HALLO MY FRIENDS! MY NAME IS FPS RUSSIA… right, sorry. Yes, I'm back. I was getting used to my new school, which is very different from my old, small, private school. The change to a big public school, where my class alone is several times the size of my old schools entire High School student body was shocking to say the least. I have also gotten a new computer, but am having trouble getting Word onto it. Does anyone own a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 that is willing to let me use their keycode for it? Because after buying my computer I don't have the money to spend 200 plus bucks on the program… PM if you can, cause this is a serious question!

Pfeil: I'm sorry you don't like Luna :P. What I mean by Immortal is as in the Greek myth version. They don't age, but they can be slain in battle. In other words, the val'kyr are immortal (they will live forever) but not invulnerable (cannot be harmed, injured, or otherwise killed in any way). Of course, the older they get, the more powerful and harder to kill they become. Hope that clears it up for you!

Ap Aiden: Thank you very much, I'm going to tell everyone else the name so they can watch it!

Pinellas62: Thanks for pointing those out, and I fixed them. Please, continue to do so!

To everyone else, I thank you for your encouragement! Please, continue to review!

This chapter is dedicated to apAiden, who reminded me of the name of the movie about the World War One moment I referenced last chapter. The movie is "Joyeux Noel" or "Merry Christmas", and came out in 2005. I may have seen an older version, but I'm not sure. Regardless, watch it and be in awe!

As Always, many thanks to my amazing beta-reader, Dragon-Raptor!

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Harry Potter and the Hand of Judgment

Chapter 12

Fire and Stone

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"Good morning, Harry!" several voices chirped happily has Harry walked into the Emryys Common Room. Harry smiled around at Daphne, Ashe, Hermione, and Katie, who had spoken. Tracey and Lily Moon both nodded hello, still not quite as familiar with him as the others, although they were getting there. Luna, in typical Luna fashion, smiled dreamily at him with a faint dusting of pink on her cheeks. Samara silently slipped into the room behind him quietly, none of the girls questioning her presence in his room.

"Good morning, ladies. I take it you waited for me so we could all go to breakfast together?" he replied, hugging each of them in turn.

Nearlya month had passed since school had begun, and Emryys House was well on its way to becoming the top House in the school. While the Gryffindors and Slytherins bickered and lost each other points, Emryys House quickly and quietly cultivated friendships with members of every House, promoting the original ideals of the Founders. Speaking of the House, it had also grown greatly as many students asked to be re-sorted.

Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, the Weasley Twins, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbot, Tracey Davis, Daphne Greengrass, Lilith Moon, Hermione Granger, the Patil Twins, Li Su and Neville Longbottom were all among those who passed the Hat's evaluation, while others (such as one Ron Weasley) tried and failed, sometimes spectacularly so as they protested the decision and were often embarrassed before the student body by the Hat, which apparently disliked being questioned in it decisions. These instances had been rather… off-putting to those who also wanted to attempt a re-sort, but Harry was willing to bet they would be trying again within a couple of weeks.

The members of Emryys quickly became close friends with one another, the relatively small size of the House population making it much easier to meet everyone and get to know them, as opposed to the larger Houses, where there were simply too many people to meet them all.

"Of course, Harry, how could we not?" Hermione grinned at him, happy as she always was in the presence of her best friend. "It's what we've done every morning."

"Honestly Harry, is your memory slipping in your old age?" Daphne teased, and Harry snorted in amusement.

"Aren't you older than me?" he muttered to himself. Or, rather, he thought it was just to himself. The girls heard and Daphne leveled at him a sparkling smile that filled him with fear.

"I'm sorry, Harry, what was that?" she asked sweetly, and he shuddered slightly, waving his hands before him hastily. He recognized that look and tone, one he had received a few times from the older women in his life when he had been bad.

"Nothing, nothing! Slip of the tongue! I'm starving, I wonder what's for breakfast!" he said very quickly, turning to the other girls quickly. "C'mon, let's all go eat!"

The raven-haired boy quickly rushed from the room. The instant the girls heard his feet enter the castle hallways they broke into a fit of giggles at his behavior.

"You scared him, Daph." Hermione chortled, despite trying to sound chastising.

"Boy did he scamper out of here!" Tracy snickered loudly. She had been terrified at first when all of her letters from Daphne had started being almost entirely about Harry Potter. She had been so scared that she was going to lose her best friend over a boy, something that they had sworn to each other would never, ever happen no matter what. Daphne had assured her that she wouldn't do that to her oldest, and best, friend before saying that once she met Harry she would understand.

She hadn't, not right away, but she was definitely starting to. She may not have a massive crush on him like half of Emryys seemed to, but she was starting to appreciate his company. At least, that's what she told herself at least a dozen times a day. She had given up telling herself she didn't have one at all, and was now insisting that she only had a small crush on him, something that had her receiving amused and knowing looks from the other girls whenever they caught her staring at Harry, although she went out of her way to act reserved around him and in public. Of course, the boy in question was as oblivious to her budding feelings as she was to those of the rest of them, something that somehow made him all the more endearing despite the frustration that came with it.

The extreme frustration that came with it, actually. Witches matured even faster than Mundane girls, and as such by the ages of thirteen or fourteen they were already thinking about boys. Wizards, while maturing faster than Mundane boys, still took a great deal longer to notice girls as more than friends, creating the current discomfort of the young women interested in Harry Potter. They weren't entirely sure how a boy that was so gifted with magic, charisma, and intellect could be so monumentally stupid, though they had done their best to find out. In fact, each girl had written home to their parents asking for advice, wondering if he simply didn't like them, and each had received the expected reply along the lines of "He's a boy. They're oblivious at that age." They were somewhat reassured, but each prayed in their hearts that Harry didn't choose someone else. Luna, of course, knew better than to fear what might become of their future relationship with Harry, as did Samara, but both respected Harry's wish to keep silent about the soul bonds and the future, even if they didn't entirely agree with his decision.

"I suppose we should go and catch up with him, shouldn't we?" Luna said lightly, drifting off towards the door with her ever-present smile. "It wouldn't do to let some of those harpies try and take our places at his side, would it?"

Her words prompted a mass exodus of the group of girls that had feelings for a certain raven-haired young man. The morning after the Opening Feast, the girls had arrived a little late to breakfast to find Harry being swarmed by girls of all ages from all the houses, many flirting outrageously with him, though he seemed entirely oblivious to their advances. The Emryys girls, even those that had no feelings for Harry, had quickly inserted themselves around Harry, sometimes a little forcefully. That morning, a war had been declared between the girls that liked Harry, and the fangirls, who wanted him for his future titles and wealth.

Quickly arriving in the Great Hall, the girls sat around and across from Harry, who greeted each in turn with a smile, Samara and Ashe sitting at his right and left hands as they always did.

"Potions first thing today, Harry." Daphne reminded Harry, making him grimace and the others to growl in annoyance. "We will sit around you, and Tracey will work with you as always, but please try to stay calm and ignore the Greasy One's taunts. Getting angry hasn't done you any good so far, and it never will."

"Greasy bat." The boy muttered a little rebelliously. Snape had gone out of his way to try and humiliate Harry, and his friends, as often as possible. Amusingly, Nimue had decided to get some back for the mates and their future husband in ways that only the soul of a millennia old castle could, causing chairs to vanish from under him, his potions supplies to disappear, and bottles of shampoo and conditioner to appear randomly in his presence. Such as the middle of lunch or class, in full view of everyone. And that was only the beginning.

"Enough, Master, you won't get anywhere by focusing on Snivellus' grudge-based immaturity. Focus on the future." Samara scolded him lightly, deliberately referring to him as "Master" to get his attention. "Get good grades, focus on becoming more powerful. That is what is important right now."

"You're right, of course. It just infuriates me when he starts in on you girls. Referring to Tracey, Daphne, and Astoria as disgraces for being in my House and no longer being Slytherins." Harry sighed, clenching a fist inadvertently. The girls smiled happily at his protective nature which, although it was sometimes a little bit too prominent, was still a wonderful thing to have directed towards you. After a moment, he smiled crookedly and shrugged. "Ah, well. Might as well worry about it later. Eat up, all of you."

The group ate their breakfast quietly, the girls watching Harry, who was being rather quiet and introspective. Hermione and Katie recognized the expression he often wore inadvertently when he was talking with Nimue. Harry had thus far insisted that no one else be told about the millennia-old teenager, pointing out that his connection to her marked him as the heir to the Founders, something that would paint an enormous target of all kinds on his back with certain people who were a little too comfortable with their power, or a little to backwards in beliefs such as blood purity.

Nimue? Harry called silently, and immediately felt the soothing presence of the castle settle upon him like a warm blanket, prompting him to smile a bit involuntarily at the comforting feeling.

Yes, my love? Nimue whispered back softly, as though afraid that anyone else could hear. They couldn't, of course, but perhaps she simply enjoyed whispering to him.

I have had a bad feeling in my gut these last few weeks, as though something… sinister is about. Do you know anything about it? He asked, and he felt Nimue frown in thought.

No, nothing. Then again, I am not perfect, there are ways to avoid my gaze if one knows how to do so. Especially since… her voice trailed off, catching Harry's attention. She had sounded… strange, there.

What is it, Nimue? He asked gently, and a distinct feeling of discomfort flowed across their link.

Ever since this year began, I've been getting… 'ghosts', I guess you could call them. Not the actual ghosts, but small blips of Darkness that are there and vanish before I can focus on them. It's disturbing, a feeling I've not felt in nearly 50 years. She responded slowly, and Harry frowned deeply. He didn't doubt that these 'ghosts' existed, not if Nimue was the one sensing them, but what could evade her detection so easily, and why had it not been felt for 50 years?

Keep watching, but don't be worried yet. Nothing seems amiss at all, from what I can tell. No point in letting our guards down, however. Harry said finally, before returning his attention to his companions as they began to get to their feet, breakfast over.

The group split up, Katie heading for her third year Transfiguration class, Astoria, Luna, Ashe, and Lukan to their first year Charms class, and the second years following Harry down into the cold, dark, and damp dungeons for yet another 'enjoyable' Potions lesson with one Severus Snape, widely acknowledged by anyone with some semblance of a brain as a bitter man with a cruel and immature grudge-holding streak a few kilometers wide. It was also acknowledged, though with a great deal of reluctance, that he was one of the most knowledgeable Potions Masters in Europe, and second most in England, right behind one Horace Slughorn, who had been his mentor.

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By the time Harry and his companions arrived outside the dark and dreary dungeon that was used for Potions Class (likely so that if anyone blew something up, they wouldn't take anything of significant value with them, such as a priceless painting or suit of armor), the Gryffindors and the Slytherins were already lined up outside the door, on opposite sides of the hallway and as far from each other as possible. This made Harry snort in derision. Honestly, if his four mentors/friends could see what had become of their Houses, they would cry before giving them a talking too that they would never forget. Rivalry was all well and good, but if it went far enough, and was so childish, as to ensure students wouldn't even be within a few meters of each other, never mind talk to each other, then it went beyond rivalry to stupidity. Ignoring both groups, the Emryys students moved further along the corridor and lent up against the wall, casually chatting about their holidays. Each of the girls had spent at least a little time at Harry's house, and he at each of theirs, and the girls seemed to be competing over whose 'Harry Holiday Time' had been more fun, making Harry mentally roll his eyes at the competitiveness amongst his future wives. At least they were having fun with it, not acting like two certain Houses. Outwardly, of course, he maintained the obliviousness that would be expected of a boy his age.

"Heya, Harry, mate!" a rather loud and extremely irritating voice called hollered, much louder than was needed. Harry groaned under his breath and the girls sighed as Ronald Weasley rushed up to Harry. The redhead had taken too harassing Harry as often as possible, calling him 'mate' and acting like they were best friends all the time while insulting his girls in subtle and not so subtle ways at the same time. He also tried to sit next to Harry every class, but the girls had put a stop to that by either sitting next to him first or, in the case of Potions, using a repulsion rune. When Daphne and Tracey had carved it into his cauldron (and ensured it made everyone outside of Emryys feel the urge to sit elsewhere) they had been asked how they knew something not learned until late Third Year, they had simply replied that they were practicing for the later years in Slytherin, until they had been re-Sorted. The others had caught the implication, and Harry had immediately instructed Nimue to pay extra attention to the Slytherin dorms, authorizing her to override Snape's 'ban' on her 'eyes' if she felt it necessary. Ron looked at Tracey, who was against the wall as close to Harry as she could be without being directly against him, and barked at her. "Move it, Davis. I need to stand next to my best mate!"

"You're not his 'best mate', Weasel! He doesn't even like you!" Tracey hissed back in anger, tired of the Gryffindor's insults and harassment of her… friend. While she wasn't yet as fond of Harry as the others, she still cared about him a lot, and this redheaded loudmouth caused him, and the others, a lot of stress. "Just shove off and go back to your own damn line!"

"Shut up, you damn snake! The only reason he's nice to you is because he knows you've got no friends, and because he doesn't know all of you are friends with him so you can get his gold! But I know better!" Ron snarled at her, making Tracey's eyes go wide as she glanced at Harry. She felt her heart sink at the mingled furious and confused look on his face. He didn't really believe the Weasel… did he? "Harry, mate, they're just a bunch of gold-digger snakes! You can't mix with people like that!"

"Enough, Weasley, I grow tired of your voice!" Harry rumbled with a commanding air and an oddly formal tone of voice. The girls shuddered as his presence washed over them, and smiled at the feeling. It was like a warm blanket settling around them, and never cease to amaze them and make them feel happy and at peace. "Begone from my presence before I decide to seek compensation from you for your harassment of my own person and my friends!"

"Harry, mate, you've got it all wrong! I'm just looking out for you! You can't trust these damn Slytherins" Ron said through a forced smile and gritted teeth. Once again, things were not going as he planned. Why didn't the Boy-Who-Lived see that he was meant to be Ron's best mate, and all these girls could do their homework for him? Then they could sit, relax, and play chess all day without a care in the world, and eventually he would get the Boy-Who-Lived and his baby sister together, then all that money would go to the Weasley family and he would finally live the life he deserved, and prove he was better than his brothers! Ron was broken from his daydreams (read: delusions) of his brothers praising his superiority and looking at him in awe by the Boy-Who-Lived's voice.

"My father's mother was a Slytherin, you know, and since you're a pure-blood, I can guarantee that you're related to at least one or two yourself, thanks to the way you lot intermarry these days. Besides, I don't need someone like you looking out for me, Weasley; I can take care of myself. I was raised by two veterans of the last war, one of whom is a Senior Auror Captain. Anything that could cause me trouble wouldn't even notice you as they crushed you beneath their boot. Now, get out of my face!"

"Tch! Black is Dark, just like the rest of his family, and that damn werewolf half-breed is no better than…" Ron started to retort stupidly, as anyone with a fraction of a brain would know that insulting Harry's pseudo-parents was a stupid idea. That truth was once was reinforced for everyone watching as Harry's wand was abruptly in his hand and pointed between Ron's eyes in a split second, its tip glowing a white-blue and crackling slightly. Startled, the red-head looked into the raven-haired boys' eyes and shuddered at the look in them. Cold and entirely willing to curse him. Those eyes scared the piss out of him.

"Insult my family and my friends again, and I will personally introduce you to exactly what they've been teaching me all of these years." Harry said with the calm finality of someone far older than his age, showing the watching students the other side of the usually kind and laid-back Boy-Who-Lived. Ron quickly backed off and retreated back to the Gryffindor line, already plotting his next attempt to gain the Boy-Who-Lived's favor. Tracey immediately turned to Harry, a trace of desperation in her eyes. She couldn't stand the idea of Harry mistrusting or disliking her. What if he stopped being her friend? What if he left her and the others?

"Harry, you know what he said about us was a lie, right? We would never…" she started to say, only to be cut off as Harry laid a finger against her lips, silencing her while a fiery blush spread across her face at the feeling of the rough and calloused finger against her soft lips.

"I know, Tracey. I know that none of you care about my family name or my gold, or about the 'Boy-Who-Lived'," Harry rolled his eyes, the contempt for the title clear in his tone as he continued. "…but for Just Harry. Ignore the stupid things other people say, they're beneath you. The only opinions and thoughts that should matter to you are those you care about and who care for you in return. Everyone else is simply a passing acquaintance. Their opinions will not matter, in the long run, while your families and friends will last forever. Remember that, my pretty flame-haired lady." He said softly but sternly, his brilliant green eyes holding her own pale amethyst, and her blush darkened at the possessive affection in his voice before she allowed herself to be tugged up against him, one strong arm wrapped around her shoulders, her hand lightly clutching onto the side of his robes as she hid her face in his shoulder. The other Emryys students, and even a few Gryffindors and Slytherins, mentally commented on how sweet the scene was, with Harry lightly resting his head on top of hers, while Tracey had a faint but blissful smile on her face as her head pillowed on his shoulder, eyes half-lidded.

Of course, the moment was almost immediately destroyed by the arrival of the (thus far) largest and ugliest buzz-kill known to any being that called Earth home.

"Separate immediately! Thirty points from Emryys for such a public display of affection!" Severus Snape barked as he opened his classroom door, black eyes boring into the pair, who reluctantly separated. Harry's eyes meeting the Potions Professors' glare for glare as he defiantly grabbed Tracey's soft hand in one of his own rougher ones. "Get inside and set up, at once!"

Harry, of course, was well aware of why Snape was in such a foul mood, and it both amused and disgusted him. With both his own and Tracey's eyes closed, he was sure Snape had experienced a moment of déjà-vu, back to his days as a student, and seeing Harry's parents together. Of course, save for the red hair, Tracey looked nothing like his mother and his parents hadn't dated until much later on in their school careers, but he expected Snape (bitter bastard that he was) had seen what he wanted to see. Harry shuddered internally as the students filed into the room and sat down, setting up their cauldrons. The very idea of Snape being in love with his mother was beyond nauseating, never mind them ever having dated or (here he actually blanched in horror) gotten married! God, what a horrifying thought!

"Now, as you have no doubt forgotten the already meager skills in brewing that I managed to pound into your thick skulls over the weekend, you will be brewing the simple Swelling Solution. A usable potion will result in a passing grade, while anything else…" here his eyes lingered on the Emryys students, who as always sat in the middle of the room, between the Gryffindor and Slytherin sides. They simply returned his gaze stoically, refusing to take the bait or let him get a rise out of them. "...will result in a failing grade. The instructions are on the board, you have forty five minutes. Begin."

Remind me again why this man hasn't been fired yet? Harry groused mentally, knowing that Nimue was 'with' him. A soft giggling echoed in the back of his mind, making him mentally frown at the millennia-old spirit as he began to work on preparing the cauldron, while Tracey's delicate and refined hands wielded the knife, swiftly preparing the ingredients for use.

Hmm… could it be because he IS a highly qualified Potions Master? Or maybe it's because he will be an incredibly valuable spy when Voldemort finally returns, as his perfect ability in Occulumency will allow him to stay undercover as long as necessary? She replied with a humor-filled voice, and Harry huffed at her in response. Unfortunately, he did so aloud, and Snape was on him in an instant.

"Something to share with the class, Potter? Perhaps all is not well in the world of fame, attention-seeking fortune?" the man sneered, and Harry had to bite his tongue to resist snapping back. After a long moment, he smiled brightly at the Professor

"Oh, no, Professor Sniv-erm, Snape." He replied in a cheery voice, and felt a tendril of amusement worm its way through him at the look in Snape's eyes at the first few syllables of his hated school nickname. "I was just thinking to myself about how sad your Christmas holiday must have been, stuck here in the castle with only a few other teachers and a distinct lack of toiletries for company. Why, all the soap, and shampoo, and conditioner… it was all being replaced over the holiday! However did you manage?"

Several students from all three Houses snickered softly at the obvious but theoretically innocent dig towards Snape's perpetually greasy hair, and the man gritted his teeth. Technically, the boy had done nothing wrong, and he immediately cast about finding something feasible to punish the boy for. His eyes landed on the boy's idle hands and smirked as he found it.

"Fifty points from Emryys for ignoring a teacher's instructions and forcing you partner to do all the work. Back to work, Potter." He sneered, before sweeping away to harass the Gryffindors. Harry and his friends rolled their eyes eloquently at his back before returning to their own potions. A half an hour later, the Emryys students were, as a whole, done with their potions. Harry carefully stoppered the glass vial that held his and Tracey's potion sample, before Vanishing the rest of the contents in the cauldron, something most Second Years would-or could-do, but he had always been taught not to leave any potion in the open where things could fall into it. Either accidentally… or intentionally.

Indeed, it was fortunate that Harry and his friends were already done, and their samples sealed, because not a minute or two after they finished, disaster occurred. Ron Weasley, who had been busy glaring and fuming at the ease and skill with which the Emryys students worked, hadn't been focused on what he was doing. Seamus Finnegan, his lab partner, was busy reading the instructions over once more, and so was unable to prevent him from pouring an entire cup full of armadillo bile into their cauldron (which happened to be Seamus'). The recipe for the Swelling Solution called for a total of one dram of the highly concentrated acid. The result of such an excess was… truly spectacular. Seamus' cauldron blew sky-high, throwing the pair to the ground with shards of metal stabbed into various (fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view) non-lethal areas of their bodies. Over-strength Swelling Solution splashed over the entire class, causing many to shriek in pain and fear as parts of their bodies began to enlarge at alarming rates to insane sizes. Harry, thanks to his training (read: torture) with Remus and Sirius, was faster than his fellow students. Snapping to his feet with a hasty command through his link to Nimue, he snapped his fingers. Immediately, a dome-shaped ward coalesced around the Emryys students, shielding them from harm.

"YOU DAMN FOOLS!" Snape howled in horror, shock, and rage as he swept to his storage cupboard and began snatching ingredients off of the shelves even as his own cauldron appeared on his desk and began to heat. He began to craft the antidote so fast his hands seemed to blur, and he glared around the room without stopping, his eyes falling on the unharmed Emryys students, specifically Harry. "You! You knew this was going to happen! Two hundred points from Emryys, and all of you will spend every night for the rest of the year in detention, with me! Your arrogance and worthless stupidity has resulted in mass injury!"

Harry growled in the back of his throat and opened his mouth to fire back his own barrage of anger, when both Daphne and Tracey stopped him, laying their hands on his arms and whispering softly to him.

"Leave it for now, Harry. Push him to much farther and he will snap." Tracey murmured into his right ear.

"Harry, just stay calm and let Dumbledore handle the bastard. You know those punishments won't stand." Daphne pleaded into his left, and he growled again before slamming his hands on the desk and spinning on his heel.

"Emryys. We're leaving. I'm going to the Headmaster. The rest of you, take your potion samples and return to the Common Room, and send Sirius after me. If this isn't solved by the time next period starts, go to your classes as normal. I'll catch up." He said commandingly, his anger making his words short and his tone harsher than he had intended as he stalked from the room. The Emryys students quickly did as he instructed, packing away their things and hurrying from the room before Snape could get through his incoherent anger to say anything to them.

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"I refuse to bow to that brat, Albus! The punishments stand or he will be unwelcome in my classroom!" Snape shouted, pacing angrily before the aged Headmasters desk while a coldly glaring Harry stood on the other side of the room beside an angry Sirius.

"These punishments are completely insane, Snape!" the Auror Captain growled, sounding very much like the Grim that was his Animagus form. "Fifty points for not being at work while you were harassing him? Two Hundred for protecting his housemates? A YEARS worth of detentions for every Emryys second year just for not getting hurt? This is harassment, plain and simple, and you would do to remember just whom you're targeting!"

"A brat, hyped up on his fame and Quidditch skills, just like his worthless father!" Snape shouted back, and Sirius swelled visibly at the insult to his deceased friend, especially in front of aforementioned friend's only son.

"The Heir of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, amongst others! Don't forget yourself, Severus Tobias Snape, lest you suffer the wrath of House Potter, House Black, and our allies! Never mind that the other students you are unjustly punishing are the next Lady Greengrass, Lord Longbottom, Lady Bones, and Lady Abbot!" he shouted, and Dumbledore visibly blanched as he panicked inwardly. If things kept progressing this way, the might of the Wizengamot would be brought to bear on his Potions Master, which would lose them a valuable asset in the next war, when Voldemort returned. Seeing Snape about to let loose again, Dumbledore rose to his feet, slamming his hands down on his desk as he let loose a wave of magical pressure, silencing the two combatants.

"THAT IS ENOUGH!" he roared, surprising Harry with his intensity and tone. He had never seen his aged grandfather-figure like this. The Leader of the Light and the Slayer of Grindlewald. The most powerful wizard since the Founders themselves. "The pair of you are acting like nothing more than a pair of children arguing on the playground over petty nonsense! Severus, you WILL NOT insult those who sacrificed their lives in the war, no matter whom they may be, in my presence! Certainly not in the presence of James' son! Sirius, you are as aware of I am that involving the Houses of the children and the Wizengamot will do nothing to help us in the long run! Yes, the punishments were unjust! Yes, they will be negated! Severus, you will help your students brew their potions at the lower years! If you had done so, we could have avoided this whole disaster! That is the end of it, understand? Harry is not his father, and he cannot be blamed for his father's attitude, as he never met the man! You DO remember that James and Lily are dead, do you not?"

Harry watched as that particular salvo went home, Snape's eyes tightening angrily at the implication that he had forgotten Lily's death. He sighed internally at the man. He understood that the man had loved his mother, and his father had been cruel to him, but they were dead, and he needed to move on.

"Harry, please return to your Common Room and get ready for your next class. I need to speak with Sirius and Professor Snape alone." The Headmaster sighed finally, and the young man nodded with curt respect before turning on his heal and exiting the room. Only after the door was shut and the office wards informed him that Harry was out of earshot did he start speaking again. "Now, I understand that the pair of you have had and still do have your issues with each other, and you with James Potter's memory, Severus. But you will not allow that to affect your work. That is non-negotiable. You can be coldly indifferent to the boy if you must, only speaking to him if you have to, but you WILL remain civil. Sirius, you will not involve the Wizangamot in any way shape or form. A great deal of damage could be brought onto our future and survival if you do."

"And what about the future of the children, Albus? You know as well as I that it will be they, not we, who truly fight the next war. They damn well won't be able to with people like Gilderoy Lockhart teaching defense, and Snape here letting them blow themselves up trying to make a simple Swelling Solution! We won't make it through the damn war if this is the kind of schooling they're getting!" Sirius retorted, and Albus nodded his agreement, albeit slightly begrudgingly.

"You're right Sirius, but no one else would take the job. Until those Magical Creature Rights Bills we are pushing in the Wizengamot go through, I can't hire Remus as planned. The sooner it gets done, the sooner Lockhart goes and takes his idioc… erm, his worldly experience with him. The fact is, the man is the only one willing to take the job who actually can at the present time, and without a Defense teacher the Board would have to put the school on probation. Something we all want to avoid, I think." He replied calmly and reasonably, and Sirius sighed with a nod of his own, though his mouth turned up at the corners at Albus' near-insult to the golden-haired fop.

"Fine, Albus, but Snape had better behave." The Black Grim growled out before leaving the office. Snape stared at the Headmaster for a long, long moment, a stare the Headmaster returned with equal measure, before he too departed in a swirl of black cloth.

"Fawkes, my old friend, I only hope that we will survive each other long enough to fight the war." The aged wizard said with a heavy groan as he, in a very undignified manner, banged his head on his desk thrice before calming leaning back in his chair and popping several lemon drops into his mouth. The magnificent phoenix settled onto his perch nearby trilled in exasperated agreement. Like Albus, he was growing weary of the apparent immaturity of certain people.

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"…and that is how I defeated the Wagga-Wagga werewolf!" A golden haired moron was just finished saying in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, much to the joy of the entire class. Most of them, because they were in awe of his apparent skill and bravery at facing such a terrifying beast. For everyone with half a brain, they were feeling immeasurable joy because the idiot was finally going to shut up, a class was nearly over. Alas, they still had ten minutes left in class, just enough time for the 'Professor' to lax poetic about how magnificent they would discover he was through whatever waste of time he decided to label as homework that night. "Now, tonight, I want all of you to write at least a foot about how my method of defeating the Wagga-Wagga werewolf can be properly used by each of you, should it prove necessary!"

"As if anything he had to say would do us any good." Tracey muttered to Daphne, who giggled behind her hand at her oldest friends words. Fortunately, Lockhart seemed to hear her, and was standing next to her desk with surprising speed for such a fake.

"What was that, Miss Davis?" he asked curiously, his tone conveying that he was unsure of what exactly had been said. Tracey took this golden opportunity to openly and publically mock the so-called teacher while being unerringly polite and respectful.

"Oh, nothing, Professor." She said sweetly, smiling up at him with a mischievous glint that he no doubt took to be admiration, self-absorbed as he was. "I was just saying how good your advice and technique must be if you're an Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League. Can you tell me what the differences are between yourself, and other Honorary Members, as opposed to people like Harry's Godfather, Sirius Black, an Auror Captain and a D.F.D.L. Squad Leader?"

The class watched with universal awe at the young girl that had so politely made a public mockery of the Professor, who was now standing there with the proverbial "huh?" looked on his face as he tried to figure out if he had been insulted, and how he should reply. He eventually decided that she hadn't been insulting him (Of course not! He is Gilderoy Lockhart after all!) and hastily constructed a response.

"Well, Miss Davis, I don't expect someone as young as you to understand such complicated adult matters." He replied with a blindingly white smile, hoping that the smile that had won the Witch Weekly Best Smile Award five times would distract her like it did all women.

"Try me. Please." She retorted adding on the 'please' and a hopeful smile. Internally, she was snickering to herself gleefully. Ever since Harry had helped her see the truth about this guy, she had been wanting to stick it to him for lying to so many people and putting them in harm's way with his fantastical stories. If she could discredit him at the same time, all the better.

"Oh, um, yes. Well, Miss Davis, I am a member of the reserve as opposed to the active duty squads because the Dark Force Defense League felt that I would be of better use to the Wizarding World publishing my books and selling them so that others can learn all of the wisdom I have to teach them through the books I write." Lockhart smiled down at her, and she nodded with a bright smile back at him. Satisfied, he turned away, missing the young girl turning to her housemates and rolling her eyes eloquently, receiving snickers and snorts from all of them. The bell rang, and Lockhart sat on the front of his desk as the students began to pack up. "Now, class, tonight for homework, write that essay!"

The Emryys students beat a hasty retreat, eager to get out of the room before Lockhart could start giving Harry more advice on how to be famous and other such nonsense. It still rankled all of them, especially those that grew up in the Wizarding World, that the man had referred to Harry destroying Voldemort and his parents getting murdered as "that minor Dark Lord incident" and that "It wasn't much, but it was a good start."

"Did you hear that useless fop? 'Felt I would be of better use to the Wizarding World publishing my books and selling them.' What a load of codswallop! Sirius told me that the active duty squads know better than to believe anything that man says, they just can't prove that he is lying yet!" Harry laughed as the group of students headed towards the Transfiguration classroom.

"I know. My Auntie told me that he is being quietly investigated by one of her best teams for criminal activities, but they aren't making much headway. He's too famous and well-liked for them to be able to ask too many questions too often." Susan added, coming up on Harry's free side, as Hermione had taken his left side for herself. Daphne scowled, as she had wanted to do the same, but her annoyance faded rapidly as she gave a sigh shrug to herself. Even if they get together, there will be room for me. Harry has to have multiple wives according to the old laws after all. I just have to make sure that I'm one of them. I need to be one of them. This thought process had been thought frequently by every girl that was interested in Harry Potter for any reason. For those that truly cared for him, it was because they couldn't imagine themselves with another man. For everyone else, they just wanted some of his gold and glory.

Not that they would ever get it.

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Several more days passed and the Halloween feast approached rapidly, making Harry become slightly melancholy. While he had, by and large, gotten over his birth parents' having died before he even met them, he still remembered this night as not a fun holiday, but the day his world was destroyed before it had truly formed.

"Harry, mind if I talked to you for a moment?" Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, asked as he floated over to Harry as he was heading towards Herbology.

"Sure, Nick, what can I do for you?" Harry replied with a smile for his incorporeal friend. Motioning for his friends to go on without him, he and Nick exited the main flow of student traffic .

"Well, tonight is my Death-day party, and I was wondering if you would be willing to drop by, at least for a few minutes? Most of my friends from my life decided to pass on, and it would be… somewhat more enjoyable to have someone I called friend present." The ghost said, sounding rather awkward, and Harry blinked at him before smiling warmly.

"Sure thing, Nick. I'll drop by after I eat something at the feast, alright?" he responded, and Nick visibly cheered up.

"Thank you, Harry. I appreciate it a great deal. I'll see you tonight, then."

"Later, Nick."

With that, the two parted ways, Nick to do… whatever it is that ghosts do during the school day (A/N: Honestly, what do they actually do? Anything? Just float around?) while Harry rushed across the grounds to arrive just in time for his class.

"Cutting it close, Harry." Pomona Sprout, the short-statured and sweet-natured Herbology teacher that had taught Harry all he knew about plant life murmured as she held the greenhouse door open for him.

"Sorry Auntie P, Nick needed to talk to me about something quickly." He murmured back, only loud enough for her but no one else to hear, before taking his place between Daphne and Susan.

"Now, as you're all second years, we're going to begin looking at more complex and dangerous plants. Eventually, of course, you will be dealing with plants that will just as soon eat you as let you trim them, but that's not until 5th or 6th year." Here several members of the class gave a great sigh of relief, making Sprout grin in amusement. "For the foreseeable future, we are going to be dealing with these."

Sprout ordered them to put on the earmuffs before them, and then grabbed the top of the plant in a pot next to her and yanked on it sharply, revealing something that Harry and his girls, plus a few others, knew to be a Mandrake. As far as the rest of the class knew, however, it was a very, very ugly plant-baby that appeared to be screaming at the top of its lungs via a tongueless, toothless mouth. With dignified and controlled haste, Sprout plunked the Mandrake down in a new pot before quickly surrounding and entombing it with fresh dirt. With a gesture, she had the class removing their earmuffs as she continued to speak.

"Now, can anyone tell me what that was?" she asked, looking around at them all, and Lilith raised her hand slowly. Sprout smiled at the shy girl and gestured for her to speak.

"Mandrake, ma'am. Their cry is fatal to anyone who hears it, and they're useful in many extremely powerful healing potions, especially involving de-petrification." The brunette replied softly, and Sprout gave her a warm smile.

"Excellent. Perfectly put, my dear." She complimented her, and Lilith ducked her head as her cheeks warmed from embarrassment. Returning her attention the class at large, Sprout continued. "Now, of course, these Mandrakes are far from mature, even if Mandrakes do have a fast growth cycle, so their cries will do nothing more than cause a brutal headache or knock you out for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two. Therefore, keep your earmuffs on tightly. Now, we are going to be repotting them this lesson. Here is the proper method of doing so. First, take the…"

An so, Harry and Company spent the next hour learning how to shift screaming, kicking, writhing, and otherwise problematic Mandrakes from pot to pot, all the while getting bitten, clawed by sharp branches, and kicked in the face. Needless to say, the entire class was very glad indeed when Sprout told them that they would only need to repot the Mandrakes once a week, as it took them about that long to exhaust he nutrients in each pot's soil.

"Well, that was exciting wasn't it?" Tracey said dryly as the group of friends trudged across the grounds towards the castle, where the sacred bliss of hot showers and good food awaited to warm them, as it had started raining just before the end of their lesson, leaving them all soaked. "Any particular reason we're dealing with Mandrakes so early? Why are they stocking up on such powerful ingredients?"

"Probably because of the ginger idiot almost killing himself and Finnegan and putting the rest of the class at risk. They want to have high-powered healing potions on hand incase anything else goes wrong." Hermione reasoned, disgusted with the mere mention of the boy. Ever since Harry had been friendly with her last year, the brat had been trying to get friendly with both herself and Katie. No doubt hoping to copy her homework and use the pair of them to get closer to Harry.

"That makes a lot of sense, actually. I can't really see any other reason for them to have something so rare and so powerful here, now, and not exclusively for seventh years." Hannah Abbot chimed in, pushing her soaked blond hair out of her eyes so that she could see the path.

Harry verbally voiced his own agreement, but internally his senses were tingling. Something felt off about today, a feeling that reminded him off the feeling he got while training in Stealth and Infiltration with his guardians. The feeling of being poised on the precipice, dancing on the edge of a razor with every breath. Resolving to keep his eyes and ears open, he sent a mental caress to Nimue as they entered the castle and hurried towards their Common Room. Nimue, sensing their discomfort, kindly arranged the shifting stairs to form the fastest route there, something that made Harry give her a much stronger mental caress, and he felt her happiness and love flow back to him, as well as her pleasure in helping him.

As always, when Harry and the girls were all taking their separate showers (Harry quietly reminding Luna that they weren't married yet, and she couldn't shower with him for some time, especially since she hadn't even been outside to get cold and wet.) Nimue stretched out her control over her 'body' and changed the flow of water through the showers until it came out in soothing, massaging waves instead of the normal, straight streams.

Only when Nimue began to feel sleepy did she tear her attention away from the body of her Master and future lover to direct her gaze to the Great Hall, where she saw students starting to gather. Realizing the feast would be starting soon, she cut her control over the hot water, allowing the shower water to quickly become lukewarm, then cold, and then freezing. Amused by the yelps and curses as her master's future wives scrambled from the shower stalls to wrap themselves in large, fluffy towels, she ran one last scan over the entire school. Satisfied that nothing was amiss, she allowed herself to fall asleep.

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"Harry? Where are you going?" Astoria asked innocently as Harry got to his feet halfway through the Halloween Feast. Her question, and his movement, immediately drew the attention of the other Emryys students, and Harry sighed slightly at their intent looks before smiling at Astoria.

"I'm going to a friend's Death-day party. Nick asked me to come, since most of his deceased friends decided to pass on. As I'm one of the few living ones, he asked me to come along as… emotional support, I guess that you could say." He answered the younger Greengrass, who nodded at the perfectly reasonable explanation before returning to her conversation with her fellow first year Demelza Robins. The older students, however, were not so easily satisfied.

"A Death-day party? Really, Harry?" asked Alicia Spinnet from her place next to George Weasley, her sort-of boyfriend (both fervently denied they were involved with the other, but everyone and their mother knew that they were together) with a concerned look that was mirrored by Angelina Johnson, who was likewise beside her own twin. "Are you sure that's entirely safe?"

"It's a bunch of ghosts, 'Licia. What kind of harm could they possibly do to me?" Harry sighed, mentally adding and I'm the Heir of Hogwarts, they can't hurt me in these halls.

"Peeves is a ghost, technically, and he causes all kinds of harm." Was the flat reply, and Harry chuckled nervously at his pseudo-big sister's well-made point. Both she and Alicia had come to regard him as a sibling, as did the Twins, and they also acted as the informal Prefects of the House until the posts were actually distributed.

"True, but he's a poltergeist. That's different." He defended, and the Flying Foxes (Katie Included) rolled their eyes eloquently at him.

"Fine, you can go, but I expect you to be back in the Common Room at a reasonable hour, and for Heaven's sake, don't get too close to any sort of 'food' they might have there! God only knows what you could catch!" Angelina commanded, pointing her spoon at him threateningly, and he raised his hands in acquiescence.

"Alright Angie, no need for violence." He grinned, before turning and heading off. Angelina looked around the table and saw several of the girls looking after him, gnawing on their bottom lips, and she sighed gustily. "Oh, go after him, you anxious little things."

"Thanks Angie!" was left behind with a semi-visible cloud of dust as the girls vanished after Harry, and Angelina groaned before putting her head in her hands.

"Honestly, how has he not figured them out yet? They might as well walk around with flashing, neon yellow signs saying 'I FANCY HARRY POTTER'." She grumbled, and the other older students chuckled lightly.

"Look at it this way, Angelina. At least they're keeping the gold-digging harpies away from him." Oliver Wood, who had elected to join the House (his reason being that if his team was going, then so was he) pointed out cheerfully as he grabbed another chicken leg and happily took a bite out of it. The table murmured in agreement, and Angelina sighed again.

"Thank Merlin for that." She muttered, looking towards the doors that her little brother and his ladies had gone through. She had a bad feeling about tonight…

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"Okay, what the fuc…" Harry started to say angrily, but Hermione clasped a hand over his mouth while every one of his ladies barked in unison.

"Harry! Language!"

"Aye, aye!" he muttered with a mock salute and a grin, receiving a mass eye-roll in return. "I stand by what I was going to say though. What happened here?"

The girls looked at him and at each other, no one having a clue what to say to answer him, or even begin to form an answer. They returned their gaze to 'here'.

Filch and his cat, Mrs. Norris, turned to stone with expressions of utter horror on their faces.

Harry looked around at his feet and saw that the stones were damp and slick, as though there had been a great deal of water here recently. Crouching down, he eyed the floor carefully before running his hand over the stone and then bringing it to his nose. He took a brief sniff and gagged, pulling out his wand with his free hand and using a powerful Cleansing Charm on himself.

"Bathroom water, from the scent. Probably from Myrtle's, it's near here. My guess is Filch was cleaning up the mess and was attacked by… something." He said in response to the girl's queries, his eyes flicking over their surroundings slowly and carefully as he analyzed them and catalogued anything off.

HARRY! Nimue's mental shriek nearly defeated him, and he felt soft hands begin to check his body over for injury, making him blush faintly. Harry, what happened? Are you okay? Is that Argus? What happened? Well, are you going to tell me?

Nimue, my love, if you were quiet for a moment then I would be able to. Harry commented dryly, continuing to look around. Have a nice nap?

It was fantastic, I had very sweet dreams. Was the reply, and he got the distinct impression that Nimue was blushing heavily, making him raise his eyebrows slightly at her presence. And then I woke up, and I saw that you had managed to get into trouble again while I was sleeping! Honestly Harry, you need to hurry up and free me so I can catch these things!

Nimue, you know damn well I can't free you yet. Harry sighed, running a hand over his face in exasperation and embarrassment. Honestly, she was worse than a teenager.

I know, I know! I don't have to like it though! She grumbled at him, crossing her arms petulantly, and he smirked at her.

Love, I need you to check around, see if anything else is off. Send Albus to us as well.

Of course, Harry, but Albus should be there in moments with Sirius, Snape, Lockhart, and McGonagall.

"Hello, Professors." Harry said aloud without turning around, and everyone but Dumbledore, Hermione, Katie, and Sirius reacted with surprise at his awareness of their presence. "I see that you too have discovered our latest hallway decorations. Dark things are walking about."

"How was this possible? How could they evade those who keep watch?" Dumbledore murmured, those 'in the know' aware that he was referring to Nimue.

"Even those who keep watch cannot remain vigilant endlessly. All things must rest sometime, whatever they might be." Harry replied cryptically, and Dumbledore nodded his understanding.

"It appears to be a very good thing that we have Mandrakes ready for another Potions incident, Headmaster. I'll just whip together a quick Restorative Draught and we'll be all set!" Lockhart said brightly, as though expecting everyone to agree with him. He was swiftly proven wrong. Thank Merlin.

"I am the Potions Master of this school, and I alone will prepare that potion, which will be administered by Madam Pomfrey herself." Snape growled lowly, glaring at the man with contempt even greater than that which he gave to Harry.

"Besides, the Mandrakes are barely more than seedlings. It will be some weeks, even months, before they are ready to be used in such a strong potion." McGonagall added, her mouth tight as she looked at the stone statue that had once been a colleague of hers. While they had never really gotten along (no one really got along with the man) they had a respectful or even amiable working relationship, as McGonagall didn't abide people needlessly creating extra work for the man, something he appreciated a great deal.

"Headmaster, I recommend that we move them quickly and clean this wall up." Harry said urgently, half-listening as Nimue spoke to him. "The students will be out of the feast in moments, and this is a main corridor. Unless we want a mass panic, we need to move now."

"Just so. Minerva, Severus, please levitate our two victims to the Hospital wing, quickly. Take the hidden passageways, I will ensure they are closed to all students." Here the Headmaster sent a quick glance at Harry, who nodded imperceptibly. Nimue had already done it. "Gilderoy, please return to your office quickly, I believe you have several students planning to visit. I will deal with the wall."

"Of course, Headmaster. Please call if you need anything." Lockhart gave a sparkling smile and a jaunty wave before hurrying off.

"All of you except Harry, return to Emryys immediately. Harry will join you shortly, along with Mr. Black." Dumbledore continued giving orders, and the girls hesitated until Harry nodded his confirmation and made shooing motions. After they had gone, Dumbledore turned to the wall.

"Harry, how long do we have?" the aged Headmaster asked, and Nimue's form shimmered into being beside him.

"The students are leaving now. We have one minute and forty seconds until they will arrive here." She answered for him, and Dumbledore nodded, drawing his wand.

"Very well. Sirius, powerful cleaning charms on my mark. We must remove this blemish or…" his words stopped as the writing on the wall vanished without a trace. Both turned to look at Nimue, who smiled at them brightly.

"I am the castle, remember? So long as Harry gives me permission, I can do anything within these halls." She explained happily, wrapping her arms around said young man. "Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to get my love off to bed so he can do well in his classes tomorrow. Goodnight!"

With that, both vanished in a shimmer, and Sirius and Dumbledore looked at each other for a long moment before beginning to laugh at the strangeness of the situation and Nimue's attitude.

"Who knew that a 1000+ year old castle's soul could be so… bubbly." Sirius chortled as the pair headed for Dumbledore's office to discuss the recent development.

"True, but who better to keep our young friend from becoming far too serious for my tastes." Dumbledore replied, eyes twinkling as Sirius stopped dead in his tracks and gapped after the Headmaster.

"Did he… just tease me with my own favorite joke?" the Grim Marauder muttered to himself in disbelief. He shook his head before hurrying after the older man. There was much to discuss after all.

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"Welcome home, my daughter and great-granddaughter!" a powerful voice filled the castle throne room as Ailyn and her mother entered and knelt before the shadowed dais respectfully. "Please, rise. Family does not bow before family! Are you here for long?"

"Unfortunately not, great-grandfather." Ailyn said with true regret. She loved her grandfather very much, as he and her mother were all that were left of her family, but at the moment she had a much greater desire to find her mate. "Mother and I met our true blood-mates not too long ago near Athens, but before we could learn who they were, they left. We've been searching for them ever since, but… we've always been too late. We were hoping that you could help us find them."

"Of course! This is a most joyous occasion! Finally, my own blood has found those with whom they can spend eternity! Come with me, and tell me more of these mates of yours." The owner of the powerful voice stepped off of his throne and out of the shadows as he descended the dais to his only family. Well-trimmed and gleaming silver hair gleamed in the torchlight and bright scarlet-gold eyes smiled down warmly at the two women, who removed their cloaks. Ailyn was gorgeous, with long silver hair down to the middle of her back and shining golden eyes peeking out from behind long bangs, while her leather armor clung tightly to her well-developed and well-muscled body, and she moved with catlike grace.

Her mother looked like an older version of her, with shorter hair and the same scarlet-gold eyes as her father.

"Well, father, both are English, with black hair. Mine has these amazingly bright jade eyes, while mom's has plain old black. Also…"

The trio walked deeper into the depths of the castle, their laughter and talk echoing from the castle to the forest around it and from there to a barren plain covered with long wooden stakes, pointed ends piercing the sky as the crows circled around them or perched upon their points.

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A/N: This, this chapters power….ITS OVER 9,000! LOL! I never actually saw that anime, nor want to, but that is a rather popular phrase. Anyway, here is the newest chapter for you. I'm sorry it is so late, but at least it isn't short! Please, feel free to add any corrections needed in your reviews. So, REMEMBER TO REVIEW!

Also, have any of you figured out who our lovely mystery ladies are? Who their great-grandfather is? The last paragraph is a fantastic hint, if I do say so myself.