He's Not Dead Yet
Hey, everyone, I'm back. Sorry for the hold up, but I have been seriously drained of energy lately, plus my fandom swing switched from Harry Potter to Avatar the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra for the past week or so. Sorry, but my inclination to write is temperamental and I just get like that. Plus, the release of Book 3 did nothing to curtail those sentiments.
I also got back from my cousin's wedding on Monday, the 9th of June. The ceremony (which had taken place on Saturday) lasted all of about ten minutes (it was some non-denominational thing that took place in the yard of the bride's family's house). Then, not even an hour into the reception, the storm clouds came in and we just barely managed to get out before it broke on us. Well, at least the cake was good (I didn't even know people had red velvet wedding cakes). After that, all I had to do was spend time with Grandma; not something I plan on doing in the near future. Let's just say that Grandma's company is to be enjoyed in small doses.
Anyway, I seem to have veered off-topic. I don't own Harry Potter or anything else remotely bearing a faint similarity.
But Now, a Bit of Fun
Longbottom Manor had once been a center of social interaction and the epitome of grandeur. The house had played host to gatherings that included witches and wizards of numerous degrees of wealth and circumstance, welcoming them each with equal dignity and friendship. Those days had waned since the last Lord Longbottom, Francis, better known as "Frank," and his lovely wife Alice had been incapacitated by the Lestranges over a decade ago. The glory days of Longbottom Manor seemed to have passed into the foggy annals of history. That is, of course, until Christmas of 1994, when the disabled couple's young son Neville, the Heir Apparent to the House of Longbottom, discovered a cure for the damage nerves in their brains.
The manor seemed to be restored to life now that its Lord and Lady had returned. The dusty air that had settled in since their illness was lifted as the dull and dingy halls once more sparkled. While Frank and Alice had not fully recovered from spending the past thirteen years in practically zombie-like states of severe neural damage, they were on the fast road to recovery thanks to their son's miraculous cure and were more than happy to attend the gala Neville had planned for the following evening.
Longbottom Manor's ballroom was smaller than that of Potter Manor, but it was by far the more opulent one. The high windows were gilt with pure gold done in elaborate ribbons and spirals that a regular metalworker would give anything to possess the skills to recreate, while the ceiling was painted with a moving fresco of the heavens, complete with clouds, cherubs, angels, and songbirds. The ballroom had been the creation of Lady Alexis Longbottom back in the days when the baroque style was taking root in the Muggle art world, with later additions made by her successors as the style had evolved to create a ballroom that would be the envy of Muggle royalty if they had known of its existence.
That was where everyone had gathered that snowy evening, to celebrate the approaching New Year and to give thanks for all the recent blessings the family had enjoyed. An orchestra played jaunty, classical music as the guests milled about, chatting, laughing, and swapping stories. Harry Potter entered the ballroom, accompanied by Sirius, Remus, and Bathsheba, and approached the reunited Longbottom family.
"Happy Christmas, Neville," said Harry.
The other boy pulled his friend into a hug.
"Thanks, Harry," he said. "If it hadn't been for you, I don't think any of this would be possible. Come on, I want you to meet my parents."
Frank and Alice smiled brightly as their son introduced them to his best friend, Harry Potter. Alice had hoped the two boys would be best friends, just as she and Lily had been, and it warmed her heart to know that her son and godson had been looking out for each other. Frank, however, had a far more serious matter on his mind; he didn't know if Harry knew yet, but Dumbledore could not be trusted.
"Harry, I was wondering if I could have a word with you," he said.
Harry nodded and followed Frank Longbottom over to a more private corner of the room. Frank put up a Muffling Charm so their conversation wouldn't be overheard.
"Harry, as I've been incapacitated for about thirteen years I haven't been able to warn you," he said softly. "I've learned some things about Dumbledore you might not like to hear."
"Can't be much worse than what I've experienced in the past few years and subsequently had printed in the media," Harry replied casually.
Frank was shocked for a moment. He had expected the boy to have been brainwashed by Dumbledore. At least this made it a bit easier for him to tell Harry what he knew.
"Harry, Dumbledore set me and my wife up to be attacked," Frank continued. "Dumbledore had sent our Secret-Keeper out on a mission for the Order of the Phoenix, knowing he would be caught by Death Eaters. Alice and I had been trying to claim guardianship of you after your parents' deaths, and Dumbledore needed us out of the way. If I had to guess, I'd say he set you and your parents up, too."
Harry felt a burning sensation behind his eyes. He'd known Dumbledore was a manipulative old bastard, but if he'd been responsible for Harry becoming an orphan in the first place…
"Does this have something to do with the prophecy?" said Harry.
Frank looked at Harry in surprise.
"How did you know…-? Only myself, Alice, and your parents were told about that by Dumbledore."
"Let's just say I know things. That's the reason you all had to go into hiding. Dumbledore told you about the prophecy and that the one who could defeat Voldemort would be either me or Neville."
"Yes. Dumbledore wanted to see which family Voldemort would go after, that's why he told us to choose Secret-Keepers other than ourselves. I had suggested that Lily be our Secret-Keeper and that I would be the Potter Secret-Keeper, but Dumbledore shot the idea down. Now you know why."
"Don't worry, Mr. Longbottom, I am going to see Dumbledore out of Hogwarts by the end of the year."
"If you need any help, then Alice and I are at your service."
The rest of the evening at Longbottom Manor was considerably more cheerful. Protocol had required Harry, as a currently unattached gentleman, to dance at least five dances with girls he wasn't at least acquainted with; not that that stopped him from giving Hermione, Daphne (who had gotten a portkey from Greece to attend the party that evening), Tracey, Susan, Luna, and Fay their own turns to dance with him. Hermione and Luna sat at a side table together, watching Harry twirl Fay about the dance floor.
"Show-off," Hermione muttered bemusedly.
"He really is clueless, isn't he?" said Luna.
"Well, he is a boy. He needs six wives, and when six girls practically turn up on a silver platter, he makes nothing but friendly overtures."
"I don't recall being on a silver platter when I met Harry."
"I was speaking metaphorically, Luna. I just wish Harry would realize that we're more than willing to be his girlfriends."
"I would've thought you'd be against polygamous relationships, Hermione," said Daphne, who had approached the table with Tracey at her side. "After all, I don't believe such a thing is legal in the non-magical community."
"Believe it or not, getting a better understanding of the magical world has made me more open-minded, Daph. Besides, we all know that none of us will settle for anyone other than Harry."
"And sharing is caring, after all," Luna chimed in. "I've already drawn up plans for the honeymoon." She removed a large binder from her considerably smaller purse and showed it to the other girls.
"Well, Luna…this is certainly very…" Hermione trailed off, her cheeks turning red.
"Vivid," Tracey finished.
"Then it's settled," said Luna. "We will work together to seduce Harry."
Luna smiled brightly. It was so nice to have friends to share things, and Harry, with. She just wondered why her friends insisted on gaping every time she made a brilliant observation or expressed a point of profound insight.
Amelia Bones was currently fast asleep at her desk, partly buried beneath a stack of papers. Not only did she have the usual amount of Christmas hijinks to deal with, there was also the Weasley situation which had been causing her a great deal of trouble.
"WHAT?!" Amelia shouted, jolting awake and scattering papers everywhere. "Kingsley, how many times must I ask you to knock?"
"Sorry, ma'am, but we got those answers out of Molly Weasley like you asked," said Kingsley.
Amelia sighed as she pinched the bridge of her nose. She then set her monocle back in place and gestured for the young Auror to continue.
"Well, it turns out she's been planning for years to get Harry Potter to fall in love with her daughter and has been trying to dose the young man with love potions throughout the past couple years," he explained. "This also wasn't the first time she's used love potions, either. Turns out that, back when she was in Hogwarts, she used one to get Arthur Weasley's attention even when she knew he was going to ask out someone else. Since then, she has been continually giving him loyalty potions to make sure he wouldn't catch on to what she was doing."
"Is there any indication why she did all this?" Amelia asked.
"You probably don't remember this, boss, because you were only a first-year at the time, but the Weasleys once had a considerable amount of money. From the records, when Septimus Weasley had married Cedrella Black, the family's fortunes had skyrocketed. Unfortunately, it seems Abraxas Malfoy found a way to trick the Weasleys out of their fortune shortly after Arthur Weasley had married Molly. "
"I see what's going on," said Amelia. "She couldn't inherit the Prewett money because it is supposed to revert to the eldest male wizard with the last name of 'Prewett' just like with the Black family. So she potioned Arthur to get his family's money, but that fell through because of the Malfoys and so now she has her eyes on the Potter fortune."
As she pieced it together it all made sense.
"But the ingredients for Deditiopotentia are incredibly hard to come by," she continued. "To get them, she would need help from someone with influence enough to cut through the red tape."
"We tried to get it out of her, but it seems she was under an Unbreakable Vow which blocked the Veritaserum."
They both exchanged a look that indicated they both knew exactly who would have helped Molly Weasley with her schemes. Unfortunately for them, without clear evidence, they couldn't convict Dumbledore no matter how obvious it was who was responsible. One of the downsides of the Ministry's new efficiency was that they couldn't just go around arresting anyone without evidence.
"Well, Albus, I must say this sounds like a marvelous plan," said Walter Davis.
"I am glad you think so, Walter. With your daughter as Lady Potter, we two will have unparalleled control of the magical world."
"What if the Potter boy doesn't comply? My daughter may be friends with him, but I doubt he would bend to her influence on ever matter."
"That shouldn't be too much of a problem," Dumbledore assured him. "The boy is destined to die by Voldemort's hand." He ignored the shiver of fear from Davis and continued. "As your daughter would be his widow, his fortunes and titles would default to her and any children of the union."
"What about the other positions? Potter is required to have one wife for each of his six titles."
"It would be tricky to maneuver that, but the titles can be combined into one provided we get enough support from the Wizengamot."
"But only Potter can motion for that to happen and I doubt he'd be willing to listen to us on a matter like that, especially since combining several family titles is not highly regarded in our society. The magical world will expect those six lines to continue from six different women, Albus."
"I think tradition can be overlooked in this situation, Walter. After all, think about it, your daughter will be in control of six of the most powerful magical lines in the world."
Walter Davis smirked thoughtfully. Yes, he could overlook tradition if it meant he had direct influence over that much power and money. As head of the Davis family, any money or title that his daughter received would fall directly under his control as she was a woman. Tracey would be certain to cooperate in getting Potter's attention if the penalty for failure was for her to marry the Goyle heir.
"Cissy, it was absolutely marvelous seeing you again," Andromeda said as she hugged her little sister. "And if there's anything you need, don't hesitate to contact us."
"Well, there is one thing," Narcissa replied. "Does your husband Ted have any nice gentleman friends? I think it would really stick it to Lucius if he finds out he's been replaced by an attractive Muggle-born."
"Oh, Cissy, I love the devious way your mind works."
"Pity Bella didn't get Mother's common sense like we did."
Ted stumbled into the lobby, dragging the luggage behind him.
"Ted darling, are you sure you want to keep hauling all that stuff on your own?" said Andromeda. "I could easily put a Featherlight Charm on it."
"No, it's fine, I've got this," he insisted. Suddenly, there was a loud cracking sound. "My back!"
"I'll get some help," Andromeda said with a bemused sigh. She then waved over one of the resort workers. "Mr. Manuel, could you escort my husband to the resort infirmary and send someone to carry our bags?"
"Ah, si, Signora…uh, I mean, oui, Madam," the obviously Spanish bellhop replied.
Harry and the others were once again on the Hogwarts Express, headed back to school. Luna was currently reading out loud from the newest copy of The Quibbler.
"That killer blancmange is still on the loose," she said. "Seems it ate Auror Dawlish last night."
Harry grinned internally. Dawlish was one of the Aurors who had sold out Britain to help the Death Eaters. From what he could recall, he was the moron who tried to attack Neville's grandmother and got his arse handed to him.
Luna continued through the magazine.
"Ooh, looks like Molly Weasley was arrested," she announced.
"Luna, you help your dad print The Quibbler, why are you acting so surprised?" said Hermione.
"Because I want to know what it's like to read the stories for the first time even if I already know what happened in them. Hermione, you really need to learn not to gape at people."
"Well, I must say it was only a matter of time before Molly Weasley got arrested," said Susan. "She's been messing with potions for years as it turns out and no one ever caught on. I remember the Weasleys came to Bones Manor for a party once and I was getting suspicious when she kept trying to push me to play with Ron."
"What happened?" said Fay.
"I saw her put something in the cup of punch she gave to me and dumped it when she wasn't looking. Unfortunately, Auntie wasn't able to prove the woman was trying anything because I had gotten rid of the evidence."
"How old were you when that happened?" said Neville.
"Nine. Aunt Amelia was throwing a party for her coworkers and their families."
"So Molly Weasley was trying to find someone for Ronald even at that age?" said Harry with a note of disgust.
"Not hard to believe considering what a prick he was even back then. I think 'Matchmaker Molly' wanted to ensure her least likeable son had a girlfriend before he even got to Hogwarts." Susan gave a shiver of revulsion at the thought that she might have ended up going out with Ron Weasley.
They continued to talk for a while about the article.
"Tracey, you've been unusually quiet, is something wrong?" said Daphne.
Tracey looked up when she heard her name. Everyone noticed she looked somewhat morose.
"My parents have decided to offer my betrothal contract to the Goyles," she said in a dead tone.
Everyone gasped and Daphne pulled her best friend into a hug.
"They can't do that," Harry protested. "Is there anything we can do to stop it?"
"Not unless you fancy the idea of either killing Goyle or marrying me yourself."
"Well, I don't much care for the thought of killing Goyle, especially since he and Crabbe have cut ties with Malfoy."
Tracey gave Harry an even look.
"Harry, I am willing to go through with the marriage contract because I'm your friend and not about to force you into marrying me," she said.
"What, are you saying you don't want to marry me?" Harry joked.
Tracey blushed and stammered.
"Tha-that's not what I'm saying. It's just…Dumbledore's been talking with my father lately. For all I know, they planned this so that I would try to get you to marry me to get out of the marriage agreement with the Goyles, allowing them to get access to you. As much as I would love to get out of that contract, I am not going to give into their schemes and help them get any control over you."
"Trace, don't worry, I won't let anything happen. Have the Goyles actually agreed to the contract yet?"
"N-no, not as far as I can tell."
Harry smiled as a plan began to form in his head.
"What if the Goyles couldn't accept the betrothal contract because young Gregory wants to marry someone else?"
The others caught on to what Harry was saying.
"But, who on earth would be desperate enough to fall for Goyle?" said Fay.
Millicent Bulstrode often felt she didn't have much to live for. Four years at Hogwarts, and the only person who actually seemed even remotely interested in befriending her was Pansy Parkinson, and even then Millicent knew that it was just because Pansy needed her as a bodyguard. While Millicent was not exactly "ugly," she lacked the pleasing form that most Bulstrode women had possessed in the past. Another point that had caused her to be somewhat outcast in Slytherin House was the fact that she was a half-blood; her father had broken with centuries of tradition and married a Muggle-born woman, leading to a subsequent disownment from the family, though luckily they were still allowed to keep the Bulstrode name.
Of course, Potter's recent changes to the school had allowed the young witch more opportunities to interact with others, as well as providing her with the chance to discover her love of Muggle sciences, she still felt outcast amongst the student body.
So, when her roommates Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis turned up and tossed Gregory Goyle into her compartment, wishing her the best of luck, she wasn't about to turn down an opportunity. While she and Goyle were both in Slytherin, they hadn't exchanged more than two words with each other. However, now that she was sitting right across from him, with no one else around, she realized how easy it was to ask a very important question.
"Want to help me crush some rocks for a science project?"
Goyle went starry-eyed for a moment as a dopey grin spread over his face.
"Millicent Bulstrode?" Hermione inquired of her friends as they all loaded into a thestral-drawn carriage.
"Why not?" said Daphne. "They're both people of few words, they're both considered 'undateable,' and they both like crushing things."
Hermione rubbed her neck, remembering the incident in second year when Bulstrode had nearly strangled her.
"I'm just trying to get the awful images out of my head," said Harry. "Bulstrode and Goyle going out. I would've suggested we set Goyle up on a date with Crabbe; I mean, at least those two are already friends. Oh, God, even worse images!"
"Oh, Harry, whatever would we do without you?" said Fay.
"Probably suffer an extremely horrible demise at the hands of the Death Eaters," said Luna cheerily.
"Sounds about right," said Neville.
"When's our next board meeting?" said Harry.
"Tomorrow," said Hermione. "The new Splunge Inc. phones are ready to go on the market. All specially designed to circumvent wards that short-circuit regular electronics."
"Why didn't we just change the wards?" said Tracey.
"Trace, you clearly don't understand the workings of business," said Daphne fondly.
"Hey, I think I came up with a name for our new phones," said Neville. "What do you all think of Spell Phones?"
"Ooh, catchy," said Susan. "Much better something like WizPhones or some other banal moniker."
"Yep, we're going to bring the magical world into the twentieth, soon to be twenty-first, century," said Harry. "What do you think should be our next project after Spell Phones?"
"How about computers?" suggested Hermione.
"I thought those were just a fad."
"Harry, the concept of computers being a fad was funny in the early nineties. Now that it's 1995…well, it's just kind of pitiful."
The feast that evening went as one would expect under the circumstances. Dumbledore stood up to make a speech and Harry's prearranged prank took effect. Dumbledore really should have been taking care to ensure nobody tampered with his lemon drops. After all, who knows what kind of unscrupulous individual could put a potion onto them that would cause Dumbledore to begin vomiting rainbows and glitter in the middle of his speech? All things considered, Harry was really showing considerable restraint towards the headmaster. Things could have gone much worse for him, you know.
Ron had attempted to antagonize Harry during dinner as he seemed to have neglected to do so during the train ride. Ron's threats might have been more intimidating (though probably not) had he not been attempting to simultaneously eat two chicken drumsticks while he was ranting. Professor Babbling also happened to notice the disturbance and promptly award Ronald with detention.
Harry had to repress a smug look of satisfaction when he saw Malfoy. The blonde ferret had clearly not had the nicest time spending Christmas with Voldemort. At least Draco could console himself with the thought that his father was at least still able to name him his heir as Narcissa had chosen to divorce her husband rather than have the marriage annulled, meaning that Draco was not deemed a bastard by society (though everyone still thought of him as one).
The students from the other schools had also returned, having been provided with transport home for the holidays. For the life of him, Harry couldn't understand why, in the original Triwizard Tournament, the foreign students were not allowed to return home for the holidays; he also wasn't exactly sure why they had all been made to remain at Hogwarts for most of the school year when there had been no obvious accommodations made for them missing out on their education.
Well, a pleasant evening back at school now concluded, Harry and his closest comrades retired to the Founders' Quarters.
"It's good to be back," Harry muttered to himself.