The aftermath of the attack on Ron and Hermione; Lucius makes some mistakes; the students visit Hogsmeade; and Dumbledore tries another lecture.
The students who had directly beaten Hermione and Ron claimed that, in fact, they were merely defending themselves from a vicious attack launched by Hermione, aided by Ron and ‘someone else’. Backed by Minister Fudge and Madam Umbridge, this negated any charges being formally filed against the nine students. Neither were the nine pressed to name any confederates very hard.
There was no chance for five of the nine to continue at Hogwarts as they were far too injured, but Dumbledore formally expelled them as well as the other four students. When their parents had sought to fight the expulsion, all four of the healthier students pleaded to stay out. They did not know who had attacked them, not to mention Malfoy or Goyle, but they had no desire to stay at Hogwarts and find out. The four disappeared back into their families, although they would soon be on the fringes of the Death Eaters. As for the five seriously injured, four were dead within three days of their leaving Hogwarts, euthanased by their families. Only Pucey was ever seen again, and he was spotted wearing a black glove a few weeks later. Harry was not the only person to suspect there was a silver hand within the glove.
Despite her hands being largely tied on prosecution, Madam Bones ordered six aurors stationed at Hogwarts every night for at least the rest of the term. They would patrol most of the corridors between 7:30 at night and 7:30 the next morning in pairs in overlapping shifts. The prefect patrols continued, but only in corridors near their own common rooms, and only in corridors where there were plenty of portraits. Because of his injuries, Ron gave up his prefect’s badge (he had not really liked any of the duties in any case), and he was replaced by Harry. Ron was supposed to concentrate on his studies, but he was spending more time trying to get physically ready for the first Quidditch game, which was taking a great deal of his time.
The other major event had occurred just three days after the attacks, when Lucius Malfoy had strode into the great hall during lunch to demand ‘justice’ for his son. He had halted in mid-arrogant stride when what had appeared to be a ministry owl had approached him. It had not been a real owl, however. The ‘owl’ had exploded in Malfoy’s face, spraying him, and yet only him, with several powerful acids. While he did not lose his sight, his eyes were somewhat damaged. In addition, no one would ever think him handsome again. Rather, he would now look mostly like Lon Cheney in the silent version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.
He did not return to Hogwarts.
Harry rather enjoyed his prefect duties, especially when he patrolled with Hermione. They had been rather worried about how Ron might react to their semi-dating, but Ron had taken it in stride, mostly for two reasons. The first, he was milking his injuries. He had quickly accepted the idea that he had heroically taken on most of the assailants, thus partially saving Hermione, and there were several younger Gryffindors who were happy to lionize him. Harry was especially happy that Dennis Creevey had switched his devotion to Ron; he only wished Colin had as well.
The second reason was that one of the third year girls, Romilda Vane, not only lionized Ron, by the end of October she had become Ron’s snogging buddy. She was actually the oldest third year, born on September 2, and so only a few weeks younger than Ginny. Hermione thought that the two made a good pair, since as far as she could tell they were on the same stage of emotional development. She was, however, happy that Ron was now showering every day without prompting. Harry thought Romilda was a bit obsessive and possessive about Ron and a bit too proud to be the first third year in such a relationship, but said nothing, as he was happy Ron had some one.
Ginny was disgruntled about the whole thing. She obviously still had her crush on Harry, but liked Hermione too much (and knew Hermione’s temper and capabilities far too well) to even think about trying to move in on Hermione’s hopefully temporary territory. As Ginny herself would never share, so she never thought to wonder if Hermione would. Ginny was also unhappy that a girl a year behind her and three weeks younger had a boyfriend before her, even if it was Ron. As for the twins, while they ragged Ron a bit, they actually left the pair mostly alone. They were too busy planning their prank shop, with some additional funding from Sirius Black, and ideas from both Sirius and Remus Lupin.
Things therefore were very very quiet as September flowed into October. This pleased the Hufflepuffs, as they mostly wanted a calm life. Nearly all the Gryffindors seemed to accept this as natural as well – there had been an upset, but now life went on pretty much as it had before.
Many Slytherins, however, would have felt as if they were walking through a minefield blindfolded, had they known what a minefield was. The rules had obviously changed and none of them, even those who did not want to side with the Dark Lord, were happy with the changes. The only word which came back for those more-directly tied to the Death Eaters was ‘watch, report, do nothing – or else’. Even Draco had retreated into a rather cowed submission. This was not aided by the fact that he was still hobbling painfully, and whining loudly about it, weeks after Ron had stopped his own public complaining about his greater injuries. It was clear to everyone, even Malfoy, that Ron had been hurt worse and was dealing with it better. What Draco was not to know was that Ron was limping and whining almost as much as Draco – other than when a Slytherin was nearby. Most of the Gryffindors realized, however, that Ron was doing that largely because his girlfriend adored him as the ‘wounded hero’.
Ravenclaw was more obviously divided than Slytherin. Where at the beginning of the year a quarter in Slytherin had openly favoring the Dark Lord and nearly half leaning in that direction, in Ravenclaw the numbers had been more like ten percent and a third. The attack had cleared out nine supporters from the two Houses and had clearly marked Draco and Greg Goyle of those remaining. The pro-Pure Bloods in Ravenclaw, even though none had been attacked in their House, felt even more nervous than the Slytherins. Few had thought to suspect Ravenclaws, as opposed to Slytherins, and each felt slightly more paranoia than they should have.
In that, Luna was lucky. She had clearly been adopted by the-Boy-Who-Lived and his snog buddy. Had they felt entirely safe, the persecution Luna had long been subjected to would have continued, albeit at a lesser rate. Now all the bullies, pro-Dark Lord or not, pulled back, at least for the moment. They doubted Harry Potter had really frightened witches like Bones and Umbridge, but they did not doubt it was better to be cautious.
Luna realized that, but enjoyed the friendship Harry and Hermione were offering her too much to pull back. She did refuse to flaunt the relationship, however. Despite that friendship, Luna was surprised to be asked by the pair to join them on the first Hogsmeade visit, the 29th of October.
Despite all the speculations, at the moment at least Harry and Hermione were just two very good friends who were discovering that there were many more interesting things to do together besides studying magic. They felt tremendous affection for each other, mostly when they were kissing. Luna seemed to compliment their affection and friendship, rather than interfere with it.
All three had been to Hogsmeade, as of course all the non-third years had as well. “Why do you think everyone acts as if they have never been here before?” Luna asked her friends as they walked towards the village, for it was a fine autumn day. They were in the middle of the strung-out line of students heading for the day out and most of their fellow students were acting very foolishly to Luna and Hermione’s eyes. “The older students are acting sillier than the third years.”
“I think it’s just the change of scenery,” Hermione speculated. “Plus those students who are dating or trying for more committed relationships are especially glad for a bit of freedom.”
“What freedom?” Harry asked, curious. “There are certainly less places to snog in Hogsmeade than at the castle, let alone places to try anything . . . more serious.”
“Kisses almost have to be stolen outside the common rooms,” Luna answered. “Professor Snape enjoys taking points even for hand-holding inside the castle, and would probably wish to do so outside as well, if he were allowed. This allows couples to demonstrate they are couples.”
“And friends to show they are friends,” Hermione agreed, linking her arms with Luna and Harry.
As they closed in on the village, Luna frowned as asked, “Does something seem odd to either of you?”
Hermione frowned in turn, wondering what Luna might find ‘odd’.
“Do you mean the fact that all of the students suspected of being sympathetic to Voldemort are trailing far behind us?” Harry asked, who had noticed this for some time.
“Ah,” Luna said happy the problem had been answered, “that must be it!”
Hermione’s eyes had gone wide with panic, but Harry simply said, “Don’t worry.”
“But Harry. . . .”
“Don’t worry,” Harry repeated. Harry’s left arm snaked around Hermione’s waist and he made certain his forearm was against Luna’s. As the group entered Hogsmeade, they started to disperse. Harry simply pulled his friends out of the line and around at cottage towards the back lane. The few that paid any attention presumed that Harry and Hermione would be snogging in the back lane with Luna acting as ‘lookout’. Instead Harry hustled the pair into the still-empty Three Broomsticks and said, “I’ll be right back.”
“Harry is certainly energetic,” Luna said simply as Harry placed an order and ducked into the men’s toilet for a brief moment.
Hermione was speechless as Harry returned with their warm butterbeers.
“When?” Luna asked.
“About ten minutes,” Harry answered. “We’ll be fine here.”
Hermione tried to absorb all this, failed, and decided to observe.
Sure enough, a little over nine minutes later, there were shouts, and then screams, from the street. Harry forced Hermione to stay seated. “We aren’t expected to patrol until twelve thirty,” Harry stated firmly. “Until then, we stay here, out of the way.”
Hermione forced herself to subside, and in less than four more minutes, the shouting was over. Professor Dumbledore and three aurors came into the tavern less than three minutes after that. Harry merely cocked his head and asked, “What happened.”
“How long have you three been here?” one auror asked as the other two rushed to the back stairs, knowing that Madam Umbridge would want that information.
“We came directly here,” Hermione said, “and we haven’t left.”
“True,” Madam Rosmerta added from behind the bar.
“A group dressed as Death Eaters appeared and started cursing everyone in the square,” Dumbledore stated. “Six of them were killed by a sniper on the roof.”
“My roof!” Rosmerta demanded.
“She was here the whole time,” Harry stated.
The auror wrote all that down and joined his colleagues on the roof. Dumbledore merely regarded Harry for a moment and then said, “The rest of the visit is cancelled. Come along. The carriages will be taking you back.”
Harry shrugged and finished his butterbeer while Dumbledore waited impatiently. Luna did as well, and then asked, “May I have gilly water next time?”
“Of course,” Harry answered, and he led his two friends out of the tavern.
The leader of the attack, who had been the first killed, turned out to be none other than the scarred Lucius Malfoy. He and the other five had been hit with a powerful, silent curse, which had not shown up well in the bright autumnal light.
It was clear to the aurors, Dumbledore, and other experts that the spell had had the same effects as the powerful and difficult lightening spell, but that was both loud and very bright. It took several weeks of work before the British-based wizards learned that the spell was an electrical spell from North America, where it was primarily used to recharge powerful magically-harnessed battery systems, used in advanced technomage research, an area of magical theory mostly banned in Britain. As the various technomage groups denied being responsible, there was little the Ministry could do, other than obsess about outside interference.
In the meantime, the student sympathizers, who had hung-back under orders from their parents for the friends’ parents, spent that Saturday evening fearing retribution, such had visited some of them after the attack on Ron and Hermione. Draco Malfoy, for one, was totally unable to sleep.
When nothing happened, they all breathed a sigh of relief, and most went to bed early Sunday evening. They all woke up screaming at the same time, as they had been stunned with an advanced hex which revived them all simultaneously. Each had been laid face down on their beds and their hands nailed to the bed frames.
Again, there was no evidence of how the perpetrator or perpetrators had gained access to the Houses, making some wonder if these were performed by actual Ravenclaw and Slytherin students.
Albus Dumbledore doubted that idea very much, and called Harry to his office Monday afternoon.
“You wanted to see me, Headmaster?” Harry asked politely.
“These attacks on students must cease, Harry,” Dumbledore stated firmly.
Harry cocked his head to the left and asked, “Has there been another attack like the ones on Hermione and Ron?”
“No, and you know very well what I mean!” Dumbledore scolded.
“Do you mean the punishments handed out to the Junior Death Eaters?” Harry asked in a puzzled tone.
“Punishments! These are innocent students. . . .”
Harry snorted. “Draco Malfoy is stupid and bigoted, but he and his kind are hardly innocent.”
“You must allow for how they were raised,” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Why?” Harry asked, curious.
“What do you mean, ‘why’?” Dumbledore asked, confused.
“I am curious why you think coddling the bigoted, allowing them to bully the truly innocent, could ever get them to reform,” Harry responded.
Dumbledore merely looked at Harry in shock.
“You know, you cost a number of my mentors a fair amount of money this summer,” Harry said, making Dumbledore blink at the apparent non-sequitur. “There were apparently a lot of bets made on if you were a Dark Wizard that Voldemort was trying to replace, or just a silly arse.”
“After you were dumped by the Wizengamot and the International so easily, the ‘silly arse’ faction collected on the bets, of course.”
“Mister Potter. . . .”
Harry glared into Dumbledore’s eyes. “Why do you think you get to define ‘the greater good’?”
“I beg your pardon!”
“You decided to send a toddler into purgatory ‘for the greater good’. You decided allowing Snape to spoil the Slytherins, reenforcing their parents belief that they can get away with anything because of their bloodlines, was somehow ‘for the greater good’. You would have allowed them to get away with beating Ron and Hermione half to death, or even allowed them to murder them had someone not interfered, all ‘for the greater good’. You allowed Quirrell and Crouch free access to the students for a full year. And now, just because someone is giving the Junior Death Eaters some negative reenforcement. . . .”
“Perhaps someone decided this is for ‘the greater good’,” Harry retorted.
“But so much pain. . . .”
Harry glared at Dumbledore. “I have become an expert in experiencing pain,” Harry said coldly. “I doubt whatever happened to them last night would equal the pain I experienced when Dudley broke my arm at six.” Harry’s glare intensified. “What? You know that I have learned Occlumency. You should have known my tutors would find the Obliviates you put on me, which included watching you and Snape Obliviate the Dursleys, the hospital people, the police, and I presume the neighbors. Right?”
Dumbledore said nothing.
Harry thought a moment and said, “Yes, I can see any type of competence would surprise you.”
“You are turning Dark. . . .”
Harry again snorted. “I have to destroy Voldemort, and then live in the world left behind. If that world doesn’t change for the better, I will be leaving Britain, as most of the Muggle-born-and-Raised do.” Harry sighed at Dumbledore’s look. “What? I’m surprised Hermione hasn’t looked this up. . . .” Harry shook his head. “From your reaction, I’d guess the information has been purged from the library. Still, it’s all out there, and I’m sure she’d dig it up on her own sooner or later. What was the magical population of Britain in1900? You don’t remember? 40,000. Now, with a Muggle population a third larger than it was a hundred years ago, the wizarding population is somewhere under 18,000. It should be 60,000.” Harry gestured. “Hogwarts should have a student population four or five times what it is, and a staff at least five times larger. Where are all the wizards? True, there are still many so poor they have to stay in the marshes and fens and bogs, and forests and mountains, learning a little magic from their relatives with wands cobbled together and brewing primitive potions. And some other families were killed in Grindelwald’s wars, or in Voldemort’s first war. But most left, and are still leaving. They went to North America and Australia in their thousands, and to New Zealand, South Africa, and East Africa, and islands in the Carribean, Atlantic, Pacific, and even the Indian Ocean by the hundreds. Certainly most of the Muggle-raised who do not marry someone magical but not Muggle-born by the time they are twenty-five or so do.” Harry smiled grimly. “Someday, even the Muggles will notice that there are dozens of major islands missing around the world, and that Bermuda is actually five times larger than they think it is.”
Harry’s eyes turned dreamy just for a moment. “And just think, the Potters even own one, which means I own one. I can just go to Potter Island in the Pitcairns.” Harry again glared at Dumbledore. “I’m sure you would never have told me in time to state my claim before I turned eighteen, which means I would have lost it to the owners of the other three magical Pitcairn Islands.”
Dumbledore could not deny it.
“Tell me, did you know that full accounts of your mutual ‘admiration’ with Grindelwald, including plans for ‘guiding’ the magical and Muggle worlds, are available in North America and Australia?”
“I can assure you, they are not really accurate,” Dumbledore mumbled, embarrassed.
“Do you know what I do not want?”
“No,” Dumbledore admitted.
“I don’t want to be you. I don’t want to defeat Voldemort and be held up as some sort of hero, someone people can bring all their problems to in order to solve them. It may not be possible, but I hope I can defeat or destroy or vanquish or whatever what’s left of Tom Riddle in such a way that no one will know for sure it was me.”
“And then how will you change society?”
“I really can’t, no matter what I do,” Harry admitted. “But, hopefully in the process of destroying Riddle, his followers will learn there are consequences to having done so. I want them to do what is apparently the most difficult thing for a ‘Pure’ wizard to do.”
“And that is?”
“I want them to actually think.”