In which our hero lays the foundation for the future
Until today, Mr Granger had never been to the Isle of Man so both the hired SUV that he was driving and the country lane, which he was travelling along, were unfamiliar to him. Subsequently, he consciously increased his normal caution. He steadfastly remained below the speed limit and kept a sharp eye out for possible hazards. The six passengers had no concerns. They were safe as they stared out at the beautiful green rolling hills that were basking under the warm summer sun. Pied wagtails darted overhead as the car cruised through lush leas while a capricious breeze tugged gently at the grasses and caressed the gorse and sheep's bit that grew along aside the road. Occasionally, as the car rose to the top of a knoll, they would catch a glimpse of the endlessly undulating waves of the Irish Sea.
Mr Granger glanced in his rear view mirror. On the seat directly behind him, Mrs Dumbledore was leaning over to her husband, pointing at something in a meadow to their left. Mr Dumbledore, until recently the headmaster at his daughter Hermione's school, nodded at his new bride. Mr Granger did not quite understand the convoluted politics behind Albus Dumbledore's ouster but it warmed his heart to see the obvious love that the two elderly professors shared. It was proof that the heart need not grow cold as the years advanced; that romance knew no age. Reflexively, he reached over to his own wife sitting next to him and squeezed her hand. His reward was a brilliant smile that flashed the message of the deep love that they shared.
After returning the smile, Mr Granger stole another quick peek in the mirror. Hermione had some of the startlingly animated photographs from the Dumbledore wedding but the couple now bore little resemblance to them. Gone were the pointed hats and robes. Instead, both were dressed in conservative, casual muggle fashion. Mrs Dumbledore wore a lightweight, grey, textured, drop shoulder jacket with a white blouse and a long navy blue skirt. Dark blue kitten heels adorned her feet. Her thick silver hair cascaded from under a wide brim hat to her shoulders. Her husband was unrecognizable from the photographs. He was clean-shaven with closely cropped hair. In place of robes, he wore black trousers and a long sleeved grey shirt. Despite the warmth of the day, he carried with him a black windbreaker. A black and white Swansea City AFC cap sat on his head. Only the half-moon spectacles were the same.
Hermione was on the rearmost bench sitting between her friends, Maggie and Chris. Mr Granger had been uncertain about Hermione attending Hogwarts when the invitation given to her. Witchcraft, after all, carried a negative connotation in his world but the undeniable truth was that his previously lonely, discontented daughter found happiness at the strange academy deep in the Scottish highlands. Her letters to them bubbled over with the joy of her new friendships even more then the interesting challenges of learning Ars Magica. The missives, delivered by owls, had name after name of her classmates who included her in their activities, conversations, and outings, a situation that was light-years from the ostracism that she encountered at her old primary school. She even mentioned a boyfriend in the last term's letters although she did take pains to assure them that they need not fear becoming grandparents. Even more then the boyfriend, the name that cropped up more often then any other was that of Chris Gallatin, Henry Porter and Maggie McGonagall now Dumbledore.
Mr Granger forced down a shudder, struggling to push aside his skittishness about Maggie. While her parents honeymooned on the continent, Maggie spent the last six weeks at the Granger's home in Oxford. He came to know that Hermione's description of her as a moral, decent girl was accurate and that she was a very good friend to Hermione. Furthermore, Maggie proved to be polite, articulate, helpful, and even at times surprisingly humorous but for reasons that he could not put a finger on, she unnerved Mr Granger. He knew about her having Turner Syndrome from Hermione's letters therefore, she having the body of a little girl did not surprise him but when she spoke, it was evident that she was a young woman yet there was an ethereal, almost eerie air about her. Mrs Granger jokingly called her Wednesday which Maggie and Hermione found hilarious but the elfin young woman reminded Mr Granger more of Claudia, the eternal girl vampire from the Anne Rice novel. That the tiny, frequently melancholy, raven-haired, extremely fair-skinned girl with the unreadable droopy blue eyes had a tendency to move about silent as a ghost only reinforced that impression.
Mr Granger returned his attention back to the road scrutinizing the surrounding countryside before asking no one in particular, "We haven't missed the turn, have we?"
"No, we haven't," Maggie replied. "It should be about a half of a mile ahead. You'll see four sessile oaks on the left with an unpaved lane running between them. That's where we will turn."
"Oh. I hadn't realised that you had been here before," Mr Granger said.
"I haven't," answered Maggie.
"Crystal balls are so useful," Hermione said with a straight face.
"I see," Mr Granger replied slowly uncertain how to take her statement.
Hermione chuckled. "That was a joke, Dad. The directions were in the letter last week, remember."
Mr Granger smiled back at his daughter. "I remember north of Peel on the Isle of Man but after a week of root canals and cavities, I'm lucky to have remembered that much."
Professor Dumbledore leaned forward. "I want to thank you again for agreeing to come with us. It is more helpful then you know."
Mrs Granger turned halfway around in her seat. A frown creased her brow when she spoke to the Dumbledores. "It is our pleasure. We needed a break anyway but I still don't quite understand the need for such subterfuge."
Mrs Dumbledore shook her head in frustration. "I'm sure that in your practice you have had the odd patient that simply would not listen to you as you tried to help him."
Mr Granger laughed. "Were that it was only the odd patient."
Mrs Dumbledore smiled slightly at his jest. "There is a peril within our community but the Minister for Magic chooses to ignore it. He rather spent his time and energies suppressing those of us who are pointing out the danger then confront the danger itself."
"Typical politician," Mr Granger snorted.
"Therefore we must do what is needed in the shadows or with some misdirection," Professor Dumbledore continued. "All the while appearing as if we have accepted the limits placed on us."
"I can understand that," Mrs Granger said. "But how does travelling with us further your purpose?"
"First and foremost, this trip is our way of thanking you for watching after Maggie," Minerva Dumbledore replied.
"It was our pleasure," Mrs Granger said gaily. "She's a dear, sweet girl and made the summer away from the rest of her friends bearable for Hermione."
"Bearable," Minerva repeated before she sighed. "I cannot imagine how difficult it will be for the muggleborns and half and half's to try to adjust to life outside of Hogwarts. At least some of them have been offered places at some of the other magic academies."
"To put it bluntly, it sucks," Chris said angrily. "And breaking our wands was low."
"Crushed doesn't begin to describe how I feel," Hermione mournfully said. "If Maggie hadn't been spending the summer with me, I'd been crying all day, everyday instead of just at night. A comprehensive is going to be so boring after Hogwarts."
Maggie hugged Hermione tightly. She shared her friend's pain. She along with several other pureblood kids would not be returning to Hogwarts either. What the immediate future held for her she was not certain. What was certain was that Henry was up to something although he would not tell her what his exact plans were only that the answer was at the end of the lane.
"It's disgusting," Mrs Granger snapped. "Expelling kids for no other reason then background. Hermione has the ability to do magic. What does it matter if her parents can not?"
"It should not," Albus sadly agreed. "But there's no explaining prejudice." He shook his head once as if to dispel the gloom then continued in a brighter voice. "As to travelling with you, it's twofold. Among Cornelius Fudge's blind spots is a patronising attitude toward muggles. In his mind if we are in the company of muggles than we cannot be up to some nefarious purpose and we took care to let the Ministry know where we were going and with whom we were travelling."
"Because ordinary folk can't do magic they're useless," Mr Granger supplied.
"To his way of thinking, yes," Albus replied. "But the second and most important purpose in travelling with you is that Minerva and I enjoy your good company. There are the oaks."
Mrs Granger beamed back at the Dumbledores as her husband slowed then turned onto the lane. What purpose the road served he could not guess. There was nothing around; no houses, sheds, or fences. It meandered through an empty meadow dotted with the occasional tree before disappearing in a gap between several hills but he followed it faithfully. If his daughter knew enough to turn herself into a fox, he was certain that she was smart enough to remember directions.
The SUV took a long, lazy turn through the gap and came upon large, level plateau.
"There's Hagrid," Maggie exclaimed waving at the huge man walking down the hillside. The half-giant returned the waves.
Hundreds of brightly coloured tents sat in long neat rows from where the lane more or less petered out to the base of the hills. It had the festive air of a medieval faire. Scores of people were out and about laughing and talking as succulent aromas from dozens of grills floated tantalisingly on the breeze. A quidditch match was in progress at the far end of the meadow.
"I wonder where we can find Ron and Ginny? Chris asked humorously when he spied the broom riders.
"Probably in one of these tents surrounded by books," Hermione said in a deadpan voice.
"They do like to get a jump on the next term," Maggie giggled hopping out of the car.
"So that's quidditch," Mrs Granger said as she exited the car. "It doesn't look all that exciting."
"People flying about on broomsticks are dull," Mr Granger joked. "My, haven't we gotten blasé about magic over the last four years."
"Is that you, Headmaster?" Sirius Black asked striding toward the car in the company of Barbara Thane and Albus' great-great-grandson, Erik Tonsberg.
"Yes, it's me, Sirius," Albus answered sliding out of the car with a slight grunt and shaking Sirius' extended hand. "Hello, Barbara, always a pleasure to see you. Erik I must say I'm surprised but pleased to find you here."
"I've been helping out with the finances of Balleycabbyl, Grandfather," Erik replied. They had agreed that grandfather was the simplest form of address.
"Don't believe him, Headmaster. As muggles would say, he is the financial wizard behind Balleycabbyl. We could not have moved as quickly as we have without him," Sirius said expansively. "So what happened? Did you meet Delilah?"
"A new life called for a new look, I thought," answered Albus. "And Minerva approves of it."
"You look decades younger," Sirius said. "Welcome to Balleycabbyl."
"Thank you," Professor Dumbledore replied. He quickly introduced him to Mr and Mrs Granger.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both," Sirius said. "I think you'll find what we're doing here very interesting. We have tents set up for all of you."
"Thank you," Mrs Granger said politely. "But is there an inn nearby?"
A tall, very pregnant woman wearing a long yellow dress that complemented her Sepia-coloured skin perfectly approached the group. "I know what you're thinking," she said with a lyrical West Indian accent. "But peek inside before to run off in search of an inn. I was dubious at first myself but magic tents are rather surprising."
"My wife, Eve," Sirius supplied.
"And I cannot do magic either." she added lightly. "So don't feel alone here."
"That's good," Mrs Granger said. "So do these magic tents have a loo?"
"And showers, real beds, couches, kitchens, and every other comfort," Eve said. "Right this way, Mrs Granger."
"Please call me Mary," Mrs Granger said falling into step with the carefully moving Mrs Black. "Be back soon," she added over her shoulder.
Professor Dumbledore scanned the vast meadow walled by hills on three sides. The fourth side were cliffs that dropped down to the sea. It was picturesque several hundred acres of thick grass and small groves of trees. From where they stood the waves crashing onto the shore far below the cliffs could be heard faintly. Even with all of the tents, there was plenty of open meadow left.
"It very lovely," Minerva Dumbledore said circling around the car with Hermione and Maggie. "But what is Balleycabbyl?
"Good Morning," Henry said walking up to them with Arthur Weasley. Maggie, surprising everyone but Henry did not launch herself into his arms. She hugged him once after planting a gentle kiss on his lips. She did, remain resolutely at Henry's side as he greeted his cousin and Hermione.
"As to what Balleycabbyl is, it's our future," Sirius intoned earnestly.
"I'm listening," Albus said.
"There's an odd quirk." Arthur Weasley began. "As you know, under muggle law, the Isle of Man isn't a part of the United Kingdom or Ireland."
"Yes, I know that," Albus replied curious as to where the conversation was heading.
"It doesn't full under the jurisdiction of the British Ministry for Magic either," Sirius said as a huge smile split his face.
"Of course it does," Albus replied confidently. "All the British Isles do."
"No, it doesn't" answered Arthur Weasley. "When the Wizards Council morphed into the Ministry for Magic there were no Manx representatives present. Legally, the Ministry has no jurisdiction here."
"Trust me; a dozen of us pored over every pertinent document and I even consulted with Professor Binns," Sirius added. "Cornelius Fudge has no more legal authority on the Isle of Man then he does on the isle of Manhattan. It never came up because there were never more then a dozen or so wizards living on the island."
Albus glanced over to his wife. She gave her head a slight shake but like her husband, her pulse increased as she realised the potential of such a situation.
"What we are doing is building both a village and a magic academy here," Henry said. "Sirius and I and a few others with the means have established a corporation that has purchased this land and will build what is needed."
"The Ministry will simply move to have Man placed under its control," Albus pointed out.
Sirius shook his head. "Each tent is a wizarding family that has established residence here on Man. That's two hundred and twelve families with four hundred and fifty seven witches and wizards of legal age. For all intensive purposes, we are the wizarding community on Man."
"Yesterday, I filed the paperwork with the International Confederation of Wizards seeking recognition for us as an independent magical community," Arthur said.
"The British Ministry will have to go before the ICW to get jurisdiction," Sirius continued. "A task made difficult in the face of our prior claim and the fact that they hadn't bothered to do so in three hundred years."
"The Death Eaters won't worry about legalities," Minerva argued.
"No, they won't," Arthur agreed. "And Balleycabbyl won't have a thousand years worth of enchantments protecting it like Hogwarts but we'll have over four hundred witches and wizards living here. That's a lot of wands to face."
Hermione and Chris looked stricken at the mention of wands. Henry bestowed a sad, commiserative smile on them before speaking. "We can begin construction in the spring," he said. "In the meantime, if we can use tents as classrooms and dormitories, we can start classes in September."
"I'd live in a cave if it meant I could continue my education," Hermione declared passionately as Chris let out a whoop of pure joy.
Arthur chuckled. "We can do you a bit better than that. The tents are quite comfortable even in severe weather."
"School in tents?" asked Mr Granger
"Buildings don't make a school," Chris said. "A school is dedicated teachers and passionate students, Mr Granger. Plato taught in the markets of Athens. Confucius taught his students as they wandered about China. The hedge teachers in Ireland usually taught in barns."
Mr Granger smiled. "I like this kid."
Henry nodded. "He's a bit of all right for an Arsenal supporter."
"There are still a dozen or so problems to be worked out," Sirius said. "Such as feeding all the students and transporting them here but I'm confident we can do this. It will be easier if people know that you are on board, Headmaster."
Albus' brow puckered in thought. "Is there a place we can sit and talk?"
"Where have my manners gone? Forgive me, everyone," Arthur said contritely. "Molly has refreshments prepared for all of you in our tent. Follow me, please. Oy, Hagrid! We're going to my tent."
""I'll be there directly," Hagrid yelled back from across the field.
Thirty minutes later after everyone had eaten the light lunch that Molly Weasley had prepared, Sirius again raised the question of Albus Dumbledore assuming leadership of Balleycabbyl.
"No," Professor Dumbledore said firmly.
A chorus of whats and whys assailed him until he held up a hand. "If I am put forth as a candidate for either the headmastership of the school or the Manx Minister for Magic, both Fudge and Voldemort will come after us immediately with everything in their arsenal, legal or otherwise and Balleycabbyl will die aborning."
"What do you suggest, Headmaster?" Sirius asked.
A tired smile creased Professor Dumbledore's mouth. "First, get into the habit of calling me Albus or Mr Dumbledore. Secondly, let it be known that I have been pushed out of any leadership position. Drop a flea into the right ears that the consensus was that my day had past and it was time for new people to step forward. Reluctantly, out of respect for my past contributions, I have been given permission to live here as long as I don't make a nuisance out of myself."
Eyes darted back and forth, as everyone silently debated the proposal. Arthur cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Headmas…Albus," he began hesitantly. "Why would Fudge and Voldemort believe such a thing?"
"Because they will want to," he replied. "They will gloat over my humiliation because they want me humiliated."
"No, Albus," Sirius disagreed. "They will not believe that we would turn you out like that. Why should they even if it is their fondest dream?"
"They'll believe it because of Balleycabbyl," Albus replied.
"You lost me there," Sirius admitted
"Me, too," Arthur chimed in.
Albus laughed gently. "I had nothing to do with Balleycabbyl and when it becomes known, the Ministry and the Death Eaters will know this to be true. A new generation of leaders has emerged leaving Old Dumbledore behind."
"Oh come, sir, that's not how it is at all," Sirius protested fervently.
Albus laughed again, this time more merrily. "Quod erat demonstrandum. The facts speak for themselves. Sirius, you, Arthur, and young Henry here with the aid of Erik's financial acumen have conceived and laid the foundation for Balleycabbyl in what? Four weeks? Six? That's leadership. Attacking a problem and getting results. In truth, this could not have worked out better for me."
Puzzled looks shot across the table
"Are you going to let us in on that secret?" asked Sirius after a moment.
The smile vanished from Dumbledore's face. His tone was grave when he spoke. "Arthur, do you remember that old diary that your daughter found in her book bag."
"Yes, that was what? Two or three years ago? Ginny handed over to me because she thought that it accidentally got into her bag and didn't want anyone to think that she had stolen it," Arthur replied. "I gave it to you because I could tell that there was magic about it but didn't know what it was exactly. Did you figure it out?"
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. "It was Tom Riddle's diary from a time when he was a student at Hogwarts."
"Tom Riddle's," exclaimed Molly. "Oh my, if Ginny hadn't gave it to us."
"Nothing good would have come from it to be sure," Minerva said.
"Beyond being Tom Riddle's diary, it was a horcrux," Albus continued. "I destroyed the book but it was become readily that Voldemort has created several horcruxes. I need to track them down; a task made easier if I am not caught up in the day-to-day flotsam of administrating a school or a ministry."
Henry, Sirius, and Arthur glanced at each other in question before Henry shrugged. "Very well, sir, we'll do as you say but we'd like you and Mrs Dumbledore to hire the faculty. Are you going to continue teaching, Mrs Dumbledore?"
"If not, will you be the Headmistress?" asked Sirius.
"It's your decision, love," Albus said quietly when she looked to him for his opinion.
Minerva tapped her jaw with a forefinger as she thought about the offer. "Headmistress, I think," she finally said.
"Then that's settled," Arthur said happily.
"Not quite," Henry said.
Several pairs of surprised eyes turned toward him but Henry looked only at Minerva Dumbledore. "Are you blocking my appointment, Henry?" she asked archly.
"No, ma'am," he replied. "But Mrs Black said something that made a lot of sense to me and I think you should hear her ideas about the new school."
"I'm always open hearing what parents of students have to say," Minerva said. "James should be nearing the right age to begin his studies."
"Next year," Sirius said. "This is one of the reasons for starting this school. He cannot attend Hogwarts now."
"What was your idea, Mrs Black?' Minerva asked.
"Eve, please. It's simple really," Eve Black began. "The curriculum needs modernising."
"How so?" Minerva asked.
"The world is changing rapidly," Eve said. "Since my marriage to Sirius, I've noticed that it is coming more and more difficult for magic folk to remain hidden. A goodly part of that is because so many have no idea about how the rest of the world lives."
"And you suggest what exactly?" Minerva asked.
"To take their place within British society, our children need to know what the other children know," Mrs Black explained. "They need to be able to sit for the GCSE and A-levels as well as for OWLS and NEWTS. They need to know mathematics and computers and literature as well as hexes."
"Granted most of the students here will be either muggleborn or half and half and they'll have a lot of basic knowledge but such a curriculum will open doors for them that the Hogwarts curriculum would not," Henry said. "Just to give you an example of what I mean Nottingham Trent University has an Equine Sports Science programme in which I am interested. To get into that, I need among other things an A-level in science."
"You may remember all the trouble my brother David had getting into Sandhurst," Barbara said. "It took him two years of intense study to pass the examination just because he lacked the basic knowledge that the muggle kids learn routinely."
"One of the reasons that I am here in the UK now us because in Australia we did learn those subjects at GVD along with the magic," Erik added. "There were no obstacles when I decided to read economics at university because the necessary grades and course work were a matter of public record already."
"Madame Maxine is looking to update Beauxbatons," Hagrid chimed in. "She's gone to Canada and America this summer to consult with the schools over there."
Minerva leaned back into her chair lost in thought. The proposal was something that she had been reflecting on for the last several years herself. She purposefully exposed Maggie to as much of the muggle world as she could so that she would not be ignorant of it but she knew of many children, usually those from pureblood families that had no clue as to the world beyond their own insular community. They did not have televisions or read muggle newspapers. They did not drive. They did not fly. They were on the cusp of the twenty-first century yet they lived as their ancestors had. To go into their homes one would think that George II was still on the throne instead of Elizabeth II.
Hogwarts was far too tradition bound to allow for change. The prevailing attitude of most of the board of governors was that if it was good enough for Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin then it was more then good enough for them. They were happy with the status quo as had been their grandfathers and their grandfathers' grandfathers. Indeed the last major change at Hogwarts was the introduction of indoor plumbing in 1931 and that came about only after a heated debate that lasted twenty-seven years.
"If you're thinking we would be placing too much on the students consider how many of the magic courses and ordinary courses could be taught together," Eve said. "Arithmancy could be taught along with higher mathematics. Astronomy is all ready part of the GCSE. We just need to add physics to it. Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures can be incorporated into Biology; Potions into Chemistry. Magic and muggle history can be taught together. Literature, Art, Music would have to be stand-alone courses, as would Transfiguration, DADA, and Charms. Moreover, they have to know how to use computers. There is no way around that in this new world. Computers are ubiquitous today."
Minerva smiled. "You have put much thought into this I see."
"I have a son and soon a daughter that will someday have to take their place in a rapidly changing world," said Eve. "I want to do all I can to prepare them for that day."
"I concur," Minerva said firmly. "The difficulty lies in designing the curriculum and finding the necessary teachers. I think it unlikely to be able to do that this school year."
"Actually, Headmistress," Barbara replied. "Eve, Molly, and I have all ready done some preliminary work in that direction."
"We have compiled a list of teachers in the needed fields," Eve began. "Experienced teachers who have married into the wizarding community. We especially sought those with children who now cannot attend Hogwarts. I think that they would be receptive to teaching here."
"Everyone here has been busy, haven't they?" laughed Minerva. "By the way Barbara, when are you going to apply for the position of school matron?"
"I would like the job if you don't mind my relative lack of experience," said Barbara.
"You're hired but I don't know what your pay packet will look like yet," Minerva said. "Criminey, there's a thousand details. Do we have any owls? We have many students to contact. We need to bring a wand maker here. We need textbooks. We need a library. Does anyone have a list of the muggleborns that would have been first years?"
"Calm down, dearest," Albus chuckled. "You can do this if you keep your head about you."
"Thank you," she replied. "Yes, I know but there is so much to do in such a short time."
"We have a committee," Molly said. "We've been working on a few things in the last month. We've been meeting over in Eve's tent. All of the paperwork connected with Balleycabbyl College is there. "
"Balleycabbyl College," Albus mused. "It has a nice ring to it."
"Yes, it does," his wife agreed.
"Better than Hogwarts," added Hermione.
"Will you call the committee together?" asked Minerva. "We shall see where we stand and get our priorities listed."
"Certainly, Headmistress," Eve said rising from the table. "Come with me."
"I'll take care of the dishes if you wish to go on with them, Molly," Arthur said. "Sirius spread out the plans for the school and village. Let's bring Albus and our other guests up-to-date."
A full moon hung over the small rocky beach where all of Balleycabbyl's teenagers gathered for an impromptu party. Several couples were dancing to rock music blaring from a large, battery-operated cd player. Others were roasting sausages over flames that crackled cheerfully in a ring of stone. A few others were making out on blankets laid discretely beyond the halo of firelight.
Henry, with a jacket draped around his shoulders, walked with Maggie along the shore until the beach ended. They stopped and savoured the moment. It was a warm, still night with only the faintest of breezes to caress their faces. The moon hung on the horizon bathing the ocean in its light. They could not hear the voices of their friends and the music so loud up close was only a dull distant sound easily overpowered by the sound rolling waves.
"You should be proud of yourself, Henry," Maggie said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Why? Balleycabbyl, of course, silly," replied Maggie. "I spoke with Hagrid, Mr Weasley and Mr Black. They told me how much of all of this your doing was; about how driven you are about the school."
She felt has sudden discomfort as he picked up a flat stone and skipped it across the water. "I had to do something to atone."
"Atone for what," Maggie asked. "None of what happened was your fault."
"Yes, it was," Henry countered forcefully. "I panicked and gave Fudge all the excuse he needed to take over Hogwarts. I thought that I was so smart walking out of the maze like that. I was going to show them that they couldn't push me around. Yeah, so damn smart. Because of my stupidity, half the teachers lost their jobs and a lot of kids were expelled. Chris was on the verge of tears when he told me about the Ministry bastards taking his wand and snapping it into four pieces in front of him."
Maggie rested her head against his arm as she snaked a hand around Henry's waist. "Have you ever paused to consider the alternative?"
"What alternative?" he asked curiously.
"If you had continued on with the third task," Maggie replied. "The Tournament Cup was a portkey snuck in by a minion of the Dark Lord. They found Barty Crouch Jr's corpse in a cemetery where someone murdered him in a ritualistic manner. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess who was that someone. If you had gone ahead, it would have been you in that cemetery facing Voldemort."
"Or one of the other champions," Henry said as the wind began to blow harder.
"Lay aside the modesty for once, Henry," chuckled Maggie. "None of the others had a chance and you know it. You were miles ahead of them in ability."
"No maybe about it," Maggie asserted. "But taken by surprise, dropped into the middle of a bunch of Death Eaters, it would have been your corpse found among the tombstones and the only real obstacle in Voldemort's path to domination would have been gone. Whatever the temporary ramifications are, they are preferable that alternative."
"Perhaps, I mean, yeah, looking at it that way," Henry replied. "But still I put a lot of people through a lot of trouble because I lost my head."
"And I have yet to hear anyone blame you," Maggie said. "Fudge, certainly. Umbridge, Voldemort, The Daily Prophet, yes, but not Henry Porter."
Henry laughed ruefully. "Henry Porter. Even that was lost. Everyone knows who I am now."
"I seem to remember you saying once that you were Henry Porter and that it did not matter what name you had at birth," Maggie countered.
Henry laughed loudly then took Maggie into his arms, kissing her soundly. "I can never feel sorry for myself with you around."
"Self-pity is a worthless emotion as I have come to know," Maggie said. "Deal with what is not with what-might-have-been."
"I've been trying."
"You've been succeeding," Maggie replied. "I am convinced that Balleycabbyl College will be better than Hogwarts. In a very few years, Hogwarts will be playing catch-up with us and the Ministry will have egg on its face for what they did. We will triumph, Henry. You will triumph."
Henry shook his head and sighed. "Triumph. Conquering Hero. Adoration of the masses. The stuff of dreams supposedly but still all I want to do is marry you, have a family, and raised horses."
"And we will someday," Maggie assured him. "Peace will come to us someday. In the meantime, we must do what we must to bring that day about."
"Yeah, I know," Henry drawled. "Well, let's get on back."
"Let me have your jacket first," Maggie said. "I'm getting a bit chilled."
Henry took the jacket from his shoulders and held it out for her to slip her arms in. As she spun around his hand slid across her chest.
"Sorry." He said yanking his hand back.
Maggie smiled, took his hand and pressed it against her chest. He could feel the smallest of swellings beneath the thin fabric of her blouse.
"Change is in the air, Henry Porter," she whispered.
Henry kissed her tenderly before taking her hand. "Small changes seem to have the biggest impact on my life," he mused as they turned their steps toward their friends at the other end of the beach.