A/N: The army's been keeping me pretty busy past month or so, but I've been writing bits and pieces of this chapter when I've had the opportunityI'm sorry I left the cliffhanger for so long, especially when I started getting reviews wondering who it was. I'm not very happy with the end part of this chapter. I feel that Hermione jumps around too many different subjects too quickly, but I think in the same manner, and often find myself on a very different subject than what I started thinking about.

I know more of what's coming in this story, but I'm not exactly sure what's coming next. I'll probably be trying a couple different ideas for the next chapter, so don't expect an update any time soon, unless I'm lucky enough to hit on an idea and see that it works pretty well. More notes about the chapter and reviews down at the bottom.

Royal Flush Chapter 14

"Well, well, well, look who's finally back," a familiar voice drawled. For a second, Harry was only able to focus on the end of the wand, pointed straight between his eyes. The tip was much too close for him to be able to dodge a spell. He barely noticed the wispy silver blond hairs connected to the owner of the wand. Then the wand was moved away from his head as the owner grabbed him in a fierce hug.

"Harry!" Tonks cried. "I almost didn't believe it when Ron called us. Remus!" Tonks turned and called up the stairs. "He's here!"

Harry's heart started beating again.

"I didn't expect anyone to be at the house right now," he said, returning her hug.

"You haven't been paying any attention to the calendar anymore, then." Harry turned to the source of the voice at the top of the stairs. Remus Lupin stood on shaky legs, holding the handrail for support as he slowly made his way down the stairs.

"That's right," Hermione realized. "Last night was the full moon."

"And the spot Harry built for me in the basement is still one of the most secure places for me during my transformations." Despite his frail appearance, the hug Remus gave Harry was enthusiastic. "Without a qualified Potions Master to brew up wolfsbane on a regular basis, I try to make sure lycanthropes without access to safer havens have first dibs on the supplies we do get."

"Why isn't Slughorn brewing the wolfsbane anymore?"

"He is, Harry." Remus sighed. "The problem is that lycanthropy infections are spreading faster than they used to. Without a master to keep him in check, Fenrir is infecting more innocents than we can usually detect. Most families keep silent about his attacks, wanting to try to hide the problem. And with the prejudice in the wizarding world, I really can't blame them." He shuffled to the couch. "But when their precautions fail, and a werewolf gets out during the full moon, they infect another person, and it becomes a big chain reaction."

"That's part of the reason the work I'm attempting on the regulations are so important," Hermione explained. "If we can get rid of the narrow minded viewpoints about werewolves, people might not be so scared to admit to the problem and get the care they need."

"What about some intermediate measures until that happens?" Harry asked. "Like, say, if I were able to build holding cells to keep the werewolf comfortable during the night of the full moon, and guarantee that they won't harm anyone, or be harmed themselves, could we get more sufferers to turn themselves in?"

"Hmm… well, with the great Harry Potter an advocate for the lycanthropes, I think some might risk the social stigma that comes with being 'discovered.' The main problem right now is still the fact that werewolves are still not allowed to hold down any but the most dangerous jobs. McGonagall even tried to re-hire me once before Ron took over, but was overturned by the Board of Directors."

Harry's face turned darker the more Remus and Hermione took turns explaining the werewolf plight.

"It's not all bad," Hermione hastily tried to explain. "Ever since Remus was outed, he's been working at changing society's notions of werewolves. Not a single person from his classes at Hogwarts says anything bad about him. Neville goes out of his way to hire werewolves to work in his greenhouses, giving them special time off during the full moon. Luna always pays for freelance work done by lycanthropes for the Quibbler, something the Daily Prophet refuses to do. The unofficial DA (Harry raised his eyebrows at that) all do their best to give a voice to the werewolves, to help them out. The problem is, we're one generation trying to change a whole society."

Harry had calmed down a little as she talked, but now looked curious. "What exactly is the unofficial DA?"

"Well, it's um…" Hermione stammered. "I guess it's just a bunch of us who get together once in awhile to keep in touch. People who remember the real you, not the stories the Daily Prophet's been trying to tell. We also brush up on our Defense skills, just in case, you know, another Dark Lord tries to rise."

"According to the Prophet, aren't I supposed to be the next Dark Lord?" Harry asked with a grin. Hermione nodded. "Well, I hope the rest of the DA doesn't use the same tactics you've been using on me."

"Why?" Hermione asked. "Did Voldemort turn evil from taking too many cold showers?"

"I don't know," Harry said with a grin. "But do you really want to take the chance?"

"Harry," Remus said carefully, trying not to break into laughter. "Is there something you forgot to tell us?" Tonks had a hand in front of her mouth, her body shaking as she suppressed her giggles.

"You mean that Hermione is a tease?" Harry asked innocently. "OW!" Hermione had smacked him in the back of the head, while trying not to laugh herself. "Okay, the truth is – "

Harry was interrupted as he suddenly went flying forward, impacted from behind by a flying object.

"Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby's familiar voice cut through the air. "Dobby was not knowing that Harry Potter, sir, would be coming today, or Dobby would never have been leaving the house. Oh, Bad Dobby!"

Harry felt the weight leave his back as Dobby ran over to the coffee table and started beating his head against one of the legs.

"Oh, Dobby is leaving the house all dirty, and Harry Potter, sir, is standing around, and no food is prepared for Harry Potter, sir, and his guests. Dobby is a bad house elf!" Dobby wailed the last part, and was about to crack his head against the leg when he felt himself lifted off the floor.

"Dobby," Harry said. "What's the first rule I gave you about working in this house."

"Dobby is not to be punishing himself no matter what," the house elf said in a small voice.

"Right. But I guess since I've been gone for nine years, you don't have to obey my rules anymore?"

Dobby gasped. "Oh, no, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby would never break the rules!" Dobby gave another gasp as he realized that he just had broken the rules. "Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby will iron his hands tonight!" Dobby looked pleased at the prospect.

Harry shot him down, however. "No, Dobby. If you really need punishment, I'll set the forfeit." Hermione looked angry at those last words, but Dobby looked horrified.

"Oh, no, Harry Potter, sir. Not again. Dobby hates that punishment. Dobby would rather iron his hands than that."

"Harry Potter! Just what are you proposing that has poor Dobby so frightened." Harry decided he had better clarify before Hermione drew her wand.

"That's right, Dobby. You're not allowed to clean anything, or do any other housework, for one whole day." Dobby gave a pitiful whine at the pronouncement.

"Is Harry Potter, sir, sure Dobby can not just iron his fingers?" Dobby seemed hopeful that Harry would demote the sentence, but he firmly shook his head, trying to hide the small smile.

"I'm sure, Dobby. Now," he said, carrying the house elf to a lazy chair. "You have to stay there and rest while I get to cook supper."

As soon as his back was turned, Dobby surreptitiously brushed some dirt off the arms of the chair, hoping that wasn't too rebellious. Hermione followed Harry into the kitchen to find him sitting at the long table, laughing silently.

"That's punishment?" She asked dubiously.

"For a house elf? Sure," Harry answered.

"So, all those times during our last year… whenever we were staying here, and Dobby was sitting in a chair or reading a book, you were punishing him for something?"

"I had to, Hermione!" She didn't look very convinced… "There were times he came up to me, asking for a punishment for something or other. At first I just told him not to punish himself, or that he hadn't done anything wrong. But he had it so set into his head that he needed to pay for something he did, that he would punish himself anyways. I got tired of seeing bandages around his fingers or head, so I figured something that wouldn't get him hurt. And besides, I'd hoped that tricking him to read some books would help him out in life."

"Well, I don't know," she said. "It still seems… I don't know, wrong."

"'Mione, he was trying to punish himself for punishing himself when he's not supposed to be punishing himself, especially when he's only punishing himself for punishing himself."

"Now, I think you're just trying to confuse me." But there was a small smile on her face as she accepted Harry's mollification.

"Good," he said. "That means you get to help me with supper. You know, since we don't have a house elf to take care of it."

"You keep making jokes, and I'll revoke your membership with SPEW."

Harry stopped and turned around, a look of astonishment on his face. "You, you actually said 'spew.' You didn't spell it out! You used to get so mad when Ron or I would just say it."

"Well," she said defensively. "I can admit to being a little 'unfortunate' in my acronyms. I'd rather laugh at it instead of cringing."

"At least you didn't come up with the North American Magical Bureau of Legal Authority."

"You never did tell me what was so funny about that."

"There's a reason for that," Harry replied. "I'd rather you keep your innocence."

"My innocence?" Hermione was shocked. "What could be worse than the year we spent on the run fighting Voldemort and his Death Eaters? Than watching Lucius die?"

Harry snorted. "Knowing the full meaning of NAMBLA."

Hermione woke the next morning to the smell of her breakfast reaching her nose from the nightstand by the bed. The empty bed. Harry, Remus, Tonks and Hermione had stayed up last night after dinner. Harry was starting to get tired of repeating his story. He had made the sarcastic comment that he should just take an ad out in the Prophet so people would know what happened. Remus had proposed the serious idea that he give Luna an interview for the Quibbler. That way, Harry could still be talking to his friends, but also letting his story out.

Despite his justifiable distrust of the press, the idea of talking to Luna had merit, so he had thought it over for awhile, as the other three continued the discussion. Afterwards, Hermione suddenly felt exhausted, having changed a large number of time zones once again, this time instantaneously. She didn't have any chance to prevent the jet lag. Harry was just as tired, and by the time they got into bed, they barely had enough energy to take their clothes off.

Yet Harry was already out of bed by the time she woke up, and she knew she almost never slept more than 7 hours at a time. Dobby had broken his restrictions and somehow found clothes for the both of them to wear. She wouldn't have been surprised to learn that he had been to her flat. She had once given him permission to visit any time he wanted (i.e. if he heard something about Harry before she did). She just hoped, that if he had disobeyed Harry, he hadn't punished himself too harshly.

She had just finished dressing and was about to eat when Harry walked in with his own plate of food. Well, "food" might be a loose definition of what he had on his plate. Harry had a towering stack of pancakes that looked as if they were designed by the same architect that was responsible for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She figured that the syrup was the glue holding the stack together; after all, there was enough syrup to fill two bottles, it seemed. The way Harry carelessly handled the plate, she was surprised that it hadn't fallen over.

He set the plate down on the nightstand, and pulled over a chair. He seemed to discern exactly what she was thinking by looking at her slightly nauseous expression and gave a wide grin.

"Travel makes me hungry."

"So you decide to assault your stomach in retaliation?"

"My stomach views these pancakes as liberators," he said, smugly. Hermione just groaned. She, of course, had been paying attention to current events in the muggle world the past couple of years. But she was surprised to find that Harry had been doing the same, enough to make a joke of it. It was probably better to change the subject.

"You didn't get much sleep last night. You were out of bed before I was even awake enough to notice."

"I got about two hours. About as much as I usually do, maybe a bit more." Harry didn't seem to realize that he had said something important. Hermione stared at her boyfriend, her mind trying to work out this new bit of data she uncovered.

It was common knowledge in the wizard world that the less sleep you needed, the more powerful a wizard you were. It was rumored that Dumbledore slept less than fifteen minutes a night near the very end of his life. Voldemort's supporters used to claim that he never slept, but many believe that he needed at least as much as Dumbledore. Most normal wizards needed at least five hours a night. A sharp curve between normal and powerful. Harry, however, was somewhere in between "normal" and "powerful." He needed much less sleep than the ordinary wizard, but still more than the truly powerful.

He was still young, though. Hermione was pretty sure that now, back in the wizarding world, using magic an a higher basis, he would grow more powerful. She was pretty sure there wasn't another wizard in the world that needed as little sleep as he did. She wondered how little he would need when he fully came into his power.

But Harry didn't know all this. And he would probably be upset at yet another difference between him and his community. It didn't matter that he would never be the same as the rest of the magical folk. He wanted to act normal and have people treat him the same way, not worship or crucify him as they spontaneously decided to. To tell the truth, she was beginning to wonder if she had done the right thing in finding him.

He had seemed happy in Las Vegas, or at least content. Now, he's been dragged into all her problems, and she realized that she'd been wondering how he was going to fix them, when she should have been wondering if he should be worrying about any of them at all! Was it really his responsibility to ensure that werewolves were treated as normal members of society? Wasn't that society's responsibility? Just because it fails doesn't mean that Harry, of all people, should be the one to shoulder the burden. Just because she could do almost nothing about how society treats half-bloods like her doesn't mean that Harry should take up that crusade as well. And yet, the only times something seems to change in the magical world is when a strong wizard or witch defied traditionalists and forced their will on the community.

Wizards are sheep, she decided. So few of them have a dominant personality, that the entire populace will blindly follow the will of a confidant wizard. It explains why so many chose to follow Voldemort during the war, why Harry had such a hard time leading any sort of resistance. For all his excellent ability to lead, he had very little desire. He believed more in personal freedoms than rules and regulations. He could fix the problems plaguing the wizarding community, but it would demolish his normal life. Every minute of every day, he would be in the spotlight, expected to make decisions that affect thousands of people. He wouldn't care that any wrong decision would be quickly forgotten in the people's desperate desire for a shepherd, it would plague him constantly. Hermione wondered if she would have to help him out during a run for Minister of Magic, or help him run away again.

What had the wizarding world done recently to deserve their allegiance? Despite all her hard work, she was still treated as a secretary or worse by most wizards outside her office. She was essentially an outcast from society for the simple reason that she didn't want to have kids, at least not yet. A decision that seems so minor, and would be in a muggle perspective, yet it destroyed her relationship with Ron. Did the wizarding world even deserve to be saved? And if so, from whom? There was no dark lord attempting to cause chaos, no evil that needed vanquishing. The society needed saving from itself. Harry and his friends had done an incomplete job when they destroyed Voldemort, but they weren't ready to finish the job, Hermione had to admit to herself.

Now, though? Do we have a responsibility to the world we grew up in, if none of the people in charge will listen? Would it be better, she wondered, if she and Harry just went back to Vegas? There might come a time when the witches and wizards would be ready to listen and reform. But leaving now would mean abandoning all their friends to a dying social construct. It would be impossible to move everyone. Hermione only spent a couple of days in Vegas, and she had been feeling edgy by the time they left. The electric fields that "itch" anyone with magical potential would be too uncomfortable.

"The community in California?"

"What?" Harry asked. Hermione realized that she had said the last sentence out loud. Harry looked confused, not being a part of her thought process. She wasn't ready to divulge all her concerns just yet, but she didn't want Harry launching a crusade neither of them felt was worth it. He would do it, she knew, simply if he thought that it would benefit his friends, no matter how little he liked the idea. She would have to discuss it with him sooner or later.

"My mind was just wandering," she replied. "I was trying to think of nice vacation spots, since my last got cut a little short."

Harry just looked at her. She wasn't telling the truth, for some reason. That he knew. But he decided he didn't want to push the issue just now. She should have the privacy of her thoughts, at least.

The two of them finished breakfast in silence, just happy to be together for now.

A/N: First off, I'm not exactly sure about werewolf transformations. I believe that in the Harry Potter world, that it only happens on the full moon. But I remember the Buffy series where it happens the night before and after also, and I was too lazy to double check to see if follows the same rules. That's why I have the line about the four sitting up and talking late at night the day after the full moon.

I've been excited about using Dobby for a few chapters now, especially Harry's special brand of punishment. For some reason, all fanfic authors I've read (and I'm including me in this when I read over this chapter) have a hard time writing Dobby's dialogue. It always seems like they're trying to hard to make Dobby talk the way JKR does, or they don't try enough. I hope I managed to keep him to a close approximation to the original character.

Jay-F: I hate to tell you this, but I just got addicted to World of Warcraft in the past few weeks. My friends at work kept talking about it, and I finally decided I would try out the free fourteen days. I had my subscription set up before the first week was out. The appearing wand is relevant; but still in the background for now. Not many people noticed that it might be a big deal (or at least, they never said anything in the reviews).

Crazy Teddy: Your reviews are great. They make me laugh and think seriously at the same time. I hope I've managed to convince you that Harry has a better spell repetoire than a normal 4th year, even if he hasn't used much magic in this story. And just remember, Harry isn't a hero in America. Voldemort was primarily an English problem, not a world wide problem. At least, that's the vibe I get from reading JKR's books. So defeating him wouldn't exactly endear him to the Americans. Draco was able to go free simply because the American community wasn't exactly thrilled about trying to prosecute a member of an old, rich wizard family based mainly on he-said/she-said evidence. Yes, they have the spell signatures, but for the most part, it was easier to release him back to the British and not worry about it. I'm guessing that the American wizards aren't much more progressive than the English wizards.

Fanfic Guardian: My apologies for the (lack of) length, and the long update times. When I was in Iraq, I wrote out almost 10 chapters before I was able to type out and post any of them online. Now, I'm typing everything, and I have a lot more work to do back in the States.

If anyone is interested, I just found an original work of fiction today at mutales. that I've really enjoyed reading. I have her story on my favorites and look forward to her updates, which I might add, are posted a lot more often than mine.