Author's Notes: Still Alive! Sorry it's been so long, everyone. Life's been kind of chaotic for me lately, and I have about a million stories to juggle at once. I hope there's enough here to make up for the wait.

Hogwarts Library; Hogwarts; North of Hogsmead; Earth 1; September 15, 1995; 7:41 p.m.

"Hello, Susan."

"Er, hello, Hermione . . . Luna . . . Padma . . . Parvati . . . Green-er, Daphne . . ." The Bones daughter turned the bushy-haired Gryffindor. It was, after all Hermione who had asked to speak privately in the Library at the end of Ancient Runes class. After Dinner, Susan had spent a couple of minutes convincing her friends to go on without her before carrying her textbooks over to the Library. She'd figured Hermione expected to talk about classwork. She didn't expect to find Hermione in the company of four other witches. "Hermione, I'm sorry if this comes off as rude, but when you asked to speak with me in private, I'd assumed that it would only be the two of us."

Said witch blushed. "I'm sorry, Susan, but . . . well . . ." She fidgeted in her seat, which was very un-Hermione-like.

"From now on," Daphne explained. "When Hermione wants to speak 'in private,' it would be best to assume that includes us. And, occasionally, Harry."

"Where is he, anyway?" Susan asked, looking around. It wasn't just Harry she was looking for. She wanted to know why these five girls were, apparently, allied together. She could see how Hermione and Luna might be friends after that incident at the Department of Mysteries. Padma and Parvati had also been in D.A. They hadn't seemed particularly close to the Gryffindor then, but looks could be deceiving. She'd heard that Hermione was roommates with Parvati anyway, so it made sense that they would be friends. But, why was Daphne Greengrass with them?

Normally, this would be a political alliance, but that was unlikely. The Lovegoods were an old family, but not with any sort of political or financial ability. Nor did Hermione, being a Muggle-born. A financial union, then? Maybe. The Greengrasses had never been involved in politics, but Susan knew they had plenty of gold from their media empire. The Patils were equally well off. Officially, the girls' father was just a clerk in the Department of Mystieres, but what only a handful of people knew was that he, along with their other relatives were primary shareholders in the Magical British East Asia Company. Originally the magical arm of the old East India Company, the group had evolved over the years to dominate trade between the magical half of the British Isles and China, Hong Kong, Thailand, as well as India.(1) Susan's aunt had made certain her niece new every major player in magical Britain; Valmiki Patil had avoided attention thus far because he was-apparently-unambitious.(2) Was that about to change?

But how did Luna and Hermione fit into it all?

"Harry's . . . elsewhere," Hermione answered. Susan turned to her; the Gryffindor witch was biting her lip, avoiding eye contact.

"You're doing this behind his back?" Susan asked.

"That's a very inflammatory thing to say, Ms. Bones," Daphne said. "But, yes. He doesn't know we are here."

"All right . . ." Susan said, still not entirely sure she was all right with all this. Hermione Granger acting alone, without Harry Potter? Doing something that may or may not hurt him, or that he might disapprove of (why else would she be so dodgy about his involvement)? "What is this about?"

"Your aunt," Daphne said. "We need her help."

"Aunt Amelia?" Susan asked. That made sense, sort of. Being the heiress of a fairly old and noble house, and the foster child of the head of the DMLE, Susan was accustomed to people wanting to curry favor with her, but something told the red-headed witch that something else was afoot. Again, this seemed like the least likely political alliance she had ever seen.

"It's well past time someone set the record straight in regards to certain . . . people," the Slytherin said.

"It's about Harry's guardians," Hermione said. "And I use that term very, very loosely."

Gryffindor Dormitories; Hogwarts; North of Hogsmead; Earth 1; September 15, 1995; 7:45 p.m.

"So, Harry," Ron asked. "Why are you hanging out with a Slytherin?"

Harry and Ron were sitting in the Commonroom together, something which, in Harry's opinion, they hadn't done in far too long. An added surprise was that his detention with Umbridge was canceled for the night, owing to an urgent meeting the Defense teacher had to attend. Becoming a teacher hadn't meant quitting her ill-defined but highly self-aggrandized position, after all. So, the two friends had taken advantage of the situation and were currently lounging, sharing a large bag of Every-Flavor-Beans, and trying to forget what had happened that day. And, maybe get some homework done. Maybe.

"Daphne's my friend," the raven-haired wizard answered. "Same as you."

"I'm not a snake!" Ron said.

"But, you are my friend," Harry said. "And, so is Daphne, even if she is a Slytherin."

"She's in the same house as Malfoy and his goons!" the red-head further protested. He was starting to feel genuinely sick now, and he wasn't sure it wasn't because he might or might not have eaten the wrong beans.

"So what?" Harry asked. "I mean, I'm glad we're not in Slytherin, but what does it matter if she is?"

"Gwha-ah-ah-ah?" The noises coming out of Ron's mouth were now definitely half-disgust and half-wrong beans. (Harry spent a moment wondering just why rotten apples or such things needed to be flavors) "Harry . . . Harry," Ron said slowly, using the voice one uses when trying to explain things to a particularly slow child. "She. Is. A. Slytherin. So. Was. You. Know. Who. So. Was. Malfoy. And. Malfoy—eh—I mean his dad. All. Slytherins. Are. Bad . . ."

"Ron," Harry said. "That's not how it works."

"Of course it is!" Ron said.

"Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor," Harry said.

Ron made another face. "Don't remind me," he said. The redhead glowered a little, remembering his former pet. "All right, so not every witch or wizard who went bad was a Snake, but all the worst ones were."

"Maybe," Harry said, "but that doesn't mean they're all bad. I know Daphne isn't."

"Of course, she is!" Ron said. "Neville, tell him!"

"M'sorry. What?" The other Gryffindor had just walked into the room. He had no idea what Ron was talking about, certainly no idea how he could convince Harry of something.

"Tell him to stop hanging out with that slimy Slytherin!"

"Daphne isn't slimy," Harry protested.

"Um," Neville said. "You're, uh, friends with Daphne Greengrass?" he asked, hping he didn't sound too stupid.

"Yes," Harry answered. "She was already friends with Hermione, so—"

"Hold on a minute," Ron interrupted. "Hermione's was friends with this snake before you were?"

"They're in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes together," Harry explained. "Hermione said they've been friends since Third Year."

"How can Hermione be friends with a Slytherin?" Ron asked. "And why didn't she tell us?"

"Well, Hermione is good at making friends—right Neville?" Harry asked. He'd noticed that he and Ron had gotten caught up in this new tangent and had completely excluded Neville from it.

Neville, for his part, would have been happy to have been continually ignored. Still, Hermione was his friend . . . "Yeah," he said. "She is."

"She didn't have any friends until we saved her from the Troll," Ron insisted.

"She was my friend," Neville said. "On the train . . . Trevor went missing, and she helped me find him. And, she never made fun of me for being . . ."

He didn't say anything, but everyone knew what he was talking about. Neville was one of the worst wizards in their year, almost as bad as Crabbe and Goyle. He had been picked on and mocked since his first day. Harry felt something curl in the pit of his stomach. He hadn't taken part in the teasing, but he hadn't done much of anything to make Neville feel more welcome. In fact, he'd accepted the general consensus that Neville was a failure of a wizard. Only Hermione—bossy, know-it-all, and such a better person than himself, Hermione—had cared to reach out the hand of friendship to the lonely boy.

"Neville," Harry said, "I . . ." It was a little late for an apology, but—


Harry jumped in his seat, his hand automatically drifting toward the pocket holding his wand. Beside him, Ron did the same—except, he was holding the bag of beans, so . . . Yeah, the Elves would not be happy when they came to pick up the mess.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Look," Neville said, pointing. The other boys turned around and saw the source of the noise. Something was banging against the Commonroom windows. It looked avian, like a—

"Is that an owl?" Harry asked, getting up.

"They don't often show up in the Commonroom, especially at this time of night," Ron said.

"It must be important," Neville said. "Probably from the Ministry or the head of an important family."

"Why would the head of a family want to send us a message?" Harry asked. The Ministry, he could probably guess what they wanted from him. The young wizard opened the latch and let the bird inside.

The owl immediately flew in, not caring that it bumped into Harry in the process. The brown bird dropped an envelope on the table beside him. Then, it turned around and flew away.

"Batty bird," Ron said.

"Harry," Neville said. "You might want to open that letter."

Harry turned around and saw what Neville was talking about. The envelope was red in color, and white smoke was seeping out from the edges.

A Howler . . .

Hogwarts Library; Hogwarts; North of Hogsmead; Earth 1; September 15, 1995; 8:52 p.m.

"Are you sure about this?" Susan asked., idly checking over the letter in front of her. Normally, she would be against this. Normally, she would find people trying to get to her aunt through her (and it was surprising how many there were) were utterly disgusting. Normally, she would have expected different from Hermione Granger. Of course, normally, she would expect adults to be benevolent to their children.

It was patently obvious, however, that Harry's guardians had a different set of values. What kind of man sat back and grew fat while making the child that had been left in his do all his work. Or allowed his son to become a bully. Susan shuddered, if the two were anything like what Hermione was describing, it was almost enough to make her lose her faith in humanity.

And then there was his aunt. Petunia Dursley seemed to be the complete opposite of Amelia Bones. Susan's aunt had had no husband when Susan came into her home. No children: the woman actively worked long hours in a job filled with huge amounts of frustration and surrounded by hypocrites and liars. She was passed her prime, had no experience raising a child, and little time to devote to the baby girl that was thrust into her arms after her brother and sister-in-law died.

Susan could only hope and pray she could be half the mother to her own children her Aunt Amelia had been to her.

In spite of all the obstacles in their path, the pair had made their lives work. True, Aunt Amelia had a House Elf to care for Susan when she was away and tend to the daily routine, but she always made time for Susan. Every birthday, Amelia found the time to embrace her and wish Susan a happy one, even if only for a few minutes. When Susan had first asked about her lost parents, Amelia had sat her down and told her how wonderful they were: how kind and brave and loyal. And, a few days after her thirteenth birthday, when Susan had called for their elf because she'd woken up bleeding down there, Aunt Amelia had wrapped her arms around her and explained that it was all right, that she was just becoming a woman. That it was a tough time, but she would make it through and emerge as marvelous as her mother for it. Secretly, Susan had hoped she would be as marvelous as her aunt.

Harry's aunt, by contrast seemed like a perversion of nature: allowing her husband and child to bully and abuse her sister's son, even taking part in the abuse herself; Vernon Dursely was unlikely the one who made Harry tend to Petunia's garden when he was just old enough to stand!

Still, what they were planning was not to be taken lightly. Before them sat a single roll of parchment, a letter to Susan's aunt. It listed all of the abuses the Dursleys had put Harry through and politely but firmly outlined Dumbledore's part in it all. It was nothing short of a declaration of war against one of the most powerful figures in the political world. If they went through with this, Dumbledore was sure to find out their involvement. Yes, such things were supposed to remain secret, but to important politicians like the Headmaster-and too many others-would be able to trace it back to them and discover their little cabal.

Padma and Daphne favored caution, wanting to spend a little more time consolidating their group and "gathering allies" (whatever that meant), while Hermione, Luna, and Parvati were more in favor of swift and direct action to get Harry as far from the Durselys and the puppet-mastering old man as possible as soon as possible. Ultimately, their side had won out, hence the letter they had jointly drafted to Susan's Aunt.

"Absolutely" Hermione said.

"Yes," said Parvati.

"It is long past time for justice to be done," Luna whispered.

"If I must be," said Padma, sighing.

"No," said Daphne, "but I can see there's no winning this argument."

"All right," Susan said, folding up the parchment. "I suppose I'll head to the Owlry then." Her hands trembled a little. She had never done anything like this before: addressed her aunt as an Auror rather than a relative. Sought to bring down the hammer on villains and scoundrels. Reported a crime.

"Thank you, Susan," Parvati said. "This means a lot to us." Some people thought Parvati wasn't as smart as her sister. While that might be true when it came to books and studies, Parvati knew people better than Padma ever could. She didn't become a gossip queen just on her ability to repeat whispers, after all.

The other girls affirmed the Gryffindor Patil's statement. They were all in this together, and Susan was making a major contribution to their caus-


Everyone turned around. Their mutual heartthrob-along with two of his friends-walked into the library. Was his hair a little more . . . swept back than usual, as though he had just taken a gust of wind or a dragon's roar to the face? Was the look in his eyes perhaps, annoyed?

"Yes, Harry?" the blonde in question asked.

"I just got a message from your father . . ."

Author's Notes: And another chapter's done! Sorry if that was too fluffy for any of you. Honestly, I would really like to get a move on with things myself, but I have to take this one step at a time, and sometimes you just have to let the characters sit back and talk to each other. Hopefully, more will happen next chapter. Minor Spoiler: The Goblins return!


(1) Remember, the British owned Hong Kong until 1997.

(2) According to Hindu tradition, Valmiki is the name of the ancient sage who wrote the Indian literary and religious classic, The Ramayana. Hope I didn't offend any Hindu's by using it.