Well the response to the last chapter was largely good, though to a minor few all I can say is that if you are complaining in Chapter 18 that the characters of Dumbledore and Snape are not being shown in the best light, then all I can say is that you had better stop reading. I would ask why it took you until Chapter 18 to figure out that Dumbledore and Snape won't be saints in this story, but I'm fairly certain that you don't know the answer yourselves.
Anyway, aside from that annoying point, everyone else thanks so much for the reviews and thanks especially to everyone who pointed out my mistake of allowing Snape to keep the title of Head of Slytherin. This wasn't intentional as he was originally meant to lose the role. I don't know why the mistake happened, but it did and it has now been changed. Of course, this change led to another mistake as Snape is later referred to as being the head of Slytherin House. This too has been changed and, again, my thanks to those who pointed it out.
Anyway, sorry for the long Author's note, but that first bit is rapidly becoming a pet-peeve of mine on this site and felt the need to bring it up.
Now, on with the show!
Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor
Chapter 19: The Complaint Boxes.
"This is absolutely unacceptable!" Professor Dumbledore raged "A Wizengamot ruling forbids this woman to make any kind of contact Harry Potter unless in her official capacity!"
"I am well aware of that, Dumbledore," retorted an equally angry Madam Bones "I was there when you abused your position as Chief Warlock to coerce the majority of the Wizengamot into passing that ruling."
"I will not stand for this!" retorted Dumbledore.
"Your complaint has no grounds, Albus," said Madam Marchbanks, who was remaining relatively calm "As you rightly pointed out, Healer Abbott was forbidden to contact Mr Potter unless it was in her official capacity. Her official capacity is not just as a Healer to the Auror Office. She is also a certified potions mistress and is licenced to teach both subjects. Something that, I hasten to point out, your man Severus is not."
Madam Longbottom took up the thread "Mr Potter asked the Wizarding Examinations Authority to locate for him a qualified potions instructor and they suggested Healer Abbott. Those who sit on the Board of Directors for Hogwarts have all approved of her and so long as Mr Potter doesn't have any objections then there is absolutely no problem at all with her performing this new role."
"I don't have any objections to Healer Abbott teaching me potions," said Harry, deciding to speak up for the first time since this meeting in the staff room had begun "and if both the Wizarding Examinations Authority and the Hogwarts Boards of Governors approve of her then I see no reason for me to have any objections. I also assume that the DMLE would recommend her?" he addressed the last bit to Madam Bones.
"I would whole-heartedly recommend her," said Madam Bones "She is an excellent potions brewer and has the skill and patience required to pass that knowledge on to others."
Dumbledore could see the nails being banged into the coffin of his argument but had to keep trying. He attempted to appeal to Harry.
"Harry, this woman was banned from contacting you by the Wizengamot. Surely this must make you see that she is not a suitable candidate to be your potions instructor."
"Her being banned from contacting me has already been brought up," said Harry "but strangely enough, no one has yet explained exactly why she was banned from contacting me. Could you perhaps offer that piece of information, Headmaster? I mean if she is a danger to me then obviously I would not want her as a potions instructor."
Dumbledore spotted the verbal trap and knew that he was cornered. There was no way to answer that without doing even more damage. If he said no then Harry had no reason to turn Healer Abbott away. If he said that she was a danger to him, Harry would first of all what to know the exact danger and, second, would want to know how to take similar action against Severus and a good few students.
He had been left floundering and everyone else in the room appeared happy to watch him struggle.
After a short wait, Harry turned away from Dumbledore and held out his hand to Sarah. Acting like this was their first meeting so as to not tip Dumbledore off about where he had spent the summer he said "Hi, I'm Harry Potter. It looks like I'm going to be your new student."
With a smile she played along by shaking his hand and saying "I'm Healer Sarah Abbott. It's nice to meet you Harry Potter, but there is no need to introduce yourself as I know exactly who you are."
"You do?" asked Harry "The scar, right?"
"Partly," she said "But I also recognised you from when I saw you as a baby. You look very much like your father."
"Were you friends with my dad?" he asked.
"Yes, but my best friend was your mother."
"Oh cool. I've never met one of my mother's friends before."
Everyone who could see Dumbledore's face saw that he looked like he had just swallowed a particularly sour lemon drop.
"So," said Sarah, brightly, "how about we head to the library and work out where and when we can do our potions classes."
"Sounds like a plan," said Harry and the pair left.
"Well, it looks like those two have hit it off rather well," said Madam Bones, who was thoroughly enjoying the anguish being caused to Dumbledore.
"Agreed," said Madam Marchbanks "I think that we shall be seeing a definite upturn in Mr Potter's potions grades over the next few weeks and months. You know, I have always felt that a key part of the learning process is that the student and the teacher should get along."
Having heard far too many barbs directed towards Severus, Dumbledore asked "Are we done here?"
"For now," replied Madam Longbottom "But remember Dumbledore, we will be watching. We expect to see a major improvement of the education standards within this castle within the next few months, understand?"
Dumbledore could only nod.
As breakfast earlier had been, lunch was also interrupted by the castle's guests. They entered the Great Hall and, without even giving a look to Dumbledore, Griselda Marchbanks stepped up to the Headmaster's Podium in order to address everyone in the Great Hall.
"Good afternoon to you all," she began "for those of you who do not know, I am Griselda Marchbanks and I am the Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority for the Ministry of Magic. I, and those within my department, am responsible for setting the questions that you have to answer during your O.W.L. and N.E.W.T examination, as well as invigilating those examinations and mark them. We also monitor the scores that you students receive for your school work in order to assess how well you are doing in school and to see if there are any obvious areas where we need to improve the quality of education."
Here she paused and looked at each house table before continuing "Now then, I am certain that there have been many rumours circulating as to why we have elected to come here today and I would like to take this opportunity to put those rumours to rest by informing you of the truth. Yesterday evening, Harry Potter arrived at the Ministry of Magic in order to file a formal complaint against certain members of staff at this school. We came here today in order to assess the validity of his complaints and after interviewing various students and staff we were able to confirm that Mr Potter's complaints were not only valid, but also long overdue.
"As such, we have taken the necessary disciplinary actions against those members of staff whom Mr Potter complained about. Those members of staff know who they are and we will continue to watch them in order to see if our message has gotten through to them. In the meantime, I wish to assure each and every one of you that if you have a complaint to make against a member of staff, you are free at any time to bring these concerns to our attention and we will take steps to first make sure that the complaint is valid and second to make sure that appropriate actions are taken.
"I understand that there is a fair bit of trepidation being felt amongst the student body as to the new position of Harry Potter within this school. At this point I would like to reiterate the purpose of his role. He is not here to be against you. He is not here to pick on you. He is here to help you. We in the W.E.A have selected Harry Potter to be your voice. We have allowed him the authority to reprimand a prefect acting out of line as well as to back them up if they need it. We have allowed him the authority to act as the voice of the students during staff meetings. And most importantly, he is here to back you up when you need it.
"If you have a complaint to make, whether it be to a member of staff or to us in the W.E.A but do not feel brave enough to do so, go to Mr Potter and he will either speak for you and submit a written complaint on your behalf, or he will go with you and stand by your side when you make your complaint.
"He is here to support you. Thank you."
She stepped down from the podium, only for Madam Longbottom to take her place.
The elderly witch cleared her throat and began "As of eleven forty-five this morning, potions master Professor Severus Snape has stepped down from his position as Head of Slytherin House-"
She didn't get any further for three out of the four house tables broke out into a roar of cheering celebrations. Surprisingly, although they were not making a complete spectacle of themselves, more than two thirds of Slytherin House were looking pleases at the news as well.
It seemed that the greasy potions master had gained little respect within his own house, even with how much he generally favoured them.
"That will do," Madam Longbottom called out after giving them a good two minutes to express themselves. They quietened down and she continued "Thank you. Now, as I was saying, Professor Snape is no longer the head of Slytherin House and hopefully by tomorrow morning we will have found someone to step into the role on an interim basis until a permanent appointment can be made."
Malfoy stood up at the Slytherin table and shouted out "You can't do this!"
"Actually, Mr Malfoy," replied Madam Longbottom, calmly "I think you'll find that we can."
Pink in the face Malfoy continued on "My father won't stand for this-"
"Your father was booted off of the Board of Governors over two years ago," replied Madam Longbottom "surely you cannot have forgotten?"
Malfoy stood there, shaking with barely supressed rage.
Professor McGonagall was more than prepared to add insult to injury however "Mr Malfoy, that will be twenty points from Slytherin for your blatant show of disrespect. Now sit down before I round it up to fifty."
When Malfoy showed no signs of moving to sit down, Pansy grabbed him by the wrist and forcefully pulled him down so that he re-took his seat. Several of those watching were interested to not that she did not appear to be all that impressed with his little display.
Madam Longbottom continued as though the interruption had not occurred "As to other news, you will soon notice a new teacher going about in this castle. She is Sarah Abbott, and yes that makes her the mother of Hufflepuff fifth year Hannah Abbott…"
At this many eyes in the hall turned towards Hannah and she grinned broadly at them and waved.
"Usually," continued Madam Longbottom "Madam Abbott works for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry as a healer, potions brewer and instructor. Following on from his complaint about Professor Snape, Harry Potter requested a private tutor for his potions classes and, after due consideration, Madam Abbott agreed to take the job, as it were. I am unsure as to how clear the school's stance on this matter has been made to you, so I will state here and now that there always has been and there always will be the facility for students to have a private tutor for any subject that they like, be it potions, transfiguration, charms, defence or any other.
"If any of you feel the desire to follow in Mr Potter's footsteps and hire a private tutor we ask that you first bring it up with your parents, as they are the ones paying for your education, and then with us.
"Nobody on the Board of Governors or from the Wizarding Examinations Authority will think less of you should you chose this path. Hogwarts is here for your education and if you feel that you might do better in a one-on-one situation with a teacher, or if you do not get along with your teacher then you should by all means look into hiring a private tutor.
At this Lisa Turpin from Ravenclaw raised her hand. Madam Longbottom nodded for her to speak so Lisa stood up and asked "Would it be possible for all of us to have Madam Abbott as a potions instructor?"
"That is a matter that you will have to bring up with Mr Potter and Madam Abbott," replied Madam Longbottom "As the first to employ her services, Mr Potter may decide to keep his lessons private or Madam Abbott may wish to teach only one student as she will be keeping her main job at the Ministry."
Lisa nodded in understanding and sat down again
"Any more questions?" asked Madam Longbottom. When no-one asked anything in reply she bid them good day and stepped down from the podium.
A murmur of noise began to build as the students began turning to each other in order to discuss these new developments.
Before the noise could grow too loud, however, the doors to the Great Hall opened and two people walked in, not really paying attention to their surroundings.
"…I know it's in the back of the textbook," Harry was saying "but we've never studied it in class…"
"You're telling me," Sarah Abbott replied "that all you do in potions class is brew the things? You've never had to study why certain ingredients act the way they do when they are mixed together?"
"Nope, never." said Harry.
Neither of them got to say anything more because suddenly Harry was being mobbed by three quarters of the school.
"Well done Harry!"
"It's about time Snape got demoted."
"Can I join your potions class Harry? Can I?"
"Yeah, can I join too?"
"Harry, can you help me file a complaint against a teacher?"
"Nice one Harry!"
"That was wicked Harry!"
"…I'd like to get a private tutor, but I don't think my parents would like it…"
"I went to a prefect with a problem but he couldn't be bothered to help…"
These and many more were thrown at Harry from all angles. Ron's grinning face broke through the crowd "Way to go getting Snape demoted, mate. That really showed those slimy snakes."
At that Harry raised his hands and called out "Okay, guys," he said loudly, and they all quieted in eagerness to hear what he had to say "I'll see what I can do about helping you to organise private tutors if you want them, I don't know if Madam Abbott here has enough free time to see everyone, yes I will help you lodge complaints against staff and any problems with prefects I will deal with. Ron, I did not get Snape demoted because he was a Slytherin, it was because he is an appalling teacher who showed extreme favouritism and wasn't even remotely professional. Quite frankly expressions such as "slimy snakes" points to a level of bias that I do not like to see in a prefect."
Ron's ears went red at that, but before he could retort he was swallowed up by the crowd of students who were all eager to get their problems heard.
"It looks like Mr Potter has got his work cut out for him," observed McGonagall.
"Yes, it does," replied Madam Marchbanks "And that, I believe, is a scathing testament to how far things have declined around here these past few years. Once upon a time those students would have been taking their complaints to their respective Heads of House."
McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout could say nothing to that. As they watched the crowd of students clamouring around Harry, trying to make themselves heard, the stark realisation as to how much they had been letting their students down was really driven home.
Harry's voice rose again, this time it appeared that he had resorted to the use of a sonorous charm to amplify his voice.
"Alright everyone, I can't deal with you all at once. Here's what we're going to do; go back to your house tables and write your complaints or concerns out on a piece of parchment along with your name, your house and your year. Your prefects will come around with a box for you to put your complaints into and then I will go through them all and address them when I can. Sound fair?"
Everyone was nodding and began making their way back towards their respective tables.
"Prefects, if you could come here so that we can sort you out with boxes," Harry continued. He was feeling rather good about this idea. He knew about complaints boxes that were used by companies in the muggle world, but hadn't thought of using one until just now.
All the prefects, along with the head boy and girl made their way over to Harry. Well, all except one. Draco Malfoy stormed out of the hall looking absolutely apoplectic with rage. Pansy was left looking rather miffed at his actions.
Harry turned and called out "Daphne, could you give Pansy a hand?"
Daphne came over and stood next to Pansy. The two girls shared a nod, a signal that both were willing to engage in a temporary truce, and then turned their attention back to Harry who was already conjuring up wooden boxes with slots in the top through which the students could put their written complaints.
"Right," said Harry as he passed the first one to Roger Davies "these are not to be opened, nor are they to be tampered with. I will read through each one and do my best to decide on how to proceed. If I feel the need, I will call on one or more prefects from the house of the student making the complaint in order to get their views on the situation. Do you think you can all handle that?"
Everyone was nodding in reply. They weren't used to this. Normally their jobs were to just keep the peace in their respective common rooms and keep the odd troublemaker in line. Now Harry was asking them to actively participate in helping their fellow students out in ways other than showing the odd lost first year where they should be going.
They were quickly coming to see that Madam Marchbanks had been correct; Harry wasn't there in his new role to be against them. He was there to help them.
He couldn't help notice Cho giving him an exceptionally steamy look, as though she rather liked Harry in his take-charge mind set. Normally this would have gotten a boy his age all hot under the collar, but Harry made a mental note to ask Padma if she had noticed any more odd behaviour from Cho. She had said that she would keep an eye on the girl. He also remembered that he needed to come up with a good idea for a second date with Padma, but that would have to wait until later. He had work to do right now.
Dumbledore had a sickly feeling in his stomach. Almost every single one of the students was eagerly writing something down on a piece of parchment to put into one of those accursed boxes. They were even comparing notes to make sure that they didn't forget anything. He knew that this would not bode well for either Severus or his plans for the Greater Good.
The prefects were soon milling about amongst the tables doing their best to help out. The younger students were putting their hands up in the air and the prefects were hurrying over to assist. They were even mingling between the house tables – Daphne Greengrass was helping a first year Hufflepuff word his problem and no one had batted an eyelid!
Harry walked down the middle of the hall and called out "Prefects, don't forget to add your own complaints. I want to hear from you as well." He then turned to talk with a third year Ravenclaw who wanted to know how to spell 'cantankerous'.
"Look at them," said Professor Spout "I've never seen them like this."
"That's probably because this is the first time in a long time that they feel someone might listen to their complaints," said Harry as he came up to the head table "By the way, I know that there hasn't been a decision made on the position of temporary Head of Slytherin House, but as I am supposed to inform the Head of House of a prefect earning a strike against them. For refusing to cooperate in assisting those in his house, Draco Malfoy has once again shown himself to be unworthy of the prefect's badge that he wears. I am awarding him a strike, his second overall. I shouldn't need to remind you that getting three strikes means that he loses that badge."
"Actually, Mr Potter, you are incorrect," said Madam Marchbanks, causing every head at the staff table to whip around to look at her "Mr Malfoy was already on his second order. I awarded it to him myself earlier today. Refusing to comply with an Auror is not a desirable trait to see in a prefect. I was going to inform you later."
"That's fine," said Harry before sighing and saying "Well, it looks like dear old Draco has lost his badge. I'd better write a letter to his parents to discuss this with them. I don't suppose I could put a little bit of pressure on you to get a move on with selecting a temporary Head of Slytherin? I'd rather like to have that person at my side when dealing with the Malfoys."
"There will be at least one representative from the Board of Governors in that meeting with you, Mr Potter," said Madam Longbottom.
"And a representative from the Wizarding Examinations Authority," said Madam Marchbanks, before adding as an afterthought "It's probably best for the Deputy Headmistress to be there as well…"
McGonagall gave a nod of confirmation.
Just then Professor Sinistra, who taught Astronomy, spoke up "Would it be possible for me to put my name forward as temporary Head of Slytherin?"
"Of course," said Madam Marchbanks "in fact, if there are no objections to your appointment we might as well announce it right now."
No one had a complaint against this. Dumbledore was just relieved that Dolores Umbridge hadn't put her name forward for the role like he had been expecting.
The woman in question knew exactly what Dumbledore had been thinking, but there had never been any danger of her taking on the Head of Slytherin role, even only on a temporary basis. If the number of complaints being written out were anything to go by, she would be given her High Inquisitor position by the end of the month. She and the Minister had gone through this meticulously and she could not afford to appear to show favouritism to one group over any other, be it their school house, their age or the purity of their blood. That Madam Marchbanks and Madam Bones had also made that point quite clear ensured that she kept well clear of associating herself with any one group of students.
Madam Longbottom returned to the Headmaster's podium and announced that Professor Sinistra had just been temporarily appointed to the position of Head of Slytherin House.
This was met with a round of applause from the students, getting a blush out of the normally quiet Professor Sinistra, before they all went back to their scribbling.
"You done yet?" asked Ron of a third year Gryffindor. When the girl shook her head, Ron went to the next student and asked the same question.
Hermione rolled her eyes behind his back and then crouched down beside the third year and asked "Anything you need a hand with?"
The girl blushed and bit her lip before turning her head to make sure that Ron had moved out of earshot. Once she had found that the coast was clear she turned back to Hermione and said "Actually, I was going to make a complaint about him."
"Oh?" asked Hermione, suddenly feeling rather torn.
The girl nodded and said "He's not being very helpful right now, and yesterday I saw him call a first year a midget before telling him to shove off so that he could have the good armchair by the fire."
"Did he?" said Hermione, leaning to the side so that she could look at Ron who was standing further along the row looking utterly bored and ignoring a second year Ravenclaw who had her hand in the air.
Since they had gotten their badges over the summer, Hermione had tried so hard to drum into Ron's skull that there was a certain level of responsibility that came with their new positions, but it clearly had not worked. She was honest enough that Ron just saw the position as the chance to lord it over other students; he had little intention of doing the actual work involved. Maybe this would be what he needed to get his act together…
She thought for a moment longer before saying "Midget is spelt with a "dg" not a "j"."
The girl nodded happily and began writing.
The bell signalling the end of the lunch hour and the start of the afternoon lessons rang out loud and clear and all the students paused before looking to Harry.
Without even looking at the staff table Harry said "Well, classes have been disrupted all morning, one more lesson really isn't going to hurt. Keep going make sure you put everything down."
They all continued.
"Look at him," whispered Sarah Abbott to Amelia Bones, having moved to be near her friend when Harry was mobbed "he's a natural leader."
Amelia nodded and replied "You'll never guess what I found him doing in the Great Hall this morning."
"Yes way. The impromptu study period for all those whose lessons were being disrupted by the questioning wasn't going too well, so Harry got up and had them all practicing shield charms."
"Even the older ones?"
"They were the ones working the hardest. Couldn't have a fifth year doing something they weren't able to do."
"Blimey. Lily would be so proud!"
They continued going until the bell for the end of the first afternoon lesson rang out.
"Alright everyone," said Harry "We're really going to have to call it there. If you think of anything else then please come and see me when you can. In the meantime please put your written complaints into the boxes if you haven't already, and get to your next lessons."
The students began packing up their things, feeding the last few pieces of parchment into the boxes and making their way out of the hall.
Once they were gone the prefects approached Harry and they made a pile of the boxes.
"Good work all of you," said Harry.
Most of them replied with thanks for the compliment and began filing out of the hall.
Hermione was the last one to place her box down, and Harry decided that he really needed to crack the ice with her a little. He might not consider her a friend anymore, but with her being a prefect he was going to have to work with her.
"So, did you fill out a list of your own complaints?" he asked.
Hermione looked uncomfortable and replied "I'm not sure it's really my place to do that, Harry."
"Don't be silly," said Harry "of course it's your place. Your parents pay a lot of money for you to come here. If you don't think that something is right then you have the right to complain about it."
"I suppose." said Hermione, awkwardly.
"So is there nothing you want to put into one of those boxes?" he asked "No complaints to make, no desire for a tutor, maybe a suggestion to do something differently…"
"Well…" she said uncomfortably before soldiering on "there is one thing… It's not really a complaint, but… well, see at most boarding schools in muggle Britain they have this thing called an exeat weekend where you go home at, say on the Friday evening and then come back on the Sunday. You know, like a way for the students to get to spend a little more time with their families. I know we get Hogsmeade weekends but it's really not the same. Plus it gives the teachers a break…"
"Write it down then," said Harry.
Hermione looked at him searchingly for a moment longer before taking a piece of parchment and a quill out of her bag. She wrote out her suggestion before folding up the parchment and placing it in the nearest box.
"Does that feel better?" he asked.
Hermione nodded and replied "It kind of does."
"Good," said Harry before adding "By the way, I think it's a pretty good idea."
Hermione nodded again before saying in a small voice "Well, see you in Care of Magical Creatures…" before heading off to Arithmancy.
Harry was left there feeling slightly awkward. For a moment there it was like everything between himself and Hermione had been back to normal… well almost.
He set about shrinking the boxes down and putting them into his bag. The officials from the DMLE had left the school in order to return to the Ministry, whereas the representatives from the Board of Governors and the Wizarding Examinations Authority had retired to Professor Sinistra's office in order to go through a few details regarding her temporary appointment to the role of Head of Slytherin. All the other teachers and staff had left, save one.
"Are you alright, Harry?" Sarah asked.
"I think so," he replied.
"Have you checked her out?"
"Checked who for what?"
"Hermione, for potions."
A/N Okay, I know its short, but this chapter does everything that I need it to. I know that some of you won't like Sarah's suggestion at the end, but do you really think that after all that was found to be wrong with Harry earlier in the story that he wouldn't want to check that Hermione wasn't under the same influence? As to whether she is under the influence of any potions or not… well, you'll just have to wait and see. But as I have said before, like her or not, Hermione will be having a character arc in this story and, potions or no potions, she has some harsh lessons to learn.