Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his whole universe belongs to J. K. Rowling and her associates. I'm just having a good time playing with it all, and I - unlike the owner - don't make a penny from it.
A/N: Right, people. The second - and last - chapter of the bunny that wouldn't go away. If you enjoy reading this just half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I've enjoyed myself twice as much as you.
On with the story:
The Mandatory Marriage Contract Fic
The next few days went with more work on The Pottery and Little Crossroads for Harry, and with homework and tentative first plans for weddings (both Muggle and magical) for Morag - and for Kirsten whenever she managed to catch Morag unaware.
Harry had taken Morag to Lancashire just after her birthday, and she'd fallen helplessly in love with The Pottery - not to mention The Pottery's Library - just as he'd hoped she would. She was very enthusiastic about building their life there, and she wholeheartedly approved of Harry's plans for the place. She'd also readily accepted the idea of selling Little Crossroads, seeing just as little reason to keep it as Harry did, although she did talk him into having his 'freedom celebration' there on New Year's Day, causing new invitations with new portkeys to go out.
Now the night was there. They'd had a lovely New Year's Eve with the extended MacDougal family, and as Hamish had threatened, Harry had been in full Highland regalia. Quite a few had looked twice at him and at the green and gold Potter tartan, but everything had been clear after the round of squeals that followed when a cousin detected Morag's new ring. From there on it had been mostly smooth sailing with only a few attempts to trip him up in Gaelic, but he'd avoided all traps set for him, not least thanks to Morag. And now he was at Little Crossroads, at the first party he'd ever hosted.
Several of the guests had asked what he meant with 'freedom celebration' but they'd all been told the same, that Harry was now a free man and that he felt like celebrating it. The how and why would become public knowledge later in the year and he preferred to keep it under wraps until then. All he wanted now was for his and Morag's friends to have a good time, celebrating his new-found freedom with them.
Padma had approached him a little tentatively after gushing over Morag's ring. Harry had received a lengthy letter from her the day after Morag's birthday, in which she'd apologised profusely for the way she'd acted. He'd shown it to Morag who'd been less than impressed when he'd told her the backstory, but had then gone on to ask him to forgive her regardless. She really would prefer it if her fiancé and her best friend got along. Harry was inclined to forgive her himself. He liked Padma after all, but he was still less than happy about her behaviour, and their interaction might be a bit strained for a while yet. He did accept her congratulations in the spirit they were given though, and Neville's knock-out clap on his back took his focus away from the whole affair altogether. It also helped matters a bit when Neville later told him he'd torn Padma a new one over the matter.
Among the guests were a pair of redheads which confused a few people, not least the redheads themselves, seeing as their younger siblings weren't there. Mssrs. Gred and Forge Weasley were puzzled enough to ask Harry why Ron, Ginny and Hermione were not invited, and after hearing the sordid story, they made it clear that they had nothing to do with it and that a few people were in for a record bollocking when they got home. Harry made sure to point out that he didn't know if Ginny had been in on it or not, but that she wasn't invited partly on suspicion that she was and partly because of her crush on him which he really didn't want to deal with. They had no problem understanding that, and they would find out if she was in with the others before they tore them all to pieces. Or so they said...
Harry also found himself cornered by Katie and Demelza who proceeded to inform him that since they were both girls, they of course both saw the other as the boyfriend. That didn't really help clearing up matters for him, but it sent most of the girls present into fits of giggles.
All in all it was a fabulous party, and Harry was actually quite pleased that he'd let his better half talk him into it. It didn't make it any worse that all those present promised to keep mum about their engagement until they returned to Hogwarts on the 3rd. No reason to gift the Headmaster with a couple of extra days to scheme by announcing it before he discovered it himself.
The next day real life began again. Harry had left it to Dobby to find out if Dumbledore had complied with the order to vacate Grimmauld Place, and now he reported back. The Fidelius was still up, although the house seemed to be abandoned by the Order. A sweep of the area had detected several people under invisibility cloaks and disillusionment charms, so it seemed he'd have to be sneaky about it.
He had thought about having the Goblins secure the place, but after all but emptying his vaults he didn't think they'd be all that inclined to help him, so he did something else. Needing 'sneaky' he did the simplest he could. He flooed into the house, and from there he contacted Amelia Bones. After explaining what he was about to do and what he anticipated the reaction to be, he asked her if she by any chance could supply an official presence strong enough to stop Dumbledore from bulling through everything.
Five minutes later he flooed to the Ministry to pick up the Director along with Head of the Auror Corps, Rufus Scrimgeour, and his deputy, Gawain Robards. Taking advantage of the Fidelius' most glaring weakness he then portkeyed them all to Grimmauld Place where the three of them took position just inside the front door. With everything in place Harry set about charging the ward anchor, overriding and dispelling every single enchantment on the house that wasn't anchored in the stone. And sure enough, only a few seconds after the Fidelius fell the front door was blasted in and Dumbledore came charging through, only to be met by the wands - and stony faces - of the three highest ranking magical law enforcement officers in the country.
Director Bones charged him with breaking and entering on the spot, as well as wilful destruction of property; told him, he'd better pay swiftly once he received the bill for the destroyed door, and then advised him to pick up his people in the square and get out of there before she brought enough Aurors in to drag them all to the Ministry's holding cells.
Meanwhile Harry had prepared the new Fidelius, and as soon as Dumbledore cleared the ward-line on his way out he called Morag and had her come through to be the new secret-keeper.
With the charm performed, and after thanking the upper echelon of the DMLE, he took Morag on a tour of the house. It was quite a bit bigger than he'd thought from what he'd seen of it when he'd been there, and Morag - without the emotional baggage he had concerning the place - was spouting ideas on what to do with it, how to renovate, which walls to tear down and all sorts of other stuff. It slowly dawned on him that he'd just been told to keep the property.
Dobby and Trillie were promptly summoned and - after a brief discussion about how to do things - were happily bonded to the Potter Family and immediately set to work despite both Harry and Morag protesting vehemently. Dobby simply cut through everything. As Potter Elves, any of Master Harry Potter sir's properties that was being needing work done were being their responsibility, and if Master Harry Potter sir and Master Harry Potter sir's Mistress Mo-Mac ma'am would kindly be being going back to The Pottery - or somewhere else that wasn't being here - he and Trillie could be getting the work done that was being needing doing, thank you very much!
Momentarily speechless, and unable to come up with a counter anyway, they removed themselves back to Lancashire, and when they'd finished laughing they agreed that they'd have to be very careful in the future when mentioning work anywhere near Dobby.
Friday morning was spent at the Ministry. First with Director Bones, catching up on the Dumbledore investigation from last summer as well as supplying paperwork for the charges he'd been handed at Grimmauld Place; and later at the Department of Magical Transportation where they tested for their apparition licenses. They even managed to find two copies of the pamphlet 'Floo with a Flourish'.
Normally they should've been at King's Cross a little before eleven to board the Express, but with the whole catalogue of magical ways of travelling available to them, not to mention that the place would probably be crawling with both Dumbledore's and Brocklehurst's people, they decided instead on a nice lunch in a small bistro in Muggle London, and later they dropped by Hamish and Kirsten for tea.
Just before six they apparated to the cabin in Hogsmeade and walked to the station from there. That is - Morag walked to the station and Harry hid himself in a small copse of trees on the carriages' route to the castle, then boarded the one with his friends in it as it passed.
It caused quite a stir among disgruntled Order-members when Harry cheerfully walked into the Great Hall, amicably chatting with Neville. The Order-members were even more disgruntled when it dawned on them that he'd played them for fools for a couple of weeks now and that they couldn't touch him here. With 300 witnesses, a lot of them more loyal to Harry than to the Headmaster, it would be a scandal of the largest magnitude. Harry just smirked.
During the first part of the Feast Mandy, Dumbledore and - strangely enough - Professor Wilson (whom Harry was now almost sure was Tonks. He hadn't confirmed it on the Map yet simply because he honestly didn't care) seemed to take turns scowling at Harry. He just kept the smirk in place, waiting for the entertainment from the Ravenclaw table.
Just as the scowling was beginning to annoy him, a squeal from the Ravenclaws made everything stop. As the less excitable - mainly boys as the squeal was decidedly feminine and probably had nothing to with Quidditch - turned to see what the ruckus was about, a gaggle of girls was forming around Morag, ooh'ing and ah'ing over her new ring. The funny thing about it, at least in Harry's and Morag's minds, was that it was Mandy who'd set the whole thing off when she spotted the new adornment on Morag's left hand.
The situation got even better when Professor Flitwick came down to offer his congratulations. He was one of the three at the Staff table who Harry knew had seen the ring on his mother's hand (the two others being McGonagall and Dumbledore), and knowing the small man, there was no way he wouldn't rush to congratulate Harry as well. Capital entertainment ahead.
Sure enough. The professor stopped like he'd hit a wall and took a second or two to compose himself before sincerely congratulating Morag. Then he crossed to the Gryffindor table where he shook Harry's hand while he told him about the first time he'd seen that ring on his favourite student's finger, nineteen years ago.
As people started to put the facts together, both Mandy and Dumbledore turned some interesting shades of red and purple, and it was obvious throughout the Hall that with the exception of Padma, Luna and Neville, nobody had seen this coming. Dumbledore had to restrain himself, but Mandy felt no need for that. She ranted and raved at Morag in the loudest and most obnoxious voice possible, until Flitwick gathered his scattered wits and came down on her with points deduction and detentions. It still didn't keep her from glaring venomously at both Harry and Morag for the rest of the Feast though.
The real fireworks began when Morag was summoned to the Headmaster's office after the Feast. They had anticipated this though, and Harry was with her when she arrived at the gargoyle that guarded the entrance. When they entered the office they were met by a very sour-faced Headmaster, backed up by professors McGonagall and Wilson. Flitwick - who should've been there as Morag's Head of House - was absent.
"Mr. Potter," the Headmaster started, "You were not asked to come here. Please leave."
"Not a chance!" Harry countered flatly. "If you believe I'll leave my fiancée alone with you and your compulsion charms, you're even dumber than I thought." All three professors looked quite offended. "We all know that there are no academic or disciplinary reasons for pulling Morag up here," he continued. "This is purely about trying to guilt trip her into breaking our engagement, because the ring on her finger is final proof that your revolting attempt to enslave me with Broomstick Brocklehurst has failed." He moved closer to Dumbledore, placing his hands on the desk to get in the old man's face. "What you still fail to understand, old man, is that your scheme was doomed from the very beginning. No matter who you'd set me up with, and no matter how little time I was supposed to have to digest it, I'd never sign a marriage contract, no matter what the consequences for anyone who'd already signed it, and no matter what the consequences for me. Face it, old man, you've lost. No matter what happens from here on, you're as much the Enemy to me as Voldemort is." McGonagall blanched; Wilson/Tonks gasped, and Dumbledore reared back as if he'd been struck.
"Surely you don't mean that, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall ventured.
"Well, not exactly," Harry replied. "After all, Voldemort has openly tried to kill me on a number of occasions while the Headmaster has covertly done everything he could to destroy my life bit by bit since I was a toddler - and maybe even since before I was born. Looking at it objectively, I think I'd have to say that the Headmaster is more of an enemy to me than Voldemort." The Headmaster winced at that assessment but rallied enough to try his tested tactics against Harry:
"Why this animosity, Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore looked supremely disappointed. "What have I done, for you to mistrust me so?" Harry snorted and Morag looked ready to kill.
"You're joking, right? What reason have you ever given me to trust you? You've lied, schemed and manipulated my whole life!" Morag caught his hand and squeezed gently to calm him a little. "We can start with the Dursleys and that Hell of theirs you dumped me in."
"You were still in great danger, Harry. It was the safest place for you," Dumbledore tried to placate him.
"Bullshit!" Harry spat. "You and Hagrid were the only ones who knew anything at all about what might have happened in Godric's Hollow, so I wasn't in any danger until you announced me as The-Boy-Who-Bloody-Lived and painted a huge fluorescent target on my back." Harry shot the Old Goat a withering glare. "But even if what you said was true, you still had no excuse for dumping me there. My parents' Will forbade it and you knew that. You were a witness after all." McGonagall stared at him in astonishment before turning to Dumbledore.
"Is this true, Albus? Did you disregard James and Lily's Will?" Her tone was low and dangerous. The Headmaster flinched.
"It is not important," he blustered. "As his guardian I had to do what was best for him. I had to keep him safe." Harry shot out of the chair he'd just sat down in, fury blazing in his eyes.
"I hope you don't believe that yourself! If you do, you're an even bigger failure than I thought possible. You've never done what was best for me. If you had, my growth wouldn't have been stunted by ten years of malnutrition; I wouldn't have had brittle bones for the same reason; I wouldn't have spent ten years living in a cupboard, and I would've known what I should know about this community of yours. Oh... And you wouldn't have tried to set me up in a slavery contract with the school broomstick!" He made a visible effort to reign himself in. "But you're partially right. It's not important because you were never my guardian - legal or magical - so no matter what nefarious reasons you had for making my life sheer hell, you're still just a common criminal." He turned to professor Wilson. "What do you think your boss thinks about you aiding and abetting a criminal like this one, Tonks?" A stunned silence lasted for about five seconds.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Mr. Potter."
"Can it, Nymphadora," he sneered. "I really don't care about your masquerade here, but your Director might take a different view. I still can't figure out why you're here in disguise and under a fake name though. It tells me you're doing - or are supposed to do - something that can't hold up to scrutiny, but I can't think of what." He turned and pulled Morag up from her seat. "Come on, mo gradh. We need to find you a place where the broomstick can't smother you in your sleep."
"Sit down!" Dumbledore barked. "We're not finished yet."
Morag snorted. "I think you'll find out pretty soon that you are in fact finished, Headmaster." Harry snickered, and Dumbledore tried to ignore both.
"Have you thought this through, Miss MacDougal? Do you really want the loss of Miss Brocklehurst's and Mr. Potter's magic on your conscience?" She couldn't keep herself from rolling her eyes.
"Of course I don't want that, and I won't have it," she shot back. "It's all on your head. You were never in a position to make decisions on Harry's behalf, and had you kept your incessant scheming in check, Mandy's and Harry's magic would never have been in any danger. Quit trying to blame others for what your own stupidity has brought down on you." She spun and grabbed Harry's hand. "By the way, Headmaster," she said, her back to the old man. "Next time you feel like calling me up here to waste my time, please make sure to call up my Head of House as well. I do not appreciate your attempt to put me in a hostile environment here. Good night, Headmaster, professors." The last few words came close to leaving a layer of ice on every surface in the office. Even the portraits winced as the young couple made their exit.
Once at the bottom of the staircase, Harry spun Morag into his arms and proceeded to show her just how much he appreciated her support, not to mention her cutting off the old meddler, and she eagerly reciprocated. Then he went on to drag her away, but - much to her surprise - not in the direction of the Room of Requirement. No, he took another path that ended with them standing in a fourth floor corridor, in a wing she'd never been in before.
It turned out that Harry, after some heavy threats, had had a very enlightening conversation with former Headmaster Phineas Nigellus Black's portrait at Grimmauld Place, during which he'd learnt that the apartments in the Teachers' Quarters were exempt from the Headmaster's monitoring wards; that they could be fully warded from the inside, and that due to Hogwarts having only about half the number of students it used to have, only the third floor apartments were in use, leaving the ones on the fourth floor empty. Just what they needed. And since they both had their shrunken trunks with them, all they had to do was pick a suite and move in, and so they did.
Ready made love-nest, only they couldn't socialise there, so seeing Neville and Padma would still take place in their respective common rooms or in the Room of Requirement.
Saturday morning's Daily Prophet made no mention of the new development in Harry's life, much to their surprise. They still believed that warding Morag's magical signature yesterday was a smart and necessary move though. Breakfast saw a somewhat smaller gaggle than the previous evening forming around the two of them. Morag was happily chatting about the proposal; how and when they got together, and about the Mandy-situation - which was the only questions Harry took any part in answering, laying any and all blame on those who'd already signed the cursed document which Dumbledore had negotiated despite knowing full well he had no right to. That version of events hadn't been widely known before and it quickly spread, much to the Headmaster's displeasure. Said Headmaster also suddenly seemed to be on less than amicable terms with his Deputy, something Harry and Morag dutifully took a moment to savour.
Having been a bit heavy-handed with the old man on Friday, they were both a bit surprised when he made no attempts at peace talks, nor did he persist in trying to make Morag see the folly of her ways. Indeed he did so much to keep clear of them that he had McGonagall deliver the threat of expulsion to Morag on Sunday, after he'd learned that she'd moved out of Ravenclaw Tower to parts unknown. A somewhat bemused, and not very happy, Deputy was sent back to her boss with the message that if Morag was to be expelled, Harry would have to be too, since they now lived together and as such broke the same rules. He was also advised that expulsion would bring up a complaint to the School Board, since Morag was being threatened after two days away from her dorm, yet at the same time nobody seemed to care that Harry hadn't been seen in the Gryffindor dorms since September 1st. They didn't think she'd be threatened that way again.
Other than that it was actually a quiet weekend. They spent a good part of Sunday in the Room of Requirement, quietly talking to Neville and Padma - who was still a bit skittish around Harry - about plans for the future (mostly Harry's and Morag's since Neville and Padma hadn't been together for more than two weeks yet); arranging for Neville to tutor Morag in Herbology which was a glaring weak point for her, and just generally hanging out with each other, until Neville said that he had to go and work on his Occlumency. The rest of the day they spent alone, with Morag doing her best to own up to her promise to thank his lights out. They both walked a lot funnier - and smiled a lot wider - than normal on Monday, and Morag actually winced when she sat.
The article they'd been expecting came in Monday morning's Prophet. It didn't have much to offer though, as every member of the family had refused to comment, so the only quote they had from Oban was from Hamish who simply confirmed that yes, he was Harry's solicitor and yes, he was currently preparing several lawsuits on his behalf, as well as investigating the Brocklehurst contract.
The 'several lawsuits' part seemed to have had an effect on the editor, as the usual libel and slander was kept at a remarkably low level throughout the piece. However, without that the reporter was left with around 800 words of assorted rants against Harry from Mandy and her brothers and the 57th. (give or take a couple) rehash of his Hogwarts career, with the only news being the sub-zero temperature between him and Dumbledore. Morag survived the article unscathed, mostly due to her leading a virtually invisible existence at school until three days ago. Nobody really knew anything about her, and her OWL scores, which placed her fourth in Ravenclaw and eighth overall in their year, didn't merit a lot of comments. All in all it had been a good start to the term.
The relative peace and quiet continued all through January and a good ways into February as well. Although Harry had told his fiancée he had no wish to celebrate a fake holiday designed to sell pink cardboard hearts and cheap, heart shaped chocolates - a sentiment she wholeheartedly agreed with - they did go out to dinner on Valentine's Day. They just called it 'working on their relationship' when they apparated to Leicester to try out a small restaurant, Padma had recommended to them. They had a lovely meal, and the mood the place promoted eventually meant that nobody but Dobby saw them that weekend.
Late February saw yet another quite spectacular Ronald Weasley blow-up. The pick-up teams had just finished an hour of play and were now seated in the Great Hall where Harry was complimenting their game. He specifically praised the 'Puff Beaters for deadly accuracy when Ron - whose team was scheduled to play the 'Puffs the next week - came charging at him and actually managed to land a punch that sent him crashing to the floor.
Countless hours of 'Harry-hunting' now stood him in good stead as he came up and was ready when Ron came back for the encore. Harry swayed away from Ron's stiff arm, and when he caught said arm, a quick twist was enough to spin the enraged redhead around and introduce him to the Taser-spell that Harry had made last summer. He dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Seeing Harry with his wand drawn the teachers finally decided to react, most of them by screaming abuse at Harry.
Once things had cooled down a little, Flitwick utilised his Ravenclaw intelligence and asked Harry what he'd done to his former friend. Harry curtly explained that he had simply stunned him, using a spell that imitated a Muggle Taser - or stun gun - since using a traditional stunning spell at point blank range carried a huge risk of doing permanent damage to the target.
This information got the Muggle-borns and the Muggle-aware among both staff and students in a tizzy, and he was bombarded with questions about where he'd found it; how he cast it, and how magic could mimic something electrical. They were all disappointed though, when he told them that he'd crafted the spell himself, although it was based on a widely used, very old spell, and that he preferred to keep its specifics to himself. When he was asked how he could craft it when he'd never taken Arithmancy, he just rolled his eyes and told them it was easy. To back up his claim against the cries of disbelief he demonstrated the other spell he'd made:
A four feet long, red beam of energy grew from his wand-tip with a whooshing noise, and as he moved his wand a hum sounded in sync with his movements and in the background was the constant wheezing of a breath-mask. The resulting cheer told him that quite a number of the students had watched 'Star Wars'.
The cheers then turned to gulps when he asked Morag to conjure a length of iron pipe, which he then used his 'lightsaber' to cut into little bits and pieces. Nobody felt any need to pester him after that display.
The entertainment next morning was provided by Molly Weasley, by way of a record breaking Howler for Ron in which she made it crystal clear what she thought about his behaviour, and then went on to speculate whether she could've been handed the wrong baby when going home from St. Mungo's in 1980; and by Padma with her very public - and very enthusiastic - congratulations to Neville on being the new male sixth year Gryffindor Prefect. The kiss she gave him left half the Hall breathless and Neville grinning like a complete idiot.
Next weekend was the Hufflepuff - Gryffindor game, but with their captain serving detention and no reserves available, the Gryffindor team came within an hour of forfeiting the match before Victoria took pity in them and stepped in. With absolutely no help or protection from the five first- and second years that made up the Chaser- and Beater teams even she couldn't prevent the 300 points defeat, but she showed enough to prove that she was in a league far above anything Ron Weasley could ever hope for.
Said Weasley later seethed when he was told that at least two League scouts had approached Victoria after the game, and that the 'Puff Beaters seemed to have the full attention of another pair of scouts. What with them being just fourth years, that was quite a feat. Hearing Harry's coaching skills praised over the next few weeks didn't do anything to improve Ron's term either.
February gave way to March and Harry began getting antsy. Everything he knew about Dumbledore told him that the Old Goat wasn't just going to concede defeat, and since Morag had already made it patently clear he'd get no help from her, he should - in Harry's and Hamish' estimation - have brought out the big guns of the Wizengamot by now. Still, nothing had happened and that set Harry on edge. Morag did what she could to take his mind off the whole affair, but this time her - usually very effective - tactics only managed to make her walk funny, but they had no real effect on Harry other than the momentary relaxation their activities provided. That immediately ignited all her almost forgotten insecurities and sent her into a panic about not being enough for him, or not the right one for him... at least until she caught sight of the ring on her left hand that he'd put there.
So... She couldn't help Harry by getting physical. Well, not this time anyway. That wasn't going to stop her from being so though... They both liked those activities far too much for her to stop them, but for now they'd have to be just carnal fun and games while Harry's main problem would have to be attacked with brainpower.
She conscripted Padma and Luna, and the three of them set about thinking up ways to solve the problem. In the end though, it was solved all by itself when Harry received a summons to appear before the Wizengamot on March 19th. Dumbledore had simply been a bit slower than they'd expected, but now things seemed to be rolling, although not in the direction than Dumbledore thought they were.
Wednesday the 19th. dawned, and after a pitiful last-minute attempt from the Headmaster to block Morag from accompanying Harry, which was easily - and quite loudly - rebuffed by telling the Old Goat that Morag was of age and as such he had no say in what she did - or where - the young couple arrived at the Ministry to a barrage of shouted questions from a horde of journalists. They were disappointed though when the two of them simply made their way through the gaggle, never uttering a word.
They met up with Hamish and Kirsten in a room just across from the Wizengamot Chamber where they briefly discussed how to go about it, but with the overall response already taken care of it was only minor details that needed polishing, as well as thinking up responses to less likely scenarios, but with Fudge, and presumably Umbridge, at the forefront of the court there was no telling what they'd come up with.
Hamish had been throwing laws and decrees at Fudge and the Wizengamot office for more than a week, but he hadn't had a lot of success getting any information back on what the inquiry was about. They knew it was about the Brocklehurst contract fiasco of course, but everybody in important positions had gone to great lengths to keep Harry from learning the agenda, something it was his right to know. It seemed that Dumbledore and Fudge had found something they could work together on. The five votes in the Brocklehurst Block probably had some effect as well.
Never mind though. They were going to be a major pain in the Minister's arse today, and if they could manage it they'd pull his Government down altogether. It all depended on the elusive agenda. If this whole charade was 'just' an inquiry, Fudge might be able to hang on to his job for another month, but if the Wizengamot had in fact officially convened, he'd be out of office before the inquiry could even begin.
It turned out that the Wizengamot was indeed in session, so when Hamish prodded him after listening to a very confident Dumbledore's opening platitudes, Harry stood and requested the floor, and Hamish, Kirsten and Morag sat back to enjoy the fireworks.
"Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot. I am Harry James Potter, son of James Charles and Lily Marguerite Potter. By rights of the written Wills of Sirius Orion Black, my godfather and legal and magical guardian, and of Orion Antares Black, his father, I am, since granted emancipation by aforementioned Sirius Orion Black, the sole Heir and Patriarch of the Noble and Most Ancient House and Family Black. As the Family Patriarch I hereby claim my Family's rightful seat in this august body, releasing from this moment the steward of the seat from his duties." He went back to Hamish for a sip of water and a caress from Morag, completely unaffected by the pandemonium reigning in the Chamber, which only grew when it dawned on the members that the Black steward had been Cornelius Fudge, and that he was now without a seat in the Chamber and therefore could no longer serve as Minister. Harry cleared his throat as he went back to the middle of the floor.
"Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot," he began again. "I am Harry James Potter, son of James Charles and Lily Marguerite Potter. By right of the written Will of my parents, and by emancipation granted by my guardian, I am the sole Heir and Patriarch of the Noble and Ancient House and Family Potter. As the Family Patriarch I hereby claim my Family's seat in this august body, releasing from this moment the steward of the seat." He took a deep breath, steeling himself for the next to come.
"Having released the steward Albus Dumbledore, I hereby request that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement charge him with illegally casting the seat's vote since November 1st. 1981, at which date he assumed control of the seat against the written Will of my parents to which he was a witness." Ragnarok ensued, and only now did he glance at Dumbledore who looked suspiciously like he was contemplating murder. Harry just shot him a contemptuous glare and then he turned and waited for the ruckus to die down. He never acknowledged any of the shouts directed at him.
"At this time I'd like to present my proxies," he continued as soon as the noise was at a manageable level again. "Since the Chief Warlock along with Mr. Brocklehurst has made it so, come September 1st. this year, I will - according to them - be without magic, and I will consequently be unable to control my seats personally. Therefore, stewarding the seat and voting on behalf of Family Black will be Madam Ciorsdan MacDougal, and stewarding the seat and voting on behalf of Family Potter will be my fiancée, Miss Mhór MacDougal. Both proxies will be without limits or restraints by their respective Families, and both stewards are fully empowered to act as they see fit for the good of the Families they represent, including appointing their successors, until such time that the Wizengamot Office is notified of the proxies' termination in writing, blood-signed by me or my successors as Family Patriarchs. My proxies will assume their duties immediately." Another outcry followed his statement.
"You can't do this, boy!" an incensed Cornelius Fudge snarled. "I am the Black proxy indefinitely by decree of the Chief Warlock and former Minister Bagnold."
Harry decided to answer this one. "I don't care about your delusions, Fudge. I am the sole heir to the Black House and Family by my godfather's Will, and since he was never charged with anything - much less convicted - Bagnold and Dumbledore had absolutely no business assigning a proxy to the seat in the first place. Even if they did, you'd still be voting illegally since the Black proxy by default should've been Narcissa Malfoy. Only the Family Patriarch is empowered to select someone from outside the Family as long as there are Family members free to do the job." Fudge visibly deflated and Umbridge, who was sitting next to him, looked like she'd swallowed something even more unpleasant than usual as it dawned on her that her protection had just evaporated.
"If that is the Family Charter, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore butted in, "shouldn't you appoint a Black Family member?"
"Seems your hearing went away along with your wits, old man," Harry sneered. "I just told you all that the Patriarch holds power to select an outsider, and that Patriarch is me." The old meddler received another glare as Harry dared him to challenge his claim. "Besides, even if I wasn't, it would still have to be an outsider as the Black Family currently consists of me."
Dumbledore did a double take. "There is at least Mrs. Malfoy, Mr. Potter."
"No there is not," he countered flatly. "To take things in sequence so even you can understand it: Bellatrix Lestrange is dead and so are her revolting husband and brother-in-law. Just to be certain, she has in death been disinherited and cast from the House and Family along with any offspring she may have had, for her role in the death of the previous Family Patriarch and for being an Inner Circle Death Eater among other things. Narcissa Black is presumed to be alive. Her marriage to the Inner Circle Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy, has been dissolved and she has been disinherited and cast from the House and Family along with any offspring she may have after the date on which her disenfranchisement took effect, for aiding and abetting the sadistic psychopath Tom Riddle, better known to the public as Voldemort..." Gasps and cries of protest were heard throughout the Chamber, and Harry was disgusted with the cowardice of these people.
"Narcissa's son, Draco Malfoy, born when she was still a Black Family member, is dead and has in death been disinherited and cast from the House and Family along with any offspring he may have sired, for the same reasons as his mother as well as torture and murder." Harry took a moment to compose himself as the now customary round of outrage ran its course through the Chamber.
"My godfather recommended in his Will that I reinstate Andromeda Tonks to the Family but it was only a recommendation, and while I have nothing against Madam Tonks personally, reinstating her would mean recognizing her daughter, Nymphadora Tonks, as well. Since Miss Tonks has spent a few years helping Mr. Dumbledore keeping me imprisoned with my mother's Muggle sister, in her capacity as a member of Mr. Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix, she will never be welcomed into a Family that I'm in charge of." Dumbledore didn't look too happy about Harry going public with the Order, and Harry's withering glare didn't help his mood either. Nor did the incredibly hurt look he got from 'Professor Wilson' in the spectators' seats.
"So to sum it up so even you can't mistake it, Chief Warlock: I am currently the only member of the Black Family, just as I'm the only member of the Potter Family, although I will be adding Miss MacDougal to it at some point in the not too distant future."
Mr. Brocklehurst immediately objected to this. "This is preposterous!" he bellowed, his face taking a peculiar shade. "I have a fully negotiated contract of marriage, regarding you and my daughter as you very well know, Mr. Potter. It leaves no option to add Miss MacDougal to the Potter Family in any capacity. Now cease this nonsense and live up to your responsibility!"
Harry turned towards him. "Good for you, Mr. Brocklehurst. Congratulations," he replied sarcastically. "Since both the Minister's staff and the Wizengamot Office have refused to tell me why I was summoned here..." several members looked rather peeved at this and Dumbledore hid his face in his hands, "...I have to rely on guesswork, but I'm fairly certain that the document you're referring to is at least one reason why we're here today. If you don't mind, I'll wait and address that issue when it's the appropriate time for it." With that Harry turned and went to sit down next to Morag, who in turn decided to add to the atmosphere and greeted him with a chaste - if fairly enthusiastic - kiss. She'd be up next, along with her mum.
Finally Dumbledore moved to take control of the floor again and got the session underway. It seemed however that he was now under fairly intense scrutiny by at least Director Bones, Madam Longbottom and a spry-looking old wizard whom Hamish identified as Tiberius Ogden, of Firewhiskey fame and the pillar among the Neutrals that Mr. Brocklehurst desperately wanted to be. Harry made a note to meet with him as soon as possible, along with the ladies MacDougal.
It also seemed that several of the non-members in the Directors' chairs were looking closely at the Old Goat, and while they didn't have a say in who held his position, they could make his life in the Ministry quite unpleasant, should they choose to.
Hamish pointed all this out to Harry as Dumbledore swallowed his defeat and swore the MacDougal women into their respective stewardships, and Harry could see it clearly on the old man's face that he was painfully aware of it too. It was an expression Harry had come to cherish: The look of a manipulation that had blown up in his face.
When they at last got around to the inquiry, Director Bones seemed to take a pointed interest in the lack of cooperation from both offices about the agenda, and Mr. Ogden - who'd taken over the Chief Warlock's chair as the most senior member of the Wizengamot since Dumbledore was a part of the case, the inquiry was about - gleefully let her. It seemed to Harry that he and Mr. Ogden had things in common.
The day quickly went from bad to worse for Albus Dumbledore, and that was just with Director Bones' opening salvo about the blasted agenda. He had tried to blindside Harry, with full cooperation from Fudge and Umbridge, and he had succeeded to a certain degree, but now Fudge was a goner and a liability and he himself would be lucky to get away from today with anything less than a full investigation. And that was if the inquiry went his way. Blast that damned brat for starting to think for himself. Blast that damned Brocklehurst bint for her inability to think at all, and damn Granger for costing him his entire network around Potter, simply because she couldn't keep quiet. It never crossed his mind that most of his woes were brought about by him trying to be too smart, trying to seize firmer control of what was already in his hands.
In sharp contrast to Dumbledore, Amelia Bones' day was just getting better. Young Mr. Potter cutting the old man down to size had warmed her heart, and his revelation of obstruction from the higher authorities in the Ministry and the Wizengamot had been a godsent. The top billing so far though, was shared between the public evisceration of the Black Family by a half-blood, and the equally public confirmation of the existence of the Order of the Phoenix along with a couple of names of members. She was close to having enough to take Dumbledore down now. Not for the first time she blessed the day last summer, when she'd been called to Gringott's to deal with problems regarding a high-profile customer.
Her niece had stubbornly defended Mr. Potter as a decent lad all along, and as she'd learnt more about him Amelia had come to agree with her. The only not-so-decent things she'd been able to unearth was the way the boy had been treated ever since the deaths of his parents. How he'd managed to become what he was, despite all that had been thrown at him, boggled her mind. In spite of everything he'd become exactly what she'd want for a nephew-in-law. Pity he was already firmly spoken for, but she had to admit that he and Miss MacDougal had some rather serious chemistry going already last summer.
She stepped up to the dais and got down to business. Since they now had no Minister, and since Dumbledore was disqualified for this case, she was next in line to conduct the inquiry.
"Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot," she began. "You have been convened today, the nineteenth day of March 1997, to bear witness to - and possibly pass judgement in - a matter of a fully negotiated contract of marriage, which one of the young people it is uniting is now refusing to honour, on penalty of both young people's magic being forfeit." She turned to Harry and the two conspirators.
"Mr. Brocklehurst, Chief Warlock Dumbledore, Mr. Potter," she addressed them. "Has anything been done to resolve this matter?"
Dumbledore jumped at it. "Yes Director. Since September 2nd. I have repeatedly tried to make Mr. Potter see reason, but so far without any luck." He graced the Wizengamot with his best, long suffering expression.
"My wife and I had a discussion with Mr. Potter and my daughter on Halloween, Madam Director," Mr. Brocklehurst chimed in. "Mr. Potter acknowledged that there is a contract and he never mentioned that he wouldn't honour it. Now he seems dead set on costing my daughter her magic." His look of complete devastation was artful.
Director Bones turned to Harry: "Do you have anything to say to this, Mr. Potter?"
"I most certainly do, Madam Director," he answered, then turned to the Wizengamot.
"At this point in the proceedings," he began, "I'm sure that most of you are willing to dismiss me as a spoiled brat with no compassion or respect for others, based on the performance of these two gentlemen over there." Nods and murmurs greeted his statement. "When you couple that with the reputation that Mr. Fudge and The Daily Prophet have seen fit to construct for me over the last few years it's obvious that we should go directly to the reason that those in power had you convene for a simple matter of an illegal contract..." He paused for effect. "...namely to legislate that I be forced to honour said contract." Gasps were heard, but several members looked speculative. It was fairly easy to see they were trying to calculate what would land the most advantages to themselves.
"However," Harry continued, "both the heart-wrenching performances of the gentlemen beside me and just about every word ever written about me outside The Quibbler are products of far too active imaginations. Pure fantasy, I'm afraid. The truth about this regrettable matter is that I was accosted by Miss Brocklehurst on September 2nd. and informed that I was set to marry her, and that she'd already signed the contract. This was the first I ever heard about that cursed document, despite Miss Brocklehurst claiming that Mr. Dumbledore had told her that I had specifically asked for her, and that - as my guardian - he was to negotiate the contract on my behalf and with my full consent." He went and picked up his glass for a drink of water.
"Disregarding for a moment his other blatant lies to Miss Brocklehurst, as well as to myself, Mr. Dumbledore has never had any right to make decisions on my behalf since he was never my guardian. That alone makes the contract illegal, and I cannot be held to it. Unfortunately for Miss Brocklehurst, she had already shown a remarkable lack of foresight and signed the damned thing without ever seeing me, speaking to me, or even pausing to think about why I would request a witch whom I've never interacted with in any way for my bride." He paused to collect his thoughts.
"When pressured, Mr. Dumbledore then had the audacity to claim that it was done for my own good, and that refusing the contract would make me responsible for the loss of Miss Brocklehurst's magic. Looking at the document though, it was fairly easy to see that it is in reality an attempt on his behalf to buy votes in this august body. Mr. Brocklehurst is well known for controlling a block of five votes. What is not so well known is that he's also broke. From both his and Mr. Dumbledore's points of view it was a fine match. Mr. Brocklehurst needs money and Mr. Dumbledore wants votes, but instead of shelling out himself, Mr. Dumbledore decided that I should pay for the deal, along with a healthy commission for him. To get Mr. Brocklehurst to agree to this he sweetened the deal with almost complete control of the Potter House and Family to Mr. Brocklehurst and a marriage for his daughter, whose hard earned reputation ensures that no wizard with any respect for himself would ever fork over a brideprice for her." Outrage reigned in the Chamber, and both Director Bones and Mr. Ogden were grinning ferally as Bones tried to restore order.
"Lastly," Harry began again, "I'd like to refute Mr. Brocklehurst's claim that I deceived him and his family on Halloween. I told both him, his wife and his daughter that I would never sign their contract, and that I would never touch Miss Brocklehurst if she was the last female of any species on Earth. How could that not make it clear that I have no intention of honouring their illegal contract?" He took a deep breath.
"To round it off, the contract was made without my knowledge or consent, by people who had no rights, be that legal, magical or moral, to make any agreements on my behalf, and they will be the ones responsible for Miss Brocklehurst and I losing our magic. I consider the whole concept of contracted marriage barbaric and I will never honour this, nor any other marriage contract, no matter what the consequences. Thank you." It was quite obvious that his finishing words were taken as a condemnation of pureblood customs - and it was! - and several members who had at some point seemed sympathetic to him now wore rather disapproving looks.
Director Bones looked at him sharply. "Thank you, Mr. Potter. I believe you managed to get your side of the story out." She turned her head. "Mr. Brocklehurst, Chief Warlock Dumbledore, do you have anything to add?" Mr. Brocklehurst looked like a fish out of water. Dumbledore had told him that Young Mr. Potter was unobtrusive, malleable and easily lead. To him he seemed more like a bull in a china shop, and his plans were going to suffer greatly for it unless something happened to sway the Wizengamot to force the boy.
Dumbledore looked thirty years older than he did before Harry's diatribe. To Harry, his and Brocklehurst's expressions told him that he'd hit very close to home.
"Yes Director, I have," Dumbledore said warily. "Mr. Potter is an exceptionally powerful young wizard who, due to his Muggle upbringing, lacks the grounding and connection to our world that comes naturally for young wizards and witches who've grown up in magical households. Mr. Potter needs this grounding, and the contract was set up for this purpose."
"And the fact that Mr. Potter wants nothing to do with Miss Brocklehurst never mattered?" Director Bones asked archly.
"We didn't know that," Dumbledore defended himself. "Miss Brocklehurst was recommended by Mr. Potter's closest friends, so we had no reason to believe that Mr. Potter would have any issue with her."
The Director stared at him. "Why not ask Mr. Potter?"
Dumbledore faltered a bit. "Mr. Potter was incommunicado over the summer for safety reasons, Director," he replied.
"Bullshit!" Harry barked.
"Mr. Potter!" Director Bones rebuked him sharply.
"My apologies, Madam Director."
"Just don't let it happen again, Mr. Potter." She resumed her normal, stern expression and screwed her monocle tighter into her eye. "You disagree with the Chief Warlock, Mr. Potter?"
"Yes I do, Madam Director," he nodded fervently. "Mr. Dumbledore attempted to hold me incommunicado last summer, but not for my safety. He did it to try to keep me as ignorant about the world of magic as he possibly could, something he's gone to great lengths to do since I was a toddler. He didn't succeed though. I lived on my own all summer, in a cabin I'd rented in Hogsmeade..." Harry almost choked to hold in his laughter at the look of shock and utter dismay that crossed the old meddler's face. Director Bones wasn't faring much better, and Mr. Ogden was openly grinning. Harry ruthlessly suppressed his urge to look at Morag. He knew he'd crack up if he did. "...The property was unwarded with the exception of a few common household wards, and all that was needed to contact me was an owl, as you might remember yourself, Madam Director, from our correspondence over the summer. Mr. Dumbledore could've asked my opinion at any time, and had he done so, we wouldn't have needed to be here today, and Miss Brocklehurst and I wouldn't be looking forward to losing our magic."
"Chief Warlock," the Director called in a frosty tone. "Do you have anything to add?"
"I... I didn't know," he stuttered. "I thought Mr. Potter was in safety with his relatives. I never thought he would be so irresponsible as to leave."
Director Bones looked like she didn't believe her ears.
"Let me get this straight, Chief Warlock," she began, shaking her head in apparent denial. "You take a young wizard whose safety you claim to care greatly for and dump him in a Muggle environment where he is out of touch with anything related to magic – despite his apparent need for a stronger connection to the magical community that you just claimed as a reason to saddle him with an unwanted marriage. There you leave him for nine weeks and just believe that he's there because you want him to be. Would that be a correct assessment, Chief Warlock?"
"Yes or no, Chief Warlock?"
"I... I guess so... From a certain point of view," Dumbledore stuttered.
"You should consider yourself lucky, Chief Warlock," the Director's voice was threatening. "If you had actually been Mr. Potter's guardian, I would've had you arrested for neglect right now." She seemed to calm herself. "Anyway... After dumping Mr. Potter, and making sure that his friends knew not to contact him - just after he'd seen the last of what he considered his family die, mind you - you leave him to grieve alone, and go out and negotiate a marriage contract for him without even attempting to learn his opinion about it. Is that right, Chief Warlock?"
"I... Yes... I mean..."
"With what right did you negotiate the contract, Chief Warlock?"
"I... Well... I have functioned as Mr. Potter's magical guardian since 1981, Director."
"Is that so, Chief Warlock? On who's authority if I may ask? You see, Chief Warlock, Mr. Potter was magically emancipated by his legal and magical guardian early last summer. The emancipation is binding, which shows me that you have never been Mr. Potter's guardian. Therefore, Chief Warlock, I would very much like to know who authorised you as any kind of guardian to Mr. Potter?"
Dumbledore looked sick.
"Nobody authorised it, Director. I simply took over in order to keep him safe."
"I see..." Director Bones was stony-faced. "By that admission you have made it impossible to pass any other judgement in this matter than that the contract is question has been negotiated in bad faith, and that Mr. Potter cannot be compelled to honour it," she said with finality. "I can also inform you that you have been under investigation since early July last year, and that this will be added to the incidents the DMLE has been looking into." Then she rounded on Mr. Brocklehurst.
"Mr. Brocklehurst... What possessed you to go along with this? And what made you agree to a clause calling for the loss of magic, without as much as investigating the validity of your counterpart's claims?"
"It was Albus Dumbledore, Director. If you can't believe him then who can you believe? And what parent of a teenaged daughter would turn down a union with The-Boy-Who-Lived?"
The Director scoffed at him. "What parent of any child would endanger their child's magic this way?" she asked rhetorically. "I suppose the clause is there as a means of guilt-tripping Mr. Potter into compliance?" She received no answer.
"Mr. Ogden, I believe we have heard everything we need to know about this matter," she addressed the temporary Chief Warlock. "It is my recommendation that the Wizengamot take no action in this at this time, and that the DMLE open an investigation into the contract and its negotiators, Chief Warlock Dumbledore and Wizengamot Member Brocklehurst. It is my opinion that the document was negotiated in bad faith, and that in reality it is no more than an attempt to part Mr. Potter from his inheritance." Mr. Ogden stood.
"Thank you, Madam Director. That is also my belief. Any legislation needed in this matter is to be discussed at the next, regular session of this august body. Until such legislation it is the opinion of the Chair that any blame, shame or inconvenience be shared equally between the negotiators of the document, and any financial burden be so too." His gaze swept the Chamber for signs of disagreement.
"Thank you for your time, Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot. This session is adjourned."
"Well..." Harry quipped as he walked with his fiancée and in-laws. "That went smoother than expected. I didn't even have to bring out my ace." He scowled as they passed a crushed looking Brocklehurst.
"You will need to, Harry," Hamish warned him. "Dumbledore is far from finished, and with your blast at the contracts you've given him a lot of support from the conservatives."
"I know," Harry replied. "I actually tried to provoke them into demanding legislation today, so we could get the whole thing out of the way. I would've liked to be able to put it aside and concentrate on Mhór and I, but that wasn't to be." He sighed. "So... what's going to happen now?"
Kirsten answered this one.
"Brocklehurst will present a Bill at the next regular session, which is in a little more than a month. There will be a debate, and no matter how fervently he's going to deny that it's aimed specifically at you, Mhór and I will demand that voting be postponed until the June session where you can be there. In that time Dumbledore will do anything in his power to recruit votes, and if he feels sufficiently pressured he'll even bring up the Prophecy. The Bill will pass by a small majority, and it will be acknowledged that its sole purpose is to force you into compliance. That leaves you to break the news at the end of that session or at the one in August."
"What's the date for the August session?"
"The 20th. Why?" Kirsten looked puzzled at Harry's feral grin.
"Mhór," he said, turning towards her. "What do you think about getting married on the 9th. as we talked about, and then announce your new name when the Wizengamot convenes on the 20th?"
Morag's eyes shone with mirth. "I think that's a brilliant idea. We can have ten days off for a honeymoon, and then go back and drop Fireants into all those windbags' underwear."
Harry turned again.
"Ciorsdan, Hamish... Do you guys have any plans for August 9th?"
"Not that I can think of, Harry," Hamish chuckled.
"You have now, then."
"Right," Kirsten chimed in. "Now for the 1000 Galleon question... Where?"
"Hard to say," Morag frowned. "With everybody and their pet Kneazles knowing that the Windbags are going to legislate Harry into submission, we won't be able to get anyone licensed to officiate in this country. Paris could be an option..." She lit up. "Utrecht of course! Either we go there or they come to Oban."
"You wouldn't mind going there?" Harry looked worried.
"Of course not," Morag soothed. "The important thing is that it happens, not where it happens. The Muggle ceremony is the important one anyway. That one I'd like to have in Oban if you don't mind."
Harry's face cleared right up. "Deal! We'll go to Utrecht on August 9th, and we'll invite half of Oban for the big one... But when?" She rewarded him with a smooch.
"After I'm done with school and before I get pregnant," she smiled impishly. "How about August 9th next year? That way you'll still only have one date to forget."
"Take the offer, Harry," Hamish urged. "It's a good deal."
"I will," Harry assured him. "Now let's get out of here. We'll go to The Pottery and dinner is on me."
It was very late before Harry and Morag came back to Hogwarts that night. After a superb dinner, courtesy of Trillie, the ladies had jumped head first into planning the magical wedding ceremony for this summer, and Harry and Hamish had just sat back and chuckled for a while until they felt compelled to tell them that they didn't even know the Rite, and they also didn't know which location it would take place in. That saw them put in the doghouse for a bit while mother and daughter pouted, but eventually the evening wound down with pleasant conversation, and Harry informed the ladies that they could plan the Muggle ceremony all they wanted - the only limit being that only guests thought willing to give a secrecy oath regarding the couple's new family name could be invited, although a regular promise would suffice for Muggle guests. Kirsten jumped at the mystery name once more, but didn't grumble too much when she was rebuffed once again.
Once back at Hogwarts they were met by a very disgruntled Headmaster. It was clear as day he was itching to take the frustrations of the day out on them, but with most of the senior students from three Houses - not to mention professors Flitwick and Sprout - witnessing the whole event, the old schemer couldn't do much more than shake in impotent rage. The young couple capped a good day by simply nodding politely as they walked by him and disappeared down an empty corridor where Dobby and Dahlia met them and popped them to their purloined quarters.
The next morning saw Harry summoned to Dumbledore's office at breakfast, and the resulting disagreement saw the break between them displayed for even the dumbest to see. Harry flat out refused, calling quite loudly to the Headmaster that since they had nothing to discuss regarding his schooling, and since his Head of House had indicated nothing disciplinary, the two of them had absolutely nothing to talk about unless he was being called up to receive what he was still owed for the door that the Headmaster destroyed in his home.
The articles about yesterday's Wizengamot inquiry in The Prophet only underlined the fallout between the two most famous people at Hogwarts, and several both staff and students sat wide-eyed after reading through the descriptions of Harry's dismantling of the Headmaster.
The old meddler then tried his luck with Morag at lunch but got more or less the same response. She was near the top in all her classes, and Professor Flitwick hadn't talked to her about any disciplinary matters, so she failed to see why she was being summoned, if not for the Headmaster to try once again to meddle in her personal affairs - something she had no intention of letting him.
By that point in her diatribe, Professor Flitwick - who'd been there at breakfast to hear Harry's rejection too - was well and truly fed up with his boss. From what he'd been able to pull out of Mandy, the whole contract fiasco lay squarely at the feet of the Headmaster and the Brocklehursts, and he was not about to sit back and let the Old Goat play his guilt games with two students he genuinely liked, and who were obviously very much in love with each other.
The genial Charms Master was replaced by the feared Master Duellist when Flitwick turned to Dumbledore and demanded answers and explanation. Sadly, when he finally got those explanations they were so unsatisfactory, he wound up giving notice that he'd retire from Hogwarts at the end of the next school year in order to keep his dignity and self-respect.
Filius Flitwick was arguably the most popular professor at Hogwarts, and his impending retirement - as well as the reasons he gave for it - didn't endear Dumbledore to anybody, be that staff or students.
April came rolling, and Harry started on a project that he'd promised himself to try his best with. Four Death Eaters had been on the School Board prior to last summer and he was now spending his weekends softening up their replacements. The rest of the Board was made up of a mix of Light-sided and Neutrals, among them Augusta Longbottom and Amelia Bones. Those people he was confident he could work with, at least with Neville's help.
To his delight it looked like three of the new members were no friends of Dumbledore's either, and they seemed very amenable to the idea he presented to them. The fourth was Molly Weasley, and he knew better than to present her with anything that implied that the sun didn't rise solely because Albus Dumbledore wanted it to. Despite that, he was quite confident that he'd pull off his farewell gift to the Hogwarts students. He had five of the twelve votes secured already, including the ever important one of the Chair, and he still had three months to secure just one more, and Kirsten had promised him she'd get that no problem.
April saw other things happen as well. It seemed that Mandy had finally figured out that Harry was serious about not intending to marry her, and so began a campaign to win him over and save her magic. Several things stood in the way of that though, most prominently was that he intended to marry Morag. That was why he'd proposed to her in the first place after all. Her trying to butter him up by acting like a typical, simpering fangirl definitely wouldn't move him, and neither would recruiting Hermione to plead her case to him.
Hermione had changed greatly over the last few months. The pushy know-it-all was gone, and in her place was a quiet, introspective and withdrawn girl who rarely spoke up in class. She'd lost close to a stone despite never having much to spare in the first place, and she looked frail, pale and drawn, with limp hair; dark circles under her eyes, and an air of defeat to her wherever she went. She seemed to have drawn away from everybody except Ginny, who was frequently seen escorting her to The Great Hall at meal-times where she'd force her to eat something.
Harry would never know why, but she actually tried to plead Mandy's case to him. The scathing comments he gave her on top of his flat rejection most likely didn't help her well being, but he was far past caring. As far as he was concerned, if she'd wanted friendship - or even just civility - from him, she should've acted like it rather than participate in high-handed manipulations against him for petty favours. No, in his mind both Hermione Granger and Mandy Brocklehurst were closed chapters in his life's book.
Among other things happening, was Gryffindor losing their final game of the season to Ravenclaw by 370 points, earning them the dubious honour of being the first Hogwarts Quidditch team in 419 years to record a total deficit of more than 1000 points in a season. Ronald Weasley was not amused, and it got even worse a couple of days later when twin squeals were heard from halfway down the Gryffindor House table where Victoria and Katie were seated. They were both bouncing in their seats, waving sheets of parchment that obviously had something written on them that pleased them greatly. It turned out that Victoria's was a contract offer from the Ballycastle Bats' General Manager who wanted her to spend a season as understudy to their veteran Keeper - who'd already announced that he'd retire in just over a year - with the view to take over his spot. Katie's was an offer from the same team to be their Seeker in this year's Prospects Tournament, a new feature the Irish and Welsh teams had started. It was a one month long, vigorous training camp with professional coaching. The players selected for it would play weekly games, offering the chance for scouted sixth and seventh years who hadn't impressed quite enough to earn a contract to do just that. Evidently, the girls were well chuffed with their offers, and Harry was hugged to within an inch of his life in thanks for helping to bring them about.
The final thing to happen in April - literally - was the regular Wizengamot session on the 30th, which proved Kirsten to be a remarkably gifted seer. The only fault in her prediction from last month was that it wasn't Brocklehurst but Dumbledore who presented the Honour Contracts Bill, which told Morag and Kirsten that he and Brocklehurst hadn't managed to secure the necessary votes before the session. Of course the ladies' meeting with Mr. Ogden a few weeks before could be a reason for that, seeing that it resulted in his block of Neutrals being squarely on Harry's side in the matter.
The session ended in a no-vote on the question, just as Kirsten had predicted. The Bill was pushed to the next regular session on June 25th, much to the conspirators' dismay. Morag and Kirsten were more than happy though. The number of votes they'd had in favour of postponing the Bill had them thinking up ways to keep it at bay until the August session, to maximise the effect when Harry broke his news. They'd all have to meet with Mr. Ogden and the ladies Bones and Longbottom about that, so a dinner at The Pottery was planned for early June.
The first thing happening in May was Harry receiving confirmation that they were more than welcome in Utrecht in August, and that they actually had a choice about which ceremony they'd prefer. One was the Romano-magical Rite that was traditionally used in most of Western- and Central Europe. Another was the Rite the Vikings had developed, which was still in use in remote areas of Scandinavia as well as the Faroe-, Orkney- and Shetland Islands. Finally there was a truly ancient Binding-Rite that most indigenous people - like the Inuit above the Arctic Circle, the Australian Aborigines, the Maya of Yucatan etc. - used. While less impressive than both the Roman and the Viking ones, it was seen as being more in tune with - or true to - magic by everyone save the conservative Western Europeans, since these rites had evolved to almost perfect homogeneity in the remotest of places all over the world without any one place knowing about the others. Instead of swearing unto 'The Great Magic' as an entity like in the Roman Rites, the vows were sworn to Nature and the magic inherent in everything living. The first usually produced some spectacular light-effects, while the second induced a deep feeling of serene peace in all those participating unless the couple were less than truthful in their vows. Harry and Morag were both in favour of the latter version, which seemed mostly Druidic to them, but held the final decision until they'd had a chance to discuss it with the family.
Later in May The Quibbler published the interview that Harry and Luna had been working on since November. In it, Harry explained in minute details all that had been done to him since November 1981, mainly by Dumbledore and the Ministry, but Voldemort, the Death Eaters, his former friends and Wizarding Society as a whole got their fair share of blasts as well.
The final part of the interview was dedicated to the Brocklehurst fiasco and to his plans for his future without magic, although - as he put it - "Magic will still play a part in my life. After all I'm marrying a witch, only not the one Dumbledore and Brocklehurst want to see me enslaved to". It ended with Harry's guarantee that this was the last interview he'd ever give to a magical publication, no matter what any periodical might claim later.
The reactions were swift and varied. Dumbledore summoned him to his office the very day the interview was in the paper, no doubt to express his extreme displeasure and disappointment with Harry not behaving like a good puppy should. He'd never know for sure though, since he chose to ignore the summons as it had become his habit.
Fudge made a large production out of defending himself in next day's Prophet, but since he was no longer in power, and consequently useless to the paper, the journalist didn't even try to polish his outlandish claims, so he ended up looking even more incompetent than Harry had painted him.
Most students refused to comment except Neville who backed everything Harry had said, and Cho Chang, Lisa Turpin and Michael Corner who slandered Harry over half a page. Mandy had apparently been told to keep quiet, which made a lot of sense to Harry. At least she couldn't say anything mindbogglingly stupid with her mouth closed...
A number of Wizengamot members and other assorted dignitaries, none of whom actually knew Harry, offered opinions that didn't matter to anybody, and Amos Diggory hailed him for his courage after the third task of the Triwizard Tournament, and effectively sunk his chances of becoming the next Minister, when he urged people to think about just why Harry claimed that the magical world had never been his. Harry sent him a nice thank you letter, accompanied by a rare, fifty year-old bottle of Firewhiskey.
To Harry the most visible result was that Mandy reverted back to death-glaring at him; that Ron stepped up his pratishness a few notches, and that Hermione wasn't seen outside her dorm room, except for classes, for nearly a week. It also resulted in Ginny finally coming forward and swearing that she had nothing to do with what Ron and Hermione had done regarding the contract. That earned the diminutive redhead a thank you kiss on her cheek - in full view of a livid Ron - and an apology from Harry for pretty much excluding her from his life on suspicion of complicity. She magnanimously - and brightly blushing - forgave him.
Hamish sent word that he'd received more than 100 owls bearing reactions to the interview. They were divided roughly fifty-fifty - including the Howlers - with one half ranting and raving at him and the other expressing understanding of his situation, although several went on to beg him to marry Mandy in order to save his magic and stay in their society. He'd forwarded the most interesting of both kinds. He'd also sent a statement to The Prophet on Harry's behalf, guaranteeing that every incident described in The Quibbler could be backed with Pensieve memories, and asked that Chang, Turpin and Corner either guarantee the same, regarding their slander in The Prophet's article, or retract their comments and apologise before they saw themselves sued. The retraction came three days later, after Hamish had visited Ravenclaw Tower and detailed just how deep they'd be in if they didn't.
Late in the month Kirsten dropped by to tell him that she had secured another two votes for his proposal to the School Board, ensuring its success. She'd also been sounding out several members of the Wizengamot on the contract issue, and even with his refusal to follow treasured pureblood customs, she could all but guarantee that legislation would be pushed to the August session if he wanted it so. That left him - and Morag - with a decision to make: Whether to break his news at all; vote down the Bill twice, in order to end it permanently, or just present Mrs. Mhór Potter as a fait accompli at the August session. Well... They still had some time to decide on that.
While Kirsten was there, he had her draw up a map of the Slytherin Dungeon from memory, to help with another little 'project' he was working on. He hadn't seen the whole layout of the place in second year after all. She was a little put out when he wouldn't tell her what it was about, but she loosened up when he said it was something he wished he could've done when Snape was there. Knowing that, she decided to sit back and just wait for the reports on whatever prank he had in mind.
Harry did indeed have a prank in mind, as a sort of farewell gift to Hogwarts, outside the one he'd been pushing through the Board. He'd started thinking it up once it dawned on him that with his level of power, and with his improved control of said power, he'd lost his dependence on fixed spells. Not that he couldn't use them still, but in addition to them he could simply bend magic to his will and create the desired result. It took a lot more effort than traditional spellwork, but for anything unique it was much preferable to first having to formulate the theory, then calculate the requirements, and then build up the spell - the complete opposite of how he'd done with the Taser spell. The real advantage, at least for pranks, was of course that whatever he did couldn't be dispelled by traditional means, which was why he was now lost to the outside world, thinking up ways to accomplice his goal. When Morag came back from the Library she just looked at him and shook her head. 'No Harry time tonight, it seems', she thought with a small pang of disappointment.
Sunday the 1st of June dawned with cries of outrage and horror from three of the four House Common Rooms. Some time during the night someone - or several someones - unknown had redecorated the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Towers, as well as the Slytherin Dungeons. The Gryffindors woke up to rooms painted in green and silver, with the silver trimmings oscillating ever so slowly. Slytherin House got to enjoy their whole dungeon decorated in scarlet and gold, with a particularly annoying effect on the fireplace wall in the Common Room which was now a vivid red with golden polka dots that popped in and out of existence at irregular intervals. The inhabitants of Ravenclaw Tower considered themselves to be hit the worst. Their accommodations were now shocking pink, dark purple and fluorescent orange in ever changing patterns. A seventh year Muggle-born described it as 'living in an LSD-trip'. Strangely enough the Hufflepuff Burrows had been passed by completely, immediately limiting the search for the culprit to that House.
Harry just sat back and enjoyed the chaos. He'd had the idea of decorating the Slytherin Dungeons in Gryffindor colours for years, but he'd never had the means to do it before. Now that he had, most of Gryffindor had managed to irk him as well, so it made sense to add their tower to the whole deal. The Ravenclaws' new, psychedelic colour scheme was mostly in retaliation for their treatment of Luna over the years, although he'd amped it up a bit because of Mandy and the comments about him in The Prophet. He didn't really have anything against the Hufflepuffs, which was why he'd left their Burrows alone, but the unintended side-effect of diverting the investigation their way was definitely a bonus.
Morag and their friends laughed themselves sick over the whole deal. Morag even forgave yesterday's lack of Harry time when she got the whole picture. Neville didn't mind the new look in the tower too much. In fact he confessed to liking the classy green and silver better than the traditional, loud Gryffindor colours, although he could've been without the oscillating effect. Harry quietly agreed with him. He did apologise to Padma for forcing the alternative colours on her, but Luna in turn rejected his apology and asked if he could make it permanent. Once again the two couples confirmed to themselves that her mind didn't work like theirs did, and quickly realised that they should've expected her to like it. She was a bit disappointed to learn that everything would be back to normal on September 1st, so Harry quickly offered to charm her room at home if she wanted it. She gratefully accepted, on the condition that the enchantment was to be passworded so it could be dispelled, should she move out some time.
In the end, nobody could prove anybody responsible for the prank, and so - in accordance with the time-honoured, rather peculiar Hogwarts kind of justice - Hufflepuff House was docked 100 points. Since it was the only House to escape redecoration, the culprit of course had to be a 'Puff. The 'Puffs were not amused and neither was Harry, so next morning the Headmaster's office was a drab brown all over, and the Deputy Headmistress' was decorated in the tartan of Clan Ogilvie, the eternal enemies of Clan McGonagall.
Harry did have other things than pranks on his mind. Megan and Victoria had challenged the Quidditch Cup winners from Ravenclaw, and their captain - Cho Chang - had jumped to accept it, haughtily declaring that her team would show Potter's Pathetic Losers how real Quidditch should be played.
While not too happy about having to get his players back up in gear this late, especially with Katie and Victoria about to sit for their NEWTs and Demelza, Kirke and Sloper taking their OWLs, but Cho's comments made it impossible to back out of the match. He and Morag spent a few days looking up obscure plays to counter the Ravenclaws' known tactics, which centred around their strong Beaters, and fulfilled a fantasy of Morag's while they were at it. That day she emerged out of the library with a dazed smile, a slight limp and a whole new, firm appreciation for Quidditch - or at least for the table in the aisle where the Quidditch-related books were shelved. More than one young witch went to bed that night trying to think up ways to persuade their boyfriends to do to them whatever Harry had done to Morag. Whatever it was, Morag looked like it had been wonderful.
In between Quidditch and pranks, Harry spent the majority of his time researching everything he could about the Wizengamot's practices and customs, as well as international Wizarding Law. He'd been sure all along that he was in the right and that they would be untouchable, but knowing the exact laws and sections would make delivering the final blow that much sweeter - and that much harder felt by the other side.
He was starting to believe that voting down the conspirators in order to force Dumbledore to let the Prophecy out in the open was the preferable way to go about it, at least if it would force the issue to be postponed to the August session when Mrs. Potter would be in place. With a little luck, their displaying Dumbledore as a toothless meddler and an egotistical manipulator would draw enough votes away from him that they'd be able to pull him out of the Chief Warlock's chair, to replace him with someone with a broader view of the World, preferably one of the Grand Clans' people, depending on who was elected Minister.
He also tried to find some time to lobby for Ogden as Minister, although most of that was handled by Kirsten with the occasional hand from Morag when she could spare the time. He still vividly remembered the discussion when they'd settled for Ogden. He had been Hell bent on endorsing Amelia Bones, simply because he thought that she'd do the best job. What he hadn't considered though, was - as Kirsten quickly and firmly pointed out to him - that as the political novice he was he'd completely disregarded the consequences of electing Bones who, she agreed with him, would be the best Minister they could dream of: Because she was the Director of DMLE there would be a rash of promotions in the Department in the wake of her appointment. Most notably the only possible choice for the new Director would be the Head of the Auror Corps, Rufus Scrimgeour, who - while a competent Auror in his day - was a politician, and a deceptively poor one at that, who'd use his new position to manoeuvre himself into consideration as Minister for the next election. His deputy, Gawain Robards, was a better administrator as well as a better investigator, but he simply wasn't ripe for the top job yet. Ogden on the other hand wouldn't cause any ripples like that at all, seeing as he wasn't a Ministry employee. That would be an added advantage to having him in the job, since he wasn't indoctrinated by years of operating under mountains of time-honoured, traditional inefficiency. On the contrary, he was a successful, private businessman and inventor with a hundred years experience in efficiency, who could give a much needed kick in the arse to the corrupt, apathetic temple of quillpushing, the Ministry had become.
The end of the discussion was that the Potter and Black seats would endorse Tiberius Ogden as their first priority, but if the situation demanded it they would throw their weight behind the Laird of the Grand Clan Wallace, provided they could get a promise from him to work closely with Bones. If they couldn't, Amelia Bones was their fallback.
It boggled his mind how much time he'd had to spend on politics, and it allowed him to pinpoint quite precisely why Hogwarts was in decline: Its Headmaster simply didn't have time to do his job with at least two other positions both demanding full time politicking, and his Deputy was a teacher rather than an administrator. Getting him kicked off his chair in the Wizengamot would be doing the students a favour, although the old schemer probably wouldn't see it that way. After all, how would anybody cope without his unique clarity of vision and his deep understanding of the Greater Good? Yeah... Harry was getting prone to being a bit sarcastic every now and then, after taking up with Morag and being exposed to Kirsten.
At last it was Sunday the 15th, the last day before exams and - more importantly to some - the day when the Ravenclaw Quidditch team would attempt to teach Potter's Pathetic Losers how to play the game.
Harry had done quite a bit of thinking in order to find the starting lineup for the game. Not only to secure a win but preferably also humiliating Cho while doing it. He would've been happy to just set a team and let them go out to enjoy themselves, but Cho's continued slandering of both himself, Morag and everybody on the pick-up team had made that approach impossible. Of course throwing in her face that the pick-up team's 7th year Seeker had been picked out by a pro-team while she herself hadn't made for an enjoyable show of unpleasant faces, but it didn't last long.
In the end he decided on Victoria as Captain and Keeper - she was one of the challengers, so she should play; Kirke and Sloper as Beaters - as a slight to Cho, not playing their best Beaters, and just as much to stick it to Ron; Megan as Seeker - for the same reason as Victoria. He would've preferred Katie, but she was a much better Chaser than Megan, and of course the slight to Cho that they didn't even rate her as good enough to play their best Seeker against her was a bonus. The Chasers were Katie, Demelza and 4th year Slytherin Carlton Cartwright, with Graham as reserve for Seeker and Chasers, and Malcolm for Keeper and Beaters.
It was a brilliant game - for about half an hour, then the pick-up team's superior physical condition began to show and the hapless Ravenclaws were reduced to punching bags, and were slowly but surely ground and pushed so far back that Cho had to spend her time-out before an hour had passed. By then 20-20 had become 90-30, and all three Ravenclaw Chasers had needed patching up at least once. When the game resumed Harry's players seemed to have picked up an extra gear, and now they simply overpowered the ragged Ravenclaw lineup. Their Beaters tried everything to stop them, but knowing them to be the strongest part of the team, Harry had chosen his three Chasers for speed and agility rather than for strong throwing arms, and that was paying off now.
After an hour and twenty minutes of play, Megan delivered the final humiliation when she ploughed Cho into the ground with a nicely executed Wronski Feint and climbed back up to daintily pluck the Snitch out of the air before Cho even had a chance to stand up again. Final score was 310-30, and the Ravenclaws finally understood why the pick-up teams were the only teams to be scouted this year.
Cho was burning with humiliation as she rushed away from the pitch, even refusing Megan's outstretched hand. This wasn't the best preparation for the NEWTs that started tomorrow, and it was even worse that one of her own team-mates had all but called her stupid:
"Cho..." Beater Eddie Carmichael called. "Who's been coaching Jones all year?" Cho glowered but said nothing.
"Please, just answer Cho. Who?"
"Potter," she spat.
"Exactly. And what's Potter's signature move?" She glowered again, but a flush of shame began creeping up her cheeks.
"Ah! You've got it now, haven't you?" Eddie shook his head in disgust. "Potter had his choice of three Seekers, all trained by himself. It was written in stone that whoever he chose would use the Wronski and and you still bought it first time. Are you sure you're a Ravenclaw?"
She had never been so thoroughly humiliated in her life! Not even when Potter walked out on her last year. Good thing she was done with school in two weeks, now that her vindictive comments and venomous insults were coming back to haunt her.
Harry celebrated with all the pick-up players, regardless of whether they'd been playing or not. As the celebration wound down they became a bit more serious. They became even more so when Harry began talking.
"I want to thank you all for some great times this year, and since this is likely to be the last time we're all together, I thought that now would be a good time. Thanks guys." He cleared some suspicious debris from the corner of an eye. "I hope you guys can keep this together in one form or another next year. This is what that mouldy old hat has been yammering about for years, and I personally believe it's a good thing." He swept the room with his gaze, and his eyes locked on to what he'd been looking for. "I'm not trying to embarrass you two, but look over there people. Malcolm and Natalie have been holding hands for weeks now. How many of you guys thought you'd see a Slytherin-Gryffindor couple in your time here? Come to think of it... Who thought they'd see a primarily Slytherin-Gryffindor Quidditch team, much less that you'd be playing on it?" He took a long pull from his bottle. "I hope you stick together. That goes both for Malcolm and Natalie and for the lot of you. Victoria and Katie will be gone next year, and so will I. Recruit a Chaser and a Keeper and find out who'll coach you guys. Just look at Katie and Victoria... It is definitely possible to be scouted in this setup, and even if you're just here for a bit of fun and flying, that's OK too. Cheers people."
The sombre mood was soon broken, courtesy of a few exceedingly bad jokes from the 'Puff Beaters, and it was an upbeat group that made its way to the Great Hall for dinner.
Having just seen five Gryffindors who were not on his team romp through the Ravenclaw team, Ronald Weasley was in a foul mood and looking for someone to take it out on - as usual completely oblivious to the possibility that he himself could be responsible for the regrettable state of Gryffindor Quidditch. Showing that he was actually capable of learning, albeit slowly and with difficulty, he left Harry alone and chose instead to let his inferiority complex and self-righteousness loose on little 3rd year Natalie MacDonald, who was known to be friendly with Harry as well as a member of the pick-up Quidditch teams, and as such a more than deserving target in Ron's mind. Nobody ever called Ronald Weasley smart.
Fact: The older Gryffindor witches protect the younger, especially from large bullies with no reason to be even talking to them.
Fact: While Natalie had taught Harry Gaelic, he in turn had taught her to defend herself.
Facts: Nobody messes with Harry's friends! And nobody abuses Malcolm Baddock's girlfriend! and while only a third year student, he was 5" 10' and 175 pounds and much fitter than Ron - and he was not to be trifled with.
Once the commotion had died down, professor McGonagall quietly came over and calmly surveyed the battle zone. After a bit of thought she awarded the nine fifth- to seventh year witches present a point each for protecting their junior Housemate, and Natalie earned 15 points for creative use of charms that should be several years beyond her. While Natalie was blushing, she then reached down and plucked the Captain's badge from Ron's robes; docked 50 points for stupidity, and assigned him detentions every night for the rest of term.
Several people started wagers about the contents and length of the Howler, the stupidest Weasley would receive next morning.
Coming after that very eventful Sunday, Monday seemed positively pedestrian in comparison, even after the most entertaining Howler from Molly Weasley. Once that had gone off and finished and a thoroughly cowed Ron had left the Hall, everything quieted down and settled into an almost subdued mood, courtesy of the exams that were about to begin that day.
The Castle seemed to be quietly humming, perhaps due to all the nervous energy the students had exuded lately. The first week of exams was on its last leg, and just about the only student who didn't seem to be somewhere between exasperated and exhausted was Harry. He still had a lot of free time, and with Morag cramming for tests he'd spent the most of it preparing for next week's session in the Wizengamot - the one that would see a new Minister elected and, so Harry believed, another attempt to tie him down with the bloody contract. He still needed to discuss strategy with Kirsten, but the upcoming weekend would fix that. He was as ready as he could be, save for the strategy meeting, so he started planning a nice goodbye to Hogwarts. Morag was mildly disturbed by the look in his eyes when she came in to pick him up for their trip to Oban.
Harry was close to exploding. He had sat in the observers' stand for three hours now, watching the honourable members of the Wizengamot failing to agree on anything except the date. He caught Morag's eye and nodded. Time to get the ball rolling. Morag stood and requested the floor.
The next five minutes went with a lambasting of epic proportions as Morag let loose all her pent up exasperation with the supposed 'best witches and wizards of the Realm', who'd been arguing like children for hours now. They were getting nothing done, only because some were afraid that their nice advantages and side-incomes would go to someone else.
"You should perhaps remember that you might want some of the 'children' here voting for something one day, young lady," a windbag chastised her. She recognised him as the proxy for the Silversmith family, one of the twenty permanent seats.
"So the honoured proxy of Silversmith believes that courtesy and sucking up to fragile egos should bring more results than researched facts and common sense? I'm sure Byron Silversmith will be delighted to learn that," she sniped. She got no answer but an incoherent sputter. "Anyway," she continued, "I was led to believe that we have a Minister to elect today, so if the esteemed members of this august body are done arguing, I nominate Tiberius Ogden for the position, a respected member whose experience and honesty will be of great benefit to us all." Just as planned, a member of Mr. Ogden's Neutral block seconded the nomination, which he then accepted.
"I nominate Leonard Brocklehurst," a member of the Brocklehurst block offered. Another seconded and Mr. Brocklehurst stood to accept. One of the few surviving, darker members - a Mr. Ferdinand Allen, a lifetime electee member - was nominated, and after an anxious wait his nomination was seconded too and he could stand to accept it.
When Dumbledore finally called for last minute nominations, none were offered. It was unusual to have only three candidates, but on the other hand so was having only 36 voting members. Three members hadn't shown and eleven members were dead. Two of the twenty permanent seats, Tinker and Crabbe, needed reassignment as their Families had been wiped out - the Crabbe family by their Dark Marks, and the Tinker family by the last (as Harry and the MacDougals knew it to be) massed assault by Death Eaters. They would be filled with the two oldest families not already in possession of a permanent seat, but needed a Minister in charge to be so. Six of fifteen lifetime electees were gone too, among them Lucius Malfoy and Fitzroy Avery. The lifetime seats were personal and would be filled through election by the members of the Wizengamot; and three of the fifteen 'public seats' were gone too and wouldn't be replaced until the next public election in two years. The most important thing from Harry's point of view was that for the first time in forty-odd years, nobody had nominated Dumbledore. He hoped that meant that others were beginning to see him for the manipulating old bastard, Harry thought he was.
Against procedure Dumbledore called for nominations once more, telling clearly that he wasn't happy with the likely outcome, but none came forward, and after a brief presentation from the candidates he was forced to call the vote.
There wasn't much to it, really. Mr. Allen received six votes; Mr. Brocklehurst seven, and Mr. Ogden took the rest. Strike one for Harry's team as the new Minister took his place and thanked those who'd put their faith in him. Harry and the others knew perfectly well that he actually didn't want the position, and that he'd only agreed to take a single period in order for Director Bones to have the time to move Mr. Robards into position to take over from her when she took over from Ogden. A bit of a puzzle, but with a little luck they could make all the pieces fit.
Once everything had quieted down somewhat, Kirsten took to the floor and plunged the Chamber back into pandemonium when she called for Dumbledore's removal as both Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump. She based her demand on her not feeling safe with those positions in the hands of a common criminal, citing his actions mainly towards Harry, and primarily his involvement with the illegal contract that was set to cost two teenagers their magic. Minister Ogden took it from there and effectively put him on probation, and then ended the session with a plea that the members thought carefully about nominations for the six open lifetime seats. Strike two, and next time all Dumbledore's scheming would be for naught at best - for him - or seeing him sent to Azkaban at worst - also for him. As annoying as following the pointless discussions from the sidelines had been, it had been a good day overall, and tomorrow night he would say his goodbyes to Hogwarts - or more precisely to Gryffindor's female sixth year Prefect - in a wholly inappropriate manner.
It was Thursday night; exams were over; the End-of Term Feast had gone without the expected prank from Harry; people were packing their stuff, and Hermione was incredibly embarrassed. No... She was deeply disturbed. No, scratch that. She was positively mortified! She really did not need to see that. Ever!
It was her last patrol of the school year, and in accordance with old, common Prefect procedures she'd been combing through the dungeon level, knowing that the Slytherin students tended to be a tad more boisterous and physical than others in their celebrations. She'd just been passing through the final corridor when she encountered a zone with the tell-tale 'dead' air that signified that a crude silencing ward was in place.
The first couple of doors had yielded nothing but the third one held the jackpot, and that's where her problem stemmed from. The door was that of the Potions classroom, and in there, spreadeagled on the late Professor Snape's - now Professor Slughorn's - desk was a gasping, moaning, and meowing Morag MacDougal in all her naked glory. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the man standing between her thighs, and seemingly doing a brilliant job of making her feel really good, was Harry Potter. A Harry Potter, she now realised, who didn't have much in common with the Harry she once could call her friend.
After shaking her brain clear of whatever had numbed it she squeaked and then turned around and fled, Morag's moans, gasps and screams ringing in her ears. No, she really, really didn't need to see that side of the most controversial couple at Hogwarts. And now she had to find out what to do about it. She'd seen and heard more than she ever wanted to know about sex since becoming a Prefect, and she'd always been able to deal with it, even last year when she'd caught the senior Ravenclaw Prefect in a cupboard with Patricia Stimpson. But not this time. The thought that she of all people should catch Harry going at it was just too much for her.
It was only after fretting for a good five minutes that it finally dawned on her. She'd been set up! The crude ward, while widely used among the students in attempts to conceal illicit liaisons, was far beneath people with their capabilities. She had no doubts that both Harry and Morag were more than capable of casting flawless, focused silencing charms which would be virtually undetectable unless one knew what to look for, and where. Furthermore, both their best friends were Prefects. It would be a moment's work to get her patrol schedule, so odds were that they knew she'd be patrolling down here. The question now was 'why?'. Was it just to mortify her? If so, they succeeded. Or was it a test to see if she'd report them? Would she? She'd have to go back there if she did. As if seeing them going at it once wasn't bad enough. What to do...
In the end, she did it. She went back and informed her former friend that she'd be reporting him to Professor McGonagall and Morag to Professor Flitwick. A new low in her relationship with Harry. She never thought for a second that it would come to that, but then again, ten months ago she never thought that Harry would call her just about every foul word in the English language, along with a few in Gaelic, and tell her to never talk to him again. It was confusing though. Rather than the ranting and raving she expected, they were both smiling widely, as if...
She'd been set up again! It wasn't just to mortify her and it wasn't as test as such. They'd actually counted on her to report them! Odds were that their respective Heads of Houses would find that they weren't able to deal with this matter and send them on to the Headmaster. Hermione couldn't see any other explanation. The question now was why? If they wanted to talk to him, she was sure he'd be more than accommodating. She'd lost count of all the times this year that he'd sent her to fetch a Harry who' failed to show up when summoned, and the few times, she'd managed to find him he'd flat out refused to go. Why now, and why this way?
"What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore was not amused. Miss Granger had stumbled upon Mr. Potter and Miss MacDougal having carnal relations, on a teacher's desk no less. Being hauled out of bed an hour after settling for the night didn't improve his mood any either.
"What do you want me to say, Headmaster? I think all students with working hormones who've been suffering through Snape's inept lessons over the last fifteen years have had thoughts of having sex on his desk, just to spite that greasy bastard. Unfortunately I didn't get to do it until after his much awaited and celebrated death, but it was the first opportunity I've had for it, and since it was my last as well I thought I'd take it." Harry grinned cheekily at the furious centenarian. McGonagall just hid her face in her hands.
"I have told you before to respect Professor Snape's memory, Mr. Potter..."
"And I have told you before that I don't give a rat's arse about what you think!" Harry shot back. "That stinking arsehole was a stain on humanity that should've been eradicated fifteen years ago - and most likely would've been if you hadn't decided to misuse your authority... Again," he finished with a scowl.
Dumbledore sighed in disappointment. "Everybody deserve a second chance, Mr. Potter. Don't you see that?"
Harry looked at him incredulously. "Oh, of course they do." His voice was thick with sarcasm. "Of course the murdering scum of the Earth deserve another chance to rape, torture and kill. Everybody believe that. Is that why you didn't even give me a first chance? Because I hadn't murdered anybody?" Contempt emanated from him in waves. "Maybe I should just go out and rape and kill a wee little firstie. Then perhaps your addled brain would recognise me as one of the good guys and you'll stop trying to do me in?"
"One hundred points from Gryffindor!" Dumbledore thundered. To his surprise Harry just snorted and McGonagall sighed.
"You do know your boss is losing it, don't you?" Harry asked her in a conspiratorial voice.
"What is that supposed to mean, Mr. Potter?" the Old Goat demanded.
"You can't take points from Gryffindor, Headmaster, for several reasons even," he answered. "First of all, no matter what I say about a dead, unlamented criminal, it can't warrant a deduction of that size, and if not for other circumstances making the deduction moot, it would've been challenged through the School Board." The Headmaster clenched his teeth. Damn that miserable brat for having the nerve to tell him off.
"Secondly, there's no way you can deduct 100 points from Gryffindor, seeing as the House is in negative points already." Harry grinned impudently. "Seems like the stupidest Weasley has actually managed to make enough of a menace out of himself, and since Prefect Granger hasn't been scoring her usual 800 points this year for some reason or other the House ran out of points in late April, and what points they did manage to scrape together after that, Mr. Weasley managed to have removed last week through his tantrum after the Quidditch game." Dumbledore's jaw dropped. He hadn't kept an eye on the points standing lately, and at the Feast he'd just awarded the House Cup without reciting the scores.
"Thirdly, the Leaving Feast was hours ago. That means the House Cup has been awarded and the House points system has been suspended until September. I would've thought you knew that after more than 70 years here," he mocked the old man. "Lastly, and most importantly, since the school year is effectively over I am no longer a Gryffindor! I have written both the Board and the Gryffindor Head of House that I am renouncing membership of the chapter since I'll no longer be a student here. I assumed that they'd inform you, but I guess you've been too preoccupied with trying to salvage your petty schemes to notice it." He thought about it for a bit. "Not that any of that really matter though. I mean, what are you going to do about it? Give me detentions? The school year is over and done with, and Hogwarts doesn't accommodate Muggles so I won't be coming back here, making any punishment you can mete out moot," he finished with a self-satisfied grin.
"Surely you don't mean that, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall queried.
"Of course I do," he replied. "Your boss has graciously made it so that I'll be a Muggle in a couple of months. Even if I wasn't, he's shown very clearly that he considers me a means to an end and that I am no better worth than to be sacrificed for some unknown 'Greater Good', and there's no way in Hell I'd attend an institution where he has any say in anything." He shot the old man a glare. "No, the further away I am from him, the better off I'll be. I'm still trying to make my fiancée see reason and complete her education somewhere else. After all, the Headmaster of this institution has made it abundantly clear that his only interest in his students is how they can be used to further his schemes." He saw both professors about to object, so he pressed on.
"He's shown that mainly through his abominable treatment of me, but the way he roped in Prefect Granger and Ronald Weasley to participate in his idiotic plot with the illegal slave-contract is another good example. His insistence on employing inept teachers, for reasons that has nothing to do with education, also proves my point. The students are here to be educated, not to provide cover for Death Eaters or witless hacks, nor for social experiments with ghosts. And they are definitely not here to be sacrificed in order to achieve a senile old has-been's delusions of an undefined 'Greater Good' that's only good for a select few of questionable morals and integrity." Both professors looked like fish out of water.
"But..." Dumbledore sputtered. "Have you thought about what you're condemning the same students to, Mr. Potter? Are you really willing to sentence them all to slavery or death just to get one over me? This insistence that you'll be a Muggle isn't going to work, Mr. Potter. The contract has been finalised and it cannot be changed." He looked smug.
"I know that," Harry retorted. "That's why I'll be a Muggle. I've already told both you and everybody else that I'm not going to sign that perverse agreement, no matter what happens. So to answer your questions: Yes I've thought about it, but I can't help that you've seen fit to condemn your students along with the rest of your world. This has nothing to do with getting one over you, nor has it anything to do with pressuring for changes to that disgusting document. It is about showing you that I'm my own person. That I'm not your pawn to sacrifice as you see fit. This is about not giving in to a lousy criminal - that's you in case you're wondering." He paused to clamp down on his rising temper.
"I've figured it out, you know" he continued in a conversational tone, surprising the old schemer. "I've had most of the dots since last year, but I've only connected them recently. You were afraid you'd lost me last year, so you looked for an alternative to just telling me to sacrifice myself on your say-so. The contract was the answer. Getting me to pay for your control of another five votes was just the icing, wasn't it? The real deal was to make the contract so constricting that I'd eventually be suicidal enough to charge out and kill myself on Tom's wand just to get away from it. Only... You made quite a few miscalculations, old man. First - and most important - of all, you thought my scar was a Soul Jar. It wasn't." He thoroughly enjoyed the look of complete astonishment on the old man's face. "It was a Leech, and by not having anything done about it you became directly responsible for Tommyboy surviving. Nice thought, isn't it? Every crime by Death Eaters since November 1981 lay squarely at your feet." He grinned nastily. "Your grooming me as a sacrifice has not only failed, old man. It was wholly unnecessary from the very beginning." He shot the Headmaster a look of pure loathing.
"Secondly, your interpretation of the Prophecy - if it's actually genuine, which I highly doubt - is flawed at best and disastrous at worst. 'Either must die at the hands of the other'. Those I've had interpreting it agree that the survivor would for all intents and purposes be immortal. And you tried to set me up to be killed!" He had to compose himself again, and out of the corner of an eye he saw McGonagall do the same.
"Thirdly, you counted on my so-called 'saving people thing', or saviour complex, to make me sign that cursed contract when you would finally have gotten around to tell me about it - and about the imminent threat to the broomstick's magic. Newsflash, old man. It only works for people I like and care about, and she's not among those few. Actually," he looked thoughtful for a moment, "take a look at how you and your pathetic world have treated me since you deigned to dig me up from the mitten you'd dumped me in. Before that even, in your case. Do that and then tell me, I should have a problem with leaving your society to rot." He rose from his seat.
"MR. POTTER! We are not done yet. Stay seated," Dumbledore barked.
"Expel me..." Harry's tone was one of complete indifference, and he didn't even turn to face the Headmaster.
Harry was out of the door and had Dobby pop him to the suite before the two professors could shake themselves out of their stupor.
So, what did Flitwick say?" he asked Morag after he'd recounted his meeting.
"He told me that he disapproved of that kind of behaviour. Then he smiled; assigned me a one-foot essay on contraceptive charms and wished me a good summer," she giggled.
"He's definitely one I'm going to miss," Harry sighed. "Has he given any indication what he's going to do after next year?"
"Not that I know of. Are you thinking what I believe you are?"
"Probably. Since you're so set on coming back here, you get to talk to him next year. Can you sound him out for me?"
"Sure. Any god options for me?"
"Nah, at least not right now, but we've got time, mo gradh. We don't have to have everything in place this very moment."
"You're right," she conceded. "Actually," she continued, a very naughty glint in her eyes, "since this is our last night here I think it's more important that you kiss me quite thoroughly and then take me to bed."
Who was Harry to argue with that?
After a good night's sleep and a very satisfying wake-up call, Harry and Morag arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast, only to find that the Hogwarts rumour mill was working overtime. Apparently someone had let something out, and now people were trying to build the story on what little they had. It seemed the only facts known were the 'who' as in Harry, Morag and Hermione, and the 'when' as in last night. The 'what' and 'where' were unknown and it made for some entertaining stories. Some came close while others were outrageous, like the one claiming that McGonagall had walked in on them while they were enjoying a threesome on the staff table in the Great Hall. Harry and Morag had a hoot over that one while Hermione didn't know where to look. It didn't last long though. When it was obvious she still had her badge, it was commonly decided that she hadn't been involved in the carnal part of the scandal. Of course the fact that Harry had adamantly kept her as far away from himself as possible all year lent very little credibility to the story in the first place.
They briefly discussed if they should let the truth be known, but decided that letting the rumour mill run amok was much more entertaining. They did relate the true story to Neville and Padma though. Neville nearly choked on his bacon and Padma once again demonstrated her delightful, atomic blush. An impressive feat for someone as dark skinned as her. Harry and Morag decided to harass their good friends a bit, so Padma's blush was maintained for the next five minutes or so with suggestions to how they could spend their summer, and with questions about introducing their significant others to the families. It was all in good fun though, and they were sure to get their own back when they went to The Pottery for lunch.
Just before they left to find a carriage, Harry made sure to say his goodbyes to professors Hagrid, Sprout and Flitwick. The latter was delighted to know that Morag would be seeing him with a proposal from Harry next term. The little man was beaming when he assured him that his door would always be open, at Hogwarts or elsewhere.
Just as the four of them were about to enter a carriage, Dumbledore appeared and made a last ditch effort, stressing to Harry how important he was to the magical world in general and to the fight against Voldemort in particular. Especially now when it was obvious that he was building up to something big, having laid low for almost a year, so 'of course Harry would do what was best for all and return to the safety of Little Whinging until he was ready to sign the contract'. Harry really didn't think that rated an answer.
Unlike at Christmas, Harry stayed in the carriage all the way to the station, and - just as they'd hoped for – unlike at Christmas the Order and Brocklehurst's people stayed away, most likely expecting Harry to make his getaway in the same fashion he'd done before. The opportunity was too good to pass up, so they all boarded the train and found an empty compartment to portkey to Oban from. Them getting on the train and not getting off it again should see a gaggle of people out to get Harry at King's Cross, and they'd all be disappointed.
They arrived in Oban in good order, and Morag quickly relayed the circumstances of their departure to her parents while Harry moved on to The Pottery to allow Neville and Padma entry though the wards. Hamish decided there and then that he just had to be at King's Cross that afternoon, and Morag threatened him something fierce to make sure that his memory of the train's arrival would make it to Lancashire forthwith. They did negotiate them to come back to Oban to view it though, before the three of them proceeded to activate the portkey Harry had left for them.
Both guests - Morag already thought of The Pottery as her home - liked the small house a lot, and they were both suitably impressed with its almost 1200 years of unbroken history. The morning went with quiet talks about the house; life and plans for the summer, and both Neville and Padma were delighted with their invites to the Wedding Rites. Neville did fret a bit about Harry losing his magic but was promised a full explanation after lunch, provided his Occlumency passed test. It seemed that Padma had worked it out on her own, but there would be a surprise or two for her as well.
Lunch was nice and quiet, and both Elves were happy with the rare chance to show off their talents, something they were promised would be a more regular occurrence from now on. Once they'd all eaten their fill, or in Neville's case a bit more than that, they moved to the sitting room and the mood turned serious. Morag set about testing them both and pronounced Padma's shielding and defences strong, while Neville's were deemed only adequate and needing a bit more work. When Padma promised to work with him Morag relented and pronounced them sufficient if he promised to work on it with his girlfriend.
Neville was given the facts about the contract that Padma already knew, and after a bit of thought he agreed that only Mandy would be affected by the clauses and become a Muggle come September 1st. This was surprise number one and, as Morag had already guessed, Padma had worked that one out on her own and with much the same reasoning.
Number two came when Neville was told just how Harry planned on mooning any attempts at legislation that the Wizengamot might pass in order to force him into the contract. It caused both his and Padma's jaws to drop. They definitely hadn't seen that one coming.
"I can see what you meant at Christmas about the big one," Neville admitted. "Bloody Hell! Compared to this you two being a couple was mundane."
Morag snorted in very unladylike fashion. "If you think that was the big one, I wonder what you'll say next," she scoffed.
"You mean there's more?" Padma asked incredulously.
Morag nodded. "There's more alright," she replied. She turned and looked at Harry expectantly.
"Voldemort is dead and for good this time," he said softly. "I killed him last August, and besides the four of us only Hamish and Kirsten know about it."
Neville and Padma were wide-eyed and seemed unable to speak.
"That's why all those Death Eaters died," Harry continued, "and I'm still baffled that nobody connected the dots," he said disgustedly.
"But... But why?" Neville sputtered. "Why keep it a secret? People should be told about this."
"Why would I tell them?" Harry asked coolly. "It's not like their reactions last time inspire confidence, is it?"
"Well... No, but..." Neville was severely flustered.
"But nothing!" Harry exclaimed with some force. "I was going to let it be my Christmas gift to Magical Britain, but with the contract fiasco and just about everybody but Bones and Ogden appearing quite comfortable with what Dumbledore has done, I decided to let it stay a secret." Harry drained his Butterbeer. "You can see it in one of two ways, mate: Either it's me taking fifteen years of crap life and abuse out on the people who were more than willing to lionize me one moment and vilify me the next, depending on what would make an incompetent politician look good; or it is me giving Magical Britain an excuse to keep up a high level of alertness and vigilance." He shrugged. "To tell you the truth it's more the first than the second, but both are parts of why I do it." Neville was about to object again when Padma stilled him with a hand on his arm. He looked at her quizzically.
"I don't completely agree with him love, but I can follow his reasoning. Why should he do good to people who've treated him like dirt?" Neville flushed.
"What I'd like to know," Padma continued, her lilt getting stronger as she became more excited, "...is how did you do it? Why the timing? And how have you kept it a secret?" Harry and Morag shared an amused glance. Padma was a Ravenclaw extraordinaire and she couldn't hide that knowledge was like air to her, even if her life depended on it.
"Right," Harry sighed theatrically. "I should've known that telling you would carry a penalty." He grinned as Padma poked her tongue at him. "The 'how' is simple: Blind luck. Mhór missed with a 'Finite' when we duelled and hit my scar dead centre, knocking me out. It turned out that the Dark Wanker had enchanted a Leech in me, siphoning off an estimated two thirds of my magic to keep him alive, and Mhór had dispelled it by accident. But you knew that already." He smirked at Padma's incredulous expression. "What you don't know - or haven't thought of - is that Tom's body was artificial - a conjuration if you will - and you can't conjure magic. He didn't have a magical core, so we agreed that old Tommy would be in serious trouble without my magic to keep him going, but we didn't know where he was so we couldn't do anything about it. Well... Until next morning, it turned out. I got a letter where his secret-keeper spilled his guts, and next thing I knew I was standing in front of him." Harry smiled at the looks his friends shot him.
"He was completely out of it, and I just shot a 'Finite' at him since he was nothing but a magical construct. A conjuration as I said. He just vanished, leaving behind the little bits Pettigrew used in the ritual, and I made sure to vanish them." He had a drink to moisten his throat.
"That pretty much answers the question about timing as well," he continued. "It wasn't that I had a grand plan for the event like 'this summer I'm going to kill myself a Dark Lord'," he laughed. "We simply took advantage of the situation we were in and went where the getting was good." He thought for a second.
"How it was kept a secret? That was the easiest part of it. There were no others alive when we got there. It seems the Dark Mark had a few safety measures built in. Safety for Tom that is. It appears the Marks started draining both life and magic from the 'owners' the second Morag dispelled the Leech and cut him off from my core. Then later then when I offed the sorry bastard, his control tried to pull everything it could to keep up the conjuration, essentially draining the Death Eaters dry in seconds before he finally kicked the bucket." Harry's expression was one of grim satisfaction.
"Those that had been at his house were already dead when we arrived, so nobody in their camp could tattle on me. Dumbledore's and the Ministry's people apparently cheated their way through school since they still haven't put the pieces together, no matter how simple and obvious it is, and if they're too dumb to connect the dots then I'm not going to complain. I've had more than enough fame, idiotic names and what not."
"Okay," Neville quipped. "I take it we're not to tell anybody, right?" Harry nodded and clapped his shoulder.
"Never let anyone tell you that you're not smart, mate." The girls giggled, and the conversation moved on to lighter topics.
After spending a pleasant afternoon with their friends, Harry and Morag travelled back to Oban - in part because they really wanted to see what was happening at King's Cross, but mostly just to catch up with Hamish and Kirsten, and to plan out how to deal with the School Board. They had the votes secured, but they still needed to present their case, and even if his star wasn't shining as brightly as it once did, voting against the sitting Headmaster was not done lightly. In the end it was decided that Kirsten should present the case as a concerned parent, and Harry would back her up as a witness of character.
Finally Hamish presented the clou of the evening, and five minutes later Harry and Morag emerged from the Pensieve, howling with laughter, although for Harry there was a fair bit of disappointment mixed in with the mirth.
The scene had begun with Hamish scanning the crowd on the platform as the train was grinding to a halt. Several of the people there were the same ones who had been looking to catch Harry in Hogsmeade last Christmas, but the Order had brought out even more manpower this time, including - to Harry's immense disappointment - Remus Lupin and Bill Weasley, two people he'd hoped were on his side but apparently weren't.
The real fun started when Auror Shacklebolt - out of uniform - grabbed Parvati Patil none too gently and began questioning her, apparently believing her to be Padma. Her family didn't take kindly to that, and the faces of the Order-members within range paled dramatically when Hamish stepped up and introduced himself and offered his counsel free of charge, should they decide to press charges. In the meantime Dumbledore himself had been frantically casting detection charms everywhere, and Lupin apparently employed his sharpened senses in a futile attempt to locate Harry. Several parents seemed to be wary at the maniacal look on Dumbledore's face, and quite a few reactions around the platform indicated that several students might be looking into alternative schooling for next year.
The looks on the faces of both Dumbledore, Brocklehurst and their respective minions were priceless when Hamish finally broke it to them that Harry - along with his fiancée and their friends - had portkeyed away from aboard the train before it had even left Hogsmeade, but that he'd see at least some of them at the Wizengamot session in August, to which he expected to be summoned as a witness in the case against Dumbledore. The old schemer didn't look too pleased to hear that, and the elder Weasleys - Dumbledore's staunchest supporters - looked near apoplectic.
Dumbledore's attempts at convincing an unsympathetic Hamish that it was vitally important for everybody, that he get to speak to Harry were pretty funny, but what took the cake was when Hamish surveyed the gathered Order-members and informed them that Amelia Bones hadn't been joking about the ongoing investigation, and that she considered what Dumbledore had subjected Harry to since 1981 nothing short of criminal. Subsequently the Order, which had helped the old goat in his shady endeavours, was a criminal organisation. The looks of abject horror were absolutely hilarious.
The month of July was supposed to be a flurry of wedding preparations, but much to Kirsten's chagrin there wasn't a lot to prepare. The setup for the Rites was strictly formalised, so the only things to plan was how to transport all the guests, and then the banquet afterwards. Everything else was accounted for within the parameters of the Rites. She was only somewhat mollified when they told her that she had a year to prepare their Muggle wedding, although it didn't please her at all that Morag insisted on her rights to veto the more outlandish or pompous ideas. It would be her wedding after all.
Preparations for the School Board meeting and the Wizengamot session were taking up a fair bit of time as well, along with finishing the renovations on The Pottery, and it was more the rule than the exception for Harry and Morag to drop into bed completely exhausted these days. At least it was until Morag cottoned on to Kirsten's plan - keeping them too busy to have anything left for 'pre-marital relations' at the end of the day. That plan ended when they turned it around and made sure to thoroughly enjoy each other in the mornings before doing anything else. After that, July went just as a lazy summer month should, with a small amount of work around the house; homework for Morag, and studying old family texts for Harry; sunning; socialising and generally just being in love with each other.
A few days before his birthday, Hamish delivered a letter to him that had been in the ever increasing daily avalanche of owls for him. It was a missive from Minerva McGonagall, inviting him to Hogwarts the next day 'for a chat' as she put it. Neither Harry nor the MacDougals had any doubts that Dumbledore was behind it, but they decided to go there anyway. As it seemed to them, either they were wrong and McGonagall really had acted on her own, or it was a ploy by the old goat and they would get away with even more ammunition for the case against him. Harry thought it would also be a good opportunity to test the personal, 'living' wards that Bartholomew Potter had written about 470 years ago. If they delivered what they promised, he would have nothing to fear when Morag went back to school in September.
Harry was tense. The wards were cast and tested; he had a Bezoar handy and he had backup in the shape of Hamish and Morag, but he was still uneasy and he didn't really know why. Taking a few steadying breaths he squeezed Morag's hand and then knocked on McGonagall's office door.
Harry opened the door, took two steps inside - and froze. In the office were McGonagall - of course - with Dumbledore and a very anxious looking Hermione.
"Do come in, Mr. Potter."
"No thank you Professor," he replied politely. "I was under the impression I was here to see you; not two of the three people I'd be happiest to never lay eyes on again. If you'll excuse me ma'am, I believe I can spend my day better than this." He turned to leave, only to see the door slam shut in front of him.
"I'm afraid, I cannot let you leave just yet, Mr. Potter," the soft voice of the man he hated most in the world stated. "We have much to discuss today."
Harry was blatantly obvious about drawing his wand. "I have nothing to discuss with a common criminal like you," he ground out through clenched teeth. "Open the damned door or I'll simply remove it." The air surrounding him began humming, and Morag and Hamish braced themselves.
"Now, now, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore soothed in his most condescending voice. "That is no way to talk to your betters."
"I wasn't talking to Hamish, you bastard. I was talking to you!" Harry's voice was low and dangerous. "Now let us out of here."
"I cannot do that, Mr. Potter. I have things I need to say to you."
Harry turned to Hamish. "Dad, would you please make a note of this?" Hamish prepared a pen and notebook. "July 28th, 1997, 10.37 AM. Albus Dumbledore attempted to hold Hamish MacDougal, Mhór MacDougal and Harry Potter locked up against their repeatedly expressed desires. Any damage to either persons or property as a result of this is solely Mr. Dumbledore's responsibility, and any damage to the aforementioned persons will be reported to the DMLE along with the attempt at unlawful incarceration," Harry dictated in monotone. Both Hermione and McGonagall were wide-eyed when he was done.
"This will make an excellent addition to the charges you're bringing against him, Harry," Morag quipped.
"I thought so too," he replied, completely ignoring that they weren't alone. "I haven't been this close to thanking him in years. Every word he says just digs him deeper."
Dumbledore just smirked. "What makes you think you have any choices in this, Mr. Potter? Either you comply with the contract I've negotiated for you, or I force you." Hermione and McGonagall looked at him with identical shocked features.
"Yes, his true colours aren't particularly nice, are they?" Harry smirked at them. Then he turned to Dumbledore.
"What makes you think, you can do anything to force me, old man? Nothing you can do will change my mind in this, but I do thank you for the wonderful Pensieve memory you've just provided me with. I will enjoy passing it on to the DMLE."
"I assure you, Mr. Potter, I can do a lot," Dumbledore was slightly unnerved by Harry's indifference.
"And I assure you that you can't do a single thing," Harry sneered back. "Imperius didn't work for Tom and it won't work for you. Your favoured compulsion charms won't do the trick either, and neither will memory charms. And since none of us are going to ingest anything while we're here, it looks like you're out of options." He turned to McGonagall.
"Two questions for you, ma'am: Were you aware of this setup when you wrote me? And what is Prefect Granger doing here during her summer holidays, and very conveniently when you've asked me to come here?"
McGonagall sagged in her chair. "I was aware that the Headmaster wanted to talk to you, yes. However I didn't know that he was prepared to break the law to this extent..."
"So you had no qualms about tricking me here, to be confronted with someone, you're well aware I have sued, and who you have seen breaking every law he deemed inconvenient for his purposes?" Harry interrupted her. "That will probably see you charged with accomplice to attempted abduction or whatever Director Bones chooses to call this." He shook his head in disgust. "What about Prefect Granger?"
McGonagall flinched at his tone. "Miss Granger is here to be briefed about her Head Girl duties, but I must admit I scheduled her for today so you would be here too." Harry opened his mouth to speak, but she continued. "Mr. Potter... I am sure you are aware that Miss Granger's academical performance has suffered because of this rift between you, and I hoped you would take the higher road and set things right between you. Surely you have seen how it affected her all last year?"
Harry snorted, and Hermione's hopeful expression vanished as quickly as it appeared.
"Of course I've noticed Prefect Granger slipping in her classes, as well as outside them, but I'm not the reason for that. Up until OWLs she'd coasted through on her eidetic memory, but NEWT level classes can't be aced just by knowing stuff. She has to understand it too, and that memory of hers can't help her with that. So, just like everything else that goes wrong in her life, she conveniently overlooks her own shortcomings and blames it on others. My alleged part of her demise is a brilliant example: She goes behind my back; breaks my trust, and works together with people who wish me harm - and when I find out she demands that I pay it no mind and then throws a tantrum when she finds herself out in the cold." He reigned in his magic, not seeing an astonished Dumbledore watching from the sideline. "No ma'am. Prefect Granger's academic déroute is of her own making and she'll have to fix it herself. However, I would wait with the briefing if I was you. I am very close to be able to guarantee that the Head Girl for the class of 1998 will not be named Granger. Actually, I believe she's currently 7th or 8th in the rankings for the job." He shot contemptuous looks at the three conspirators. "May your day be as you deserve it." He turned and pointed his wand at the door, and with a thunder of collapsing wards it simply disappeared.
The wards on the door failing had quite an impact on Dumbledore who fell into his chair with a piteous moan after failing to contain the backlash. Seconds later the old man simply went limp as the cascading ward had apparently drained everything he had. Seeing him out of play for the time being, Harry turned to Hamish and Morag:
"How much did he try to hit you with?" McGonagall looked puzzled, and Hermione probably would have, had she not been busy bemoaning that her carefully mapped out future in the magical world had just been irrevocably destroyed.
"Three compulsions and a memory charm," Morag replied at the same time as Hamish reported two memory charms and a compulsion.
"Right," Harry sighed. "I know I expected it but it still bothers me... A man with no morals, holding as much power as he does. Yet." He looked at Hermione. "But of course it does explain why he had no problems handing a Head Student badge to someone who doesn't know the meaning of the words 'morals' and 'integrity'." Hermione choked out a sob and Harry twisted the knife. "Just a pity she prostituted herself for something she'll never get." He turned to Hamish.
"Time to test my work I think. What did you do when Dumbledore locked us in?"
"I wrote out your complaint to the DMLE," Hamish replied with no hesitation.
"Brilliant!" Harry sighed in relief. "Now for both of you: Did Dumbledore at any time threaten any of us?"
"Yes," they chorused.
"He threatened to force you into executing the contract if you didn't do it willingly," Morag elaborated.
"Okay... I think it proves they work as they're supposed to," Harry smiled. "That stuff would definitely be something he'd Obliviate from you." He turned to the stunned Gryffindors.
"I hope you've taken careful notice of what happened here today, but whether you have or not I suggest you inform your 'Great Leader of the Light' that we all have our memories intact, so Obliviating you would be pointless." He turned towards the hole where the door used to be. "May your summer be what you deserve, ladies." Then he added as an afterthought. "Professor, I'll see you in Court. Prefect Granger, with a little luck I'll never see you again." With that the trio left the two deeply troubled women to their disturbed thoughts and departed for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Director Bones, when she was done ranting about senile old men who'd let power go to their heads, was pleased to receive the complaint about the Supreme Mugwump etc..., complete with three sets of memories to back it up, and the scan results from their personal wards - a feature that had her salivating until Harry ruined her daydream by telling her that they were old Potter Family magic and would not be released for use by anyone other than family. Still, now that she knew personal wards were possible, nobody could deter her from doing a bit of research and experiments on the subject herself.
Harry's coming of age was not forgotten, but at the request of the birthday boy his party was cut down a few sizes compared to Morag's. He'd never been much of a party animal in the first place so with Neville's party the day before, and the wedding nine days later, he thought that the ladies' creative juices would be better spent on that, leaving him with a quiet dinner with friends followed by an evening of frank and intelligent discussion to accompany a few glasses of select wines and spirits. A celebration just after his head.
The rather diverse group of friends consisted of Hamish and Kirsten; the Laird of MacDougal - Hamish' brother Rab - and his American, Muggle wife Pamela; Minister Ogden, accompanied by his great granddaughter, Gwenog Jones; Neville and Padma, chaperoned by Augusta Longbottom; Katie and Demelza, much to their surprise; and Megan Jones, accompanied just for the night - or so she insisted - by Ravenclaw classmate Terry Boot. As Terry remarked amidst chats about politics, Quidditch, education and obscure malt whiskies: It was a lot of political power and public sway to have in one place that wasn't the Ministry. When Harry confessed that he'd abstained from inviting Amelia Bones due to her presiding his case against Dumbledore, Terry just smiled faintly and considered his point proven.
Harry expected a reaction when he teased Gwenog about missing out on Victoria and Katie, and he got one... Just not the one he thought he'd get. She all but pleaded with him to tell her who to look out for at Hogwarts over the next year, and confessed that she'd actually been fined by the club for screaming at the General Manager after having seen the scouts' Omniocular playback of the pick-up teams playing. He quickly pointed out Megan and Demelza among the guests, and told her to watch Natalie MacDonald as a long term possibility. After all she was only set to begin her 4th year, and nobody knew the state of Gryffindor Quidditch. Actually he didn't even know if Natalie would want a career in Quidditch. As a softer option he mentioned Ginny Weasley. As a fine Chaser and an above average Seeker she'd be a good reserve to have, but despite being a superb flier she was just too small to be a viable option for a starting position. Also - if someone could get her on a broom - he was certain that Millicent Bulstrode would make a superb Beater. At 6' 5" and 230 pounds she wasn't to be joked with.
While the Harpies' roster problems were being discussed, Morag was deep in talks with the Minister. Talks that Harry was positive he didn't want to know the topics for. As much as he knew, they could be scheming to turn the Wizengamot chamber literally inside out and it wouldn't surprise him. The old inventor had taken a shine to Morag at their first meeting, and he was convinced that with the right tutelage she'd become the Minister who'd shake up their world enough to actually make it move forward. Morag herself wasn't entirely convinced about that, but it seemed he'd roped at least Madam Longbottom into his scheme, and judged by a few offhand comments Director Bones was on board as well. That definitely wasn't what she'd envisioned when she promised Harry that she'd take his Family Seat, and she hadn't accepted it as inevitable yet. Unfortunately for her, Kirsten thought it was a brilliant idea and joined the discussion - and the conspiracy - with much cheer.
Once Harry was done talking to Gwenog he was drawn in by the politicians, and the discussion turned to Dumbledore and what to do about him. Morag related the 'meeting' at Hogwarts which didn't win the old goat any brownie points, and all agreed that he had to go. And if possible he'd have to relinquish his Wizengamot seat too. Although it hadn't been done for a good many years, lifetime seats could be revoked if the electee had done something sufficiently grievous. They hoped that Director Bones had enough on him to warrant that action. The final decision was that they'd let the Honour Contracts Bill go to vote, if for nothing else then to see who voted what on the question. Should it pass, Harry would then use his secret weapon to make it a moot point, not that it wasn't already before the vote could take place since he'd already be a married man when the votes were cast. Kirsten and 'Uncle Tiberius' - as he wanted anybody but Augusta and Gwenog to call him - would begin drafting a Bill to outlaw marriage contracts by proxy, so that in the future a marriage contract would only be considered legal if both its subjects were willing and had called for the contract to be drawn up themselves. That was as far as anybody thought they could get away with it in the foreseeable future.
A few hours later Harry sighed contentedly as he held his best present in a tight embrace. It wasn't all that bad to be him these days.
Harry's gaze swept the opulent room the School Board had their meeting in. It was a far cry from the standard Hogwarts decoration schemes, but of course these were the people who took decisions on those things, so he guessed it shouldn't surprise him. It seemed that the discussion so far had been about Dumbledore, judged by the less than satisfied expression on Molly Weasley's face, and it didn't take a Mastery in Legilimency to figure out that he and Kirsten had been called in to present their case for Head Girl. It seemed that the position of Head Boy was uncontested - Anthony Goldstein, Harry guessed.
"It has been brought to my attention," Augusta Longbottom began, "that there are some issues with the Headmaster's candidate for the Head Girl position. Issues, I might add, that seem more than valid to me, not least because I was alerted to them several months ago, long before the candidate should be chosen." Murmurs broke out around the table, and Molly Weasley looked positively murderous that somebody dared challenge Albus Dumbledore's choice of Hermione - or of anything else for that matter. "The candidate in question is Miss Hermione Granger of Gryffindor house, and her records speak of a knowledgeable and diligent student with the best disciplinary record in the class. I have however done some investigation, and having ready access to a house- and classmate of hers - my ward and grandson - I've asked him for his impressions of Miss Granger. I will come back to that later, but first I want to hear from Madam MacDougal, mother of another classmate, and Mr. Potter, a house- and classmate himself. Madam MacDougal, if you please?"
"Thank you, Madam Longbottom," Kirsten replied, and stood to face the Board. She begun detailing Hermione's actions over the last couple of years, and moved on to explain just how they'd known her to be the Headmaster's choice for Head Girl since last September. All of it, she said, was a giant, ringing warning bell in her mind, seeing that she'd have a daughter attending this year, and she really didn't want to have to worry about what the Headmaster would do to her with the blessing and cooperation of the Head Girl, effectively blocking off any channels her daughter would have of defending herself short of cursing people, which, given the political climate at Hogwarts these days, would be an automatic expulsion since she - unlike her mother - was not in Slytherin House. Amidst murmurs and angry expletives she then gave the word to Harry who was met with curious glances from most, and a death glare from Molly Weasley.
"Thank you, Ciorsdan," he nodded, getting a few remarks about not showing proper respect. "I don't really think that matters much," he told those who made them. "I've been treated as a member of the family for over a year now, and I will be one officially once I marry her daughter." That statement brought quite a few eyebrows shooting upwards.
"Now, as entertaining as I'm sure my personal life is, the reason I'm here is to tell you a little about Hermione Granger. I dare say I'm in a unique position to do so, since I've considered her my best friend since 1st year until she proved last September that she's anything but." He straightened himself up and looked each Board member in the eyes.
"Hermione Granger is a very intelligent young woman. Until the first tests of our sixth year she was by far the top student in our class, and she has a reservoir of knowledge that's unsurpassed by anyone within ten years of her age. However, this strength is also a weakness, which is why she's no longer number one. In fact she completed her sixth year as number six in the class. It is brought about by an insatiable thirst for knowledge of all kinds as well as an eidetic memory, albeit with a lower rate of recall than is usually seen in these instances. The weakness hasn't been one before this sixth year, as anything up to the OWL level is about knowledge of spells and theory and she has learned to lean heavily on her vast knowledge of a great many things. Not so now though." He picked up a glass of water to moisten his throat.
"NEWT level magic," he continued, "is about understanding, and Miss Granger fails in that. For all her knowledge she has no more than basic understanding of most magical concepts, and in a few instances not even that. That is a mark against her, but not the most serious one." He paused to let the message sink in.
"The most serious mark against her is something completely different. Before I get to it, I'd like to know how many of you have familiarised yourself with the statement and interview I gave to The Quibbler last year?" All nods around the table. "Brilliant, thank you," he beamed. "That means I don't have to go into as much detail as I'd feared. I will tell you that every word that was printed was the truth." More than a few looked startled.
"To make it as short as I can, Miss Granger, after claiming to be my friend for five years, sold her support to the Headmaster a little over a year ago. In exchange for the Head Girl position this year she agreed to voice her approval, as well as try to impress the viewpoint on me, that Miss Brocklehurst would be an obvious candidate for a future Mrs. Potter, in a futile attempt to lend some measure of credibility to the illegal marriage contract that Dumbledore and Mr. Brocklehurst had cooked up. In reality, said contract is an attempt to part me from my inheritance, freedom and ultimately my will to live, but that's another story." Harry and the MacDougals had discussed this point at length, but had eventually agreed on squeezing it in to try to sow a seed of more active resistance to Dumbledore that would hopefully come out in full force after the case against him was made public.
"What's important in this case is that Miss Granger happily proved to the world that she is completely without morals and integrity, and that her worship of authority, which is a school-wide joke, is such that she'll prostitute herself at the Headmaster's say-so without question. She would not be a representative of the students, but of the Headmaster." He took a second to survey the impact of his words.
"Finally I'm sad to say that Miss Granger does not possess the people-skills required for the position. I dread to think of how she would go about helping a home-sick first year student. If it cannot be solved by informing a professor; doing homework for extra credit, or by a few hours worth of research in the Library, she has no idea what to do. In light of this I humbly ask that you consider Miss Padma Patil of Ravenclaw, who is both a fine scholar and a compassionate and caring person, for the position. Thank you for your time."
Several questions were asked and answered after this, and a Molly Weasley rant about the folly of voting against 'the Great Hero of the Light' was endured too, but in the end they had what they came for. Padma got seven votes, Hermione got four - and one member tried to suck up to Harry and nominated Morag without getting a lot out of it. Harry really wished he could be a fly on the wall when Hermione received her Hogwarts letter.
Saturday the 9th of August was there before they knew it. It was barely 8 o'clock and a frazzled Kirsten was already on the Floo, yelling at them to get moving and get themselves to Oban. Harry chuckled and asked her what time they were supposed to be in Utrecht, and how long time she thought it would take to do Morag's hair and get her into the white robe they were both supposed to wear. In retrospect that might have been the wrong way to go about calming down a wedding-crazed mum-in-law.
Ultimately the lovebirds did make their way to Oban, just in time to catch a severe lecture from Kirsten about being on time; respecting one's elders; observing traditions etc.. It didn't improve her mood in the slightest when she realised that her targets were both quietly drinking tea, completely unfazed by the onslaught, and that everybody else in the house were looking at her with incredulous expressions. To the relief of everyone, Dahlia managed to disguise a Calming Draught well enough for Kirsten to drink it, and the household could continue the last minute preparations in much better spirit.
At mid afternoon, all preparations done - even though Kirsten had given up in disgust after her fourth attempt at taming Harry's hair - the bride and groom along with Neville, Padma and Katie portkeyed to Utrecht, fifteen minutes ahead of the guests. Neville and Padma were to assist Harry and Morag, and Katie had been picked to assist the Binder throughout the Rites, something that finally managed to convey to her the respect the couple held her in. She was blown away twice that day. First by the gesture - although it meant that they'd had to draft in Graham as a replacement escort for Demelza - and then when she was introduced to the Binder. He was a somewhat frail looking, bronze-coloured man who'd been a grown man when Minister Ogden was born. He was called He-cheated-the-bearded-ones and he was a legend among his own people. Katie could understand why when he told her his original adult name was Tatánka Iyotake, or Sitting Bull in English. He'd had his present name since supposedly dying 107 years ago. He had asked that he be allowed to bond these young people because Harry in many ways was just like him. He had once been his people's 'Chosen One' himself, and he wanted a chance to pass whatever he could on to him.
The ceremony was as beautiful as it was simple. Bride and groom were kneeling in front of the Binder, reciting the traditional vows in between his chants, all parties completely uncaring that the Binder chanted in Lakota while the bride and groom answered in Gaelic and English respectively. Both chants and vows were so old, their origins had been lost long ago, but their meanings were as fresh as ever, as was the strong magic held in them, and they made deep impressions on everybody present. The final set of chants were those that tied the young people together, and while the two and their Binder were engulfed in a soft, green glow, an almost tangible feeling of harmony and peace enveloped the guests, leaving more than just the bride's mother with suspiciously bright eyes.
Once the glow faded, Neville and Padma got to play their parts when they had to step up and literally catch the newly-weds before they dropped. Katie had to perform the same service for the Binder, as the completion of the Rites apparently took more out of him than he'd anticipated. When he came to, he pronounced this the most powerful completion he'd ever witnessed, as evidenced by the glow - which wasn't supposed to happen. He went on to bless their union with an ancient Lakota blessing, and finished by saying he pitied anyone fool enough to try to force them apart.
The party that followed was somewhat subdued, mostly due to people coming to terms with the Rites and the feelings they'd invoked in all present. It made for a celebration much like Harry's birthday, which suited the Potters just fine. What suited them even better was an order from their Binder to come and see him for a few days once their obligations were met, to talk about their future educations. They took it to mean - correctly - that he expected them to come to North America once the Wizengamot session on the 20th was over and done with. They also had a feeling this wasn't something he offered a lot of people - correct again - and that it would be both prudent and beneficial to comply.
As the celebration wound down, the Potters made their round among the guests and then portkeyed away. Both Kirsten and Morag had pestered Harry for weeks, demanding to know where they'd honeymoon, but he'd held his ground and now they were effectively gone from the world for ten days.
Morag was a bit tentative when she took in their surroundings after they landed, but when she opened the blinders she was more than happy to discover a pristine beach just on the other side of the window, and better yet, no houses in the vicinity that she could see. A questioning glance at her brand new husband and he revealed that they were now at the southern tip of the hidden, magical part of Maui; that it was close to noon, local time, and that the nearest neighbour was two miles away and not likely to disturb them. She forgave him for keeping it a secret on the spot; ditched her wedding robe to reveal some rather naughty underwear and proceeded directly to the warm-up for their wedding night - or wedding afternoon, given the time difference. That too turned out to be a magical experience.
"My baby!" Kirsten's scream rang through the Hall at Dugald House where two healthy looking and very tanned young people had just appeared, positively glowing with love and happiness. "Where have you been? What have you been doing? How have you been?" (stupid question since they displayed just how great they were feeling for the world to see) and several more questions assaulted the Potters at machine gun speed as Hamish stood behind his wife and tried to contain his laughing fit.
"Honestly mum," Morag complained through a hug that put Molly Weasley to shame. "We've been gone for ten days. You're not even this vigorous when I come home after ten months at Hogwarts."
"Of course not," Kirsten sniffed. "You've never been honeymooning at Hogwarts, have you? Now spill!"
So they spilled. Morag gushed about the climate, the food, the Hula, and the people, so different from anything she'd known before. Harry just nodded his agreement while mentally gushing over Morag wearing very little - if anything - and the way that plenty of sun, fruit and seafood, as well as the competition with the local girls, seemed to affect her. If he had his way, this wasn't going to be their last trip to Hawaii.
As the interrogation wound down, the conversation turned to the Wizengamot session the next day. Kirsten reported that they were all but certain that Dumbledore would lose his seat, along with all his power positions. Unfortunately they didn't believe he'd be put away though. The Bill could go either way, but if the old goat revealed the Prophecy it was a near certainty it would pass. Harry and Morag didn't care about the Bill too much. Harry would shoot it down, and no matter what happened they had a trip to Minnesota to make, to have some serious talks with a very wise man. The interesting thing about the Wizengamot, as they saw it, was just how much damage it would do to Dumbledore. Hopefully it would be enough that the School Board would kick him out as well.
Albus Dumbledore was having a very bad day. No, he was having the bad day to end all bad days and it was all because of that insufferable, irresponsible brat. He was the reason he'd lost his seat in the Wizengamot, and subsequently his positions as Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump, not to mention any influence he'd had in terms of deciding how the country should be governed, and now said brat was in the middle of a tirade, basically sentencing Magical Britain to death by callously accepting losing his magic, and people were blaming him for it!
The Wizengamot session had started out badly for him, with the vacant seats being filled almost as one with people without understanding of the Greater Good, severely upsetting the delicate balance in the Chamber. Then Director Bones had taken the floor, demonstrating and displaying in excruciating detail every little step outside law and decorum he'd taken in order to manipulate the brat so that he'd go to meet his destiny when he, Dumbledore, deemed it time to do so. It was necessary for the survival of their world! It didn't matter that his guess about his curse scar had turned out to be wrong. The brat would still need to go and confront Voldemort when it was time, and he, the MacDougal chit and Director Bones were destroying almost two decades of careful work, and for what? Rights? Justice? What did he care about those things. The brat was a weapon, to be unleashed at his signal. In time they would all come to see he was right. Damn them! With the Bill going to vote in minutes, he only had one more chance to regain control. He requested the floor.
"Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot," he intoned. "Before you vote on this Bill, there is one more bit of information you have to consider." He looked at the brat and almost lost it right there and then. He was smiling! And so were the MacDougal women... He gathered himself. "In the early spring of 1980 a Prophecy was made concerning Mr. Potter and the Dark Lord. The same Prophecy Voldemort tried to get his hands on last year, right here in the Ministry. It details how Mr. Potter will be the one to rid us of Voldemort, but how can he do that if you let him lose his magic? I shall recite the Prophecy in its entirety:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hands of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies
(the Prophecy quoted from 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix'. British hardback edition, page 741)
...so as you can clearly see, Mr. Potter must remain in the Magical World or we shall surely be doomed." An explosion of shocked cries erupted, but to Dumbledore's consternation the brat looked like he enjoyed himself! The new Chief Warlock, another victory for Team Potter, turned to Harry.
"Mr. Potter, do you have anything to say to this?" Harry smiled.
"Not at this time, Chief Warlock. I'll wait until after the vote." Most of the people in the Chamber were stunned. Harry had basically flipped them the Bird and told them, he didn't care which result the vote gave, as he denied himself the last chance to influence the outcome.
"I see..." the Chief Warlock murmured although he clearly didn't. Then he called the vote.
It was a massacre. Only Minister Ogden's block of seven votes (including Amelia Bones) and the Grand Clans' two joined the Potter and Black votes against the Bill, for a total of 39 for and 11 against. For the first time in almost a year Leonard Brocklehurst looked relaxed, but then Harry requested the floor.
"Witches and Wizards of the Wizengamot. I congratulate you." Startled looks greeted his opening. This wasn't how losers normally spoke in here, and Harry's expression definitely belied his words. "You have just proven for all to see that only eleven people in this room care about justice. The rest of you are a bunch of self serving cowards, and that's the softest words for it," he sneered. "You have just enacted a law that's directed at one person only. Me!" He shot a glare out in the chamber. "None of you who voted for this travesty cared one iota about how this will affect me. In fact, none of you cared that you've just made crime legal in your community." Several affronted voices rose, but Harry paid them no mind. "Two conspirators got together and made up a contract to tie two other people together, blatantly disregarding that none of them had any right to represent one of the two. When they were called on it they began a campaign of childish whining and you people bought it. You made their crime legal. I hope you're proud of yourselves."
One of the new members rose.
"Mr. Potter," the old man began shakily. "I can only speak for myself, and I can only say that I'm not proud. However, I don't want to die, and letting you lose your magic will condemn us all." Harry scoffed.
"What makes you think I want to die?" The old man looked startled. "That's basically what you're sentencing me to. Death!"
"But the Prophecy says you're the one to beat him," the old man defended himself.
"No it doesn't," Harry retorted. "I've known that piece of fiction longer than you, and it doesn't say I'll beat him. It says I can. One thing wrong with that though. Voldemort has fifty years on me, and even tough Dumbledore has known the Prophecy since before I was born his only action was to tuck me away in a Muggle hellhole and then doing everything he could to make sure I'd never get any relevant training." Glares were directed at the Old Goat from all angles.
"No Sir," Harry continued. "Letting me go away and live my life as I see fit wouldn't condemn you, but your actions today just might have."
"How do you reach that conclusion?" another member shouted.
"You have no idea how much I hoped someone would ask that question." Harry smiled ferally. "Allow me to point out the flaws in your fine new law: First of all, take a good look at how I've been treated by the press and public since starting at Hogwarts. Dark Lord in training. Delusional liar. Attention seeking brat. The list goes on." Several members looked ill at ease. "Then remember the attack on Diagon Alley last July. Eight Death Eaters portkeyed into the Alley and began cursing people. After a little while they left again - without a scratch! There were between 70 and 110 qualified witches and wizards in the Alley that day and not one of them drew a wand to fight back. Eight Death Eaters outnumbered between 9-1 and 15-1 left nine dead and fifteen wounded, and they didn't even need a band aid themselves! Now tell me... Why would I sacrifice anything for people who've treated me that way? Why should I risk as much as a broken fingernail to save people who won't even draw a wand to defend themselves? Why should I fight to save people who don't deserve to be saved?" Pandemonium broke out in the Chamber and the Chief Warlock had to work hard to restore order.
"I haven't relinquished the floor yet," Harry informed the Wizengamot. "Judged by your noises you didn't like to hear that. Don't worry though, it gets worse."
"Are you threatening us?" a voice sneered. Harry actually laughed.
"No, I'm making you a promise. You see, I've only just begun to point out how useless your law is. By the terms of the slavery contract Mr. Dumbledore and Mr. Brocklehurst cooked up, I am in compliance with your law until September 1st at 10.30 AM. That's the latest the contract can be executed without repercussions. Until that date and time there is nothing anybody can do to me in regards to the law. However..." His smile was of the nasty variety. "As soon as I break the law, which I will if I don't execute the contract in time, I will be a Muggle and as such I won't be subject to magical law. In other words, your law is useless."
"What's to stop us from locking you up and then dump you in front of the Dark Lord in a few days?" a witch smirked.
"Provided you can find him, nothing," Harry replied. "Nothing except for the knowledge that I won't lift a wand against him. I am not going to fight for you people, period. You have proven today that too high a percentage of you aren't worth fighting for. I won't fight for a society that's repugnant to me."
"Is there anything we can do to persuade you to fight him?" a Brocklehurst-block member asked.
"No," was the curt answer. "My wife has forbidden me to fight Dark Lords and I really don't like sleeping on the sofa."
Dumbledore shot up from his seat. "And how have you gotten married, Mr. Potter? There is no way any licensed official in this country would have officiated for you."
"As narrow in your views as ever I see," Harry laughed at him. "There are several thousand Muggle priests, vicars and registrars in this country who could've done the job, but I wasn't married in Britain. My lovely bride and I were married in Utrecht eleven days ago. The ceremony was beautiful and our Binder claimed that it was the most powerful completion of the Rites he'd ever witnessed."
"You did that against the law!" Dumbledore yelled, spit flying everywhere. "I demand the marriage be dissolved!"
"Delusional old fool," Harry scoffed. "There was no law prohibiting my marriage then and there isn't one now. As I've just shown you, there is no way I can become a criminal based on that sloppy Bill of yours."
A now pale and haggard looking Mr. Brocklehurst spoke up.
"If I may ask, why Utrecht?"
"Because I've been communicating with someone there ever since your daughter informed me about this criminal plot of yours."
"Why would you do that?"
"What's in Utrecht, Mr. Brocklehurst?" Harry countered.
"The Magical government of the Low Countries," he replied. "What's that got to do with anything?"
"What else is there?"
Harry sighed. "I anticipated this body making your crimes legal in order to save their own arses, just as they did today, so I began a petition with the other office in Utrecht. That of the North American Department of Magic's Ambassador to Magical Europe." Several members felt dread creeping up on them.
"My petition was granted on January 1st, making me an American citizen, making your law moot once more. You can't possibly make yourselves believe that you can legislate specifically aimed at a foreign national." Harry's smirk was one for the record books. "All in all you've dug yourselves a mighty fine hole today, and I'm looking forward to reports on how you'll go about getting out of it again." He turned to Dumbledore.
"Something to think about, old man. If you take away everything a man thinks is worth living for, he'll have nothing left worth sacrificing himself for. You took away everything that could've tied me to your sick society and now you're left to save it yourself. To say it short: Fuck you and fuck your Greater Good." He turned and walked towards the door.
"Mrs. Potter, shall we?"
Morag rose from her seat. "Hell yes! I'm this close to throwing up from hypocrisy overload."
"Ciorsdan," Harry called. "I trust you to remind these self serving hypocrites, that their Charter talks about their members being British Families, and not individual family members. See you."
The fallout had been massive. There were calls for Dumbledore to be sent through the Veil, or at least receive the Kiss, but he'd managed to keep the worst at bay for now. Mr. Brocklehurst was vilified so harshly he'd wound up resigning his seat only two days after the disastrous session, and now he'd sequestered himself away somewhere unknown. Worst of all though, the Potters were nowhere to be found, and how can you grovel to people you can't find?
There had been riots in the Alley as well, and The Prophet would be some time before it hit the news stands again. They'd have to find themselves a new building to work from first, and a new front page reporter too since Rita Skeeter saw the writing on the wall and fled the country only hours after the session - and only minutes before an enraged crowd demolished her home.
Harry and Morag received daily reports on the situation and they were not impressed. As usual everybody laid the blame on everybody else and reacted without thought. The British wizarding community actually reminded them uncomfortably of Ronald Weasley, only on a much bigger scale. That wasn't an image to appreciate.
While Britain was tearing itself apart, the two Potters were deep in discussions with Tatánka. He hadn't been impressed with their handling of the situation at all - at least not until he learned that Voldemort had been dead for a year. That was the first and last time they heard him actually laugh. When he asked if they were going to reveal it, Harry asked him to look at how the British dealt with things when they thought Voldemort was still at large, and then consider how bad it would be if they'd actually known he was dead. Tatánka conceded the point and went on to talk about the reason they were there in the first place. Education. It was a couple of very happy Potters who returned to The Pottery on the 26th, and Hamish and Kirsten were just as pleased once they were told what their trip to America had been about and what had come out of it.
Platform 9 3/4 was filled beyond capacity. Every Hogwarts student seemed to have several generations of family there this year, and half the Auror Corps had been placed there as well, for the protection of the students and their families in general and for Harry and Morag Potter in particular. In a secluded corner of the platform Harry, Morag, Neville and Head Girl Padma were quietly talking and just trying to stay out of the ruckus until the latter three had to board the train.
It wasn't to be though. From the crowd emerged a white-bearded centenarian along with Mandy Brocklehurst and her father who was holding a stack of parchment. None of the four were in any doubt what those parchments were, and by the look on Dumbledore's face it seemed they'd have to fight their way out of there. Oddly enough nothing happened. The three stopped a few paces away and just stood there until Dumbledore finally spoke.
"Have you come to your senses, Harry? Are you going to do what is right?"
"I am doing what is right, you old bastard," Harry sneered at the old man. "I am rejecting the criminals you are. I'm just here to bid my wife and our friends goodbye and warning them to stay alert around you. No way to tell when you'll curse any one of them."
"You are breaking the law, Harry," Dumbledore tutted.
"Is that so? Why am I not arrested then? Half the DMLE is here and they all know I'm here too. You truly are delusional."
An uneasy silence ensued for a while until suddenly Dumbledore spoke again.
"You have one minute left, Harry. I would rather not force you."
"Up yours," was Harry's only answer apart from drawing his wand. That got the Aurors' attention, and several of them came running. As Dumbledore was distracted the clock ticked to 10.30, and Harry was approached by Gawain Robards.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but Muggles aren't allowed wands. I'll have to ask you to hand it over."
"Giving it to my wife should be enough," Harry countered.
"Sadly, no." Robards looked genuinely sorry. "Your wand is said to have special powers against that of the Dark Lord, and the Wizengamot demanded it taken from you." Harry knew that already, but it never hurt to play on the onlookers' feelings.
"I see," he mused. "I don't suppose the Wizengamot legislated about the wand's condition?" His smirk was devilish. "Very well, I'll relinquish my wand if I may be allowed to take hold of my portkey first so my wife can send me home."
"That would be acceptable." Robards seemed to have cottoned on to Harry's plan. He was a no-nonsense kind of man, and he was thoroughly disgusted with what had happened around Harry.
"Thank you Sir," Harry nodded. He took hold of a brass ring and said to Morag: "Send me home, mo gradh?" Then he snapped his wand and dropped it, and the next second all Hell broke loose. As Morag's wand touched the portkey, a spell erupted from Dumbledore's wand and streaked towards Harry who disappeared. Neville flattened the old goat with a right hook, and Morag screamed and then disapparated with a deafening crack. Ragnarok reigned on the platform.
The sorting of the new crop of Hogwarts student was over and the Feast was about to begin. Despite that, the general mood in the Great Hall was subdued, except for Neville and Padma who were ready to spit nails at a moment's notice, and Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick who projected pure disgust towards a certain old man. From his seat at the Staff table Albus Dumbledore surveyed the Hall with a haughty expression, which changed to a frown when his eyes met Neville's. He would have to do something about young Longbottom. He needed to learn that his behaviour this morning was unacceptable, but he couldn't be too harsh on him. He was needed to fulfil the Prophecy, now that Harry had received justice for standing against the Greater Good. He also had a Board to take care of before their meeting in two days. Everything would be lost if they terminated him.
Suddenly the huge doors flew open with a bang and an enraged Morag Potter strode up towards the Staff table, closely followed by Director Bones, Head Auror Scrimgeour and a half-dozen Aurors.
"Dumbledore! I am going to demand you stuffed into a Dementor's throat for what you did to my husband, you bastard!" she spat.
The old man flinched. "I assure you, Mrs. Potter, I only tried to stun him. He needs to go to trial for snapping the wand."
"Stun him? Since when do you use dark cutting curses to stun people?" Director Bones was baffled at the nerve of the old goat. She signalled her Aurors to spread out and draw their wands. "Albus Dumbledore. I charge you with the attempted murder of Harry Potter. Surrender your wand and come quietly or we will use any force necessary to subdue you." Reacting faster than anyone had ever seen he shot a spread of stunners at the Aurors until he slumped in his chair, stunned and tightly bound. A satisfied smile spread on Filius Flitwick's face as he stowed his wand.
"Constant vigilance, you contemptible old fool. Alastor may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean he isn't right."
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, April 11th., 2013
Headmistress McGonagall almost fell out of her chair when her door crashed open, revealing her most junior professor in a seriously frazzled state. She almost fell again when she saw the huge book that said professor was cradling. It was only the second time in her 56 years at Hogwarts she'd seen the Book of Admission out of its protected cabinet. The first time was in the summer of 1980 when she'd seen Albus Dumbledore leafing through it in this very office without even having the courtesy of informing her, who as the Deputy was responsible for it at the time. This time it was at least the one with the responsibility who'd taken it out. Unlike her day, these days the most junior member of staff was saddled with it, even if it might be a tad unfair. After all professor Carmichael had been most junior for eight years now.
"Headmistress! Look at this!" the frazzled professor pleaded.
McGonagall smiled calmly. "What's wrong? What has you so upset?" The young professor put the tome on the table and pointed to an entry. The Headmistress' eyebrows - and heart rate - shot up.
"Oh my!" she exclaimed. "That's unexpected to say the least."
The younger professor snorted. "That's an understatement if I ever heard one," she said wryly. "Did you notice something odd?"
"Yes, no names for the parents," McGonagall confirmed. "That could mean one of two things: Either the family went dormant and we're dealing with a Muggleborn, or both parents died before her name was registered. My guess is the first. She has a Scottish name but lives in England. If she'd been named by an English foster family or at an English orphanage she'd have an English name, or possibly one of each. 'Bonnie Katrina' is Scottish or less likely American, so we're most likely dealing with a Scottish family who moved south. Had the family been American she shouldn't be in our book."
"Right," the young professor said shakily. "I'll go and see them this afternoon. Is there anything I should do in any particular way?"
The Headmistress shook her head. "No, just business as usual." She hesitated. "Although, if you can get any information about the family history it might tell us something. I don't think it is a newer family with a 'funny' name though. It has to be the real deal. Trust your instincts."
The professor paused outside the cottage, steeling herself although she didn't know why. She'd given the 'Magic is real' talk to scores of Muggleborn witches and wizards over the last eight years, helped a good way along by her own similar background. Something about this just felt different, and it wasn't just the name although that was intimidating enough in itself.
She took a good look around, trying to get the feel of the family. The cottage was on the smallish side, but the building behind it was huge. Obviously a home industry of some sort. Then she smiled somewhat sheepishly as she saw the sign on the house. 'The Pottery'. Okay, she might be willing to take a small wager that the huge building in the back was a pottery. In fact, if 'The Pottery' was the company name as well she'd seen stoneware in her mother's kitchen that had been made here. High quality, hand crafted and ungodly expensive, her mother swore there was nothing better. Anyway, she got a feeling of history here. Like she'd stepped a hundred years or more back in time. Maybe it was the ancient land itself; or perhaps the old, half-timbered house surrounded by wildflowers; or maybe the soft sounds emanating from the pottery in the otherwise quiet afternoon. Whatever it was, it went well with the peaceful atmosphere. However, she wasn't here to lose herself in pleasant surroundings. She was here to inform a new student about Hogwarts, so she knocked on the door.
A smallish girl with black hair and eyes opened the door. The professor blinked. Something stirred in the back of her mind but she couldn't catch it.
"Good afternoon," she greeted the girl. "I'm professor Carmichael of Hogwarts, and I'm looking for Bonnie Katrina Slytherin. Are you her?"
The girl made a face. "I'm Trina, yeah," she replied. Her Scottish lilt stirred something again.
"I'll need to talk to your parents too. Are they here?"
The girl, Trina, nodded. "I'll go fetch me mum. Come on in." She dashed towards the back of the house.
The professor took the chance to have a look around the surprisingly large room. On the wall opposite where she stood, a couple of pictures caught her eye. The two photos were obviously wedding pictures, and it was the same couple in both of them but at two separate occasions. They were caught in the same pose, but in one the couple were in a meadow, wearing thin white robes with green sashes, sort of like she'd seen Druids depicted. In the other the scene was obviously a church. The man wore a dark suit, and the woman wore a light-coloured gown and accessories that would have seen her as the belle of any ball in the cotton states in America, just before the Civil War. The young woman was clearly seen in both pictures and it was obvious where Bonnie Katrina took her looks from. The young man was in profile in both and she couldn't get a clear look at him, but he stirred something in her mind. Something she just knew she should remember.
A short, curvy woman, the one in the pictures, came into the room through the door that young Trina had exited. She nodded to the professor and proceeded to a device she hadn't noticed before and pushed a button.
"We've got company, love," she said into the device, the thick Scottish brogue – a whole lot thicker than Trina's lilt - once again stirring something in the professor's mind. The device emitted a couple of quick clicks after a moment, and the woman turned to the professor.
"Mhór Slytherin," she introduced herself. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm professor Carmichael of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," she replied. "I teach History there. I am here to explain the letter your daughter received this morning." She frowned. At this point both parents and children were usually brimming with questions, but Mrs. Slytherin just nodded to herself as if she'd been expecting this, and her daughter was nowhere to be seen. Then she jumped in surprise as she sensed a person next to her. A well built man, obviously the one from the wedding pictures, had entered the room without a sound and stood close to his wife.
"Got a draught for me, mo gradh?" he asked in a harsh whisper. His wife handed him a cup which he drained in seconds. Then he shuddered as he put the cup back down. "Thanks love. It's been worse than usual today." The whisper was more intelligible and not as rough now. He turned towards her and she almost fainted. There in front of her was Harry Potter. An older, much more mature Harry, with a horrific scar across his throat that she was certain she'd never seen before. And now she could place the woman as her classmate Morag MacDougal as well.
"What are you doing here, Granger?" he whispered. "I believe you've been told never to talk to me again..."
She swallowed at the much less than pleasant look on his face. "I... I'm here to explain the Ho-hogwarts letter to Miss S-slytherin," she stuttered. "But I guess it's not needed now. Her parents aren't listed in the Book, so we assumed she was a Muggleborn."
"Muggleborn? With her name? Obviously the average intelligence score hasn't improved since back then," Morag scoffed.
Hermione bristled. "What are we supposed to think? It's not that far outside of probability that the line went dormant and is coming back now. How is your name Slytherin anyway? You were Mrs. Potter in the Wizengamot and through your last year at Hogwarts if I remember it right."
"By right of conquest," Harry whispered. "Mhór is Mrs. Potter in your world because it's convenient, but we're the Slytherin family outside it to get some peace and quiet. Potter and Black were too obvious."
Hermione couldn't control the impulse. "Why are you whispering? Some kind of creepy effect you try for?" She realised immediately that it had been the wrong thing to say when the air came alive around her.
"I'm speaking like this because your great idol destroyed my voice box when he tried to kill me at King's Cross, Granger. That's the man you sold yourself to. Killing people who are no longer of use to him, just like he had Sirius killed. Just like my parents. He didn't suffer nearly enough!"
Hermione was startled. She hadn't realised the extent of what Dumbledore had done to Harry. Then she latched on to his last comment.
"He spent eleven years in Azkaban and he died in there, Harry. Surely that's enough suffering for anybody?"
Harry looked at her, an expression of disgust on his face. "Sirius was there for longer without ever earning it. My parents needed avenging too. And me..." His hands clenched and unclenched as he desperately tried to reign in his temper. "What he did to me, Granger. He was planning how to get me killed in the most profitable way, ever since the day I was born. I was nothing but a baby, Granger!" his whisper grew harsher than ever, and Hermione could imagine the bellow he would've expelled had he been able to. "A baby! And that's not even the worst of it. No, Granger. The worst was what he did at King's Cross that day. He made sure I'd never be able to sing to my children, and for that I hope he'll burn in Hell for eternity!"
Hermione's eyes grew suspiciously wet. Then she remembered what had just happened.
"You still have your magic," she stated.
"Of course he does," Morag took over. "He never signed that slavery contract you'd approved of. Proof positive that Hogwarts makes people stupid when so many could agree that he was a Muggle just because Broomstick Brocklehurst was."
Hermione was flabbergasted. "But... But why aren't your names in the Book then?"
"We're warded to China and back, Granger," Morag scoffed." We have been since before we got married. Our children will be too, once their cores are stable enough. That would be when they're around fourteen."
"That's not permitted at Hogwarts," Hermione countered.
"That's not a problem," Morag smiled grimly. "Our children will never get within twenty miles of that place."
"Why not? How are you going to have them taught then? Education for magical children is mandatory, you know. They could be taken from you by force." Hermione babbled now. She was seriously thrown off her game.
"We could home school them, if we wanted. At least that would give them teachers with honour, morals and integrity."
Hermione's breath hitched. It was clear that the Potters held on to their grudge.
"And what quality education would that give them?" she tried to rally.
"Much better than Hogwarts, I assure you," Morag retorted frostily. "As you'll recall I finished better than you did, Granger, and you're on Staff there. I took honours in Transfiguration and then I studied for two years under Tatánka. I hold Masteries in Potions, Ritual Magic and Healing, and Harry currently holds Masteries in Charms, Runes and Enchantments, and he's studying for a Mastery in Warding and a Grand Mastery in Enchantments under Master Filius." Her expression was smug. "How many Masteries can you find in the Staff Room at Hogwarts, Granger?"
Hermione flushed. She had her Mastery in History, but she was one of only five members of Staff to have one, and then to hear that these two people had three each and were still studying for more... That one stung.
"Wait a second..." she blurted as something made its way through her overburdened brain. "You're Flitwick's mystery apprentice?" A number of startling advances in Charms had been made over the last decade, courtesy of her former professor, Filius Flitwick, and an unnamed apprentice of his, although Flitwick had gone on record often enough to say that he learned as much from his student as the other way round.
"Of course I am," Harry sneered. "We made sure to snap him up when your demi-god made Hogwarts too bad for his sense of honour to cope with."
"Anyway," Morag interjected smoothly. "Trina has studied under Little Elk and Rainbow Woman for two years already..." Hermione gasped. Little Elk and her mother, Rainbow Woman, were legends among teachers of magic. They were seen as the most gifted teachers alive, and to hear they were teaching Harry's and Morag's eleven year old was a shock. "...and we're teaching her when she's home. She's roughly at the level of a Hogwarts fourth year top-student, and there's no way we'll ever allow her to go there. Why should we give her to you and let you hold her back?"
She had no answer. Other things were starting to make their way through her mind now.
"How can you be Slytherin by right of conquest? Voldemort didn't die in Godric's Hollow." Harry and Morag exchanged a long look.
"It's time, mo gradh," Morag said softly. Harry's shoulders slumped. Then he nodded.
"I killed Voldemort on August 9th 1996, Granger. If you think back that's when all the Death Eaters dropped dead. I still can't believe nobody has put the clues together, even after this long, but I guess it just proves you'll look in vain for intelligence and common sense in your world."
Hermione's jaw dropped. "I don't believe you," she whispered, horrified. "Why would you do that and not tell the world?"
"Why would I, Granger? What happened the first time people thought he was gone?"
"I don't believe you," she repeated.
Harry shrugged. "Your decision, Granger." His indifference actually clinched it for her. He had done it. They'd been living in fear for 17 years without cause. She could've been a mother long ago, but she'd kept telling Eddie she wasn't going to set a child into a world with Voldemort in it.
"YOU..." She didn't make it any further before two wands were pointed at her.
"What the Hell do you think you're doing, Granger," Morag hissed. "Throwing a tantrum because you've been wilfully stupid for 17 years? Trying to get at Harry for not treating you half as bad as you did him? Are you really going to try your luck, Granger? You'd be done for before your wand was in your hand, stupid bitch." She walked to the fireplace and threw in a pinch of powder.
"Dugald House," she called. "Hi mum. It's hitting the fan. Granger is here to entice Trina to go to Hogwarts. Give Luna the green light for the article tonight. You'll see her at the session, right?"
"I will and I will," came the amused answer from the green flames. "How's she taking it?"
"Badly," Morag chuckled. "I don't think she appreciates being told she's not all-knowing."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me. Unfortunately we're five against seven on the Board, so we have to put up with her. Are you coming over tomorrow?"
"We are. Give da our love." The flames turned orange again.
"What was that about?" Hermione demanded.
"Not that it's any of your business, but it was me telling my mum to tell Luna that she could go ahead and print the article about Voldemort being long dead, and about the heir of a Founder rejecting a Hogwarts education because of the incompetent teachers there."
Hermione slumped in defeat, but then something else made it through.
"Wait. He can't be dead. He used Horcruxes!"
"And how would you know that, Granger?" Morag asked in an amused voice, much to Hermione's consternation.
"Professor Dumbledore told us... Just before he died."
"Ah..." Morag chuckled. Chuckled! "And as usual you took the delusional old goat's incompetent guesses as the gospel truth." She shook her head. "What do you know about Horcruxes, Granger?"
"They're vessels that hold a piece of the maker's soul, tying him to life," Hermione instantly parroted.
"Pathetic," Morag sighed. "In other words, you know next to nothing, and what you do know is only partially right. I can't believe I have to lecture Hogwarts' History professor on something historical." She shot a disgusted look.
"The theory for the Soul Jar - or Horcrux - was defined in 1413 BC in China by a warlock named Wong Shan-Hao. He went on to create a Soul Jar in 1412 BC. This Soul Jar still exists in the Imperial Museum of Magic in the Forbidden City in Peking, and it's in pristine condition. So, where is Wong Shan-Hao?"
Hermione looked clubbed. Not a good look for her.
"Right, I'll tell you where he is, Granger. He's exactly seven feet from the northern wall of the inner sanctum in the city of Harbin where he was buried after he was killed in 1397 BC. Soul Jars, however sound the theory, don't work! Voldemort kept himself alive through a Leech he'd enchanted in Harry's forehead, and through the Dark Marks of his idiot minions. Had Dumbledore not been a self-obsessed maniac, he would've executed the Potters' Will as he was supposed to and the Leech would've been discovered and Voldemort would've died peacefully some time in 1982."
Hermione's world was crumbling around her. No matter what he'd done, she'd still held Dumbledore as the most gifted wizards of the ages, and now she was told that he'd relied on faulty guesswork that could've gotten them all killed.
"I... I'd better leave," she mumbled. "I guess I'll be seeing you out and about now?"
"Not bloody likely, Granger. There's a reason I left the Wizengamot and named Luna for the Potter Seat," Morag sneered. "I am just as shot of Magical Britain as my husband is. With a few exceptions you're a lost cause, and you won't be there when we meet with those exceptions. You're free to leave as soon as Harry has obliviated this place from you."
Hermione was about to protest when she abruptly found herself outside a nondescript hamlet somewhere in England. She was certain that this wasn't Harry's home town, but she didn't have a clue as to where said town would be, and with a clear rejection from her parents, young Miss Slytherin would've already been erased from the Book. There was nothing else for it than to go back to Hogwarts and wait for the fallout.
The outcry was enormous when the article appeared in The Quibbler. Not only had an heir of the Founders rejected their school, but said heir's father was Harry Potter who not only had his magic when he should've been a Muggle, but he also happened to have killed Voldemort 17 years ago and kept it secret! And not only had the Potter family - or the Slytherin family - rejected Hogwarts, but they'd rejected Magical Britain as a whole as well. This called for some kind of retribution, only... Nobody could find them.
The cauldron that was the British wizarding society bubbled for a long time, but in the end nothing really came of the whole thing. It was 1981 all over again, and only a few realised that this was exactly why Voldemort's demise had been kept secret. The only real difference was ironically enough that British witches and wizards stopped fearing Voldemort coming and instead feared Slytherin coming to conquer them. As Harry had stated time and time again: Sheep can't be anything but sheep, and a century of indoctrination isn't eradicated in a few weeks. Nothing significant would really happen until the people teaching their youth were no longer victims of that indoctrination themselves.
In the other end of society the Potter/Slytherin family continued their life in peace, well hidden away from the life that was originally supposed to be theirs. Working and studying they had plenty to occupy their time with, and what time wasn't spent on that their three children claimed. Bonnie Katrina, Ailéan Seumas and Kirsty Lily all took the same route to getting their educations - learning through playing, and being taught by the best in their fields. Further tweaking British noses all three went on to make Slytherin a household name in America's magical community, culminating with Kirsty serving two periods as American Secretary of Magic.
Harry and Morag were never seen or heard from by the wizarding public. They lived out their times at The Pottery, content in their chosen lines of work and happy with their chosen friends. Padma Patil; Neville and Hannah Longbottom (Neville and Padma had lasted two years before an amicable break-up, and Neville had married Hannah another two years later); Luna Lovegood; Katie and Demelza Bell; Gred and Forge and various members of the MacDougal family were frequent visitors in their home, and they cherished the long nights of quiet talks their hospitality usually resulted in. Every single one tried once to entice them back into public life, but none ever tried a second time, and Harry and Morag were happy with that. They would never be able to tolerate that society, but even then, said society kept benefiting from Harry's and Filius' breakthroughs in Charms and Enchantments, and from Morag's discoveries in Potions.
Harry Potter got to live his life in relative obscurity, just as he'd always craved.
All was well.
A/N: That's all folks. 60K+ words for a bunny I'd tipped at 10-12K. I guess I'm overly verbose (thanks wargear) or something. Feel free to lambaste me, particularly about the ending. I'm not overly fond of it myself, but I couldn't get it precisely right. I guess it's a drawback from writing in a foreign language.
I'm sorry about the last three words but I couldn't help myself. I promise I won't do it again.
Thanks for reading
Right... I've had a lot of questions about certain parts of the story:
Why does Harry maintain that he'll be a Muggle? Because when you tell the opposition they're right, they're not likely to double-check their facts.
Why is Harry at King's Cross? To see his wife and friends off. There was no reason to suspect what happened given that half the Auror force was there.
Why did Dumbledore curse Harry in front of hundreds of witnesses? Because he's off his rocker! I've dropped hints throughout the story that he's not entirely there, and coupled with a desperate desire to keep Harry controlled, that's what happened.
Why isn't Harry's injury fixed better? It's dark magic, and like George's ear in canon, you can't do more than stop the destruction. You can't reverse it.
Why so much sex? You think it's much? They're 16 and 17, depending on which chapter you're reading, and they like each other a lot. Less sex would be more surprising, frankly.
Harry snapped his wand at King's Cross. Where'd he get another one? It's Tommy's of course.