Summertime, and the children are queasy.
Five days after the Hogwarts Express took the students home, the meeting that had been coming for months finally occurred. While Professor McGonagall's agenda mentioned only "the general situation," the two main points of contention were obvious to all- the storage of the Philosopher's Stone and the existence and government of House Harem.
Sinistra and Trelawney were obviously outraged about the danger posed to their students by Dumbledore's decision to store the Stone, and vehemently protested any attempt to take House Harem away from them. They were joined by Professor Sprout; she had been impressed with their Hufflepuff-ish virtues of helping each other and knowing when to let their friends help them. Professor Trelawney's statement that "the students of House Harem are the equals of the students of the other houses, and the risks Dumbledore took with our students would be considered outrageous if they had been taken with other Houses' students," stood for their stance in general. The fact, revealed by the Aurors, that the Stone had been left without a final trap just beyond the Potions Room disturbed them greatly.
The other side of the argument was led by Professor Snape, whose antipathy toward Harry Potter, the House that had humiliated Slytherin, and the world in general would never go away; and by Muggle Studies Professor Charity Burbage, whose proclamation that "House Harem's structure brings one of the worst Muggle systems into the Magical world" demonstrated nothing beyond her stance and her ignorance of history and of her supposed subject. Professor Cuthbert Binns also leaned toward eliminating House Harem, although this seemed to be based largely on his difficulty in remembering that the House existed. As he moved further into his second century as a ghost, his ability to form new memories grew steadily weaker, resulting in his inability to remember students' names and problems adapting to any changes in schedule, such as those caused by having five classes of a given year to teach.
The group of undecided wizards and witches in the middle- McGonagall, Flitwick, Kettleburn, and Vector- were not comfortable with either side of the argument. None had any special animus toward House Harem, but none really saw any purpose to it; McGonagall had been happy to contribute to the Stone's defenses, but she had always been uneasy at storing the Stone at Hogwarts during the year. This unease was increased by the fact that they really couldn't do anything to Dumbledore in any case, and that Dumbledore had not bothered to attend the meeting despite McGonagall's repeated assurances that it was extremely important. The Headmaster could be "censured" by the staff, but this censure extended no further than to request that the Board of Governors dismiss Dumbledore, which it could do with or without their entreaties. The Minister of Magic also claimed the right to appoint new faculty members "as necessary to satisfy the educational needs of Magical Britain," and while it had not done so in many years, it seemed unwise to give Fudge further grounds to indulge his cronyism or stupidity if Dumbledore sensed that he was in danger.
In the end, a compromise was reached. No attempt would be made to censure Dumbledore, and in exchange no attempt would be made to alter House Harem's arrangements. Key to this compromise, as Binns put it, was that "House Harem's current membership will be naught but a historical oddity."
Danielle and Emmitt Granger had been talking with their daughter Hermione over the week since her return, and still weren't quite sure what to make of her experiences.
On the plus side, she had been absolutely thrilled by the many things she was learning- even if she couldn't demonstrate the magic, she could be seen practicing her wand movements at all times of the day. They were pleased that she had made many fast friends and that she was getting exercise, which had been sticking points prior to her leaving for Hogwarts.
On the minus side, the harem, the troll, and the Stone were three very strange and disturbing concepts. Hermione explained that the harem hadn't actually done anything sexual and might never do so, the troll was easily dispatched, and that the proper authorities had dealt with the would-be Stone thief (eventually).
Hermione thanked her parents profusely for the role that their information had played in the Stone's defense, which they found even more difficult to grasp than the harem or the troll.
"So that man Flamel, from that Holy Grail book, really did have the Philosopher's Stone?" inquired Emmitt.
"That's what everyone said. I didn't get to see it used, though", said Hermione.
"And the man who was after the Stone was also after Harry?" he asked.
"Yes, but the Aurors stopped him."
Danielle sputtered, "Don't tell me Harry Potter is about the Holy Grail."
Hermione stammered for a few seconds before making the connection and telling them that Harry couldn't have used it any more than they could.
Hermione had been asked to visit the Flamels in two weeks, to receive their thanks for their attempts to defend the Stone. Her parents gave their permission for the overnight trip once they knew that two of her professors would be chaperoning the overnight visit to Devon. They also agreed to visit Harry themselves later in the week, just to see if his foster parents were treating him alright; they had developed a very low opinion of the Dursleys on the handful of previous occasions when they had met.
In Wiltshire, another witch was also wondering about Harry Potter... but for Narcissa Malfoy to say so would be swiftly and painfully fatal.
Narcissa was hardly alone in the occasional dream or fantasy about the Boy Who Lived And Had A Harem Before Turning Twelve, and several of her friends like Rose Parkinson and Samantha Greengrass had confided that they had similar thoughts. However, her husband's politics and her son's jealousies forbade saying anything positive about him at all where Lucius could hear her.
Lucius explicitly told her when they married that she was to "stay away from my social circles unless your presence is required." Given that the late 1970s Death Eaters included such masculine paragons as Gregory Goyle Senior and Evan Rosier, Narcissa was quite happy to comply. Although those meetings had (mostly) ended in 1981, Lucius had made it clear that speaking positively of any Light wizard would not be tolerated and that she was there to serve as an ornament for social occasions. Narcissa expected the latter; she had been trained since young girlhood to be a proper pureblooded wife. As for politics, she had given Lucius no reason to suspect that she had any, which was to his liking. In truth, she really didn't care much about politics, but had a hard time seeing how making any young boy's life miserable would benefit anyone.
As for Draco... the rumors that he and his friends had needed special pleading to advance at Hogwarts were only partially correct. The younger Goyle and Vincent Crabbe did barely scrape by, while Draco finished in the middle of his class. However, the Malfoys expected much better, and Draco was assigned a tutor for the summer, leaving him sullen and irritable. He wanted as little to do with his parents as possible, and given how spoiled and entitled he was turning out to be, Narcissa didn't mind that much either. Indeed, she was beginning to think about "starting over" with a new child, but that would require... physical contact with Lucius, which she wasn't anxious to have.
Lucius was, to put it bluntly, a lousy lover at his best, who had rather little and (contrary to his beliefs) no real idea how to use it. His unimpressive best had been before the fall of the Dark Lord. They had not shared a bed in several years, and that was fine with her. She hadn't missed him... but thinking about Harry's possible activities got her thinking about urges that had gone dormant.
Have you ever tried not to think of something? Witches and wizards will tell you that it's the most futile endeavor known to man.
This also applied to Harry Potter himself, but the subject of his pondering was July 4th. Not a holiday celebrated by most Britons, certainly, but according to the calculations Professor Flitwick had made, he would be able to leave 4 Privet Drive at exactly 11:30 PM that evening. Exactly two days and eight hours from now.
A knocking emerged from downstairs. Petunia walked over to check out who it was; Vernon wouldn't be home for a couple of hours yet.
The woman at the door was a middle-aged woman with grey hair and a costly-looking Muggle suit. She looked quite regular, and so Petunia let her in.
Amelia Susan Bones had found that dressing in "politican's armor" was quite useful when commuting between her home and the Ministry through the Muggle areas of London. While she looked a little overdressed for an ordinary day in a suburb, she had been told that looking like a Muggle went a long way with the Dursleys, and she thus figured that one of Savile Row's finest would never be worn by Petunia's idea of a witch.
Convincing Petunia that she was a government official who was investigating Harry's school was easy (and happened to be true, after a fashion), allowing her to have a private talk with Harry.
"How have you been, Harry?"
"Not bad. I was glad to have the Grangers visit. Do I really have to stay here until the 4th?"
"I'm told that you do, Harry. Don't worry. We've arranged for you to stay at your wives' houses for the rest of the summer. Also, we have another trip arranged for you."
"Where will I be going?"
"Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel want to see you, Harry. They want to thank you for helping to defend the Stone."
"I didn't really do anything, Ma'am. I never even got to see it. The Aurors did the job of beating Quirrell, or Voldemort, or whoever that was..."
"But without your planning, they couldn't have known that there was a problem. And without your getting through the traps, they might have been slowed down enough for Voldemort to escape and kill students. You don't have to do everything yourself, and trying can get you hurt. You really did well, Harry. I'm proud of you. A lot of people are." With that, she handed Harry a copy of the July Quibbler with a front-page headline praising his efforts.
"You get the Quibbler?"
"Yes. Not officially, mind you, but some of us have started to... lose faith in the Prophet. We don't completely trust everything it says. The Quibbler is like that too, but in a different way. I think it's better to have as much information as possible before you make up your mind. Do you understand what I mean?"
"I think so."
"Well, we'll talk again soon, I'm sure. But we really are impressed by you, Harry. I get the idea that you don't hear that enough. I'll make sure that you are picked up promptly at... what time is it again?"
"Eleven-thirty PM the day after tomorrow."
"I knew I could count on you to remember."