Playing by the Rules
A/N I said I wanted to try something different, and this certainly was different for me. In all the years I've been writing fan fiction, I've never rewritten a chapter so often as I did this one. Eventually got chapter 6 to a state where I'm happy to post it and sorry for the delay. Please check out the facebook group Harmony & Co. Without me finding them, 'Playing by the Rules' would never have been written.
Chapter 6 - The Pen is Mightier
The elves popped Harry and Hermione straight into the chamber. The sight that greeted them saw Harry start laughing, and then he couldn't stop.
Sirius was sitting outside their tents on a conjured comfy armchair. He had a bluebell flame in a small fire pit and was toasting marshmallows over it.
"Hey, I had to do something to save myself going out of my mind. I was worried by what was happening to you... What in Merlin's name happened to you?"
As the elves conjured a sofa, Hermione sat Harry down before laying his head in her lap. Sirius came over and lifted his godson's feet up, trying to make him more comfortable. He was about to ask Dobby to fetch the magical first aid kit they'd brought with them when the little guy appeared with it already in his hands.
Sirius got Harry to drink some potion to try and calm his clearly still jangling nerve endings. He scrunched his face up in disgust at the taste before answering the question he knew both of them were waiting on an answer too.
"Long story. Short version, I was kidnapped from the maze, had my blood used in a dark ritual to bring that tosser Voldemort back. By way of a thank you, he then used the torture curse on me. My dad killed Wormtail while I did for Voldemort. I brought both their bodies back so hopefully you'll get a trial soon."
"To hell with the trial, I think we need the long version - now."
"Sirius, do you think he's going into shock?" Hermione asked.
"Oh shit - now I'm really worried."
Reaching up to pat the hand that was caressing his cheek, Harry attempted a smile. "My mum told me I was corrupting your language, seems she was right. It's a long story, and I only want to tell it once. When Moony gets here, I promise I'll tell you everything then."
Hermione was cleaning the wound on Harry's forehead before casting episkey on it. She picked up on something though. "What are you worried about? Something you need to tell us?"
As Hermione and Sirius continued to work on Harry's wounds in silence, he couldn't hold back any longer. "I did something I'm not proud of, and I think you're going to hate me for it."
They kept working to heal him as Sirius spoke. "Not gonna happen, pup. If it's something really bad then prepare be grounded or pranked - never hate."
Hermione had finished healing the wound on his forehead the goblet had inflicted and leaned down to kiss her boyfriend. "I'm with Sirius on this one - without the pranks or grounding of course. I probably could come up with something if it was really bad - but never hate. I put a lot of work into you, Potter. You're a great boyfriend - I'm not giving that up… Harry, your lightning bolt scar is definitely fainter - and you seem to be able to see without your glasses."
Harry decided just to rip the bandaid right off. "I stood and let Voldemort hit me with the killing curse. That's why Dumbledore and Crouch collapsed, I was dead - but I wasn't. I was banking on the Potter family magic taking care of Voldemort and Pettigrew - protecting those I love."
Sirius had the trickier healing task of trying to knit Harry's forearm muscle back together with a spell and had been silently working on that. After having done a good job, he closed the wound before speaking with his godson.
"Harry, if I had the chance to take a killing curse so your parents could have lived, that's exactly what I would have done. I would have been sorry to miss my time with you but would still make the same decision every single time."
Hermione leaned down and kissed Harry's forehead, he was still using her lap as a pillow. "Do you remember the first night we met Sirius?'
"I'm hardly likely to forget it. We thought he wanted to kill me."
Smiling down at him, Hermione had fond memories of that night too - especially riding behind Harry on Buckbeak. "That's right, love. We thought Sirius was trying to kill you, so where was I?"
Hermione could see the realisation of what she was trying to tell him in those wonderfully expressive green eyes as he whispered his answer. "You pushed yourself right in front of me."
"That's right. If this deranged nutcase Sirius Black wanted to hurt you, he was going to have to go through me first. I hope you don't hate me for that?"
"I could never hate you, I love you."
This had Hermione smiling down at him. "Right back at you, love."
Winky popped in with some hot chocolate for them, and a little news. "Wolf man is saying he will come later. Lots is taking place and he wants to be able to tell you what happened."
"Thanks, Winky. If you and Dobby want to join us, I'll tell everyone what happened with the third task. Sirius, you can fill Moony in later."
They sat around Sirius' bluebell flame campfire and listened to Harry's story, his head still resting on Hermione's lap.
They understood Harry arriving at the kidnap site unconscious and already wounded put him at a terrible disadvantage. Sirius would back his godson to take Pettigrew in a fight, but not while wandless, no glasses and bound to a gravestone. When he heard his godson had been forced to endure three separate bouts of Voldemort's cruciatus torture, Sirius was over and holding his godson almost as tightly as his terrified girlfriend was.
"Surviving getting hit with the torture curse would be followed by a mandatory stay in St Mungo's. I don't know anyone who walked away after three bouts of that curse, especially not when being administered by Voldemort himself. It's a miracle you survived, and that's before a killing curse was involved."
"He left me barely able to stand, and then decided we would duel. Even fully fit, I would have had about a one in a hundred chance. Voldemort didn't want me even having that. When he threatened to do the same to everyone I loved, my decision kind of made itself. Taking him with me was the only option I could see to save you both, and I went for it."
Harry had a smile on his face as he spoke about meeting his parents, while Sirius and Hermione had tears running down their cheeks. They were understandably horrified at the mention of horcruxes, especially since Harry had housed one in his head. Sirius was still in tears when he barked out a laugh at James' method of dealing with Wormtail.
"If anyone deserved to get to the rat before me, then Prongs had the better claim. I can live with that, I'm just happy Petter finally got to face justice for his betrayal."
"When my spirit returned to the graveyard, I didn't give them any chance either. I cut three of the Death Eaters who had their backs to me down. Voldemort was just regaining consciousness when I hit him with multiple piercing hexes. I then almost cut his head clean off with a cutting curse to end the bastard once and for all."
Harry needed a sip of his hot chocolate before he could continue. "With the one witch getting away, I really couldn't hang about. I levitated Pettigrew next to his master, conjured a couple of blankets to cover them with, sat on them and then summoned the cup. It brought me to the winner's platform."
Seeing Harry was flagging, Hermione ran her fingers through his hair as she took over the narrative for Sirius. On hearing of Fudge's reactions, Sirius went ballistic.
"That idiotic half-witted selfish bastard of a Minister. A politician with no political skills - apart from saving his own arse! Of course he wants things to go back the way they were, there can't be anybody left to offer him bribes to do what they want. Fudge hopes the rich pure-bloods will get their magic back, so they can access their gold and continue lining his pockets with it."
Taking a deep breath after that rant, Sirius reached a decision. "If they offer me a trial, I'm gonna tell them to shove it up their arses. I don't want to live in a country that's shit on the three of us - and Moony - our entire lives. When you leave the country, we're coming too. Em, where exactly are you going?"
The spasms still running through Harry meant his shrug of the shoulders wasn't very effective. His words though conveyed everything that needed to be said. "As long as it's not here - and Hermione is with me - I don't care. It's not like I've ever been anywhere - other than here - to make that kind of decision. Wherever Hermione is, that's where I'm going."
This saw Harry getting kissed by his girlfriend before she explained their plans to his godfather.
"It was all dependant on the Ministry and Dumbledore's reactions. With today's declaration by Fudge, my parents won't be able to return to Britain. They would be used to get to me, and through me - Harry. It's no longer about us changing schools, but us changing countries. My mum and dad have been looking at options abroad for a couple of years now, me leaving Hogwarts having sat my O.W.L.'s means the world really is our oyster. You and Professor Lupin would be more than welcome to accompany us."
They sat in silence, Hermione stroking Harry's hair saw him start to doze. Sirius was smiling as he looked on before speaking in what was almost a whisper.
"You're so good for him. I can't think of anyone else who could relax Harry enough to get him to sleep after what happened to him today. He has an incredible amount of trust in you."
Shaking her head, Hermione ha a different opinion - though kept her voice low too. "We both got a taste of what our lives would be without Harry in them when the Ministry obliviated him. Those were the worst months of my life. I need Harry in my life. Today, when I thought he was dead, It was like a part of me died too. Being down here together won't be a hardship for me."
Sirius went back to toasting his marshmallows, passing the occasional one over to Hermione. There was a comfortable silence settled over them while Harry slept. For both of them it felt a bit like being with family.
It was the pain that forced Harry finally awake, to find a couple of potions there waiting on him. Hermione helped him drink them, his hands were still shaking slightly. "We didn't want to wake you to take potions, the sleep will help you just as much. Winky has some food for you too."
Noticing Remus was now with them, it was information Harry was hungry for. "Hey Moony, what happened up there after we made our exit?"
"Sirius and Hermione brought me up to date with what happened to you. Can I just say James would have been so proud of the way you handled that today. I thought Fudge was a moron but it looks like I had too high opinion of him. The man is an utter imbecile. Barty Crouch's son - he was a convicted Death Eater who supposedly died in Azkaban - was using polyjuice potion to impersonate Mad-Eye. He must have been Voldemort's inside man and put your name in the goblet, since he collapsed the same time as his father and Dumbledore. We'll never know for sure because Fudge had him kissed while still unconscious. Amelia Bones resigned immediately after hearing that."
"He didn't even get questioned?"
"Nope. Fudge thinks he is the law now, even publicly said so on the winner's stage. He has no idea what's coming his way."
This confused Harry until Remus gave him some news Fudge was just too blind to see.
"Fudge thinks because he says that wasn't Voldemort then that's the end of the matter, he really is an imbecile. The wand you handed over was immediately taken to Ollivander, who instantly confirmed it was the wand he sold to an eleven year old Tom Riddle - aka Voldemort. There were also witches and wizards in that audience who were old enough to remember Voldemort from his last reign of terror. More people are believing you over the Minister on this matter, and it's terrifying them."
Harry saw Sirius smiling, it was obvious that both he and Hermione had heard this news while he slept. "Think about it, pup. The people all thought Voldemort was already dead. You show up, say he's been resurrected and that you've killed him again. Not only that, you produce his body and wand as proof. Then, worst of all, you say you're leaving the country because of morons like Fudge. Who's going to protect them the next time Voldemort comes back if you're not here? It sounds like they're getting ready to serve you Fudge's head on a plate to get you to stay."
This puzzled Harry. "With his horcruxes destroyed, he can't come back again."
"We know that, but they don't - and we won't be spreading that news around. They didn't even know it was possible for him to come back at all."
Remus was nodding in agreement with Sirius' conclusions, though had some bad news for them too. "When Crouch senior woke, he was immediately transferred to a Ministry cell. Dumbledore is awake now too, though I'm told he's very weak. The first thing he did was order that Harry must be found, and brought to him at the Ministry - at all costs. There's absolutely no way that was going to remain a secret, and people are panicking even more. If Albus Dumbledore thinks Harry Potter leaving Britain would be a disaster, people are more than willing to believe him. When he sent Minerva to fetch me, that was my cue to call for Dobby and get down here."
Harry was now sitting up, trying to eat some of the dinner Winky had brought him while figuring out why Dumbledore was in such a tizzy over the though of him leaving.
Having had longer to think about it, Hermione was sure she'd solved the riddle. "Dumbledore knows about Voldemort's horcruxes. How could he not, you slapped one on his desk at the end of your second year. I'm now sure he knows about the one that was in your head, and is convinced you need to die so Voldemort can't return. I think he's known about it for years - and done sweet F.A. about it - which makes him a despicable old bastard in my book."
Not having much of an appetite in the first place, hearing that just killed it for Harry. He'd no sooner pushed his plate away than it disappeared.
"Where does that leave us?"
"It leaves us exactly where we thought we would be, sitting down here and waiting out all the panic happening above us. The elves will be able to get us a copy of the Daily Prophet, and then we'll just have to gauge when to make our move. Moony will need to go somewhere safe before the full moon, but I think we need to avoid Grimmauld. Dumbledore roughly knows the area my family home is in, he also knows Moony works to a different calendar than the rest of us."
After hearing that, a still exhausted Harry made his excuses and left for their tent - with Hermione at his side.
When the teens joined Sirius and Remus in their tent the next day, Dobby had provided a copy of the Prophet. The excuse for a newspaper portrayed Harry as public enemy number one, a crazy magic-stealing murderer.
"Guys, we expected this. If Fudge gets ousted, how much do you want to bet that newspaper does a complete turn around and Harry will be the greatest - again. They'll be offering me a trial, Harry an Order of Merlin - anything to get their hands on us."
It was a disgusted Harry who tossed the paper away. "Normal service has been resumed then. Whether I'm a hero or a villain depends what day of the week it is - and what the Prophet is telling the people to think."
While Hermione didn't comment, he recognised the look on his girlfriend's face. She was deep in thought, and there would usually be a trip to the library in the next couple of minutes. With that option not available, though the tent was well stocked with books, she looked toward the two adults for some answers. "How does the Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly get printed?"
Both Moony and Padfoot glanced at each other before admitting they didn't really know. It was Remus who asked the question that three of them not named Hermione Granger wanted to know the answer to. "Why?"
"Witches and wizards believe everything they read, something the Ministry heavily exploits. We're going to be down here for weeks - at the minimum. I just wondered if we could work on giving the witches and wizards of Britain something else to read - something actually worth reading."
"You want us to start our own newspaper?"
"Don't be silly, Harry. How are we going to find any news down here? Sirius Black puts nuts in his porridge is hardly a riveting headline."
She smiled at Sirius before continuing. "I was thinking of using the most powerful weapon we have - the truth - and how best to get it out there. Can you imagine a true version of that Halloween night in a pamphlet, comic or magazine form? Changing the secret keeper to Pettigrew, him leading his master right to the Potters. What happened inside the house. Hagrid turning up and taking you - on Dumbledore's orders. Sirius going after Pettigrew and finding himself chucked into Azkaban with no trial. Dumbledore leaving you on a muggle doorstep in the middle of the night. How much of that do you think the witches and wizards of Britain know?"
Sirius immediately turned to Remus. "Moony, we need to induct these two into the Marauders - that's a bloody brilliant prank. Old Dumbledore will wet himself at the thought of his secrets being told to the entire country."
"I was thinking more along the lines of about five hundred copies, spread between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Pubs, cafes, shops - we just want the word to get out. We could then do one for each year Harry attended Hogwarts, really scare the pants off Dumbledore. Philosopher's Stone and this chamber spring to mind."
As they were congratulating Hermione on her idea, Dobby popped in with a special edition of the prophet.
The front page was dominated by a picture of what those at the paper were claiming was over two thousand witches and wizards. These people had all marched on the Ministry of Magic to demand Fudge's resignation - and his false charges against Harry Potter be immediately dropped.
"I'm impressed, you two. You called it almost exactly as it happened. Ministry workers also threatened to strike if Fudge didn't go, he was really left with no option."
Turning over the page, Hermione nudged Harry. "There's a smashing interview here by Cedric. He's saying you expected something to happen at the third task. He's also saying Dumbledore and company were expecting something to happen too - but did nothing about it. At least someone else is publicly on your side."
Flipping to the next page, Hermione froze - she couldn't believe her eyes.
The other three all picked up on this and she didn't even move when Sirius 'borrowed' the paper.
"Wow, that must have cost him. A half-page advert in the Prophet, publicly apologising to Miss Hermione Granger. Harry, why would Krum do that?"
Harry's tremors had abated quite a bit, rendering his shoulder shrug once more operable. "His actions hurt Hermione. I told Krum if he didn't apologise, he would face me with a wand in my hand. Krum said he might enjoy that, it would appear he's changed his mind. If only the rest of the country reacted the same to me turning up with a dead Dark Lord, then we wouldn't be hiding down here."
Hermione leaned over and kissed him. "Thanks to that advert, the entire country now knows I was blameless. I wonder if the people who sent me howlers will be as quick to lift a quill and write letters of apology. I think this lends even more credence to us getting the truth out there."
As Hermione took back the newspaper from Sirius to look at the advert once more, something clicked in her head. "Victor Krum paid to get that printed, we could do the same."
Sirius was shaking his head at what he thought was Hermione being naive. "There's no way the prophet would print what we want, no matter how much gold they were offered."
Rolling her eyes as only a teen exasperated with an adult can, Hermione explained that wasn't what she meant. "I don't think we could get this printed anywhere in Magical Britain, for any amount of gold. In the muggle world they have the ability to get things printed - and quickly. There's a service, sometimes called 'vanity publishing', where an author pays to get his book published. If anyone at the company bothered to read it, they would just assume it was fantasy fiction."
This idea now had everyone excited. "There are charms that can transfer writing into printed text, even copy that text onto paper. Sirius there was pretty good at drawing, he did all the extra artwork on the marauder's map…"
"Moony, I haven't done anything like that for years…"
"Yes, we know. They were hardly likely to give you art supplies in the high security wing of Azkaban. Sirius, what else are we going to do down here? We have a week until the Hogwarts students go home, then at least another couple before we can even think of making a break for it. Exposing the truth about the past, while planning for the future, should keep us all busy."
The teens' tent had a good supply of parchment and ink so they started to work on their new project. Remus was writing out a timeline of events that their book would cover. Harry was telling Hermione exactly what he experienced when faced with a dementor, she was writing every word down. Sirius sat grumpily in a corner, soon surrounded by scrunched up and discarded pieces of parchment.
They were all surprised when Winky told them it was dinner time. After eating, Remus brought his timeline to the table. With only minor alterations, it was agreed upon. After getting the facts from Harry, Hermione had then written what happened like chapters from a book. "If we're getting this published, I thought it would read better if written like a novel. There will be no embellishing the facts, we're just presenting the content in a certain style."
Wiping his eyes after hearing Hermione read aloud what she had written, Sirius was all for her writing the entire thing. "If we want to present this as a book, then I think the same person has to write all of it. We can do the same as you did with Harry, then you can put my words on the page - perhaps along with this?"
Sirius placed a drawing on the table. Hagrid was on a flying motorbike, turning half around to wave to someone not in the picture. As the gentle half-giant was turned around, you could just see the top of a baby's head sicking out of his robes. The lighting bolt scar would mean that baby would be instantly recognisable to the entire magical community of Britain.
The awe in Harry's voice was clear for the other there to hear. "Sirius, that's wonderful."
"I exorcised some demons drawing that. Worst decision I ever made, letting Hagrid take you from me. At least changing secret keeper was a joint decision made by James, Lily, me and Peter - this one was all on me."
"I felt better telling Hermione exactly what I know about that night. I used to dream about a giant on a flying motorbike, I thought that's why my relatives called me a freak. This could be good for all of us. We can leave so much of the emotional baggage we've been carrying around with us in this chamber when we leave. Put it all down on paper for the world to read."
In just one day, they had decided here was a project that would not only keep them occupied, it could help them too. The effect it would have on magical Britain was anyone's guess.
The Marauder's predictions of how the Ministry would react were scary accurate. Cedric's dad was now Minister of Magic, and promising them the moon, sun and stars if they would just come forward and work with the Ministry. Both Sirius and Remus claiming Amos Diggory was Dumbledore's man through and through meant there was never the slightest chance of them altering their plans - or contacting anyone.
They had quickly fallen into a comfortable rhythm. Sirius would spend the first part of the day drawing, then telling Hermione the story that went with that particular drawing in the evening. She would then spend mornings writing from her notes while Sirius drew what they would be talking about that night.
Harry would cast the charms that would change Hermione's handwriting into text, and then copy it onto some muggle A4 paper Dobby had got for them. Remus was keeping a close eye on the timeline, Sirius tended to jump about a good bit with his stories. Remus was also working on another project with Harry, one that just paid dividends.
They'd been working on a way to add the Chamber of Secrets to the Marauder's Map, with Moony finally managing it. What totally surprised them though was the number of secret passages leading from the chamber to all different parts of the school - including the Headmaster's office.
After some very careful snooping using his invisibility cloak, Harry discovered he could stand in a secret corridor while seeing and hearing everything that went on in that office. He seemed to remember a full length mirror in a heavily gilded frame was fixed there. This would give them such an advantage, and meant the map would now need to be monitored throughout the day.
The elves had acquired multiple copies of 'Yellow Pages' directories. As the book was nearing completion, Remus would sneak out for a day and call publishers they had found in the directories to see if they would accept cash to print a book. They finally decided on a smaller company who, for the right amount of cash up front, were prepared to drop everything else and do their print run.
They had decided to 'muscle in' on an existing market, the so-called books about Harry's life. This one was called "Harry Hates Halloween'. Sirius had drawn a carved pumpkin that looked remarkably like Harry - with his famous scar - for the front cover.
With their manuscript ready, Remus and Sirius were heading out that night. Remus and his dog would hand the manuscript to the printers tomorrow, before heading somewhere safe for Remus to transform. If everything went according to plan, they should be back in three days. When they acquired the books, a quick call for the elves would see the copies transferred to the chamber, also letting Harry and Hermione know things were going to plan.
Flustered was the word Minerva would choose to describe Albus as he exited her floo in what used to be his office.
"I would have thought you had more important tasks to occupy your time at the moment, like getting Hogwarts ready for the first of September. I know I certainly have better things to do than be summoned to the castle like an eleven year old wizard about to be given a detention."
She didn't say anything, rather held out a book.
"So, they've released another one of those terrible books. With the entire country looking for Harry, you have to admire their marketing skills."
Rolling her eyes at her former boss, Minerva opened the book to the introductory pages. Pointing out the obvious to Albus.
Words provided by Sirius Black and Harry Potter
Story written, with their permission, by Hermione Granger
Illustrations by Sirius Black
The book was snatched from her hand as Albus quickly flipped through the pages. Since he was intimately familiar with the source material, the illustrations alone were enough to allow him to follow the narrative.
The Potter's destroyed home would be instantly recognisable to most of magical Britain. In this illustration though, it was merely a background to the figure escaping from the wreckage. A rat was sneaking away, only this one held Voldemort's wand in its mouth. The image of Hagrid taking baby Harry away on Black's motorbike could almost be classed as a work of art, you could feel the emotions in every pen stroke. Image after image revealed things Albus Dumbledore didn't want known. With Miss Granger's involvement, he could only assume the text delved into those matters in much greater detail.
The image that rocked Albus back on his heels though was a drawing of him leaving a sleeping baby Harry on the Dursley's doorstep, a letter tucked in his blanket. It was as if the artist had been able to look inside his head and sense all the plots going on behind his twinkling eyes. Here was not an image of the caring grandfather figure he tried to portray to the masses. This was a devious & dangerous Dumbledore, someone you wouldn't trust with your lunch money, far less your children or government.
"Minerva, where did you get this? Have you been able to ascertain if it's genuinely been written by the people it lays claims to be?"
"It was on my desk this morning, and there's a hand written dedication to me inside. If you were to ask me my opinion, I would state categorically that is one hundred percent written by the people stated inside the front cover."
Flipping to the dedication, Albus was forced to agree.
To Minerva McGonagall
Thank you for finally doing what was right, not what was easy - or whatever Dumbledore told you to do!
Harry & Hermione
As Albus stared at the book in shock, Minerva let out her claws.
"If you hadn't ordered Hagrid to bring Harry to you, then none of this would have happened. Sirius would have taken his godson and raised him, with the Ministry chasing after Pettigrew. I've known you long enough to understand you always have a reason for the things you do, Albus Dumbledore just doesn't trust the rest of us with those reasons. Our society is in total disarray, and it all goes back to that night. I want to know why?"
Being so knocked off kilter with this secret revealing book, Albus let another one slip. "There was a prophecy. Harry and Voldemort are prophesied to battle to the end. And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…"
It was a puzzled Minerva who then asked the obvious question. "Since Harry has just defeated Voldemort, what's the problem? I thought you would be celebrating…"
It was such a rare occurrence for Dumbledore to lose his temper that Minerva now understood just how rattled he was.
"Voldemort is not gone. He created abominations that anchor him to this world, they have to be destroyed before Voldemort can be ended for good. Since Harry Potter is currently walking about with one of these things in his head, perhaps you'll now understand why I'm desperate to get my hands on the boy. Don't you see, Harry Potter has to die before Voldemort can be vanished for good."
It was something else Minerva now saw, and it hit her like the Knight Bus. "Even if I could remove his scar, I wouldn't. That's what you said that night, and now I now why. You've been raising that poor bairn like a lamb to be slaughtered."
Albus suddenly realised he'd said too much but Minerva's temper was mighty. "Get out of my school. You are no longer welcome within these walls. Anyone who could treat a child the way you treated poor Harry shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children."
"I'm really sorry, Minerva." As Albus drew his wand, a voice behind him stayed his hand.
"Hogwarts, the Headmistress is under attack"
Within the blink of an eye, the room was full of house elves - all ready to protect their Headmistress from all comers.
The sorting hat continued to speak. "Albus Dumbledore, you have skated close to the line of what Hogwarts considers acceptable behaviour for its headmaster many times - but this is beyond the pale. You are forever banned from Hogwarts castle and grounds, and no painting of you will ever grace these hallowed walls after you pass over."
The fact that Albus was ready to draw his wand on her sealed the deal for Minerva too. "When you do pass over, just remember Lily and James will be waiting for you. Won't that be a brilliant start to your next great adventure? Now, get out of my school - before the elves throw you out."
A defeated Dumbledore found his every move carefully scrutinised as he headed to the floo, entering the flames and returning to the Ministry.
The four people crammed into the secret corridor that let them witness the entire scene were all grateful they had taken the precaution of casting silencing charms on each other. Watching as McGonagall sat at her desk, in her once more empty office, and began to cry signalled it was time for them to head back down to the chamber.
Harry was fit to be tied by the time they reached their current home, only Hermione's arms around him persuaded Harry to think - instead of blindly lashing out.
The table in their tent had been enlarged to stretch from one end of their largest room to the other. Upon it sat piles of their book, all awaiting delivery. Each pile had a note on top, letting the elves know where those particular books had to be delivered to. That debate had involved all of them, Dobby's suggestion of dropping some into Gringotts being accepted too.
McGonagall's copy had been their test case. They'd all known she would eventually call Dumbledore - hence why they'd been waiting in the secret corridor. The information they'd gained, from Dumbledore's own secrets being exposed, saw a now determined Harry turn around and kiss Hermione in thanks.
"You were so right, Dumbledore's reactions showed what a perfect revenge these books will be. I think what we just witnessed up there would make a devastating penultimate chapter to our last book, the final chapter being us leaving the country for good."
Resting her forehead against Harry's, Hermione agreed with her boyfriend. "It's time, Harry. You've already defeated Voldemort, now we'll begin to destroy Dumbledore. Send them on their way."
He called for Dobby and Winky to make the deliveries. Winky appeared with a tea set and some sandwiches, allowing the four of them to sit and watch as those piles of books gradually disappeared. Harry had wanted Cedric to have a copy, his doting father now being Minister of Magic saw everyone else agree that was a great idea. The Ministry itself was also being flooded with copies, it was top of their list. If Dobby and Winky could deliver them there, the rest of their destinations shouldn't prove to be any trouble at all.
Any place they could think of where witches and wizards gathered made their list, there was even going to be a box of books left outside Flourish & Blotts with a note encouraging people to help themselves to a free copy.
As the last book left the table, Remus pulled out his surprise - a chilled bottle of Champaign. "We've all worked incredibly hard on this, and we've also just had a small glimpse of how effective our work could be. I think we take the rest of the day off and have a small celebration. The timeline for our next effort is already mapped out. Once we hear the reaction to this one, it should give us a better idea if our plan to sneak out of the country the day we release the next one is feasible."
That was something they could all get behind. Hermione raised her glass and offered a toast. "To finishing the next one."
Harry offered a toast of his own. "To finishing the manipulative one."
Not to be outdone, Sirius raised his glass too. "To getting out of this chamber and country."
Remus summed up the emotions of all of them. "To starting our new lives away from here." Glasses clinked together as that was a sentiment they could all drink too.