This is the sequel to Honor a Hufflepuff, also available on this site. As with Honor a Hufflepuff, Neville Reads the Prophet will continue to be a side story, though not as in the day to day that it was with Honor a Hufflepuff. Posting will be done as parts are complete. That means that it is at the whim of the muse. You have been warned. Thanks to the members of CaerAzkaban who helped make this a lot better than it was.
Please note that though you may jump to the conclusion of some pairings in this story, I shall not be setting on one for Harry in this story. In fact, you can expect Harry to be effected by several different girls during the course of this story.
Chapter One - The Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was out for the year, and Harry Potter was about to embark on a new journey. Just five days ago, he had expected to be returning to the Dursleys to be jailed there for the first part of the Summer. The weather as he stepped out of the Entrance Hall would have been appropriate. Dismal, Dark, and Dreary, a crack of thunder and flash of lightning greeted the boy who had just completed his fourth year. He took four steps out of the castle, and the heavens opened up.
By the time Harry got to Hogsmead Station, he was soaked to the bone. It was a good thing that Mister Filch didn't patrol the Hogwarts Express. Harry couldn't count the times that a he'd angered the squib returning from Quidditch practice. He stepped on to the Express, at the front, onto the Prefect's Carriage. It was the first door, so it was the quickest way to get out of the weather. The first door was to the Prefect's main compartment, but the second, labeled with an engraved gold plate was "Wizengamot Lords, Ladies, and Heirs."
Harry slid open the door. The compartment practically sparkled. The polished rich dark wood was mahogany, and the brass fixtures gleamed. It was the largest compartment that Harry had seen on the Express, though he hadn't looked into the Prefect's compartment. It seemed wrong somehow to look into it before he had a chance to be a Prefect.
As he stepped in, Harry heard behind him, "It's a good thing you're senior for this compartment." It was Neville. His dormmate and Wizengamot advisor was ever bit as soaked as he was. "Ocie was senior, but really couldn't stand up to Malfoy ... and neither could I really ... so this was his domain. Those hooks have a charm on them to dry our robes."
"He's going to be upset that I'm taking this compartment away from him, isn't he?" Harry smiled, taking off his robe and hanging it up on one of the brass hooks.
"Oh yes," Neville grinned. "I hope you don't mind, I invited Ocie, Ophelia Campbell, holder of the Dunbarton seat in the Wizengamot. She just finished her second year in Hufflepuff."
"One of Cedric's?" Harry asked. The core group of Hufflepuffs who had been First Years when Cedric Diggory had made Prefect had impressed Harry. They organized and ran the Memorial Wall, the one honor which Harry had not really been involved in. He'd also seen them polishing up the special run of the Express to take Diggory home. Neville nodded. "I don't see a problem, as long as we can keep Malfoy out."
"Oh, I want to be in on that," a female voice said from the door. It wasn't one that Harry was familiar with. He turned to find a dark haired young girl in Hufflepuff robes, carrying a bright yellow umbrella.
"Harry, I'd like to introduce my friend from Hufflepuff," Neville said, his arm guiding the girl in. "Her grace, Ophelia Campbell of Dunbarton ... but call her Ocie if you value your hair."
"I only did it once, Neville," Ocie said, tapping her umbrella against the floor three times. The umbrella dried and shrunk enough that the girl was able to place it in an inside pocket of her robes.
The next girl to arrive had Harry nearly speechless. She had already taken off her robes, leaving her attired in a soaked white blouse and gray skirt. Her long red hair was plastered to her body. The girl silently cast a spell on herself, and an updraft of warm air surrounded her, causing her hair to float briefly like a nimbus of fire around her head. "It worked," Ginny Weasley said, as the spell ended. "I think you need to dry off too, Harry."
For almost a half a minute, Harry did not reply. Right before the Yule Ball, when he'd seen Hermione come down dressed in her gown, had been the first time he'd recognized that she really was a girl. When Ginny Weasley had entered the compartment with her soaked to transparent blouse ... for the first time he'd seen her as a girl, not just his best friend Ron's little sister. Her fiery red hair triggered a desire that he hadn't felt before, for anyone. He was not sure how he managed to reply, "Yes."
With that response, Ginny cast her spell, and Harry was sounded by a warm soft wind. It seemed to warm his soul as it dried his clothes. The day seemed to suddenly brighten, and Ginny seemed for the moment to be the sun in Harry's eyes. As the spell ended, the warmth remained. "Neville?" she asked, her warm brown eyes locked on Harry.
"No thank you, Ginny," Neville said. "You're lucky to get that spell to work twice in one day."
"I have you know that I haven't failed since Valentine's Day!" Ginny said, whipping her head around to face Neville, her eyes suddenly flashing, as wisps of her hair crossed her face.
Before he could stop from saying it, Harry spoke, the spell broken, "So Ginny's the spitfire who fried your undies that day?"
"You promised you wouldn't tell!" Ginny whined, as Harry recovered his senses. Neville's undies had been singed when he had come back from taking Ginny to Hogsmeade. Harry had thought that it was another girl that had cast the spell. Remembering that he'd been Ginny's date, Harry tried to forget his reaction. He hoped Ginny didn't look down at his trousers.
"If I didn't come to get you, you would end up missing the train, Ron. And my bag isn't that heavy." Hermione entered the compartment, her black umbrella already folded up. Ron was right behind her, and it appeared that carrying the aforementioned bag was the price for sharing Hermione's umbrella. Hermione put down her cat carrier, and let Crookshanks out.
The cat immediately jumped out, and sought out a convenient lap to curl up on, Harry's. He welcomed the cat, hoping that he'd stay there long enough for it to go down, and began petting his best female friend's familiar. He kept Crookshanks there as Hermione folded out a side desk and arranged the papers he'd given her to review for him. Petting the cat was quite relaxing, and he gave Crookshanks his full attention until Hermione was done arranging her papers.
Only then did Crookshanks jump from Harry's lap to his mistress. The cat was well trained, at least in not messing up Hermione's work. Harry looked up to discover that everyone he'd invited had arrived. Hannah Abbot was sitting between Susan Bones and Ocie Campbell on the bench behind Neville, who was still standing beside the door, which he'd just closed.
There was a knock on the door, and Neville opened it. It was Malfoy, Crab, and Goyle. "Get out of our compartment, Longbottom," Malfoy ordered.
Neville blocked them from entering with his arm, turning to look at Harry. "My Lord Potter, the Malfoy heir hath demanded that we depart forthwith," Neville said in a haughty tone.
Harry stood up and strode over to the door. "I believe that I control this compartment, correct?" he asked.
"You are the only student with an actual seat on the Wizengamot," Neville acknowledged.
"Malfoy, go find another seat," Harry said, crossing his arms. "I find the families I have invited here to be worth much more than you are. Thank you for helping me figure that out. This compartment is all full, with no room for someone with your views."
"You'll regret this Potter," Malfoy said, as Neville closed the door.
"I doubt it," Harry muttered. Then he turned to his friends. "Now that Malfoy's made his visit, we can get on to the latest mess I've gotten myself into."
"I think it's called the Wizengamot, Harry," Ron said. "If Hermione's notes are right ... and when have you found them not to be? ... It's a governing body of forty-nine permanent seats plus an unlimited amount of life peer seats, currently two. If I remember the paper right, you've got a meeting Friday afternoon."
"Yes, Ron, I think it was that," Hermione said flatly. "Harry, I've composed a list of what you need by then, and a couple things to think about it."
"Lay it on me, Hermione," Harry said with air of resigned acceptance.
"Well, first according to the reply from Wizengamot Services, you've chosen Surrey as your County of Representation," Hermione said. "You're required to have a meeting for the forwarding of redress of grievances at least two times a year. Pursuant to that, you indicated your residence address of Number Four Privit Drive, Little Whinging as your local residence and contact address. The location of your next Forward of Grievance Meeting must be posted outside this dwelling by Saturday. This does not give you long to find a meeting place."
"Aunt Petunia's parlor probably won't do, then," Harry said. "I think the library has rooms available. I'll check tomorrow morning."
"Wizenmgamot Services has assigned you an office, number fifty-one, and you'll need staff," Hermione said, as she pulled out another piece of paper. "You might be able to get through the summer with unpaid interns, especially since said unpaid interns are exempt from the Reasonable Restriction for Underage Magic. You'll need a Chief of Staff, receptionist, and probably some research assistants."
"What about Press Secretary?" Harry asked.
"What's that?" Neville asked. "I know Grand doesn't have one."
"Someone who handles all the contact with the press," Harry said as Crookshanks returned to his lap, and slid his head under Harry's hand. "After all the stories Rita Skeeter published last year I don't want to ever have a paper saying that I was unavailable for comment. Uncle Vernon always said that was a sign that there was something wrong with the bugger when the paper said that. Ginny, your Friend Luna's father runs the Quibbler, doesn't he?"
"Yes," Ginny said, suddenly looking right at Harry, reminding him of how she'd looked when she entered the compartment.
"Can you go find her?" Harry asked, grateful for Crookshank's return. Ginny nodded and left. "Hermione, I don't want to be presumptuous, but I'm hoping you want to be on staff as my Chief of Research. I hear the Wizengamot Library is almost as big as Hogwarts."
"Bigger, quite a bit bigger, nearly triple," Hermione said. "But you don't need to bribe me."
"I know, Hermione," Harry smiled. "Anyone else want to volunteer for summer staffing of the office of the Honorable Wizengamot Member from Surrey? I'm sure the office will be decidedly non-professional, and it will look good on your resume. I'll spring for pizza if we end up working late, too."
"I don't know Harry, it sounds like a lot of work," Ron said. "I mean the waiver is nice, but some of us want to spend the summer relaxing."
"Hermione, schedule of hearings, Education Committee," Neville asked. "I think it's next Tuesday. You did tell Grand that you'd be on her committee."
"Yes, and the Headmaster managed to convince me to be on General Services," Harry said. "Dead boring that one is going to be."
Hermione thumbed through a stack of paper, before pulling it out. "Tuesday, half passed two, Hearing on recent decreases in NEWT Potions enrollment and earning at Hogwarts. Witnesses. Severus Snape, Potions Master, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress, the same. Rufus Scrimgeour, Head Auror, Ministry of Magic. Bathilda Bagshot, Noted Educational Scholar, Godric's Hollow."
"I may be the most junior member of the committee, but I want to see if I can make Snape squirm," Harry smirked. "Care to help me prepare to do that?"
"I'd give up tickets for the Cannon's to see that, much less help," Ron shot back. "Just don't take up all my summer."
"That will depend on how much help I get," Harry said. "Can I count on some help from anyone else?"
"Count me in, Harry," Neville said. "At the very least I'll help you with the stuff on Grand's committee. What other committee did you get on?"
"Just Dumbledore's General Services Committee," Harry said. "There weren't very many openings, and I'm not qualified to be a Law Lord. If someone drops from Justice, I'll try to get on that instead." He wasn't sure why, but something about that committee's duties pulled him.
"That's the one that covers Magical Games and Sports," Ron said. "Yea, I'd want that one too."
That wasn't the reason Harry wanted it, but he wasn't going to tell Ron that. It was actually a point against the committee that it did Magical Games and Sports. Harry had some dreams of playing professional Quidditch some day. Krum seemed to think he had a chance.
"Auntie used to be on General Services," Susan Bones said, addressing Harry for the first time. "Can I be a staff member for your work on that committee."
"General Services," Hannah said turning to her friend. "It sounds so boring. I don't see why you'd want to serve on it."
"Oh it's not. General Services does everything that the other committees don't. If a special committee is made for something that fits between two others, General Services picks the chair from it's members, so you get the odd combos too. I mean you can have a general committee meeting that starts out with the cost of parchment, and ends the day discussing public parks. There once was a meeting that discussed gem quality and the use of runic based protective wards. It can be so fascinating."
"Okay, I'm in," Hannah said. "It might be nice to be able to dry my hair instantly in the summer."
"Do you think you could use some Hufflepuff pages who just finished their second years?" Ocie asked. "I can't get an exemption working for my own proxy, and I'm sure I can get the others in my year in Hufflepuff to join me."
"I'd be glad to have you all," Harry said.
Draco Abraxas Malfoy had to find a open compartment for the first time in his life. If he'd known it would have been an issue, he probably would have gone down earlier. Instead he arrived just in time. This usually provided him with the amusement of tossing Longbottom out of the compartment. Campbell usually left with him, though Draco wouldn't have really minded if the Second Year had stayed. He knew that some day he'd have to work with Campbell, and unlike Longbottom she wasn't a class rival. Longbottom had beaten him every single year in Herbology, which was actually Draco's second strongest class, behind Potions.
When it came to school, Draco had plenty of rivals. The muggleborn witch, Granger, had been the bane of his class ranking from day one. She'd beaten him in almost every class, save Potions, and once in Defense. Potter was constantly beating him in Defense and of course, Quidditch. He really didn't care that Bones was beating him in History of Magic, but the fact that Weasley pushed him down to fifth in Creatures this year ... Draco's parents were not going to be happy with that. They could put up with the fact that Potter had managed pass him in Charms, especially after the first task. Draco had tried for weeks to learn how to summon his broom, and still couldn't do it from the distance Potter had. But Weasley beating him in three subjects!
Draco found a compartment that only had one person in it, a blond Ravenclaw. He didn't ask to join her, he just sat down opposite her and continued to fume. Crabb and Goyle had abandoned him for some sort of game in Nott's compartment, involving their rats. Pansy wasn't speaking to him, after he had apparently said something wrong to her a couple weeks ago. Draco still wasn't sure what he'd said wrong when Pansy had brought up the subject of baby names. He thought it might have been his statement that boys just didn't think about what they'd name their future children. It could have been his suggestion of Scorpius for a boy name, though.
"Cassiopeia." Draco looked at the Ravenclaw, not certain that she'd spoken. "She'll like it." The Ravenclaw turned the page of her paper. She had radishes for earrings. Draco looked away.
Draco had taken for granted his access to the Lords and Heirs compartment on the Hogwarts Express. He shouldn't have. The admission, even silently to himself, was hard to admit. Admitting it, though, opened him to a lot of other admissions. Longbottom was good in Herbology. Draco had overheard Longbottom explain how he'd aerated the soil around a couple of his plantings and tried it himself. His mother had actually complimented him on the resulting foliage. Maybe if he was a little less ... a little better with Longbottom, the Herbology prodigy would help him get his mother's favorite African violets to bloom in time for her birthday.
"Water from below." More nonsense from the Ravenclaw blonde.
He refused to admit, except while fuming about the unfairness of life, and then only silently, that Longbottom was probably responsible for how far he'd gotten with a girl. Draco had even stolen a line he'd heard Longbottom use. It'd worked rather well with Pansy at the time. And he was pretty sure that Longbottom hadn't gone all the way with it.
"That's the issue," the Ravenclaw blonde put down her paper. "Do you have a copy of today's Prophet?" Draco didn't have the time to respond. "Never mind, Neville does."
"Longbottom isn't here," Draco said as the Ravenclaw put her paper in her bag.
"No, but I think you would rather have Pansy sitting here than me." The door slid open, revealing the Weasley Girl. "Ginny, tell Harry I accept, and I will be there in a moment after I tell Draco something."
"He didn't bother you, did he?" Ginny asked. "If he did, I'm sure my brothers would be interested, after I'm done of course."
"No," Luna shook her head, before sliding the door shut. "Draco, when she arrives, tell her that you missed her, and what ever you do, don't ever ask about stones." She slid the door open, and left the compartment, joining the Weasley Girl.
Draco didn't stay there alone long. He stood by the door, looking down the corridor. It wasn't long before the next compartment opened, and Pansy exited. Her face was distorted in sadness, tears going down her cheeks. Draco was certain that if she would have seen him, she would have turned the other way. She didn't, though, not until her fleeing brought her into Draco's arms.
He pulled her into his compartment, into his lap. Producing a silk handkerchief, he gently dried her tears, before offering it to her to blow her nose. It always amazed him how soft a sound Pansy made. With her in his arms, he said, "I missed you." And then to both their surprise, he continued, "I'm sorry."
Then they kissed. Not a soft press of lips on the cheek, nor a peck on the lips. No, they snogged. His tongue in her mouth, her tongue in his. Their bodies pressed together, hands feeling up and down each other's backs, nearly ever other thought left Draco's mind. Only one thought marginally unrelated to what he and Pansy were doing held on, and only the tangent allowed that to happen. Draco was sure that Potter and Longbottom had never been kissed like Pansy kissed him.
The faded black 1929 Ford Model A Sedan Delivery pulled into Privet drive with a wheeze. Behind the wheel, Albus Dumbledore made a note that it might be time to overhaul the engine again. He was glad that he had the foresight to preposition the van in Surrey. His van was familiar to some of the residents of Little Whinging, mainly because it went through the town ever year before Harry returned to Number Four. It made a fairly good surveillance vehicle, in Albus's opinion. Of course, today, he had to do more than just go by and remind Petunia Dursley to pick Harry up.
Dumbledore had been most disappointed in the Dursley's behavior, once he finally got Harry to tell him why he didn't want to return to Number Four. Dumbledore was sure that if the confrontation had occurred in his office, he'd be doing extensive repairs. Harry had nearly flown away though. He expected that the tale of Harry Potter and Headmaster's flight among the towers of Hogwarts was going to join the legends of the school. He hoped that the honors for Cedric might hide the story a bit.
With what seemed to be it's last gasp, Dumbledore brought his Ford to stop right in front of Number Four. He reached through the open window and adjusted his mirror so he could make sure he was presentable. His collarless tan button down shirt barely showed under his long beard, between his open gray rough and slightly tattered jacket. The side of his van proclaimed it as "Evan's Family Garden Service," with the motto, "We don't just plant Roses, Lillies, and Petunias, they're family."
He'd bought the Ford at Lily's Grandfather's estate auction, back in 1977, along with a 1964 Austin Martin DB5. Dumbledore readily admitted that he got a lot more use out of his DB5. He'd promised James Potter a ride in it, once. Perhaps he'd be able to meet that promise with Harry. It might be interesting to arrive at the Wizengamot in it. Adjusting his cap, he climbed out and ambled up to the door of number four.
He didn't need to press the chimes. That was a shame, as he'd always liked the use of the Westminister chimes that the Dursley's had chosen for their door chime. The door opened, "Petunia, I am so glad I managed to catch you at home this year," Dumbledore said, his voice pitched so that it would carry over to next door. Then much quieter, he continued. "We need to chat. It would be best for you if it's privately."
"Come in," Petunia said, an expression of fear on her face, yet somehow she managed to ask a question, "Is that my Grandfather Evan's van?"
"Indeed it is," Dumbledore said as he followed Petunia into the parlor. "It makes a wonderful cover for the work which I must preform today. First, however, I must express my extreme disappointment in you, Petunia." He looked over his spectacles into Petunia's deep green eyes. Outwardly, Petunia and Lily looked little alike, but they shared the same eyes, eyes that Harry shared as well.
Petunia sunk into the sofa. Dumbledore knew that it was taking great courage for her to stay there, and not run. He could feel her guilt. "Keeping your nephew in the cupboard under the stairs, locking him in the smallest bedroom and delivering food to him via a cat flap ... Petunia Evans Dursley, you have a lot to account for. Feel fortunate that I am willing to forgo sentencing you to the Dementor's Kiss for now. Pray that Harry does not convince me otherwise."
Dumbledore could tell that Petunia was suitably scared. He didn't have to read her mind, though he did that anyway. He really didn't know what was a suitable punishment for her treatment of Harry. He found himself at fault for the situation in the first place, though he had no idea the treatment would be as bad. In Dumbledore's world, family was much more important. After all, Algie Longbottom had spent six months in prison after dropping Neville.
"Harry is now considered an adult in the Wizarding World, due to some oversights by several members of the Wizengamot, including myself," Dumbledore began. "This does not, however, carry over to your side. Here on Privet Drive, he is still a child. Unfortunately, as wizard, he has a few additional responsibilities. He was granted a seat in the Wizengamot when his parents were killed. As an of age wizard, has taken up that seat."
Petunia's expression moved from scared out of her wits to astonishment. He could tell that she wanted to say something, but he did not allow her to interrupt. "He has chosen Surrey as his Historic County of representation, and this house remains as his home address. As such, he is required to post a schedule of the Wizengamot meetings in a public portion of his residence grounds."
It took a while before Petunia got her wits together enough to respond, and she seemed to be about to say something before reconsidering. "But all the neighbors... What about your statute of secrecy?"
"Oh, that will not be a problem," Dumbledore smiled, with his eyes twinkling. "You see, your Great Uncle Albus has managed to get an internationally know garden designer to complete the fantastical design which you and Lily created when you were only nine. You left it in the back. I assure you that once it's installed, people coming by to look at it will be considered perfectly normal."
Dumbledore pulled two pieces of paper out from his jacket. One of them was filled with a fantasy design, obviously done by a pair of children in crayon. It was signed in red "Petunia" and in blue "Lily." The other was professional drawing of the same basic design made reality. There was an intricate water feature, lilies, roses, and petunias. The preponderance of lilies was especially notable as being that which had been cut back the most between the child's drawing and the professional one. He laid both on the coffee table.
Petunia reached out and gently traced her sister's childish signature. Dumbledore felt her mind going back to that time, and time that he could tell she thought everything was right during. He could feel the tension draining out of the woman, and he allowed it to. "Lily," the name escaped from Petunia's lips, and tears started to form for the first time since she had found her nephew on the doorstep. The debris of life, the life of a young mother suddenly responsible for two young toddlers, the resentment that had begun not just with Harry's arrival, but when being pregnant with Dudley had cost her a job she had loved.
"Petunia," Dumbledore said gently as the crying ebbed. "Would you like Harry, myself, and a few friends to build this for you?"
The acceptance was soft, almost breathless, "Yes," she said, her finger tracing the outlines of the professional plan now. "Lilium superbum ... Lily always wanted mum to plant these... lilium longiforum."
Dumbledore let her look at the plans for a few minutes, enjoying the almost childlike joy Petunia radiated from her review of them. Eventually, though, he had to interrupt. "Of course, it will take a bit of time to build. It is not often that I find time to garden, this summer though, I shall. I dare say that Harry and I will find it a welcome break from Wizengamot duties. You can expect us to be working on it most afternoons. Please inform your neighbors that your new front garden is a gift ... from an old family friend."
Comments, Compliments, Complaints, and Critiques accepted. I'm notoriously thick skinned.