A Sixth year (pre-HBP) story: Harry decides the best way to fight back is to take the DA to the next level. He succeeds better than he thought he would. In this chapter, the Gryffindors deal with ...
The first person Harry saw in the common room was Ron, who was pacing. "Thank Merlin, you're here!" Ron cried out, drawing everyone's attention.
"Why?" Harry asked.
Ron dragged Harry to an empty corner, and spoke softly. "Seamus is in our room, yelling and screaming. Neville and some of the Seventh years are keeping an eye on him. The little Patil girl went into hysterics, and a whole group of girls, including Loon, err Luna, swept upstairs. Half the people are hysterically angry, and I honestly think the rest of us are damn near homicidal."
"Prepare to be angrier," Harry told him.
"Hermione's grandparents were visiting. . . ."
"It was her parents' anniversary today," Ron said, sadly.
"They were killed, and her mum died in hospital."
"Oh, hell!" Ron hissed.
"Is she up in her room?" Harry asked.
"Yeah; are you going to tell her when she comes down?"
"Dumbledore made me a security prefect. I can go anywhere," Harry said. He hesitated, then said, "I can't let you up with me, though. It won't work."
Ron made a face. "I understand. Tell her I'm here for her, whenever she needs me."
"I will. Ron, you could talk to the First through Third years," Harry suggested. "Be there for them, too, until Hermione can come down."
Ron frowned, then nodded. "You're right. I'm a prefect, the Quidditch captain, and the House SDA captain." Ron squared his shoulders. He had always wanted to be noticed and honored; it was time to face up to the responsibilities that implied.
"Man on the floor!" Harry proclaimed.
A few heads poked out from rooms, but not from Hermione's and Parvati's.
Harry knocked lightly on the door frame. The Patil sisters, Lavender, and Irena were on one bed; Hermione, Ginny, and Luna were on another. Only Irena, Ginny, and Luna saw him.
Harry walked over to Parvati's bed. The group looked up. "What? How did you get here?" Lavender asked, surprised.
"Dumbledore gave me clearance for everywhere," Harry said simply. "Is there anything I can do?"
"How's Seamus?" Parvati asked.
"Upset and, according to Ron, extremely angry and agitated."
"I wish he could be with us. . . ." Parvati said. She and Lavender both were casually dating him, Lavender a bit more seriously.
"Go ahead," Harry said. "Neville and some of the Seventh years are with him, but they might just be winding him up."
"But. . . ."
"It's alright," Harry said. "I can't let him up here, though; the alarms would still go off."
Parvati looked at her twin. Padma nodded. "You two go," she said. "I need to check on Sudipta's and Irena's robes, anyway."
Parvati accepted a warm hug from Harry, who was amazed at how natural it had felt all morning -- he knew the previous year he would have horribly embarrassed to hug anyone in public. Padma hugged him in a slightly less-passionate way than Parvati (since Parvati did everything passionately), and the group moved out of the room.
Harry turned around. Luna was sitting on Hermione's bed, the curtains open. She was leaning against the headboard, her legs up on the bed. Hermione was laying face down, her head near Luna's lap, Luna's hand massaging Hermione's shoulder. Ginny was leaning next to Luna, her head on Luna's shoulder, her hand on Hermione's back, next to Luna's.
"Is she asleep," Harry asked softly.
"No," Hermione's muffled voice said.
Harry laid his glasses on Hermione's bed-side stand, sat on the bed, and placed his hand over Luna's and Ginny's. "Hi," he said softly, a tear coming down his cheek.
"Hi," Hermione muttered, her head still hidden in Luna's lap. "Is . . . is . . . have you heard anything about Mum?" She sniffled. "Today is their anniversary."
Luna and Ginny looked at Harry, and he shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid it's very bad, Hermione," Harry said softly, his tears falling faster, although he managed to hold his voice steady.
"Mummy's gone?" she said in a very little girl's voice, sounding younger than she had when they'd first met.
"Your grandparents were staying over," Harry said.
"Oh, no!" Ginny whispered.
Hermione clutched Luna's legs. "All of them?"
Harry had been working out more than almost any other student since the gym had opened. He had no trouble lifting Hermione up into his arms. "I'm so very sorry, Hermione."
Hermione wrapped her arms around Harry and cried, even though she had thought just a short time before that she must be cried out. Luna leaned forward and hugged them from the side, while Ginny joined them from Hermione's back.
They stayed there for many minutes.
Finally, Harry said, "Ginny, may I ask you something that would really set Ron off?"
"Sure," she said.
"How are Ron's and your blazers?"
"I just got a new one, but Ron went for a new robe instead. Why. . . . Oh!"
"Could you owl Bill?" Harry asked. "You can borrow Hedwig. If it leaves him short, I can send him permission to take it out of my account."
"We have our own accounts now," Ginny reminded him. She kissed Hermione's temple and went to take care of it.
Hermione sat back, taking a handkerchief from a pile Luna had put on the bed some time before. "God, Harry, what am I going to do?" She looked up him, her eyes totally red and unfocused. "You . . . you'll be with me, won't you?" She knew Ron would be, but "I need my brother with me."
"Actually, it turns out you have a great-aunt," Harry said.
"No I don't. Someone would have mentioned it," she said petulantly.
"Your maternal grandmother was a squib, and she had an older half-sister, who is a witch," Harry said. "Apparently, they were estranged."
"Do I know her?"
"Was your grandmother Scots?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Hermione answered. "Why?" It suddenly hit her. "McGonagall?"
Harry nodded. "She's making the arrangements for your family. She was afraid that you would think she was showing you partiality, but she was going to tell you after the N.E.W.T.s." He swallowed. "Dumbledore said I could go to the funeral for your parents, but that I couldn't go to any others. It would just make Voldemort target student families to draw me out, I guess."
Hermione leaned forward and kissed Harry's cheek. "You probably have lots to do, Harry. Go ahead."
Harry looked at Luna, who nodded. He kissed Hermione's forehead, and then Luna gently on her dry lips. "I'll have something to drink sent up for everyone," he said before he left. "At the rate we're all crying, we'll all dehydrate long before lunch."
After Harry left to visit the other girls' rooms, Hermione asked, "Harry cried? But Harry never cries."
Luna smiled gently and kissed Hermione. "He loves you, so he grieves with you," she told Hermione. They had become close since Harry's ordeal the month before. "Lie down with me and nap," she told her friend. She pulled Hermione close, and within minutes, Hermione was asleep in Luna's arms.
Twenty-five minutes later, Harry had checked on all the Gryffindors, and marched out of the common room. His first stop was the kitchens.
"Harry Potter, sir!"
"Hi, Dobby," Harry replied.
"Dobby and the other elves are very sorry for the family of Harry Potter and his friends," Dobby said. The other elves turned and nodded, their eyes all wide and some of them teary.
"Thank you," Harry said. "I need to ask you do to some favors for me, if they're not too much trouble."
"Ask, Harry Potter," Dobby said, squaring his narrow little shoulders.
"First, does anyone know what a milkshake is and how to make one?"
"Moksi knows, Mister Harry Potter, sir!" a male elf called out. "Moksi has good friend that works at Fortescue's!"
"I need someone to take chocolate milkshakes, in the largest pumpkin juice or water glasses that we have, to Hermione Granger, the three Patil sisters, and Seamus Finnigan. Use lots of chocolate. I'd also like a large urn of hot strong tea sent to the Gryffindor common room. The way everyone is crying, they all need to drink something."
"Miss Hermione Granger lost someone?" Winky asked, coming out from the back of the crowd of elves, looking a little less worse than she had the year before.
"Yes, Winky; she lost the most of all of us. Her parents and all four grandparents." Winky's eyes grew wide, and a tear ran down her cheek. "Perhaps, if you have the time, you might want to look after her for a while?" Harry suggested.
"Come, Moksi!" Winky called.
"Then I need someone to ask Professor Dumbledore if we can have soup and sandwiches served in the common room for lunch, instead of our coming down. Tell him I'll try to get everyone down for dinner."
"Dobby will ask."
"Sometime before dinner, I need these two notices posted on the cork boards near Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff."
"Dobby will take care of."
"And finally, I need this note delivered to Professor Snape, when he's alone."
"Dobby will deliver." Dobby took it and looked up at Harry, to see what else he might need.
"Thank you, Dobby, and everyone." Dobby nodded and disappeared.
Harry had sent Snape a note, saying he would be in the auror potions lab until 11:00, in case he needed to talk with Harry about anything. Harry wasn't surprised to find a small milkshake and a cup of tea waiting for him.
At 10:55, Snape walked into the lab. "Did you want something, Potter?"
"Not really, sir. I thought you might want something from me, although I do hope you'll take some steps to protect the prefects?"
"I arranged for the Headmaster to give everyone a strict talk, at the least," Snape said. "I will also add a few strict hints."
"Did I do right by addressing you, instead of Malfoy?"
Snape sighed. "You did." He hesitated, then said, "Do NOT let anyone else hear, but please give Miss Granger my condolences." He hesitated, and added, "And the same to you, of course."
"Yes, sir." Harry understood it would not do to let the others knew Snape had been partially playing a role during his years of verbal abuse. "It turns out all four of Hermione's grandparents were killed along with her parents."
Snape's face hardened. "I did not know."
"I know. If you knew and could have let anyone know without destroying your cover, you would have got the message out, somehow," Harry responded.
"I shall make certain Miss Granger, the Patils, and Mister Finnigan recieve their assignments this week. Mister Weasley will no doubt let you know yours."
"Thank you, sir."
Harry addressed the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw SDA members that evening. All proclaimed their continued interest in the struggle. Afterwards, he found Megan Jones waiting for him.
"Potter," she said, "may I have a few words?"
"Of course," Harry answered. He started to walk her slowly back to Hufflepuff.
"You know I'm part of a small group of pacifists," she started off. Harry nodded. "We . . . we talked about what you said this morning."
"I didn't change anyone's mind, did I?" Harry asked, doubtfully.
"No," she admitted, "not entirely. But we did decide that there really is a huge moral difference in helping you, fighting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named non-violently, helping the Ministry, and staying totally neutral. Those were the options we saw available, this afternoon," she explained.
"We can not help the Ministry; they are corrupt. We cannot stay neutral. If we cannot do something to interpose ourselves between evil and the innocent, we will inform you or your House captains, in the hope that the innocent will not suffer. We do not believe in violence, but we understand why you would use it to stop worse things from happening. We can't join you, but we will help you in those few ways we can."
"Are any of the Seventh years taking the medical courses?" Harry asked.
"No," she admitted. "I wish now that I had."
"Thank you," Harry told her. "Good luck." He held out his hand. Megan smiled and shook it.
Thursday, October 17, 1996
To Harry's surprise, Aunt Petunia asked that he come to the viewing early that afternoon. He, Zoric, Luna, Lupin, Dumbledore, and three of Zoric's detectives went with him. They all stood in the back of the room, while Harry and Luna made their way to the front, where Petunia and Marge stood, receiving their friends, neighbors, and Vernon's business associates.
Petunia and Marge were obviously a bit surprised by Harry's appearance, and more so by Luna's presence, who was on her best behavior. Harry was nearly an inch taller since he had left some three months before, and he had put on eighteen pounds of muscle. Harry was obviously surprised in turn when Petunia nearly embraced him, but whatever she said brought a wry near-smile to his face. He obviously agreed to something. After a stiff greeting by Marge Dursley, he again looked surprised, this time by some question Dudley, still in pain from his burns, asked. Luna said her condolences sincerely to each woman, and to Dudley.
After paying his respects to some of the factory managers, Harry strode up the room, Luna right with him.
"Let's go see Hermione," he growled. Zoric was taking Harry, Luna, Lupin, and Dumbledore to the group funeral for Hermione's relatives. The three detectives would keep an eye on the funeral parlor and at the graveside service.
"What was that all about, if I may ask?" Dumbledore inquired.
"I was not aware that my estate was paying the Dursleys anything," Harry growled. "They always claimed that they paid for everything."
Dumbledore wisely stayed silent.
"Of course your estate paid them," Lupin said matter-of-factly. "If they didn't tell you that, you should have realized it as soon as you saw the Gringotts vault."
"A boy with a normal upbringing might, Muggle or magical," Harry retorted. "What chance did I have?"
"What have they done with the money, Harry?" Zoric asked.
"It turns out I own eight per cent of Grunnings' stock, while Uncle Vernon owned eleven per cent. He took any dividends as 'payment,' and had an option to buy at the original price any time up until my twenty-first birthday. Both arrangements died with him, and that was probably a fair portion of their income."
"What do you want to do?" Zoric asked. "I have the legal power to do anything you want me to for you."
"I don't want it. Sell it to Aunt Petunia or Dudley. I don't care if I make anything, but make certain I don't lose a penny on the deal or will have to pay anything in tax that I can't cover with their payments."
"Fair enough," Zoric admitted.
"What did your cousin ask?" Lupin asked.
"The ultimate question," Luna asked.
"What everyone wants to know," Harry agreed. "Is there anything . . . after."
"What did you say?" Dumbledore asked.
"The truth," Harry said. "I said there is something; I've seen ghosts and echoes, after all. But how long that lasts," he shrugged.
"What do you mean?" Lupin asked.
"Most ghosts fade away after a millennium or so at the most," Harry replied.
"And even if there is something after death, how long does it last?" Luna asked. "I know there are voices of the departed behind that veil at the Ministry, but forever is a very long time. For there to be any true afterlife, it must be timeless. Who can truly imagine existence eternal and yet personal? Very few of us, if any."
"Still, something is better than nothing," Harry said. "That's more than most non-religious Muggles have to believe in."
Unlike Vernon Dursley, the Grangers and Smythes (Hermione maternal grandparents) were being buried from church. Harry was unsurprised to see that it was a very High Anglican congregation, although he could not explain why, even to himself.
The SDA and the younger Gryffindors all wanted to go the all three funerals, but for security reasons, they were all scheduled for the same time. Harry was asked to divide them up. He sent a little under 30% for Hermione's family, 30% to Seamus', and a little more than 40% to the Patils.
Harry and Luna walked up a side aisle, and sat in the front pew with McGonagall, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny (Neville was with Seamus). The other three teachers sat in the pew behind them. The small church was filled.
After the burial service, the group from the front pew stood together in the chilly wind, so that Hermione could accept condolences from the Muggle patients and friends of her parents and grandparents. At the end, the first person wearing a cloak walked up. Zoric immediately strode forward, and McGonagall growled.
"Miss Skeeter," Hermione greeted, somewhat coldly.
Rita grinned. "Down, you two," she said to Zoric and McGonagall. "I was scared of you while I was in school and still am," she told McGonagall, "and I learned a long time ago not to cross you," she added to Zoric. "But I'd face the pair of you before I'd cross her."
She turned back to Hermione. "First of all, my condolences, Miss Granger," she said sincerely. "If you haven't noticed, I've been doing straight reporting again. You ruined my career for almost a year, but then you restored it. I promise you, a straight story. Straight, complete quotes; no Quick Quotes."
Hermione shook her head. "If I ever have anything to say, I'll be glad to talk to you first, under those conditions, but I really don't have anything to say."
"You're her guardian?" Skeeter asked McGonagall.
"Short and to the point, as always." She looked around. "Any one else want to say anything?"
Harry had been remembering some conversations he had had with Hermione, Zoric, Lupin, and others. He stepped forward. "I do."
Skeeter smiled widely. "Go ahead."
"Harry. . . ." Dumbledore warned. Zoric and Lupin physically blocked Dumbledore from reaching out to Harry, but said nothing, leaving the decision up to Harry. Harry therefore ignored the Headmaster.
"These incidents might never have happened if Minister Fudge had believed us some sixteen months ago, and if he had done his job instead of conducting vendettas against Professor Dumbledore, Hogwarts, myself, and the truth by lying to the media. I believe there are those associated with the Ministry who are even more sympathetic to Voldemort than Fudge is, but I at least will never trust the Ministry while Fudge is in charge."
"Now does anyone else have something to say?"
"The Ministry could not act on the word of one delusional, spot-light seeking child," a cold voice said from the side. "Even if he turned out to be more or less correct."
"Hello, Percy," Hermione said coldly. "So, you got stuck coming to the Muggle funeral, while the important people went to see the Pure-Bloods at the Patils', hoping to influence them?"
Percy flushed, but before he could retort, Ron said, "You know, Percy, you should know by now being a member of the Ministry should mean serving the wizarding world, not your career. You may end up Minister, but you'll be a minister just like Fudge."
Percy was about to respond, but then saw his mother and brothers approaching. He opened his mouth again and then saw the look on his mother's face. He fled.
On that note, the groups separated and left.
While the professors portkeyed to Hogwarts with the other students, Zoric took Harry, Hermione, Luna, Ron, and Ginny back in his car. He would have to drive a ways before activating the portkey feature.
"You know, none of you ever told me what The Prophet has been saying about me since the end of last term," Harry remarked. He had just read The Quibbler, which had only fair and balanced things to say about him, along with nasty things about Fudge and the Ministry.
"They've been walking a fine line between praising you and trying not to offend Fudge," Hermione answered.
"They try never to offend the Ministry, unless it's really obvious that it's what the public wants," Zoric added. "I think, over the next few weeks, they'll have to choose."