This chapter will mostly be about the changes at Hogwarts. I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless and that I won't forget anything important. There are a lot of things that could and should be altered at Hogwarts, but only a few of them will be at Harry's fifth year. All those changes cost money and I expect the board to only allow a certain number of them at a time. So a few changes will only be mentioned as "intended" and won't be an actual part of this story.
Hogwarts – Great Hall – First of September 1995
It felt good to be back again. With Daphne among the Slytherins and Neville at the Hufflepuff table, Harry had only Hermione at his side as he watched the new Firsties enter the hall.
Have we ever been so small and frightened? Harry wondered. They still had three years to go but sometimes he felt so old.
"There's Gabrielle," Hermione whispered. The sight of the small girl conjured the first smile on her face since Neville had to leave her side. Despite both friends believing how right the resorting had been for Neville, they still missed him very much at every meal, Hermione naturally even more than Harry. It was a bit strange to watch how close she had become to the formerly shy boy in the past year, how open she was in showing her emotions, but Harry more than understood the feeling. After a week of spending the nights cuddling with Daphne it would be uncomfortable to sleep alone again – more or less alone at least, as there would be Seamus, Ron and Dean in the dorm. Of the three boys Harry could only stand Dean at the moment, something only intensified through the knowledge of Mrs. Patil's letter.
So Seamus will be part of Ron's little group of sycophants, Harry glared. Sooner or later Ron will urge him to misuse his prefect rights and I don't assume that Parvati will be able to stop them.
Hermione nudged him. "He's not worth it," she whispered. "Watch Gabrielle and be happy. Daphne certainly won't appreciate a boyfriend with deep wrinkles because he's frowning too much."
Harry stuck out his tongue, but instead of scolding his lack of maturity, Hermione only grinned: "Much better."
Harry smiled back and after a moment softly remarked: "I like this new relaxed side of you, Hermione."
She was surprised for a moment and thought about the sudden remark, before she nodded happily: "I like it too. I'm happier now."
Well done, Neville, Harry thought, well done indeed.
His mood much lightened, Harry watched the small girl and wasn't surprised to see her jumping with joy towards the Gryffindor table, where Ginny was already waiting for her. Ravenclaw would have been possible too, but Harry really had expected the small bundle of energy to join his house. Watching her, Harry didn't regret Daphne's and Hermione's wish to help Gabrielle in the least. She would be a cute little sister – and I will be a terrifying big brother, Harry promised himself, pushing away every admirer until she's 18 at least.
"She's really trying. Next year she'll be a great prefect," Hermione nodded towards the group around Ginny. The youngest Weasley had gathered the new Gryffs around her and urged Parvati to join them. Together they were explaining Hogwarts' basics to them, using a simple map to show them the ways around.
"She is and she'll be" Harry nodded. "And thank you for preparing the map. It will certainly help them."
"It was Daphne's idea. She created a similar map two years ago for her sister. I wonder why it isn't part of the new student bundle."
"It will be next year," Harry assured her. "The staff is still learning after decades of Dumbles' benevolent rule."
"Cheeky, Mister Potter," Hermione grinned.
"I try to be," Harry nodded with a smile.
"You should have been prefect, Daphne," Tracey groaned slightly. The half-blood girl was still uncertain about whether to be happy or not that Professor Snape had chosen her to be a prefect this year.
Daphne shrugged. "Hermione should have been too, even more than I. However there are more important things to do and we both realized that we still can do much without the badge. I thought all along that the badge – more exactly not to wear the badge – has too often been used as an excuse not to behave properly. Too many older students leave it to a handful of prefects to care for the younger and weaker ones." There had always been this unslytherin side of her, this side that cared about others. It had only grown stronger last year, especially since she started to develop her healing skills. Daphne was certain that – had she accepted the resorting at Easter – she wouldn't stay in Slytherin anymore.
"Sometimes I wonder why you hadn't been sorted into Hufflepuff," Draco teased her, earning him an elbow into the rips. "He means that as a compliment," Astoria commented her fiancé's words, knowing how her older sister thought about the Puffs's bad reputation. Draco frowned, but was clever enough not to respond.
This year would be hard enough, with him losing most of his status among the Slytherins. He hadn't been chosen to be a prefect – something dear Pansy had dreamed about for years – and he even lost his position on the team. He had spoken about both changes with his godfather and understood the reasoning. Especially his position on the team would have been too dangerous, allowing a broad number of accidents to happen. Now he had to watch how Higgs and his cronies would fare without him. Only the loss of Crabbe and Goyle did he regret a bit. Yes, they were dumb as bread most of the time, but still they had been his friends for fifteen years. This year would be the first without his broad shadows.
With a depressed sigh he leaned towards Astoria and kissed her on the cheek. At least she was happy and still there for him.
Ron and his cronies were watching the events with broad grins. After the announcement of Headmaster Flitwick about the presence of Dolores Umbridge and Percy Weasley at the school, his older brother had joined them. While Madam Umbridge would only visit the school from time to time – her other work as the Head of the "Department of Control of Magical Creatures" not allowing her to stay away from the Ministry for too long – Percy would be around most of the time.
Madam Umbridge's work was important enough, as Ron knew from his mother. To control dark creatures like vampires, werewolves and veelas had not been taken seriously enough for far too long. It was bad enough that Beauxbatons had allowed someone like that Delacour bitch to stain their reputation. Now they would to have to endure her little sister at Hogwarts even, not to think about Charlie's crazy idea to date Fleur. For a while Ron had hoped that Charlie only endured her with the intent to bed her. He had to admit that she was beautiful enough. However a few weeks ago, at Ginny's birthday, he started to talk about engagement. Ron shuddered. It was the effect of a love potion or that infamous veela love magic – it simply had to be. He would keep an eye on the younger veela bitch. Perhaps they could even encourage her to leave.
"I'll run a course about the workings of our Ministry," Percy just drawled, his haughty voice a bit unnerving even for his brother. The twins were sitting not too far away, trying to hide their grins but still determined to listen what their dear brothers had to share with their audience. "Too many students have no idea about the hard and important work we do at the Ministry. That has to change and Madam Umbridge chose me for this job." He pumped his chest waiting for praise and for the first time he got it from his younger brother. Not that Ron really cared, but Dumbledore had promised him special rights for his little club and Percy could certainly be helpful. "I'll have the status of a teacher as long as I stay at Hogwarts," Percy continued. Ron grinned. That meant the power to deduce points from Granger and give detentions to Potter. I knew Percy would be good for something one day.
"You'll do great, big brother," he clasped Percy's shoulder, grinning viciously. We'll do great.
"I assume that cleaning your boots isn't one of your fortes, Mister Potter" the elderly lady in the portrait drawled, holding her pince-nez in front of her narrowed eyes to scrutinize him. "Neither is the regular use of brushes, apparently," she continued to scold him. "You could certainly use a fresh haircut."
His cheeks blushing, partly from shame, partly from anger, Harry struggled to remain calm. After dinner he had parted ways with his friends to visit his mother's bureau. Apparently she had convinced Headmaster Flitwick to alter the layout of the rooms and now Narcissa Black, the new DADA teacher, had her rooms adjacent to Roxanne. The elderly lady, that was enjoying ridiculing him far too much, was the inhabitant of the picture that guarded Narcissa's rooms. Before he had a chance to answer, the portrait swung away and Harry came face to face with both ladies, both smiling at him, Narcissa a bit forced, Roxanne quite openly.
Roxanne liked the picture very much. It had been her arrival present for Narcissa, intended to lighten her mood a bit. It already worked obviously. That Harry was the target of the picture's scolding was kind of collateral damage and he would survive it. At least Narcissa had smiled again, something she sorely needed at the moment in Roxanne's opinion. She was far too tense, far too concerned about her son and his future. Even Umbitch and her silly monologue about "traditions and their worth in the Wizarding" hadn't been enough to distract her for long.
"Good evening, Professor Black," Harry bowed slightly, a gesture Narcissa – and Roxanne even more – appreciated. "Hello, Mother. I wanted to place the painting in your room."
"I'll accompany you."
Opening the door Roxanne gestured Narcissa to follow them. Her rooms, far more used and inhabited than the still a bit too orderly and clean rooms of Narcissa, offered quite a mix of book shelves, mementos from her voyages and a handful of paintings, most of them created by Daphne. One of them, a smaller picture showing Draco and Astoria dancing, caught Narcissa's eyes. As most of Daphne's works, it wasn't a master piece, but it had been able to catch the mood of the moment very good. Astoria had obviously been very happy and Draco even showed one of his rare honest smiles. For a moment both ladies locked eyes, like they were speaking silently about something, promising each other that their children would be happy again. However before Harry could ask, Roxanne lead him to a free spot at the wall beside her writing desk.
"Here I think would be a wonderful place. I could speak with her while writing letters or in my diary." Harry knew that Roxanne was speaking about his mother. While James Potter preferred to joke around with Sirius and Remus, Lily had renewed her old bond with Roxanne and Agatha in the past weeks.
"Dear diary," Narcissa started with a grave voice. "You won't believe what my useless godson did today. It all began when…"
"That wouldn't be a surprise," Harry grinned. "It's a wonderful place, mother." He fetched the picture from his bottomless bag – something Daphne and Hermione had created together, one for each of the four teenagers and the other family members – and unwrapped it. He worked quite gently and careful, like this picture would be his most precious property and in a way it was. He had missed his parents far too long and enjoyed it every moment he was able to speak with them. A few minutes later Harry's parents looked around, nodding happily.
"Hi Mum, hello Dad."
Silently Daphne and Astoria followed Professor Snape through the corridors of Hogwarts. It had been a surprise to be called at his side at the end of the dinner. While the other Slytherins left towards the dungeons – the still a bit frightened Firsties following Tracey and Blaise – the Greengrass sisters had another destination.
With a surprisingly soft voice and something like care in it, Professor Snape explained: "A concerned friend of yours told me about your sleeping problem, Miss Greengrass."
While Astoria had no idea what this was about, Daphne stopped instantly, her face turning into an angry mask: "Harry had no right…"
"Behave!" The clipped command was enough to stop her. "Mister Potter has his deficits – in my opinion more than tolerable – but obviously he really cares about you. He told me not to speak about this with your mother, but that he would appreciate my help. That he spoke to me about it should be proof enough of his feelings."
Daphne glared at him – something that didn't impress Snape in the least – but after a while her expression softened and she nodded. He was right. Harry still disliked the 'greasy git' very much. To visit him, beg him to help her, certainly had been difficult for Harry. "I understand, Sir."
"Good," Snape simply responded. He fetched a bag from his cloak and offered it to Daphne. "The painkiller potions you used aren't healthy." Daphne's glare renewed its force, but she was stopped again by the potions master. "If you had enough common sense to ask someone like Potion Mistress Hernandez for help, you would have known better than to use that poison and I wouldn't be forced to replace it with somewhat healthier."
Daphne nodded defeated and accepted the bag. "Thank you, Sir."
"You're welcome. I put enough potions in this bag for one week. Don't use other potions in addition. There are seven weak calming draughts in the bag, too. They are meant for the night. They won't suppress your nightmares but lessen their impact. This way you should be able to process them without too much pain."
"Painkiller potions? Nightmares?" Astoria stared at her sister.
"I tell you later," Daphne responded weakly.
"I expect you to do that," Astoria growled, not leaving a hint of a doubt that she would enforce the promise later.
A few minutes later they entered a room adjoining the Hospital Wing. It was a large and quite cosy sleeping room with four beds and an adjacent bathroom. A number of paintings were at the walls and a fluffy carpet covered the floor. Their trunks and other things were already in the room together with Balou, who was sleeping on one of the beds. A bit of surprise was the presence of Luna Lovegood and another Ravenclaw girl.
"Luna, what happened?"
The sight of Luna's face was enough to instantly put Daphne into her healer mode. Someone had cured most of the bruises and cuts but it was still clear that she had been brutally battered. The other Ravenclaw glared at them, her face switching between disgust directed towards the Slytherins and confusion every time she looked at Luna. The girls had been sitting on the beds the furthest apart from each other, another curious thing regarding they were housemates.
Instead of Luna it was Professor Snape who answered: "This room is a recovery room, as you certainly know, Miss Greengrass. Professor Flitwick and I decided it would be better for you four to sleep here tonight. About a further stay of Miss Lovegood and Miss Brocklehurst we'll decide tomorrow. You, Miss Greengrass, will stay here until your… problems… are solved."
With a swish of his wand he forced two of the beds to melt into a greater one. Balou, awakened by the movement, stayed calm and eyed the Head of House Slytherin calmly and suspiciously, but seconds later he simply yawned and turned around to continue his beauty sleep, his tail twitching as he dreamt about hunting a mouse.
"Mister Potter mentioned the benefit of you not sleeping alone."
A shocked gasp escaped Astoria's throat and Daphne blushed deeply. "Daph, you little wench… does Mum know?" Daphne tried to shush her sister, her cheeks now a full crimson. If possible the colour only intensified as she noticed Luna's dreamy look.
"This room" a short swish of his wand caused the entrance of the room to light up shortly "doesn't allow any boy to enter, but perhaps your sister will have a soothing effect too."
Both girls nodded. "Thank you, again, Sir." Daphne only wished the Professor to leave, while Astoria whispered furiously: "Tell me everything."
"It's nothing," Snape coldly responded "only a simply exchange of favours between Mister Potter and me. Don't let me regret this, Miss Greengrass."
"I won't," Daphne responded seriously, wondered what favour Professor Snape had demanded in exchange.
Luna blinked a few times, before a small smile split her face. While Daphne created a zone of privacy around Luna's bed – not that they really needed it with Mandy doing her best to ignore the girls – Astoria jumped on the bed and ordered Luna to tell her story. In moments like this, Luna thought amusedly, it was quite obvious that she was Daphne's sister: Bossy and caring. Deeming her silence for shy hesitation, Astoria hugged the older Ravenclaw. "You're among friends. Nay – at least Daphne is your friend, I'm only here for gossip," she grinned.
"It's okay," Luna whispered after a moment. "I'll tell you what happened."
So she did. Luna told the Greengrass sisters about the train ride, how she found her housemate harassed by Slytherins – something that prompted both girls to growl angrily – and continued with the fight and the rescue through Millie and Greg. Most important however she spoke about what happened afterwards.
Hogwarts Express – a few hours ago
"Fetch Professor Snape," Millie commanded Greg. "Don't tell anybody else. Don't speak to him with anybody else around. Go!"
Waiting with Luna, Millie Bulstrode did her best to help the petite girl to at least clean the wounds and cool her blackened eye. She was awful at healing spells – or any kind of charms – so she had to rely on simply Muggle first aid techniques, a knowledge that certainly surprised the Ravenclaw girl. More than once, when fetching water or a new towel, Millie 'accidentally' kicked one of the helpless boys. After the third time she even stopped to utter her totally unconvincing "sorry". Especially Derrick had somehow angered her enough to get more than his fair share of kicks and stomping on exposed fingers.
After a while that seemed far longer to the girls than it really had been, Greg returned with Professor Snape in tow. Without any compassion he examined the boys, leaving them magically bound the whole time. For a split second compassion was visible on his face as he turned towards Luna, not only examining but also healing her in the process. Greg stayed silent for the whole time, a bit confused by the events and fearful of the repercussions. Millie on the other hand watched her Professor closely, remembering quite well how he had been helping her two years ago after…
The question was asked with a low voice, the tone telling Luna that he expected a moderately detailed and completely honest answer. She explained to him the events leading to her injuries, how her housemate had fled the scene and how Millie and Greg had come to her rescue. "I'm sorry that I caused so much trouble, Professor," Luna finished with her tiny voice.
"Bullshit," Millie growled, kicking Derrick into his lower ribs with enough force to cause a wail of pain – luckily confined to the room by Snape's Muffliato spell.
Professor Snape glared at her, raising an eyebrow but without uttering a word in her direction. "It wasn't your fault, Miss Lovegood. It's only the fault of these two shady subjects. If you wish, you could press charges against them because of assault and sexual harassing. It's your decision." Millie had rarely seen Snape behaving this soft and caring. It was a side of him that he normally reserved for troubled first year Slytherins in their first weak. Despite her weirdness – perhaps even because of her weirdness – this Lovegood girl must have hit a soft spot in his heart.
Luna didn't respond immediately and Greg interjected: "What will happen to us, Professor?"
"That's a surprisingly intelligent question, Mister Goyle. A question you should have asked yourself before you jumped into this fight, perhaps."
Gregory Goyle blushed. "I had to help Millie, Sir."
Severus sighed, something like "foolish Gryffindor behaviour" muttered under his breath.
"This could be dangerous for Millie and Goyle, couldn't it, Professor?" Luna asked.
"Yes," Snape nodded gravely, not really surprised that the girl was able to see the danger this easily. "Not only will their housemates see their behaviour as some kind of betrayal, but their will act accordingly. Both fathers are Death Eaters, expecting their children to follow their lead. They won't be happy about this, especially now with the Dark Lord's return."
Millie paled. She had known about the reaction of her housemates, but not really thought about her father before she jumped into the fray. It simply had been the urge to help another girl, but her father wouldn't understand, especially not regarding the daughter of a man her father thought of as a blood traitor. This could turn very nasty very soon.
"You believe Harry?" Luna quietly asked.
"Believe Mister Potter about 'His' return?" Luna nodded.
Severus Snape sighed. "Mister Potter has many faults, but lying and boasting about something like this is not his kind of behaviour. All four Greengrass ladies confirmed the story. Yes, Miss Lovegood, I believe Mister Potter. Only a Weasley or a similar dunderheaded person would be able to deny this simple truth."
Snape and the three students stayed silent for a while, thinking about how to continue. Then Luna asked hesitantly: "Could you… could you alter their memory, Sir? Perhaps let them forget that Millie and Goyle helped me?"
Millie halted her breath until Professor Snape slowly nodded. "I could do that."
So he did: He healed the boys' injuries and changed their memories in a way that they remembered how they had fun with the girl until it got boring and they left the room of their own volition. Afterwards he loosened their bonds and allowed them to leave. It all went fabulously aside from a small incident. When Millie and Greg picked Derrick up from the floor, Millie asked with a falsely sweet voice: "He won't remember anything?"
On Professor Snape's nod of assent she kneed Derrick into the groin with full might. With a voiceless cry, the pain not allowing his lungs to draw enough breath for a single word, the boy slumped to the ground again. Millie hissed into his ear: "You still deserved this."
Professor Snape only shook his head without commenting the action. He healed the new injury – mostly – and continued with his work. When both boys had left the room, he asked Millie: "What about Mister Goyle? He belongs to Mister Higgs' merry band, too."
Millie stared thoughtful at the boy. She struggled with the answer and asked Greg at last: "Will you keep your mouth shut about this?"
Greg, after a moment of silence, responded surprisingly clever: "Do I get a kiss for my silence?"
Millie glared, but Luna and even Snape had to fight to suppress a smile. "I'll think about it."
Greg sighed and nodded: "I'll keep my mouth shut. I promise."
On Snape's look, questioning Millie if she believed him, the girl agreed at last: "I trust him."
Millie didn't know it, but her statement, these simple three words more than any prospect of a kiss changed something in Gregory Goyle at that moment. For the first time someone trusted him, not because he would obey out of fear but because Millie thought of him as a friend. He knew that even Crabbe, his old buddy, would have no qualms to betray him to Malfoy, Higgs or his father. Millie however trusted him and promised her own silence in the matter, too.
No, he wouldn't betray her, kiss or no kiss.
Deep in the night
Daphne had a restless sleep, but her sister's presence seemed to calm her enough to avoid any screaming and wake-ups. Not that it would have disturbed the Ravenclaw girls. Neither girl was able to find any sleep. While Luna was wondering about Millie's interjection and Professor Snape's weird behaviour, Mandy Brocklehurst was tossing about in her bed, unable to comprehend why Luna had not only helped her but even risked her own health. She had been lucky that the boys had stopped after rowing her up. Mandy had been certain that they wanted to rape her in that storage room. She shuddered, thinking about it, thinking about how she thanked Looney for the rescue.
However the simple but quite difficult question stayed: Why? Mandy knew that she wouldn't have done the same in Luna's stead. So why had Luna helped her?
With a suppressed groan Mandy left her bed and slowly walked through the room, circumventing the broad double bed with the two cuddling Slytherins – she still had no idea why they were here, but the older girl's groans and shivering proved that it was necessary – and approached the bed of the petite girl. Kneeing down she remained silent for a while, watching the sleeping girl, trying to read her mind, read her emotions through closely watching her. I've been awful, Mandy silently wept. I've been a coward, worse than a Slytherin.
Leaning forward she put her head on the mattress, closed her eyes, and struggled to stop her tears. She was too occupied with her troubles that she neither noticed the change in Luna's breathing nor her slight movement. Only when a soft hand started to nudge her shoulder, did she look up again. Luna had opened her eyes and watched her closely, her pale and most of the time dreamy eyes now showing something new and unexpected: Disappointment.
"Why?" Mandy whispered. Why did you help me? Why did you take the risk – for me?
For a long time Luna remained silent and Mandy already doubted to get an answer, doubted that Luna assumed her to be worthy to be spoken to. The answer then – quite simple but so honest – was a shock. "I saw a housemate in trouble. I saw a fellow girl harassed by evil gits, unwilling or unable to see how much they hurt her. I saw another human being in need of help. How could I not help you?"
Mandy started to cry again, louder this time, loud enough to wake Astoria but not Daphne. Astoria however pretended to sleep on: This wasn't for her to listen.
"Why?" It was Luna's turn to ask. Why did you run? Why didn't you send me help?
"I was a coward. I should have stayed and helped you, but I was only able to feel happy that there was a chance to leave, to flee that awful place. Their hands on my body were disgusting, their mouths on my skin revolting. I should have stayed, but I could only think: Better her than me. I fled to our housemates. I should have told them, but I was ashamed. We're no Hufflepuffs, but still there should be loyalty among us. I should have …"
Mandy hiccupped, struggling hard to calm herself enough to continue to speak. "I've been awful to you since your arrival. Even when the others stopped last year I continued to belittle you. Still you didn't hesitate to help me."
The darkness hid Luna's blushing. She remembered quite well her hesitation, the moment of wondering if she should simply walk away again and leave Mandy to her misery.
"Probably you'll never forgive me for the past and for my behaviour today. Perhaps I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I… I wanted to apologize at least. I'm really sorry and I promise that I'll never again be like that. Thank you, Luna. Thank you for your help."
Luna didn't answer, but when Mandy started to get up again, she put her hand on the older girl's shoulder and pushed her down again. Gently but with determination she pulled her into her bed and put her arm around her, covering both with her blanket. Still she didn't say a single word, only snuggled up to her and held her through the night.
Hogwarts – Great Hall – Second of September 1995
Never before had the Great Hall been stuffed with people like this, not even on the day of Albus Dumbledore's trial. Every single student and staff member was present, hundreds of parents had been invited and quite a number of additional guests like Ministry officials, the Board members and a few others. Mistress Ironsides was there too, Harry noticed, a number of glaring goblin guards protecting her from any unwelcome attention.
For today the seating plan had been rescinded. Instead of the large tables for the different houses with long rows of benches, there were dozens of smaller seating groups, allowing families and friends to sit together. Headmaster Flitwick had already mentioned the evening before that from now on it would be allowed to sit with friends from other houses at the meals. Only the dinner would still be 'house time'. Harry liked the idea very much that from now on his meals with Daphne and Neville were not only tolerated, but actually promoted by the staff.
To his regret Roxanne and Agatha had to stay at the staff/governor table today together with Augusta, but at least he had his friends around him. The Grangers were there too and – a bit surprisingly – Petunia. She had told him a while ago about her youth, about her wish back then to go to Hogwarts together with her sister. Headmaster Dumbledore naturally hadn't allowed it, the first of many incidents that broke the sisters apart. Today she would at least have the opportunity to visit the castle for real.
A sore point was the presence of Cyrus Greengrass. Like Lucius Malfoy he had used the opportunity to get near to wife and children again. It was quite obvious that he tried to get back into Harry's good graces. Little did he know that this was not only a futile attempt but would be totally pointless in the near future.
"Molly," Daphne whispered, nodding towards the Weasley family. Around Arthur Weasley his whole family had gathered and even Molly, Ron and Percy were allowed to join them. Today was a day for family, not only for the Greengrasses and Malfoys. The Weasley Matriarch appeared to be quite content with the situation, Percy had his usual haughty expression, and Ron was grinning the whole time while the rest of the family was annoyed. Ginny was sitting between the twins, protected from her dear Mum but still very tense. Only Charlie was missing at the table. He had instead occupied a seat with the Delacour family.
A chime resonated through the hall and Headmaster Filius Flitwick stepped on a small wooden stairs to address the audience: "Dear parents, students, guests of Hogwarts …"
While Filius Flitwick welcomed the parents and explained the routine of the visitor day – there would be a number of speeches, an introduction of the teachers and subjects followed by some time to walk around and speak with the teachers in detail – his mind went back to the morning.
"Harry," Roxanne had stopped him, her face telling him that it would be about Daphne. He knew about the 'recovery room', knew that the sisters would stay there for a while and he was thankful that Professor Snape had found a way to help Daphne. Having her sister around at night would be a blessing. The question was: How much knew Roxanne about it?
"Daphne…" Roxanne hesitated. She was concerned. Something was going on with her daughter and she didn't know what, didn't know how to help.
"She doesn't want to concern you, mother," Harry remarked, guessing Roxanne's worries.
"So there is reason for concern?"
Harry sighed. "There is. However we have taken care of the matter. Severus…" It felt quite odd to use his first name, but in this context Professor Snape would be even weirder. "Severus is helping." Harry stepped forward and put a hand on Roxanne's shoulder. "Please ignore it, mother. Give her time and space. Ana and Nel said that she'll be fine again until Mione's birthday. Please don't ask," he stopped her when Roxanne opened her mouth to question Nel's part in the matter. "Simply accept that Daphne has problems and wants to solve them alone."
"You'll be there for her?" Harry nodded, knowing that Roxanne realized the stupidity of her question.
"You promise to tell me if it gets worse?" He nodded again, closing the distance to hug her. "We love you, mother, and we know that you love us too. Please allow her to solve this without you."
"Okay," Roxanne sighed. "I don't like it but okay."
"Before I hand over to Professor McGonagall allow me to finish the introduction with a small warning: There are places at Hogwarts that react to magical cores only, namely the moving stairs and some of the doors. For security purposes, please don't walk around without a student escorting you, this applies especially for the parents of our Muggleborn students. In addition there will be a chance to have a look at the greenhouses and the potions lab. You're only allowed to enter with one of the older students accompanying you and you have to follow their orders. This is for your safety. We don't want to spoil this day with any unnecessary accidents. Now however: Professor McGonagall…"
Minerva stepped forward to address the audience. She looked very impressive in her regal robes with the tartan of her house. Minerva had something of a dour Scottish warrior maiden about her and when she repeated the warning about obeying the rule to enforce security Harry had no doubt that every parent would obey her.
"Today," she started, her voice clearly heard in every corner of the hall, thanks to a variant of the usual Sonorus charm Roxanne had cast on her, "is about change. For a long time Hogwarts had a closed door policy, trying to shelter the students from every danger but prohibiting contact between students and their families too. Parents who had never been here themselves had no idea about Hogwarts; they didn't know the teachers, didn't know the content of the lessons. We want to change this.
"The first step will be that from now on there will be more material about the school for the parents. The students will get material about the content of the next year's curriculum at the begin of the summer break – partly for the parents to have an idea of what their children learn, and partly for those students who want to prepare themselves."
Harry had to fight to suppress a giggle as he noticed that Minerva was adding a smiling look on Hermione to her statement.
"Second there will be more chances to see your children than it had been until now. We will discuss that with your children in the classes this week, as the exact details differ from year to year. However be ascertained that you won't have to wait for months in the future if you want to see your child again as it had been in the past. Naturally this will mean an additional organizational effort and we hope that a number of parents will be willing to support us with that.
"This leads to another change: While the board of governors has always been supporting and overseeing the staff in its duty, we want to have more input from the parents in the future too. There will be regular meetings with you to exchange opinions. The next two years will see many changes at Hogwarts, many things we have to try out before we integrate them into our curriculum. We hope that many parents will be willing to support us with the difficult task to modernize our school that had been home to us for a number of centuries now and hopefully will remain to be for a long time.
"Apart from your opinion and experience we'll need your support in to other ways too: Time and money. We can't simply hire a handful of new teachers and hope for the best. This year, there are a large number of additional, smaller courses planed, some of them voluntary, others with compulsory attendance. We already found a number of parents that are willing to teach those courses and hope for more volunteers. With your knowledge and the experience of this year we intend to hire teachers next year for a durable solution. In addition there will be a 'school contribution club', allowing you to donate money to improve your children's education. The first donors were Lord Sirius Black and Mister Harry Potter with 100,000 galleons together – that's about 2 million pounds – and Mistress Ironsides with a yearly support of 10,000 galleons in the name of Gringotts."
Minerva waited for a moment for the audience to calm down again. The yearly support from Gringotts, despite the intent being announced already three months ago, was quite a shock for many of the attending purebloods. It would, Minerva hoped, enforce that many of them would support the school too. Someone like the Parkinsons or Lucius Malfoy couldn't allow 'animals' to outdo them. Sometimes even pureblood racism could be a benefit.
"Before I start to introduce our teachers, allow me to call at my side a very special young woman. Since she entered Hogwarts four years ago, she had been how every teacher hoped their students to be: Bright, eager to learn, diligent and always a question on her lips."
Many heads turned towards the Granger-Potter table, but the mood was lightened through Professor Snape's not so quiet comment about a teacher's nightmare.
"Miss Hermione Granger …"
"So this was her secret task from Minerva," Neville whispered. With no small amount of pride he watched his fiancée as she walked towards the podium, got a comforting hug from Minerva as a greeting and addressed the audience. At the start her voice was a bit meek and trembling, but after a while it got strong as usual again.
"Dear parents, students and guests of Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall told you that today is about change. However today is also about another, very complex theme. It is about integration, understanding and tolerance. Four years ago, when I entered Hogwarts for the first time, I had specific expectations, expectations about the school, the lessons, my class and housemates and the magical world altogether. Many of my expectations had nothing to do with the reality, which I had to learn the hard way over the years. While Hogwarts is situated in Scotland and Diagon Alley, the first place many of us Muggleborn visited after entering this wonderful world, is even in London, the magical world is nothing like what we used to know. It is more like a completely foreign land.
"To many of us it is a weird and sometimes frightening world. We don't understand how it works and far too often we tried to transfer our opinions and experiences, our whole worldview to this world too. What we far too often forget: We have to understand each other before we change something. We have to try to accept before we harass others with our wouldn't-it-be-better-this-way crusade. I made this error too, perhaps even more than most of you and it cost me many possible friends. Like nobody of you would try to convince a Muslim that Christianity is the only real religion – at least I hope you wouldn't – or try to enforce a Monarchy to the Germans because we are content with ours, so you can't simply transfer the Muggle lifestyle to the Magical World."
It was more than a bit weird to watch the many pureblood traditionalists that were smiling and nodding now, giving this troubling Mudblood their support far more than many of the half-blood and Muggleborn families.
"Lady Longbottom," Hermione addressed the elder lady. "The first time we met each other, you didn't really like me. What was, in your opinion, my biggest flaw?"
"That's hard to say," Lady Longbottom answered. "I think it was a combination of you being a stubborn Muggleborn and your inbred impertinence. It made every conversation with you a bit unpleasant and exhausting."
Harry frowned, but stayed calm because Hermione's parents did too. Many Muggleborn in the audience reacted far more negatively and had to be silenced through Hermione, who had a little outburst. "SILENCE!" Her voice was strong enough to quench any insult targeted at Augusta about her assumed pureblood racism. Her whole stance told every observer that she wouldn't stand for this nonsense, ordering to shut their mouths and listen, really listen. Minerva McGonagall observed her with much pride. She couldn't have silenced them better.
Neville whispered: "She is damned sexy doing this flaming wrath thing." Hermione blushed, intensified only through the supporting comments from the audience.
Hermione sighed and shook her head: "Think first, especially those among you who know me, who know Lady Longbottom. She's not only my magical guardian – and the guardian of my parents – but also allowed and encouraged the engagement between her grandson and me. So if she says that my Muggleborn heritage was one of my biggest flaws, we have to ask what she means with that statement instead of coming to conclusions. That she is correct about the second part, my impertinence… you have only to ask Professor Snape about that point."
"Quite right she is," Snape rumbled "quite right." With Minerva standing too far away from him, it was Madam Sprout's duty to punch his shoulder.
"So what about my heritage? From the start I looked around and saw thing that were foreign to me. Some of them were directly opposed to how my parents reared me. As many of you I have been taught to be my own master, to make my own decision. Equality of races, colours and genders was more or less an inbred fact to me. However that isn't how the magical world exists. This isn't Great Britain, this is Magical Britain. It is a world where families are important, far more important than in our world, important as they have been in our Muggle past. The head of a family or house is able to make decisions that seem oppressive to many of us. The behaviour often seems strange, what my parents told me about good manners won't help me much in this world. My first meeting with Lady Longbottom – let's just say she thought me to be something like a country rube."
She blushed, more because Augusta nodded than the laughter of the audience.
"To the girls of us especially how women are treated in this world, seems just wrong. We are accustomed to equality. Feminism just seems right to us. However that is our Muggle view, our Muggle way of equality. Perhaps the magical society has to change. To be honest I'm even convinced that the magical society has to change. However: It won't change within a year or a decade and certainly not simply because I want it to change. I'm not all-knowing – despite my reputation. Marriage contracts, the control a husband has over his wife, corporal punishment of children – this all seems wrong to me and to many other Muggleborn too. However we can't simply waltz in and change everything we don't like. It would simply be arrogant to assume otherwise."
Somewhere along her speech Hermione had gotten the rapt attention of everybody. She openly declared her wish to change but also to learn about the magical society first, getting her the support of the Muggleborn as the Purebloods alike – aside from a few traditionalists that were still glaring at her like she was a toad.
"Some of you certainly remember last year and my SPEW organization. Ah, I see you remember all too well. I saw how house elves were treated and two times was witness of the cruel abuse of a house elf. It reminded me of slavery, of something that Britain left behind hundreds of years ago. So I started SPEW, wanted to improve the life of these little creatures. Yes, creatures and not sentient beings, because that obviously was how I saw them: Creatures which were mishandled and had to be protected without speaking with them first. Creatures, like caned dogs, not beings with their own intellect, their own honour and pride, beings with their own hopes and wishes.
"Luckily I had friends that stopped me, friends who told me to ask house elves about their life, about their wish to serve. It was a long way until I understood that House Elves not only want to serve, but they even need it. They need the connection to a magical household, to a wizard. Without such a connection they slowly starve to death. Through my haughtiness, my attempt to free them – leaving around hand-knitted clothes – I could have done far worse than any abusing wizard. Luckily I learned later that it doesn't help a house elf to get clothes from someone who isn't their master. Stupid me."
She waited for the laughter to die down, before she continued again.
"Muggle-raised and magical-raised students and families are foreign to each other. The world around us changes. In the future there will be more of us muggle-raised wizards and witches with every year. We have to learn about each other, from each other, and find a way to live together. In the past months Neville taught me many things about your world that is slowly becoming my world, good things, bad things and mostly weird things. In the same time he learned about my world and while he certainly doesn't want to live there the whole time, I'm certain that he appreciates that there is a whole new world for him to discover, with new art, new books, and new places. While I love magic, appreciate the possibilities of a pensieve and adore the opportunity of magical transport like floo and portkey, I want to teach him too about things like computers, television and games consoles."
Calmly Hermione looked around. "I love my parents. I love my old home and my old friends. I don't want to miss them in the future, don't want to leave them behind. However I also love Neville, Lady Augusta and the many new friends and mentors I found in the last four years. I have to find a way to live in both worlds like all of us have to do. Let's find this way together."
I hope the speech wasn't too much, but I wanted to show Hermione's inherent problem: Transfer her Muggleborn knowledge, experience and world view to the magical world without understanding it, her attempt to change and not integrate herself. I wanted to show her evolution from "I'm right and you have to change" to "listen first, compromise later".