Chapter 15 - The Start of Yule
Professor McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, slowly looked about the table once more in mild disbelief. She had, over the years, come to realize that one had to suspend acertain level of belief when dealing with Harry Potter. The very fact that the boy, seemingly at the age of fifteen months, had not only defeated a Dark Lord but had also survived an Unforgiveable was usually good enough reason. The Professor had spent years in the young man's company though and had been privy to many of his adventures during the war. Few knew better than she just how surreal the man's life could be.
It was of no surprise for the elder witch to see Hermione Granger at the Potter residence as she herself had signed off on the paperwork. The greeting Minerva received from Luna Lovegood came as little surprise as well, being that Harry had removed the former Ravenclaw from school not all that long ago. The appearance of Andromeda Tonks caused the arching of a Scottish brow till she recalled that Andi was of the Black family and hence was related to Harry. The squirming toddler in her arms brought a smile to McGonagall's stern features.
Seeing Mary Macdonald brought back a flood of old memories for the Headmistress. Mary had been Lily Potter's, then Lily Evans, best friend while she attended Hogwarts. Minerva could well recall the escapades of a certain James Potter as he attempted to gain the young redhead's favor. Seeing Mary also brought a slight pain of loss for what had happened to the Potters and their son who was sitting at the head of the table with a warm smile on his face.
The entrance of the final two witches saw the Headmistress's brows receding into her hairline. She, like anyone who had attended Hogwarts, knew of the rivalry between her lions and the House of Slytherin which was why she was rather surprised. "Miss Davis, Miss Greengrass," said Minerva, greeting the young women.
"Headmistress," both women answered, pausing to give asmall curtsey before continuing on to their seats at the table.
"I am glad to see that the two of you are well," McGonagall told them. "I was a bit concerned when I didn't see you both at the start of term. Are you not planning on completing your N.E.W.T.s?"
"For reasons I would rather not go into, my father decided that I didn't need to return for my seventh year, Professor," Daphne replied as she waited for Harry to pull her seat out for her and then push it back in.
"The same for me except it was my mum that decided it would be a waste," Tracey offered as she scooted her chair in a bit after Harry had assisted her as well. The young woman's eyes followed Harry as he moved to the end of the table and took his own seat.
"Thankfully Harry has been sweet enough to see to it that we all can complete of schooling," Daphne added with a bright smile towards the wizard next to her as she laid her hand gently upon Harry's forearm and gave it a soft squeeze of gratitude.
"Yes, well, I couldn't see where it would hurt any," Harry said as all eyes turned towards him. "I needed to see that Luna finished her school as she is now my responsibility," he added as he squirmed a bit under the direct attention of everyone there.
"Which is why he hired me," Mary cut in with. "I had recently returned from across the pond where I had been teaching at Salem. Mr. Potter's offer was just too generous to pass up."
"And all of you live here?" McGonagall asked in disbelief.
"Harry is Teddy's godfather so I felt it was important that they spend time together," Andi explained. "I never expected him to offer us a place to stay though," she admitted with a tender smile towards the wizard at the other end of the table. "I think it has done wonders for Teddy to have another male around." It has done wonders for me as well, she thought before she could stop herself.
"You're family, Andi. You and Teddy are all I really have," Harry stated affectionately.
Hermione reached out and squeezed Harry's forearm where it rested near her on the table. "Not all you have, Harry. I may not be family but you'll always have me."
"And I would be truly lost without you, `Mione," Harry replied with a tender smile that had the witch's heart doing flips in her chest. Rather than try and deny the feelings she had, Hermione now welcomed them and hoped for them to grow.
"Well, we're pretty much family now," Luna quipped in with. "Father did name you my guardian so that means I am yours, Harry. Imay not be much-"
"You're far more than you think, Luna," Harry said, cutting off the witch before she could continue to belittle herself. It had long been a problem with the Ravenclaw witch, one which Harry thought was unwarranted. "We probably wouldn't have survived the Department of Mysteries without you. Then at Shell Cottage it was you and Hermione that saw me through that rough time and helped me burry Dobby. You've always been there for me Luna and that is something I shall never forget. Don't sell yourself short because others can't see the truly remarkable and beautiful witch that you are."
"Alright," Luna replied softly as a blush spread across her cheeks.
Daphne and Tracey exchanged glances. It was readily apparent to the both of them that though they had lived with Harry for several months now neither of them had the level of attachment that Hermione and even Luna had with Harry. Hermione had been an important part of Harry's life since the start of school and it was very evident to all that she held a special place in the man's heart.
Daphne could tell from what Harry had just said that Luna and he had shared some very traumatic experiences. Events that had caused a bond to form between them. I figured that he loved Hermione already, she mused to herself. Hell, the whole school figured it! The blonde witch hadn't liked how the Gryffindor witch had placed her hand so possessively upon Harry's arm either. It seems that I might also have to compete with Luna if I want Harry's affections.
Damn him for being so sweet! It had taken a bit of soul searching and a large dose of being truthful with herself but Daphne had finally realized that she had fallen for the wizard. The question now was what to do about it. The fact that her father had a marriage contract waiting for her didn't leave her with many options. Then there was the fact that she also loved another. It's not like I intended to fall in love with Harry Potter when I persuaded him to give me shelter, she told herself.
The fact that she had tricked the wizard also was an issue and amatter she didn't feel all that proud about. I'll just have to tell him what I did and hope that he doesn't kick me out.From everything she had learned of the young man she didn't think he would ask her to leave but one never knew.
All of that did very little to resolve the fact that she was in love with two different people. Would they be willing to share? Can I even ask them to share? What if they say no?How am I going to pick just one! the young woman groused silently. Bloody hell, how did my life get so complicated?
So much for living a quiet life, Harry mused as he noted the five very affectionate looks he was receiving from around the table. How did my life ever get so complicated? he wondered, unknowingly echoing the thoughts of the blonde witch to his right. It didn't help matters that Professor McGonagall wore an amused expression as if she fully suspected his predicament. The young wizard was saved from his thoughts as the food appeared upon the table and everyone began to serve themselves.
Minerva had been around children for the greater part of her life and had become rather accustomed to being able to read them fairly well. It was evident to her that the four young witches seated at the table all had more than a passing interest in their host. Tracey Davis could be seen sneaking glances at Harry when she thought no one was looking, only to look away rather quickly as her cheeks blushed.
Luna Lovegood on the other hand did nothing to hide her stares in Harry's direction. The young witch's eyes nearly glowed with the affection she clearly felt for the man. Minerva was rather glad that the former Ravenclaw was doing better after her father's passing but was a bit concerned that she might have latched onto Harry as a replacement for the elder Lovegood.
One would truly have to be blind to miss the possessive and jealous looks that appear on Miss Greengrass and Miss Granger's faces whenever Harry speaks to one of the other witches, the Headmistress thought to herself. This can't end well, she realized with a concerned frown. If it weren't for the presence of Andi and Mary, to keep the teenagers in check, she would have been truly concerned. James Potter would be ever so proud of his son while Lily would have been mortified, Minerva mused.
"Professor," Harry's voice spoke from the far end of the table, drawing the woman from her thoughts, "do you have plans for the holidays?" he enquired.
Minerva's frown deepened. "The same as every year Mister Potter. There is a never ending pile of paperwork which needs to be completed. The holidays allow me to catch up a little bit on the ever growing quantity," she answered, really not looking forward to the work awaiting her.
"I have something special planned for Christmas Eve," Harry told his former transfiguration professor. The questioning looks from all the others showed that this was news to them as well. "You are more than welcome to join us. In fact I was rather hoping you would."
"Thank you, but I have Hogwarts to look after," Minerva stammered. She was rather touched by the generous offer. The fact of the matter was that she didn't have any family which was why she always remained at the school. It had been a very long time indeed since anyone had invited her over for the holidays, the last being Lily Evans. "I wouldn't want to impose."
"Rubbish!" Harry said, dismissing her words with a wave of his hand. "I am certain that Hogwarts can manage without you for a day or two."
It really wasn't that hard of a decision for the Headmistress. Stay in the drafty old castle doing paperwork or spend some time with several people who had somehow managed to worm their way into her heart. If what I suspect is happening here is true, she thought to herself, then this could prove to be a very interesting holidays. "If you're certain it won't be a bother?"
"Then it's settled," Harry said with a huge smile upon his face. "We'll expect you Christmas Eve morning so that you can help decorate."
"Harry?" Daphne spoke up, asking the question that was on most of their minds right at that moment. "Just what is this surprise?"
Harry's grin broadened, "Now it wouldn't be much of asurprise if I told you, now would it?" Try as they might they couldn't get anything further from him that evening.
The young wizard slowly made his way down into the lowest level of his home, his progress hampered by one eye that was rapidly swelling shut. He hadn't consciously chosen to go there but it had been where his feet had led him. Perhaps his unconscious mind had realized that he needed a place he wasn't likely to be discovered at any time soon. How could it have gone so wrong? he asked himself not for the first time. The young man's mind recalled how the day had started off so perfectly.
Christmas Eve had dawned bright and beautiful. Harry, who had been rather busy the past few days with preparations for his surprise had hardly been home. As the young wizard stepped from the stairs he was suddenly engulfed in Hermione's arms and hugged to tightly he thought he might never breathe again.
"Oh Harry!" the impassioned witch exclaimed as she planted kisses about his face. "It's simply marvelous!" The young woman's lips finally found Harry's and suddenly the wizard didn't care if he ever breathed again or not. After several long minutes Hermione finally released the captured lips with an audible gasp for air. "Luna told me everything. How you did it all just for me!"
"I did?" the daze man replied, not really sure what he had done but damn glad to have done it!
"The library, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed, once again crushing her closest friend to her chest in a fierce hug. "You're so thoughtful, how could a girl not fall in love you?"
Realization suddenly dawned on the wizard. Harry had been so busy since Hermione's arrival that he had forgotten all about the library. "I wanted it to be a surprise," he told her as he slipped his arms about her and returned the hug. "I sort of forgot about it," he confessed in an apologetic tone.
"It was a surprise!" Hermione assured him as she leaned back so that she could see his face. "I was looking for you and just sort of found the place. Luckily, Luna was in there reading at the time and was able to explain everything to me." At first Hermione had been rather put out that Harry had such an exquisite library and hadn't told her about it. Her anger had done a complete turn about when Luna had explained all the effort Harry had put into the library just for her.
"Well, not much I can do about it now," Harry replied with a small shrug, realizing that the ghoul was already out the attic. "I am glad you like it though. It's as much yours as it is mine I feel. I mean this is your home too, Hermione."
"Thank you, Harry," said Hermione before leaning in and giving the man a tender kiss. Just when I thought I couldn't fall any further in love with him he has to go and prove me wrong, she mused silently as her toes curled.
"Yes, well," Harry answered a bit awkwardly once his lips were free. He wasn't used to kissing his best friend yet but he was certainly looking forward to the chance to become use to it. "Shall we?" he asked, offering Hermione his arm.
"Let's," the witch replied with a bright smile, slipping her arm into his before they started to make their way towards the dining room.
The two arrived to find that everyone else was already at the table including the Headmistress who had arrived the previous night. There had been a moment of panic when Harry had realized he hadn't a quest room, at least none that were furnished. Winky came to the rescue by fetching the Headmistresses bed and belongings from Hogwarts and placing them in a vacant suite of rooms. Magic was truly a wonderful thing!
Breakfast passed with idle chatter though there was a certain current of excitement that seemed to build as the morning progressed. After eating they dove into decorating the new house, decking it out in wreaths and garland. With no electricity, charmed candles were used in place of Christmas lights. Daphne and Tracey used a spell they knew to cause the candle flames to randomly change colors. A quick discussion followed, spearheaded by Hermione of course, who just had to know the spell that was used and how it worked.
While the witches were busy inside Harry went outside and walked off into the woods. It wasn't long before he returned with a tree and brought it inside. It took far longer to figure out where to place the tree indoors as each witch seemed to have their own idea where it should be. Harry finally deferred to Andi who suggested it be placed next to the fireplace so that anyone going or arriving would be able to see it.
Once the tree was in place, seven witch and one wizard descended upon it and decorated it properly. Animated ornaments were something new to Harry but he found he rather liked them. I think I shall have to add a new one each year, he mused to himself.I can't wait to do this with my family, he thought as he stood back and admired the bedecked tree.
Just as they were finishing up Winky popped in and informed them that lunch was ready. The meal was rather quiet as none seemed to have much of an appetite, knowing that afterwards they would finally discover the secret that Harry had been keeping from them. When the meal was finished the women rushed off to clean themselves up as Harry had asked them to dress in their festive attire. The wizard himself retired to his rooms for a shower, shave and change of clothes.
"I guess I'm the first?" Harry heard behind him where he stood at the bottom of the stairs awaiting the women in his life. Turning about at the sound of Hermione's voice the young man's breathe stuck in his throat. Dressed in black flats with matching black stockings the young witch wore a red skirt that only reached an inch or two above her knees but hugged her hips like a second skin. A white button up blouse that displayed the witch's curves, accenting the fact that she was a very attractive woman. Hermione's hair was done up and arranged in such a fashion that her curly tresses cascaded down one side in an attractive fashion. A ribbon of red and green wound its way through the brown curls adding a touch of the holiday colors besides her skirt.
"You look amazing!" Harry finally managed to say once he found his voice. While Hermione had looked beautiful at the Yule Ball back in fourth year, gone was the awkward young girl. The witch was very much abeautiful young woman coming into the full bloom of adulthood. "Wow!" Harry exclaimed once again, amazed at how truly pretty Hermione was.
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione replied as she closed the distance between them and reached up to adjust his tie. "You clean up rather nicely as well," she offered, not even bothering to try and hid the blush which infused her face from his reaction to her appearance. It wasn't the first time she had worn cosmetics but she had wanted this time to be perfect. He needs to find me attractive, she had told herself up in her room. I'd call that mission accomplished, she thought judging by the gobsmacked expression that was still on Harry's face.
"She's right, you do clean up nicely, Harry," Daphne's voice echoed Hermione's words from the top of the stairs. The former Slytherin witch was dressed in a simple muggle dress, light blue in color, with holly stitched into the collar and cuffs of the sleeves. The dress itself was rather light and airy but still managed to highlight the fact that the wearer was awoman with all the proper curves.
Beside the blonde witch stood Tracey, dressed in a rather plain short black dressed that hugged her body with a rather daringly high cut up one side exposing a good bit of the white creamy leg hidden within. The top of the dress dipped rather low, showing off an abundance of cleavage as well as having the young wizard present swallowing with some difficulty. Harry had never seem Tracey wear something so revealing before. I think I could get used to that, he thought as he forced his eyes from the girl's bosom and looked up to her face. It was apparent that both she and Daphne had taken great care with their makeup.
"You both look amazing!" Harry told them, his eyes never leaving Tracey's, much to witch's surprise and Daphne's disappointment.
"Thank you, Harry," Tracey replied, her eyes dipping demurely as she felt her cheeks heat into a blush at both the compliment as well as the stare. She usually hated it when someone stared at her like Harry was but for some reason she found she wanted to make the wizard continue to stare at her if she could.
"I think you've broken him," Daphne said with a smirk as she slipped her arm into Tracey's and led the blushing witch down the stairs. She didn't fail to notice how Harry couldn't seem to take his eyes off of Tracey. I knew I should have worn something more provocative! I'm just not used to muggle clothing yet I guess.
Standing beside Harry, Hermione noticed as well that the wizard couldn't seem to look elsewhere but at Tracey. I hadn't expected Tracey to break out her LBD, she thought with a frown. Well played Davis!
"S...sorry," Harry stammered as he forced his eyes away."I didn't mean to stare."
"That bad?" Tracey asked self-consciously upon reaching the foot of the stairs.
"Merlin's beard, no!" Harry exclaimed, his gaze snapping back to the witch in question. "You look incredible, Tracey!" The young man's words caused a rather pleased smile to spread across the young woman's face.
"She does, doesn't she," Andi stated from the top of the stairs where she stood next to Mary and Minerva who were all dressed in traditional witches robes of dark colors. "Who knew she had such a figure under those clothes she usually wears," Andi added as the three witches descended the stairs to join the growing group there.
"Yes, well, any sign of Luna?" Harry asked in an effort to change the subject.
"I'm here!" Exclaimed the petite girl's voice from the top of the stairs. As one, those gathered turned and looked up the stairs only to gap at what they saw. Luna's long blonde hair was pulled back into a French braid to make room for the green pointed hat with black trim which sat atop of her head. The witch was dressed all in green, from her shirt to her skirt even to her pointed toed green boots with little bells on them that jingled when she walked.
What had the others gapping at the former Ravenclaw though was the fact that the shirt and skirt were both very short. The blouse, if you could call it that, fit snuggly and ended just below the girl's breasts, leaving her abdomen completely bare and accentuating her pert assets. The skirt was no better, barely covering the curvature of her bum, much to Harry's delight. "What?" Luna asked at seeing their shocked expressions.
"Luna, what are you wearing?" Daphne asked, being the first to find her voice once again. If Tracey's dress had been a little revealing then Luna's outfit was...well, the young woman didn't know what to call it, at least not and still be polite about it.
"It's an elf's outfit!" Harry exclaimed as his brain engaged once again. There was more creamy skin visible on Luna than he had ever seen on any girl before so it was understandable that the young man was rather distracted a bit by what he saw. Hormones were cruel things at times.
The petite blonde's face split into a wide grin at Harry's words."Hermione had shown me some pictures of what muggles thought Santa's elves looked like," Luna explained before she bounced down the stairs. From the manner in which her green clade chest moved it was apparent to the others that the girl wasn't wearing anything under her outfit. While the women looked on in disbelief Harry once again found his eyes glued to a witch's chest, not that he minded in the slightest.
All eyes but Harry's turned to look in Hermione's direction."It was a store catalog," she stated a bit defensively. "They had pictures of women dressed like elves and gesturing towards the items on the page." They had been shopping for a present for Harry and Hermione had suggested that something from the muggle world might be good and so had provided several store catalogs for Luna to look through.
"I don't understand," Tracy stated. "Elves don't dress like that," she added as she looked back to the witch who had now joined their group at the bottom of the stairs. "House elves hardly wear any clothes at all."
"I'd say she's close to that," Mary said under her breath but loud enough for Andi and Minerva to hear.
"Unless they are Harry's elves," Daphne quipped in with. It had taken a bit of getting used to seeing Winky in a dress and Kreacher in tails but she had to admit it was better than what House Elves normally wore.
"Or the Hogwarts elves," Minerva was quick to add, silently agreeing with Mary's comment. It had taken a meeting with her, Harry and the Board of Governors to address the House Elf issue that Harry had caused. In the end there was little that could be done as the elves in question had already bonded to Harry and Hogwarts couldn't run without them. The end result was that Harry was paid for the use of his elves at the school. The wizard used the money to see that the elves had everything they needed as they wouldn't take the money for themselves.
"Yes, well, we'd best be going," Harry stated as he turned and moved towards the front doors.
"Where are we going?" Daphne asked as she caught up to the wizard and slipped her arm through his. The fact that they weren't using the floo did not escape her notice.
"Now it wouldn't be much of a surprise if I told you that now would it?" Harry replied with a grin that was very reminiscent of his late godfather. Left with little choice the witches followed Harry outside where they found a broom waiting for each of them.
"Ummm, Harry?" Hermione asked a bit apprehensively. While the young witch was not averse to flying on a broom it was not something that she enjoyed in the same fashion as Harry did. Her fear of heights didn't help matters at all either.
"Relax, Hermione," Harry replied in a reassuring tone and with a sympathetic smile. "We're not going terribly far or high. We'll be there before you know it," he assured her as he handed her a broom."I'll stay right beside you the entire way." Hermione accepted the broom with a grateful smile, knowing that if Harry was beside her she had nothing to fear.
"I'm assuming there is a good reason we are riding brooms, Mister Potter," Minerva enquired as she took her Cleansweep in hand.
"It's a bit too far to walk in the snow, Professor," answered Harry as he mounted his broom before lifting off the ground to hover before those gathered, "and none of you are keyed into the wards as yet."
"Yes, well, I can see where that would be a problem," the elder witch replied as she sat sidesaddle upon her broom and kicked off the group. In short order the others joined her.
Harry led them through the woods, making certain to keep a slow easy pace. It was a beautiful day with a blanket of pristine snow upon the ground and crisp clean air so none minded the ride. It wasn't long before they flew out of the woods, stopping at some point that only Harry seemed to be aware of. As the witches dismounted the broom they had ridden upon vanished as they were collected by a House Elf.
"Where did I put it?" Harry mumbled to himself as he searched through his pocket apparently looking for something. The witches could do little more than stand in the snow and look on, expecting something spectacular to happen. "Ah! Found it!" Harry exclaimed as he slipped a small white stone into his hand. "Ladies," he opened with as he regarded the women in his life, "I welcome you to The Lupin Home!"
With a grand sweep of his arm he added their names to the wards and a sprawling manor house that had once been the ancestral home of the Black family came into view before their eyes. The house was enormous in size, having at one point been a defensive Keep of some distant era. It was readily apparent from the different architecture that several additions had been added to the original structure over the centuries to make it seem more like a home and less like acastle. The newest addition, a large white three storied building that jutted off of the east wing of the manor, glistened brightly in the midday sunlight.
The group was standing upon the end of a paved walkway which was dry and cleared of any snow or ice, the diligent work of elves no doubt."Come on! I can't wait to show you inside!" Harry exclaimed, grinning like a kid in a candy shop. The young wizard's exuberant cheer was rather infectious and the others soon sported grins of their own as they approached the main doors to the structure.
"Harry, you called this the Lupin Home but isn't this the Black ancestral manor house?" Andi enquired as she slipped in beside the young wizard. "I don't understand." It had been many years, not since she herself was a child, since she had been to this place. She could tell that the structure had been cleaned up a great deal as it was no longer the dark dreary place she remembered. Grimmauld Place had looked cheery in comparison she recalled.
Harry slipped his hand into Andi's and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "You're right and wrong on both accounts," he told her with a playful grin as they ascended the stairs to the main doors. "This used to be the Black ancestral home, now it is mine. Thanks to Sirius. I wanted to do something for Dora and Remus, so they wouldn't be forgotten," Harry explained as he open the door and led them into the spacious manor house. Anything further the wizard was going to say was suddenly cut off.
"HARRY!" a multitude of young voices exclaimed loudly."Harry's here!" seemed to ring throughout the structure rapidly followed by the running of many feet. In a matter of but a few seconds the man found himself surrounded by a sea of young boys and girls ranging in ages from barely able to walk to nearly adults. As the newly arrived witches looked on in amazement they watched as everyone tried to talk to Harry at once.
"Oh good, he final got here," spoke a familiar voice beside Hermione. "I don't think we could have constrained them for much longer."
"Susan?" Hermione voiced in a quizzical tone, surprised at seeing the former Hufflepuff there. "What are you doing here?"
Susan Bones gave a short chuckle before answering, "I work here...as well as live here," she informed Hermione and the others, much to their amazement. "Harry hired me through Gringotts to help run the place."
"What exactly is this place?" Daphne asked without taking her eyes off of Harry. The wizard seemed intent upon answering every question directed his way as well as returning every hug and handshake. The former Slytherin was certain she had never seen the man happier.
"The war displaced a lot of families," Susan explained as other adults, who had moved at a more dignified pace began to appear, each wearing a grin as they watched the barely contained chaos that surrounded Harry and the kids. "Some had no homes to go back to while others had no families at all. Harry used this manor house to give them all a place to call home."
"There are 237 children here and over 40 families so far," Padma Patil broke into the conversation with as she and her sister Parvati joined the other witches.
"Harry keeps finding more and bringing them in. Thankfully we have the room for them all due to the addition Harry had added and the houses that were built about the lake outback," Parvati stated, picking up where her sister left off.
"Why are you guys here?" Hermione hazard to ask. She had a million and one questions but really didn't know where to start. Seeing the smile upon Harry's face and the sparkle in his emerald eyes it was apparent, at least to her, that Harry was going to have a wonderful Yule this year. I've never seen him this happy before.
"As great as our Harry is," Padma offered, "he is apparently rubbish at running the place. The poor house elves were running themselves ragged trying to meet everyone's needs and don't get me started on just how messed up the paperwork was!" she exclaimed with an eye roll."I relieved him of that duty as soon as I saw the mess he had made of it."
"I help the elves look after the children," Susan chimed in with. The former Hufflepuff felt as though she had found her true calling in life. She had a maternal streak within her that was a mile wide apparently. Having lost family in the war she knew how those orphaned felt. Susan suspected that Harry did as well and that was the reason he had created this place."It's a full time job which is why I moved in here with Pav and Padma."
"I guess it's my turn," Parvati said with grin. "If Padma is the administration and Sue is the motherly figure I guess that makes me the disciplinary of the group. I also handle the liaison with the families that are quartered on the premises and lend a hand to Padma and Sue if they need it."
"You certainly seem to have your hands full," Andi stated as she and the others once more regarded the sea of little hands and smiling faces that surrounded Harry, clamoring for his attention. The Black sister couldn't help but see the changes that had been made to the house. Nor did she fail to see the irony in Harry using the Black family wealth to care for what her late mother would call mudbloods, half breads and blood traitors. Naming the house after a werewolf was just the icing on the cake as far as she was concerned.
"It's not always like this," Padma assured her."Pandemonium only descends when Harry is here."
"Then it is near impossible to get them to do anything other than follow him around," Susan added with a humorous shake of her head."On Saturdays when he comes to play Quidditch nearly everyone turns out to watch the games."
"So that is where he goes every Saturday!" Tracey said loudly. "I thought he was playing with his friends from Hogwarts."
"I think the games help take everyone's mind off of what happened to them and where they are," Parvati offered. She was fairly certain that Harry knew that as well which was why he did it. "While this is now their home it is not /their/home. Still, it's like a festival around here every Saturday when he arrives," she told them with a small smile.
"What of their education?" Marry asked with a thoughtful look towards the sea of children. "I can but imagine the teachers must have their hands full as well."
"You'd probably be correct, Ma`am," Parvati offered respectfully, not knowing who Mary was or her relationship in regards to Harry,"if they were receiving an education." Minerva and Mary exchanged concerned looks at this news. "Please bear in mind that we're relatively new and are still trying to figure everything out as we go along."
"Right now we have our hands full trying to get everyone settled and their needs met," Susan cut in with. "Harry has mentioned setting up a school for the children but I'm not certain when we'll be able to do that." Susan saw the Headmistress and the woman who had asked about school exchange determined looks and knew that Harry would be hearing about their concerns in the not too distant future. Further discussion was halted as an elf popped into the space next to Susan and informed her that it was time to eat.
Harry managed to extract himself from all the children who, with the help of the adults, were herded to the dining hall. The beaming wizard made his way back over to the waiting women, minus Susan, Padma and Parvati who had left to help with the children. "Sorry about that," he offered as he reached them. "They get a bit excited when I show up for some reason."
Daphne felt a tug on her dress and looked down at a small boy who couldn't be more than four or five. "You're awfully pretty. Are you Harry's girlfriend?" the small boy asked with large brown innocent eyes.
Daphne felt the heat rise in her cheeks and sputter to form areply. Thankfully she was rescued by the appearance of another boy who was at least in his teen.
"There you are!" the boy said, scooping up the younger boy and settling him on one hip in what was a well-practiced move apparently."How many times have I told you not to wonder off by yourself Nev?"
"But I wanted to meet Harry's girlfriend," the boy who was called Nev whined.
"Sorry about that," the older boy offered to Daphne."Younger brothers," he added with a slight shrug before turning away and heading off to where the other children had gone. "Don't be silly, that's not Harry's girlfriend. Everyone knows his girlfriend is Anna," floated back to the group who looked on in amusement both at what happened as well as at the blush not only on Daphne's face but Harry's a swell.
"It seems you've been rather busy, Mr. Potter," Minerva spoke up into the silence after the brothers departure.
"A bit," Harry conceded with a sheepish grin.
"How did you do all this?" Hermione asked, amazed at what she had seen so far.
Harry turned and looked at his best friend before answering."One thing I learned from the Malfoy's is that if you have enough money you can do almost anything. Sirius left me well off and I wanted to do something for Remus and Dora," he explained. "Dora was family and Remus was...well a friend, when I had far too few of them. Besides," he added, a mischievous sparkle appearing in his eye, "I'm sure some place Sirius is have a good laugh at what I have done with the Black family estate!"
"I have little doubt that his mother is cursing you from the great beyond," Andi quipped in with as a grin spread across her face."Thank you Harry. I know Dora and Remus would both be touched by what you have done for them."
Harry just smiled and gave a small nod of acceptance. He knew that he would see them once again just as he would see his parents and Sirius. The stone had shown him that there was in fact more after this life, he just needed to be patient and wait. He wasn't in any hurry to leave this world. Not when it is this interesting, he thought to himself as his eyes scanned across the witches arrayed before him. "Shall we?" he asked with a gesture in the direction everyone else had gone. Offering Andi his arm he led the others to the dining hall and the waiting meal.
The dining hall was very reminiscent of the great hall of Hogwarts, which wasn't a surprise. While the Black ancestral home had not been a castle of the same scale as Hogwarts it had been a fortified Keep. The dining hall was enormous in size with three deep fire pits arrayed along the center of the hall to ward off any chill. Tables were erected in rows to either side of the fire pits with children and families already seated.
"How do you keep the children from burning themselves?" Hermione enquired, eyeing the large blazes in the fire pit.
"I don't know but I suspect magic," Harry replied with alopsided grin as he pulled Andi's chair out for her. Hermione could do little more than laugh at her own blunder for not having seen the obvious. "We've taken all the precautions we could, I assure you," Harry added as he pulled her seat out for her once Andi was seated.
"And you've managed to keep this all quiet while it was going on practically right under our very noses?" Daphne stated as Harry stepped over to seat her next. "You really would have made a good Slytherin, Harry," she added as she sat in the chair being held for her.
Harry just chuckled at her compliment. "I told you that was where the hat first wanted to sort me," he reminded Daphne as he pushed in her chair.
"Slytherin? Really?" Tracey asked in disbelief, only to see Harry nod as he pulled out her chair for her. "I wish you had been sorted there. We could have gotten to know each other so much sooner," she told him she seated herself. Harry said nothing as standing behind Tracey and pushing in her chair gave the young man a perfect view right down the front of the witch's low cut black dress, which was enough to steal any man's voice, thoughts, heartbeat as well as alter his blood flow towards a southerly direction.
"Harry?" Susan said, having walked over to the table. The calling of his name seemed to snap the dazed wizard from his thoughts as well as the view that had captivated his interest. "We seem to be missing someone," the former Hufflepuff told him.
Harry craned his neck and looked about the hall for a long moment as if searching for someone. "Where is she?" he finally asked, offering a few smiles to those seated at the other tables when they noticed him looking their way.
"I suspect waiting for you," Susan replied with a hint of a grin.
"If you ladies will excuse me," Harry offered apologetically. "We can't really begin till everyone is here." Turning about the young man strode from the hall with many a pair of eyes following his back.
"Has anyone seen Luna?" Hermione suddenly asked, realizing that the petite witch was nowhere to be found.
"Last I saw her a group of kids took her to be Santa's helper and they were dragging her off so that they could make certain Santa knew what they wanted for Christmas," Tracey stated. Almost as one they all looked about the hall, finally spotting the green pointed hat upon Luna's head on the other side of the hall where she was surrounded by a host of young children. As she appeared to be enjoying herself they decide to leave her be.
"If Miss Lovegood is already here then whom did Mister Potter go to retrieve?" Mary asked once the blonde witch had been located.
Susan's smile turned decisively forlorn upon hearing Mary's question. The witch's brown eyes turned to once more regard the door Harry had left through. "Anna."
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