3SM132

Disclaimer – Not mine, just going for a joyride with JKR's Potterverse.

Chapter 132

Percy blearily attempted to read the Daily Prophet that Jennifer had saved for him. It had a picture of him … above the fold he noted with a happy smile. He had longed to be recognized for something heroic since he was a child and had heard his parents proudly talking about some escapade that Bill and Charlie had been up to at school in Hogwarts. Percy was still waiting to attend, he recalled, so he must have been about ten.

Bill had tried to perform a prank with a potion he had found in a repair book and had modified (he had hoped), A prank not on just a few select enemies, but on the school in general. Bill had whipped up a 'potion' that was supposed to stick to student's shoes, making them move like they were walking through deep mud. They had thought that would be hilarious.

Bill had been trying to apply it to the grand staircase, where the students would step on the potion and get it onto their shoes, when he had been caught by Professor Snape. The entire can had slopped down onto the stair-step that Bill was working on and sank into the marble stone. This became the infamous 'trap' stair that student's feet and sometimes entire leg would sink into.

By the time they realized that they needed a sample to reverse the potion, the potion was entirely absorbed into the marble and Severus had already banished the cauldron holding the remainder of it. Since Bill had not really paid attention to exactly how he had made the potion, Severus could not whip up a counter.

Molly and Arthur had been suitably 'horrified', but once at home they had chuckled and looked very approving about their 'brave lads' sneaking around to do pranks in the grand Gryffindor tradition. Percy had scorned the pranking, but he'd secretly always wished he could have his parents proud of him for something that could only be described as insanely Gryffindor in nature, like Bill and Charlie's prank had been.

Percy blinked and tried to focus on the article. He was pretty sure that his ill-fated rescue attempt would definitely qualify as Gryffindor in nature.

At least he didn't have to explain to Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape that their daughters had gotten kidnapped on his watch.

Percy scanned the article, it seemed fairly accurate though the Ministry had obviously tried desperately to dissociate themselves completely from the 'two wizards who had been fired from the Auror ranks and were in the process of being court-martialed'.

Cornelius Fudge had delivered a short statement promising that the Auror ranks were in the process of being clean up and put in better order by Madame Amelia Bones and Academy Head Pius Thicknesse. Hugo Savage was overseeing this closely and both Dumbledore and Fudge would also be watching carefully.

Lucius had intended to give a very scathing review of the Ministry in general and its Aurors in particular but he had been overruled by Severus. Fudge and his lackeys were trying to organize the way Severus and Lucius were wanting them to. That law regarding Azkaban was now stricken, Aurors that were no better than thugs were getting weeded out. It would do them no good to throw a spanner in the works now and would only slow the process down.

With reluctance Lucius stood behind Severus and nodded in polite agreement as Severus ('the boy who lived's' father) Snape said that Fudge and Dumbledore were doing a good job with the clean-up and that when a pack of jackals is getting ousted one must expect retaliations like the ones by Smith and Hopkirk.

Percy grinned as he watched the moving pictures that accompanied the article. The expressions on Snape and Malfoy's faces were so typical. Snape had that eyebrow lifted in a skeptical arch, and Malfoy had a baleful look of aloof disdain. The interview was supportive, Percy supposed, but it could be said that the Ministry had been damned with faint praise.

Percy sighed; Severus might have gone a different direction with the interview with the press. However Severus was busy being horrified that his extremely young daughter was cheerfully talking to dragons. Worse, Beth was talking to the most horrifyingly malicious dragon Severus had even seen. The ultra – feminine name of Gigi in no way reassuring to the anxious father. Severus had said he was quite sure that the dragon just thought it was amusingly ironic.

Raised voices that Percy immediately recognized as being his family filtered in from the next room. He could see them, though not clearly through the curtain separating the rooms. He braced himself for a Weasley onslaught only to be shocked by Jennifer intercepting his mother before she could reach the door.

"Percy is still not completely recovered, he needs rest." Jennifer started out fairly calm, but by the immediate fire lighting Molly Weasley's eyes she knew it wouldn't last.

"He needs his family." Molly's voice was raised, though not very loudly. Her eyes fixed on the woman that was trying to stop her from seeing her injured child. "He needs the support of family." Molly emphasized the word family, hoping this Quidditch chit would take the hint that she was not.

Jennifer heard the verbal slight but didn't care. The Weasley's knew they were dating. They were paired up for Oliver and Heather's wedding that was to finally take place in a few days. They likely didn't know just how close she and Percy were becoming. She had Percy in her sites and intended to marry him.

Jennifer raised the stakes and answered a bit more loudly. "You can see him one or two at a time, I don't intend for all the Healer's hard work to be undone."

Molly stiffened and glared at the Harpy's prize beater. Molly's husband and children quailed behind her; sure that blood would be spilt. No one challenged Molly regarding her children, the few who ever had tried had limped for weeks.

Molly upped the ante in loudness and was nearly shouting. "I want to see my son, you arrogant amazon wanna-be, and I want to see him now!"

Jennifer had very little in the way of changes from the werewolf that had injured her nearly 4 years before, but it did make her eyes glow rather disconcertingly when she was feeling a rather strong emotion. Molly, though, was unimpressed. She intended to have her way and that was that.

Jennifer, however, was a red-head as well with a cascade of crimson curls and green eyes that were now glowing with temper. She went all in and shouted at Molly. "People in hell want ceiling fans and buckets of ice water … they aren't going to get what they want either!" Not the most intellectual response, but it was one that Aunt Ruth used on Jennifer and Heather frequently when they were teenagers and it seemed appropriate.

The rest of the Weasley's edged away and Arthur sat on a nearby chair, as his legs gave out. He was sure that Molly was going to do something that would end with Peacekeepers and / or Aurors getting dragged in and likely they would be needing Healers as well … for the Peacekeepers and Aurors.

Molly froze at Jennifer's defiance, her mind slowly grasping that "the Juggernaut" was not going to back down. Her lips twitched and a memory from the early days of her marriage drifted into her mind. Arthur had been injured on a raid and Albus and numerous members of the Order were insistent they the needed to question him right then. She'd backed them down in a similar fashion.

Finally she laughed and grabbed a startled Jennifer into a hug. "Very well – two at a time, then? We'll make them short visits, if you wish."

Jennifer recovered quickly and managed a nervous grin, wondering if Molly needed a mood stabilizing potion. She half expected Molly to say something like 'hi, I'm insane, who are you?'

Jennifer finally nodded and mumbled, "Sure, two at a time."

Molly and Ginny scrambled back into Percy's room to fuss over the stunned looking Percy, who was thinking he needed to propose to Jennifer soon. After all, how many women would he meet that could take on his mother?

Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z

Harry's birthday arrived just the way Harry wanted it … quietly. Of course with Beth around it didn't stay that way. Severus had read a chapter out of the 'adventures of Minxy the pony' book before she had slept. This might have led to their rude awakening.

Rosmerta and Tom had already left for their work at the pub and the library, hoping to wrap things up quickly and return before partying started. Harry wanted a very small family and close friends party since Oliver and Heather's wedding was in two days, not to mention Tom's birthday had been far too exciting and they were still recovering from it.

Severus and Harry woke to the sound of loud squealing that was definitely not Beth although it was coming from her room. Crashing and banging noises followed along with squeals that were Beth. They ran to the room just as the door was smashed open giving them a view of Beth bouncing on her bed in excitement while a black and white pony with bright blue eyes bucked and kicked his way around the room.

Harry just watched in stupefaction for a few minutes while Severus raised his wand uncertainly. He had almost no knowledge about equines of any sort except for what potions they might be used in. Unsure of what to do, he finally cast a calming charm on the destructive little beast, causing it to pause and look around in curiosity.

Tinker popped in beside Beth, a bit belatedly and squawked in horror at the destruction. "Bad, very bad pony!" Tinker declared, too aggrieved to think of anything worse.

"Oh, he's just what I wished for dad." Beth squealed. "Is he an early birthday present?"

Harry and Severus looked at each other in suspicion, but no, neither of them would have bought a pony and then left it in her bedroom of all places. Severus sighed and waved his wand, hovering the oblivious pony out of the house and into the back yard. Severus and Harry watched nervously while Beth made much of the pony once he safely landed on the grass.

"She said she wished for a pony like him …" Harry mused.

Severus clicked on that immediately. "Of course. Wish magic." Severus said. "She must have wanted a pony a very great deal …" Severus sighed again. Can't get rid of the beast if Beth conjured it, he thought, very bad results usually occurred from getting rid of things conjured by wish magic. It could be worse. Beth could have decided an elephant or a lion would be awesome. He recalled an article about some child in the States 'really wanting' a walrus.

The pony suddenly snorted and shied to one side. A dragon had flown over. Severus waved a calming charm and an invisible shield so the pony could not see more than 10 feet above him. They would have to fix that or Beth would get hurt.

"Beth if we are to keep the little snot …" Severus started.

"Jinxy … his name is Jinxy." Beth interrupted, unconcerned with Severus' tone – he just hadn't had his coffee yet she felt.

"Yes, well, we need to get a proper enclosure and I need to make a spell so he isn't frightened of the dragons or any of the other creatures he is likely to encounter." Severus explained. "Harry, get me some parchment and a quill and that book 'Creative Charms for Creatures'. I will likely have to modify something that is for Abraxans or Granians."

Harry smothered a laugh, "Maybe after we get dressed?" He asked, eyeing their pajamas and nightshirts.

Severus looked around noticing their state of undress and hustled back into the house where Tinker was repairing Beth's bedroom with occasional muttering about bad ponies.

While showering Severus thought about the pony and frowned, what if the pony disappeared as rapidly as it had appeared? Beth would be devastated. A quick firecall netted him a curious Minerva and to his amusement, an eager Albus who wished to help with whatever had Severus calling the school.

Severus waved a hand and led them out to the garden where Harry was anxiously watching Beth bounce around on the pony with a sticking charm applied by Harry, who had been afraid of her falling.

"What a charming pony, Severus." Albus smiled, "An early gift?"

Severus' grimaced, "No, Beth has a favorite book, tales of an adventurous pony and his pony friends. She was especially taken with a black and white pony with blue eyes in the stories and has asked for a pony just like him." Comprehension slowly dawned in Minerva and Albus' eyes. "We were awakened this morning with that little horror in her room and her book about ponies missing."

"She wished him into existence, and the wish magic used the pony book … transfigured it into the pony she wanted." Minerva breathed a sigh of bliss, magic was truly wonderful.

Albus gazed at the small blonde minx in happiness. Such a happy child and just the thing to bring joy back into Severus' life … especially if things went badly with Harry and that damn Horcrux. Albus sighed, no he was kidding himself, Severus would likely not survive Harry's death … not for long.

"You said there was a problem …?" Minerva asked.

"Hmm, well, I was worried that the pony might turn back into the book." Severus frowned. This sort of magic was not his forte. Transfiguration had never been easy for him and the theory had been difficult for him to learn.

"Ah, I see." Minerva and Albus took out their wands and walked over to the pony waving diagnostics and revealing charms, looking for weak spots in the make-up of the pony. Severus walked behind them and persuaded Beth to dismount so they could look at the pony better.

Jinxy eyed the wizard closely and nibbled at a sleeve and then suddenly gave a yank, ripping the sleeve clean off. Severus' sleeve hung from the pony's teeth like a Christmas stocking. The blue eyes and pricked ears showing the pony was eagerly awaiting a reaction from the wizard.

This halted the proceedings as everyone watched the stare down between the pony and the potions master. Severus noted sourly that the pony had the same expression the marauders always had whenever they had done something dreadful to his clothing and were hoping for a tantrum.

Tinker popped in beside Severus once again, making the pony snort. He'd fixed Miss Beth's room and had hoped that was the end of the trail of destruction. He looked at the chewed on sleeve and squeaked. "BAD PONY" one more time.

Severus grabbed the sleeve and took off his waistcoat – it was too hot anyway – and handed them to Tinker who popped away again.

Albus chuckled, "Well, we can see no break in the magic. He appears to be a fairly normal pony, but with a strong magical tie to Beth. That doesn't give any special attributes other than a general inability to harm Beth, since her magic 'created' him."

Another rip was heard; this time Jinxy had a portion of Albus' robe in his teeth.

Minerva snickered at Albus look of dismay. "I suggest an impervious charm on clothing when around 'Jinxy'. Otherwise I believe you have nothing to worry about."

Severus nodded and with a resigned frown led Minerva and Albus back into the house for some tea, leaving Harry to watch over Beth while she played with the happy pony. It seemed that Jinxy was there to stay.

Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z

Mundungus Fletcher ducked into an alcove and watched Sirius go by. He was being hunted by several members of the Order, it seemed. He had heard that Sirius was looking for him and suspected that he had nicked something from Grimmauld Place that was now missed.

Most of what he'd taken he'd been sure Sirius didn't want. He'd certainly tossed a fair amount rather valuable things into the trash and Fletcher had dug them back out. On occasion the nasty old house elf had grabbed something and dragged it into his little nest. When Fletcher had gone in after the objects the elf had grabbed back he had found a bunch little treasures that Fletcher was sure would bring a tidy sum.

He had already sold most of them and had gone back to selling inferior cauldrons that the companies had thrown away. He still had a locket, though, he was having difficulty selling it. He kept it in a pocket but every time he went to sell it he would hesitate. He was also having difficulty with his temper; lately he was tending to end arguments with his wand and a hex instead of his usual pleas and bribes.

How aggravating. He liked working for the Order. Dumbledore paid well and he could count on fairly regular meals and an occasional comfortable bed.

He ducked into a second – hand store that wasn't choosy about the condition of the goods he was selling as long as they could buff them up to look fairly new. He didn't notice the witch in a pink cardigan as he started hauling out some very thin – bottomed cauldrons to sell the elderly witch that ran the place.

He and the witch were enjoying some brisk haggling when they heard a rather annoying "Hemhem" from behind them. They ignored it and soon there was a louder "Hemhem."

Fletcher turned long enough to say, "Bugger off ya' overgrown pink puffskein." This got a cackle from the witch that owned the place, but the witch in pink turned an unfortunate shade of purple that really clashed with the pink. They had barely gone back to their haggling when they were interrupted once more.

"Madame Tripe … if he does not have the proper paperwork showing that the cauldrons he is selling have standard thickness for safe use I will have to call for Ministry personnel to thoroughly review your merchandise." Dolores Umbridge held up her badge for Tripe and Fletcher's perusal. "We do need to keep our standards up, mustn't we?" She followed this with another annoying 'hemhem'.

Tripe immediately stuttered out some apologies, "… I was gonna ask fer the papers after we come ta a price." Madame Tripe insisted.

Dolores smiled her prim little smile and nodded to the witch. She'd reasserted her authority over the lowly shopkeeper. She had slowly been regaining her foothold in the Ministry. It had been possible, of course because Pius Thicknesse had made her his assistant after the debacle with Harry Potter. She'd kept her head down, letting the public and the ministry's memory slowly dissipate.

Pius took the position in the Academy and she was now his assistant in that. They intended to get the ministry back on track, starting with the Aurors. They would let Bones 'clean things up' and make a large number of enemies in doing so. The wizards and witches Bones and her backers made enemies of Pius and she would approach to join the Death Eaters.

They had already gotten several unhappy former ministry thugs to join. Of course they could not tell them who they were taking them to meet immediately. Once before Lord Voldemort they always quickly decided they were in favor of taking the Dark Mark.

Dolores gave Tripe and Fletcher another satisfied smile. Yes, she would once again be an important person in the ministry. Oh, she didn't expect to be Minister … at least not for decades, as yet. She knew she would be on the very top of the pile, though, and one day … yes one day all these inferior beings would no longer dare to so much as smirk at her let alone insult her.

Fletcher gripped the locket in his pocket, a wave of anger and malice overwhelming him. "Ya stupid ministry hack. I may be a lowly wretch compared ta' the likes a you. But I bet that even the whores 'round here have heels higher than yer standards." Even Fletcher was a bit taken aback by his verbal attack. He never had that sort of nerve around ministry people.

It slowly dawned on him that the locket seemed to be affecting him. Another slightly clever idea gripped him. While Dolores was slowly turning an even deeper shade of purple and trying to pull herself together enough to call Aurors to make Fletcher's life hell, Fletcher pulled the locket out of his pocket and shoved it at her.

"Sorry, I shouldn't 'ave said tha'." Fletcher stuttered out. "I 'ave some kind of disease … makes me say crazy stuff …" Fletcher fled while Dolores grasped the locket and stared at it in confusion, abruptly no longer caring about Fletcher.

Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z

Rosmerta and Tom arrived home and were introduced to Jinxy. Albus and Minerva were invited to stay for the party, to Albus' relief. He had not been sure how long it would take to get back on their good side. Dora and her parents got their and Mr Tonks helped Albus conjure a small fence and shelter until something permanent could be made.

Lucius and his family arrived from Malfoy Manor, as they had finally moved back into the large mansion. The pony was an instant hit with Tori, who gave Lucius a hopeful look. Lucius shared a glance with Severus, who shrugged. If Lucius wanted help finding a pony for Tori he was looking at the wrong wizard.

Tom intercepted the look and laughed. "Stop worrying, if Tori can't wish a pony into existence she'll just order Dobby to fetch her one – or maybe a dozen." This didn't seem to reassure Lucius at all.

Albus and Minerva talked quietly for a time with Yuan, who had come over to gaze at the pony. News of Beth's accomplishment had run through Reserve like wildfire. First she was talking to Gigi, now she had conjured a pony. Yuan hoped that he could get her to stay at the Welsh Reserve; there would be dozens of offers for her services … and not just from other Reserves. If she grew into the magic that this sort of early manifestations promised, she would be quite strong magically.

Ted Tonks put Lucius out of his misery and leaned over. "I have a cousin with a couple of kids that are pony – mad. He'll know where to find a pony farm. Plus you'll need to get saddles, bridles, etc for both ponies."

Lucius didn't hide his relief and thanked him sincerely. Severus looked bewildered, just how much stuff could a pony need?

Harry opened his presents, Dudley and Draco hooting when he opened the present from Luna that had arrived by owl. She had sent him a beautifully ornate wand holster. She had noticed his own was getting worn and did not fit well. Harry ran his fingers over the runes carved into it. Harry guessed they had meaning from the smile Lucius had given when he showed the present off.

The party wound down at last, and the visitors left, leaving Severus to sip a brandy and hold Rosmerta's hand after everyone else had retired. He gazed at the large picture above the fireplace. I was an enlargement of one of the photos taken when Harry had gotten his license for his animagus form at the ministry. It showed Harry flying as an osprey around the ministry atrium. It had confused him for a time when he had first returned from Azkaban.

He was fairly sure there were a few memories still behind the wall, but not many. The lost memories he would just have to do without. Memories of his mother and Lily that were gone he would just have to live without.

He had pulled Albus aside and informed him he would not be returning as Hogwarts instructor and tried to sound regretful. Albus had patted his shoulder and nodded.

"I have had Horace Slughorn on standby for a week or so incase this happened. I will let him know." Albus twinkled a bit sadly. "Perhaps you will give a workshop or two on Spellcrafting, or assist with the dueling club?"

Severus had shrugged noncommittally, but had been relieved that Albus had not argued.

"Who will be the Defense teacher?" Severus had asked as he herded Albus to the floo.

Albus had sighed. "I did not have much time to look for one. The Minister said the Pius Thicknesse – head of the Academy had someone who could take the position for a year. He did not give a name, though."

Severus frowned as he recalled that Pius had been a fence sitter in the last war – not disagreeing with the Dark Lord, but not assisting in the war against him, either.

Something was up, Severus mused. But then, it always was.

Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z~Z

A/N – Hope this moves things along a bit, 5th year will be coming up.