Harry and Dumbledore have words. Penny comes to #12. Do you really think Ginny was going to give up that easily?
Acknowledgements - IP82, Sirius009, FairyQilan, Smeagolita and ChuckDaTruck have chosen to spend their valuable time picking apart my humble keystrokes. This story is much better thanks to their efforts.
Chapter 15 - Stun Hannah and join me in the tub
"Fred! Get out here! You have a visitor." Lee Jordan called into the back room from the counter where he was working. He was more than a bit annoyed with his hair currently flaming red. His 'employers' promised that the effect would wear off before he went home for the day. Unfortunately, that was two days ago. Right now they were introducing him as the seventh Weasley brother while looking into the 'unexpected complication'. He supposed it was better than the four hours he spent with a pig snout and tail. The twins said that particular joke was inspired by a story Hagrid had told the two about Harry Potter's eleventh birthday.
The sniffling woman in front of him seemed to ignore his predicament. He vaguely remembered her as a Ravenclaw who graduated a couple of years ago, Penny something or other. She and Percy used to hound the twins endlessly when he was head boy and she was a Prefect.
Fred Weasley sauntered out from the back room. He still had the lexan face shield on he had been wearing while brewing potions. Fred had seen that muggles often used these to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals. Having purchased a couple, he was most pleased with the results. He was a bit amazed that Hogwarts never recommended that students purchase such things. Then again, given who the current potion's master was it wasn't all that surprising. Fred was also considering trying to add a fume hood to the area they used to brew their potions. His ever sympathetic twin did not consider the loss of significant amounts of nose hair to be worth the expenditure. When pressed, George said if it becomes a problem they could simply figure out a way to selectively grow nose hair. He had a look of inspiration and said that it had possibilities for a most excellent prank. Contrary to what the world believed of the two, there was a difference. George was the dreamer and Fred was the worker.
"Oi! Lee, I was just in the middle of something interesting." Lee cringed out of reflex. Anytime one of the twins found something 'interesting', it was cause for concern.
"Have you seen Percy? He didn't come home yesterday! With all these bad things happening ... " The young woman demanded.
Fred stopped for a moment and looked at the person in front of him. Except for the puffy face and obvious signs of distress, she was very pretty and somewhat familiar.
"Actually, it's Penny Weasley. We got married on Valentine's day." She said wiping the tears out of her puffy eyes. "I wouldn't normally come here, but I am just so worried. They wouldn't let me in the Ministry this morning. Please tell me that you have heard something."
At least a dozen responses flashed through Fred's mind. All of them save one could be considered the response of a smart ass. He chose the one that wasn't. It was a shock that his brother had married and not informed the family.
"Why don't you follow me into the back? I'll get some tea and we'll floo Mum." He said with uncharacteristic seriousness that made Lee look at him.
"Do you want to air our dirty laundry in front of Rita? Or should we go back to my house?" Harry asked as he stared Dumbledore down. Rita's eyes were practically glazed over at the moment. Harry could see her silent plea to the powers that be for a genuine scoop.
"Perhaps it is best if we retire elsewhere. Be there in thirty minutes." The headmaster answered rather tersely. The Chief Warlock spun away and headed towards newly appointed interim Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour.
"Harry, so delightful to see you again! " Rita's voice positively dripped with false sweetness. "Can you spare a few minutes for a girl trying to earn a living?"
"At least you didn't say a honest living. I think I would have lost my lunch." Harry replied dryly.
"Oh you wound me, Harry or should I say Lord Potter? And who is this delightful young lady at your side?"
Susan slid her engagement ring off her finger into her pocket and reached out to grasp Rita's hand. She was well aware of the problems this particular witch had caused Harry during the tournament. Despite the uncharacteristically factual article Rita had written for the Quibbler last year, Susan was not inclined to trust the woman in front of her.
"Susan Bones, Ms. Skeeter. We've never had the pleasure although you did skewer my Aunt almost as much as you have Harry."
Harry arched an eyebrow wondering what ax Rita had to grind against the late Amelia Bones. A frown darkened Rita's expression for a brief second.
"Oh I am so sorry about your Aunt dear. She was a powerful person and powerful people attract attention. I had nothing but respect for Madame Bones."
Susan's expression hardened. "So all those rumors and lies about her sexual orientation you spread were done out of respect? Are you really sorry she is gone or are you upset that you've lost one of your favorite targets?"
Rita Skeeter was not easily deterred by a teenager. She continued barely missing a beat. "Oh of course I am saddened by her loss. She was such a fascinating person to interview. So, you and Harry? You make such a lovely couple, much less of a contrast than the Muggleborn girl. Harry, your taste in women is improving."
"What can I do for you today Rita?" Harry said trying to cut to the chase.
"Well considering you have just thrown the entire government into chaos, I would say you are quite the newsmaker today. You've even managed to upset the White Bearded Wonder. Normally, I can only get a little rise out of the old coot. You seem to be more of a political animal that I had ever imagined - a regular political 'seeker' in action. What were your motivations today Harry? What led you to ally yourself with Rufus Scrimgeour? How did you get the Goblins to represent you? Why did your friend take her ring off? Such a nice looking emerald too." Rita said smiling like a predator.
"I want to stop Voldemort, Rita." Harry said enjoying Rita's flinch. "Rufus Scrimgeour opposes him as well and has convinced me that he is the best person for the job. This is war Rita. We wouldn't be nearly as bad off, if all of Britain hadn't spent the last year in denial. Your little smear campaign against me and the old coot contributed to that. As to your question about the Goblins, they have just as much to lose in this war as anyone else. They deserve a chance to be heard as well. Susan took her ring off, because, if possible she apparently likes you even less than I do. Feel free to quote me on Scrimgeour and the Goblins. You can say that Susan appear to be an item. Under no circumstances mention that ring. We're not exactly hiding the fact, but I don't intend to go broadcasting it either."
"But Harry the readers will want to know." Rita had a slight whine to her voice.
Harry's expression darkened. His tone became more menacing. "So would Voldemort. This isn't like last time Rita. The Minister likes me. You might find yourself on the wrong side this time. If you print her name, she becomes target number one and if something happens to her, you become target number two."
Susan was astounded by Harry's protectiveness. "Harry, I'm guessing he's going to figure it out anyway. I don't think you get to be a Dark Lord by being stupid. I was already in danger. Might as well give him a good reason to come after me. You saved me from him once already. If he tries again, I believe you'll stop him again. Print what you will, Ms. Skeeter." Susan said taking her ring back out and putting it back on her finger.
Harry looked at Susan with an angry look on his face. He grabbed her hand and led her away. "We are done here."
They didn't speak as they pressed pass the mass of humanity in the lobby. He dragged her onwards out in to the street. She could tell he was angry at her. He held out his portkey for her to touch and said 'Naked Hannah' sending them hurtling back to Harry's home. They both stumbled to the kitchen floor. He stood and brushed himself off and immediately went into the parlor. She followed him. Kevin and Lisa were in the parlor playing a card game.
"Lisa, Kevin, would you mind giving us a minute." Harry said. The two quickly left the room. Harry silenced the door and locked it.
"What the hell was that back there, Susan?"
"Oh come off it Harry. The bastard will figure it out, sooner or later. You didn't try and hide it from Lavender. Why the big change now?"
"You don't know Skeeter like I do. She'll print it for everyone to see. You'll be in more danger."
"You think that you are the only one she's ever screwed over for a story! She made a living before you came along. Didn't you hear what I was saying about my Aunt? She kept hinting that Auntie was a lesbian in her little gossip column. She even once implied there was something going on between her and my Mum for Merlin's sake!"
"Still, I don't want to give Voldemort any other reason to come after you."
"Listen carefully Harry. I. Don't. Care. He's going to try and get me anyway. If he doesn't figure it out now, he will when we are in our private quarters at school. It will take just as long as it takes Malfoy's owl to fly out of Hogwarts. Ease up on the overprotective routine. Dumbledore will be here soon and you need to have your wits about you or he will eat you alive. Save your anger for him."
Harry stopped for a minute and calmed himself down. He wanted to say something convincing, but everything he came up with would be insulting to Susan. He couldn't say she wasn't ready for it. After all, he took her with him to fight Dementors last night. He realized he was in a no-win situation. He was angry at himself for letting his temper get the better of him. The only silver lining out of this moment he could find was that he realized that he didn't have a rational argument against it and stopped short of causing a big argument between the two of them. Sometimes admitting defeat is an option.
"You're right, Susan. Everything about that woman pisses me off."
"Good to see you come around. I figured this was going to be a blazing row between the two of us. It's nice to see you can be reasoned with. There's hope for you yet. Now how are we going to handle Dumbledore?"
"Yes. If you think I am going to let you go up against him by yourself, you are even more wrong than you were just a second ago. He'll try to use your temper against you and when he does I'll be there to stop him. We're a team. Got it? Good." Harry was getting used to having his way recently. Right now Susan had pretty much stopped him cold in his tracks. It didn't hurt that she was looking very cute while she was reading him the riot act.
"Okay Susan, what do you suggest?"
"Well, I'll start by getting my pensieve. We'll put your conversation with your relatives in there from my perspective and make him watch it. Maybe that will shake him up a bit, when he sees how much your fat pig of an Uncle wanted to kill you. I know you two got into an argument at Auror Headquarters on the night you saved me. You were throwing off some serious magic from the breakroom. He'll be expecting that. You need to keep control. Use that Occulmency, you keep talking about. What's with the smile?"
"Well if you must know, it's partly because you are impressive when you are taking charge and the other thing was you called it 'the night you saved me'. That's the first time I have heard you call it that. It's nice to see you focusing on the positive."
Susan flushed slightly before continuing. "That's sweet Harry, but don't interrupt me when I am on a roll. Anyway, he is going to come in here all calm, cool, and collected and he will expect you to get all angry and explosive. If I suddenly jump in and start laying into him, it means back off and cool down for a minute. Well in all fairness, it could also mean that I am pissed as well."
"When you go get your pensieve, ask Hannah if you can borrow her mind shield and put it on. I bet he tries to get into your mind. She said it is supposed to start getting warm if it detects a mind attack."
Harry canceled the locking charm on the door and watched Susan head into the kitchen. While she was gone he asked each of the three paintings in the parlor what spells they were able to cast. Apparently, the previous heads of the family like to be secure when greeting visitors in the parlor. Two of them cast ordinary spells, a stunner and a rope- binding charm, typical third and fourth year stuff. The other one cast Faux Kedavra. The spell doesn't do anything other than look like the killing curse. The painting told him that it is disruptive as hell and is meant to force the victim to stop what they are doing and dodge. Especially, when you yell the last word of the incantation. When asked if the painting had ever used it, the man who was called Tarazed Black said three times in the past one hundred and fifty years, but only once in this house. The painting even demonstrated the wand motions and incantation for him. By the time Susan returned floating the pensieve with her wand, Harry had successfully cast the spell. He explained that the spell is one that Aurors once used and may still use to practice dodging. Harry remembered that he would have to ask Tonks about it later. Harry stuck his head out beyond the privacy charm and asked Dobby to bring some refreshments into the parlor and also escort the Headmaster when he arrives.
Albus Dumbledore was not a very happy man. His meeting with Scrimgeour had been very brief and not very useful. He had been unable to really get a feel for the man. He had been a Ravenclaw in school, but house affiliation told less and less about a person as they grew older. There was an old headmaster joke that if they waited to sort a child until they were fifteen, every last one of them would be in Slytherin.
After his all too brief meeting with the newly appointed Minister of Magic who promised to work him into his schedule as soon as he had a person to help him with his schedule, he was accosted by none other than Rita Skeeter.
"Oh Albus, I was just looking for you. What is your reaction to Minister Scrimgeour's appointment? Any comments for the record?"
"I am glad to see a resolution to the crisis and I look forward to working with the new Minister." Albus said plainly.
"Oh dear, not exactly a resounding endorsement from the Chief Warlock. I know you have been a strong supporter of William Parker as of late. Aren't you the least bit disappointed?
"Mr. Parker is a fine man, but it is time to support Mr. Scrimgeour.
"Certainly you must be impressed by young Harry's performance? Imagine a room full of veteran politicians undone by a mere child? I assume you advised him at some point. The thing with the Goblins, that was positively juicy. I normally regard the Wizengamot meetings as a necessary evil of my job, but this one was better than most high society parties."
"I am pleased by young Mr. Potter's willingness to participate in our political process. His initiatives are a breath of fresh air. If you'll excuse me Ms. Skeeter, I must be going."
"Last question, do you approve of the relationship between Harry and Susan Bones? I saw a positively dazzling ring on her left hand and the two of them looked very comfortable together. Any truth to the rumor that you will be performing their marriage ceremony?"
"Ms. Skeeter, I do not have the time to engage in idle speculation about the social lives of two of my students. Now, I really must be going."
Rita watched Albus Dumbledore walk away while her story began to write itself in her mind. It was a tantalizing tale about a young man with dangerous eyes and a talent for pissing off the older generations. The old man had been fairly protective of the boy when he was at school. Now he was lukewarm at best. Perhaps her readers would enjoy the story of the driven, rebellious teenager, with eyes for the girl he saved from a Dark Lord's clutches. She would need to tap a few sources for more background his encounter with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but there was a delicious story out there. It might even be worth calling in a marker or two with her contacts at Gringotts, she'd been saving them for a rainy day and from the looks of things there's storm clouds on the horizon.
Dumbledore stepped out of the floo and into the kitchen at Headquarters. Hestia Jones was sitting at the kitchen table and greeted him. The wizarding wireless set had several political commentators jockeying for airtime discussing the 'historic' Wizengamot meeting. Dobby was standing there waiting for him proudly wearing a tiny sailor's suit that appeared to have been castoff by a muggle family. A tea cozy rested on his head in place of where the beret should have been.
"Master Harry Potter is saying that I is to be escorting the Great Wizard Albus Dumbledore to him in the parlor." Dobby said standing straight and tall at the importance of his assignment.
"Very well Dobby. Please lead on." It was only ten or fifteen feet and it wasn't as if he had never been in the house before. He recalled that the senior elves at the school had mentioned that Dobby was 'a bit off' even by their estimation. The elf opened the door and stepped inside the room. Albus felt the touch of magic he recognized as a privacy charm as he crossed the threshold.
"I is presenting Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump, Slayer of the Dark Wizard Grind ..."
Through the entire introduction Susan Bones had an incredulous look on her face and Harry Potter simply shook his head from side to side while massaging his forehead with his thumb and index finger. "That's enough. Thank you Dobby. Please bring the refreshments and close the door when you leave."
"That's it dear let it all out." Molly Weasley whispered into her newly discovered daughter-in-law's ear. She was still recovering with Percy's loss and now Bill's injuries, when Fred floo called her and asked her to come to the shop. She had been fortunate to be able to contact Hestia and arrange for her to mind the children. Arthur had been summoned to the Ministry to collect Percy's body, yet another blow to learn his body had been reanimated and set loose in the Ministry itself! It was a shock to learn that Percy had married and hadn't seen fit to inform the family. Molly recalled her son's tumultuous relationship with Penelope Clearwater. Percy only ever talked to his mother about matters of the heart.
"But it's so hard. I don't know how I can go on with out him. I don't feel safe at our house and the Healer's said I should be careful doing magic until the baby is further along."
"B-B-Baby?" Molly said with her eyes flying wide. Penelope had been sitting on a bench and was wearing bulky robes. Fred moved closer to steady his now swooning mother.
Her new daughter looked up with puffy eyes and a tear-streaked face. " I'm a little over three months now. I was hoping to convince Percy to reconcile before the child is born. That's too late now!" Penny broke off sobbing uncontrollably into her mother-in-law's chest.
Molly hugged Penny tightly feeling the tears stinging her eyes. She was going to be a grandmother. She had figured that Bill and Fleur would eventually marry and that she should start preparing for this eventuality. She had also been more than a little concerned at Fred and George's 'exploits' leading to a quick wedding. Now the eventuality was suddenly here in the midst of a tragic and upsetting day. She broke down in tears at the thought of a new generation of Weasleys being born in the shadow of war.
Fred struggled watching his mum and new sister crying. He felt a tear or two in his eyes. He wasn't good with crying females. George was better, or at least he had more experience. Alicia was an emotional basket case. Angelina was much more level headed. George actually asked if he would consider switching for the night after Alicia had her Holyhead tryout. Fred flatly refused and told him to go fix his own problems. He fidgeted for a couple of minutes trying to think of something to say. Everything he could think of sounded juvenile. In the end all he could think of was to go over and give both women a hug. Surprisingly, it was enough.
Molly snorted in a rather undignified manner especially at the support of one of her sons. "Well, I have to get ahold of Dumbledore and we'll get you moved to someplace safe. I promise we'll take care of you, dear."
"Perhaps it would be best if Ms. Bones were to leave." Albus said walking into the room and watching Dobby depart.
"Best for whom?" Susan's sarcastic answer came. "I'm not going anywhere." If she had stopped to think, she would be amazed at the change in her brought on by Harry. Two weeks ago the idea of defending her wizard by standing up to Albus Dumbledore would have seemed beyond ridiculous.
"I see." The headmaster said slowly. "Allow me to offer my congratulations, you appear to have chosen well."
Harry answered venom dripping from his voice. "Amazingly enough, both Susan and I had a choice in this. In fact, we had the only opinions that really matter at all."
"I see. Ms. Skeeter was asking if I would be performing the ceremony. I daresay it will not be long before Tom is alerted."
"Fuck Tom! I've spent every moment since Wormtail killed Cedric hiding from him. If I stop trying to live and planning for a future then the best I can ever manage is a draw where both of us die!"
"Harry, we shouldn't speak of this."
"I already told her. She knows the gist of the prophecy not the particular wording. Do you honestly think I would bring her into my life and not tell her?"
"Have you told anyone else?"
"Bill and Remus. Bill because I trust him and Remus because he deserved to know."
"William already has an adequate mental defense. Susan will need to be trained. You do realize that Remus is vulnerable after his transformations."
"Oh the old 'don't trust him because he is a dark creature' line again. I wonder if my parents would be here today if they had chosen Remus instead of Peter. The Abbott sisters are going to help train Susan." Harry stopped noticing Dumbledore had locked eyes with Susan. He knew what was coming next.
"Ouch!" Susan yelped pulling the suddenly hot amulet out of her blouse. Harry reacted immediately by initiating his own mind probe of the headmaster. He saw the tripwires with at least three times the number of layers that Hannah possessed. The images moved at varying speeds. It was much more confusing. As he struggled through memory after memory, he began to see Dumbledore's core shield forming as the headmaster began to respond to Harry's intrusion. Harry redoubled his efforts to push forward.
Dumbledore ended his probe of Susan and turned to counter Harry's assault. There was no style or technique to what Harry was doing. It was the mental equivalent of a bull in the china shop. Dumbledore knew his outer defenses were more than adequate for the task at hand. He decided to respond by sending a probe against Harry's core defenses. He noted the presence of no outer tripwires. Harry's core was a simple, but effective barrier. He began chipping away at it. In his mind he sighed and resigned himself to disciplining Harry by breaking his crude shield.
Harry felt the strain of Dumbledore's probe. Harry's own probe faltered uncertainly having never experienced the need to attack and defend at the same time. Harry could feel the beginnings of a massive headache. The pressure on his mind increased at least three fold and he staggered back into the chair under the withering gaze of Albus Dumbledore. Suddenly, the pressure stopped as he felt a warming sensation in his hand.
Dumbledore felt the stunner slam into his side. It dazed him. Groggily he looked back at Harry only to see the red wave of energy of Harry's own stunner. His last thought before losing consciousness was how had Harry hidden someone there.
"Well that went well." Susan said sarcastically. Seeing the stunners and the rope-binder hit the Headmaster. She had been in the middle of casting a body bind.
"I told you that he would do it." Harry muttered massaging his temples. He flicked his wand and levitated Dumbledore's wand into the air. Susan watched as Harry floated it across the room and dropped it on the table. Harry cast an adhesive charm on the wand affixing it to the tabletop.
"Well that should stop things from escalating."
Susan was about to reply when something suddenly appeared in the room. It took her a moment to recognize that the something was a phoenix. The bird hovered protectively in front of the fallen wizard. She recalled the rumor that the headmaster had one.
"Hello Fawkes. If it makes any difference to you, he started it." Harry said casually. The phoenix seemed unimpressed and trilled a warning at him.
"Fine. Be that way. I am going to bind his hands and wake him up. Will you allow me to do this? I don't intend to harm him, but if he threatens either myself or Susan again, I will not hesitate to harm him or you." Fawkes seemed to relent and flew over to the couch and settled down. Its eyes never left Harry.
Harry removed the ropes that had encircled Dumbledore's legs, but cast a rope of his own around Dumbledore's wrists. Using the mobilicorpus spell Harry moved him over to the couch.
"Envenerate." Harry said waving his wand at Dumbledore, while taking a seat next to Susan on the loveseat. The ancient wizard came to and sat back up regarding his bound hands and sighing.
"Hello again sir. Perhaps we could try this again without coming into my house and attacking Susan's mind. Fawkes seems a bit upset with me at the moment. I would hate to damage our relationship further."
"How did you stun me?"
"Not inclined to tell you at the moment. I may be forced to rely on it to protect me at some point in the future. A good start would be offering an apology to Susan."
"I was merely trying to assess her natural mental defenses. I assume that is Ms. Abbott's mind shield."
"You can assume whatever you want. Hannah and I tested each other's defenses this morning and I believe it is good form to ask permission first."
"Indeed it is. Please accept my apologies, Susan. You seemed to have developed rudimentary defenses, Harry. I am glad you were able to learn something from Professor Snape."
"That man taught me nothing. I figured this out on my own. Hell, I didn't even know about tripwires until I spoke with Hannah and Chelsea this morning. Maybe if you checked up on his methods you would see that." Harry spat.
"I received regular reports on your progress. It said that you were unable to get past the first step of clearing your mind."
"Yes. He would follow 'Clear your mind' with an immediate attack. Now that I have had a chance to do some reading on the matter, it seems that I should have been meditating for an hour before coming to my lesson. He never seemed to mention that little fact. Nor did he speak of anything to detect an incoming attack. Gee, do you think Tom might have known what nights he was going to torture me so I'd be at my weakest. You ever ask him that?"
Dumbledore shook his head showing no outward emotion. Inside he added these facts to the growing list of concerns he had about the actions of Severus Snape. "No, Harry I did not. I see some of my faith in him has been misplaced. It will be addressed at a later date. Right now we need to discuss your relationship with the new Minister and the Goblins."
Susan took this opportunity to speak up. Harry was not particularly rattled, but she was a bit annoyed. "Before we discuss anything, I would like you to go over there and look at my memory from last night. After you watch that, I want you to ask yourself why we need to tell you anything?"
"Very well. Will you release me?"
Harry waved his wand the ropes disappeared. Dumbledore walked over to the pensieve and entered the memory recollection device. While they waited for him to return, they sat on the loveseat and ate some sandwiches that Dobby had prepared. Fawkes continued to glare at Harry. Harry decided to address the bird.
"Good thing this didn't happen second year, Fawkes. My loyalty to him right now wouldn't be able to call a damn thing. I was pretty naÃ¯ve back then. I'm sure I'll get the 'greater good' speech, that doesn't mean just because he decided it was for the best that I have to agree with him. Especially when it is my life being controlled for his vision of the greater good." The phoenix answered by relieving itself on the couch, burning a hole into the cushion.
"I don't think Fawkes likes being lectured to, Harry." Susan added.
"Who does? Well you are ready for round two?"
"Yes. I suppose I am. It's strange though. I feel like I am a schoolgirl who has been caught doing something wrong."
"Don't. That's the problem with people like him. He's used to being revered and not questioned. I'm worried that could end up being me one day."
"I'll be around to keep you on your toes, Mister."
"I'm counting on that."
Dumbledore stepped back away from the pensieve with a sober look on his face. "I see the Dursleys opted to blame you for their misfortunes. You were correct. We were all adults and we entered into that agreement. I did not know it would cause Petunia's miscarriages, but I was aware that it would bind her to the property for several years. When they contacted me after the third miscarriage, I realized that the ritual was most likely the culprit. The healer confirmed it. As you are already learning, life often forces one to choose the lesser of the two evils. I chose to force them to live up to their end of the agreement. The blood wards were too effective at that time to compromise. There were two attempts on your life before you reached the age of three. The wards killed both hitwizards. I made sure that word of their demise reached others in their profession to deter future attempts. In all likelihood they were employed by Lucius Malfoy to test the defenses that protected you. Your relatives were incorrect when they believed that harming you would result in harm to Petunia. Had they asked you and learned of the many injuries you had suffered during your adventures, they would have discovered that was not the case."
Harry digested the new information. "That's all well and good, but if you are looking for forgiveness you are in the wrong place. I should have had three more cousins. There blood is on both our hands. You seem to be able to live with yourself. But the past is just that - the past. You can't do anything about them any more than I can do anything about Sirius falling through the veil. If by some miracle both of us survive this war, I want nothing to do with you ever again. If I get a chance to write my version of this story, you can be assured that I won't be leaving this part out of it."
"How you feel is understandable. Perhaps when this is all behind us, we may be able to make amends, then again perhaps not. What is important is how we move forward from here. You have made a deal with the Goblins and handed Rufus Scrimgeour the Ministry. I hope you were not rash in your decisions."
"Scrimgeour wants to fight the Death Eaters. He's not marked. I checked him."
"He doesn't have to be marked to be an enemy. I doubt Baron Caruthers is marked, but he is no less a servant of Tom than Lucius."
"Anything is better than Fudge. Scrimgeour at least wants to put up a fight."
"Politicians say what they need to say to get power."
"Is that why you are one?"
"Hopefully in fifty years, when you are alive and surrounded by your children and grandchildren you will realize this truth. Heroes do one of two things; they either fade away or are dragged into the spotlight and paraded for all to see. I have never had the luxury of simply fading away. That is why I am a politician."
"I'll keep it in mind." Harry said dismissively.
"What did you receive from the Goblins?"
"Nothing. You gave the Goblins the right to use your votes and received nothing in return?"
"May I ask why?"
"We are never going to win over any of the other races. The best we can hope for is that they stay neutral. By offering the Goblins our votes, Susan and I are trying to show that we can work with them. Maybe that will cause problems for you politically, but maybe it will make them decide to side with us. At the very least it should keep them neutral for the duration of the war. Using your same logic of looking ahead. If the public gets used to seeing the Goblins as part of the political system and the Goblins see it too, then just maybe the next rebellion won't happen. It's not a gift if it comes with a price tag."
"You don't know Goblins like I do, Harry. If you are forced to rescind you gift to them, you will guarantee the next rebellion. The idea of something for nothing is completely foreign to their kind. Tread carefully in politics, especially with Goblins."
"I don't want to know them like you do. I don't want to see the same money-grubbing dark creatures that the rest of you see. I want to give them a chance and hope they'll give me one. Perhaps the institutional bigotry over dark creatures is affecting even your opinion. You've already insulted Remus because he is a werewolf and now you are saying that the Goblins don't deserve a chance to experience a foreign idea. You seemed to support Hermione's ideas on House Elf freedom. That seems to be a foreign idea to them. Maybe it's time for new ideas? The old ones don't seem to be working all that well, are they?"
"I truly would like to see your dream come to pass. You are young and idealistic. You won't always be, but it is a good dream. I find it odd that you would question my fairness to dark creatures when you killed three of them last night, using the Unforgivables and justifying it by a ridiculous law. It seems like something Madame Umbridge would do."
"Don't even go there! I killed one because it was going to kill Bill Weasley. They were my enemies and they were trying to kill me. You weren't there you bastard! You weren't there for Kingsley or Moody either! Where the hell were you?"
"Harry! Stop! He's getting under your skin." Susan said before turning to Dumbledore. "That was a cheap shot and you know it! That woman made his life a living hell and you let her do it. Here you want to see, I'll show you."
Susan walked over and retrieved her earlier memory and placed it back into her head. She took a deep breath as she relived the hatred of the Dursley's again before concentrating on the memory of everyone inside Scrimgeour's pensieve.
"It's a memory of us being inside a ministry pensieve so it may seem a bit off, but you'll sort it out."
"Scrimgeour knows of this?"
"Yes apparently in our rush to leave, you neglected to tell us that the tracking and monitoring charms needed to be manually removed from our wands."
"I did not know of the requirement. What was Scrimgeour's opinion?"
Susan looked at him harshly, inside she was feeling guilt from her own reaction to Harry's use of the curses. "Unlike you. He waited to see the fight before rendering an opinion. Honestly, he was more interested in Harry's patronus then the Unforgiveables."
"Yes Harry's Patronus. It can kill Dementors. I thought Ms. Vance might have told you by now."
"No, I tried to contact both her and William, but I was told she was resting and Ms. Delacour was rather protective of Mr. Weasley at the moment. May I see that as well?"
Harry walked over and asked Susan to retrieve the memory she just placed in there. He then added the memories of the patronus and the vampire fight all the way to his questioning of Coedus. He made sure to get all the cheap shots that the Vampire took at Dumbledore. "It's in there." He said walking back to the loveseat and refilling his glass of juice. He concentrated on rebuilding his damaged core shield and channeled his anger into the task.
After the headmaster reentered the pensieve Susan joined him and they sat there for a moment enjoying the quiet. Harry looked over at her, reached for her hand and smiled. "You were brilliant!"
"You weren't so bad yourself. That Umbridge comment was way below the belt. I even wanted to hex him."
"Urgh! Don't remind me. I am trying to forget that one."
"So, what are your plans for this evening Mr. Potter? You've already fought the forces of darkness, changed the political landscape and done more for Goblin relations than anyone in the last three centuries."
"I want to have a nice long quiet dinner with you. I don't care if we have to eat it up in the attic, just the two of us. I need to get up with Tonks about training us and then I want to take a long hot bath for all my aching muscles. After that I want to go to sleep. What about you?"
"Nice plan. I am probably going to be ambushed by Hannah. I'll take you up on that quiet dinner. Then, I'll get interrogated by Hannah, again. I just barely avoided it when I borrowed her amulet. Maybe I'll offer to come scrub your back in that long hot bath, after which I will be ambushed by Hannah for the third time. I will then tell her to leave you alone, because she will want a go at you by that time."
Harry blushed at her forwardness but grinned back at her. "Maybe before dinner, you should just stun Hannah and join me in the tub. Revive her afterwards. You'll have more free time that way."
"Oh, I do like the way you think, but then Hannah would keep me up all night. She usually has to argue about something two or three times before she'll let it go."
They were still laughing when Dumbledore came out again. "I have no explanation for your new found ability. There are no records of anyone being able to kill a Dementor before. Eventually, I will ask you to demonstrate your solid patronus in front of myself and several others. We will want to see if it can be analyzed and taught. I need to arrange for the ambush tomorrow night."
"Let the Minister handle it. I gave him all the details."
"Because, if you or I go and capture some Death Eaters everyone will go 'There goes Potter and Dumbledore saving the day.' They need to believe that the aurors can do this. Maybe you can offer to help Scrimgeour with the ambush. It will be a chance for you two to make nice, but the people need to have some faith that the aurors can stop the Death Eaters - even if I have to gift wrap an ambush and give it to them."
"And if Tom elects to come himself?"
"Then, make sure you outnumber him! Maybe 'by my hand' means setting a trap, which he falls into and gets himself offed by a dozen reductor curses."
"Perhaps. Interpretation of prophecies is a vague art at best."
"That reminds me, you need to tell the Order at least the first two lines of the prophecy. Tom already knows that much. It might have saved Kingsley and Moody if they knew, but you know that already, don't you? Our two best fighters in trade for Bellatrix Lestrange, I don't think the bitch was worth it."
Dumbledore's mask cracked slightly, anger creeping into his eyes. "I did not think it necessary to warn people to avoid a confrontation with Tom. It seemed blatantly obvious. Despite what you think of me at this moment, I do not consider myself to be perfect. I make mistakes and people die when I do. You are already beginning to experience that as well. I will try my best to move past this error and grieve for them in the proper time. I recommend you take that lesson to heart as well, if you do intend to survive this war." He started to walk the door and stopped to retrieve his wand. Harry cancelled the sticking charm and as Fawkes settled onto Dumbledore's shoulder, casting Harry yet another angry phoenix glare. Picking his wand up, Dumbledore headed to the kitchen, where Molly Weasley waited for him. Harry cancelled the privacy charm.
" ... must bring Percy's wife here. She is in danger and pregnant."
"I see." Dumbledore turned to Harry and Susan as they came into the kitchen. "Harry, I would like to bring Penelope Clearwater-Weasley here for her protection. Do I have your permission?"
"Percy was married? I don't have a problem with it. We may have to rearrange some sleeping arrangements. Let me ask you something, would you have asked me yesterday or just done it?"
"You already know the answer. Good evening to the both of you. Molly, take me to your daughter-in-law."
A few hours later Harry sat in the library. He was just finishing up a very productive talk with Tonks. She was still depressed about her inability to shift out of her aunt's form, but was somewhat happy about her assignment to train Harry and Susan. Tonks had apparated to her flat and returned with several books she wanted them to start reading. Susan fortunately already had several from her Aunt's collection of books, there were even a couple that Tonk's wanted to borrow. He and Susan actually managed to have a private dinner in the library. They didn't need to go to the attic. Downstairs Mrs. Weasley and the rest of the Weasleys, save Bill and Charlie were making an extraordinary fuss over the arrival of Penny Weasley. Given the current ill will, Harry decided to skip that particular event. It was complete with putting a hand on the Weasley family clock for Penny, which pointed to 'Visiting Relatives'.
Harry sat in the library alone after Tonks left. Susan was no doubt being 'interrogated' by Hannah. He was managing a decent bit of reading when he noticed something he had never seen before. On the other side of the room was a door. In all the times in the library he had never recalled a door being there. The Black family crest hung on the door. Curious he walked over to the portrait of Phineas Nigellus, whom he had already spoken with earlier. He learned that the portrait of Bellatrix was correct in everything she had said. Harry made a note to retrieve one of her portrait frames and hang it somewhere where Neville wouldn't run into it.
"Sorry to bother you again, sir."
"Yes, Lord Black?" The disbelief in the portrait's voice was still there.
"That door. I have never seen it before. Where does it lead?"
"Finally noticed it have you, it is the Family Head's Sanctuary. Only someone wearing the ring can even see it. Only the head of the family can open it. I used to keep some rather useful items in there. Open the door. I can go into the frame in there and we can speak more inside."
Harry opened the door. The room inside was dusty. There was a bed in corner and a desk. There was a fireplace, a desk and several bookshelves and cabinets. Harry cast several cleaning spells in quick succession to remove a significant amount of the dust. The everburning torches gave the room ample lighting.
The voice of Phineas Nigellus Black came from the frame over the fireplace. The picture was a table with several empty chairs at it. The old wizard took a seat. "Welcome to the Sanctuary. The floo connection only works to the other Black Properties and only to their respective Sanctuary rooms. I would recommend visiting all of them and collecting anything you find useful."
"How come Sirius didn't say anything about this room?"
"I believe he made a vow to never wear the family ring to spite his mother. He knew about the room, but his idiotic pride got in the way. You will find books and items on the shelves. It would be best not to touch anything other than the books at this time. We can set aside some time and I can tell you what some of the items do. As you realize, these books aren't necessarily light-oriented tomes. Albus would not approve."
Harry looked at the book sitting open on the desk. The title was 'Possession - Nine Tenths of My Law' by Tarazed Black. Harry wondered if the knowledge contained in that book was what Riddle used back in the Ministry. It's not as if they hold classes on the art of possessing other living beings.
"As I told you earlier, I am less and less concerned about his approval these days. Did you ever read this book?"
"I am familiar with the contents, but you might want to speak with the picture of Tarazed."
"Will it teach me how to prevent someone from possessing me?"
"Aye, that and a whole lot more."
"Any good books on Occulmency in hear?"
"Several. Try the third shelf of the center bookcase." Harry inspected several and placed them on the table. The room was peaceful and quiet, in stark contrast to the usual noise level currently in the household.
"Can the house elves see the room?"
"You have to allow them entrance. The same goes with anyone else, but only you can open the door."
Harry opened the door and stepped back into the library. "Dobby."
The elf appeared. "Harry Potter is calling Dobby?"
"You are allowed to see the Sanctuary."
"Dobby does not understand."
"Do you see the room behind me now?"
"Would you please clean it for me and change the linens?"
"Dobby would be honored to clean the private quarters for Mr. Harry Potter."
"Thank you Dobby."
Harry led Dobby back into the room and watched the diminutive cyclone attack the room with a vengeance. It took less than ten minutes before the room was usable again. While Dobby cleaned away Harry looked at the Foe glasses in the room, noting that there were way too many shadowed faces silhouetted in the device. He looked over some of the other titles on the bookshelves and chose one called 'The Light, The Dark and The Grey' by the Faceless One. It appeared to be a compendium of offensive spells. The very first page contained a variation of the Tres Fletchum spell that caused the three conjured arrows to be coated in mild poison. The downside to the spell is that a simple finite incanteum would get rid of the poison, but the value of the spell rested in its obscurity. The second page contained a different variation, which instead of three arrows sent a single large arrow. It was called the Ballista Charm. Flipping ahead he saw combination attacks - a spell that conjured a jet of caustic liquid and followed it with a bolt of lightning. There was the same attack he used against Riddle at Susan's house. Amelia's attack was there also. The last one that immediately caught his eye was a complex banishing spell referred to as The HOG - or Hammer of God. It took over ten seconds to cast, but was said to be able to hurl a Troll backwards, halt a charging Giant or smash the shields of unsuspecting wizards and witches to cause heinous damage. He set this book on top of the stack only to see Nigellus nodding his approval.
"One of the finest collections of combat magic you will ever see. Learn it well."
"Dobby please move my items from my bedroom into here. I think I'll be using this chamber. Make sure to close the door when you are done." He said stepping back out into the library.
Susan entered a moment later carrying two open bottles of butterbeer. She smiled at him and took a drink. It obviously didn't go down very well as she started coughing immediately.
"You okay there."
She answered with a raspy voice, "Give me a minute."
"Looks like you have a drinking problem. I might have to cut you off."
Coughing again she muttered something he didn't catch. Harry took the bottles from her and set them down. He gave her a quick kiss.
"You changed your outfit."
"Spilled butterbeer on the other one."
Harry pulled her down onto the recliner he had been reading in earlier. It wasn't really built for two and forced her into very close proximity. He didn't mind. They kissed for a minute or two before stopping.
"So how was Hannah's interrogation?"
Susan leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "I like this interrogation better."
"Keep this up and I might just hold you to the idea of joining me in the bathtub." Harry said pleased to see her eyes widen in surprise.
She stopped and took another swig of her butterbeer and pointed at his arching her eyebrow. He shook his head. "I'd rather taste it on your lips." Then he chuckled "How's that for cheesiest line of the night?"
She smiled and they continued to kiss, their hands tracing the contours of each other's bodies. Harry closed his eyes and was enjoying the sensations. It felt a little awkward though. He couldn't put his finger on it though. It just felt different. She moaned when he kissed her neck and jumped slightly when his hands ran across the front of her shirt. Perhaps she was ashamed of her behavior down in the vault. Harry put the brakes on his activities. He took her hands in his own running his thumbs on the back of her hands.
"I'm sorry Susan. I thought ... Oh never mind I am sorry if I was being too aggressive."
She just smiled at him demurely and took another swig of butterbeer, licking her lips seductively afterwards. She set the bottle down as he touched her cheek and continued caressing her bare hand. Suddenly it hit him! She wasn't wearing either her family ring or the one from the vault. He began kissing her neck again waiting for the little gurgling growl she normally makes. Instead she gave a full moan.
"Susan, can we stop for a minute? I'm losing the feeling in my legs." He lied as she slid off of him and straightening her blouse and skirt. Harry stood and stretched his legs walking over to the bookshelves. He needed to prove his suspicions.
"Susan, you said that you and Hannah researched the End of the Line clauses. Did you ever run across the Heir Compulsion?"
She took another drink and coughed again. "Sorry." She got out thumping her chest. "We didn't see much on that one. I'm not sure. Maybe we can ask the headmaster."
His fears were confirmed. This was not Susan. His list of suspects was one, Ginny. He felt his anger rising.
"Oh okay. Seems you knew the answer a few hours ago, though." He said watching the look of panic cross her face when he pulled his wand on her.
"Uh." She stammered.
"Knock it off, Ginny. I know you're not Susan."
"I ..." She looked at a loss for words to say.
"Why? That's all I want to know. Well that and what's in the butterbeer?"
Her head hung in defeat. "It's a love potion."
"Dammit! Why?" He said vanishing the bottle. He waved his wand and cast a privacy charm on the doors.
"Because I should be the one, not her!" Ginny/Susan looked back at him fiercely. "I'm the one that's held a thing for you all these years. I'm the one you should be with. We're supposed to be together. I want you!"
"Where's my choice in this? Don't I get any say?"
"Fine! Why her? Why not me?" It was strange to see the normally collected form of Susan Bones showing the trademark Weasley temper.
"You really want to know? All right, I'll tell you. She's ready for this and you aren't!"
"What do you mean by that?" She yelled back at him.
"It means. People are going to be dying. You couldn't handle Percy's death and you have hardly seen him in a year. I can't give you the kind of support you need. I don't have it and it may sound selfish, but I can't spare it either!"
"I can too handle it. Did you forget who was with you at the Ministry?"
"No, I didn't forget. I also seem to recall you've known about my marriage clause for a while now. You could have told me but you didn't! Both you and Hermione were out there planning my wedding to you. You only started talking to me during the tournament. I don't even know you that well."
"But you know Susan so well." She said sarcastically.
"I know everything I need to know about Susan! She's not talking about how she is chatting up Dean. She's not using fucking polyjuice and trying to slip me a love potion! I don't want your games Ginny! I don't have time for it! Susan doesn't play these games. So if you won't accept my earlier reason, accept that one! Perfecto Totalus!"
Harry paralyzed her angry at yet again someone trying to deny his right to chose anything. He used the mobilicorpus spell again and floated her out the door and down the steps into the kitchen, where most everyone was gathered.
Ron looked up, "Harry, what's going on? Is Susan alright?"
"Let's find out." Harry responded dropping Ginny/Susan onto the floor. "Sonorous! Will everyone in the house please come to the kitchen!"
Within a minute everyone came down the steps. The last group down was Hermione, Hannah and Susan. Susan stopped when she saw her double laying on her side on the floor. Everyone else looked around in shock.
"We seem to have an extra Susan in the house. No wait a minute, we're missing someone. Who could it be? Oh I know, where's Ginny?" Everyone looked between the two Susans as the one still moving's face became angrier and angrier.
"She didn't! She didn't! Let me go! I'll hex that bitch!" Susan screamed struggling against both Hannah and Hermione who had grabbed ahold of her.
"What's this about Harry?" Arthur Weasley said.
"It's about her trying to slip me a love potion." Harry answered turning his glare to Fred and George. One of them looked shocked and the other simply looked away. "And now we know who gave it to her."
Ron looked appalled, but tried to be a peacemaker. "Calm down Harry. Let's sort this all out."
"No Ron. There's nothing to sort out. She couldn't accept the fact that Susan and I are together and decided to try and trick me into getting into bed with her. Hermione, tell me the truth. You and her looked up what the heir compulsion means didn't you?"
"We did Harry, but I didn't know anything about this. Ginny asked me to have a talk with Susan and that's what Hannah and I were doing."
"I don't know what to believe anymore, but I'll accept your word on it unless I learn otherwise."
Lisa Turpin spoke up, "I don't understand Harry. So she sleeps with you. What could she possibly gain?"
"The heir compulsion would start drawing the two of us together after we slept together. How did you explain it, Susan?"
"Our magical auras would start tuning to each other making us more compatible. We'd feel a natural attraction like a weak love potion." The physically restrained girl practically spit out glaring at her magically restrained counterpart.
Arthur Weasley's voice broke the silence. "I never thought I would say these words, but I am ashamed of my daughter. If you want us to leave Harry, we will be gone before morning."
Harry paused. What did he want? He wasn't sure. "I don't know. Part of me wants to toss her out, but with the Death Eaters out there it seems wrong. What do you want to do?"
"I want to speak with my daughter in private. I was willing to excuse her behavior this morning when we learned of Percy's loss, but I cannot and will not excuse this. Professor Dumbledore says that Hogwart's will be ready in a weeks time. She will be confined to her room until then except to go to the bathroom. Her meals will be brought to her and I will take her wand until we leave for the castle. Is that acceptable?"
Harry thought for a moment. He looked at the real Susan. "If Susan agrees that it's acceptable, then I'll accept it."
"Go ahead and free her, Harry" Susan said shaking herself free from Hannah and Hermione's grasp. Harry complied and Ginny slowly got to her feet, looking at the ground not willing to meet anyone's eyes. Susan stepped forward. "Look at me, Weasley."
The moment Ginny raised her eyes, Susan's fist hit her right solidly in the cheek. Ginny collapsed back on to the ground and clutched at her polyjuiced face. The impression of the Bones family ring was now temporarily transferred to her face.
"Now it's acceptable!" Susan said wheeling around and heading back up the steps.
In all the fuss of Ginny being marched into the parlor by Arthur and Molly Weasley and the general chaos that ensued, no one noticed the predatory smile on the face of Penelope Clearwater-Weasley.
Author's notes - As always full discussion in my thread on Darklord Potter. Why does Fawkes always take Harry's side in every other fanfic? He is either Dumbledores bonded familiar or he at least has a soft spot for the old coot. I would no sooner expect Harry's owl to betray Harry. Next chapter will start on Harry's birthday. Happily we will be advancing the calendar ahead several days. I'd prefer they get to Hogwart's before chapter 50! I must warn all of you that I will be studying for my CCIE exam in June and July. That will interfere with my regular writing schedule. Happy reading - Jim.