DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter and all other characters and locations belong to J. K. Rowling.
Chapter Twenty - The Battle to End the War
Hermione Granger had never been one to gloat, nor was she one to be dazzled by the pomp and ceremony that came with being a clerk to a high-ranked ministry official. But today, of all days, she was incredibly grateful to have been offered an internship within the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. It was that position that had gained her admittance to what was undoubtably going to be the Hearing of the decade. Licking her lips, she cast a quick darting glance around the shadowy dungeon, studying the unusually crowded benches and the quietly murmuring Wizengamot seated across from them.
Perhaps it was her creation of SPEW that had started her down the path to this particular . . . career. Or maybe it was her former acquaintance with the werewolf Remus Lupin, either way, her interest in the Ministry's dealings with those it considered 'Magical Creatures' had brought her to this exact moment in time - the moment when the laws that governed and regulated certain types of creatures were called into question. Because some of those laws would have to change if Jaime Greyback was to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The appearance of the eleven-year-old's name on the school's registry had parents and Professors alike horrified. Unfortunately, horror didn't have the power to remove the young werewolf's name from the infamous Hogwarts Register. Like every other child with magical abilities who was eligible, Jaime Greyback had been enrolled almost since his birth; a fact that had gone largely unnoticed until the owl carrying his confirmation letter had arrived at Hogwarts. When the Daily Prophet had caught wind of Hogwarts newest prospective threat to its student body, it had printed the information boldly on the front page, setting about a series of events that quickly turned Wizarding Britain into a battlefield. Parents were threatening to remove their children from Hogwarts, and Hogwarts Board of Governors was threatening to remove Dumbledore from his position as Headmaster. Which was what had ultimately assembled the Wizengamot and led to this point in time. The Hearing that would decide whether or not Jaime Greyback attended Hogwarts.
Of course, all of that was merely an excuse for Hermione to be sitting among the other clerks and ministry officials in attendance at the Hearing. In truth, she was really there just to see Harry. Well, Harry and the reaction his unexpected appearance would garner. The raven-haired male was presumed dead, his disappearance from Hogwarts seven years ago still considered one of the greatest mysteries of the Wizarding World. But Hermione knew that was a falsehood, though she hadn't actually laid eyes on her old friend in quite some time. Today that would change, she thought with a small smug smile. Her gaze slid to where Dumbledore sat as Chief Warlock, presiding over the Wizengamot. Today, everything would change.
Idly straightening the cuff of the dress robes she wore, she unabashedly listened to the quiet conversation occurring between the trio of Aurors standing in front of her. Their opinions were unintelligent, their suggestions of what the Wizengamot should rule disgustingly ungracious and unfeeling. Then again, when it came to allowing the first pureblood werewolf in two centuries to attend Hogwarts, individuals tended to get a little heated. Nearly snorting in disgust, she once again checked the time, impatience beginning to war with the patented expression of calm politesse she wore. If Jaime Greyback didn't arrive soon, there would be no Hearing, only a ruling.
It was then silence swept the dungeon courtroom, the whispers fading into nothingness. Heads craned in the direction of the double doors that opened into the chamber, everyone trying to get their first glimpse of the young werewolf through the shadows. Then he was there, in the center of the room, standing alone by the chain wrapped chair, appearing as small and nervous as any eleven-year-old in the same situation would. And looking entirely too human in dress robes that were gently worn and frayed about the cuffs.
"Jaime Greyback?" Dumbledore asked, the quiet words echoing loudly in the cavernous room. At the boy's hesitant nod, hisses and mutters raced around the benches, even the stoic Wizengamot indulging in murmurs amongst themselves. "Silence." Dumbledore ordered, pounding a flattened palm against the podium he sat behind. He swept the gathered witches and wizards with a warning glare before returning his attention to the young boy, finding himself being studied by hazel orbs that were filled with an intelligence far beyond the eleven years Jaime Greyback had lived.
"Please be seated," Dumbledore directed, gesturing toward the chair standing in the center of the forbidding chamber.
Hermione watched with bated breath as Jaime turned his gaze to the large wooden chair, the chains draped about the ancient seat rattling softly as if eager to be put to use. Her hands knotted together in her lap, fingers twisting nervously together. With wide eyes, she watched as the eleven year old gingerly perched on the edge of the chair, placing his palms lightly on the heavy arms as if preparing to spring to his feet at the slightest provocation.
"Jaime Greyback, you have been summoned before the Wizengamot today so that it might be determined if you are a threat to the students and faculty of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Stated the Headmaster of the school in question. The old wizard peered over the top of his half-moon glasses, perhaps searching for some sign of denial on the pale upturned face.
"How dangerous can an eleven-year-old with the barest understanding of magic and having just received his wand possibly be?" The voice was calm and collected, the words spoken with a sarcastic lilt that bordered on insulting. But then the individual who paced free of the clinging shadows really had no reason to respect the Ministry or the power it believed it wielded. With careless disregard for the rules and ceremony that a Hearing of this magnitude demanded, the dark-haired male paced forward to stand next to the young boy, dropping a hand thoughtlessly to the back of the ancient chair that had held some of the Wizarding World's most dangerous criminals.
Oh, but he was a sight for sore eyes, Hermione thought, trying to suppress the wide smile that threatened to overtake her features. Black hair hung in a shaggy mess, concealing the scar on his forehead. The robes he wore would have been considered well tailored if, perhaps, he had been Malfoy's height and build, not that the draping material did anything to hide the predatory stillness that encompassed the male. Drawing a shaky breath, the witch turned her attention to Dumbledore, watching as recognition slowly slid across the old wizard's face.
"State your name for the records," the Hogwarts Headmaster commanded.
"Harry. James. Potter." The raven-haired male smiled viciously after spitting out his name, his lips curling up to reveal teeth that gleamed in an oddly wolfish manner. The eyes that swept the gathered witches and wizards glowed with a feral light, the threat he presented not quite understood . . . yet.
"Harry Potter." It started as the softest exhalation before swelling into a roar, the cry repeated by varying tenors at different volumes until it bounced off the arching walls and filled the chamber. Witches and wizards rose to their feet, gawking at the long estranged hero in what was quickly becoming a riot.
"Silence!" A surprised hush fell over the dungeon room at the bellow. One by one each individual slowly sat, though their attention continued to slide back to the rangy male standing arrogantly in the center of the chamber. When the last witch had reclaimed her seat, Dumbledore focused his attention fully on the former Hogwarts student, withdrawing his wand in a very obvious movement and placing it on the podium before him. The gesture dragged a roguish laugh from the younger male, the sound laced with contempt. "And your business within this courtroom?"
"To make sure that Jaime Greyback is not denied the education he's entitled to," Harry returned sharply, almost bitingly.
"But . . . he's a werewolf," a member of the Wizengamot mumbled. The wizard dressed in plum coloured robes paled at the rumbling growl that seemed to fill the chamber, his gaze going to the boy in question, only to find his view blocked by a subtle shift of Harry's body.
"He's also a wizard," Harry returned sharply. It was the gaze he pinned the older male with that had the Wizengamot member slowly sinking back into his chair, camouflaging in with the rest of the purple robed jury like a rabbit seeking cover amidst the clover. "A young wizard just like I once was . . . like even Voldemort once was . . . who deserves a chance at a normal life."
"Allowing Jaime Greyback into Hogwarts would be like asking for a repeat of the incident that occurred six years ago. The incident that resulted in the unnecessary slaughter of seven students by the unregistered werewolf Draco Malfoy . . . and your subsequent disappearance, Mister Potter." The wizard who spoke rose slowly to his feet, the expression he wore as smug as any Draco Malfoy had ever worn. But then, Lucius Malfoy had probably been the one to teach his son that particular expression.
Hermione felt her eyes widen, a startled inhalation catching her by surprise at the sight of the Malfoy Patriarch. She hadn't realized he'd be sitting with this particular Wizengamot, was almost certain his name hadn't been on the original list of Ministers who'd be attending today's hearing. But with all the resources Lucius Malfoy had available to him, she could understand how his name had magically appeared on the list. Her gaze darted back to Harry, her face paling at the demon who'd taken his place. While the stocky dark-haired male had merely appeared peeved moments ago, he now looked ready to raze the Ministry and commence killing ruthlessly. And the throbbing growl that escaped his mouth only added to that image.
"Harry." It was spoken in a soft admonishing whisper. The voice was hardly audible in the large room, but it was enough to turn the once Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World's head in the direction the murmur had originated. "I don't think you're helping," Jaime Greyback said quietly.
"Perhaps Mister Potter would like to explain how he and Mister Greyback are acquainted," Lucius Malfoy drawled. With a final sneering smile at the duo in the center of the room, the tall blond took his seat, looking decidedly pleased with the rash of whispers that rose in response to his comment.
"That is an excellent question," one of the older witch's allowed. The nodding of her head was repeated up and down the rows of benches until the plum gowned Wizengamot members resembled a window box of pansies bobbing under a light summer breeze. Mutters of agreement accompanied all that head nodding.
Lifting his chin, Harry bared his teeth in a fierce smile. "Jaime and I first met the day he bit me in an alley in Hogsmeade." The raven-haired male squared his shoulders at the horrified expressions that began to appear on the faces staring down at him, lifting his shoulders in a dismissive shrug. "I met him again at an arranged meeting with his father, Fenrir Greyback. Of course, our acquaintance turned into a friendship of sorts when I fully joined the Greyback pack."
It was about then that the riot that had threatened to overtake the dungeon chamber earlier finally occurred. Realization of what Harry Potter had just admitted sent the witches and wizards into a frenzy, their voices rising in a wave of rhetoric questions and disgruntled queries. Hermione, white faced and lips compressed tightly together, watched the chaotic exchange from her place among her fellow ministry members, all of whom were excitedly chattering to the individuals seated around them. Though hard pressed not to glance about her, to take a small measure of pleasure at the reaction Harry's semi announcement had caused, Hermione kept her attention as firmly as possible on Lucius - the second greatest threat currently occupying the courtoom.
"That is quite enough!" Dumbledore bellowed. The old wizard had risen to his feet behind his podium, his face a brilliant shade of scarlet. "Anyone who doesn't take their seats immediately will be escorted from this courtroom by an Auror." The threat of expulsion had almost immediate silence falling upon the assembled group. A harried flurry of movement accompanied that silence as individuals reclaimed their seats.
"You are admitting to being a werewolf, Mister Potter?" The wizard who made the demand stared at the dark-haired male angrily, his expression bordering on one of disgust.
"Yes," Harry returned sharply. He glanced at his much younger companion, dropping a hand to rest on one of the little boy's frail shoulders, the gesture one of calm acceptance. "You make it sound like something to be ashamed of . . . like being a werewolf makes me less of a wizard. And I'll have you know that you're wrong, it makes me . . . more."
"What it makes you is a danger to our society," Lucius called. The blond stood once again, the movement drawing the attention of his fellow Wizengamot members. "If you were truly a pillar of moral respectability, you would have signed the Werewolf Registry."
A savage laugh escaped Harry, the sound laced with bitterness and sprinkled with loathing. "Ah, the Werewolf Registry. It may as well be an execution list, because that's what the Ministry uses it for. Any individual who signs that register goes missing within the month - a fact every werewolf is well aware of. Of course, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures probably understands the failings of the system they created. The fact that they were forced to disband the only support service ever created for werewolves is proof enough of that." With emerald orbs narrowed dangerously, the raven-haired male paced away from the young boy sitting silently in center of the room, closing the short distance between himself and the wizengamot until he stood directly below where they sat. "The Ministry treats us like beasts, like mindless animals uncomprehending of what's right and wrong. And so that's what we give you . . . because you expect nothing less and nothing more from us."
The Courtroom was so quiet, Hermione found herself holding her breath, unwilling to break the burgeoning silence. The Aurors standing about the room's perimeter remained perfectly still; even the members of the Wizengamot sat close-mouthed. The only one who moved was Harry, the raven-haired werewolf spinning in a slow circle, casting his eerie gaze about the room, daring anyone to challenge him. When those eyes landed on Hermione and stopped, the witch released the breath she had been holding and forced a smile to her lips, a strained giggle nearly escaping her when a small grin quirked Harry's lips in response.
"Why are you here, Mister Potter?" Dumbledore finally asked, breaking the lingering silence.
Harry swivelled slowly on the heels of his boots until he once again faced the old wizard, smoothing his palms almost nervously down the dark slacks he wore. "Good faith," he replied after a moment's hesitation. Tipping his head slightly to the left, the dark-haired male studied Dumbledore silently, appearing to have some sort of internal conversation with himself. "Should you allow Jaime Greyback to attend Hogwarts, implementing certain safeguards as agreed upon by your faculty and the Greyback Pack, I personally will act as an emissary between the Ministry and the werewolves of Scotland."
Hermione sat back with a gasp. It was a truly staggering proposition. Not only would it provide the Ministry with a spokesperson to the numerous werewolves living within the country, but it would place Harry once again in the controlling hands of the Minister . . . and Dumbledore. Harry Potter had practically promised to wear the collar of the Ministry of Magic in exchange for the education of Jaime Greyback. It was an offer the Wizengamot couldn't possibly pass up. And one that would place Harry's leash quite firmly in the hands of Albus Dumbledore. Feeling the overwhelming urge to stand and tell the raven-haired male to shut his mouth and leave before the Wizengamot could make a decision, Hermione pressed a hand to her lips and watched avidly as the dark-haired male smirked knowingly at the Chief Warlock.
"Harry," Jaime whispered with a disapproving scowl. "That's too much."
Harry merely glanced over his shoulder at the younger werewolf, a warning growl spilling over his lips. He raised a brow when Jaime responded in kind, the soft lilting growl that escaped the eleven-year-old a threatening promise. "You will go to Hogwarts, Jaime." Harry spoke in a firm commanding voice, the tone brooking no argument.
"A vote, then," Dumbledore stated, nodding at the still gaping Wizengamot. "All in favour of allowing Jaime Greyback to attend Hogwarts - with certain safety measures in place - in return for Harry Potter's services as an intermediary between the Ministry and the Werewolves, raise your hand." It was almost unnecessary to hold a vote, so advantageous was the deal in the Ministry's favour. Still, when the last hand had been counted, the final vote was thirty-one to nineteen, and Jaime Greyback was going to Hogwarts in one months time.
From her place among her fellow clerks and Ministry members, Hermione sat frozen. How could Harry have agreed to that? To becoming a pawn in the Ministry's game . . . all for an eleven-year-old who had set him on this destructive and unforgiving path? Slowly, she rose to her feet, nodding mutely at something the wizard seated to the left of her mumbled. When she reached the floor and glanced around in search of Harry, he had already vanished, taking Jaime Greyback with him. With a small disapproving huff, she gave a shake of her head and left the courtroom, assuming she would be seeing the Ministry's newest employee within the month.
"Did you really have to agree to that stupid deal?" Jaime demanded in an incredibly high-pitched voice. Of course, it wasn't the first time the young werewolf had asked the question, or a variation of it anyway.
Baring his teeth, Harry snatched up one of Jaime's hands and towed him quickly through the winding corridors of the Ministry of Magic. He didn't need a map to guide him, as it wasn't the first time he'd taken this path, but he was beginning to silently wish he'd sent the little whelp with Andrej. But Andrej didn't have the presence he did, nor did the tall blond have anything the Ministry would have remotely wanted - other than the location of Harry Potter, and possibly Draco Malfoy. "You will go to Hogwarts. You will be sorted into Gryffindor. And you will prove to the wizarding World that werewolves aren't mindless animals driven only by the urge to slaughter and rut."
Curling a lip at an old gray-haired witch who was moving much to slowly to be casually strolling about the Ministry at this time of day, Harry stalked toward the row of fireplaces in one of the main areas of the building. He didn't bother to wait in one of the slowly moving lines, just towed Jaime to the front of the nearest fireplace, grabbed a handful of floo powder and belted out the name of a small wizarding inn located in a remote town on the opposite side of the country. Their fiery arrival garnered not the smallest of glances from the handful of wizards and witches seated around the sparsely furnished dining room. Then again, the individuals occupying the inn weren't the most savory lot, their places in the wizarding world as morally questionable as that of the werewolf pack that used the inn solely for their access to the floo network. Casting a quick glance around the shadowy room, Harry once caught up Jaime's hand and hauled him from the inn and out into the light of the early afternoon.
"I don't want to go to Hogwarts," Jaime grumbled stubbornly, resisting Harry's pull. He dragged his boots though a muddy puddle in the middle of the street, acting more like a sulking five-year-old then the eleven-year-old he was. "No one will like me."
Harry halted and tipped his head back, releasing a heavy breath. "Jaime, you've never been. How can you say you won't like it if you've never tried it." He spun to face the young werewolf, grasping the boy's narrow shoulders between his palms and staring patiently into unblinking hazel orbs. "Hogwarts was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I made lots of friends and learned everything there was to know about magic. You'll have fun . . . won't he, Draco?" He didn't need to glance over his shoulder to visualize the blond materializing behind him, halting close enough to feel the warmth from his lean body against his back even through the light cloak he wore.
"About as much fun as we did," Draco replied in a cool drawl. He slid an arm high around Harry's waist, placing his palm heavily upon the dark-haired male's sternum and yanking him roughly back until they were pressed tightly together. "You took too long." He growled before giving Harry's ear a sharp retaliatory nip.
"Actually, it's your father's fault," Harry corrected, gently untangling himself from the blond. He retained the hand that had been pressed over his heart, raising it to his lips for a quick apologetic kiss. "He happily ousted me while reminding the Wizengamot that his son was a rogue werewolf accused of massacring a small number of Howarts' students. I still haven't quite figured out where the former Death Eater get's off pointing a finger at us, like he's lived a life deserving of sainthood."
Draco gave a soft snort before taking a step back and tugging Harry onwards, leaving Jaime to follow in their wake. "Lucius Malfoy will always manage to crawl out of the deepest, muddiest hole you can toss him into . . . unless he's dead, of course." Draco mused, a thoughtful expression crossing his face.
"Perhaps now isn't the best time to be considering murder, what with Jaime having been accepted into Hogwarts and all," Harry returned, ignoring the wolfish growl of denial that vibrated the back of his skull. The wolf thought that burying Lucius Malfoy in the deepest hole they could possibly dig sounded like a stellar idea. Giving a shake of his head, he shot a triumphant look at Jaime, smirking when the younger werewolf rolled his eyes and huffed angrily. Giving a soft laugh, he shot an amused look at his taller companion, squeezing the hand he held clutched within his. "Let's get you back to your keepers, puppy."
"I want to stay with you and Draco," Jaime whined.
"Over my dead body," the blond in question hissed. He scowled at Harry and gave a soft snarl when the raven-haired male flashed a tooth in warning. "Besides, in a matter of months you'll be sorted into a House at Hogwarts and no longer be a thorn in my paw."
"Draco," Harry nearly sighed.
"You'll miss me," Jaime replied in an arrogant tone. With a toss of his head that was vaguely reminiscent of a Malfoy gesture, the little werewolf skipped ahead of the duo and vanished down a rocky little trail that vaguely resembled a road.
Harry and Draco shared a fond look before trailing after the little boy, following the barely visible path through the tall oaks and reaching pines. The cackle of crows greeted them, the raucous calls ringing familiarly through this new forest. Not that this patch of woods was their home. No, this was Greyback territory - this new broken down farmhouse with a sagging porch and shattered front windows. Halting just outside the stone garden wall, Harry and Draco studied the crumbling structure until two shadows appeared in the doorway. When Steve and Andrej stepped onto the creaky boards of the porch, they both bared teeth and growled softly.
"He's in," Harry stated calmly in reply to the warning snarls. He said nothing else, because nothing else needed to be said. Dipping his chin in farewell, the dark-haired male turned and faded back into the forest, the blond following like a second shadow. Neither male spoke until they reached the edge of the forest, sliding free of the trees after a cautious scan and sniff.
Locking his fingers around Harry's hand, Draco glared down at his mate. He didn't bother to say anything, just narrowed his silver orbs and stared silently until the raven-haired male lifted his chin and arched a brow. "What did it cost you to get that little whelp into Hogwarts?" It wasn't so much a demand as it was a threat to Harry's life; the blond's icy voice allowing for no pretty excuses or purred distractions.
"A few hours of my time here and there," Harry said calmly. He tipped his head to the side and pursed his lips, studying the blond's expression thoughtfully. A coy smile curved his lips at the disbelieving glance the murmur earned him, the grin growing more toothy with every passing second. "I'll act as go-between for the Ministry and all werewolves in Scotland. Of course, the details are about as sketchy as those pertaining to your father's sudden interest in the rights and laws where werewolves are concerned."
Draco looked like he could have strangled Harry. "You know what they'll ask of you," he growled. The blond ignored the dark-haired werewolf's attempts to distract him, baring teeth in a very obvious warning that he wasn't playing. "You've put yourself right back into that manipulative bastard's hands."
Harry merely laughed and tugged his hand free of Draco's grasp, giving the blond a playful shove that set him back on his heels and allowed the raven-haired male to prance ahead several steps. "And they'll learn only what we want them to learn. They'll see only what we want them to see. They'll never outsmart us, Draco. Not so long as we're together." He laughed merrily at the soft scoff that escaped the other male and danced away from his reaching hands, avoiding the next swipe with a well practiced skip. "Admit it, Draco, you've missed the challenge these last couple years. You've become bored with the mundane life we've been living. I even think you've put on a couple of pounds due to in-"
The savage snarl that escaped the blond had Harry releasing a playful squeal and darting into the trees, Draco close upon his heels. It was a fleeting chase, one they had performed numerous times over the last few years. A game that always ended with them rolling about on the forest floor or tangled upon the worn carpet of their lair, exchanging hungry kisses and rough bites. So when Harry's dark cloak was caught and yanked, spinning him around and slamming his back into a tree, he could only pant heavily and circle his arms around Draco's shoulders. "This will change things in ways we can't even begin to imagine," Harry exclaimed in a whisper. "First an acknowledged werewolf at Hogwarts. Then me, Harry Potter, a werewolf employed by the Ministry. Soon we'll have the run of the wizarding world again, Draco."
Breathing heavily into Harry's face, Draco arched both brows and clasped the dark-haired male closer. "To what end?" It was a rough demand accompanied by the scrape of teeth along one cheekbone. "What do you hope to achieve with all this . . . acknowledgment."
Harry gasped at the brush of teeth, fingers clenching. "Freedom," he rasped in return, dragging Draco the last few centimeters between them so their chests brushed. "The ability to go wherever we want without worrying about being hunted . . . without the fear of being separated." It was almost a revelation, that thought of being able to move freely without fear of prosecution. Without having to constantly watch over their shoulders.
"That's quite the dream, Potter," Draco murmured. Shutting his eyes, he rested his forehead against Harry's and inhaled deeply. The smell of the forest and the raven-haired male filled his nose, the many small scents that made up the other male's personal smell achingly familiar.
Harry slid his hands from where they clasped Draco's shoulders, running the tips of his fingers up the blond's throat to cup his cheeks gently between his palms. "Dream with me, Malfoy," he whispered back, smiling when the blond's lids lifted to reveal glittering eyes shot with liquid silver. "Just this once."
The gleam in the twin spheres of emerald caused a smirk to curve Draco's mouth. Still holding the raven-haired male's gaze, he lowered his chin and pressed his lips lightly against Harry's before whirling them both around and giving his companion a rough shove. He smiled widely when Harry landed gracelessly in a thorny looking bush, gaping up at him with a surprised look on his face. "Let's go home, Harry." With a laugh, the blond spun around and apparated away, leaving the dark-haired werewolf to carefully untangle himself from the little briar patch.
Still, when Harry had finally managed to pry the last thorn from his palm, it was with a joyful smile he apparated home. The home he and Draco had carved out for themselves. The small sliver of forest with its rundown little cabin and cheerfully trickling brook. Truly, it was a future he never could have imagined . . . but a present he could only have dreamed of.
Final Author's Note: I must say, after writing this story over the past six years, that I'm so happy to have finished it. Is it everything I wanted it to be when I started writing it? Frankly, no. It could have been better written, perhaps. I also could have written it in a more timely matter, for sure. I think that the worst part of this entire project has been disappointing you, the readers. Should I continue to write, which I probably will, the way I post will change dramatically. In the end, though, I must thank everyone who is still reading this. So . . . thank you. Thank you for the patience. Thank you for the reviews, both the bad and the good. And thank you, for being faithful readers that I have grown to appreciate over the years.