The evening edition of the Daily Prophet stirs up more controversey.
That was why Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore found themselves in a meeting with Lucius Malfoy and the other eleven Governors.
Lucius Malfoy was enjoying himself. Any chance to make Dumbledore and one of his supporters suffer was to be exploited in his book.
When they were all seated around the conference table, Dumbledore spoke up, “Now that we are all comfortable, why don’t you tell us why you called this meeting?”
‘He doesn’t know, oh how I’m going to enjoy this’ Lucius thought to himself gleefully. His aristocratic drawl was crisp, his annunciation perfect, as he said, “We are here to discuss why you two deliberately endangered one of your students against her parent’s wishes.”
Lucius found the whole situation the height of irony. Here he was defending the rights of a Mudblood to a man that most would consider a champion of. He knew better though, Dumbledore talked about equality but he never did anything to advance the cause. Normally, Lucius wouldn’t lower himself to care about muggles and mudbloods. However, this situation was too good to pass up. It would make him look like a caring member of society while making two of his least favorite people look cold and uncaring.
With a small smile gracing his face, he pulled out two copies of Skeeter’s article and slid them across the table while saying, “Perhaps you two should read this, and then we can discuss why you felt it was in a student’s best interest to put her in mortal peril.”
Minerva was about to retort, but Dumbledore forestalled her with a raised palm and a nod to the article. Inwardly, he was seething. He had not predicted any type of response from the purebloods. Muggle-borns were usually beneath their notice.
With a start, Dumbledore realized that he was holding an advance release of Rita Skeeter’s article for the evening paper. Staring back up at him was a picture of Harry Potter snapping at him angrily before diving into the lake. ‘Oh, this is not going to be good.’ he thought to himself as he read the headline, ‘Headmaster endangers top student’s life!’
After finishing the article, Dumbledore had to admit that it was a brilliant piece of journalism. Not once did it mention Ms. Granger’s name or blood status, which was probably why Lucius Malfoy had been so willing to jump at the chance to censure him and Professor McGonagall.
The article went on to paint a picture of a bright, vivacious, student that trusted the Headmaster and how he had betrayed her trust, and the explicit written directions of her parents, by using her in the second task. The caption just below another photo, a picture of Hermione Granger, read, Betrayal in the dead of night!’ It was a picture of her all dressed to the nines for the Yule Ball, looking the part of a perfect pureblood princess.
To make matters worse, Skeeter made it appear it was Dumbledore’s fault that Harry Potter had become a murderer at the age of fourteen. She pointed out that it was Dumbledore’s Age Line that the boy had gotten past to enter his name in the Cup.
By comparison, Professor McGonagall got off light. She had been called to the mat for not protecting her student’s best interests. There was even a direct quote paraphrased from Minerva herself that was damaging. There really was no getting around the fact that they had taken Miss Granger in the dead of night while she was sleeping, never giving her the chance to say, ‘no.’
When Albus looked over at Minerva, he was surprised to find tears in her eyes. Concerned, he asked, “Are you alright?”
Her Scottish brogue was thick with distress and her voice full of self-loathing when she spoke, “No, I’m not, Albus.” McGonagall turned to face the Governors and said, “I am ashamed of my actions and have nothing to say in my defense. I will comply with whatever decision the Board renders.” Rising from her chair, Minerva said, “Please excuse me, I need a moment alone. I will wait outside until you send for me.”
Albus watched Professor McGonagall leave the room, her posture stooped in defeat. He sighed in resignation and turned to face Lucius and the rest of the Board. His goal shifted to keeping his position as headmaster.
“You have gone too far this time, Dumbledore.” Lucius drawled.
“You deliberately endangered that young witch’s life by placing her in the lake against her parent’s wishes.”
When Dumbledore just sat there looking at him, Lucius snapped, “Don’t you have anything to say with regard to your despicable actions?”
Dumbledore continued to gaze at the other members of the board, skimming their surface thoughts with practiced ease. It always amazed him how few wizards and witches guarded their minds, or even knew how.
He had gathered enough information from the board members to piece together that they didn’t know that Miss Granger was the student in question. It seemed that Lucius had kept that information to himself. It was time to out that little secret. In a voice that sounded like he could have been chatting about the weather, Dumbledore said, “You must be referring to our muggle-born student, Miss Granger. When she is here at Hogwarts, I am her legal guardian. As such, Professor McGonagall and I did nothing wrong.”
One of the other members present spoke up, “What about the fact that her parents wrote a letter stating that she was not to participate in the second task?”
Albus folded his hands on top of the table, giving off the appearance of being deep in thought. In reality, he was skimming their thoughts again, looking for how they felt about the issue. A majority of the members were surprised, and disgusted, that they were defending a Mudblood. There were a couple that truly cared but they were in the minority.
With enough information to proceed, Dumbledore said in his best Wizengamot voice, “Thank you all for your concern regarding Miss Granger’s safety. I can assure you that at no time was she in danger. Now, is there anything else for us to discuss? Perhaps we could re-open the issue of increasing the budget for enrolling muggle-borns?” He knew that nothing would make the Board of Governors flee faster than asking for more money to help muggle-born students enroll.
After a few moments of discussion, the members of the board began filing from the room. A few nodded to Dumbledore as they exited while the majority left without so much as a backwards glance.
Minerva McGonagall was sitting on one of the benches outside of the meeting room, waiting to be summoned to face her fate. She was surprised when the school governors began filing out of the room, completely ignoring her presence. Confused, she stood up and walked back into the conference room.
Looking around, she saw Dumbledore sitting serenely in a chair, looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Albus?” she asked.
Dumbledore looked up from his ruminations at his Deputy Headmistress; he had completely put her out of his mind during the later part of the meeting. It took him a moment to realize that she wanted an explanation. His voice was back to that kind, grandfatherly, tone that everyone associated with him when he spoke, “Everything has been settled, Minerva. You may return to your duties.” He patted her on the shoulder before heading off for the Great Hall to catch the end of dinner.
Lost in her thoughts, Minerva turned and headed off towards her quarters. She needed some additional time to reevaluate her views on many different things in the Wizarding World.
Harry and Hermione were about halfway through the article when they found the part re-hashing Harry’s killing of the merman.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Harry finished reading the article. Overall, the article really stuck it to Dumbledore and that pleased him. It was nice to see the headmaster take some grief for a while. Especially after Dumbledore had brought to light the details of the second task to Rita Skeeter, which resulted in the front-page article in the morning paper.
Hermione was having similar thoughts to Harry with one exception. She realized that Rita Skeeter must not know that Dumbledore was her source. If she knew, she probably wouldn’t go after him in the press as she was currently. She was about to tell Harry her thoughts on the subject when he pushed her roughly to the ground from her seat on the bench.
Just as she was about to snap at him for pushing her, a spell impacted right where she had been sitting. Quickly she rolled to her feet, drew her wand, and turned to face her attackers.
Harry had just stretched his magical senses out when he felt the spell coming their way. He realized that it would hit Hermione so he quickly pushed her out of harms way and spun around, wand already in hand, to face the cowards.
Students were scrambling away in their haste to get out of the line of fire. The ones already at a safe distance stood there, entranced; as they watched the events unfold in front of them.
“We know you attacked Professor Snape, Potter! Now you are going to pay.” A stocky boy yelled from the Slytherin table as he brought his wand up for a second spell.
Harry thought that the boy’s name was Montague or something. He recognized him from the Quidditch Pitch but that was all he really knew about the boy. His voice was low, almost menacing, as he calmly replied, “Put your wand away if you know what’s good for you and tell me what you are going on about.”
Hermione felt the shift in Harry’s emotions as he calmed his mind. It was the second shift that she felt that sent shivers down her spine. It was a cool, calculating, anger. The type that meant nothing good would happen to the next person that provoked him. ‘Is this what he felt in the lake or is this something else.’ She thought to herself.
Deciding to see if she could diffuse the situation, Hermione said in a placating voice, “We were in a meeting with Professors Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore this morning. Then we spent the afternoon out on the grounds.”
Montague snapped, “Shut your mouth, you filthy little Mud…”
Harry’s cold voice cut across Montague’s, “Finish that sentence and you are going to regret it. I never want to hear that word again.”
Power was beginning to radiate from Harry. The promise of violence was palpable in the air.
Hermione shifted to the side to give herself a different angle should things get messy.
The students around, and in between, Harry and Montague began backing away even quicker. Most of them didn’t want to be anywhere near them when spells were exchanged.
Neville and Ginny had pulled their wands in support of Harry and Hermione. They didn’t know that many spells but to do anything less just felt wrong to them.
Dumbledore strode into the Great Hall just in time to hear Harry practically hiss at Montague. He could feel the power swirling around the boy from fifteen feet away. It wasn’t the same feeling that he got whenever he was around accidental magic. This maelstrom from Harry was like a caged beast waiting to be unleashed upon some poor soul.
Not wanting things to degenerate any further, Dumbledore shouted, “Enough! What is the meaning of this?” Several people began trying to speak at once so everything was jumbled. He was still able to piece together enough to get the basics. The rest of the information he lifted from some of the student’s minds. He stayed well away from Harry and Hermione’s thoughts. He wasn’t sure how proficient they were in Occlumency, so he took no chances.
Holding up his hands for silence, Dumbledore said authoritatively, “Mr. Montague, that will be fifty points from Slytherin and two weeks detention with Mr. Filch for your unprovoked attack on a student. Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, please follow me.” He led them into the antechamber just off the Great Hall where Harry was informed that he would have to participate in the tournament.
The students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang had wisely stayed silent, and apart, during the whole ordeal. A few of them marveled at the display of power from Harry Potter. ‘Perhaps,’ they thought, ‘there was a good reason why he was a champion after all.’
Krum seemed to like Harry Potter and as far as the students from Durmstrang were concerned, that was enough for them to reserve judgment until they knew him better.
Fleur’s first reaction to Harry Potter being in the tournament was disdain and that tainted some of her classmate’s views towards him. Now that two tasks had gone by, and he was leading in points over Fleur, many of the Beauxbatons students had mixed feelings towards him. They all noticed that he was mainly friends with a very small group of people and somewhat shy. In short, the majority of the Beauxbatons students were now taking a very French attitude towards Harry Potter, Laissez-Faire.
Ron Weasley had watched the entire confrontation with a sense of longing. He noticed how his sister and Neville had drawn their wands in support of Harry and Hermione. ‘Perhaps,’ he thought longingly, ‘I should make an effort to talk to them soon.’ He really did miss them for the most part. Seamus and Dean were nice enough blokes, but pretty boring. Ron missed that sense of adventure that came with being friends with The-Boy-Who-Lived.
Professor Moody had watched the entire conflict with a different agenda than most. He was very interested in how Potter reacted to being attacked. It was a pity; Dumbledore had stepped in before the spells started flying fast and furious. He knew that the boy was powerful; he had been the only one to throw off the Imperious Curse in the entire school. The question that he wanted answered was how would Potter react to being attacked by multiple people? He already knew what happened when Miss Granger was threatened. Rita Skeeter saw to that tidbit of information.
Taking a swig from his hip flask, Moody stumped back up to his office to update his dossiers on a few people based upon this little altercation. ‘One can never have too much information about how someone reacts in a given situation.’ he thought to himself as he limped down the corridor. An owl would leave his quarters in half an hour, heading to parts, and parties, unknown.
While all of the commotion was taking place in the Hogwarts Great Hall, a different type of event was taking place back at Grimmauld Place.
Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were arguing while the portrait of Phinneas Nigellus looked on in amusement.
“What were you thinking, Sirius? We could have talked to him about it. Instead, you landed him in the Hospital Wing. He could have died!” Remus said in exasperation.
Sirius sat there gazing at his best friend. He loved Remus like a brother, but sometimes he was too passive for his own good. Some people only understood one thing, power. Severus Snape was one of those people and he had just been delivered a very clear message. Mess with Harry Potter again and it would not be a set of steps and a trip to the Hospital Wing, it would be an unmarked grave.
The information that Phinneas had delivered to the Head of the Family had sent him into a towering rage. Sirius had wanted to storm up to the castle and simply kill Snivelous for his treatment of Harry. Phinneas had convinced him to send a warning message first.
Sirius had worn his finest robes. Ones he knew that Snape would recognize. They were the Head of Family set, something that Snape would know from his Death Eater cronies. Lucius Malfoy wore his often enough that there was no way for Snape to mistake them for anything else. Regulus had worn a similar set of robes and he knew Snape had seen the Black Family trim while they were in Slytherin House together during their Hogwarts days.
Breaking from his reverie, Sirius finally spoke up, his voice was surprisingly calm despite the heated topic, “Remus, you know what Snape is like. Talking to him is like banging your head against a cauldron. He was a Death Eater, for Merlin’s sake! Do you honestly believe that I could have reasoned with him? He still hates me and tried to have me kissed by a Dementor in case you forgot.”
Remus was frustrated. He wanted to protect Harry as well. He just didn’t think that it was time to take such drastic measures. Years of suppressing the wolf inside of him had taken a different type of toll on him beyond the physical. By denying the wolf, he had altered his personality into something it should not have been. A docile shadow of a man, instead of the dominant alpha male, was what had emerged. He just didn’t know if he could bring himself to embrace what he was and become what he should.
Defeated, Remus whispered, “You’re right, Sirius. Snape wouldn’t listen to reason. I think that it is time that we start taking a more active role in protecting Harry from now on. Consider this the beginning of a new era. Deal?”
Sirius was shocked. He did not think that he would live to see the day when Remus tried to change his personality. Automatically, he stuck out his hand to shake on it and said, “Agreed. We do everything that we can to protect Harry, even if it means being more proactive.”
Phinneas had watched the entire exchange with interest. He didn’t like what Dumbledore was doing to one of the members of his family, no matter how distant. While he owed allegiance to the school, he felt that his first duty was to his family. With so few decent members left alive, Phinneas felt it was even more important to keep a watch over them if he could. That was why he had informed Sirius of what was happening with Harry Potter and why he had directed the portraits away from the stairwell where Snape was given his message.
Back at Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Harry, and Hermione were seated in the antechamber off the Great Hall.
The feelings of anger were still palpable around Harry. He was desperately trying to clear his mind. It would not help matters if he were too angry to think clearly.
Hermione was pushing her feelings of calm and love through the bond in an effort to help Harry calm down. She was grateful that he had pushed her out of harms way. Silently, she reached over and clasped his hand under the table in a show of support.
Harry felt Hermione’s calming influence through the bond and that was helping him immensely. When she clasped his hand in hers, a feeling of serenity washed over him and his mind cleared instantly. The physical touch of her soft hand was acting like a barrier against his anger. It was hard to feel angry when she touched him and he was thankful. Turning his attention outward, he focused on the Headmaster sitting across from him.
Dumbledore had watched the storm raging in Mr. Potter’s eyes and he was wondering if he could use that to his advantage. He was a little shocked to see it vanish completely in a matter of seconds. The boy must be much better at Occlumency than he originally figured.
His gaze was so focused on Harry that he didn’t notice Hermione reaching over and clasping hands with Harry under the table or he might have started to put together the true extent of their relationship.
After a few moments, Dumbledore finally spoke in his kind voice, “Mr. Potter, why did you threaten Mr. Montague? You could have reported him to a professor instead.”
A flash of irritation swept through Harry at Dumbledore’s question. ‘Was he that far out of touch with reality or was this all part of his secret agenda?’ he thought to himself before he replied, “He did fire a spell at Hermione’s back, sir. He was also about to call her, I’m not going to use that word, something nasty. Why should I stand for it?”
Albus fixed Harry with a penetrating stare. It was sorely tempting to test the boys Occlumency Shields but he knew that would further damage their relationship. Instead, he said calmly, “It is imperative that you forgive others for their transgressions, lest you risk becoming like them.”
‘That’s it, he’s barking mad.’ both teens thought simultaneously.
Harry’s voice was like ice, but it was in that low, melodic, tone when he spoke, “Why? Do you honestly think that they are feeling guilty about what they did? I have yet to receive one apology for the buttons, lies, and the attack on my person.”
Hermione was furiously trying to figure out what Dumbledore’s agenda was. ‘Why does he want Harry to constantly forgive everyone for everything that they do to him? It’s like he wants him to keep turning the other cheek in sacrifice.’ she mused. Suddenly, she had a very disturbing thought, one that chilled her to the bone far worse than the coldest of winter winds. ‘Dumbledore wants a martyr and he is trying to mold Harry into one. Was that the reasons behind everything in his life so far?’
Harry felt the flash of panic flit through their bond. Hermione had just had a serious revelation and he knew it wasn’t good.
Dumbledore was framing his reply. He knew he had to be careful. They were on a precipice and he needed to make sure that Harry continued to develop according to his plans. Very calmly, he said, “Their guilt or remorse isn’t the issue, Mr. Potter. A good person will always strive to see the best in others and I know that you are a good person. Don’t let your anger cloud your emotions and you will see that it is always best to give others another chance.”
Hermione was silently fuming in anger as she thought, ‘That manipulative, clever, man.’ It was subtle, but Dumbledore was trying to guilt Harry into doing what he wanted. She wasn’t about to let that happen, so she finally spoke up, “Sir, what about justice? How can someone deserve forgiveness if they haven’t repented their actions?” ‘Take that!’, she thought viciously, pleased with herself that she was either going to force him to admit what he was trying to do or end the meeting to avoid the question.
Realizing that he had been cornered, Dumbledore wisely retreated and tried a slightly different angle, “It is always best if they repent, Miss Granger. However, some people won’t repent without forgiveness.”
Harry was watching the verbal tennis match with interest. Hermione was trying to prove a point and Dumbledore had just changed tact slightly, he was sure it was very important. Now he just had to figure out why without being able to talk to her.
Hermione understood that Dumbledore was not going to budge in his reasoning. Knowing that this was a lost cause, she said, “I understand. Is there anything else, sir?”
Dumbledore was trying to figure out if Miss Granger had acquiesced or if she truly agreed with his point of view. Mr. Potter had not so much as moved a muscle since they started talking and that surprised him. He thought for sure that Harry would have interjected his views into the conversation at some point. Testing the waters, he said, “Do you agree, Mr. Potter?”
Knowing that Hermione had somehow thrown Professor Dumbledore off for a moment, he readily agreed, “Yes, sir.”
Beaming at his two students in relief, Dumbledore said, “Good, good. Now run along and grab some desert.”
Albus watched as the two Gryffindors got up and left the room together. His was going over the entire conversation in his thoughts, trying to see if he had missed something. Deciding that he hadn’t, Dumbledore got up and headed into the Great Hall for a spot of tea and a few sweets.
He never realized that Hermione had caught on to his scheme and that Harry had trusted her blindly and followed her lead.
Neither teen noticed that Dumbledore didn’t deny that Harry had attacked Professor Snape. They were too focused on the hidden meanings behind what he was saying and it had slipped their minds.
Later that evening an owl would deliver Moody’s missive to a large, dilapidated, manor house near a graveyard. Its contents would make their recipient very happy.