A/N: Well, here we are again. Barely. This is the second chapter that was only finished last night. Still, it's here.
But before we start, a response to a number of reviews. Several have critised the Way I've done Fleur's accent. Well, I'm sorry, but I feel that her accent is as much a part of her character as her looks or ancestory. She will improve her english over the course of this story, but the odd bit will still slip in. I had a native french speaker look over what I've done in earlier chapters, so it can't be that wrong. Once the story is complete I'll go over her speech again, even it out...
For now, lets' get back to the story. Oh, and for those you wanting more smut, we've got a Harry/Hermione scene here...
UPDATE 5th June: Yet another chapter that needed to be trimmed to escape the Mod's axe...
Dumbledore frowned in thought and worry as he sat back in his seat, his gaze moving from the unfolded letter in his hands to the owl that had delivered it. Hedwig was perched on Fawkes stand next to the Phoenix, and both avians were looking at him as if daring him to try and cast a spell on her. Again. He'd been shocked when the snowy owl had entered through the window, which had stopped him from acting before she'd released the letter. He'd reached for his wand, reflexively intending to cast a tracking charm on the snowy owl, but she'd jumped up and flown to his familiar. Fawkes had squawked loudly before shielding the owl from him with a wing, eyes looking at him sharply. Dumbledore got a strong sense of disappointment over the bond he shared with the phoenix, which had stayed his hand.
Turning back he re-read the letter.
I think we can safely agree there are several issues that remain between us. Your handling of affairs of Hgowarts over the last few years, the Dursley's and how you had me isolated last year spring to mind. However, I am willing to hold off a reckoning between us over these issues, for now, in favour of us both focusing on a more important issue. Voldemort. I sincerely hope that in regard to him we both want the same thing, him defeated and gone for good.
As part of this, we need to discuss Headquarters. You know and I know that thanks to Sirius I own the house now. I also suspect you know what it means for me to be the heir to two Ancient and Noble houses. As you may have gathered from our last face-to-face meeting, I now have several close associates around me, all of whom will require the knowledge of the secret. It would hardly do for the future Lady Black to be unable to see her own house!
What I require from you as of this moment is another note, revealing the secret of Headquarters. And only this. It will be checked for any compulsion charms and the like before I even see it.
Provide this Headmaster, and you will have earned yourself a reprieve. Those around me are far less forgiving than me regarding my treatment.
Understand this Albus. You have lost all my trust and respect for you personally. That said, I hope we can work together to deal with Voldemort, but remember I nor those around me will be your puppets. Once we have dealt with the Dark Lord, then we will settle things between us. Your actions between now and then will determine how my family treat you at that time.
Lord-Elect Harry Potter'
Sitting back in his seat, Albus Dumbledore sighed heavily. How had things fallen to this? If he was honest with himself he knew the answer. He just didn't want to admit it.
A knock on the door snapped him out of his thoughts. Focusing a little, he looked beyond… "Come in Severus."
Severus Snape stalked in, his robe billowing behind his as he did. If it wasn't for the dark scowl he wore constantly, the image he created would have been inspiring. Instead it was foreboding.
"Ah, so you have something new to report Severus?" Albus tipped his head forward enough to look the younger man over the rim of his glasses. It was a minor movement, but Albus Dumbledore was a student of human body language, an art that had faded out in the last century in his opinion. The tiniest gesture or motion could be used to convey all sorts of impressions and ideas to a receptive mind. It was even possible to have a verbal conversation with someone, and yet have a completely separate one with them using only body motions and expressions. He had found that certain poses triggered feelings of security and comfort in the younger minds, making them feel more at ease, and thus more willing to give him information, and to be receptive to his ideas.
Snape started to open his mouth, when motion to his right caught his eye. Dark eyes snapped across, and his expression turned even darker, uglier. Hedwig glared back at the potions professor, still shielded by Fawkes, who was also glaring at him. The enmity between the Phoenix and Snape had been going on as long as the two had known each other, though for the life of him Dumbledore could not figure out why the two hated each other like they did. There were only a few beings in the world that provoked a stronger reaction out of Snape: James Potter, Sirius Black, Voldemort… and sadly, Harry Potter.
What Dumbledore didn't know was that there was another name on that list. Albus Dumbledore.
"Prince Potter pleading to be allowed to play again?" He sneered disdainfully.
"Hardly, Severus." Dumbledore calmly replied. "He asked for a minor thing from me, one I have no intention, or right, to refuse." Dumbledore sighed wearily again. "I've failed him Severus."
"Failed?" Snape barked incredulously. "That brat is pampered in every way possible! Just as arrogant and insufferable a his father…"
"Severus, enough." Dumbledore firmly cut him off, his eyes now firm as he looked sternly at Snape. "I've told you time and again to let go of your grudge. To judge Harry on his own merits, if judge him you must. This hatred you carry for a man dead fifteen years will be the death of you one day. Life is too precious to spend it honing hatred and anger."
Snape's eyes narrowed, his face flushed, but he kept quiet. "Sanctimonious bastard!' he thought. 'What right have you to decree what I must and must not feel? Old fool!'
"Now…" Dumbledore relaxed. "…What of Voldemort?"
Snape shivered before answering. "He was… not at all pleased after the Draco brat returned from the will reading. Draco would have died then and there for his failure to bring to him the wealth of the Black Family."
"Ah." Dumbledore's shoulders slumped in despair. "I suspected he was counting on gaining those funds, but to simply kill…" he paused before looking at Snape closely. " 'would' have died?"
"His new ally, Bearson Greengrass, suggested a more fitting, more humiliating punishment. One just as fatal, but not as quick or painless." At the raised eyebrow, Snape explained. "Bearson is a former member of Grindelwald's Magi-SS."
Ablus blanched, feeling like his stomach had the bottom dropped out of it. He vaguely knew that if he'd been standing then, he'd have fallen into his chair. 'Gellert…' He swallowed nervously, trying to force back down the horrible images he'd seen during the war with his former lover. The Magi-SS had tormented his dreams ever since. He refocused his eyes, now tingling with tears, on Snape. "He has men with him?"
Snape nodded. "A dozen right now, but more are coming. And he claims to be bringing heavier arms with them."
Dumbledore shivered visibly. 'This is… unwelcome.' He glanced once more at Harry's letter, still lying on his desk. 'Harry is right: Voldemort has to be the primary concern. All else, all other concerns, have to be set aside…' After a couple of deep breaths he looked up once more. "How is young mister Malfoy?"
Snape's sneer reached a new high. "Alive, barely. He'll recover in time though. Bearson shot him with a bullet engraved with magical suppression runes." Snape shivered. "Never have I had to do something so disgusting as having to dig it out of Malfoy's belly by hand…"
Dumbledore frowned lightly at Snape's choice of words. He knew, better than most, just what the younger man had done in the years preceding Voldemort's downfall…
"I see. Has the experience helped him realise where his current path will take him?"
"No." Snape snorted. "He's not been awake much, but already he's determined to not fail the Dark Lord again."
"Oh dear. Severus, do try and get through to him. Make him understand that he can be forgiven, if he just asks for it."
Snape stared at the old man, his bewilderment only just hidden behind his mask of expressionless. 'Are you really that naïve, or just plain stupid? Either case, you're a delusional fool if you think the Malfoy brat's going to change his ways now! That worm Lucius has poisoned his mind since he was able to crawl! Nothing short of wiping his entire life away will fix that!' His eyes narrowed in calculation as he watched Albus reaching for parchment and quill. 'If I could arrange for you to die along with that monster Voldemort, I would!'
"Severus… I will be calling an order meeting for Thursday evening. We have to decide on a direction for the Order to take now, since the Ministry now admits to Voldemort's return." Albus paused, considering, before sighing. "I must also plead for our continued use of Grimmuald Place. At least now we know to whom it belongs now."
"You mean to beg a favour off that snot-nosed Potter brat?" Snape thundered. "Just order that dunderhead to hand over the deed to you! You don't even have to ask him! As magical guardian…"
"But…" Albus held up one hand, palm facing Snape. "…I am not his guardian. I never was."
Snape blinked. "What?"
Dumbledore sighed again before standing up and moving to a window to look outside. "Sirius Black was never convicted of a crime Serverus. His legal authority over Harry was never challenged or revoked. I… I assumed it had, but never actually checked or enquired. Now though, another has returned from the dead…" He paused for a long moment, weighing his options. Did he tell Snape about Lily? While he still personally held some doubts about the method, there was no doubt now that it was Lily Potter. The goblins could not be fooled in such matters. It really was her. And that was the crux of the matter. It had been for Lily that Snape had become Albus's spy in the Death Eater ranks. It had been to keep her safe, once he understood what Voldemort had intended to do, that had pushed him to switch allegiance. And it had been revenge for her apparent death that had kept Severus loyal to him when Voldemort had returned. Albus knew that Voldemort was the one Snape hated most… for killing Lily. But now she was back… and it was clear that she did not return Severus' feelings in kind. Her words at the will reading made it crystal clear that he was more likely to be greeted with a curse than a kiss should the two ever meet. But that meeting was a forgone conclusion…
"Severus… Lily is still alive."
Snape was glad that the Headmaster was looking the other way. It kept the paling of his face private. "What? How?" He asked, his voice weak and wavering.
"I wish I knew the means my friend. But the Goblins have confirmed that it really is her. She's alive, Severus, and not even aged a day since… well, that day."
Severus was swaying on his feet, his mind struggling to understand what he'd been just told. It was not possible! How could she be alive once more? Why had she not contacted him? Then a thought struck him. If she had survived… "What of Potter?"
"If you are referring to James, then I'm afraid that it is confirmed that he did die that night."
"Hmph. At least he did something right…" Snape muttered quietly to himself. But not quietly enough.
"Severus!" Albus whirled round to face him, a stern glare on his face. "Do not besmirch the memory of a brave man! Your hatred of James has gone too far! I will not hear of you slandering his name again, are we clear?" The air around the aging headmaster charged with power, creating an aura that pulled at his robes and hairs, ruffling pages of open books and causing candle flames to flicker and wave.
Snape glared back for a moment, before slowly nodding. As Albus relaxed the aura around him faded.
"Now… be sure to make your excuses to Voldemort." Dumbledore said in a conversational tone as he retook his seat. "I suspect the meeting will take some time. I hope, for you sake, that you will be able to bring something to offer."
Snape nodded furiously before stalking out, almost slamming the door open as he did. Albus watched him go sadly, before picking up his quill and starting to write. He had to start over three times before he was satisfied. He'd found himself slipping into the controlling grandfatherly phrases again and again, something he was trying to curb. He had his wand in his hand, a variant compulsion charm in his mind, when a warbling from Fawkes made him pause. Looking across, he saw the Phoenix glaring at him once more in disapproval. Breathing slowly, Dumbledore laid the wand down before slowly folding the letter with it's contained note. Holding it up, he watched as Hedwig looked at him for a long moment, before she launched herself into the air, snatching the parchment out of his grasp before flying off into the early morning light. Only when he felt the wards report her crossing them did he allow himself to relax and pick up his wand again. 'I have to break that habit… it will be the end of me if I don't.'
Far to the south of where the Headmaster was contemplating his life, Harry was taking the luxury of waking up slowly. It still felt odd waking up in this huge bed, but the sheer level of comfort overrode any discomfort he might have felt. The soft pillows seemed to almost have a siren's call for his head, and the quilt was perfect for wrapping around ones self and snuggling. He'd been sleeping soundly and peacefully ever since he'd arrived here, even more so than he'd done so at the Grangers. He felt truly at home here. Hogwarts had felt like home when he first got there, but in comparison to the Dursleys, anywhere would have. But over the years Hogwarts had lost it's lustre, as year after year his life had been in danger from one source or another. But here, in Potter Manor, he felt truly safe and secure. The land seemed to call out to him, welcoming him. Echoes of the previous Potters still haunted the manor, but all of them were reassuring, welcoming and accepting. He felt a real sense of belonging, the first he'd ever felt. And though it was only faint, there was a feeling that a truly powerful guardian was protecting him. Obvious really, with an actual dragon's soul tied to the wards, but the sense of its protective embrace had to be felt to be understood.
The warm, soft body snuggled into his was just the icing on the cake.
Harry opened his eyes, to once more gaze upon a vision of beauty in his eyes; Hermione sleeping. When he'd first woken he'd frozen at the presence, before a quick peek had revealed whom it was. Reassured, he'd dozed off once more. He trusted Hermione more than he trusted himself. She of the terrifying intellect had always stood by him, never doubted him. Every time he'd turned around she'd been there, encouraging and supporting him. Those weeks in second year when she'd been petrified had caused him to feel incredible heartache and loneliness, though he'd not understood the root of his feelings at the time. He'd missed her, her presence, her logic, but it had been more than that. How much more, he'd not realised till only recently.
Harry smiled as she shifted a little, snuggling a little more into the pillow, a small smile on her lips. Her face was relaxed in sleep, allow her classical beauty to shine forth unhindered. He loved the way her hair was spread over the pillow and across her shoulders, as wild and untameable as she was. And he would not have her any other way.
Gently he reached up and brushed a strand of the silky threads away from her face, his fingertips just caressing her temple as he did. Her smile widened some more as her eyelids opened slowly, revealing her wonderful chocolate and hazel eyes. "Morning Harry." She said softly, warmth and affection clear in her tone.
"Morning. Didn't mean to wake you."
"I've been awake for a few minutes Harry." Hermione's smile widened a little more. One hand came up from under the covers to stroke his cheek. "This feels so right, doesn't it?"
Harry nodded. "I know. I've never felt so… at home, before." His face fell a little. "I just wish I'd seen what you meet to me earlier…"
"Harry." Hermione gently stopped him with a finger to his lips. "I understand why you didn't. Those… people, are wholly responsible for that. It's no mark against you for what they did. Did it frustrate me at times? Yes. But I do understand."
Harry sighed. "It's just… I wonder what would have happened had Malfoy not cursed me sometimes." He frowned lightly as he got his thoughts into order. "We'd never have had that… that…"
Harry flushed. "Yes, that. I'd have been shipped back to Durskaban, to await my next release." He felt Hermione's arms tighten around him at his mention of his now arrested relatives. "We both know what Molly was planning for us. I fear… if things had gone as normal… I'd be lusting after Ginny by now… and that's disturbing, since she does resemble mum quite a bit."
Hermione thought for a moment, then blanched as she saw what he meant.
"But I also fear you'd have started to fancy Ron. I know." He nodded at her incredulous expression. "Seems crazy, but with those potions she's been known to make…" He sighed again.
"Hermione… I can easily see what I would do then. Knowing how Ron fancied you, and you appearing to return the feelings, I'd label my feelings for you as that of a brother for his sister, and not what we've got now."
Hermione shivered. "That would have been torture for me Harry. Loving you, but knowing you didn't feel the same way… I can always read you Harry." She gently chided him. "I'm not sure I could have stayed as close to you in that situation. The conflict within would have been…"
Harry gripped her shoulder a little tighter. "I'd have died if you'd left Hermione. Literally. Without you…"
"Well, we'll never have to find out now." She reassured him. A mischievous quirk then appeared on her lips, and she leaned in quickly to replace her finger with her lips. The kiss was soft and sweat, a meeting of equals deeply attached to each other. Harry felt the full softness of her lips, her passion and care for him. With equal care and tenderness he slid his hand from where it had been resting on her hip up her flank to slide over her shoulder blade, gently drawing her a little closer. The two of them revealed in their complete harmony together.
When she drew back a touch Harry could see there was a mischievous glint in her eyes now. "Still think I'm more like a sister?" She teased lightly. "In the end, I think things turned out the best they could."
Harry grinned happily. "I know. Having mum back… It's a dream come true."
Hermione laughed gaily. "Oh Harry! I was referring to the others. Your other wives."
"Oh!" Harry flushed. "I guess that's a… bonus. I mean…" He sighed. "I still don't understand how you can all be so happy about sharing me…"
"Leave that issue to us Harry." Hermione said softly. "You just focus on being the wonderful man you are, and we'll handle everything else." Hermione smiled once more to cover her own disquiet at that topic. She knew that Harry had hit the topic on the head: why was she so willing to share the man she'd been in love – consciously, at least – with for just over two years? All her upbringing and education had been slanted towards the idea of one man, one woman. Not one and five. She'd talked with the others about this very thing a few times, but all were in the same boat. To an extent Susan, Daphne and Fleur had been aware of the likelihood of this situation occurring, and did not have the same upbringing that frowned on it. All had hoped to find one man and not have to share, but each had been resigned to the possibility. Tracy was more like herself in a way. Without the pressure that the others had to carry on their family lines, she'd had chance to not be in the situation she was in right now.
"I just… worry that I'll not be able to keep you all satisfied. That I'll favour one over the others…" The look in his eyes told her that he really meant her. While it thrilled Hermione's heart to realise just how much he cared for her, she knew that what he feared would not, could not, happen.
"Just be yourself Harry." Another female voice said gently before she could say the same thing. "You've got more room in your heart than any two others."
Both teens looked towards the foot of the bed, where they saw Lily sat on the edge, her back resting against one of the posts. Her hands were laid in her lap as she smiled broadly at the two of them. She'd come in a few minutes before, and had been struck at how wonderful an image the couple made. Not wanting to disturb them she'd sat on the end of the bed, continuing to watch them sleep and embedding the image into her memory. Her only regret was that James wasn't here to witness their son all grown up.
Harry flushed lightly before bringing his hand off Hermione's shoulder to run it through his hair, making it even more unruly than ever, if that was possible. "Morning mum." He looked nervously at her. "How long…?"
"Long enough." She answered his unfinished question. With an easy elegant grace she stood up. "I came in to remind you both that you've got your first summer class later. You'll need to greet and allow entry for all your friends."
Harry sighed but nodded. The wards on Potter Manor were very selective. Only those with express permission from a Potter – or their spouse – could apparate into the grounds or floo in. Even then they could not appear within the building itself, but outside in the courtyard. And while it didn't look it at first glance, the front door was massively reinforced, by both magical and muggle means. Even using the Floo was not a viable option to invade. While they would appear in the Grand Hall, an invading army could only enter one at a time, and the fireplace surround had many concealed means to deal with invaders before they could get orientated… should they get past the barriers and wards in the first place. Even then, the stairs leading to the private wing had built in fortifications that would seriously hinder any attack.
Lily smiled as she gently finger combed Harry's a little, a futile effort to make it a bit ordered. Harry smiled too: his mums' touch soothed him to his core. "You've got some time though, so no need to rush."
"Thanks mum. We'll be down soon."
Feeling that same warm glow fill her at his address, Lily beamed as she looked across her son to Hermione. "Oh, and while I would have been delighted to have you as a daughter Hermione… It's a much greater honour for you to be my daughter-in-law."
Hermione blushed even as she smiled bashfully, bowing her head slightly. Lily winked at her before walking out, gently closing the door behind her.
Harry smiled when he turned back to look at her. "Well, that's us told."
Hermione giggled softly before looking over to the far wall. One of Harry's ancestors had had the bright idea of taking a full sized regular clock and charming the face to glow softly, allowing the time to be read in the dark long before the first digital clocks were produced. "We've got time…"
"Huh? Time for what?" His only reply was a saucy smile… and a leg sliding up between his own. "Oh!" Harry's eyes widened when her thigh gently brushed his engorged manhood, which stiffened to full hardness at the touch.
"Lie back and relax Harry." Hermione cooed as she shifted, her bodying moving down his. "Let me, your not-sister take care of that…"
The sound of a door opening caused Amelia's head to jerk up to meet the gaze of the dress uniformed female officer. "Colonel Bones will see you now."
Rising to her feet, Amelia tried to still her heart as she followed the younger woman. She hoped her beloved – and sole remaining – brother had found at least a few matches in his search. She remembered the talk they had had earlier in the week over the phone, his surprise at her request. He'd said he'd see what he could do. Personal records were a touchy subject; he had to have an at least half decent reason to go poking through them. It had been late last night when she'd got the owl requesting they meet in person at the base, to go over her request.
Stepping past a pair of desks, they entered an office behind them. "Madam Bones Colonel."
Behind his desk her brother William looked up, eyes fixed on her. "Thank you Lieutenant. Dismissed."
"Sir." The young woman turned and walked out, closing the door behind her. Leaving the siblings alone.
The silence dragged on. Amelia found her eyes wandering slightly, taking in the details. Her brother was three years younger than herself, and had always resented his squib status… and how he'd been looked down on by other magicals. It had been only a week after she returned from Hogwarts the last time that he'd snapped and left, furiously storming out of their ancestral home in defiance of fathers wishes. Amelia had witnessed first hand his conflicted rage when they had heard that Bill had joined the British muggle Army. On the one hand he was joining an honourable profession, sworn to defend his homeland… something the Bones had been doing for centuries. But the means… While their father had not been a blood purist in the strictest sense, he had been a passive believer that the two worlds should not mix.
Now though, Amelia could see the story of her brother's life, displayed on the wall behind him. Muggle photos of bands of men, in ranks of neatly pressed uniforms or groups of battle worn soldiers, charted his progress through the ranks, through one conflict after another. Despite the odds he'd stayed whole in body while others around him had fallen or died.
Refocusing her eyes on her brother, Amelia saw that he was assessing her as frankly as she was him. They had kept in touch, but had rarely actually met: too many demands on both their times. They shared the same jaw line, the same shade of hair. It was impossible to not think they were related.
After a moment he stood up and walked around the desk, arms opening. In his movements she could see that he was still active and fit despite the years. But all that was swept aside as they enfolded each other in a hug, the pair of them dropping the barriers that they habitually carried.
After a moment the pair separated, and Bill guided her towards a set of informal seats to one side of his office. An old fashioned decanter stood on one small table, along with a teapot. Once they were settled with teacups in hand – the beverage fortified with the whisky, just as their mother had done – William Bones smiled at her. "You've aged well Am. The monocle's a nice touch."
"Why thanks Bill." Amelia replied with a touch of sarcasm, washed over with humour. "I see you've not gone to pot like some others."
"Never know when an old war dog like me might be needed again." He chuckled before taking a sip. Amelia copied his action, the blending of drinks prompting a fond smile from her.
"Just like Mother used to make."
"Yes. My staff could never get it right."
"I know the feeling."
William frowned lightly at her tone. "Thing's aren't going well for you, are they?"
Amelia sighed before setting the cup and saucer down. "No. I'm… I'm tired Bill. Tired of the corruption and bribery. Tired of fighting the same battles again and again. I… I just can't do what needs to be done."
"I thought you made department head? That's got to count for something…"
"Bill, you know what the old guard were like. They've not improved since you left." Her brother scowled at the memory, before looking at her suspiciously.
"So… your request – which was most irregular I must point out – is not a formal, legally approved one, is it?"
Amelia paused for a moment, arranging her thoughts. "No. No it's not. The Ministry's got its collective head in the sand, too mired in internal politics and image to actually do what needs to be done. And we're running out of time."
"So he's really back?"
Amelia looked him square in the eyes. "Yes, he is. I saw him myself at the end of June. As did over half the Ministry and the Minister himself. All the attacks of late… I fear it's just the beginning. It's only through luck that his targets were those who, mostly, could defend themselves. But we can't rely on children to fight our war for us."
William nodded slowly, a hard look in his eye. "So… how does your request fit into all this?"
Amelia hesitated, before plunging ahead. "Susan's found a man who will allow her to rebuild our house. I know." She responded to his look of surprise. "I was giving up hope myself." She smiled cheekily now. "It's Harry Potter."
William gasped. "The Harry Potter? Good grief! How did Susie pull that off?" He then frowned. "But what of his own family name?"
"She got in through a friend, who is also a very close friend to Harry, and whom will become the next Lady Potter. They offered Susan a place within the family. Officially she'll be Consort to the Potter family, but in practice I doubt there will be any difference between how he treats either of them. Or the others." At his look, Amelia sighed. "He's now the heir to two lines, plus another two friends have joined the family."
"Five women?" William barked. "Gracious! I don't know whether to envy the boy or feel pity for him."
Amelia smirked, but then her expression fell as she thought about the other bits of news she had to tell him. "However… we have learned that the Dark Lord has gained new allies, from the continent." She looked him in the eye. "A group led by a Wizard who followed Grindelwald."
William stiffened, eyes hardening. "Magi-SS?" At Amelia's nodded, he swore violently. "That just takes the cake! I thought all those monsters were rounded up years ago!"
"Apparently this one is a lot more devious than normal. And has a small army behind him."
William froze, before looking squarely at her. "That's why you came to me, isn't it? These names you gave me… they are the names of muggleborns aren't they? You wanted to find out they had any military relatives."
She nodded slowly. "My aurors are police. They don't have the training to fight a menace like the one coming. Hell, they can barely stand against the Death Eaters. Magi-SS…" She shivered, and had to take a gulp of enriched tea to steady her nerves.
William however was lost in his memories of the history texts he'd read. The Magi-SS, the terrors of the Baltic and Germanic states… No, the magical government in Britain was in no shape to handle such a threat. Taking a deep breath he faced his sister again. "What's the plan of attack then?" He asked.
"I've already talked to my contacts in MI5 and Scotland Yard. They'll be on the look out for both forces. I stressed that they should not go after them themselves, but alert us and follow them. I hope they will stay true to form and disregard the muggles…"
William was shaking his head. "The Eaters will, but don't expect the Magi-SS to do so. They always kept abreast of Muggles, at least in terms of weapons and surveillance."
"Well, at least we have some help. The other thing was that we – the group that has formed around Harry, whose going to be central in any final conflict with the Dark Lord – thought of was to form an army of our own, to fight the Death Eaters and their allies on an equal footing. After an ex-member of 2 Para took out five Death Eaters alone when they attacked his brothers home…"
William nodded slowly. "Yes, I can see what you mean. With no real time to train, already experienced personal are a must." Setting down his cup, William got up and stepped over to his desk. Lifting a folder, he opened it and flicked through, eyes dancing over the pages within. "How did you plan to contact these people Amelia? You know that not all will know about magic."
Amelia nodded. "We know. Professor McGonagall's offered to approach the families of each one on that list, to see which do know. Then…" She shrugged. "…I don't know. You know the system. How can we gather them into a unit?"
"Hmmm…" William rubbed his chin with his free hand. "I could approach Command with some information… possible terrorist group… targeting certain families for reasons unknown…"
Amelia chuckled. "I used the same basic idea with Scotland Yard. An 'Extremist Terrorist Group' describes them perfectly."
William chuckled as well. "Yes, I think I can sort something out. Can't guarantee getting everyone, but if I have a list of names, plus examples of what these people are capable of…"
"I'll forward to you my Seniors Auror's report on the one recent attack of his that succeeded. Well, the main target was out, but the poor girls parents…"
William grimaced. "Yes, well… I'm not sure I really want to know the details. But if it'll get us the green light…" He paused as if struck by a thought, before he faced her. "I'll want to debrief this former 2 Para member you mentioned, and have him work with our new recruits."
"That shouldn't be a problem, depending on how soon you get this force together. He'll be imparting some of his training onto Harry, our niece, and the others around them, preparing them for the next encounter."
"Oh… she'll hate him for that, until that training saves her life. 2 Para really put their recruits through the grinder. The only ones harsher are the 22nd. Those SAS boys are something else."
Amelia shivered, recalling what Daniel Granger had said about his training. She struggled to think how to make it even worse. Rising to her feet, she stepped over to her brother. "Thanks for doing this Bill."
William smiled before wrapping his free arm around her shoulders. "What are family for? Just make sure that bastard stays dead this time."
"Oh, I'm sure that Harry – and more to the point, his wives - will make very sure of that!"
"You seem rather pleased with yourself today, Hermione. Care to share the cause?"
Hermione looked over towards Alicia, who was looking at her with a small smile at the corners of her mouth. The gathered group were taking a break for lunch after their intense – and tense - morning session. For the most part it had mainly been a refresher and introduction session, as the group that were not staying on the grounds had to be introduced to their teachers… including the 'new' Bellatrix. Many eyes had been on Neville when she had stepped out meekly, but despite the tensing of his jaw he'd not reacted.
Quickly though they'd gone through what they already knew, before Harry had opened the floor to discussion of what they needed to do in the coming weeks and months. Almost right off Fred and George had offered their services as crafters of items and ordnance, something that had intrigued her uncle Daniel. Alicia and Angelina would assist them, but would also do much of the scouting work for the group come September. Once in Hogwarts Harry and the others still to complete their education would be severely limited in their ability to travel. Harry had half joked that it would be much of an issue however, as trouble seemed to be drawn to him. The chuckles that his comment drew out were tentative, as they were all, to one degree or another, aware of his history.
Daniel had thrown several suggestions into the discussion, the main one being that they train together as one or two teams that would fight as a unit. They would also need a few who would try to avoid direct combat, but would be there to keep the others on their feet, patching up injuries and reversing curses. Both Tracy and Hannah volunteered for this role, both preferring not be in the direct line of fire. In the end, they agreed that Harry and his wives would form the point unit, tasked with dealing with Voldemort himself. Neville would lead the rest, to deal with the other Death Eaters.
Now though, they were all taking a break for lunch, sitting outside in the sun. The boys had gathered around the one corner of a paved patio area next to the constructed Caribbean beach, where Harry was making his first effort at cooking a bar-be himself. Remus was next to him assisting as needed, while her father was sat close by, to 'supervise'. Nathan was recovering quickly, but he still tired easily. Slightly to one side Uncle Dan was talking with the twins… the sight of which Hermione tried not to notice, given the diabolical looks the younger pair sported, and the devious expression her uncle had.
The girls had taken over the broad expanse of beach, laying back on the fine sand or sitting on the rocks that were dotted about. A couple of towels and stools completed the seating arrangements. They had all shed their shoes, even loosened their clothing. The combination of the British summer and the heated region made for a decidedly hot space.
Hermione smiled at the older girl. "Not really Alicia. Personal matter."
"Oh, so 'hose noises I 'eard coming from ze master bedroom were from a personal matter?" Fleur teased from where she lay with her toes bathed in the small waves that lapped against the sand. Hermione blushed even as she met the gaze of the older blond, who was smiling devilishly at her, a bright spark of amusement dancing in her pale eyes.
"Fleur! Do you mind?" She hissed.
"Oh 'elax." Fleur waved one hand dimissively. "No one 'ere would… deny, you 'our… pleasure, with our fine young man." Fleur's eyes moved across towards where was speaking with Neville.
"Certainly Fleur. He's certainly not a lee'tel boy any more." Susan commented with a saucy wink at Hermione.
Fleur groaned light-heartedly. "Oh… Will I evar live 'hat down?"
"We'll see Fleur." Daphne said cryptically from where she lay on her back, hands behind her head and feet crossed at the ankles, enjoying the sun. "We'll see." After a few moments though she turned her head a little, a frown creasing her brow. "Tracy…"
"Hmmm?" Her dark haired friend responded distractedly.
"You've been staring at me for the last ten minutes. What's the issue?"
Tracy started, and Hermione frowned lightly herself, casting her eyes over Daphne herself quickly. The former Slytherin was stretched out casually, but Hermione could not see anything amiss with her appearance…
Tracy gulped before speaking, feeling the eyes of every other girl on her. "Um, Daphne? Did you hit herself with a couple of engorgement charms?"
Daphne's frown tightened, and she turned her head to look at her friend, eyes opened to narrow blue slits.
Tracy, blushing beet red, waved her hand towards her. "It's just… you've grown, uh… more top heavy since I last saw you…"
Daphne frowned a moment longer before she looked down her body, instantly seeing what Tracy meant. She'd decided to wear one of her new short-sleeved polo shirts this morning, one with a low cut v-neck. Nothing sluttish or indecent, but low enough for her to feel sexy. From where Tracy was sat, she had a clear view straight down her deepened cleavage. At this realisation Daphne shared a look of embarrassment with Hermione and Susan.
"Oh, I smell a story here!" Angelina crowed excitedly, eyes dancing. "Okay ladies, give!"
The three looked at each, then around at the range of expressions on the others. The former chasers were looking excitedly curious, while Katie had a bemused expression. Fleur had one eyebrow raised above her accepting smile. Luna looked like she didn't have any feelings on the matter, while Ginny… the young redhead was struggling to cover her envy, though her curiosity was clear. Astoria was looking at her sister with wide eyes, clearly a bit envious but also hopeful.
Hermione sighed. "I… we're not sure how or why, but all three of us…" Her hand waved between herself, Susan and Daphne. "Gained an, increase, after we cured Harry of the curse Malfoy put on him."
"Okay…" Katie drawled. "Explain."
"Yes. I'd love to hear how you broke that curse." Tracy cut in. "Malfoy was crowing about it destroying Harry when he woke up afterwards."
Hermione shared another look with the other two. After they both nodded slightly, she started. "We… well. Bluntly… We fucked it out of him."
For several seconds no one spoke.
"Wait. You four had an orgy?" Hannah asked in amazement.
Three nods answered.
"Well. That's… different." Alicia said, her eyes glazed over.
Tracy however had wide eyes. "How on Earth did you…?"
"Lots of potions, and we switched him between each other, so we could recover." Susan answered her question. Luna suddenly had a more focused look, her hand stilling from stroking the back of her pet Terror Gobbler as he lay curled into her side in the warm sand.
"Yes, he was… just wow." Hermione sighed. Then she chuckled. "He just kept on going and going…"
"…And coming and coming, I bet…" Angelina snarked light-heartedly.
"Yes. Yes he did." Hermione grinned. "Forty-two times worth, in fact."
It took a moment for it to register, but then Angelina, Katie, and surprisingly Fleur all started laughing. The others looked baffled… except for Luna, who was looking at Hermione with a contemplative expression.
"You three switched him between yourselves?" She asked softly.
"Yes." Hermione answered, curiosity creasing her brow.
"And he took you in three different stances?" Luna pressed.
Hermione nodded, noticing how the others were looking at the youngest blond in confusion. Just where was Luna taking this?
"And each time, he released inside your womanhood? Not a drop wasted elsewhere?"
Daphne was flushed bright red. "Uh, I don't think you really need to know where he shoot his wad each time…"
"Was it?" Luna pressed. At Hermione's reluctant nod, Luna sat back and beamed, her hand resuming the stroking motion of Gobbler. "I always wondered if that ritual was actually valid…"
"Huh? What ritual?" Daphne asked, suddenly worried.
"Hmm? Oh, don't fret. You just acted an old druidic fertility ritual that I saw mentioned in my… parents, small library." Luna's face darkened for a moment, but a croon and a sleepy chirp from Gobbler brightened her face once. "It was a ritual to increased the fertility of all the partners in a household. They needed many children those days. And it was believed a larger bust signified that a woman was more fertile, hence able to bear more children. I wondered if it was just a fairy tale…" Luna mused almost to herself.
Hermione looked between herself, Susan and Daphne, all with wide eyes. Was it possible? But how…
"Foods ready!" Harry's call snapped them all back to the present. Gobbler's head shot up, eyes wide as he stared towards the paved area, where already various salads, sauces and other items were being placed on the large table by Winky and Emily. When a small plate of whole fish appeared the little dragon jumped up and scampered over as fast as his legs could carry him, panting like sounds coming from him.
Luna beamed as she watched him. "And you wondered why I call him Gobbler!"
Hermione sighed. "Well… at least his table manners are better than Ron's."
Ginny blanched. "Urgh. Thanks Hermione. I really didn't need that image again."
"Sorry." Hermione said. Before the younger girl could walk away however Hermione held out her hand, stopping her. Ginny looked at her in confusion and a little fear as the others followed the hungry little dragon. Hermione spoke softly once they were far enough away. "Ginny… How are you coping?"
The younger girls shoulders slumped. "I'm… doing better. It's… hard, to see you and Harry together, like you are. I… still feel…"
"I know Ginny. I understand." Hermione gently laid her hand on her shoulder. "But it'd be worse to brood at the Burrow, you know."
Ginny nodded. "I know. That's why I'm here." Her expression darkened. "Plus I want some payback on that bastard who caused… everything!"
Hermione knew whom she meant. She saw the same fire in Lily's or Harry's eyes often. She shifted to another topic. "How's Ron?" She asked hesitantly.
"Not good. I don't know him anymore Hermione. There's… something going on in his head that I can't understand. Mum's blind to it, but Dad's noticed. It's almost… like something is eating away at his brain… though since I doubt he actually had one…"
Hermione chuckled for a moment with her half-heartedly, but both shared looks of concern as the laughter faded. "Has Mr Weasley got him to a healer yet…"
"No." Ginny shook her head sharply. "He's very reluctant to leave mum alone, since the will… and she's denying that there's anything wrong with Ron. We had a huge fight with her just to let me come here!"
Hermione sighed. They'd tried to understand, work out what had happened to Ron, but not even Lily, who had been training as a Healer, could work what was wrong. Not without examining him herself. Everyone had agreed to keep an eye on him… though Harry had idly aired the idea of ensuring that he ended up in Madam Pomfrey's care at the start of term…
"Well, keep an eye on him for us. I just… get the feeling we'll get more grief from him sooner or later." Hermione sighed. "He could have been…"
Ginny nodded in agreement, tears in her eyes for the young man that Ronald could have been.
The next afternoon, two figures walked through the Ministry Atrium, forms and features hidden in the hooded robes they were. The few others moving about stepped aside for the pair, their plum coloured robes signifying their membership in the Wizengamot.
Under her hood Lily's eyes danced about, jumping from point to point. "Been a long time since I walked through here…" She said quietly.
Her companion nodded. "Yes. Same for me. Haven't improved the décor at all, have they?"
"No. Still as gloomy and oppressive as ever." Lily's eyes stilled on the shattered fountain in the centre, remembering Harry's experiences with it… and how the statues had protected him during his last confrontation with Voldemort. "Are they actually going to fix that?"
Andromeda Tonks glanced at the wreckage. "Doubt it. Though I worry about what they would replace it with in the current climate."
Lily nodded in resignation as they approached the rear of the hall, were the security desk and lifts were. She tensed as they approached: this was the tricky part of their plan for her re-emergence. If the guard enforced his task properly…
For a moment the paper he was reading dipped, enough for him to look over the robes they wore. Then he lifted the paper once more, ignoring them. Although it was the behaviour they expected, Lily still sighed with a mixture of relief and disappointment as they passed him. She was able to hold in her comments until they were within one of the lifts.
"It's no wonder the Ministry is so badly infiltrated. Just because of the robes we're wearing…"
Andromeda just nodded in reply, feeling that there was nothing more to say on the matter as they waited for the lift to deposit them on the correct level.
Within the Wizengamot chamber Ablus Dumbledore sat behind his lectern with a sense of foreboding. He could not pin down why he felt this way; this was to be a normal session of the Magical World's governing body. He expected Amelia to once again push for her Auror's being granted more freedom to act against the Death Eaters, more funding and the like. And as ever her motion would be defeated, since the Pureblood block tended to vote as one block, and a significant number of them at the least sympathised with the Death Eaters, if not were part of that group. Amelia was well-intentioned, but she was blind to the consequences of her acts. If most of the Death Eaters were lost to Azkaban, or worse death, then there would not be the numbers to maintain the Government. The Muggleborns, idealist, over-active, impatient, would tear the world apart with their ideals and dreams, leaving nothing but anarchy and even worse corruption than there was at present.
No, for the Greater Good of the Magical World, Amelia's requests and plans had to be turned down, despite the ache in Dumbledore's heart. He understood the pain, but he was the only one who saw the whole picture.
He was also expecting another pro-supremacist to table a motion for greater segreation; more power given to the Purebloods and the muggleborns suppressed even more. That Dumbledore would not allow. The Supremacists were just as blind as the muggleborns. They could not understand that if they tried to create their dream world, the muggleborns would rebel, and the whole world would be split into a civil war that would destroy everything. And worse of all, would reveal the magical world to the muggles themselves. That could not be allowed. Dumbledore had lost count of the number of motions or proposals that had been forwarded by the supremacists over the years that he'd helped shatter and destroy; it had been that many. While Dumbledore could understand, and even sympathise with the muggleborns, and agreed their dream was one worth striving for, they were too rash, too impatient. Change had to both gradual and from within, if the magical world was to survive and prosper.
Looking up, he noted that the seats were nearly all filled, that the Minister was taking his seat to the lower left of himself, and that the Scribe, Percy Weasley, was ready and waiting. It was time to start.
Conversations ceased at the sound of the gravel tapping firmly on the block. All eyes turned towards Dumbledore as he sat straighter.
"I call this session of the Wizengamot, the seventh-hundred and thirty-fourth since inception, to order." The only other sound was the scratching of Percy's quill as he took the minutes. "I will now call the roll." Casting his eyes down, he placed his quill by the first name on the list. "Abbot?" At lord Abbot's affirmative, he marked the right space before moving to the next.
It was mid-way through the 'B's that his uneasy feeling from before reared up and began to claw at his spine. Freezing for a fraction of a moment, he cast his eyes further down the list… to the name two rows down. He called the ones preceding that on reflex, barely noting the replies, before his quill moved to hover over the name he'd been staring at. He swallowed nervously before speaking once more. "Black?"
"I stand for the House of Black as it's representative."
Eyes swung round to look at the figure that had answered in a female voice. Beneath his beard Dumbledore winced. He knew that voice…
"Please stand and be recognised madam, and produce your proof of representation."
The figure stood before tossing back the hood of her robe, revealing the features of Andromeda Tonks. "I am Andromeda Tonks nee Black, and I stand in the stead of the Lord-Elect of the House of Black, till such time as he feels ready to take up his place in this body." She held aloft a letter. "My representation papers. You will find them all in order." Her imperious look, which cemented her claim to be of Black blood, dared anyone to try and find fault with the documents. Not that anyone would try. The Tonks were known for being very good at their jobs in the legal services. Nevertheless, Dumbledore followed procedure, and levitated the letter to his desk. Opening it up, he skimmed through the legal language with practiced ease, before focusing on the bottom. There, beside the seal of the Black Family, was the signature of the future Lord Black.
Harry James Potter-Black.
Sighing, Dumbledore passed the letter to Percy, to be entered into the records. "Very well, Andromeda Tonks is recognised as the representative of the House of Black." As he watched her retake her seat Dumbledore felt a chill run up his spine…
One by one the various lords, Ladies or representatives answered the roll, with the exception of those families that had none. It was as he reached the back third of the roll that the real shock of the session struck.
"I stand for the House of Potter!"
Dumbledore froze as most of the gathered members burst into angry yelling and accusations, his eyes closing in resignation. The Potter seat had been empty for over fifteen years, granting the chair a huge boost to his voting power, as any seat left empty defaulted their votes to the Chief Warlock. The whole system was biased towards the old families: Noble Families got a single vote, while Ancient Families had three. Families that were both however got five votes. Most Noble – of which there were only five left – had four votes each, while Most Ancient were awarded nine. The Potter family, being both Most Ancient and Most Noble, had fifteen votes to their name alone. And that didn't count the families that had died out but had passed their votes to the Potters, or other families.
The Potters thusly had a block of twenty-four votes, more than any two other families in the Wizengamot.
It was little wonder that the Potters were held in such high regard… or desire. With such voting power, the Potters could make or break any piece of legislation brought into session.
After taking a moment to compose himself, Dumbledore rapped the gravel sharply. "Order! Order I say!" He called, the sharp sounds of the gravel bringing many members to heel. As the accusations died, he turned his head to regard the figure that sat silently, still hooded. He knew who was under that hood, but had to speak the proper request. "Stand and be recognised madam, and prove your right to stand for the House of Potter." As the woman stood slowly he cringed beneath his robes, bracing himself for the fallout of this reveal.
As she had down the week before, Lily pushed the hood back, giving her head a little shake to loosen her hair to fall about her shoulders. With her right hand on her hip, she held her left hand aloft, palm facing her, clearly displaying the Ladies ring of the Potter Family. "I am Lily Marie Potter nee Evans, widow to the previous Lord, James Arthur Potter, and mother to the current Lord-Elect, Harry James Potter! I stand in his stead, until such time as he feels ready to join this body!"
For several long minutes silence reigned, as the gathered members struggled to comprehend the sight before them. It was just not possible! The woman that stood before them was dead! She had died fifteen years ago!
At last one managed to shrug off the shock enough to speak. "That's impossible! There is no way you could be Lily Potter! That woman is dead!"
Lily's eyes flashed darkly as she glared back at the one who had spoken. "It was presumed that I died. I confess I very nearly did. But I assure you all, I am who I say I am. The goblins had confirmed my identity by the Blood Identity Ritual." A gasp rose from everyone gathered there. A Blood Identity Ritual was fool proof. Nothing could fool it. It was the basis of all their magic in regard to Gringotts, the cornerstone of their treaty with Wizards. To be tested by the ritual, however… there were only rumours and speculation about how it was done, but the consensus was that it involved a lot of pain. Pain that no one would willing undergo if they could. And it was well known the Goblins response to those trying to trick their way into Gringotts.
With a sigh of resignation, Dumbledore tapped the gravel. "Madam Potter is recognised as the member from the House of Potter." This, he knew, would cause shockwaves throughout their world. Fortunately, they would mostly be positive.