Chapter 66

Accusations and Resolutions

Mavis went upstairs and knocked on Jamie's bedroom door. "Jamie dear, the elves have breakfast on the table. Are you up and dressed yet? Jamie?" She opened the door and peeked inside. His bed was empty and he didn't appear to be anywhere in the room. Mavis went back downstairs to the dining room where Charles was reading the Prophet and chuckling.

"Jamie isn't in his bed and it looks like he got up early. I wish he'd left us a note so we know where he is."

"He probably went out flying," Charles replied. "I'm sure he'll be back shortly." He pushed the paper over to Mavis. "You've got to read this front page article. Whoever complained to the Prophet; Rita Skeeter wrote a brilliant article."

Mavis picked up the paper and began to read it just as the French doors in the dining room opened and then slammed shut again. James came in with his favorite Phoenix Racing Broom over his shoulder. He dropped his broom and his gloves on the floor, leaving them for the elves to pick up. He sat down at the table and began piling his plate with waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausages and fried potatoes. He looked at his mother. "What so funny, Mum?"

"This article by Rita Skeeter, Jamie. Someone finally had the courage to call out Gold on his favoritism and named all his favorite students!"

"Let me see," James said with his hand out. His mother handed the paper over to him and he read it while wolfing down his food. "Ha! Gold will never live this down! Maybe the board will finally realize what a crap professor he is and fire him."

"Speaking of schooling, Jamie," Mavis said. "Your father and I talked it over and we're going to hire you a tutor. We decided on that nice young man, Jeremy Cadwaller, you had last year. You did very well with him."

James smiled. Cadwaller had been a pushover and he was glad his parents had decided on him as his tutor.

~*~* Page Break ~*~*

Marius angrily threw down the paper, shoved back his chair, and got up. He was mightily sick of the Prophet always trying to make his grandson into someone evil and blaming him for the troubles James Potter caused. "I think it about time Barnabas Cuffe and Rita Skeeter learned a lesson in proper journalism."

"I'm going with you," Vesper said. "Maybe a hint or two about challenging Rita Skeeter to a duel if she keeps attempting to besmirch Severus' and his friend's reputations might give her second thoughts about the next story she writes at Charles Potter's behest."

"The Potters will find themselves in court again if I find out they are responsible for this outrage," Marius declared.

The flooed directly to the offices of the Daily Prophet. They went up to the front desk where a witch with a quill stuck over her ear was working. Marius cleared his throat loudly and she looked up. "What can I do for you?"

"Please tell Mr. Cuffe that Lord and Lady Prince are here to see him."

She looked them up and down then replied, "I'll see if he's available."

"Thank you," Marius said.

In a few seconds Barnabas Cuffe walked out of his office and over to the desk. "Lord Prince and Lady Prince, good to see you. Please come into my office."

Marius and Vesper followed him into his office. "Have a seat, please. Can I get you tea?"

"I also wish Miss Skeeter to be present," Marius stated.

"She on assignment at the moment, but I'm expecting her back shortly."

Marius picked up the morning's edition of the Daily Prophet off of Cuffe's desk and tossed it down in front of him. "That front page story is what we want to talk to you about."

"We want to know who the source for this story is," Vesper said.

"And by Merlin we want you to retract this piece of rubbish and stop writing stories that continually attempt to blacken our grandson's and his friends' reputations." Marius snapped. "If you cannot do that then I will see you in court!"

"Now calm down," Cuffe said. "In the first place I don't know who Rita's contact is for this story, but I can assure you it wasn't Mr. Potter. After the last time he fed Rita that lie about the defense professor being a werewolf; I told her I wouldn't print anymore stories from Potter without a drawer full of sources to back it up."

Barnabas got up and opened the door to his office and said to the witch at the desk, "As soon as Rita returns, tell her to see me." He closed the door and sat back down. "I'm sorry you've gotten the impression we're attempting to blacken your grandson's reputation."

"We haven't as you say "gotten" the impression; we are certain of it," Vesper said coolly.

"I can assure you this isn't the case," Cuffe said smoothly.

There was a knock on the door and Rita came in. "Hey boss," she said breezily. "Shanna said you wanted to see me."

Just as Cuffe was about to speak there was another knock on the door and the front desk witch stuck her head in. "Boss, Professor Dumbledore and Professor Gold just flooed over from Hogwarts and want to see you."

Cuffe sighed. He had a suspicion that they, as well as the Princes, were there to complain about the same thing. "Send them in, Shanna."

"You want me to come back later?" Rita asked.

"No. You're to remain right here," Cuffe replied in a peevish tone.

Albus and Professor Gold strode in. They both stopped short as they saw the Prince's. "Marius, Vesper, I am surprised to see you here," Albus said.

"I suspect you're here for the same reason we are, Albus," Marius replied holding up a copy of the Prophet.

Albus nodded. "Yes. Robert and I are here to demand that you print a retraction of this lie and issue a public apology to all those you have slandered."

"If you refuse to do it I shall have my lawyer, Sir Maurice Avonlea, contact you," Robert said.

Both Cuffe and Skeeter paled at the mention of this name. "Well …I did verify some of the complaints myself," Rita complained. She did not want to let them know she'd done so in her Animagus form of a ladybug because she'd never registered it at the Ministry.

Robert narrowed his eyes at her proclamation. "I never saw you anywhere at Hogwarts."

"That's the whole idea," Rita replied. "I talked to different students from all the houses and many of them felt like this little gang of yours was being favored not only in this tournament, but in defense class as well. Everybody expects that Severus Snape and Lily Evans will be the winners of the third years in the tournament because they're the most favored."

"That's ridiculous," Gold snapped.

"Well, you are giving them private lessons aren't you?" Rita asked. "And nobody else has been invited to join your little tête-à-tête?"

"Never mind all this," Marius snapped. "I want to know who gave you that story and unless you want to the Daily Prophet to face a lawsuit for slander you will tell me."

"I don't have to tell you anything, Lord Prince, and I never reveal my sources," Rita stated primly.

"Fine," Marius said getting up and extending his hand to help Vesper up. "The Daily Prophet will be hearing from me in the form of a lawsuit joined by Professor Gold's solicitor, Sir Maurice Avonlea."

"Now …now," Cuffe said extending his arms. He glared at Rita. "Tell them what they want to know, Rita," he ordered.

"Boss, it's a matter of journalistic integrity to protect our sources," Rita protested. "How are we going to get people to come forward on a big story if they think we don't protect their identities?"

"She does have a point," Cuffe said sagely. "Would you be willing to compromise?"

"What kind of a compromise?" Gold demanded.

"If Rita gives you the name and when you confront them which you're obviously going to do you don't tell them you got their name from the Prophet. If you can agree to those terms then Rita will give you her source."

"I will not, Barnabas!"

"You will, Rita or you can report to the Street Sweeper Bureau immediately." That was a euphemism for the most boring assignments of the Prophet.

Rita's mouth dropped open. "You wouldn't put your best reporter there?"

"Would you like to test me?" Cuffe replied shortly.

"That's sounds reasonable," Albus said. "Robert, Marius, and Vesper?"

Marius nodded. "But with one other factor."

Cuffe groaned. He knew Marius was always precise in his dealings. "And what is that, Lord Prince?"

"I want Miss Skeeter to take a wizard's oath that she'll tell us the truth or else she could be pulling a name out of the air for her source."

"I refuse," Rita snapped.

"So you were going to give us a fake name?" Marius inquired. "Otherwise you would have agreed to take the oath."

Realizing she was trapped she glared at Marius. "Oh alright! It was the Troyers. Their daughter, Lisa, is a third year."

Albus frowned lowering his eyebrows. "You do realize she was eliminated legally. She performed quite badly and Miss Evans beat her easily."

"She didn't study; she could barely remember any of the incantations for the spells she was attempting to cast and it obvious she invested little or no time in practicing as she got many of the wand movements wrong," Gold said.

"There will be a retraction and an apology in the Evening Prophet tonight," Cuffe assured the offended parties.

"I'm glad we could come to an agreement on this, Barnabas," Albus said. "I bid you good day."

~*~* Page Break ~*~*

The four of them flooed back to Hogwarts to find Minerva scolding a fifth year Gryffindor in the headmaster's office. "What seems to be the problem, Minerva?" Albus asked.

"Mr. Linley thought it would be quite funny to set off a dung bomb under Professor Binn's desk. He seems not to have realized that ghosts can no longer smell so he didn't even notice, but Mr. Linley's classmates practically trampled one another getting out of the room. I've given Mr. Linley a week of detention with Mr. Filch and he will offer his classmates a sincere apology," Minerva said. "It will start this evening."

"That sounds fair," Albus replied nodding. "Mr. Linley, if you don't wish to end up being expelled, I'd give some serious consideration to your behavior while you're cleaning under Mr. Filch's direction this evening."

"Come along, Mr. Linley. I'll escort you to your next class," Minerva said.

Albus walked behind his desk and pulled out the drawer where he stored the student files. He located Lisa Troyer's file and refreshed himself on her Floo address then went over to the fireplace, tossed in some green powder and called, "Troyer House, Chelsea."

Mr. Troyer's face appeared in the fire. "Headmaster Dumbledore. Is something wrong? Did something happen to Lisa?"

"Lisa is fine," Albus replied. "If you and your wife would please step through there is a matter we need to discuss.

The Troyers stepped through into Dumbledore's office looking confused then alarmed as they saw Professor Gold, Marius and Vesper.

"Good, now that everyone is present." Dumbledore picked up a copy of the Prophet with the slanderous story on the front page and held it up so they could see it. "I believe you know how this story, and I use that term advisedly, got into the paper."

"Of course we know," Mr. Troyer snapped. "We gave it to the Prophet. Our daughter was dismissed unfairly from that tournament so as to make it easier for his favorites to win the tournament."

"What right did you have to slander our grandson?" Vesper demanded. "He's done nothing to you or your daughter."

"It will only be a matter of time until he does do harm to her," Mrs. Troyer sniffed. "Everybody knows anybody in Slytherin is destined to join that dark wizard who's gaining more and more power despite Minister Bagnold's attempts to stop him."

"You idiots!" Marius hissed. "Our daughter, Severus' mother, was killed by followers of his. She was trying to protect a Muggleborn family and was killed in front of Severus!"

"The reason your daughter was eliminated from the tournament was because she didn't prepare or practice for it," Gold spoke up. "She couldn't remember the correct incantations for the spells she attempted to cast or the wand movements. She was easily bested by her opponent. The same is true of her work in my class. Her essays are sloppily written and I suspect she writes them quickly off the top of her head. She doesn't read her assignments and her practical's and wand work is bad. She's arrogant and has made it plain she doesn't care."

"I believe if you speak with any of her other professors you will get a similar report," Albus added. He went over to his desk and retrieved Lisa's file. "Do you not review her grade report when you receive it?"

"Of course we do," Mr. Troyer snorted.

"And you are not bothered by the fact that her scores for the last three years have been mostly Dreadfuls, Poors, and even a couple of Trolls?" Albus inquired.

"Lisa is betrothed to Hector Patterwig the son of one of the oldest Gryffindor families and has been since infancy," Mrs. Troyer sniffed again. "They are very wealthy so she will never need to work like a slave at the Ministry or in Diagon Alley like most of the people attending this school so her grades do not matter in the least. Her future is already secured."

"I see." Albus said. "And you don't think your daughter might want to choose her own path at some point?"

"Lisa knows what's expected of her," Mr. Troyer replied.

"Hopefully nothing will happen to upset your plans then," Albus replied mildly. "Now as to this article in the paper. Mr. Cuffe will be printing a retraction and Miss Skeeter will offer a public apology. You who gave her the story should do the same."

"We're not retracting anything or apologizing for speaking the truth!" Mrs. Troyer snapped.

"We will sue you for slander then if you do not and Professor Gold's solicitor, Sir Maurice Avonlea, will join me in the suit so I suggest you take the easy way out and retract your accusations and apologize for your slander," Marius said.

Vesper stood up. "And if you are not willing to do that I will call you out and you should know I was the dueling champion in both my 6th and 7th years and I have never lost or forfeited a duel since then."

Mr. and Mrs. Troyer paled at Vesper's threat. That they hadn't expected to be found out was plain on their faces. "We will not do it no matter your threats," Mr. Troyer snapped. "Our daughter would be humiliated if we were to do so."

"And you don't think our grandson and his friends are humiliated by your lies?" Marius demanded.

"Perhaps we can save face here for everybody if you were to release a statement to the Prophet saying that Lisa misunderstood the rules of the duel and thought she was being judged unfairly. You in turn misunderstood her complaint and related it to the Prophet," Albus suggested. "You will also need to apologize to the injured parties damaged by the lies you told Miss Skeeter."

Professor Gold frowned, but he knew it was the best they were going to get from the Troyers.

Marius also frowned. "The problem is once these lies are put out there you can't completely erase the damage they have caused."

Albus sighed and nodded. "Yes, that is true, Lord Prince."

"But because we do not want to drag this out and cause anymore stress for Severus and his friends we will accept your solution, Albus."

~*~* Page Break ~*~*

Severus and Lily met in the Room of Requirement after dinner that night. The final phase of the tournament had been put off until the next day because of all the flack caused by the Troyer family. Though they and their daughter had apologized to Severus' grandparents, Professor Gold, and the friends, neither Severus nor Lily believed that any of them were really sorry or regretted what they had done.

Severus was sitting on the couch with his arm around Lily. "Why do you think Lisa and Mary are still being mean, badmouthing us, and trying to get us into trouble? We haven't bothered them and have gone out of our way to avoid any trouble with them," Lily complained.

"They're both spoiled brats that think they're entitled to any reward without working for it," Severus replied. "MacDonald's probably in contact with Pothead too so we can probably expect more trouble from them." Severus stared down at Lily wanting to kiss her very badly.

Lily smiled at him. "There's no Professor Slughorn around now, Sev."

"So he isn't," Severus said and bent to kiss Lily gently on her lips. Lily pulled him close and they snogged until the door suddenly appeared. Severus and Lily sprang apart. Lily quickly opened one of her textbooks and pretended to be reading it to hide her blushing face.

Sirius and Reg walked in. Sirius was holding a copy of the Evening Prophet. "What a bunch of dragon dung!" He exclaimed to his brother. "Skeeter apologizes and says she meant no harm and the bloody Troyers say their daughter misunderstood the rules of the tournament and thought she was being unfairly judged and they supposedly misunderstood what she was complaining about."

"Yeah, but it's worse than dragon dung Siri. More like Hippogriff dung. They leave bigger piles of it!" Reg said.

The door appeared again. Alice, Jane, and Emily walked in followed by Frank and Caddaric as usual discussing Quidditch with Dorian and Tav. Remus, Irene, and Pete came last. The door disappeared behind them.

"This tournament has turned into the biggest whackadoodle ever!" Caddaric exclaimed plunking down into one of the squashy chairs.

"Yeah, the Potters stopped it twice with their complaints and now the Troyers," Alice agreed sitting down next to Lily.

"Sore losers all of them!" Dorian snorted.

Irene giggled. "I'm sure Cousin Mavis and Cousin Charles had a fit when James was expelled! They probably went to the board and they're probably looking for someone at the Ministry to complain to and get him reinstated."

"Well who's next?" Tav asked. "The MacTavish's or the MacDonald's?"

"Nah," Remus said. "MacTavish has backed away from MacDonald and Troyer. I suspect he realizes they're pretty stupid and doesn't want to be associated with them."

"MacDonald's parents are pretty sensible," Lily spoke up. "Remember how they grounded her for the entire summer after first year because her grades were bad and Conor caught her cheating on the Defense exam?"

"Trying to copy from me," Remus added.

"It doesn't sound like they'd do anything if she wrote them complaining she was cheated out of the tournament," Emily said. "I think they'd just tell her it was her own fault she was eliminated and she should have practiced and studied harder."

Severus called Clive and asked him to bring them something to drink and eat.

"Clive be back in a flash!" he said.

Pete chuckled. "Who or where did Clive pick up the slang from?"

"Longworth, our roommate's, been teaching him," Dorian replied chuckling too.

Clive popped back in with a pitcher of pumpkin juice and a plate of freshly baked cookies.

"Thanks, Clive," Severus said. He poured glasses of pumpkin juice for them all and the pitcher immediately filled up again. Lily passed the plate of cookies around.

Reg looked around. "Should we practice for the tournament tomorrow?"

Severus nodded. "It probably won't hurt."

The ones who had already been eliminated helped the ones who were still in the tournament with practicing their spells until curfew. Severus walked Lily to the Fat Lady's portrait and since everybody was gone, they kissed one last time, a long lingering kiss.

"Come on, come on! Hurry it up!" The Fat Lady complained loudly. "I don't want to be here all night!"

"See you tomorrow Sev," Lily said waving at him before she stepped through the portrait hole.

Severus smiled as he made his way back to the dungeon.

~*~* Page Break ~*~*

James stared moodily out the window barely listening as his tutor Jeremy Cadwaller droned on. It was beautiful day and all he really wanted to do was to be outside on his broom. He found himself daydreaming about Lily Evans too and what she might look like in two or three years unless Snivellus got his paws on her first then she would be completely spoiled for him.

"Mr. Potter, have you heard anything at all that I've said?" Cadwaller asked sharply. He was beginning to wonder why he has accepted this assignment considering all the trouble he'd had with James before. His only excuse was that the Potters paid very well.

"Huh?" James said focusing on his tutor.

"I've been trying to teach you about the Gipenflayer plant for the last ten minutes," Cadwaller snapped. "Do you still want to be an Auror?"

"Of course!" James said, puffing out his chest. "Aurors are the best and the bravest! They'll be taking on the worst criminals like the followers of that dark wizard that Bagnold can't seem to do anything about."

"That career as I've told you before requires that you have an Exceeds or higher in both Herbology and Potions. They will not accept anything lower."

James frowned as he thought about it. Scrimgeour probably wouldn't still be head of the Auror Department in four year's time and his dad could probably donate some money for equipment they really needed. He'd heard Longbottom say that his mother was always complaining about the Auror's Department's budget not being large enough.

"Alright, so tell me about this Gipenflayer plant again," James said.

Just before dinner time, Mavis came looking for James. She had a letter in one hand. She finally found James outside in the Potter broom shed. He was industriously polishing his new broom that his father had purchased for him as a consolation prize for being cheated out winning that stupid dueling tournament.

"Jamie, a Hogwarts owl just brought this letter for you," she said.

James wondered if it was from Mary. He had told her he wanted to be kept informed about the tournament. He tore it open enthusiastically, but then his face fell as he read what was inside of it.

A/N: Thank you all for being patient while we updated this. Both me and my co-author, Alethea27, have very long working hours now, I myself work 7 days a week at 2 jobs, so we have less time than usual to write. Hope you all liked this. The conclusion of the tournament should be in the next chapter. Who do you think will or should win in Severus' year group? What do you think is in the letter James got from Hogwarts?