Bob leaned over the prone Alyx and watched her eyes flutter open. He quickly hid the smelly sock he had been waving under her nose.
"What? er. No, it can't be! Another chapter of Mutant Storm? How the hell did that happen?" she exclaimed groggily, then the smell hit her and she turned a wonderful shade of green.
Behind Bob, the sock he tossed landed in a corner with a meaty thud. It still contained the foot of random annoying reviewer number 7.
"Well yeah, I know," Bob said sheepishly. "It came as a surprise to even me when it appeared on my computer all by itself." Bob paused and scratched his head. "For some strange reason it was originally written in Klingon, but I translated it."
Alyx eyed the file in awe and nodded happily. She had been nagging, well not really nagging, more like whining for this file for a while now and simply refused to believe Bob when he claimed he was letting his creative juices ferment.
The last time he allowed his juices to ferment, Alyx woke with a whale of a hangover, and a tattoo proclaiming her to be USDA grade on her buttocks.
"So what's left to do?" she asked.
Bob leaned closer. "We need to tell the people that we don't own Harry Potter."
Alyx smiled brightly and turned to the nameless audience. "maH ta' ghobe' ghaj Harry Potter!"
Bob tiredly wiped his face and looked at his bride. "So you're the reason why the file was in Klingon?"
Alyx's smile slipped and she slowly edged back. "Um.. no, not me. I was.. um... busy hot tubing with Snape! Yeah!"
Bob grinned and pulled a Federation Mark IV Phaser rifle out from under his seat. Alyx squeaked and dashed for the edge of the stage.
"And now for the next installment of Mutant Storm, enjoy folks," Bob muttered, then he fired off a shot in Alyx's general direction.
Taking a Stand.
The Great Hall...
The next morning paid witness to the Slytherins coming in and glaring at the rest of the student body with hate filled eyes. Snape was absent from the staff table.
Dumbledore watched passively, while Jean and Minerva both watched warily. There was a tense undercurrent in the hall that was impossible to miss. Jean could sense that the Slytherin boys were boiling mad about something and they were only a hair trigger away from open fighting in the hall.
Harry hunched his head lower at his seat and motioned towards the Slytherin table. "I don't think they appreciated the stink bombs," he said softly.
Ginny smirked at him. "Even the girls don't seem that happy about it."
Ron looked up from shoveling his breakfast down his throat. "Hunh?"
"Brilliant, Ron," Neville commented with a laugh.
Harry relaxed and watched Neville and Hermione explain that the Slytherins were pranked last night. He was surprised and exceedingly grateful when they omitted how they had carried off the prank. He shot Hermione a grateful glance and she smiled back at him.
He was about to say something when Jean sat down next to him.
"Mr. Potter, I've checked your schedule and I notice you have three periods free this morning. I would like you to use that time to work on that project you discussed."
His eyes widened and he turned to look at her, lowering his shields enough for her to get through.
"Malfoy has a double potions class this morning. I've told the Headmaster that you need to leave the castle during the morning as part of a project you're doing for Professor Xavier. You're attending a two hour lecture on engineering and ethics," She sent him, then she paused for a moment and widened her connection enough to send Harry a memory of a similar lecture she had once attended.
He blinked and slowly nodded. "I'll work on it, Professor," he replied. He knew his cover story would annoy the old man, who hated the idea that Harry might be allowing others to influence him.
She nodded and handed him a small bag. He reached in and pulled out a portable GPS unit with a built in compass. He smiled.
Jean stood. "Have a good morning everyone."
"Bye, Mum," Harry said softly, as he examined the unit she'd given him. It was similar to one Logan had shown him how to use over the summer when they went running through the woods.
"What's that, Harry?" asked Ginny.
She was leaning against him and he was acutely aware of her breasts pressing against his arm. He knew just from her emotions that she was curious. She wasn't really trying to tease him. For some reason, that made him feel even better about their growing relationship.
He laid the unit flat on the table and turned the power switch to on. "This is called a Global Positioning Receiver. With this unit and a map I can tell you where we are to within a few meters, anywhere on the planet."
Hermione leaned closer, her eyes glued to the small display. It had finished it's power up cycle and was actively seeking reference satellites.
"Even here? Protected by magic and Muggle repelling charms?" Hermione asked, her eyes were glued to the tiny LCD screen.
Harry waited as it found first one, then two reference satellites, beeping with each contact. On the display, the numbers stopped changing, and settled down into a fixed display.
"Are you beginning to see the danger now?" he asked pointedly.
She looked up from the unit and his gaze caught hers. She nodded unhappily.
"I don't understand," Ginny complained.
Harry turned to Ginny and took one of her hands in his. "With this device, I can find out where I am, anywhere on the planet. That means that a Muggle can find this school, even with the Muggle repelling charms and wards.
"My home, Blackmoor Castle, is under a fidelius charm that is protected by Gringotts."
Ginny nodded uncertainly. She knew that a goblin held fidelius was one of the strongest hiding charms in existence.
"Do you remember seeing the Blackbird parked out in front of the castle?"
She nodded, then her eyes widened as she realized the implications of what he was saying. "You can break the charm?"
He smiled and shook his head. "No, we didn't break the charm. It would be more accurate to say we bypassed it using Muggle methods. It would not shock me to know that the Muggle Government already knows that Hogwarts is here. They may not know what it is, but they know it's here."
Harry paused and looked at the others. "Ginny is taking Muggle Studies, like I am, although I need it for different reasons than she does. Hermione is a Muggle born, although possibly is only now coming to understand what I've been saying. Ginny, what is the underlying message my mother has been teaching this term?"
Ginny eyed him doubtfully for a moment. "That we can't hide forever?" she asked, unsure of herself.
Harry smiled. "That's the message. The wizarding world can't hide much longer. So, the choice is up to you. You can ignore it until it all comes crashing down on your heads, or you can be ready for it, prepared for it and ready to accept it."
Harry drained his drink and stood. "If you think Voldemort is a problem, wait until you have four and a half billion people looking at you with envy and jealousy. Voldemort will seem like a kitten in comparison."
He reached over and turned off the GPS unit, then slid it into his book bag. "I'll see you at lunch," he said.
His friends watched him get up and walk away, then they turned to Hermione.
"What was that all about?" Neville asked.
Hermione sighed. "I don't want to believe him, but he may be right."
"Professor Summers is convinced of it," Ginny added.
"Convinced of what?" demanded Ron.
Ginny looked at him. "Professor Summers says that within our lifetime our world will be discovered by the Muggles and that if we don't do something about it now, we risk being destroyed by them."
"What can we do?" Neville asked nervously.
"What can a Muggle do against wizards?" Ron scoffed.
"Trust me, Ron, you may be a powerful force when you're holding your wand, but without it, you're lost. You have no clue how to fight without a wand and the Muggles do," Neville replied seriously. "Harry's been showing me things in the morning, like how to fight with out a wand, and I'm not so sure I'd want to fight a Muggle. You only stay for our morning run, so you rarely see more of what he's been teaching me."
"The Muggles are even better at killing people than Voldemort is," Hermione said softly. "But what can we do about it?"
"Harry says the way to do it is through something called economic warfare, but he hasn't explained what he means," Ginny replied. "I'm like my father. I find Muggles fascinating and I'm trying to learn more about them. So when Harry talks about Muggle stuff I tend to pay attention. Merlin knows I love dad, but even I know there's more to being a Muggle than plugs and batteries."
"You know," Hermione said thoughtfully, "Harry may be right."
She blinked at the collective blank stares and sighed in exasperation. "Look, it's not difficult. What he and Professor Summers are saying is that we can't hide for much longer. Right?"
She paused and they nodded. That part they understood.
"Right, so Harry is saying make it worth their while to leave us alone. If the wizards were to supply something that the Muggles can't get, then they'd be forced to let us live our lives our way."
"Oh, this is absurd," snarled a voice from behind them. "Ten points from Gryffindor for talking about such nonsense."
Hermione and Ginny looked up to stare at Snape, who was glaring at them.
He used the opportunity to try a little discrete Legilimency on Hermione.
She frowned and shook her head, then she glared back at Snape, who had hit her shields. They weren't perfect but they were strong enough to keep him out as long as he was performing the spell wandlessly.
Snape's eyes narrowed and Hermione smiled sweetly at him.
Jean, up at the staff table, noticed what was happening. A quick peek inside Hermione's mind convinced her to take some action.
"Aquamenti!" shouted a voice from the Slytherin table. The Gryffindors dove out of the way as the stream of water from Blaise Zabini's wand hit Snape in the back of the head. Jean tried to cover a smile, but the fact was she had been tempted to seriously maim the boy. She had winnowed through the Slytherin boys until she found that Blaise had been the one to throw the killing curse at Harry.
Harry's reaction when she told him was one of calm acceptance. He had expected that one or more of the Slytherins might mean to involve him in more than casual school yard fights this year. On the other hand, he was extremely pleased that she hadn't held it back from him.
Snape whirled in place, the stream of water continued to splash against him. He sputtered. "Zabini!" he roared.
Blaise stared at his wand for a moment, unsure of what was happening, then canceled the spell. Looking at Snape, he winced when the furious man stalked toward him, sputtering in rage.
Hermione turned to eye the staff table speculatively and Jean winked at her. She shook her head in amazement and considered the possibility that Jean was capable of controlling anyone she wanted to.
"Capable, perhaps, but only when absolutely necessary, Miss Granger," a voice said clearly in her head. "And stopping that snake from probing your mind seemed like a necessary thing."
Hermione gripped the table and her eyes bulged. Had her shields failed? Then she remembered that Ginny had told her that Occlumency had no impact on mutant abilities.
Ginny looked at Hermione and smiled knowingly. "We'd better get to class," she said, standing up. She could clearly here the sound of jet engines whining in the Great Hall.
Blackmoor Castle, English Channel...
"Storm? Are you still there?" crackled a speaker.
Storm sat up and reached for her headset, placing her magazine down on the console.
"I'm still here. Where are you?" she asked.
She looked up and waved when Logan and the Professor entered the control room.
"I'm at some place called An Groban on my map. The GPS says I'm at 57 degrees, 40 minutes, 57.32 seconds north, 4 degrees 10 minutes 59.35 seconds west. Let me know when you've got that copied down," replied Harry over the speaker.
"Hasn't anyone told him we have a GPS tracker on his jet?" asked Xavier with a smile.
Logan shrugged. "It never came up and it is in the manual. Maybe it never occurred to him."
Storm looked up from writing on a pad. "All right, anything else?"
"Yeah, the vector from this location is on a bearing of 138.265 degrees."
Storm shrugged and wrote down the numbers. Logan reached over and flipped a switch. "Hey, Wiz, what's with all the numbers? Don't tell me you're going all brainiac on us."
"Storm knows what I'm doing, Logan."
He glanced over to look at Storm, who was busy with a computer console.
"Humor me," Logan replied.
"We found a vanishing cabinet at Hogwarts. It's disassembled and it's being slowly reassembled by a Death Eater pretending to be a student. Storm is helping me locate the other cabinet."
Storm looked at her screen in surprise, then she keyed her headset. "Harry, this is going to London. The satellite map clearly shows the street and the building, but there is no street address. It's as if there's no address for this area. Hang on, I'll check another database."
Logan leaned over Storm's shoulder for a look at the satellite photo, then pressed his mic button again. "It looks like it's just off Diagon Alley, Wiz." He released the button and glanced at Storm for a moment. "Don't bother looking. It won't be in any database we have, but the Wiz should be able to figure it out."
"Knockturn Alley," Harry replied. It was possible to hear the whine of the engines in the background this time. He was heading back to Hogwarts. "Knockturn is where you want to go if you want to learn Dark Arts, or just hang out with your Death Eater friends. Storm, can you send my Mum and Dad copies of that map with the location highlighted?"
"I'll do that now, Harry, and I'll send a satellite image as well," she replied, flipping a switch on the console.
Xavier nudged Logan and he handed the Professor a headset. "Harry, what is the significance of this?"
There was a moment of silence. "A vanishing cabinet isn't really vanishing, sir. Think of them as linked portals; step in one cabinet, come out the other. When this baby is complete, the Death Eaters will have a back door into Hogwarts. We could have a hundred Death Eaters in the castle before we knew it."
Xavier scowled. "Why has Dumbledore not told us about this?"
There was a long silence from the speakers. "Damned if I know, Professor. I and a select few know about it. I have trouble believing that he isn't aware of it. For all I know, he's simply ignoring it. He's been turning a blind eye to the Death Eater activity in the castle since the school year started. But that won't continue for much longer."
Xavier frowned. "What do you mean?"
The speakers crackled and they could hear the open circuit, but Harry didn't say anything for a moment. "Professor, I didn't want to come back here. I would have been very happy to stay in New York and learn what it's like to be a normal teenager. All right, a normal, mutant teenager. I wanted to stay in New York, but everyone kept telling me that I couldn't run from Voldemort.
"If I'm going to be stuck fighting this war, it's going to be fought the way I think it should be fought, and that means I'm not taking orders from Dumbledore. He's put the entire staff and student body in danger by allowing those Death Eaters into the school, and he's deliberately ignoring what they are doing. Frankly, sir, if you ask me, I'm not sure which Dark Lord I'm supposed to kill, Voldemort, or Dumbledore."
He paused and they could hear the sigh. "Honestly, Professor, do you expect me to sit back while he allows an army to be assembled in this school right under my nose?"
Xavier looked up to see Scott entering the room. Scott had heard most of Harry's comments. "I meant to tell you about that, Charles," Scott said.
"What are you going to do, Harry?" asked Xavier after acknowledging Scott's comment. He waved Scott over to one of the chairs.
"I'm going to organize the non-Death Eater students so they can protect themselves. Then we're going to clean house. Hold on. I'm coming up on an RAF base and I need to skirt around it."
Xavier swiveled the chair and looked at Scott. "Well?"
Scott shrugged his shoulders. "Those kids are in danger, Professor, and Dumbledore is refusing to do anything to fix it. He's got this high minded notion that everyone should be given a second chance except, strangely enough, Harry.
"Harry's fed up. His contention is, if this is his war to fight, then he's going to fight it the way we taught him, not the way Dumbledore wants it fought. I told you Dumbledore was upset about those Death Eaters you had Storm take care of. Harry was afraid to tell you about it because of your beliefs. He thinks that, sooner or later, we mutants will have to take a firm stand. He's not advocating Magneto's ideas, but he definitely thinks it's time to make the normals acknowledge our rights as people."
Xavier frowned. It was a common complaint and he had heard it a hundred times before, mostly from Logan, who seemed to be one of his looser cannons. Considering how Harry admired the man, it wasn't a stretch to see him adopting some of Logan's ideas.
"Does he have any idea of how to accomplish this without resorting to genocide?" asked Xavier.
Storm watched the conversation between Scott and Xavier with interest.
Scott chuckled. "Well, he rejected Logan's idea of several nuclear weapons."
"That's a relief," Xavier muttered dryly. "Well?"
"He does have an idea, actually. One which he thinks even the wizards can use. But my explanation wouldn't do it justice, so you'll have to wait for him to explain it," Scott replied. "I'll admit I think it has a shot of working, and it's peaceful and non-threatening. When he first explained it to me I thought it was impossible, but the idea just may work. If it does, he'll be buying recognition for Mutants and Wizards."
Xavier nodded. "All right, I'll withhold judgment until Harry explains it to me. But I want you to make sure Harry keeps talking to us, either you or Jean. I want us in the loop. There are nearly five hundred students in that school. I want to avoid making this into a three way war, if possible."
"Got that covered already, Professor," Logan said. "He's been talking to me about tactics and other things they can do, and he's talking to Jean or Scott nearly every day."
Xavier nodded, then turned back to the radio console. "Harry, I'll agree to go along with this, provided you are willing to listen to our advice. You and I are going to have a long conversation one of these days."
"Professor, you and my family are about the only people I'm willing to listen to at this point. Let Dumbledore handle his little Order and the hunt for the Horcruxes. But if so much as a single student is injured, I'll do my best to ruin him."
"Ruin? Not kill?" Xavier said, looking up at Scott.
Scott grinned at him. "Harry feels that the Ministry isn't the only one that can run a smear campaign. He's not about to do anything unless Dumbledore refuses to cooperate. What Harry wants is simple; Dumbledore and Death Eaters out of the school. Let Dumbledore find and deal with the Horcruxes and leave the actual fighting to us."
"Us?" exclaimed Xavier.
"Honestly, Charles, you did insist we convince him to come back here. And you did get involved with Dumbledore's schemes. Jean may disagree, but Harry's an X-Man, like the rest of us, even if he doesn't have a uniform. Harry's involved, that makes it our business."
Xavier nodded slowly.
The radio crackled again and then Harry laughed before speaking, "Tell Hank his new radar spoofer works like a charm. Right now there's a flight of four RAF Tornadoes chasing ghosts heading away from me."
"That's good to know," Logan said, chomping down on his cigar. "Hank's supposed to put that modification into the Blackbird next week."
Logan turned to Xavier, his eyes alight.
The Professor shook his head and held up a hand. "No, I will not arm the Blackbird, so stop asking."
Scott and Storm grinned. Logan made that request at least once a month.
"I'm about three minutes out from landing, so I'm signing off," the speaker blared.
"Be careful, Harry," Storm replied.
The Great Hall...
Harry walked in a few minutes late. The sound of his jet landing drew attention to him and he nearly groaned, seeing Malfoy nudge Zabini. Soon gentlemen, he thought. As Logan would say, the kid gloves are coming off.
He walked down the aisle and sat down next to Ginny, then he reached into his book bag and pulled out a single sheet of paper. He had stopped by his Mother's office before coming to the hall to print out a copy of the photo-map Storm had sent to them.
He placed the photo down on the table and slid it to Hermione. She glanced at it, then snatched it up. "This is..."
"It is, isn't it," Harry commented dryly.
Hermione shook her head and huffed at him. "All right, Harry, we get your point. Now please stop rubbing it in?"
Harry blinked, suddenly feeling a little ashamed of himself. He had been feeling rather smug.
"What are you two talking about?" asked Ginny in confusion.
"It's a satellite photo of London," Hermione said, then her brows furrowed. "And where the cabinet comes out? Knockturn Alley?"
Harry nodded in confirmation.
"I know what that is," Ginny said proudly. "A satellite is a machine in space right? And it's taken a photograph of..."
She gasped when the impact of what Harry had given them made itself clear. Wizarding land and areas were visible to Muggle technology!
Neville leaned back and crossed his arms, frowning at the photograph. He wasn't in Jean's class and had never taken Muggle Studies, which forced him to rely mostly on Hermione and other Muggle born to explain the Muggles. "So, we need to come up with a way of preventing the camera from seeing us, right?"
Hermione glanced to Harry, then she sighed and turned to Neville. "That won't work, Nev," she said gently, then she gestured at the photo. "Oh, you might be able to confuse this camera, but what about the one after it, and the one after that?"
Neville looked at her in confusion. "Isn't a camera a camera?"
Harry leaned across the table and picked up the photo. "That's the problem, Neville. The technology is advancing too rapidly. By the time you have a counter for this camera, there will be a new camera using a new method and your counter won't work for the new camera. And there's always a new one under development."
Neville's frown deepened. "So what is the answer, then?"
Harry smiled. "What?" he asked a few moments later when his friends continued to stare at him suspiciously.
"That look, Harry. You have something up your sleeve," Ginny said softly.
"I do, but I'm not telling just yet," he replied. "I don't want to give away my ideas. I've spoken with my Dad and Mum and Gringotts; they've put me in touch with some solicitors here and back in the States. It will be easier to get the ball rolling there because the Magical government is part of the Muggle government and actively cooperates with them, unlike Scrimgeour and his cronies."
Hermione glared at him. She hated when someone withheld information from her. "All right, but what about that?" she said, gesturing to the photo in Harry's hands.
Harry shrugged. "Unless you can figure out a way of arranging for a surgical airstrike on Knockturn Alley, I'd say there's nothing we can do about it. Anything we do has to be done at this end."
"Can we hex the cabinet on our end somehow?" asked Neville. "Maybe so it injures people using it, or worse?"
"Good question," Harry replied, then he turned and looked pointedly at Hermione.
Hermione reached into her robe in a movement so swift and natural it could have been easily mistaken for magic. She pulled out a small Muggle notebook, a ball point pen and wrote a notation down in her book. She was extremely pleased to see Harry was still relying on her for information, despite her mistake with the cabinet.
Harry smirked at her obvious Muggle items and she blushed.
"I prefer the notebook to using parchments. I understand we use the parchments so we can assemble our own personal grimoire, but really, a notebook is so much easier than using the book binding spells. They smudge my handwriting."
"Merlin knows we wouldn't want smudged handwriting," Ginny said with a laugh.
Hermione's blush deepened when Neville leaned over and hugged her.
Across the hall, several pairs of eyes watched the Gryffindor table, most with a deep seated animosity, but one pair watched them with a desperate hope. The other girls had found help after talking with those four, she thought. I wonder if they'll help me?
"I see Harry has returned from his errand," Dumbledore commented to Jean at the staff table.
"Yes. I told you it would only take a few hours, Headmaster," Jean replied.
Dumbledore nodded and sipped from his goblet. It annoyed him no end that this woman was a blank slate to him. His Legilimency was useless against her, and Harry - a fact which bothered him greatly.
"What was it he was doing again? I can't recall," Dumbledore asked.
Jean smiled tightly. "I never said in the first place. However, if you must know, he met with Professor Xavier to attend a lecture on engineering philosophy."
Dumbledore turned and looked at Jean in amazement. "Philosophy?" That was the last possible thing he would have thought of.
Jean smiled smugly. "Charles feels that, as mutants, we need to be taught to use our powers for the betterment of mankind. To that end, all of his lessons always include some philosophy. Learning when to use or not use our powers is one of the most important lessons someone in our shoes should know, wouldn't you agree? It in this particular case, the lecture was about engineering and the fact that while we might have the technology to do something, that doesn't mean we should."
Dumbledore smiled weakly. He didn't like the idea that Charles was filling Harry's head with ideas that ran counter to wizard goals. Despite all that had happened, he just couldn't believe that Harry might reject the wizarding world. After all, the wizards had given him a life away from the Dursleys for most of the year. Wouldn't he see that as worthwhile?
Blackmoor Castle, English Channel (First Week in December)...
"Do you have a minute, Scott?"
Scott turned and placed the wrench on the bench, then he wiped off his greasy hands on a rag. Behind him on the bench was the mostly disassembled pieces of a landing gear rotor.
Xavier moved his chair a little closer.
"How comfortable are you with this stand that Harry is taking?"
Scott leaned against the bench and folded his arms. "At first I was very uncomfortable, but after listening to Harry, I think he might have a workable plan. Let me ask you a different question. How long do you think it's going to take before a bright analyst at the NRO notices the 'holes' in the satellite images, the areas with no known addresses?"
Xavier scowled. The National Reconnaissance Office was a government agency cloaked in secrecy, that, until recently, had it's very existence denied by the U.S. Government. In all likelihood, they already knew about the holes. The real question was how soon before an outfit like the N.Y. Times or the Washington Post found out.
"All right, so what you're telling me is that Harry and Jean are essentially correct and the Wizarding World is about to be exposed, one way or another. But what does this have to do with Voldemort?"
Scott smiled grimly. "By itself, nothing. Harry's plans for Voldemort are to kill him, then he's going to force the rest of the world to acknowledge the wizards and the mutants."
Xavier looked up at Scott sharply. "How?"
"He's going to make the mutants, and the wizards, into resources to be cultivated. He has this plan that makes a lot of sense, once you think about it. He'll explain it to you next time he's down here," Scott replied. "Right now, he's concentrating on Voldemort and keeping the school safe. But he's planning for a much longer and broader view than just Voldemort."
Xavier nodded thoughtfully. He could pick Harry's plans from Scott's mind if he wanted, but that wasn't his style and his X-Men trusted him to be truthful when it came to his mental abilities.
"I don't like not knowing, but I can wait until he's home. Now what about Dumbledore?"
Scott sighed. "Charles, the man sent him to an abusive home, and he probably knew his Godfather was innocent, as he's the one that cast that Fidelius charm. There's no trust there at all, and the way Dumbledore is pushing Harry, there never will be."
Scott lifted his visor off his face, keeping his eyes tightly closed and wiped tiredly at them for a moment before placing his visor back on.
"Is your visor bothering you again?"
"No, not really," Scott replied with a shake of his head. "It's just that sleeping lately has been difficult. I've been worrying about Jean and Harry and it doesn't help knowing that the danger they're in is only going to get worse."
Charles smiled. "Now you understand how I feel when you are all out on assignments."
Scott nodded. "I guess that's the truth. And it's not helping that Jean wants to start a family. I think adopting Harry has made her realize that she can be an X-Man and still have a family of her own."
Charles chuckled. "Well, then, what are you doing down here? It wouldn't hurt you to spend some time with your wife and son. I seem to recall that it takes two people to make a baby, so unless Jean can do it magically, she will need your help."
Scott laughed and wiped his hands on the rag. "I don't need to be given that kind of order more than once. As soon as I finish up with this rotor I'll leave and contact you when I arrive. But first I want to contact Jean and let her know I'm coming up."
Xavier watched in amusement as Scott all but ran from the room. Shaking his head, he sent his chair toward the door. It was time to talk to Logan about obtaining some heavier ordinance, in case the war heated up. He winced at the thought of what was to come. Logan was going to be so pleased, and his "I told you so's" would continue for years.
Hogwarts, Slytherin Girls Dorm...
Pansy Parkinson was in a quandary. Up until yesterday, she had been a staunch supporter of the Dark Lord. She honestly believed that Muggles were only useful as servants and slaves and Muggle borns would never be as good as pure bloods. That that bitch Granger consistently out performed her only acerbated her ire.
Until yesterday, when her father decided to give her to the Dark Lord as his personal whore. Voldemort had decided that teaching Bellatrix a lot of dark magic had led to her being barren and vulnerable to attack. So he decided he would get an heir off of the Parkinson daughter and keep her ignorant.
Pregnant, stupid and hidden, Pansy thought bitterly. I was queen of Slytherin House until yesterday. Now I'm supposed to take this portkey to the man who will use me like a common whore? This isn't even an offer of a marriage or even a concubinage. Is it Slytherin to submit like a frightened rabbit? I thought the other girls were stupid to resist, now I see my folly.
She looked at the letter that had arrived yesterday, proclaiming her new glorious station in life and she nudged the portkey quill that had been enclosed in the note from her father.
She made her decision, then stood and walked from her room. She couldn't approach Potter directly, but there was one she could approach.
"Greengrass," she said, entering Daphne's room. One of the lesser known facts of Slytherin House was that everyone, fifth year and above, had private rooms. It had been a move made in the fifteenth century and was designed to keep the fatalities to a minimum.
Daphne looked up from her desk. Her hand inched towards her wand.
Pansy tossed her wand on Daphne's bed. "There. I'm unarmed. I only want to talk."
Daphne smirked at the other girl. "I know about your spare, unregistered wand, Parkinson, and the poisoned dagger you carry."
Pansy nodded and reached into her robe slowly. Daphne snatched up her wand and had it trained on Pansy in less than a second.
"Take it real slow, Parkinson. If you're really interested in talking, you won't mind disarming."
A moment later, a short four inch long assassin's wand and a dagger lay on her bed. Also on the bed lay the letter from her father.
Daphne nodded, then she turned slightly and tapped a blue crystal on her desk with her wand. The crystal glowed for a second, then went dark.
"What do you want, Parkinson?" asked Daphne.
"I want out. I know you and Davis have organized the other girls after talking with Potter. I want to be part of that. I don't know what you have done, but I know they are all relieved."
The door opened and Tracey Davis slipped inside in response to Daphne's summons, via their crystals. Instantly, she had her wand trained on Parkinson.
Pansy noted the other girl and her eyebrows rose. "If I didn't know better, I would think you two are afraid of me."
With Tracey here, Daphne reached for the letter that lay on her bed and began to read it.
"No, just cautious," replied Tracey. "Besides, this time last week you were sucking Malfoy's dick and telling the rest of us that we'd better fall in line or the Dark Lord would force us. What's changed?"
"What's changed is that Miss Parkinson has been commanded to be the Dark Lord's whore," Daphne said without glancing up from the letter. "So, now that you've been declared a fuck toy, you can't own up to your glorious destiny and serve your Master?" she asked snidely, finally looking up from the letter.
Pansy flushed and looked down. The words were accurate and cut to the quick. Last week she had been supporting Malfoy and lording it up over the girls of Slytherin. She had expected to marry Draco, and would have, but that plan went down in flames when Bellatrix was killed. The Dark Lord needed a brood mare to get a heir off of.
"I don't want to be used and thrown away," she whispered in reply.
"Now you know how we feel," Tracey snapped back. "You've been trying to talk the fourth years into sleeping with any sixth or seventh year boy since we refused. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Why should we help you?"
Pansy looked up at Daphne, a silent plea in her expression.
"An unbreakable vow, I think, Daph," said Tracey. "If we agree to help her, she has to agree to do exactly as she's told until Voldemort is out of the picture."
"An unbreakable...," exclaimed Pansy. "By that method you could turn me into a street whore for your side."
"We could," Daphne agreed amiably. "And as attractive as that idea might be, we won't do that to you. All we will do is send you to a place and tell you to stay there and contact no one. You'll be safe, if a bit isolated and alone, at least for now."
"You can do that?" Pansy demanded. "How?"
"How isn't something you need to know. You have a choice, Parkinson. We know you're tainted goods; useless to our side, and only good for breeding stock to the other. If we can get you off the table, your going missing will annoy the Dark Lord and probably end up resulting in your father's death."
Pansy shrugged. "So be it. He sold me as a toy to a man who wasn't even willing to consider me good enough to be his mistress. If there is a man good enough out there to have children with, I haven't met him."
"I have," Tracey said wistfully, "and he is far beyond our reach. He's helping us, but has already made his decision as to who he wants."
Daphne nodded slowly, surprised by her friend's reaction.
Pansy sniffed at the idea. No man these two could know would be worth spreading her legs for.
Daphne picked up Pansy's wand and handed it to her. "The vow, or go make babies with that half blood monster you suck up to."
Pansy reluctantly accepted the wand. There was no other choice, really. Either she had to do it the way Greengrass insisted, or she'd been flat on her back letting the Dark Lord have her in a few short days.
"I swear on my life and my magic to do exactly what I'm told by either Tracey Davis or Daphne Greengrass, or whomever they assign in that capacity. So mote it be!"
A small blip of light extended from her wand and circled up around her before spreading out and fading away to nothingness.
Daphne nodded in satisfaction and wondered how she was going to explain this to Harry. "All right, your portkey isn't due to trigger until Saturday night. Leave it with me and I'll dispose of it. Go pack. You'll leave the castle at the scheduled time. There's no one where you're going Parkinson, no one except some house elves who have been instructed to feed and look after you, but won't accept any abuse. There's a library you can use to study. Take your text books and work on your class coursework. Hopefully, you'll be able to take your NEWTS with everyone else.
"At some point you'll be joined by others, but you'll be the first going to the safe house. Don't trash the place, don't try to leave it or contact anyone, and don't try to find out where you are. I'll warn you now that it's goblin warded. If you leave it, you won't be able to come back and we won't help you again."
Pansy nodded and swallowed nervously. The restrictions were tough, but nothing she couldn't live with. Besides, the alternative was unacceptable.
Daphne nodded to Pansy and she turned and left the room. She might be willing to accept help from Greengrass, but she'd never like the silly bitch, she thought nastily.
Daphne waited until the door was closed, then she looked at Tracey. "Did you see it?"
"Yeah. I always suspected she was weak, but that vow response was barely above squib level!" Tracey replied.
Daphne eyed her friend for a moment longer and Tracey began to feel uncomfortable.
"All right, Trace, spill. Since when did you start mooning over Harry Potter?" asked Daphne with a bit of a smirk. She wouldn't dream of admitting that she, too, was finding the new and improved Potter to be quite delicious.
Tracey sighed. "It's too late, I know, but I saw him outside a week ago. It's barely above freezing and he's running around the lake with no shirt on! Poor Longbottom is following him, dressed as if he's in the arctic. And Potter's turned into one very tasty morsel. He was eye candy before, but now I see he has a brain on top of those muscles? Why shouldn't I lust for him? Look at the other guys his age. They look like boys. Potter is a man."
Daphne nodded and agreed with her friend on all her points. "And why is he beyond our reach?"
Tracey looked at Daphne shrewdly. "So you're not an ice princess after all, Daph? Of course he's out of our reach. Weasley has him wrapped around her finger and she's one mean witch when it comes to protecting her property. If she ever messes up and he breaks free of her, I'm going to be all over him like a skin ailment."
"She's not going to mess up with him," Daphne replied. "She knows exactly how good she has it, and the funny thing is, she isn't in it for the power he'll wield, she's in it for him. He loves her and she loves him. He may be too dense to know it yet, but I can guarantee you that little Ginny Weasley knows it right down to her bones. I'm surprised she's not cackling from the top of the astronomy tower because she won the big prize."
Tracey sighed and looked unhappy. "I know. All these years of hearing about arranged marriages and betrothals, you start thinking that real love is a myth. Then suddenly it's happening right in front of your face? I want that too, Daph. I want someone to want to hold me like he does with her. And what's worse is, he doesn't have a single clue.?"
Daphne shook her head. "No, he doesn't, which only makes it all the more special."
The two fell silent, wondering if there was a way they could have something like what Ginny Weasley had.
Muggle Studies Classroom...
The door to the classroom opened and Hermione, Ginny and Neville walked in. Harry looked up from the printer, which was still spitting out the report he had just finished writing.
"What's happened?" he asked. From their expressions he could tell that something unexpected had happened.
Hermione nodded to Neville, who cast a privacy ward on the room. Hermione was reluctantly coming to conclude that, while she was a witch, her strength wasn't in the power of her castings, which were only slightly above normal. She would have been proud of that fact, except that all of her friends were well above the curve, and Harry blew the curve out of the water.
"I received a note from our friends downstairs in the dungeons. It seems that a certain student will be making a one way trip to the safe house this weekend. Her only other option was to become the mother of the heir of the heir of Slytherin," Hermione said smugly.
Harry leaned against the table and looked at Hermione. "And do I know this unwilling mother to be?"
"None other than the Pureblood Princess herself," Ginny said softly, watching Harry. She wanted to gauge his reaction.
Harry scowled. "Parkinson? Are you sure we want to do this?"
"What do you mean?" asked Hermione. His question caught her off guard. She couldn't imagine Harry turning down anyone seeking help.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Think about it, Hermione. Between Parkinson and Voldemort, the gene pool is probably little more than a wading puddle of stagnant water. The only thing she'd give him would be squibs and defective children. Maybe we should deny her any help and let them procreate."
"Harry," Ginny said softly. "Voldemort would kill a squib or defective child. Do you want that to happen to a child?"
Harry sighed and lowered his gaze. "No, not really. It just bothers me that I'm stuck helping someone who truly believes she's better than someone like Hermione. She represents everything that is reprehensible about the wizards. After Voldemort is gone, she's likely to go back to her old moral code."
"Mate," Neville said gently, then he waved a hand including everyone present, "we are wizards, like it or not."
Harry looked at him hard and after a long moment of silence he shook his head. "No, you're not anymore, Nev. You, Ginny, even Luna and Ron to a lesser extent, are moving away from the wizarding norm because of your exposure to Hermione and myself. You're learning things about yourselves and your world which you don't like and want to change. You're moving beyond that and becoming something more.
"When Scrimgeour showed up here, he was going to force me to help him. That was his real purpose and that's why he ordered Dawlish to disarm me before he was even willing to talk to me. What he didn't count on was my disarming Dawlish instead. Scrimgeour can't see beyond his own nose and I'm sorry to say that describes most adult wizards I know. You guys are learning to look beyond your noses and to question what you see."
He paused and his expression hardened. "Pansy is a bigot and will remain one unless someone shows her what happens as a result of her choices. I'll help her, but if she turns into another Bellatrix someday, we will all have to live with that."
"We can't punish people because they have potential to turn evil, Harry," Hermione said.
Harry nodded. "I know, but I can't help wondering if Mrs. Hitler would have smothered the little monster in his cradle if she knew what we know today. I can't help but look at some of these bigots and wonder if that's what we should be doing."
He walked over to the printer and gathered up his papers.
"Mrs. Hitler?" asked Neville.
"Adolph Hitler was the Muggle power behind Grindelwald, Nev," Hermione said with a frown. "He started a war in Europe that killed more than twenty million people. Harry's referring to his mother and asking if she would have killed her baby if she knew what kind of monster he would become."
Ginny shivered and hugged herself. "That's one of the things that frightens me the most about the Muggles. Professor Summers hasn't made a big issue of it, but the Muggles are really scary when it comes to making war."
Harry looked up from his printouts. "You don't have to worry about the Muggles coming after the wizards. Right now, they're more frightened by the mutants, and there are more mutants than wizards. Mother Nature is making changes and it's bound to frighten the established powers."
Hermione gestured to his paperwork. "More homework for your Professor Xavier? I thought you emailed him your homework?"
Harry grinned. "I do. This is for McGonagall."
He placed the papers down on the desk and pulled out his wand.
"Harry, Professor McGonagall will only accept homework on parchment!" exclaimed Hermione.
Harry laughed and performed a complicated wand movement before tapping the pile of paper. They glowed a pinkish yellow for a moment, then reformed themselves into parchment.
"I know," he said. "But I learned how to transfigure the paper into parchment when I took the apparation course in Salem. They use the spell a lot and teach it to all their students. The dorms at Salem have a room where Muggle electronics can be used, and a lot of the students bring a computer to school with them.
"Despite the advances in technology that the Americans are now using, they still want the students to build their own personal grimoires, using old fashioned parchment. I remember one boy who had his hardcopy spell book and another copy on CD. The professors at Salem thought it was a nice idea, but they still aren't quite ready to commit to it."
Hermione's expression became almost feral in appearance. "Harry," she said slowly, "if I were to get you a computer, could you have it adjusted to work around magic like yours does? And could you teach me that spell?"
Harry nodded. "It couldn't be ready for a bit. Hank's swamped, converting enough components to make another Cerebro for Professor Xavier. But if I sent it to him now, you might have it just after Christmas. Most of the stuff goes to one of Professor Xavier's factories for conversion, but a special order has to be done by hand."
"And you'll teach me that transfiguration?" she pressed.
Harry grinned and raised his hands in surrender. "Yes, I'll teach you," he replied, then he turned to the others. "What about you two?"
"I wouldn't know what to do with one of those things," Neville said. "I'm hoping that maybe, after Hogwarts, Hermione might be able to show me more of the Muggle world. I know Gran wouldn't approve, but I think it's important to know more about them."
Hermione looked shocked and very pleased with his answer. "I'd be happy to, Nev," she replied shyly.
Harry turned to Ginny. "Would it hurt if you just showed me how to use yours, Harry? I doubt I could afford to buy a machine like that."
He nodded. He found himself wanting to share this technology with her. "It's not hard," he said. "But learning how to type without tying your fingers into knots isn't easy."
Neville's eyes widened. "You can tie your fingers into knots? No way am I touching one of those compuker things."
Hermione sighed and shook her head. It was clear to her that she had a lot of explaining to do.
"Wormtail, where is Parkinson and his cow of a daughter?"
Pettigrew groveled on the floor. "My l-l-lord," he stammered. "We caught Parkinson and his wife trying to flee the country. Apparently, the daughter never showed up using the portkey he sent her. Instead, Draco Malfoy appeared. He had been stunned, bound and stripped naked."
Pettigrew cowered on the floor, not wanting to tell his master that the Malfoy heir had been tattooed with the words 'Dumbledore's Toy' on his bum.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed and he repressed a smirk. He had deftly lifted the exact details of Malfoy's condition from the worm's mind. Pettigrew had no training in Occlumency and no ability to keep secrets from his master.
"Send for Snape and summon all my servants. We shall entertain ourselves tonight with Parkinson and his wife, and Snape will explain why the cow is still at that school," Voldemort said.
Wormtail winced and nodded quickly. Tonight, Otis and his wife would find out the exact price of failure, and he'd once again wish he had never heard of Voldemort.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...
Snape stumbled and nearly fell to his knees, then he straightened up. He had spent the last six hours first healing, then helping torture Otis Parkinson and his wife Esther, while Voldemort supervised the effort, issuing Cruciatus curses for even the slightest imagined infraction. Merlin help anyone that the Dark Lord suspected of not doing their best.
Snape had been on the receiving end of several Cruciatus curses for failing to anticipate the needed potions, then again for failing to make them quickly enough.
Draco Malfoy had made a brief appearance before being sent back to Hogwarts. It still amazed Snape that the Malfoy line managed to survive with their haughtiness intact. The stupid fool had tried to bluff his way around the fact that he had been captured, tattooed and sent back to Voldemort naked. Voldemort's response was a rather long exposure to the Cruciatus curse and a threat that if he failed one more time, he'd be given to McNair, who had a fondness for young boys and making them scream.
He released the door frame he had been leaning against and staggered over to a small bench just inside the Entrance Hall. There he sat, breathing heavily.
"Ah, Severus. I was hoping I'd see you this morning," said a voice he was coming to hate.
"Must you, Headmaster? This night's meeting was most difficult."
"Did it have anything to do with our missing student?"
Snape frowned. He hadn't told the old man about Parkinson yet.
"As Headmaster, I am privy to many happenings in this school, Professor," Dumbledore said with a twinkle. "Perhaps someday you'll enjoy a similar privilege."
Snape fought the urge to roll his eyes at the man, then he swore to himself. "Tonight's meeting had everything to do with the Parkinson family. Otis and Esther took six brutal hours to die, despite my orders and efforts to keep them alive longer. Pansy has vanished and none of the students know where she has gone."
Dumbledore sighed. "And Draco?"
"He was assaulted and apparently sent to Voldemort's lair in her place. He was also permanently disfigured."
"What about her friends? Surely they must know something?"
Snape gave the old man a pitying look. "What friends? She was the only female supporter of Voldemort in my house and was universally hated by both sides. The girls are rallying around Greengrass and Davis, both of whom are excellent Occlumencers. I don't know what's going on, but the girls are presenting a solid front that I can't crack without drawing undue attention to myself."
Dumbledore frowned. "Yes, that skill is becoming more common of late. I discovered last week that Minerva was instructing several of her students in the art. When I tried to forbid her, she reminded me that any Professor may accept a paid tutoring position and she was being paid to tutor the students. I couldn't stop her without taking that perk away from all of the Professors."
The sound of running feet stopped their conversation and they looked up.
Harry jogged by without so much as a nod, heading for the door and outside. Behind him trailed Neville and Ron. Neville ran more confidently, outfitted in a Nike running suit and a sweatshirt over that. Hermione had purchased the running outfit for for him. Ron, who had just joined them only a few weeks earlier, was bringing up the rear, and puffing like the Hogwarts Express. His outfit had also been selected by his girlfriend, and was decidedly more colorful.
Snape glared at Harry's back hatefully, while Dumbledore looked more thoughtful. All of the students that were learning Occlumency under Minerva were part of Harry's close circle of friends. He was trying to figure out a way to stop the spread of the tutoring, but disturbing rumors had surfaced about Miss Granger instructing the prefects in the art.
Snape turned back to Dumbledore. "Are you going to allow them to leave the school at this hour?" he asked incredulously.
Dumbledore shrugged. "What can I do? There are no rules against the students exercising. They merely run around the lake a few times each morning, usually about this time. There is no harm in their activity and the Muggles swear it does them good."
Snape waved a hand dismissively. "I take it that Granger and the Weasleys are among those Minerva is teaching?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes. I found out about it thanks to Miss Weasley, who has developed an amazing set of defensive shields, including something which gave me a headache that lasted all day. I wanted to know if she had any insight in Mister Potter's thoughts."
"All of Potter's friends," Snape mused. "But not Potter."
"He hardly needs it. What ever technique he was taught has hidden his mind. I can stand in the same room with him and not be able to even detect his mind," Dumbledore reminded him.
"Well, it's not like he has much of one to start with," Snape replied testily, then he scowled and stood. He didn't like being reminded that somehow Potter had managed to foil them using an unknown technique.
"With your leave, Headmaster, I will retire to my chambers to get a few hours sleep. Classes start at nine and if I'm lucky I'll get two hours."
"Of course, my boy. Enjoy your rest," Dumbledore said with a wave. He remained seated on the bench, thinking about the spy who had betrayed them, the boy who had lost faith in him and wondering where he had gone wrong in guiding them.
On the far side of the lake, three Gryffindor's ran, smirking to each other. Pansy had left for the safe house where she would be kept, out of danger, but effectively a prisoner, until the war ended. The fallout resulted in Snape looking as though he had been put through a wringer, and the Parkinson line had been all but destroyed.
Not a bad start to a new day.
The Great Hall, Breakfast (that morning)...
Harry sat with his friends sipping his coffee. It wasn't a drink that was served at Hogwarts, but Dobby made sure that a hot thermos was sent to Harry every morning from Blackmoor castle. Dobby split his time between overseeing the newly hired elves at Blackmoor and keeping discrete tabs on Harry in case he needed anything. It had taken Harry a while, but he had grown to accept that the little elf considered himself Harry's personal elf and nothing anyone could say would make him budge from that position.
He glanced over at Hermione, who was reading a note that Daphne had slipped her. Ginny sat next to him, their legs touching. He found the contact comforting, and a little unsettling.
"She says that the house is in an uproar. Draco came back late last night after being subjected to the Cruciatus curse, and since he came back naked, everyone knows about his tattoo and the Dark Mark."
She looked up from the slip of parchment. "Who's idea was it to tattoo the ferret?"
Harry grinned. "It wasn't my idea, but when Tracy told me they were thinking about using Draco, she mentioned it. I thought it was a good idea at the time. What else does she say?"
Hermione turned her attention back to the note. "She says that Draco's treatment has rattled a few of the lesser committed boys, and Snape came in early this morning to talk to the house. He reminded them that what happens in Slytherin stays in Slytherin. Apparently, he tried to turn Draco's treatment into a recruitment speech aimed at the girls and the lower grades." She paused and shook her head. "Daphne says that most of the girls had to fight to keep from laughing at Snape."
"And the ferret?" he asked.
Hermione shrugged. "She didn't say. But she did discover one little tidbit. Apparently, the boys in her house talk too much, especially when encouraged by the girls. Draco's little project is a high priority for Tom and he has orders to distract you."
Harry blinked in surprise. "Distract me from what?" he asked mostly to himself.
"She didn't say, but she thinks that there is another in the house with different orders concerning you," Hermione replied softly.
"Maybe it's the same one that tried to kill you last month?" Ginny added.
Harry shot her a thoughtful glance, then nodded. He had taken to telling his closest friends what was happening, and had explained about the attempt on his life.
"It could be, but then..."
He stopped. Dumbledore had stood from his seat and was signaling for everyone's attention. The old man waited patiently for the hall to quiet down, then he began to speak.
"Last night, one of our students was attacked and brutally disfigured before being transported out of the castle in a clear attempt to humiliate and shame him. I will not tolerate this sort of behavior and I will expel any student who I find implicated in this. The student in question will now have to suffer through a lifetime of living with the disfigurement that was both crude and cruel.
"If the student or students responsible step forward now, I will not expel them, but rather administer a more lenient punishment..."
Harry's expression darkened and he stared stonily at the Headmaster. The man continued to speak about how he would not tolerate such behaviors and was totally oblivious to the astounded looks the students of three houses were giving him. The Slytherin boys were attacking Muggle born and half bloods nearly every week and he had said nothing. Now, after one Slytherin was attacked and he decided to act?
Harry finally looked away, saddened. He tuned Dumbledore out. The man had said the words that so many didn't want to hear. From his own mouth, he had condemned himself in front of the entire student body.
Ginny sighed and slid her hand into Harry's, lacing her fingers with his. He had told everyone that Dumbledore had strayed from the light, and while most believed him, they'd hoped he was wrong.
Neville turned away from the head table, the disgust evident on his face. "It's up to us then," he murmured.
"It's not enough," Harry whispered.
"Harry?" Ginny asked in alarm.
He shook his head. "It's not enough. Killing Voldemort or learning how to defend ourselves isn't enough. Look at them," he replied, nodding towards the Head table. "With the exception of my Mum and Professor McGonagall, all the others are buying into Dumbledore and his rhetoric."
Harry turned and looked directly at Hermione. Ginny winced and accepted the fact that he'd turn to her first. There was a love between them that transcended mere friendship, but lacked any erotic element. He came to her for advice on many subjects, but when in a group, he'd look to her first as a guide to his moral compass.
"What will the Ministry do if they stumble upon a battlefield full of dead Death Eaters, one dead Dark Lord and a bunch of students?" he asked intently.
He increased the pressure on Ginny's hand, letting her know he understood how she felt about what he had with Hermione.
Hermione closed her eyes, her expression dropped. "I want to say they'd follow their laws, but we know they won't. The most probable thing would be to toss us all in prison."
Harry nodded. "We can't just take out Voldemort. We need to be prepared to bring down everything."
"The Ministry? That's revolution!" Ginny gasped.
Harry nodded. "It's something we have to consider. Especially if we do this with no help from the establishment. Our only other option is the one I took at the start of the summer; leave and let them stew in this situation."
Neville held up a hand and everyone turned to him. "Hold up, everyone. Now, I'm not saying that Harry's wrong, but I am going to suggest that we stop and think hard on this. How about we bring it up at the meeting in two days?"
Harry nodded and let the conversation turn back to more mundane matters. Ginny and Neville had been introduced to videos, and movie night was coming up.
Up at the head table, Dumbledore's words had had a profound effect on two people.
Jean stared at the old man, convinced he had slipped into senility, and Minerva was wondering if it were finally time to contact her friends on the Board of Governors to tell them what was going on.
Dumbledore sat watching the students, hoping to catch a guilty look or two. He was surprised by the level of hostility he felt. Over at the Gryffindor table, most of the students seemed to be totally unconcerned to the point of ignoring him entirely. Harry and his friends were engaged in a conversation, to the exclusion of everything else.
Not for the first time he cursed Xavier for teaching Harry to hide his mind. Taking a deep breath, he began to ponder other ways he might discover what Harry was thinking.
Jean walked through the castle gates and started up the road towards the small village. It was a Hogsmeade weekend and she was one of the staff assigned to visit the village at the same time as the students, in case they needed help from a teacher.
She walked with Harry's friends. They could have taken a carriage, but the morning sunshine was inviting, even if there was a definite chill in the air.
Harry wasn't present. Being unable to take Ginny to Hogsmeade was the one real kink in his relationship with her. While she went with friends, he attended his potions class and did his other work, under the guidance of Scott, Charles and Hank.
"So, you've got your day planned out?" she asked Ginny.
Ginny nodded. "Danya, Collin and I need to do a bit of shopping, then we'll catch lunch at the Three Broomsticks before heading back to the castle. Christmas is around the corner and I want to get Harry something nice."
Jean smiled at the girl. "It must be hard to spend these weekends without him around."
Ginny's smile faltered and she nodded. "It is, but I know he's attending classes," she said, then she paused. "Do you think that maybe we could visit him some weekend? Surprise him? I asked my mum about it and she said that she didn't have a problem, because Harry's dad was there with other adults."
"I think he'd like that a lot," Jean replied with a smile.
She paused in her walk. They were at the edge of town. "I'll let you go off with your friends, Ginny. If you need me, I'll be over in the book store for a while before going to the Three Broomsticks."
Ginny nodded happily and moved away with her friend.
Jean watched the young girl for a moment longer. She was coming to greatly admire the girl who was in love with her son. Ginny was playing a careful game of slowly acquainting Harry with what life was like in a relationship. One of the most notable benefits of their relationship seemed to be the fact that Ginny was capable of helping him with his emotional control.
Not for the first time she wondered if the youngest Weasley might have a touch of empathy.
Jean continued walking, her mind distracted by her thoughts. She never saw the man slip up behind her and stun her silently. Even a telepath can be taken by surprise, especially one that makes a conscious effort not to read the minds around her.
"I thought I might find you here, Miss Granger."
Hermione looked up to see Dumbledore smiling benignly at her.
"Was there something you needed, Headmaster?" she asked neutrally.
"Yes. Would you mind however if we took our discussion to my office?"
Hermione raised her Occlumency shields to her fullest and nodded unhappily. She didn't want to be alone with the man. Her shields were good enough to keep a casual scan out, but she couldn't hold up against a concerted attack.
Dumbledore watched his student gather her belongings and he wondered about her reluctance. If never occurred to him that she might be afraid of what he might do when they were alone.
"Can you give me some idea as to why you need me, Headmaster?" she asked as they walked the corridor.
"I was hoping we could talk about Harry Potter," he replied.
Hermione stopped in her tracks and turned to stare at the man. "Sir, with all due respect, I will not discuss Harry without him being present. Frankly, unless you call Professor McGonagall or Professor Summers, I am reluctant to continue with this discussion or even go to your office with just the two of us alone."
Dumbledore frowned. "I mean you no harm, Miss Granger."
"I'm sure you felt the same way about Harry when you left him with those abusive people," she retorted.
Dumbledore blinked and tried another tact. "Miss Granger, I only wanted to ask you a few questions. Your unreasonable lack of cooperation suggests that you might not be a suitable candidate for Head Girl next year."
"Bravo, Headmaster! Resorting to blackmail is more suited to Slytherin than your purported Gryffindor roots. The role of Head Girl isn't something to be dangled as a reward for cooperation. I wonder what the Board of Governors would say to your using it as a way of blackmailing me?"
She paused and took a deep breath. "I will offer you one piece of advice, sir. Look up what happens to those convicted of aiding and abetting the enemy in times of war. It's the only time the Muggles allow capital punishment in this country."
With that, she turned, her hair swinging behind her and walked away from the astounded old wizard. As she walked, her stomach was filled with butterflies and she expected the old man to curse her behind her back.
When no such curse came, she altered her course. She would report this conversation to Professor McGonagall. She might be part of the staff, but the woman's fairness and impartiality were legendary.
Scott reached for the phone as soon as it started ringing. Since Harry was in the castle, he knew it wasn't him. Perhaps Jean wanted to know something. She did say she was going shopping today, he mused.
"Scott, I've been kidnapped!"
He bolted to his feet and nearly dropped the phone. "What?" he demanded.
There was a moment of silence, then Jean again. "I woke up a few minutes ago with a pounding headache. I'm in a room with no lights or windows. Can you believe it? They took my wand and left me with my cell phone!"
Logan, attracted by Scott's reaction, stood nearby waiting impatiently to learn what was happening.
"Are you all right?" Scott asked intently.
Jean's voice sounded strained. "I've got a pounding headache and I'm still feeling weak from the stunner."
Scott looked up at Logan. "Get a trace going on Jean's phone, now!" he snapped while holding his hand over the pickup.
Logan blinked in surprise, then sprinted from the room.
"Listen, sweetheart, we're tracing your connection, so I want you to keep the line open. As soon as we can we'll be there."
"I'm fairly secure now, Scott," she replied. "They caught me by surprise, but I'm capable of defending myself."
He couldn't help but grin. He knew perfectly well that Jean's powers and her other abilities made her a formidable opponent. He had the bruises from their sparring matches to prove it.
Together, the two talked, trying to convey their love and ease their fear.
Elsewhere in Blackmoor Castle...
"Are you finished with your potions for the day?"
Harry looked up and grinned at Professor Xavier. "Yes, sir. I'm just finishing this potion for now. It needs to simmer for a week. By this time next week it will be a light paste that can be applied to an object, causing it to assume the color and shape of whatever it's placed against."
His tutor was busy working on some paperwork in the far corner of the room. She glanced up and smiled at Xavier, then turned back to her work. Teaching Harry had turned out to be one of the most lucrative tutoring positions she had ever taken and she refused to endanger that job by sticking her nose where it didn't belong.
Xavier shook his head and marveled at the strange concoction. Wizards sure go out their way to invent some strange things, he mused.
He watched Harry cast a spell on the cauldron, then move both the cauldron and the fire over to an alchemical alcove that had been set up to allow potions to simmer for weeks at a time.
"Harry, I'm concerned about some of the things I've been hearing and I would like to know exactly what your plans are concerning the wizards," Xavier said.
Harry nodded and hopped up on the now cleared tabletop. "I figured you'd want to talk to me about it. But you should know, it was partially your idea in the first place."
Xavier blinked and his eyes narrowed. "What was my idea?"
Harry grinned. He rarely saw the man become unsettled. "Do you remember your lecture on the waves of immigrants to the United States and how they became part of the culture, as well as having their own impact on that same culture?"
Xavier nodded, confused. He had used the immigrants issue as an example of how mass migration could be one way of avoiding wars.
"I got to thinking about those waves, Professor. Each one arrived and made a niche for themselves, effectively becoming a power within the greater American community. It's why the Americans celebrate Saint Patrick's day, or Columbus day.
"Each wave of immigrants started at the bottom, but by doing so, they became an integral part of the economy and had they gone on strike at any time, the economy would have collapsed."
"Yes, I see your point, Harry, but unlike the Chinese or Irish, wizards aren't going to spend their days in the fields, or building railroads," Xavier pointed.
Harry waved a hand dismissively. "I know that, sir. I am merely pointing out that, in their own way, each group became a force to be acknowledged in a peaceable manner. I plan on doing the same thing."
"How?" Xavier pressed.
Harry grinned broadly. "By swindling a Death Eater family out of a gold mine they had all but forgotten that they owned."
Xavier stared at him in shock, not expecting an answer of this sort. He motioned for Harry to continue.
Harry slid off the table and walked over to a cabinet. Opening it, he extracted a small vial the size of a test tube. He turned and handed it to Xavier.
"That contains one dose of Pepper Up potion, just one of the hundreds of potions on the list I've put together that work for both Muggle and wizard alike."
Xavier nodded and examined the crystal vial. The vial gave off a faint light of it's own and was warm in his hands. He looked up at Harry inquisitively.
"Two hundred years ago, a wizard by the name of Chester Marius Flint invented the potion and it's been in the Flint family for all this time. Every Pepper Up dose made results in a small fee being paid to the Flint family. You would think that they would be the richest wizarding family around. However, other than the ownership of Pepper Up, their other unique claim to fame is a strong tendency towards compulsive gambling.
"The result? They have debts that not even the residuals of their patents can fully pay off. So when a crazy American company approached them and offered to pay them ten thousand galleons for permanent and exclusive rights to market the potion to the Muggles, they laughed themselves silly and rushed to sign the paperwork."
Harry smirked. "They knew it was illegal to sell the potion to Muggles here in England, and wrongly assumed that it was illegal everywhere. America is changing that, and we'll market the potion under an exclusive license. The lawyers are locking it down tighter than a goblin's fist. It will become the basis for making wizards and mutants an economic powerhouse.
"We'll treat the recipe as a trade secret and we'll position ourselves as the sole supplier. It will take a number of years, but when the Muggles finally wake up to what we've done, it will be too late. We'll own the market on this potion, as well as a number of others, all made by wizards and distributed by mutants."
Xavier looked down at the vial in his hands, then back up at Harry. "But what does it do?"
Harry leaned a little closer. "You hold in your hand the cure for the common cold and most flu viruses. One dose and your cold is gone in minutes."
Xavier stared at Harry in shock. His mouth opened and closed a few time. Finally, he shook his head and a grin started to form. What Harry had in mind could work. If it did, it would be a bloodless, non-violent change to their world. He looked down at the small vial, then back up at Harry. He was about to speak when an alarm sounded in the castle.
Harry looked around wildly. No one had told him about the alarm system and he hadn't been present when it had been tested.
"Relax, Harry. The alarm signals there is a problem somewhere, but it's really a call to assemble everyone in the main conference room," Xavier said, calming the teen.
Harry nodded and took a deep breath.
Xavier swiveled his chair around. "Now, if you'll follow me?"
Harry followed Xavier from the room, leaving his potions tutor still working on her paper work. As much as she was curious, she studiously avoided eavesdropping. Hopefully her employers would be pleased enough to keep her around for more than just tutoring.
Harry and the Professor arrived in the large conference room just minutes after the alarm sounded. He slid into a chair, while the professor hovered into a spot reserved for his chair.
"What's the problem, Scott?" asked the Professor.
Scott looked up from a map that he, Storm and Logan were examining. "Jean called us a few minutes ago. She's been kidnapped by some wizards, or at least she thinks they're wizards, since they took away her wand and left her with her cell phone."
Harry bolted upright and his chair fell over backwards with a crash. "What?" he nearly screamed.
Logan grinned at him. "Relax, Harry. The wizards took away her wand, but they left her with her cell phone if you can believe it. We're tracing down the signal as we speak."
"Trace hell," Harry replied hotly. "I can find her quicker and get her out of there."
Scott glanced up at Harry, then looked over at Logan.
The man shrugged. "It would be the fastest way."
"I agree. Considering what we know about Voldemort's people, the quicker we get her out of there, the better," Xavier said thoughtfully.
"So, then it's settled? I'll go get her?" asked Harry.
"Hold on just a second," Logan replied. "I think we need to plan an appropriate response to this." He turned to look at Xavier. "Don't you agree?"
Xavier frowned at Logan, knowing the man's penchant for violent responses.
Harry looked between the two in confusion. There was a conversation going on between the two men that existed on a level he couldn't understand.
"You know Logan's right, Professor" Scott said softly. "They have sent assassins here to kill everyone, they have tried to kill Harry, and while we sit here, they are holding Jean and preparing who knows what."
"Her kinetic shield will stop a lot, but I don't know if it will stop an unforgivable curse," Harry added.
Jean's shield was capable of turning ordinary air into a solid stronger than steel. They had tested it against several simple hexes and it had held. The problem was that sort of shield required most of her strength and she couldn't hold it for long, or under a continuous assault.
Xavier frowned and rubbed at his head tiredly. "Call her, put her on speaker," he commanded.
Scott nodded and pulled out his cell phone. He pressed a number on the keypad and slid the phone into a small device sitting in the center of the table. Instantly, the sound of a soft electronic chime filled the room. Harry looked at Scott with alarm.
"She's got the phone set to vibrate, not ring. Relax," he said with a smile.
Relieved Harry turned around, picked up his chair and sat down. He couldn't understand how the others appeared to be so calm when his stomach was clenched into knots.
"Scott?" said a voice from the speaker.
Harry released an explosive sigh of breath and Logan grinned at him knowingly.
"Jean, it's Charles," said Xavier. "We're going to send Harry to pick you up, but we seem to have a slight disagreement over what we should do after that. Logan is pressing for some sort of retaliation, but I fear that will only result in escalating incidents between the different sides."
"And doing nothing is exactly what Dumbledore wants us to do!" Harry exclaimed angrily.
"Harry," chided Scott and Jean simultaneously.
Harry grimaced and looked down, his face flushed.
"Charles, as much as I'd like to take the higher road and not sink to their level, I don't think we have any choice in the matter. These people are talking about bringing the war out into the open. I've been listening in on their thoughts and one of them is planning on attacking a school full of children, normal children, just to see how many they can kill before the police arrive."
It was impossible to ignore and anguish in her voice. Xavier was well aware that touching a mind filled with such foul thoughts was extremely disturbing to the telepath.
"The X-Men have never set out to deliberately kill unless there was no other choice," Xavier said softly.
Scott looked down at the table, chagrined by Xavier's words.
"The X-Men have never had an opponent that killed so willingly before either. Voldemort and his Death Eaters love to kill." Harry said, looking up from the table. "I, more than anyone else here, know that, and have lived with that fact."
He paused and looked around for a moment.
"I don't want to kill. I didn't want to kill those Death Eaters at Gringotts, but you told me that killing was all right when it's done in the name of justice. Where do you draw the line, Professor? My mum is being held by Death Eaters. Sooner or later they will come to kill her, or torture her and after that, then what? A Muggle school? The Prime Minister? The Queen? How many have to die before justice can be served?
"You wanted me to come here and now we're in the middle of a war. All I ever wanted is now being threatened. If we let Dumbledore do it his way, we'll leave Mum where she is and hope that someday the Death Eaters will see the error of their ways and ask to be forgiven."
Logan snorted and shook his head. Harry shot him a grateful glance before turning back to Xavier. "We can't just let them get away with this. We need to send a message. A simple one that says 'being a Death Eater can get you killed.'"
"The Wiz has a point," Logan added and Scott nodded.
Xavier sighed and nodded reluctantly. "Jean?"
"I'm torn, Charles. I know that doing nothing is not the answer either," said the voice from the speaker.
Harry stood suddenly and ran his hand through his hair nervously. "Look, we're pressed for time. We can argue the moral points about this later. Right now I want to go get my mum out of that place," he said, then he paused and turned to look at Professor Xavier. "Would it assuage your conscious if we gave them a warning?"
Logan crossed his arms and leaned forward, his expression breaking into a huge grin. "A talking bomb?"
Harry glanced over at him and nodded tersely.
Xavier blew out a heavy breath and nodded slowly. "I can see both sides of this argument and I find neither side satisfies me," he said, then he sighed again. "I don't like it, but I can't see a way out of this. We cannot allow Jean to remain where she is, and the message we send must be unequivocal. Mess with the X-Men at your peril."
Xavier looked to Logan. "Prepare your package. Let them have a thirty second warning."
Logan nodded and stood. "I'll need five minutes to put everything together," he replied, then he turned and left the room at a fast trot.
Xavier turned back to Harry and Scott. "Jean is going to have my head for this," he muttered.
"What?" Jean's voice said from the speaker.
"Scott, get Harry outfitted in full X-Men turnout. If he's going to do this, he's going to do this as one of us."
Scott nodded and motioned to Harry, who followed him from the room. The last thing he heard was Jean's voice and it sounded like she was yelling at Xavier.
Jean paced nervously in the small room. She had closed the connection to Scott and the others a few minutes ago and now was waiting for Harry to arrive.
Xavier had ordered Scott to see that Harry was properly outfitted and she could see the sense in that. The X uniforms weren't just for show. The Kevlar armor and built in electronics gave the wearer protection and communications capabilities.
No, it wasn't the fact that he would be wearing the armor, it was what the armor represented. Only official X Men wore the armor.
She had hoped that Harry would not become an X Man. It was a pipe dream and she knew it from the start, but she always held a little hope that Harry would go on to live a nice quiet life somewhere with a nice girl and raise a family.
Once he put on that uniform, her hopes would die. Once he had tasted the life of an X Man, he'd never want to go back.
She stopped pacing when Harry suddenly appeared, carrying a large duffel bag. "Mum!" he exclaimed softly, then he pulled her into a hug.
She could sense some of the tension drain away from him and she realized that she would always have two men who considered her vital to their lives. She was sure Scott was still feeling the uneasiness that Harry was now losing.
Pushing away slightly so she could get a better look at him, she eyed him critically for a moment. He did look very good in the black leather and Kevlar uniform. She absently noted the comm module at the belt was missing, probably because they didn't have one hardened to work around magic yet. His normal mobile phone wasn't designed to be carried into a fight like a comm unit.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked.
When she nodded, he turned away and placed the duffel bag on the floor. Crouching down, he grabbed a hold of a brightly colored cord and yanked hard on it.
Standing he took her hand.
As they teleported away, she could hear the duffel bag shout.
"I'm a exothermic reaction device! 30. I'm a exothermic reaction device! 29..."
Alerted by the noise, the Death Eaters converged on the room where Jean was kept. It took nearly fifteen seconds to remove the locking charms. When the door was opened, they rushed into the room to find their prisoner missing.
"She had no wand, and this room was secure! Where is she? And what the hell is an exothermic reaction device?" one of the Death Eaters asked.
Harry and Logan had followed Xavier's instructions to the letter. The bomb did warned people what it was. It wasn't their fault that a wizard wouldn't understand the chemical term for an explosion.