Tom stayed up the rest of the night parsing what the little blonde seer said. He watched his son sleep – so frail, so innocent; so dependent on him to keep him safe, to love him, to meet his needs.
He wouldn't fail.
He had immersed himself in being Tom Riddle's grandson and new headmaster so deeply to create a solid cover that he had nearly forgotten that he was the Dark Lord. He removed the Mark and let most of his minions fade away into whatever life they wanted keeping in touch only with those that had political value to him.
That had to change. He needed to contact his thinkers – rune masters, potion masters, spell crafters. He would not let muggles destroy their world. Arthur Weasley was in a good position to help with some of their initiatives such as getting muggleborn more fully into the magical world, increasing magical creature numbers and securing safe territory for them and increasing creativity and economics, but he would not support strikes against muggles of any sort. That part of the plan would need to remain beneath his radar because Tom had come to truly like Arthur Weasley and would greatly hate disposing of him, but he would to ensure the survival of his family and Magic.
He rose from the rocker and left the nursery making his way to his desk. He drew parchment and quill in front of him and started writing summons and requests for meetings with likeminded individuals. He was still at his desk when Hari shuffled out of their bedroom and slumped in the chair in front of his desk.
"You didn't come back to bed. What are you doing?"
"I took Gasper for a stroll last night to settle him down and ran into Ms. Lovegood. She's seen the future and it is not pretty. She told me what we must do to survive and a time frame for it to happen in."
Hari stared a moment then straighten up in the chair her face full of determination. "What did she say?"
"We have ten to fifteen years approximately to prepare for muggles to discover us and go to war with us. She said we need to reduce their numbers and somehow destroy their most destructive weapons and the very knowledge of them. I have been writing allies and past followers that are masters of runes, potions and spellcrafting."
Hari ran a hand through her hair. "Most destructive weapons. We need someone that can expertly research on computers to search out nuclear and biological weapon sites and creators. We'll need people in every country to convince their leaders to destroy the stockpiles and eliminate knowledge of how to create more."
Tom stood and moved to pull Hari from her chair. "More than a decade though less than two – that's what we have. Go shower and say good morning to Gasper then breakfast and exams. Taffy will watch over Gasper and I'll be in the office most of the day. I'll send out these letters and then we wait for answers."
"Ok," Hari murmured hugging him tightly.
Exams were horrible and exhausting. Hari wasn't certain that actual NEWTS could have been worse. By lunch time of each day she was certain that her brains were going to liquefy and pour out her ears. What had she and Tom been thinking to toss themselves into ICW level testing in one year?
Well, Tom probably hadn't thought they'd be all that hard to be honest; he was a prodigy after all. Even as a student himself he had absorbed knowledge and pushed even the tenured professors to their limits trying to satisfy his insatiable need to know and understand all there was about magic.
The only ones not suffering under the pressure was the first and second years. They were learning it all from the ground up not stuffing years of ignored information into one year.
She walked into the Great Hall and settled at the Slytherin table by Draco, Vincent and Gregory. It was indicative of how numb everyone was that no one even noticed.
"My lady?" Draco looked at her in concern when she folded her arms on the table and dropped her head on them with a groan.
"I think I failed Arithmancy," she found herself whimpering.
"I think we may all have." Blaise Zabini reluctantly admitted.
"I think the numbers were morphing into an unknown ancient language toward the end." Draco murmured.
"Glad we didn't take it." Vincent murmured.
Hari shifted to look at him and Gregory in their yellow trimmed robes. "Why are you two over here?"
"Friends are here." Gregory muttered.
"Good reason." Hari burrowed her head in her arms again.
A slithering noise made several students tense as the headmaster's large familiar entered the room and made for the Slytherin table. Several of the girls shrieked and jumped up on the bench as the serpent passed by them.
Hari didn't even twitch as the constrictor wound its way up her body. :Snakeling is sleeping. Taffy won't let me near snakeling. I won't hurt snakeling.:
:Taffy is afraid your sheer weight could hurt the baby. Babies are fragile.:
:I wouldn't lay on the snakeling!:
:You'll have to wait for Tom and I to be there.:
:I am visiting the giant. Unless Taffy thinks I'll crush him.:
Hari grinned at the petulant serpent as she slithered off her and out the door headed to Hagrid's hut. The house elves were all adamant about her being kept away from Gasper unless Hari or Tom were there since they couldn't communicate with her.
"What was that about?" Draco asked curiously.
"She's upset that the house elves won't let her cuddle with Gasper."
They all stared at her dumbfounded.
"She's a thirteen foot poisonous constrictor of course the house elves won't let her near the baby." Draco replied.
"Well she's thoroughly offended that they think she'll hurt her master's snakeling." Hari retorted in an amused voice.
The boys just shook their heads and turned back to their lunches.
Tom stood to greet Minister Weasley as he came through the floo. "Minister, how are you?"
Arthur smiled tiredly. "I'm well, Headmaster and you?"
"Ah, yes. Newborns. How is little Gasper and Hari?"
"Hari is dealing with exams on top of being a new mother." He grinned when Arthur winced sympathetically. "Gasper is busy wrapping us all around his little finger."
Arthur chuckled and took the seat offered by the fireplace. Tom settled across from him.
Tom called a house elf and moments later they were relaxing in their chairs sipping hot tea. They spent several minutes speaking of how much more efficiently the ministry was running and the success of the new businesses and the distinct likelihood of having to expand Diagon Alley or create a new shopping district in the near future. Finally, Tom set his teacup in its saucer and settled his hands in his lap. "I'd like to propose setting up a large magical animal reserve. I own several very large islands that could be warded against muggles and would work well at letting animals at critically low numbers breed safely."
Arthur paused in the midst of taking a drink. "That is very altruistic of you."
Tom grinned at the suspicion in the minister's voice. "I am not plotting, Arthur. The offer is just that – an offer to stave off the extinction of several magical animal species. I thought to offer the centaurs the role of guardians of the islands. Perhaps give the islands to them on the conditions of letting the animals live and flourish there. They will keep wixen from taking advantage."
"So, no secret ingredients farms to make a fortune on rare potion ingredients?"
Tom blinked. "No. Although, now that you mention it we could negotiate with centaurs to collect freely given or shed items to bolster Hogwarts and the ministry's coffers."
"Which animals were you thinking of moving to the islands?"
"Unicorns first and foremost. There are very few left and the herds are dwindling yearly as their grazing lands diminish. Perhaps sylphs and demiguise. I have three large islands. I thought to put kirin and yale on one. The leshy forests are being decimated by muggles so they may be interested in taking up residence on the third. I thought to leave it mostly to those that were more knowledgeable about what species was the most decimated.
Arthur hummed noncommittally and took up a sandwich while he thought it over. "Do you have the proposal written up? I'd like to study it before approving it."
Tom nodded. He knew that Arthur wasn't a minion even if he were on his side at the moment. As minister, he had to maintain at least the façade of treating Tom as everyone else. Giving him time to study the proposal also allowed him to be knowledgeable about it when confronted with questions and dissenters and there would be dissenters. "Of course, just let me add the section on collecting freely given items."
Tom moved to his desk and pulled out the proposal. He edited it before handing it over the minister who tucked it inside his robe before bidding the headmaster a good day and stepping into the fireplace to floo out.
Tom smiled. There. That should keep Arthur's attention away from other subtle happenings for a while. Not that Tom wasn't serious. His whole original reason for the rebellion to begin with had been to save Magic and Her creatures from extinction. It wasn't just wixen that had to hide in small corners of the world from muggles, but all magical beings and creatures. Not just hide either. They had to deal with their destructive nature; their wars, pollution and greedy consumption of nature.
For all their faults muggles did have a few good ideas. Animal conservation and wildlife preserves were one of them. Concerted efforts by groups of muggles had saved many species from extinction. Vast acres of land turned into national parks had kept endless acres from being razed by greedy developers. Wixen needed to start looking beyond themselves and at how the other magical species intertwined with their existence.
Exams were over.
Tom could see the relief and sheer exhaustion on the faces of staff and students. It had been horrendous, he admitted to himself. They deserved a bit of recognition and reward. Even those that hadn't done so well had tried. He stood and set off a series of soft bangs to get their attention.
"The year has come to an end." He said when all faces had turned to him. "It has been a year of upset and change; yet we have come through it. We have survived it and, I hope, you all find yourselves a bit stronger, more educated and more open-minded than when the year began." He paused as murmurs of agreement and sparse dissent rippled about the room. "I have no doubt you feel your minds are mush and your bodies exhausted from the week of exams. Therefore, I have decided to rejuvenate both tonight with a party."
He smiled at the excited whispers. He held up his hand for silence and was pleased to get it quickly. "Nothing fancy; not a ball or a dance or really anything organized." He grinned at the exasperated sounds of staff. "Just an opportunity to gather with friends, laugh and talk and be a little silly if you wish. I have spoken with the house elves. There will be scattered tables of finger food and drinks. I have also contacted the Misters Weasleys…so be prepared." He grinned at the laughter that broke out. "So enjoy your day and perhaps rest up a bit and be back down here at six thirty to have some fun."
He sat down amidst an explosion of sound as hundreds of voices rose as the students discussed the coming party.
"You do realize the danger you are courting allowing the cretins so much freedom." Snape murmured from his left.
"Surely it won't be that bad," Ravershaw exclaimed from his right.
"It'll be worse." Flitwick interjected. "He's invited the Weasley twins."
"The two redheads that helped the abused children and their parents?" Galatia Pringle asked. "Why would that make it worse?" She asked bewildered.
"They are the owners of Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes." Lupin enlightened her. "Pranksters deluxe. There will be all kinds of chaos and shenanigans going on tonight."
Black stood up, grinning like a loon. "I should go ensure they know the limits of what they can bring." He hurried out before anyone could stop him.
Remus and Hari groaned.
"It just got exponentially worse." Hari moaned. "There is no reining them in now."
"We'll have the ghost, the portraits and the house elves overseeing things."
"You'll cordon off every exit from the entrance hall and the main courtyard so they are contained to a reasonable area." Hari huffed. She pressed a kiss to his cheek. "It is a very good idea. They…we need it. Thank you."
"You are welcome." He murmured.
Hari sat in the rocker next to Gasper's crib rocking her little boy while running a finger over him. She traced the tiny button nose and rosebud lips before stroking down his little arm to tiny, tightly curled fingers. He was perfect. She smiled softly down at him as he gurgled and kicked and grasped her finger in his tiny hand.
She couldn't believe that this was her life now; a loving husband, a perfect little boy. Safe. Loved. A family of her own.
Her arms tightened slightly around the baby as she thought of Luna's warning. Muggles were a distinct and not so distant danger to her small family and she would not let them harm her son. Muggles, Greyback and a few lingering followers of Voldemort who refused to accept the new path Tom laid out.
Hari stood and paced the room. Greyback was the current danger. There was no doubt in her mind that the rabid werewolf would target Gasper in revenge. It was after all what he had done to Remus; attacked a five year old boy because Lyall Lupin had crossed him. She stopped and stared out the window at the Quidditch pitch and the Forbidden Forest. As soon as the students were gone they were shutting down the wards so that Bill Weasley could untangle them.
"Let them attack," she murmured gazing down at Gasper with cold, determined eyes. "I will slaughter them all before letting them harm you."
"Who are you slaughtering?"
Hari turned to see Tom in the doorway of the nursery. "Greyback and his ilk. You know he'll be coming."
Tom scowled. "I have men searching for him, but they haven't had much luck yet. I have a feeling he'll make his move while we have the wards down this summer."
"That is my thought as well."
Tom leaned against the wall of the great hall in the shadows and watched in horrified amusement the chaos he had unknowingly unleashed upon the school. The twins and Sirius had outdone themselves in harmless pranks and the student body was having a blast.
All over the place random children and even staff members who were careless were being turned into canaries, goats, pigs, dogs and birds for approximately thirty seconds before shedding or molting back into people. Others were breaking out in song or having their hair or skin turn colors.
In between the pranks, the children were eating, drinking, chatting and dancing. The signs of stress and mental fatigue fading from their faces as they had fun. This was what they needed. The majority had buckled down and worked hard all year and they deserved the chance to be silly kids for an evening.
He scanned the crowd looking for his wife and found her gyrating wildly amidst a group of teens that included Lovegood, Longbottom, the Creevey brothers, Parvati Pati, Lavender Brown and Susan Bones. Hari's face was lit with joy.
He stood from the wall suddenly with a frown and strode quickly around the hall and out the doors. There was always a few that tried to sneak out. He followed the amorous couple down the hall to the last alcove before the seal they had placed to contain the miscreants. He silently leaned against the wall and listened to the sounds of passion and fumbling until he was certain they were in an embarrassing way before stepping forward and jerking the curtain open. They screamed in embarrassment and fright. The girl trying to hide body parts and grab at her discarded clothing at the same time while the boy had enough honor to help hide her from view at his own dignity's expense.
"Mr. Carnaq, I expect you to seek an audience with Ms. Zulette's parents within the week. Snogging in an alcove is one thing. Shagging is quite another. It is disrespectful. A witch deserves much better. You will redeem her honor am I understood?" Tom ordered sternly. Mavis Zulette was fifteen. That Jules Carnaq was going to shag her in an alcove meant either this wasn't the first shag or that neither of them had the proper respect for their bodies.
"Yes, sir." Jules Carnaq replied shakily.
"Get dressed." He snapped and let the curtain fall closed. He stood silently in the corridor until the two teens slunk out and stood before him with heads bowed and faces both beet red. "Back to the great hall and try not to spread knowledge of this dishonorable act about."
The two teens scurried away from him determined to keep the embarrassing moment to themselves.
Tom shook his head in disgust before patrolling the corridors. He checked every alcove and room he knew about before returning to the party.
At eleven o'clock he drew the party to a close and sent everyone off to bed. He checked with other staff members and received their reports of several other couples caught sneaking out, but no others were caught alà natural thankfully.
The next morning saw breakfast sparsely attended as everyone recovered from the party and saw to last minute packing. By ten thirty students were trudging tiredly to the carriages as house elves helpfully saw that their trunks made it to the luggage carriage on the train.
The staff all heaved a sigh of relief when the train finally pulled out of the station officially marking the beginning of the summer.