THE LEGEND OF THE SERPENT'S TONGUE
As the Hogwart's Express neared its destination of Kings Cross Station in London, Harry stretched and looked fondly at Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry's school chums. They had met seven years ago on this very same train as they began school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hermione was a Muggle born witch, which meant that her parents were not magical. Ron was a Pure Blood, from a long line of wizards. Harry was what was termed a Half Blood since Harry's dad, James Potter was a Pureblood, but his wife, Lily Evans Potter, was Muggle born.
The evil wizard, Lord Voldemort, had murdered Harry's parents, and in his attempt to kill fifteen-month-old Harry, Voldemort's spell had backfired, leaving him disembodied and weak. Harry had then been placed in the care of the Dursleys. Petunia Dursley was the older sister of Harry's mother. Petunia and her husband, Vernon, along with their only child, Dudley, were not kind to Harry.
Harry had lived there until the age of sixteen when a series of Prophecies was revealed indicating that Harry would defeat Lord Voldemort, who had regained his physical form and was wreaking havoc in the wizarding world. Up until then Harry had been disguised as a boy, when in fact Harry was female. Her parents had done this at birth to protect her from Lord Voldemort, since Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and the greatest wizard of the age, had recognized that Harry was the child in the Mathias Prophecy. This prophecy had predicted many of the events in Harry's life. Chandra Mathias had been a Muggle who had been married to a wizard, but she was also a powerful seer. Another prophecy had predicted Harry's coming birth and that Voldemort would mark this child as his equal. It said that the child would have powers unknown to the Dark Lord. It also foretold that one would kill the other. This second Prophecy had come from Chandra Mathias' descendant, who had been the Divination teacher at Hogwarts, Sybil Trelawney. Sybil had been killed in the war with Voldemort.
Harry's friends had always known she was special, but it had taken them a bit of getting used to the idea that Harry was in fact, female. Hermione had adjusted much faster, but Ron had been furious that he was never told the truth by his best friend. He did finally come to grips with the idea, after Harry had a brief show down with him, making him realize that his best friend was still the same person on the inside. Once he adapted to the idea, he backed Harry one hundred percent, and had become the Keeper of the Goblet at her Rites of Protection. This had been a special ceremony where Harry had been joined with three wizards who swore their allegiance to protect her life from any evil that might befall her in the fight against Voldemort or any other dark magic that might threaten her.
Harry had selected her three actual protectors with the approval of the Board of Governors in the Ministry of Magic and the Order of the Phoenix. It had been a rocky road, but when she convinced the wizarding community of her abilities as a healer, and made them realize she was an empath as well as an animagus they had agreed to her terms.
She had of course asked for her Godfather, Sirius Black, who had just been cleared of the murder of her parents and thirteen other people. He had been framed by one Peter Pettigrew, another school friend of her mother and father. Peter had joined the dark side and betrayed his friends to Lord Voldemort. Harry had helped to bring him to justice, but he had escaped from prison and Sirius had killed him in the final battle in the war. Another of Harry's protectors was Remus Lupin, another old friend of her parents and a werewolf. He had also been the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and would be teaching Charms in the fall owing to the death of Professor Flitwick in the war.
Finally, there was her last protector, who at one time had actually loathed her. This was Professor Severus Snape. He had an old grudge against her father, but had a life debt to repay since her father had saved his life when he was almost killed by Remus Lupin. Snape had almost been attacked by Lupin in his werewolf form when Sirius had sent him into a secret passage leading from Hogwarts to the Shrieking Shack, where Lupin used to transform in secret. He would stay there until the moon set and he could return to Hogwarts. This was done in order to ensure the safety of the other students. Harry's father had gone in after Snape to prevent his being attacked. He had not been a moment too soon. To repay the debt to her father, Snape started watching after Harry when she had started at Hogwarts. He had been unable to save James Potter, but he could make sure Harry was safe from Voldemort.
Harry and Snape had a rocky relationship until her sixth year, when he found out that Harry was not really a boy. He had been shocked to discover that she was the witch in the Mathias Prophecy. This had given him renewed hope that Voldemort would be defeated. Of course, he denied ever really having disliked her, and claimed that it had merely been an act since he was a former Deatheater, and Voldemort supporter, who had deserted the dark side and had become a spy for Dumbledore. He said that being nice to the son of his former rival would cause suspicion, since James Potter had fought valiantly against the Dark Lord. Still, Harry knew Snape was a powerful wizard, and a Potions Master. He knew many things about the Dark Arts, and she wanted him on her side. Since choosing him as one of her protectors their relationship had matured into one of mutual understanding and friendship.
Finally, Professor Dumbledore had been the Trust Keeper and advisor to all of them. It was his responsibility to oversee that the Protectorship was carried out according to the laws and customs set down by the wizarding world in times long past.
Hermione had not been a part of the ceremony, but this had been just as well, since she had fallen victim to Lord Voldemort's Imperious curse and betrayed Harry, almost costing the lives of her parents, Harry, and Hermione herself. If it had not been for Harry and Ron she would have had to live as a Muggle and her memories of Hogwarts and all things magical would have been erased. Fortunately, Dumbledore believed in second chances, and Hermione had been cleared of conspiring against Harry willingly. She had been suspended from school for a brief time, but because of the circumstances, was allowed to continue her education and remain a part of the magical community. Harry was glad that Hermione had been cleared of any deliberate wrongdoing, and happy that Hermione was now going out with Ron.
Sirius and Remus were meeting her at the station, since she was still in danger due to the Deatheaters who had escaped death or imprisonment following the final battle. She would also be testifying at many of the trials, which were scheduled to begin in August. Her Protectorship was also meant to last for life, unless she herself released them from their obligation. It was considered more than a guardianship and less than a marriage, and a great honor to be chosen. Harry believed that she would also probably marry one of her protectors, but was far from ready to make any kind of commitment. She would not formally come of age for another six weeks, and knew that while her three protectors all had feelings for her, they all understood that she was still young and not yet ready for a deep relationship.
She was mulling all these thoughts over in her head as the Hogwarts Express pulled into Kings Cross Station, and the trio of friends got up to give each other one final hug. Ron, Hermione, and Harry were all embracing one another when Ginny Weasley, Ron's younger sister and the only girl in their family, entered their compartment to say good-bye to Harry and Hermione.
"What am I going to do next year with the three of you gone?" Ginny asked tearfully.
"Don't cry, Ginny, you will still be seeing us," Hermione hugged her, "after all, I am going out with Ron and we're all going to be at the formal graduation ceremony at Hogwarts in July. We will see you then if not sooner."
"Yeah, and I'll be teaching at Hogwarts starting in September," Harry winked, "of course you will have to call me Miss Potter during school hours."
"Well, Miss Potter," Ginny quipped, "I hope you will remember your old friends when it comes time to give or take house points, not to mention detentions."
"Why Miss Weasley," Harry teased her friend striking a formal pose, "that's one of the reasons I will only be teaching the first through fourth year students. We wouldn't want old friends seeking favors, now would we?"
"Oh, Merlin, she sounds like one of the professors already," Ron groaned. They all laughed as he looked out the train window towards the waiting throng of parents. "Oh no, Harry, the Daily Prophet is here. I'll bet they want to try and interview you about what happened with Lord Voldemort."
"I already informed them that I was giving the exclusive story to the Quibbler. Rita Skeeter is still working there for Luna's dad," Harry explained referring to their other friend, Luna Lovegood, a sixth year Ravenclaw.
Luna's father was both owner and editor of the weekly wizard paper, The Quibbler. Rita Skeeter started working for him when the trio threatened to report her to the Ministry of Magic for being an unregistered animagus. Rita then agreed to work for Luna's father and only printed factual articles so that the authorities would not prosecute her failure to report her ability to transform into a beetle.
"It looks like they still aren't going to let you alone," Hermione remarked worriedly. "I also see someone from the Wizarding Wireless Network," she said referring to the WWN, the wizards' radio station.
"Yeah, now that you aren't at Hogwarts they probably think you are fair game," Ron announced warily. "Dumbledore was able to keep them away from the school, but there is nothing he can do at a public train station."
"No, I suppose not," Harry agreed, studying the crowd from the window, before making a final decision. "If I wait until the crowd thins out I may have a better chance of avoiding the reporters."
"Why don't you just transform and fly over them?" Ginny asked curiously, referring to Harry's ability as an animagus. She had been able to transform herself into a Phoenix since the middle of her sixth year.
"I would, except we still aren't supposed to do magic until our O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. level exams are finalized. That's why Hogwarts doesn't have its graduation until the end of July. Besides, I think a phoenix in a crowded train station is bound to attract some attention. I am only being allowed to apparate since Dumbledore arranged for me to take my licensing exam with the Ministry early for added security."
"How come Fred and George were able to do magic then when they left Hogwarts early?" Ginny inquired referring to her twin brothers.
The twins owned the joke shop in Hogsmeade with a soon to reopen store on Diagon Alley. The Diagon alley shop had been closed during the war when the twins moved to Hogsmeade for security reasons.
"Fred and George were already eighteen when they left Hogwarts even though they hadn't yet finished their seventh year," Ron explained, remembering how the twins had fled on their brooms following the now notorious swamp diversion they had created so that Harry could contact Sirius from Umbridge's office, "but they still had to notify the Ministry."
"Then why don't we follow their example and create a diversion so Harry can get over to Sirius without being seen?" Hermione suggested with a wicked smile.
"That might just work, but I'm sure they will be watching the Protectors too. We will need to get the reporters to move aside and have Sirius and Remus stay behind."
"We can have Ginny tell Sirius or Remus to meet you by the gateway," Ron mused, "they won't be looking for her. She can put a note in their hand while someone yells that you're on the other side of the platform."
"Who can we get to distract them into believing that Harry is trying to run from them?" Ginny asked just as the compartment door opened and a tall slim boy with blond hair entered.
"Malfoy!" they all exclaimed at once, looking at the young man who had just entered.
"I just came in to say good-bye and that I will be seeing the lot of you over the summer. My aunt and Black are cousins you know. Apparently they are planning some kind of reunion," Draco Malfoy stated looking at them cautiously.
He and Harry had only come to speaking terms over the past year. Draco's father, Lucius, had been Voldemort's number one Deatheater. He had recruited Draco, but when he saw that the Dark Wizard was merely a mad man controlling his father, Draco had escaped with Harry's help. Unfortunately, his mother had been murdered by his abusive father, who had also planned to kill his son for having betrayed the Dark Lord.
"Draco, I will be looking forward to the reunion. In the meantime I need your help."
"Since when does the great Harry Potter need my help?" Malfoy sneered.
"Well, if you think you're not capable..."
"I didn't say I couldn't do it!" Draco interrupted arrogantly.
"Good," Harry grinned, "I want you to create a diversion on the platform. I need to get away from the press."
"Hmm...And what if they see you anyway?"
"Harry can use her invisibility cloak to get around them and over to her protectors. My sister will tell them not to move," Ron explained frowning at the smirk on their former rival's face. "Everybody knows you and Harry didn't get along so you are the ideal candidate to make them think she is pulling a fast one."
"Sounds like fun," Draco drawled, his smirk growing larger.
"What about my trunk?"
"You can get it at my house later," Ron directed, "along with Hedwig's cage. I know Mum and Dad won't mind taking them for you."
"Draco, I will pretend to be Harry," Hermione suggested. "I can pull my cloak up over my hair and keep my head down, while I head away from the barrier that protects the platform from Muggle London. All you have to do is follow me and create a commotion using Harry's name."
"I said I would help," Draco sneered impatiently, "so let's get going."
"Draco, don't cross us on this or you will find yourself hexed from here all the way back to Hogwarts," Hermione whispered quietly as she and Draco prepared to leave the train with Ginny.
"He won't," Ginny said looking at Draco with a strange expression.
Harry busied herself with getting her cloak out from the trunk, but stole a look in Ginny and Draco's direction. Using her empathic powers, she realized that the two were quite taken with one another. Quickly scribbling a note to her two protectors, she moved over to Ginny, stuffing it into her hand. She hoped Ron would not be too upset when he learned about Ginny and Draco's feelings. The two boys did not get along, and like Harry, he had only just made a shaky truce with the young Slytherin.
"Okay, I'm ready," Harry said donning the cloak. Leaving only her head exposed, she scanned the platform for Sirius and Remus, who should be waiting for her. Snape was to join them later for dinner with his sister Circe, and niece, Phaedra, who would be spending the summer.
"There they are," Hermione pointed towards the left hand side of the platform. Sirius and Remus were surrounded by reporters. Remus looked like he was trying to keep Sirius from losing his temper.
"Draco, I am really counting on you," Harry winked as she slipped the cloak over her head, "let us see some of that Slytherin cunning you're always bragging about."
Harry watched as Ginny left the train and slowly moved over to where Remus stood waiting. Sirius appeared to be engaged in trying to free himself from the clutches of an overzealous female reporter. She saw Ginny smile and greet Remus, shaking his hand, slipping the note into it before moving off to where her parents were waiting.
Arthur and Molly Weasley looked worried, but Ginny hugged them, and Harry was sure she whispered something to them about the plan to get Harry safely away. Harry then slipped off the train with Ron and Hermione behind her, discreetly followed by Draco. Hermione and Ron moved off towards the opposite side of the barrier, while Draco headed towards his cousin, Nymphadora Tonks. She was also Sirius' second cousin, and Draco now resided with her family. Halfway there, he saw Remus nod, and he turned and yelled in the direction Ron and Hermione had been walking.
"Hey Potter, where are you and that git Weasley going? The barrier is the other way."
Ron and Hermione started to run, and sure enough, the reporters went after them running pell mell.
Harry popped her head out from under her cloak, winked at Remus and Sirius, and raising her wand, called out, "Ottery St. Catchpole," and disapparated from the station.
Sirius and Remus followed suit and they appeared just outside of the village a minute later. Hugging each other, Sirius grinned down at her while Remus patted her on the back.
"That was terrific strategy, Princess," Remus praised, using his pet name for her, while Sirius laughed.
"Did you see the looks on the faces of the Press as we disapparated?" Sirius asked amused. "They couldn't believe it when they heard Harry's voice and Hermione lifted that hood from her face."
"Do you think the others got away okay?" she questioned the two men draping the cloak over her arm.
"I think so. Moody was there standing by the barrier, and Tonks was there to pick up Draco," Sirius replied.
"I'm sure Arthur and Molly were able to get Ron and Ginny off without a problem. I saw Moody going to help the Grangers just as I disapparated," Remus added knowingly. "I am going to assume the Weasleys will bring your trunk and Hedwig?" he questioned, referring to her owl.
"Yeah, Ron told me not to worry, that I could get them both later on at the Burrow," Harry said as they turned and started walking towards their house, about a mile down the road, halfway between the village and the Weasley home in the Burrow.
"Molly invited us all over for dinner tonight. She is having a barbecue and asked us to come," Sirius remarked. "I told her I would let her know since Severus is coming with Circe and Phaedra."
"How are they getting here?"
"Floo system, since Phaedra can't apparate. They are coming from London since Circe had to work today," Remus explained, referring to Circe's job at the Ministry of Magic. "Severus has gone to get Phaedra at her school, and will also bring their puppy."
"How is the little stinker?"
"Which one, Phaedra or the pup?" Sirius teased.
"You know I mean Phaedra," Harry shoved him good-naturedly.
"She's fine and anxious to see you. She can't wait for you to see Hannibal. She says he misses Snuffles."
"She named the puppy Hannibal?"
"Yeah, Severus says he's built like a baby elephant, so their uncle Tiberius started to call him Hannibal," Remus chuckled. "I can just imagine how big he must be getting, after all Fang is a Boar hound and Snuffles is a Newfoundland. That makes for a real interesting combination."
"Yeah, big furry and drooly," Sirius commented laughing. "I can still see the look on Harry's face when Hagrid told her Snuffles was pregnant and Fang did the deed."
"Humph, that canine lothario raped my sweet puppy. I do not expect either of you to sympathize with me since you both fall into the same category as Fang, always sniffing out a nice piece of tail!" Harry joked unable to keep from blushing as she referred to both their sexuality, Remus' being a werewolf, and Sirius' animagus form of a large black shaggy dog.
"Actually, I am more of a bird dog myself," Sirius mocked. "I especially like chasing a good Phoenix," he teased, referring to when he used to follow her after she first learned to transform.
"I wish I could transform right now. I guarantee you would never catch up to me. I can fly faster than your four legs can run," Harry taunted playfully, "his too," she added looking over towards Remus.
"We will just have to see about that when the moon is full in two weeks."
"I would love to except I have not yet been registered."
"Wait till you see all the paperwork involved," Sirius grimaced. "Albus has arranged for you to go to the Ministry first thing on Monday morning for the registration process. I did mine while you were taking final exams."
"I take it that it will be an all day thing?"
"Almost, all morning in any event, there are the usual innumerable forms to fill out and then you go before the committee who will want to see your animagus form. They will examine you from head to toe and write down all your markings. You will also be photographed. I went the same day as Rita Skeeter. They had to put her under a magnifier since she is a beetle."
"Oh great, now she will go back to writing trash for the Daily Prophet."
"I don't think so Princess. She had to sign a sworn statement that she would not use her form to harm others or misuse her ability in the line of her work. Besides, I saw Mr. Lovegood and he says she has decided to keep working for him. She is really writing noteworthy news again and has started to write a book about her exploits all across the country."
"Now that, I will have to read," Sirius shook his head.
"Gee, maybe Sirius should write a book. He could call it, 'My Life on the Run as a Fugitive Animagus.' It would be a real eye opener; I'll bet he really saw some interesting things as well as how he had to survive."
"I guarantee it would be a best seller," Remus laughed, "It would have something for everyone. Men would like the action and survival skills and women would go for the lost dog and the maligned handsome young fugitive, falsely imprisoned without a trial."
"What no sexual content?" Sirius quipped with a wicked smile that reached to his eyes.
"I am going to pretend I did not hear that remark. I do not want to know about any more of your sexual exploits. I heard enough of them when I was at Hogwarts. Did you know your reputation is legendary?" Harry looked up at the sky, trying desperately to feign innocence, her cheeks scarlet.
"Am I really?" Sirius asked, knowing that his boyish activities in the Astronomy Tower and elsewhere were still talked about among the staff.
"Remus, would you kindly tell my godfather that I have been a very good girl, but I could change that very easily if he keeps up this line of talk? After all, George Weasley is living back at the Burrow with his folks," Harry taunted, knowing that Sirius worried about her reputation and wanted her to wait until she was truly ready before having any kind of sexual relationship. He knew Harry and George occasionally dated, and that George being a few years older than Harry was already experienced with sex.
"Harry, would you really do something just to get me upset?" Sirius asked concernedly. "I was just joking with you."
"Ah...payback is a bitch," Remus frowned.
"Sirius, when are you going to trust me? You know I have told you repeatedly that I am not ready for an intimate relationship, especially after what happened with Lord Voldemort," Harry replied, looking at him fondly as they entered the front gate to their house.
"I do trust you, and I thank Merlin every night that you were able to stop Voldemort before he was actually able to rape you."
"Yeah, me too," she sighed as he hugged her gently.
Harry shuddered inwardly as she recalled the final battle with Voldemort. She had killed him as he had attempted to rape her. Harry had to fight off an Imperious curse, but allow him to believe he would succeed. She was able to destroy him with the Avadra Kedavra while physically stabbing him through the heart. She had used her mother's old wand as he tore her clothes and pinned her down beneath him.
"Hey you two, look who's here!" Remus interrupted in an effort to lighten Harry's mood noting the scowl on her face.
Phaedra was running around from the back of the house to meet them, with Severus Snape in tow.
"Miss Harry! Miss Harry!" she called excitedly, as she flung herself into Harry's arms. "I missed you."
"I missed you too. Let me look at you. You must have grown at least another inch since Christmas," Harry beamed hugging the little girl. "Did you make it into second grade?"
"Yes, I got all A's except for science. I got a B in that. I don't like it at all."
"Oh no, you need to like science to be able to mix potions. What did your Uncle Severus say?"
"He gave me a galleon for getting such good marks, but says I have to do better in science. Will you help me over the summer? I will be seven and that's when Uncle Severus says I will be old enough to mix the potions. He said after first grade and I will be seven in September."
"I will be happy to help you, and maybe we can find a way to make you like science better."
"Did you like science?"
"Some of it, there are different sections of science. The one that deals with mixing potions the Muggles call chemistry. It was not my best subject. Muggles make up all kinds of unnecessary symbols for things and it makes it harder."
"Mummy says you are going to be the new Potions Master at Hogwarts."
"No, I am merely going to teach the younger students Potions while I study for my Potions Master exam. Your uncle will be my supervisor and help me to prepare for the exam."
"Will you be as good as Uncle Severus and Uncle Tiberius then?" Phaedra asked as they went into the house, the three men trailing."
"I don't think I will be as good as they are for a long time. Potions take practice and you need a certain amount of magical feeling for the ingredients. I have only just begun to realize that and am learning how to make it work."
"I am glad to see you actually did learn something in my class for the past seven years," Snape sneered, arching his left brow in the familiar fashion
"Now here I thought you and I were on relatively good terms today. I did help to secure your new position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Not to mention removing a certain mark."
"I am grateful for both, but if you think my classes were difficult wait until you see the Potion Master Exam. It is an all day written exam where you will have to define, describe, and explain how to mix at least seven advanced level potions from a list of ten. The next day you will have to actually brew them, or show how to do so if it is a potion that will take several weeks, such as the Polyjuice."
"Ouch, that doesn't sound too pleasant."
"I have the utmost confidence that with both mine and my uncle's help you will pass. We both plan to help you with the more difficult ones over the summer. The exam is not until next May, so I will continue to work with you while you teach."
"Your uncle is coming? Where on earth will we put everyone?"
"Take a look off the back of the house. We have added two more rooms downstairs and a second floor bath," Remus grinned as they entered the kitchen. Sure enough, there was a new door with two adjoining bedrooms.
"Doesn't your uncle have to work over the summer?"
"He will be doing some work for the Order. As soon as you are eighteen you will be formally allowed into the Order."
"You know, that is really unfair," she frowned," I took out the greatest Dark Wizard there ever was, and I still have to wait to become a member of the Order."
"Miss Harry, what is the Order?"
"It is a kind of club and the members make sure bad wizards are kept from getting too powerful," she explained in a manner the child could understand.
"Humph, you should be the leader of the club," Phaedra snorted tossing her blond curls vigorously. "Mummy says you killed the bad wizard. Were you scared?"
"Phaedra, I don't believe Harry wishes to talk about what happened," Snape reproved his niece.
"I'm sorry Uncle Severus," Phaedra apologized. "Miss Harry I didn't mean to be so nosy. It is just that everybody in school knows that I know you. They all asked me to tell them all about how you killed the bad wizard."
"Phaedra, I want you to listen to what I have to say and try to understand," Harry said taking her hands, looking down at her seriously, "what I did helped to save a lot of people's lives, but in order to do that I had to kill another person."
"But he was bad, and wanted to kill you."
"Yes, he was bad, and he would have killed me and a whole lot of other people if he hadn't been stopped. Now this is what you need to understand. He was a very sick man in his mind. He did not understand the difference between good and evil, all he wanted was power. I had to kill him, but taking the life of another person, no matter how bad they are is not always right. If there had been another way to stop him, I would have used it. Miss Harry has to live with the knowledge that she killed a human being."
"I think I understand. You want me to know that killing is wrong, even if you have to do it for a good reason."
"Yes, baby, that is exactly right," Harry hugged her.
"I could not have said it better myself," Dumbledore's familiar voice came from the door to the kitchen where he was waiting with Phaedra's mother Circe.
"Mummy, Headmaster Mr. Dumbledore," Phaedra shouted happily, running over to hug her mother and Dumbledore.
"Thank you Headmaster," Harry said moving over to give him a brief hug. "It is good to see you again, Circe," she greeted the older witch with a kiss on her cheek.
"It's good to see you too. How are you feeling dear?"
"I'm okay," Harry answered noncommittally knowing she was referring to her emotional state since having to face off with the Dark Lord.
"Are you sleeping all right? Severus said you are still having nightmares."
"Sometimes," Harry glared at Professor Snape. "When is your uncle going to arrive?'
"As a matter of fact, I arrived with Albus and Circe," the elder Snape commented, coming from the rear kitchen door. "I was seeing to Hannibal. I put him out back with Snuffles."
"Snuffles is here already?" Harry queried.
"Yes, Child," Dumbledore nodded, "Hagrid portkeyed her here about half an hour after you left on the train."
"We all came early since the Weasleys have invited us all over tonight for a barbecue. I stopped at the store to bring some food too. Arthur said I didn't have to, but I insisted. I saw him at the Ministry and I felt we should contribute, so I got some additional burgers and the ingredients for some salads. I thought Phaedra would like to help make them," Circe smiled at her daughter.
"Yummy, can we make them now?"
"My aunt had a great potato salad recipe, and I know how to make it if you'll allow me to help," Harry volunteered.
"What can we do?" Remus asked pleasantly.
"Make sure the house is secure," Circe replied taking charge, "we don't need any of the missing Deatheaters paying us a visit."
"Circe, I told you Albus put a number of wards around the house already," Severus informed his sister.
"Circe is correct, we should do some more. With all of us in one area, it will be a great temptation for them to try something. Moreover, the Weasleys live close by making it an even more attractive opportunity. Just because Voldemort is dead does not mean that all of his followers will suddenly disappear," Dumbledore remarked calmly. "Tiberius, will you assist me outside. Severus and Sirius can do the inside while Remus makes sure everyone's trunks have been secured in the proper rooms. By the way, Harry, Arthur has your trunk at his house along with Hedwig. He will have the twins drop it off later. I understand George is anxious to see you," Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled.
"Headmaster, George and I are just friends, nothing more. He is even running a poll to see who will win my heart."
"Is he now? Who is in the lead for your affections?"
"I have no idea. It will be interesting to see who wins."
"Honey, who are the lucky fellows that are being named as your potential suitors," Sirius asked flashing his best smile.
"Well..." she began slyly, "Severus, and Remus, George has included himself and Draco Malfoy I think...and...Oh yes, Dumbledore!"
"Now wait a minute, what about me?"
"You?" she teased, unable to hide her grin.
"Miss Harry, I think you like to tease Mr. Sirius, you are all red," Phaedra giggled, and the adults all smiled.
"Phaedra, I happen to know they all voted in the poll."
"Indeed, Child, and who did they vote for?"
"I didn't ask. I only know who I voted for," Harry laughed mischievously.
"Who?" Sirius, Remus, and Severus all said in unison.
"Why the most wonderful man in this room," she smirked as she began pulling out potatoes to make the salad.
"You aren't going to tell us are you?"
"I hope it is Uncle Severus. I know he really cares about Miss Harry. I heard him telling Mummy," Phaedra remarked deviously.
"Phaedra, it isn't nice to listen to private conversations," Snape reprimanded her gently, his normally pale features tinged with pink.
"I bet she voted for the Headmaster," Remus winked affectionately, "that way she was honest and didn't hurt our feelings."
"As a matter of fact, I did. He's handsome, and smart, extremely good with magic, and has a heart of gold," she laughed as they smiled at each other over their glasses.
"Oh my broken heart," Sirius joked throwing one arm up and over his brow, "how can I go on?"
"Maybe Snuffles will be interested," Snape remarked wryly, "she seems to be your type."
"Uh oh, here we go again," Harry frowned, "the two of you were getting along so well too. Just because Voldemort is dead is no reason to go back to acting like overgrown boys."
"Honey, we were just kidding, weren't we Sevie?"
"Absolutely, Black," Snape glared at his rival. He hated being called Sevie. "Harry should know that we have put our petty differences aside."
"Kidding my ass...either you two grow up or I'm going to...to...do what I told Dumbledore we should have done in the first place," Harry said turning back to face the old man. "You do remember, don't you Headmaster?"
"If you are referring to the actions taken by your teacher in Primary school with the two children who kept fighting, then yes, I remember."
"That's it exactly," she shook her head vigorously; "I think we should do it just to make sure they have really put their differences aside and all is forgiven."
"Are you certain it is actually necessary?"
"I am. It will help them to see how alike they are and learn to accept their differences."
"Princess, you said this would also affect me, but you never told me what it is. Will you tell me now?"
"Only if Dumbledore is serious and will go ahead with it for me."
"Harry, I will be delighted to do so. They are two of my best Professors, and both are exceptionally talented in their own right. They also have a responsibility to you, and while they have carried out that duty admirably, I know you would like to see them become friends. Your father accepted Severus and I think it is time that Sirius did too," Dumbledore stated firmly, referring to the spirit of her father, which was freed when Harry had broken Voldemort's wand after taking his life.
"Miss Harry, you aren't going to hurt Uncle Severus or Mr. Sirius are you?"
"No, Little One, she just wants them to realize they really can be friends," Dumbledore reassured Phaedra. "Miss Harry cares about them and wants them to care about each other the way Sirius and Remus do."
"I'll believe that miracle when I see it Albus," Tiberius Snape pursed his lips frowning. "I'm amazed that they have gotten along for as long as they have. We both knew it couldn't last."
"I believe that Harry is right in her assumptions. All they need is a little push in the right direction to see how much they truly have in common. They have shown admirable tolerance for one another so far, but that is all they have done. Now we need to show them that it is possible to forgive a childhood transgression and learn to live together in friendship."
"Harry, what are you going to have Albus do?" Remus queried as Circe looked on curiously.
"Remus, Circe, if I can see you in the hall for one minute, I will explain. Headmaster while we are gone if you will see to what we have discussed, I know they will be unable to stop our little plan."
"Of course, Child," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as Remus and Circe followed Harry into the hallway.
Harry briefly explained how she had a primary school teacher who had tied two students together at the wrists every day in class for a week, with their parents' approval, to stop them from fighting. It had worked and they became the best of friends. One could not make a move all day without the other and they learned how to get along and compromise.
"Now I see why you say it would concern me," Remus said, hazel eyes wide with mirth, "since they will be bound together day and night. I guess Sirius won't be changing into his animagus form either."
"No, I don't expect he will unless he plans on pulling Severus along behind him, and even Sirius wouldn't be that nasty."
"I'm sorry Remus, but I have to remind Harry that he sent my brother down a secret passageway and almost into the jaws of a werewolf."
"That was done in a fit of adolescent anger and without really thinking of the consequences. We all have things we regret doing, even me. Sirius was almost killed because of my stupidity and falling for Voldemort's plan. Going to the Ministry of Magic in my fifth year was just plain dumb. I have done other stupid things too, but now that I'm getting older, I am beginning to realize how reckless I really was. Besides, I'm sure Severus was not always the innocent victim all the time either. Your brother got in a few good hexes of his own on both Sirius and my father. All I want is for them to see how childish they are both acting and that it is time they both grew up!"
"You really do care for the both of them, don't you," Circe smiled placing a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Actually, I care about the three of them. They're my family,"
Harry smiled at Remus;
"I just want them to all be happy. We've all suffered a good deal from the evil of Voldemort. It's time we all got on with our lives. Petty differences belong in the past."
"Harry, I know..." Remus began, only to be interrupted by the startled voices of Sirius and Severus coming from the kitchen, along with the sardonic laughter of Tiberius Snape.
"Albus you can't do this to us! It is absolutely ludicrous!"
"Severus is right, how are we going to protect Harry, let along get anything done?" Sirius agreed indignantly.
Harry, Remus, and Circe all reentered the kitchen at that moment and were grinning at the two men. Dumbledore had bound them magically by the wrists, just as he had told Harry he would. The two men glared at her simultaneously, as she faced them.
"Now don't you both look at me like that! I am doing this for your own good. You will stay bound at the wrists until you both realize you have been behaving like children. I can't have the two of you squabbling all the time. I care about you both and want you to get along!"
"Potter we have been getting along. You are expecting miracles if you think we will ever be friends!"
"Because he is such a nasty git!" Sirius sputtered angrily.
"And he is a stupid idiot who never gives a thought to how others will feel!" Snape glared furiously, his dark eyes glittering dangerously.
"Fine, if that is how you both feel then I will have the Headmaster release you. Professor Dumbledore, could you arrange for me to go back to the Dursleys for a while until I can find somewhere to live? I would also like to know how to go about dissolving the Protectorship."
"Harry, you don't mean that?" Sirius asked sharply, a note of anxiety creeping into his voice.
"Yes I do. You and Severus are always fighting and he still can't get over his animosity towards both you and my father, even though he's been dead for almost seventeen years, and after his spirit accepted him as a friend."
"Child, what makes you say such a thing?"
"Potter, Albus is right. I have no reason to speak ill of your father."
"Then why do you still call me Potter as if it is some kind of a disease?" she demanded, voice shaking with anger, unshed tears forming in her eyes.
"Miss Harry, you can't go back to those mean Muggles. I love you..." Phaedra gasped anxiously, holding onto Circe. "Uncle Severus, you have to make her stay. Please say you're sorry to Miss Harry for calling her Potter."
"Harry," Snape started slowly, "I merely call you Potter out of habit. It is your surname, and after seven years of Hogwarts, it is understandable that I call you Potter."
"You seem to have no problem calling Draco Malfoy by his first name, only me!"
"She has you cornered, Snape," Sirius sneered gleefully.
"You see, you're provoking him again! This whole thing has just been a mistake."
"No Harry, it hasn't. We all have one thing in common," Sirius told her sternly, "and that is that we care for you."
"I'm sorry but I..."
"Don't interrupt me," Sirius argued, holding up his bound hand and dragging Severus' up with it. "I know you feel that Severus does not care for you as much as Remus and I do, but you're wrong. If he calls you Potter, it is because he is merely guarding his own feelings. I have seen him sit by your bedside and hold your hand talking to you while you were asleep or unconscious. You know he is your soul mate. He is just afraid to show his feelings. He was deeply hurt by Voldemort, we all were. Severus just does not want you to feel guilty should you choose someone other than him when you are ready to marry. So he is keeping his distance to protect you both."
"See, Miss Harry...I told you I heard him talking to Mummy about you," Phaedra looked up at her coyly.
"Harry, I meant what I said. I will even agree to keep our wrists bound if it will make you realize I am telling the truth. Don't go back to your aunt and uncle. You don't belong in their world."
"I agree with Bl...Er...Sirius," Severus stared at Harry, "you belong here with your family."
Harry looked to Dumbledore for help, and he nodded his agreement.
"All right, but you are to stay bound together for one week. If I don't see any changes in your attitudes at that time, I will dissolve the Protectorship. I cannot have the two of you starting your nonsense again. Draco Malfoy and I get along better than the two of you do."
"They do too," Remus agreed. "Now how about we set about our chores and get settled in before we have to go to dinner at the Burrow."
"Excellent idea," Tiberius Snape replied, "come along Albus, I learned a new ward while I was in Turkey last month. It was used to guard the tombs of the Sultans."
"Indeed, and what are the particulars of..." Dumbledore's voice trailed off as he and Tiberius exited out the back door.
"Come on Sev," Sirius grinned wickedly, "we have to make sure the inside is secure too."
"I'm coming, Starman," Snape smirked to annoy Sirius for calling him Sev, "and quit pulling on me," he grumbled as Sirius pulled him out of the kitchen.
"I will see to the luggage. Circe do you want your same room?"
"Yes, Remus, that will be fine. Harry do you mind sharing with Phaedra again? I know that we have two new rooms, but Albus and Uncle Tiberius enjoy each others company, and I know that Remus and Sirius like to share...Oh my..."
"This is going to get really interesting," Harry giggled, "I wonder if they realized that they will have to room together for at least a week?"
"They managed it last summer at Severus' London town home," Remus reminded the two women.
"Yes, but they weren't bound together. They will have to sleep together, bathe together, and find a way to get dressed and undressed," Harry laughed turning red. "I can just see the two of them yelling now."
"So can I..." Circe burst out laughing, unable to contain herself at the thought of her brother's face.
"Mummy, why are you and Miss Harry laughing?"
"Never mind, dear, we will explain later," Circe smiled at her daughter as Remus left the kitchen whistling a jaunty tune. "Now let's get started making those salads, before it gets too late."
Circe, Harry, and Phaedra spent the next hour making the salads. There were four in all, potato, pasta, tuna noodle, and a large tossed salad, which they had Phaedra prepare under their supervision. The little girl had a good time and was delighted, since the skills were some of those she would use to chop and mix while making simple potions.
Harry made her Aunt Petunia's potato salad and gave Circe a sample. The older witch loved it and asked Harry for the recipe.
"The salad is not really different than most recipes, but you need to use the gold potatoes, so I was happy to see those were the ones you purchased. The real secret is in the use of the lemon pepper. Otherwise, it is just salt and regular black pepper and mayonnaise. You also need to use one yellow onion and one red onion."
"Why, it is so simple. I thought you did something unusual, but now I see what you are talking about; Phaedra would you like a taste?"
"Mummy, you know I don't like potato salad."
"I don't usually either, Phaedra, but I'll bet you will like this one," Harry coaxed offering her a small fork full.
"If I don't like it can I spit it out? Mummy usually makes me swallow it."
"Yes, here is a napkin," Harry smiled as Circe arched her brow and Phaedra accepted the bite of potato salad.
"Umm...it's good Mummy! I like this one. Miss Harry will you teach Mummy how to make it?"
"I already told her, but we can make more later on in the week and she can practice and you can help."
"Can I add the spices?"
"Of course, dear," Circe nodded, "I know you like to practice for making potions. Now I think we should clean up and get ready to go out. I hear Sirius and Severus talking in the hall, and I thought that was the bell a few minutes ago."
"Can I go and see who it is Mummy?"
"No, you need to help clean up. Part of potion making is also having to clean up your work area."
"Oh, let her go, Circe. She needs to have a little fun and I can see she is just bursting with curiosity over who is paying us a visit."
"Very well, but you are spoiling her," Circe consented and Phaedra skipped from the room giving Harry a hug on the way out.
"Circe, I'm sorry for acting the way I did earlier. I know you worry about Severus, but he and Sirius both mean a lot to me. So does Remus."
"How do you feel about George Weasley?"
"Yes, how do you feel about George Weasley? I happen to know he thinks you are the prettiest girl in the entire district."
Harry spun around to see George leaning casually on the doorframe smiling, with Phaedra standing next to him. His twin brother Fred was standing behind him grinning."
"George," Harry chuckled, her cheeks red, "how nice to see you. I gather you and Fred brought my trunk along with Hedwig's cage?"
"We did, and you still didn't answer my question."
"In that case, I think George Weasley is funny and a lot of fun to be with," she said giving him a quick peck on the cheek. "What do you think, Fred?"
"I think he's one of the best looking blokes in the district. I only know of one fellow who is better looking."
"Oh, and who might that be?" George asked his brother.
"Me of course!" his twin joked, nudging him in the ribs.
"You two are daft," Harry shook her head smiling at their antics. "How is the new joke shop coming? Will you reopen in Diagon Alley again soon?"
"Next week, and we are already taking orders for our new line," George told her excitedly. "Would you like a piece of fudge?" he asked sweetly, taking the candy from his pocket.
"I would," Phaedra beamed reaching for the candy.
"Phaedra no!" Harry yelled startling the child. "I'm sorry, don't cry," she soothed going over to the little girl and taking the candy, "it's just that I am sure this candy is a joke candy and will do something to you."
"Is Miss Harry right Mr. Fred and George?"
"Yeah," Fred answered sheepishly, "it will make your face grow a hot pink beard with purple spots."
"That's funny, can I try it Mummy? I want to grow a funny beard."
"No you may not," Circe replied firmly, "we have no idea how long the spell will last."
"One hour," the twins responded in unison.
"That is if she eats the whole piece of fudge," Fred explained. "It really is quite safe."
"Please Mummy? I think it would be funny."
"No Phaedra, I do not want my little girl to have a beard, let alone one that is pink and purple."
"Why? It will make everyone laugh."
"Because I am your mother and I said NO!"
"Miss Harry, please tell my Mummy to let me grow a funny beard!"
"Phaedra, I love you but Circe is your Mum and you really should listen to her. Why do you want people to laugh at you anyway?"
"I want to make them happy."
"You already do. You are funny and sweet and we all love you. You do not need a beard to make us happy; you do that just by being you."
"I still want a beard. Headmaster Mr. Dumbledore has one."
"What do I have Little One?" Dumbledore asked coming in through the back door.
"The twins new joke item is a piece of fudge that makes you grow a colored beard for an hour. Phaedra wants to try it," Circe replied shaking her head in exasperation.
"I think you would look quite interesting with a colored beard. You should let her try it," Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled as he looked at Circe over his half moon spectacles.
"Goody, Headmaster Mr. Dumbledore says I can grow a beard like his!" Phaedra exclaimed snatching the fudge from George Weasley, eating it as she ran down the hall, Circe running after her.
"Oh my, I think we have a problem," Dumbledore mused.
"What did my Great-niece do now?" Tiberius Snape inquired as he came in behind Dumbledore to see Phaedra running out of the kitchen.
"I'm sorry Mr. Snape, she just grabbed the Fuzzy Fudge right out of my hand," George apologized. "It makes you grow a colorful beard."
"I see...and how long will Phaedra be looking as if she is in need of a shave?"
"It will fall off in an hour," George replied shifting uncomfortably under the stare of the elder Snape's ice blue eyes.
"It won't hurt her Mr. Snape. She will just have a hot pink beard with purple spots. If she were a boy it would be blue and orange," Fred informed him coming to his brother's rescue, unable to conceal his grin.
"Hmm...Blue and orange eh? Remind me to buy some for a few of the disreputable importers I know," Snape said throwing his head back with laughter.
The twins visibly relaxed as the elder wizards just shook their heads at their antics. They knew the twins joke shops were doing a splendid business and they were a great success. The two brothers' reputation was one of Hogwart's best stories.
Circe reentered the kitchen with a tearful Phaedra in tow. She was sporting a pink and purple beard.
"Well, I hope you are all happy, now Phaedra can't go to the barbecue," Circe fumed in annoyance.
"We're sorry, Miss Snape. It really was an accident. She grabbed the fudge before I could stop her," George answered meekly.
"Circe, I see no reason why Phaedra should not come with us," Dumbledore spoke soothingly.
"Albus, just look at her! Is there any way you can reverse this spell?"
"Probably, but I won't, and before you ask neither will Tiberius."
"What...why not? Surely you don't think this is funny?"
"Actually, Phaedra is just being a happy child. Her only real misbehavior was thinking you would allow her to eat the candy when I told you I saw nothing wrong with her having a beard. Circe, to coin a Muggle phrase, you need to loosen up," Dumbledore pursed his lips, but his blue eyes were sparkling with laughter.
"Mummy please can I go to the barbecue?"
"Circe, please let Phaedra come. I know she will have a good time. She was just having fun and acting like a normal six year old," Harry pleaded with the older witch.
""No Harry, she disobeyed me. I told her no and I meant it."
"Then I won't go either," Harry pouted leaving the kitchen before erupting with anger. Stomping up the stairs, she nearly knocked Sirius and Severus over.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Sirius asked grabbing at her elbow. He could hear Phaedra sobbing below in the kitchen.
"Ask his sister," she scowled pointing angrily at Severus. "Obviously Snape children are not allowed to act like normal kids. No wonder Severus is so screwed up!" Harry yelled over her shoulder storming the rest of the way upstairs. Reaching the attic bedroom she shared with Phaedra, she slammed the door, and flung herself down on the bed. A few minutes later she heard the door open quietly and Phaedra's timid voice.
"Miss Harry are you mad at me?" she asked cautiously from the door.
"Oh, no baby," Harry answered fondly, motioning the little girl over to sit on the bed. "You just wanted to have some fun. It is not your fault your Mum is upset. She is just afraid people will make fun of you. Either that or some Muggle will see you and ask questions."
"Mummy is just a worry wart. She hasn't let me do anything fun since we came home from Hogwarts last Christmas."
"I see..." Harry answered thoughtfully. She realized that Circe was being over protective after both she and Phaedra were kidnapped and held captive for Lord Voldemort six months earlier. "I think your Mum loves you very much. I think you should go down and tell her you are sorry again and that you love her. She is afraid after what happened to us with the bad wizard and wants to keep you safe."
"Okay, but I still want to go."
"I know," Harry hugged the little girl. "You wouldn't have any more of that fudge, would you?"
"Mr. Fred gave me another piece," Phaedra replied conspiratorially taking a piece from her pocket and giving it to Harry.
"Good, we can make a fashion statement together," she grinned popping the candy into her mouth. A few seconds later, the hot pink and purple beard began to grown all over her chin. "You should have warned me that it itches."
"Miss Harry," Phaedra giggled, "you look so funny."
"So do you. I wonder how Dumbledore and your Uncle Severus can stand these things," Harry stated thinking about the short beard and mustache Snape had grown at her request.
"Facial hair is not uncomfortable once you become accustomed to it," Severus said from the door.
"Yeah, but I'll bet no one has ever seen it so colorful as this!" Sirius added popping his head in from the other side of the door jam. He too had grown one of the colorful beards, but his was blue and orange, just as the twins had predicted.
"Mr. Sirius, you have a beard like us!" Phaedra exclaimed with delight.
"I'm not the only one," he grinned flinging the door wide open and coming into the room with Severus. The twins, Tiberius, and Circe had also grown the colorful beards, as well as Remus who had shaved off his goatee at Harry's request.
"Does this mean that we are dining with the Weasleys tonight?" Harry questioned tentatively.
"Yes, Child, we will all be going. I am only sorry I already have a beard. Yours are much more interesting," Dumbledore beamed, and everyone laughed as Phaedra ran over to hug her mother. Snape merely rolled his eyes at the Headmaster as Dumbledore offered him a lemon drop.
"Then someone get a camera," Harry laughed, "I think we should remember this fashion statement."
They all went back downstairs and Remus found the camera. They took several snap shots, and then proceeded to leave for the Burrow. Upon their arrival, Mrs. Weasley was aghast at her son's having brought their new joke candy, but in the end she just shook her head and threw up her hands. She was all too familiar with the antics of her two sons, which became even more fun when Ron, Ginny, and their other brothers joined in the fun before slipping their parents some of the fudge too.