"Great Scott, Potter, This is War!"
Chapter Eighteen - There's Fighting and Then There's Fighting
Chapter Eighteen is virtually identical in "Great Scott, Potter" and in "The Granger Defense."
I have some very important information for
your perusal and need to ask you several questions.
I'd like to meet an hour before tomorrow's
Wizengamot meeting begins.
If this is amenable, please send your reply
back with my owl, Hedwig. She has
instructions to wait for your response.
Tuesday 13 August, 1996
"Very interesting, Harry. You have here six magical newspapers from the continent virtually declaring everything Cornelius reported in the Daily Prophet about the Vampire Negotiations to be false. I understand that Amelia Bones was there. Will she corroborate this as well?"
Smith had owled Harry, suggesting they meet for breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron at 8:30. Having finished their meal, Smith and Harry were enjoying their tea and coffee, respectively, and discussing the goblin translations of the European magical newspapers reporting on the negotiations.
"I've not asked her, Mr. Smith, but she is a fair woman, isn't she, truthful and honest? You don't suppose she'd lie about such things?" Harry asked.
"Not in her nature, Harry, and she holds great sway in Chambers. How do you plan to use this?"
Harry's face showed a moment of confusion. "I'd hoped for your advice, but if I were left to my own plans, I'd wait until Fudge brings up the subject of the treaty and see what he says about it. Surely he won't resist making himself and Ambassador Glean look good, and I could use this evidence to refute his claims. If that doesn't occur, I thought we could plan another way to use it to our own ends before the news is too stale."
"Well thought out, Harry. You know Cornelius' leanings when it comes to his braggadocio. I believe he's due to bring up the treaty today as part of an appeal for funding to pay you for training our Aurors to learn Thunderfire. Have you decided how much to charge us?"
"I've decided to charge according to whom he wants to train. The Ministry doesn't have enough money to pay me to train Dawlish or Williamson."
"Oh, rest assured, our Minister will insist that all of his personal bodyguards be so trained."
"Well then, I'm going to come into a windfall very soon. I'll have to find a charity to give it to--something that irritates Fudge and his cronies at least as much as the Werewolf Relief Fund."
Their laughter was followed by a comfortable silence.
"Harry, have you read up on your family's Rights to Rule and other matters?"
"Yes, sir. The details were a bit confusing, but I think I understand the basics. I plan on going to see Mr. Ledbetter today once the Chamber opens at 9:30 to check on my exact vote count. Will you go with me in case I have questions?"
"Of course, but you'll find Ledbetter very helpful. He'll not steer you wrong or intentionally mislead you in any way. Did you find anything else interesting in your folio?"
Harry smiled. "The answer to a perplexing question. Few Muggleborns have ever heard of me before coming to Hogwarts unless they buy tons of books above and beyond their course needs. My friend Hermione Granger is a voracious reader. She'd read about me, but no other Muggleborns knew much about me, except for two brothers. In my second year an average Muggleborn student was already my biggest fan when he arrived. It's more logical that his younger brother was the same, two years later. I couldn't understand it, but now I do-the Potter Educational Fund."
"Ah, yes," said Smith. "If I remember the history of it, the Potter that attended Hogwarts the first year it opened paid for a poor magical friend of his to go as well. That was Hogwarts' first scholarship. That same Potter set up your family's Educational Fund later in his life, and your ancestors have added to it over the centuries. How many students now attend on your family's largesse?"
"Twenty-four, and I plan to ask Dumbledore if more students need such help. It's a wise investment I feel. Now I understand why Colin and Dennis Creevey find me fascinating -- my family makes attending Hogwarts possible for them. Their father's a milkman, which is an honorable profession, but not that well paying if I understand it correctly.
Now that the question of the Creevey brothers love for all things Harry Potter has been answered, I would like to ask you about the passage in the Fund charter that describes the relationship between all students on these scholarships and the Head of the Potter Family. It states that all recipients are my magical charges until they finish Hogwarts. Can you explain to me what a 'magical charge' is?"
"It's an old position," Smith explained. "The recipients are too poor to pay their own way. Therefore, most are either half-bloods or Muggleborn, though there have occasionally been some from impoverished pureblood families, but most purebloods in that situation are home-schooled. Throughout the years your poorer Muggleborn and half-bloods have been the brunt of jokes at the hands of the richer, snobbish students and sometimes by a wider circle within the student body. Occasionally those aided were seriously threatened or harmed. The Potters have always been hotheaded defenders of the downtrodden, and never have tolerated pureblood pretensions, or any other type of bullying for that matter.
"A magical charge has the protection of the Head of a Family, but isn't bound to the Head as an oath of fealty or allegiance would create. Of course, it is assumed the charge would be grateful, and follow, or at least consider the wishes of the Family Head."
Harry looked pensively at Smith for a long moment before asking, "How serious is the 'until they finish Hogwarts' part of that explanation?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is there an age limit?" Harry asked. "Does my responsibility end when the student turns twenty and hasn't finished? Twenty-five?"
"If it doesn't give an age limit in the charter for the Fund, then it doesn't end. These charters are funny that way," Smith observed. "Why do you ask?"
"Rubeus Hagrid was a Potter Fund student. He was falsely expelled and his wand broken in his third year. In my second year we proved him innocent. He's even a professor, now but he doesn't have a wand to this day, and he's not said anything about learning magic now that he can again."
"I believe I've heard he wasn't very powerful. A poor student and didn't show too much real oomph behind his spells," Smith stated.
"That's not accurate, sir, though it may have been the case when Hagrid was a student. He carries his broken wand pieces in that awful pink umbrella he has with him anytime he's away from Hogwarts. I've seen him perform wordless magic with it a couple of times, once a fairly complex bit of Transfiguration.
"Also," Harry continued, "You may not know this, but when a Spell Monger actually creates a spell, he pulls up a slug of raw magic from the core of his being. I did that once when Hagrid was present. He could see the raw slug of magic. Mr. Smith, only very powerful witches and wizards can see a raw magic slug. Remus Lupin could only feel the presence of it, and he's a pretty powerful wizard. It's not that only powerful wizards can a see a raw slug of magic, only two of the four Hogwarts Founders could see it. Yet Hagrid described it perfectly. Seeing the raw slug is a sign of being powerful.
"If I understand it, a giant doesn't reach full maturity until his or her late twenties. They stay in their mother's wombs for seventeen months. Hagrid's a half-giant. Maybe he was too young to be allowed into Hogwarts at eleven. It would be like letting a regular student in at eight or nine, maybe. Does that make sense?"
Smith nodded absently in thought. "Entirely possible and logical, particularly based on your observations. Why do you raise this issue now?"
"Your friend, my grandfather Benedict was the Head of the Potters when Hagrid was expelled. Did he investigate or anything?"
Smith said, "He went to the hearing, but he was great friends with Armando Dippet. He'd have believed whatever Dippet said. Benedict did add his voice to Dumbledore's to make a place for Hagrid at the school as apprentice groundskeeper."
"Well, that's something," Harry said. "But the wording in the Potter Educational Fund charter is clear. There's no mention that expulsion ends my responsibilities towards my magical charges; it only ends when they finish Hogwarts. Although, leaving after O.W.L.s is considered finishing according to the charter. I don't have to see them finish their seventh years.
"It's just--I've been thinking. Hagrid was my first friend in this world. He's powerful, and it's a waste not training him to be a better wizard. From what you've said, Hagrid is still my magical charge, the charter is clear and you can't tell me anything else about a Family Head's responsibility to magical charges in general, that says differently, can you?"
"No, Harry. So, what are you going to do?"
"I'll take Hagrid to Ollivander's, buy him a wand, and teach him magic myself if no one else will, but I bet McGonagall and Flitwick will help me - probably take over from me if I'd ask. But I have some ideas about how he could do very well with magic, so I want in on some of his continuing education. He may not get too many written O.W.L.s, but I'd like to see him with practical O.W.L.s in Charms, Defense, and hopefully, Transfiguration. I don't want to see him in classes with other third years; it would frighten him and them, but anyone can stand any OWL test by requesting permission thirty days ahead of time and paying the three Galleon fee."
"As you see, Miss-TAH Potter, you do have twenty-seven votes in the Wizengamot, but the Meadowbrook, Colt, and Wheatley votes are loosely tied to you," Ledbetter explained. "Those Families never formally gave over their Rights to Rule in ritual, or formally ascribed their Family Ensigns to the Potters. They can be challenged, although Potters have held the Colt and Wheatley votes for centuries, and both names have been gone from magical Britain for nearly as long.
"Also, you hold the votes of the Fletcher Family for three more generations assuming one Mundungus Fletcher has an heir, which he doesn't so far. And through the Black Family you hold the Bulstrode vote for one more generation, the Blackthorn vote for three more generations, and the Pickles vote for five more generations. Those are the only Families that still have truly magical heirs in our world and could claim their Rights one day. The other Family votes so assigned now have no magical heirs. When their Squib heirs have the appropriate generations to complete the assigned generational commitment, you will own those Rights outright."
"And, those Families are?"
Ledbetter consulted his list. "Dinderbokk and Greenoaks through the Potters in one and two generations." He flipped several pages. "And for the Blacks: Grundy and Brownbranch in one generation, and Psaltry, Helmsman, and Leroux in three, five, and seven generations respectively."
The Wizengamot chambers were nearly full and there were only minutes left to go before the start. Harry and Mr. Smith took their places. The session opened as usual. Minutes from the last session were read, and there was no old business. Before new business was raised, Acting Chief Warlock Brownlea called for procedural presentations.
"Miss-TAH Brownlea," Florence Sheets rose, her voice clear and harsh. "I have a change of deputation of a Family's Right to Rule." Sheets looked at Brownlea, who tried to stare a hole in her looking over his reading glasses.
He sighed, "Very well, Ma-DAAM Sheets."
Throughout the entire session, no one present ever addressed a male Wizengamot member with any title other that 'Mister,' pronounced "Miss-TAH." Likewise, all female members received their titles pronounced "Ma-DAAM."
Sheets proclaimed, "I'd like to call Mr. Wilbur Meadowbrook."
A wirily thin man, sweating profusely in ill-fitting and inappropriate robes for the Wizengamot entered, admitted by Auror Dawlish. The gong that signaled a person could enter as a member of the Assembly did not ring, but neither did the siren indicating he should be ejected.
Florence Sheets pointed to the table where Ledbetter sat. The clerk had placed a plain wand on a square of simple black velvet, and stepped back from the table.
Meadowbrook sighed, and walked to the wand. He hesitated, but finally rushed to pick it up and call out tinnily, "Wilbur Meadowbrook." A single red spark exited the wand, rose less than a foot into the air, and fell towards the floor, going out before reaching the stones he stood on.
"It is enough," Sheets called out. "You have the floor, Meadowbrook."
"I, Wilbur Meadowbrook, Head of the Meadowbrook Family, do hereby assign... er, do hereby assign... Oh drat."
"Mister Meadowbrook. I'm Harry Potter. May I have your permission to ask a question?"
"Objection, Chief Warlock," Sheets shouted. "Potter is badgering this man. Censure him."
"Madame Sheets. Mister Potter's request is in form. Your outburst, however, is out of order, but even you do not deserve censure for it." Brownlea turned to Meadowbrook, whose face ran with perspiration. "Mister Meadowbrook, you have the floor and do not give it up if you allow Mister Potter his question. You do not have to answer, or you may, if you choose. You are in control for this unstoppable procedure."
Meadowbrook blinked twice, turned to Harry, and nodded once, curtly.
"Thank you Mister Meadowbrook," Harry said. "If I understand it, your family's magic dwindled with your grandfather, who assigned your Right to Rule to my grandfather. Nothing was permanent; both hoped your family would recover its magic, but it hasn't. Is that correct? And now Madame Sheets has offered to pay you for your vote?"
The man nodded once, again. "My great-grandfather it was."
"Fine, Mister Meadowbrook. So, did your grandfather or father follow my grandfather's advice and marry outside of magical Britain, or perhaps marry a half-blood or Muggleborn to improve the bloodlines--"
Shock and outrage filled the room. Cries of "Insults to all wizards," and "Pureblood heresy," could be heard among the bedlam. Brownlea hammered down the noise. He said, once silence resumed, "Answer or answer not, Mister Meadowbrook. You still have the floor and allow Mister Potter to ask questions as you will it."
During the cacophony Smith asked Harry what he hoped to do. Harry whispered back, "I hope to get him to pull back and have an heir that renews his magic. I'm sure Sheets bought his transfer of Right to Rule. I'll offer to pay him to wait and see if his magic returns."
"Never work, Harry," Smith said. "He wouldn't be allowed to enter here if the deal wasn't already struck and sealed. Give it up, lad, and try to get out of this as soon as possible."
Harry frowned and turned back to Browlea as the moderator recovered control of the proceedings.
Meadowbrook answered Harry. "My family has remained pure. We've lost our magic but still have our pride."
Florence Sheets shouted out, "Who do you think you are Potter?"
Ignoring Sheets, Harry continued, "I am sorry your forebears didn't follow the Potter family advice, Mister Meadowbrook, your magic would most probably have been renewed, and you might be sitting here voting with us, instead of signing over your Right to Rule."
Harry spun on Florence Sheets. "And as to who I think I am. I am an heir of a founding Family of magic here in Great Britain. The Potters go back with the Smiths, and the Tillers to the time of Willen the Great Olive Hander in 382 BC." Harry paused and nodded to Alexius Tiller who sat up straighter in his chair, "We were the first magical families of Old Albion, something even your young family, Madame Sheets, new to this island as they are, should understand by now. I admit the truth of the fact, as do my ancestors, that inbreeding among a few pureblood families weakens the magical lines.
"You all know my story. My mother was Muggleborn, and many of you look down on me for it, but I challenge any of you to a Stone-Cutter Test*. Might doesn't make right, but tell me how important pure bloodlines are to magic once you've shown me your power on the Flamel Penetration Scale." Everyone was silent.
"Is there anyone here," Harry continued, "Who will swear on their magic that in the last two hundred years their families haven't either married magical folks from outside the country, or married in secret a Muggleborn, half-blood, or Muggle nobility? Or you've possibly found an obscure pureblood family living in seclusion and married one of them to recharge you bloodlines?"
No one said a word.
"I thought not." Harry turned back to Meadowbrook. "It's too late, Mister Meadowbrook, to save your Right to Rule, but since it's only been a few generations, perhaps your family can regain your magic by marrying any heir of yours to a Muggle or Muggleborn. Too bad you didn't know. But you see," Harry was addressing the entire chamber now. "The pureblood importance for magical power is a myth. The entire Wizengamot has just confirmed it.
"I wholeheartedly agree that a magical heritage is a wonderful thing. Few can match mine as a Potter, but I do not want to brag. I regret I have not been educated in more of my heritage and our society." Harry turned back to Meadowbrook.
"I'd love to have lunch one day and hear about the Meadowbrook Family. I'm sure you have a proud history. Please owl me when it would be convenient. My treat. Please continue with your declaration. I have no more questions."
Harry walked back to his chair, winking at Alexius Tiller on the way.
Obviously furious, Madame Sheets handed Meadowbrook a parchment. He sadly read the words that gave up his Family's Right to Rule.
While this went on, Isaiah Smith said, "You certainly made an impression with your first speech in the Wizengamot - not all favorable I might add. You barely stayed within the rules of order also."
"I just lost a vote. I think I'm allowed to vent. What would Sheets have done if I tricked one of her votes away from her?"
"Killed you, Harry, or had you killed rather."
"Well, she already wants me dead, so I might as well give her more reasons. She can't kill me twice, and as I said, she'll have to wait in a very long line with the others who want me gone."
Smith just shook his head. "Well, then I guess congratulations are in order. You fired a clear shot at the pureblood agenda and have everyone thinking. Tiller can't keep a smile off of his face, and it's not because Florence has a new vote. He hasn't taken his eyes off of you."
Harry turned. He and Tiller caught each other's eyes, and nodded. Harry smiled and turned back to Smith. "I lose a vote but perhaps Tiller will bring his and his friend Darance Bread's over to this corner. I'd trade twenty of my family's votes to bring sixty over to our side. It wouldn't be enough to vote No Confidence on Fudge, but it would give us a simple majority."
"Well done, Potter. You have been studying your book."
Harry grinned viciously. "You've not seen anything, yet. Fudge and Sheets have been conferring. If he says anything about me, I'm going to raise the Munch family as an issue.
The previous Thursday, when the Death Eaters assaulted Smith at the Ministry Apparation Point and Harry had come to his defense, Eric Munch, the security desk guard, had stunned a Death Eater when the last attacker hit Harry with a Cruciatus Curse. Though Harry had stopped five Death Eaters before this, Munch had saved Harry a good bit of pain, and probably much worse, from the last Death Eater.
Monday morning the Daily Prophet quoted Fudge praising Munch to the heavens for saving the day, and not mentioning Harry's efforts at all.
Today Harry had noticed the guard at that same security checkpoint was wearing a black armband. When asked why, the man informed Harry that Eric Munch, his wife, and three children had been killed the night before. A Dark Mark floating over their destroyed home had led the Aurors to the scene.
As Acting Chief Warlock Brownlea finished calling for any further procedural business, Harry noticed Fudge and Sheets talking among themselves and laughing while occasionally looking his way. They were delighted that they had taken a vote from him.
Brownlea called for new business, and Fudged gathered his papers to stand and speak.
Harry, however, beat him to it. "Mister Brownlea."
"The chair recognizes Mister Potter." The drawn out 'Miss-TAH' still sounded funny to Harry.
"Thank you, Mister Brownlea. I call for a moment of silence for the Ministry Security Officer Eric Munch and his wife and three children. It was a senseless killing, and tragic that it happened. I am new to this august deliberative assembly. Please tell me, is it appropriate to call for censure of Minister Cornelius Fudge for causing this tragedy?"
The room exploded with shouts, cries, exclamations, and some laughter. Brownlea barely managed to keep a straight face while hammering the room back to order.
"See here, Boaz," Fudge shouted, "Can't you keep Potter in order?"
The moderator hammered him down.
"Mister Fudge. It is appropriate for any member of the Wizengamot to ask the Chair procedural questions. He asked properly and in good form. You, on the other hand, MISSSS-TAHH Fudge," Brownlea deliberately exaggerated the title's pronunciation, "have not addressed Mister Potter or this Chair in accordance with the rules. And you are out of order in asking your question. Mister Potter has the floor and I am about to answer his question."
Fudge sat cowed in place. Florence Sheets split her killing stare between Brownlea and Harry. The Acting Chief Warlock turned to the youngest Wizengamot member. "Mister Potter, I probably would have answered that this is not the moment to censure the Minister of Magic but based on recent events, would you please tell me why you feel our esteemed Minster should be censured? I will then be able to better answer your question."
"Of course, Mister Brownlea, and thank you for helping me as I learn more of the manners and workings of this great and historic body.
"Last Thursday, six Death Eaters appeared in the Ministry Apparation and Floo Concourse. They were there to torture and I believe kill, Mister Isaiah Smith, for speaking in favor of the increased Auror funding legislation. They stated as much the second they confronted him and hit him with a Cruciatus Cruse. I fought them, killed several, including Reginald Sheets, grandson of Madame Florence Sheets, and himself a marked Death Eater."
"Why, you--" Madame Sheets hissed as she rose and started to draw here wand. Dolores Umbridge sat on the other side of her from Fudge and said while grabbing her hand, "You can't draw your wand here, Florence."
Harry made no move for his wand, but was prepared to dodge any spell Sheet managed to cast. The room's security should have painfully stopped the woman moments after her wand inappropriately left her robes, but one can't be too careful.
Harry went on, "As I defended Mister Smith and myself, the sixth Death Eater cast a Cruciatus Curse on me. Eric Munch bravely came and helped us, cutting the time I was under that curse to mere seconds. But the fact is, I stopped five of the six, and Officer Munch only stopped one of them."
"Is your ego so gigantic, Potter," Umbridge interrupted, "that you must take credit from a dead hero?"
Brownlea hammer her down. "Ma-DAAM Umbridge." Once again he over emphasized the title. "I must insist that you use proper titles and proper order. You came to me after last assembly and insisted I keep a close watch on our newest member of the Wizengamot. You could not state strongly enough that he would not follow proper decorum here in this chamber. Well he has acted quite properly, while you three have set poor examples for him to follow." He pounded his gavel once more for emphasis, and then asked Harry to continue.
"Mister Brownlea, if my name never again appears in the Daily Prophet, it could not please me more, since most of what I read in it are lies and slander, particularly the quotations from our Minister here. The point I was hoping to make before I was rudely interrupted is that I would gladly have applauded Officer Munch's efforts, but Minister's Fudge's words exaggerating his role in the paper were his death warrant.
Harry turned to the entire assembly. "My fellow Family Heads and representatives, surely all of you remember the last war. Anyone who stood out, anyone who was acclaimed as a hero in that fight became an automatic priority target for Voldemort and his Death Eaters." Many members trembled and gasped at the use of that name. Harry frowned, but chose not to chide them for it at the moment.
"As I understand it," Harry continued, "no one was mentioned in the press back then unless they already had proper security or the Ministry was prepared to grant them asylum in a safe house. That type of war is on again, and in spite of that fact, no proper protection for the Munch family was provided. The Minister made them all high priority targets when Eric Munch was but a minor player in the action in terms of overall impact.
"I, on the other hand, can't be made a bigger target to Voldemort." More gasps. "And the Minister knows it. He also knows I live in a completely secure situation, the details of which are not known even by my closest friends. I want no more praise or fame. Killing Death Eaters is a hollow job that is too necessary. But I do it so that families like the Munchs can survive."
Harry hung his head. A tear showed on his cheek when he raised it to return the gaze of his listeners. "I was a baby, as you all know, when the last war ended. I've only read of the horrors, and yet I deeply regret not realizing that Voldemort would attack this poor family once I read it in the paper. Minister Fudge, or at least someone in the Ministry should have remembered the losses from the last war and protected them."
Harry sniffed, wiped his eyes, stood taller, and said, "That, Mister Brownlea, is why I ask if this body can censure the Minister of Magic."
The Acting Chief Warlock gazed at Harry for several long moments. He was obviously deep in thought. He finally sighed and spoke, "No, Mister Potter, under these circumstances it is not within this body's purview to censure the Minister of Magic."
Fudge sat up straight and smiled. Brownlea saw his smile and frowned darkly. He said, "Mister Fudge, though it is not in the charter of this assembly to censure you as Mister Potter requests, it in no way lessens the fact that you should be called into account for your actions. Those deaths are on your head, in my humble opinion. So, not as a member of this body, but as a magical citizen of this country, I ask that you be more careful of innocent lives, and more truthful in the press."
He turned to Harry. "Anything else, Mister Potter?"
"No, sir, er, Chief Warlock. Thank you for answering my question and giving me time to explain my request."
"You are welcome." He pounded the gavel. "Any more new business?" Brownlea looked at Fudge, who held many papers in his trembling hands. Fudge looked at Umbridge and Sheets. They shook their heads, and Fudge turned and shook his head to the moderator.
"This session is adjourned." The gavel fell.
Alexius Tiller could not have been more bored for the last few years sitting in the Wizengamot if they'd all been petrified and left to stare at each other, unmoving.
Yes, he was very bored, until the grandson of his old friend, Benedict Potter arrived.
Since the first fall of Voldemort, there was little of true interest to Tiller in these chambers. He'd loved hearing Benedict Potter rally those around him to vote for this legislation or that, fighting for a cause - any cause - winnable or not. But his Potter year mate at Hogwarts had died three years before James and Lily. Now, Isaiah Smith tried to speak up from time to time like Benedict had, but Alexius sighed every time he thought about the grand rhetoric and finely pointed wit of the deceased Potter Family Head. Tiller regretted that he and Smith had seemed to consistently grate each other's nerves since Benedict's death - a friction that eventually brought them to different sides of the aisle. He wondered not for the first time in this past year just why he had followed the lead of Fudge, Umbridge, and Sheets.
Oh, he remembered - his vanity. Florence Sheets and Cornelius Fudge praised his pureblooded-ness and ranted about how he should vote with them. He missed Benedict speaking about the 'magical heritage' the Tillers, Smiths, and Potters shared as original magical families in Old Albion. Such words negated the fact that his maternal grandmother was the third daughter of a Muggle Duke, and that his paternal great-grandmother was a powerful and brilliant Muggleborn witch.
Funny how Florence Sheets always quietly reminded him of these blood facts--no, she bludgeoned him with these facts--before she openly praised his pureblood status. Yet he had continued to vote her way.
The last session had been momentarily thrilling and then completely frustrating, Alexius thought. Young Harry Potter looked very much like Benedict Potter had when they were at Hogwarts, and nearly identical to James on his wedding day to Lily. Then Harry had voted two votes instead of his full count, and Tiller found his hopes dashed, though he had not joined the others in laughing at the boy.
Today, however, Harry Potter had stood and spoke very much as Benedict did in his first days in the Wizengamot. Harry did not have the polish of Benedict in his latter years, and Harry had not conquered the phrasings and lingo of speechifying in this chamber, but he had the passion, the verve, and the commanding presence that Benedict had in full measure.
And, oh, it was music to Alexius' ears to hear young Harry speak of the importance of magical heritage. Tiller looked toward Florence Sheets and Cornelius Fudge to rub their noses in their having a thousand years less of magical heritage than he. It was good to be reminded that he was a direct descendant of one of the Tiller twins of early magical Albion, and that they had been friends of Torban Loundon and Willen the Great Olive Hander. Exactly which of the original Tiller twin's line he followed had been lost in the family histories but that was of little matter as both were magical and both were a part of the beginnings to magical society.
Sheets and Fudge, however, didn't look his way when young Harry mentioned magical heritage. Sheets was steaming, Tiller could tell from her three-quarter view, and Fudge was poorly dancing to Harry's tune. In the end, this session was mercifully short. Tiller was politician enough to know Fudge tabled whatever was on his mind this day because of young Harry's verbal assault. It would be politically wise to let Potter's momentum die before giving him another chance to publicly oppose the minister.
Alexius didn't stop to consider his next move; he was too excited by Harry's words. He simply walked forward and said, "I say, Madame Sheets, Mister Fudge, I rather enjoyed young Mister Potter's first words today. I think he spoke rather--"
"Oh, stuff it, Lexi," Sheets interrupted. "Who cares about heritage, you old fool?" She didn't even turn to look at him as she said this, but dismissed him without a glance and lowered her head to conspire with Fudge and Umbridge.
Tiller guessed he'd been treated more rudely in his life, but couldn't remember when. Darance Bread was his very good friend and the only person who hung on Tiller's every word. Bread had followed Tiller to speak to Sheets and had heard the woman's rudeness. His offense at his friend ill treatment was easily read on his face.
"Come, Mister Tiller, let us be where we should be."
"Yes, you are quite right, Mister Bread, as always."
The two gathered their possessions and walked over to what had been for years the Smith corner of the Wizengamot Chambers, but Tiller now thought of it as the place he should have never left. Smith saw him coming, lowered his head for a few swift words with Harry, and then they both stood. Harry looked a little nervous, but stood straight.
Tiller spoke first as he was the one changing position in the chamber. "I say, Mister Potter, forgive me for not welcoming you last session to our august body. You nearly brought a tear to my eye today, reminding me of when your grandfather and I first entered this chamber together so many years ago. I thought you were Benedict for a moment there, and I could offer you no higher praise."
"Thank you--" Harry was interrupted by Cornelius Fudge.
"Lexi, we need your opinion on a matter of vital import, why, how would we do without you--"
Tiller shrugged off Fudge's hand on his arm. Then turning with a scowl on his face, Tiller threw back his shoulders as straight as possible and said quite loudly, "Mister Fudge, I am not sure why you feel these unwarranted familiarities are appropriate. Must I remind you that we are still in chambers?"
Florence Sheets stood behind Fudge and to his right. She interjected, "Have it your way, Mis-TAH Tiller, but surely you aren't going to listen to the delusional words of a half-blood whelp--"
"Enough, Madame! I'll not have a pretentious upstart from a nouveau magical family say that about a Potter." Tiller was furious. Sheets' shaded insults to him over the years all rushed to his mind and he responded in kind. "We were magical nobility over a thousand years before your unwashed, illiterate Viking forbearers rowed across the Channel to steal, rape, and pillage. I'm back where I belong, standing besides those whose families nurtured British magic long before there was a Britain. Please take your false ideas of blood purity and go straight to Perdition. As Mister Potter so clearly explained, if you and yours didn't find fresh blood somewhere in the past five generations or so, your Death Eater nephew would have been a squib."
Harry pushed his left sleeve up near his elbow and showed his unmarked arm to Sheets. She emitted a guttural sound and moved to draw her wand.
"Pull it, Madam Sheets, please do," Harry said coldly. Any Wizengamot member who drew his or her wand in the assembly in a manner not used in official proceedings, broke the rules. If they drew their wands in anger, the one they were attacking, could ask for a duel and receive rights to the first shot without the other being able to raise a shield.
Florence Sheets mumbled several profanities before turning and stomping off. Fudge scurried off in her wake.
Harry spoke first, "Thank you for your spirited defense, Mister Tiller."
"Gladly, gladly." Tiller turned to Smith. "May we join you, Mister Smith?"
Smith nodded hoping Tiller was speaking of moving to their side in the fight and not just speaking of joining them in conversation at the moment, No doubt remained of their intentions when Tiller and Bread waved their wands and all their possessions moved across the chamber.
"Welcome home," Smith said with a smile.
Returning his smile, Tiller said, "Where are my manners? Mister Potter, this is my good friend, Mister Darance Bread."
Harry snapped his feet together, clicking his heels as was prescribed in his copy of The Book for Wizengamot members and extended his hand. Bread clicked his heels as well and they shook.
"Mister Bread," Harry said, "I meant no disrespect to your illustrious family when I spoke of my magical heritage. Yours is a proud Three-Thirty-Three Family with a fine history. I only use such words to put the pureblood bigots in place."
"No offense taken, Mister Potter. I remember well the discourses Mister Smith here, and your grandfather Benedict engaged in over the years, fighting such bigotry. I believe he used to say quite often that there are advantages and disadvantages to everything, so never believe you are the answer to every situation. Something like that, wasn't it?"
Smith and Tiller nodded in agreement. Harry commented that he was just now finding out about his grandfather, and Tiller suggested they have lunch together so that they could tell Harry more. Harry thought Smith looked slightly dyspeptic at the prospect, but to Harry's relief his curmudgeonly mentor agreed.
They continued to talk congenially in the chamber, until Smith pointed out the look of disgust in Florence Sheets' eyes, and the grim look on Fudge's face. Sheets was in rapid discourse with Dolores Umbridge at the moment.
"Gentlemen," Harry said as he pointed to the two women. "I hope you and your family member are all protected. Madam Umbridge sent dementors to my relative's home last summer to attack me, and we know what happened last Thursday when Death Eaters attacked Mister Smith right here in the Ministry's Floo and Apparation Point."
They all understood his meaning and discussed the matter among themselves as they exited the room. All three older men had house-elves waiting for them for their robes. None of them commented when Harry called Dobby, but they all stared a bit when Harry concentrated briefly and changed his hair from the shoulder length commonly worn in the Wizengamot back to its normal shorter style. Seeing their obvious curiosity, Harry matter-of-factly explained that he had a slight Metamorphmagus ability, but only in changing his hair.
The men agreed to Apparate to Hogsmeade and eat at the Old Wand Inn. Harry stated he'd never been there before, but asked Mr. Smith to stand still for a moment so he could concentrate on him. Bread and Tiller cracked off ahead of them. Harry nodded and Smith Apparated away. Two seconds later Harry arrived soundlessly.
"Goodness, Mr. Potter, you're soundless," declared Tiller.
"Arrival is not as hard to do quietly," Harry stated. "The crack sound comes from interrupting the air. When we arrive, we push the air out and it makes a slight noise from being displaced. Disapparation leaves a hole so to speak. The air rushes back in and makes a cracking sound when it fills the void." Harry clapped his hands to together to illustrate.
"I've never thought of that," stated Bread. Tiller looked amazed.
Harry continued explaining like he'd taught in the secret DA meetings. "I can show you how to lessen the noise you make in arriving right now, regardless of how much of a crack you normally produce. Just Disapparate away while grabbing the hem of your robe and bring it forward as you leave. I'll be back in a few seconds." He made a slight popping sound as he left, but they all noticed his exaggerated hand moments with his robe as he'd described.
Three seconds later he reappeared, once again emphasizing his movement of his robe as he arrived.
"Bravos" all around greeted him. Harry looked slightly embarrassed as he explained, "With practice, you don't have to move your hand and robe as much as I did to demonstrate. It's not the complete answer; you do need some degree of power and skill to reduce your Apparation noise, but if it's already low, this will eliminate it. With some practice this slight movement will reduce whatever noise you do make Apparating.
"Now, departure noise is different. The air slamming into the hole we make when we leave isn't really affected by such movement. I'm looking for a simple spell to leave behind a compressed air bubble that expands to fill that void before the cracking sound occurs. Timing is everything, and I don't know if I can make it work or not."
They all asked him to keep them apprised of the success of his research. None of them were loud Apparators, but the prestige of silent Apparation was admired by all magical folk.
The conversation over lunch consisted of Tiller and Bread--and Smith to a lesser degree--regaling Harry with tales of his grandfather in the Wizengamot. They also threw in some stories of Benedict's Hogwarts days as they'd all known him at school although the four were all in different years or houses.
At the end of the lunch Harry asked a question that had been in his mind since the Wizengamot session that day. "Gentlemen, I don't like that I lost a vote today, but I'm more concerned for the poor Meadowbrooks that sold their Family Right to Rule, probably for too little.
"First, how can I protect my votes, and help the families whose votes I hold if they are in situations like the Meadowbrooks? And second, how can I find any votes at risk currently held by Sheets, Umbridge, Fudge and their band that we might take away from them?"
Tiller had really warmed to Harry during this lunch. The boy, no, young man, had listened attentively to his stories, something his own grandchildren never did. But this question upset him.
"Harry," Tiller started. The young wizard insisted they call him by his first name, but he'd continued to address all three more respectfully. "Harry, that type of maneuvering for power is not really the best form, lad."
Harry remained placid as he responded. "Yet, sir, that is what happened to me today. Can it be a coincidence that Meadowbrook just happened to offer his vote for sale to Florence Sheets less than four days after I first enter the Chamber?"
Tiller found he couldn't deny the reality of what had occurred in today's session. When he didn't respond Harry quietly continued.
"I was amazed to see that The Book for the Wizengamot advises, 'Do unto others as they have done unto you.' I consider that so much less than the Golden Rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' I plan to do as I want done unto me for the most part, but those three and probably some of their allies won't respond to kindness. They've basically declared war, and I intend to fight them. I expect to win. If that requires me to use their own tactics against them I will. You don't have to support me, you can even avoid me if you wish, but I find that I have a great deal of money. I plan to use a portion of it to do battle in the Wizengamot."
Tiller looked at him with amazement as Bread said, "I close my eyes and I can hear Benedict in his voice, can't you?"
The other two nodded, Smith with a slight frown on his face.
"I don't know how you received your second vote, Mr. Tiller," Harry said, "But if it isn't secure, can you guarantee Madam Sheets isn't conspiring to take it from you now that you've walked to our corner of the assembly?" Harry pronounced her title like he did Pomfrey's, not in the exaggerated manner of the Wizengamot.
Tiller was flabbergasted into silence by this gentle piece of logic. However, Darance Bread spoke up, "We've been in her corner too long. It is a longstanding habit to think of her as an ally. But you are right." The man spoke quietly but with conviction. "Lexi holds his second vote securely. The Gundersen Three-Thirty-Three Family married their only daughter to a Tiller over two hundred years ago. But you have a point young man."
Bread turned to Tiller. "We can't sit back and let this go on, Lexi. Neither of us can really fight the fight like young Potter here seems able to do, like Isaiah has for years all alone since Benedict died, but we can help."
Darance turned back to Harry. "I suggest you go to the legal firm of Tonks and Tonks. Those bright young solicitors are the nearest things to expert legal counsel when it comes to the Wizengamot. Andromeda Black left her family, to marry Ted Tonks, a brilliant Muggleborn wizard. You probably know of this since you hold the Black Family vote as your strongest secondary vote."
"I know their daughter, Nymphadora," Harry said. "She's an Auror. I've also had their firm recommended by Gringotts for some business dealings."
"Well, there you go, Harry," said Tiller. "You now have two reasons to talk to them."
"Gentlemen," Harry asked, "would you mind if I call my house-elf to go make an appointment for me?"
Tiller was stunned at the idea, and Bread had a confused look on his face. Smith said, "Go ahead, Harry. I'll explain it to them."
Soon Dobby had his instructions and Harry joined Smith in explaining that Spell Mongery wasn't the evil that the Arithmantic Spell Crafters had made it out to be for the last thousand years.
About the time Tiller and Bread's attitudes had changed from shocked to outright fascination with Harry's spell creating discoveries, Dobby popped back to his side.
"Excuse me gentlemen," Dobby interjected at a lull in the conversation. "Mr. Potter, Mrs. Tonks said that she and her husband could arrange to give you an hour at most at two o'clock today if that is convenient with you."
Harry looked at his watch. Tiller looked at his and noted it was just after one o'clock.
Harry said, "Would it be rude of me to leave you gentlemen in thirty minutes?"
When they all agreed that it would be best for Harry to accept the appointment, he asked Dobby to inform the Tonks.
Tiller said, "Harry, how did you train your house-elf to speak so well?"
Harry grinned. "I didn't. I discovered by accident that what we consider normal house-elf speech is an affectation the house-elves maintain because they think we want them to talk like that. Somehow, over the years, the house-elves also discovered that witches and wizard leave them alone and generally ignore them if we think of them as barely literate."
Harry explained what he knew of house-elves' speaking abilities and their practice of hiding it from their masters, as well as their reasoning for it. They all chuckled at that.
The conversation then turned to how Harry had freed Dobby.
It was not quite half one when the four decided to break up their luncheon. All had places to go and Harry thought he could make it to Flourish and Blotts before his appointment with the Tonks.
Harry opened the door of the inn and signaled for his three elders to precede him. Tiller noted once again how well mannered this young man was. Such courtesies seemed to be missing in so many youngsters these days.
Tiller and Bread went first. They stepped down to the landing, three steps above the ground. As they moved down to the next step Harry followed Smith right out the door.
Rapid multiple cracks placed four Death Eaters right in front of them with their wands raised. Although he felt frozen by fear Tiller continued automatically down the last few steps. He knew this would be the end when he heard the start of the Killing Curse.
Suddenly Tiller was violently knocked to the ground, landing on his left side. He sprained his left wrist, and badly bruised his hip, but he didn't lose sight of what he must do. Tiller drew his wand, thankful that he was right handed. He felt someone had stumbled and fallen right behind him, and knew it was Isaiah Smith for he could hear him cursing. Tiller looked for his friend Darance and saw one of the most amazing things he had ever seen in his long and varied life.
Two Killing Curses and two Reductors impacted on the now empty steps and the door they had just exited. Harry Potter rolled forward on the ground at the foot of the steps and came up with a wand in each hand, blazing spells. Two simultaneous Reductos hit the two front Death Eaters and they tumbled back, knocking over the two behind them. Potter's Cutting curses missed the back two only because they had been knocked down. A fifth Death Eater Apparated to the left of the tangle of injured and breathless Death Eaters. He Summoned Harry's glasses. Before the eyewear made it to him he caught the glasses with a Blasting hex. Then this attacker sent a Cruciatus towards the semi-blinded young man.
The torturous curse hit Harry, Tiller saw, but Potter had already begun raising his right wand arm towards this assailant. To Tiller's horror and admiration, Harry continued raising his arm even though he shook violently. Wordlessly Harry cast a Cutting curse through the Cruciatus, and hit the Death Eater squarely in the neck. Tiller mused under these macabre circumstances that Sir Nicholas might have company now to form the Nearly Headless Hunt.
Moving like an automaton, Tiller slowly raised himself while holding out his wand, all the while watching the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry held his hand right in front of his eyes. He seemed to be focusing on his hand as he slowly moved it back and forth, eventually extending it out fully. This took mere seconds. Potter smiled and turned back to the attackers. Alexius turned in time to see one of the fallen Death Eaters from Harry's first pair of Reductors raise her wand and shout the Killing Curse at Potter.
Smith conjured a slab of stone that intercepted the deadly curse, but Harry wasn't there to be hit. He had Apparated away. The two Death Eaters in back who had fallen when the leading pair took Potter's first strikes scrambled to their feet. Assuming Potter was gone, one sent a Crucio at Darance Bread and the other cast the Dark Mark into the sky.
As the Crucio hit Bread, two more Reductors slammed into the two uninjured Death Eaters' heads from behind, killing them instantly. Bread suffered the Cruciatus for a fraction of a second, but it only hit on his right arm. Harry was standing five feet behind the last two Death Eaters he'd just killed. He immediately ran forward and set Binding spells on the two wounded Death Eaters, the only ones left alive. Harry then continued forward with his wands raised and took a position to protect his three fellow Wizengamot members.
Smith stood first followed by Tiller and Harry shouted, "Are you two all right? Please check on Mr. Bread. The Aurors should be here soon because of the Dark Mark."
In quick succession Harry cast four Battle Barriers to surround them. Tiller once again was amazed. As a youth he'd hoped to become a Professional Duelist, or at least a serious amateur. He'd learned the Battle Barrier spell, but quickly abandoned it as casting it left him too exhausted to continue dueling. Now, Potter had cast the spell four times in less than ten seconds, and looked no less winded than he had before starting.
"I'm all right," Darance Bread stated shakily as Tiller ran to his dear friend. "Please help me up, Lexi. I can't help defend us from here."
Tiller assisted his oldest friend to his feet as he asked, "Are you hurt badly, Darry?"
"No, Lexi," the man said quietly. "You remember twenty years ago at the start of the last war, I survived a Death Eater attack but went under a full Cruciatus for twenty seconds or so. This hurt, but nary a fraction of what that did, thanks to Harry here."
Smith stood by Harry with his wand raised, following Potter's example. Tiller watched the young man sweep from side to side, both arms raised and wands at the ready, the picture of constant vigilance in such a situation. The lad inhaled and exhaled deeply and raggedly, but other wise appeared unshaken. Smith said, "Your eyes, Harry. You don't seem to be squinting."
Without moving from protect mode Harry took one last deep breath and said, "I've been playing with and mongering spells that require eye-hand coordination and other visualization based magic." He took another deep gulp of air and continued, "It struck me earlier today that I should look into a charm that would correct my eyesight. I've thought that losing my glasses in a fight might result in what just happened. When I heard my glasses go crunch and the Crucio hit, I knew after I dealt with that murderer I'd have to make my Eyesight Correction spell pretty quickly."
Tiller could not imagine the ability to develop a spell without months or years of research and a carefully controlled magical environment. Now Potter had created a spell of no little importance in the midst of a life or death battle.
Bread was equally amazed and asked the question on both their minds, "You Mongered a spell right then and there?"
Harry shrugged. "I didn't really Monger a spell in the normal sense or follow typical Spell Mongery practices. I just willed it to happen because I had to have it happen. Since I don't know how it happened, I can't reproduce it. And I have no idea how long it will last either--a day, a lifetime? Who knows?"
Several Apparation cracks rang out and Harry shouted for them to duck. They all hid behind a Battle Barrier except Harry, who stood like a protective angel of vengeance. He sighed and said quietly, "Aurors." Tiller noticed that although Harry lowered his arms, he remained cautious.
Six Aurors appeared in the small courtyard of the Old Wand Inn. Three of them moved into position with their backs to the Wizengamot members looking for further attacks. Two moved to secure the prisoners, and Nymphadora Tonks stepped forward.
"Wotcher, Harry. Nice day for a street fight. Weather's perfect."
Harry chuckled and lowered his guard a bit more.
Another Apparation crack placed Dawlish right in the midst of the small group. Before he had blinked, Harry had both wands under his chin.
"I should have known you'd be here, Potter. I'm taking you in this time for--"
"You're what?" Tiller had had enough. He realized he'd been useless in the fight, but he could handle this battle for his rescuer. For many months he'd heard Fudge and Umbridge bad mouth this young man who'd just saved his life. They'd called Harry a weakling and self-aggrandizing. None of that was true, Tiller realized. The lad had delivered on the promise of the Boy-Who-Lived in spades, and Tiller was furious.
"Auror Dawlish, you haven't investigated anything; you haven't even looked around. You just start by arresting Mr. Potter. Leave. Tell Fudge and Sheets to keep you as far from me as they can. I'll launch a full-scale investigation into the practices of the Auror Corps and see just who trained you to act this way and who gives you your marching orders. Tell Amelia--"
"I answer directly to the Minister, I'm on his protective detail, so--"
"SO!" Smith interrupted, "if you are no longer on the rolls of the active Aurors, you have no business doing field investigations. You shouldn't be here, and you shouldn't have been at the Ministry Floo and Apparation Concourse Thursday when that attack occurred. But you were there, weren't you? Ready to cover up what happened, I'd wager. Now I plan to call for a formal investigation into why and how Minister Fudge's office is so aware of Death Eater attacks that he knows where and when to send his personal security head to clean up You-Know-Who's mess."
Harry had begun giving his report to Tonks when Tiller took on Dawlish, but they both stopped to watch the threesome face down Dawlish. The seething Auror Apparated away noisily. The three elder gents turned and politely listened to Harry finish his statement.
Smith looked at his pocket watch when Harry had finished describing the attack. "You have three minutes, Harry, to make it to your next appointment, if you feel like it, if you are finished with him, Madam Auror."
Tonks looked at Smith and then back to Harry. "Sure you don't need St. Mungo's, Harry?"
He shook his head. "It was only for a few seconds, and not that bad. He must have been a new recruit." Tonks looked at the now unmasked and nearly headless Death Eater and shook her head. "That's Bert Yaxley, or at least what's left of him. He was a vicious sadist. It must have hurt like the dickens."
Harry shrugged. "He must not have hit me straight on or something. I've had worse, Voldemort, or maybe I'm getting used to it." He shivered. "That's a skill I've never wanted to acquire." Everyone else shivered for various reasons. "Well, go on with you to whatever other mayhem you have planned for this afternoon," Tonks said with a hint of admiring sarcasm. "These gents will tell me what you really did, you modest blighter, you."
Harry started to protest, but Smith spoke, "Harry, if you are truly all right, then go to your appointment. We're fine now. Sure you don't want to go to St. Mungo's, or back in here for a stiff belt of fire whiskey?"
Harry shook his head. Smith shook his hand. So did Bread.
Alexius Tiller then took his hand and held it firmly. "You made a staunch ally today, Mr. Potter. And that was before this all occurred. Now I'm determined to offer more than my personal support. I will use every connection and every bit of influence I have to rally others to your cause."
"But, I'm just--"
"I know perfectly well what you are," Tiller said. "I dare say Darance and I will be visiting Gringotts to have our wards upgraded. We'll ask for Director Gultangk and tell him you recommended him. Now scoot."
Harry sighed again and Apparated away almost silently to the continued amazement of those left behind.
When they had finished their statements and Tonks was gone, Smith turned to his two friends. "I just know Florence is behind this. Bold as brass she's become. We've got to rein her in somehow. Let's think about it and meet at the club tomorrow afternoon to discuss it. Agreed?"
They all nodded.
There never was any mention in the Daily Prophet about this attack on four members of the Wizengamot.
Harry thought the building facade at Tonks and Tonks looked almost as substantial as that of Gringotts, though obviously smaller, and not crooked as befit the goblin facility somehow. Judging the size of the firm from the outside, Harry guessed there might be twenty people at most inside, but probably less. He acknowledged that with Expansion charms what he would find inside could be a lot bigger.
In fact, the building's interior seemed to be just as it should be based on the exterior. The furnishings were finely crafted, but obviously of magical styling and influence. There was the obligatory Floo fireplace, and the receptionist wore finely tailored robes.
Both Tonks partners came out to greet Harry shortly after his arrival. Ted Tonks was wearing a Muggle business suit. He was a tall and slender man, and Harry thought Nymphadora probably took more after him than her mother. Andromeda bridged the gap between Bellatrix and Narcissa. She resembled both of them in different ways and seeing Andromeda, Harry could finally recognize a family resemblance in the distinctly different Black sisters.
Bellatrix was raven-haired and the ravages of prison hid only part of her former beauty. Her psychotic behavior hid the rest. Narcissa was almost painfully blond, and her aloofness and disdain for everything around her--no matter where she was--made her a beautiful statue - made of cold, heartless marble.
The eldest sister Andromeda's beauty was enhanced by well-earned laugh lines and a smile that told of a happy meaningful life--one she had chosen and created for herself--rather than a life of pureblooded perfection or extremist lunacy. Today she wore a witch's robe, unbuttoned, displaying Muggle women's business attire underneath.
Ted Tonks advanced on Harry extending his hand warmly. "Welcome to Tonks and Tonks. I'm Theodore Tonks, Mr. Potter. We're glad your elf arrived when he did. Ten minutes earlier and our two o'clock would not have cancelled yet."
Harry decided he like this man on the spot. Andromeda held out her hand in turn and said, "And I'm Andromeda, Mr. Potter. Our daughter has told us quite a bit about you, all good I might add."
"Please call me Harry. Tonks is too kind. Er..."
Andromeda smiled. "We know that she prefers her last name to her given name. Our daughter has made that very clear on numerous occasions, so don't distress yourself. Please call me Andi, Harry."
"And I'm Ted." The male partner turned to the receptionist. "Doris, please arrange for the shades to be drawn in Conference Room 4 B." He turned back to Harry. "Our two conference rooms on our Diagon Alley side are occupied with associates and their clients. We need to go to a conference room on our Muggle side. I hate to ask, but would you mind taking off your robe. The shirt and slacks you have on underneath will be fine. Muggles don't really understand, you know."
Harry pulled his wand and casually, as well as wordlessly, transfigured his robe into a blue blazer. This went well with his white shirt, dark grey slacks, and the Gryffindor tie. The receptionist gasped. Andi's eyes opened wide. Ted Tonks commented, "Nymphie was right. You are right clever. Right this way, Harry."
As they stepped towards a door Andromeda said, "I thought you wore glasses, Harry."
"I used to." Neither asked him to clarify, and Harry assumed they thought he now wore contacts or had had Muggle laser surgery.
He followed them to the back of the building and through a door. They passed through a spacious reception area and walked down a corridor that ran along an outside wall of windows. Seeing the view Harry speculated that they were at least ten floors up in a modern office building somewhere in downtown London.
He said, "I love magic," as the two Tonks ushered him into Conference 4 B. They offered him a choice of beverages, which he turned down.
"Your elf told us a little, Harry," Ted began. "Exactly how may we help you?"
"First, and I know the clock is running. The goblins say that time is money, so I want to pay for your services from the outset. But please tell me about your firm. I'm looking for a long-term relationship with legal advisors for both the Muggle and magical worlds. Your two offices somehow attached together fascinate me."
The two looked at each other before Andi said, "Harry, different businesses in different worlds work differently. Goblins charge from the outset, but our introductory time together is on us. We recognize the potential of working with you and hope to succeed with whatever project you have for us--to become in time a soliciting firm you value and rely upon."
The couple proceeded to tell of meeting at Hogwarts and studying law at Cambridge together. They had been poor as church mice, but happily in love. Her family abandoned Andromeda the second she made her future plans clear. Ted's parents were older and living on a monthly stipend from his father's injury in a factory.
"That's odd," Harry said. "I thought Gultangk said that you two met at Cambridge. It's very unusual for the goblins to be wrong about such details."
Ted nodded, "Andi and I've heard that before. The only plausible source for the story that we've been able to come up with is Andi's family. It would have been a very 'Black' thing to do to circulate such a rumor to discourage other purebloods from allowing their children to attend Muggle universities."
After that sidebar, the Tonks continued their story. On Andi's twentieth birthday, a family trust had helped them pay their educational debts, and eventually set up a small practice in the magical world. They had nearly failed, but work from Gringotts--things that Wizarding law precluded the goblins from doing themselves--eventually gave them sufficient contacts in the Muggle world to build their practice. The Tonks never abandoned their foundation in the magical world, but the reality was that the firm derived most of its income from Muggles.
"The firm of Blade and Redding is the largest soliciting firm in Great Britain in terms of its representation of magical companies and people. They also work with Muggles, but only a small percentage of their practice is Muggle related," Andi explained. "Combining income from both magical and Muggle sources we are nearly five times larger than Blade and Redding. They represent the M.I.D. I understand you ran afoul of them recently, or at least one of their Ministry stooges."
"How'd you hear that?" Harry inquired.
"Justin Finch-Fletchley sent us a brief but fact-filled owl post yesterday. He asked for an appointment, which we have set for tomorrow, but also hit on your M.I.D. conflicts, your joint meeting with Director Gultangk, and the fact that you two have formed a Gringotts clique. Our Gringotts contact is Randort. He's in a clique that's in the same faction as Director Gultangk, though he's a level or two lower than your advisor. Excellent work gaining Gultangk's counsel in such a short time, Harry. It took us years to move up the organization to Randort."
"Well," Harry interjected, "Gultangk was the first one to suggest I contact you, for business purposes of course. The second was Darance Bread at lunch a little while ago."
The two Tonks looked at each other with raised eyebrows. She said, "I heard, Harry, that you've taken the Potter and Black Rights to Rule and entered the Wizengamot. Now you're having lunch with Darance Bread, and I'm sure with Alexius Tiller as well. The two are inseparable in that assembly. Well done."
"I'm sorry you didn't receive the vote," Harry said contritely. "Is there any way I can give it to you?"
"No, Harry, but you are too kind to ask, she said. "Centuries ago the Black Family Right to Rule was voluntarily entailed to male heirs only. If all male Blacks were dead, the vote could only go to a male married or born to a Black female. Ted, being Muggleborn, could not take the Right, so Draco, the only male relative not in prison would qualify.
"Sirius derailed that effort, by naming you as his heir. He could have only done that if no male Black existed, and if you were the head of another Three-Thirty-Three Family. Your half-blood status would have negated that possibility unless you were already a Family Head designate at least. Sirius could have bequeathed it to your father, were he still alive, very easily.
"May I ask," Ted said, "why did Mr. Bread give you our firm's name?"
Harry explained how he had lost a vote today to Florence Sheets' maneuverings. "--it wasn't just losing the vote that upset me. It was what it meant for that family. When I asked for advice on how to prevent that from happening again, Mr. Bread suggested I contact you."
"All right, Harry," Ted said, "as I see it you want business help and help with the Wizengamot. We'd love to serve you in anyway possible. We also want to join your Gringotts clique if you'll have us. What specific project do you have in mind for us to prove ourselves to you?"
Harry looked slightly confused for several moments, and then said, "I'm not sure you have anything to prove. My associate at Gringotts recommended you. My allies in the Wizengamot speak highly of you. My fellow clique-mate, Justin plans on using your services. You want to join our clique, which is flattering by the way, and I think highly of your daughter. As far as I'm concerned, you're already my solicitors.
"You probably know more of how you can help me than I do. I expect you to tell me when you should do something for me. I need advisors for business and governmental matters. I'm a complete novice in all this. In my case, counselor is not a euphemism for solicitor. I need wise counsel and I know the best advice costs.
"I lost the Meadowbrook vote, but more importantly, the Meadowbrook family lost the vote permanently. Had they listened to my grandfather's advice and married outside blood, magical or not, they may have revived their magic enough to retake their seats in the Wizengamot. I understand the Wheatley and Colt votes are just as loosely attached to me, but their families seem to have been gone for centuries. Do you have investigators on your staff, both Muggle and magical?"
"We have some on staff and a number of specialists on retainer. We also could contract for any other expertise we need."
"I surely don't want to do anything unwise. May I call my house-elf?"
The Tonks exchanged a confused look before Andi said, "I'm not sure how you can, but please do so if you will."
Harry traced a square in the air with his wand and called for Dobby. The elf popped in and left with his instructions to gather Harry's portfolio with his Family ensigns.
By the time Dobby came back Harry had explained the spell that allowed him to call his elves. Harry shuffled through the case for a few moments and pulled out a variety of scrolls and parchments.
"These are my various votes and my notes from Mr. Ledbetter, the Wizengamot clerk. First, I want to see if any of these families that are gone have magical heirs now that can retake their Right to Rule. I know about half of them are irrevocable, but the rest are timed to certain generations in the future. Mundungus Fletcher is the last Fletcher and has no heirs I believe. Can we help him regain his family's place for the future?
"Millicent Bulstrode's family was all but wiped out this summer by Death Eaters. She's the last. How can we help her? If now or in future generations an heir can take any of my votes, then I want them to be able to, rather than lose their magic by being pureblooded foolish or by selling to someone unscrupulous." He looked up at them.
Andi said, "You want to help families recover their Rights to Rule from you? Help a few possibly take votes from you now, and be perfectly able to take votes away in future generations?"
"Yes." Harry answered firmly but with a trace of confusion in his voice. "Isn't that the right thing to do? I mean... I can't imagine Florence Sheets or Fudge doing things that way, but they're not my role models. If I help these families, I think I'll forge strong friendships and gain allies in the Wizengamot. I don't need the votes if they vote for the Light and against pureblood prejudices.
"My other request is not so kindly. I want to attack the votes of all those who vote with Fudge, Sheets, and Umbridge. I don't necessarily want the votes for myself. If we find vulnerability, first let's approach the family head and see if we can help them regain their position. If we can't, or the family has died out, can we make a stronger claim on the vote than one of them has? Can we buyout the family like they just did with the Meadowbrooks? We'll pay them a very fair price, perhaps an ongoing payment system of some sort. Get creative. We can help someone like Darance Bread or Alexius Tiller gain a few more votes. There have to be others who are clearly behind the agenda Mr. Smith and I have. Any questions?"
"Isaiah Smith?" Andi asked. Harry nodded. She said, "There is a good man for you to work with. He's shrewd but fair and honest. I'm sure you know he and your grandfather were thick as good cauldron bottoms." She hesitated. "Tell me, Harry, what is your ultimate plan for the Wizengamot?"
"Ultimate plan? Well, to be a member with fewer votes and see us eventually change Wizarding society into a more open, fair-minded world. No blood purity prejudices, but where a pureblood can be proud of his or her heritage for proper reasons and accept a half-blood or Muggleborn's heritage as having its own benefits. Everything has it pluses and minuses. Let's help each other succeed.
"I also don't want other magical beings treated like they are now. House-elves, centaurs, giants, half giants, goblins, and whoever else I'm forgetting right now. Oh yes, and vampires and werewolves. All need to be treated fairly. Why should wizards look down on goblins? It's beyond stupid, when they control our money and can really help us succeed financially."
Harry paused and looked at the two. Ted finally spoke. "Harry how soon do you want to change all of this?"
Harry almost smirked. "I want it all changed tomorrow, but I'm not a fool. This will take decades, generations perhaps. But I have a rough master plan. First we find out how to oust Fudge. There's got to be a way, and I think somehow getting more votes on our side in the Wizengamot is the quickest route, but I'm open to suggestions.
"Then we get information out to the people. I'm not sure how exactly, but Sol Lovegood asked me to write some articles for The Quibbler. He's recently changed his tune so to speak. You'll see his publication become more serious and factual real soon. I wouldn't mind funding research into validating the fact that the purebloods are at least marrying wizards and witches from other lands, but I think they also still secretly marry Muggleborns to protect their bloodlines from going weak from the inbreeding.
"Hire investigators to go back in the pureblood bigots' family heritages and dig up the dirt. Go for the Malfoys, Sheets, Fudges, Umbridges, Notts, Parkinsons - whoever else is an outspoken pureblood snob. I want the dirt. Oh, that's terrible. I'm not looking for dirty blood, just the Muggle expression of digging up the dirt.
"Next, I want some sort of testing to validate a witch or wizard's power. Some real way established so a Sheets or a Malfoy can test against someone that is Muggleborn or half-blood and see who's more powerful. Something easier than the Stone-Cutter Test."
Harry paused and took a breath. "That's about all I've thought of so far. I don't expect you to do all of that, but I'd pay for help from you to find those who can do what I've mentioned. I also want better minds than mine to help think up how to do what I hope to ultimately accomplish in better and faster ways than I've just stated."
Both Tonks had been furiously making notes on Muggle legal pads, using stylish ballpoint pens. Ted asked about Harry's goals for business.
"I have stacks of Galleons - millions in vaults making a minimum return with the goblins. Some I want to spend on what I've just outlined. Some I want to have the goblins invest in the Muggle markets of different types. I'm sure you know they are restricted from investing there unless a wizard or witch is their partner in the investment."
Harry went on to tell the two about his investment in the twins' shop, and in Clarinda Jordan. They knew about Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, but Andi was excited to hear about the fashion shop. She'd only heard tell that some sort of new wizard wear establishment was in the works.
"I've used Gringotts legal services for contracts so far," Harry said, "but Gultangk made it clear I should have a solicitor doing such future paperwork. Also, as I partner with them, I need outside representation to look at my contracts with the goblins. I trust Gultangk, but that's just good business, isn't it?
They had several questions that required brief answers. Then they bid Harry go on.
"Well, I want to invest in other business opportunities with potential like Clarinda's."
"Is that the name of the shop?" Andi asked.
"No, but it sounds like a good name," Harry said. "We haven't decided yet. I've just stumbled on these two business opportunities so far. But the magical business world seems sort of stagnant, at least compared to Muggles. There have to be bright ideas out there to invest in, or rather, bright people with brilliant ideas to invest in. I don't know how Muggles do it, but can you suggest how to look into finding these people?"
Ted brought up the idea of using the same techniques Muggle venture capital funds use to hunt for new ideas. Andi thought they might create a Wizarding inventors' club and seek out the brightest who apply. Harry and Ted agreed that that idea might appeal more to the quirky magical mindset of people like the Weasley twins.
"Muggles have companies called marketing research firms," Ted stated. "They analyze markets and decide where a new niche might be. It's sort of a systematic version of what you did with Clarinda Jordan. Perhaps we can find a Muggleborn who's gone back into the Muggle world and knows something about this."
"And look for Squibs as well," Harry chimed in.
"Yes," Andi agreed, "they know our world, but can also see how Muggles might do things better. They'd be good resources and might be a little homesick for butterbeer and chocolate frogs." They all smiled.
"That reminds me," Harry said, "when you mentioned stagnant businesses - Mages Importers and Distributors, Ltd. I want to know what I can about them, and I do mean everything, short of firebombing their offices. Let's attack their business at its root. Justin is going to start trying to sell fabric and such from Muggle sources to dress shops and the like. We'll hire goblin Overseers to protect the shipments, and even invest in protecting the shop owners who buy from us. That's expensive, but we can wait until we've broken the back of this M.I.D. to be in the black.
"Now you tell me," Harry concluded, "just how we can fight forces like the M.I.D. and build a business empire of free enterprises. Get together your ideas, talk to your sources, and come back to me with a plan and a budget, I guess. Within reason, I'll probably follow your lead if it seems logical. Start the pureblood investigations right away. The same with looking for ways of helping my votes' families and attacking the power base of the bad guys."
Harry looked at his watch. "Thanks for seeing me on such short notice. It's seven minutes until 3:00 and your next appointment." He said this while rifling through his valise. "Here's a draft for a thousand Galleons. Is that enough of a retainer to make you my solicitors?"
"Much more than enough," Ted said. "Let me get you the difference."
"No need. I think I'll eat through all of this pretty quickly. Start with this and tell me when you need more."
Harry brought out another sheet of parchment. "Do one or both of you want to join my Gringotts clique, or do you want to think about it?"
"Both of us," they said in unison and grinned.
Harry's wand flew from his arm holster and he wordlessly duplicated the parchment. Harry took out a quill and waved his hand over it for ink. The two Tonks looked once more at each other with raise eyebrows. He signed both contracts after printing the two Tonks' names at the top. "Just sign and fill out the rest of this information and Owl them to Gultangk with your fifty Galleons each or however you'd do it." They walked Harry back to the Diagon Alley entrance. At the door Harry turned and said, "I recently discovered that I need to ask the following question more often. So think about it, and get back to me with your answer. 'What is it that I don't know but need to know in your area of expertise?' You've made some great suggestions, but only in response to my input. I know so very little. I believe you know where I want to go. What can I do to get there quicker that I'd never think of in a million years?"
In moments their farewells were completed and Harry Apparated from the foyer. The receptionist gasped, and Ted Tonks exclaimed, "Good lord, he's nearly silent."
Steph Granger arrived by Portkey at the same training area parade ground at the SAS base where he'd been given his temporary commission as a Captain in the New Zealand Royal Army. He landed sure-footedly but rolled towards cover almost immediately. He came up on one knee with his wife's MAC 10 submachine pistol raised and the silencer engaged.
The only two others around for miles didn't move so much as a facial muscle throughout Granger's extraordinary entrance.
"He's as sharp as he ever was, Brigadier. But God's truth, I'll never get over Portkey technology." This comment came from a ramrod straight man with thinned white hair and a huge walrus handlebar mustache. He wore thick rimless glasses and was dressed in old faded khakis starched to board-like stiffness. His hands were on the handles of a wheel chair.
"Yes, Sergeant Major. Hair's grayer, but thinned little. He's added weight, but it sits well on him. Little fat if any. He's still as good with his knife as he ever was, and his wife seems to have not lost her killer instinct - lioness protecting her cub just like she protected her mate many years ago."
During this conversation Steph Granger walked up warily to the two. When he had finished his comments to his companion, the man in the wheelchair snapped out, "Report!"
The reflexive actions of his youth to this barked command had not been used in years, but they were as much a part of Steph Granger as his eye color. He snapped to attention and responded as he had many times, "Captain Granger, reporting for duty, fit and ready, SIR!"
"At ease, Captain. Ask your questions."
"Brigadier, er General--"
"They call me Brigadier in this outfit. I was one for over a decade, and only made a Major General the day I retired."
"Right, sir. Are... are you either a Squib, or a Muggleborn who left Hogwarts and came back to our world to follow in your family tradition?"
"Neither, Captain, though close. I was a Muggleborn who declined my Hogwarts letter. It just didn't fit into my sense of order. But I've learned much from magical folks. I now own a wand. I have since I was seconded in early '44 as liaison to the Joint Magical Regiment, preparing to invade ahead of the D-Day invasion to disrupt Grindelwald's traps for the invaders. I liaised with the command of a Colonel Albus Dumbledore. I believe you know him."
"We have a job for you, Captain."
"You and Dumbledore, sir?"
"No, Captain. Haven't seen him since the Nuremburg Trails, the magical trials no one's ever really heard of.
"You've know of Special Branch, Captain. Well, we're with Magical Branch. Actually, an unknown department in Magical Branch that most in Magical Branch don't know exists. Well, they know we exist but they think we keep magical creatures off of military bases and such.
"Actually. Captain, you may remember years ago a Bond movie called 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service.'"
"Yes, Sir." Steph Granger wondered where this could be going.
"The brigadier continued, "Well, Her Majesty has no Secret Service. The title was a ruse de guerre. It sent an investigative reporter off of the hunt for Her Majesty's Magical Service. That's what we are.
"Queen and Country need you, Captain."
"Sir, I've made commitments--"
"This won't interfere with your plans for September, and it will fit right in with your work for the Order of the Phoenix.
*Stone-Cutter Test - The Stone-Cutter Test was the creation of Aerie22 and appeared in "Dance with Me, Harry" on FictionAlley. I use the idea with permission. I created the Flamel Scales and other additions that were added to Aerie22's original concept.
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