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!
A/N: I decided to be nice and finish with the Wizengamot session in one day, so you lot get a 'double' today. [Cue screaming in orgasmic joy.]
Chapter Twenty Nine - A Dragon's Comeuppance
As soon as the trial of Lord Sirius Black III was lawfully aborted, the session ended. Harry had informed Madam Bones he believed he would need an hour to present his evidence in support of clearing his godfather's name. They did not even use half of that. That meant they were now early for the actual sitting of the General Meeting of the Wizengamot. It was barely past 9.30am and the session was not due to start until 10.00am.
Because the Longbottoms were sitting under glamours in the visitors' gallery, Harry had wanted to join them and Hermione there. However, he was blocked from doing so by quite a few of the Members who wanted to either berate or congratulate him on his case. Sirius was able to fend most of those off for him.
He was also very thankful Bones wasn't that annoyed with him using 'her' case to give the Wizengamot a smack-down he felt it richly deserved. He thought it had to do with him engineering getting the Longbottoms healed, but was happy to accept it.
Then there was the barely aborted meeting with Augusta Longbottom on the main floor. The aurors had to heatedly threaten her with arresting her and taking her from the chamber in magic-restricting manacles if she continued to try to get to Harry, before she finally backed off. By then, he had over half a dozen of them acting as a shield between he and her. Even Sirius stepped between them.
After everything calmed down - with Longbottom storming off to, apparently, give Bones another serve - he finally managed to get about ten to twelve minutes of sitting with Hermione, Frank and Alice before the start of the session.
However, even that was delayed when the reporters sitting in the gallery hurried to the top of the stairs and then tried to use the opportunity to interrogate him before he even set foot on the bottom step. Again, the aurors had to step in and ultimately threaten them with being tossed from the chamber before they stopped. And again, Sirius stepped up first to block them. Which cut his time down to about three minutes.
That would have been just enough time for him to be congratulated and earn a kiss on the cheek from Hermione before they had to settle down for the start of the session. However, at that moment Neville came running into the chamber. He was out of breath.
Harry had to stop and greet him at the foot of stairs leading up into the Visitors' Gallery to give the boy's parents a chance to compose themselves on seeing their son, without letting the cat out of the bag.
"Nev!" said a happy Harry. "What kept you?"
Still trying to get his breath back, Neville frowned and replied, "Gran locked me in my room using a charm I didn't know how to break. It took me ages to figure out a way past it."
"If you couldn't break it, then how did you get past it?" asked Harry.
Neville gave a wide grin and replied, "I did what you told me to do, Harry. I thought, 'If I can't get out through the door, how else can I get out?'
"I tried to get Fluxy, our indoors house elf, to pop me out, but she wouldn't. Gran had already taken my emergency evacuation portkey away from me, so that was out too. Then I saw the window. I tried it and it opened."
"That would have been a bit of a jump," he said.
Neville grinned even more and said, "Nope. I took the bedding off my bed, tied the ends of each together at the corners to make a bit of a rope, tied one end to my bed, and used that to shimmy down the side of the Hall.
'You forgot you could cast a cushioning charm on the ground and just jump,' thought Harry. But, he held his tongue. His friend and god-brother had solved the problem, so that was all that mattered.
"I'm just kicking myself it took me the better part of an hour to figure it out and accomplish it," continued Neville. "I only managed to get out about ten minutes ago.
"I then ran inside, used the Hall fireplace to floo to the atrium here and practically ran from there to here."
"You made it," grinned Harry. "And well done for thinking 'outside the box' and coming at the problem from a different direction!"
Now getting his breathing back under control, Neville asked, "Where is everyone?"
"Well, the Members are in the area behind the Seats and getting ready to walk back in; that includes your grandmother." He then pointed up the stairs and said, "And Hermione and Sirius are sitting up there with a couple of people we've just met."
"How'd the case go?" he asked.
"I'll let Hermione explain that to you," grinned Harry. "You know she'll want to, anyway."
Neville chuckled and said, "Yeah, she will."
Moments later, even as Neville was climbing the stairs into the visitors' gallery, the Members filed back in.
No sooner had they done so, still talking animatedly about the case that 'went wonky' and Harry's part in it, when the Herald announced the call for the members to assemble.
As the clock struck the hour Bones, sitting as Acting Madam Minister and Chief Warlock pro Tempore, banged her gavel and called the meeting to order.
"New business," she declared. "First on the docket is the induction of a New member, Lord Harrison James Potter of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter."
Harry was already striding up the floor to take his place before the defendant's chair directly in front of her.
Meanwhile, Frank was almost having to sit on his wife to stop her jumping up and hugging their son as he walked past them to go and sit on the other side of Hermione.
They'd just spent the last approximately two minutes watching their son and Harry interact. And Frank had already figured out the young Lord had done so to give him and Alice a chance to again compose themselves after having first spotted him.
Even Hermione was leaning into them and quietly whispering, "You need to wait only another few minutes! That's all it's going to take. Just... be patient for a little while longer."
Sirius had moved to sit behind them and was also offering his encouragement and urgings not to act just yet.
However, it was enough... barely.
Bones gave a sigh, knowing what was about to be unleashed, and said, "Lord Potter was declared of-age by law and by magic on the thirty-first of October, 1994. As he is therefore the rightful holder of the Potter Seat on this body, he is here to claim what is his by right."
With a slight wince, she called, "Is there anyone here who wishes to speak against Lord Potter taking his rightful Seat?"
Normally, this was simple tradition. Even those of the Dark families - known to have served Voldemort or, before him, Grindelwald - were not denied their Seats unless they were currently facing criminal charges or were incarcerated.
Of course, as expected, the Longbottom regent stood. "I object!" she firmly declared.
Though almost all of them now knew of the hate and ire she had as recently as fifteen minutes earlier directed to the boy, they still did not think she would do this. It was just 'not on'; not the 'done thing'.
"Your objection is noted, Regent Longbottom. Do you wish to speak in support of your objection?"
"You know damned well I do!" she snapped. "The House of Longbottom hereby formally objects to the Potter boy being allowed to take Seat. He has kidnapped my son and refuses to return him. Furthermore―"
"Regent Longbottom," snapped Bones. "As has been clearly explained to you, I investigated the matter as Director of the DMLE and found your claim invalid! You will not cast such aspersions on Lord Potter, again!"
"I don't care about what legal loopholes he managed to come up with to escape justice! He did it! He has my son... and his wife... and I want him back!
"Your claim is invalid! Move on!"
Longbottom, again quivering with rage, snarled, "Very well. As Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom I, Augusta Reeves Longbottom, hereby revoke the Potter-Longbottom Alliance Charter for actions..."
In the gallery, Frank quietly snarled and said, "That's it!"
He leaned over his wife to Hermione and firmly said to the girl, "As soon as we're on the floor and moving forward, tell him." And gave a chin point at Neville.
Without waiting for a response he, still holding Alice's hands to stop her reaching out for Neville, rose and descended the stairs, leading Alice with him.
"Regent Longbottom!" Bones barked back. "As regent of a House that is part of that alliance, I can tell you... flat out... as regent you do not have the authority to revoke the Charter! Stop this nonsense, immediately!"
As Frank and Alice strode forward from the stairs, across the floor and towards Harry, Hermione turned to Neville. The poor boy was sitting there, focussed on what was happening with and to his grandmother.
"Neville!" she quietly but firmly said, trying to get his attention. "Neville!"
Neville spun to look at her in shock.
"Harry has a message for you," she immediately said. "Merry Christmas!" And grinned.
Sirius began moving to sit behind him to aid Hermione if the boy looked like trying to get to his parents before it was time to do so.
Utterly confused and wanting to watch his grandmother, but too polite not to pay attention to her. He asked, "What?"
"Very well," snarled Augusta. "In that case I, Augusta Reeves Longbottom, hereby declare blood feud on the House of―"
"That's enough!" Frank barked out. That someone would dare do such a thing was a surprise enough; but, Frank backed it up with a Sonorus charm. His voice was a bellow that filled the chamber, shutting everyone up.
Even Harry turned to see. Then had to smother his grin before he turned back. He looked to Marchbanks and, the cheeky boy he could be, winked to her.
She stared at him in shock. Then glanced at the two adults striding forward, before turning a look of shrewdness on him. He impudently waggled his eyebrows back.
Bones never said a word. Instead, she gave a sigh of relief and ordered, "Aurors. Do not interfere! I command it."
Those aurors beginning to move forward to intercept the couple immediately halted in their tracks, confused. Then started to move back to their places. An order was an order, when legally given.
"Neville!" said Hermione. Dragging Neville's attention back to her.
"Hermione," he almost whined. "What? This is important!"
"So is this!" she declared. "For what is about to happen, you must remain right here! You're going to want to run forward, but you must not until you are called. Do you understand?"
"What?" he asked.
Augusta Longbottom, due to her rage, was one of the very first to recover her surprise. "I don't know who the hell you think you are, but you're interfering in the lawful practices of a Noble and Most Ancient House."
"Do you understand what I just told you?" pressed Hermione. "Do not go forward until you're called!"
"Yes, Hermione," Neville firmly returned with a scowl. "I understand. Now let me pay attention." And turned back.
Hermione grabbed him by his nearest hand, his wand hand, and held it. Relieved she'd got the message through to the boy in time, she whispered, "You're going to love this. Trust me."
Sirius was now sitting behind Neville; also ready to grab him, if necessary.
As Frank came up to stand beside Harry, he sneered back at his mother.
"Who am I?" he sneered. "That is a very good question."
As Augusta was about to snap something back, both Frank and Alice tapped themselves with their wands, dropping their glamours.
Augusta took one look at them both, her eyes widened in shock and even her jaw dropped open.
Firmly and clearly he said, "I... am Lord Franklin Harfang Longbottom, Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom, your son and Lord of your House!"
Alice chimed in, right on cue, "And, I am Lady Alice Elizabeth Longbottom née Malone, Lady of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom and of the Elder House of Malone, your daughter-in-bond and Lady of your House. The person you seem to continually forget about, or simply refer to as 'his wife'."
Hermione made sure she had a firm hold on Neville so he wouldn't jump up and run before she said, "From me too, Neville... Merry Christmas. Harry cured them!" She didn't even need to whisper; as there was no need.
Bedlam, pandemonium, uproar, ruckus or just plain confusion; they were all words that could be used to describe the scene in the chamber at that moment. The reporters in the gallery had used those words to describe what the young Potter Lord had caused earlier during the trial. Those would now have to be rethought; because, what was going on before them now, put even that to shame.
It was some time before there was anywhere near peace in those tiers. A couple of witches and even a wizard had fainted and no one noticed.
As Harry stood there, side-by-side with the Longbottoms, Frank called, "Patronuses on three. One... two... three."
And three fully corporeal Patronuses leapt from three wands and surged towards the tiers. As all three gambolled and played above the heads of the Members, the Members nearly all settled down very quickly. The positive emanations coming from the Patronuses robbed them all of their fear, anger and even desire just to want to shout at someone. Harry's was still a stag, but he was surprised to see Frank's was a cheetah, while Alice's was a mongoose. Frank and Alice had learned of Harry being able to cast a fully corporeal patronus from the letters he'd sent into the time dilation chamber.
As the Members settled down, the three cancelled their Patronuses
"That," said Frank in a firm and authorative voice, "Will be enough of that."
"Sir," said Bones. "As it is believed both Lord Franklin and Lady Alice Longbottom have been rendered permanently incapacitated from the effects of long-term exposure to the Cruciatus curse, perhaps you could present evidence you are who you say you are."
Harry expected Augusta Longbottom to arc up and deny, deny, deny; but, she was almost fainting in the Longbottom Seat. She was white as a sheet and, instead of quivering with rage, was shaking in shock.
"You are aware, are you not, that a house elf bonded to a specific House knows all of the members of that House?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm... Ah!" she said. "Of course. That would do it."
Turning to Augusta she firmly said, "Regent Longbottom. Call one of your house elves!"
"No," she quietly said. "No." She was starting to firmly get control of herself. "No, no, NO!"
"Regent Longbottom," snapped Bones. "We need proof. Summon one of your house elves, or I shall do it for you!"
Augusta straightened herself up and glared back at Harry, Frank and Alice. "I do not believe this. I do not accept this! It is nothing but a... a... trick!"
'There she is,' thought Harry. 'Back again.'
"Very well," said Bones. "If you won't do it, then I will!"
"No!" Augusta suddenly barked. "I'll do it so this... man and woman can be immediately arrested, together with their co-conspirator, the Potter boy, and be taken from here in manacles! Fluxy!"
A little house elf suddenly appeared next to her and asked, "Yes, Mistress 'Gusta?"
Augusta pointed at Frank and Alice and demanded, "Who is that, really?"
The elf spun about and stared in initial shock at Frank and Alice. Then it squealed, "Master Frank! Mistress Ali! You be awake!"
With a white flash it disappeared from beside Augusta and suddenly appeared between and in front of Frank and Alice. As soon as it did it snapped its fingers. Then squealed again, "Master Frank! Mistress Ali!"
With a triple flash, three more elves suddenly popped in. And then all four were dancing about in joy calling, "Master Frank and Mistress Ali be awake!"
Bones smirked at Augusta and asked, "Well, Regent Longbottom? Do you need any more proof? Those are all your house elves, are they not?"
Augusta just sat there staring in tears at her son and daughter-in-bond. "Frank?" she quietly asked.
Frank scowled at her for a moment before he turned to look at the house elves. "Fluxy?"
The elf instantly stopped with the other three stopping only a half moment later. "Yes, Master Frank?"
Frank held up his right hand and said, "I seem to be missing my Lord's ring for the House of Longbottom. Do you know where it is?"
"Yes, Master Frank!" And it popped away.
A long moment later and it was back, offering the ring up on a small cushion.
Frank plucked it off the cushion and re-donned it. As soon as it settled everyone saw the tell-tale flash signalling the bonding of a ring with its rightful wearer.
"Thank you, Fluxy," he said. "You and the others may go."
"Thank you, Master Frank," all four chirped before popping away.
Frank gave a firm nod at the spot where they'd stood before walking through it and approaching Bones. "Acting Madam Minister Bones, I take it you can verify a Head of House ring?"
"Of course, I can," she replied.
As Frank held his hand out to her, she raised her wand and cast a charm on the ring.
It immediately glowed green.
Giving a nod she declared, "I verify the ring on this man's hand as being the Lord's ring for the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom. As such I, Acting Madam Minister and Chief Witch pro Tempore Madam Director Amelia Bones, recognise him as truly Lord Franklin Harfang Longbottom, Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom."
Among all the susurration that arose on that declaration, Harry heard one wizard emotionally state, "Sweeeet Merlin!"
"Now that's done," said Alice, "We have something we consider the most important event of all to do." She spun on her foot and stared back at the visitors' gallery, right at Neville.
"Neville, dear," she softly said. Her voice carried clear.
That was it for Neville. He hadn't even realised Hermione had even released his hand.
He surged up from his seat and leapt over the banister rail before him, landing in a soft crouch on the main floor. Then he ran forward. There was something wrong with his eyes because everything was a bit blurry, but he didn't care.
Sirius quietly chuckled, "Wow! Look at him go!"
Just before crashing into his mother Neville skidded to a stop before her. He was still thinking her very frail. And he was somewhat heftier than her.
"Mother?" he tentatively asked.
She smiled, took the step forward to meet him and wrapped him in a hug. Her head only came up to his collarbone, so she had to turn her head to the side. His head rested on its side on hers. As tears flowed from both, a few moments later they were joined by Frank wrapping them both in a hug, together; his own tears were also beginning to flow.
Bones gave them quite some time. She, along with all the light families, most of the grey and even a couple of the dark, had tears in their own eyes. This was a reunion that was thirteen years in the making.
Harry stood back with a look of supreme satisfaction on his face. He was very happy for his friend, but also a bit bitter-sweet.
Not able to look upon the scene any more, he turned to look up into the tiers. Rosier was again sitting and shaking in shock, just staring at the three in both confusion and fear.
Casting his eyes across and up one, he looked to Marchbanks. She, while continually glancing at the Longbottoms, was staring at him in surprise and awe. He smirked and cocked an eyebrow at her. She smiled and nodded back.
Frank eventually gave a sniffle and stood back. While looking away he wiped his eyes with the cuff of his robe. Then steeled himself.
Almost suddenly, he spun about. Red rimmed eyes or not, here stood a Lord; One of the Seven... power personified... and he was angry.
He turned to look at Augusta and, with a very obvious sneer on the first word, said, "Regent Augusta Reeves Longbottom née Rosier, you... unlawfully... attempted to end the Potter-Longbottom Alliance. Then, when that disgusting act failed, you were about to declare a blood feud, of all things, on an allied House; on a man I now personally hail as the personal hero of both myself and my Lady. You were about to end centuries of Longbottom tradition and honour.
"Lord Harrison Potter, Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter and Heir Tertiary of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, acted with integrity, honour and the full justification of the alliance of which we lead. I know you were made aware of that. And, yet, you still behaved appallingly and dishonourably. You, woman, had no right to interfere with that!
"Lord Potter was owed a boon by the Goblin Nation―"
That had a ripple of quiet gasps from the Members, at least.
"Bugger!" Harry quietly sighed. "You weren't supposed to know about that."
After Frank gave a glancing amused smirk at Harry, he quickly turned his glare back upon his mother. "Lord Potter called that boon due. He called upon the Goblin Nation to loan him their time dilation chamber for the period of three days normal time. Lord Potter expended that very valuable boon to aid another House; a House which is supposedly your House.
"Alice and I were taken into that chamber direct from Saint Mungo's. While three days passed out here, thirty-six days passed within. And, as you can see, we were healed. Alice and I, besides minor ravages of our time while near-comatose in Saint Mungo's... where we received absolutely no healing treatment on your orders since about eighteen months of our first entering there... are now fitter and healthier than we have ever been.
"The one condition the goblins placed on Lord Potter was that he not tell anyone but a very small select few who were involved in our removal from Saint Mungo's, where we were taken or what was happening to us. Lord Potter honoured that requirement. Something, it appears, you need lessons in.
"So, it now falls to me to fix your foolishness and dishonourable acts, supposedly on behalf of the House of Longbottom, against an allied House.
"You, Augusta Reeves Longbottom, are hereby stripped of your claimed duties of Regent of the House of Longbottom. You are to leave this place immediately and return directly to Longbottom Hall. There, you are to directly retire to your rooms and remain there until I return and call for you.
"At that time you will be required to answer questions both I and Lady Alice Longbottom will be putting to you. That will be the person you have either consistently ignored the existence of, or simply referred to as 'his wife'. Alice is the Lady of your House; something you are no longer. If we are not satisfied with your responses... be prepared to be Disowned!"
That drew quite a few more gasps.
"Now; GET OUT!" he snarled at her.
Augusta Reeves Longbottom née Rosier, once-Regent of the House of Longbottom and once unofficially counted in the ranks of the Seven, silently rose from the Longbottom Seat in tears, quickly made her way down to the floor and - with barely a pause - hurried from the chamber.
It wasn't until there was a quiet but heartfelt vehement mutter of "Shit!" from an unknown Member, before Frank turned back.
"Acting Madam Minister and Chief Witch pro Tempore Madam Bones," he called. "With my apologies, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom hereby and unequivocably withdraws its objection to Lord Harrison James Potter ascending to his rightful place upon the Wizengamot."
Bones gave a simple slow nod back and quietly said, "Accepted. Are there any other objections?"
No; of course there weren't. No one would dare.
After Harry had taken his Seat, Frank then took his.
Alice, with Neville practically affixed to her side as if with a Sticking charm, took them both back to sit with Hermione.
Bones then stated there would be an immediate call for votes for Chief Warlock. Until that day, most thought Augusta Longbottom a probable shoo-in for the slot, even as Regent. However, the honour went to Lord Miles Ogden.
Walking back up into the tiers, Neville almost yanked Hermione out of her seat and laid a massive hug on the girl. "Thank you!" he practically sobbed into her hair.
"Neville!" Alice quietly and amusedly scolded him.
Muffled by the boy's shoulder Hermione said, "It's okay, Lady Alice. This one's easy to forgive."
Once Neville stepped back and wiped his eyes dry again, he sat between his mother and Hermione.
When two reporters tried to surreptitiously slide over to ask questions, Neville snapped to his feet, spun on the pair of them, drew his wand and actually growled at them. He even had the curled lip quiver, flashing a hint of teeth on the side, right.
That had both quickly scurry away again. One row back, Sirius blinked once in surprise and then quietly snickered.
As Hermione lightly chuckled, Alice was looking up at Neville with surprise and love.
A long glare later in warning towards the now quite distant reporters, he carefully spun back and sat down again with a huff.
With a smile Hermione quietly said, "There's that heart of a lion Harry keeps telling you beats in your chest."
Neville gave a little blush at the praise, but kept silent. He was too busy holding his mother's hand, just as he'd do for almost an hour in Saint Mungo's every chance he got. This time, though, that hand he held was a lot more lively and a lot less frail.
After Ogden moved to take the Chief Warlock's Seat and Bones moved back to the Seat for the DMLE, he then called for nominations for the position of Minister. Elections would be held and the decision voted upon at the February meeting in nine weeks. There was no January meeting.
Almost the first to do so, but definitely the first to be recognised, Madam Marchbanks stood and declared, "The House of Marchbanks nominates Lord Harrison James Potter of the House of Potter to the Seat of Minister."
While Harry turned and stared at her in gobsmacked shock, to which she smirked back, another blurted, "Are you out of your freakin' mind?"
Even Harry gave an amused snort at that.
After a couple of gavel bangs, Ogden called, "Lord Potter; do you accept the nomination?"
Giving his head a quick shake to get rid of the shock, Harry stood, thought about what he wanted to say and said, "While I would not state my question in the same manner as a fellow Member stated a moment ago..."
That earned him a few chuckles.
"... I believe I would... respectfully echo his sentiments."
A few more chuckles.
"As such, I must humbly... decline the nomination at this time. However, I also thank the House of Marchbanks for the honour and respect it has bestowed on me and the House of Potter with the nomination." And sat again.
As he sat, he looked back at Marchbanks with an eyebrow cocked, slight smirk on his lips and a slow head shake.
She, smirking back, mimicked doffing a hat to him.
There were about five nominations where the member so nominated rose and accepted. One of them was Caracticus Nott. Harry was unsure about the leanings of the other four. At the moment, he didn't care.
After that, the session broke with best wishes for the Yule season and reminders the next General Meeting would be in February on the third Tuesday. That made it the sixteenth of the month.
As the Wizengamot began to disassemble, Bones immediately 'corralled' Harry, Frank and Andi - freeing them from the near mob of Members, who all tried to converge on Frank and even Harry, at the same time. And sent her aurors to collect Hermione, Sirius, Alice and Neville to take all seven back to her office.
Once in the safety of her DMLE office, she gave her own sigh of relief before she went to a hidden cabinet and pulled out a bottle of muggle scotch and a fistful of shot glasses.
Taking them to her desk she put them on the top and quickly conjured a series of chairs. This time there were seven in total on the other side of the desk.
"Bloody Hell!" she vehemently stated before she began to pour glasses.
Before she got to do more than that, Neville called, "Harry?"
Harry, surprised, turned to the boy. "Nev?" he asked.
Neville physically grabbed him and laid a massive hug on him even stronger than Hermione's best. "Thank you!" he quietly stated.
Harry found himself unable to draw breath and gasped. "Nev? Air! Breathe!"
Neville finally released him as Bones finished pouring shot glasses.
Still quietly, he said, "Harry... whatever you need or even want... it's yours."
Bones called, "Tinker!"
With a light pop a house elf appeared. "Yes, Mistress Ami?" it asked
"Three butterbeers, please," she asked it.
Harry said to his friend, "It's what friends do for one another, Neville. But, I'm sorry about your grandmother."
A few moments later three small bottles all appeared on the desk. Bones first handed out the shot glasses of scotch to the other three adults and handed the three butterbeers to the three teens.
"No, Harry," Neville disagreed, accepting his. "This goes, as I once heard Seamus say, 'above and beyond'."
Then also added, "But, you still scared the life out of me for three days."
"Sorry," said Harry, as both boys took their seats. "I couldn't afford your grandmother stepping in and stopping me acting. And the goblins demanded of me I not tell where your parents were for the duration."
"But, you still placed yourself at risk of my Gran getting hold of you before today, by hinting to me you had them."
"It saved you from worrying too much," shrugged Harry. "It was worth the slight risk."
When the two teens quietened, Bones asked Harry. "So, Lord Potter, what's your next trick to be?"
"Finding worthwhile Christmas presents for everyone!" he declared. "I'd completely forgotten, until today, just how close Christmas is. Ten days!
"My mind's been busy with other matters. Now I have to think of what to buy folks. That's going to be hard."
Sirius snorted and said, "You've had almost the entire senior faculty of Hogwarts arrested and fired; one of them sent to Azkaban for life. You have the Minister and his Senior Undersecretary arrested and both sent to Azkaban for sentences in excess of five years. You argue a case before the Wizengamot so effectively you forced them to strip an entire Statute from the books. And engineer the healing and recovery of One of the Seven and his Lady, in secret. A healing feat, I might add, that the best at Saint Mungo's couldn't figure out. And now you go and say buying gifts for Christmas is hard?"
Harry shrugged and said, "Everything you mentioned was simply a case of applying logic to the problem. Christmas gifts have to come from the heart. That's something entirely different.
"Besides... beside my first, I suppose... the first time I ever received a Christmas present I remember about that wasn't one meant to insult me, was my First Year at Hogwarts. Even then, because I was stuck in the castle every Christmas, I couldn't go out and buy presents for anyone. I couldn't do that until last year. And I was restricted there to what was available for purchase in Hogsmeade.
"This is the first time I'm going to remember ever having a proper Christmas. And I want to make it the most special ever. That includes buying just the right gift for everyone."
"Oh, Gods!" squeaked Hermione.
She then practically levitated off her own chair and into his lap, before then trying to kiss him senseless. No one tried to stop her. If anything, they were deliberately looking away.
Once she pulled away a little, she vehemently stated, "This Christmas will be the best for you, Harry. I'll make sure it is."
Sirius gave a little cough and said, "Count me in with that."
Even though she was happy to have given 'her' Harry a big kiss and cuddle, Hermione was in no hurry to hop off his lap. Besides, Harry had curled his arms around her and was holding her by her offside hip and across her thighs. She liked it. She felt safe.
Neville quietly said, "It's about time, you two. Everyone else in Gryffindor - probably in the entire castle - knew you two were going to get together. I think you two, Ron and Ginny are the only ones who didn't think you would.
Harry frowned and asked, "Ron and Ginny?"
Neville nodded and replied, "Ginny's had her eye on you since before she even arrived at the school. And I'm pretty sure Ron was trying to build up the courage to ask Hermione out."
"Ginny's a fangirl," said Harry. "You know how I feel about that."
"And, me and Ron?" asked Hermione. "Probably the laziest boy in school, with me, someone who believes in striving and working hard? That wasn't ever going to happen."
"I know," said Neville. "But, they seem to think it would."
Turning to Bones, Frank said, "Now that the kids have caught up. Madam Bones, tomorrow or the next day, depending on getting things sorted at home, I'll be bringing Neville in to be interviewed. He'll be talking about two experiences, at least, he had as a small child that I know of. They relate to one Algernon Rosier, I believe, attempting to murder him."
Neville looked at his father in shock. "You know about that?" he asked.
"Yes," said his father. "And it's time that man faced justice for what he did."
"I take it this has to do with one time when Rosier tossed him off a pier into the sea and he almost drowned?" she asked. "And a second, where he dropped him out a window of Longbottom Hall?"
"You know about it, too?" asked Neville, now completely shocked by what he was hearing.
"I do, young man," she replied. "But, what I have is only hearsay. I want that interview with you about it to progress this to a full investigation. And then I'll be interviewing your grandmother as to why she never reported either event."
Neville seemed to shrink in on himself and quietly said, "I don't want Uncle Algie to get into trouble."
"It's not your call, dear," said his mother. The two were sitting in chairs and almost hard up against each other. He sat between his parents.
Alice reached around and massaged his back. "It is for the adults and the Wizengamot to decide if there is to be any punishment or not. This is not something you need to worry about."
"Neville," Frank softly said. "As your grandmother and guardian it was her duty and responsibility to be your protector. It was her responsibility to have raised this with the DMLE as soon as the first one happened. If she had, the second wouldn't have.
"However, now that your mother and I are... back. We are now your rightful guardians. And, while your grandmother didn't act when she should have, we will. We're back and we can protect you. Your friend, Lord Potter, has ensured we can be there for you."
Neville sadly nodded, but he'd... uncurled... as his father spoke. "Yes, Dad." Then he gave a smile and looked to his father. "It's nice to say that... 'Yes, Dad'."
Both Longbottom parents beamed back.
It was when Harry's stomach growled yet again, that Andi said, "Time for you to go and get something to eat, Lord Potter. And don't go trying to tell me you're not hungry, because I know you must be famished!"
When Harry turned begging eyes on her, she just scowled even more and said, "And don't go trying the 'whipped puppy' look. Your godfather tried that on me and it didn't work for him, either."
Sirius chuckled and said, "I did, too."
Harry sighed and said, "Well, I guess I better go and track down the trained attack dogs Madam Bones has saddled me and the Grangers with―"
"I'll summon them," Bones immediately cut in.
Harry sighed and nodded.
Ten minutes later and, though expecting to have to go out by way of the atrium, Madam Bones allowed them to use her floo to the Leaky Cauldron. They then portkeyed from there.
This time it was only Hermione and Harry heading back to the Grangers; with, of course, three aurors.
After getting 'home' and changing into muggle, the two teens met back in the dinette. Dobby had already begun to build a lunch for them all before they even had a chance to change.
"Yous didn't eats you's meal at morning tea, Master Harry, " Dobby scolded him. "Dobby now be makings Master Harry a big lunch!"
Harry gave a sigh and shrug before walking out of the kitchen and to the dinette. Hermione had only just beaten him in there.
Once the two sat, she said, "I wonder how Frank and Alice are going to deal with Regent... I mean... Frank's mum."
"It is not our business, Hermione," he replied. "Because it is an internal matter of another House, especially one that is a Noble and Most Ancient House, we don't even get to hint at asking about it."
"But, you've been doing that a lot, such as organising Frank and Alice's treatment, since soon after you got here," she said, a little confused.
"That's because Lord Franklin Longbottom wasn't available to handle matters himself," he replied. "Now that he is back and capable of handling House business himself, I have to step completely away from it. And, because I do, so do you.
"If Frank... not Alice... wants me to become involved again, he will specifically ask me to. Not even Alice can ask me to become involved, unless Frank loses his mental faculties or something similar again; and she becomes Regent.
"It's an internal House matter. So, it will be handled internally."
Hermione nodded and asked, "Do you think he will disown her, as he threatened? I mean, that's a pretty big thing."
"Possible," he shrugged. "We'll find out pretty soon, if he does. That's the sort of thing that gets announced in the Prophet. Besides, he'll have to notify me, as an allied House, due to the Charter that she'll no longer be part of the alliance. House Rosier is not a member House."
Frank and Alice, not trusting apparating yet and unsure of the state of the wards at the Hall, were given a portkey by Bones to their front gate.
As with Harry and Hermione and their escort, they flooed from Bones's office to the Leaky Cauldron and immediately activated the portkey from there. It took them to right outside the main gate of the property.
Only one person in the Leaky even recognised them. And that person was stunned silent until after they'd already portkeyed away. Even after they'd gone, that witch thought she had to have been hallucinating, or something.
On the walk up from the gate to the Hall, Neville was quite jittery.
Alice hung back with him a bit and said, "Neville, relax. There is nothing you can do, but allow what happens to happen. Your grandmother has a lot to answer for regarding how you were raised, how you were treated, what she has done with the affairs of the House and quite a bit more. This is only to do with you, peripherally. Understand?"
"Errr... yeah, Mum," he replied. "I think so."
"What I mean is, you did not cause any of this," she explained. "This is all on your grandmother, by her own actions."
Neville thought it through, saw where his mother was coming from and gave a firm nod back. He didn't notice that he also shifted in his posture, standing up straighter and walked with a stronger gait.
His mother did, though. 'Harry started this change,' she thought. 'It's up to Frank and I to keep it going until it's there, permanently.'
When Frank walked in he felt the full wards with his senses. He frowned and then made his way directly into the basement and to the key ward-stone. That was the stone that was both the anchor of the wards and to which the other ward-stones that surrounded the perimeter of the property were linked.
Alice already knew where he was heading, so led Neville into the parlour.
After directing him to a seat she sat close, but almost facing him. "So, sweetie; tell me what you normally get up to around here. I've been told you're somewhat of a prodigy in Herbology and like to work in the greenhouses."
Neville coloured up and said, "Harry's got a big mouth."
She chuckled and said, "While we were under time dilation and recovering, he knew we would be going a little crazy not knowing what was going on outside. So, he sent us regular letters. For us, those arrived about just over one a week to ten days. For Harry, that meant he was sending them mornings and evenings.
"And, honey, they weren't short letters; not by a long cast. Think of an assignment you'd have to do this year, fourth year; double it and you'd get pretty close.
"He didn't write to us and say 'This is who Neville is'. He wrote and said, 'This is my impressions of Neville after having lived with him in the Gryffindor boys' dorm for three plus years'. In other words, he gave us his impressions of you and what he thought you were like. He did not try to speak for you.
"What I'd like to hear is about you, from you. And so would your father. He should be finished with the wards―"
There was a strong thrum feeling that pulsed from the centre of the house and rapidly flowed out and away.
Neville gave a little jump of surprise. "What was that?"
"That was your father making a major adjustment to the wards, dear," his mother replied.
A few moments later there was the sound of rapid footsteps on the stairs from the upper floor. And Neville caught, out of the corner of his eye, his grandmother rounding the bottom of the stairs and running as quick as she could for the stairs down to the basement.
She'd barely got the door open and ducked inside before he heard his father bellow. "Get back to your room, woman! NOW!"
"But, Frannnkk!" his grandmother almost wailed.
"NOW!" bellowed his father, even louder.
He heard the door flung open again and heard his grandmother hurrying past going back the other way and then saw her hurry up the stairs. She sounded as if she was crying.
"Gran sounds upset," he quietly and sadly said.
"She's going to get a lot more upset before this day is through," his mother firmly stated. "But, that is not for you to worry about."
When Frank walked in, scowling, he looked to Alice and asked, "She gone back upstairs?"
"Yes, dear," she calmly replied.
"Good," he almost snapped. "She dared to question me about what I thought I was doing with the wards."
"Gran likes to keep firm control of the wards," said Neville. "She sometimes does little adjustments to them, too."
"Not any more, she won't be. I've locked her out," said Frank. Looking at Alice he said, "I was right in that you and I had been removed from the resident's list of those who can directly access by floo, apparation or portkey. We may have been in a coma-like state, but that gave her no right to do that.
"I've also removed Algernon and Enid Rosier from the resident's list. They don't even live here and she had them on the list.
"That's yet another two subjects we'll be raising with her."
Alice gave a nod and called, "Fluxy!"
"Yes, Misstress Ali? What can Fluxy be doings for you?" asked the elf.
"Can you get me my lap table from wherever it is now; and some parchment, ink and quill?" she asked.
"Yes, Misstress Ali," replied the elf with a little bob-curtsey.
It flashed away and was back a moment later. She was holding the items out for Alice.
Accepting them, Alice said, "Thank you, Fluxy."
The elf gave another little bob-curtsey and popped away.
She set herself up on her chair with the lap table on her lap; ink bottle in a little 'cup' holder for it and parchment with quill on top. Frank sat down on another chair, also facing Neville.
Frank then pulled out from within his robes a good sized stack of parchment, already covered in writing. Neville could also see there were what looked like quite a few clippings from what he thought must have been the Daily Prophet mixed in with that. And he could see it was once all folded in half, lengthwise.
"Alright, Neville," said his father, relaxing into his chair. "We've been given quite a bit of information about what's been going on, about you, about the school, about a lot of things.
"What I need is clarification of a lot of points. And, yes, a lot of that will be about you. But, I'm asking those questions of you because you're the best person to answer them.
"I'll also be asking a lot of questions of your grandmother about her and a lot of other things. And be asking questions of people such as Lords Potter and Black, Madam Bones, Professor Sprout, Headmistress Marchbanks, etcetera.
"Your mother and I have a lot of things we need to catch up on, or with. And the best way to do that is to ask the people themselves. Understand?"
"Yes, Dad," he replied.
Frank smiled back. "As good as it is for you to be able to say that; I think it's even better for me to hear it."
Neville smiled back.
As his father asked questions, his mother was writing things down. Then, when it looked like his mother's hand was starting to hurt, his parents switched. Then switched back when his father's hand looked like it was starting to hurt.
While both asked questions, they also talked a fair bit between them. One question did not immediately follow the previous. That way, to Neville, it did not feel like an interrogation. However, the real reason for the breaks to talk was because the writer wasn't finishing writing down what was being spoken.
When they'd finished, Neville was surprised to notice it was the middle to the late part of the afternoon. They'd been at it for hours, except for a short break while they ate sandwiches for lunch. During that time, they asked Neville to tell them stories about his time at Hogwarts.
After a shared afternoon tea, both his parents almost demanded he take them out to the greenhouses and show them what he'd been doing.
That was something he'd been most eager to do since he first accepted they really were awake and conscious again. That was while they were in Madam Bones's office. Before that, he thought he was experiencing a sort of surreal dream while being awake.
When he'd shown them what he was doing and had 'discovered' with Herbology, both parents were almost stunned speechless.
"Harry was right," said his mother. "You truly are a prodigy in Herbology. I'm so very proud of you."
That had the boy blushing almost to the roots of his hair.
"Why are you embarrassed about that?" asked his father.
Sadly, he replied, "Gran wants me to become an auror, like you."
Frank frowned and firmly asked, "I don't particularly care, at this moment, what your grandmother wants you to be. What do you want be?"
"A Herbologist!" Neville immediately and determinedly replied.
"Then, if that is what you want to do, your mother and I will give you as much support in that as we can," said his father.
When Neville looked in shock at them both he quietly said, "Gran says you'd want me to be an auror."
"Your grandmother is wrong!" his mother firmly stated. "Your father and I want you to be the best at what it is you want be. That has always been our hope for you."
"And your grandmother knew that," his father added a little angrily.
A little while later and back inside, his mother said, "Neville, would you like to go and spend some time in your greenhouses while your father and I talk for a bit?
"Based a lot on what you've told us, your father and I need to discuss between us what we're all going to do together from here. Is that okay with you?"
"Yeah!" he eagerly replied. "I'll need to go and get changed first. I don't want to wear my good clothes out and get them dirty. Gran gets upset when I get any dirt on my clothes."
"That's fine, dear," she nodded. "Go get changed, head out and we'll call you when it's time for dinner."
'Thanks, Mum!" he was about to dash out when he stopped and turned to his father. "Is that okay with you, too, Dad?"
"Yes, of course," his father smiled. "Off you go."
As soon as they heard the sound of Neville hurrying up the stairs while also trying to be quiet about it, Frank quietly snarled, "That bitch!"
"She's been doing her damnedest to turn him into you," said Alice a little sadly. "That was so very unfair of her."
"As soon as he's gone outside, I'll have Fluxy call her down," he stated. "Where shall we do this?"
"The office," she immediately replied. "You need to be sitting in the office desk chair, as Lord Longbottom, with me beside you. She can be sitting on a chair before the desk like a naughty little school girl called to the Headmaster's office."
He smiled an evil little grin at her and said, "That's perfect. But, I need to go and check the office to see if she's rearranged things to her own liking, first. I need to change it all back, if she has."
Alice nodded and said, "You go do that now. I'll wait for Neville to come back down."
Frank gave a firm nod back and made his way across the Hall to the office.
When Neville hurried back down the stairs a couple minutes later, again doing his best to remain quiet on the stairs, Alice checked him over and said, "Like a proper Herbologist. Take care and we'll call for you when dinner is ready."
Hesitating a moment, he quickly gave her a hug and, nearly running, headed outside.
She sighed and made her own way to the office.
"Time for 'Mum' to answer the Duelling Master's call," she muttered.