Epilogue – Parental Prerogatives

A/N: This chapter is a set of bookends, covering material that occurs before the main body of the story in June of 1996, and after the Welcome Feast of 1996.

June 15, 1996

Minerva McGonagall was an abnormally patient woman. Patient enough to have lived through seven years of the Marauders, six years of feuding between James Potter and Lily Evans, and six years, eight months of Fred and George Weasley. As she walked slowly up the stairs to the entrance of the Headmaster's office, she once again found her patience being tested.

"Good evening, Minerva," Dumbledore said pleasantly. He gestured at the occupants of his office, said, "As you can see, we're all present and accounted for."

Minerva nodded at Arthur and Molly Weasley, smiled at Remus Lupin, and glanced at Professor Snape, who wore a bandage on his head that made him look like a refugee from a crypt. It was the condition of Dumbledore's office that surprised her, however. All of his instruments were scattered about the floor in various stages of destruction. A table remained overturned to one side of the office and Minerva had to walk carefully to avoid several large silver and glass shards that were strewn in her path.

"Indeed," said McGonagall primly, crooking a questioning brow at her superior. When he shook his head a fraction, she knew that the time was not right to question him about it. "I trust we'll be able to sort through this mess quickly, then?" she said with intentional double-meaning.

"Headmaster," started Snape immediately. "The Potter boy has been able to get away with far too much in his time as a student. It's time he was taken down several pegs and shown that his disregard for the rules and blatant attack on a Hogwarts teacher will no longer be tolerated!"

"Yes, yes," Dumbledore said as he made a settling motion with his hand. "That is precisely the purpose of this conversation. I assure you that we will make appropriate recommendations for the punishment of Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley."

"But Albus," Minerva interjected. "As important as keeping order in the school is, we must take into account Harry's condition. He's just lost his godfather for heaven's sake; and with the return of You-Know-Who...."

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat meaningfully. "I want it known that we will be punishing Ginny ourselves and that whatever we decide here, it will be much worse for her when she comes home." Minerva eyed Arthur impassively as he spoke and could tell that it cost him dearly to be here. Molly was seething beside him and it surprised the Professor that she had not said anything already.

Remus hadn't so much as blinked since Minerva had arrived. Secretly, she suspected that Sirius' loss would take a larger toll on him than anyone else.

Dumbledore nodded. "As Minerva mentioned, there are many factors to take into account, not the least of which is that Harry needs to be shown love and respect in the coming months. I fear I've been far too aloof with him in the past few years."

"There must be punishment," Snape said immediately.

"And there will be, Severus," Dumbledore answered. "Harry and Ginny will know that we will not tolerate their behaviour, but we must be circumspect in how we proceed."

When no one spoke, the Headmaster continued. "Now, it appears that Harry is in need of someone to help him take a more reasoned approach to life. He needs a friend of a different sort; one that won't let him slip into depression or into rage. Anger and despair are the tools of Voldemort and will not allow Harry the opportunities he shall need to defeat the Dark Lord."

"But, Albus," said Molly, finally adding to the discussion. "Why does it have to be Harry?"

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and Minerva let out a silent breath in relief. "That is exactly the right question, Molly."

Without a word, he tapped his wand on the stone basin that was sitting to his right. Minerva hadn't noticed it before now, but as the familiar ghostly form of Sibyll Trelawney formed above the bowl, she wondered if it were wise for certain people to be privy to the entire contents of the prophesy.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal...

The vision stopped abruptly and Sibyll's face froze in silent enunciation of the word 'but'.

"That," said Dumbledore as he dismissed the vision with a wave of his wand, "is part of a prophecy that was delivered to me over sixteen years ago by Sibyll Trelawney. This is the portion of the prophecy that Voldemort is aware of. The rest is now known by three people. Myself, Minerva, and as of yesterday, Harry Potter. You all know what it was we were guarding in the Department of Mysteries until last night. If Voldemort were to realize that I could not defeat him...."

"But," started Molly Weasley as Dumbledore trailed off, "how do you know it meant Harry? How can you be sure?"

Dumbledore lowered his head and gazed at her over his half-moon spectacles. "Because in all of magical Europe, there were only two boys that matched the description given in the first sentence. Harry...and Neville Longbottom. However," he said as he raised his hand to ward off the question Minerva could see forming on Molly's lips, "the second sentence of the prophecy makes it clear that 'the one' can only be Harry. Voldemort marked him as his equal."

Molly and Arthur deflated in their seats and Minerva felt their pain. Harry didn't deserve this fate, but she was determined to help him make it through this fight and live the life his parents would have wanted him to live.

"Since Harry is the one 'with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord,' we must make certain that he is prepared for that eventuality." Dumbledore motioned to Lupin, who stood and produced a piece of parchment.

"According to the Hogwarts charter and subsequent rulings by the Board of Governors," Remus began, "excluding expulsion, punishments for student behaviour at the end of term cannot linger into the following academic year. However, it appears that with parental consent, we can institute whatever corrective behaviour we see fit during the summer, as long as there is no lingering effect on their ability to study." Lupin looked up from the parchment and finished, "There is also a small loop-hole, in that any misbehaviour during a holiday punishment can be dealt with in a normal manner in the following term."

"So what you're saying," Snape ground out, "is that Potter and Weasley will get off scot-free unless their guardians agree to punish them?"

"What I'm saying, Severus," Remus said civilly, "is that we are limited in our options, but that we can and we will make sure that they are appropriately dealt with."

"If it wasn't more of a burden on us, I'd be open to the idea of expelling Ginny," Molly said matter-of-factly. "It'd kill two birds with one stone. One, she'd be getting her comeuppance for hexing a teacher and attacking Harry. And two, it would put her in Beauxbatons, which would put my mind at ease, knowing she was away from the war."

"Unfortunately," Dumbledore offered with a sigh, "expulsion is not an option for either student. Harry, as you know, must remain here for his own safety and for the safety of us all. Ginny, it seems, is vital to the war effort in some way. Firenze made mention of that to me this morning, before Harry and Ginny had their unfortunate encounter with Professor Snape. He was quite explicit that it is of utmost importance that they both be here at Hogwarts for the foreseeable future. Although I'm not exactly sure what the rest of his advice means, we may be able to make something useful from a bad situation."

After a moment's pause, Minerva interjected, "What did you have in mind, Albus?"

"Do you remember Harry's parents?" the elderly wizard remarked, leaning back into his chair. "How they bickered for years until they finally realized what their fighting was about?"

Minerva let a small smile slip onto her face. "Yes, of course. But what has that to do with Harry?"

"Actually," Dumbledore said, "it has nothing to do with Harry. It has everything to do with Harry and Ginny."

"You don't think Harry likes Ginny, do you?" asked Molly with a flutter in her voice. "I mean, we all know how she used to fancy him, but that doesn't mean that anything is still active between them apart from enmity."

"Indeed." Dumbledore's beard sat strangely on his face and Minerva was confident that underneath the long white hair, there was a large smile on his face. "I'm not as capable with the crystal ball as some, but it doesn't take a Seer to know that your daughter has the necessary personal skills to help Harry deal with his recent heartache and more importantly, help him face Voldemort when the time comes. She has already demonstrated great strength in that area.

"Even if they never become romantically linked, Miss Weasley has everything to offer Harry by way of friendship and with her unyielding sense of determination; I imagine it won't take long for them to resolve their differences."

Even Minerva had her curiosity piqued. "So how do you get two students that currently despise the air the other breathes to resolve their differences and then go on to sort out how to defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"

"It's quite simple," said Dumbledore, drawing out a blank piece of parchment. "But first, we will need some specialized equipment."

To say that Remus Lupin was not happy was like saying that Fred and George Weasley liked to play pranks. In addition to seeing his last living best friend killed the previous day, he was now faced with acting as guardian for Sirius' godson, Harry Potter. The fact that said godson had just duelled with a student in the entrance hall and hexed Snape into the Hospital Wing didn't make things any easier.

Lupin waited for Dumbledore's office to clear out before he spoke. "Albus, I'm not convinced this is the best idea you've had."

Dumbledore rose from his chair and stepped over a pile of twisted metal before turning to stroke Fawkes' neck. The bird let out a contented warble and closed his eyes. "What's done is done, Remus, you have been approved as guardian. As uncertain as our course of action may be...we must let Harry be in control of his fate. We can only guide him, Remus."

Remus sighed. "It's just so hard to see him be afflicted with one thing after another.... How does he do it?"

Dumbledore place a gentle hand on Lupin's shoulder. "The same way we all deal with our burdens – with the help of many hands."

Thinking about his long lost friend and Harry's father, Remus allowed himself a smile. "What can we do to help him?"

"I will arrange for most things here. Harry needs to feel that he is in control of his life, so you need to keep your distance for a while. Be there if he asks questions, push him to succeed, but try to engender his trust by letting him initiate things with you."

It was just like the old wizard, Remus thought ruefully, to be so terribly burdened and yet be able to offer support to those around him. It was a lesson in how he should deal with Harry. "All right," he said finally. "Let's get things together and move forward. Who's picking up the monitoring bracelets?"

Gesturing at the door, Dumbledore nodded his head and said, "That would be Bill Weasley."

Standing in the frame, windblown and smiling, stood the eldest son of Arthur and Molly, holding a small wooden clock and a pair of thin, gold bracelets..

September 1, 1996

"Well, I hope you're satisfied," said McGonagall as she followed Dumbledore into his office.

The feast was over, the students were off to their beds and the teachers were getting ready for tomorrow's lessons.

"Events could not have turned any further to our favour, Minerva." Albus climbed to a long, thin sofa and sank gingerly onto one of the cushions. "It's especially satisfying that Harry and Ginny have found each other so young. I don't think Harry would have been able to adjust to his new situation without Miss Weasley's help."

"And the prophecy?" she asked tentatively.

Albus closed his eyes and relaxed. It was as if a great weight was being removed from his chest. "I'm sure Mr. Potter will tell those who are important to him what it says in time. Assuming Miss Weasley has not already found a way to open that door."

"Hmph," said the normally-stodgy Deputy Headmistress. McGonagall waved her hand over her tight bun and it released itself immediately, sending her dark grey locks down to her shoulders. "I'd like to think Mr. Potter would keep things a little closer to his chest. Voldemort isn't the type to give up easily. He's bound to know you've told Harry what it says."

Dumbledore sighed. "That is a problem for tomorrow, Minerva. Right now, I think we should have a nightcap and relinquish ourselves to the land of Morpheus."

"Hmph," Minerva repeated. "Are you still set on performing that spell on Harry? You know what a horrible drain it is on you. The last time you cast that charm, you nearly didn't wake. And that was..."

"Fifty years ago. Yes, I have not lost my recollection of that incident, Minerva. Still, I may be forced to include Miss Weasley. The spell might break if Harry does not accept the transfer." He cracked his eyes open and pinned Minerva with all the seriousness he could muster. "And you know exactly what that means..."

Minerva sighed. "Yeas, Albus. I know what that would mean. Still, do you think it wise to risk it, knowing that you might be the one to suffer that fate instead of Miss Weasley?"

"Care for a nightcap?" he said as he stood and walked over to a large wooden cabinet. It was his way of diverting the conversation and Minerva knew that they were both deluding themselves in thinking that it would change things.

"Only one," she relented. "I have classes tomorrow."

Two glasses were appropriated and filled with an amber liquid. They raised their drinks and eyed each other for a moment.

"To the final defeat of the Dark Lord," intoned Dumbledore solemnly.

McGonagall waited a beat and said, "To Harry Potter."

A/N: Well, it's been a fun ride. I thank all those who've reviewed and even those who've read and didn't review. It's enjoyable for me to know that there were literally thousands of people who've read this story. I hope that most of you liked it.

Once again, I'd like to point you to my next story, the sequel to this one, and part two of a trilogy, Consequences of the Mind. My goal is to flesh out the outline over the next couple of weeks and post the first chapter before Halloween. Also, due to the fact that it's near impossible to juggle six versions of this story on different archives, I will only be posting the next two stories to PhoenixSong, and if SugarQuill will have me, there as well. I hope that you make your way over to that fine website to read my story.