Weasleys visit the DoM. Dumbledore proves again that he's as bad as Voldemort. Some Deez learn an hard lesson about goblin wards. Hermione becomes betrothed, and Neville learns who was killed.
Ron and Ginny were sequestered, ‘to ensure their descriptions would be individual and not collaborations’. Arthur went with Ron and Molly with Ginny. While they were being interrogated, healers in hidden offices behind walls, scanned them all for compulsions and other behavioral modifiers.
They found them. Plenty of them.
Algernon spoke with Molly and Ginny. As an administrator, he no longer needed to remain under concealment.
“Mrs. Weasley, when you and your daughter entered the conference room, you were both automatically scanned for compulsions and spells. It’s part of the security system here. We detected several on each of you. They were very subtle. Your family magics would likely dismiss them as anomalies, but they were there.”
“Compulsions? Who? Why? How?” Molly was outraged. Compulsions were so very offensive to her. She knew of the compulsions the Dark Lord and his minions used, to make people in office do what he wanted. They weren’t as overt as the Imperius, but that was only a matter of degree!
“We can remove them, if you’d like.”
A few minutes later the compulsions were gone and for the first time in several years, Molly Weasley could think for herself.
“Who placed those compulsions?” She demanded angrily. Screw the law, she was ready to murder!
“According to the magical signature, it was Albus Dumbledore.”
In the next room, Arthur and Ron were undergoing the same, though Arthur was more accepting. Ever since Harry had detailed his history, first at Kings Cross and then the next day at Number four, he’d been suspicious of Dumbledore. His instincts always screamed that something seemed off about the ancient wizard, but Molly’s steadfast belief in Albus, seemed to allay any fears he had. That time was done. Arthur had a rather ‘interesting’ history himself, though no longer in that field, he considered himself an honorable man. He would no more lie, than kill without cause. As such, he held to himself and avoided those who weren’t as honorable. Now, it appeared that the one man, who most would have thought of as the icon of the light, was little better than the dark lord himself!
“Dad?” Ron asked. “What about Harry and Hermione?…and Luna?” Ron’s ears turned red at the mention of the ‘interesting’ blonde’s name. Arthur noticed, but decided not to bother the boy about it.
“Actually, Ron that’s why we’re here today. It was Harry who discovered the compulsions and alerted me to them. He’s removed them from himself and Hermione, and suggested I find a way to do the same. That’s really why I brought you here.”
“Why here? Why not at home?”
“Because if Dumbledore discovered I had removed them, he would have obliviated me of the memory and replaced the compulsions. This way the compulsions are gone, your mother is aware of them and I don’t have to sleep on the couch.”
“Wow, dad!” That’s almost as sneaky as Gred and Forge.”
“Ron, you didn’t think they got that from your mother, did you?”
Ginny was patting Molly’s wrists as Croaker held a smelling salt under her nose.
Gasping at the acrid smell, Molly’s eyes flashed open and she sat up violently, immediately needing to lower her head to her hands to stave off another fainting fit.
Ginny handed her a glass of water with a mild pepper-up dose in it.
When Molly was feeling better, she addressed Croaker. “Will you bring my husband in please?”
“Of course.” A door opened and Arthur and Ron appeared.
“Ron, Ginny, you two can go and have some tea. There’s no need for you to hear this.”
“I disagree, Molly.” Arthur interjected before either teen could protest. “Ron and Ginny have been placed under compulsions as well. It’s likely that all the boys have. If Dumbledore is the one who placed them they they’re in the most danger.”
“But Arthur! They’re still children!”
“Mum” Ron and Ginny began at the same time. They looked at each other and with a sigh, Ginny gestured to Ron.
“Mum, we’ve been fighting this war since I was eleven. Ginny was almost the first casualty.”
Ginny took over: “If anything we’re a lot older than most. If anyone deserves to know, we do. We’ve earned that.”
“Molly.” Arthur’s voice was as warm and loving as always, but there was that core of steel within, that he so very rarely used. “Weasleys have stood against the dark, since before Britain was Britain…even when the dark is wrapped in the light. Mordred was one such. He had the legitimate right of succession but he was dark as they came. We stood against him and we prevailed. Our young warriors here…” He gestured to his two youngest. “Have proved themselves in combat against the worst of the worst. Can we shield them any more? I say no, and I think we’d be doing them a great disservice to even try.”
Molly wasn’t one to back down when she wanted something, but she’d already lost one son to the Ministry, two had gone off to foreign lands and the twins had moved out to start that silly joke shop. She couldn’t bear losing her youngest. Still, Arthur had made some valid points. Like the Weasleys, the Prewetts had been fighting the dark for centuries. If Albus was using the light to hide the dark, they had a duty to stop him.
“Alright.” She sighed. She hated it, but she would do it. “What do we need to do?”
“For now, nothing.” Croaker spoke. “Just now, Albus Dumbledore is in the dark. Let’s keep him that way. In the near future, I predict he’s going to have enough trouble to keep him occupied. If he asks you to do something he’d normally ask you to do, then do it. Note it down, but do it. Try to keep him from finding out.”
“How about Occlumency?” Ron asked.
“Ron!” Molly scolded. “Occlumency is a dark art!”
“Actually it’s not, Molly.” Arthur interjected. “It was Dumbledore who redesignated it as such. I’m proficient in the art.”
“He had Harry learning from Snape until Snape threw him out.”
“Professor, Snape, Ron.” Molly automatically corrected.
“No, mum. Snape isn’t a teacher of any sort. He’s a bully, and a git. You can ask anybody not in Slytherin, and you’ll get the same answer.” Ron was adamant. “If I didn’t have to take his class, I would have walked out the first day. He bullies Harry and Neville all the time. He calls Hermione a mudblood know-it-all to her face, takes points for the stupidest of things, and lets the snakes sabotage our potions.
He watches as Draco and his trolls, threaten, bully and all-out attack other students and then takes points and assigns detentions to the people his nibblers attack. No. He’s not a teacher. He’s a Death Eater, nothing more.”
“Mum, he does the same thing to my class.” Ginny added. “He’s taken points for breathing too loudly, for blinking in class, or for answering questions properly. He constantly marks my papers down because he says I don’t slant my letters enough.”
“Be that as may be…” Croaker interrupted what could become a lively argument. “Your son’s question is valid. We know that both Dumbledore and Snape are legillimens’, as well as Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy. Bellatrix Lestrange was before she died. That’s why they’re so very good at dueling.”
“What?” Molly asked, unsure of what Croaker was saying.
“They can peek into your thoughts and see what you’re going to do next. If you cast a spell, they already have the necessary shield in place.”
“We have to learn it.” Molly decided. This was as bad as the dark arts! Thoughts are meant to be private!
Arthur sighed. “I can teach you.”
“Dad?” Both teens were amazed at this unknown side of their father.
“Thanks, Artie. No war-stories, though.”
“Do you mind explaining to those of us who don’t understand your code?” Molly demanded.
“Molly, hasn’t Arthur ever told you what he used to do before he became the head of the Misuse department?”
“Not really. He’s always been so vague about that time.”
“Congratulations, Artie. You’re a better man than I am.” Croaker laughed before going on.
“Molly, I can only give you the roughest answer. Both of us are proscribed from telling anyone what we do here.”
“You mean Arthur was a…” Molly gasped.
“I cannot say any more.” Croaker was firm. Still, he’d made his point.
“Way to go, DAD!” Came from Ron and Ginny, both of whose eyes shone with a newfound respect.
Arthur pointed a finger at his children and ordered: “You two will keep this to yourselves, do you understand me?”
Both nodded rapidly. Neither had ever seen him so serious before.
Albus sat at his desk observing the tall, well built black man in the visitor’s chair. For long moments he said nothing, waiting for Kingsley to become nervous. A nervous visitor was one that could be ‘influenced’. It usually worked with his ‘visitors’, but Kingsley was made of sterner stuff than that. He simply sat calmly until Dumbledore spoke first.
“Kingsley, I understand you do not care for Severus, but he is vital to the war effort. His position as a spy for the light, places him at extreme risk of his very life. He should be treated with respect, not contempt.”
“Albus, contempt is all I have left for that Death Eater. He is responsible for far too many good Aurors dying. He is also directly responsible for the murders of four very good friends. James, Lily, Frank and Alice.”
“Ah, but Franklin and Alice Longbottom are not dead.”
“They are worse than dead, Albus. They’ve no minds left. If that’s not dead, then what is?”
“That is beside the point. You must treat Severus with respect. He has placed his life on the line, for us, for far too long. Any second of any day, he could be discovered and then he would be killed. Surely this has earned him a bit of leeway.”
“Not in my book. For fifteen years, you have allowed him to be an utter bastard to the students here at Hogwarts. Because of that, there are never enough qualified people for the ranks of the Aurors or the healers, the two most vital fields in a war. When Voldemort strikes, we will be unable to meet him. Because of your pet Death Eater, we will lose.”
“Nonsense!” Dumbledore was really growing tired of his pawns thinking for themselves. How would he control the wizarding world if they refused to follow his glorious plans?
“Harry will eliminate Voldemort. It is his destiny!” He replied with a nearly-religious fervor. “When he has done so, I will guide the rebuilding of society, and soon we will be the perfect utopia!”
“Kinsley stood, regretfully shook his head and tossed his phoenix stamped coin onto the desk, before turning to the floo.
He never got there. A red bolt caught him and as he fell, Albus stood, his wand in hand.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Kingsley, but I cannot afford to not have a spy in the ministry. Obliviate! Compusi Imperator! You will cease your antagonistic behavior towards Severus immediately. You will provide information to me on the workings of the ministry including all ongoing investigations, involving former and current Death Eaters, that I might put a stop to them.”
Done, he levitated Kingsley back to the visitor’s chair, and enervated him.
“Oh, by the bye, I believe you left this at Headquarters. He slid the golden, phoenix-embossed coin across the desk to Kingsley. “You really should be more careful, you know. There’s no telling what kind of mischief this could cause if it were discovered by the wrong people.”
“Oh, thanks, Albus. I was wondering where I’d put that.” Kingsley took the coin and slipped it into a pocket.
“Let me know if you discover anything more.” Albs instructed, dismissing his pawn. Shacklebolt nodded and departed through the green flames, leaving an old manipulator with delusions of godhood, to think and plot.
That afternoon, a large brown owl bearing the golden crest of Gringotts bank, flew through Dumbledore’s window, bearing a scroll.
He absently held out his hand for the scroll, only to be bitten rather deeply for his troubles. With a yelp of pain, he snatched his bleeding hand back. The owl had the temerity to glare at him, him, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore! Albus had never been so insulted!
The only thing that kept him from killing the bird was the golden talisman it carried. Any aggression against a Gringotts owl was treated as an attack upon the Goblin Nation, and dealt with harshly.
Financially, of course. The grotty woggies didn’t dare revolt again. They knew their place! Still, they could become inconvenient. He’d have to see about eliminating them when Harry died destroying Tom…after he’d liberated all his pawn’s assets, of course.
The scroll on his desk bore some good news.
Be advised the reading of the will of the late Sirius Black,
Lord and head of the noble and most ancient house of black
will be held at ten of the clock antemeridian, tomorrow the
12th July, at Gringotts bank. As one of the beneficiaries, you
are required to attend in person. Those who do not attend or
provide a proxy, will forfeit their shares to Gringotts bank.
Have a nice day,
Albus shuddered at the name. ~What had the poor goblin done to deserve a name like that?~ He never once considered it might be an insult directed at him alone.
He finished reading the missive and looked for the Gringotts owl, only to realize the bird had departed on silent wings. Plucking up a lemon drop, he also discovered that the owl had deposited a rather nasty gift for him in his candy dish.
Minerva was in her office and yet she could have sworn she heard the headmaster yelling.
Dobby had collected several freed elves, telling them that his wonderful master had a nice castle and a few other properties and would bond them all. They didn’t believe, but then, they had nowhere else to go. Several of their fellows had died already due to the wasting sickness, and none wanted to share those unfortunate elves’ fates.
On the promise of a bond, he set the elves to work in the castle, to await their new master.
There were three who were too weak to work. He asked them if they thought they could hold out until the following week. All three said they could. He assigned a fellow elf to each to make them comfortable until their new master could bind them.
At nine that evening, Voldemort met with a serious piece of news. John Dawlish had reported that Severus had been captured by the Ministry on the seventh, and yet, he’d heard nothing of it from his spy. He summoned his servants for an explanation.
The Death Eaters gathered in a series of large semi-circles and awaited their master’s pleasure.
Voldemort kept them waiting for more than an hour before he began to speak.
“Severus…I have discovered that you were taken and interrogated by the Department of Law Enforcement and yet, you have not seen fit to inform me of this?
“That was a minor, easily corrected situation. I took an antidote of my own devising, to all truth sera, so they got nothing. As a security risk, I felt it was beneath your notice.
“Just so. Very well, I shall not punish you for attending to a detail too minor to be troubled with. Dawlish.”
John Dawlish stepped forth, uncertainly. He was one of the ‘new crowd’, and had little foreknowledge of Voldemort’s temper. He’d thought his informing his master of Snape’s capture would elevate him somewhat in his master’s eyes. He was to learn otherwise.
Dawlish fell screaming, to the parquet. Voldemort held the curse long enough to make his ‘noble’ displeasure known.
Releasing the curse, he snarled: “You are all purebloods! You are all here to show the mudbloods, and blood traitors their places. I will have no ranking here. We cannot be a unified force if we are fractured by petty politics!” In truth he found such petty squabbles highly amusing, and so, did what he could to subtly encourage them.
Dawlish shakily regained his feet, glaring daggers at Snape.
Voldemort caught it.
“Do you really wish another lesson so soon, Dawlish?” He whispered. All heard the deadly threat in his hiss.
Horrified at the thought, Dawlish lowered his eyes, and spoke softly. “No master.”
“Good. Return to your place.”
Dawlish scurried to his position thinking vile imprecations about the potions master all the while.
While Voldemort enjoyed the thoughts his minion was projecting, he returned to the business at hand.
“I believe I asked you to make the muggles’ deaths, memorable ones, Severus, and yet, I hear you have failed in your mission entirely. Would you care to explain?” Voldemort hissed, his words filled with menace.
Snape, having been exposed to such false calm many times before, and having both seen and felt its results, hastened to placate the mutated dark lord.
“Master, We arrived at the designated time and entered the home. It was empty. The muggles were apparently away. Since they were, and we had specific orders not to harm any of the other muggles in the area, we set the place on fire, cast your mark, and departed. As I understand it, the obliviators had only to adjust a few memories.
“Crucio!” Voldemort hissed in a deadly voice. As Dawlish had moments before, Severus Snape fell screaming to the inlaid wood.
He held the curse for nearly a minute before releasing his victim.
“Why must I surround myself with idiots?” He snarled.
Crabbe was the unfortunate wight who attracted his attention then. “Because nobody else wants to…” He too was cut off in screams. Voldemort held the curse until the stupid Death Eater, was foaming. Had Snape not been in such lingering agony, he would have rubbed his forehead at Crabbe’s stupidity. Personally, he agreed with both Crabbe and Voldemort. They were all idiots…except for himself and a select few others, of course, and nobody else did want the job.
“That was a rhetorical question, Crabbe!” At the lack of understanding, from his minions, he added in a sigh of exasperation: “A rhetorical question requires no answer.”
Their expressions were as empty as always. Rubbing the nub that serves as his nose, he closed his eyes and waved his hand. “Go! Get out…all of you. Not you, Severus, you stay.”
The Death Eaters proved to be slightly smarter than he’d suspected. They fled, dragging Crabbe’s quivering body behind them. Snape knew he would have to act quickly if Crabbe were to survive with what little mind he had, intact. Still, he waited on his master’s pleasure.
“Yes, master. No sight of them.”
“I do not believe so. There was food in the house and nothing valuable was gone.”
“So they should return sometime?”
“I believe they will.”
“Station a watch and inform me when they return. I should like to deal with them personally.”
“As you wish, master.”
“As a matter of interest, what was the price you paid for that antidote?”
“Ten years of my life, master.”
“It took you that long to develop it?”
“No, master, while it was difficult to brew, I have dealt with far more complex potions in the past. When I said ten years, I meant taking the potion has cut ten years from my previous life expectancy. I will now die ten years before I normally would have.”
“Truly?” Voldemort was rarely shocked. This night was an exception.
“I must confess it was more for selfish reasons, than in your service. If I were to be interrogated under Veritaserum without that antidote, my sentence would undoubtedly be several life terms in Azkaban. I felt the risk of dying ten years early was better than to suffer the dementors for ten years more than necessary.”
“An honest answer. I did not think you had it in you to be so plain spoken, Severus.”
“Normally, I avoid it, as that causes my enemies to underestimate me, but you are the master.”
“Very well. Leave me. Tend to that idiot Crabbe.”
“As you will, Master. I live to serve.” Snape kissed his master’s hem, stood and backed away.
He didn’t hear Voldemort mutter: “Do, you, Severus? Do you really?”
After his erstwhile spy had departed, Voldemort set the stage by draping his huge snake Nagini, across his lap, before he summoned Nott.
The second tier Death Eater appeared immediately, and knelt before his master. Kissing his master’s hem, he announced himself, saying: “How may I serve you, Master?” sounding very much like a six-foot house elf. Voldemort grimaced at the parallel.
Stroking Nagini’s scales, he spoke.
“I have faced Potter several times. Nowhere has he fought so vigorously as when the mudblood Granger is involved. Half my servants’ serious injuries at the Department of Mysteries, were due to him and most of those were after the mudblood was struck down. I understand Dumbledore has tried to entice him, to no avail, to the Weasley girl…a proper pureblood, if a blood traitor.
Select several of my newer servants, and escort them to the mudblood’s home. Capture her, and her parents, and burn the house. You may do with her parents as you wish, but bring her here…relatively unharmed. I think I would like to see what kind of person this mudblood is, that she could inspire such loyalty in young Potter, where a pureblood cannot.”
“As you will, my master.” Nott bowed again and awaited dismissal.
“Go.” Voldemort waved his hand absently. While he had recovered his strength from being ousted from Potter’s mind at the ministry, he still felt…weakened somehow.
This was a feeling he did not care for.
He could also tell, they had recently become intimate, and each time they were, he suffered from horrible headaches. ~It is possible…~ He thought. ~…he has learned to control the link Dumbledore fashioned between us, for his own use. I thought I had broken the link when that blasted phoenix forced me out of the possession, but apparently there is still a trace.~
As Harry had predicted, just before ten AM, on the twelfth of July, Albus Dumbledore entered Gringotts in all his flamboyant glory, to attend the reading of the will of his ‘dear, most recently departed friend’. In his greedy old hand, he held a roll of legal looking parchments proclaiming him able to take possession of Sirius’ property and titles until Harry came of age.
As Harry has suggested, Graswold played stupid, granting Dumbledore all he’d wished for, but softly adding the caveat: ‘As long as it is legally allowed.’ Concentrating on the piles of gold soon to be his, Dumbledore missed that.
“Erm…how much gold is a ‘reasonable amount’?”
“According to this, there are 27, 000 Galleons, 1,139 Sickles and 16,003 knuts.”
“Truly?” Dumbledore was shocked. “I would have thought the Blacks were worth more than that.”
“That is not my concern. My concern is the proper disbursement of the holdings of one dead wizard, nothing more.”
“Fear not, good goblin…erm, your name?”
“My name is of no concern to you wizard!” Graswold snarled. He was both shocked and irritated. He’d met with Dumbledore many times over the years, and yet, the old bastard still could not be troubled to remember his name. Young HaihRiegh knew it from the very first moment!
“Yes, yes, well, all that aside. I shall inform young Harry of his inheritance at the appropriate time.”
Dumbledore turned away without even the polite bow of association, and pranced out of the bank. His robes flashed in the sunlight, practically screaming: “Look at me!”
When he returned to the castle, Dumbledore summoned his potions master to his office.
Snape arrived in as surly a mood as always.
“What news do you bring?”
“Very little, I’m afraid. The dark lord was not pleased at my capture at the hands of the DMLE. I convinced him that the Aurors had gotten nothing from me, due to a highly potent antidote to all known truth sera.
He was less pleased by our failure to kill the Dursleys, but accepted it as an unavoidable delay. He has ordered me to produce some rather complex healing potions and to maintain a watch over the Dursley’s house. In the event they return, he would like to ‘thank them’ personally for their past care of the Potter brat.”
“Ah, I suppose that would be one way of dealing with them. I shall have Mundungus maintain a watch over the remains of number four. He will report any sightings to you, and then you may bring the news to Tom.”
At three that afternoon, Carolyn Chapman approached the Granger home, intending to introduce herself to Harry’s love, and her parents. The summer day was warm and bright and she could almost feel the protective wards around the property. Before she could cross onto the path a pretty young lady with brown hair peeked up over the wooden fence surrounding the back of the house. Carolyn recognized her as Hermione Granger.
“Hullo the house. I’m solicitor Carolyn Chapman. Harry sent me.”
A wand was thrust through the boards. “Prove it!”
“Dobby!” Carolyn called out, shocking Hermione. What shocked her even more was that the overzealous elf appeared silently next to the woman.
Dobby called out: “Missy Hermyninny, Miss Cary-lin is working for Master Harry. You is in good hands with her here.”
“Dobby, what did you do to Harry on the first of September in our second year?”
Dobby blushed. “Dobby sealed the barrier to Platform nine and three quarters to keep Mister Harry Potter safe at this home.”
“All right you may approach!”
Inside, Hermione instructed Carolyn to place her wand on the sidebar. Understanding her caution, Carolyn complied.
Carolyn and Dobby joined Hermione and her mother in the kitchen. As Judith made tea and they got comfortable, she spoke.
“Harry has asked me to take care of all of his legal issues for the foreseeable future. You, Miss Granger, are one of those legal issues.”
“How do you mean?”
“I would like you to accept a betrothal to him.”
“What!?!” Hermione squeaked. At the same time, Judith gasped: “Betrothal?”
“It’s a very good method of protecting him…and you, from interference by other parties. If he has accepted a betrothal, he cannot be subject to any others. He has specifically told me to cancel or refuse any such, and I have done so, but this would be a more effective method of keeping greedy fathers from offering them again…or offering others. After all, there are purebloods out there, who would stop at nothing to claim the Potter estate. Now that he’s Lord Black and Lord Gryffindor as well, it’s even more vital to protect his interests. If a contract or proposal is refused, or canceled, it can be resubmitted after a year and a day. If he’s accepted one, nobody else can touch him. More, if you accept this proposal, he would legally be your protector and guardian in the wizarding world. Just now, that title goes to Albus Dumbledore.”
“Dumbledore?” Hermione was both horrified and instantly furious! He’d already tried to tie her to Ron as a concubine. She made her mind up quickly.
“What do you need?”
Carolyn smiled. “I’ve written up a contract. Because Lord Potter is my client, I normally would have made it biased to him, but knowing Harry…”
“Harry would have killed you outright, before setting it on fire.” Hermione replied. “Or maybe the other way around.”
“Precisely. He loves you a lot, Hermione. I’d treasure that if I were you.”
“Believe me, I do.” Hermione replied. Carolyn believed her.
“Now, this is a magical contract. It’s legally binding, but not permanent. Either you or Lord Potter may void it simply by saying: “I no longer wish to be betrothed to you.”
“Like that’s ever going to happen!” Hermione snarked, with a happy grin on her face.
Carolyn smiled again. She found herself liking this Hermione a lot. The girl had a sharp mind and a quicker wit. She would go far, and if Harry won, that could be all the way to the top. She intended to see that the young woman had the chance.
“Now to the terms. Harry is willing to specify a bride price of say one hundred thousand Galleons. You’ll need to forward a dowry price of something of equivalent value, not necessarily in monetary value, but in value to you.”
“Oh!” Hermione exclaimed. “Mum, Daddy needs to front something that’s worth as much to him.”
“Dowry? Bride price?” Judith interjected. “Those haven’t been used in centuries. Why even involve such things? After all, this is the nineteen nineties. Money isn’t a factor anymore.”
“It is in the wizarding world.” Carolyn explained. “While it doesn’t make much sense to you, as the muggle culture has actually advanced with the times, you have to understand that you are dealing with people who’s worldview hasn’t’ changed since the mid eighteenth century. Most old pureblood families expect a bride price or dowry…or both, before a formal betrothal can take place. If we’re to prevent Dumbledore from using his position to control Harry, you have to ‘play the game’ as it were.”
“I see…I think.” Judith was doubtful. Still Hermione seemed willing and if this helped to protect her precious daughter, then perhaps it was for the best.
“I’m not sure we have anything that’s worth…how much would that be, Honey?”
“One million, nine hundred seventeen thousand pounds sterling, plus or minus.”
Judith nearly fainted. “Hermione! We have nothing like that!”
“Madam Granger, it doesn’t need to be an equal number.” Carolyn hastened to reassure the stricken woman.
Judith just stared at her through shocked eyes.
“It only has to be something of ‘equivalent value’ to you.”
“How about a 1965 Jaguar XKE?” Hermione piped up with a grin.
“Hermione!” Judith was horrified. “Your father loves that car!”
“Precisely. It’s something worth as much to him as I am.” Hermione was more than smug.
Late that evening, Dumbledore stomped through the halls of Hogwarts Castle. This day had not gone well. First his attempt to sequester the Black fortune had resulted in mere pocket change, then his attempt to enter Harry into a betrothal to the Weasley girl was denied by the Ministry’s Department of Public Records. It appeared Harry was already betrothed; only they refused to tell him to whom! The record had been sealed at the behest of the most vicious law form he had ever dealt with. He was not inclined to face Chapman and Associates any time soon…especially over something so trivial. They were as bad as the goblins!
Now, to really cap his day, he couldn’t find his lucky lemon drop bag!
What he didn’t’ know was that Harry had asked several days before, Dobby go to Hogwarts with a full bag of dung bombs as a bribe for Peeves to pull a distracting prank on the headmaster.
Peeves had nearly faded out of existence in his excitement.
The little purple and gold bag was even then, flying from the topmost flagstaff of the castle.
Seven minutes after midnight, on the morning of 14th July, nine Death Eaters appeared in the empty street, in the upscale suburb of Crowley.
There, in a cul-de-sac at the end of a short road, stood a two storey white fieldstone home with a red tiled roof. One Death Eater laughed at the address. 32 Candyfloss Court. He knew the Grangers were Dentists. He explained the joke to his compatriots and they all chuckled over the irony of such an address.
This was a training mission for new recruits. Nott and his old friend Wilkes led the group of untried terrorists. While each had tortured, raped and killed a muggle woman or girl under Voldemort’s critical eye, during their initiation, today, they would have their first experience in the subtle art of fomenting terror.
None of them realized it would be their last.
Here, they would begin their long and glorious careers as servants of the dark lord preparing the world for his dominion. Each thought himself the most fortunate of them all, in that they would be ‘dealing’ with the mudblood bitch that had shown them all up in school so many times. The dark lord wanted her alive for interrogation, but he said she was to be ‘relatively’ unharmed. Surely they could have a taste of her before bringing her to the master? When his ‘questioning’ was done, should she survive, he would most likely give her to his servants to ‘play with’. They were each determined to make her last minutes on Earth as painful as possible.
It wouldn’t matter. As each of them stepped across the boundary, goblin wards surged into action. When Harry had contracted for a full set of wards to protect his beloved, Graswold had given him a full set. That some of those wards were lethal, and specifically attuned to Voldemort’s dark mark, was purely coincidental. Nine bodies fell where nine terrorists had stood, and an alarm shrilled at the bank.
Graswold himself led a short company of his best to the scene, and had the bodies removed to the bank. He ordered them stripped of their wealth and fed to the dragons below.
He snapped the wands, and packed them along with the masks, and robes into a box, and owled it to Hogwarts.
It was addressed to Severus Snape.
The Grangers slept peacefully; unaware of how close their lives had come to ending in a most horrendous manner.
Dobby watched the goblins leave with their grisly burdens, then settled himself down again on the roof, and wrapping himself in a warm woolen blanket, returned to sleep, his ears twitching at every sound.
Sitting to breakfast on the fifteenth Amelia Bones received a nice little letter from Gringotts bank. Her vault had been credited with fifty thousand Galleons, as thanks for her beginning the investigation into Cornelius Fudge’s corruption. The charges had been verified and Fudge was now bereft of funds. She smiled thinly and flooed to Longbottom manor.
There she spoke with August and together they contracted Both Andromeda and Carolyn. Both were working and would be there when they could get away. While they waited, Amelia decided to regale Neville and Augusta with the thrilling tale of how Jedi-Harry had saved her arse.
Neville listened carefully as Amelia described her rescue from the Death Eaters who’d tried to murder her. She told them of her desire to see Susan safe, and her orders to leave, knowing that she’d be alone and without a mode of escape. She described her defenses and how she’d set them up to protect herself as best she could. She even told then of the exact second she realized it wasn’t enough. And then Harry arrived. Even to herself, she sounded like a fan-girl, extolling his virtues, but in this case, they really were. She was almost giddy as she pictured the instant turn of battle at Harry’s appearance. She told of the nearly miraculous things Harry had done, including powerful wandless magics, his amazing acrobatic leap over the Deez and of course, that wonderful sword of his. She told them how, when the battle was done, and she’d returned from Emmeline Vance’s house to clean up the mess at her own home, she and her crew were finally able to identify the bodies, and got the happiest shock she’d had in ages. One of the death Eaters killed had been Voldemort’s right hand…Bellatrix Lestrange! By then, Andromeda and Carolyn had arrived to listen to the tale.
When he heard who the dead terrorist was, Neville positively lit up in anger. It took all four women to calm him down.
Later, following their planning session, Augusta poured their tea. She sat across the table from Neville and waited until he stopped fuming.
“Are you quite finished?” She asked drolly.
“No, gran. I’m not. I want to get drunk. I want to celebrate! I want to scream it from the highest rooftops! I want to dance on that bitch’s grave!”
“So do I, Neville. So do I. But that can wait. Please, Neville, wait until he’s had his say. There might be a very good reason he hasn’t told us.”
“I know, gran. He doesn’t do things like this for fun. He’s a better man than anyone I’ve ever met. I’ll try to listen before I knock him out.”
“Neville!” Augusta scolded, but only with a half-heart.
Neville just grinned.
When he’d awakened on the morning of the sixteenth, Harry stretched mightily, and rolled out of bed.
A long, hot shower and he felt mostly human. Dobby waited with his cuppa and he sipped it as he dressed.
Down the stairs in the little nook, he sat down and asked his friends, what had been happening while he was indisposed.
Dobby reported the fire at the Dursley home was attributed to a gas-line explosion, the Wizarding world was upset with him for failing to provide for the Dursley’s protections, and his Missy Hermione was very upset with him because she was…lonely.
He also found several letters had arrived while he was occupied. One from Neville and Augusta, and one from Andromeda had arrived on the tenth, one from Carolyn in the eleventh and one from Gringotts had on the twelfth.
He opened the one from Gringotts first.
The letter was brief:
As you requested, we have secured a private interview with
Her Majesty, the Queen, on the twenty-first, July, at eleven
of the clock, antemeridian. You are named ambassador to the
Unified Goblin Hordes. The enclosed portkey will deposit you
at ten of the clock, in a special warded chamber where the
Queen’s guard will instruct you further.
Unified Goblin Hordes."
“Good!” Harry smiled in satisfaction. He penned a short note to Graswold.
If you can, get someone to #4 before the fire-insurance
inspectors arrive. In the kitchen behind the stove, you
will find a corrugated copper tube. Find a way to cut
that line, or crack the valve. Make it subtle, but visible.
Then leave a burnt out candle with a lot of melted wax
along with a few spent matches, on the table.
The fire-insurance people will do everything else.
He handed the note to Dobby. Dobby looked at the brief letter and then again at Harry.
“You is being a bad boy, you is!” He announced in ‘almost’ disapproving tones.
“Is it anything they don’t deserve?” Harry challenged.
Dobby shook his head and vanished with a soft pop.
“Winky, I’ll need robes suitable for visiting royalty on the twenty first. If the goblins have finished the basilisk hide dueling robes, they should do. If not, I’ll need a set of formal robes. Remember, I will be seeing the Queen.
Dobby arrived a moment later telling him that Graswold was laughing uproariously.
Harry snickered and then said: Dobby, will you please go to Hermione and tell her I’m awake and ready to scratch her itch. In the meanwhile, I have some work to do.”
Both elves hastened to do as he bade them.
The second letter from Neville an Augusta was very formal…sounding almost like a challenge to duel. Harry wondered at that. It invited him to Longbottom manor as soon as he was available. He penned an acceptance for that afternoon after the Wizengamot meeting.
The note from Andromeda was in congratulation for rescuing Amelia and ridding the world of several rather nasty pests, including the nastiest, Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry hadn’t known whom he’d killed, just that he’d done so to save a life. That the terrorist in question was Bellatrix, was a relief. He’d faced her before in the ministry atrium and had no desire to repeat the experience. Now he would never have to.
Carolyn informed him he now had a controlling interest in Grunnings, but the owners of the Prophet were stonewalling. He wrote her back and suggested they might be more amenable if she were to hint that she knew of Rita Skeeter and her unregistered animagus form…and the fact that they knew of her illegal actions and willingly trafficked with her anyway.
Hermione arrived less than a half hour later, flushed with the prospect of some ‘itching’. She found him in the ‘forge-room’, putting the final touches on her lightsaber.
He felt her approach through the force, but made sure she was very welcome anyway. A long welcoming kiss promising later passion, and he was showing her the weapon he’d built for her. Hermione was enthralled at having her very own Lightsaber.
He sealed it up and inserted the power-cell, before handing it to her.
Hermione positively squealed as the beam lit for the first time. The blade hummed just as his did and seemed the same…except for the color. It was yellow gold.
When she asked about the color, he explained that with sixty or more weapons to build, he had to settle on only one style and color. He chose the citrine, first, because quartz was among the strongest crystals in earthly existence, even when not surrounded by a diamond shell like his, and second, the yellow beam would indicate her level of experience.
When he described the length of time one had to remain immersed in the force to make the crystal, she blanched. He also showed her the flawed example and explained why it was flawed. He also explained what could happen if a crystal was not absolutely perfect every time.
She suddenly wasn’t so anxious to have a different color.
At her grimace, he added that her final exam as it were, would be to build one of her own, including creating the focusing crystal.
“I only wish there was a faster way to create the focusing crystals. I need a pile of them but I haven’t got a year to spare.”
“What do you mean?”
“Hermione, It takes me five days to make each of the stones. To make sixty, I’d need three hundred days and that’s without a break. I don’t have that kind of time.”
Hermione thought for a moment, and then asked. “What about Dobby?”
“What do you mean?” He unconsciously mimicked her words
“Harry, you’ve said it before, elves are far more in-tune with their magic, than we humans. What if he can do the same thing you’re doing but either faster or more efficiently?”
“That’s a good question. That’s a very good question.” Harry mused, then called out: “Dobby?”
Instantly the hyperactive elf was before him.
“The great Harry Potter calls for Dobby?” Harry grimaced at Dobby’s description while Hermione snickered.
“Yes, Dobby. I have a question for you of a technical nature.”
“What is Tec-nik-l?”
“Technical means the inner workings of something, specifically a machine. In this case, it involved the crystals I am making.”
“Oh, yes. Dobby has seen the great Harry Potter creating these gems. How can Dobby help?”
“Dobby, I need sixty or more of them by the last of August, and each one has got to be perfect. There is absolutely no room for errors here. The problem is; it takes me five days to make each stone. That would take three hundred days to make the bare sixty I need. I don’t have that kind of time. Do you know if the house elves can create these stones?”
“Dobby has seen the great Harry Potter laboring over these gems before, and knows mostly how to do it. If the great Harry Potter would join his mind to Dobby’s, while making one stone, Dobby can show other elves. We would need more ovens, but Dobby could have the stones all made the same.”
“No errors? None at all?”
“They will be no errors. Does the great Harry Potter need the stones to be like the one he and his Missy Hermyninny carries, or will the single stones be enough?”
“That’s a good question. Do we need the composite stones for training? Hermione? Whaddya think?”
“Well I’m not a geologist, but given what you’ve told me about the stones, and their power capacity, I’d say at the lower power levels of the training lightsabers, the citrine should be enough. It is a quartzite and quartz is used in high-power lasers, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Damn, I wish I knew for certain. Still, I suppose I can’t wish for the world. OK, Dobby, this afternoon I have to go kick Fudge out of office and make Madam Bones the new Minister. On the twenty-first, I have to go see the Queen, and I need to be fresh for that. I’ll tell you what; on the twenty second, you and I will join our minds and I will show you how to make the focusing crystals. They will be the solid citrine, without the diamond casings. That can be part of the ‘final exams’. I’ll want you to teach seven to ten other elves the same thing, and I will build more forges. Potter Castle is located over three converging ley lines so it should actually be easier to make them there than here anyway.”
“Good. How many elves have I bonded?”
“Thirty eight. They is more being found including four today. They is three who is needing immediate bonding. They is too weak to pop, and so, Harry Potter must go to Potter Castle and bond them there.”
“OK, Let’s go. I’ll bond them now, and then this afternoon or tomorrow I’ll deal with the others.
When they’ve been bonded, I’ll want you to select the other elves to make the crystals. They have to be calm and steady and well used to fine, detail work, to make these crystals. More importantly, they also have to be able to touch the force. Since there are humans who can and humans who can’t, and at least one goblin who can’t, I suspect it’s an individual thing. Those elves will be excused from other duties until the initial sixty are done. Then you can reassign them.”
“Dobby will do.”
“As much as I’d like to have you make a few, I’d rather you and Winky be available to me for emergencies.”
Hermione grinned at the way Harry was dealing with the excitable elf. While she still hated the idea of owning people, she understood that Harry was actually saving their lives and making them healthier at the time.
She promised herself that just as soon as he returned from the Wizengamot, she was going to ‘reward him’ properly!
Harry arrived at Potter castle, to the acclaim of several dozen happy elves. He explained that he was there to try to save the lives of the three weakest, but he’d have to leave immediately afterward. He told them he’d return the following day to bond the rest. Dobby led him to the infirmary where three elves waited. Harry approached each and asked them if they would accept his bond. All three did. Moments later the elves were sleeping under the watchful eyes of their kind.
“Keep an eye on them. They’ll know when they can return to work. Until then, let them recover.” With that, he flooed back to 12 Grimmauld. Behind him were dozens of ecstatic house elves proclaiming Harry Potter to be the greatest master in the world.
Hermione was giving him a preview of his ‘reward’ when Winky knocked on the door and announced the meeting at the Wizengamot was in an hour.
Thanking Winky, Harry rolled out of the bed, only to be hauled back in by a randy Hermione. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” She demanded.
“Hermione, I have to get ready. We don’t have enough time to…” Was all he got out before Hermione covered his mouth with hers. Breaking the kiss, she whispered huskily: “We have time.”
She was right.
Albus Dumbledore met Kingsley at the most likely place for Harry to arrive. The Aurors security entrance. He felt his pawn would try to influence the proceedings of this ridiculous vote of no confidence. He’d placed Fudge in the position and the sheep should just accept that he knew what was best for them!
“Kingsley When young Harry arrives, you must return him to #12. Since his family’s home was destroyed, he is only safe where I can watch over him.
“And if he objects? As Lord Potter, and if I’m not mistaken, Lord Black as well, he has the right and duty to be here.” Kingsley felt that this was somehow wrong, but he was still fully under compulsion.
“He is a foolish boy.” Dumbledore returned, thinking Kingsley shouldn’t even be able to form a protest, much less voice his concerns. He’d have to reinforce the compulsion in the near future.
“He needs to learn that those who are older and wiser than he, should make the necessary decisions for him. ~And the rest of these mindless fools!~ He added mentally.
“When he arrives, you will return him to Headquarters. If there is any trouble, I shall answer for it.” ~Not bloody likely! Albus Dumbledore has many ways to avoid that! If you are caught, you will hang alone…it’s as simple as that. While you are a good pawn, you are after all, just a pawn.~
Neville was preparing himself for the intellectual drudgery that was a Wizengamot meeting. While he could not yet claim his seat, his grandmother insisted he attend every meeting possible since he’d turned eleven. It was important to understand how the laws were made and how people interacted.
Neville couldn’t agree more. In the four years he’s watched this farce, he’d seen all sorts of skullduggery. He’d seen lives bought and sold, laws made that benefited only a few, but were praised for their fairness to all. He’d seen the best teacher he’d ever had, ostracized simply because he’d been the victim of a brutal attack by a vicious, bastard who should have been drowned at birth. He’d seen the best and the brightest discriminated against because of their birth. Today promised to be a new beginning for the wizarding world…if, Harry could pull it off!
He also had a bone to pick with Harry, but that could wait until he arrived at Longbottom Manor.
Ron is behaving in a more mature manner than in canon. He’s still easily impressed, quick to anger and jealousy, and can run off at the mouth, but here, he’s being a (mostly) responsible young man. He’s already realized Hermione is not his. He saw on the train that she has chosen Harry, followed immediately by Luna wrapping herself around him and tickling his ear with her tongue.
Ginny will also not be the psychotic fan girl she’s usually portrayed as.
During Victorian times women who’d fainted were often ‘treated’ by rubbing or slapping the wrists, gently slapping the face and given smelling salts (which were actually variants of ammonia). Until the end of the inhumane torture device called the corset, little had been done to prevent the fainting in the first place.
A company is a military unit comprised of between three and five platoons and between 75 and 300 men. A ‘short’ company is a military unit with less than the full complement that does the same thing. I’ve been in short companies that have as few as 120 men.
For those who don’t know, quartz and quartzite’s were used in the first high-powered lasers. In fact, that technology is what seeded the artificial gem industry. Now, gem quality stones can be made, molecule by molecule that are every bit as pure as natural stones. Many of those stones were designed and produced specifically for large lasers. While I grew up in New Mexico, I frequently visited Los Alamos labs. I saw a laser crystal nearly a foot long and two inches across, which was used to focus a five-megawatt beam. That sucker sliced through a four-inch slab of armor plate steel like it was warm butter! I’ve also seen what happens if you have a flawed crystal, or you have dirty optics. Believe me…it ain’t pretty!