A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Ron nearly loses the Q...
The Gryffindor-Hufflepuff Quidditch match was finally played a few weeks late, on November 23. Both Myrddin and Dorff both came to see the game. Ravenclaw-Slytherin was pushed back well into December, as both were totally disorganized. Crabbe's death was one reason for Slytherin's problems. Malfoy had managed to hang on as seeker, despite being on academic as well as legal probation, but was replaced as captain.
Cho Chang had been named the Ravenclaw captain the previous summer, and she had decided to totally remake the team in her image, much to the anger of most of the House. She and the chasers were all part of the Clique, while the keeper and beaters were dating the chasers.
The three weeks had hurried past, and were only remarkable to the general student population for Draco Malfoy's return to the school on November 9. It was quickly clear that no one cared to associate too closely with Malfoy after his return. Even Nott, Goyle, and Pansy were keeping their distance from him.
"Nothing like being a convicted murderer to show you who your friends are," Ron had stated a few nights later in the common room. Only Hermione and Ginny had noticed that Harry had winced.
As far as the sextet were concerned, Ron, Neville, and Luna had started their training to fight off the Imperius curse. Harry's special training continued, as did Occlumency training for all of them.
Game day itself was a decent day for Quidditch. Although it was just above freezing, it was a bright day with little wind. It was quickly clear that in many ways the two teams were fairly even. Gryffindor's offense, the three chasers, was superior to Hufflepuff's, but the Hufflepuff beaters were more experienced. Ron was also getting a bit too involved in yelling plays and suggestions, which allowed the Hufflepuffs a few extra scores when Ron was caught out of position. Harry managed to catch the snitch by out-climbing the Hufflepuff seeker just after the second hour of play had started, giving Gryffindor a 330-180 victory.
Harry had of course planned on going straight back to the common room after dinner to celebrate (he had spent the time before dinner celebrating with Luna). Professor Lawrence came up to him as soon as Harry and Luna had come into the great hall for dinner to tell him that Myrddin and Dorff wanted to talk with him at 6:30 in Dumbledore's office, although he wouldn't even give Harry a hint why he was wanted. The two Councillors had already congratulated him, after all.
Harry was slightly surprised to see that it was indeed just himself, Dumbledore, Myrddin, and Dorff. "Good evening, Harry," Dumbledore greeted, "Congratulations on your win. We shall not keep you from the victory party long."
"Thank you, Professor Dumbledore."
"We need to start thinking about your Yule break," Myrddin said.
"In what way, sir?"
"Well, you probably remember we wanted you to visit your aunt's for at least a day or two. Your friend Neville may go with you, if you and he are both agreeable. You then have three basic options, since I'm sure two days at your aunt's will be more than long enough for you. First, return here for the majority of the break. Second, stay at Grimmauld Place. Third, come a training trip we'll arrange for you, and we'll also tell you the stories Tabitha, Lloyd, and Henry have promised to tell you."
"That would be classified until you get there. Any of those options would include three other arrangements: just yourself; just yourself and Neville; or yourself and any or all five of your friends. That is initially up to you, and then between yourself and them."
"No matter what options you take, do think about how your friends would feel if you leave them behind," Dorff added. "I know you feel the need to protect them, but they do provide you with a wonderful support system."
Harry thought about that, then said, "If you can't tell me where I'll be training, can you tell me what type of training I'll be doing?"
"No, other than it will involve your getting prepared to confront Voldemort, and that we think all of your friends would be able to help you."
Dorff jumped in again. "Which assumes you would like to help us go on the offensive at some point. If you prefer to continue to train defensively, as you have, then choose one of the first two options."
Harry opened his mouth, but now Myrddin forestalled him by raising his hand. "I know, Harry. You would likely wish to go on the offensive. Still, you should think about it."
Harry looked at Dumbledore, who said, "I believe you shall have to face Voldemort sooner or later, Harry. I believe it would be best to be later, but it may take this training at some point for you to win."
"Why can't I know what this training is?" Harry asked.
"We are exploring several options. If any of them works, it will awaken powers inside of you that cannot be put back into a dormant state," Dorff answered. "If you do not wish the training, we do not want you doing this on your own."
"I suggest you talk with Ms Granger first," Dorff went on. "Ms Lovegood will wish to come no matter what. Ms Granger will be able to take a more impartial view of your situation."
"I suppose," Harry agreed.
"Oh, and here," Myrddin said, holding out a large cardboard box. Harry looked puzzled. "Twelve bottles of American sparkling cider. Non-alcoholic, of course," he assured Dumbledore. "You should have something fizzy to celebrate with."
"Thank you, sir." Harry took his leave.
"We didn't over-sell it, did we?" Dorff worried.
"'Over-sell it'? Interesting phrase," Dumbledore commented. "No, no I don't believe so. It must be his free choice, after all. As you said, he will want to go for the training in any event. This way, he will think things through first."
"And Snape and Jones are prepared to start in on the Patronus training for the rest of the students?" Myrddin asked.
"Yes, during the last fifteen minutes of each dueling club. Since the dementors are all we know for certain Voldemort has left, he will try to use them sooner or later."
Harry's sparkling cider added a extra note of cheer to the celebrations, which started from the moment he had stepped back into the common room until just after 9:00. It was a little before 9:00 when Harry was able to sit down with Hermione and explain what the meeting had been about.
"We'll all want to be with you as much as possible," Hermione said with a shrug. "I'll find out what others have in the works, and try to sound out Professor Lawrence."
"You're spending an awful lot of time with him, especially since you don't have a class with him."
"He's teaching Luna and myself quite a lot about ritual magic. It really is a powerful, and neglected, subject."
"All right," Harry said.
"Harry. . . ?"
"Was I missing some subtle sub-meanings of Quidditch strategy, or did Ron . . . did Ron almost blow the game today by not paying attention to his job?"
"You rarely miss much, and I think you misinterpret even less."
"Are you going to tell him?"
"I thought I might talk with Katie before the next practice. If I don't, she'll tear him a new one."
"Don't talk with him about it tonight," Hermione suggested.
"No, I won't." At that moment, he saw Hermione's eyes go wide.
"Don't talk to me about what?" Ron demanded from behind them.
Harry joined Hermione in staring at Ron.
"What shouldn't you talk to me about tonight?" Ron demanded even more loudly, causing silence to fall over the common room. He had been eavesdropping for some time and wasn't going to back down now.
It was Katie who came to the rescue. "What did you think about today's game, Weasley?"
He turned on her. "It went okay. It wouldn't have hurt if you chasers listened to my directions a bit more. We could have scored at least three more goals. The beaters seemed even more deaf to directions."
"Oh, is that what you think?" she replied. "Well, you may be right. On the other hand, if you had yelled about half the amount of directions, it may have been easier to for us to follow at least some of them. And, if you hadn't been yelling so much, you might have stopped at least a few of the six goals you were out of position for."
"Really? If you wanted to be captain, then you shouldn't have let me do it!"
"Why yell at her when she's right? Or is that why you're yelling?" one of the beaters demanded.
"QUIET!" Harry finally shouted. "There are two ways to look at today's game. One, we won, and we played fairly well for our first game as a team. On the other hand, it wasn't a great game. The chasers need to practice their passes a lot more, the beaters need to work our end a bit better, Ron has to pay a bit more attention to the Quaffle and less to the rest of you, and I need to work on my patterns. When we practice, we'll work on all that. Tonight, we should be happy that all the work we've done paid off, and I think a lot of the credit for how well we did do goes to Ron. So, to Ron!"
The common room rang with the Gryffindor cheers, but Harry could see Ron was still bothered.
The party broke up a short while later, and Harry stayed to help Katie, Hermione, and Ginny clean up. "Why do the girls' prefects always get stuck cleaning up?" Hermione complained.
"Because the boys basically don't care enough to do more than a half-ass job, and when we bully the younger students into doing it, we end up having to straighten out what they break trying to magically clean anything," Katie replied.
"Ron's probably waiting for you," Ginny said to Harry quietly over the resulting argument between Hermione and Katie.
"Probably," Harry agreed. "If not tonight, then tomorrow."
"Don't quit as co-captain to boost his ego, Harry," Ginny advised.
"He knows more about strategy than I ever will," Harry pointed out.
"And he's about as motivating a leader as Snape with a toothache and hemorrhoids," Ginny retorted.
"I know," Harry said in a depressed voice.
"You're the leader, Harry. I know you hate it. I know you don't want it. But YOU are the leader."
"Thanks a lot."
Ginny reached up and kissed his nose. "You're welcome."
Sure enough, Seamus, Neville, and Dean were no where to be found when Harry went into his room.
"So, you think I suck as a captain and as a keeper, huh?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Right, that's why I had everyone toast you. You know perfectly well that everything I said was true. . . ."
"There's no part of your flying that you need to work on."
"Thank you for your opinion. I happen to value it, because I know you know what you're talking about. But even though you're a good keeper, even though you know more about Quidditch strategy than any two people in Gryffindor, this was the first time you captained a game. You played like it was a practice. You need to pay more attention to the game and less to the players. Even my first year, Wood didn't shout out a quarter of the directions that you did today. So you're not perfect -- no one is, Ron. Now, you can sulk and whinge, or you can say, 'you know what, I played a darn good game, but I'll be better next time, and I'll give fewer and clearer directions.' You have to decide which. I can't. Okay?"
"No, it's not okay! Shove your opinions up your arse." Ron stalked out of the dorm. A few seconds later he heard Ron and Hermione yelling at each other in the common room. By the time Harry made it down the stairs, the room was empty except for a crying Hermione, who was in the arms of a wide-eyed Ginny and Lavender on the stairs to the girls' dorms.
Harry went over to add his hug around Hermione, and then the two girls led her up to her room. Harry went up and changed into pajamas, his dressing gown, and slippers and then went to sit by the fire to wait for Ron to cool off and come back. Harry knew if he followed, even if he saved Ron from Filch with the cloak and map, it would just make Ron angrier. Harry swore that if Ron got into trouble, he wouldn't feel guilty.
A very angry Ron Weasley stormed through the deserted corridors of the castle. He was angry, mostly because Harry had been right, and that it hurt so much that he had played so poorly even Hermione could see it. He was hurting, and he had hurt Hermione, and probably hurt Harry. He wished he could hurt someone before he hurt himself.
"Well, if it isn't the keeper who can't keep his mouth shut."
"Well, if it isn't the murdering son of a death eater."
Over four hours after he had first sat in front of the fire, Harry was woken from his light sleep by the portrait opening. Harry turned, wondering what kind of mood Ron was in, when he saw it was McGonagall.
"What's happened?" Harry asked.
"Harry Potter," McGonagall stated formally, "you have been requested to appear as witness for and supporter of Ronald Bilius Weasley as he appears before the Temporary Ministry Council acting as the Wizengamot. If you accept this charge, change into formal robes and prepare to leave immediately. Do you accept?"
"Those are your choices, Mister Potter. Say yes, and change into your robes in a hurry, or say no. I am allowed to say no more, although if you wish to help Mister Weasley I suggest you just throw your robes on and put on shoes."
Harry looked at McGonagall and then ran off to his room to change. He was back in less than five minutes. McGonagall's jaw was set when he came back, and she said nothing while she escorted him to the part of the castle where the new anti-portkey ward did not extend. She then activated the portkey, and they left Hogwarts.
Harry was very nervous even before he left. Finding himself back in the atrium of the Ministry did not lessen his nerves. These feelings increased as found himself being led back to the very courtroom he had been tried in. Two aurors, wands drawn, relieved McGonagall and Harry of theirs (there had been no one on duty at the main desk) and let them in.
And, in the very chair where death eaters had once been tried, sat Ron, well strapped in and looking terrified. He was only in his boxer shorts, and there was something brown painted on his chest, which Harry later learned had been a truth potion.
Sitting in judgement were all the members of the Council, except for Dumbledore and Arthur Weasley. Arthur and Molly Weasley were in the gallery, and Molly had been crying. Dumbledore was also there, as were Jones, Snape, Filch (both of whom were looking rather triumphant), and several Ministry officials. As the testimony went on, other people quietly entered the courtroom as well.
"Mister Potter, do you stand for Mister Weasley?" an African wizard (Councillor Anadi) asked.
"I do," Harry answered in a puzzled voice. "What. . . ."
"In a moment, Mister Potter. Please tell us the emotional state of Mister Weasley the last time you saw him."
Harry answered carefully, uncertain if Ron's being angry should be down-played or emphasized. He had obviously done something very wrong, and Harry didn't want them to think Ron was so angry he just wanted to hurt someone, or cold-blooded enough to do whatever he had done in cold blood.
"Thank you, Mister Potter. Just to be clear, Mister Weasley did not appear to leave for a prior engagement?"
"Absolutely not," Harry stated firmly.
"How can you be that certain?" Anadi asked.
"Ron isn't that good of an actor. He could have slipped out without making any sort of scene."
"I see. Thank you, you may find a seat. Now, the last witness." Anadi pulled a pair of wands out and said, "Prior Incantato." A sickly green light flashed. Harry looked at Ron, slack-jawed. It was the Death Curse, although it seemed as though Ron had missed.
"Let the record show a missed Killing Curse was indeed the last spell performed by the wand of Draco Malfoy," Anadi stated. Harry was now even more confused, although he saw Snape wasn't looking as pleased.
Anadi addressed the rest of the Council. "To sum up, Draco Malfoy, convicted of one only partially justified use of the Death Curse and on probation, was not seen by any in his House after Nine o'clock last night. He left after engaging in several arguments. Ronald Weasley stormed out of his House common room shortly after losing his temper with his team mates and girl friend shortly after Nine-thirty."
"At Nine-fiftyfive, Argus Filch reported a major duel going on near the entrance hall. The two faculty on duty, Severus Snape and Tobias Jones, came on the scene and witnessed Ronald Weasley attempt the Killing Curse on Draco Malfoy. It missed, but was partially reflected back at Malfoy, who was at that point crouching near a wall, knocking Mister Malfoy unconscious. Ronald Weasley stated under truth potion that Malfoy started the argument, cast the first curse, and used the Death Curse first. A test of Malfoy's wand showed that it had last cast the Killing Curse."
Harry gave a sigh of relief. Ron hadn't used the curse first, and Malfoy hadn't been killed. Ron was in trouble, but not as much as Malfoy had been, and was again.
"Perhaps we should see all the hexes Mister Malfoy used," Dorff suggested.
"It seems unnecessary," Anadi said. "We already have the evidence from Weasley's wand that he didn't use a major hex before the Killing Curse."
"Exactly. I want to know how much restraint Mister Weasley showed before losing his temper. And should anyone be thinking of asking for mercy for Mister Malfoy, that might help or hinder his case."
Fudge and Snape looked very disappointed with that idea. Malfoy's wand soon proved that they had had every reason to be pessimistic, as many of his attempted jinxes and hexes were, to say the least, questionable.
"Who votes Ronald Weasley guilty of the attempted murder of Draco Malfoy, with or without mitigating circumstances?"
The entire Council who were voting (they were all present, and all voted except for Arthur Weasley and Dumbledore) voted guilty.
"Who votes mitigating circumstances?" Here they all raised their hands except for Fudge.
"Who wishes to speak before we consider the sentences for Ronald Weasley or Draco Malfoy?"
Snape stood up.
"We recognize Severus Snape, Head of Draco Malfoy's House at Hogwarts, and his godfather. Speak for the family."
"I will not ask for clemency for Draco Malfoy. I do ask, however, that the long-standing mutual rivalry between the two boys be kept in mind. I believe it would be . . . fair that their sentences, whatever they may be, be similar."
Even Harry saw this as a back-handed attempt to get Malfoy a lighter sentence.
"Thank you. Anyone else who wishes to speak against leniency for Mister Weasley? No? For leniency?"
Harry and Molly both stood up. "Harry Potter."
"I just wish to say to the Council that while Malfoy and Ron have, as Professor Snape said, disliked each other from the time they met on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, I have never known Ron to start any arguments or fights with Malfoy. In every case, Malfoy has started the argument by harassing Ron, myself, or someone else. Ron doesn't start fights, and I don't think I have to remind you that Ron was dueling someone whose wand shows was fighting dirty, and who had already killed one student this year. I don't think defending yourself can be too harshly punished. If it means anything, I'll stand for Ron in any way that helps."
Molly Weasley again stood up and made an emotional plea for her son, and then the Council stood and left whispering -- until everyone heard Fudge state, just before he left the room, "I'm just saying we can't be seen as giving one of our own favored treatment."
A somewhat nasty looking auror kept anyone from coming too close to Ron, so after Mrs. Weasley thanked Harry for his help, they had nothing to do except wait. Severus Snape wisely kept to the other end of the room.