A/N: This... was huge. I rewrote it a couple dozen times to get right, and I still wish I could fit more in. But, it has given me a ton of ideas to play with, so it's a draw between whether I should be delighted by having finally come up with a version of it I liked or appalled that it has taken so long to put together. On the plus side, it was a blast writing this and introduces a massive chunk of main cast. On the minus side, 'tis huge milord. No hat yet, but hey. At least the train ride is as magical (read illogical, unbelieveable, crazy awesome and fantastic) as I could make it. And with that, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. You can tell by the fact that there's a nineteen-year gap in events at the end of it. Oh, and that everyone gave up logic as a bad idea after book five. Actually, if I did own Harry Potter, I would give the final two books to Peptuck and say "here, cook me up a credible civil war". Because he does good stuff, Peptuck does. And allons-y!
Wizarding warfare is nothing like modern warfare for two reasons: the ability of people to teleport great distances and the ability to substitute manpower with wards & charms when securing and holding vital positions. In other words, wizarding warfare does not have the problem of having to supply food, equipment and personnel to a front line but rather has the problem of how to stop raiders from appearing inside your base and mind-controlling your leaders into defeat. As a result, the main wizarding combat techniques can be separated into three separate areas: ward making/breaking, spellcrafting and small unit tactics.
Wards have formed the basis for magical warfare ever since the Babylonian mage wars. Being able to not only stop attackers, but incapacitate them, kill them and subjugate their retinue afterwards proved to be of vital importance to Gilgamesh and his followers. And it was all thanks to the T'seburs, early warding masters that dominated magical court life from Gilgamesh's time until the later days of the egyptian magical priesthood. An army equipped with high-class wardcrafters and the right materials for the job have been known to hold back onslaughts from armies dozens, even hundreds of times larger than the size of the garrison defending the area. Similarly, cursebreakers and ward lawyers (warding loophole hunters) have been known to turn the tide of a battle when stalemates seemed to be the most likely outcome.
Spellcrafting is another area of vital importance to the army since it relies on a simple truth: figuring out a counter-curse to a spell with a week and the arithmantic formula on hand to do so is hard enough. Figuring it out on the fly, in the heat of battle, when the incantation is muffled and the likely low visibility hampers identification? Not a chance.
So spellcrafters have two tasks: Numero Uno, come up with new spells that fit into the army's current tactical doctrine. Numero due, figure out the countercurse to the newest spells fielded by the enemy. The faster these two objectives are achieved, the larger the advantages gained becomes. This was Merlin's specialty, after all.
And, finally, small unit tactics. Wizards rarely, if ever, attack in large groups, preferring to separate into small three-four person teams when fighting. Why are such tactics so popular in the wizarding world? Here are the three main reasons:
1)Demographics. There simply aren't enough wizards and witches to go around, let alone enough to spare for large-scale combat.
2)Complexity. Spellcasting requires a huge amount of focus, stamina and tactical thinking to get right. Whereas Large mundane armies are difficult enough to coordinate, adding in the huge number of magic-related variables that need to be accounted for makes it a living nightmare. How do you plan to form a cohesive set of tactics if every single member of your team disagrees on what spells to cast during the initial volley? Worse yet, how do you get them to work together when under fire? The group's leader has to know each and every single group member's strengths and weaknesses, habits, quirks, favourite magic, favoured spells etc if he or her wishes to employ his/her subordinates to maximum effect. These are already severe obstacles in five-man teams, and the difficulty rises exponentially the more people you add to the group.
3)Flexibility. Small teams of wizards and witches are not just easier to manage, but also quicker and more agile than larger groups of fighters. Oftentimes, small teams have a distinct advantage when fighting a larger group in that they have less friendlies to keep track of and are more familiar with one another than they would be with a hundred others. Quick, coordinated strikes against single members of the large group, ordered by level of seniority of the target, stand a good chance of breaking any wizarding group's chain of command faster than you can say boo. It's also a lot easier to change and adopt new tactics on the fly, especially when both sides are still relatively inexperienced.
Bear in mind that, when facing wizards in open combat, oftentimes the best solution would be to employ mass destruction ordinance. Though this would ensure victory, it would be at the cost of severe damage to local infrastructure and the high likelihood of mass casualties amongst the civilian population. This is precisely why this document has been drafted: to nurture the relationship between the two sides in order to discourage and avert war between the two worlds. Use it wisely.
Introduction to 'Charles's primer on magi-politics: ways in which they differ from us.', briefing commissioned by Margaret Thatcher's office for the purpose of informing future prime ministers on how to approach magical issues if and when they arise.
Chapter 6: The train ride
The station they found themselves in was far different from the King's Cross they'd started out in.
"Attention all passengers. Passengers, be advised that due to a security breach in the super-15 containment facility, all services to and from the Atlantis & Yggdrasil superstructures are hereby cancelled until further notice. Any enquiries are to be directed at the Department of Magical Transportation. Thank you for using MagiRail."
"What?" the bushy-haired girl shouted at the information that had just been broadcast across the platform.
"Atlantis... is real?" a boy with black hair, green eyes, a funky-looking scar and brand new clothes asked. "And the World Tree is too?"
The girl with brown hair and buck teeth suddenly dropped the frown that had been building throughout the day. A smile started to form on her face.
"Harry, we have to go visit over the summer!" The girl exclaimed, eliciting a dramatic shudder from her scruffy-haired companion. "Oh, come on. It's bound to be better than yet another summer spent traipsing through Bretagne."
"Hermione, you want to hang out with blood-thirsty vikings instead of spending your summer holidays practicing your French and eating cheese whilst lounging around the campagne? I thought you like France! Pardon me if I am not enthused by the idea."
She scoffed. "Oh please. You know I love France, apprentice. But this is great! .I know you want to go and check out if there is any evidence-"
"-of Force? Maybe, but not if the choice is between delicious cheese and fighting the souls of dead viking raiders. Don't make me choose."
Silence broke out between the two, temporarily disoriented from both the implications of the announcement and the outright gawking they've been doing since they walked through a brick wall to get to the platform. The nice red-haired lady with what looked like a football team's worth of red-haired children and relatives bidding each other goodbye in tow had been very helpful, even if the poor soul had probably lost her mind from all the children around her. She'd asked the only other female around, who seemed to be her daughter, what the platform's name was several times in the few seconds Harry and Hermione had been in hearing range, confused two of her children for each other and then had stared at Harry for a good ten seconds before speaking.
To the duo, these were clear signs of early-onset Alzheimer's with a smidgen of insanity bubbling towards the surface. They pitied the lady's grandchildren, confident that such behaviour could only result in them being confused with the lady's inevitable retinue of cats. A truly mind-boggling number of cats that only a mind-boggled owner would want.
Anyway, she'd pointed at a brick wall and told them that the best way to reach the platform was to run full tilt at said wall, baggage and all. At first, they'd only taken this as a further confirmation that the poor lady was being driven around the bend by her litter of brats, that is until one of the older-looking ones drove his trolly straight through the wall, smug as you please. The duo, surprised, immediately switched on their Force senses and took a very careful look at the barrier.
What they found was rather interesting. There was, in fact, a brick wall where you'd expect to find one. It was, after all, put there for a reason and messing too much with a muggle building's structure using magic is something that the earliest wizards had learned not to do pretty damn quickly. Rather, there was an adapted static Displacement tunnel seemingly glued to the brick, linking the platform at King's Cross to somewhere close by. Under Force sight, the setup was remarkably similar to the portal used to access Diagon Alley, but the main difference is that it somehow remained active on a permanent basis. Hermione resolved to look it up later. Harry wanted to come back and study it. The two agreed that this was super cool and wanted to make one themselves.
Unfortunately, Kyle Granger had been looking on at the time and so had to be manhandled towards the nearest coffee machine in hopes of shocking his system back into coherence. After a few muttered apologies and heartfelt goodbyes to Kyle and Sarah, Harry and Hermione were left alone with the crazy future cat lady to face the fabled train platform nine and three quarters.
Once on the other side of the barrier, things got weird. A normal train platform is just somewhere trains stop to pick up passengers and unload cargo. Rarely more, nothing less. Pity no-one seems to have told these so-called "wizards" that. Platform nine and three quarters was a platform, true, but it also seemed to double as an open-air marketplace. Immediately on the other side of the barrier, they were assaulted by a cacophony of noise and smells that was louder and more violent than the one in Diagon Alley. The train was painted a vivid red, a large number of old-school train carriages attached to an old steam engine that looked familiar to Harry-
"Oh wow! Hermione, it's the Orient express!"
"Really? Oh please Harry, it just looks like the Orient Express. And what would the Orient Express be doing in England?"
"Oh well, tell me when you've thought of something. Look, Harry! Souvenirs!"
And so the two budding Force Users and attention deficit disorder incubators explored the open market sprawling the length and breadth of the platform. It was a strange mix of Diagon Alley deja vu, with a large amount of stalls advertising Hogwarts gear & assorted paraphernalia (though Ollivander was nowhere to be seen, thankfully) and novelties for the students to take with them to school.
Once again, the duo was exposed to products such as talking jewellry, re-sizing ropes (though what they were used for was a mystery even to the vendor) chameleon skincare products (Are you a shy person? Don't want to attract undue attention? change colours to blend in with the environment! Warning: does not work if you are dressed), communications stones and mini-pensieves (capture your greatest memories and keep them fresh forever! Side effects include memory loss, surprise twitching, death).
Harry bought two sets of communications stones and a mini-pensieve so that he could show the Grangers what Hogwarts looked like without having to buy those three hundred galleon "magic proof" cameras they sold in Diagon, though Hermione did berate him for buying a product that listed loss of life as a potential side-effect when used. His repartee that the Pensieve would only be fatal if he completely extracted his brain's memory of how to breathe & keep the central nervous system running and then twiddled his thumbs for three minutes instead of plunging straight in after the memory was inspired, smart and interrupted half-way through by the announcement that had exposed yet more of the so-called magical world to them.
They contemplated the ordered chaos of students, parents and salespeople crammed in such a small space, their voices competing against each other for attention. Cute, quaint and likely to give you a giant-sized headache. Just like everything else in this world of powerful, yet ignorant Force-manipulators that manage to combine breathtaking manipulations of the space-time continuum with a horrifying level of naivete. Even after a year of learning about the 'magical' world, Hermione and Harry were surprised by something new and unexpected every time they came into contact with this civilisation and their strange ways. Hermione was the first to sigh.
"You know, I think it's getting close to leaving time. You got everything with you?" Hermione asked her companion. He took out a small box from his pocket, holding it out in the palm of his hand at her. "Right, you've got your trunk, that's good. Did you miss anything?" He shook his head. No. She nodded. "Right then, let's go find a compartment. It's not even eleven o'clock and I'm exhausted already."
The inside of the train that looked like the Orient express was not something either of them was expecting.
Instead of the cramped and gloomy space suggested by the old-style design on the outside, the corridor they found themselves in was large and spacy enough to fit three people marching abreast. The compartments were a mix of sturdy leather seats and exotic wood coated with a thick layer of varnish. Gone were the smells of people and produce from the platform, replaced by something close to a new car smell accompanied by hints of sandalwood and a very, very light tinge of the smell of a roaring fireplace. The windows reacted to the presence of people inside the cabin, tinting themselves until just the right amount of light penetrated the inside of the cabin. Recesses in the ceiling carved with intricate-looking symbols and runes hinted at a similar system being put in place for night-time conditions. It was like travelling on an art-deco cruiseliner.
And the train itself was long. Very, very long.
Reading Hogwarts, a History, Harry and Hermione knew that there were roughly a thousand people attending Hogwarts at any given time. Aside from the main group of students, there was a secondary set attending lectures and examination sessions set in corners of the castle normal students had no access to. These areas catered to muggleborns that were given the option to attend normal school, purebloods that were simply incapable of paying for the full Hogwarts experience and those seeking to achieve their masteries being taught by either the teachers or overseas experts residing in Hogwarts during their stay in the UK. And all of them, without exception, were to be in Hogwarts for the first eight days of the school year so that the wards could reliably recognise them as students and the teachers could forward whatever help, studying materials and/or homework they need directly to their location. For security and logistical purposes, they are meant to travel by train to Hogwarts with all the students so that the floo system isn't jammed by the large number of irregulars looking to come through the limited number of outwards connections the school allows to establish at any given time.
Though interaction with normal students is strictly discouraged, this doesn't change the fact that close to a thousand students are supposed to be crammed into a train meant to lodge a hundred passengers at a time, maybe two hundred in a pinch. If this were an ordinary train, then this could be a severe problem. However, this is the Hogwarts Express, enchanted by four successive generations of charms masters and mistresses to go faster, use next to no fuel, be invisible to normal humans, able to avoid any form of collision and, most importantly, expanded and strengthened to the point where it could fit double the maximum current number of students attending Hogwarts in complete comfort. In 1930, this meant that the train had a seating capacity of 1200 students, given that the irregular studies programs hadn't caught on yet. By 1991, the number of seats available on the Hogwarts express was closer to the 2500 mark.
Harry and Hermione knew this. They knew that, rather than the 15 carriages with 5 cabins each that could be seen from the platform, the train actually had closer to 500 hundred separate cabins with 25 dedicated baggage cabins available to those carrying large loads of stuff. In other words, there were 35 cabins available per carriage. They knew that, while the external dimensions indicated a carriage that was 25 metres long (they'd recently taken to refusing to use the imperial measurement system, given that it contained the word 'empire') based on the fact that each cabin was approximately five metres long, each carriage was actually closer to ten metres in length in terms of internal dimensions and came complete with a table, a chess board, a chest of drawers containing a variety of books & games and a wizarding wireless set. Not only that, but a set of toilets was included as well, adding an extra ten metres to the length of the carriage (five cubicles, two metres of dedicated space each). Which meant that each carriage was 360 metres long. Which, in turn meant that all fifteen carriages were 5.4 kilometres long in total.
They knew all this, but they hadn't believed it. 'Magic' or not, a train containing a thousand people, five and a half kilometres long and operated by a steam engine, a technology that had last been on the cutting edge back when there was still an Emperor (the duo shuddered) sitting on the french throne, was just too much to bear. Space travel, teleportation, the Force, they could live with these things. They had confirmed all these things through observation, experimentation and meditation. But the notion of a steam engine being able to make the trip from London to the northern reaches of Scotland in close to eleven hours whilst dragging a steel tube five and a half kilometres long behind it... It was just too ludicrous. The power output needed... the requirements in raw materials alone... all these expenses for a train meant to make four trips a year? No, they just couldn't believe it.
Until they were inside the corridor of the second to last carriage, staring at an unbroken corridor that was so long, the damn thing had a horizon. They could see it curve in the distance, the end was so far away.
"Hermione." the boy said, trying to fathom just why the wizards had built such a train when there were oh-so-many different, better, more efficient, logical options available.
"You remember when I asked who would be dumb enough to try and build stomething this ridiculous?"
"No Harry, I don't. What are you talking about?"
"Don't worry, apprentice. Come now, we have to go find ourselves a cabin before it starts getting crowded here."
"Crowded? How? There's no way you could get too crowded in here! I mean, look at the size of this place."
"I'm sorry, is anybody sitting here? Everywhere else is full." a young redhead the duo remembered from the platform asked.
"Sorry." Harry said.
"Occupied." Hermione elaborated for him, closing the door on the stricken-looking face of the youngest male Weasley.
Harry scowled as he focused on the still-bustling platform. "That's the fifth one to come asking us if he or she could come and sit with us. The fifth." He sighed. "You were right. It really is crowded out there, by the sound of things." The girl shrugged at him, going back to reading a book on the history of Magical Transportation they'd gotten on their last trip through Diagon Alley.
"It's got nothing to do with space, apprentice. Wizards, for all that they are incredibly stupid most of the time, are still human and therefore social animals." Flick. She scowled at the contents of her book, a symplified illustration of how programmed Displacement, or what these magic people referred to as portkeys worked. They were wrong, not that it surprised her anymore. Then again, her proof was with Miss Waterson's 1964 Datsun, which she and Harry had successfully Displaced into Venus's upper atmosphere. "They like to be in each others' company. And that means finding others who want to be in their company too. Hence, door-knockers."
Harry nodded, going back to reading up on the fascinating world of wizarding communications techniques. "Hey, listen to this: two-way mirrors have been a staple of magical communications since the 16th century. In fact, it is believed that many of today's magical mirrors are simply wizarding mirrors that have lost their counterpart. From 1789 until 1945, the two-way mirror also acted as the primary means of interaction between the muggle and magical worlds in the early twentieth century."
"It was only with the advent of the second world war that a muggle prime minister asked to meet the Minister of Magic in person for the first time since the introduction of the two-way mirror, citing the need for better relations between the two peoples in the Empire's darkest hour. Two-way mirrors were widely available until early 1941, when a Muggle bomb detonated in Diagon Alley and killed Eschelon Davis, head of the Davis Mirror Enchantment company. Tragically, the secret died with him as his daughter, Sarah Davis, was still too young to be taught how to make a two-way mirror from scratch. Isn't that interesting?"
"What part, Harry? The fact that the secret behind two-way mirrors is now lost, or that Winston Churchill was the first Prime Minister in three hundred-odd years to publicly meet with the Minister of Magic?" She asked, clearly more interested in dissecting her book and its obvious errors rather than listening to her apprentice geek out on something she was likely to find completely boring.
"The part where they lost the knowledge of how to enchant two-way mirrors. More importantly, why that knowledge was lost in the first place. I mean, it sounds like he never wrote the thing down, he didn't tell his wife about how to make one, nor anybody else involved in the business! Why is that?"
Hermione perked up, intrigued by the line of reasoning Harry was working through. She looked at Harry, who was smiling whilst thinking about what he'd read. "If he didn't pass it on, maybe it was because he was afraid it would get stolen? I mean, if he just made the product and could claim he made them, sure, he wouldn't care. But by the sounds of things, the enchantment was a purely magical process, so enchanting a mirror could be done by anybody capable of casting the spell. So I can understand why he kept it a secret, but surely a copy of the process would have had to be written up at some stage! So why is it a lost secret?"
"Technically, it isn't lost." A voice said from the silently opened doorway. A smiling, slightly pudgy boy stood near the entrance, his hand resting on the trunk's handle while his other clutched something slimy and slightly noisy to his chest. "It's just that the matriarch of the Davis family didn't see much profit in selling two-way mirrors anymore after Patriarch Eschelon died, so decided to keep it a family secret for three generations before going back into business with it. Probably pulled out of the business to do some additional research on it."
"So it's just not very well known right now." Harry said, frowning at the implications. "Why not just licence out the right to produce two-way mirrors instead of pulling it off the market altogether?"
"Three reasons:" Neville said "First-may I sit there, Hermione?" mumbling 'ta' at her nod, he proceeded to store his trunk underneath the roomy table and sit down on one of the seats on the left. " As I was saying, first, it's a family secret. The spell is spelled to only be passed on to one 'of the blood', as it were. Second, there were too many mirrors in circulation already. If the Davis family had gone back into business straight away, they would have had to drastically lower their prices. And third- what's a licence, by the way?" At their blank looks, he just shrugged. "Let's pretend I know and leave it at that. But third, assuming a licence is similar to a promise to only use the spell under certain conditions, it often costs a lot of money to hire someone who can conduct the necessary rituals to make sure these rules are obeyed. That, and you still need to pay to have the rituals approved by the government, since some of them are dark, and then you have register the fact that you did, in fact, perform the spell and prove that it does not threaten the livelihood of those pureblooded families with interests in the markets you are looking to licence the spell for. In short, it's a lot of money and a lot of hassle to go through for selling family secrets to the highest bidder. Not only is it a disgrace to do so, but it's a complicated process too. And should a cursebreaker break through the agreed-upon rituals, well-" he shrugged. "- you would have gone through all that business for nothing."
"Ah. So you mean that all contracts here are magically binding?" Hermione put in.
"Yes, indeed. It used to be that a contract was only required to be legally binding, but since the Wizengamot started only accepting magical contracts due to the fact that they were more trustworthy, a magical contract is now the bare minimum needed to conduct business."
"Sounds very expensive, from your previous comment."
"Oh Harry, you have no idea." Neville laughed at the understatement. Had either of the two spent a significant amount of time in Neville's presence before then, they would have been gobsmacked at the amount of emotion the normally meek boy was exhibiting. "Some of the higher-level ones require hundreds of Galleons to set up, there is no guarantee that the contract will actually work as advertised and half the time they aren't even put through legal oversight! So not only are some of them dangerous, but there is no legal penalty for breaking somewhere close to half of them. Which is why you have some cursebreakers that specialise in 'defusing' magical contracts for inidividuals on the shadier side of things. And does it ever leave a mess for the courts to sort out!"
"How do you even know about this? It sounds fairly advanced." The bushy-haired girl asked, her interest overriding her tact in the process. "No offence, mind." She added after catching Neville's confused stare.
The pudgy boy with chestnut-brown hair shrugged. "My grandmother. I'm groomed to take over as head of the family in a few years time. Even for minor pureblooded houses it's a long process. I've been getting lessons for years."
"Magic as well, I assume?" Harry interceded. "How far ahead are you?"
"Uh sorry, but teaching children magic under the age of eleven without the right qualifications is illegal." Neville explained, his cheeks red from embarrassment. "and between Hogwarts and the study load of a pureblood, almost none of the families bother teaching their children magic."
"What? Why? I mean, surely your workload isn't that heavy, is it?" Hermione exclaimed. These people were Force users born into a family of Force users. Wouldn't starting early be a good idea?
Neville shrugged. "No, it's just that a lot of wands require a maturing magical core to work with, you know, and maturation only really becomes strong enough to bond magic to a wand around the age of nine or ten. Not much you can learn if you're still too young to touch a wand."
Harry frowned. "Okay. But how do you know about the Davis situation? Isn't that sort of private?"
"Well, it would be if she hadn't told me about it. That, and the value of the Davis's inventoried stock has gone up by a factor of fifteen in the past generation alone! In terms of physical assets, they are currently jockying for position behind Carrow Holdings and ahead of Zabini Trust. This year, they are likely jump right over Potter Trustees in terms of potential per-capita interest earnings if the rumours about security upgrades for Magical Europe's financial hubs is even close to true."
The only sound permeating the cabin was the deceptively slow thump-thump from the train tracks as the Hogwarts express finally left the outskirts of London behind. The silence from two of the occupants was thoughtful as they digested yet another aspect of British Magical society, while the third's cheeks started to glow from embarrassment.
"S-sorry, it's just that I really love this s-stuff. I've been really good at it since I was little." Left unsaid were the darker thoughts he had about this being the only thing he was good at. "My family thought that I didn't have magic when I was growing up. At least, until my grand-uncle threw me out of the window." He smiled at the memory as Harry and Hermione looked at each other in shocked surprise. "So that's a lot of what I was taught as a kid. Maths, English, politics, economics. I loved those subjects. Even after it turned out that I was a wizard and not a squib, I kept on studying these instead of applying myself at Runes, Arithmancy and other magical fields. Drove me gran mad, that did. And-" He interrupted himself with a cough and another embarrassed blush "ah, sorry again. I just really like talking about this stuff."
"I'm sorry, did you just say that a relative of yours threw you out of a window?" Harry asked, his expression one of deep horror.
"Well yeah, he was trying to see if I was a squib or not-"
"-And there's that word, 'squib'." Hermione interrupted. "What does that mean?"
"Well, a child from a wizarding family born without magic."
So a force wielder's child born normal. She thought, but rephrased it slightly. "So a magical child born normal."
Neville blinked. "Normal?"
"Well, just like 99 percent of the human race at the very least. You know, without magic." Hermione said.
"Ah, so born muggle then?"
Harry sniffed. "Yes" he drawled. "Muggle."
"...I'm sorry, did I say something?" Neville asked, a bit taken aback at Harry's tone.
"You said the M-word" Hermione explained. "Harry doesn't like people being racist to others. And Muggle sounds derogatory to us."
"Hey, I didn't mean it to be derogororry! It's just a habit. And it's not like you weren't being derogoraty towards wizards back in the bookshop, you know. I heard that little chat you two had, remember?"
"Sorry, no need to get defensive about it. Just call them 'normals' instead." Harry hastily interposed himself between the more nervous-looking Neville and the soon-to-erupt Mount Granger. "Back on topic here. They threw you out of a window to prove you had magic, right?" At Neville's nod, Harry asked the obvious question. "Why?"
"Accidental magic, of course. When a wizard or witch is distressed or in danger, their magic tends to lash out and protect them. In my case, I bounced after hitting the ground. It still hurt, but it was better than the alternative."
"Wait, alternative? How far off the ground was this window, Neville?"
The aforementioned boy suddenly looked very interested in the swirling animated patterns adorning the carpet. "About twenty, thirty feet? It was at least from the s-second f-floor, from what I remember."
Hermione shook her head. "mad" she could be heard muttering as she gazed out of the cabin window, her twitching features glaring at the unfolding landscape. "Utterly mad, the lot of them."
Harry cleared his throat. "So anyway, sorry about this. It's just that we don't deal with this kind of thing very well. Let's start from scratch. Now this lovely lady is Hermione Granger, I am Harry Potter and you are?"
"N-Neville. Neville Longbottom. My parents and yours were friendly rivals."
Harry's face lit up with a beaming smile. "Really?"
Neville noticed Hermione's scowl disappear at the sight, wondering what was going on in the girl's mind. "Yeah, my gran keeps telling me about the amazing things my dad and yours got up to back in the day."
This started a round of story-telling, with Neville telling a spell-bound Harry about some of the things he found out that his dad and Harry's dad got up to, with a little prodding on Hermione's part when the Longbottom boy tripped himself up because he got progressively more nervous (it seems his anxiety follows an exponential growth curve, poor boy. She' thought a couple of hours in) and so that was how they wiled away the trip.
Edmund Spiers and Annette Voorhees, Head Girl and Head Boy for the 1991-1992 school year, eyed the 22 prefects sitting and chatting together. Edmund finally looked down at the schedule he'd drawn up at some point in the distant, happy past of August the 30th , glaring at it in an attempt to get it to admit to its lies and present him with a feasible schedule of activities. This had failed abysmally, and so he was forced to once again deal with either talking to his nominal subordinates who were about as pliable as those cats some wizards had been trying to herd around the countryside or face one of McGonnagall's endless lectures on the importance of time management which, ironically, was a complete waste of everyone's time. So he picked up his wand, pointed it at the ceiling and silently cast 'rumpitur'.
The resulting muffled bang was more than enough to attract everyone's attention and wake up Voorhees before anybody else caught on that, no, that was not a five-minute-long facepalm, no matter how badly deserved such a thing would be. He then glared at the assembled prefects.
"All right, let's call this inaugural session of the 91-92 Hogwarts prefects' group meeting to order. First, a word of advice to you all today. Both me and the Head girl have been at the station since 6:30 this morning, inspecting the train to make sure everything was okay. We were 'assisted' in this endeavour by professor Snape. For those of you who have somehow managed to lose the last five or more years of Snape-related memories over the summer, a feat that, if you have managed to achieve it without serious brain damage, many others would be interested in replicating, this meanst that from 6:30 until roughly, oh, thirty minutes ago, we had the honor and privilege of being called ignorant fools and pathetic dunderheads every time we opened a door to take a peek inside a cabin. So we are tired, pissed off and have authority over you. Do not give us any shit. Now, back to more important things. Roll call. Hufflepuffs!"
A group of six students, all dressed in black and yellow, turned to face the Head Boy.
"Right, that's you lot accounted for. Ravenclaws!" A group of four students turned towards him. "Hmm, we're missing one. Annette, if you'd do the honours?"
The girl with dark red hair nodded at her blonde companion. "Sure thing. Robert Hilliard!" An upheld hand and a muffled 'just call me bobby' attracted her attention. "Right. Penelope Clearwater." Silence. "Penelope Clearwater!" she asked more loudly. A noise that sounded like someone politely clearing their throat made her turn towards the Gryffindors. "You there, carrot top. Name, year, whereabouts of missing prefect. Now."
The boy blushed bright red, but managed to keep whatever emotional turmoil had spiked his blood pressure off his face. "Yes, miss Voorhees. Percy Weasley, fifth year, prefect Clearwater left to go to the toilet two and a half minutes ago."
Annette focused on something just behind Percy's back, though the boy was too frightened to notice anything but the feral smile that had spread across her face. "And why exactly did she decide to pick that particular time to go to the loo?"
"I-I-i-i think that it's because-"
"Finish that sentence Weasley and I will shove your wand up your ass." said an amused voice from just behind Percy's right ear. The newly minted prefect jumped three feet in the air at the sound and somehow pirouetted mid-jump to come face to face with the missing Ravenclaw prefect, who alternated between glaring murderously at him and trying to communicate non-verbal apologies to the two Heads at the same time. "Penelope Clearwater, reporting in."
"Reporting in late, Miss Clearwater." Edmund pointed out to her, rubbing his face and eyeing the pots of tea and coffee sitting to the side of their gathering with badly disguised hunger. "Still, I suppose it's not too bad, since all you've managed to do with that little refreshment stunt of yours is to irritate us even farther as well as cause one of your fellow prefects a large amount of distress and humiliation. Just for these two facts, both you and Weasley are on baby-sitting duty."
"Yes, you both get to baby-sit the most likely sources of chaos and destruction during our little trip through the countryside. Weasley gets to keep the pure-blooded Slytherins in line while you, my dear, are to keep your eyes on Fred Weasley, George Weasley and Lee Jordan at all times during this trip. In other words, if one of them goes for a walk, you go for a walk with them. If one of them goes off to take a dump, you follow them to the toilet. If any of them causes chaos and/or destruction..." And both Head Boy & Head Girl smiled viciously in triumph. "we get to blame you for it! Oh, and if they split up, your priority is to follow the twins. Fred and George rarely split up themselves, so you shouldn't have a problem following them."
Percy's Weasley blush rapidly got replaced with pale skin and a look of abject fear. "Wait, Annette, pick me! I volunteer to look after the twins! It's nothing I haven't done before."
Head Girl Voorhees didn't even bother mitigating her laughter. "Are you kidding me, Percy? I've seen those two run laps around you from the quidditch pitch to the common room! If I put you in charge of looking after the twins, we'd all be dead before we reached the castle. Now, back to roll call. Gryffindors?"
Penelope turned to fellow Ravenclaw Nicole Grimmet, 6th year prefect. "I don't get it" she whispered. "What's so bad about the Weasley twins? I mean, they just pull pranks, right?"
Nicole looked at the younger girl with pity. "Lass," she said, "just last year, those two managed to set carriage 14's portable wardstone on fire." She whispered the last two words to the girl in a tone of fearful awe. "Nobody knows how they did it. To this day, it still baffles the professors so badly that Professor Babbling has told her class that anybody that can manage to duplicate that feat using Runes will get an automatic Outstanding for their NEWT Runes exams."
"Oh, shit" Penelope said slowly, going green. "Oh shit! How am I supposed to stop them doing something?"
Nicole laughed. "Stop them? The best you can hope for is to survive them!" And with that, she walked off to talk to Marcus Flint, who was lounging in a corner and glowering at the Gryffindors.
As Penelope walked out of the carriage, no doubt dazed and angry about what the next few hours of her life would be like, Percy sighed to himself. Somehow, he just knew that she was going to blame him for whatever mayhem the Twins would come up with. This was not how he pictured his attempt at improving inter-house relationships would go today...
In another part of the train, a group of three males and two females eyed each other over a suspiciously expensive-looking tea set. "Right." Male #2, a blonde wearing an incredibly ornate-looking yet somehow understated dress robe, said as he gazed at the two witches in front of him with cold silver eyes. "And just what are you planning, Miss Greengrass?"
A girl with blonde hair, sharp features and dress robes nearly as ornate as the male blonde's trained her hard stare on the boy she'd mentally dubbed 'the victim'. "A partnership. You get the male Slytherin side of our year while I keep the female Snakes in line. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement for both of us."
"That... depends on a few things, Miss Greengrass. Namely your ability to enter Slytherin in the first place, your commitment to our ideals, your ability to command the ladies and what you offer as collateral to ensure that I am not backing a traitor." He very carefully failed to note the look the Greengrass girl was sending him. He was not scared of girls, no matter how hard Mommy tried to scare him off with that 'Talk' of hers.
It's at that point that the other girl in the carriage, dark hair and intense blue eyes eyeing up the three boys. "I am the collateral. Should Daph not live up to her side of the bargain, I am to become part of your retinue."
The blond eyed the girl, a calculating look fighting (and failing) to hide itself from their target's attention. "I already have two bodyguards following me around as well as a number of people willing to play sycophant, you know." He said, waving at the two other boys staring off into space. "So who are you, and what can you offer me that Greengrass would even consider you worthy enough to be used as a political bargaining chip?"
"Davis, Malfoy. Tracy Davis. We met at your birthday party four years ago."
Draco Malfoy, the boy who lived to copy his father's mannerisms, couldn't stop himself from showing an uncomfortable amount of emotion at hearing these words. "The heiress of house Davis? And she's your retainer, miss Greengrass?" At the blonde girl's nod, Malfoy's startled features smoothed out into a toothy grin. "How in the world did that happen? Nevermind. Deal. However, should she follow me into Slytherin, I will want Parkinson."
Daphne just nodded. "As long as I get Zabini and Longbottom in exchange. Tell me Malfoy, why do you want her closer to you?"
"Love potions." The boy's face assumed the neutral stance he'd seen his father take whenever he was faced with something to do with mudbloods. "She is technically my betrothed when I turn sixteen, but she may try to make her move earlier. And the closer I am to her, the less she can hide from me. And why do you want Zabini and Longbottom?"
"I've known Blaise since his mother tried to assassinate mine and my father tortured the Zabini family turtle to death in restitution. We've been best friends since. As for Neville, well, Tracy likes him for some reason."
Tracy blushed in embarrassment. "He's a nice boy."
Daphne just patted her friend and confidante on the back.
"Where to now, boss?" One of the boys who would grow up to be a henchman, just like dear old dad, asked his first ever Evil Wizard boss.
Draco rolled his eyes, trying to delay the answer by as much as possible, hopefully until he'd finished looking through all the cabins in this carriage and was safely located wherever he could brief these two morons on what he was doing. And just why had his father foisted these buffoons onto him? Didn't he give Draco enough chores to do for the year without siccing the least helpful help he could find? He'd begged to take Dobby with him instead, but then his father just put on his pouty frown that led to ouchies and that was, well, that for Draky-poo. Still, he couldn't concentrate on locating someone that looked like a Potter when those two fixed him with such a vacant-eyed stare. He felt like he was being followed by two dead fish transfigured to vaguely resemble human beings. Little wonder that their parents had been featured as muggles in that pureblood pamphlet Father never reads when in polite company.
He lasted for all of four carriages. He was sure that Mother will be proud of the effort when he tells her about it one day. "We're off to find Potter, Crabbe. Daddy has promised be a new broom and a bucket of sweets if I subjugate Harry Potter to the will of the Malfoy family, so that is what we are going to do."
"A bucket, boss?" One of the interchangeable dunderheads asked.
"Yes, a bucket of sweets." the Malfoy heir said, a greedy little leer flitting across his aristocratic face for a second. "But I only get it if Daddy gets Potter." He pointed out quickly when he noticed a strange look cross their otherwise vacant, beady little eyes.
"That is a lot of sweets, boss."
A muffled guffaw came from the carriage behind Malfoy as he stopped and tried to explain to these two what was going on. He turned around and stared at what lay beyond, finding nothing but a few upper years whose names he didn't know staring at the various cabin fixtures in what they hoped was an innocent display. And since he didn't know their names, they were bound to be mudbloods. Mudbloods, yeah. That was it.
He waved off any further questions, hoping beyond hope that they would understand what he was trying to convey. "I know. Now can you please stop calling me boss? The mudbloods are laughing at us."
Vincent Crabbe smiled at the confirmation of his father's words. Crabbe the Elder, known as Richard, had told him that the Malfoys were some of the nicest Evil Masters a boy could train under, always willing to explain things in an extremely loud voice so that they could hear what was being said and being good bosses by asking their minions not to call them boss. "Sure thing, boss." He crowed loudly. These seven years were going to be the best years ever. Gregory Goyle grinned as well. He was probably thinking. Thinking was nice. It felt tingly on his scalp.
"... Nevermind." Draco sighed, trying to put as much distance between himself and the now openly laughing mudbloods as quickly as possible.
"Is Harry Potter here, by any chance?"
"Fuck off, you inbred cunt."
"Well, thanks anyway. And you shut up, Weasley. My mother did not marry her first cousin, unlike yours. All that red hair and poverty clearly wasn't good for the poor woman's mental health, now was it? I would ask if that was the mouth you kissed your mother with, but that's probably what made it dirty in the first place!"
"Hey! Come back here and fight like a man, Malfoy!"
"With pleasure, boss!"
"And to the rest of you, I bid good day."
"Yes?" The dark-haired, green-eyed boy asked, looking up from his current reading material (Uranium: that other Dragon's Blood) into the face of an exhausted, somewhat angry-looking child his own age. He was dressed in expensive robes, but they now looked slightly disshevelled, almost as if he'd gone for a long hike in them. The other two boys flanking Blondie wore what looked like well-worn clothing, but had that look that said that Mr Brain was taking a vacation. "Can I help you? You look lost."
The blonde looked surprised for a second before Harry's senses told him that this kid was feeling a massive upswell of positive emotions, which surprised Harry. He was dulling his senses down until he got used to deploying them in a magical environment, so to feel something like emotions break through that barrier would have taken a lot. "Yes, indeed."
Hermione looked up from her low-key discussion with Neville about the best approoaches to studying magical plants while Neville, upon hearing who the voice belonged to, decided to ignore it and focus on how his companions would handle Malfoy and his... well, friends? He wasn't sure. The Malfoys, Crabbes and Goyles had a chequered history, so gauging whether Malfoy was their leader or whether he was a hostage to one of the other Dark families' bid for factional leadership was always up for discussion. Harry just looked at the boy as politely and expectantly as he could. "And you are?"
"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. To my left you'll find Vincent Crabbe and to my right you'll find Gregory Goyle." Hermione, having encountered the pompous nobility breed thanks to her parents' clinic and her old school's wealthier denizens, took a closer look at the two boys accompanying the lavishly dressed blondie. They looked stupid, but there was something... off. Nobody pulls off looking stupid that well. Especially not when you consider the fact that using the Force, even with the incredibly simplified process provided by wands, was a matter of mental acuity first and imagination second. So either these two were pulling off an act, or... Food for thought, girl. Better keep an eye out for those two. No, what really mattered right now was whether Malfoy was the thoughtful type that intentionally had his right-hand man be right-handed and a leftie as a left-hand man or whether he was just insanely lucky that way. It was hard to tell, sometimes, when dealing with posh ponces.
"Pleased to meet you, Draco. This is Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger. Say hello guys." Both gave a half-hearted wave in Draco's direction, clearly interested in other things. "So Malfoy, what brings you here?"
In response, Draco held out a hand. "You'll soon find out that some wizarding families are better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort."
Hermione snorted, understanding what Draco was trying to do. "Don't worry Malfoy. We've already got a tour guide. We don't need another one."
The hand went down. "What do you mean, 'tour guide'? What is a tour guide."
"Just someone who tells us what's what, who is good, who is bad, why are things done like this, and so on and so forth." Harry said, cutting off his bushy-haired best friend's reply before she got snippy. "That was what you were going to do, right?"
"Yes, that's what I was going to do." Malfoy was at a loss. Father hadn't coached him about how to handle this! "Exactly."
"We already have Neville though." The bushy-haired girl told him. "Though you three are welcome to sit in here if you like."
"Malfoy" Neville said. "Now is not the time for this."
"Oh?" Draco said, eyes starting to glint dangerously as he realised that his offer was being rejected. "And why not?"
"They don't know, Malfoy. Neither of them understands our customs enough to."
"That's a load of crock, you pathetic squib." the blonde intoned maliciously, missing the way the girl suddenly went disturbingly still. "He's the boy-who-lived!"
"Muggle-raised." Neville said, nervously glancing at his two companions in the vain hope that they'd missed the muggle comment.
Malfoy scoffed. "Seriously? The saviour of the wizarding world is as knowledgeable as a mudblood? Please."
"Malfoy. S-stop insulting people." Neville said, having seen Hermione's steadily darkening look everytime Draco said an M-word. "It's racist."
"You truly are little better than a squib, Nev." Draco said. "We're purebloods! You shouldn't be afraid of what a bunch of magic-less freaks can do. It's not like they can do anything. So how do we do this? You get Potter in school, I get him for vacations?"
"Fine, you can have him over for winter and summer solstice celebrations." Malfoy said, shrugging. "I don't think Father will mind that much."
"Hey!" Harry shouted. "It's my life. I determine what I do with it!" Hermione, steadily losing herself in a rage-induced Force stream, barely snapped out of it with that outburst. Though her thought processes were a teensie bit muddled by the raging torrent of white-hot Force she was struggling to vent as surreptitiously as possible, the fact that her apprentice had stood up for himself was a rather odd development.
"Oh please. You may be a half-blood Harry, but you clearly need our help if you are going to be one of us." the blonde contemplated his two companions. "And find you a better class of friends too, I suppose. I mean, our saviour having a mudblood as a friend? As a secretary she has potential, but a social equal? Face it Harry, without us, you'll be stuck as a mudblood too, which is something you don't want."
That was it. Hermione, rather than desperately trying to regain control over her emotions, lost it. Coincidentally, Harry lost his temper around that time too. And in their Force Vision, they could see a heavily concentrated hurricane of force barrelling at the blonde and his two stooges.
"Come on, Jackie. I want to go and find my baby cousin!"
Jackie Flinton, fifth year Gryffindor and newly minted prefect, sighed at her nominal superior's antics. Thanks to Percy "I-can't-keep-my-bloody-mouth-shut" Weasley, she was stuck with Nymphadora Tonks, the hellion of Hufflepuff, as her shakedown patrol partner and she certainly lived up to that moniker.
"And our patrol schedule, ma'am? Aren't we supposed to follow that somehow?"
"Oh puh-leeze. A patrol on the Hogwarts express consists of patrolling up one carriage and down one carriage. And as long as all the students are covered, Eddie couldn't give less of a shit about who goes where. Annette's the one with her wand shoved firmly up her ass, and I have enough blackmail on her to keep that cock-gobbling mouth of hers shut from now until the return of Merlin." She said, smiling at the blush the new Gryffie prefect was sporting. She loved needling the prudes, an emotion that reflected itself in her hair changing to a bright neon blue colour. "Oh, stop it. Look, we just go out and find my baby cousin and then we can go and do the train-wank."
"Train wank-oh, I get it, it's because we're moving up and down a long shaft until we reach the top, right?" Jackie said, pride evident in her voice at keeping abreast with Tonk's innuendo.
"Huh, never thought of it that way. I call it train wank because we just go up and down the train, showing ourselves to be right wankers rather than spending time with our mates."
"Err, right. So what's the name of your cousin, then?"
Tonks grinned. "Harry Potter." she laughed at Jackie's stare. "Yeah, I can't wait to see him! Haven't laid eyes on 'im since I was seven."
"W-wait, you're related? To the boy-who-lived?"
"Yes, as are most of the purebloods on the train. Let me tell you, if Mom hadn't gotten her derriere kicked out of polite society, my christmas card list alone would be absolute murder. As it is, I'm his and that Malfoy brat's cousin, so..." She shrugged. "Just want to see how he turned out before he gets slapped by the faceful of crazy that is Hogwarts, you know."
"Alright." She sighed. "I have to check up on him anyway, make sure nobody tries anything fresh with the new celebrity. Apparently, me dad was helping old man Jackson a few months back when Harry Potter waltzed into the shop. Caused right fucking chaos, that did. And the last thing I want is for something to go bad with the Boy-Who-Lived before us prefects can foist 'em off onto the Porfessor's shoulders." She gestured down the train. "Lead on, ma'am. You're the one with prefecting experience, so shake it like you make it."
"Haha, what? Shake it like you make it?"
"Muggleborn here, remember? Too much daytime TV over summer."
"Really? Did you catch the Doctor Who reruns as well?"
"Sometimes, when nothing better was on. I missed out on the Colin Baker ones."
"So did I. The only shows I was able to catch this summer featured either a time-travelling Malfoy look-alike or that creepy old bloke with the nitro-nine girl. "
"Yeah. Anyway, how's your first day of prefecting so far?"
"Boring. I thought it'd be more, well, more you know?"
"You'll get used to it. Now come on."
The first indication that those outside the so-called Potter cabin had that something was about to go badly wrong was the utter silence. To any dedicated observer of when a high-society pureblooded firstie encounters those of lesser breeding, the events are fairly predictable: pureblood and cronies enter a compartment, pleasantries are exchanged for a couple of seconds, wands are drawn and more mature minds are forced to intervene. Sometimes, blood is drawn, parents are notified and detentions are handed out.
On other, rarer occasions everybody calms down, apologises profusely to one another under the watchful glare of adults and two seemingly hostile groups start to fraternise. When their elders leave, the two groups lapse into an awkward silence, too far apart to actually engage in conversation yet bound by their budding disrespect for the establishment. Rare are the times when these events vary and yet it is often easy to predict when this is going to happen. Either the two groups know of each other, the parents know each other or they are already acting against the establishment and trying to be polite to each other.
In this case, however, things did not follow the above scenarios. Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle entered the compartment intent on locating Harry Potter. They found him in the company of a squib, a toad, an owl and a mudblood.
Dead silence was the only thing that could be heard to those outside the compartment. Ron Weasley, currently on the run from a tarantula-wielding Fred and George, stopped dead as he noticed the unnaturally intense feeling coming from there. Tonks and Flinton, having just entered the carriage, started running towards what felt like an overloading runic cluster about to blow, wands in their hands and finite spells on their lips.
They were too late. An almighty THUMP rocked the carriage as the doors to the cabin started smoking before bulging outwards to an almost impossible degree, the wood splintering and the glass cracking as the strain grew heavier and heavier. Finally, the hinges flew off at odd angles, the zing they made as they flew past the stunned onlookers masked by the CLAP of the door as it collapsed in upon itself and fell to the floor. Half a second later, three unconscious children floated out of the compartment, slowly and serenely, before being dumped onto the ground with a muffled thump.
"A-are they okay?" A fearful voice said from inside the cabin.
"Neville" another, angrier voice growled. "Do I look like I care? They insulted you and Hermione."
"Harry." a distinctly more high-pitched voice called out. "What did I tell you about doing that?"
"Not to do it again." The second voice said, sounding more bashful and subdued than before.
"And so why did you do it again?"
"They were insulting you!" He defended. "I couldn't let them get away with it, you know that. And you did it too! Don't think I didn't notice."
"Apprentice" the girl's voice whispered "I was going to do something a lot less damaging than what you did. Are you saying that we are now the centre of everyone's attention just because you assume that I can't defend myself? "
"No, it's just-"
Smack. "I was serious last time, Potter. Don't do something like that again." A muffled grunt ended the conversation.
Flinton went to check on the three firsties currently knocked out on the floor while Tonks stepped into the compartment. "And what is going on here?"
The pudgy brown-haired boy fidgeted with the hem of his robes, eyes fixed on a point about nine inches above the pink-haired prefect's face. "Err sorry miss, just a bit of accidental magic is all."
The girl in black robes wearing a golden P with a yellow and black background surrounding it looked suspiciously at the door that had been snapped in half and ripped out of its frame by the magic "that's quite a contained area for accidental magic. Almost oddly specific, wouldn't you say?"
And it was true. Normally, accidental magic capable of doing enough damage to tear a magically enhanced sliding door in half would have left the rest of the carriage in dire straits. But nothing was out of place inside the pristine art-deco-style cabin: the trunks were still on the racks, the animals were hanging around, looking cool and the children were normal scruffy rather than disaster survival scruffy.
The bushy-haired girl nodded. "Indeed. Harry rarely manages not to destroy things when he loses his temper. Guess this is just our lucky day, huh?" She smiled at the two authority figures poking around.
The second girl, wearing a P badge with a distinctive red and gold background stood up after examining the Malfoy kid and his retinue. "Indeed. Looks like these three were just stunned by magic, Tonks. They should wake up in an hour or so. The door, on the other hand, is dead." She waved her wand above the splintered wreckage and whistled. "Wow. Pure kinetic force impact? Seriously?"
Tonks went pale. "Myrrdin fucking Emrys. Had that thing hit them instead of the door-" she palmed her face "-kid, you're damn lucky that bit of "accidental" magic didn't actually kill the Malfoy boy or we would have all been in big trouble."
"Right. So now what?" Neville asked, turning to Flinton.
"Now we go and find a healer while we still can. In the meantime, you three have to go and find somewhere else to sit." Jackie said, eyeing the chubby boy with the worried frown seemingly etched on. "And tell them to get their robes on when Tonks has finished manhandling Harry."
"How did you-" He asked, pointing at what must have been a surprising scene occurring right behind her.
Jackie smiled. "I love being proven right. Now look after these three while I go get help, there's a good lad."
He just nodded at the nice prefect while watching a fully grown woman with pink hair squeeing and cuddling her two friends for some odd reason. At that point, nodding was all he could do.
A/N:Finished! Except for a minor Omake I wrote myself. The actual AN is at the end of that Omake.
Cornelius Fudge looked at the pile of documents he and DMLE head Bones were picking through in a vain attempt at catching up on paperwork. Something was decidedly off about this, though. One of the folders in his inbox did not look like any other he'd ever seen.
Picking up the manila folder painted in bold crimson colours and, staring at the heading once more, resorted to something that had defined his political career since his days as an activist; he asked important questions from the closest possible source of information he could find. And, lucky him, he didn't have to look too far to find that source today.
"Amelia?" Cornelius asked.
"What does this colour scheme mean?" he said, indicating the bold red colour stamped across the folder.
"Oh, those. Well, it's just that muggle organisations sometimes use these words to indicate how secret documents should be treated and whether certain people are allowed to see these documents or not."
"Oh, that's good. And why am I only finding out about this now?"
"Well, it's just recently made its way out of the Unspeakables' department, so we have yet to completely integrate it into our administrative protocols. That, and it's better that only the right people know about this."
"Good, good. Very sensible of you, Lady Bones. Since you know so much about this, can you please tell me what these words are supposed to signify?" he asked, his finger indicating a boldly outlined danger symbol with "DOM prophecy division (liaison memo). SBC (Super Bloody Classified) clearance required; do not open until September 12th, 2001." The DMLE head gave a little squeak of surprise.
"Ahahah, minister? Please kindly hand that over to me, sir?" She said, holding her left hand out while her right went under the table and reached for her backup disposable wand. Slightly confused and wary of her behaviour, Minister Fudge handed the envelope over to her. Checking the seals, she sighed and stashed her disposable back in its holster. He hadn't read the contents, meaning that she didn't have to kill him just yet. "Now, these words here, SBC? This indicates that only the head of the DOM is allowed access to this file. And even then, he is not to open it until the indicated opening date. The penalties for opening the file before the indicated date are extremely harsh, sir. Even you would automatically be sentenced to Azkaban for life if you had opened this."
Fudge paled as he contemplated Amelia's words. "You mean to say that I don't have the highest classification in the Ministry? But that's outrageous!"
"Actually minister, you do have the highest classification allowed to either civilians or elected officials. If there was any additional information that you needed to know, we would tell you about it. It would be impractical, after all, if any one person had access to all our secrets, especially one in a position as... volatile as yours."
"Ah, I see. Thank you Amelia. Is there anything else?" Fudge asked, having gotten the veiled hint his minion for the day was trying to give him.
"No sir, all issues are being dealt with."
"Thank you. And can you please tell my secretary to come in here on your way out please?" He asked, clearly uncomfortable with being in her presence right then.
A short time later, in Saint Jiminy's, a magical cafe located across the road from Diagon Alley's dedicated floo connection to the MOM, a rare event was taking place. Lucius Malfoy, Algernon Croaker and Amelia Bones were sitting around and drinking tea.
"Poor Cornelius" Croaker chuckled. "Always was too gullible for his own good. Did you take pictures of his face, at least?"
"Sorry." Amelia said between chuckles. "It's just... Oh, i'll show you in a pensieve later."
"And why, exactly, did you two decide to prank the Minister of Magic into believing that?"
"Budget cuts on my side." Amelia admitted. "That, and I'm spending way too long briefing him on issues when I have my own work to do. At least now I understand why old Barty was so surprised at finding out his son was a Death Eater. Why, even with a peacetime workload it's absolute murder, having to find time for Susan."
"I've known Cornelius since school, Lucius. Even back then, he made it a habit of trying to crawl up both mine and Abraxas' asses on a semi-regular basis. Trust me, if it had been your father in my position, dear old Fudge would have been six feet under the week after the elections taking place. Me, I just needed a legitimate excuse to get him to back off and let me run my department. Now I've got it, now I'm happy."
"And would either of you two mind if I steal this little excuse of yours? I must admit that, between him and my Wizengamot duties, being able to prioritise is a... trying task." he said with the trademark drawl of Malfoys everywhere. Amelia just merely smiled.
"Why of course, Lucius. Be sure to use it on The Toad at your earliest convenience, too. Dealing with that bitch makes me sick."
Lucius's eyes lit up. "Why of course! How could I forget about dear Dolores? If anyone should be kept clear from state secrets, it would be her. I will be sure to do you this favour at the earliest opportunity, Madame Bones, rest assured of that. And now, if you'll excuse me..."
"Goodbye Lord Malfoy."
"See you during the next wednesday session. Oh, and remember to brief Nott and Parkinson on their duties, okay? It wouldn't do for the two new assistant secretaries to the Supreme Mugwump to not know anything about their assigned positions."
"I'll make sure of it, Algie. Now, as much as it pains me to love you and leave you..."
A couple of minutes later, after enjoying a nice cup of tea liberally doused with hard liquor, the two career fighters went to work warding their table.
"Right." Croaker said in his professional voice. "Do you think he bought it?" Bones punched him in the shoulder. "Oy! Be careful, I am a delicate old man, I shall have you know! What was that- oh, you're angry at me, explain." he asked.
"Graaandpaaa! Do you know just how fucking close I came to having to terminate the current minister of magic because of your bullshit?" She asked in a heavy Yorker accent. "This close, Algie!" she held out her thumb and forefinger out for him to see, the two very close to touching each other. "This close. And how would I have been able to look after my dead sister's child while I was enjoying Hotel Azkaban, pray tell? You? And how long do you think you'd have lasted?"
"Ah. This is about the SBC clearance folder, right?"
"Yes, it is!" she shouted at him, his pose indicating embarrasment and apologies on the way while she looked like she was on the verge of snapping and attempting to stab him with her teaspoon.
"Look, even if you would have had to initiate cleanup protocols, nothing would have happened to you. Officially, you were on the other side of Europe at the time, attending a dinner held in the honor of the head of the Siberian MLE division. There would have been a bunch of high-ranking officials willing to swear that you were right there speaking to them at the time when Cornelius Fudge misapplied a cheering charm to himself and died of a heart attack brought on by a happiness-induced orgasm." He shrugged his shoulders. "You were never in any danger, Amelia. As for that folder, it was booby-trapped anyway. Had Fudge's curiosity gotten the better of him, then you would have walked in on what was left of Fudge dripping off the walls and ceiling."
"Why did you do this?"
"Technically, it's above your paygrade. But, given that you were involved in this, the simple answer is that I needed to know whether or not Cornelius Fudge could be trusted enough to know his boundaries."
"Ah, okay." She sighed. "Right, thanks for telling me." The sarcasm in the tone was not lost on the elderly head of the Ministry's secret services division. "Just don't do that again without telling me that something was going on next time. As for your original question, yes, Lucius bought it."
"I'm relieved. If he ever found out about the actual secret files..."
"I understand. Thankfully, he's still the most obvious Slytherin I've ever met."
"Well, of course he is. He was top dog in Slytherin back when he and you went to school, right?"
"Yeah, even in first year he was a massive dick to non-Slytherins. I still don't understand why my sister liked the guy."
"She certainly grew out of that phase, didn't she?"
"Mostly, though I think that it was only the rumour that he was the one that offed that husband of hers that broke the crush."
"Not earlier? Wow." He was surprised at that. His other grand-daughter had been such a sweet and sensible girl whenever he was around, he sometimes forgot that she'd also been the hellion amongst that generation in the Bones household.
She shrugged. "Bones girls have a thing for bad guys. I think that's why so many of us end up working for the aurors. It either snaps us out of it or allows us to put them in a cell and keep at our mercy until they break and put that ring on our hands."
"Heheh, yeah, good times those. Your grandmother was a minx in bed, let me tell you."
"Eww, grandpa! I really didn't need to know that!"
"And I didn't need to be reminded about the real reason my daughters, grand-daughters and likely my great-granddaughters are bloody policemen rather than following the Croaker's noble tradition of pursuing the more, ah, active forms of government service. So much potential wasted because you girls have a thing for criminals in spiky black leather pants..." He shrugged. "Now we're even."
"Fine, be that way. Just remember that, once upon a time, you were the one in spiky black leather pants." She laughed at her grandfather's blush. It wasn't often that they got to do this anymore, which was a pity. Needling each other was so much fun. Still... "Look, I'm going to be late tonight. Can you tell Wincey to bring me some food at around nine?"
"Sure thing. And remember to owl Susan before saturday, she's probably scared stiff in Albus's little institute for the advancement of the offspring of inbred morons." She nodded, smiling at his description of Hogwarts. A year or so ago, she would have taken him to task over that. However, any thoughts of protest died with the arrival of John "foot-in-mouth" Dawlish.
"And grandpa? Why put Cornelius and me through this?" she interrupted his coming tirade hastily. "Look, I know that that confidence thing is bullshit protocol. I find myself having to indulge in a spot of it too, on occasion. So what brought this on?"
"Well..." he ran his hand through his short-cropped hair. "Remember Millicent Bagnold?"
"Yes, previous minister of magic, currently enjoying retirement in the Carribean, hasn't been seen in five years. Why do you ask?"
"Well, six years ago, ex-minister Bagnold was caught selling state secrets and charmed portkeys to the Magical Soviet Union for 75 million Galleons." Amelia winced. "Exactly. Had we not caught her in time, that little deal would have culminated in either World War three or the total annihilation of NATO in a crippling opening strike from the magical side of things. Ergo, she didn't take a trip to the Carribean." He smirked darkly at her. "No, not at all. She's been put somewhere... completely different. That's why we are conducting these checks. Oh, and just so you know, this is Bloody Classified. If you breathe one word of this to anyone-"
"I'd better AK myself before you catch up with me, I know." She snorted as she struggled to regain a bit of colour on her flushed face. She absolutely hated stories about the Cold War her family got involved in sometimes. Voldemort was one thing, but facing Armageddon with only the kind of people accepted in the ranks of the DOM (brilliant, scatterbrained, slightly unhinged and without any morals at all) was something far more terrifying to her. "Well, I'd better get going gramps. Tomorrow, usual place, same time, same order?"
"Same time, same order. Love you, Amelia. And say hi to little Susie from me."
"Will do. Bye!" And with that, the Head of house Bones, the ultimate badass British Auror, commanding close to a hundred fully trained law enforcement officers and possessing a literal licence to kill, hugged her elderly grandfather and skipped over the counter to pay for the pot of tea. He could still hear her apologising to the maitre d' for warding her table with active MCM defence wards, which made him smile. So much like her mother, that one. Ah well, back to work...
The time he thought this happened to coincide roughly with the moment when the ministry was informed that Gringotts had been burgled.
A/N: "Myrrdin fucking Emrys. What the hell was that?" Well... I got enthusiastic again? Sorry...
Malfoy survived because the two sets of 'accidental magic' clashed with each other, partially deflecting away from their target. Unfortunately, the magic grounded itself on the door, overloading whatever enchantments were on it. And that's all I'll say on the matter.
And yes, Draco in this fic is... odd. He's trying to reconcile his starved pre-teen brain with the extensive coaching his father has given him since he was eight. Though he is a good actor, his private thoughts are a lot less developed than his classmates' are for the moment. Hogwarts will help.
"rumpitur" spell: latin for blast (literally, I typed blast into Google translate to get this), releases either a small crack of displaced air when cast at low power all the way up to a minor thermobaric blast when overpowered by a wizard of either Dumbledore's or Voldemort's caliber.
MCM: Magical Counter Measure, class seven magical defence system spell-set, designed primarily for disabling and incarcerating trespassers. Engineered to be cast quickly and surreptitiously, MCM defence spells and mobile wards are a versatile and effective means of rendering an area secure from any and all magical forms of espionage and stealthy intrusion. Though tested extensively on wizards and witches, the effect MCM spell-sets have on other magical creatures is largely unknown, though werewolves are known to be largely unaffected by anything but the most powerful MCM sets.
My prefects list:
Gabriel Truman-Hufflepuff, y5
-Mervyn Wynch-Hufflepuff, y5
-Ross Gibberd-Hufflepuff, y6
-Ivana Renshaw-Hufflepuff, y6
Nymphadora Tonks-Hufflepuff, y7
- Ross Matthewson-Hufflepuff, y7
Robert Hilliard-Ravenclaw, y5
Penelope Clearwater-Ravenclaw, y5
- Robert Hawking-Ravenclaw, y6
- Nicole Grimmett-Ravenclaw, y6
- Edmund Spiers-Ravenclaw, y7 (Head Boy)
- Felicia Brunt-Ravenclaw, y7
Percy Weasley-Gryffindor, y5
- Jackie Flinton-Gryffindor, y5
- Simon Dedworth-Gryffindor, y6
- Annette Sterndale-Gryffindor, y6
- Cyril Meakin-Gryffindor, y7
- Annette Voorhees-Gryffindor, y7 (Head Girl)
Gemma Farley-Slytherin, y5
- Alex Strump-Slytherin, y5
- Marcus Flint-Slytherin, y6
- Daedara Rosschester-Slytherin, y6
- Antoinette Friesinger-Slytherin, y7
Anthony Delocious-Slytherin, y7
Took the prefects' names from the HP wiki. There is a whole list of prefects that popped up for POA, and the rest of them were made up by me. Some will be featured regularly, but won't be part of the main plot, so don't worry.