Entering the home stretch and setting up the ending(s).
research. Meteoricshipyards, I'm going to research the hell out of you.
The Harem students now knew what was being guarded in their part of the
castle, and knew at least one part of how it was being guarded. Harry
volunteered to be the first to stand watch over the door two evenings
after the last Quidditch game.
The wizard-born members of the Harem decided to let him do it, as did
the Professors. (Trelawney and Sinistra had long since adopted the
attitude that House Harem was now effectively independent- as long as
they didn't say so and observed the rules when members of other Houses
were watching.) Hermione volunteered to join him and toted her copy of
Hogwarts: A History with her.
Three hours into his watch that evening, Harry had an idea. "Wait a
second. Can't house elves do this sort of thing?"
"Yes, they can, Harry," said Hermione, not looking up.
"Then why did you let me stand around out here for three hours!?"
"Just wondering how long it would take you to figure that out. Several
of the girls already had. I think Padma won the bet, by the way."
Harry was about to go on a rant, but a kiss from Hermione put a stop to
House Harem had become a favorite of the house elves; while it was
well away from most of the castle's amenities, it was relatively close
to the house elves' living quarters. Between the short commute
to "work," the conversations the elves had with the girls, the small
student population, and the way that most Harem members actually put a
bit of effort into picking up after themselves (a product of Muggle
upbringing), House Harem was very popular with the elves.
Three House elves volunteered to ensure that no one got into or out of
the third floor corridor without being noticed. Upon questioning, they
confirmed that there were one troll, one large mobile plant, and many
little flying things below the trap door the dog was standing on.
(Harry hadn't seen the trapdoor, as he was a bit too busy running for
his life.) Two more stood guard on the approach to House Harem's
entrance to prevent unwanted visitors from upstairs.
Most of the Professors had gone below the trapdoor at various times,
but none since the New Year.
The amount of kissing had increased slowly but steadily during the
year, as had other tokens of ongoing development.
The Harem students had been carefully and privately measured for their
uniforms in September, and then had shirts, skirts, and in one case,
pairs of pants, returned on a regular basis. For some reason, which
may have had something to do with the conversations the girls were
having with the house elves, Harry's shirt and pants were keeping up
with his growth, while those of the girls generally didn't. As a
result, skirts had retreated a bit up the girls' legs, and a couple of
blouses were beginning to get a little tighter around the chest.
(The one exception here was Millicent. She had lost a good fifteen
pounds during the first half of the year, replacing it with about half
that much muscle. She felt better about herself than ever before.)
Sinistra and Trelawney were, again, not inclined to do anything too
drastic about this, as long as the girls' puppy love didn't get to the
point where it would frighten horses in public.
There are many ways to rig an election.
At one end of the scale, you can make promises to fulfill voters' needs
that you have no intention of keeping. Fudge had done that in spades.
You can have the press on your side. Despite Xeno's best efforts, he
had to admit that the Prophet had a much louder voice, and had used it
well to support Fudge.
You can actually go about fulfilling some of those promises, which
Fudge had apparently done for constituencies in northern England.
These were the latecomers who had tipped the election in Fudge's
favor. Regional portkey centers in Cokeworth and other towns, better
Floo connections, warded areas for amateur Quidditch games and Bring-
and-Fly sales; modest improvements, but real enough to be noticed.
All of these cost money, and examining the budget left it unclear where
it was coming from.
You can appoint your friends and partisans to collect the ballots as
returning officers. This might explain one constituency that had all
twenty-eight voters support Fudge- in ballots in the same ink, the
same handwriting, and in alphabetical order.
And you can have a partisan count the votes. That horrid Russian
muggle had said that he didn't care who cast the votes, as long as he
could count them. There was no evidence that this had occurred, at
That was the extent of Xeno's investigation as of the end of May. With
a heavy heart, he had to admit that this wasn't enough to prove
election theft to the Wizengamot; he had sounded out several
potentially sympathetic members, but concluded that as a whole, it was
less hostile than "conservative," which was the polite way of saying
too lazy to do anything. The best alternative was to publish his
findings in the June Quibbler and to make sure that when Fudge lost
in '94, it would not be close enough for him to cheat.
As classes wound down, the amount of time students spent in the library
went up, and House Harem's students were no exception. While no one in
the house was in the position of Ron Weasley or Vincent Crabbe, on the
verge of being held back, it wouldn't do to have Professors develop a
poor opinion of their abilities.
The exams were nerve-racking, but by and large, House Harem's members
thought they had done well. Now it was time for the traditional seven
days of insomnia and anxiety until the results were reported.
On the fourth evening, while talking in Harry's room, a better reason
for worry suddenly became clear.