It's been a while. My apologies. I've been busy with real life, and finally managed to graduate. I'm working now, so updates may take a while. I'd like to thank all those who've been bugging me through reviews and PMs to update my fics - I can honestly say that if you hadn't done that, you wouldn't be reading this! Keep the guilt trips coming...

Apologies, too, for not updating the fic(s) you expected me to update.

Tuebingen, Germany

Lily watched the river Neckar flow past. She was dressed in Muggle attire - pink shirt, black pants, dorky sunglasses, and stupid straw hat - with the usual glamour to hide the bulge that was her wings folded up. She was sipping a glass of red wine (so onlookers thought) in one of the many interior tables. Thanks to a Notice Me Not charm, the Muggle waiters never passed by her table to give her hints to leave. She idly wondered if that qualified as Muggle baiting. Sure, every witch and wizard in Europe did it, but that didn't mean it wasn't banned in some books somewhere.

Her notebook chimed and she opened it to read Hermione Jane's latest message. It was a long one. The girl was writing as herself, and not as her new alter ego. Hermione had charmed it so it looked like one of her Arithmancy notebooks if anyone else looked at it.

Lily looked at her watch. Gunnar and Elsa were, as was traditional for German academics (as opposed to every other German) late. This was presumably because Gunnar was refusing to ask for directions or because Elsa was asking too many people for directions as a pretext to puncturing their necks for a between-meals snack. Given the time of day, the former was more likely.

She sighed, took another sip of bull (blood), and began reading.

Dear Lily,

I still can't believe the notebooks work over this distance! I guess that magical distance and geographical distance don't always match. That's what Jacobson says in his monograph on Magical Metric Spaces that Professor Vector gave Padma and I to read last year. Have you read it? We should do some experiments to figure out the time delay between these notebooks though; I'd like to know if it's faster than email... curses, I'm digressing already.

Britain is in deep doodoo - and sinking further. Terry says once we hit rock bottom, Fudge is going to start digging. We're wondering if Fudge is being McGonagalled - impersonated by a Death Eater in disguise. Do you know if that's possible?

Hogwarts reopened yesterday. It was ugly. The Ministry arrested everyone at Platform 9 3/4 who had the snake mark. That's the funny squiggle that's been appearing on the cheeks of mostly powerful neutral Slytherin students like Harry and Blaise. The Aurors kept Blaise and the rest for 'questioning'.

Some Aurors also came to Hogwarts to take Harry (and some of the other Slytherins who were here for the holiday) away for questioning. Sirius Black - Harry told me about him - was one of them. He tried to control his coworkers but it didnt help much. There was still a loud argument in the middle of the Great Hall against the Aurors with Harry and John Barnes the most vocal. I don't know how Sirius managed to calm Harry down but he did.

Harry's not back yet. And even when he gets back, I can't see him at once. It would be awkward if a new professor suddenly wanted to speak to him. I'm very torn, and this whole charade is horrible already. How am I supposed to keep this up for another few months? Add to that all the people speaking in the corridors about how Harry's Mudblood girlfriend was too chicken to stay in school. I know, I shouldn't listen to what people say. I'm usually good at ignoring it. But it still hurts, you know?

Are people on the continent paying any attention to what's happening here? It reminds me of the stories that my one of my primary school teachers used to tell me about her father having to flee Nazi Germany because he was Sinti. Are the European Ministries going to be like Chamberlain or Churchill?

I've been keeping up correspondence with my parents through Noleen in New Zealand. They have given me permission to write to Harry. I suppose that's progress. Mum's doing temp work as a dentist there while Dad's decided to muck around for a bit with his brother. They're both attending night classes in seSotho. They wanted to learn isiXhosa first, since Nelson Mandela speaks that, but Dad had trouble making the click sounds.


The Slytherin students were moved down the corridors of the Ministry in single file, surrounded on all sides by Aurors. Harry was second from the front, after Millicent Bullstrode. All the students were pictures of Pureblood stoicism, though their eyes scanned their surroundings quickly and efficiently. None seemed inclined to escape, and it was clear that many of the watching passers-by thought the number of guards for a bunch of schoolchildren was rather ludicrous. Sirius certainly thought so.

As they passed by various interrogation rooms, the Slytherins were individually removed from the pack and guided in for 'personal questioning'. Some of the students' emotionless masks froze at this stage, as their minds jumped to the worst possible conclusions.

Harry's turn came soon, as he was politely shoved into a room by a burly Auror. As he entered, he could vaguely hear another Auror making aspersions to Millicent's femininity as she was herded into another room.

Another pair of Aurors followed them in. They were both women, and Harry was surprised to recognize one of them. Then again, Nymphadora Tonks was rather recognizable, which was rather ironic for a Metamorphmagus. Being Sirius' cousin, she had made it over to Potter Manor a few times. While they had never really talked --- Harry had long learnt that most visitors to Potter Manor preferred not to talk to him and was happy to reciprocate by being sullen and invisible --- he knew she had a poor opinion of Paul. Which meant she couldn't be all that bad; at least better than Sirius.

Tonks inclined her head slightly at him before quickly glancing at her two companions. Harry got the message - she would try to prevent things from getting out of hand, but she couldn't reveal her hand.

The burly man shoved him into a chair. Harry sat on it after genteelly dusting it off with the inner flap of his school robes.

"Name," intoned the older witch, who was about his mother's age. Presumably she was in charge of the interrogation.

"Harold James Potter the Sixth," said Harry. This was normally when he grimaced about his name, but he could only see it being useful here. He might be the black sheep of the family, but he was still a member of it.

Older Witch and Burly Man looked at him again. They were going to ask him if he was related to Paul, he knew it...

"The eagle?" she asked. "You're the Hogwarts Champion, right?"

Harry barely managed to stop his jaw dropping, and muttered something about being second champion after Cedric. Tonks gave him an approving nod.

"Why did you join Serpentinus?" asked Burly Man suddenly.

"I'm not a member of Serpentinus," replied Harry.

"Of course you are," argued Burly. "You have their mark on your cheek, therefore you are a member."

"But I'm not a member!"

"Stop playing games. Your membership is not at issue. We want to know why, when, and how you joined."

Harry opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. He decided to do what Sirius had whispered in his ear at Hogwarts, a piece of advice he had managed to surreptitiously slip to his housemates.

"You have held me here like a criminal and confiscated my wand. As a member of a Pureblood Clan, I demand my right to legal counsel."

There. He'd said it... and could see a relieved look flash across his godfather's cousin's face. He'd been curious as to what their approach would be without it, and he knew that now. Not that he'd expected much else.

Burly glared at him and spat, moving his head at the last moment so that Harry's face remained dry. Older Witch gave Harry a mild glare, though it was clear that she had expected as much.

"I also extend the protection of Clan Potter to Nicola Edgeworthy, Millicent Bulstrode, Anastasia McKenna. Ian Rush, John Barnes, and any of my other housemates you have here for questioning. I demand that their interrogation cease this instant and not continue till they have had the benefit of legal counsel as well."

"You can't do that!" yelled Burly. Harry could see the wheels turning in the heads of the two witches. Knowledge of legal issues were part of Auror training, though the depth of knowledge required and recalled varied widely.

Incidentally, extending the protection of his Slytherophobic family was not included in his godfather's advice.

"Yes, I can," replied Harry with more confidence than he felt. "I am the elder of the Potter twins, and can act as proxy on matters of Class II importance or below - offering protection is Class III and therefore included - until as such time as my father cancels my action. But until he does so, they are under my protection. So if you don't want us to drag you before the Wizengamot faster than you can say Pumpkin Juice, I suggest you tell your colleagues to halt their questioning. Now."

Older Witch looked at him with a calculating glance, as one might give a poker player who has just upped the ante but probably has at most a pair, and eventually nodded. She indicated that Burly and Tonks should exit the room and halt the other interrogations.

"Impressive, Mr Potter," she said when her colleagues had left.

Harry said nothing, waiting for her to spill some information, any information. She waited for him to respond, before giving up and lighting up a cigarette. Harry wasn't surprised; most Magicals under forty who smoked prefer to light up a cigarette than a cigar.

He knew his father would repudiate the Potter protection the moment he heard of it, but the important thing was that he had bought time for the others to think. Of course, they might owe him a favour, too. As a Slytherin, he was happy to claim that, though he would have done it anyway, at least for Bulstrode. Not that she needed it, with her family, nor did Barnes. But he wasn't sure how well they knew their rights as Purebloods.

The situation was different for those half-bloods who did not have ancient families, Harry reflected. Hermione would have been horrified, and with good reason. If they were accused of a crime, they had rights to legal counsel, but if they were merely kept without trial... how long could they be kept without trial for? Harry couldn't remember. Ninety days, he thought, if the government wasn't in a State of Emergency.

He hoped Blaise's 'interview' was long over with...

At that moment, Blaise was busy thinking about what had just happened. He had gone through a similar interrogation procedure, but had not suffered physically. Some of the accusations though... they would have been laughable if they hadn't been so serious.

He glanced at his ring again. He was anxious to see if had taken some good photographs, but didn't dare check while he was still on Ministry grounds.

He was with most of the other students who had been arrested with him. Right now they were in a group sitting on stone benches in the Ministry courtyard, waiting for Professors Flitwick and Sinistra.

Clearly, this was just a warning sign from the Ministry. Something to mess with their minds. What Blaise couldn't understand was why most of those he would have pegged to join Serpentinus - Malfoy, Nott, Parkinson, Casselthwaite -had not been picked up as well. Or maybe they had already returned to Hogwarts. He knew some students had.

The Slytherin students had mixed feelings about the Hogwarts response. On the positive side - it was quick. However, Professor McGonagall had not come herself - instead, she had sent the Deputy Headmaster and the new Head of Slytherin to the Ministry as soon as she had heard about the events at the train station. Someone had told her of it even before the train had left Platform 9 3/4, and the two professors had got to the Ministry within twenty minutes of the students arriving there.

Professor Sinistra had been the new Head of Slytherin ever since Professor Snape had been killed by, as was commonly suspected, the Dark Lord. The students did not know that she was only a temporary appointment. She was, by her own admission, not the best person to lead the House, as she was an academic by nature. On the other hand, she was from an old Pureblood family and was acquainted with the political shenanigans that that entailed, even if she never exercised any influence she might have.

The Slytherins missed Snape. Especially in a situation like this.

And while Flitwick had probably taught every single Auror here under fifty and was well respected, it was still not a good sign that McGonagall had not come herself. It would have sent a far more positive message if she had done so.

"Hey!" said a fourth year student sitting near him. "Isn't that Bulstrode?"

Blaise looked up, surprised. Millicent? Here? Wasn't she at Hogwarts? He stood up, brushed himself out of habit, and began walking towards her. Behind him, he could hear a few of his curious housemates following him at a respectable distance. Of those present, he was perceived as being closest to the assertive (by Pureblood standards) and muscular girl.

"Zabini," she said. "They got you too?"

He quickly explained what had happened at the train station. His voice was high enough for those around them to hear. She listened carefully, as she always did, before nodding at the end of his explanation.

"I heard similar stuff at the Feast, when hardly anyone turned up from Slytherin."

"Malfoy?" asked Blaise.

"Hardly anyone who mattered," she clarified. "Malfoy was present, along with his gang. No Ministry questioning for them, oh no."

Blaise cocked his head. Something was going on, and he couldn't figure it out. What was clear was that Millicent had the Serpentinus mark as well, as it was well displayed on her cheek.

"Potter was taken in too," she added. "And McKenna, Edgeworthy, Barnes. Think that's it. No, Rush too." She scratched her head, trying to remember who else had stayed behind at Hogwarts over the holidays and had been in the interrogation queue with her.

"Harry? They got him too?" asked Blaise, eyes wide.

"Still being interrogated. He'll probably play the Old Pureblood Family card like I did."

Blaise looked behind her, trying to see if Harry would suddenly turn up.

He didn't. However, Professor Sinistra did. There was an immediate shuffling behind them as the Slytherin students stood up, adjusted ties and brushed down skirts and stood to look at her. The look on her face was tired but determined. She did a double take when she saw Millicent, and marched up to her at once.

"Bulstrode!" she questioned at once, her face full of concern and not a little confusion. "What are you doing here? No, never mind that, are you well?" She didn't ask if Millicent had the mark, since that was obvious.

Millicent nodded, and quickly related what she had already told Blaise. Sinistra nodded, and was already taking out a two metre length of rope by the time the girl finished.

"I see," said the teacher. "It explains a lot of what I heard while I was in there. I suspect Professor Flitwick is with the others now. Now, this is a Portkey back to Hogwarts. Report back to the Headmistress immediately. She is very anxious to know precisely what is going on."

"Professor," asked another Slytherin who had approached them. "What is going on?" The others pressed forward, hoping to hear an answer.

Sinistra sighed. "I'd tell you if I knew. I don't know. In fact, quite a few Aurors don't seem entirely comfortable with the situation themselves. Now, get back to Hogwarts and report to the Headmistress. I've got to go back and see what's happening with the others."

The five wizards and witches sat discontentedly in the Muggle pub. Silencing charms were fully operational.

Present were Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Sirius Black, Lucy Ferreira, and Susan McDeth

"I'm resigning," said Ferreira. "My brother works in Jamaica. He emigrated there two years ago and says it's pretty cool. Other than the weather - that's hot and disgusting."

Sirius raised an eyebrow. "You're not kidding."

"It's getting close." Ferreira waved her arms expansively, causing Susan McDeth to duck reflexively. Susan was holding a full cup of wine at the time and it was a miracle that nothing was spilt. "The Ministry used to be something we could be proud of. Now it's all in an uproar because of these bloody Serpentinus bastards and their bloodsuckers."

"Yesterday I had to help evict a family because their sole breadwinner was accused by the neighbours of being a Serpentinus member. The guy's a bookkeeper, for Merlin's sake. Nothing on him at all."

"I went to Gringotts yesterday. The Goblins always treat me badly, but this was - I've never been so humiliated in my life. They're expecting to be the next targets of our beloved Ministry."

"Jen and Fatso resigned this morning. They're going to Norway."

"Even Diggory's getting all wuffy."


"That's Hufflepuff slang for frustrated."

"You were in Hufflepuff?"

"Yeah, the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Gryffindor but I wanted to be with my sisters. Never regretted it."

"I hear Bones has started drinking again."

"What took her so long?"

"Did you hear what Dawlish and Stuffsmith were saying to the Zabini kid when they brought him in? They were accusing him of being a Serpentinus member who killed his mother as an inside job!"


"Those bastards are really getting out of control." It was unclear who precisely the bastards were, but no-one asked for clarification.

"Is he a member?"

"He's got the mark."

"And what the fuck does that mean, exactly? They all claimed it appeared out of bloody nowhere!"

It was a good question, and no-one tried to answer it.

A/N: In the previous chapter. Harry, Remus, et al figured out the most likely scenario with the marks of Serpentinus. The characters here, Sinistra included, haven't had a chance to hear it yet.

Anyone got some good Dark!Hermione fic recs? Harmony or not.

I still haven't had any urge to read the DH (Dumb Hermione) book, but you know my opinion on that evil Heronista fic. Which is why Hermione is still called Jane here. In my completely opinionated opinion, Hermione Jane refers to the character we had up to and including OOTP, and Hermione Jean is the dumbed down version Rowling replaced her with afterwards.

I've been having a good laugh about Jo's Grand Pronouncements about Neville/Hannah and Albus being gay. Who honestly cares what she has to say any more, after she proved to be so delusional? Yay, we got a gay character. Boo, because she didn't have the guts to do it in the books itself. And boo, because it wasn't my favourite gay couple (Sirius/Remus).