The Slytherin plan goes into effect, but doen't play out as planned.
Ron strained against the hexes holding him tight; his senses exploding in agony as he was clubbed with beater bats. He had been silenced, so he could not scream, but he knew that Hermione, who was on prefect patrol with him, was likely suffering at least as bad, and perhaps worse.
Suddenly, there was a scream, which was followed by several more, and the beatings stopped.
Ron lay on the floor, gasping, and could only see out of one eye, but he saw several bodies weakly writhing, and several figures in plain black robes starting to run away.
One figure turned, and Ron saw whomever it was had a white mask made out of fabric – not a Death Eater, but obviously someone trying to pretend to be, although he could not comprehend that at the moment. The figure tried to hex someone, but then the person’s wand hand exploded. As the figure screamed, collapsing in agony, the other figures kept running.
Ron finally passed out.
It was shortly before 9:30 when Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster entered the Gryffindor common room along with Dolores Umbridge, two people in auror robes, and a very imposing witch with a monocle. Umbridge puffed up to speak, but the witch started firmly, “Let’s not cause any confusion in the record.” She passed out parchment and commanded, “Everyone write down your movements with the best estimate you have of the times since you left the great hall tonight. If you were not at dinner, list your movements since Four o’clock. List as best you can who was in the common room along with the times they entered or left and where they went to or came from.” Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore went to the different dorms to bring anyone there to the common room, where they were given the same assignment.
Umbridge snatched Harry’s parchment away as soon as he was finished, although the other woman claimed it immediately. “Do not disrupt the chain of evidence again,” she warned. “Mister Potter, are these times correct?” She showed Harry the piece of parchment.
Harry looked at her for a moment, glanced at the parchment, and then pulled a wand from an inner pocket of his robe, saying, “I swear on my magic that those times are correct to the best of my knowledge.” After the flash, he put the wand back inside his robes.
After another twenty minutes of comparing parchments, the woman came back to Harry and said, “I am Madam Bones, head of the MLES. Please hold your wand out.”
Harry did so, and in a moment there were flashes coming from the end of the wand. Bones turned to Umbridge and said, “He’s clear.”
“What are Minister and his lying lickspittals claiming I’m doing now?” Harry asked softly, glancing at Umbridge.
Umbridge took the bait. “You attacked several defenseless Pure-Blood. . . .”
“Silence!” Bones snapped. “His house mates place him here for the last two hours, his wand is clear, and he swore an oath.” She turned to Harry and said, “Perform a bit of magic, please.”
Harry shrugged and wrote, ‘Fudge is Voldemort’s buttboy’ in large flaming letters.
Harry then carefully placed his wand away and stood up. “Someone will explain. Now.” There was something in his voice that made everyone in the room shiver in fear, including the Headmaster and Bones.
“Several Slytherins, most of them indeed of alleged Pure-Blood, were crippled tonight,” Madam Bones drawled. “However, they had obviously been attacking. . . .”
“That is not proven!” Umbridge protested.
“We shall see when their victims wake up,” Bones snapped.
“They were attacked with beater bats! No matter what those poor, delusional children might claim, there is no evidence. . . .”
“Fingerprints are excellent evidence, and most match, except for Pucey, who lost his hand,” Bones retorted. “We’ll have the others caught within the hour.”
Umbridge blinked in shock. “But . . . but that’s a Muggle idea!”
“That is hardly true, as the concept was accepted as evidence in Magical contracts long before the Muggles adopted the idea.”
Harry took a step towards Bones, breaking up the argument, and everyone leaned or stepped further away from him. “Who was injured?”
“Harry . . . Mister Weasley and Miss Granger. . . .” Dumbledore obviously did not quite know how to finish that sentence.
Harry’s head snapped around and demanded, “Are they badly hurt?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore stated simply.
Everyone’s eyes went wide as they could see the power radiating from Harry.
“Harry, you must let justice take its course. . . .”
“We all know there is only incidental justice in magical Britain, unless you consider bribes and extortion justice,” Harry spat. He marched out of the common room, and none dared stop him.
“Mister Potter, I cannot let you see them,” Madam Pomfrey pleaded rather than ordered. “And you know I cannot tell you their exact injuries.”
“Harry. . . .”
The pair looked up at the sound of Hermione’s soft moan. Madam Pomfrey thought a moment, and then nodded.
Harry slipped behind the screen and knelt by Hermione’s bed. She was covered in bandages soaked in restoring potions. Like Ron, her head was mostly untouched, although there were many scrapes and bruises.
“Tell him,” Hermione mumbled.
“Very well. She was not . . . molested, but she has multiple internal injures, there are over fifty breaks in her bones, most minor, and you can imagine the soft tissue damage.”
Harry just nodded.
“Just five minutes,” Madam Pomfrey warned. “The potions should have her fully asleep by then.”
Harry just nodded, and looked at Hermione as the nurse gave them a bit of privacy.
“I don’t know how you did it, but thank you,” Hermione whispered.
“I wish I could have done more at the time,” Harry said. He pulled the sheet down and touched a bit of flesh showing through the bandages and placed the other hand on her forehead. Then Harry very carefully kissed Hermione gently on the lips.
Hermione glowed a soft green for a few moments and then fell into a healing sleep. Harry covered her back up and muttered, “I think Ron would rather ache a bit.” Then he left to do what he had to do. As he had ignored the injured Slytherins, the aurors guarding them had fully ignored Harry.
Draco Malfoy had gone to sleep a very worried would-be dark wizard. The plan should have worked perfectly. Granted, it had been a large group – twelve Slytherins and three Ravenclaws. Nine conducted the actual attack while six acted as lookouts. Numerous others in both Houses were prepared to give false alibis. If the whole scheme completely unraveled, there would be hell to pay, and Draco was not sure if he could avoid being caught up.
At the moment, he was mostly worried what would happen to him at Hogwarts. That the Dark Lord would punish him far worse for pushing the scheme which resulted in his losing nearly all his sympathizers among the older four years at Hogwarts was beyond Draco’s imagination. Even though Draco had not come up with the plan, it had been he who had pushed for attacking Potter’s friends. The Dark Lord would hold him responsible.
Granted, Draco had more immediate concerns. While he had been enjoying the first sounds of the Weasel and the Mudblood being beaten, someone, or something, invisible had swept past him and Goyle (Crabbe had been in on the attack.), throwing them against opposite walls.
Draco was not sure what had happened next, but the attackers had been chased off and apparently injured. All those concerned had pledged before hand not to give out any names if caught, but it remained to be seen if that would hold.
And so, Draco had tossed and turned for some time before falling asleep. Why was he suddenly awake?
Draco started to sweat as he realized he was not only awake, but petrified face up, and blindfolded. A muffled voice he could not identify whispered in his ear, “I don’t know if your role will come out, Malfoy, so I’ll serve you and your buttboy some justice now. Zabini and Nott cannot hear a thing. No one will save you.”
Although in terror the like he had never felt before, Malfoy’s panic increased as he heard several dull thuds, which he knew sounded like the noises made in the attack on the Gryffindor prefects. He couldn’t fully accept the idea that Goyle was being beaten, and that he, he, Draco Malfoy, would soon meet the same fate.
There was silence for a moment, and then without further warning, a beater bat crushed Draco’s right knee. Draco’s left knee and hands followed. There was a brief pause which Draco did not really notice, and then his world exploded as the beater bat struck directly on his testicles.
Draco passed out, not knowing that when the swelling went down, his fertility would have been lessened by 80%.
The assailant used his wandless magic to cancel the magic he had laid down the same way and then left. As he did so, he dispersed the beater bat he had conjured. He therefore left no fingerprints on the weapon, and had been careful to leave none anywhere else.
Hogwarts was in an uproar the next morning, except Hufflepuff to a degree, as it was the only House untouched. Ravenclaw had had one member temporary crippled, as her right hip and thigh bones had been pulverized and the flesh shredded. It could all be magically healed, but the associated nerve damage would leave her with a slight limp after the treatments. She and a fellow Ravenclaw had also been arrested.
Slytherin was even harder hit. Five of its members had also been severely injured. Pucey’s wand hand had been exploded and could not be restored. Crabbe’s lumber vertebrae had been pulverized, and although the bones themselves were being restored, the spinal cord injuries would leave him a paraplegic for the rest of his life. Two other Slytherins had suffered nearly identical injuries. Montague, who had been the one leading the assault, had been the first, and most precisely hit – a near-surgical strike had left him a quadriplegic, barely able to breath or swallow without magical aid. He was under no illusions – he had failed and was now just an expense to his family. He would be dead as soon as the MLES was done with him. The Ministry would not bother imprisoning and therefore paying for the upkeep of anyone his condition.
The news of the twin assaults on Malfoy and Goyle was even more disturbing, as there had been three aurors stationed in their common room. Altogether, it was hardly surprising that classes had been suspended for the day, with students only allowed to travel between their common rooms and the great hall, and only in groups. Nevertheless, Harry was not surprised to be called into the small staff room off the great hall when he finished breakfast.
Harry found the Headmaster, Professors Snape and McGonagall, and Umbridge and Bones waiting for him. “Is there anything you wish to add to your statements of last night, Mister Potter?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry pulled out the wand from an inner pocket and swore he had nothing to do with the attack on Malfoy or Goyle. He restored the wand after the flash and looked directly at Umbridge. “Perhaps, while I’m here, Madam Umbridge would care to swear an oath that she knows nothing and had nothing to do with a pair of dementors wandering around my home town this past summer.”
“I resent your cheek, boy,” Umbridge snapped.
“I notice you’re not swearing,” Harry retorted. “I admit, I’m not surprised to see you sucking up the Death Eater families, now that Voldemort is back.”
“You-Know-Who is not back and will never be back!” Umbridge shrieked.
“Then say his name!” Harry challenged. Umbridge said nothing, so he turned to Dumbledore. “Please, sir, may I spend the morning with Hermione and Ron?”
As Dumbledore thought about it, Snape said, “I need to take Poppy some important potions for the students. Potter can help.”
Dumbledore gave Snape a stern look, and the two seemed to communicate without speaking for a moment. Then the Headmaster nodded.
When the two entered Snape’s private lab, he saw that Harry was fingering his wand. “No need for that, Potter,” he stated, leaving his hands in full sight. “I know you must have been involved somehow, but I do not need to know exactly how. In fact, I don’t want to know. . . .” Snape paused and then admitted, “Actually, someday I would like to know how you are getting away with these oaths, but not today.” Snape almost smiled and asked, “As for you, do you have any questions?”
“How are the non-involved Slytherins taking this?” Harry asked.
“They are confused,” Snape admitted. “They have been used to keeping their heads down, and aren’t certain what all this might mean. The attacks on Malfoy and Goyle terrifies them, as they aren’t sure if they will be hit by association. Nott is particularly worried.”
“He probably should be, as he was certainly involved,” Harry agreed. “However, I would guess that whoever is behind this had proof of some sort against Malfoy and Goyle, but could not present it to Madam Bones. Hopefully, whoever is behind this will only strike when proof is available but also when what passes for law and order with can’t or won’t act.”
“You have little regard for the justice system,” Snape observed.
“I understand why you dislike, even hate, Sirius,” Harry answered. “Still, you have to agree he spent over ten years in Azkaban without a trial and for no good reason. Fudge sent Hagrid to Azkaban because he felt he needed to seen to be ‘doing something’. Malfoy’s father stayed out of jail in 1981, got away with planting a Horcrux on Ginny Weasley, and paid off the Ministry to have Buckbeak put down. No, I have relatively little faith in what passes in wizarding Britain as a ‘system of justice’.”
Snape nodded. He should be able to pass that on to both of his masters without straining the relationship he was building with Potter. He picked up two large boxes of bottles, which kept his hands full. “Take that small box and get the doors, Potter.”
Harry found Ron and Hermione asleep. He therefore pulled up a stool next to Hermione’s bed and sat and waited patiently. Madam Pomfrey came behind the privacy screen and looked at him.
“Is there something wrong, Madam Pomfrey?”
“Don’t act innocent with me, young man,” she said almost kindly. “You may look innocent, but I know you better than anyone at Hogwarts, except Miss Granger here. I don’t know if you had anything to do with the injuries the attackers suffered last night, but I do know you did something to Miss Granger.”
“Is she all right?” Harry asked, concerned.
“She is better than all right, as you very well know. It is as if here original injuries decreased by over half, and the healing sped up by a week. When she wakes, she’ll be able to leave.”
“I. . . .”
“Don’t deny it,” Pomfrey snapped, insulted. “I know her injuries five minutes before you sat with her and the differences fifteen minutes after you left. I will tell no one, Mister Potter. It is covered by my oaths in any case, both to her and to you. You did a good thing, and I presume there was a good reason you could not do the same for Mister Weasley.”
“How could Mrs. Weasley, and possibly only Mrs. Weasely, heal a minor bruise on Ron?” Harry asked softly.
“The ‘mother’s kiss’ is a powerful wandless healing spell,” Pomfrey said. “Even Muggle’s have heard of it, although it really doesn’t work well for them.”
“Can only a mother use it?”
“Siblings and lovers may. . . .” Pomfrey blushed.
Harry blushed as well. “I don’t know how I feel about Hermione,” he said, “but I don’t think Ron would want me kissing him. I also think that, as badly as he’s hurt, as he heals he’ll be prouder of trying to protect Hermione.”
“Protect. . . ?”
“Why else would he be more injured?” Harry asked.
Pomfrey nodded. “Very well, I understand and will go along with it. But, Harry, you would have had to kiss. . . .”
Harry blushed even harder and shook his head. “No, the only kiss I stole was on her lips.”
A tear ran down Pomfrey’s cheek. She leaned over and kissed Harry on the forehead. “You must be the most powerful wizard I have ever met then, Harry Potter, but as powerful a wizard as you are, you are a very good boy.” As she pulled back, she was shocked to see tears running down Harry’s face as well. “Harry?”
“No one has ever said that,” Harry whispered.
“Said. . . ?”
“That I was . . . that I am, a good. . . .”
Pomfrey kissed his forehead and then patted his cheek. “Harry, you are a very nice and good boy. You seem to be burdened with a destiny. Don’t let that destiny darken you more than it must.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Harry whispered. Pomfrey left him alone, and then Harry felt Hermione take his hand.
“How much of that did you hear?” Harry asked.
“I think nearly all of it,” Hermione answered softly. “I thought I imagined you kissing me. I’m glad it was real. Thank you.”
“I’d do almost anything to help you,” Harry answered. “I only wish I could have done more.”
“I suspect you’ve done more than anyone else could have already,” Hermione answered. “Now, since you don’t want to help me with a bedpan any more than I want to be helped, help me to the toilet and we’ll see if Madam Pomfrey was serious about letting me go.”
Hermione was not allowed to leaving right away, but by 10:30 she was dressed and ready to leave. Rather than going to the common room, the pair slowly moved to the great hall, where students would start coming for lunch soon enough. Armed with a pass by Madam Pomfrey, they were not worried about being stopped.
“You’ll tell me all about things some day?” Hermione asked quietly. Harry had warned her that the paintings passed on gossip.
“Some day,” Harry agreed sincerely.
“And the kiss?” she almost whispered.
“I wasn’t entirely sure it would work, but I didn’t want you to suffer if I could help you,” Harry answered.
Hermione wrapped her arm around Harry. “I’m not hurting, but I wouldn’t mind if you did it again.”
It took them some time to make their way to the great hall, but they were still the first ones there. The two certainly enjoyed the kissing, but they were both unsure if they wanted to be a committed couple. To them, ‘friends with benefits’ meant hugging and kissing, although the Hogwarts term was simply ‘snog buddies’, a common stage for couples exploring their feelings.
Luna presented herself to the pair before many others were in the hall. She looked at them carefully, smiled a little ruefully, and kissed both on the cheek while congratulating Hermione on a speedy recovery.
“What was that about?” Harry asked as the first food appeared.
“Knowing Luna, she’s both happy for us but wishing she was exploring snogging with you,” Hermione said. She paused and said, “I really wouldn’t mind if you wanted to.” ‘Snog buddies’ were not necessarily exclusive.
“Only you for now,” Harry answered.
“Only Hermione for what?” Lavender asked, sitting down. “I’m glad you’re better, by the way,” she added. She had worked out her differences with Harry’s defenders.
“Thank you,” Hermione answered. She glanced at Harry and shrugged. It would be all over the school by dinner, even if Luna said nothing. Therefore, Hermione glanced around and seeing no teachers looking at them, gave Harry a quick kiss.
“Buddies?” Lavender asked.
“Right now,” Hermione answered, “and exclusive, except maybe Luna.”
Lavender nodded. Few poached on snog buddies, but Hermione was known to be the possessive type, and after Harry’s display the evening before, few in Gryffindor at least would be willing to cross him. Further up the table, Ginny Weasley winced. She did not enjoy her meal.
Hermione had not thought to look behind her. Professor McGonagall had observed Professor Snape watch the scene. She was shocked that he had done nothing. She therefore allowed him to observe her watching him as he turned away.
Snape came up to her. “I have made peace with my feelings about Mister Potter,” he said. “Let the dead be at peace. I now realize I have enough to do for the future without refighting the past.”
McGonagall nodded, and then whispered so only Snape could hear. “Do you really think he had something to do with last night?”
“He must have,” Snape answered simply. “Don’t ask me how. Maybe he just has ways of helping to bring people into the castle. I really don’t know.” Snape’s face hardened. “While I thought I was encouraging and helping my students, it appears that most misunderstood what I wanted them to learn. I then warned them directly. They did not listen. I know more must have acted as lookouts at least, and others seemed ready to back up the attackers with alibis. If nothing else, perhaps they have all learned there may be consequences they will not like.”
“Is that all?”
Snape considered, and then said, “A new player has entered what would have been a three-sided game between the Headmaster, the Dark Lord, and the Ministry. I find it difficult to believe that Potter is the player, but he must at least be a piece. He is no longer the Headmaster’s rook in reserve, and he was never the Ministry’s pawn, no matter what Fudge might have wished for in the past.”
“You haven’t seen Potter’s wand work this term,” McGonagall said. “If he is not the new king, he is at least a battle queen in terms of power. Filius has always maintained that Harry has the quickest reflexes of any wizard he has ever seen. If Harry was practicing all summer, and it appears to me he likely has . . . and if that practice was combat rather than just fifth year spells. . . .”
Snape nodded. Harry was powerful, if likely limited in repertoire – the question would then be, how limited?