Hi everybody, sorry to keep you waiting, but now the next chapter is finished. Hope you like it, enjoy.
The wizarding world was in uproar. News about the security breach at Hogwarts had spread and concerned parents were flocking to the school to make sure that their children were safe in person. Especially the parents of the Hufflepuff students that had been injured didn't hesitate to floo to Hogsmeade and walk up to the school. Hagrid had got orders to send the parents directly to Professors Sprout and McGonagall. He greeted them at the gates and informed them about this and many nodded gratefully. The two female teachers assembled the parents in their offices in groups of at most eight and told them the current state of things before calling the children they had come to see to their offices.
The school had set up a room where the families could meet, with some tea and biscuits being available for them. Most parents were relieved when they found out that their child hadn't been hurt badly. Most of the injured students had received bruises and scrapes. Nothing really worrisome. The shock of being attacked by the troll was worse than anything else. The ones that had broken bones had already been healed, thankfully Madam Pomfrey was one of the best in the field of trauma healing, lots of practice from Quidditch training made it necessary to be up to her game. The ones that were hit worst were the two seventh-years Nymphadora Tonks and Gawain Robards. Both aspired to become aurors and their chances were good that they would manage to get into the program.
Both had been at the front of the group trying to push the troll back and covering the retreat of the other Hufflepuffs. They had been fairly successful, but the magic resistance of the troll's skin made a proper counter attack really difficult. And they didn't have the means to really harm it with blunt weapons or lure it away with illusions. Those were the normal ways to deal with a troll. But being trapped in the corridor and having to protect their whole house, not to mention that seeing the troll had caused a panic among the other students, had in the end been their downfall. The troll, in a brute rampage, had swung his club wildly around himself and had ploughed through the students that attempted to stop it. Both students had received broken bones, a concussion, some major bruising, and in Robard's case Madam Pomfrey had had to prevent him suffocating, as a rip had pierced his lung. Thankfully it was caught quickly and she healed him.
The school could be happy that only three students were that badly injured. The injuries of Harry Potter, except for the concussion, while painful, weren't that serious. The fracture in his arm was a simple one and she had healed it in a minute. The sprained ankle was also easy to mend. Some rest for a day and it would be as good as new. The one reason he needed to stay for a few days was the concussion, as you didn't mess around with head injuries.
So all the parents that came to visit their children, except for the Tonks, the Robards and the Brackwoods, were directed to the meeting room to spend some time with their children to calm down the heightened emotions. Those three sets of parents, with Jessica Brackwood showing clear signs of pregnancy, were shown to the hospital wing by Professor Sprout once the other parents were taken care of. The parents were warned by Madam Pomfrey to not speak loudly, as the children needed quiet and rest.
Keith and Jessica took seats on the left side of Harry's bed. He looked at them tiredly.
"Hey, how do you feel, Harry?" Keith asked, holding his hand, while Jessica used a wet cloth to clean some sweat from Harry's forehead.
"Not so well," Harry admitted, "My head aches and I feel sick to my stomach. Madam Pomfrey gave me a potion for the sickness so that I don't throw up."
"That is normal for a concussion. Do you remember what happened?" Jessica asked softly.
"No, I was told we ran into the troll and I hit my head on the wall," Harry answered.
"You were lucky, Harry. Thankfully the teachers arrived on time to save you all. The troll has been dealt with and won't harm anybody again," Keith assured him.
"What happens now?" Harry wanted to know.
"You're going to take it easy for a few days and heal from the concussion. Then you should be back on your feet. You're going to have to pause for two weeks with playing football, but after that everything will be back to normal," Jessica told Harry.
"What about the school? And the classes I'll miss?" Harry asked concerned.
"Don't worry about it. Classes have been cancelled for three days to give the students time to get over their shock. Mind healers from St. Mungo's are going to talk to all students in Hufflepuff to help you deal with the horrible experience. They're also going to see if the other houses need somebody to talk to, as they were badly shaken after hearing how your house was intercepted by the troll on the way to your common room. The ones shaken the worst are the Slytherins, who have realised how easily it could have been them that got attacked," Keith informed Harry.
Harry took the information in and his eyes drooped.
"Try to sleep, Harry. Jessica will stay here, while I'll talk to Professor Sprout," Keith said and Harry did just that. Sleeping sounded like a really good idea.
Dumbledore didn't have a good time. He had to report to the Ministry how it could have happened that a troll got into the school. Next to that he had to explain why he sent the students off without escort when it was known that a troll was loose. Especially the Slytherins, as the troll was reported to be in the place where their common room was located. He spent all day at the Ministry and had to delegate the leading of the school to his deputy. It had one advantage in the form that he didn't have to talk to the parents whose children had been injured. It was a catastrophe and he hadn't been able to keep the incident silent.
If only one student would have been injured, he might have got away with just sending that student's parents a letter, but with twenty seven injured students, one of them Harry Potter, there simply was no way to keep this contained. He had to answer questions he didn't like, for example how the troll had managed to get past the wards that Hogwarts was famous for. He was called into countless meetings and the Board of Governors wanted to hear what measures were taken to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
He would have to let independent warding specialists take a look at the wards and follow their recommendations for how to modify the wards. Thankfully he could use the opportunity to take some of the ever present scrutiny of Severus Snape, as he had been among the group of teachers that had saved the Hufflepuffs that were attacked. But the negatives far outweighed the positives. Right now he had a meeting with the DMLE head, Amelia Bones, whose niece had been among the attacked students. Thankfully the girl hadn't been injured. That would have been the icing on the cake.
"Alright, Albus, let's talk without wasting any time beating around the bush. This is a giant clusterfuck and the people want to see action. How in Merlin's name could a troll get into the school?" Bones asked pointedly.
"Trolls aren't on the list of creatures that are classified as banned from the school. There were times in history when the headmaster employed security trolls as an added protection against criminals that targeted certain students. The wards wouldn't automatically stop them from getting inside. It's too complicated to always change the creature ward to let a group of trolls in when they are needed, but to keep them out otherwise. The change takes a full week to take hold. As the majority of trolls in our world are trained as security trolls, all headmasters have decided to simply not change the ward all the time," Dumbledore explained.
She wrote that part down.
"It won't pacify the parents, but I can somewhat understand the reasoning. Another question is why you didn't let the students stay in the Great Hall. You're a Transfiguration Master and fortifying the doors would have been simple," she pointed out.
"I honestly didn't think about it, Amelia. I was concerned about the troll getting to the students that I quickly assembled the teachers to take care of the threat. It didn't register in my mind that two of the houses' common rooms were in that direction or that the troll could have changed its position since Quirinius sounded the warning. I admit that it was poor judgement on my part," Dumbledore sighed, "I wish those poor children hadn't been injured. I really feel horrible for not having realised the danger early enough."
That much was true. He felt horrible that so many students had been hurt. He really should have realised the danger and kept at least those two houses in the Great Hall. Having only the prefects escort the younger students was folly in hindsight. It hadn't been one of his better days. In hindsight he should have simply instructed everybody to stay in the Great Hall until the teachers had dealt with the troll, but he had been too busy thinking that this might have been what he had been waiting for. An attempt at the stone that he had placed at the school as bait for Voldemort.
"I see. You better give a public apology and one to the students at Hogwarts. It won't make things right, but it would be a start. Next point is the demand for the wards to be checked by experts," Madam Bones listed.
"They're welcome to come to Hogwarts to see for themselves that except for a few unfortunate exceptions that are needed in cases like the one that I described, the wards are as strong as they can be," Dumbledore threw one of his trumps out, "We have wards against any creature that is classified as level five or higher, no dark creature can pass the wards to harm the students and the only really dangerous part of the grounds is the Forbidden Forest with its assortment of creatures of all kinds."
It was known after all that the forest was dangerous and the Ministry had never cared.
"That's something at least and it will help assure the public," Bones nodded satisfied, "I would also like that you implement some emergency procedures at Hogwarts. Something like drills that teach all students how to react in case of an emergency. How to call for help quickly, where they can find safe locations and the like."
"I can easily arrange for that, Amelia. It's a great idea," Dumbledore agreed, happy that he could do something that was easily done and didn't really cause any trouble for him, "I'm going to call in the heads of houses and discuss where the safe points should be located and how to arrange for the warning system. I'm sure we can get the portraits and the ghosts to help out with that."
Madam Bones nodded. That sounded like a reasonable plan so far.
"I expect that you keep me up to date about the procedures you work out with them and let me conduct a test to make sure they work like they are intended to do. The next point on my list is that you told the students that there was a really dangerous corridor at the school and anybody should stay away if they didn't want to die a very painful death. Are you out of your mind, Albus?" Bones asked.
"I assure you, we have taken security measures, but the children needed to be warned to not go there," he said with his grandfatherly voice.
"So, if I send my team in to see if that's true, I can expect that no student could get to the place at all?" She asked icily.
"Or course, Amelia," Dumbledore answered, mentally listing setting up an age-line to keep all people under eighteen out of the corridor for tonight on top of his priorities.
"You can expect my team tomorrow morning to assure that this is true. We can't afford any more bad news from the school. Certain people are already trying to use this politically," she mentioned, not giving any names, being aware that he would know who was behind that.
He indeed did. Lucius Malfoy and his faction would try to profit from this scandal, trying to remove him from Hogwarts. But they would fail. He would have to call in some of the favours he had assembled over his long career in politics, but he would weather the storm. This was nothing new to him.
A week after the troll incident things had mostly gone back to normal. Many students were still meeting with the mind healers after the shock, but that was about the only consequence of the attack on the Hufflepuffs. Dumbledore had set up the age line for the third floor corridor in time to appease Madam Bones and her inspectors and the heads of house were currently tasked to work on plans to better deal with emergencies. Nobody wanted a repeat of the incident on Halloween. The press had been brutal over the number of injured students and the Board of Governors had tried to wrangle power from Dumbledore, but was stopped in the end thanks to the political clout that Dumbledore had.
And they didn't really have many attack points. The one thing that could fully be blamed on Dumbledore was sending the students to their common rooms, which normally was a standard procedure in emergencies. The troll being in the castle itself was something he couldn't have prevented with the way the wards were designed. So while he had to take some blows, he got through the storm fairly well, together with the teachers.
The fact that all students were by now out of the hospital wing was only a bonus. The Quidditch Match between Gryffindor and Slytherin had been pushed back by one week. Therefore both matches would now be played on the same weekend. Gryffindor would face Slytherin on Saturday and Hufflepuff Ravenclaw on Sunday. The students could easily live with that. Classes were taken up again after three days and most students now groaned about homework again, especially the OWL and NEWT students. Their workload was much larger than that of the other years. Because of the attack the football matches were attended by fewer students, so only two teams were put together.
Harry and some others had been told to refrain from doing anything strenuous for at least a week after being allowed out of the hospital wing. While Madam Pomfrey could easily heal broken bones, she insisted that the student in question didn't strain the limb that was broken. As it was only for one weekend, the students could easily live with that. They still went down to cheer the ones that could play on.
Keith sat at the table in the room that the group had rented for the evening at a popular pub in London, just about ten minutes away from the Leaky Cauldron. They didn't want all kinds of people overhearing their discussions. The group consisted mainly of muggleborns with the occasional halfblood and pureblood thrown in. When everybody was present, he stood up.
"Thank you all for coming today," he started, "You all know why I have invited you here. The troll attack at Hogwarts, combined with the falling standards of education there are reason to start working on solutions to the problems that have been allowed to fester at the school for decades. We all have been disillusioned by the silky words of Albus Dumbledore, as most of us were promised a great future as witches and wizards and in the end were thrown away. Some, like me, managed to get a good job, but I'll freely admit that without the massive support of my family, I wouldn't have managed. We all didn't graduate with worse marks than those that got high positions at the Ministry or in businesses that pay well."
Agreeing comments came from the others.
"The Ministry is a place where you don't have a chance to get a position that suits your talents, if you don't have connections or are a pureblood. By now, many of us have children at Hogwarts that have to deal with the same prejudices that we had to fight against. And still, nothing is done. Albus Dumbledore just twinkles at the bullies and takes a few points from them and tells them not to be naughty boys anymore, which they laugh about. Thanks to Severus Snape covering for his house all the time, even the few times that other teachers want to take action are stopped," Keith pointed out.
"But what can we do? I know that the situation is bad, but we don't have any influence in the wizarding world. We left to at least earn a living," one woman asked.
"The only way to get anything done is to force Dumbledore into action, and face it, that is nearly impossible," another man exclaimed, "You're right in what you say, but we're speaking about Dumbledore here. They all admire him for defeating Grindelwald. The only one with a bigger hype being made about his name is Harry Potter. And he's just eleven."
"I know that and I won't allow for Harry to be put into the spotlight. A child shouldn't be expected to solve problems that fall into the responsibility of adults to be dealt with. He's already overwhelmed with the crazy behaviour of people and doesn't want to be famous for something he doesn't remember and which probably was done by his parents someway," Keith said.
"You talk as if you know the by better?" A woman asked.
"I practically raised him from the time he was six, as his aunt and uncle neglected him massively. I was his homeroom teacher since his first year at primary school. All the stories that are around in the wizarding world about Harry's great adventures as a child, are pure fiction. Completely made up. He grew up in a muggle neighbourhood with relatives that are intolerant of magic and resented him for having it. I couldn't stand by and do nothing, so I arranged that his relatives ignored him and took over looking out for him. That actually worked better than letting them be in charge," Keith admitted, knowing that none of the ones present could talk about the things discussed here, as they had all had to sign an agreement to keep things secret from those not included in the plans.
"That will really irk the purebloods. Their precious saviour, raised by a muggleborn wizard," a man chuckled, "The irony."
"How did you managed to hide that?" A woman asked.
"Dumbledore had an old squib placed in the neighbourhood. She found out about me being a wizard after some time and as she had seen how Harry was treated by his relatives and how happy being with me made him, she didn't report it to Dumbledore. She also told me her role in the game and some specifics of the wards that are set up to protect Harry there. From then on Harry moved into my house for most of the year, except for the few weeks that it takes to keep the wards up and strong. That part Dumbledore did right, but his execution of a god idea, as usual, is lacking," Keith explained without giving up too many details.
"Isn't that the truth? How many things did that man do only half-assed?" a man grumbled.
Many nodded in agreement. What Dumbledore said and intended and what really happened in the end were two very different things.
"So, what can we do to force change?" A woman asked.
"I have given Harry some advice, as Snape is bullying him for the enmity that he had with Harry's father James and his friends. Harry has taken up my advice to collect solid proof for Snape's misconduct as a teacher, next to doing the same for a big bully in his year from Slytherin and a lesser one in Gryffindor. I think the students are going to write lists of the faults of all teachers sooner or later. Once you start something like that, it tends to develop a life of its own. That is the point where we need to act. We can confront Dumbledore as parents, that we demand proper teachers for our children, as we pay a lot of gold for their education at Hogwarts. We can expect that the teachers can actually teach properly and not only have the knowledge of the subject. We all know that nobody learns anything from Binns and that the curriculum is horribly outdated.
"We all have some old friends from wizarding families that we can contact in this matter. They can give us access to the ones in important positions. Nobody would think anything wrong about parents protesting that their money is wasted when the children should learn all their subjects properly. Right now I know of three subjects that lack proper teachers for first year and we would have to investigate more concerning the electives," Keith described.
"Hm, that might just work, but so far Dumbledore always managed to weasel his way out of inquiries," a man pondered.
"That's why I called you all in. The more pressure we can create, the more he can't weasel out. He will find ways to weaken the impact, but any improvement is better than the current situation," Keith replied.
"True that, okay, I think we can all agree to that?" A woman asked and the others voiced their agreement.
"Okay, but we need to also think of something to change things concerning how we're treated in the wizarding world," a man stated.
"Yes, and I have a plan that might be a possibility, but we need some years before we can get it started," Keith said.
"What do you have in mind?" The same man asked curiously.
Keith started to explain the basic points of his plan and many of the ones present had an evil grin on their faces the further he got.
Okay, that's it for today, and I know that you don't like cliffhangers, but where would the surprise be, if I revealed everything from the start ? :) Till next time.