Disclaimer: I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Ambition

Harry walked into the Gryffindor Common Room, face devoid of expression.

"Hermione," Harry called out. "I need you to do a favor for me."

"Of course," she said without thinking. "What do you need?"

"I need you to solve a riddle," he replied. "Come on."

She followed him through a bewildering array of passageways until finally coming to a stop before the entrance of the Ravenclaw dorms.

"Open it," he ordered.

"But . . ." One look at his face dissuaded her from making any objections. "Fine," she sighed.

The guardian statue turned to regard them with empty eyes as it's mouth opened to speak. "When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit, And my second confines her to finish the piece, How hard is her fate! but how great is her merit If by taking my whole she effects her release!"

"Hem-Lock," Hermione answered causing the entrance to open.

"Thank you, Hermione."

"No problem, Harry," she mumbled.

"It might be best if you were to go back to Gryffindor tower," he advised.

"Alright," she agreed unhappily. "Are you ever going to tell me what this was about?"

"It'll be all over the school tomorrow," Harry promised with a slight grin. He waited till his friend was out of sight before stepping in. "Good afternoon everyone," he said loudly.

"What're you doing here, Potter?" one of the students asked in disbelief.

"My good friend Luna Lovegood is in the hospital wing," Harry continued on, ignoring the challenge. "Seems that several someone's thought it would be funny to booby trap her bed."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to give you all a little lesson in proper pureblood etiquette," Harry replied. "As I said before, Luna is my friend. That means she's under my protection." He smiled. "Who can tell me the proper response to an attack on someone that is under your protection?"

A dozen wands appeared in a dozen hands. "You're all alone here, Potter."

"That's right," he agreed coldly.

One of the seventh years hit the door with a locking charm. "No way out, Potter."

"You fools," Harry laughed. "Do you even realize what you've done? You didn't lock me in here with you, you locked yourselves in here with me. Shall we dance?"

IIIIIIIIII

Filius approached the entrance to his House's common room at a dead run. The wards had informed him that there were spells of a less then benign nature flying around and it was his responsibility to find out what was going on.

The shattered remains of the door laying in the hall injected a bit of caution into the proceedings and the former Champion slowed down to assess the situation.

Inside the Common Room, a dozen students were sprawled about and the furniture looked as if an angry giant had used it to express its displeasure.

A low moan alerted the man that at least one of his students was still conscious.

"Who did this? How many of them were there?"

"It was Potter, just Potter," the Ravenclaw Prefect moaned. "He said that Lovegood was under his protection. He said . . . he said that if he had to come back here a second time then he wouldn't have to come here a third."

After a quick investigation, the Staff met to share their findings.

"Does anyone have any initial thought's they'd like to share?" Dumbledore asked.

"I'm more then a bit impressed by the amount of coordination that went into this," Snape admitted. "When he went in, the entire dorm was empty except for the students that he wished to face."

"Not going to say that it was typical Potter behavior?"

"James Potter would never have been able to even conceive of doing something this ambitious," Snape continued. "Slytherin girlfriends took their Ravenclaw boyfriends on picnics, Hufflepuff siblings asked for help studying, Gryffindor friends threw a pick up Quidditch Game, change the house and repeat and that leaves aside the ones that left the house on their own. Potter had his followers in all four dorms isolate his targets and then, when they were alone, he struck."

"I've had half a dozen students come to me privately to tell me that Mr. Potter was with them when parties unknown invaded the dorms," Filius admitted.

"Most of my house provided Mr. Potter with an alibi within minutes of what happened," Minerva agreed. "The rest of them provided me with an alibi within the hour."

"According to Hufflepuff house, Harry was in the common room with the other Puffs doing his homework," Sprout said with a trace of pride in her voice. "Not a single member of the house will say anything different."

"With the other Puffs?" Minerva asked with a raised eyebrow.

"That's what they said," Sprout agreed. "They tell me they're just correcting the Hat's mistake."

"Severus," Albus said quickly to derail the coming argument.

"I doubt any of my Slytherins think manufacturing an alibi would be worth doing if I'm the one they'd report to," Snape admitted. "Though a couple of my Prefects did take points from Potter at the time of the incident." He smiled. "They were both on opposite sides of the castle of course."

"Do we know if Harry intended to bog us down in conflicting stories or if this was spontaneous on the part of the other students?" Dumbledore spoke up.

"It appears to be spontaneous," Minerva said cautiously. "But we can't be sure."

"And the students he put in the hospital wing won't say a word," Filius sighed. "Even if they weren't afraid of Harry, there's still the threat the rest of the school presents to anyone that steps out of line."

"I thought one of your Prefects had identified Mr. Potter as the assailant?"

"About that, the Prefect that earlier identified Mr. Potter has retracted his statement. He now claims not to remember who did it and is adamant that it was not Mr. Potter." Filius shrugged.

"I'm reminded of another student that began building up his network of contacts and his store of favors when he went to this school," Dumbledore said softly. "Only he didn't do things nearly so well, nor was he so thorough."

"Albus," Minerva gasped. "You can't be comparing him to . . . to . . ."

"Voldemort?" Dumbledore asked with a raised eyebrow. "No. I was comparing him to me."

There was silence for several seconds before Minerva managed to regain her wits.

"Any thoughts on how we should respond to the incident?" she asked. "I can't imagine the parents of the students in the hospital wing would be willing to just let the matter drop."

"I would suggest we tell them to reread the school motto," Dumbledore said serenely.

Filius nodded thoughtfully, knowing the families involved, he didn't expect they'd be willing to wait more than two more days before one of them stormed into the castle demanding answers and actions. As it happened, the first was in his office within twelve hours.

Flitwick sighed when he saw who was waiting in front of his office door after his first class.

"Filius," the man said coldly.

"Archibald," the Charms Master replied. "What can I do for you?"

"You can tell me why my son's been stripped of his prefect badge and why he's in the hospital," Archibald growled.

"He didn't take the school motto to heart." Filius brushed past the man to enter his office. "Was there anything else?"

"It's your job as the Head of House to prevent these outrages!" the angry father bellowed.

"A duty I failed," Filius agreed. "Starting with Ms. Lovegood."

"To hell with that tart," the man growled. "How are you going to punish Potter?"

"There's nothing I can do," Flitwick admitted. "I have no witnesses and Mr. Potter has a nearly every student willing to give him an alibi. What would you have me do?"

"You were a dueling champion."

"Do you know what it takes to win a duel?" Filius asked. "Desire, skill, power, and speed. I am more skilled then Mr. Potter, he outclasses me in the other three areas by a wide margin. I ask again, what would you have me do?"

"I . . . you . . ." the man sputtered.

"If you like, I would be more than happy to referee your duel with young Mr. Potter," Filius offered. "Just as I would be happy to offer my support to your widow after the duel. I believe Shelia still has a fondness for champagne and strawberries?"

"You haven't heard the last of me," Archibald screamed over his shoulder as he stormed out of the castle.

"I would never presume myself to be that lucky," Filius sighed. He checked the time, only five minutes to get to the next staff meeting.

Luck was with him and he arrived with seconds to spare. The other Professors seated along one side of a long table facing a single solitary chair.

"One of the parents wanted to have a meeting," Filius explained as he took his seat.

"The first of many, I'm afraid," Dumbledore sighed. "Have the first student sent in."

Daphne smiled when she walked into the meeting room and immediately came under the scrutiny of the collected Hogwarts' staff.

"I expect that you have some questions for me," the girl said calmly.

"Have a seat, Ms. Greengrass," Minerva ordered.

"Thank you, Professor," Daphne smiled at the older woman as she slipped into the chair. "What would you like to know?"

"How did Potter gain the allegiance of my house?" Snape asked eagerly.

"I'd had thought you'd have been more annoyed then you seem to be?" Daphne stated calmly.

"I respect the power, ambition, and intelligence that Potter has showed," Snape said impatiently. "And I wish that he'd shown those qualities in the past so that I could have gotten to know Lily's son." Snape's eyes were shining. "They fact that he hid for years under the exterior of a dunder head Gryffindor . . . god, the years I've wasted."

"I see." Daphne looked at the Professors calmly. "Please understand that there are several things that I am not permitted to share."

"Of course," Dumbledore agreed. "Please tell us what you can."

"After he killed Slytherin's monster, he gathered up the house's Prefects in one room and calmly told them that he didn't blame the house for what happened." Daphne smiled. "But that he would not take such an enlightened view in the future. He told them that if anyone had a family member do something similar to one of his friends then they would die, along with every Prefect and ten carefully selected students from the rest of the house." Daphne's smile deepened when she saw the stricken look on McGonagall face and the approving one on her own Head of House's. "They pointed out that he was a only a second year and that he was outnumbered."

"And?" Snape prompted with an expectant smile.

"And Harry was the only one able to walk out of that room under his own power," Daphne giggled.

"How in the world did a second year manage to do that?" Filius muttered in shock.

"I asked one of the Prefects later, she said she figured it was mostly accidental magic, but admitted it could have been spells she'd never heard of."

"I see." The Charms Professor appeared to be deep in thought.

"That's when I met him," Daphne continued. "The Prefects had ordered me to be on the lookout for Professors."

"And since you saw your chances of defeating the boy that had just taken out several prefects being slim to none, you decided to make damn sure that you were on his good side," Snape said in satisfaction. "Twenty points to Slytherin."

"It was years ago, Professor," Daphne pointed out.

"Yes, but I'm only finding out about it now," Snape retorted. "In any case, a true Slytherin thinks long-term - as, it appears, does Mr Potter - and that is what the points are for. I'm not one to miss any opportunity to give points to my House, especially for properly demonstrating the qualities valued by our Founder. Go on."

"I helped him to the hospital wing, told Madame Pomfrey that he fell down some stairs, and was assigned to be his channel to Slytherin house. I'm told that he made similar pronouncements to the other two houses, but I'm not sure what happened with them." Daphne focused on the Headmaster. "I'd like to add something, if I may, sir."

"Of course," Dumbledore agreed.

"You may not be aware of how much influence Harry has over your colleagues in the Ministry but I am. More importantly, he is. If you try to go against Harry then he will break you, take away everything you worked so hard to get, and leave you with nothing." Daphne met the old man's gaze, allowing him a glimpse at her mind. "Just a friendly warning."

"Your grandfather has taken a liking to him then?"

"My grandfather has suggested that I have Harry father my first child," Daphne said. "We figured he wasn't joking after he suggested I avoid marriage so the children will be Greengrasses rather then Potters."

Snape laughed loudly at that. "How did you keep Draco contained?"

"Those two goons that follow him around aren't bodyguards," Daphne said carefully. "That leaves aside the note sent to Narcissa Malfoy explaining that her son was attempting to play in the big leagues and that if she didn't want him squashed, then she had better make sure he knew that there were ground rules that needed to be followed."

Snape cleared his throat. "The current pass phrase for my office is 'Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit' wait for fifteen heartbeats and say 'Aegrescit medendo' then turn the knob left for half a turn right for a full turn and left again to open. In the third drawer on the right side of my desk tap the left eye of the inlaid snake with your left index finger the right eye with your right index finger and then circle the head with your right thumb in a clockwise motion. Inside the drawer is a bottle of ten year old Torrylin. Please present it to Mr. Potter with my compliments."

"Yes, Professor," Daphne agreed.

"Where did you find a bottle of Torrylin?" McGonagall demanded.

"Being a Slytherin is all about making contacts," Snape said simply. "Now please assure me that I haven't done something bloody stupid in giving the boy one of the better bottles in my collection."

"Don't be insulting," Minerva scoffed. "As if a student could get through my house without learning something so elementary. Be a different story if you'd tried to foist a bottle of that sissy French vinegar on him."

"Of course," Snape agreed.

"Why don't we call one of mine in next?" Sprout suggested. "Please tell Ms. Abbot that we would like to see her on your way out, Ms. Greengrass."

"I'll see to it, Professor," Daphne agreed as she left the room with a flourish.

Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot walked into the room and calmly shared the seat facing the panel of Professors.

"Thank you for coming, Ms. Abbot," Dumbledore said kindly. "And it's a surprise to see you, Ms. Bones since I was sure that we only called for Ms. Abbot?"

"No way I was gonna make Hannah come by herself," Susan sniffed. "No Puff would."

"The fact that your presence is a not so subtle threat is beside the point is it?" Snape asked snidely.

"Of course," Susan agreed. "That part is just a bonus."

"Please pass my best on to your Aunt," Dumbledore said with a smile.

"I will, Professor," Susan agreed. "Maybe I can do it with Harry after the meeting?" she mused. "Aunty Amelia just adores him."

"All the subtlety of a hammer," Snape groused.

"Please do so," Dumbledore agreed. "Take that as permission to visit with your Aunt after you meet with us."

"Our friends too?" Hannah asked shyly.

"What percentage of the student population is that?" the Headmaster asked with a twinkle in his eye. "Never mind, perhaps it would be easier to extend an invitation for your Aunt to visit the castle?"

"Probably," Susan agreed.

"What do you want to know?" Hannah asked.

"What was the reaction when Mr. Potter delivered a threat to the house?" Poppy asked.

"I wasn't there," Hannah said quickly. "But I did hear about it later from my cousin who was a Prefect that year. They laughed at him."

"They laughed at him and told him that if he managed to harm a single Puff then the rest of the house would hunt him down," Susan added. "By that time word had already gotten around about what he'd done to the Slytherins."

"How did Mr. Potter react?"

"He waited until they settled down and then calmly agreed that if any Puff managed to harm any one of his friends, then he would kill us all," Hannah said softly. "No one laughed after that."

"And no one in our house had much to do with Potter until the bloody tournament, did you know that he warned Cedric about the Dragons?"

"I did not," Sprout admitted. "That's when the house started warming up to him?"

"It was, Professor."

"Then we called another meeting," Susan added. "We told him that if anyone managed to hurt one of his friends, they'd have Hufflepuff after them."

"The look of confusion on Harry's face was delicious," Hannah giggled.

"Didn't last for long, Harry understands loyalty and he understands that we understand loyalty," Susan finished.

"Twenty points to Gryffindor and another twenty to Hufflepuff for showing loyalty," Professor Sprout said, unable to hide the wide smile on her face. "Please be so good as to make sure Harry and his friends know the password to the common room so that they can spend time with the other Puffs whenever they wish."

"Too late, Professor," Susan replied.

"Then please pass my compliments to Mr. Potter," Professor Sprout said. "And tell him that I'm proud to have such an exemplary student in my house."

"We will, Professor."

"Please tell everyone else that they're excused until tomorrow," Dumbledore said with a grandfatherly smile. "And please feel free to have your meeting with your aunt in the east ballroom. That should be large enough to hold all of your friends."

"Thank you, Professor."

"You may as well tell Greengrass that she's welcome to invite anyone else she thinks should attend," Snape added sourly.

"We will, Professor," Hannah agreed.

"Not at all." Dumbledore smiled at the girls. "Drippy, please make sure the east ballroom is clean and that the students and their guest have adequate nourishment."

"Yes, Headmaster," a squeaky voice replied. There was a pause. "Headmaster?"

"Yes, Drippy?"

"Harry Potter sir was in the kitchens with all the elvies when bad Ravenclaws got hurt."

"Of course he was." Dumbledore sighed, when had Harry taken the castle from him? "Than you, Drippy. That will be all."

IIIIIIIIII

Dumbledore looked up when his wards informed him that there was someone outside his office.

"Come in," the old man called out. "Ambassador Patil, what a pleasant surprise."

"I have come to meet with my daughters!" the man barked.

"Of course, you may feel free," Dumbledore agreed. "Lemon drop?"

"Thank you, no." The man spun on his heel and abruptly left.

Dumbledore got up to follow him but stopped abruptly when two more men entered his office.

"Ambassador Li Yī děng gōng, Mr. Chang Yī děng bó, to what do I owe the honor of your visit?" Dumbledore said respectfully.

"Was my daughter involved in the late unpleasantness?" Ambassador Li asked bluntly.

"I don't believe so," Dumbledore said carefully. "It seems she had decided to study in the library with several other students and . . . and she is one of the students that swears up and down that Harry Potter was her when parties unknown broke into the Ravenclaw dorms."

"Thank you," the man said with a look of relief on his face.

"What about my daughter?" Chang demanded.

"She wasn't one of the students that was sent to the hospital wing," Dumbledore said carefully.

"Was she one of the Lovegood girl's tormentors?" Chang persisted.

"I . . ." Dumbledore tried to think of a diplomatic way of putting it.

"Yes, then?" Chang's face tightened in anger. "Please excuse me." Without another word, the man stormed off in search of his misbehaving child.

"I suggest that you go with them to assure the girl's safety," the Ambassador said in a tone that suggested he cared little for Cho's fate.

"Surely he wouldn't... She's his daughter for god's sakes!"

"He has one dozen daughters and fifteen sons," the Ambassador explained, "Cho was the youngest and the favorite until today. He can afford to lose a daughter, he can not afford what his family will pay if this causes some difficulty with the Emperor's hopeful relationship with young Mr. Potter."

"Please excuse me," Dumbledore said with a bow before rushing out of the room.

IIIIIIIIII

It did not take Ambassador Patil long to find one of his children, pity it wasn't the one he was after.

"What are you doing here, father?"

"Parvati, tell your sister to meet me in this classroom," he ordered. "Tell her I expect her to come here as quickly as possible."

"Yes, father," the girl squeaked.

His other daughter arrived in less than five minutes.

"Sit down, Padma," her father barked.

"Yes, father," the girl agreed meekly.

"Tell me, were you involved in what happened?" he ordered.

"Yes," she agreed.

Upon hearing his daughter's answer, a brief look of despair flashed across his face before he again mastered his emotions. "You will apologize for the role you took," he said firmly. "Then you will withdraw from school and I will give you to a suitable husband. One that will not allow you to continue this sort of behavior."

"I will not," she said firmly.

"What did you say?" her father asked in a low dangerous voice.

"I will not apologize," Padma insisted. She raised her chin imperiously.

Her father closed his eyes and slowly counted to ten. "You are my daughter and you will . . ." he broke off when the door flew off its hinges and he caught a brief flash of his other daughter in the hallway before an unfamiliar young man stepped into the room.

"Problem?" the young man asked calmly.

"Harry," Padma gasped in relief.

"Mr. Potter, I presume?" Padma's father asked. The unfamiliar boy nodded. "Please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of my family along with my assurance that her behavior will be punished and that any restitution you demand will be promptly made."

"Restitution?" Harry asked in confusion. "For what?"

"For my daughter's treatment of young Ms. Lovegood," he said in shame.

"Your daughter helped Luna to the hospital wing and sat with her until Madame Pomfrey kicked her out, then she came to me." Harry smiled. "I came here to tell you that I considered both of the Patil sisters to be my very good friends and that I would be most annoyed if anything were to happen to either of them."

"I . . ." He was overcome by relief. "I am very happy to hear that, Mr. Potter. More happy then words can express." He pulled his daughter into a hug. "And I am sorry daughter, for even thinking that you could have been capable of such cruelty."

"Father?" Padma murmured.

"I was told that you were one of the malefactors that caused Ms. Lovegood to be hospitalized," he explained. "The only way I could think to protect you was to get you out of the country and into a marriage. But that will not be necessary now."

"Parvati!" Harry called out.

"Yes, Harry?" The girl stuck her head into the room.

"Thank you for bringing me here to resolve this misunderstanding." Harry beckoned the girl closer. "Would you care to introduce me to your father?"

"Father, I would like you to meet our very good friend and protector, Harry Potter, Slayer of Voldemort."

"A pleasure to meet such a good friend of my daughters' and a thousand thanks for preventing me from making the worst mistake of my life."

"I am always happy to be of service," Harry replied.

"Harry," Padma hiccuped and blushed deeply. "I'd like you to introduce you to our father, Rakesh Patil, Ambassador to the Court of St. James."

"An honor and a pleasure," Harry said with s slight bow.

IIIIIIIIII

Cho's father was dragging the girl out of the castle by her wrist when he found his path blocked by his superior's daughter.

"Harry would not like it if you were to take her without speaking with him first," Su said calmly. "He would be here himself but there is another matter that he has to take care of first."

"Please tell Mr. Potter that I am very sorry for the actions of my daughter and that I promise to make amends to her victim," he said. "Now step aside."

"Harry would be very unhappy if you did not meet with him before you leave," the girl said firmly, drawing her wand. "I will not have him think I was responsible for you not getting his message. Not after my earlier failure."

"Perhaps you could explain what is going on?" He suggested.

"How is your wrist, Cho?" Su asked, ignoring the girl's father.

"It hurts a bit," Cho admitted. "But I don't think daddy was trying to hurt me."

"Go to the hospital wing," Su ordered. She turned to regard Cho's father. "Harry would be very displeased if he thought you'd hurt her intentionally. It would be best if she got her wrist taken care of before the meeting."

Cho's father became aware of both his superior and Dumbledore watching silently.

"Go to the hospital wing, Cho," he said neutrally. "It seems that there is more here than I was led to expect."

"Yes, father," she agreed. "Than you, Su."

"Thank Harry, I am merely his voice in this."

"Su, do you mind telling us what's going on?" her father asked.

"Cho was Cedric's girlfriend, so Harry feels responsible for her. Cho was also no worse to Luna than she was to anyone else. The students that went to the hospital wing did more than say nasty things, Cho did not."

"Good work, Su."

"Thank you, father. But it's Harry who deserves any praise, I am, as I said before, only his voice in this. It's part of my atonement for my failure to look after Luna. I should not have stayed in the library so late."

"Harry said that?" Dumbledore asked in shock.

"Harry said the opposite," Su replied. "But I know the truth and that is all that matters." She turned back to Cho's father. "I am to take you to Harry's office for your meeting."

"Harry has an office?" Dumbledore mumbled.

"The house elves found and furnished it for him," Su agreed. "Follow me." She led them through a blinding array of passageways ways to a large oak door. Opening the door revealed a waiting area. "Have a seat, please."

The girl walked up to the office door and knocked three times.

A muffled, "come in," caused the door to swing open and the girl disappeared inside.

"I have brought my father and Mr. Chang," Su reported.

"Good work, Su, have a seat." Harry watched the girl take a place across from him. "How are you holding up?"

"I am still feeling quite guilty at what happened and unhappy that you did not allow me to join you in teaching Luna's tormentors a lesson."

"I understand that," Harry agreed. "Do you understand my reasons for keeping you out of it?"

"I do, Harry," Su agreed, "I also do not agree."

"And I understand why you might not agree," Harry said with a smile.

"May I be excused to visit Luna in the Hospital Wing?" she asked, a trace of emotion coloring her voice.

"You may sit by her bed until lights out. At which time, I expect you to return to your dorms or take one of the spare beds in the Hospital Wing. Send in Mr. Chang on your way out, please."

"Thank you, Harry." Su rose from her seat and walked out of the room.

Harry smiled as Cho's father came into the room. "Have a seat, please. I'm told you were trying to remove Cho from Hogwarts?"

"I was informed that my daughter had been acting in a matter that shames her family," the man explained. "I came to withdraw her from Hogwarts so that I may send her home where she would cause no more trouble and to hopefully be safe from any retribution."

"You have good sources," Harry complimented the man. "But they left a few things out. It's true that Cho called Luna names, it's also true that Cho called everyone names. I'm told that she'd usually burst into tears and apologize shortly afterward. She's had a bit of a rough time so no one bears her any ill will."

"I see."

"The important thing is that I count her among my circle of friends," Harry continued. "Do you understand?"

"I do, Mr. Potter."

"Wonderful." He rang the bell on his desk.

"Yes, Harry Potter sir?" Dobby asked.

"Send everyone in and see if you can find us some snacks, please," Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry Potter sir," the house elf agreed.

"Thank you, Dobby."

"This office is better than mine," Dumbledore murmured staring at the thick carpets, hand made furniture, and unparalleled view of the lake.

"I'd thought the outer office was nice," Ambassador Li agreed.

"I don't use it too often," Harry said. "But it's come in handy for today."

"I see." Ambassador Li locked eyes with the boy. "I bear a message from the Celestial Emperor. He is quite interested in your surviving the killing curse and has heard news of your adventures. He requests that you be good enough to send him a written report of all that has happened to you."

"If I may presume to interrupt," Dumbledore said quickly. "I would strongly recommend you do this, Harry."

"I'll talk to Hermione," Harry agreed. "Would your Celestial Emperor prefer this report to be in English or Chinese?"

"It might be best to send both to the embassy," Ambassador Li replied. "Make the report in English look nice and have our daughters take care of the translation."

"Alright," Harry agreed. He looked up. "Gentlemen, if you will excuse me. I'm afraid I have a visitor waiting outside for a meeting that I can not put off. If you like, we are holding a gathering in the East Ballroom. I shall have an escort brought to show you the way."

"Did you think I forgot where it was, Harry?" Dumbledore asked with twinkling eyes.

"I thought you might like to sit in on the first couple minutes of my meeting," Harry replied.

"Come in," Harry ordered, causing the door to swing open to reveal a nervous Hermione. "Dobby!"

"Yes, Harry Potter sir?"

"Please show my guests to the East Ballroom. Hermione, please come in and have a seat."

"What's going on, Harry?" Hermione asked softly, looking lost.

"I seem to have taken over the school," Harry replied. "Truth is, I hadn't realized how much influence I had until Luna got hurt. I thought I was just friends with a lot of people."

"How come you never told me about them?" Hermione asked softly.

"How come you never told me you have a study group on Friday nights with Daphne and Tracy?" Harry countered, causing the girl to blush a deep red.

"Did you have any questions, Headmaster?"

"Just one," Dumbledore agreed. "Did you plan to bury us in alibis or was that spontaneous?"

"I planned to bust up the Ravenclaws and then take my lumps. To be honest, I expected that I'd be kicked out of Hogwarts and I made arrangements with a couple other schools to take me in should that prove necessary."

"I see. Thank you, Harry."

"Happy to be of service, Headmaster," Harry replied.

"One more thing." Dumbledore paused at the door.

"Yes?"

"Just who might I approach to see about scheduling some time to meet with you in the future, Harry?"

"Harry?" Hermione asked hopefully, managing a slight smile when she got a nod in return. "Talk to me, Headmaster. I always take care of Harry's schedule."

"Thank you, Ms. Granger."

Harry waited until the door was closed. "Come here, Hermione."

The girl walked around the table and Harry pulled her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her.

"You're my best friend Harry, you know that, right?"

"And you're mine," Harry agreed.

Hermione laid her head on his shoulder. "Just promise that you'll never leave me."

"I promise," he agreed, stroking her hair. "We've been friends since that bloody troll and we'll be friends until the sun grows cold."

"I know you have to do other things today, but can we just stay here like this for a little while?"

"As long as you like, Hermione. As long as you like."

IIIIIIIIII

Dumbledore's eyebrows raised when he saw the two girls stagger past on their way to Harry's office.

"How curious," he mumbled to himself. "Drippy!"

"Yes, Headmaster sir?"

"Please keep an eye on Ms. Lovegood and notify Poppy immediately if she has any trouble," Dumbledore ordered.

"Yes, Headmaster sir."

Albus quickened his step and smiled when he saw who had appointed herself avgreeter for the impromptu gathering in the East Ballroom.

"Headmaster."

"Ms. Greengrass, I was hoping to run into you. I recently saw Misses Lovegood and Li in the hall headed towards Harry's office."

"Thank you, Headmaster." Daphne turned. "Susan, Hannah, we're needed elsewhere!"

IIIIIIIIII

Harry was in the process of trying to figure out how to dislodge the sleeping girl on his lap when the wards informed him that there were two people waiting outside his office door.

"Come!" he called out. The door opened and Harry frowned. "What are you doing out of the Hospital Wing, Luna?"

"Speaking with you, of course," Luna replied.

"I am sorry, Harry," Su said quickly. "But she insisted and Madame Pomfrey told me that she could recover outside the Hospital Wing as well as she could within it so long as she was never left unattended and so long as she returned for check ups every day. I could not say no when Luna asked that I attend her, not after what my carelessness allowed to happen."

"Sit down, Luna," Harry told the swaying girl.

"I asked you not to do anything," Luna said as Su helped her into a chair.

"And I told you I wouldn't so long as they didn't cross any lines," Harry agreed. "They did and I reacted." Pomfrey had stated that another five minutes and the damage would have been permanent, another ten and it wouldn't have mattered.

"Violence only begets more violence," Luna tried again.

"Only if you're not using enough of it," Harry countered.

"The other students will no longer be a problem," Su offered. "I am unsure about their families, you would have to ask Daphne."

The voices woke Hermione and she blushed when she realized how her position on Harry's lap looked to the other girls. "Um."

"You can stay where you are or you can take one of the other chairs," Harry told her gently.

"I'll take one of the other chairs," the blushing girl whispered.

Daphne burst into the office followed by Susan and Hannah.

"Professor Dumbledore told us that Luna was out of the hospital wing," Daphne announced.

"He figured she was on her way to you," Hannah added.

"Dobby!" Harry called out.

"Yes, Harry Potter sir?"

"Please get us some more chairs and tell my guests that I may be delayed a bit more," Harry told the little elf.

"Yes, Harry Potter sir."

"Daphne," Harry began. "Please give us your analysis on how the families will react?"

"Doubt they'll do more than bluster and look for a chance to bury a dagger in your back in the future. A couple have already sent out feelers asking what they have to do to keep things from escalating. The politically connected are terrified at what you could do to them if you so wished and the head of one, the Fosters, has gone to Grandfather to ask that he act as a go between."

"Thank you, Daphne." His eyes settled on the injured girl.

"You still should not have done this, not for me anyway," Luna insisted. "I'm not worth the trouble you're going to find yourself in because of what you did for me."

"Please explain, Susan, Hannah," Harry asked.

"If Harry allowed what happened to you to go unpunished, it would have given ideas to the idiots like Draco that they could act against him. Truth be told, Harry should have killed the bastards for what they did to you."

"Daphne," Harry prompted.

"One of them is my first cousin, I've put out that I used my close relationship with Harry to intercede on their behalf. My aunt now owes me her daughter's life, the power of the Greengrass family has been enhanced through my ability to moderate Harry, and my power within Slytherin has gone up for the same reason."

"And you are worth it, Luna!" Hannah added firmly.

"Dobby!"

"Yes, Harry Potter sir?"

"Could you arrange a way for us to transport Luna to the party?"

"Yes, Harry Potter sir. Missy Greenygrass' sedan chair will be waiting in the hall."

"Thank you, Dobby." Harry waited until the elf disappeared before shooting Daphne a meaningful look.

"So I've got a couple fantasies involving a victory parade through Diagon Alley," the girl replied with s shrug. "It's not my fault that Dobby was more than happy to help me prepare to make them a reality."

"I don't want to know, do I?"

"Probably not, but you're going to find out," Daphne giggled.

Daphne sidled up to Hermione as they left the office and made Luna comfortable in her new means of transportation.

"Drop back a bit with me, will you?" Daphne asked.

"Why?" Hermione asked.

"Because I'd like a bit of privacy for a conversation that I believe is going to be exceedingly awkward," Daphne said.

Hermione slowed down and didn't say a word until they'd fallen behind the main group.

"What did you want to speak with me about, Daphne?" Hermione asked.

"You're Harry's best friend and I wanted to make sure that nothing happened to change that. There is a rumor going around that I am servicing Harry sexually in exchange for his showing mercy towards the Ravenclaws he put into the Hospital Wing. I am not going to do anything to stamp down this rumor since it meshes quite nicely with the fact that I have, with Harry's permission, put out that I did indeed beg for mercy since one of the Ravenclaws is my cousin."

"Are you?"

"No."

"Would you like to?" Hermione blurted. The girl turned a deep red after she realized what she'd said.

"At least as much as every other girl in the castle," Daphne agreed cheerfully.

"Some of the boys too," Hermione giggled.

"There's a thought."

"What?"

"Thinking of starting a rumor that Draco is interested in Harry. Worst case scenario, it's true. Best case, it distracts the bastard."

"So are you going to be . . . um . . ." Hermione's blush deepened.

"I'd like to give it a shot if you don't mind," Daphne replied with a matching blush. "Just as much as the rest of the girls in the castle."

"That's going to be a frustrating thing to schedule," Hermione joked.

"Only if you don't schedule some time for yourself," Daphne replied.

"Maybe I should schedule you with Tracy to save time," Hermione rejoined.

"Maybe you should keep your voices down if you don't want me to hear what you're talking about!" Harry's called back, causing both girl's mouths to shut with a snap.

"I believe that you have rendered them speechless, Harry," Su reported. "Hermione, please remember to put schedule me with Luna so that I may assist her until her injuries heal."

"I wasn't . . . it was a joke . . . I . . ." Hermione stammered.

The other girls burst into a fit of giggles.

"Don't ever change, Hermione," Harry laughed.

AN: Making my second international move this year and going to a place with very limited internet access. Expect updates to be slow to non existent until next April-May.

Beta by dogbertcarroll

Scenes and Polish by Phil

Typos by Tommy King, kahless62003, slickrcbd, Ordieth, Tumshie1960, Nothorse, jlfenton65

Mistake corrected by: David Ford, Ordieth, Corin Wolfkin

Ideas by: , Rakesh

Omake by Alan

"Thank you, Harry, but I will not need transport to whatever gathering you are having," Luna said in a sad voice. "I will be contacting my father to see if I can be removed from Hogwarts."

Luna's statement shocked all of the listening students, and those that had been getting out of their chairs flopped back down into them.

"I have heard Daphne explain that the families of the students you hurt will not retaliate, and that she has gained some political clout from my being hurt; I do not care to be the currency that granted someone I don't really know such clout," Luna explained.

"While Su and I were on our way here, we met the Headmaster, and Daphne, Susan, and Hannah all arrived because the Headmaster told them I was on my way to see you; that means you have the staff and administration of this school backing you. I do not want to be the downfall of this institution."

"Susan has explained that you, Harry, could have killed the people that hurt me and that not hurting or killing them sent a message of weakness to the rest of the school; I am not willing to be the reason you became a dictator, Harry."

"Before I managed to get Madam Pomfrey to release me, Su and Padma kept me up to date on some of the happenings. Both girls have mostly ignored me for the time I have been at Hogwarts. They became interested in being my friends only after my being hurt brought to light how you were going to react; I tend to want my friends to be my friends because the like me, not because you, Harry, want to
protect me."

"And finally, Harry, the only person in this room that should have said I was worth it was you. Not Hannah, who on more than one occasion in the past, has called me Looney."

"Luna¦" Hermione started tentatively only to be interrupted.

"Hermione, you accept me, you do not like me. Do not think I haven't seen you rolling your eyes every time I mention an article I have read in the Qubbler"

Luna stood on shaky legs and lurched to the door before turning back to the chastised group. "I will be returning to the hospital wing now, and will be asking Madam Pomfrey for a chance to post an owl to my father, enjoy your gathering."

It was very quiet after Luna left the room .