was rather scathing of the man about that, too. Apparently, only the School Board could sack a sitting headmaster and, added to that, Dumbledore also held tenure as a professor. For the past twenty plus years he had been the only 'Professor', besides Binns, who still held a tenure-ship as all the rest had either retired or died in the interim. And Binns's was defunct due to his legal status as a ghost.
Harry found himself quite disgusted with the entire Wizengamot and thought them either corrupt, ignorant of their own laws or - as he'd been thinking all along about nearly all witches and wizards - daft morons; or, closer still, a combination of all three.
Many in the galleries were quite incensed about the 'light' penalty Dumbledore was given and were shouting abuse and obscenities at the Members. Quite a few seemed satisfied with the outcome, but most seemed to sigh in defeat and quietly left.
Then, even before the chains were removed from Dumbledore, the aurors ushered the two teens out via the auror's exit. Neville remained as he'd be talking with his Gran
They were quickly whisked away from the Ministry building and out into the muggle world.
At the completion of the trial, as arranged, Harry and Hermione were escorted by aurors out and to the Granger Residence.
It was getting a little late in the day and Hermione was worried her parents would be worried. However, when they got there, Hermione had to let them in with a key she had in a 'fob' pocket of her purse she was carrying with her.
As soon as she opened the door, she was pulled back and away from it as two aurors went in first.
One of the other two, a female auror who had grabbed her and pulled her aside, said, "Let us search the place first, Miss Granger. Constant vigilance and all that."
Meanwhile, the fourth auror stood with his back to the door, but far enough away that the two teens and the female auror were between he and the door.
A few minutes later, one of the aurors who first went in came back to the door and quietly said, "It's clear, except for a sleeping half-kneazle in a bedroom on the top floor."
"Crookshanks," said Hermione. "He's mine; but, where's Hedwig?"
"On her way, no doubt," shrugged Harry. "She should be here soon. She might already be out hunting."
Hermione immediately led Harry and the aurors through to the downstairs area and the servants' quarters - which Harry was surprised to see had its own small combined kitchenette lounge, two bedrooms with shared ensuite and external entrance that opened on the side of the house to a small set of stairs leading up to the side yard.
"This will be like heaven compared to some of the bodyguard jobs we've had to endure," muttered one of the two female aurors looking about in surprise.
"I take it you're all experienced with muggle homes?" asked Hermione.
"Yes, Miss Granger," replied the senior auror, a male. "All aurors, as part of their training, have to spend about a month living non-stop in the muggle world. We stayed in a... motel?"
"Motel, yes," nodded Hermione. "It's like a hotel, only with better access for vehicles. And the motel units often have their own kitchenettes, like we have here in the servants' quarters."
"Yes," muttered the auror.
Next up, Hermione took Harry by the hand and led him upstairs. She explained which room should be his, but there was none of his effects in it, before heading up to the top floor.
She immediately showed him her room, then took him across the landing to see the other two 'non-ensuited' guest rooms - there was a 'communal' bathroom leading off the landing at the back side of the house. In one, they found Harry's effects.
"Ummm..." muttered the girl. She seemed undecided.
"You suggested your parents might want me to use the guest room on the next floor down, right?" he asked. "The same one with the master bedroom?"
With a sigh of relief, she replied, "Yes, Harry. I think it would be for the best so Daddy doesn't worry you'll try to sneak into my room at night to... 'have your wicked way with me'." Then blushed.
"Trust me, Hermione," he said. "If I ever snuck into your room... and I'd never do that, by the way... there would be nothing 'wicked' about it."
One of the female aurors laughed and said, "Oh, to be a teenager again."
That had both teens blushing. The auror just laughed again.
To break through his embarrassment, Harry led the small party back down to the second floor.
When he walked into the guest room there, he called Dobby.
"Master Harry, Sir?" asked the excitable little elf. "What cans Dobby be doings for the Grea... I mean, Master Harry, Sir?"
Kindly, Harry replied, "Dobby; thank you very much, for moving both Hermione's and my things from Hogwarts to here. But, I need you to move my things from the floor above into this room and ensuite."
When the elf frowned, Harry was quick to say, "I've now decided I like this room better, because it has its own ensuite bathroom."
That perked the elf up and he eagerly replied, "Yes, Master Harry, Sir!"
A quick two seconds of popping away and popping back and all Harry's things were now in the room or ensuite, depending on the item.
Harry took a quick look around and said, "Good job, Dobby. Now, did you find any tracking charms or the like?"
"Yes, Master Harry, Sir! Dobby be findings many tracky charms and others on much of Master Harry's Miss Grangy's thingsies. Dobby stripped them all away likes Master Harry, sez."
"Were there any charms or the like you left on Miss Granger's things you thought should remain?" he asked.
"Onlys things like charms for... auto-updating... a book," then the little elf blushed and looked away. "There was potions in Miss Grangy's things but theys be still in bottles. Dobby not touch them."
Hermione gave a little 'Eep!" sound and bolted out of the room. Harry heard her through the door as she ran up the stairs. The female auror with them hurried after her, possibly thinking something was wrong.
"That's excellent, Dobby," said Harry, otherwise ignoring the 'rampaging hippogriff' sound of Hermione running up the stairs. "Very good job. How went the search of the property?"
Again the elf immediately perked up and replied, "Dobby be finding a wardy before goblin-folk and their wizards turnses up. It be an alert ward to see if a wizard or witch be on the property. Dobby also be finding a listening charm on... muggle thing with curly-cord. Dobby take that away, too!"
'Telephone,' he immediately thought. "Good job again, Dobby!"
Thinking about it, he realised he had nothing else for the elf to do for now, so chose his fall-back order. "In that case, you're free to find work for yourself or rest, as you need or desire."
With a short bow and a happy smile, the little elf popped away again.
"Wards?" asked the quiet of the two male aurors with a cocked eyebrow.
"Yes," replied Harry. "All legal as far as wizarding law applies. One is an intent-based ward for muggles that will... redirect the thoughts of muggles with ill-intent towards the occupants of this home to another property. That's the only one that actually applies to muggles. The second, layered a yard inside that, is an intent-based ward for wizards. If they approach with ill-intent it will immediately stun them as soon as they set foot on the property. There's another that is now keyed to Dumbledore's magical signature - please don't ask me to explain that one - that will immediately stun him, irrespective of his intent.
"For both of those Dobby has been instructed to transport the twits direct to the DMLE bullpen, where he is then to explain to any auror in the room why they were stunned and brought there. I can order him to deliver them to one of you, if you like, instead.
"No," the auror disagreed. "Have him leave them in place and alert one of us to the wizard or witch and we'll take it from there."
Harry gave a nod and continued. "The next ones are just a fire retardant, rather than fire-proofing ward, and an alert ward that informs me and Dobby if someone steps over the ward line. Of course, if they're here with ill-intent it will only alert us that they tried. If they make it to the front door and ring the bell we'll know they're here and have no intention of harming us. Plus, there's an inner ring of two that are the anti-portkey and anti-apparation wards."
"That's it?" asked the auror.
"As far as I'm aware, yes," nodded Harry. "I cannot see the goblins setting up any other wards without being paid for them. And none of them know who they set up the wards for; only my account manager."
Harry did not mention the ward that blocked the use of magic used in the home being detected by the Ministry. That was because it also interfered with 'The Trace' that tracked under-age magic use. But, unlike the Fidelius charm that did it as a side-effect, this one did it deliberately. He might now be exempt, but Hermione wasn't.
"Why the Dumbledore specific one?" pressed the auror.
"Because I have no doubt, whatsoever, that the old man is going to turn up here within the next day or two with the intent of trying to force me to return to Hogwarts," Harry emphatically replied.
"He's been ordered to stay away from you," frowned the auror.
Harry just laughed and adopted a Dumbledore tone of voice. "Ah! Harry-my-boy! I'm sure, once Amelia comes to her senses, she will completely understand why it was necessary for me to escort you back to Hogwarts. You are, after all, in danger when you're away from the protection of Hogwarts or your loving family's home."
That had the auror again cock his eyebrow. But, this time, he also smirked. In a droll voice, he said, "Nice impression."
Wryly, Harry smirked back and said, "With the amount of times that man has demanded I speak with him in private... read: Obliviate the shit out of me... I've come to develop quite the understanding of his inflections, intonations, manner of speech and the bullshit he spouts to get his own way."
That had the auror openly grin.
As they were about to head out and back downstairs, Harry held him back for a moment.
"Please don't tell Hermione or the Grangers anything about the wards. Especially, how much they cost," he begged.
"You had them erected without their permission?" he asked, again frowning.
"I shall talk to them about it, this evening," promised Harry. "Just not the cost. And I had it done early because I knew Dumbledore would be here before I could get their permission, then contract the goblins to get it done, and then actually have it done."
"Then, I won't press the issue," he said. "The law concerning permission was brought in to stop witches and wizards from stealing muggle properties. There's no intent on your behalf to do that here."
"No," replied Harry. "Thank you."
The auror just gave a simple nod back and they all headed back downstairs again.
As the teens with their auror escorts arrived at Hermione's home, Dumbledore was arriving at Hogwarts. As far as he knew, the school 'day' had just completed and dinner was not scheduled for an hour.
He had headed directly to the school as soon as he recovered his wand, spectacles, portkeys, money pouch and other effects that had been removed from him before he was first tossed into a holding cell. He was not prepared to wait any longer at the Ministry to discover new information before he departed, because a pack of journalists was hounding him as soon as he stepped out of the DMLE secure area.
As per his norm he flooed directly to his office, so he missed learning from anyone - staff, students or even the visiting schools - about the loss of a lot of his staff. The aurors had refused to inform him and he didn't want to come across in public not knowing what was going on concerning something he, as Headmaster, should be aware.
His first order of business was to immediately head to his private apartment to bathe and change. He'd been forced to wear the same robes for the past week and they were now both dirty and, he detected, reeked of unwashed man scent. He would be ordering the house elves not to bother cleaning them, just burn them.
He had the opportunity to change while he was in custody, but was only offered 'prison garb'. And feared his robes would be taken away and 'lost' before his trial. It was something he would not put past Bones doing, as him wearing prison garb at his own trial would put the image in the minds of the masses that prison garb is what he should be wearing. It's what he'd have done in her place.
Thankfully, each day there was at least one auror who was willing to cast cleaning charms on his robes. But cleaning charms could only do so much. Clothing needed a proper wash to actually be properly clean again.
As for bathing he was restricted to washing using the sink in the cell he was 'assigned'. But at least the aurors provided him a small cake of soap and a towel once a day to accomplish that. However, again, 'hand' washing was insufficient compared to a proper bath or shower.
Today he would be taking a cleansing shower followed by a good long soak. A quick Tempus charm showed he had at least an hour before dinner, but wanted to assemble his staff before heading down to the Great Hall. The only member of staff he knew he'd lost was Severus Snape and that was only because one of the junior aurors snarked at him about it. That junior auror was immediately berated and sent from the holding cell area, never to return.
After a ten minute shower and thirty minute soak, he quickly dried and dressed before returning to his office.
The portraits had all tried to ask or demand answers from him as to where he'd been for the past week as he passed through on the way up to his apartment and he ignored them, as he often did. However, his return had them all arc up again.
"Be silent or I will silence the lot of you!" he barked. "I have urgent work to do and I will not be interrupted in that." He hadn't even bothered to look up to the portraits when he said that.
He quickly wrote out short 'requests' to each senior staff member, Head of House, and called a house elf to immediately deliver them.
The elf popped away with all three notes - none for Slytherin - but returned shortly with one of them.
When Dumbledore frowned at the elf and accepted the note off him, the elf said, "Perfessor MacKitty no longer a perfessor, Perfessor Long Whiskers."
Dumbledore frowned even more and curtly dismissed the elf before he burned the short note and vanished the ashes. He wanted no evidence that could come to light at a later date that he'd sent a note to McGonagall
Five minutes later Sprout and Flitwick walked in together. Both did not appear happy to see him.
"Hello, Headmaster Dumbledore," both said.
"I find myself surprised to see you back," Flitwick quietly added. Of the two he looked the least impressed, even a little angry.
"My... trial..." Dumbledore growled, "Ended only a little over an hour ago. I needed the intervening time to recover my property from the DMLE and come back here before taking a much needed bath and don a fresh change of clothes.
"How is it you managed to escape a prison sentence?" asked Sprout. The direct question wasn't even couched in polite phrasing.
"There was no evidence of me committing a crime which would warrant such," he said, starting to calm down. "The whole exercise was a complete waste of time."
"No, it wasn't," she disagreed. "A great deal of information came to light that needed to come to light."
Ignoring their remarks and tones he got to what he felt were the important facts. "I know Severus was unfairly sent to Azkaban. And I know Minerva appears to have quit. Who else have we lost?"
Both stared at him in disbelief for a long few moments before Flitwick gave a grunt of either annoyance or amusement - it was always difficult to tell with goblins - and replied, "You really have been out of the loop, haven't you?"
Annoyed, Dumbledore snapped, "That does not answer my question."
"No, it doesn't, because your two points clarifying your belief of what you thought the position was, rendered your question moot," replied Flitwick. "To quickly bring you up to speed, then.
"Severus Snape was not unfairly sent to Azkaban, as you put it. At the least, the man willingly admitted to multiple uses of the Unforgivables against victims. And don't argue he had to do so, because three of those times that came to light were when he was not accompanied by another Death Eater.
"He also admitted to being a willing Death Eater and declared he had no interest in being redeemed. The way he worded it, it sounded like he was amused you were trying to do so. It was clear he had no faith in you because you failed to uphold your end of 'the bargain', as he put it, by not saving Lily Potter.
"And Minerva did not quit. Minerva begged the Wizengamot to allow her to quietly retire to her clan lands in the highlands of Scotland instead of being sent to Azkaban, herself. However, they didn't allow her to retire, they fired her and then permanently banned her from ever returning to the castle, or holding any other teaching position. They did not even allow her the opportunity to return to the castle to say goodbye, or collect her personal effects. She had to send us a messenger Patronus and, later, a letter.
"It is because of that we two are very surprised you were not locked up, let alone were able to return to the castle."
Dumbledore gave a grunt of annoyance and otherwise ignored the jab.
"So, until I can get Minerva reinstated I've lost two of my Heads of House with one of them being my deputy..."
"Wrong, again, Headmaster Dumbledore. You're still making false assumptions," Flitwick cut in. "You've lost three of your Heads of House. Part of my own punishment was the Wizengamot ordering me stripped of my position as Head of House Ravenclaw. It, like Minerva's, is a permanent ban. I am now only the Professor of Charms."
"I'm the only one to hold on to my Head of House position, Headmaster Dumbledore," Sprout quietly said. "And they're not the only positions currently vacant due to court-ordered terminations."
"Oh?" Dumbledore quietly asked. Both 'subordinates' could see the man was close to losing his temper, but didn't care.
"Rubeus Hagrid has lost his position as Professor of Care of Magical Creatures, but was allowed to retain his position as Groundskeeper," replied Sprout with that same flat voice. "However, even then, he too has been permanently banned from ever holding a teaching position again, or being in authority over children. That means he cannot even be responsible for children serving detentions, nor can he lead the first years from the Express to the castle. You'll need to find someone else to do that job from now on.
"And you most certainly can never again send him to pick up the muggle-raised from their abusive relatives and take them to Diagon Alley to pick up their supplies.
"Poppy Pomfrey was not charged, as she was found to have been under the effects of loyalty potions and the victim of multiple obliviations that you know about that, apparently, reacted badly with her oath as a medi-witch once she was finally freed of them. She has to spend time in Saint Mungo's during her long road to recovery, but she has already made these couple of decisions.
"One: she will never return to serving at Hogwarts, ever again. Two: If she ever returns to Hogwarts she has filed patient orders that she is to be immediately stunned and taken to Saint Mungo's, where she is to undergo an immediate scan for mind altering potions and obliviations. Three: Without any doubt, whatsoever, she wants you dead. I doubt, very much, she is the only one.
"When I visited her she was very creative with describing the ways in which she could kill you off without any blame being directed her way. And, even if it was, she has the perfect alibi. Someone messed with her mind; therefore, she cannot be held responsible for her actions."
Dumbledore had been about to berate her for her language until he realised both Professors before him had entered with their wands drawn and had yet to put them away. And, secondly, neither had addressed him as 'Albus'; both were addressing him as 'Headmaster Dumbledore' and only 'Headmaster Dumbledore'.
Instead he'd brought his occlumency barriers up full and was otherwise analysing every communication they sent his way. Even their body language gave every sign they were expecting him to attack either or both of them at any moment. And it took him the blink of an eye after realising that to next realise that's exactly what they wanted him to do. He was not going to do that.
Flitwick then took it up from there. "As you would be aware from the First Task, the person purporting to be Professor Alastor Moody - you know, Headmaster Dumbledore, the man you claimed to be a personal friend of many decades, so should know each and every one of his mannerisms and little idiosyncrasies? - proved to not be Alastor Moody, after all. The real Alastor Moody was found locked in a multi-compartment trunk in his office and is currently recovering from his ordeal at Saint Mungo's."
Sprout said, "I visited with him when I visited Poppy, Headmaster Dumbledore. I will not repeat the language he used, but I assure you the name Albus Dumbledore now sits a fair way up on his personal 'People I Owe a Visit' list. From the sounds of other names on that list, it is not a nice one to be on.
"So, of course, we are also down, yet again, a Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Alastor refuses to return to - or, should I say, start at his position as - DADA Professor."
"But filling the position of Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts should not be such a continuous problem from now on," said Flitwick. "We were visited by individuals from the Department of Mysteries yester-evening. They would not tell any of us why they were here but, after a quick request by myself, they found and removed the embedded curse that was on the position. I was also told it was quite easy to find and remove and they wondered out loud why you'd never removed it, yourself. And secondly, without being asked this time, they banished Cuthbert Binns on to his... 'Next Great Adventure', as you would put it.
"In total we are down a Deputy Head, three Heads of Houses, the Transfiguration Professor, Potions Professor, DADA Professor, History of Magic Professor and CoMC Professor. The Board, working with Saint Mungo's, have already appointed a replacement for Poppy. That happened within two days of the First Task."
That angered the old man enough for him to comment. "I... hire and fire staff, not the School Board."
"That is incorrect, Headmaster Dumbledore," Sprout corrected. "The actual ruling states the current Head, whether they be Headmaster or Headmistress, hires and fires staff. At the time, you were suspended and not legally recognised as a Headmaster. And, using the fact she was in effective control of Hogwarts by declaring the entirety of it as a crime scene, by law Amelia Bones declared herself Acting Headmistress. By that same evening the School Board ratified that by proclaiming her Headmistress pro Tempore.
"Madam Bones then used her authority as Headmistress to appoint the new on-staff medi-wizard for Hogwarts. His name's Peter Robinson. As soon as it was apparent Poppy would not be returning, he was offered and accepted the permanent position. His contract is such that you cannot just fire him. Your decision has to be valid and must be ratified by the School Board. He is also in a position to overrule you on any and all medical grounds."
"Getting back to the point of vacant positions, Headmaster Dumbledore," said Flitwick, "There are other members of staff who are also considering their own positions at Hogwarts. Quite a few were not happy to learn what you... sorry, someone... did to Poppy and Minerva.
"As you have... however... escaped your own incarceration sentence, you should expect further vacancies to appear."
"Who?" Dumbledore snapped.
"That information was provided me in confidence, Headmaster Dumbledore," Flitwick firmly replied. "I intend to keep that confidence."
Knowing pushing to be provided that information would get him nowhere, Dumbledore bit his tongue and didn't. But, even with his Occlumency barriers up full, he was still rapidly approaching the point he'd still lose his temper.
"Next item," said Sprout. "With so many missing Professors, especially from the core subjects, the School Board made the decision, supported by the Acting Headmistress, to suspend all lessons until enough Professors were available to recommence the absolute majority of classes.
"Because of that, with Madam Bones's permission as then Headmistress pro Tempore and the authorisation of the School Board... reached, I believe, in a unanimous decision... the students have been offered the opportunity to return to their homes until classes are able to restart. The School Board will be deciding when that date will be. There are quite a few students who have accepted that option and have already left. That is especially apparent for those students who are of-age and do not need the permission of their parents or guardians. Many more will be leaving today or over the weekend now that their permission slips from their parents or guardians are arriving."
"No!" Dumbledore snapped. "I will not allow this!"
"The decision is not yours to make, Headmaster Dumbledore," said Sprout. "The decision has already been made and is already being implemented."
"Has Harry Potter claimed to have received permission from his guardian?" the old man demanded.
"You appear to have forgotten, Headmaster Dumbledore, that you lawfully declared Lord Harrison James Potter as of-age," she snapped back. "As the contract of the Tri-Wizard Tournament stated that only of-age students could compete... a contract you co-signed, I believe... the moment you told him he had to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament you declared him of-age.
"Therefore, Lord Potter did not need a signed permission slip. He authorised himself to leave. And, I believe, he has already departed."
When Flitwick was about to confirm Harry had left, Dumbledore surged to his feet, lean almost completely over his desk and all but screamed at Sprout, "You stupid bitch! Do you realise what you've done?"
Before the second sentence even finished leaving Dumbledore's mouth, Flitwick snapped his fingers. Instantly, a house elf appeared next to his right hand with his goblin-forged battle-axe.
"Harry Potter is never to be allowed―" was as far as Dumbledore got before he caught the movement out of the corner of his eye of Flitwick leaping to his feet with what was clearly a heavy martial weapon in his hand.
Immediately shutting up, Dumbledore instinctively leapt backwards before ending up tripping over his own office chair and landing in a heap behind his desk.
By the time he hit the ground, Flitwick was standing on his desk with one of the blades of his heirloom double-headed battle-axe buried at least five inches into the wood of the top of the desk, right where the blotter would be. Flitwick was leaning on the haft of it and leaning right over Dumbledore's edge of the desk with a look of total fury on his face.
Dumbledore was shocked into silence. His heart was hammering away in his chest and he realised he had just soiled himself.
And into that silence that appeared to stretch on for minutes, but was only a few seconds in real time, Flitwick snarled down at the old man, "If you ever speak to a member of staff like that again, let alone a student, you won't even have time to apologise as I will have already killed you!
"Have I made myself perfectly and profoundly clear to you, Albus Dumbledore; you conceited, self-praising, hubris-riddled, monomaniacal, desiccated old smear of garbraek snot?"
Looking up at Flitwick from where he was uncomfortably sprawled on the floor, Dumbledore was reminded of just why the little, normally placid, Charms master won seven straight International Dueling Championships. It wasn't his size or his knowledge, it was his heritage. Goblins, contrary to their small stature, were incredibly fast. It mattered not whether it was with their feet, their bladed weapons, or their wands - as normally in Flitwick's case. If a blade-bearing goblin got within ten to fifteen feet of you and that goblin was focused on killing you, your chances of survival were less than that of a stunned cow within the same distance of the maw of a dragon. The dragon, after all, might not be hungry.
Dumbledore knew at that moment he may as well have been a muggle for all the good his vaunted Elder wand would do him. Before his hand even managed to pass a quarter of the distance from its current location to where his wand was tucked into his belt, he would be dead.
"Y-you would then be causing your own demise, Filius," he tried. "You are, after all, only a half-breed."
That's when Sprout also leaned over the desk from her side to look over at Dumbledore. She calmly rested a hand on Flitwick's shoulder and gave her own vicious smile at the old man. "Actually, Filius Flitwick of the Wick Clan of the Goblin Nation is my named champion," she explained. "His heritage, therefore, becomes irrelevant - as you well know. Only my own is relevant.
"And, Albus Dumbledore of the Minor House of Dumbledore, I am a pureblood of the Elder House of Urquhart; while you are, after all, only a half-blood."
"I.. I'm―" he tried.
Interrupting him she magnanimously said, "Oh, don't bother apologising for your boorish, uncouth behaviour, Dumbledore. No one here any longer believes a word out of your mouth. Therefore, any apology you attempt to make will likewise not be believed."
Still glaring down at Dumbledore with a glare so filled with imminent death showing the old man still expected the Charms master to attack him anyway, Flitwick snarled, "Heed my words."
He then snapped back up straight, gave the haft of the axe a powerful flick of his wrist loosening it in the wood, then yanked it out before he spun about and jumped off the other side of the desk away from Dumbledore.
Dumbledore next heard in a falsely pleasant voice from Sprout, "Don't get up, Headmaster Dumbledore. We'll see ourselves out. Toodles!"
Dumbledore waited until he heard the office door slam shut behind his two senior Professors before he began to struggle to his feet.
As he did so he remembered he needed to go and change his robes. He now stank of his own fæces.
"Albus, are you alright?" asked the portrait of Headmaster Everard.
Dumbledore ignored it and quickly went through his private door and up to his apartment.
After Dumbledore disappeared through the door, slamming it shut behind him, the Sorting Hat chuckled and said, "There goes one very frightened and very unhappy manipulative old man."
From the walls, Headmaster Fortescue said, "The idiot allowed his temper to overrule his common sense. Did you notice he never even noticed Flitwick and Sprout constantly addressed him only as 'Headmaster Dumbledore' and not as 'Albus' for about three minutes? That should have been clue enough for him."
Headmistress Derwent added, "Plus, the way they were sitting, plus that they had their wands drawn, plus a lot more than that. Flitwick was also holding his wand in his off hand, right from the start!"
"They were baiting him," snapped one Headmistress portrait, Merriweather.
"No, they weren't," said Phinneas Black. "They were expecting trouble and were prepared for it. Very Slytherin of them."
"He's right," said Everard. "There was not one thing either of them said that could be considered 'baiting'. They directly answered his questions, as he asked them. The only part of that you could consider baiting was they didn't 'sugar-coat' what they reported."
"What about their remarks like 'someone' harmed Poppy, that's why she's not coming back?" asked Merriweather.
"That one I'll give you," said Black. "However, they know it was Albus who at least constantly obliviated the woman because of Mister Potter's memories. Those obliviations, alone, brought the woman into conflict with her oaths and, therefore, harmed her. Was it that much of a stretch to also figure out it was Albus who potioned her with loyalty potions?"
Fortescue said, "Did you like that trick with the battle-axe? That was obviously prearranged."
Even the dour Black chuckled at that one. "Finger snap. The elf is right there holding it out to him. Then he moved."
"Not seen a goblin in battle mode before, Phinneas?" asked another portrait.
"No," he replied. "I knew, from my family history, that they were unbelievably fast for such small folk. But, even then, I had no idea how fast."
"And, just think, Filius Flitwick is only a part goblin," said the same portrait.
"Agnetha is correct," said the portrait of Dilys Derwent. "Goblins in battle are a fearsome thing. And it's not just because of their ability to wield their weapons; it's because of just how fast they move."
While Harry was being a 'sticky-beak' on the 'ground' floor; the main and public floor of the house that contained the office, parlour, formal dining room and a combined kitchen informal dining room; the aurors seemed to be setting up extra wards and the like both within and without the house.
The servants' quarters, media room, laundry with adjacent toilet, another guest room, a few other rooms plus the garage itself were all on the lower ground floor, almost basement.
Hermione came down while he was 'exploring' and headed immediately to the telephone wall-mounted in the kitchen above the bench that separated the kitchen from the informal dining room. Before he was able to reach her to ask why she'd run off so suddenly earlier, she'd already lifted the handset off the telephone cradle and was dialing a number it looked like she'd read off a whiteboard tacked to the wall alongside it. It had a list of names with associated telephone numbers.
Instead, he diverted to the kitchen and began to check out what cooking equipment, implements and the like were available before then moving on to the fridge/freezer and pantry. He'd already decided he would cook while he was there. It was something he was good at, enjoyed when he knew his cooking was appreciated and would be a way he could pay back the Grangers for their hospitality. He didn't think either Granger parent should be 'forced' to cook for what had become triple the number of mouths to feed as it would be if it was just Hermione and her parents.
A quick peruse of the three food storage areas and he was already compiling a food shopping list in his head.
He tried not to listen in on Hermione's call but it was obvious, even to one not trying to overhear, that she was talking to her father and letting him know they'd safely arrived and were settling in.
When she hung up she turned to Harry and said, "Mum and Daddy are running a little late but they'll be here together about 6.30. Daddy said we should order something in."
Harry brightened up at that, grinned and said, "Nope! I'll whip something up!" It was just after 5.15.
Hermione frowned back and said, "You don't need to do that, Harry."
"I want to," he said. "It was about the only chore I had to do at the Dursleys I actually enjoyed. I'm also quite good at it."
Hermione looked uncertain; whether that was because she didn't know if he could actually cook well or if it was because she didn't want him doing chores, he didn't know.
"Relax, Hermione," he soothed. "Trust me."
When she nodded back he grinned and asked, "Now, what sort of meals do you normally eat while you're at home?"
"I... don't really know," she replied. "I was often more focused on study and getting homework out of the way than on the food on the plate."
"Now that's just sad, Hermione," he mock scolded her. "Cheffing, at the level I do it, is an art. And it is experienced and enjoyed by tasting or dining on the resulting gastronomical delight.
"I'll just check the pantry, fridge and freezer again to see what your parents have. That'll give me an idea as to what sort of foods they like to eat."
"Plain English fare, Harry," she quickly said. "But Daddy enjoys the occasional Indian or Thai dish.
"Any food allergies?" he asked.
"No, just keep sugar to a minimum," she replied.
"By that I take it you mean processed sugar," he said. "Don't worry, any sweeteners I add will be natural sugars."
"If you're sure," she hesitantly said. "If you don't know where something is, ask me. I'm pretty sure I've got a fair idea in which cupboard, drawer or shelf you'll find it."
"I'll be fiiiiine," he said, already beginning to pull food out of the fridge and freezer.
"Ooh!" he suddenly said, looking down at a frozen bag of chicken pieces. "This'll do. I hope you like chicken!"
That armful of fridge and freezer ingredients went on the bench. Then he moved over to the pantry. "Now, spices," he muttered.
Hermione left him to it and went to check that the aurors were set.
However, she had to return to the kitchen only a moment or so later when she heard Harry's raised voice and what she thought was a small child's.
When she got there it was to see Dobby standing in the middle of the kitchen floor with a frown on his face, his arms crossed and tapping one bare foot on the floor. He was staring at Harry who was just as fiercely staring back.
Harry was also clearly stating to the elf that he was cooking dinner that night and Dobby could like it or lump it.
"Ooohhh-kay," she said. "What's going on?"
Before Harry had a chance to answer her, Dobby cut in first. "Master Harry Potter, Sir, be cooking! Cooking be house elf's job. Master Harry Potter, Sir, not be letting Dobby do his job! Master Harry Potter, Sir, be too wonderful a master to be doing menial house elf work!"
Holding a plastic bowl in one hand and a plastic net bag of what looked like onions in the other, Harry was gesturing with both. "Calling what I do by the plain term of 'cooking' is like calling Picasso a painter, or Michaelangelo a stone carver. I chef!" he declared.
"Chef be just fancy word for cook," stated Dobby.
"The elf is actually arguing with his Master?" asked one of the aurors that had come up behind Hermione.
As Harry looked ready to retort in objection to Dobby's slur on his skills, Dobby turned to look at the auror and snippily said, "Master Harry Potter, Sir, be giving Dobby orders that order Dobby to tell Master Harry Potter, Sir, when Master Harry Potter, Sir, be being an idiot. Dobby only be carrying out Master Harry Potter, Sir's, order."
That was enough for the auror. He burst out laughing and retreated.
Hermione, trying to hide her own smile and failing, said, "Alright, you two." Turning to Harry she said, "Dobby is only doing what you ordered him to do. And Dobby clearly believes he's a better cook than you."
"Not a chaaance!" declared Harry.
Turning to Dobby she said, "And... Dobby. Harry thinks of cooking... cheffing... as something that he enjoys doing. And seems to believe he's a better cook than you."
Dobby just looked at her with an expression of sincere disbelief.
"Why don't the two of you work together and see if you can each teach something to the other?"
Harry was the first break. "Fiiiiine!" he grouched.
"Dobby can cook?" the elf asked.
"Dobby can help," Harry firmly returned.
"Then we have an agreement," declared Hermione. "Now, stop arguing and get on with it."
Without letting either have the chance to retort she spun on her heel and hurried out of the room.
As soon as she was out the door she ran down the stairs to the lower ground level, out the back door through the laundry, onto the outside patio and let loose with one of the most long and cleansing laughs she'd had in a long time.
It was only as she was managing to get control of herself again that she realised there was an auror standing outside with her. The auror was looking at her in amusement.
"Feel better?" the auror asked.
"Oh, yes," she blushed, wiping her eyes. "I know Harry seems to often lose arguments with his mail owl, Hedwig. But to see him lose an argument to a house elf is just hilarious." And broke into laughter again.
"I heard about the house elf, but losing an argument with a mail owl?" asked the auror. "How is that possible?"
"Oh, Hedwig will brook no nonsense from Harry," she giggled. "If he's so much as a single second late with treats or bacon when she believes she deserves it, she lets him have it. Mind you, I've been on the receiving end of that, too.
"I actually think Hedwig thinks Harry is her pet; not the other way around.
"However, the important thing I think I learned of all that is that Dobby truly is not Harry's... property. It's more of a friend and partner relationship, pretty much identical to the one he shares with Hedwig, than a master and slave relationship. I'm rather relieved to have discovered that."
When the Grangers arrived home they drove in almost together in both of their cars - matching BMWs. They used a remote to open the double garage door as they approached and pulled in alongside each other.
Hermione heard the sound of the electrical garage door mechanism and called out to the rest of the House, "Mum and Daddy are home!"
As they exited and locked their cars Monica, closest to the interconnected door from the garage to the entry Hall under the stairs, waited for her husband to join her. By habit, whenever they arrived together Wendell entered first.
"Princess!" he called. "We're―"
That was as far as he got before he realised someone had just poked something pointy into the side of his neck - and froze.
He heard his wife give a gasp of shock from behind.
A moment later, Hermione walked around the corner from the stairs leading up to the main floor of the house and stopped in shock herself.
Looking at his daughter Wendell calmly asked, "Princess? Why is there someone poking what I assume is a wand into my neck?"
Hermione's expression immediately turned into a frown while staring at the auror that had a wand on her father. "Auror?" she growled.
"You confirm that these two individuals are your parents, Miss Granger?" asked the male auror.
"I do," she firmly replied. "The fact they had possession of and used one of the remotes for the garage door confirms it. Magic wouldn't work to open the door that way; it would fry the circuits."
The auror immediately withdrew his wand and said, "Then, my apologies, Mister and Missus Granger."
Wendell turned to look at him and asked, "I take it you're one of these auror-people that are going to be one of our guests for the time being?"
"When on shift; yes, sir," replied the auror.
Wendell stared back for a few moments before he gave a short sharp nod and said, "Then I'm glad to see you're on the ball and don't accept things without checking."
As Wendell stepped further into the hallway Monica, looking a little shaken, stepped in behind.
Hermione's expression instantly turned to one of relief before then turning to one of delight. She then quickened her steps forward and, as she hurried, said, "Hi, Mum, Daddy!" And hugged both.
"Well, that was a little shocking," said Monica, as she started to settle down again.
"Sorry," she apologised to both of them. "I really should have shown them photos of the two of you."
"We saw them, Miss Granger," said the auror. "Polyjuice and glamours."
"Oh!" said Hermione, realising. "Of course."
"How many of these quite lethal looking young men do we currently have here?" asked Wendell.
"Two, at the moment," replied the auror. "There's currently myself and a female partner. We stand four to five hour shifts and rotate with a larger team."
"Oh?" asked Hermione. "What happened to the other two?"
"They're currently back at the DMLE, but are on call."
"Harry's going to be disappointed, he's―" she began before she realised something important. "Oh! I forgot! Harry's decided to cook for us, tonight. That is, he and Dobby have cooked for us, tonight.
"And you haven't had a chance to meet him, yet. I think they're both still in the kitchen."
Taking them by the hands she led them back to the stairs and up to the dinette and kitchen. The young auror quietly followed along.
Harry had been keeping an eye on the time and, when Hermione called out her parents were home, he turned to Dobby and said, "Show time in about ten minutes, I think."
"Yes, Master Harry," said Dobby, moving to quickly set the dining table for eight: Mister and Missus Granger, Hermione, Harry and four aurors. Unlike the dinette table, which had seating for six, the formal dining table had places for eight. And that's where Dobby was setting up.
Harry was pulling the warming plates out of the oven and set them on the bench, which Dobby then moved to the table as he was putting the table settings in place. Dobby also already knew where the cutlery was stored in the top drawer under the bench at the open end and quickly had those set. Next went napkins folded into little triangular 'hats', followed by the glasses.
While Dobby was setting Harry was finishing up moving food from pots and pans to serving dishes, being careful not to allow any splashing. And used things like a sprig of parsley to garnish the centre top of the dish.
When Wendell and Monica walked into the dinette it was to see Dobby pop away with two of the dishes as Harry was checking on a dessert dish in the oven. Both were stunned.
"What, on Earth, is this?" asked Monica.
Harry whipped about, while still holding an insulated oven mitt in one hand a large spoon in the other.
It took him only a moment to spot the familial resemblance between Hermione and her parents. "Hi!" he grinned. "Sorry. Been a tad busy."
He placed the spoon and mitt on the bench, wiped his hands on an apron he found hooked on the inside of the pantry door and was wearing, and came forward to shake their hands.
"I'm Harry," he said with a big grin. "Harry Potter."
"Errr... Monica," said Monica, seeing the teen boy before her wearing her flower print apron she wore when she wanted to do something quick in the kitchen and was wearing nice clothes. She indicated Wendell and said, "This is my husband, Wendell. We're Hermione's parents."
"Figured as much," he grinned. "Nice to meet you both. Dinner's being served right now, if you're hungry. If not, I guess we can place warming and stasis charms over it all and eat a little later."
Knowing her friend was speaking a little quickly because he was nervous, Hermione started to giggle. "Harry, I didn't know you suited a flower print. It looks quite fetching on you."
He blinked once to her in confusion before his eyes suddenly widened and he looked down. he quickly untied it and tossed it onto the bench while blushing. "Sorry. Sorry."
That had both adult Grangers also chuckling. "Don't worry about it... Harry," said Monica. "That's what it was there for."
"Did you say dinner's ready?" asked Wendell.
"Yes!" Harry immediately brightened. "Hermione told me when you said you'd be home. And I figured you'd rather not eat take-out if you could help it. And I'm a pretty good cook. So, I figured I'd show my appreciation by cooking you dinner!
"Well, I had to let Dobby help, too. Hermione made me. So, I was able to chef it up a bit more than I normally would. But, anyway, thank you for inviting me to stay, I really appreciate it."
"Errr... you're welcome," said a stunned Wendell.
"Oh! Where are my manners!" Hermione suddenly exclaimed. "Mum and Daddy; this is Lord Harrison... Harry... James Potter of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter. Harry; these are my parents, Doctors Wendell and Monica Granger."
"Wendell and Monica," Wendell smoothly cut in.
"Harry," Harry immediately replied.
"Lord?" Monica asked.
"Errr... yeah," Harry blushed. "It's a magical thing. But, anyway, shall we go and eat? Dobby would have everything in place by now."
Wendell immediately spun to look at the dinette table, only to see it quite bare.
"In the formal dining room," said Hermione, starting to lead the way. "There was supposed to be eight of us here."
"There's not?" asked Harry. "Who's missing?"
"Apparently only two of the aurors are here, at the moment. The other two went back to the DMLE," she replied over her shoulder.
"Oh, sorry," said Harry. "Then I've cooked too much."
Before Monica could tell him not to worry about it, they'd walked into the dining room. And the presentation looked stunning.
All three Grangers came to a sudden stop.
The table, normally bare to the polished wood, was covered in a crisp white table cloth that draped down just right. The table was laid out with eight full place settings, plus glasses. The two small candelabras were lit. And spaced down the middle of the table were tureens, serving plates, serving dishes and two gravy boats, all covered.
"Wow!" exclaimed Wendell.
As they walked in, Harry spotted 'the problem' and called, "Dobby!"
When the little elf appeared, he said, "Apparently, there'll only be six for dinner tonight, Dobs; not eight. Sorry."
"Of course, Master Harry," replied the elf. A snap of his fingers and two of the settings, along with two of the chairs, vanished. Another snap of his fingers and the two chairs and settings now remaining down each side, where there once was three, were evenly spread out." And popped away again.
From where he was looking down at where Dobby stood, Wendell asked, "That was a house elf, right?"
"Yes, Sir... Wendell," replied Harry. "That was Dobby. He's bonded to me. It was my fault he was freed from his previous master and, when I found out he was dying because of it, I asked if he wanted to be bonded to me to save his life. Moments later, he was."
Indicating the table, he asked, "Shall we?"
Hermione looked to the auror who was still tailing them and said, "Call your partner. Unlike at Hogwarts, you're eating with us."
The auror looked about to argue, took one look at Hermione's stern expression, gave a single nod and disappeared.
As the Grangers and Harry moved around the table, both aurors re-entered.
Harry was surprised when Hermione seemed to take charge and directed folks where to sit. It clearly amused her parents, though.
Sitting eventually became Wendell at the head of the table away from the kitchen; then clockwise, Harry, Hermione, her mother at the other end, the male auror and then the female auror to Wendell's right.
As soon as they sat, Harry indicated each serving dish, plate or tureen and explained what it contained, then indicated the condiments. "Dobby and I have prepared 'chicken pieces in orange and honey sauce'; dry roasted potato, sweet potato, carrots and onion quarters; and steamed green peas, beans and shucked corn. I've included extra orange and honey sauce for the chicken for those who prefer more, butter tabs for the corn, soft honey for the carrots, mint sauce for the peas and beans and chicken gravy.
"For desert we kept it rather simple as Hermione told me I was to keep it simple. So, we've only prepared a thickened egg and vanilla custard baked in a pan pastry with your choice of a dollop of thickened unsweetened cream or ice cream. Dobby will serve that when we're ready."
While everyone else looked at the dishes in awe they watched as the covers on each of the dishes suddenly vanished with elf magic. Only Wendell and Monica were surprised to see that happen.
Hermione asked Harry, "Why isn't Dobby eating with us?"
"He told me eating is a private thing for house elves and begged me not to order him to eat with us," he replied. "I didn't have the heart to order him to, but did tell him he was to make sure he ate enough and well. I don't want to see him going without."
Hermione looked like she was going to argue about it; but, seeing the expression on Harry's face, didn't push it.
Seeing that no one had started reaching for the food yet, Harry looked to Wendell and said, "Sir, as Head of this House, it is by your command that we can eat."
"Oh!" said Wendell snapping back to himself. "Please, everyone; help yourselves." And immediately put action to word and reached for one of the dishes of chicken.
The looks Wendell and Monica gave each other across the length of the table around the candelabras had both knowing they'd now had a lot more to talk about than they originally thought they would.
A/N 1: Away from the castle, now Harry calms down. See? I said he would.
A/N 2: Minor edit update to include why Poppy's obliviations weren't legally recognised.