At ten thirty PM, on the thirteenth of January, a silent Dobby appeared in the Slytherin common room, and waited until his target arrived.
Draco Malfoy stomped sullenly through the hallway, following his detention with Filch. That miserable bloody squib and his mangy cat were trailing him, no doubt hoping to find some reason to award more detentions. Needless to say he was in a foul mood. This had been his last detention with the worthless squib and he was furious at the degrading tasks the misanthropic old fool had assigned him.
Cleaning out toilets, mucking stables, scrubbing floors…this was servants’ stuff! The scion of a pureblood family should never have to soil himself like this! He’d written a letter to his father, only to have Lucius tell him to stop whinging like a muggle if he wanted to prove himself worthy of the master’s notice. When he’d approached his mentor with his objections, Severus had told him Dumbledore had tried to repeal the punishments but the Board of Governors had held firm. This was all that Bones bitch’s fault! If she had just stayed in her bloody place, he would still be the king of Hogwarts! But no…she had to oust the bloody minister with Harry bloody Potter by her side, and then take his place. What was worse, she began to pass all sorts of stupid laws…laws that restricted the sacred rights of the pureblood elite! Intolerable!
Muttering to himself, Draco found himself at the entryway to the Slytherin common room. He hissed, “Sangs purs avant tous!” to the regal looking serpent on the door. The door swung open and he entered the dimly lit chamber.
Draco loved the common room. It was cool, and quiet. A fire blazed at the end of the room, and air circulation and heating charms kept the place from getting too cold. Done in a deep green it reminded him of the woods on the grounds of the Malfoy estate, though the pendant lamps reminded him far to much of the muggle coffee house. On the other hand, the many human skulls, both real and carved, and placed on the tables and beside each chair, made nice holders for the candles they all needed to study by. The large thick glass window looking into the lake was beaded with moisture from the icy black water on the other side.
Draco thought he saw some fishy eyes peering in, so he covered his eyes, held up his wand and yelled: “Lumos Solaris!” Instantly the room was flooded with bright white light. Through the thick glass he could hear faint squeals of pain from the dark-adapted merfolk. He snickered in sadistic glee at the sounds of pain from the fish-men.
Unfortunately, that was not all he disturbed.
Yells and curses erupted from here and there, as students were torn from their studies, or in more than one case, their snogging.
“What the bloody hell was that all about Malfoy?” bellowed Montague, now a seventh year.
“None of your business, Montague, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll show a bit more respect to one of the dark lord’s servants!”
Not intimidated in the slightest, Montague, sneered: “I’d be willing to wager the dark lord would thank me for stuffing your scrawny arse up a chimney. He doesn’t need cannon fodder all that much!”
Insulted and shocked, Draco tried to draw his wand. Montague had it out of his hand before he could clear its pocket. A backhand had Draco stumbling backwards to fetch up against the wall.
“Next time you try to draw this on me, Malfoy, I’m going to stuff it up your arse. In the meanwhile, I think I’ll leave it on a roof somewhere!”
He turned and strode away to the sound of applause, leaving Draco standing alone, holding he reddening cheek and gaping in shock.
“Was it worth it, Draco?" Pansy asked him with a sneer. “You pull a stupid prank and now half the senior students are hacked off at you. Now you’ll have to go to Snape to get your wand back. He won’t like that!”
“Shut up bitch!” Draco snarled. “Do not presume to question me! Your place is on your back!”
“Ooh, not nice, Drakey!” Pansy growled. “Looks like the next time you want to get into my knickers, you’ll be begging on your hands and knees…arsehole!"
“How dare you! You are my betrothed. You do as I say!” Draco grabbed Pansy’s collar with one hand and lifted the other to slap her. A foot tapping ungently against his stones, told him that would be a bad idea.
“I can always break that betrothal, Draco. After all, with your family being audited by the goblins, we have more money than you do!” She shoved him away with both hands, turned and flounced away thinking: ~I think I’ll do Bole tonight. He’s always been ‘nicer’ to me than Draco, anyway.~
Draco was about to haul her back and soundly thrash her when he noticed every eye in the common room was on him, and understood his position. He knew he could handle a couple, but in the end, he would lose…and lose badly.
Little did he know, he had already lost.
Embarrassed and humiliated by Pansy’s disrespectful actions, he needed a drink.
Along the side of the underground room, away from the large glass windows, was a long narrow bar. Stored there, was a generous supply of wines and the finer ales. Though alcohol was prohibited for the students, the Slytherins had their own rules. ‘If you don’t get caught, it doesn’t count’. One served themselves, of course, as the school elves knew it was a violation of the school rules and would surely tell the stupid old muggle lover about it, but one couldn’t be too picky.
Liquor was harder to smuggle in and nearly impossible to conceal in an open area like this, so those few who did have it, tended to keep it to themselves. Draco was one such. The former head of house knew of it, of course, but he tolerated it. Occasionally, he’d even partake of it. After all the elite deserved their privileges, yes?
The new head of Slytherin house, and potions professor, the famous Damocles Belby, inventor of the Wolfsbane potion, was less accommodating. He’d ordered the entire stock removed when he’d taken the position.
That had lasted all of a week. Some enterprising seventh years had constructed some blood-based wards to prevent anyone not included from seeing the stock. It had taken ten galleons and three drops of blood to key in each new ‘patron’, but the price was well worth it!
Especially, at times like this.
Snarling his anger, Draco turned to the bar and poured himself a glass of his private stock of elf-made wine. Sipping it had no effect, so he tossed it back and filled another.
The wine wasn’t enough. He needed something much stronger! Draco retired to his quarters, a sybaritic enclosure entirely suited to his self-assumed station. Locking the door, he cast his wards and then stomped over to his bed, where he touched a spot on the wall and muttered: “Mudbloods must die!” unlocking the little hide-a-way.
He didn’t know that Dobby had followed him in.
When Dobby heard the password, he shook his head at Draco’s appalling lack of imagination.
Dobby watched as his former owner’s spawn poured a shot from his father’s one hundred year old, Old Ogden’s gold label, and tossed it back. A quick snap of the elf’s fingers and a confused Draco poured another shot.
By one in the morning, the bottle of hideously expensive liquor was empty and Draco was passed out drunk. Smiling evilly, Dobby left a sealed goblet of hangover relief, and a large box of Honeydukes' finest dark chocolate bonbons…to which a liberal amount of glycoside laxative had been added.
Before he left, Dobby sprinkled the Weasley twins’ undetectable itching powder over all of Draco’s underwear. Visiting his accomplice, he ensured Peeves understood who was to be pranked and who was to be left alone. For the remainder of the month, the pranks were to be widespread, leaving no one out, but for most of the school they were to be harmless. For most of Slytherin and a few others, he had free rein. When Peeves had nodded his acceptance, Dobby handed over a box of assorted pranking items.
One could almost hear Peeves screaming in ecstasy.
Keeping his promise to himself, Harry asked Dobby to take a message to Moody asking him to meet. The excitable elf departed without sound, and moments later, returned, saying: “Dobby has found Master Auror Alastor Moody in his office. He is agreeing to talk with Harry Potter, this evening, here or there, but advises Harry Potter that the ministry may still be infested with lousy death eating scum.”
Harry chuckled at Moody’s acerbic comment and asked Dobby to bring Moody to the castle at eight that evening.
At ten thirty, Draco Malfoy woke to the sound of pounding…only some of which was in his head.
He stumbled to the door and released the charms, snarling: “Bitch, you’d better be on your knees begging forgiveness!”
Damocles Belby was not amused. “What the ruddy hell are you doing, Malfoy! He bellowed as loudly as any drill sergeant. Draco clenched his eyes in agony and clapped his hands ineffectively to his ears.
Belby pretended to not notice as he harangued his wayward student at the top of his rather considerable range, for the next half hour, covering such topics as wanton drunkenness, slothfulness, general disreptitude, lack of cleanliness, culture and hygiene, as well as his violation of school regulations as specifically set forth, and violation of his personal orders that all liquor was to be confiscated. As a passing note he looked at the bottle and said: “I’m absolutely disgusted with you, Draco! That firewhiskey was a hundred years old…and you’ve been swilling it like a Knockturn Alley sot. Your father would be ashamed.”
Finally, he allowed Draco to drink the goblet of hangover potion, deducted one hundred points and assigned ten more detentions…with Filch.
Draco wanted to cry.
As the hangover potion took effect, Draco found himself quite hungry.
Smelling himself, he knew he desperately needed a bath before appearing in public. He also knew that by the time he was done, lunch would also be done. He knew he could nip into the kitchens at any time, as the vermin there would be only too happy to serve him whatever he wanted, but for the time the chocolates someone has so thoughtfully provided would serve.
Stripping off his clothing, he wrapped his fuzzy white robe around himself and headed through the secret passageway to the prefects bath, grabbing the box of candies on his way out.
After dinner, Harry held the combined party for the January birthdays. The house elves made the giant cake and all the Jedi students sang the birthday song and made the recipients laugh or blush with various silly or outrageous gifts.
Dora Carey, Owen Cauldwell, Colin Creevy, Anthony Goldstein, Dwight Hindley, and Roan Stewart had a blast.
Harry excused himself from the party before it wound down, as he had a certain Master Auror to speak to.
Moody was waiting. Dobby had popped him into Harry’s office at precisely eight, and vanished. Harry arrived two minutes later.
The second Harry arrived, Moody whipped out his wand and snarled: “Prove you’re who you appear to be!”
A swift draw and Harry’s lightsaber flashed to life. “Mister Gridley, you may fire when ready!”
Moody chuckled and sheathed his wand. “Having seen what you lot can do with those things, I don’t think I will.”
Harry laughed and shut down his lightsaber. “Have a drink?” He picked up a bottle and two short glasses.
“After all the time you’ve known me, you should know I never drink anything I haven’t personally verified!”
“Too bad. It’s eighty six year old Glenlivet.” Harry wheedled as he poured himself a shot of the smooth whiskey, and sat in a comfortable chair. Sipping the smooth whiskey, he nearly died suppressing his laughter as he watched Moody’s mental debate.
And what a debate it was! Within Moody’s mind, he was facing a battle he’d rarely had to face. On the one side, his oft-shouted motto was ‘constant vigilance’ but on the other, this was 86-year-old single malt from the finest distillery in the world!
The battle went on for long minutes before Moody finally broke. “All right, you evil bastard, I’ll take one, but if you’ve poisoned me, I’ll be haunting you until you die!”
Harry barked out another laugh and poured a stiff three fingers for the older man.
Seated and sipping, they enjoyed the mellow liquor.
After a time, Moody broke the silence. “You wanted to talk, so talk.”
Harry sighed. “I need some answers.”
“What’re the questions?”
“Couple weeks ago, I was talking to Arabella Figg.”
“So! You’re the one who snatched her! Albus is frantic!”
“Yeah. Frantic.” Harry growled. “I’m willing to bet he’s upset someone else got to her before he could.”
“What do you mean, boy!”
“I grabbed Arabella, the Longbottoms and Sybill Trelawney. They’re all here in the castle. Trelawney was doped to the gills on Draught of Living Death. She was nearly dead, in fact, because nobody had fed her! He had her locked away in her chambers. The elves were told to keep her clean, but he said nothing about feeding her. When she got here, she was severely dehydrated and malnourished to the point of starvation. She was also under more than a hundred different compulsions, including a dozen that are blood based. Most of them have been dispelled, but since I don’t have the blood that was taken, I can’t do anything about those. The Longbottoms were being minded, yes, but that’s about all. Nothing was being done to reverse or even study their condition, so I asked Augusta to take them out of St. Mungo’s. If nothing else, my healers might be able to find ways to reverse some part of the damage…we don’t know. It might be too late already. As for Arabella, she knows how I was treated by the Dursleys. I suspect that Dumbledore considers her a loose end, now that he’s lost his hold on me. Given what he’s done, and tried to do in the past, I believe he’d think nothing of cutting that thread.”
Moody thought hard about the inconsistent decisions Dumbledore had made, and sipped his whiskey. “Yeah. I reckon you’re right. He’s been doing a lot of things over the past few years that are really…off.”
“Augusta told me, that you told her Arabella had died in a Death Eater attack the day after I sent Voldemort on holiday. When I was little, she told me that all her kids had been killed in the war, but we met one of her grandsons at Kings Cross, the day we told Vernon to shove off, remember, the constable named Tisdale. I’m willing to bet it was on Dumbledore’s orders, but I’d like to know why.”
“Ah, that’s actually one thing I agree with him on.” Moody spoke up. “When he placed you with them muggles, he spread the news about Arabella. He wanted her to keep a lookout on you, and figured it was better she was thought dead. That way, no one would be looking for her.”
“OK, I can see that. But let’s carry that to its most logical conclusion. If people thought she was already dead…”
Moody picked up on it immediately. He didn’t like it, but he could see it. “If they thought she was already dead, making it true wouldn’t make much difference. Boy, you’re almost as bad as me!” He grinned his frightening grin. Harry returned it and lifted his glass in salute. “Thank you. I’ll take that in the spirit you intended.”
They both sipped their whiskey and thought disturbing thoughts, until Harry spoke again.
“I’m going to need to rely on you for intelligence where Dumbledore is concerned. I already have a very effective cadre of spies, but you have an in-depth knowledge of him, and possibly his thought processes, that goes far beyond mere facts. Before you cite privacy concerns and job issues, Amelia and I already have an agreement on this sort of thing. She’s agreed to help me in any way possible to eliminate both dark lords. As for privacy, Dumbledore has invaded the privacy of nearly every magical being in Britain and probably more than a few on the continent, while at the same time keeping everything he learns to himself. Sharing information is anathema to him. You know as well as I do that knowledge is power. He has no problem using others to gain information, but he never tells anybody a bloody thing until it’s far too late to do any good. For instance, if he’d shared the fact that Snape was a Death Eater, for nearly four years before Voldemort attacked me, something he was well aware of, I might add, how many of the order members would have died? Have you ever noticed how often people Snape doesn’t like tend to end up dead? On a personal note, he has known that prophesy since before I was born. He knows it, because he made it up! It was just a handful of words he Imperiused Trelawney into spewing when he knew Snivellus would be outside that room, with his ear to the door. He set up my parents…and me, to be killed so he could get rid of the little psychopath he created, and still keep his hands clean. No. I have no problem with poking into his business.”
“You really think Albus is a dark lord?”
“I do. Look at all the things he’s done over the past hundred years. Even if you discount what he’s done to me, think of all the laws he’s violated in the name of the ‘greater good’…the greater good, he and his best mate Grindelwald, decided was best for all mankind. Think of all the laws he’s pushed through, that restrict the rights of everybody but the elitist purebloods. Look at the laws he’s written that make it impossible for mugglebornes to get a job in the British wizarding world. Look all the courses he’s dropped at Hogwarts, to make it easier for those same…magically weaker inbreds, to attain the high marks they need to show that they’re ‘better than any one else’. Look at all the incompetent teachers he’s hired. Snape comes to mind. He may be a potions master, but he’s absolutely shit as a teacher. A teacher must want to impart knowledge. Snape only wants to impart knowledge to his Slytherins, and then, only to those Slytherins who agree with Voldemort’s ideals.”
Moody nodded, thinking hard. Yes, Dumbledore had vouched for Snape, but he’d never trusted the greasy bigot.
“There hasn’t been a decent DADA teacher in thirty years…excepting Remus and…well, Barry Crouch Jr.”
“What?” Moody almost dropped the whiskey he was sipping.
“Hold on there.” Harry raised his hand to still Moody’s protest. “Lemmee explain. As much as he was a Death Eater scumbag, he was an excellent teacher. I learned more under his instruction, than I did under any other teacher…even Remus, I hate to say. He knew what he was doing and he had he ability to pass that knowledge along. That’s what makes a teacher. Good or bad, light or dark, he was a great teacher.”
“Hmmmph!” Moody didn’t like it. That filth had locked him in his trunk for the better part of a year and posed as him during the Triwizard Tournament, and this young man was calling him an excellent teacher!
Harry interrupted his musings.
“Look at all the times Dumbledore’s refused to do his job as head of the Wizengamot, by requiring Veritaserum testimony in court. The stuff is expensive to brew, but it’s not that bad. Polyjuice costs more. In fact, Snape carries a bottle of it wherever he goes. Awfully convenient, that.
How many Death Eaters got off because he wouldn’t allow its use? Why did Sirius go to Azkaban without trial when every Death Eater, even those caught in the act, were given one? His refusal to use every means at his disposal to find the truth, is what allowed the richest of them to plead Imperius and feed a bag of gold to Minister Bagnold, and allowed Sirius to rot for twelve years. If he’d allowed Veritaserum, there would have been several dozen fewer Death Eaters in society and several dozen more having a kip in Azkaban…and my innocent godfather needn’t have spent those years there.
This brings up another question. Why did he recuse himself from the Death Eater trials when he was the head of the council?”
“How d’you know that?”
“I took a dip into his pensieve in my fourth year. He probably set it up; to make me trust him…or maybe Snape…like that’s ever gonna happen! But I watched the trials of Igor Karkaroff, Barty Crouch and the Lestranges. You were hacked off that Crouch Sr. was going to do a deal with Karkaroff, if he got enough names, considering you’d spent six months tracking him down, and you mentioned that when Rosier bought it, he took a bit of you with him.” Harry pointed to his nose.
“Well, Damn! So I did!” Moody was amazed at the boy’s ability to put things together. The kid would make a fine Auror.
“OK. Tell me what you think.”
Harry went on to describe the inconsistent decisions Dumbledore had made and their effects on the wizard populating, his constant manipulations from the shadows, the biased and unjust laws he’d written that restricted everyone but the purebloods…and the Voldemort aligned purebloods especially, all, while maintaining the image of ‘kindly old grandfather’.
Moody was impressed. He’d seen some of what Harry was describing but he’d never put it all together. Dumbledore had amassed a considerable power-base including some of the darkest wizards in Britain, all the while pretending to be the icon of the light, and nobody had noticed.
He was, quite frankly, ashamed of himself.
On the fifteenth, Harry and Hermione had just entered the room from their after-run shower, when Dobby knocked. At Harry’s call of: “enter” he escorted Tootles into the room. Dobby handed them each a mug of tea and announced: “Harry, Potter, Tootles has a message from Madam Amelia Bones.”
Harry sipped the tea before speaking. “Hello, Tootles. What’s the message?” Hermione was as interested.
Tootles stepped forward and squeaked: “Madam Amelia Bones is wanting to be speaking with Lord Gryffindor at her home. She is saying this is most important and could well provide a step toward inter…interasty…dealing with the muggles.”
“Interacting?” Hermione asked. Tootles nodded briskly.
Harry smiled, and asked: “Would you mind waiting while we get dressed?”
“Certainly, Harry Potter!” The two elves left the room so Harry and Hermione could dress.
Once ready, Harry turned to Hermione and asked: “Would you like to come with?”
“Ooh, Harry! You naughty boy!” Hermione gasped with a scandalized air.
“I mean come with me to Amelia’s house, you filthy-minded little sexpot” Harry shot back. He truly loved Hermione’s playful side.
“Pot and kettle territory there mister ‘I-can-go-seven-times-every-night-and-twelve-on-Sundays!’ Shall we? Hermione kissed him softly. Harry swore as he felt himself begin to harden. He kissed her back, and then called out: “Dobby!”
They appeared in the foyer of the Bones home, to find Amelia, Carolyn, Moody, and Shacklebolt there already. All three had their wands out and ready to cast.
“Tell me something only I would know!” She ordered.
Harry smirked and sang: “Here I come to save the day!” Amelia blushed.
Hermione turned to him in shock. “You’re joking!”
“It worked. They were distracted and Amelia survived.”
“That I did. Welcome to my home.” Amelia sheathed her wand and led the group to the table.
“May this visit be more peaceful than the last time I was here.” Harry snarked. Amelia grinned and said: “Indeed.”
Once they had seated themselves, she poured tea for them. Of course, Moody refused to touch his until everybody else had sipped.
Just for fun, Harry waited until he was drinking, to say: “I understand you can poison someone now by putting the poison on the rim of a teacup."
Moody’s spit-take was remarkable.
Harry fell over laughing and Hermione swatted him. “Harry!” She giggled. “Behave yourself!” Carolyn also laughed herself to tears. Moody’s: “Shaddap, you!” went unheard.
Amelia rolled her eyes, and Shack fought his laughter so hard, he looked like he was having a seizure. Tootles had vanished the mess within seconds and provided Alastor with a fresh teacup.
“I’m sorry, Alastor.” Harry chuckled. “Constant vigilance, you know.”
“I’m gonna get you for this, boy!” Moody growled, then poured another cup.
Amelia had Tootles serve breakfast and then began to speak.
“Harry, by thwarting the Death Eater attack in December, your cousin did the wizarding…and the mundane world, a great service. When Her Majesty read my report of the attack on the solstice, she called me in into explain. I was able to tell her that due to your cousin’s actions, the casualties had been very light, where they could have been catastrophic. When she asked me why, I told her about Dudley and what he did that night. She immediately recommended he be commended for his bravery. She wants to award him the Victoria Cross.”
“I thought that was only for the military.” Hermione threw in.
“There are exceptions. As long as it’s ‘conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy’ it can be awarded to civilians.
I understand it will be a while until that’s approved, so I pushed through the Order of Merlin, first class, for his actions that night. I’d like to present the award as soon as I can.”
“Oh the Dursleys are just gonna love that!” Harry laughed. Carolyn agreed with an evil grin.
“Won’t the Death Eaters be aware of the presentation?” Hermione asked.
“If it were to be announced, yes, but I would like to make a private presentation as soon as possible, to let him know his actions are greatly appreciated. We’ll make the public one when this is all over.”
“Well, I’m going to be busy until the twenty second.” Harry interjected. “We’re taking some of the students out today on a survival training exercise. We won’t be back until then.”
“All right. We’ll make it for then. Evening?”
“Yeah, that’s good for me.”
They finalized the details but Harry suggested the financial benefit of fifty thousand Galleons, that accompanied the Order of Merlin, not be mentioned, or Vernon would have it in a heartbeat.
Bones agreed and they bade each other good-bye.
Dobby popped them back into their room, and anyone who noticed their absence, would think they were simply enjoying their ‘alone time’.
That afternoon, Harry gathered the second group of students and, as he had done nine days before, led them on a nice, brisk run…into the forest. Stopping some five miles from the castle, but in the opposite direction as the first time, Harry called their attention and began to give them the same instruction as before. Finding the proper materials for bows and making the fire went as swiftly, but here, there was no stream to fish in. Hermione still taught the making of nets, and had the students make ten yards of coiled line for when they did have the chance to fish.
Mackenzie showed them how to create warm(ish) shelters and over the next week, they learned how to hunt and trap, find water and prepare meat and whatever vegetables were available. Mostly wild onions, turnips and rutabagas, snow peas, spinach and sprouts. Though most disliked sprouts, they were amazed at how little they cared after a long day of training in the snow.
As he had with the last class, Harry led them in their physical exercises, and instructed them in their lightsaber katas, going through an additional ten steps in Makashi.
Ron wasn’t there, as he was still studying Shii-Cho, and couldn’t spare the time, and Luna was diligently providing him the personal instruction he needed.
16th January, Ministry of Magic:
Constance Hammer was not happy. She’d investigated Harry’s question thoroughly and discovered the men responsible for the care and feeding of the soulless wretch named Stan Shunpike, on Azkaban Island, had simply tossed the food parcels onto the dock and sped away. She also discovered they’d make bets on how long it would take Stan, or the rats and gulls to recover the food, and which would get there first.
Not happy at all.
She also discovered that the pureblood employment act was still on the books. It was due to come up for repeal later this year, but it still held sway.
No, she was most unhappy.
When she voiced her feelings to her mentor and best friend, Amelia listened quietly. When she was done, Bones, said: “So, what to do about it. We cannot fire them…just yet.”
“Yeah…” Connie snarled. “That bloody pureblood employment law.”
“Well, the law says any pureblood will have a ministry job for as long as one wants, but as I see it, there’s nothing in the law that says ‘where’ one is employed in the ministry.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re a smart girl.” Said Amelia with a nasty smirk. “You’ll figure it out.”
Knowing she wouldn’t get another word from her evil friend, Connie decided to examine that particular law…closely.
Four hours later, she returned to the Minister’s office with a grin fit to split her face. Amelia was waiting with a bottle of ‘good’ brandy.
“Worked it out, have you?”
“Oh yes!” Connie returned, savagely.
“So, what have you decided?”
“Well, since Azkaban has been abandoned for the time being, and the last living human being there has been dead since the end of September, there’s been no reason to have supply runs anymore. These men have been sitting on their arses for the past four months drawing their pay and nothing more!”
“I say reassign them.”
“Well, we’re fully manned. A few departments are over-manned, except maybe the DMLE, but none of them are close to qualified for that. Then there’s Arthur Weasley’s new department. He’d accept them, if he had to, but he’d prefer people who actually have an interest in doing their jobs, and those three…don’t. That means we have to invent some new positions.”
“All right. What did you have in mind?”
“We need a position that’s clearly visible, and yet completely unnecessary. More, it has to be plainly seen by the average wizard, as being completely unnecessary.”
“Perfect. Any ideas?”
“Wasn’t there a time some hundreds of years ago when people who entered the ministry had to be counted?”
“Yes there was. That was stopped when the Floo was introduced. Now Erik Munch at the wand-weigh desk does that.
“We can re-introduce it as a ‘special security measure’. These idiots will have to count all the people entering and leaving the ministry through the floo, and just to keep their lives busy, only one per shift. There are three of them, and there are three shifts, so it works out…and it will pay about half their current wages.”
“Excellent. And since there are ten incoming floos and the same number outgoing, they’ll be kept rather busy.”
“We can also rotate their shifts, say…every three weeks, so they don’t get complacent.”
Amelia smiled in a manner that would have frightened any vampire.
“Let’s make it even more embarrassing. Let’s make Eric their boss.”
Both ladies laughed loudly enough that the junior assistant to the senior undersecretary, who ‘just happened to be passing’, poked his head in to find the Minister and Hammer drinking on duty! He cleared his throat officiously and asked if anything was wrong.
This did not go over well with Amelia, as Percy had been a major pain in her arse from the first day he arrived at the ministry.
“Wetherby, the next time you invade the privacy of the Minister’s office, I will personally have you transferred to sewage disposal, is that quite clear?” Her voce was friendly but her tone was anything but!
A heavy hand clamped down on Percy’s neck, as Amelia’s secretary, Auror Aaron Thompson, arrived. He ‘escorted’ the red headed twit to the door and told him to make an appointment the next time.
Returning to the minister’s door, he knocked and began to apologize. It seemed that Rufus Scrimgeour had called him personally, telling him that he had some urgent questions that apparently only Thompson could answer.
“Don’t worry, Thompson. We were just deciding how to deal with some incompetents. I suppose I should have expected something like this. Rufus is a ranking member and so, does have a conditional authority over you, however, the next time that man…or anybody else, for that matter, wants you to leave your post even for a minute, tell him to go through channels. If they have any heartburn over it, I’ll deal with it.”
“As you wish, Ma’am, and thank you.” Thompson replied, and returned to his desk.
That afternoon, Constance Hammer took a great deal of pleasure, as her boss called the three miscreants in and with a face filled with sorrow, handed them the bad news. Their positions were no longer necessary as the island fortress had been abandoned, and the Wizengamot had asked why the job of feeding non-existent people on an island that was no longer used, was still part of the ministry’s occupational chart. She quickly assured them that they could still have jobs, as required by the ‘pureblood preferential employment law, but unfortunately, the only jobs available were the recently created ‘special security’ positions, where they would have to physically count every single person who entered or left the ministry atrium every shift, and accurately report the numbers to their new supervisor…Eric Munch.
All three understood that they were being given a chance to sever ties with the ministry, but since none of them had any marketable skills, having preferred to rely on their blood status and political connections, rather than actually study, they were pretty well screwed.
On the afternoon of the twenty-second, Harry brought his students back to the castle, and instructed them to get a shower and be ready the next day for a return to their training schedule.
Hermione took his hand and led him to their own quarters where she joined him in the shower. And there, and later in their bed, she showed him just how much she missed his…‘attentions’.
Voldemort screamed in agony as, for the first time in almost a week, he felt the unwanted emotions surging through the remains of his connection to Harry. He anxiously grabbed the little brown bottle, tipped it to his lips, and sucked the potion down. It didn’t help. The agony was still there. He tried to get more out of the bottle, but it was charmed against letting any more go. Furious, he threw the bottle across the room where it shattered against the heavy stone wall.
Nagini watched her bonded with a great deal of fear. He was falling into the rage again. She knew that when he was like this, it was best to be elsewhere.
She almost made it to her door when he spotted her.
“Nagini!” He bellowed, as he saw her leaving. He held his head against the pain and added in a lower, almost pleasant voice: “Come to me, my pet!”
If snakes could swear, Nagini would have. She slowly turned and reluctantly made her way across the parquet to Voldemort’s throne.
At seven that evening, Harry stood before the last door on Earth he ever wanted to pass through, and with a gentle nudge of the force, unlocked it. The door swung open, and he entered, followed by Carolyn, Amelia Bones, and her personal guard, Connie Hammer and Michael Wood. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Marissa Gentry, her parents, and Hermione came in behind them.
Vernon and Petunia surged to their feet at the intrusion. Dudley also rose to defend his home, but when he saw Harry and the cute brunette standing next to Carolyn, wearing those Jedi outfits, he decided to wait.
“Good evening, Dursleys!” Carolyn chirped. Vernon immediately began to rant about freaks invading his home, until he saw Harry and Hermione standing there. “You!” He bellowed, balling up his fists and stomping forward to thrash the worthless freak!
A snap hiss and a humming golden blade appeared before him, making his eyes cross. He could feel the heat coming off the energy blade.
His nose itched.
Hermione snarled: “Think twice, Dursley. I already don’t like you!” Vernon recognized the threat in her voice and the weapon in her hand, and for the first time in his life, did the smart thing. He backed away.
Having seen what the blades could do, Dudley snickered quietly…glad he hadn’t done anything stupid.
Hermione’s blade vanished with its usual hiss. Harry just stood where he’d been, with his hands clasped innocently together at his waist.
Petunia took this as an invitation to open her mouth, and like her husband had before, began to spout her vitriol.
Tiring quickly of the abuse, Carolyn cast a silencing charm over the vindictive harpy.
Noticing Marissa, and her parents, Dudley crossed the room to greet them.
“Now I understand.” Marissa whispered. Dudley nodded sadly
“Thank you, Ms. Chapman.” Amelia sighed in relief, then asked: “Lord Gryffindor, you had to live through this?”
“Madam Bones, this is the least of what I had to deal with! Don’t worry though. I have the situation well in hand.”
Amelia understood the nature of his control. She wanted nothing more than to skin the elder Dursleys alive for harming a child, but as Harry had already arranged the punishments, she was bound to abide by those punishments.
That didn’t mean she had to like it.
When Vernon wound down, she had Carolyn cancel her silencing charm.
“Mister Dursley, now that you’ve had your rant, I suggest you keep your bloody mouth shut. We will only be here for a short time. Surely you can be civil for that long.”
Vernon was about to launch into another rant, when Petunia seeing the five wands and a lightsaber in hand, whispered something into his ear. He paled and shut his mouth.
“Thank you, Mrs. Dursley. I am Amelia Bones, the British Minister for Magic. I hold the same basic position under the Prime Minister as the Home Secretary, but for the magical community of Great Britain.
I’m actually here to present an award…no, not to you. As far as I am concerned, the two of you should be hanged. This award is for Dudley.”
“Me?” Dudley was more than shocked. Harry was grinning and Marissa was ecstatic.
“Yes you.” Amelia unrolled a scroll of parchment and began to read.
“Dudley Malcolm Dursley, as Minister of Magic, and under the auspices of Her Majesty the Queen, I am most proud to present you with the Order of Merlin, first class, for conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy, and self-sacrifice far above and beyond the call. Your actions on 21 December, saved the lives of nearly eight hundred people and eliminated five extremely dangerous terrorists, known as ‘Death Eaters’. Your actions also provided time for the Ministry of Magic’s, Rapid Response Aurors to arrive, which resulted in another six dead terrorists. This is only the third time in the past thousand years this award has been given to a non-magical recipient. The Queen has also recommended the Victoria Cross for the same actions. That will take time to process, but as I understand, the presentation ceremony will take place in late June or early July, as well as a formal presentation of the Order of Merlin.” She pinned the medal on Dudley’s shirt and shook his hand. Carolyn snapped some photos and Harry ginned widely as he also shook his cousin’s hand. Vernon was nearly apoplectic at his son being involved in any manner with the 'freaks'. Petunia turned white and glared at all and sundry.
Marissa squealed and flung herself into Dudley’s arms to collect another kiss.
Before he left, Harry handed Dudley, Marissa and her parents, golden necklaces bearing round pendants, that were inscribed with a cute little house.
“Keep these on you at all times. In case you need to escape, just grip in and say ‘sanctuary”. This will transport you to my house in London. One of my house elves will meet you, and I’ll be contacted.”
To Petunia and Vernon, he added: “I don’t like you, but if it’s to keep you alive, I’ll give you the same. Just grip it and say ‘Sanctuary’.”
“We want nothing from you, freak!” Vernon bellowed. Petunia was as derisive but Harry saw the worry in her eyes. Outside the house he handed two more of the necklaces to Dudley.
“If you can convince them to use these, please do. The Death Eaters are nothing to sneeze at. You found that out for yourself.”
“Thanks, Harry. I’ll try.”
“That’s all anyone can do.”
That evening in bed, Hermione asked: “Why did you give them the portkeys?”
“They’re my mother’s sister and her family.”
“But they hate you!”
“Yes they do, but I was wondering…how much of that hate is theirs, and how much comes from another source?”
“What do you mean?”
“Carolyn told me about Dudley’s trial.”
“I thought the records of juveniles are sealed.”
“In the muggle world, they are. But in the wizarding world is a different story. Since I took responsibility for their lives, by interfering in their trials, rebuilding their house and establishing their legal boundaries, I became their patron. They are under the protection of houses Potter, Black and Gryffindor.
As the head of his house, I am both entitled, and have a need to know. Sorta like being a parent when your kid is arrested. Anyway, during his talk, he said when we were under attack from the dementors, he stumbled and hit his face pretty hard against the wall. His filling came out. A couple days later, he'd decided he had been really stupid and began to turn himself around. When he went to Smeltings last year, he contacted the counselor and together with a dietitian and a good coach, he dropped a bunch of weight and really started to work on his attitude. His grades have improved lots and with the gang in jail, he’s a lot nicer than he used to be. Hell, he’s even got a girlfriend.”
“OK, I can see it. But why your aunt and uncle?”
“Remember I mentioned his filling?”
“What if there was a compulsion on that filling?”
“Oh my God!”
“Mmmhmm.” Harry nodded. “Tomorrow I’m going to ask Carolyn to do some digging. I want her to find out if there are compulsions on either Vernon or Petunia that enhance their hatred for me. It can’t be all induced, they’re both far too skilled in the arts of…arseholery….” Hermione giggled at his newly coined word. “…for it to be wholly the result of a compulsion, but if he placed a compulsion to enhance their hatred, it would fit.”
On the twenty third, Harry stepped up onto the stage and called: “May I have your attention?” As the students turned their eyes to him, he continued.
“As all of you are qualified in Shii-Cho and have progressed satisfactorily in Makashi, It’s time to start sparring.”
A great cheer met his words as the assembled students processed his words.
“We will set up a schedule for sparring, both in groups and as individuals. While you are sparring, you will be in the spotlight. Each time you spar, you will be under observation by the entire group. They will all critique your match.” Harry stopped a moment before adding: “For those who dislike the spotlight, that’s too damn bad. I’ll not have you die, because you want to remain invisible.”
Ginny and Orla drew the first lots. Both were restricted to Shii-Cho, and both were, as Oliver once said: “Wicked fast and damn near impossible to see.”
Orla won that first match, and Ginny won the follow-up. Ginny took the third, with Orla winning the fourth and fifth. By his observation, both were doing exceptionally in Makashi, and Harry wondered if he should place them in an advanced class.
Over the next few hours, Harry observed his students as they sparred. Fred and George were too well matched for either of them to make much headway. In both of their duels Harry had to call it a draw.
The same held true for the Montgomery twins, but surprisingly not for the Patils. Parvati was more aggressive, while Padma was more methodical. Both had their advantages and both could be defeated.
By the end of the day, Harry had a rough idea of his students’ capabilities. There were a few he was concerned about, Lavender Brown being the most prominent among them. She had a problem, and he thought he knew what it was. A couple others, had the same problem but not to the same degree as her. He made a note to call her into the office after the next day’s training.
He stood on the stage once more and announced: “Tomorrow, we will begin melee practice. For now, good work, go get some food.”
The next morning after physical training, Harry had the students divide into four groups. He, Hermione and Neville would be working with two, while Mackenzie, Remus and Tonks would handle the others.
“All right! Listen up! There’s not enough room in here for thirty lightsabers, so everyone outside!”
With some lighthearted grousing, they followed him into the snowy lawn. Mackenzie took his half around to the back of the castle.
Harry had them form up into two groups each facing each other. “This is the first form we’ll be using. I want you all to learn at least five different ways to fight in a melee without getting hurt. Those ways are rank to rank, like you are now. Circle outside, circle inside, phalanx and pincer. The first style is simply to meet each other in two opposing lines and attempt to break through the opposing line.
Circle; outer, is to fight while surrounding a group of enemies. This is most likely what you will doing during the battle against the Death Eaters.
Circle’ inner is basically the opposite. A fight against an encircling enemy. This is normally not a position you want to be in, but here’s where your training comes into play.
The phalanx is a large group of soldiers in formation all working in concert. It is thought to have been invented by the Sumerians almost five thousand years ago and has been in use, in one form or another, ever since.
There are two main types of phalanx…the block and the wedge. Here, we will study the wedge.
This wedge shape, is designed to plow through an enemy group sowing disruption and confusion all the way, half of the people fight, half shield. The disadvantage here is that once you’ve passed through the enemy formation they can regroup around you and as I just said, that’s a position you don’t want to be in.
And finally, we have pincer.
Pincer is a method of using the enemy’s actions against them. Basically a pincer is where you locate a spot where you have the advantage, divide your forces into groups and some of you hide there, or circle around the enemy formation. One of the groups, usually the smallest draws the enemy into a trap. When the trap is spring, the other group or groups, surrounds the enemy, cutting off reinforcement and becoming a ‘circle; outer’. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method and we will be covering those as we go along. For now, though, I just want to teach you the basics of close-quarter sword-fighting.
To start with, we’ll be facing each other rank to rank. As we go on, we’ll be learning the other forms and we’ll be practicing them all the time. As soon as I am positive you lot won’t cut each other in half, I’m going to ask some friends I know, to come in here and shoot at you!”
A few of the students snickered at this, but like Harry had observed at a welcoming feast so long before, this was deadly serious business.
For the next five hours Harry had them moving in formation with lightsabers drawn, and lit. The last hour, following a double check of the blades, was a free-for-all with the intention of breaking through the opposing line. Many of the students were scored that day.
The students limped painfully into the dining hall to sit uncomfortably to supper.
Harry stood and called out. “You lot feel like hell don’t you?”
Muttered curses and groans met his ears.
“Well, you shouldn’t. Each of you did very well. Today you’ve all begun something new, and you’ve all learned from it. Tomorrow, we return to one-on-one combat. The day after that, we move to circle’s inner and outer with each group taking turns in the barrel. For those who need it, there’s burn salve on your beds. If you need something more, Healers Merrifield and Jacoby are standing by in the infirmary. If you’re hurt, don’t keep it to yourself!
A note of warning, to those who got burned, either by your own blades, or your neighbor's, this is why I decided so long ago, to limit your lightsabers to sparring power. Any questions?”
There were none. The weary and hurting students ate, and then shuffled off to their dorms to treat their burns, before turning in for a well deserved rest.
A quick discussion with Mackenzie and they decided the phalanx and the pincer wouldn’t be needed for the purpose of fighting the Death Eaters. Since Harry intended the final battle to be a single, massive strike with all the Deez involved, they’d focus on inner and outer circles, because in the end it would be one or the other formation they’d meet.
Lavender was well-skilled, in Shii-Cho and reasonably so in Makashi, but she didn’t have the warrior’s instinct. On the twenty-fourth, after watching her so carefully, especially during the limited melee practice, he made his decision. Harry asked Winky to deliver a note asking her to come to his office.
Following her shower and dressing, she walked to Harry’s office. There, she saw Harry and Hermione sitting in some comfortable leather chairs, with a third one ready for her. On the table between them was a porcelain tea service.
Harry stood as she entered and he asked her to have a seat. Once she was seated, he poured the tea. Lavender gingerly picked up her cup but her nerves showed.
“Relax, Lav. We won’t hurt you. I promise!”
Lavender sighed with relief.
“Still, we have a problem.”
“I know, Harry.” She sighed. “I’ve tried, really I have, but I just…cant…”
“Harry…I can’t kill. I just can’t. It’s…it’s wrong. To go out with the intention of killing someone is just…is just…wrong.” Lavender looked devastated at letting her friend down, frightened that he’d hate her, and hopeful that he’d understand.
“Aah.” He muttered. He’d suspected something of the sort.
“OK. Are you willing to do something else?”
“Like what?” Lavender jumped at the chance to help, but not have to kill.
“We have supply and logistics support already. The elves take care of the basic needs…food, laundry and the like, but we need something else. We need healers. I understand you were to apprentice under Madam Pomfrey?”
“Yes. After we finished Hogwarts. She says I have a real gift for healing. I’m not just a fashion driven airhead.”
“Good. And I never thought you were.” Hermione barely covered her snort. Harry glared at her. Fortunately, Lavender missed the byplay.
Harry made his decision. “I’ll transfer you to medical, and ask Healer Jacoby to begin your apprenticeship now.”
“Thank you, Harry.” Lavender’s smile lit the room. Then she lifted her lightsaber and asked: “Ummm…what about this?”
“You will keep that with you. You will also continue to learn the forms.”
“But if I can’t kill…”
“Lavender…” Hermione interjected. “You just said you couldn’t go out with the intention to kill. But, if you were all that stood between a…well, let’s say if a Death Eater got into the compound, could you defend your own life, or someone else’s?”
“Huh?” Lavender was confused by the segue.
“Lav, what is a Death Eater?” Harry asked, thankful for Hermione’s suggestion. He really didn’t want Lavender to lose out on the training they were all getting.
“Ummm, they’re You-Know-Who’s shock troops. They…”
“No. I mean deep down what is a Death Eater…and stop calling him by that ridiculous name! If you can’t force yourself to say Voldemort, call him Tom Riddle. That’s the name he was born to.”
“Lavender, A Death Eater is a terrorist. He’s a coward who hides behind a mask. At heart, all the Deez are criminals. They are rapists, torturers and murderers. That’s actually how they ‘earn the right’ to have Voldemort brand them like livestock. They rape, torture and murder a person, usually a muggle, usually female, and usually very young, using all three of the unforgivables. They do it in front of Ol’ Voldy so he can get his jollies. Now, let’s say a Death Eater got into the compound, and you have, say, Orla, Natalie or Romilda in your ward, could you defend against him?”
Lavender’s eyes hardened at the thought of a Death Eater raping…or worse, one or more of her charges. “Yes.” She growled.
“Good.” Harry smiled. “Keep the lightsaber, and keep up the practice. You may never need it, but best to be prepared if you do.”
On the thirtieth, Hermione entered the lab, and found Harry bent over his electron microscope. Attached to the device, was a large cube-shaped device with a protruding keyboard, but without any discernable openings.
“Hey Harry.” She chirped. “What are you up to?
“Preparing to take down a dark lord.” He muttered as he carefully adjusted a knob on his eyepieces.
“Ummm, Harry, I thought that was what we were doing.”
“The other dark lord.”
“Dumbledore. Now, hush.”
Hermione sat back and sipped Harry’s tea. She grimaced in distaste. It was cold.
Without leaving the eyepieces, he chuckled and whispered: “Are you a witch or not?”
“I’ll have you know Mister Potter, that I despise warmed over tea, thank you very much!”
Harry chuckled again and returned his full attention to his project. Tapping instructions into the keypad of the large machine.
Almost an hour later, he sat back and arched his spine. Hearing his bones crackle, Hermione stood and walked over to him. Resting her hands on his shoulders, she began to knead the heavy muscles there.
“Mmmm!” He groaned. “Ohgod! Ohyeah!” He twisted his head and shoulders from side to side, to allow her access to other muscles.
“So what is that?” She nudged his shoulder forward and massaged deeper. He understood she was pointing to the microscope-machine combination.
“Nanites?” The kneading hands broke away. “Harry, nanites are just science fiction…” She flushed in realization as she said it.
Harry looked up at her with shocked disbelief.
Mortified, she stammered. “I understand, I’m sorry.”
His disbelief turned to humour, and he smirked. “OK, Now tell me what I was about to say.”
Hermione sighed in frustration. “You were about to say: “Hermione, the force is also science faction.”
“Correct.” Harry smirked, earning him a glare. “You know I am in possession of a great deal of information I wouldn’t otherwise have. Right?”
“Well, I’ve been going through this information whenever I could. Now that the students are as far along in their training, as they are, I can look through more. As it is, a few months ago, I was looking through some memories Yoda had given me, of a place called Kamino…I think. It turns out the Kaminoii or Kaminoans, if that’s what they’re called, were cloners or clone-masters …I’m not really certain which. Both terms seem to be used interchangeably. Either way, they clone people as troops for armies. Anyway, they have developed a number of technologies to enhance or restrict biological abilities. Yoda studied several of those techniques in order to better understand the force, and how some people can use it, and some can’t.”
“And?” Hermione, avid purveyor of all knowledge, esoteric and arcane, was intrigued.
“Hermione, magic is a biological ability. If it’s treated like a disease, it can be eliminated like one.”
The room grew deathly quiet as Hermione immediately processed what Harry had said.
“Harry, that’s frightening.” She was as serious as a heart attack. “If you can manufacture nanites that will hunt down the gene that allows us to use magic, you could easily destroy the magical world.”
“Yeah. I was afraid of that too, but that’s not my goal. Especially when you consider magic and the force could be close cousins. When I first got the idea I had Dobby collect a sample of Dumbledore’s blood. I put it into cold storage at first, but I didn’t know if I could keep it healthy until I could investigate this properly, so I’ve kept it in stasis until I had time to work on it. Now, I have the time. What I intend to do, is to create a serum of specifically programmed nanites, and introduce them into Dumbledore’s bloodstream. I’m tailoring this infection so it can only be used against him. When they’re there, they’ll hunt down and eat his ability to use magic. He’ll never be able to manipulate anybody, ever again.”
“You told Minerva you weren’t going to kill him.”
“And I won’t. All I’m doing is removing his ability to use magic. He’ll still have a bit left, so he won’t die from it’s loss, he just won’t have enough to use. Magically, he’ll be a squib.”
Sangs purs avant tous (Pure bloods before all.) I don’t speak French. Blame Bablefish!
Harry’s comment to Moody was a common misquote from Admiral Dewey to Captain Gridley on USS Olympia during the battle of Subic Bay. “You may fire when ready, Gridley” is the proper quote.
The first British medal to be created for bravery, the Victoria Cross ranks alongside the George Cross as the nation's highest award for gallantry.
It is awarded to civilians only in exceptional circumstances: "for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
I’d say Dudley’s actions fit the requirement.
50,000₲ = £958,500 or US$1,725,300
Warm(ish) shelters. No camp hut or lean-to is truly warm. It’s simply ‘less cold’.
I happen to like Brussels’s sprouts, and cannot understand why other people don’t.
Kaminoans: Harry isn’t playing with things he shouldn’t touch. Yoda’s memories would contain a great deal of information, on Nanites, as he was familiar with Kaminoans.
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