Disclaimer: Upon further review, the ruling that JK Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe is upheld. I write these stories purely for fun and make no monetary gain from them.
June 19th 1996 continued
As Albus Dumbledore stared blankly at the closed door Harry and Hermione had just disappeared out of, his hand reached out and took another small yellow candy from the dish on his desk. As he popped it in his mouth, he settled back in his chair deep in thought of the young man who had seemed so desperate the day his little group had been discovered. Contrasting that person to the much more confident young man who had just left his office, Dumbledore could only come to a single conclusion. "It must be the influence of Miss Granger. Harry obviously opened up to her and she saw through the layers of falsehoods," He thought. "I wonder if I can use her influence to convince Harry he must allow Tom to kill him. Her logic might see that it's for the Greater Good, and though he will probably live through the encounter because of his blood, he must not know that. If he should die, his willing sacrifice will protect those who continue the fight just as his mother's protected him," He finally concluded that he'd need to watch her closely, maybe make suggestions to lead her to the same conclusions if it became necessary to share the last of his secrets.
It was a few minutes more of silent contemplation before he remembered there were other things that still needed to be done. He rose from his desk and walked to his fireplace. He reached into an ornamental vase that sat beside it. Pulling out some glittering powder he threw it into the flames. "Severus, a moment of your time please," He called into the green flames that flared.
"You're back?" Came the reply a few seconds later. There was a hint of surprise in his voice as well. "I will be in your office shortly then," Snape refused to use the interoffice Floo network because the ash would stick in his hair.
Fatigue was evident in the Potions Master's face when he entered the Headmaster's office several minutes later. "Yes Headmaster? I presume this has something to do with Potter and his latest act of stupidity?"
"Very much so," Dumbledore acknowledged.
"Did we lose many Order members rescuing the brat?"
"Thanks to your warning they did arrive at the Ministry, but well after Harry had met the Death Eaters though. Fortunately luck was on Harry's side last night," Dumbledore replied. "He and his friends somehow defeated the Death Eaters it seems. They claim eight of them died including Bellatrix, three were captured and Lucius Malfoy was witnessed escaping with Voldemort after Harry dueled Tom in the Atrium."
Snape sat in silence as he digested what he'd heard. That Death Eaters had died was most unexpected. He had expected and even hoped that some might be captured. He knew Dumbledore abhorred killing and it was a standing rule of the Order to never kill their opponents. Death Eaters of course did not live by the same rules and Snape had fully expected several Order members to be lost in the rescue of the foolish child. Severus had hoped that at least Black and that werewolf would meet their demise. Nervousness broke out inside him as he wondered how he would be received by the Dark Lord. On one hand, he had made it appear that he had handed Potter to him, but if he thought he'd been led into a trap he would be most displeased.
Dumbledore misinterpreted the look that flickered over Snape's face to be one of concern. "I know you are concerned, but Mr. Potter is safe as well as his friends. No Order members were injured in the least."
"That is... very fortunate," Snape replied after a slight hesitation. "I never dreamed he'd actually try to get to Sirius. I presumed after he threw his childish little tantrum he'd come to his senses and return, but when he didn't come back I first searched the forest and then..."
"Don't hold yourself responsible Severus," Dumbledore said "You did all that you could."
"Thank you Headmaster."
"Now I think you know what I need," Dumbledore started. "I'm sure he will call for you soon."
Snape swallowed as he nodded. Again we wondered at the reception he'd receive. If the Dark Lord truly had lost that many Death Eaters and it wasn't another arrogant tale by the 'mighty Harry Potter', Voldemort reception could go either of two ways. If he accepted that Snape was not to blame, Snape's position would be very secure. Otherwise the Dark Lord's displeasure would be painful if not fatal. "I'm sure he will too. I will go prepare."
"Thank you Severus," Dumbledore said. "I appreciate all that you do. I know I put you in difficult situations at times."
"Think nothing of it Headmaster. I do what I can," Snape replied as started to leave the office.
"One other thing you might want to know. Sirius was declared innocent," Dumbledore added. "He is a free man."
Snape paused as he felt his stomach lurch as the news of his nemesis sunk in. He turned back to Dumbledore. "The Dark Lord sent Pettigrew?" He couldn't think of any other way Sirius would be found innocent so quickly.
"No, but it seems my Pensieve that I had left in your care made its way into Harry Potter's hands. He gave it to Madam Bones and showed his memories," Dumbledore replied.
"Potter..." Snape snarled. "I knew it was him. He and his friends were the only ones who knew about my having it but no locating spells could find it."
"He's always been a bit headstrong," Dumbledore replied. "But he means well."
Snape snorted at that. "He's just like his father, arrogant and pig-headed. It seems his head has grown even bigger ever since he started dating Miss Granger. He even had the nerve to cheek me in class," He nodded toward the Headmaster. "If you'll excuse me, I'm sure the Dark Lord will call for me soon."
Upon the departure of his Potions Master, Dumbledore sat back and again reviewed the threats made by Harry Potter about leaving the country. Finally he realized what he had to do. "I must eliminate the threat of Harry leaving and the only way to do that is..." He immediately stood up from his desk and once again made his way to the fireplace. This time he found the Ministry Floos open. A few minutes later he strolled into the records office.
"I'm sorry sir," The record's clerk said a few minutes later. "Sirius Black was in here not more than thirty minutes ago with the Minister himself completing the necessary forms for full guardianship of Mr. Potter."
"But there must be some mistake," Albus pleaded. "Harry Potter's aunt and uncle are his guardians. I'm the one who did the original forms."
"Yes sir, they were sir," The clerk replied nervously. "But you also...as head of the Wizengamot transferred the guardianship to Sirius Black two years ago. What Mr. Black did earlier was just confirm his acceptance."
"It was an unintentional mistake," Dumbledore explained. "Give me the appropriate forms to correct it please."
"I'm sorry sir, but surely you know only the Chief Warlock can overrule any previous Chief Warlock's decisions and since Minister Fudge currently holds that position and he himself accompanied Mr. Black, well you can see your previous decision is now irreversible unless Minister Fudge were to agree to it."
A very frustrated Dumbledore's next stop was the Minister's office. He didn't even stop for the assistant to announce him. He burst into the office fully expecting to be able to bully the Minister into acceding to his demands. He found himself disturbing a meeting with Madam Bones and several other department heads.
"...we must develop a plan of... Yes Albus?" Minister Fudge asked. "You're interrupting a very important meeting."
"We must discuss Potter's guardianship sir," Dumbledore said. "I understand that Sirius Black has been given full guardianship? Surely you must see that is a mistake. Sirius still has issues from his time spent at Azkaban."
Minister Fudge gaze seemed frozen on Dumbledore for a few seconds before he looked over at Amelia and then down at his desk. "That's very interesting, very interesting indeed," He said as he pulled out a sheet of parchment. "It seems that Mr. Potter anticipated this very conversation," He handed the parchment over to Dumbledore who quickly saw it was a signed petition by Potter requesting his guardianship be placed fully with Sirius Black.
"But surely sir..."
Fudge them pulled out two silvery vials. "Mr. Potter also gave me these earlier. I do not know what exactly are in these memories, but he told me that if you challenged the guardianship, these would not only assure Mr. Potter stayed with Mr. Black but would probably have his previous guardians arrested and sent to either Azkaban or a muggle prison for many years."
Dumbledore rubbed his forehead with his hand as again he'd been outmaneuvered by the teens. He could guess that the vial contained memories of the dark years Harry had suffered at the Dursleys. Frustration grew in the Headmaster as he thought "Doesn't he understand I know what's best," Finally though he nodded in defeat of that issue only to bring up another. "Speaking of memories, I would like my Pensieve returned. It is my personal property and the Ministry has no right to it."
"I'm sorry Albus," Amelia Bones spoke up, "but currently it is quite necessary in processing evidence from last evening. It will then be necessary for prosecuting those Death Eaters that were captured. I'm sure you understand the necessity, I mean..." She paused for a second and right before Dumbledore spoke she continued, "it is for the Greater Good," With a firm gaze she finished with. "See me in three months and I'm sure we'll be able to return it at that time."
It was an even more frustrated but determined Dumbledore who left the Ministry and proceeded to Grimmauld place. He knew his last chance was to convince Sirius that Harry needed the protection that the Blood Wards provided.
"Are you suggesting that this place, the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, under Fidelius and with various order members coming and going is less safe than a muggle home?" Sirius asked once Dumbledore had explained the importance of the Blood wards.
"The blood war..." Dumbledore tried to explain again only to be cut short.
"Might protect the boy from Voldemort, but no one else," Sirius said. "And those damn Dursleys will never see Harry again if I can help it. Harry is my responsibility now and I will protect him. That means from you as well. If I have to take him out of Hogwarts to do that I will."
A thoroughly discouraged Albus Dumbledore returned to his office a short time later. As he sat down wearily at his desk the Headmaster noticed that a special edition Daily Prophet had been delivered. On the front page was a single photo. The large picture in motion was a snapshot of the memory being displayed above the Pensive showing Voldemort dueling Harry Potter in the Ministry Atrium. Underneath that photo was:
But Potter beat him again.
Stories throughout the paper gave the few details that were provided by the Ministry of the battle the night before including the death of eight Death Eaters and the capture of three others all by four teenagers. Speculations were made especially when someone mentioned Voldemort had escaped with a blue orb. An old reporter who once had a source in the Ministry of Magic instantly recognized the orb and that it meant a prophecy. A story was quickly formulated about what it might mean. A pretty accurate idea came about and a story was written that Harry Potter was the Chosen One.
Other stories covered Sirius Black. With support from Sirius and Harry, the Minister was able to lay the blame on the previous Minister Millicent Bagnold and Barty Crouch Senior. Minister Fudge and Madam Bones both promised that every prisoner in Azkaban would have their files reviewed for possible other illegal detainings while Madam Bones was also quoted as saying "And then there is Albus Dumbledore who knew Sirius Black was innocent and with his Pensieve, he had the means to prove it. He never once offered the device or the memories to back up his claim."
"Maybe a kip for my old bones," The Headmaster thought as he laid down the newspaper. "It's been a weary day," Dumbledore rose from his desk and had walked three steps toward his private bedroom when the door opened.
"DUMBLEDORE, I have things to discuss with you," The Scottish burr of Minerva McGonagall said angrily. "We can start with that day you left Harry on that doorstep."
Dumbledore sighed wearily as he moved back to his chair and sat down heavily.
Shortly after Minerva left his office after an extremely long tirade, Dumbledore once again rose for an afternoon kip only to have his door open once again.
"The Dark Lord is...displeased," Severus Snape answered the unasked question as he took a seat in front of Dumbledore's desk. Snape could still feel that displeasure coursing through his body. "He lost all twelve Death Eaters who tried to secure the prophecy, eight of whom are dead. That doesn't include his personal embarrassment of publicly losing to Potter," The last word was spat.
"Twelve?" Dumbledore asked. "But Lucius.."
"The Dark Lord accidentally destroyed his mind while punishing him," Snape explained. "Goyle disposed of him in front of his own home. He's alive but his mind is gone."
"Is he sure the others are dead?" Dumbledore asked. "For Harry's sake I'd hate for the deaths of all of those people to be on his conscious."
Snape stared at the Headmaster for a few seconds before replying. "He tried to call them but they never came and you know nothing would prevent Bellatrix from joining her Master. If the Ministry had captured them, they would have been displayed for the world to see like Rookwood and Crabbe were."
Sadness descended on the heart of the Headmaster at the thought of the death of seven men and a woman who could have been shown the error of their ways and brought back to the light. Though he knew they had done evil things, he truly believed all people deserved a chance at remorse. "What is done is done," He replied finally. "I'm sure Harry will suffer from regret and remorse when the shock of what he's done has caught up to him. We must be there for him when it happens."
"The Dark Lord is also angry at having been tricked by Potter and the prophecy," Snape said. "I think he will attempt to retaliate in some way..."
"Against Harry?" Dumbledore asked almost hoping for it to be true. He could take a real threat against Harry to Sirius and he'd have to agree to let Harry return to the Dursleys.
"No," Snape replied confidently. "He's unsure about what has happened twice against Potter and he won't risk a third attack until he is sure he'll win. In fact I am supposed to discover from you if you know what happened to Ollivander."
"Ollivander is gone?"
"Yes it appears so," Severus shrugged. "He seemed to have closed up his store a couple of weeks ago. Voldemort is most eager to question him."
Dumbledore sat back further in his chair and thought of the wandmaker. He actually had been surprised that Voldemort hadn't gone after Ollivander last year when Harry's and his wands had locked. Finally he looked back at his Potions Master. "You can honestly report that I did not even know Ollivander had departed."
"If that was the case I am supposed to determine if you knew what happened when they dueled."
Dumbledore stole a glance over at Fawkes before he answered his Potions Master. "That is something that even if I did know, I'd never allow the information to get back to Voldemort. You can assure him that I never divulged the information in front of you."
"I understand Headmaster," Snape replied. He'd hoped Dumbledore would give him something to take back to Voldemort.
"Was there anything else?" Dumbledore asked.
"Please keep me informed of any further information you acquire."
"Of course Headmaster," Snape stood from his chair and with his cloak billowing he turned and walked out of Dumbledore's office. As he descended the steps a small twitch that might have been a smile passed over his lips. The Dark Lord had called him his most valuable Death Eater while Dumbledore still considered him his most valuable Order member. "No matter who wins this war, I cannot lose."
*** E E ***
The same Daily Prophet had been delivered to many of the students and the story of the previous night's adventures flew around the castle. As the four teens who had been involved slept soundly, the newspaper articles were being discussed throughout the school. When it was discovered that the students in question were asleep; people immediately turned to the third member of the trio, Ron Weasley. At first he told the truth, that he didn't know anything. But as more and more people kept questioning him, he couldn't resist adding a detail here and there. As the day wore on he reveled in the attention and the details escalated.
"Well, he wanted me to stay here to make sure there wasn't an attack on the castle..."
"Harry begged me to go but I thought it was a trap. I even told him that..."
"Yeah I was there, but I prefer to not make a big deal out of it. I'm not into all the publicity and all..."
It was when Lavender Brown was with him later in the day that he started telling people that he'd been at the Ministry as well. He pointed to a spot just off the main picture of Harry dueling Voldemort in the Prophet. "I was right there and...and" As Lavender looked at him with eyes filled with wonderment and adoration, he couldn't help himself, "I was the one who eventually got the curse in that drove Voldemort away. Harry told them it was me, but I didn't want any of the praise so I just told the Daily Prophet to not put me in the story," A wide-eyed Lavender Brown was now hanging onto Ron's arm proud to be called his girlfriend.
It was a still very tired Harry who finally awoke shortly before dinner. It took a few minutes before he remembered what had happened in the last day. A smile came to his face as he knew a major hurdle had been cleared. Voldemort's return was acknowledged by the Ministry, eight Death Eaters were dead and Sirius was alive and free. A sense of excitement overcame him as he realized how much they had accomplished in only a few weeks. He knew Hermione was still asleep so he decided to thank the other entity who had helped him so much. "Thank you Miranda. Thank you for Hermione and for Sirius Thank you for letting me know the truth of what really happened with my parents. Thank you for everything."
"Oh you're welcome Harry," Miranda replied. "I must admit you and your wife are making me very proud. Besides Death has already promised me two dozen more bottles of Ambrosia if you can get at least three more of Riddle's soul fragments up here by Halloween."
"Why Halloween and why three?"
"With three more, Death would have half of Riddle's soul and could start torturing him at that time. As for Halloween, it's Death's favorite day. By the way did I mention that Death really seems to like you?"
"Uh...yeah," Harry replied nervously not sure if being liked by Death was a good thing. "You mentioned it this morning."
"Oh don't worry," Miranda said. "Death is really nice once you get to know him."
"If you say so... Should I say hi or something to him?"
Miranda giggled. "Sure...I'll pass it on."
"Umm... thanks," Harry said. With great effort he forced his body to sit up in his bed. The stress and tension of the last few days coupled with the physical exertions of the previous night had left him feeling like a hippogriff had run him down. He retrieved his glasses and pulled back the curtains. His eyes immediately fell onto Neville's bed. It didn't look like he'd moved an inch the whole day. Harry smiled as he thought of the young man standing up to Bellatrix and being responsible for her death.
Harry was still contemplating all that had occurred when he felt the mirror that was still in his pocket heat up. Worried that something might have happened while they slept, he quickly pulled it out and found himself looking at his godfather. The smile on Sirius' face let Harry know that nothing serious had happened.
"About time you woke up," Sirius said. "I've been trying this mirror for the last two hours."
"Sorry," Harry replied with a yawn and smirk. "I had a busy night last night."
"Yeah I was up pretty late as well remember; and then I've been up all day today."
"We'll compare lack of sleep some other time," Harry said. "All last year I was sleeping in a tent and some of that time was with a person who can peel paint with his snores."
"Wha...oh yeah," Sirius said. "Well I thought you'd want to know that Dumbledore was here earlier trying to convince me that you'd be safer at the Dursleys."
"THAT.." Harry snarled.
"What is it love?" Hermione called out instantly awake from the anger in her husband.
Harry stopped in mid-sentence to Sirius and told her what Sirius had said.
"That's a good thing Harry," She said with a mental yawn in her voice as the adrenaline started to diminish.
"It means he couldn't figure out a way to get guardianship away from Sirius. If he's pleading with Sirius, he has no legal way to overturn it," Hermione explained. "He must now realize our threats are very real."
"Why is he doing it?" Harry mentally muttered. "We could solve this thing quickly if he'd just give us an opening."
"He really thinks he knows all the answers. Besides remember that Miranda said he had a deal with the Dursleys. A deal he still has to fulfill," Hermione replied. "But I think he has to come to us, but if he doesn't soon then we need to make sure he's checking Bellatrix's vault for the cup. If the Ministry gets to it first no telling what they might do to it."
Harry realized he hadn't replied back to Sirius. "Sorry Sirius, I was having a quick conversation with Hermione. She thinks it only shows Dumbledore has run out of options concerning me."
"She's probably right, but keep on your toes."
"I'll try, but what are we going to do with Pettigrew?"
"Feed him to that Giant Spider you were telling me about?" Sirius suggested.
"Aragog? We had planned on doing that to Umbridge, but things worked out differently there," Harry said. "That reminds me, I need to find out what her status is. When will her trial be?"
"I think if you just ask Fudge, he'll make sure it's at a time and place of your convenience," Sirius replied jovially. "He was bending over backward helping me earlier."
Harry remembered something he and Hermione had discussed a few days past. "Do you think you could go buy something at Borgin and Burkes?"
"Not at the moment," Sirius replied. "I've got Tonks and Shacklebolt following me wherever I go for now. It's to make sure I don't get attacked by anyone not having heard the news yet, but what do you need?"
"Remember how we told you about Draco sneaking the Death Eaters into the school next year?"
"We want to buy the Vanishing Cabinet from there and have it eventually delivered to the Grangers," Harry explained. "That way Hermione can spend a lot more time with her parents. I...I still feel guilty about how much she gave up for me."
"Of course," Sirius replied more somberly. "I wish...wait, I'll send Kreacher and have him buy it. My mother always sent him there to buy things."
"That's great," Harry said. "Tell him it's the big cabinet at the front of the store."
"Let's have him deliver that one back here until you're ready to get it to the Grangers."
"Thanks Sirius and tell Kreacher thank you as well."
"I'll do that. Oh Tonks found out earlier that Lucius wound up in St. Mungos."
"WHAT? Are the Aurors there to arrest him?"
"They are there, but it won't do any good. According to Tonks, he had his mind destroyed and bit off his own tongue. I'd say that Voldy wasn't very happy with him."
Harry took a few seconds to digest that information. He remembered all the things that Lucius had done, the diary he'd cursed Ginny with and the Basilisk. The abuse of Dobby, the ouster of Dumbledore that same year...everything the man had done quickly ran through his mind and he couldn't find a bit of regret anywhere. "That was unexpected, but I can't say I'm sorry," He finally replied.
"I know what you mean," Sirius replied. "I'll go get Kreacher working on the cabinet you wanted. I'll call back later unless you and that wife of yours will be too busy," Sirius winked at his godson, "celebrating."
Harry's cheeks turned red, but he couldn't help but think of another night in the Room of Requirements with Hermione. "We just might at that."
Sirius just chuckled at his godson before the mirror went black.
As Harry put the mirror away he noticed Neville was sitting up now. He had a tired smile on his face.
"We...we really did it?" Neville asked. "It wasn't all a dream?"
"Nope, not a dream Neville," Harry said. "I told you that you had it in you."
"My Gran...she said she was proud of me," Neville said almost in disbelief.
"She should be," Harry replied. "I also think there is another young lady who's proud of you as well. What about we go find two special women and go down to dinner. Ready for dinner love?" He finished to his wife.
"I'll be in the common room in ten minutes," Hermione replied. "I need a shower badly and I imagine you do too."
When the four teens who'd taken on the Death Eaters the previous night entered the Great Hall, the commotion died immediately as all eyes turned toward them.
"The word must be out," Harry said to his friends. His eyes went immediately to the head table where the silvery bearded Headmaster sat staring at them. He cocked his head slightly in a questioning manner, but received no reply from Dumbledore.
Finally the noise the silence ended as the voices from around the room started again.
"It's Potter!" "Longbottom? Lovegood?" "They killed eight Death Eaters and Harry defeated You-Know-Who...again."
"I wonder how..." Hermione started but then caught a glimpse of one of the Daily Prophets and pointed it out to Harry.
Harry shrugged. "They were going to find out about it sometime," As he led the way over to the Gryffindor table, he thought of the last time after the Battle at the Ministry. The loss of Sirius had devastated him and Dumbledore's manipulation about the prophecy only made it worse. He glanced again at the Head Table. "Does he realize how much wrong he does because he assumes he is right?"
"Unfortunately no," Hermione replied. "I'm not sure if arrogance is the right word, but he certainly doesn't believe he can be wrong."
"But we showed him he had been."
"We can only hope it makes him rethink a few things."
When they got to the table, a spot wide enough for all of them to sit together opened immediate among the wide-eyed first and second year students. Across the table were several of their fifth year classmates.
"Did you really..." Seamus started but then his voice dropped to a whisper, "really battle You-Know-Who?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess. It's the same thing that happened last year when we were in the graveyard."
"And you killed eight Death Eaters?"
"They...they sort of killed themselves..." Harry stammered.
"I guess it's a good thing Ron was there when it came to You-Know-Who.."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I mean when he drove him away..."
"Where did you hear that?" Hermione asked cutting Seamus off.
"Ron told us," Seamus said. "He said that he was there as well and if it hadn't been for him..." He didn't finish because Harry and Hermione had both turned to look down the table at their old friend who had turned beet red. Beside him sat Lavender Brown.
"You were there?" Harry asked his old friend sharply. "I must have missed you."
"Uhm..." Ron swallowed the last bite of food he had been chewing. "I...they must have misunderstood," He said finally. "I said, IF I had been there, I'd have..." His voice trailed off as he looked down at his food.
"Let me assure you Ron," Hermione spoke up, "had you been there, you probably would have been taken out early. If not by the Death Eaters then very possibly by me...how dare he claim he was there?"
"Same as fourth year," Harry said. "After the second task remember. He wants attention I guess," He turned back to Seamus. "The only people who were there are us," He said motioning to Hermione, Neville and Luna. "Though we did get some help from the Fred and George."
"They were there?" Angelina Johnson asked. She had moved closer to listen to Harry and Hermione. "Are they alright? Did you see Fred?"
Even after seeing him last week and last night, having Angelina specifically mention Fred by name brought back the sight of him dying in the last timeline; of his body lying in the Great Hall next to Remus and Tonks. Harry swallowed to regain his thoughts before answering. "They're fine. We only got some supplies from their store that helped us in the battle with the Death Eaters. I think they did come at the end with Dumbledore's Order, but by then it was mostly over."
A look of relief passed through Angelina's expression. "They didn't mention them in the Prophet."
"I don't think they would mind," Harry replied. "But I have a feeling that the Ministry is very interested in them right now."
"Why?" Now a shocked expression was clearly evident, not only on Angelina's face, but everyone around them. "They...they didn't do anything wrong did they?"
"No...it's because their stuff was so good it helped us beat a dozen death eaters," Harry explained. "Madam Bones herself mentioned she wanted to talk to them. Something tells me that Fred and George are going to be very wealthy people soon."
"WOW!" Dean chimed in from further down. "Can you tell us what happened?"
"May I read your paper?" Hermione asked. "I'll let you know how accurate they are. I know the Ministry gave the reporters that were at the press conference..." Silverware slammed down onto a plate and everyone looked around to see Ron storming away mumbling. "More fame...more money...Harry..." A confused Lavender still sat at the table and watched her boyfriend just leave without saying a word to her. It was only after he'd cleared the door that she realized he wasn't coming back. She got up and chased after him.
When Ron had originally risen both Harry and Hermione had grasped their wands. It wasn't until Ron had moved through the door leading out of the Great Hall did they relax and turn back to the others at the table.
Hermione took the offered newspaper and laid it out in front of her. She instantly recognized the picture that took up the entire front page was from her own memory, being displayed above the Pensieve. She turned the page and read the main story. It quickly became apparent that the reporter had just rewrote the Ministry release using more flowery terms, but the details were accurate. There were additional photos and stories as well. Finally she looked up and noticed not only was the entire Gryffindor table now pressing in on them, but so were most of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.
"It's mostly correct," She said as she handed the newspaper back to Seamus.
"Tell us everything," A female voice called and Harry looked to see Susan Bones looking back at them. He then glanced at Hermione and then at Luna and Neville. Hermione and Neville each gave a shrug, while Luna looked on in amazement as if she'd not been part of the story.
"Fine," Harry said, "Last evening after dinner, I was tricked by Voldemort into believing my Godfather..." Harry started.
"Is it really Sirius Black?" Someone asked. "The paper said he was innocent...but he...I mean he tried to kill you."
"No he didn't. As the paper clearly says," Hermione explained, "and what we tried to tell the Ministry two years ago, Sirius never betrayed Harry's parents. It was Peter Pettigrew. Sirius Black..."
"Will soon die as will you Potter," The voice of Draco Malfoy said from behind them as he and his overgrown bodyguards nudged his way through the people surrounding the Potters. "You made a huge mistake last night Scarhead."
They might be in younger bodies but their reflexes were of the two year older minds. Before anyone at the table could blink Harry and Hermione were out of their seats facing Malfoy with their wands out. Neville and Luna followed closely behind them. Harry's wand was pointed directly at Malfoy while Hermione and the others had their wands on Crabbe and Goyle.
"What mistake would that have been?" Harry asked as he glared at Malfoy with eyes that were now dark green. "The part where I beat Moldyvort again? The part where eight of his Death Eaters died? Or the part where I tricked your father into giving his master a fake prophecy?"
"Your Father is nothing." Harry snarled. "In case you haven't..."
"Twenty points from Gryffindor for each of you and twenty from Ravenclaw for you Miss Lovegood," The greasy voice of Severus Snape interrupted. "You will put away those wands or suffer the consequences."
Harry's eyes never left Malfoy and neither he nor Hermione or either of their friends lowered their wands. "As I told the Headmaster earlier, I do not recognize you having any authority over me Snivellous."
A collective gasp rose from the table, but Harry continued on. "Hermione and I will lower our wands only when these snakes slither back to their table. For five years they have been on my case, time and time again you have ignored them. If the professors in this school won't do anything about them, then I will."
"Potter, you arrogant little..."
"Severus I shall handle this," Dumbledore said as he strolled into the group. "Harry will you and your friends please put your wands away. I assure you that neither Mr. Malfoy nor his friends are a threat to you."
"Sir, as I was just saying, for five years Malfoy and his miniature troll friends have constantly badgered us. You and the rest of the professors have chosen to ignore it," Harry finally took his eyes off of Draco and looked at the Headmaster. Hermione immediately shifted her wand to Draco. "You ignored it when he kept calling Hermione a mudblood, you ignored it when he started a campaign against me during the Triwizard, and you ignore it every single time he strolled over here to start trouble like right now. IT STOPS NOW!"
"Do simple words hurt you so much Harry?" Dumbledore asked in his grandfatherly tone.
"When those words go unpunished the person never learns there are repercussions," Harry retorted. "Soon it escalates from words to actions, from actions to curses. You allow the bigotry that Voldemort champions to grow in this school unchecked sir."
"They are just innocent children like yourself..."
Harry cut off the Headmaster as he pointed at the three Slytherins. "They are not innocent children. They are old enough to become Death Eaters themselves and unless you do something that's what will eventually happen," He stole a glance at Malfoy before turning back to Dumbledore. "Maybe sooner than you think."
Blue eyes were locked on green eyes as the Headmaster stared at Harry. Finally the Headmaster said. "We shall discuss this later Mr. Potter. For now put your wands away. Mr. Malfoy is leaving with me. I have just received word from his mother and need to pass along some news to him."
"You're just going to let Potter get away with this?" Snape asked. "Threatening fellow students?"
"He might have a point Severus," Dumbledore pointed out as he guided Malfoy away from Harry and his friends.
"He's just being arrogant, like his father," Severus replied.
"I don't believe so," Dumbledore stated. When they were finally outside the door, he turned to Draco. "Mr. Malfoy I have the unpleasant task of telling you that your father is currently in St. Mungos. Your mother has requested you be sent there as soon as possible."
"My father? What...what's wrong with him?" Draco asked. He'd read the article about his father escaping with Voldemort. Draco had presumed his father would buy himself back in favor like he always did.
"That is something your mother should speak to you about," Dumbledore replied gently. "You should go pack your trunk and meet Professor Snape in the Entrance Hall. You will not be coming back to school this year."
An hour later Draco Malfoy walked into a Hospital ward where he saw his mother sitting next to a bed. Draco could see the blond hair of his father on the pillow.
Narcissa turned when she heard the door open and saw her son standing there looking at her and his father. She rose and crossed the room to him. Gently she pulled him into a hug. Several seconds went by before she let him go and explained. "Draco, your father..." Tears started running down her cheeks as she told her son what she knew and what the Healers had told her. "It was the Dark Lord..."
"NO!" Draco spat as he looked at his father. "It was Potter's fault; his and that mudblood. I swear I'll..."
"SLAP" Draco looked stunned as he stared at his mother who was also stunned as she stared at her own hand. Finally she her gaze shifted to her son and she saw the red-shaped hand print on his face. "Draco, listen to me," She said quietly. "The Dark Lord did this to your father I am sure of it."
"Because your father failed," Narcissa said. "Your father underestimated Harry Potter as did the Dark Lord," She turned to look at her husband before continuing through a faltering voice. "You will leave Harry Potter alone Draco. You must. I can't risk losing you as well."
"You can't be serious mother," Draco exclaimed. "Potter is responsible and I will..."
"NO!" Narcissa exploded as she whirled back to face her son. "You will do nothing. How many times has Potter faced the Dark Lord and survived? He faced your father and eleven others including my sister last night and beat them and then took on the Dark Lord himself and BEAT HIM," Narcissa now had tears in her eyes. "My husband is all but gone, my sister is dead; I will not lose you as well. Go home Draco, go home and do nothing."
Draco stared at his mother for several long seconds; his grey eyes reflecting no emotions. Finally he glanced over at the bed where his father laid one more time before he turned and walked out of the ward.
*** E E ****
Ginny Weasley had kept mum while her brother had made a fool of himself, but she now sat at the Gryffindor table watching Harry argue with the Headmaster. She smiled to herself as she thought of the cauldrons currently simmering in the small alcove of the cave where the boats that bring the first years to the castle docked. She knew it would be very unlikely for them to be discovered there. When Professor Dumbledore turned and walked away she spoke up. "Harry, you were incredibly brave last night, but if you'd asked me..." she paused as she smiled at Harry, "I mean any of us in Dumbledore's Army would have gladly helped you."
Several other DA people agreed with her and said so.
"I appreciate the thought," Harry said. "But I didn't want anyone in danger because of me," He then decided to have a little fun with the youngest Weasley. "Besides Ginny, you know I think of you like a sister and never would want anything to happen to you."
"Oh that was excellent love," Hermione said.
Ginny's eyes flew open wide as she swallowed hard. "A...a sister?"
"Of course," Harry replied. "I mean your mother treats me just like a son so of course that would make you my sister wouldn't it?"
"Uh...yeah...of course...I...I need to go check on something," Ginny said as she stood and left the table. "A sister? A SISTER? I will be your wife someday Harry Potter!" She thought over and over as she left the Great Hall.
Harry looked at his wife and then leaned over and gave her a small kiss. "You on the other hand, I think of you as more of my wife," He finished with a wink.
"Your wife?" Hermione said with an eyebrow raised.
"Now if I mention it out loud people will think I am still playing along," Harry mentally told his wife.
An idea came to Luna and she smiled. She leaned over and whispered something to Neville and then she quickly got to her feet and walked over to Hermione. Taking her by the arm she turned to her boyfriend. "Neville if you please..."
Neville got a mischievous look on his face. "Oh...yeah," He said. He turned to Harry and started in an official tone. "Do you Harry James Potter take Hermione Jean Granger as your wife?"
Harry looked over at Hermione who was grinning. "Without a doubt," He replied.
"And do you Hermione Jean Granger take Harry James Potter as your husband?"
Hermione pretended to argue with Luna as they exchanged whispers. Finally her shoulders slumped and she said. "My maid of honor insists I should so I guess I'll take him."
"Then I pronounce you bonded for life," Neville said authoritatively. "Harry you may kiss the bride."
The whole section of the Gryffindor table and everyone else who had gather around started whooping and celebrating as Harry leaned in and kissed Hermione.
"What is going on here?" a Scottish voice broke through the noise. Everyone quieted instantly as Professor McGonagall made her way into the crowd of students.
"Neville was just marrying us," Harry replied with a smile.
McGonagall stared at the raven haired young man for several seconds before she realized what they had done. "As long as you're not expecting married quarters now."
That brought a few whistles from Dean and Seamus that quickly died away as McGonagall turned her stare toward them.
"And Mrs... Potter is it now?" McGonagall ask as her eyes found her favorite student.
"It does have a pleasant ring to it," Hermione replied.
"Well I hope if there is an actual ceremony sometime in the future, I will be invited?"
"Yes ma'am. Of course ma'am."
The news of the 'wedding' spread even faster than the events of the prior night. As they walked around the castle that evening they were constantly called "Mr. and Mrs. Potter," They smiled and acknowledged each greeting.
"That was very smart Harry," Hermione said as they walked together on the path around Black lake later that evening.
"It was Luna's idea according to Neville."
"She might be strange sometimes, but she is a good friend."
"That she is," Harry agreed.
Twenty minutes later Dobby popped up beside them. "Winky is wanting to know what Mistress and Master wants her to do with Rat man?" He asked.
Harry stopped as his eyes went wide. "I mentioned him to Sirius earlier but we got distracted," He looked at Hermione. "Should we just turn him over to the Aurors?"
"Maybe we give him to Sirius," Hermione suggested. "Or Aragog."
"Let's go see him," Harry said. "We'll contact Sirius and see what he wants to do," He turned to Dobby. "Dobby, we'll be there shortly. Tell Winky we're sorry that we haven't gotten to her today."
"Yes Harry Potter sir, Dobby will tell Winky," Dobby said and disappeared.
As they started back to the castle, their discussion with Dumbledore arose again. "Do you think he'll tell us about the Horcruxes?" Hermione asked.
"I think he has to," Harry replied. "If not we need to find a way to force the issue."
"I know. We can get most of them out the way so easily. He should have a lead on the ring by now and the locket is already in his possession. If he checks Bellatrix's vault, that's the cup. The hard one is the diadem. I'm not sure how we can find it and make it look..." Hermione stopped in her tracks. Her eyes widened and she smiled. "I have an idea. We use Pettigrew."
"We make him think he was here to steal the diadem out of the Room of Requirements," Hermione said. "We then turn him over to Dumbledore who should be able to get that information from him."
Harry stared at his wife for a second before replying. "Have I mentioned how brilliant you are Mrs. Potter?"
"I really did enjoy it when Professor McGonagall called me that in front of everyone," Hermione said. She ran her thumb over the ring on her left hand and smiled. "You know if we do this right, we can have the horcruxes gone by the end of the summer."
"Then all we have to do is find a way to kill Voldemort," Harry said as a wistful look appeared on his face. "You know what I would love to do? I'd love to find a way to kill him and make it look like you did it. I would love to see what Dumbledore would do if it appeared the Prophecy was false."
"If we can think of a way to do it, I'd like it as well," Hermione agreed. "But I'm not going to wait for any fancy plans to fall into place. The longer he is alive, the more people who will die."
**** E E ****
At St. Mungos later that night a drowsy Narcissa Black was just about to go home and get some sleep when she heard the door open. With the ward darkened to allow the patients to go to sleep, she could only make out a few features of the person who stood silhouetted in the light of the doorway.
"Bella?" Narcissa gasped as she saw her sister who was supposed to be dead.
The person in question walked into the room and with each step her features grew a little more defined. "No Cissy," Andromeda Tonks answered finally. "It's me. My daughter told me that Bella died last night and what happened to Lucius. I thought I would stop by and see...well to see if you needed anything."
"But...you…we..." Narcissa started.
"You're still my baby sister Cissy," Andromeda remarked. "No matter what has happened since, you'll always be my baby sister. But if you don't want me here, I'll leave."
Narcissa realized that not a single one of the people she had considered to be her friends had been by to see her. She looked at Andromeda Tonks, the woman who their mother had disowned because she had married a muggle-born. As she continued to stare at her sister, Narcissa's whole world came crashing down on her. She soon found her older sister's arms around her as she cried on the shoulder of the last person she would have ever expected to be there for her.
**** E E ****
Ginny Weasley stirred the last of the cauldrons as she added another ingredient to the simmering liquid. "Sister?" she kept muttering to herself. "That bitch has my Harry very confused. She's the one who probably suggested that," She started stirring in the opposite direction per the instructions. "Next week these will be done and we'll see what kind of sister he thinks I am," As she climbed into bed later another thought came to mind. "Maybe a small lust potion as well," She closed her eyes as she imagined Harry's strong hands roaming over her body. "I bet that bookworm would never let him touch her like that. She'd probably make him read a book on the subject," She smirked as she thought. "Harry dear, write me an essay on the proper places to touch a woman's body."